Back2Quran Ramadan Series: Summary of Chapter 6 (Anaam)

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!


Ch 6 is an awe-inspiring chapter, and certainly one of my favorites. The chapter starts with Al hamdu lillah (a feeling of praise for God), and mentions sirat ul mustaqeem (The straight path) 5 times! This shows that it is complimentary to Chapter 1.

Unlike Chapters 2-5 (which were more informative), Chapter 6 adopts a persuasive style and is very spiritual in nature. A good part of the chapter is devoted to God and how he works in the universe, showing a divergence from earlier chapters which focused on ordinances. This is the first chapter to mention as many as 18 different messengers/prophets.

Furthermore, the chapter outlines the shortcomings of people in approaching God: They ask for supernatural miracles. To these people, the answer is that even if God were to perform these supernatural miracles, you would still not detest and continue arguing. Instead, attain conviction by reasoning.

Despite my best efforts, I really can’t do any justice to this chapter. It is a chapter that needs to be read and enjoyed. However, here are the more prominent interests of the chapter:

  • Monotheism: Come back to the source (God), and don’t set up authorities with Him. All spiritual practices should be for God, not earthly entities.
  • Chapter primarily concerned with atheists and hardline religionists.
  • Individual accountability, no intercession.
  • Freedom of belief. Do not insult the “gods” of others.
  • Every prophet had enemies who ascribed sayings to him he never uttered.
  • Book is fully detailed.
  • Only chapter to mention 18 personalities and linking them all to Alkitab (The book).
  • Do not obey the majority. Majority does not equate to truth.
  • Advocates reasoning in religious matters. “How can god have a son without a partner?” Not the “God can will whatever” mantra most religionists like to use.
  • Enlightenment and ignorance not equal. How can they deserve the same treatment?
  • Degrees according to deeds, not beliefs.
  • Ordinance on food.
  • Fatalism shunned.
  • Division discouraged.
  • Different understandings of the same truth given so that he could test you in your individual capacities. Therefore, Islam was never supposed to be a monolith.

Narrates the account of Ibrahim: His own spiritual journey, and how he challenged the prevalent religion of his times. (6:74-83)

 


Advocates one of the strongest arguments for Quranism (6:112-117):
Remember, We have appointed to every Prophet enemies. The rebellious among the urban and the rural populations rose in opposition, (since the Message struck at their personal interests.) They plotted and inspired each other with fancy words. If your Sustainer willed, they would not do that. Disregard them and whatever they fabricate.

Those who love quick gains and neglect the long-term benefits and the Hereafter, are parties to such fabrications. Let them delight in it and let them earn from it what they may.

Shall I seek for Judge and Ruler someone other than God? He is the One Who has revealed this Book, well expounded in detail for you? Those whom We have given the Book know that this is revealed in truth from your Sustainer. Be not among those who argue for the sake of argument.

Perfected is the Word of your Sustainer in truth and Justice. None can change His words and His laws. And He is the Profound Hearer, the Knower.

(People will confront you with what the majority is doing.) Now if you pay heed to, or get intimidated by majority of those who live on earth, they will lead you astray from God’s way. Most of the people follow nothing but conjecture and they only live by guesswork.

Only your Sustainer (shows the right path and) knows best those who stray and those who are rightly guided.


The Nine commandments of Islam, so to speak (6:151-152):

•You shall not set up idols besides Him.

•You shall honor your parents.

•You shall not kill your children from fear of poverty – we provide for you and for them.

•You shall not commit immoralities and injustices, obvious or hidden.

•You shall not kill – God has made life sacred – except in the course of justice.

•You shall not touch the orphans’ money except in the most righteous manner, until they reach maturity.

•You shall give full weight and full measure when you trade, equitably. We do not burden any soul beyond its means.

•You shall be absolutely just when you bear witness, even against your relatives.

•You shall fulfill your covenant with God.


Here are some very useful notes on Chapter 6 from Introduction to the Quran: An Existential Reading by Farouk Peru:

1. Ch 6 is like Ch 1 as it also starts with the feeling of joy and thankfulness (hamd) for Allah who created the heavens and the earth, darkness and light. However, those who reject or cover up this feeling will make others equal to Allah. This sets the tone for the chapter which is about attaining the direct connection with Allah.

2. Ch 6 has a long section talking about man’s relationship with Allah and how we can relate to him. This is from Vs 1-73. This is the first long metaphysical treatise in Quran and helps us to understand how we can build such a relationship with Allah.

3. Ch 6 mentions *ibrahim* and his reaction to the sun, moon and planets (7/74-83). This shows our contemplative route towards Allah where we see the source of power and light fade before turning to Allah himself. This process can be seen as an actual experience of 6/1-73.

4. Ch 6 mentions 18 personalities, linking them to ‘the book, governance and prophecies’ (6/83-89). These personalities should be understood as means for us to achieve the straight and establishing path. (siratin mustaqeem).

