Quran Read-A-Long: The Cow 282-283 Continues Our Discussion of Business

More On Economics and Business

Clearly, these verses continue the economic-related verses that precede them, perhaps indicating that I halted my previous discussion in haste. However, due to the lengthy comments my previous post engendered, I’ll take it as a good thing that these verses were separated out and can become their own conversation.

Writing out the terms to an agreement, no matter how simple those terms are or how apparently understood by either party in a transaction, is supremely important. It removes every element of guesswork and supposition and that, when dealing with finances (and many other things, besides), is important. It is with verses like these that we so clearly see, as was discussed in the after-post comments last week, the degree to which Islam is more than a religion but an all-encompassing way of life that governs all facets of life, including economic ones.

Witnesses

The need for two witnesses in the event of executing a transaction equitably is an idea also present in Judaism, both biblically and talmudically. The idea that multiple witnesses should be present for something important stems back to common practices in the ancient world that had been retained in both Jewish and Arab culture. Alternatively, the notion of two witnesses is something that Mohammed could have learned from the Jews of Medina. Though speculative in either case, my guess is that it’s the former. However, I’d be incredibly curious to know whether or not two witnesses was already a common practice amongst others in Arabia before Mohammed, particularly amongst the tribe of Quryash in Mecca, as that tribe was the most business-centered of the Arabic tribes in Mohammed’s time (to my knowledge).

As I’m sure regular Quran Read-A-Long participants foresaw, I’m going to bring up the notion that two female witnesses can be substituted for one male witness. Now, I certainly don’t think that this is misogynistic and I certainly wouldn’t conclude anything negative about Islam’s attitude towards women through this verse. We’ve been down this road before as a discussion topic. I do want to understand what the commentators say about the reasoning behind this: that one woman could remind the other if the second made a mistake. Asad notes that this is due to women being less familiar with business proceedings then men, which I suppose was definitely true back in the day. However, as Kay pointed out last week, Mohammed’s first wife was a well-respected business woman. Would she or a woman similarly adept at business have been required to stand alongside a second woman in order to function as a witness? Do Muslim women today who act as witnesses still do so with another woman present or is it acceptable for a Muslim woman today to act as one of the two witnesses? What is the minimum age that someone need be in order to act as a witness?

And as we’ve discussed before, God and the constant thought of God is brought into these economic transactions as a means of infusing the mundane with the celestial so that we will always act in the most honorable and upright fashion, knowing that God is watching and judging. I’m wondering if this thorough fusing of God in daily affairs is in part a reflection on a degradation of honest business practices in pre-Islamic Arabia or if it’s simply the result of turning to a lifestyle that recognizes the supremacy and sole-existance of God alone and the implications of that belief. That is, does God’s presence in economic issues reflect a pressing issue in Mohammed’s day or act as just one more example of the way God was brought into everything so that we would always act properly?

Please feel free to add anything that I’ve missed and share other points from these verses with us.

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The Cow 282-283

282. O YOU who have attained to faith! Whenever you give or take credit for a stated term, set it down in writing. And let a scribe write it down equitably between you; and no scribe shall refuse to write as God has taught him: thus shall he write. And let him who contracts the debt dictate; and let him be conscious of God, his Sustainer, and not weaken anything of his undertaking. And if he who contracts the debt is weak of mind or body, or, is not able to dictate himself, then let him who watches over his interests dictate equitably. And call upon two of your men to act as witnesses; and if two men are not available, then a man and two women from among such as are acceptable to you as witnesses, so that if one of them should make a mistake, the other could remind her. And the witnesses must not refuse [to give evidence] whenever they are called upon. And be not loath to write down every contractual provision, be it small or great, together with the time at which it falls due; this is more equitable in the sight of God, more reliable as evidence, and more likely to prevent you from having doubts [later]. If, however, [the transaction] concerns ready merchandise which you transfer directly unto one another, you will incur no sin if you do not write it down. And have witnesses whenever you trade with one another, but neither scribe nor witness must suffer harm; for if you do [them harm], behold, it will be sinful conduct on your part. And remain conscious of God, since it is God who teaches you [herewith] – and God has full knowledge of everything. 283. And if you are on a journey and cannot find a scribe, pledges [may be taken] in hand: but if you trust one another, then let him who is trusted fulfil his trust, and let him be conscious of God, his Sustainer. And do not conceal what you have witnessed* – for, verily, he who conceals it is sinful at heart; and God has full knowledge of all that you do.

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More of Me to Love, my new Health at Every Size Wellness Community, is Live

This blog is all about religion and South Park – either together or individually. However, I would like to make you aware of my newest project, called More of Me to Love. More of Me to Love is a health community for people of all sizes, but particularly for larger people. I’d like to invite you to take a look and check it out.

As More of Me to Love’s homepage says:

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More of Me to Love is NOT a diet or a weight loss program.

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Check it out HERE.

Zen Talk: A Common Complaint Flipped on Its Head

“So little time, so little to do.”
Oscar Levant

You start reading this and you think you know where it’s going. However, it quickly takes a turn in a different direction.

