November 20, 2008

The Qur'anic Version of the Stories of Ibrahim and Lut (pbut)

Cross-posted from Street Prophets. Also, see the note down at the bottom of the post.

I thought I'd touch on Southern Mouth's diary Sodom and Gomorrah from a slightly different perspective. What I'm trying to show, insha'allah, are some of the differences between the stories of Lut and Ibrahim (pbut) in the Qur'an vs. what is told in the Old Testament. Some of the comments in Southern Mouth's diary made light of topics that either don't appear in the Qur'an or have a different perspective. What follows is the most significant passage in the Qur'an (11:69-83) regarding Lut, Ibrahim (pbut) and the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah, followed by some of the differences between the two holy books. I've also added two minor notes in the Qur'anic passage to clarify certain passages, highlighted in [brackets].

There came Our messengers to Abraham with glad tidings. They said, "Peace!" He [Ibrahim (pbuh)] answered, "Peace!" and hastened to entertain them with a roasted calf.

But when he saw their hands went not towards the (meal), he felt some mistrust of them, and conceived a fear of them. They said: "Fear not: We have been sent against the people of Lut."

And his wife [Sarah] was standing (there), and she laughed: But we gave her glad tidings of Isaac, and after him, of Jacob.

She said: "Alas for me! shall I bear a child, seeing I am an old woman, and my husband here is an old man? That would indeed be a wonderful thing!"

They said: "Dost thou wonder at Allah's decree? The grace of Allah and His blessings on you, o ye people of the house! for He is indeed worthy of all praise, full of all glory!"

When fear had passed from (the mind of) Abraham and the glad tidings had reached him, he began to plead with us for Lut's people.

For Abraham was, without doubt, forbearing (of faults), compassionate, and given to look to Allah.

O Abraham! Seek not this. The decree of thy Lord hath gone forth: for them there cometh a penalty that cannot be turned back!

When Our messengers came to Lut, he was grieved on their account and felt himself powerless (to protect) them. He said: "This is a distressful day."

And his people came rushing towards him, and they had been long in the habit of practising abominations. He said: "O my people! Here are my daughters: they are purer for you (if ye marry)! Now fear Allah, and cover me not with shame about my guests! Is there not among you a single right-minded man?"

They said: "Well dost thou know we have no need of thy daughters: indeed thou knowest quite well what we want!"

He said: "Would that I had power to suppress you or that I could betake myself to some powerful support."

(The Messengers) said: "O Lut! We are Messengers from thy Lord! By no means shall they reach thee! now travel with thy family while yet a part of the night remains, and let not any of you look back: but thy wife (will remain behind): To her will happen what happens to the people. Morning is their time appointed: Is not the morning nigh?"

When Our Decree issued, We turned (the cities) upside down, and rained down on them brimstones hard as baked clay, spread, layer on layer,-

Marked as from thy Lord: Nor are they ever far from those who do wrong! (11:69-83)

Points that aren't made in the Qur'an:
* Southern Mouth wrote that "Again, Abraham asked and God agreed to save Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of 10 righteous people." As you can see, Ibrahim (pbuh) pleaded with Allah (swt) on behalf of Lut's (pbuh) people, but an exact number isn't mentioned. One assumes from verse 74 that he pleaded on behalf of all of the people.
* Likewise, JCH quotes the following: "In the final analysis there were only three righteous in Sodom, Lot and his two daughters." Again, the Qur'an doesn't say how large the family that departed is, only that they all escaped with the exception of Lut's wife.
* Grada pointed out that "After all, there are indications from the incest part of the story that he was a drunk..." In no part of the Qur'an is it suggested that Lut (pbuh) committed incest or had gotten drunk. In fact, I think most Muslims would probably argue that the former charge is an outright fabrication.

