Faith always demands acceptance before understanding. Perhaps that is why Adam and Eve were forbidden the fruit of knowledge. Critical examination can be tolerated in faith only under the condition that the dogma is first accepted and criticality submits to the dogma, operating only within the boundaries drawn by it.
Mr. Ashraf’s response “Quran and Peace” exemplifies this very clearly. He does not respond to my understanding (whatever little) of Quran; but gives a theory which says how Quran can be understood properly as preaching peace. This, to me at the least, is a very illuminating piece of writing. I am sure, on his own testimony, Mr. Ashraf believes in this; however, I am not sure if all true believers in Quran would endorse it. Still it gives a glimpse in the mind of a believer, provides a picture of the world and principles to live a ‘good’ life. Therefore, is worth making an attempt to understand it critically and workout possible implications if one actually believes in this theory of the world and religion. That is what I propose to do in this little article, though I have to be brief for want of time.
Mr. Ashraf’s position is articulated in sufficient detail, therefore, it would be useful first to summarize it as accurately as my capabilities can manage. I will do it in several sections, first summarizing an important point and then responding to it. At the end will list a few question that this piece raises in my mind.
On peace and freedom
Mr. Ashraf states in unequivocal terms that “peace and freedom” are essential for any society. That violence cannot be justified in the name of religion; it is “a shame for humanity” and no words are strong enough to “condemn” it. This is a good news for non-believers (non-believers not of Islam alone, but of all religions). However, this unacceptability of violence may not be endorsed by religious texts, of Islam as well as of other religions. I am not responding to this claim any further, unless by the way of reference in response to other points. Simply because if all religious people come to this understanding, it would be a hugely good news for the world as a whole.
Who can understand Quran, and how?
Mr. Ashraf not only claims that the Quran preaches peace; but also that it is “a basic, not an additional point to the knower of this book”. But according to him this understanding of the book is not available to people who do not meet three conditions. To understand the book one has to know:
- The source of the book
- The purpose of the book, and
- The theme of the book.
One who does not understand these three things cannot understand the message of peace in the Quran. So let’s examine these three conditions separately.
The source of the book
To understand the Quran properly, according to Mr. Ashraf, one has to first accept that “he has a creator and there is a purpose of his creation”. With this in mind if he reads the book he “will know that the source of this book is God (Allah), his creator and sustainer”.
Which implies that for an atheist (be s/he socially Hindu, Christian or Muslim) it is not possible to understand the true meaning of the Quran. Actually, no one but Muslims believe that the Quran came from Allah, therefore, only Muslims can understand the true meaning of Quran. That should not be a problems at all, and many religions make that claim about their scriptures. It is not that hard to come by a claim that the Gita can be understood only by a believing Hindu, who first accepts that Krishna was an Avatar of the supreme God.
Problem arises when one wants to first understand these books and then accept their claims. This path is clearly closed for Quran as per Mr. Ashraf. One first has to believe and then understand. The order of things is reversed for human mind. The book, therefore, can contribute nothing to one’s acceptance of it or not.
The real problem arises when some of the believers demand certain special treatment of the book and charters in it (Allah and Muhammad, or Krishna and Gita) from non-believers. Because then the non-believers have to unconditionally accept the believers’ interpretation of the book, as they can never understand it on principle. This is a method of putting the book beyond critical examination, and still demanding special treatment to it. In the modern world this cannot be accepted.
The theme of the book
According to Mr. Ashraf, “[T]he theme of Qur’an is Muhammad’s (PBUH) warning (‘indhar’ in Arabic). Every page of the book speaks of this reality.” However, “before” the true meaning of this theme can be understood “one has to establish this clear concept that the giver of this book is the supreme authority.” Again, therefore, this understanding is a prerogative of Muslims alone. However, in the actual reality, every reader of the book notices it immediately that the theme is Muhammad, his warning, his power and obedience, and punishments he perpetrates on others. But the ‘true’ meaning of all this seem to be reserved only for the believers. We will revisit this issue in somewhat greater detail, a little later.
