Holier Than Thou, Do No Overstrain, Huri

Issue 927 » December 30, 2016 - Rabi Al-Thani 1, 1438

Living The Quran

Holier Than Thou
Al-Baqarah (The Cow) - Chapter 2: Verses 8-12

"Of the people there are some who say: 'We believe in God and the Last Day'; but they are not true believers. They would deceive God and those who believe, but they deceive none but themselves. Sickness abides in their hearts and God increases their malady. A painful punishment awaits them because they are false (to themselves). When it is said to them: 'Do not spread corruption in the land', they say: 'We are the only ones that put things right.' Truly, it is they who are spreading corruption but they perceive it not."

Hypocrisy, we are told, is both an attempt to deceive the community and to deceive God. It is, however, self-delusion, a 'sickness' that 'abides in their hearts' because hypocrites ultimately 'deceive none but themselves' because 'they are false to themselves'. The judgement of such people belongs to God.

The hypocrites claim to be the only ones 'that put things right'. We are all too familiar with those who insist they alone know the right way, people who argue, quibble and nitpick about the fine distinctions of piety. For some, these fine details seem more important than fulfilling the transformative purpose of religion, the spending and using of our resources to make a better world. The matter mentioned here is 'spreading corruption in the land'. This is the central concern in the Quran, the contradiction of its purpose to guide humanity to the eradication of injustice, unfairness, all that leads to poverty, exclusion, suffering and division between people; all, in short, that contributes to tyranny and oppression in the widest sense. Those who claim they alone know 'what is to be done'—as Lenin said, in a different context—often have narrow, self-serving and self-protecting definitions which leave the basic structural inequities in place and fall far short of genuine transformative change.

From those who would like the environment protected but nevertheless are NIMBYs—not in my backyard—when it comes to taking action, or wealthy nations that talk a great line about free trade and aid to the neediest, yet continue to benefit from the operation of an unjust and inequitable global economic system, there is pause for thought here. There are many ways to be holier than thou about the substance of practical religion.

Compiled From:
"Reading the Qur'an: The Contemporary Relevance of the Sacred Text of Islam" - Ziauddin Sardar

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Do Not Overstrain

Some people think that the harder they drive themselves in fulfilling religious duties, the higher the position they will achieve in God's eyes. Yet Islam does not require people to overstrain themselves, as it steers a middle way. Indeed, it is referred to, in some religious texts as "the middle way". The Prophet's (peace be upon him) practical example shows that he understood this and put it into practice. Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) reports:

Whenever the Prophet was given a choice between two options, he would choose the easier, unless it be sinful. If it was sinful, he would move furthest away from it. Never did he seek revenge for himself. However, if something God has prohibited was violated, he would seek to avenge that for God's sake. (Related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

A similar hadith mentions that "God's Messenger never beat anyone with his hand: he never beat a woman or a servant. [He used his hand] only when he was in jihad for God's cause. Never did he avenge himself for something done to him. Only when something God has prohibited was violated he would seek to avenge that for God's sake." (Related by Muslim.)

The Prophet's character shines as being that of a very modest man who never sought to press an advantage in anyway. At the same time, he was clearly dedicated to his message and would do everything in his power to ensure that people understood it clearly and could see how to put it into practice. He felt for others and would try hard to make it easy for them to understand God's message and implement what He required of them. In his speech during the farewell pilgrimage, for example, he outlined the major principles of Islam. At the end of every point he stressed, he would ask his audience: "Have I delivered God's message?" When they affirmed that he had done, he appealed to God to witness their acknowledgement.

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



It is clear that the term huri, used in the (idhafah) construction hur-al-ayn, meant something specific to the Jahili Arab. She was 'so called by the Arabs of the desert because of her whiteness or fairness or cleanness'. She was a woman of 'clear complexion and skin'. The descriptions given of the huri are specific and sensual—youthful, virgin females with large dark eyes, white skin, and a pliant character—'while nowhere ... are found similar descriptions detailing, if not the beauty, at least the modest or even perhaps hidden assets of earthly wives'.

The specific depiction here of the companions of Paradise demonstrates the Quran's familiarity with the dreams and desires of those Arabs. The Quran offers the huri as an incentive to aspire after truth. It is impossible to believe that the Quran intends white women with large eyes to represent a single universal description of beauty for all humankind. If we take these mythological depictions universally as the ideal female, a number of culturally specific limitations are forced on the divergent audiences of the Quran. The value of these particulars is extremely limited.

The Quran itself demonstrates the limitation of this particular depiction when the community of believers in Islam had increased in number and established itself at Madinah. After the Makkan period, the Quran never uses this term again to depict the companions in Paradise. After Madinah, it describes the companions of Paradise in generic terms like azwaj.

Compiled From:
"Quran and Women" - Amina Wadud, pp. 54, 55