Distortion of shahada through the political slogan of the Umayyads

Distortion of shahada through the political slogan of the Umayyads

 
A review of the Dated texts and coins mentioning Prophet Muḥammad from the earlier Islamic decades and Abbasid coins exposes the gradual distortion of the Quranic shahada (the testimony of Unity) into the present day “dual shahada” (shahadatan, the testimony of Duality).

It reveals how this distorted shahada went through a devolution: first as a concept, then as a military slogan and finally as a well-devised politico-theological formula. And how Muhammad’s name was slowly permeated next to God’s name over the decades in line with an ever-increasing idolization of the messenger. And also, how this occurred partly as a Muslim response to their non-Muslim challengers during the period of Arab expansion. See Distortion of shahada evidenced by archaeology

To understand how politics played a major role in this process of distortion, we will observe the following imperialistic slogan of the Umayyads (661–750). This is a common text seen inscribed on the Arab coins since the reign of the 5th Umayyad Caliph ʿAbd al-Malik (685–705):

Muḥammad rasūl Allāh arsalahu bi-l-huda wa dīn al-ḥaqq liyudhhiru ʿala al-dini kullahi wa-law karih-al-mushrikūn

Muhammad is God’s messenger whom He sent with guidance and the religion of truth, that He may make it prevail over all other religions, even though the associators may dislike it.

At first sight this appears to be a simple paraphrase, adapted only innocently, of the following verses of the Quran (note the highlighted words):

He is the One who sent His messenger with the guidance and the system of truth, that He may make it prevail over all other systems. God is enough as witness:/ Muhammad is God’s messenger; and those who are with him are stern towards the rejecters and kind among themselves. 48:28-29

He is the One who sent His messenger with guidance and the system of truth, that He may make it prevail over all other systems, even though the associators may dislike it. 9:33 (cf. 61:6-9, 9:31-33, 14:48, 18:48)

Here one may get easily deceived by an initial impression that the Umayyad text simply connects the verse 48:28 with ‘Muhammad is God’s messenger’, a fragment from its next verse, 48:29 – though by turning the sequence upside down – and then imports, only unintentionally, the last phrase of 9:33.

On an attentive reading, however, it becomes evident that this seemingly spiritual, Quranic-looking text is in fact an extremely aggressive, chauvinistic slogan, which was instigated by a specific sentiment of those earlier Muhammadans and their hawkish rulers, who were insisting on making their messenger greater than all other messengers, partly as a reaction and a military propaganda effort against their Christian-Byzantine contestants. With this obvious religious-political agenda, the text was concocted by deliberately joining several unconnected fragments from the above verses, while carefully detaching them from their contexts, thereby distorting the actual messages of the Quran.

For example, note the fragment ‘Muhammad is God’s messenger’. This exact expression appears in the Quran only once, i.e. in 48:29 above, and that is also only immediately after a clear PROHIBITION for humans to include the messenger’s name in shahada: God is enough as witness:/ Muhammad is God’s messenger (48:28-29)”. Here we are reminded of a serious warning, which recurs throughout the Quran: God is enough as witness that Muhammad was God’s messenger.

The Umayyad masterminds detached ‘Muhammad is God’s messenger’ from its context by removing its preceding words,God is enough as witness’, in order to avoid this clear warning of the Quran. Then, after turning the sequence of 48:28-29 upside down, they purposely picked up the last phrase of 9:33 to make the expansionist threat to their enemies specific and also starker and louder.

This is how they, acting under religious-political motivation, performed a creative surgery of the holy texts and thus contributed to the increasing idolization of Muhammad. And this in turn contributed to the eventual transmutation of the original shahada of Unity into the present day shahadatan of Duality.

Related articles:

Distortion of shahada evidenced by archaeology

Earliest ‘dated Muslim texts’ constantly remember God but never Muhammad

The spirit-bearing man who gave Mary a pure son was a real, mortal man

Please read this interesting passage:

And relate in the Book, Mary, when she withdrew herself from her people to a place in the east. 19:16

So she took a barrier to separate her from them. Then We sent to her Our Spirit, and that appeared for her as a man full-grown.” 19:17

Here we will observe why this divine spirit (‘Our spirit’) that was ‘sent’ to Mary – that ‘appeared for her’ as ‘a full-grown man’ who ‘gave her a pure son’ (19:17-19) – refers to a real, mortal man.

To better understand a text like this, we need to keep in mind the unique literary style of the Quran as a scripture that is laced with allegories, similes and idioms.

Take the word ‘sent’ as an example. Since God is not bound in space or time, here the word ‘sent’ cannot literally mean ‘sent from a specific place or dispatched at a specific moment’. Rather it implies actualization of a potential (i.e. ‘a divine word’) for an addressee, through a natural process involving a cause and effect chain (cf. 4:171). When God ‘sends’ something to someone, He actually endows her with it through a spontaneous course, rather than directly transferring it from somewhere.

Now, it is important to observe that the divine spirit (‘Our spirit’) that was ‘sent’ to Mary through a male human form (19:17) actually parallels the divine spirit that is re-mentioned in the phrase ‘We breathed into her of Our spirit’ as a reference to Mary’s conception of Jesus (21:91). Note the same words ‘Our spirit’ in both instances. However, as stated elsewhere, this expression ‘breathed into … of Our spirit’ in 21:91, contrary to popular belief, is not exclusive to Jesus since the Quran uses the same expression ‘breathed into … of Our spirit’ in three other places with reference to the creation of man in general (15:29, 32:9, 38:72), thus making it clear that God ‘breathes of His spirit’ into every human. One may postulate that the word ‘spirit’ in these occasions refers to a set of highly organized information, buried deep in the essence of matter.