The purpose of the book
The purpose of the book is not deliberated upon in detail by Mr. Ashraf, but it seem to be to warn those who reject the belief in Allah as the only God and Muhammad as His last messenger. And the warning, of course, is stern. It is not a warning from a concerned and kind parent; rather, a warning from an absolute power who demands absolute submission and does not mind tuning into a permanent (internal) tormenter if the warning is not heeded. Why is he so obsessed with his worship and obedience alone is beyond the minds of non-believers.
We can understand the full scale meaning of these things (as unbelievers) only if we look at the grand scheme and jihad, warning, violence etc. within that scheme. So now I would like to turn to that grand scheme.
The grand scheme as described by Mr. Ashraf
I am not sure, as I said above, whether this is Mr. Ashraf’s belief alone or of a sizable number in the believers of Islam. But it is worth understanding; however, I can do that only through my infidel mind, as that is all I have.
The scheme in brief
The Allah created the world. He created all human beings, including you and me in the very beginning, and also created the hell and the haven. He showed us both the hell and the haven; and put a condition before us: if you believe and obey me as the only God, you will get heaven. If you do not, you will get the hell. And made us first make a covenant with him that we will believe only in Him. One wonders: 1. Why did he do that? 2. Where is the freedom for us? The condition is absolute, and binding. The test is stern and there was only one way of wriggling out of it, not a very attractive one, hardly better than hell (we will come to that). Is it just? Is Allah, strictly as per this scheme, just? Looks like a tyrant playing games with mice to me.
Those who did not agree to the test
Some of us humans got too scared. They opted out of the test. The Allah, in his mercy makes them die in infancy, before they do anything in accordance or against His will. These will be the serving boys and girls in the heaven. That is why I said above there is no way out of the test, this can hardly be a desired end for any human being.
“They were the ones who decided to take the toughest test.” Not only that they will themselves live according to the will of Allah, but also that they will preach his word; and messengers (like Muhammad) among them will punish and destroy those who reject the Allah’s demand that they worship no God but Him. They will get the highest rewards in the heave, but also the severest punishment if do not comply with Allah’s demand.
Those who came at the time of the prophets
“Those who had a lot of resolve chose the times of the prophets for their test. Their test was to believe in and support the prophets during those eras of widespread ignorance.” Those who actively aligned with the prophets will get high rewards in both the worlds. If they happened to be with the “messenger” who also punishes those who refuse to believe, they get the political power and also the duty to destroy nonbelievers. They also will get very high rewards in the heaven; though, less than the prophets and messengers among the prophets.
“The second, and lower, level of the test is whereby people chose to become part of the nations of the prophets after the prophets had passed away. Their test is to protect themselves from going astray, sectarianism, deviations, and ignorance of later times while holding steadfast to the divine law. They are also expected to promote good deeds and to help stop people from bad deeds. Those responsibilities are assigned to them as they have the teachings of the prophets to turn to for guidance, and because they are born as Muslims.”
The lowest of all
“The third group comprises of people who selected an even easier test. They are born in circumstances where they do not have access to any direct guidance from the prophets. Their test is based on the innate divine guidance present in the nature of every human being, that is, a test based on belief in Oneness of his Lord and universal moral values.”
Their test is supposed to be easy, they are not responsible for spreading the God’s word or stopping others from doing bad deeds. But their reward is also the lowest if they are successful; so is their punishment if they fail. As there is “no risk no gain” principle operating.
An infidel’s comments
I read something very interesting in it, I admit the possibility of misinterpretation, but am still sharing how I see it.
Turning covenant into a karma-theory
All the three so called Semitic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) are based on the idea of covenant with the God. Covenant is an agreement between God and his people in which God makes certain promises and requires certain behavior from them in return. The God demands absolute status as the only God and promises certain benefits to those who agree.
Mr. Shraf explains on the basis of the covenant and how strictly one follows it the status of people in the world and their rewards and punishments hereafter. Both—status in this world and gains hereafter—are dependent on your karma of agreement, the level of test you chose and the strictness you passed the test with. It is all your karma after the covenant, which was forced upon you by the Allah. Seems to come reasonably close to karma-theory. The beauty of the karma-theory and covenant theory is simple: they bind and govern you; but there are no grounds and methods to examine their truth. They have to be believed on the word of some prophet or some Rishi or some avatar.
