Hamid S. Aziz
passages in the Qur'an belong to different categories of discourse. One of
these categories is what I call "situational". By that I mean
information addressed to the Prophet himself as guidance in a particular
situation. A relatively clear example would be 33.28, which tells the Prophet
what to say to his wives.
I have been
identifying the commands given to believers in the Qur'an and, in the course of
this exercise; I have been passing over situational commands as not applicable
to believers in general. It has become clear to me that I stumbled into a major
says, many times, that believers should obey Allah and his messenger. Speaking
generically, this is usually read to mean obey what is written in the Qur'an
and obey what is reported in the Sunna. Here I am concerned only with what is
written in the Qur'an. Again speaking generically, "obey" is usually
read as "do all that is recommended in the Qur'an" and "do not
do what is disparaged". I have deviated from this general approach by
seeking out specifically imperative commands in the Qur'an.
Qur'an does not say that believers should imitate the Prophet. There are
passages (for example, 53.2 and thereafter) that can be read to say that the
Prophet achieved perfection and from such passages people have deduced that the
Prophet is intended to be the universal role model. Be that as it may, the
hermeneutical crux I have in mind is how to interpret the situational passages.
particular example I want to discuss is the "sword Ayat". The sword
Ayat is 9.5, the fifth Ayat in the ninth Surat, al-Bara'at. It is quite famous.
Here, for example, is a comment about it (by a writer hostile to Islam):
example of the abrogation: There are 124 versus that call for tolerance and
patience that have been cancelled and replaced by one, single verse. This verse
is called the verse of the sword: But when the forbidden months are past, then
fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer
them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war)..... "
But the Ayat
9.5 is clearly situational and applied, once upon a time, to a particular
situation the proto-Muslims were faced with. The entire passage involved
extends from 9.1 to 9.22. 9.1-2 may not belong to this situation, but rather to
a slightly earlier one.
involves mosques (as in 9.17) and to one particular mosque called the
"sacred" (HRAM) mosque (as in 9.7). It also involves the Hajj (as in
9.3) and the sacred months (which months these are is a side issue I will avoid
for now). The passage as a whole says that whatever truce was in place with the
"idolaters" ends (according to 9.5 itself) when the sacred month’s
end. Then outright war is declared.
any of the "idolaters" asks for protection (that is, surrenders) he
is to be protected (this is a singular imperative) (as in 9.6).
seems clear that the entire passage applies only to one situation.
Traditionally (according to Ibn Ishaq) that situation occurred in 9 AH after
Mecca had become Muslim. It is not clear in the tradition whom the hostility is
addressed against. Ibn Ishaq speaks in terms of a general agreement with all
the "polytheists". Since the deputations from the tribes to Muhammad
begin immediately thereafter, it seems to me that, although he does not so state
(or Ibn Hisham has removed the statement), we are supposed to understand that,
deprived of their sanctuary, the tribes of Arabia all turned to Islam to regain
access to it.
point-of-view I have deduced for Ibn Ishaq the sword passage
set off a very important historical event. But neither he nor I see any reason
for reading it as a precedent for all Muslims forever.
maintain that the sword Ayat abrogated nothing at all, that it is not a command
to Muslims in general, that it is not a precedent anyone should follow and that
it applied to a single event (even if Ibn Ishaq may have gotten some of the
details wrong) that happened a long time ago.
course, is not the traditional conclusion drawn from the sword Ayat. However, I
would be surprised if I were the first person to advocate this treatment of the
sword Ayat discourse. One of these categories is what I call
"situational". By that I mean information addressed to the Prophet
himself as guidance in a particular situation.
such passages people have deduced that the Prophet is intended to be the
universal role model. Be that as it may, the hermeneutical crux I have in mind
is how to interpret the situational passages.
imitation but as a guide.
"O Prophet! Surely,We have sent you as a
witness, and as a bearer of good news and as a Warner, 33:46. And as one
inviting to Allah by His permission, and as a light-giving Lamp." 33:45-46
"Say: If you love Allah then follow me,
and Allah will love you and forgive you your sins, for Allah is Forgiving and
"Verily, you have in the Messenger of
Allah an excellent example for him who hopes in Allah and the Last Day and
remembers Allah much. " 33:21
"O you who believe! Respond unto Allah and
His Messenger when He calls you to that which quickens you; and know that Allah
comes in between a man and his own heart; and that He it is unto Whom you shall
be gathered." 8:24
months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and
seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of
war)..... "to a particular situation the proto-Muslims were faced with.