In other words, the ‘spirit’ that was ‘sent’ to Mary through a male human form is the same ‘spirit’ that was ‘breathed into her’ on her conception of Jesus. And this in turn is the same ‘spirit’ that is ‘sent’ to every woman through a man prior to her conception of a child and then eventually ‘breathed into her’ on the conception.

The above interactive explanation also sheds light on the expression ‘appeared for her’ (tamaththala laha), which is very different from ‘appeared to her’. Thus, this implies the physical manifestation of the ‘spirit’ through a natural, evolutionary transformation involving a cause and effect chain. Not a visual experience of Mary, of an illusion.

This ‘spirit’, which we may figure as ‘a set of highly organized information’ (such as the information stored in DNA), in fact ‘appears for’ every woman through ‘a full-grown man’ prior to her conception of a child.

This understanding that Mary underwent an actual spousal relationship with a real, mortal man is confirmed by the Quran in many ways, e.g.: ♦ The Quran insistently maintains that creation is invariably through the union of opposites (6:101, 7:189, 36:36, 42:11, 51:49, 53:45-46, 76:2). This same natural process, where no one can have a child without having a sexual counterpart, also involves the birth of Jesus: “Originator of the Heavens and the Earth, how can He have a son when He never took a mate?” 6:101. ♦ The Quran narrates events when Mary left behind her monastic life (3:42-47) and went to live in an eastern location unattended by her people (19:16-17). ♦ The Quran graphically portrays, with remarkable sophistication, how Mary’s pregnancy was initiated by her meeting with ‘a full-grown man’ (19:17), who ‘gave her a pure son’ (19:19; 19:16-28; note the prelude of the pregnancy required a FULL-GROWN MALE, not a child or a female). ♦ The Quran obliquely mentions JESUS’ FATHER: “And Zachariah and John, and Jesus, and Elias … and from their fathers” 6:85-87.

Further reading: Does the Quran really support the Virgin Birth of Jesus?

The story of Lot condemns xenophobic hate, not homosexual love

Understanding the story of Lot

To better understand the Quranic story of Lot, it is important to remember that the Quran clarifies itself through its interactive explanatory process, where verses are explained through verses. Thus, verses need to be observed within a cluster rather than detached from their correlations. A superficial, isolated reading may often give us an incorrect understanding.

Below, as a case for study, we will try a holistic reading of all the four interrelated passages, 7:80-81, 26:165-166, 27:54-55 and 29:28-29, scanned from this story, where the prophet Lot is giving witness, four times, against his misguided nation.

During the course of this study, we will find it necessary to pay due attention to the recurring word ‘BAL’, translated here as ‘NAY, BUT’. The word essentially means ‘nay’, ‘nay, but’, ‘rather’, ‘no, instead’, ‘on the contrary’, ‘no, but the fact is’, ‘no, but the actual issue is’ and so on. As a flexible conjunction, especially when occurs in the middle of a sentence, ‘bal’ appears to rectify, amend or negate a previous concept by introducing a completely new one.

Also, we will find it interesting to note that all these interrelated passages are structured in the form of QUESTIONS.

And that, apart from 29:28-29, each of them contains the conjunction ‘BAL’ (‘NAY, BUT’, ‘No, but the fact is’, ‘on the contrary’ etc).

And that, in each of these occurrences, ‘BAL’ appears as a response to the QUESTION/S (“Do you …? Nay, but …”).

And that, in each of these responses, ‘BAL’ appears as a NEGATION or rectification of the content/s of the question/s, while condemning those who “transgress the limits”.

To observe the implications of the above, we will go through the passages, of which the first three involve NEGATION (‘nay, but’) and the last involves AFFIRMATION (without ‘nay, but’):

1ST NEGATION

And Lot, when he said to his people: Do you approach indecency such as no one among the nations has exceeded you therein?/ You really approach men with desire instead of women? NAY, BUT (‘No, but the fact is’) you are a people who transgress the limits. 7:80-81

So, do these transgressors really approach men (from other nations, 26:164-165) with desire? NAY, but …

They do it with the aggression of rape (11:77-78, 11:80, 15:70, 29:29, 54:37), not with the desire to love and be loved.

Thus, in the Quranic story of Lot, as Frank Parmir rightly observes, the crime is rape, not love. Of course the violence of rape is wrong. And of course the gentleness of love is right. This understanding is important as it is consistent with the Quran’s profound dedication to reason and compassion. And it is very deeply troubling that people so often tell their LGBT children that God is going to burn them in Hell for loving the people that they do love.

2nd NEGATION

Do you approach the males of the nations?/ And you leave what your Sustainer created for you of your mates? NAY, BUT (‘No, but the fact is’) you are a people who exceed the bounds. 26:165-166

So, do these ‘nationalists’ approach ‘the males of other nations’, for attraction and love, leaving what is meant for them out of their mates? NAY, but …

Instead, they violate the divine message of one humanity (note: ‘the Sustainer of the nations. … the males of the nations?’ 26:164-165) and commit xenophobic attacks on foreigners and strangers (‘people from other nations’; cf. 26:164, 15:70, 7:80). Their acts of hostility and inhospitality are solely intended to bully, eject and crash all the outsiders (15:70,15:76, 29:29). Thus, when these jingoists approach their subdued victims with xenophobic violence such as gang rapes, they are not driven by homosexual attraction or consensual love. If they were, Lot wouldn’t have advised them to seek love in their own women (whom he calls ‘My daughters’, i.e. daughters of his community; note: ‘MY people! MY daughters’, 11:78; cf. ‘their brother Lot’, 26:161), and not to disgrace him by sexually assaulting his foreign visitors (11:78, 15:70-71; cf. 26:166).