Yesterday, Kejriwal explained results of Delhi elections in similar words. He said (not exact words) that this kind of landslide victory cannot be due to the work of any man. It is the doing of the uparwala (the God), he wants to do something grand, he has a scheme, Kejriwal and his party are just his instruments (nimitta), and they are lucky to be his instruments. Well Krishna told Arjuna that he is just a nimitta, Israelites considered themselves as chosen people for God’s work and felt lucky, so did Muhammad. How do you prove or disprove Kejriwal or Krishna or Israelites or Muhammad? Do others have any better grounds than Kejriwal? (A little aside question: is Kejriwal being humble in attributing it to God, or is he being arrogant declaring himself the instrument of the supreme Power? The same question can be asked of all the others. And is he preparing to take on the mental of a prophet?
Varna cannot remain behind if you have karma
Another striking similarity of the covenant theory as explained by Mr. Ashraf is with the varna theory. The world is automatically divided into four varnas based on their response to the test offered by the God. Highest—prophets and messengers. Second lower—people who agreed to be born in the time of the prophets. Third lower: the people who chose to be born in the nations of prophets (Muslims of later era). The lowest—the people who are born in the rest of the world, without guidance. The polytheists etc. This is decided; even more immutable than the caste in India, as your caste might change in the next life (janma), but in this covenant theory there is only one life that fixes your fate for eternity.
The crimes and punishment
“Polytheism, disbelief and apostasy are indeed grave crimes; however, no human being can punish another human being for these crimes. This is the right of Allah alone”, says Mr. Shraf. And Allah will punish, and will accept no excuses.
This scheme which is propounded as so just, condemns more than the 50% of humanity to eternal torment of hell. It seems there have been some highly regarded people in the world who will go to hell as per this understanding. We must remember though, that, 1. Almost all religions predict hell for people belonging to other religions, so this is not unique to Islam or this doctrine; and 2. Mr. Ashraf may not agree with this list, but I see no way of avoiding this implication, this is direct logic. Let’s meet some of them in a random order:
- Krishna, (if there was such a historical figure). He declared himself as the supreme God, and said worship whomsoever you want all worship will naturally flow to him. A non-believer and a blasphemer.
- Mahavira, as he had no use of God in creating and sustaining the world.
- Buddha, as he did not believe that there is a God.
- Socrates, as he believed in other Gods as well, was a polytheist.
- Plato, the same as Socrates.
- Christ, as he declared himself as the son of God and part of the God. (Quran claims that he did not think so, it is only later Christians who brought these impurities to the Book. But then you have to accept Islamic understanding of a Christian text.)
- Most of modern philosophers.
- Gandhi, he was happy to believe in all religions simultaneously, and to accept all Gods.
- Dalailama, he does not seem to believe in God (I guess, as Buddhism does not believe in God).
And of course all people who do not believe in Islamic monotheism, definitely atheists. I do not know how to look at an exclusivist doctrine which dispatches to hell such an impressive list of people. And the majority of people born in this world so far. The only consolation for people like me is that the company in the hell is interesting; in case they pay attention to smallfries.
Some remaining questions
Coming back to valance, some questions remain:
- The messenger’s right to destroy non-believers simply because they did not believe is granted as per this thesis, however a believer may consider it totally justified. So Quran did sanction violence against non-believers in Muhammad’s time; though this path of spreading religion is closed now for ever, fortunately. Good for humanity.
- Now only a sovereign state may declare jihad when it becomes “essential to curb the evils perpetrated by countries and nations”. Can non-Islamic states also declare jihad or is it a prerogative of Islamic states alone? Can a state declare jihad even if the evil is perpetrated within the boundaries of another state and has nothing to do with the state which wants to declare jihad?
