August 16, 2022 | Muharram 18, 1444
Al-Maida (The Table Spread) - Chapter 5: Verse 44 (partial)
The charity that Muslim scholars granted passages from the Quran and Hadiths in order to read them as part of a greater, encompassing system of truth meant that their literal meaning was often set aside altogether. That one had to move from the evident meaning of a text to a secondary meaning because compelling evidence required it was known as Tawil, or interpretation. Even the earliest Muslims understood that literal meanings could, in fact, be dangerous. In a series of verses chastising the Jews and Christians of Medina for not following the sacred laws revealed to them or submitting to the Prophet's judgment, the Quran declares: 'And whoever does not rule by what God has revealed, truly they are the unbelievers.' This verse has echoed violently among militant revivalist groups in the modern period. It literally condemns as kafirs - unbelievers - those who do not rule by the law revealed by God, the Shariah. The Companion Ibn Abbas, who was so prized for his exegesis of the Quran's language that he was dubbed 'The Rabbi of this Nation,' offered a crucial specification. 'It is not the unbelief that they think it is, namely the unbelief that places someone outside the Muslim community. Rather it is an unbelief other than that unbelief.'
Distancing this Quranic verse from accusations of apostasy was crucial in the first decades of Islam, which saw the emergence of the extremist Kharijite sect. This group believed that anyone who committed a serious sin was an apostate deserving of death (if someone really believed in God, how could they disobey Him?). Kharijites assassinated the fourth caliph, Ali bin Abi Talib, after accusing him of not ruling by God's decree. Ibn Abbas confronted the Kharijites with his explanations, and some four thousand eventually recanted their extremism.
"Misquoting Muhammad" - Jonathan A.C. Brown, pp. 81, 82
From Issue: 853 [Read original issue]
Upholding God's Protection
Narrated by Anas, The Prophet, God bless and grant him peace, said, “Whoever prays our prayer, faces our qibla, and eats our halal meat is a Muslim who has God’s protection and then the protection of God’s Messenger. So do not betray God in His protection” (la takhfiru ‘llaha fi dhimmatihi) [Bukhari].
The word dhimmah has several meanings, including, “care, custody, protection, covenant of protection, compact, responsibility, answerableness, liability, inviolability, security, and conscience.” The Arabs say, “‘ala dhimmati,” meaning, “upon my word of honor.”
According to this hadith, God has placed His protection over certain things – in the case of this particular hadith, Muslims, but more generally, according to the Qur’an, many other hadith, and Islamic law, His creation in the world. Hence, trees, wells, rivers, oceans, air, soil, food, animals, and most importantly people, irrespective of faith, color, or creed have God’s protection. However, God has made the human being the divine custodian of this protection.
The above-mentioned hadith does not exclude people of other faiths. Those who are not Muslim, which includes people of all other faiths and not just the Abrahamic ones according to the Maliki and Hanafi schools, are people of covenant in Muslims lands, as was Ottoman practice for centuries; hence, they are called, “the covenantal people of protection” (ahl dhimmah). Included also in this category are nations that have treaties with Muslim nations and peoples in non-Muslim lands in which Muslims are living safely. In other words, all these people are in God’s and His Messenger’s protection. This is why, on the Day of Judgment, the Prophet, God bless and grant him peace, is the advocate of a person of covenant who was betrayed by Muslims against the Muslims who betrayed him.
Of all God’s creatures, it is children who warrant the greatest protection due to their helplessness and innocence, which is why the punishment for violating them is severe. The Prophet, God bless and grant him peace, loved children and honored them on many occasions, such as calling them by honorific epithets or patting young ones on the head, leaving the scent of musk upon them for the rest of the day. In fact, the Prophet, God bless and grant him peace, visited one child whose pet had died in order to offer condolences and cheer him up. The Prophet, God bless and grant him peace, also cursed those who mistreated animals and told of a person punished in the hellfire for torturing a cat; contrariwise, he told of a prostitute forgiven for giving water to a dog dying of thirst.
Terrible crimes perpetrated against children are also a sign that we not only have freewill but, according to our creed, that God is not obliged to intervene when we use it to break covenants of God’s protection and violate the inviolable. The ability to break this covenant of protection is called freewill. The rights and protection that God has given humans is to be upheld and honored by each of us. If anyone betrays that trust, then, in this world, the government has the authority and right to redress the wrong. In redressing the wrong, wholeness is restored, and healing can take place. If this does not occur, the victim must remember: there is a day when the divine redresser will right every wrong, heal every wound, fulfill every vow, and remove for all eternity the scars of this world that were unjustly inflicted by those who betrayed God’s protection.
"When Children Suffer" - Hamza Yusuf
From Issue: 686 [Read original issue]
Zayn al-Abideen, the great-grandson of the Prophet (peace be upon him), once said:"Eight thoughts doggedly pursue me wherever I go:
1. That Allah demands that I fulfill His rights upon me.
2. That the Prophet wants me to follow his Sunnah.
3. That my family relies on me to provide for them.
4. That my carnal soul wishes for me to cater to its needs
5. That Satan is always whispering to me.
6. That the two scribes, who are ever present with me, are diligently recording my every move.
7. That the angel of death is waiting around the corner ready to seize my soul.
8. That the ground is ever-ready to receive my body. "
From Issue: 810 [Read original issue]