Quran Read-A-Long: Al’-Imran 130-143 Affected My Life Today

Monotheistic Usury Banning

Usury is forbidden in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Now, many would say that usury is allowed in Judaism, but what the Torah says is that an Israelite can’t lend with usury to another Israelite. At the time of the writing of the Bible, this law certainly makes sense as well as why considering other peoples in the matter was totally irrelevant.

Christianity, in fact, used that very biblical verse to insist that usury was entirely illegal, and Jews, considering usury acceptable with someone else (i.e. Christians), were perfect for the job of money-lenders in Christendom because Christians couldn’t do it for themselves but needed the service and Jews were forbade from most else (e.g. owning land and farming, joining guilds, etc.). That Islam continues this ‘tradition’ and also bans usury is most significant, I think.

Asad offers an interesting reason for this: that the pagan Meccans had ammassed their wealth and armies through usury and this practice was not to be emulated.

Managing My Anger

The middle of verse 134 jumped out at me. Not only does it fall amidst an idea that I don’t think we’ve had too thoroughly yet (paradise), but it mentions that those who attain to the afterlife and who are God conscious and who presumably God appreciates the behavior of are those who “hold in check their anger.”

I’ve been very frustrated lately with a lot of things, largely mundane. In short, things that are supposed to work and that shouldn’t be a hassle are proving hassle-filled time sinks. I know that such things are part of life, but these things just seem to be compounding lately and my frustration and anger are getting the better of me.

It’s nice to have this soft warning here to say, God appreciates it when you curb your anger. This was definitely one of my most personal moments with the Quran so far.

Sinning

135: Is there some particular shameful deed that one sins against himself that’s being referenced here or are there a host of these sins? I ask because I’m wondering if this is likened to all shameful deeds that we commit against all people and the verse is just saying that a sin against anyone is a sin against yourself. But I may be misreading.

Teaching Islam to a 7th Grade History Class

139: So I finally got my opportunity to discussed Islam with a 7th grade history class at a private Jewish day school. Though I didn’t get the introductory lesson, I did get “Islamic Expansion” (i.e. Ummayad dynasty). It was definitely fun, and I was amazed at how engaged the students were. I tried to convey how amazing it was that the Arabs managed to knock down the Persian Empire, push back the Byzantines considerably, and sweep in every direction.

Because we’d just read about the Battle of Uhud here, I was thinking about the importance of faith in God when going into battle – knowing that God will secure your victory but that one must believe in victory through God. This verse just recalled that for me because it references the Battle of Uhud and says that you will rise high if you believe.

The Turning Tides of Fortune

Verse 140 seems to carry on with my theme noted above from verse 134: we all experience fortune and misfortune, and we’re not the first to get either. Interestingly, this verse also pertains to martyrdom in the name of God, and though that is not how it has affected me personally, I imagine that many others have drawn faith and strength from this verse. For me, however, the beginning has proven a reminder that life has it’s ups and downs and that seeing ourselves through all of those times is important. I actually feel a lot better about things than when I first began this post.

What can you share with us about these verses?

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Al’-Imran 130-143

130. O YOU who have attained to faith! Do not gorge yourselves on usury, doubling and re-doubling it* – but remain conscious of God, so that you might attain to a happy state; 131. and beware of the fire which awaits those who deny the truth! 132. And pay heed unto God and the Apostle, so that you might be graced with mercy. 133. And vie with one another to attain to your Sustainer’s forgiveness and to a paradise as vast as the heavens and the earth, which has been readied for the God-conscious 134. who spend [in His way] in time of plenty and in time of hardship, and hold in check their anger, and pardon their fellow-men because God loves the doers of good; 135 and who, when they have committed a shameful deed or have [otherwise] sinned against themselves, remember God and pray that their sins be forgiven – for who but God could forgive sins? – and do not knowingly persist in doing whatever

they may have done. 136. These it is who shall have as their reward forgiveness from their Sustainer, and gardens through which running waters flow, therein to abide: and how excellent a reward for those who labour! 137. [MANY] WAYS of life have passed away before your time. Go, then, about the earth and behold what happened in the end to those who gave the lie to the truth: 138. this [should be] a clear lesson unto all men, and a guidance and an admonition unto the God-conscious.139. Be not, then, faint of heart, and grieve not: for you are bound to rise high if you are [truly] believers. 140 If misfortune touches you, [know that] similar misfortune has touched [other] people as well; for it is by turns that We apportion unto men such days [of fortune and misfortune]: and [this] to the end that God might mark out those who have attained to faith, and choose from among you such as [with their lives] bear witness to the truth – since God does not love evildoers – 141 and that God might render pure of all dross those who have attained to faith, and bring to nought those who deny the truth. 142. Do you think that you could enter paradise unless God takes cognizance of your having striven hard [in His cause], and takes cognizance of your having been patient in adversity? 143. For, indeed, you did long for death [in God’s cause] before you came face to face with it; and now you have seen it with your own eyes!