- The Muslims are supposed “to help stop people from bad deeds”. This is about individual Muslims. Am I correct in assuming that they cannot do this stopping with violent means, if the supposed to be ‘bad deeds’ are not directly against them? Also, can Muslims of country A get involved into stopping these deeds if they are happening with Muslims in a country B different from theirs? Also, are the Muslims supposed to try to stop these deeds with any one, irrespective of sufferers being Muslims or not?
Finally, I do understand that Mr. Ashraf, like any decent human being today, is against all violence in the name of religion; and in his interpretation of the Quran the book does not sanction violence. But this is achieved through two devices. One, justifying some of the violence (Ex. Of hell, destruction of non-believers in this world by God’s actions, and Muhammad’s attacks on non-believers) in the name of the original covenant and Allah’s scheme. And two, interpreting some verses of Quran to mean that it was justified in that context they were revealed in, but no more. This interpretation is not accepted by all believers as for them Quran is the eternal message of the Allah.
This piece of mine, of course, will be interpreted as biased against Islam by Mr. Ashraf, and against all religions by those who know me better. One argument is that religion is beyond (or below!) reason, therefore, this kind of analysis is futile and misleading. I accept this wholeheartedly, but only as long as the religion does not play any role in the public space, remains totally private. As soon as it enters the public space in a democracy where everyone not a believer, religion loses this immunity against reason (or common sense thinking) and becomes one with all political ideologies. Open to be analysed and criticised.
I sincerely value Mr. Shraf’s concern for and politeness shown to me in the following remark (actually throughout his article): “for your own sake, please don’t open the translations and commentaries of the holy book until you develop an urge from inside to seek the truth. […. Allah leads astray many and guides many to the right way by the same thing and He leads astray only those who disobey Allah. Qur’an 2:26]”
But I hardly care about Allah or any God, my concern are human beings and their thought process to guide them to live a decent life in this world. Because of that I cannot stop from examining religious books. As he has faith in Allah’s command, I have confidence in human mind, and it’s totally unhindered use to the hilt. Therefore, the Allah and all His divine enemies (for Allah has no friends among the divinity, only rivals and enemies), be they from whatever religion are bound to be angry with me. But fortunately, I am only a very small and insignificant part of the great mass humanity who will not stop the use of their minds because of the fear of wrath of all the Allahs, Gods and Ishwaras put together. Or at the least I hope so.
Rohit Sir, I love you; you are really amazing. You are not faithless; you do have many faiths. You have faith in humanity; you have faith in love; you have faith in giving respect to your fellow being. The only faith you, probably, don’t have is faith in HIM who has given you all these faiths. What about them who have faith in hatred? Who is HE who has given such a bad thing to them? HE must be ONE and ONE only. Is it correct that HE has given the quality of love to few and hatred to others? If it is right; then how come my lovely Rohit sir hates the killer demons in human skin? If Rohit sir hates the hatemongers of our society; it means potentially he possesses the two opposite qualities at a time. Glory be to HIM who created Rohit sir with a capability to channel his contrast qualities of love and hate in an appropriate way! Let us submit to HIM who taught us the limits of everything. One might think that hate must have limits but love must be limitless. Limit of love is beyond human understanding. Divine scriptures teach us those limits which are difficult to be perceived by a common man. One who realizes the LIMIT GIVER and cares for those limits willingly, is devout and an uncaring one is deviant. Qur’anic term for these two are ‘momin’ and kafir. I am sorry, I brought Qur’an into discussion without first submitting this book to Rohit sir for a critical examination.
Faith doesn’t demand acceptance before understanding. Faith teaches us to understand that there is limit of ‘understanding’. Consider an example. The chant of a muezzin calls the faithful to prayer five times a day. His melodious voice floats in the air: God is greater…God is greater… I bear witness that none is worthy of worship except God. The voice of the muezzin resonates with the soul of the faithful and moves his innermost self. He harkens to the call and proceeds to stand before God, shoulder to shoulder with fellow believers, forgetting his worldly pursuits, to reaffirm his pristine relationship with the Creator. Now, ask a ‘scientist’ what he hears in the voice of the muezzin. His answer will be along the following lines:
Sound waves (p-waves) are created by the call to prayer. These waves travel towards you at about 250 meters per second. When the waves hit your ear, they set up mechanical disturbances in the eardrum, which are then converted into electric signals, and travel up through the auditory nerves to the brain.