Thus I maintain that the sword Ayat abrogated nothing at all, that it is not a
command to Muslims in general, that it is not a precedent anyone should follow
and that it applied to a single event.
(1) Not all
situations that the Muslim community under Muhammad (saw) had to deal withare
mentioned in the Quran. This situation is in the Quran because it is an example
of other similar situations that may arise.
(2) But it
is not to be taken out of context. It the context of a defensive war against
Moreover, it can also have an even more general symbolic meaning in that the
attack might be verbal or through other actions or it may refer to
psychological attacks by ideas within the persons own mind.
I see that
you are attempting to understand how the rules or even the Shria arises from
the Quran In order to understand this and its relation to the rest of the
teachings you need to understand the following :-
is distinction between Allah who has the Absolute Truth, Virtue and Power and
the created world of relativities where there is a distinction of degrees.
There is no absolute distinction in the Quran (a) between teaching stories,
history, moral teachings, practical instructions, guidelines, recommendations,
laws, the useful, matters of procedure, statement of facts and value
judgements, or (b) between what is absolutely true or false, good or evil,
useful or harmful and what is conditional or dependent on the perception and
intention of people or (c) between different aspects of life such as crimes,
morals, private and social behaviour, etiquette, good manners, matters of
hygiene and even thoughts, motives and actions, and what a person does to
himself or to others. All behaviour is judged according to its spiritual
effects on the person himself and on others, these two being inter-dependent.
Quran contains similitudes such that the particular is an example of the
general. So though the Quran mentions only a relatively small number of
particular things while the world presents a far greater number of different
things and events, analogical reasoning is required to extend consideration to
all other cases that may arise.
Sharia is one of three parts of Islam: Haqiqat (the Truth), Tariqat
(the Method or Way and Shariat (the Law). The Law exists to give order
to the community, to incorporate the Ideal, educate and instruct people as to
what it is and create conditions in which the spiritual life is made possible
and encouraged. It should lead to the next stage, the Tariqat, where
deliberate conscious action based on correct motivation and understanding are
cultivated. This in turn should lead to the third stage where the nature of the
person is transformed and he is a Muslim in fact.
Quran can be seen as having three levels:- (i) The World View – The Primary
Principles or basic concepts e.g. Allah, Surrender, Vicegerency, the nature of
man and his responsibilities, the nature of good and evil.
Secondary principles, the notions of Truth, Compassion, Justice, the rights and
duties. (iii) The Tertiary principles, which are methods ensuring the operation
of the secondary values. This refers to the way things are organised. (iv) The
particular conditions and the specific laws which prescribe punishment and
reward for specific actions or inaction.
can be based on any of these levels.
following features are important:
(a) Nothing can be forbidden that is not
expressly forbidden. (b) No one is guilty unless proved to be so. (c) The
intention behind the act makes people culpable but they do have the
responsibility to ensure as far as possible that their actions have good rather
than evil results. A distinction is made between what is forbidden, disapproved
of, allowed, recommended, and obligatory. Some things that are bad are
forgivable under certain conditions, e.g. stealing when under necessity,
killing in self-defence and war. Other things that are normally good can be bad
under certain conditions e.g. helping criminals.
Quran requires obedience to Allah, the Prophet and those in Authority (4:59).
That is the order of priority. The Quran contains mainly general principles,
but the Prophet adapted and applied these to the conditions of life he found
himself in. The Sharia is derived from the Quran (the Word of God) and Sunna
(the Traditions of the Prophet), but it is an interpretation by the third
Authority. Though the systems of certain past authorities have become
sacrosanct causing Islam to become stagnant, there is no reason to suppose that
such interpretations and adaptations cannot be done by present day authorities
with the appropriate qualifications.
construction of the Sharia is the concern of those who know, understand and
apply the Quran and have the experiences connected with the practice of Islam
and of the community of Muslims. It must be done with pure motives on objective
principles and cannot be done on the basis of whim, prejudice, expediency,
self-interest, ignorance, or competition for power.
Source: NARKIVE News Group Archive