In the passage above, unlike 7:81 and 27:55, the word ‘desire’ doesn’t occur, while ‘men’ and ‘women’ are replaced by ‘males’ and ‘MATES’ (not by ‘females’). One may sense ‘same sex MATES’ and ‘same sex pairs’ in the Quranic assertion that humans are created as ‘zawjayn’ (two mates/ two pairs, 75:39, 51:49, 53:45; cf. Adam and his mate, 2:35; cf. two pairs in every fruit, 13:3).

3rd NEGATION

And Lot, when he said to his people: Do you approach indecency whilst you are clearly seeing?/ Do you really approach men with desire instead of women? NAY, BUT (‘No, but the fact is’) you are a people who act ignorantly. 27:54-55

So, do these transgressors really approach men (from other nations, 26:164-165) with a clear vision and desire? NAY, but …

They do it with the aggression of rape, not with the conscious desire to love and be loved. Note how ‘seeing clearly’ is NEGATED and reciprocated by ‘acting ignorantly’ (cf. similar reciprocity in other passages).

“It is both unreasonable and un-compassionate of us to continue with the claim that an otherwise commendable romantic relationship should be rendered illegitimate simply on the basis of the genders involved.” In this regard, let us be reminded of the intense homoerotic imagery of the Quranic paradise, full of handsome serve boys, eternally youthful with “dazzling beauty of scattered pearls” (gelmans; 52:24, 56:17, 76:19).

THE AFFIRMATION

And Lot, when he said to his people: You really approach indecency such as no one among the nations has exceeded you therein./ Do you really approach men (from other nations, 26:165), and you cut off the highway and commit evil in your gatherings (you commit gang rapes and robbery, 15:76)? 29:28-29

So, do these transgressors approach men (from other nations, 26:164-165) to commit xenophobic attacks like gang rapes and highway robbery? YEA, they do.

It is important to notice that this is the only passage, out of the four, which doesn’t contain the conjunction ‘BAL’ (‘nay, but’). In other words, this is the only instance that doesn’t negate any content of the questions posed in it. And this is how it clarifies the negations (‘nay, but’) contained in the other passages, while confirming the eventual meaning of ‘the transgression of limits’ mentioned in them. Please observe that the passage doesn’t mention those elements that are negated by the other passages.

Thus, once again, the actual issue is NOT any sexual orientation or sexuality itself, but all the heinous crimes committed by these transgressors.

Why are the questions asked and then negated?

So, in the four interrelated passages above, structured as questions, Lot is giving witness, four times, against his misguided nation. While it seems in line with the Quranic injunction of witnessing four times, it delivers a prophetic reminder for all humanity:

“Instead of offering love and hospitality to the people from ‘other nations’ (26:165; who all share the same ‘Sustainer of the nations’, 26:164), you are targeting them with hate crimes. You are transgressing the divine limits.”

Thus these questions, followed by ‘bal’ (‘Nay, but’), are posed by the messenger to the transgressors as challenges:

Are your actions driven by attraction and love? No, they are not. They are intended to bully and control. To subdue and crash all the outsiders.

This is to differentiate the acts of attraction and love from the acts of hate and oppression. And so to deliver a timeless message for us and all generations.

Final thoughts

Same sex orientation is one of the natural expressions of human’s sexual diversity. This diversity in turn is just another expression of the great diversity of nature.

This important awareness is promoted by the very spirit of the Quran, which insistently asks us to celebrate all sorts of diversity in creation, wherein we should witness the diverse signs of divine manifestation.

Take the passage 30:21-22 as an example. Here, stressing on the wonder of how mates among humans are created for mutual love and care, also as a part of the infinite diversity of life, the Quran calls us to appreciate the diversity of human minds’ expressions and desires as evidence of God’s infinite creative power.

This is in line with our observation that the story of Lot in the Quran condemns xenophobic hate, not homosexual love.

Further reading:

Does the Quran disapprove homosexuality?

Sexual diversity in Islam

Does the Quran disapprove homosexuality?

Does the Quran disapprove homosexuality

 
Two people can be intimate with each other to love and be loved. It should not be an issue whether the individuals are of the same sex or the other, provided it doesn’t harm anyone. There is nothing more beautiful than a sincere love, whether it is homosexual, straight or lesbian.

Homosexuality, as one of the natural expressions of sexuality among animals, has been documented so far in several hundred species, including humans. Like any sexuality, homosexuality is also a normal product of, and run by, the universal laws of physics and chemistry.

Now, there is a widespread misconception among traditional Muslims that the Quran speaks against homosexuality.

A careful reading of the texts, however, demonstrates that this is far from true.

In fact, the Quran only condemns the aggression of rape, not the gentleness of love.

Below we will try to have a closer look into the relevant verses, sticking to a simple LITERAL READING.