Other points:
* Southern Mouth also wrote, Personally, I found it repulsive that Lot - who was saved from the towns' destruction - offer the men clamoring at his door his two virgin daughters to do as they wanted. In some of the exegesis for the Qur'an, it is pointed out that the use of the phrase "my/thy daughters" (verses 78-9) does not necessarily refer to Lut's (pbuh) biological daughters; rather, it refers to the young women of the town, just as in modern cultures, younger men who are not relations might be called "my son" or, especially here in S'pore, older men and women who are not relations are very frequently called "uncle" or "aunty."
* Ramara wrote: Lot's wife must have been also good, since she also escaped but looked back and became a pillar of salt. In the Qur'an, Lut (pbuh) is warned (in verse 81) that his wife would turn away from him. The lure of the sinful life was too great for her to resist.
* An interesting difference between the Old Testament and the Qur'an can be found in Andrew White's comment. He quotes that Ibrahim (pbuh) "stood by them under the tree while they ate." Likewise, Lut (pbuh) "...made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate...." And yet in verse 70, the angels don't eat of Ibrahim's (pbuh) roasted calf: But when he saw their hands went not towards the (meal)...

Note: One point that isn't discussed in this post that is very relevant to the discussion is an earlier comment I made on the original diary by Southern Mouth. There, I wrote:

Well, seeing how you brought the Qur'an into it...

The main point of this diary was my disagreement and distaste for those who preach/teach that America is on the brink of destruction because of all the sin. I read nothing in the Sodom and Gomorrah account where Abraham went to Sodom to preach their impending doom.

Well, Abraham (pbuh) didn't go to Sodom; that was Lot (pbuh). ;)

The Qur'an also teaches that nations/civilizations are "on the brink of destruction because of all the sin," although Muslims don't normally harp on such themes as you ascribe to American Christians. There are numerous passages in the Qur'an telling of the destruction of various cities, the tale of Sodom and Gommorah being only one. There are also a number of verses in the Qur'an that tell Muslims to consider the ruins of formerly inhabited cities, ghost towns, in the region, to consider the fates of those peoples. The purpose of all these stories and verses is not to gloat, so to speak, over a people's impending destruction, but to warn them of the need to repent before time runs out.

However, it's not just individuals who need to repent, but communities as well. In Islam we have two types of duties, fard al-'ayn, in which every individual is responsible, and fard al-kifaya, which is a collective duty imposed on a community. Communities are also given time to repent; if they don't, they may suffer a similar fate to individual men; i.e., a failed civilization. The immediate warning in the Qur'an was to the pagan Makkan society in which Muhammad (pbuh) was born. Essentially, Allah (swt) is trying to tell them: "Look, I want you all to repent but My patience won't last forever. There may come a time that I will give up on you because you all gave up on Me. So repent now while you have the chance." I believe that this is also the message the American Christians are trying to say as well, but they've taken a different tone and tact from how Muslims would treat the subject.

October 22, 2008

Zakat vs. Sadaqah

There seems to be some confusion among non-Muslims about who's eligible to receive charity from Muslims. The quotation in question is from Al-Maqasid, the book on fiqh by Imam Nawawi (631 - 676 A.H. / 1234 - 1278 CE), who wrote:

"It is not permissible to give zakat to a non-Muslim." (Al-Maqasid, 4:13)

Not surprisingly, the quotation is being misused by Islamophobes such as Bobby Spencer and others. Their problem seems to be that they focus solely on zakat while ignoring the fact that there's also sadaqah, the voluntary charity that can be given by Muslims to anyone. What follows below is the thread of a conversation over at Daily Kos where this issue came up. The first comment was written by a person calling themselves "Berkeley Moon":

Do you know, for example, that Islam compares wealth in a society to blood in the body? It must be circulated in a healthy society/body. If too much blood is congealed in one place in the body, the body dies. The body also dies if there is too little blood in a part. It is the same with a society. Too little or too much wealth in a part of the society means the society sickens and may die.

To which "Old Man Mountain" wrote:

Interesting... Can you please quote the verse(s) that outline this concept? Thanks.

I responded:

There is no specific verse in the Qur'an... that mentions this concept; there may be some ahadith that do, although I couldn't find anything through an online search of the best of the hadith databases (USC's MSA website). However, you can find the concept fleshed out in The Secret of Islam, pp. 17-18.

To which "Old Man Mountain" replied:

That link appears to outline... the justification for zakat tax. Now I've done some reading up on this in the meantime, and it seems that although there are some exceptions (like if there is potential to make a convert), by and large...

"It is not permissible to give zakat to a non-Muslim" (Al-Maqasid, 4:13).

I'm just an old guy, sometimes grumpy, but I just don't see what is so "beautiful" about that - unless of course one is a Muslim. I must say the teacher above sure makes it sound flowery.

