At first blush these verses seem to be a combination of injunctions for life about violence, aggression and fighting and at the same time about the specifics of Mohammed’s return to Mecca with his followers. For instance, verse 190 – and I like the emphasis placed here on not being aggressors or even aggressive – seems to be a rule to follow for life. However, verse 191 – which discusses returning to the place from which you were expelled and making sure not to fight near the Holy Mosque – seems more specific to the conquest of Mecca.
I feel like 194 is a dangerous verse to give people, because it effectively authorizes oppression in the name of God and piety, saying that it is allowed against those who oppress you to the same degree. Human nature is such, however, that people who oppress are often unable to discontinue doing so, even if the appropriate level of oppression authorized has been met. Oppression requires dehumanization and once dehumanized, oppression proceeds unhindered. Plus, why say in verse 191 that oppression is worse than killing if only a few verses later oppression, to whatever degree, is going to be allowed. It seems unreasonable, counterproductive, and plain not good. Unless of course the entire thing is a ruse to see whether people will abide by the earlier words and never oppress, knowing that it is wrong.
I was unaware of the ritual of shaving one’s head in Islam. What is the purpose of doing so and what does it mean to do so? Any help clarifying this would help. It seems here to be related to sending a sacrifice instead of visiting a holy place, but what is it directly related to? Is this related to hajj?
What else can you tell us about these verses? Can you answer any of my questions, enlighten us generally on the verses or simply add anything? Thanks!
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The Cow 189-196
189. They ask you of the new moons. Say: “These are periods set for men (to reckon) time, and for pilgrimage.” Piety does not lie in entering the house through the back door, for the pious man is he who follows the straight path. Enter the house through the main gate, and obey God. You may haply find success. 190. Fight those in the way of God who fight you, but do not be aggressive: God does not like aggressors. 191. And fight those (who fight you) wheresoever you find them, and expel them from the place they had turned you out from. Oppression is worse than killing. Do not fight them by the Holy Mosque unless they fight you there. If they do, then slay them: Such is the requital for unbelievers. 192. But if they desist, God is forgiving and kind. 193. FIght them till sedition comes to end, and the law of God (prevails). If they desist, then cease to be hostile, except against those who oppress. 194. (Fighting during) the holy month (if the sanctity) of the holy month (is violated) is (just) retribution. So if you are oppressed, oppress those who opress you to the same degree, and fear God, and know that God is with those who are pious and follow the right path. 195. Spend in the way of God and do not seek destruction at your own hands. So do good; for God loves those who do good. 196. Perform the pilgrimage and holy visit (‘Umra, to Makkah) in the service of God. But if you are prevented, send an offering which you can afford as sacrifice, and do not shave your heads until the offering has reached the place of sacrifice. But if you are sick or have ailment of the scalp (preventing the shaving of hair), then offer expiation by fasting or else giving alms or a sacrificial offering. When you have security, then those of you who wish to perform the holy visit along with the pilgrimage, should make a sacrifice according to their means. But he who has nothing, should fast for three days furing the pilgrimage and seven on return, completing ten. This applies to him whose family does not live near the Holy Mosque. Have fear of God and remember that God is severe in punishment.