Quran Read-A-Long: Al-‘Imran 81-92 Continue the Discussion about Those Who Follow Former Revelation

I definitely see the value of the pledge being made in verse 81. However, based on what is being said, doesn’t it make sense that Jews and Christians rejected Mohammed and Islam since, as was mentioned last week multiple times, the revelations Mohammed was receiving contradicted some of the stories in the Bible? I even said last week that, “Asad proposes (and he believes this) that the verse [72] means that Jews and Christians accepted some of Mohammed’s earlier revelations but not later ones that conflicted with biblical stories.” In this discussion, it’s necessary to set aside the Muslim belief that the Bible was long-since corrupted, because we have to be in the minds of Jews and Christians of Mohammed’s day to understand what they were thinking – particularly as it relates through verse 81.

They wouldn’t have understood that their text was corrupted, so as they saw it, someone was revealing revelation (that according to Asad they believed in the beginning), but then that person started saying things that no longer “confirmed the truth already in your possession,” and so according to Asad they later rejected Mohammed. This is not in any way my passing judgment on the validity of anyone’s revelation or the connection it has to other revelation, but I’m just trying to get in the head of Jews/Christians at Mohammed’s time from the perspective of Muslims, and it seems to me that there’s a good reason that those people were “turning away:” because of the very reason and pledge they took articulated in verse 81. It hardly seems fair that they should be scorned or punished for their actions based on this logic.

Verses 84-85 sound credo-like in their words. There is nothing in true religion but surrender to God, and all the prophets from Abraham forward knew this.

Verses 86-88 actually seem to stand in sharp contrast to some of the verses that we discussed from The Cow in which everyone who believed in God and some other basic concepts could go to Heaven. I know that we’ve encountered other verses that contradicted those already, but I am beginning to find those original verses particularly overshadowed by the animosity being shown towards Jews and Christians that just aren’t accepting Mohammed. Again, that makes me believe that something was happening in the life of the prophet with the Jews and Christians that was troubling and frustrating. I remember a verse that said that those who are given the ability to know the truth and then deny it will not go to Heaven, which seems to be a reasonable subgroup of the larger Jews and Christians group that could go to Heaven because they submitted to God in their own way. It would seem, however, that such people can’t have been confronted by Mohammed and have denied him or they’re not going up anymore. Verse 90 itself really seems to reflect this attitude by combining the original idea and the sentiment within these verses.

The complementary nature of verses 90 and 91 is rather striking. On the one hand, no amount of money will serve as an acceptable ransom for the souls of nonbelievers. Likewise, however, for believers, no amount of belief will be acceptable if they don’t, in a phrase, put their money where their mouths are, and provide for others’ needs. Very interesting contrast.

What can you add to these verses to help elucidate their meaning better?

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Al-’Imran 81-92

81. AND, LO, God accepted, through the prophets, this solemn pledge [from the followers of earlier revelation]: “If, after all the revelation and the wisdom which I have vouchsafed unto you, there comes to you an apostle confirming the truth already in your possession, you must believe in him and succour him. Do you” – said He – “acknowledge and accept My bond on this condition?” They answered: “We do acknowledge it.” Said He: “Then bear witness [thereto], and I shall be your witness. 82. And, henceforth, all who turn away [from this pledge] – it is they, they who are truly iniquitous!” 83. Do they seek, perchance, a faith other than in God, although it is unto Him that whatever is in the heavens and on earth surrenders itself, willingly or unwillingly, since unto Him all must return? 84. Say: “We believe in God, and in that which has been bestowed from on high upon us, and that which has been bestowed upon Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and their descendants, and that which has been vouchsafed by their Sustainer unto Moses and Jesus and all the [other] prophets: we make no distinction between any of them. And unto Him do we surrender ourselves.” 85. For, if one goes in search of a religion other than self-surrender unto God, it will never be accepted from him, and in the life to come he shall be among the lost. 86. How would God bestow His guidance upon people who have resolved to deny the truth after having attained to faith, and having borne witness that this Apostle is true, and [after] all evidence of the truth has come unto them? For, God does not guide such evildoing folk. 87. Their requital shall be rejection by God, and by the angels, and by all [righteous] men. 88. In this state shall they abide; [and] neither will their suffering be lightened, nor will they be granted respite. 89. But excepted shall be they that afterwards repent and put themselves to rights: for, behold, God is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace. 90. Verily, as for those who are bent on denying the truth after having attained to faith, and then grow [ever more stubborn] in their refusal to acknowledge the truth, their repentance [of other sins] shall not be accepted: for it is they who have truly gone astray. 91. Verily, as for those who are bent on denying the truth and die as deniers of the truth – not all the gold on earth could ever be their ransom. It is they for whom grievous suffering is in store; and they shall have none to succour them. 92. [But as for you, O believers,] never shall you attain to true piety unless you spend on others out of what you cherish yourselves; and whatever you spend – verily, God has full knowledge thereof.