The Quran doesn’t condemn homosexuality

We will start with the following most misinterpreted text of the Quran on this particular issue:

And Lot, when he said to his people: Do you approach indecency such as no one among the nations has exceeded you therein? 7:80

You really approach men with desire instead of women? NAY, BUT you are a people who transgress the limits. 7:81

The Quran clarifies itself through its interactive explanatory process, where verses are explained through verses. So, verses need to be observed within a cluster rather than detached from their correlations. A superficial, isolated reading may often give us an incorrect understanding.

Thus, when we read the above verses together with their interrelated texts, we find clarifications. For example, in the phrase “You really approach men”, the ‘men’ are in fact ‘men from other nations’  (26:164-165, 15:70, 7:80, 29:29), while ‘approach’ refers to xenophobic hate attacks (15:70,15:76, 29:29). This is followed by the negation ‘Nay, but’, a challenge that deserves due attention. Then ‘the transgression of limits’ is explained elsewhere as xenophobic assaults like gang rapes and highway robbery (29:28-30; cf. 11:77-78, 11:80, 15:70, 54:37).

This holistic reading elaborates our understanding of 7:81 into the following rendering:

You really approach men (from other nations, 26:164-165, 15:70, 7:80, 29:29) with desire instead of women? NAY, BUT (‘No, but the fact is’) you are a people who transgress the limits (by committing xenophobic attacks like gang rapes and highway robbery, 29:29). 7:81

As we can see, this is not a message against homosexuality or consensual love.

NAY, BUT the Quran only condemns the transgression of limits

Now we will observe the above passage for some further details:

And Lot, when he said to his people: Do you approach indecency such as no one among the nations has exceeded you therein? 7:80

You really approach men with desire instead of women? NAY, BUT you are a people who transgress the limits. 7:81

When we reflect on the first verse, with special focus on the words ‘exceeded’ (‘sabaqa’, precede, race, overtake, exceed) and ‘therein’ (‘bihā’, which refers to indecency), it becomes obvious that the ‘indecency’ committed by the people of Lot was in fact shared also by other nations, though less severely in nature and/or amount.

So the Quran here doesn’t really say that any particular form of sexuality, including homosexuality, was unknown to, or not practiced by, other nations in the past. Nor does it say that those other nations did not commit indecencies related to sexuality, including homosexuality. It only says that, in committing indecency, no other people could surpass the people of Lot, in quality and/or quantity.

Thus, what is denounced here is NOT any sexual orientation or sexuality itself, but some gross indecency of unrestrained excess.

Then, coming across the second verse (and accepting ‘men’ and ‘women’ as adequate translations, though some Quran students disagree with these gender-based translations), we observe that, while it may appear to the hasty reader a mention of homosexual behaviour, it doesn’t really judge sexuality in any form. Rather (‘nay, but’), once again, it accuses only the crimes of those ‘who transgress the limits’, by committing xenophobic hate attacks.

To better understand this verse, and also the story of Lot, we need to pay due attention to the key word ‘BAL’, translated here as ‘NAY, BUT’.

The Arabic conjunction ‘bal’ has a wide range of meanings: ‘nay’, ‘nay, but’, ‘not this merely but also’, ‘well, but’, ‘no’, ‘rather’, ‘but’, ‘and even’, ‘in fact’, ‘no, instead’, ‘on the contrary’, ‘but the truth is’, ‘no, but the fact is’, ‘no, but the actual issue is’, and so on. It is the 34th highest frequency word in the Quran with total occurrence 122 times (first 2:88; last 89:17). ‘Bal’ usually indicates the end of a current topic (a thesis) and the abrupt change to a new, opposing one (an antithesis). In the Quran, especially when occurs in the middle of a verse, it heralds a fresh statement which is quite different or even entirely opposite to its previous statement. In brief, as a flexible conjunction, ‘bal’ appears to rectify, amend or negate a previous concept by introducing a completely new one. For example: They say: “You are making this up!” Nay, but most of them do not know. 16:101; cf. 3:149-150, 4:157-158, 7:179, 38:1-2.

Now, when we read the verse more attentively, keeping in mind the versatility of ‘bal’ with all the above connotations, we get the following rendering:

You really approach men with desire instead of women? NAY, BUT (‘No, but the fact is’) you are a people who transgress the limits. 7:81

In other words, once again, what the Quran really condemns here is NOT any form of sexuality, but ‘the transgression of limits’, which, as we noted earlier, refers to heinous crimes of xenophobic assaults like gang rapes and highway robbery (29:28-30; cf. 11:77-78, 11:80, 15:70, 54:37).

Can homosexuality itself be this ‘transgression of limits’? No. The simple fact that the Quran doesn’t spell out any punishment for homosexuality, indicates that it cannot be homosexuality that is described in 7:80 as the ‘indecency to an unsurpassed extent’. Also, if male homosexuality was the issue, then why was it Lot’s wife, out of all his ‘spiritual family’, who lagged behind (7:83, 11:81, 15:60)? And why was the entire community, with children and women, doomed (7:84, 11:82, 27:58)? And also, why no other nation was doomed for the same reason, when homosexuality – because of its biological and evolutionary basis – existed and was practiced by the ancient nations, and from long before even by antediluvian humans and animals?

Please note that homosexuality, or any sexuality, doesn’t intrinsically or necessarily involve indecency. On the other hand, indecency may be associated with any form of sexuality, including homosexuality, when it exceeds its morally acceptable limits, i.e. when it harms others.

