Quran Read-A-Long: Al-’Imran 110-120 Warns About Relationships with Jews and Christians

The opening few verses here seem to indicate that we’ve returned to a familiar subject – the Jews and Christians (and in some cases more specifically the Jews) – and though it feels somewhat repetitive to me at this point, I have to remember that we are in a surah called Al-‘Imran, which is the House of Imran. That is to say that we’re talking about Mary’s family (the mother of Jesus) and therefore logically Christianity. I wonder about the degree to which words against and about the Jews fit into a surah with this title, and would be appreciative if anyone could shed some light on the larger place and naming of this surah.

Verses 113-115 address the issue that I discussed with such joy so long ago: those early verses of The Cow that explain how others can go to heaven and be rewarded in the afterlife regardless of their religion so long as they believe in the right things. After all of the condemnatory remarks found in this surah, it’s very nice to be reminded that faith in God is faith in God.

I’m very glad that Asad had something to say about verse 118 and clarified that it is accepted – particularly due to the presence of a verse that permits friendship with non-Muslims (whew!) – to befriend non-Muslims, despite the way this verse makes it sound. Those unlike you is not meant to say non-Muslims but rather those who oppose Islam or act in ways that are so contrary to Islam that friendship is all but impossible. That I can understand.

That said, making an effort to understand those who are so different from us (this us being an any us rather than a Muslim us) can have wonderful results, allowing mutual understanding and living in a way that was not believed possible before when it was thought that two people’s existences were so diametrically opposed. Again, though, I can also understand the need for a cautionary verse like this and don’t necessarily think that in early 7th century Arabia forging friendships for the sake of mutual understanding with those who sought to destroy the umma would have been a particularly savvy idea.

What can you add to these verses to help us understand their meaning? Any thoughts about the surah in general?

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Al-‘Imran 110-120

110. YOU ARE indeed the best community that has ever been brought forth for [the good of] mankind: you enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid the doing of what is wrong, and you believe in God. Now if the followers of earlier revelation had attained to [this kind of] faith, it would have been for their own good; [but only few] among them are believers, while most of them are iniquitous: 111. [but] these can never inflict more than a passing hurt on you; and if they fight against you, they will turn their backs upon you [in flight], and will not be succoured. 112. Overshadowed by ignominy are they wherever they may be, save [when they bind themselves again] in a bond with God and a bond with men; for they have earned the burden of God’s condemnation, and are overshadowed by humiliation: all this [has befallen them] because they persisted in denying the truth of God’s messages and in slaying the prophets against all right: all this, because they rebelled [against God], and persisted in transgressing the bounds of what is right. 113. [But] they are not all alike: among the followers of earlier revelation there are upright people, who recite God’s messages throughout the night, and prostrate themselves [before Him]. 114. They believe in God and the Last Day, and enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid the doing of what is wrong, and vie with one another in doing good works: and these are among the righteous. 115. And whatever good they do, they shall never be denied the reward thereof: for, God has full knowledge of those who are conscious of Him. 116. [But,] behold, as for those who are bent on denying the truth – neither their worldly possessions nor their children will in the least avail them against God: and it is they who are destined for the fire, therein to abide. 117. The parable of what they spend on the life of this world is that of an icy wind which smites the tilth of people who have sinned against themselves, and destroys it: for, it is not God who does them wrong, but it is they who are wronging themselves. 118. O YOU who have attained to faith! Do not take for your bosom-friends people who are not of your kind. They spare no effort to corrupt you; they would love to see you in distress.** Vehement hatred has already come into the open from out of their mouths, but what their hearts conceal is yet worse. We have indeed made the signs [thereof] clear unto you, if you would but use your reason. 119. Lo! It is you who [are prepared to] love them, but they will not love you, although you believe in all of the revelation. And when they meet you, they assert, “We believe [as you believe]”; but when they find themselves alone, they gnaw their fingers in rage against you. Say: “Perish in your rage! Behold, God has full knowledge of what is in the hearts [of men]!” 120. If good fortune comes to you, it grieves them; and if evil befalls you, they rejoice in it. But if you are patient in adversity and conscious of God, their guile cannot harm you at all: for, verily, God encompasses [with His might] all that they do.

Quran Read-A-Long: The Cow 232-235 Speaks of Child Support and Waiting After Divorce

Note

I would like to begin by noting that the translation provided below is that of Asad, who is often quoted by some of Quran Read-A-Long’s finest participants. I figure I should switch to his translation and see if that helps facilitate my understanding a little. I think that my copy of the Quran is very nice, but let’s mix it up a bit.