Ask yourself, where in this physical description, is the call to prayer. The sound waves, compression and expansion of the air, vibrations of the ear drum, nerve endings and brain cells are there but where is that vibration that resonates with the believer’s soul? Where is the call towards the Divine? Quite simply, it is not there. It is not there because the consciousness of the Oneness of God, of prayer and your well-being is in the soul. It is not in the sound waves and auditory canals as described in modern physics.
Rohit Sir, it was not fruit of knowledge that was forbidden to Adam and Eve. Qur’an says, “And He taught Adam the names of all things …… 2:31”. God has endowed the human being with the ability to learn. He has given us our unique faculties for acquiring knowledge. So what was the forbidden tree? But again, there is limit of knowledge. Every opinion is not knowledge. According to a scholarly opinion the forbidden tree is symbolically and subtly used for a lust that is the source of many evils even today if not controlled through divine guidance (http://www.monthly-renaissance.com/issue/query.aspx?id=867). But remember; divine guidance is not only in scriptures; it is inside us.
Rohit Sir, you are a teacher as you said. All great men and women had their teachers. As the Qur’an teaches us, “For every knower, there is one who knows more 12:76”. Rumi, a great Islamic scholar and poet had a teacher. His name was Senai. One evening, Senai was walking back home from the mosque after evening prayers. Darkness was fast approaching. The alleys of the town were narrow and sinewy as they used to be before the advent of the automobile. As he walked, he saw a little girl walk towards him with a candle in her hand to help her see in the approaching darkness. The great scholar was fascinated by the light. “Where does the light come from?” he pondered. Not satisfied with the hundreds of answers that flashed through his inquisitive mind, he approached the child, bent down and asked her in a gentle voice, “Please tell me where this light came from?” The child looked up at him. Her sharp, penetrating eyes saw a great man of wisdom looking benevolently at her. His shiny white beard glistened in the light from the flickering candle. His furrowed face radiated the wisdom of the ages. The little girl paused for a moment, blew the candle out with a single breath and asked him: “Please tell me where the light has gone and I will tell you where it came from?”
Who was the teacher here and who was the pupil?
Rohit Sir, you mock religions; but no one is without a religion; and you too. Making mockery of religions is probably your religion. Rohit Sir, people call you a think tank, and so I can’t call you ignorant. Sorry sir, may your Lord forgive me and bless you!
Rohit Sir, please stop reading Qur’an, Bible, Geeta, Ramain for some time. Peek inside of your inner self. You will find: “Bheekha bhookha koi nahi sabki gathri lal, gireh khol na jaante taante bhaye kangal”. Learn to know what is really good and what is bad. Then read all the ‘books’ you can as a seeker of truth. Whatever is good in any book, is from HIM, and you will not find anything wrong in Qur’an. [This is the Book of Allah, there is no doubt in it; it is a guidance for the righteous. 2:2].
With profound regards,
1. Personal comments in this discussion are not important. 2. The main discussion was on whether Quran sanctions violence or not. As far as I could understand: a. An attempt has been made to JUSTIFY the violence in Allah’s destruction of people and Muhammad’s war simply because people did not believe in the Allah alone. This is admission of violence; and the justification is simply an elaborate fiction. b. If the Quranic verse that extoll for jihad are taken as contextual, then further support to violence by the book can be negated. c. But if the Quran is taken as eternal and immutable, then it still remains a source of justification of violence for many. d. That seems to be the end of the Quranic discussion in this dialogue. 3. Then the discussion drifts far away from the topic and goes into the idea of existence of an all-powerful creator and lord of the world. This is a different discussion altogether. The arguments from creations of human consciousness and origin of morality to prove existence of God do not work; as there can be alternative explanations which are simpler than the assumption of God. 4. Non-believers not being able to understand the religious scriptures and therefore they should not read them is an old argument advanced by all religious people. Look within yourself is simply an assertion that you will find some divinity there. This is simply a plea or a dictum to those who do not believe; provides no help in making sense of all this.