The Quran condemns xenophobic hate, not homosexual love

For a deeper insight, we will go through a comparative reading of the above passage with all its identical passages:

1ST NEGATION

And Lot, when he said to his people: Do you approach indecency such as no one among the nations has exceeded you therein?/ You really approach men with desire instead of women? NAY, BUT (‘No, but the fact is’) you are a people who transgress the limits. 7:80-81

So, do these transgressors really approach men (from other nations, 26:164-165) with attraction and love? NAY, but … No, in fact, they do it with hate and the aggression of rape (11:77-78, 11:80, 15:70, 29:29, 54:37).

2nd NEGATION

Do you approach the males of the nations?/ And you leave what your Sustainer created for you of your mates? NAY, BUT (‘No, but the fact is’) you are a people who exceed the bounds. 26:165-166

So, do these ‘nationalists’ approach ‘the males of other nations’, because of attraction and love, leaving what is meant for them out of their mates (7:81, 27:55)? NAY, but … Instead, they violate the divine message of one humanity (note: ‘the Sustainer of the nations. … the males of the nations?’ 26:164-165) and commit xenophobic attacks on foreigners and strangers (‘people from other nations’; cf. 26:164, 15:70, 7:80).

3rd NEGATION

And Lot, when he said to his people: Do you approach indecency whilst you are clearly seeing?/ Do you really approach men with desire instead of women? NAY, BUT (‘No, but the fact is’) you are a people who act ignorantly. 27:54-55

So, do these transgressors really approach men (from other nations, 26:164-165) with a clear vision and conscious desire? NAY, but … No, in fact, they do it with hate and the aggression of rape.

THE AFFIRMATION

And Lot, when he said to his people: You really approach indecency such as no one among the nations has exceeded you therein./ Do you really approach men (from other nations, 26:165), and you cut off the highway and commit evil in your gatherings (you commit gang rape and robbery, 15:76)? 29:28-29

So, do these transgressors approach men (from other nations, 26:164-165) to commit xenophobic attacks like gang rapes and highway robbery? YEA, they do.

It is interesting to note that all these interrelated passages above (7:80-81, 26:165-166, 27:54-55, 29:28-29) are structured in the form of QUESTIONS.

And that, apart from 29:28-29, each of them contains the conjunction ‘BAL’, translated as ‘NAY, BUT’ (‘No, but the fact is’, ‘on the contrary’ etc).

And that, in each of these occurrences, ‘BAL’ appears as a response to the QUESTION/S (“Do you …? Nay, but …”).

And that, in each of these responses, ‘BAL’ appears as a NEGATION or rectification of the content/s of the question/s, while condemning those who “transgress the limits”.

And that, 29:28-29 is the only passage, out of the four, which doesn’t contain ‘BAL’ (‘nay, but’). In other words, this is the only instance that doesn’t negate any content of the questions posed in it. And this is how it clarifies the negations (‘nay, but’) contained in the other passages, while eventually confirming the meaning of ‘the transgression of limits’ mentioned in them. Please observe that the passage doesn’t mention those elements that are negated by the other passages.

And that, this explains why the first three passages involve NEGATION (‘nay, but’) and the last involves AFFIRMATION (without ‘nay, but’).

To further study the implications of the above, we have carefully gone through the passages here: The story of Lot condemns xenophobic hate, not homosexual love

Please note how this interactive explanatory process clarifies the verses. Thus ‘men who are approached’ (7:81) are identified as ‘men from other nations’ (foreigners, outsiders; 26:164-165; cf. 15:70, 7:80, 29:29). And the acts that ‘transgress the limits’ (7:81) are specified as xenophobic atrocities against foreigners and travellers, such as gang rapes and highway robbery (29:28-29). This is further clarified by the example where the transgressors try to coerce the visiting guests into sexual acts (11:77-80, 15:67-70, 54:37). This is an attempt to rape, which is about power, and which is unleashed to bully, control and punish the victim. This is not an account of healthy desire and tender love.

In these four interrelated passages above, structured as questions, Lot is giving WITNESS, FOUR TIMES, against his misguided nation. And the questions, followed by ‘bal’ (‘Nay, but’), are posed by the messenger to the transgressors as challenges:

Are your actions driven by attraction and love? No, they are not. They are intended to bully and control. To subdue and crash all the outsiders.

Obviously, what is being denounced here is inhospitality and oppression. Not homosexuality, not even sexuality in any form. Thus, when we read all these verses as a cluster, we get a bigger and clearer picture.

Final thoughts

The Quran clarifies itself through its interactive explanatory process, where verses are explained through verses. That is why, instead of hurrying with a text with a detached reading, we need to reflect on all the related texts, thereby allowing the real message to gradually reveal itself in our mind as an integrated whole. See: Importance of holistic reading

This we must remember when we read the story of Lot as re-narrated in the Quran.

Above we have tried to study holistically all the relevant verses in this story that have been otherwise misread by traditional interpreters as condemning homosexuality.

Our findings demonstrate that the Quran never disapproves or judges any particular form of sexuality, including homosexuality. Rather the related verses only condemn the acts of transgression against the outsiders, i.e. xenophobic attacks, rape and inhospitality.

Finally, though we have read these texts here literally, it is important to remember that, according to the Quran itself, the Quranic story of Lot demands profound interpretation (15:75-76, 26:174). It is one of those ‘parables’ of earlier generations (‘mathal’; 24:34, 25:33; cf. 3:3-7; 5:27) that are re-narrated in the Quran mainly to deliver a range of deeper messages with moral lessons and are not necessarily meant to be understood literally as real or historical events (24:34-35, 25:33, 39:27, 12:111; cf. 12:7, 12:111, 15:75, 23:30).