Child Support

Verse 233 seems to support precisely the modern notion of child-support. Not only is the woman allowed to continue to nurse her child for two years regardless of having divorced the child’s father (I’m guessing that the implication here is that the child belongs to the father, not the mother, when the parents part ways and so the woman has to be allowed to see the child), but the father must be able to provide for all the children he sires.

Today we try to hold fathers accountable for their children, but it can be hard to do so due to lack of funds for paternity tests or even being able to find those fathers. By making it part of the Quran, this obvious social necessity becomes linked to God, final judgment and the afterlife, thereby providing in most cases the necessary incentive for becoming responsible for one’s children. We’ve seen this already – making a necessary social action part of a holy text from God means that it is more likely to be obeyed.

Post-Marriage Behavior

Verse 234 releases the woman from her husband after an appropriate period of time, and I imagine this is referring to a sexual situation. Not intercourse, per se, but based on an earlier verse the waiting period between her divorce and being with another man seemed to be very practical – enough time to make sure she wasn’t pregnant with the original husband’s child. Are there other reasons for this particular period? So after this proper waiting time the woman can do what she wants pending that it’s legal. Does that include sexual intercourse? What is Islam’s policy on premarital sex when you’ve already been married once? What if you had divorced the man do to sexual disatisfaction? Wouldn’t it be prudent to investigate that situation a little more thoroughly before diving into another marriage? I imagine that what would be legal is discussions about marriage with another man. Is flirting acceptable? What about kissing (for each of these things I mean after the prescribed period)?

Interesting that this leads into a talk of what a man can do in this situation: appropriately insinuate his interest in a woman (if it’s long-term and marriage guided), but not anything blatant because that would be a violation of the period post-divorce. However, God knows what you intend. The interjection of God is appropriate here (not that it would be inappropriate anywhere in the Quran or in life!) but particularly because the verses are telling us to behave properly while being the appropriate judges of what is proprietous behavior. We can do that, the Quran tells us, so long as we keep God in mind as we act. Certainly, that is a rule of thumb for all behavior. Keep God in mind as you make decisions and choices and you should make the right ones. God knows what you’re thinking and will be merciful and forgiving.

Thanks for reading along! Can you answer any of my questions? Correct anything I said erroneously or just add anything helpful for me and other readers?

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The Cow 232-235

232. And when you divorce women, and they have come to the end of their waiting-term, hinder them not from marrying other men if they have agreed with each other in a fair manner. This is an admonition unto every one of you who believes in God and the Last Day; it is the most virtuous [way] for you, and the cleanest. And God knows, whereas you do not know. 233. And the [divorced] mothers may nurse their children for two whole years, if they wish to complete the period of nursing; and it is incumbent upon him who has begotten the child to provide in a fair manner for their sustenance and clothing. No human being shall be burdened with more than he is well able to bear: neither shall a mother be made to suffer because of her child, nor, because of his child, he who has begotten it. And the same duty rests upon the [father’s] heir. And if both [parents] decide, by mutual consent and counsel, upon separation [of mother and child], they will incur no sin [thereby]; and if you decide to entrust your children to foster-mothers, you will incur no sin provided you ensure, in a fair manner, the safety of the child which you are handing over. But remain conscious of God, and know that God sees all that you do. 234 And if any of you die and leave wives behind, they shall undergo, without remarrying,* a waiting period of four months and ten days; whereupon, when they have reached the end of their waiting-term, there shall be no sin in whatever they may do with their persons in a lawful manner. And God is aware of all that you do. 235 But you will incur no sin if you give a hint of [an intended] marriage-offer to [any of] these women, or if you conceive such an intention without making it obvious: [for] God knows that you intend to ask them in marriage.* Do not, however, plight your troth with them in secret, but speak only in a decent manner; and do not proceed with tying the marriage-knot ere the ordained [term of waiting] has come to its end. And know that God knows what is in your minds, and therefore remain conscious of Him; and know, too, that God is much-forgiving, forbearing.

Ike Broflovski is Taken to Saddam Hussein’s Canada in South Park Episode 715, “Christmas in Canada”

When Ike Broflovski’s birth-parents interrupt quiet, family Hanukah prayers and insist on taking Ike back to Canada by decree of the new Canadian Prime Minister, Sheila and Gerald Broflovski are devastated. Cartman tells Kyle that this is what he gets for being Jewish at Christmas time: some Jesus revenge. In a show of unprecedented good faith, the South Park townsfolk offer to forgo Christmas gift-giving and donate all of their money to the Broflovskis for legal fees to take their case to Canada.

Rather than lose Christmas, the boys decide to help Kyle go to Canada and confront the Canadian Prime Minister about taking Ike. The whole time they want to hurry back to South Park, though, so that they are sure not to miss out on any Christmas adventures. Funny, since they are traversing Canada by foot after their plane crashed and confronting all sorts of weird and wacky characters Wizard of Oz style (with Scott, the dickhead Canadian as the Wicked Witch).

