Should halal slaughter be banned?

should halal slaughter be banned

 
The prohibited foods and meat in the Quran are: Dead meat, running blood, swine meat1 and what was dedicated to other2 than God (2:173, 6:145, 5:3, 16:115).

The list, however, is then followed by the reassurance that even consuming any of these is not a sin if it is not done out of “willful disobedience or transgression” (2:173, 6:145, 16:115). And that, far more important is what is in our heart and mind: what people eat or partake is not really an issue as long as they live consciously and do good works3 (5:93; 6:118-119). Thus, the actual stress in the Quran in matters like this is on spiritual values rather than on rituals and taboos (2:189, 5:101-103, 87:8).

Now, though the Quran lists the disapproved methods of killing animals for consumption (Forbidden to you is … the strangled, beaten to death, killed by a fall, gored and savaged by a beast. 5:3), it doesn’t support the much held notion that the so-called halal slaughter as practiced today by the traditional Muslims is a requirement to make the meat halal.

Here we sum up our understanding of the Quranic position on halal slaughter:

▪ The Quran nowhere ordains that halal slaughter, which is a misnomer, or any particular way of slaughter, is the only accepted method to kill an animal for consumption. This becomes clear when we note that the Quran approves the food of “the people of the Book” (5:5), i.e., Jews, Christians and, in a wider sense, other religious groups with scriptures, like Hindus, Buddhists and Zoroastrians.

▪ All  the traditional details of halal slaughter, including the pre-slaughter utterance of the extra-Quranic mantra “Allahu Akbar”,4 are human fabrications mainly based on imports from local Judaeo-Christian traditions during the earlier Islamic centuries.

▪ The prohibition of blood refers to “running blood” only (6:145), not blood trapped inside the flesh. Even the traditional halal slaughter doesn’t remove ALL blood from the dead animal.

▪ The Quran DOESN’T really say that a pre-slaughter utterance of God’s name is essential to make the meat halal. Even 22:36, the only verse that is sometimes quoted in this regard, is more like a reminder for the pilgrims to feel appreciative of God’s blessings for the provisions of the livestock after the prohibition of hunting is over during Hajj. And because this reminder is addressed to the pilgrims, and not the slaughterers, it is not associated with the actual slaughtering.

▪ The Quranic instruction “remember God’s attributes of mercy before eating/ consuming/ enjoying” (6:118) is often translated, inadequately4, as “utter God’s name before eating”. In fact, to follow the underlying message here – which tells us to consciously appreciate God’s every favour to us as His grace and mercy, before partaking of it – we neither need to “utter” anything, verbally or vocally, nor we need to say God’s “name”. Moreover, the instruction is general and includes all provisions and all foods (6:118-121), and not just meat (meat of the livestock during Hajj, 22:28, 36; meat and fish caught by the trained dogs and birds, 5:4, etc).

▪ Our reflection on God’s attributes of mercy before eating meat should inspire us to actualize these divine attributes in human capacity (59:24; cf. 1:1, 2:138, 6:118), thereby making our behaviour towards animals more humane and compassionate5 (16:5-7, 36:71-73, 6:38). In line with this persistent Quranic emphasis on universal compassion, our main animal welfare concern with the traditional halal slaughter is whether or not animals are rendered unconscious (stunned) before they are killed. While widespread research continues to show the animal welfare benefits of pre-slaughter stunning, halal-slaughtered animals are dying in agony because of people’s ignorance over pre-slaughter stunning. If that’s the case, then one may rightfully argue that halal slaughter without stunning should be BANNED in a society where a more humane method is available.

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Note 1

The Quran allows consuming all foods that are wholesome and harmless (2:168, 5:4). Pork was prohibited because it was considered unclean and therefore harmful (“for it is impure/ tainted/ contaminated, 6:145”) as pigs used to be reared in filthy conditions. It should not be considered haram if it is clean and harmless, i.e., when pigs are raised as domestic livestock in hygienic environment. Though the Quran explicitly urges not to declare any good thing unlawful (5:87), some Muslim clerics declare numerous foods, including some excellent seafoods like mussels, lobsters, shrimps, crabs, octopus etc., unlawful.