And here is my latest (and, insha'allah, last) response:

I think part of the problem... is that there's a lot more to this topic than what you've read. First, the passage I linked to used the analogy of wealth in a society to blood within one's body with respect to zakat; however, the passages where I'm familiar with this analogy are normally on the topic of Islamic business practices. The use of this analogy is applicable to both areas.

Next, the quotation you used, "It is not permissible to give zakat to a non-Muslim." (Al-Maqasid, 4:13), is from a book on fiqh or Islamic jurisprudence. It's not a quotation from the Qur'an, if that's what you were thinking.

In Googling the quotation (because I was unfamiliar with it off-hand), I see that it's used in a negative manner by Islamophobes; what I don't see is that these same people don't have a more full understanding about charity within Islam. Zakat is merely one form of charity within Islam. Zakat is the compulsory charity that is required of Muslims; non-Muslims are not expected to pay any zakat whatsoever. In this regard, I don't have any problems with the idea that "it is not permissible to give zakat to a non-Muslim." It is a charity raised by and distributed back to the Muslim community.

However, zakat is only one type of charity in Islam; the voluntary, non-compulsory form of charity in Islam is known as sadaqah. Sadaqah can be given to anyone, Muslim or non-Muslim. Whereas zakat is a prescribed amount (2.5% of one's wealth), sadaqah is limitless. In Islam, even a smile is sadaqah. :) So there's more to Islamic charity than just zakat.

July 01, 2008

Jizya: Amounts Paid in the Treaties of Orihuela and Misr (Egypt)

One of the complaints about Islam by Islamophobes is the issue of jizya, the tax levied on non-Muslim citizens of an Islamic state. In return for the payment of the jizya, non-Muslims were permitted to practice their faith, to enjoy a measure of communal autonomy, to be entitled to Muslim protection from outside aggression, to be exempted from military service and taxes levied upon Muslim citizens. What has never been brought up in any argument I've read against the jizya is exactly how much was paid by the non-Muslims. In another of my posts about Hugh Kennedy's book, The Great Arab Conquests (yes, I am almost finished with the book ;) ), Kennedy addresses this issue in several passages. The first passage is with respect to the Treaty of Orihuela (pp. 315-16):

We are better informed about the conquest of the area around Murcia in south-east Spain. This was ruled by a Visigothic noble called Theodemir (Tudmīr). He negotiated a treaty with Abd al-Azīz, of which the text, dated April 713 [Rajab, 94 A.H.], is recorded in several Arabic sources.

In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. This text was written by Abd al-Azīz b. Mūsā b. Nusayr for Tudmīr b. Ghabdush, establishing a treaty of peace and the promise and protection of God and His Prophet (may God bless him and grant him His peace). We [Abd al-Azīz] will not set any special conditions for him or for any among his men, nor harass him, nor remove him from power. His followers will not be killed or taken prisoner, nor will they be separated from their women and children. They will not be coerced in matters of religion, their churches will not be burned, nor will sacred objects be taken from the realm as long as Theodemir remains sincere and fulfils the following conditions we have set for him:

He has reached a settlement concerning seven towns: Orihuela, Valentilla, Alicante, Mula, Bigastro, Ello and Lorca.

He will not give shelter to fugitives, nor to our enemies, nor encourage any protected person to fear us, nor conceal news of our enemies.

He and each of his men shall also pay one dinar every year, together with four measures of wheat, four measures of barley, four liquid measures of concentrated fruit juice, four liquid measures of vinegar, four of honey and four of olive oil. Slaves much [sic; must] each pay half of this.

Kennedy continues:

This treaty is a classic example of the sort of local agreements that were the reality of Arab "conquest" in many areas of the caliphate. It is clear that rather than embark on a difficult and costly campaign, the Muslims preferred to make an agreement that would grant them security from hostile activities and some tribute. It is a pattern we can observe in many areas of Iran and Transoxania. It is interesting to note that much of this tribute was taken in kind (wheat, barley, vinegar, oil, but of course no wine). In exchange for this, the local people were allowed almost complete autonomy. Theodemir was clearly expected to continue to rule his seven towns and the rural areas attached to them. There is no indication that any Muslim garrison was established, nor that any mosques were built. Theodemir and many of his followers may have imagined that the Muslim conquest would be fairly short lived and that it was worth paying up to preserve their possessions until such time as the Visigothic kingdom was restored. In fact it was to be five centuries before Christian powers re-established control over this area. We do not know how long the agreement was in force: Theodemir himself died, full of years and distinction, in 744. It is likely that it was never formally abolished but rather that as Muslim immigration and the conversion of local people to Islam increased in the late eighth and ninth centuries, its provisions became increasingly irrelevant.