As their plane is crashing (it’s piloted by the same guy who owns City Wok and is called City [Shitty] Airlines), the pilot tells them: “As you can see it appears that we are going down. Now would be a good time to reflect on your life and pray to whatever deity you believe in.”

At the end of the episode, Kyle speaks about the importance of family and who we love and explains to the Canadian Prime Minister – who turns out to be the escaped Saddam Hussein! – that, “Family isn’t about whose blood you have in you. Family’s about the people who cared about you and took care of you. We’re not the same blood, but I love my little brother. We’ve taken care of him because he needed us to, and that makes us more family than anything.”

Very touching and a lovely Christmas episode.

What do you think? What was your favorite part?

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In South Park Episode 313, “Hooked On Monkey Phonics,” Kyle Falls in Love with a Homeschooled Girl

After a spelling-bee that Kyle loses to a home-schooled kid, he gets a big crush on another home-schooled girl. The home-schooled children beg their parents to let them go to regular school and when they do, Kyle and the girl start ‘hanging out.’ He tells her:

“Love is the most important thing on earth. When boys and girls feel love, they kiss.”

The girl’s father can’t believe that he’s losing his little girl and goes to the other parents to complain. Randy replies:

“We can’t completely control what our kids do socially. That’s, you know, that’s for them to figure out on their own.”

It’s an episode filled with good lines and great lessons about love and parenting. Enjoy more quotes about love and parenting.

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Zen Talk: Actions Speak Louder Than Words, Don’t Ya Know

“Like a beautiful flower that is colorful but has no fragrance, even well-spoken words bear no fruit in one who does not put them into practice.”

These beautiful words of the Buddha echo the truism with which most of us are familiar: actions speak louder than words. Do you think that’s true?

I often find myself defending principles that I hold dear, only to realize that if I don’t show people exactly what I mean by my actions, then the words gushing forth from my mouth were worthless.

This quote reminds me of the difference between saying that you love someone and showing that person that he or she is loved. It’s easy to let the words cross your lips, especially to insist that they true – yet it is far more difficult to show day in and day out that everything you do you do for that person because of your love. The fragrance must be there – not just pretty colors.

As an aside, this flower quote was particularly fitting since I went to the botanical gardens and the flower conservatory twice this week. Beautiful places.

What do you think of this Buddha quote? Can you share a time that you knew  your words were worthless if not supported by actions?

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Love is in the Air in “Clubhouses,” South Park Episode 212, When the Boys Go For It in Truth or Dare

Though the over-arching plot of this episode is about Stan and Kyle competing against Cartman and Kenny for who can build a clubhouse faster, get girls up there and play truth or dare, there is an important sub-plot as well: Stan’s parents getting a divorce.

Stan has no idea what’s going on and why his parents are getting divorced. When he asks his dad whether or not, because he hates Shelley, he can divorce his sister, his father tells him no because they’re family.

Stan replies:

“But you and Mom are family; how come you can just split up? You know what I think? I think that when you and Mom got married, you became family. And now that you are, you shouldn’t be able to leave her anymore than I can leave my sister.”

Later he says, “Divorce is stupid!”

Poor Stan. Though of course we can understand his sentiments, there are good reasons for people to get divorced – probably more good reasons than getting married, and maybe people should have thought of that in the first place. Say no to marriage! Vote yes on prop 12!

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Zen Talk: Buddha Speaks of Small Good Being Good Enough

“Do not underestimate good, thinking it will not affect you. Dripping water can even fill a pitcher drop by drop; one who is wise is filled with good, even if one accumulates it little by little.”

This saying of the Buddha, found in the Dhammapada, causes me pause. I hope that its simplicity holds meaning for you as well.

Every good action matters. No good deed is too small. Many people want to save the world or change it for the better or be all they can be – but they want these things in one felll swoop. Little by little is a successful method. As the turtle taught us, slow and steady wins the race.

Don’t underestimate the importance of every good action, even the smallest, because every little bit helps. Perhaps we can all try to make it a goal for the day. Maybe even a once a day goal? I’m not suggesting that you drop your change into a homeless man’s tin. If you want, give him your leftovers or something. Try picking up a piece of trash. Do something nice for someone around you. Pass a smile onto a sad person. There are so many different kinds of good things to be done. Try to do one thing today – whatever comes to your mind. I will too. Tomorrow, perhaps we can try the same.

As the Buddha has told us, every good thing – no matter how seemingly small – can help to fill a much larger vessel.

What will you choose to do? What do you think of the Buddha’s words?

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