Authors born between 200 and 800 CE
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Compassion and Kindness
Marriage and Family
Retaliation and Peace-making
Legalities and Justice
Muhammad al Mustafa (571-632) was born in Mecca into the clan of Banu Hashim. He gained employment as a traveling merchant for Khadija, a widow who was managing her previous husband’s business in Mecca. In this position, Muhammad traveled through Palestine and Syria. He married Khadija, who bore him children. In his thirties, Muhammad began to spend a month each year practicing religious exercises in seclusion on Mount Hira, outside Mecca. At this time, Mecca was a place of tolerance and a site of pilgrimage for polytheistic religions. It also contained a significant Jewish population.
During a night vigil on the mountain, Muhammad had a vision that compelled him to recite verses describing a monotheistic religion, although he considered such an endeavor impossible. Subsequently he propounded many messages of this type, which he described as coming from Allah (Arabic for God) as relayed by the angel Gabriel. The theological content of the verses was that there is one god, Allah, and that Muhammad was his prophet, as were the prophets of the Hebrews (starting with Adam and Abraham) and Jesus of Nazareth (who thus was not divine). Mahmoud Muhammad Taha, a Sudanese theologian (1909-85), has described the verses Muhammad propounded during the subsequent 13 years in Mecca as the ultimate message of the Koran, of which they form a part. Taha describes them as addressed to humanity at large, preaching freedom and tolerance, treating women as equals, and not condemning other religions.
Nevertheless, Muhammad’s condemnation of established polytheistic religions in favor of a monotheism with no image of the deity, drew the enmity of the reigning tribe in Mecca and caused him to flee to Medina to escape death. After gaining converts and profiting from military experience in battles at Basr and Udma (winning the first and losing the second), Muhammad conquered Mecca and converted it into the chief center of Islam. He destroyed the polytheistic idols but retained the sacred black rock of the Kabala, stating that it had been put there by Abraham and his son, Ishmail, ancestor of the Arabs.
During his time in Medina, Muhammad propounded the remaining verses of the Koran. These were produced in very different circumstances, Muhammad now being a civic and military leader welding together fractious tribal communities with only a brutal concept of morals and justice. According to Taha, the Medina verses reflect the measures necessary under such circumstances to establish law and order and to unify a new religion. They replace exhortation with threats and now form the basis of the Sharia, or religious law. Taha identifies this as historically the first message of Islam.
Taha’s conclusion was that many features of the Sharia (discrimination against women and unbelievers, polygamy, whipping fornicators, stoning adulterers to death, chopping of hands and feet of thieves, beheading of apostates, waging war against non-believers, and slavery) were no longer appropriate in modern Islamic communities, which should turn instead to the second message of Islam, the humanistic concerns of the Meccan verses. Mahmoud Muhammad Taha was hanged for apostasy.
Some of the humanistic features of the Koran have been extracted in the following brief interpretations of some of its verses. The original verse is identified by its Sura and the verse number within the Sura. Added to these are interpretations of a few of the sayings of Muhammad (from the Hadith). These are identified by quotation marks.
As in other chapters, the multiple references to the deity, and motivational exhortations in terms of floridly described heavens and hells, have been omitted. The intent is to illustrate some of the moral precepts of Islam that cross religious and secular borders. The first and second extracts in the Charity section below illustrate Taha’s distinction between the first message (9: 103) and second message (2: 219) of Islam.
1 There is no compulsion in religion; truly the right way has become clear and free from error (2:256)
2 The servants of the Beneficent God walk on the earth in humbleness, and when the ignorant address them, they say, "Peace!". (25: 63)
3 Blame only those who oppress men and revolt in the earth unjustly; these shall have a painful punishment. (42: 42)
4 No bearer of a burden can bear the burden of another. (53: 38)
5 Man can have nothing but what he strives for. (53: 39)
6 And whoever is patient and forgiving, these most surely are actions due to courage. (42 :43)
7 A daughter of the Prophet sent to tell hem her son was on the point of death.
He sent her these words: "What God gives and what God takes is his. Everything is decided by him. Therefore think on this and be calm."
But she was distraught and asked him to come to her.
The Prophet went to her and took the child on his lap, and he was seized with trembling, and his eyes filled with tears.
A follower said "What is this?"
He said "It is compassion, which is placed in the hearts of all of us. There is no mercy for those who have no mercy."
8 "A man traveling along a road became thirsty. Finding a well, he went down into it and slaked his thirst. As he was leaving he saw a dog with its tongue hanging out, licking the ground with thirst. So the man went back into the well and filled his shoe with water, bring it up to the dog."
People said "Do you mean we will be rewarded for kindness to animals?"
He said, "Yes, there is a reward for kindness to every living creature."
9 Asma said, "My mother has not converted to Islam, may I do good to her?"
He said, "Yes; do good by your mother."
