Living The Quran


From Issue: 514 [Read full issue]

Al-Maida (The Table Spread)
Chapter 5: Verse 93

Contextual Reading
"No harm falls upon those who believe and do good works for what they have consumed as long as they are conscious of God and believe and do good works and then are conscious of God and believe and then are conscious of God and do good. Verily, God loves those who do good."

The "occasion of revelation" (asbab al-nuzul) of a verse gives a different kind of context than the Sunna. Whereas the Sunna shows the way the Prophet put general principles and specific commands of the Quran into practice, the occasions of revelation give context for Quranic statements for which there may or may not be correlating information from the Sunna. Without the background of the occasions of revelation, the normative value of many Quranic statements could be misunderstood if the verses are read in a literal fashion.

There is a report that some early Muslims understood the above verse to permit believers to consume alcohol. This claim was contested by one of the Companions, who said, "If they had know the occasion of revelation they would not have said that; (the occasion) is that when wine was forbidden people used to say, 'What about those who were killed in the path of God [before this prohibition] and died after they had been drinking wine which is an abomination?' Then this verse was revealed." The point of this verse, then, is not that the sacred law is waived for those who have faith and do good works, but that those who are ignorant of the law will not be punished for lack of compliance with it. What this story shows is that a decontextualized reading of the Quran can lead to a grave misunderstanding of its meaning.

Compiled From:
"The Story of The Quran: Its History and Place in Muslim Life" - Ingrid Mattson, p. 168