Back2Quran Ramadan Series: Summary of Chapter 5 (Maidah)

What this project is: This Ramadan, rekindle your spirituality and relationship with God by reading the Quran in a language you understand! To facilitate those who find reading the Quran for the first time daunting, we, at Quranalyze It, will be posting short chapter summaries to get you acquainted with the basic theme and content of a particular chapter. It is important to note, however, that these summaries are no substitute to reading the Quran, and should be used as a bridge towards the Quran, or as an additional tool.

If you like the idea behind this project, and would like to read the summaries of the subsequent chapters in the coming days, then subscribe to our blog to receive an email whenever we publish a new summary. Please read, and share it far and wide!


The chapter theme seems like an amalgamation of the themes expressed in Ch2-4. However, this time, with a focus on the messenger and his relationship with the believers and disbelievers. All in all, Ch 2-5 details the core of Islam, with pretty much identical themes and content within them. The call “Oh you believed” appears 43 times between Ch2-5, showing the practical overtones of these chapters.

Beginning with an appeal to believers to fulfill all obligations as sacred, it puts forward ordinances about food, cleanliness, impartial justice, and pluralism. Murdering an innocent soul, stealing, false oaths, intoxication, gambling, superstitions of all kinds, hunting within the forbidden months, and inventing lies about God are condemned.

Here are some excellent thoughts on Chapter 5 from the book Introduction to the Quran: An Existential Reading by Farouk Peru:

1. Ch 5 is the only chapter which mentions the perfection of the islamic system (deeni kamil) in 5/3. During this perfection of system, many negative things are sanctioned from us and those who seek to oppress will give up in doing so.

2. Ch 5 has two calls to the messenger (5/41 and 5/67). This is not present in any other chapter. This shows the centrality of the messenger in this chapter and his role in leading the system. After each of these calls to the messenger, there are successive calls to believers (in 5/51, 5/54, 5/57 followed by calls after the second call to the messenger in 5/87, 5/90, 5/94, 5/95, 5/101, 5/105, 5/106). These calls represent stages or aspects of action in order to realise the system of the messenger in two successive stages (those of 5/41 and 5/67).

3. Ch 5 ends with the story of *isa* and the ‘table’ (the word ‘maidah’ refers to a state in which capacities are peaked). This symbolizes the system of Allah which is perfected in 5/3. In this perfection, the needs for self-actualization of all human beings are met and he is on course for the right judgment from Allah.


 

Passage Breakdowns:

Passage 1 (1-5)

  • First call to believers: Fulfill your obligations.
  • Second call to believers: Ordinances on lawful and unlawful food, and marriage.

Passage 2 (6-7)

  • Third call to believers: Guidelines on ablution before Salat.

Passage 3 (8-10)

  • Fourth call to believers: Stand up for justice, and be not partial.

Passage 4 (11-14)

  • God made a covenant with “Bani Israel” and the “Nasara” but they breached it. This caused them to be arrogant, and misrepresent the Message.

Passage 5 (15-18)

  • First call to People who possess the book: There has come to you an illuminating book that guides to *paths* of peace (Islam). Paths being in plural signifies no approach towards the Quran has a monopoly on truth.
  • Further outlines the shortcomings of some “Hood” and “Nasara”.

Passage 6 (19-34)

  • Second call to People who possess the book: Messenger has come to you who clarifies matters, lest you say “no warner” came to us.
  • Narration about Musa and his people, his people signifying the lack of devotion to fight in the cause of God.
  • Narration about two sons of *Adam*, leading up to the commandment that murdering an innocent soul is like murdering the entire mankind, and saving a soul is like saving the whole mankind. This, so that people do not forget the pivotal commandment of only killing in self-defense.
  • The natural consequence of those who wage a war against “Allah and His Messenger” is that they are humiliated in one way or the other.

Passage 7 (35-40)

  • Fifth call to believers: Attain Taqwa of God, and journey towards Him, if you seek to be successful in the long run (This was a central theme in Ch 2 and 3). This is better than acquiring all the material possessions in the world.
  • Those who steal, cut off their capacities. However, if they sincerely repent, God will forgive them.

Passage 8 (41-50)

  • First call to the messenger: Beware of hypocrites.
  • Judge by Altaurat which contains guidance and light. Prophets, in plural, judged in accordance with it.
  • A vital lesson on pluralism: God could have made you one Ummah, but he gave you different understandings of the same truth. Instead of fighting over this, hasten to do good.

