The Last Resort, Accepting Invitation, Preserving Religion

Issue 988 » March 2, 2018 - Jumada al-Thani 14, 1439

Living The Quran

The Last Resort
Al-Baqara (The Cow) Sura 2: Verse 216

"Fighting has been prescribed for you, although it is a matter hateful to you. But it is possible that you hate a thing which is good for you, and that you love a thing which is bad for you. God knows, and you know not."

This verse deals with the proper restraint we should have for violence and warfare, the last resort argument, and that while it might be 'ordained' in the sense of being inevitable under certain circumstances, it always comes with limits and should be against our better judgements.

We can hate something that is good for us, just as much as we might love a thing that is bad for us. The line of judgement we have to make concerns the conditions, the circumstances that make the last resort inevitable. War is heinous, but the balance is that 'persecution is worse than slaughter'. Sometimes it is necessary to defend those who are being demeaned, denied their freedom and rights, who are made second-class citizens or worse because of who they are or what they believe. This verse must be read in conjunction with verse 190-193, 'do not commit aggression', as it is definitely not a blanket warrant for going to war, but rather an argument about the judgement that has to be made between two evils. It is clearly addressing the historical context of the time of the Prophet while generating universal principles.

There are obvious parallels, far too many of them, in our own time where communities have been left to suffer oppression, persecution even genocide, without the rest of the world springing to their aid. However, every universal principle we derive from the Quran should come with one caveat: the examples it provides are moral examples. As times change so the means we use to apply these moral principles can and perhaps should change. There are more ways than going to war to fight oppression, combat persecution and defend the dignity and freedom of those afflicted. Sometimes it may be impossible to find another way, but that does not mean we should stop trying to find peaceful means; though equally, it can mean, however heinous, it may be necessary literally to fight for the sake of a greater good. The trouble is that human beings have been much better at devising the means of destruction, the techniques of war and array of modern weaponry than devising strategies for making peace.

Compiled From:
"Reading the Qur'an: The Contemporary Relevance of the Sacred Text of Islam" - Ziauddin Sardar, pp. 156-157

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Accepting Invitation

The Prophet (peace be upon him) accepted invitations from anyone who offered to share a meal with him, even if the food was very poor. Abu Hurayrah quotes him as saying: "If I am invited to a meal of just the end of a leg I will accept, and if the end of a shoulder is sent me as a gift I will accept." (Bukhari.)

This acceptance was not limited to Muslims only, as Anas reports that "a Jew invited the Prophet to a meal consisting of barley bread and slightly rotting fat. He accepted." (Ibn Saad.) His Companions realized that the Prophet had an easy nature. One of them tells us: "The Prophet had qualities that were totally different from those of people who wielded power. He accepted the invitation of any person." (Ibn Saad.)

Compiled From:
"Muhammad: His Character and Conduct" - Adil Salahi


Preserving Religion

It is widely agreed upon by legal scholars, both Sunni and Shiite, that the sharia serves to promote and preserve a few fundamental interests. The "goals of the sacred law" most commonly articulated are: religion, life, property, intellect, and lineage.

In traditional Sunni law, "preserving religion" to a large extent meant establishing and supporting religious institutions and authorities, punishing blasphemy and apostasy, and generally finding ways to secure Islam's place in society. In this context, the establishment of secular or civil marriage would seem on the face of it to be undermining of religion. If people could have a civil marriage, then Muslim women could marry non-Muslim men and there would be no requirement for the children of such a union to be Muslim. Indeed, in Lebanon, where civil registration of marriage was introduced in 2013, the Sunni Grand Mufti Shaykh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani issued a fatwa against it, saying, "any Muslim with legal or executive authority in Lebanon who supports the legalization of civil marriage is an apostate and outside the religion of Islam". Similarly, most Christian and Jewish religious officials in Muslim-majority nations and Israel also feel that civil marriages will defeat their attempts to "preserve religion."

A reformist view of the sharia, which departs from traditional Sunni law, looks at the goals of the sharia somewhat differently. In the first place, beginning with the early modern scholar Ibn Ashur, reformists have added "freedom" to the goals. Further, since the establishment of modern Muslim nation-states, reformist scholars who have seen the tremendous capacity of the modern state for interference in personal matters have tended to shift from a paternalistic model of the state to one based on personal liberty. While the goals of the sharia are the same, the proper role of the state is now seen as providing a secure environment in which individuals can pursue their understanding of these interests, as long as they do not violate the rights of others.

Most importantly, we have seen that if Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities wish to retain their right to interpret their own family laws, especially if their interpretations are traditional, there will continue to be individuals who seek their own interests above orthodoxy and communal solidarity. These individuals will bedevil the system through court shopping and insincere conversions, leading, at times, to apostasy scandals. False conversions undermine trust in a community. Apostasy scandals create trauma and can trigger human rights violations. This undermines, rather than preserves religion. There is little doubt that the establishment of civil marriage will cause a growth in the secular sector. At the same time, perhaps those who adhere to their religious communities will have more sincerity—a valuable quality in any faith.

Compiled From:
"Could Civil Marriage Help 'Preserve Religion' in Muslim-Majority Countries?" - Ingrid Mattson