10 An Arab of the desert stood up and began urinating in the mosque. People were about to take hold of him but the Prophet . . . said to them "Leave him alone and throw a bucket of water over his urine, for you have been raised to deal with people gently and you have not been raised to deal with them harshly."
11 A bier passed by us and the Prophet . . .stood up for it, and we stood up too. Then we said, "O Messenger of Allah! It is the bier of a Jew." He said: "When you see a bier, stand up."
12 "The most perfect of the believers in faith is the best of them in moral excellence, and the best of you are the kindest of you to their wives."
13 And from among you there should be some who seek good and enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong, and these shall be successful. (3: 104)
14 A man asked to see the prophet. Observing him, the Prophet said, "This is a bad man who makes members of his clan miserable, but I will see him."
When the man came forward, the Prophet greeted him cheerfully and spoke to him kindly.
After the man left, Aisha said, "You saw this man was bad but you spoke cheerfully to him and were kind."
He replied, "When have you ever seen me act badly with people. The worst type of man is the one who people avoid fearing his malice."
15 "Eat together and do not eat separately, for the blessing is with the company."
16 "Give gifts to one another, for gifts take away ill will."
17 "Muslim women! Do not despise your neighbor’s gift, even though it is only the trotters of a goat."
18 Give full measure when you measure out, and weigh with a balance that is straight: that is most fitting and the most advantageous in the end. (17: 35)
19 . . . do not enter houses other than your own until you have asked permission and saluted those within: it is best for you to be considerate. (24: 27)
20 If you find no one in the house, do not enter until permission is given to you: if you are asked to go back, go back . . . (24: 28)
21 . . . Do not let some of those among you laugh at others: it may be that the latter are better than the former . . And do not defame or be sarcastic to each other, or call each other by offensive nicknames: such a name connoting wickedness is unseemly . . . Those who do not desist are doing wrong. (49: 11)
22 . . . Avoid suspicion as much as possible, for suspicion in some cases is a sin. And do not spy on each other, or disparage each other. Would any of you wish to eat the flesh of his dead brother? No, you abhor it . . . (49: 12)
23 Take no notice of the man ready with oaths, a slanderer, going about with calumnies, hindering good, transgressing beyond bounds, deep in sin, violent and cruel (with all that, base born), because he possesses wealth and numerous sons. (68: 10-14)
24 Grief to every slanderer and defamer who amasses wealth and thinks that it will make him immortal. (104: 1-3)
25 Wealth and sons are allurements of life in this world: but of the things that endure, good deeds are best. . . (18: 46)
26 . . . Do not eat up your property among yourselves in vanities: but have traffic and trade amongst you by mutual good will: and do not destroy yourselves. . (4: 29)
27 And in no way covet those things . . . bestowed more freely on some of you than on others: men shall have the benefit of what they earn, and women shall have the benefit of what they earn. (4: 32)
28 Do not go insolently throughout the land, for you cannot pierce the earth or reach the mountains in height (17: 37)
29 They are successful . . . who avoid vain talk, give a percentage to the poor, and abstain from sex, except with those joined to them in marriage or owned as slaves, for they are free from blame. (23: 11-6)
30 Do not cast yourselves into destruction by your own hands.(2:195)
31 "Whoever strangles himself strangles himself into fire, and whoever stabs himself with a spear stabs himself into fire."
32 The Messenger of Allah Said, " Abd Allah, I am not told that you fast all day and stand up in devotion all night"
Abd Allah said, "I do, O Messenger of Allah."
He said: "Do not do so. Keep fast for a restricted time. Stand up in devotion but also have sleep. You have an obligation to your body, and to your eye, and to your wife, and to the person who pays you a visit."
33 Some men told the prophet, "We took some women captive and raped them, but we avoided making them pregnant. Did we do wrong to prevent them bearing our children?" The Prophet. . .said three times: "No child fated to be born will remain unborn."
34 Take alms [Zakat] out of their wealth, so that you may cleanse them and purify them . . .(9:103)
35 They will question you concerning what you should give away. Say: "All that you do not need." (2: 219)
36 Piety is not in turning your faces to the East and to the West. True piety is . . . to give one's wealth to kinsmen and orphans, the needy, the traveler, and beggars, and to ransom the slave . . to give Zakat [regular charity], to fulfill the contracts you have made, and to be firm and patient, in suffering and adversity…(2:177)
37 Give from the good things that you have honestly earned, and from good fruits of the earth . . . and do not try to get hold of anything bad in order to give away something that you yourselves would not receive except with closed eyes . (2:267)
38 If you make charitable gifts in public, it is well. But if you conceal your giving and make sure it reaches those really in need, that is best . . . (2:271)
39 Charity is for those in need who are restricted and cannot move about in the land seeking a living. The ignorant man thinks because of their modesty that they are free from want. You will know them by the fact they do beg not importunately from all and sundry. . .(2:273)
40 Alms are only for the poor and the needy, and for the officials administering them, for converts needing assistance, for the ransoming of captives, for those in debt, for servants of Allah, and for the strangers stranded on their way. . .(9: 60)
41 "Zakat is incumbent on every Muslim."