5. Ch 6 has the means of attaining the detailing of God’s judgment, 6/114. This is represented by the Quran and opposite to flowery sayings (6/112-113) which alienate us from the path (shaitaan). From this judgement of 6/114, we are to attain the fulfillment of the words of our lord in truth and justice (6/115).

6. Ch 6 has the detailing of the straight path (6/151-153) and immediately after that, Allah mentions *musa* and the book as well as the Quran (6/155)

7. Ch 6 ends with ibrahim who is the model of the perfect deen. Ibrahim’s philosophy of life is linked to his level of deen.

 

 

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.

 

A Monolithic Islam? Forget About It!

People trouble me, sometimes. Why are people so judgmental, I often find myself wondering? Perhaps, it is because a judgmental heart lacks introspection. I think that’s it. Yes, lacking introspection!

One of the most troubling trends I see within the Muslim community is the amount of hatred and suspicion towards Muslims who adopt different approaches and interpretations of Islam. With the Takfeeri ideology (ex-communication) on a rise, nearly every Muslim considers himself to be “rightly guided” and others, even if they differ on minor issues, to be “deluded by the devil” or a “Fitnah”, greatly hindering co-existence and mutual respect between Muslims. Sectarianism, which for this very reason has been severely discouraged in the Quran, has destabilized the Muslim community from within, resulting in every group happy with their version while looking down upon others.

We must realize that Islam is not a monolith, and that it’s impossible for nearly 2 billion Muslims to share the same interpretation of it. There is no “true” Islam, I would argue. Rather, what we have are Islams. At best, the “true” Islam, in my opinion, is relative to the person and is the interpretation that allows you to grow and evolve the most as a person, provided—a very important distinction to make–provided that the core of the Quran is not tempered with. And the Quran makes the case for this on the basis of the following verses:

“Who listen to the Word and follow the best of it. Those are the ones Allah has guided, and those are people of understanding.” Quran, 39:18

“And follow the best of that which is sent down to you from your Lord, before the torment comes on you suddenly while you perceive not!” Quran, 39:55

These verses, which definitely demand more attention and pondering from the mainstream Muslims; speak against a monolithic, institutionalized Islam as they ask the reader to follow the “best” from what is revealed. If there was supposed to be one “official interpretation”, there would absolutely be no point in asking us to follow the best therein. How do you follow the best of what’s already best, anyways?

Most people are unaware of this, but the Quran itself talks of a plurality of paths to Islam:

Through this Book, God guides to paths of Islam (peace), those who seek His Approval. He brings them out of darkness into the light of His grace, and guides them to the straight path. Quran, 5:16

This is because God acknowledges our diversity, calling it one of His Signs (30:22); and unlike the clergymen, does not want us all to be identical robots.

Combining these points together, the Quran provides a comprehensive rebuttal to the idea of there being a “true” Islam that is supposed to be shared by all of its adherents.

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Dealing with differences

Naturally, when we talk of nearly 2 billion Muslims, there are going to be theological differences. What matters though, is how we deal with these differences. We may have intellectual disagreements within the diverse Islamic thought, but we must not foster hate towards this diversity. Either we can acknowledge our differences and embrace them for the common good, focusing rather on the fundamental values that Islam teaches us, or we could continue with the “my way or the highway” ideology that is the main cause of sectarianism, again – which is severely discouraged in the Quran. (I delve on this further here)

Not being honest and true to ourselves, I believe, is at the root of sectarianism. We condemn others for their views, knowing full well that there was a time when we, ourselves, didn’t know what we know today. The problem, then, is that we’re overly critical of others, and fairly passive of ourselves, when it should totally be the other way around! We are quick to judge others because we only see things from one perspective–our perspective–which is limited and biased. We don’t try to analyze the reasons why people are the way they are because that is a hard task, requiring effort and broad mindedness.

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Now, there is this weird idea people have that being blunt is the same as being provocative, insulting, and demeaning. Some people, who like to think of themselves as being “straight-forward” believe that speaking “truth” to a person with a different point of view doesn’t require you to be polite, understanding, and reasonable. No, these characteristics are seen as attempts of “sugar-coating” or being “diplomatic” (as if that’s a bad thing). Well, guess what? Even if you’re right, no one would bother listening to you sincerely if you come off as snobbish and condescending. Doesn’t that negate the whole point of dialogue? If you are so keen on spreading your truth, don’t be in it to praise your ego and making a fool out of others. Because ultimately, you’re only fooling yourself!

There are some ethics of dialogue, and the Quran lays them down most wonderfully:

Invite to the path of your Lord with wisdom and good advice, and argue with them in the best possible manner. Your Lord is fully aware of who is misguided from His path, and He is fully aware of the guided ones. Quran, 16:125

Socrates once said, “When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser.” In other words, when there are no intellectual points left to make, people resort to ad-hominem attacks to get the impression of superiority. Again and again, we must remind ourselves the purpose of Islam. It is not to look down upon others, but to bring yourself up. It is not to criticize others, but to prime yourself. Islam seeks to suppress the ego, not to magnify it. In fact, the Quran repeatedly reminds the reader that he is not sent as a “guardian” or “watcher” over the people (6:107, 88:22). Why then, is the focus not on ourselves, but on others?