There are verses in Qur’an related with jihad in the sense of armed struggle. Many interpreter take them as contextual while there are others who take them as eternal. I take the first interpretation as correct. However, I have read many scholarly literature on second interpretation. All the genuine scholars of this group put such a strict moral guard that it becomes impossible for anyone to justify violence on this basis; still violence takes place. There is no one whose judgment on this subject can be accepted by all the followers of Qur’an. I firmly believe that a day of accountability will come that will be day of open defense for entire humanity where oppressors and sufferers will receive their dues with utmost justice. [We shall set up just scales on the Day of Resurrection so that none will be wronged in the least. (We shall bring forth the acts of everyone), even if it be the weight of a grain of mustard seed. We shall suffice as Reckoner. Quran 21:47]
Mr. Ashraf, like many other Muslims, takes the most appropriate position in thinking that the call for jihad verses were contextual and not an eternal call for jihad. But there are scholars, as he mentions, who take them for eternal guidance. Even very liberal minded scholars leave room for the more fundamentalist interpretation; perhaps unintentionally. Maulana Azad can be seen as an example.
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad is considered one of the most liberal interpreters of the Quran. It can be easily seen that the verses which issue a call to jihad are taken as general and part of eternal guidance by him. How strict the conditions are is a matter of opinion. Maulana refers to the danger to the community and certainly thinks that these verses are applicable only when the faith is in danger and the community is under attack. But spacious interpretations of ‘being in danger’ and ‘under attack’ have been many in the past few years.
“The truth is this. When a people are called upon by the force of circumstance to defend the cause of truth and uphold it for the good of men, it should behove everyone who sincerely believes in the truth to be prepared to sacrifice everything dear to him so that the cause of truth .might prevail and bring happiness to one and all. The Quran gives the tiding to such devotees of truth that whatever they might lose in the struggle would be repaid to them manifold when truth shall triumph and bring peace
and prosperity to one and all.” Azad, The Tarjuman Al-Quran Vol. 3, pages 15-16.
For every believer Islam is the truth and it is for the good of one and all. The condition of “called upon by the force of circumstance” to defend the “cause of the truth” is by no means difficult to meat. There are umpteen number of instances in which this principle could be evoked. Rushdie’s writing of Stannic Verses provided the opportunity to Khomeini. And one can multiply the instances.
“In verse 39, as in several other verses, the Quran has served a warning to the Muslims to the effect that should they ever as a community or nation fail to discharge their duty laid on them as a community, the law of God will have its inevitable course by replacing them by another community which shall have the talent to fulfil it.” ibid, page 22.
The duty mentioned in the verse 9:39 is clear enough, “Unless ye march forth. He will chastise you with a serious chastisement and He will certainly replace you by another set of people and then you shall in no way harm Him. (On the other hand you will harm yourselves). God hath power over everything.” Ibid, page 26.
The verse (9:41) forms a decisive injunction that whenever the Imam or the head of the community of Muslims calls upon his following to take up arms in defence of the community, no one is exempted except the decrepit and the disabled who, in verse 91 are formally declared exempted. It was incumbent on everyone to strive in the, cause of God with what all he possesses and even his life and no excuse is admitted.” Ibid, page 28.
Mr. Ashraf states: “I firmly believe that a day of accountability will come that will be day of open defense for entire humanity where oppressors and sufferers will receive their dues with utmost justice. [We shall set up just scales on the Day of Resurrection so that none will be wronged in the least. (We shall bring forth the acts of everyone), even if it be the weight of a grain of mustard seed. We shall suffice as Reckoner. Quran 21:47]”
He implies that the verse 21:27 can be seen as a warning to those who ‘misinterpret’ (according to him) the Quran to consider the jihad verses as part of eternal guidance. This is not true. This verse (21:27) is a warning to disbelievers and polytheists and not to the believers at all. This is amply clear if one reads from verse 21:41 onwards, I quote below:
“41 Other messengers have been mocked before you, but those who scoffed were overwhelmed by the very thing they had mocked.