They said, "O Prophet of Allah! what about one who has nothing?"
He said: "He should work with his hands to make some money to give to charity."
They asked, "If he still has nothing?"
He said: "He should help someone who is in need."
They said, "What if he is unable to do even this?"
He said: "He should do good deeds and refrain from doing evil. This is charity on his part. One man assists another in riding his beast or in lifting his provisions to the back of the animal, this is charity. A good word and every step taken in walking over to prayer is charity. And showing the way to another is charity."
42 . . . Treat your parents and relatives kindly, and do the same to orphans and those in need. Speak to men good words . . .(2: 83)
43 And make yourself submissively gentle to your parents, with compassion . . . as they brought you up when you were little. (17: 24)
44 Do not kill your children for fear of poverty . . . surely to kill children is a great wrong. (17: 31)
45 If any of you have not the means to wed free believing women, they may wed believing slave girls . . . wed them with leave of their owners and give them their dowries, according to what is reasonable. They should be chaste not lustful, not taking lovers when they are married. If they fall into shame, their punishment is half that for free women. (4: 25)
46 Forbidden to you in marriage are your mothers and your daughters and your sisters and your paternal aunts and your maternal aunts and brothers' daughters and sisters' daughters and your mothers that have suckled you and your foster-sisters and mothers of your wives and your step-daughters who are in your guardianship, born of your wives to whom you have gone in (but if you have not gone in to them, there is no blame on you in marrying them), and the wives of your sons who are of your own loins and that you should have two sisters together, except what has already passed . . .(4: 23)
47 And whoever is given knowledge is indeed given abundant wealth. (2:269)
48 "The seeking of knowledge is obligatory upon every Muslim."
49 ". .. the person who has a slave girl, and brings her up and trains her in the best manner and he educates her and gives her the best education, then sets her free and marries her, he has a double reward."
50 Do not pursue things you know nothing about, your hearing, sight, and heart will be questioned. (17: 36).
51 They will question you concerning the orphans. Say: "to set their affairs right is good. And if you become co-partners with them, they are your brothers." (2: 220)
52 Take care of orphans until they reach the age of marriage; if you find then that they have sound judgment, release their property to them. Do not consume it wastefully or in haste against their growing up. If the guardian is well-off, he should claim no remuneration, but if he is poor, he should have for himself what is just and reasonable. . . (4: 6)
53 Do not get involved with an orphan's property except to improve it until he attains maturity; and fulfill every engagement of your agreement. (17: 34)
54 We ordain for them (the Jews) "Life for life, eye for eye, nose for nose, ear for ear, tooth for tooth, and wounds equal for equal". But if anyone remits the retaliation by way of charity, it is an act of atonement for himself. (5: 45)
55 Retaliation is lawful when someone is killed, a freeman for a freeman, a slave for a slave, a female for a female,…But if any compensation is offered by the brother of the slain, grant any reasonable settlement, and respond with benevolent gratitude. (2:178)
56 If your enemies offer peace, then take up their offer . . .(8: 61)
57 . . . when you deal with each other in contracting a debt for a fixed time, then write it down; and let a scribe write it down between you fairly. . . (2: 282)
58 When death approaches, you may make a bequest to parents and next of kin of what you have, according to reasonable usage. . .Anyone changing the bequest after hearing it is committing a sin. There is an exception when partiality or wrongdoing on the part of the testator calls for an adjustment to satisfy the survivors. Then there is no wrong in a change. . .(180-3)
59 "Whoever leaves property, it is for his heirs. Whoever leaves a debt, it is for us to pay."
60 If two parties amongst the believers fall into a quarrel, make peace between them. But if one of them transgresses beyond bounds against the other, then all of you fight against the one that transgresses until he complies with the command of Allah. If they comply, then make peace between them with justice, and be fair. (49: 9)
61 If a debtor is in difficulty, grant him time till it is easy for him to repay. But if you remit it by way of charity, that is best. (2: 280)
62 Do not give your property . . . to those weak of understanding, but feed and clothe them with it, and speak to them words of kindness and justice. (4: 5)
63 . . . those who accuse chaste women, and do not produce four supporting witnesses, flog them with eighty stripes and reject their evidence ever after. Such men are wicked transgressors, except for those who repent and act righteously after this. . . (24: 4-5)
64 . . . And if any of your slaves asks for a deed in writing (to enable them to earn their freedom for a certain sum), give them such a deed if you know any good in them: yes, give them something yourselves out of the means Allah has given you. But do not force your female slaves who are chaste into prostitution, in order that you may gain more goods in this life . . . (24: 33)
65 Do not eat up your property with vanities, nor use it to bribe judges so that you may consume others' property wrongfully and knowingly.(2:188)
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