Note 2

There is a deep rationale behind the prohibition of “what was dedicated to other than God” (“maohilla bihi lighayri Allahi”; 2:173, 6:145, 5:3, 16:115). The Quranic instruction “remember God’s attributes of mercy before eating/ consuming/ enjoying” (6:118) tells us to consciously appreciate God’s every favour to us as His grace and mercy, before partaking of it. The instruction is general and includes all provisions and all foods, and not just meat (6:118-121). This conscious appreciation of life’s blessings must be entirely dedicated to their ultimate source, i.e., to one God alone, and must not be corrupted by sharing with ‘others’ (these may include modern day idols).

Note 3

What people eat or partake is not really an issue as long as they live consciously and do good works: Those who acknowledge and do good works bear no guilt for what they eat/partake as long as they are aware and acknowledge and do good works. 5:93

Asad’s note on 6:118: “The purpose of this and the following verse is not, as might appear at first glance, a repetition of already-promulgated food laws but, rather, a reminder that the observance of such laws should not be made an end in itself and an object of ritual: and this is the reason why these two verses have been placed in the midst of a discourse on God’s transcendental unity and the ways of man’s faith. The “errant views” spoken of in verse 119 are such as lay stress on artificial rituals and taboos rather than on spiritual values.”

Note 4

The Quranic instruction “remember God’s attributes of mercy before eating/ consuming/ enjoying” (6:118) is often translated, inadequately, as “utter God’s name before eating”. First, often rendered as “utter”, the word here is “dhik’r”, or “remember”. To the Divine who knows our mind, it shouldn’t matter whether our remembering is hidden or expressed (59:22). Since intentions are just as essential as actions (2:158), what is important is sincerity of mind, not a lip service (35:10, 29:2-3, 59:22).

Second, often inaccurately rendered as “name”, the word “ism” in this context actually means attribute (sifaat; note: God has no name) and, in particular, the principal divine attributes of mercy attached with Bismillah. This concept is expounded and constantly repeated throughout the Quran through the formula Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim (“With the attribute of God, the Mercygiving, the Merciful. 1:1”; cf. 1:1-3, 16:4-7, 17:110, 22:36). Thus, if one acknowledges God’s messages in nature, one would expectedly commemorate with gratitude His attributes of mercy while partaking of any blessing of life (“So eat/ consume/ enjoy from that on which God’s attribute (of mercy) has been remembered, if you indeed acknowledge His messages. 6:118”). This conscious appreciation of God’s favours to us, as instructed in the Quran, is in clear contrast with the traditional pre-slaughter utterance of “Allahu Akbar”, an extra-Quranic mantra that had its first physical appearance as a military slogan during the Umayyad period of Arab expansion.

Note 5

Inspired by the Quranic spirit of universal compassion and care, some vegan Muslims argue that veganism is very much compatible with Islam. If we are to follow ourselves the most principal divine attributes (the Sustainer of the worlds, the Mercygiving, the Merciful. 1:1-3) – i.e., when it comes to taking care of the Earth (7:56, 2:60, 2:205) and caring for all of God’s creations (6:38, 6:165, 1:2) – we should, at the very least, consume animals humanely, while considering cutting down on meat and even starting a vegetarian lifestyle. As the Quran promotes ideas that side with a vegetarian worldview, it is time more Muslims turned to veganism.

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Abortion from a Quranic perspective

Abortion from a Quranic perspective

 
There is no explicit mention of abortion in the Quran. However, it contains a few sketchy references to some of the related issues, wherefrom it is possible to derive some general guidelines. Let us read these verses carefully:

And his bearing and his weaning (hamluhu wa fisaluhu) lasts thirty months. 46:15

And his weaning (fisaluhu) takes two years. 31:14

This two years, as we are informed elsewhere, is the maximum period of nursing: And mothers suckle their children two full years, if they wish to complete the suckling. 2:233.

So, while the total period of bearing and weaning lasts up to 30 months (46:15), the weaning period lasts up to 24 months (31:14, 2:233). From this we can infer that, in the Quranic account, the period a mother bears a baby in her womb is 30 months – 24 months = 6 months.