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Conclusion

Gradual as it was, I realized over the course of my journey as a Muslim that there are many spiritual paths leading to the same destination: peace and serenity.

Just because I disagree with X and Y on some points, does not mean that I discount their spiritual journey as “invalid”, or that I start calling them other derogatory labels. The important thing, rather, is that you keep on treading the path you have chosen for yourself, growing with each step. Growth should be the priority, not the means by which you grow. Yes, we can all help in correcting each other by having a dialogue on a variety of theological and spiritual aspects, but the only person who’s utterly wasting his time is he who himself won’t move, but will block the way of others; advising them that they’ve taken the wrong path.

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As the Quran beautifully puts it:

Each of you chooses the direction to follow; then strive together toward all that is good. Whatever stand you take, God will bring you all together. Indeed, God is Able to do all things. Quran, 2:148

 

A monolithic Islam? Forget about it!

An inclusive and pluralistic Islam? Yes! And much more Islam will come to you that way!

 

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The 4 Major Factors That Fuel Religious Fundamentalism

I have a mantra on life that I wish to share with you, dear reader. Ignorance restricts and breeds hatred and extremism; while knowledge liberates, and breeds compassion and understanding. Fundamentalism stems from ignorance, and thus only breeds negativity. It is a venomous disease that kills positivity and growth, and needs to be identified and cured, on a very personal level.

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As a Muslim, who in his earlier days had adopted quite a fundamentalist approach, I have come a long way by internalizing a basic yet painful truth: I definitely do not have all the answers, hence different point of views are not only necessary for my own growth and evolution (which to me, is the prime purpose of life) but also that respecting diversity is the only solution of progress and co-existence. I have come to realize that only those who hold a shallow outlook are afraid of diversity in thought, for it threatens ungrounded and un-researched prejudices and beliefs. Bertrand Russell, very wisely, puts it as:

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”

  1. Lack of independent study and exposure to different schools of thought

In my humble opinion, the biggest factor of fundamentalism and dogmatism is that most people do not critically examine the philosophy on life they profess to accept and believe in. Naively believing whatever is told to them by their family/friends and scholars, they lack the exposure to different schools of thought that has the tendency of humbling one’s self down. So, when a blind belief is threatened by an opposing point of view, such people, unable to prove their point by reasoning, resort to insults and bad language; or in extreme cases, resort to violence in order to protect that belief and to gain a feeling of supremacy and self-worth. This, in medical terms, is also known as cognitive dissonance.

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  1. Inconsistency in approach

Whether it be theism or atheism, dogmatism and fundamentalism exists on both sides of the coin. This is a bitter truth that I’ve observed over the years. One would expect atheists and “progressive religionists” to be more open-minded towards those who differ from their perspective, but this unfortunately is not the case with all of them. Ironically, they become what they detest the most: hardliner preachers of their “religion”, looking down upon anyone and everyone who differs. Of course, I do not mean to imply that every atheist or theist behaves like that, which brings me to my next point: avoiding generalizations.

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  1. Generalizations and thinking in absolutes

Generalizations play a key role in fundamentalism and dogmatism: All Muslims are terrorists. All atheists are proud and arrogant. All Shias are Kafirs. Every black person is a thug; every white person a racist. Fundamentalists perceive everything in a black and white manner, refusing – or simply uninterested- to observe the many shades of grey within. This, again, brings me back to my point: exposure! The more you are exposed to a diversity of people: their way of living, their way of thinking, their way of worshiping (or the lack thereof), the more you broaden your mind and cease thinking in absolutes.

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  1. Possessing the key to “the sole truth”

Religionists are brought up believing that their path to God is the “only” correct path worthy of salvation, and this brainwashing turns some (if not most) of them into bigots. Atheists believe that atheism is the “only” rational approach, and this brainwashing turns some (if not most) of them into bigots. What needs to be eliminated is the personal belief of having a monopoly on truth, even the idea of there being a sole truth out there. But it’s challenging – it’s challenging because having a monopoly on truth and looking down upon others is a great boost for the ego and a major source of self-worth for some. In addition, this feeling of superiority due to having the key to “the truth” may well be the most defining part of their personality, making it even harder for them to abolish this self-centered belief.

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However, sincere people in all walks of life eventually realize the need for pluralism and tolerance. A sincere person analyzes the contradictions in his own approach and works on continually reforming himself, instead of always finding faults with others. A sincere person strives for consistency in approach. If he detests something in others, he makes it incumbent upon himself that that negative trait is not a part of his own personality. And when he does this, he automatically becomes more tolerant, more compassionate, more humble, and above all, he is able to acquire peace within himself which ultimately is the prime purpose of any philosophy on life. All in all, he is more interested in his own evolution instead of proving others wrong.

As Gandhi said, be the change you wish to see in the world!

 

Related article: United Sects of Islam: A different perspective on unity and sectarianism

 

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