Further reading:

The story of Lot condemns xenophobic hate, not homosexual love

Sexual diversity in Islam

Circumcision: an overview

From a MEDICAL PERSPECTIVE. Though circumcision can be prescribed in rare cases to treat a special medical condition, most doctors feel that the potential benefits of circumcision are not great enough to recommend routine circumcision for the general population. Also, to them, routine circumcision of young children should be illegal as it violates the medical ethics of ‘informed consent’ to elective surgery. No one owns another person’s body, and adults have no right to impose nonessential genital alteration on a child who is incapable of granting consent.

From a JEWISH PERSPECTIVE. Male circumcision was practised by Jews as a religious rite (bris) as part of the Abrahamic covenant (Gen 17:9-25 and Exod 4:25). Clearly, male genital mutilation was glorified in patriarchal Judaism as a token of men’s authority over women and Jewish supremacy over non-Jews (arelim or uncircumcised, a pejorative term used for the Philistines and heathen as impure; cf. 1 Sam 14:6, 31:4; cf. story of the hundred foreskin dowry, 1 Sam 18:25-27).

From an ISLAMIC PERSPECTIVE. Since there is no specific recommendation for circumcision in the Quran, we cannot accept it as Islamic. The Quran cautions against the risk of misguidance by some of the teachings of the previous Abrahamic traditions (3:100; cf. 5:15, 5:48-51) as it endorses or confirms only those important elements of the ancient scriptures that remained valid as timeless universal values (3:3; cf. 5:46). Now, instead of endorsing or confirming the Jewish practice of circumcision, it appears that the Quran deliberately bypasses it as either inappropriate or irrelevant (cf. 5:15). Moreover, remarkably, the Quran condemns ritualistic mutilation of living creatures as a superstitious, devilish act (4:119-120) while defining human body as a creation with a divinely perfected design (40:64, 4:119, 64:3; cf. 13:8, 25:2, 32:7, 82:6-9). Evidently, circumcision is one of those obvious examples of Judaeo-Christian imports that deeply penetrated Islam through the backdoor of unreliable secondary sources in the guise of sunnah and remained there unscrutinized till modern days. Thus, while one may choose it due to one’s personal understanding or to gain specific health benefits, it doesn’t form in any way part of one’s religious duties.

From a SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE. Routine circumcision of boys and girls is nothing but genital mutilation, based on ancient cultural traditions and superstitions adapted within organized religions. Both unnatural and intellectually absurd, and a violation of genital integrity, this pagan practice has so powerfully conditioned overtime the minds of practising millions that any success of a legislation to incriminate it as child abuse may remain uncertain for many years.

Further reading: Should we recommend circumcision?

Various colours in the Quran

Various colours in the Quran 1


The great diversity of colours

While referring to the infinite diversity of colours and shades of various objects and events in nature – in inanimate, animate and human world, the Quran insistently calls us to observe the beauty and depth of this diversity (e.g. And all that He has multiplied for you in the Earth of diverse colours; verily there is a message in this for a people who recollect. 16:13; cf. 16:69. 35:27, 35:28, 39:21).

The multifaceted Quranic references to colours range from the varied colours of honey, produced by the bees ‘instinctively feeding from all fruits’ (16:69), to the endless nuance of various colours and shades in rocks, plants, flowers, crops, fruits, animals and humans (35:27-28). And from the great diversity in outer and inner traits of the evolving man (30:22, 5:48, 11:118, 16:93, 35:27-28, 42:8, 49:13) to the never-ending ‘colours’ of countless minds (35:19-28, 16:13, 2:136-139, 30:9-24).

Please note that the word ‘colours’ in the Quran is attached with profound meaning and intent. On one hand, it refers to the persistent emphasis on the concepts of pluralism and multidimensionality of the Truth: One LIGHT (‘the Truth’) is split into many COLOURS (‘a truth’s’). On the other hand, it implies that, while there is only one universal principle of ‘islam’, there are infinite paths (‘PLURAL PATHS of peace’, subul as-salaam, 5:16) to achieve that principle: The Quran promotes religious pluralism

The full spectrum of colours

This appears in the famous ‘Colour Verses’:

See you not that God sent down water from the Heaven? With it We then bring out produces of various colours. And in the mountains are streaks of whites and reds, of various colours, and intense blacks. 35:27

And so amongst men and animals and livestock, are they of various colours. As such, only the knowledgeable among His servants stand in awe of God: surely God is Mighty, Forgiving. 35:28

Please observe how the above precisely portrays the full spectrum of all very different colours (‘of whites and reds, of various colours, and intense blacks. 35:27’).

After mentioning the full colour WHITE, which contains all the colours of light’s visible spectrum, and then the primary colour RED, which is the most distinct colour and is at the outermost end of the visible spectrum, it descends through ‘OTHER COLOURS’ (‘various colours’) of the range towards the inner end – i.e. orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet – and approaches the pure BLACK (‘and intense blacks’), which, being without colour and at the other end of the continuum, is the complete opposite of white.

This tremendous diversity of colours and hues in nature (16:13) includes not only the full range of visible colours (35:27-28), or ‘invisible colours’ as various radiations of electromagnetic spectrum (35:19-21), but also the infinite nuances of human minds, along with all the ‘spiritual colours’ (35:19-28): We are called to observe the colours

Below we will try to go through the various colours specifically mentioned in the Quran.