Thus the Quran describes the total child-bearing period inside mother’s womb as SIX MONTHS. This is about THREE MONTHS SHORTER than the usual nine months of pregnancy1.

In other words, the Quran doesn’t count the embryo/foetus, an evolving biological organism in the uterus, as a child or person (nafs, self) during the first three months or so. This interestingly coincides with the period from the time of conception until the beginning of the second trimester when begins the formation of the child/person (22:5; cf. ‘another creation’, 23:14. Note that, for the embryo/early foetus, the Quran uses the pronoun ‘what’, instead of ‘who’; 2:228; 3:35, 22:5; cf. 23:14).2 This also corresponds to the Iddah or waiting period3 for a woman after her spouse’s death, or after a divorce, before she can remarry (2:228, 2:234).

Thus, by excluding the first trimester from the bearing period in the womb, and by depicting the embryo/early foetus as a non-person, the Quran appears to keep itself open to a pro-abortion interpretation for the first trimester of pregnancy as an issue of individual decision, for women who wish to choose it due to social or medical reasons, especially those who are victims of traumatic circumstances like rape or incest.

On the other hand, though the Quran thus seems to specifically allow termination of pregnancy in the first trimester, it condemns the killing of a child who is already born (note: ‘awlad’ means ‘born children’; 6:151, 17:31, 5:32; cf. 81:8-9). So, during the period from the second trimester of pregnancy to the moment of birth, we get a grey area when abortion becomes a questionable but acceptable choice depending on the individual circumstances.

Since a late term abortion involves some added responsibility, a society often considers regulating it through legislation. However, the exact point when a pregnancy becomes late term is not clearly defined, as there is no agreement as to when the right to life should begin, and therefore the laws may vary from country to country4. Nevertheless, every woman should have a right to abort if the continuation of pregnancy poses any serious risk to her health or life. And this should apply to all stages of pregnancy, even when a foetus is fully grown. Despite that sometimes this is a very hard choice, a mother’s life does deserve more priority than the life of an unborn baby. And in no way this can be against the spirit of the Quran.

Final words

The Quran, though inexplicitly, sheds some light on abortion. On one hand, by excluding the first trimester of pregnancy from the bearing period in the womb (46:15, 31:14, 2:233), and by depicting the embryo/early foetus as a non-person (2:228; 3:35, 22:5; cf. 23:14), the Quran keeps itself open to a pro-abortion interpretation for the first trimester of pregnancy as an issue of individual decision.

On the other hand, since the Quran condemns the killing of a child who is already born (note: ‘awlad’ means ‘born children’; 6:151, 17:31, 5:32; cf. 81:8-9), we get a grey area during the period from the second trimester of pregnancy to the moment of birth, when abortion becomes a questionable but acceptable choice depending on the individual circumstances.

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Note 1

On average, pregnancies last about 40 weeks from the day of the women’s last menstrual period. However, when measured from the day of conception (fertilization) to the day the baby was born, the actual average length of human pregnancy is about 38 weeks, which is about nine months.

Note 2

in Arabic, the pronoun ‘ma’ (which/what) is used for non-persons, such as animals and objects, while ‘man’ (who) is used for persons. Please note that, for the foetus/early foetus, the Quran uses the pronoun ‘ma’ (which/what, 2:228; 3:35, 22:5; cf. 23:14) instead of ‘man’ (who), i.e., “what is in the womb” instead of “who is in the womb”:

The divorced women shall wait for three menstruation periods; and it is not lawful for them to conceal what God has created in their wombs … . 2:228

When a woman of (the family of) Imran said, “My Sustainer, I have vowed to You what is in my womb, dedicated, so accept from me. …”. 3:35

We settle in the wombs what We wish to an appointed time, then We bring you out a child … . 22:5

And then We create out of the drop of sperm a germ-cell, and then We create out of the germ-cell an embryonic lump, and then We create within the embryonic lump bones, and then We clothe the bones with flesh – and then We cause it to grow into another creature/ creation …! 23:14

The word ‘it’ in “We cause it to grow into …” is 3rd person masculine singular object pronoun. Here the embryo/early foetus, as an evolving biological organism, is described as a non-person. So the person or self seems to emerge when the human foetus evolves into “another creature“, probably at a point when the foetus is mature and viable enough to survive independently of the mother’s body (22:5; 23:14). Thus, having life is not the same as having self/ person (nafs, often understood as soul; cf. God takes the selfs at death; and those that die not, during their sleep:39:42). Definition of murder involves killing a self/ person, not merely killing a life form or living organism (note the prohibition “Do not murder a self. 5.32”).