Quran Read-A-Long: The Cow 197-210 Speaks of Entropy and the Hajj

Verse 197 makes an important point (well, many, but I’ll touch on one). If you’re going to perform the pilgrimage, don’t be lustful or truculent and don’t sin. After all, what’s the point of pledging yourself to do something that God has commanded, a holy journey, both personal and sacred, if you’re going to be violating other elements of God’s law along the way. It’s almost a note against hypocrisy, a theme that comes up again later in these verses with the contentious man.

The next verses then run through some of the ceremonies performed on the hajj. Which steps are mentioned here and which are included? I know that there is a ceremony where stones are cast to represent the stones thrown at Satan by Abraham, and I don’t see that reference in here. Is that from another verse of the Quran or from other hadith? What else is missing?

The next verses (200-202) discuss a theme which, as we know, manifests often in the Quran, regarding people doing/believing as they should and getting just recompense. What made me smile was the end of verse 202, which notes God’s swift reckoning, I presume, when it comes time for one to be held accountable for his life and sins. What’s funny is that last week in the discussion that ensued, a quote was offered that mentioned how a man took 12 years to account for his life and sins. Considering His usual pace as stated here, perhaps God was like, “Come on, man, it’s okay that you left the sheep by the riverbank.” 🙂

God and Entropy

I find verse 205 fascinating when it says that God does not love disorder. As many of us learned in our high school physics classes, entropy (that is, randomness and disorder), is the way of things. As human beings we try to create order, whether through buildings with right angles, mowing lawns and planting gardens that if left untended will be overgrown by wilderness, stacking the glasses in our kitchen cabinets in a perfect line or anything else that we do. However, disorder is far easier to come by than order, which is quite logical if you think about it. The straighter you want that line of cups, the easier it is to mess it up, and the more options there are for it being messed up, whether a few cups being out of line, or the glasses getting shattered in an earthquake. This also reminds me of our discussion last week: human nature is also inherently disorderly, and that is why I find it so unlikely that people will cease oppressing within precisely the allowed time. As was argued, living life by the Quran -ideally – imposes that necessary order that ends oppression in an orderly fashion.

So, it’s fascinating that the Quran states that God does not love disorder because what is religion if an attempt to create order in a naturally disordered world? Religion is laws and rules and a way to live down to, in many cases (e.g. Judaism, Islam), the most minute details. That is an incredible amount of order imposed, as it were, from the ultimate force above: a force that loves order, yet interestingly, created a disorderly universe and then gave us a bunch of ways that it must be orderly. Both internally to religion this is interesting and in an anthropological sense as well. Religion is an attempt to create order in a world that generally lacks it.

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 197-210

197. Known are the months of pilgrimage. If one resolves to perform the pilgrimage in these months, let him not indulge in concupiscence, sin or quarrel. And the good you do shall be known to God. Provide for the journey, and the best of provisions is piety. O men of understanding, obey Me. 198. It is no sin to seek the favors of your Lord (by trading). When you start from ‘Arafat in a concourse, remember God at the monument that is sacred (al-Mash ‘ar al-haram), and remember Him as He has shown you the way, and in the olden days you were a people astry. 199. Then move with the crowd impetuously, and pray God to forgive your sins. God is surely forgiving and kind. 200. When you have finished the rites and ceremonies, remember God as you do your fathers, in fact with a greater devotion. There are some who say: “Give us, O Lord, in the world;” but they will forego their share in the life to come. 201. But some there are who pray: “Give us of good in the world, O Lord, and give us of good in the life to come, and suffer us not to suffer the torment of Hell.” 202. They are those who will surely have their share of whatsoever they have earned; for God is swift at the reckoning. 203. Remember God during the stated days; but if a person comes away after two days, it will not be a sin; and if one tarries, he will not trangress, if he keep away from evil. Follow the law of God, and remember that you will have to gather before Him in the end. 204. There is a man who talks well of the world to your pleasing, and makes God witness to what is in his heart, yet he is most contentious; 205. For when his back is turned he goes about spreading disorder in the land, destroying fields and flocks; but God does not love disorder. 206. Whenever he is told: “Obey God,” his arrogance leads him to more sin; and sufficient for him shall be Hell: How evil a place of wide expanse! 207. And there is a man who is willing to sell even his soul to win the favor of God: and God is compassionate to His creatures. 208. O believers, come to full submission to God. Do not follow in the footsteps of Satan your acknowledged foe. 209. If you falter even after Our signs have reached you, then do not forget that God is all-powerful and all-wise. 210. Are they waiting for God to appear in the balconies of clouds with a host of angels, and the matter to be settled? But all things rest with God in the end.

