Perverted Distortions, Shadow of the Spear, Ethics of Responsibility

Issue 941 » April 7, 2017 - Rajab 10, 1438

Living The Quran

Perverted Distortions
Al-Baqara (The Cow) Sura 2: Verse 75 (partial)

"... a party of them heard the word of Allah and then, after having understood it, perverted it knowingly?"

This verse is addressed to the Muslims, in an aside, as it were, from the main audience, the contemporaneous Jews. The phrase harrafa ash-shay an wajhihi means to turn something away from its right direction. Thus, harrafa al-qawl would mean tahrif or distorting and changing the words or a speech from its true intent. Such a change or distortion can take different forms:

i. To interpret a statement deliberately in a manner contrary to the intent of the speaker;

ii. To change the pronunciation and form of a word beyond recognition. The word Marwah for example has been distorted into Mora or Maria.

iii. To amend a statement or make additions to it in such a way that its real intent is lost, e.g., the distortions in the story of the migration of Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, so as to sever any link between him and the Kaba, the House of Allah, erected by him in Makkah.

iv. To render a word bearing a double meaning in such a manner that manifestly contradicts its context. For example, the Hebrew word ibn has been translated as "son", even though the original word also means a slave or a servant.

v. To raise questions and issues about a matter that is quite clear in order to shroud it in ambiguity, pervert its real intent, and confuse others.

It is also important to bear in mind that a distortion is committed only when it is done intentionally and deliberately. That is why the Quran qualifies its statement by adding that they "perverted it knowingly, after having understood it". It is this knowledge and the wilful nature of such distortion that makes it so heinous a crime in this case; it is not out of ignorance, but in spite of the clear knowledge that they possessed. Such people bar themselves from the light that comes with knowledge from Allah.

Compiled From:
"Pondering Over The Qur'an: Surah al-Fatiha and Surah al-Baqarah" - Amin Ahsan Islahi

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Shadow of the Spear

In these unhappy times disputes have spread throughout the Muslim nation, causing Muslims to kill one another. The deaths resulting from this destructive infighting are greater in number than those killed in fighting Christian colonialism and Zionism. In general, governments in Muslim countries have far poorer records in respect of justice and cleanliness than the majority of non-Muslim governments. The Muslim masses possess little by way of culture, productivity and capacity in life and its duties. Their prevailing customs are very far from Islam in both spirit and action. The Muslim Community is now the one in the greatest need of teaching, education and self-recognition.

In spite of the fact that this is our current situation, some people still produce the hadith, "I was sent with the sword before the Hour and my provision was put under the shadow of my spear, and abasement and belittlement are heaped on those who oppose my command..." [Ahmad] My reply to them is: "I too wish that you had a sword with which to defend the Truth and repel its enemies from it. The truth is drowning and no one calls for help. Would that you had a spear under whose shade you could receive provision! You are asking for your provision from the crops of your enemy. He is the one who makes the weapons which you buy at such a high price, for purposes which Allah alone knows! What do you have to do with this hadith? .... I will pass over the weakness of this hadith from the point of view of its isnad, and I will not attack its soundness, although it has been attacked. But I ask, 'Why do you not study the deen and its fiqh and act on it and then call people to it in a proper manner? What is the role of the sword in your hands when you wrong one another and stray from the path of right guidance?'"

Today there exists an infantile Islamic tendency which desires to gain sole control over the reins of the Community. When those with intelligence listen to their discourse, they bow their heads in sorrow. The alarming thing is that it is an infancy of intellectuals which includes people with beards and people of importance and stature. They read hadiths which they do not understand and then present a form of Islam which evokes repulsion and fear. Our Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said many things and his words must be respected and obeyed. But it is only possible to learn what is meant by the things he said if we ascertain the exact circumstances in which he said them.

Compiled From:
"The Sunna of the Prophet" - Muhammad al-Ghazali


Ethics of Responsibility

The Russian writer Dostoevsky wrote, "If God doesn't exist, everything is permissible." Exactly. God is and not everything is permitted. The message of Islam follows this vein and is very clear: For humans, thinking of God is thinking of personal responsibilities, this is the path to receive His love. It is the only path.

When the criteria of success become success itself, or performance, gain, power, or notoriety, then heartfelt Muslims line up with a consciousness of resistance. Not every direction is permitted on the road to secure money, pleasure, or power: being with God means promoting and defending values, understanding the extent of our tests, evaluating the means, and determining the legitimacy of the ends, everywhere and under all circumstances.

The ethics of responsibility that are at the heart of Muslim spirituality state and affirm that good and bad exist and that one must make a choice between them. Ethics are therefore underlined by the requirement of personal commitment and effort. It is life's test and we must face up to it by refusing to victimise ourselves and allow ourselves to fall into a state of perpetual complaint. In Europe, as elsewhere, life is difficult, the choices are perilous, but our humanity comes at this price. "Over there" they may certainly have some of the things that we lack. To each his own trials, God is and will always be just. We must face up to our weaknesses as we do our temptations in this world, where the mere mention of the word morality causes many to cringe. In this sense, our references confirm the aesthetic intuition of the poet Baudelaire, who said, "the devil's greatest trick is to make us believe that he doesn't exist." We must recognise the vigilance required.

Compiled From:
"Western Muslims: From Integration to Contribution" - Tariq Ramadan