Note 3

Iddah is the waiting period for a woman after the death of her spouse (4 months and 10 days) or a divorce (3 months), during which she may not remarry (2:228, 2:234). Any pregnancy discovered during this period is assumed to be the responsibility of the former husband.

Note 4

While the foetal stage of human development begins about at the 11 weeks of gestation, prenatal development is a continuum and there is no clear defining feature distinguishing an embryo from a foetus. Also, there is no agreement as to when the right to life should begin. As a matter of practicality, however, many abortion laws lay down a stage of pregnancy after which abortion is unlawful, depending on their own perception of the moment when the foetus becomes viable and acquires a right to life. Here is a good article on the current and future abortion rights in the Muslim majority countries: https://musliminstitute.org/freethinking/islam/future-abortion-rights-islam

Pursue pleasure and happiness and mind the balance

Pursue pleasure and happiness and mind the balance

 
So Eat and Drink and Be Happy. 19:26

Islam is originally meant to be simple and easy1 (2:185, 2:189, 2:286, 4:28, 5:6, 6:152, 7:42, 22:78, 23:62, 57:27, 87:8), free of any dogma or mystical proposition, of all self-mortification and exaggerated asceticism, and of all complicated ritual or system of taboos which would impose undue restrictions on man’s everyday life2 (2:67-71, 2:189, 5:101-103, 57:27, 87:8).

The Quran claims to have come to liberate minds from the bondage of religion and from the shackles of too many do’s and don’ts. As the final testament, it considers current humanity, its target audience, as grown-up and hence primarily appeals to his reasoning and conscience, instead of legislating meticulous rules and regulations. Over and over again, it asks to keep the deen simple and easy and free from burden of rituals and unnecessary prohibitions – similar to those inflicted on earlier religious communities, imposed through their clerics3 (2:286, 7:157, 64:16, 5:15, 5:87).

No wonder the Quran repeatedly condemns those clergymen, who decree fabricated laws in God’s name – and thus import false obligations and prohibitions in religion – as falsifiers, transgressors and idolaters4 (2:165-172, 5:87, 6:21, 6:118-119, 6:140, 6:145-155, 7:32, 9:37, 10:59, 11:18-21, 16:116).

Now, God is portrayed in the Quran mainly as an infinitely merciful god rather than a cruel, vengeful deity. While thus reminding man of God’s infinite compassion and benevolence, the Quran cheers him up with a jolly tune, and asks him to be ever optimistic and to never despair5 (1:1, 1:2-3, 2:143, 6:12, 6:54, 6:160, 14:34, 15:56, 38:54, 39:53, 65:3,17:20, 40:7,  71:13-14).

In line with this extremely positive worldview, the Quran encourages man to pursue happiness by freely enjoying all the pleasures of life (2:168, 2:172, 5:96, 7:31-32, 7:156, 11:3, 16:114, 23:51, 28:77), though with an Epicurean attitude of prudence and moderation (2:143, 2:168-172, 2:219, 2:238, 7:31, 17:11, 17:18-19, 17:29, 25:67, 68:28) and justice and balance (16:90, 17:35, 42:17, 55:7-9, 57:25) – rather than with a mere hedonistic pursuit of sensual pleasures or overindulgence6 (23:51, 7:31-32).