In another passage, with respect to the Treaty of Misr (Egypt), Kennedy writes (pp. 153-54):

It was probably at this time that the document known as the Treaty of Misr (Egypt) between the Muslims and the Byzantine authorities was drawn up, though the exact context of this document remains unclear. It is in many ways similar to the treaty Umar had made with Jerusalem and was presumably modeled on it. It begins with a general clause safeguarding the people their religion (millat), their property, their crucifixes, their lands and their waterways. They would be obliged to pay the jizya (tribute) every year when the rise of the Nile (ziyādat nahrihim) was over. If the river failed to rise properly, payment would be reduced in proportion. If anyone did not agree to it, he would not pay the tribute but he would not receive protection. Romans and Nubians who wanted to enjoy the same terms might do so and those who did not were free to leave.


In many of them [different written accounts about the treaty] the tax to be paid was assessed at 2 dinars per adult male except for the poor. Some also said that the Egyptians should provide the Muslims with supplies. Each landowner (dhī ard) was to provide 210 kilos of wheat, 4 liters of oil, 4 liters of honey and 4 liters of vinegar (but, of course, no wine). They were also to get clothing: each Muslim was to be given a woolen jubba, a burnūs or turban, a pair of trousers (sarāwīl) and a pair of shoes. It may be that many of these south Arabians had arrived very ill prepared for the coolness of an Egyptian winter.

In other words, the jizya paid per person in terms of currency was a very nominal amount. It would be like asking for a tax of one or two dollars per person; the poor, any slaves, presumably women and children would either pay a lower amount or be exempted altogether. The in-kind payments of food and clothing would cost more, but these were no doubt requested by the Arab armies because their soldiers needed the supplies. As Kennedy points out (p. 334), Arab soldiers were expected to provide their own equipment and pay for their own food. Once the payment was made, life went on as before. Muslim armies charged less in terms of the jizya if the town submitted peacefully instead of battling with the army (probably what the slave had told the people at Junday-Shapur, who quickly realized how much cheaper it would be for them to pay the tribute than to fight the Muslims; in fact, Kennedy tells of a number of cities that came to the same decision).

Jizya, then, was not the crushing tax burden one finds in ancient Greek and Roman histories. It was a relatively small amount paid by the non-Muslims; as more and more people became Muslim, the amount paid for jizya actually shrank over time. Of course, we Muslims have our own taxes (e.g., zakat).

Photo credit: A street in Lorca, Spain, by Howzey

June 28, 2008

The Conquest of Junday-Shapur

Another story from Hugh Kennedy's book, The Great Arab Conquests (p. 128), this time dealing with the "conquest" of Junday-Shapur (also known as Jondisapur (p. 206) or Gundishapur), an ancient city that lies in the modern Iranian province of Khūzestān, between the cities of Dezful and Shustar.

According to this story, the city resisted vigorously until one day, to the great surprise of the Muslims, the gates were flung open and the city was opened up. The Muslims asked the defenders what had come over them, to which they replied, "You have shot us an arrow with a message that safety would be granted to us. We have accepted this and set aside the tribute payments." The Muslims replied that they had done no such thing, but after extensive enquiries they found a slave, originally from Junday-shapur, who admitted that he had indeed written such a message. The Muslim commanders explained that this was the work of a slave with no authority to make such an offer, to which the inhabitants replied that they had no means of knowing that and finished by saying that they were going to keep their side of the bargain, even if the Muslims chose to act treacherously. The Muslims referred the matter to [the Caliph] Umar, who responded that the promise was in fact binding, for "God holds the keeping of promises in the highest esteem." The moral is clear: even the promise of a slave must be respected.

Photo credit: Wikipedia/Zereshk - The interior of Masjid Jameh (Congregational Mosque) in Dezful, Iran.