Quran Day: The Cow 47-59 Recounts Exodus and God’s Relationship with the Israelites

Though there are an endless number of things to say about these verses, I’m going to go with two in particular: the first is the events recounted in Exodus and recalled here and the second is this notion of remembering.

What Comes from Exodus

Verse 49 begins a list of things that happened to the Israelites in the second book of the Bible, Exodus, the one that begins with the Israelites’ enslavement. God recounts how He saved the children of Israel from Egypt, parted the sea to aid their escape, communed with Moses, and how the Israelites made a calf, how God gave Moses the Book and Discernment (which I believe means the Bible and Prophecy, though instead of prophecy perhaps wisdom and [juris]prudence), how God sent manna and quails, etc.

Another hot topic in these sections is the Israelites’ disobedience (and they were so unruly between Egypt and Canaan that it’s a wonder they got anything – worse than bratty children in the backseat of a car!), and God’s continual mercy as he forgave them and still allowed them to go forward.

The Actual Bible in the Bible…and Then in the Quran

I would like to point out three things though. First, how it says that God gave Moses the Book. As I take this to mean the Bible, I must say that according to the Five Books of Moses, this didn’t happen. God didn’t give Moses a book (to read about Moses’ biblical authorship and the specifics of Deuteronomy’s mention of this, click HERE). Now, of course, this isn’t too important because the inherited tradition is that God did give Moses the Bible (or at least the beginning of it) so we’ll move on.

My Trouble with Verse 58

The second thing is verse 58, the one part of the events recounted (which admittedly seem to extend outside of Exodus), that I don’t understand or at least can’t match up to anything in the Bible. I don’t remember God ever saying that or anything like it to the Israelites, but perhaps it’s the Quran’s way of saying that God gave the Israelites every chance to go to Heaven (this great city?) and that they just had to do it a certain way and as the following verses showed, they just kept sinning and perverting God’s word.

It is fascinating that God tells the Israelites to repent in these verses because repentance and forgiveness by God were concepts entirely absent from ancient Israelite religion (that is, the religion reflected in Genesis, Exodus-Deuteronomy). I believe that forgiveness and repentance are very important concepts in Islam and so it’s interesting that in recounting ancient Israelite history, the Quran has God emphasizing the importance of repentance to the Israelites, though the concept was never there and doesn’t exist in that part of the Bible, beyond basic apologizing after the Golden Calf incident, but certainly not as a theological emphasis or doctrinal necessity.

Finally, though a quick summary, I would like to say that for the most part this section captures the gist of the Old Testament. God did the Israelites a lot of favors from Egypt forward, the Israelites treated God poorly and were totally ungrateful, and then throughout the Prophets the Israelites are accused, like verse 59 here, of perverting the word of God and being sinners. Thus, retribution was sent, ultimately for the Jews in the form of the Babylonian Exile.

Remembrance

The last thing I want to mention is the way many of these verses start, emphasizing “Remember.” This makes me think of the Passover holiday celebrated by Jews that is designed to make Jews remember the many things that God did for them. Jews recount the events so that they never forget what they owe God. That feeling, though obviously in brief, seems echoed here based on the interweaving of God’s great actions, mercy and forgiveness.

What do these verses make you think about? What can you add to our understanding of these verses? Is there any part of the summary of ancient Israelite history that you have trouble placing as a biblically recounted event?

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The Cow 47-59

47. Remember, O Children of Israel, the favors I bestowed on you, and made you exalted among the nations of the world. 48. Take heed of the day when no man will be useful to man in the least, when no intercession matter nor ransom avail, nor help reach them. 49. Remember, We saved you from the Pharaoh’s people who wronged and oppressed you and slew your sons but spared your women: In this was a great favor from your Lord. 50. Remember, We parted the sea and saved you, and drowned the men of Pharaoh before your very eyes. 51. Yet, remember, as We communed with Moses for forty nights you took the calf in his absence (and worshiped it), and you did wrong. 52. Even so, We pardoned you that you may be grateful. 53. Remember, We gave Moses the Book and Discernment of falsehood and truth, that you may be guided. 54. Remember, Moses said: “My people, by taking this calf you have done yourselves harm, so now turn to your Creator in repentance, and kill your pride, which is better with your Lord.” And (the Lord) softened towards you, for He is all-forgiving and merciful. 55. Remember, when you said to Moses: “We shall not believe in you until we see God face to face,” lightening struck you as you looked. 56. Even then We revived you after you had become senseless that you might give thanks; 57. And made the cloud spread shade over you, and sent for you manna and quails that you may eat of the good things We have made for you. No harm was done to Us, they only harmed themselves. 58. And remember, We said to you: “Enter this city, eat wherever you like, as much as you please, but pass through the gates in humility and say: ‘May our sins be forgiven.'” We shall forgive your trespasses and give those who do good abundance. 59. But the wicked changed and perverted the word We had spoken to a word distorted, and We sent from heaven retribution on the wicked, for they disobeyed.