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7 Responses

  1. And I’m sorry I didn’t say something earlier. To all who are observing the holy month of Ramadan, I wish you good fasts and all the best for you and your families.

    aSalaam ‘Alaykum

  2. Thankyou Jay and I wish you peace and blessings in return.
    Yes—I have been avoiding a question you have been asking—-What was going on around this time? This was a period of shifting alliances—and it is often hard to keep things straight—but I will try to summarize.
    Some of the shifting alliances of the various tribes in Medina were mentioned when we were reading Surah 2. (Around the time of the battle of Badr) Surah 3 can more or less be placed around the time of the battle of Uhud. To summarize the timeline—-
    Prophet Muhammed(pbuh) 570-632 CE
    610 CE—Revelation
    616 CE —Some Muslims escape to Abyssinia (Ethiopia) to avoid harrasment and persecution
    622 CE —Hijra—The Prophet leaves for Medina(Yathrib)
    624 CE—Battle of Badr—Mecca is declared the “Qibla”
    625 CE—Battle of Uhud
    627 CE—Battle of the Trench and the Treaty of Hudaibiya.
    630 CE —The Prophet enters Mecca and the city surrenders.
    We also need to situate ourselves—what are the greater Geopolitics of the region, and what is going on with the “People of the Book” in this region.
    (Keep the above timeline in mind). There are two “Superpowers” The Zoarastrian Kingdom of Chosroes 2 and the Eastern Christian/Byzantium kingdom of Heraclius. Both these powers are fighting for territory. These are to the north. To the south is the former Jewish kingdom (Yemen) which fell to the Christian Abysinians and then to the Persians.
    There were many religions in the region—The “Christians” were mostly Eastern Christians and they were various. Not all had adopted the “nature” of Jesus Christ as explained in the concept of the Trinity, and some followed the Jewish/Hebrew version of the OT rather than the Septuagint—resulting in differences of understanding “Orignal sin”” concept as well.
    Around 614 CE The Jews, under the leadership of Benjamin of Tiberias, allied themselves with Persia to take Jerusalem but later changed alliances to Heraclius of Byzantium. Around 627CE in the battle of Nineveh, Byzantium defeats Persia and takes Jerusalem. (But the Jews are not happy with this alliance either– and few years later welcome Caliph Umar)
    Meanwhile, (624-628CE) Prophet Muhammed(pbuh) is trying to create allies and sign Peace treaties with those in the region. He sends Ambassadors to Chosroes 2 and Heraclius –among others. The Governer of Yemen (the kingdom to the south–which was in Persian hands) meets with the Prophet and by 628 CE converts to Islam—and along with him much of this region. Up in the north however, apparently a contingent of muslims who may have been doing diplomatic work were attacked by Byzantine soldiers sparking a battle (629 CE) which ended in both sides withdrawing but may have set the stage for later events. By 632 CE much of Arabia had converted to Islam. (Forgot to mention—Around this time (625 CE) in western Christianity, Pope Boniface V dies and Honorius I becomes Pope.)
    Hopefully I got things right—but if not—please make additions………will write more later………..

  3. Continued…….
    Pope Honorius I—-The Eastern and Western churches agreed on the divinity of Jesus Christ but differed on what that meant—The Eastern church saying Jesus Christ had 2 natures and 2 will (monophysite) the Western church saying Jesus Christ had one nature and one will (Chalcedonian creed). Under Pope Honorius I, in order to bridge the gap, the two churches came to agree on the doctrine that Jesus Christ had 2 natures but one will (monothelitism)—-I am not familiar with Christianity so the significance of these details escapes me, however, one thing seems clear—Christianity has always had a diversity of doctrines.
    —Not being a scholar, I cannot argue with Asad, However, from a different point of view, one might say, that Christianity has been diverse since its inception and Judaism has had a rich interpretative tradition, where different Rabbis would flesh out various aspects of the Prophetic stories, showing different perspectives. Therefore, a few Jews and Christians could have been more open to a different perspective?