 

Passage 9 (51-53)

  • Sixth call to believers: Do not take protectors outside your ranks.
  • Seventh call to believers: Do not turn back on your heels, because of the difficulties you suffer. Your real friends are God, His messenger, and those who establish connection and contribute to purification and are humble.
  • Eighth call to believers: Do not take those who take your Deen as mockery and play as protectors. This, because these folks have no intentions of connecting with God.

Passage 10 (59-66)

  • Say to the people who possess the book: Why do you blame us, when all we’ve done is that we’ve believed in God and embrace the book holistically? This sort of behavior is termed as “very immature and unevolved.” Those who are guilty of the trait mentioned above are labeled hypocrites and their “scholars” questioned over why they don’t reprimand them.
  • Some Yahood say that “God’s hands are tied down” while they themselves are extremely stingy. God works through human beings, and since God repeatedly commands charity, is the hands of the people that are tied down that leads to poverty. *Very important distinction made here, a query most atheists put forward.*

Passage 11 (67-86)

  • Second call to messenger: Make known all that is revealed to you. God will protect you from the aggressors.
  • Criterion to heaven is not a specific religion, but some core beliefs: Belief in God, accountability, and reformation.
  • Do not set up authorities with God.
  • Both Eesa and his mother consumed food, and were like every other mortal. This is termed as a sign, for those who will give thought.
  • Say to people who possess the book: Don’t commit excess in your Deen, and don’t follow erroneous views.

Passage 12 (87-89)

  • Don’t forbid yourselves of the things God has made lawful for you.
  • Oaths without deliberate intentions are not accountable. Oaths with deliberate intentions accountable. Expiation of these oaths outlined.

Passage 13 (90-93)

  • Ninth call to believers: Intoxication, games of chance forbidden. Shaitan causes enmity and hatred between humans through these things.
  • Obey God and the messenger. The messenger’s duty is to deliver the message to you, whether you follow it or not, is up to you.

Passage 14 (94-100)

  • Ordinances on hunting during the forbidden months.

Passage 15 (101-109)

  • Tenth call to believers: Don’t ask about things you have no knowledge of. However, if you ask these things while the Quran is being revealed to you, you will get the answers eventually. The negation of this commandment has lead many towards disbelief.
  • When it is said to people to believe what God has revealed, they respond by saying that we will, on the contrary, follow what our forefathers followed.
  • Eleventh call to believers: Individual accountability.
  • Twelfth and last call to believers: Two people should witness the will you write before death.

 

Passage 16 (110-120)

  • The chapter ends with the narration about Eesa, with a central focus on the Maaidah – which I take it to mean abundance and a feast for those involved in the project of Ch2-5.

 

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Back2Quran Ramadan Series: Summary of Chapter 4 (Nisaa)

What this project is: This Ramadan, rekindle your spirituality and relationship with God by reading the Quran in a language you understand! To facilitate those who find reading the Quran for the first time daunting, we, at Quranalyze It, will be posting short chapter summaries to get you acquainted with the basic theme and content of a particular chapter. It is important to note, however, that these summaries are no substitute to reading the Quran, and should be used as a bridge towards the Quran, or as an additional tool.

If you like the idea behind this project, and would like to read the summaries of the subsequent chapters in the coming days, then subscribe to our blog to receive an email whenever we publish a new summary. Please read, and share it far and wide!


The theme of Chapter 4 seems to be about socio-economics, with an emphasis on following the messenger to attain these goals. Establishing justice is also emphasized, and is another prevalent theme of the chapter.

To me, the first four passages (1-42) of chapter 4 seem to resemble Ch 2 as they contains numerous ordinances, this time geared towards socio-economics: rights of men, women, and orphans. The last ten passages (43-176) seem to resemble Ch 3 as they urge the reader to fight for the oppressed, constantly reminding the reader to not take protectors outside his ranks and to be wary of the threats proposed by the enemies.

Here are some interesting thoughts on Chapter 4 from the book Introduction to Quran: An Existential Reading by Farouk Peru:

1. Ch 4 is one of two chapters in Quran starting with ‘oh people’ (ya ayyuha an-naas). The other is Ch 22, Al-hajj. This may be due to the fact both chapters are giving humankind specific paths to achieve the utopian ideal.

2. Ch 4 has its first section (4/1-18) address mankind to establish a just and organic society in terms of dependency. This happens when we take care of those who are alone with no one to care for them (al-yateem).