This quote struck home with me since this is a particularly busy time in my life, and I always find myself with more to do than time to do it in. I wake up promptly at 6 a.m. and begin working until my brain shuts off at 10 at night (though I still attempt to push through a little reading). The Zen of South Park is part of that day, my start-up consumes most of the time and then my newspaper column and other part time job eat into whatever might have remained to take a breath and a break. Day after day. Hence my feeling of no time to do all that needs doing.

But boy did this quote slow me down. So little time – how true – but so little to do. Hmm. Makes you think about what’s really important in life. A little note that you should stop and smell the flowers, huh? Well, I can’t say that I’ll be slowing down any time soon but I would certainly mention that I will try harder to keep in perspective what’s really important. On that note, I’m going to see Modest Mouse tonight. I can’t wait. Should be good times.

What does this quote make you think about?

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Topical Tuesday: Anger Strikes an Unpublished Writer, Prompting the Rest of Us to Say, Who Hasn’t Been There?

The following are my thoughts on the post that can be found on Absolute Write’s forum, “Rejection and Dejection,” and that I’ve posted at the end of this entry.
It’s Cold Out Here
The accusation he makes this whiner makes is that the publishing industry is a waste of time, that its agents are morons who don’t understand his genius (though you’ll notice a dozen typos in his few paragraphs) and that no one is concerned with anything but money and pandering to the hot genre’s crowds.
Now, do I understand the sentiments behind his bitching? Sure – who hasn’t had a tough day in the world of writing. It’s a rough industry to break into, has tight and finicky rules, and a lot of weird, accepted behaviors. Agents can ignore their signed clients; personally addressed letters often go unanswered; and numerous publishers can’t even be contacted without an agent. What’s more, most people don’t want to represent you if you haven’t already been published, making breaking into the industry incredibly difficult. But, hey, people do it all the time.
Money, money, money, money – MONEY!
The publishing industry is a business – everything about it. This guy is pissed that people care about money, but publishers and agents spend all their time doing doing their jobs. If they’re not in it for the money, what are they in it for? Should their children starve so that this guy and every other shmoe can have representation?
Look, it may be frustrating that he can’t get published but to think that it’s only about money – or that all the agents are stupid – is a pretty ridiculous accusation. Yes, agents and publishers may like to represent works that are part of hot genres but every agent’s site says his/her interests and they’re definitely out there for every genre. Quite, frankly, if enough agents (say, 50-100) want nothing to do with you and give you no real feedback, it’s probably not a sign that the industry sucks but rather, that you do. Either you’re querying the wrong people or you should take the hint and write something else, write a different way or just don’t write….at least not to be published.
What He Can Do
If you think your work is so great and you want other people to read it so bad and you think that the industry is corrupt, guess what! You have options! That’s right, get some copies of your book printed yourself. No, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re published, but at least you’re not part of a mechanism you hate. Pass them out or sell them on the internet. I’m sure you’ll sell a few. Maybe it will go so well that you can requery agents and get it picked up. Perhaps they needed proof of its potential success. Though they may know their industry (presumably, despite this guy’s accusation), everybody makes mistakes.
And, hey, if you try your hardest with dozens and dozens of letters and every other means at your disposal and still can’t get published or represented by an agent, does that necessarily mean your book sucks and you don’t deserve to be a published author? No, not really, but it does mean that you might want to rethink what you’re doing or writing. Maybe it’s not as good as you think, because if you were the next J.K. Rowling, don’t you think somebody, around rejection 19, would pick you up?
So to this guy: I feel you buddy, but you know what – it’s not the publishing industry. It’s life. You’ve got to learn to keep your head up and push through the good times and the bad. Sometimes a lot of people won’t like the product you’re offering. Welcome to a free market. Life can be filled with rejection and unfairness and be a place where people like money. Go figure. So suck it up, take a breather and try again later. And if that’s the way you really feel then I’m glad you finally think you’re free.
What do you think about these complaints? Do you think I’m being too harsh? To read other Topical Tuesday posts, click HERE. To check out Chandler’s thoughts on this post, click HERE.
This guy’s letter
I’ve had it with this B.S.

This is a stupid industry and I’m tired of wasting my time with it. I’m not going to send any more carefully crafted queries to mind-numbed morons totally incapable of understanding my thoughts. The same brainless poli-sci, english, and lit majors that looked at me blankly in my university days when they’d discover I was studying physics. A vacuous gaze followed by an imbecilic chuckle and a comment along the lines of, “I can’t talk to you.” If only I’d have known those idiots who wouldn’t talk to me then, would be running the industry that somehow sucked me in I could have avoided wasting the last decade.

I guess that jokes on me, and maybe I’d feel different if someone had actually had the balls to read something besides a f-ing query letter. But from the comfort of my home I can just feel their eyes glazing over as soon as they see a word with more than three syllables or an idea that doesn’t involve a cop, a lawyer, or a disgruntled housewife. Those who moan glowingly about their deep understanding of the written word yet don’t seem interested in anything that doesn’t involve vampires, the paranormal, or women’s lib. The world is a big place full of wonder and fantastical ideas and they’ve reduced it to a single cart-full of dung. Aristotle knew what that meant 2500 years ago.

Finito, over and out, tired of trying to bring something beautiful into a world run only by money and people who’s sole expertise begins and ends with counting it. There are better ways to waste my life than a shelf of miscarriages and a head full of impotent ideas.

Free at last!