    “….no longer confirmed the truth…..” Clearly some Jews and Christians may have felt so and did not accept Islam…and I would applaud their decision..and so would the Quran. To accept Islam if you feel it holds no truth would make one a hypocrite—something the Quran does not encourage.—-However, to not accept Islam after knowing it does hold the truth is not good either.
    But how is one to know “truth” without examining it? unless one accepts it blindly (which the Quran does not advocate)….therefore if one encounters a different perspective, the thing to do is examine it and also re-examine the “truth” we hold so as to make a reasonable and informed judgement. (However, “truth” that appeals only to the human reason and intellect is only half the truth—it should also inspire in us the desire to be better human beings….In his book of spiritual guidance Ibn Arabi writes …”Every state of being in accord with God that does not bring with it the corresponding appropriate behaviour and attiude can’t be relied upon.”) —-(from James Morris)

    While I think that truth should appeal to human reason and intellect—can something that defies reason and overrides the intellect, also be considered “truth”?

    Passing Judgement—Jay—We have come this far and I think everyone knows the respect and consideration you have shown—-if you need to ask tough questions—go ahead…………..I don’t know if I’ll be able to answer—but I’m willing to give it a try.

  4. Sorry for the lack of commentary here; been busy with “life” (like the baby getting up last night from 1:30 to 3:30 am, occasionally crying hysterically due to her reaction from a recent vaccination, and my sleeping all morning). Also, I’ve been going through my own little tafsir discussion on my blog, where this college student in Sweden, a Muslim apostate, has wanted to discuss a set of verses from Surah Fussilat (41). I mention this here especially in light of Kay’s most recent comment and her discussion about truth, something I had been writing about yesterday in my comments to the blog post.

    Insha’allah, I’ll get back here soon and get back to the discussion. 🙂

  5. Thank you so much Kay for trying to summarize the convoluted and complicated situation that ran behind Muhammed’s revelations. It’s surely a complex set of issues, but you did a nice job – particularly with the Christianity stuff. It is hard to understand the difference between the relevance of monophysites and diphysites, but needless to say, the implications within Christianity of such a thing are enormous and the separation amongst Christians is still felt today.

    That said, I think your point about Christians having a variety of different beliefs and understandings and that perhaps made them more open to something like Islam is interesting. I can see that being true as well. I can also see that the great debates about these issues about Jesus may have seemed petty and silly to many and that abandoning all that squabbling for a new revelation like Islam may have been appealing.

    JDsg, I hope that your baby is feeling better after the vaccination. The adverse reactions to those things can sometimes be unsettling, but I imagine that things have calmed down a bit. Are you also on high alert for the flew over there. The school that I’m teaching in is about a quarter to a third empty because of sick children. I hope it’s not bad there too.

  6. Jay: Thanks for your best wishes. In the end the potential fever our girl might have gotten from the vaccination never happened. On the other hand we had to rush her to the hospital last week anyway because she had fallen off our bed and severely bruised the left side of her face (we wanted to make sure she didn’t have any broken bones). Fortunately, the bruises are now beginning to fade.

    The H1N1 flu has largely petered out here, although the hospitals are still monitoring the main entrances and passing out face masks. There were, I think, about 50 cases total in Singapore and about 10 deaths. Ironically, it seemed like the vast majority of cases here were due to people who had either come from or had visited Melbourne, Australia. Most of the public schools here had very few problems because all of the teachers (including my wife, who teaches primary school) were required to call their pupils’ homes and ask whether the family had traveled during the summer holidays. Those who had (especially to Australia and Indonesia) were required to stay home for a week; everyone else could come back to school. In that regard, the system worked very well.

  7. I’m glad to hear that everything is better with the baby, including post bed-tumble.

    I also really appreciate the information about H1N1. My step-mother works for the CDC on pandemic preparedness and is coming to Singapore later this month to work on things with your government. I forwarded her what you said and she was very appreciative.

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