3. Ch 4 then has 3 sections with calls to believers (4/19-28; 4/29-42 ; 4/43-57). These three sections give consequent answers to the first call to mankind. It gives specific instructions on formation of that society. There are 3 aspects with are social relations, trade and preparation of the self.

4. Ch 4 has a unique call which is to those given the book (alladhina ootu al-kitab in 4/47-58). These are the people given the system of God (idealised in 4/1) after following the steps mentioned above. This is not found anywhere else in Quran and could show us the overarching theme of Ch 4.

5. Ch 4 includes the story of *musa* and the people of his system (ahl al-kitab). The lesson of the sabt is that there are phases of growth and rest in the course of building society (4/153-154).

6. Ch 4 also mentions the oppression of those who prefer comfort, alladhina haadoo (4/160-161). These people were lenient about establishing the system of God and were content about riba, the fruits of oppressive economics. For that, Allah sanctioned them from the good things.

7. Ch 4 has a final call to mankind (4/174) mentions the word ‘burhaan’ which is translated as proof. This call is placed here because the proof of Islam’s system is self-evident – when Islam is established, it is proof for everyone to see. Not coincidentally, the purpose of hajj in Ch 22 (which starts with the call to mankind like this chapter, Ch 4), is for people to see the system for themselves (22/27-28).


Passage Breakdowns:

Passage 1 (1-18)

  • First call to mankind: Attain Taqwa of your Rab (be conscious of your Sustainer)
  • Don’t consume the resources of orphans unlawfully and be just with them. Release their property to them when they become mentally mature to handle it.
  • The infamous polygamy verse.
  • Provide marital gifts to your wives when you marry.
  • Inheritance laws: Both men and women get a share (These are detailed in the passage). Also encourages providing for the needy out of the inheritance.
  • Those who corrupt the ordinances laid above, four witnesses must be gathered and legal action taken.
  • Forgiveness only for those who commit evil in ignorance, and don’t repeat their mistakes.

Passage 2 (19-28)

  • First call to believers: Forced marriage forbidden and cordial relationships between man and woman encouraged.
  • In case of marrying for the second time, you must not take back the marital gift you had given to your former wife.
  • Ordinances on whom you can’t marry.
  • Passage ends by reminding the reader that God seeks ease for you.

Passage 3 (29-42)

  • Second call to believers: Do not consume one another’s wealth wrongfully. This will destroy your “nafs” (soul).
  • Avoid the grave sins, and your minor sins will be forgiven.
  • In financial matters, don’t be jealous of others. Both men and women have full rights over what they earn, the inheritance left behind by their parents, and the marital gifts received by the women.
  • Obey God and don’t set up authorities with Him. Be good to your parents, and be charitable with the needy.
  • Don’t be stingy, and don’t spend to “show-off”.

Passage 4 (43-46)

  • Third call to believers: Don’t approach Salat unless you know what you’re saying (Understand what you read or what is recited to you). Further ordinances on purity pre-Salat.
  • Seek to embrace the book holistically.

Passage 5 (47-58)

  • First and only call to those who have been “given” the book: Believe in what was revealed that confirms what you already possess and avoid setting authorities with God.
  • Don’t claim purity for yourself. In other words, don’t be pompous. Also, never invent ordinances in the name of God.
  • Embrace the book holistically and don’t follow false authorities.
  • Establish Justice.

Passage 6 (59-70)

  • Fourth call to believers: Obey God, the messenger, and those entrusted with authority. If you differ somewhere, refer to the book.
  • Again, avoid following false authorities.
  • Be dedicated to the cause you’re fighting for.

Passage 7 (71-93)

  • Fifth Call to believers: Remain attendant against threats.
  • Fight for those who are oppressed in the land.
  • The source of everything good is God, while evil comes because of your decisions.
  • Ponder over the Quran, if you find therein inconsistencies, it is not from God.
  • Verify rumors.
  • Whoever rallies to a good cause will have a share in it, and whoever rallies to a bad cause will have a share in it.
  • When greeted with a greeting, respond by an equal or better greeting.
  • Beware of hypocrites.
  • Ordinances on the recompense of killing a “believer.”

Passage 8 (94-134)

  • Sixth call to believers: Avoid Takfir (excommunication)
  • Those who fight for a noble cause are superior to those who don’t.
  • If you are oppressed, migrate if you can.
  • When travelling, you may shorten your salat.
  • Avoid secret meetings, unless for a noble cause.
  • Shaitan will mislead and entice you, and will order you to change the creation of God. But what shaitan promises to you is but delusion.
  • Best Deen is to surrender yourself to God, excel in goodness, and follow the example of Ibrahim.
  • Ordinances on wives and orphans repeated.

