Contextual Reading, Expressing Grief, Political Power

Issue 514 » January 30, 2009 - Safar 4, 1430

Living The Quran

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

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Expressing Grief

During the tenth year of hijrah, young Ibrahim, who was then about a year and a half old, fell seriously ill. At the very time when the religion of the One was being established all over the Peninsula, with adversity constantly diminishing and the number of conversions continuing to grow, the Prophet, peace be upon him, saw his only son about to leave life and leave him. When the child eventually breathed his last, the Prophet took him in his arms and held him against his breast, tears streaming down his face, so deep was his sorrow.

The Prophet was intimately affected, and he did not hesitate to show and express his grief. He added: "The eye sheds tears, O Ibrahim, the heart is infinitely sad, and one must only utter what satisfies God." God had once more tested him through his humanity and his mission. He had lost so many loved ones - Companions, his wife Khadijah, three of his daughters, and his three sons. His life had been crossed with tears, but he remained both gentle with his heart and firm in his mission. It was this chemistry of gentleness and firmness that satisfied the Most Near. At the time when the world seemed to open up to the Prophet's mission, Muhammad's human fate seemed reduced to that tiny grave where Ibrahim's body was laid, and over which he then led the funeral prayer. The Prophet was one of the elect; the Prophet remained a human being.

Compiled From:
"In The Footsteps of The Prophet" - Tariq Ramadan, pp. 191, 192


Political Power

No engaged Muslim understands or accepts the apologies usually given by Muslim politicians about the sad shortcomings of the ummah in this century. And no one accepts the argument that the masses initiative must come from the ranks of the masses before it can be exercised by al khilafah's leaders. The elite who know better are certainly there, and in abundance. What is needed at this time in history is the spark to ignite the will of the ummah into motion. This can come only from the leader's preparedness to engage in the dangerous business of interfering in history as its subject, not as its patient and object.

Interference in history by the Muslim ummah begins at home, in the patient, sober building of al khilafah which cannot be said to exist in any present Muslim state. Once sure of a provisional base on which to anchor itself, al khilafah must mobilize the whole Muslim world and call it to march. No price should be regarded exorbitant to achieve this objective except the dissolution of al khilafah itself. Its personnel can and should be sacrificed if progress towards that goal cannot be made without it. Once the ummah stands in readiness, the moment of Abu Bakr's caliphate will be on hand again. That will be the greatest moment ever.

Compiled From:
"Tawhid: Its Implications for Thought and Life" - Ismail Raji Al-Faruqi, pp. 154-155