If you were here last week, I noted my appreciation for the Quran’s understanding that one had to be true to himself and not try to be someone he is not by deceiving others about his beliefs (pardon my consistently masculine pronouns – I think my material reflects this style though). With this, I can’t help but agree. What I find particularly significant about this passage, however, is that not once does it exhort believers (which is to say Muslims) to act against the deceivers.
Now, I haven’t read the rest of the Quran yet (though I am working my way forward) and it’s quite possible that Muslims are told to take action against such people (i.e. the deceivers who think themselves reformers and are surely mischief-mongers), but for now, that is not so.
Who will deal with the deceivers? God will. Whatever they deserve – remaining without answers about life, in darkness and in trouble, so it is written – God will bring it upon them. This, I like, and I think it’s worth remembering. At least at this stage in the Quran punishment is God’s game, not man’s (and I will stand corrected and welcome the pointing out of verses which render my supposition null and void if you’re familiar with any).
Is this to say that we should let murderers and rapists run around free because God will deal with it? No. This passage speaks of people who lie about their theological beliefs, something that men should only have to take up with one source: God. What I take away from this, then, is that we should do our best not to be affected by deceivers (if we are believers) but that they are God’s problem and He will deal with them justly.
I can’t say that this has been followed historically by a lot of people – whether Muslim, Christian, Jewish, or otherwise – but I do like reading it here in the Quran. People’s theological beliefs are their own business and they only have to answer to God.
Can you add to our understanding of this passage? What do you think about when you read these verses?
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Read more Quran Read-A-Long.
Administrative: Per the suggestion of a most learned reader, we will proceed week by week by reading the marked sections, rather than attempt to force the Quran to make sense in 10 line sections. Next week we will read The Cow 21-29. The Cow 8-20 is below.
Here’s what Hilla had to say:
Jay, I think you make an interesting point about leaving it to God to decide who is and is not a believer. I think this point is further demonstrated by the fact that this surah was revealed in Medina, after Muhammad’s hijra (pilgrimage) from Mecca. When Muhammad and his followers first arrived in Medina, there were Jews and Pagans, who challenged the status of the Muslims (the Believers). When reading these verses, one must keep in mind that Allah revealed them to Muhammad within a specific context. It was a different time then. Islam was relatively new to the scene. When reading these verses today, it can leave one to wonder whether they are still applicable and if so how. Are these verses part of an instance that happened a long time ago or do they transcend time? If the latter is true, then why do extremists (of all religions) insist on how to define who is and who is not a Believer?
(8.) And there are some who, though they say: “We believe in God and the Last Day,” (in reality) do not believe. (9) They (try to) deceive God and those who believe, yet deceive none but themselves although they do not know. (10) Sick are their hearts, and God adds to their malady. For them is suffering for they lie. (11) When asked to desist form spreading corruption in the land they say: “Why, we are reformers.” (12) Yet they are surely mischief-mongers, even though they do not know. (13) When asked to believe as others do, they say: “Should we believe like fools?” And yet they are the fools, even though they do not know. (14) When they meet the faithful they say: “We believe;” but when alone with the devils (their fellows), they say: “We are really with you; we were joking.” (15) But God will turn the joke against them and allow them to sink deeper into evil and wander perplexed in their wickedness. (16) They are indeed those who bartered away good guidance for error and gained nothing from the deal, nor found the right way. (17) They are like a man who kindles a fire, and when its glow has illumined the air God takes away their light leaving them in the dark where they will not be able to see. (18.) They are deaf, dumb and blind, and shall never return; (19) Or like rain pouring from the sky which hides within its darkness, thunder and lightning. They thrust their fingers into their ears for safety against noise and death. But God surrounds those who believe not from all sides. (20) Verily the lightning could snatch away their eyes. When it flashes forth they walk in its flare. When darkness returns they stand still. And if the Lord wills so He could take away their hearing and sight; surely God is all powerful.