Passage 9 (135)

  • Seventh call to believers: Stand up firmly for justice, with no discrimination.

Passage 10 (136-143)

  • Eighth Call to believers: Believe in God, the messenger, and the book.
  • Don’t seek protectors outside your ranks.
  • If someone mocks the revelations of God, simply walk away.

Passage 11 (144-169)

  • Ninth Call to believers: Don’t seek protectors outside your ranks.
  • Hypocrites deemed the worst.
  • Impolite speech not allowed, unless by someone who was wronged.
  • Don’t cause distinction between messengers.
  • People will ask you to display “miracles.”
  • Jesus was not crucified.
  • None can be from the Ahl Kitab unless they believe in Alkitab.

Passage 12 (170)

  • Second call to mankind: Truth has come to you from your Lord. If you believe it, it is only better for you.

Passage 13 (171-173)

  • First call to people who possess the book: Do not commit excess in your deen, and don’t speak falsehood about God. Eesa served God and was a messenger. Don’t set up authorities with Him. God is one, not one of “three.”

Passage 14 (174-176)

  • Third, and last call to mankind: There has come to you Burhan (Convincing proof) from your Lord, as a beacon of light.
  • If you believe in God, He will guide you towards a straight path.
  • Ends with the summation of inheritance laws.

Let’s be honest: Do you really believe in the Day of Judgment?

Over the years, belief has become a problematic word for me. Religious people are too fixated on scoring brownie points with God by exhausting all their efforts into believing this and believing that, all the while, failing to utilize that belief into something productive that makes them grow. It seems to me that people have made religion into a document that supposedly leads them to heaven just by signing on it (proclaiming they believe in it). What a shameful way to belittle God, this is!

The Quran, like any other book, is not to be “believed”, rather it is a self-help book that needs to be internalized so that the reader may evolve as a person. Quoting 14:1, “A book we have revealed to you so that you may bring people out of darkness towards light.” This, of course, can only be achieved when you act on it.

Belief, you could say then, is only the initial step of a ladder that ultimately leads towards it’s implementation: Necessary to take, however not as an end in itself; rather as a means to an end. Therefore, it is only reasonable to say, a belief that doesn’t translate into action is hollow, worthless, and a downright mockery of the self. This, I constantly remind myself, is an act of hypocrisy. And, most abominable in the sight of God is that you say what you do not do. (Quran, 61:3)

One of the fundamental teachings of the Quran is to acknowledge the Day of Judgment. But, why? Not many of us ask that question. When I started reading the Quran, my approach was to believe everything I read, without questioning. After all, how could I question God? However, as I went deeper into the Quran, I realized that doubt is an essential part of faith and spirituality. It is only when you question, does the wisdom behind every commandment reveals itself.

So when I questioned the point behind there being a Day of Judgment, I realized that if internalized from the core of your being, this belief molds people into responsible citizens who make decisions not on impulse, but by weighing and analyzing the pros and cons of it. People who realize that they are accountable for all their actions would never even think of wronging somebody else in the least. This, if adopted as a whole, would lead to Islam: a peaceful world.

Governments, too, try to replicate this model in order to ensure law and order in society. However, this still leaves room for people to commit injustices and indecencies in their private spaces, as well as public spaces through corruption. But there is no corruption in the court of God, is what some of us forget. It is a just system that judges you on behalf of your actions, not your beliefs. Hence, acknowledging the Day of Judgment should not be the focus. The focus, rather, should be on tuning our actions to the point where they act as a witness to our belief.

However, it is truly unfortunate and perplexing to see that so many Muslims, despite “believing” in the Day of Accountability, reject accountability in spirit. Through fabricated stories outside of the Quran, it is widely believed that Mohammad (salutes and respect to him) would intercede on behalf of every Muslim. Pause there. Before you react, imagine a judicial system where criminals could receive amnesty, just because they were “favorites” of the Judge. Would you call that justice? Surely, not! Then, what picture have we painted of God?

Scales-of-justice-2

And so it is, if you were to ask any Muslim whether he acknowledges a Day of Judgment, he would swiftly respond in the affirmative. “Of course, I do!” Yet, on the contrary, these very Muslims, though not all, don’t think twice before committing injustices and obscenities. Is that not a huge contradiction? The question that must be asked is, if you really believe in judgment, how is it that your actions don’t reflect it?

A million dollar question!

Are we not missing the point?

 

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