May 18, 2008

Ahmad Deedat on Polygamy in Islam

Note: Deedat erred when he called Jessica Hahn a prostitute, which she was not (she was a church secretary who was drugged and raped by televangelist Jim Bakkar). However, the point about Bakkar (and Marvin Gorman and Jimmy Swaggart) remains valid.

May 02, 2008

Straight Talk About Islam

This blog post was somewhat inspired by Rob Wagner's post, Muslims in Danger of Losing Their Voice, in which Rob argued that non-Muslims and Muslim apostates are calling themselves "experts" on Islam, and that the media and the non-Muslim populace are being taken in by these frauds because, in their minds, the "Insta-Experts™" have "credibility." The potential problem from Rob's perspective is that we Muslims may lose our voice because no one will listen to us, preferring the frauds instead.

I had originally written as a comment to Rob's post:

It's not that Muslims are "losing our voice," per se; it's that you have an extremely gullible non-Muslim populace that's so ignorant about the subject of Islam that: (1) they can't tell which voices are authentic and which voices are not, and (2) they won't accept anything that doesn't pander to their prejudices. The con men, either going under a "progressive" Muslim banner or out-and-out declaring themselves to be apostates, gladly sell their souls for a miserable price. The shame of it all is that this sort of problem has arisen when the masses have lost their ability to think critically. In the meantime, there are plenty of Muslims, individually and collectively, who do speak out and try to mitigate the damage. But until the ignorant masses begin to make an effort to open their minds and seek real understanding about Islam, they will remain the greater fools.

Since I wrote that, back on April 25th, I've actually been rather angry at a number of groups of people and this blog post (and others, insha'allah, in the future) are going to be addressed to them. People claim to like straight talk and this is what I'm going to do, provide some straight talk about Islam. I intend to be blunt, and if you don't like it, too bad. But I do hope that this bluntness will be enough to get it through your skull that Islam and Muslims aren't what you think they are or want them to be, and that most of what you think you know are nothing but lies in the first place.

So, to start off, let's get back to Rob's post:

You're being lied to. If you're a non-Muslim and think that the only "moderate" Muslim voices are the likes of Irshad Manji, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Tarek Fatah, Ed Hussein, Wafa Sultan or any other "progressive" Muslim or apostate, then you're a greater fool than I thought. Let me clue you in: these people do not speak for Muslims. They have zero credibility among the Muslim community. These people do not understand Islam and cannot accept Islam as it is. What they want is Islam Lite. Chrislam. Call it whatever you will, it's not ISLAM. It's religion according to their own nafs, their own ego, which is exactly what many people do when they create their own cafeteria religion, picking and choosing what they like and rejecting anything that doesn't fit into their own preconceived notions. If you want to follow your own cafeteria religion, fine, be my guest. But don't expect Muslims to do the same. Which leads to me to my next point.

Islam will never go through a "reformation." Islam doesn't need a reformation. Islam is perfect. Frankly, I don't care what non-Muslims or the "progressive" Muslims and apostates think about Islam. We practice Islam as it is meant to be practiced, not as how non-Muslims or "progressive" Muslims think it should be practiced. Don't like it? Too bad. Think Islam needs to be reformed? Too bad. Until you know and understand Islam as well as we do, we're not going to pay any attention to your criticisms or calls for "reform." Just like the progressives and apostates, you don't have any credibility among us either. You'll impress us more if you try to learn about Islam from an unbiased source. And by the time you get to the point where we think you're knowledgeable enough, you'll probably be agreeing that Islam doesn't need "reforming" as well, insha'allah.

We're not going away. We're not going home to our own countries. For many of us, we are in our own country. Nor can you stick your heads in the sand and pretend that Muslim countries don't exist by stopping all trade and contact with them, as some wingnuts have suggested. Muslims make up 20% of the world's population, and we'll keep on growing, insha'allah. We're not trying to take over the world, as many idiots claim, but we will if non-Muslims don't have babies. That's not our fault; it's yours. We're going to continue having babies whether you like it or not, insha'allah. So deal with us! Get rational, rub those brain cells of yours together, and accept a society with Muslims and Islam in it. If you can't, then you're just a bunch of cowards.

To be continued, insha'allah.