Colours mentioned in the Quran

All the three primary colours of light – red, yellow and blue, wherefrom all other colours can be obtained by mixing – appear in the Quran, each with its precise, idiosyncratic meaning/s and intent.

RED occurs in the Quran only once, in the ‘Colour Verses’ quoted above (35:27-28; ‘of whites and reds, of various colours, and intense blacks.’). Here red gets special importance as chosen out of all the colours of the rainbow, apparently as the first and the most distinct colour of the visible spectrum. Notably, the words whites, reds and blacks appear here in plural, indicating that there is not just one white or one red or one black, but there are countless intermediate shades and grades of each of them.

This Quranic categorisation of all colours into whites (layers of consciousness, 24:35), reds (and ‘various colours’, layers in-between, 35:27) and blacks (layers of ignorance, 24:40), with their spiritual connotations, is comparable to sattva, rajas and tamas of Bhagabadgita.

YELLOW, in all forms, occurs total five times in the Quran (2:69, 30:51, 39:21, 57:20, 77:33). Yellow, when golden bright, is a very attractive colour that tempts greed and materialistic pursuits (2:69). But when it is a colour of fiery flame, it is a terrifying reminder of the nature’s law of recompense (77:33).

Then yellow, when appears in the parable of fading plants, is also a colour of decline and degeneration (incl. spiritual degeneration: Then He grows therewith produce of various colours: then it withers; you see it grow yellow … 39:21; 30:51, 39:18-22, 57:20), thereby signifying the transitory nature of everything in this universal flux (27:88, 28:88, 39:21, 55:26-27, 57:20, 84:16-20).

BLUE is used once in the Quran, in an allegory about the hereafter to denote ‘blurred (blue) vision’ (The day the horn is blown, and We gather the offenders on that day blue. 20:102; cf. 20:124, 17:71-72). Here blue, as the least distinct in the visible spectrum, represents blurriness or relative blindness, spiritual blindness in this occasion. It may also imply ‘blueness’ (cyanosis) related to the panic felt by a convict in the face of divine judgment.

Apart from the primary colours, the Quran also specifically mentions the following mixed colours, as well as black, the non-colour:

GREEN recurrently appears throughout the Quran as a delightful colour that symbolises life (6:99, 12:43, 12:46, 18:31, 22:63, 36:80, 55:76, 76:21). This is evidently because ‘green’, by turning light energy into life energy and converting inorganic (dead) into organic (living) matter, represents the ultimate source of all life on Earth (22:63-66; cf. 18:32, 26:148).

The Quran describes the natural phenomenon of storage of solar energy in the form of fuel, via ‘green’, and then its rebirth into activated life-forces and flames through kindling of fire, as a proof and reminder of God’s ability to resurrect the dead: Every kindling of fire is a reminder!

Also, while identifying ‘green’ as the fountain of an endless range of harvests of all colours (6:99), the Quran asks us to ponder on this unity in diversity as an evidence of God’s oneness and greatness and His infinite creative and re-creative power (17:44, 57:1, 36:77-82; cf. 16:10-13): One ‘green’ with many products

A shower of divine rain provides our insight with perception of ‘green’, where ‘green’ functions as a metaphor for spiritual life (22:63).

PINK appears in the Quran to denote the alarming colour of a disintegrated sky (55:37).

Here is a way we can rationalize it. The sky is primarily black, unless secondarily illuminated by light-emitting objects (79:29).  However, due to the particles in our atmosphere, the sky appears to us blue during the day and red at sunrise and sunset. The day sky appears blue because molecules in the air scatter sunlight’s blue (short waves) more than they scatter red (long waves), leaving the blue to prevail. The sky is red at sunrise and sunset because, as the light then comes through the atmosphere at an angle, the blue light gets filtered or scattered out in its long journey, leaving the red to prevail. Also, an evening sky often looks red because of air pollution, since dust, vapour, and other floating particles in the air act as a filter on the sunlight.

Thus, while the apparent blueness of the sky is due to the integrity of the atmosphere, a worsening environmental pollution with increasing global warming and ozone hole expansion is likely to shatter this integrity, making the blue sky appearing ‘red’ instead (Then, when the Heaven is split asunder, and it turns rosy like murky oil. 55:37). Is this verse, with mention of ‘murky oil’, somehow warning us about the environmental dangers from the misconsumption of fossil fuels in our time?

DARK GREEN occurs in the Quran only once (55:64). As the colour of dense foliage, it allegorically portrays the thriving life of eternal garden.

WHITE appears in the Quran mainly to describe states of minds reflecting light of spiritual awareness (2:187, 7:108, 20:22, 26:33, 27:12, 28:32, 35:27, 37:46, 37:49; 3:106, 3:107, 12:84) .

BLACK, on the other hand, occurs mainly to describe states of minds lacking light of spiritual awareness (2:187, 16:58, 35:27, 39:60, 43:17, 3:106, 3:106).

Even when allegedly related to human appearance, these words, white and black, bear no more than a purely mental or spiritual connotation, with no reference to physical colour. See Black and White in the Quran

In brief, while ‘white’ in the Quran represents the mental state of enlightenment, i.e. the awareness of God’s oneness, and ‘black’ does the opposite, the word ‘colours’ describes the states in-between: Meaning of ‘colours’ in the Quran

Dialectics in society

Dialectics in society

 

Dialectics in society as understood by Marxism

Marxism developed out of three roots: German dialectical philosophy, Karl Marx’s analysis of French politics and class struggles during the 19th century, and his analysis of the then capitalist economic system in England.