42 Say, ‘Who will save you from the wrath of the Most Gracious, by night and by day?’ Yet they turn away from the remembrance of their Lord. 43 Do they have other deities who can defend them against Us? They cannot even help themselves, neither can they be aided against Us.
44 Yet We bestowed the good things [of life] upon their fathers for a great length of time. But do they not see how We are shrinking their borders? Is it they who will prevail?
45 Say, ‘I warn you only through the Revelation.’ But the
deaf can hear nothing when they are warned, 46 yet if even a breath of your Lord’s punishment touched them, they would say, ‘Woe to us! We were indeed wrongdoers.’
47We shall set up scales of justice on the Day of Resurrection, so that no soul can be in the least wronged. Actions as small as a grain of mustard seed shall be weighed. We are sufficient as a reckoner.” Maulana Wahididdin Khan, The Quran, Page 245.
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan’s is one of the most liberal minded Islamic scholar.
My dear Rohit Sir, I am really thankful to you for making the discussion so interesting. I have to leave my work today to share my understanding with you. I can’t defer this to late night as insufficient sleep may make me unresponsive to my Lord’s call early in the morning tomorrow.
The words ‘kafir-plural kafireen used as objective or kafiroon used as subjective’ and ‘mushrik-mushrikeen or mushrikoon in objective/subjective plural’ are abundantly used in Qur’an and these words are translated in English in various ways by different translators. The word ‘al-kafiroon’ in 109:1 is translated as ‘those who rejected faith’ or ‘unbelievers’ or ‘disbelievers’. The word ‘al-mushrikeen’ in 9:1 is translated as ‘pagans’ or ‘idolaters’ or ‘disbelievers in oneness of Allah’ or ‘polytheists’. I find ‘rejecter’ and ‘polytheist’ as the most appropriate translations of Qur’anic terms of ‘kafir’ and ‘mushrik’.
The prefix ‘al’ is a game changer in interpretation of the divine verses. In Arabic when ‘al’ is added as a prefix to a plural common noun then it represents a specific group and it should not be taken as general. Therefore ‘al-kafiroon’ and ‘al-mushrikeen’ should be taken as specific group of rejecters and polytheists of that time and not all of them who were not even born at the time of revelation of these verses; or todays unbelievers who don’t know anything about Qur’an. Taking those verses by few ignorant as ‘free license to kill unbelievers’ must be simply unacceptable to any one who is sane.
Sir, you have quoted many verses of Qur’an from chapter #9. While reading the translations you might have noted that this is the only one out of 114 chapters in Quran that doesn’t start with “in the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful” whereas all other 113 remaining chapters start with the name of gracious and merciful Allah. The reason is said to be that this chapter deals with declaration of divine war against the rejecters of truth who were provided with best preaching for almost 20 years by messenger of Allah and now Allah’s has stopped his mercy on them. Here, Qur’an addresses only the idolaters of mecca who had rejected the truth presented to them by Allah’s messenger.
I understand that a rejecter of a truth should be punished only when the truth is presented to him in the best manner; he understands it well and rejects it knowingly. If he is unable to understand the truth then it implies that his rejection is not deliberate. He is simply an ignorant not a deliberate offender and a corporal punishment to him is not justified. I can’t simply claim that I have presented the truth to my fellow being in best possible way and they have rejected the truth knowingly. Today it is no one’s job to pass judgment about anyone that he is rejecter of truth. Day of resurrection will be an open defense day when Allah will judge the entire mankind for their faith and deeds.
Similarly, the chapter 109 in Qur’an is a declaration by Allah’s messenger to dissociate himself from those people of his society who had knowingly rejected the truth presented to them. Today, I can’t dissociate myself from my fellow being of different believes on the basis of these verses. I don’t have exactly the same assignment as messenger of Allah. He was Allah’s appointed judge. As a believer, my role is limited to be a humble presenter of truth as a real well-wisher of people around me. Qur’an has taught me that sanctity of human life is the summum bonum.
The above comment posted anonimously by mistake is mine. Rohit Dhankar
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