Living The Quran
From Issue: 994 [Read full issue]
Al-Baqara (The Cow) Sura 2: Verse 256
"There is no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in God has grasped the most trustworthy handhold, that never breaks, for God is All-hearing, All-knowing."
The word for religion, and Islam's own self-description, is deen. Deen is a way of knowing, being and doing, a way of life. What is more, this way of living, based on God consciousness, brings God near to us, it illuminates our lives.
Muslims frequently say that religion, their deen, is a total way of life. What this means is that just as belief in God is a free, informed choice, so the consequence of belief is about making choices about seeking what is best for oneself, one's family, for society, for the whole of humanity and the world, in all aspects and actions of daily life. And part of living one's deen, since we cannot live in splendid isolation, is seeking out and working for the free, willing collaboration of other people in the project of making the world the best possible place we can. A reflection of this is that the Arabic word for city, the concentration of human cohabitation, is medina, from the root deen. It was the new name given to Yathrib after Prophet Muhammad migrated there from Mecca and began to organise the new religion.
Community organised by consent of the governed follows from the proposition of religion as a way of life embraced by the consent of free will. The distinctions that illuminate how to live are the values and principles revealed by God for human betterment, which we accept as a consequence of faith. In opting for the light we willingly commit ourselves to working for justice and equity, and put ourselves on the right path.
The word used in this passage for evil is quite interesting: al-taghut. The evil ones are those who exceed their legitimate limits, and arrogate powers, wealth and lordship that do not belong to them—leading to arrogance and worship of other things besides God. Evil is interfering with, distorting and turning to the wrong ends, the free choices of free individuals. There is little point in saying we have free will if we are not free to exercise the option to abide by the constraints of moral and ethical behaviour of our own volition. And of our own volition it is necessary to turn away from the excesses of intoxication with worldly wealth and power, from arrogance and indulgence, from naked consumerism, especially that which squanders, wastes and despoils the human spirit and the world in which we live. That is the light that leads us away from the darkness of ignorance and unconsidered, short-sighted judgements.
"Reading the Qur'an: The Contemporary Relevance of the Sacred Text of Islam" - Ziauddin Sardar, pp. 180, 181