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Archive for the ‘Avarice’ Category

Al-Mursalat:

September 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Sorry. But I've been looking at this sura for days, and it's a yawner. Yeah, probably not fair, but this sura's fifty lines basically combines the message in four or five of the suras that I've already covered into one package.

It includes a description of the Day of Judgment, hints at 'Ad and Thamud and Pharoah, covered the creation (gushing fluid put in a secure place and carried to term), the gnashing of unbeliever teeth, the special hell for the rich, yada yada yada.

The full text is here, since I'm skipping this one.

Al-Humazah: “The man who dies thus rich dies disgraced”

September 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Woe to every backbiting slanderer
Who gathers his wealth and counts it
Thinking that with his wealth he will never die
Nay, let him be thrown into the
Hutama.

This reminds me of a quote from Andrew Carnegie: "The man who dies thus rich dies disgraced." Avarice is a long-running theme in the early suras, and clearly The Big Sin.

I also think the connection between immortality and wealth is interesting. It can't be meant literally, no rich person thinks they are immortal, no matter the time period. But many, many rich men have believed that through their wealth, they can keep the memory of them alive. The result, though, is not what they may have though, whether it be the dissipation and waste of heirs who never learned the value of the money they were granted, to being remembered more for the rapacious manner in which the wealth was collected than in the institutions they endowed after their deaths. I think the de Medicis would serve as potent examples of both.

But the punishment has been far more generic and vague: the Fire. This sura gets more specific, naming the punishment–the Hutama–and describing exactly what it will entail. And what is the Hutama, you may ask? It is "that which Breaks to Pieces" or "the Consuming One" or "the crushing disaster" depending on which translation you use.

But I get a bit verbose in translations and quotes, so I buried the rest below the break.

Read more…

Al-‘Asr: A theme for the early suras

September 9, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve been thinking about what to put in a summary post once I move past the pre-Hijra suras. What are the major commandments for the early Meccan period? What are the major sins?

Michael Sells in Approaching the Qur’an: The Early Revelations, sees this sura as a concise summary of the four early themes of the message revealed to Muhammad.

  1. “Defending belief in the face of persecution and ridicule;”
  2. “Sharing wealth;”
  3. “Protecting those who are disinherited or in need; and”
  4. “Performing the ritual prayer, salat—the second activity explicitly mentioned in this sura.”

Sells adds an interesting point about the first theme: “To keep the faith through an active witness that exposes one to persecution and danger is, ironically, to gain refuge.”

At-Takathur: Keeping up with the Joneses

August 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Don't try to keep up with the Joneses.

From a financial planning perspective, this is a no-no. Spending on luxuries because your neighbors or co-workers have them is not a path to prosperity. There's all sorts of research showing that wealthy Americans are those who look like they live relatively poorly, but have a high savings rate. The ones who buy stuff to keep up with what the neighbors are buying? The better car, the bigger grill? Debt. Debt out the wazoo.

The Qur'an makes it easier for you (if you're a Muslim). According to this sura, if you try to keep up with the Joneses, you'll go to hell. Ha ha!

The mutual rivalry for piling up (the good things of this world) diverts you (from the more
serious things),
Until ye visit the graves.
But nay, ye soon shall know (the reality).
Again, ye soon shall know!
Nay, were ye to know with certainty of mind, (ye would beware!)
Ye shall certainly see Hellfire!
Again, ye shall see it with certainty of sight!
Then, shall ye be questioned that Day about the joy (ye indulged in!)

Yeah, I'm playing fast and loose with this sura. But it seems so clear, that first line. "The mutual rivalry for piling up the good things of the world diverts you from more serious things… Ye shall certainly see Hellfire."

Obviously, charity is implied here, as it is in most of the suras I've read so far.

Al-Adiyat: Horses and I don’t know what

August 17, 2010 2 comments

By the steeds that run, with panting breath
And strike sparks of fire
And push home the charge in the morning
And raise the dust in clouds the while
And penetrate into the midst of the massed foe…

OK, horses charging into the enemy ranks, got it. Not sure what that's all about, but…

Truly Man is to his Lord ungrateful
And to that (fact) he bears witness (by his deeds);
And violent is he in his love of wealth

I wonder, is this in reference to a specific person? Is this Walid b. Mughirah again, the Qurayshi military chief?

Does he not know when that which in the graves is scattered abroad
And that which is hidden in the human hearth is made manifest
That their Lord had been well-acquainted with them even to that day

God knows what's hidden in your heart. Got it. A lot of extra verse to convey that message. I must be missing a lot here.

al-Layl: The slippery slope

August 3, 2010 Leave a comment

This sura follows the same "god-created/do you heed the word?/yes, go to heaven/no, go to hell" theme of the past few suras. But it introduces an interesting concept: the slippery slope.

As for him who shares what he has and is mindful
who affirms the right–
Him we will ease to the good life

As for him who hoards what he has
Thinking it makes him secure
who denies the right–
Him we will ease to hardship
Wealth will not save him from ruin.

(The voice of this sura is God, so the "we" is… God.)

The slippery slope concept is so crystal clear in this (though I needed to read Michael Sells' commentary to catch it myself–I'm in a mellow, post-prandial state, having just enjoyed a lemon chicken tagine and a glass or two of red wine). If you follow the right path, God will make following that path easier. If you follow the path of greed, God will do the same. It's a different concept from what I think exists in Christianity, that God is always trying to save you. No matter how firm a grasp pre-destination eventually took in Islam, free will is evident. And God will help you on your way, whichever way you choose.

The simple definition of sin is also quite different from, say, the seven deadly sins in Catholicism (wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony). The past few suras I've read stress avarice/charity above all else save belief in God and his Messenger. 

This would seem to pose a few modern problems.

First, I think of the Saudi royal family: they are avarice epitomized, and no doubt, God is easing them to the path of hardship. I just wish they weren't pulling us all down with them by funding terrorism abroad and breeding terrorists at home through oppression.

Second, anti-terrorism finance laws and the Islamic religious mandate to give to charity. Peace-loving Muslims need to give to charity, but face serious dangers. The charities to which they may donate can easily deceive, funneling funds intended for hospitals and schools to military expenditures. If the charity takes such an action, the donors could face severe criminal penalties. Of course, Muslims in America could give to established "Christian" charities such as the United Way or the Salvation Army, but if they want to meet their religious obligations via Muslim charities and help the poor in their country of origin as many other immigrant groups have (Irish, Italian, Jewish, etc.), they face far more risks than anyone else. Seriously, do you think an Irish-American who gave money to an aid group in Northern Ireland would face jail time if that money made it into the hands of the Provisional Irish Republican Army? I doubt it. Or at least, I suspect the burden of proof for a Muslim would be a preponderance of the evidence, rather than beyond a reasonable doubt.