The branch of Marxism that applies the dialectical principles in history and sociology is called historical dialectics (historical materialism). It is made of the following concepts:

  • People are divided into classes by their relations to the means of production – land and capital. The class that controls the means of production expectedly exploits, with surplus value (i.e. profit created by the unpaid labour of workers), the other classes in society.
  • It is this conflict of opposites in the society, i.e. the class struggle between the rich (capitalist and landowning classes) and the poor (proletariat and peasantry), which creates all the dynamic of history, i.e. all historical growth, change and development, which tends to drive the society towards a final uniformity. In fact, it is the same universal law of dialectical development, manifested in social level.
  • Since human beings create the forms of social life solely in response to economic needs, the social, political and intellectual life of society (superstructure) reflect only the economic structure (infrastructure).
  • History inevitably follows certain deterministic laws which are so powerful that individuals have little or no influence on its development.

Historical dialectics and the Quran

Interestingly, some of the concepts of historical dialectics, including ‘class struggle’, appear to resonate with the Quran. Take these famous verses, for example:

Say: O God, Owner of all dominion/ ownership! You grant dominion/ ownership unto whom You will and take away dominion/ ownership from whom You will; and You exalt whom You will and humble whom You will. In Your hand is all the good. Indeed, You are the Possessor of power over all things.

You merge the night into the day and merge the day into the night; and You bring forth the living from the dead and You bring forth the dead from the living; and You give sustenance to whom You will without reckoning. 3:26-27

The above starts with a reminder that the real Owner of all ownership, and the ultimate Possessor of all power and resources and means, is none but God alone (‘O God, Owner of all dominion/ ownership! …’).

Then we are told that it is the divine directive that has made the process of political empowerment and acquiring economic ownership by an individual, group or nation follow certain natural laws (‘You grant dominion/ownership unto whom You will and take away dominion/ownership from whom You will …’). Obviously, as God has appointed ‘a due measure’ or unchangeable law for everything in the Universe, including the society (17:30, 30:37, 39:52), and as His Rule is therefore the Rule of law, here as well as many other places in the Quran, ‘divine will’ infact means ‘divine laws’ (or what we humanly perceive as ‘natural laws’), and should not be misconceived in mortal terms as the erratic whim of a muddle-headed despot. These laws are dialectical and deterministic as we will observe below.

Now, while the first verse illustrates dialectics in political dominion and economic ownership (‘You grant dominion/ownership unto whom You will and …’) and then dialectics in social class and status (‘and You exalt whom You will and …’), its following verse goes on depicting dialectics in physical nature (‘You merge the night into the day and …’) and also dialectics in living world (‘You bring forth the living from the dead and …’).

Please note how this dynamic duality in socio-politico-economics is mentioned here within the greater context of universal dialectics, which involves perpetual coiling of the opposites through ‘negation of the negation’ (e.g. ‘night and day’ and ‘living and dead’). And note how this indicates that ‘class struggle’, i.e. the interaction between the rich and the poor, also generates a similar ‘thesis-antithesis cycle’ leading to dialectical development, as conceived by historical dialecticians.

In other words, the mutual interpenetration of dominion/ ownership/ class into its opposite creates a dialectical cycle through ‘union and conflict of opposites’, like nature’s other similar dialectical cycles, such as night and day and living and dead.

This universality of dialectics is idiosyncratically expressed here in terms of dualities, by recurrent mention of ‘pairs of opposites’ (grant … and take away …, exalt … and humble …, night and day, living and dead, etc). This further implies that everything in the Universe, from galaxies to living organisms to socio-economics to human thoughts, is interactive and in constant flux that results from the struggle between two disputing forces – thesis and antithesis – the opposition being resolved by their synthesis (cf. 13:3, 35:11, 36:36, 39:6, 42:1-12, 43:12, 51:49, 53:45, 75:39, 78:8).

Finally, this description of various ‘dialectical cycles’ comes to an end with a rebound of the initial ‘socio-politico-economic’ topic, with a reassurance about the possible bestowal of God’s unlimited provisions to man (‘and You give sustenance to whom You will without reckoning’), something the Quran is very positive about (65:3, 17:20). This reminds us of the tremendous potential for humanity’s growing prosperity as an outcome of the increased amount and fairer distribution of resources through the dialectical development of society, as predicted by historical dialecticians.

Further reflections

It is interesting to compare the above passage on discussion, 3:26-27, with its related passages like 42:1-12 and 53:42-48, where social dialectics is similarly mentioned within the greater context of universal dialectics.

Some Marxists who consider ‘revolution’ as a necessary step towards social justice may find a bit of resonance in 22:60-61, which sanction a proportionate response, when it becomes essential in order to remedy great injustice and oppression (cf. 2:191, 2:217, 4:75). Interestingly here, once again, the Quran expounds the struggle between the darkness of oppression and the light of freedom in terms of the dialectical cycle of night and day:

Thus shall it be. And whoever responds to aggression only in proportion to what he is afflicted, and then is further transgressed, God will certainly aid him. For God is Pardoning, Forgiving.

That is because God merges night into day, and merges day into night, and that God is Hearer, Seer. 22:60-61

According to the Quran, the same deterministic principles, which govern the physical Universe, also govern the society, including all its provisions and conditions (39:52, 30:37, 13:26, 17:30, 65:3; cf.15:21, 25:2, 41:10). This clearly conforms with the Marxist tenet that history inevitably follows certain very powerful deterministic laws.