For instance, the Quran asks to enjoy all healthy foods without making any unreasonable restriction (5:3-4, 6:145-150, 16:115-116); presents conjugal love, sexuality and sexual pleasure in a positive light (2:187, 2:222, 2:223, 7:189, 13:38, 25:74, 30:21, 56:35-37); promotes all the beauty of life and encourages all harmless forms of cultural and recreational activities including painting, sculpture, literature, sports, dance and music (2:185, 4:163, 5:4, 5:87, 6:151, 7:32- 33, 10:59, 16:116, 17:9, 21:79, 30:15, 34:10, 34:13, 42:21); and even calls for such undertakings like travel and tourism for the purposes of education, trade and recreation (2:164, 17:61-70, 36:41-42, 31:31, 45:12, 47:10, 22:46, 29:19-20, 62:10, 10:22, 5:96, 30:46).

We observe, for example, how the Quran promotes cheerful worldly activities as it applauds Prophet Solomon as an art enthusiast who was decorating his kingdom with “arches, sculptures, paintings … and joyous music”.7 These activities it describes as a way of thanksgiving by “the descendants of David” through a display of their divine blessings, i.e., their material and cultural affluence topped up with art and crafts. The Quran asks us to act in the same spirit, in gratitude for what we have been given (34:12-13; note: “Work, O the spiritual family8 of David, in gratitude”, 34:13).

In sum, while the Quran inspires us to appreciate and enjoy this divine gift of life to the full, without being constrained by religious zealots who bring numerous prohibitions through false authorities9 (7:31-32, 2:165-172, 6:150), it asks us to live our life in such a rational way that wisely strives for the lasting (akhirat) instead of getting absorbed in the instant10(ajilat; 17:11, 17:18-19, 17:20-21, 58:11).

Finally, despite the weakness of our human nature, which is prone to evil and excess, we are reassured that God remains all-forgiving and ever-merciful as always11 (4:28, 12:53, 14:36, 39:53, 42:5).

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Note 1

Islam is originally meant to be simple and easy:

God wants to bring you ease and not to bring you hardship. 2:185

God does not burden any self beyond its capacity. 2:286

God wants to make easy for you; and humankind was created weak. 4:28

God does not want to make any hardship over you. 5:6

And He has laid on you no hardship in your religion, the creed of your father Abraham. 22:78 

Note 2

Islam is originally meant to be free of any dogma or mystical proposition, of all self-mortification and exaggerated asceticism, and of all complicated ritual or system of taboos which would impose undue restrictions on man’s everyday life (Asad’s note):

They ask you regarding the new moons, say: They are a timing mechanism for the people as well as for the Pilgrimage. Piety is not that you would enter a house (system) through the back (through formal rules and rituals), but pious is he who is aware. Hence, enter houses through their doors, and remain conscious of God that you may succeed. 2:189

But they invented monastic asceticism which We never decreed for them. 57:27

And We shall make easy for you the way. 87:8

Say: Not equal are the foul and the pure, even if the abundance of the foul may dazzle you. So be aware of God, O you who understand, that you may succeed./ O you who acknowledge, do not ask about things which, if prematurely appears to you, would burden you (with non-essential rules and rituals). But if you ask about them while the Quran is being gradually revealed (to your mind), then they will be clarified to you (with deeper layers of meanings). God pardons for them, and God is Forgiving, Compassionate./ Some people before you did ask such questions (e.g., Israelites asked about the cow, 2:68), and on that account lost their faith. 5:100-102

Note 3

The Quran claims to have come to liberate minds from the bondage of religion and from the shackles of too many do’s and don’ts. Over and over again, it asks to keep the deen simple and easy and free from burden of rituals and unnecessary prohibitions – similar to those inflicted on earlier religious communities, imposed through their clerics:

God does not burden any self beyond its capacity. In its favour is what it earns, and against it is what it earns. “Our Sustainer, do not mind us if we forget or make mistakes. Our Sustainer, lay not upon us a burden such as You did lay upon those before us.” 2:286

Those who follow the messenger, the gentile prophet, whom they find written for them in the Torah and the Gospel; … he makes lawful for them the good things, and he forbids for them the evil, and he removes their burden and the shackles that are upon them. 7:157

Therefore, be aware of God as much as you can, and listen, and obey, and give for your own good. 64:16

O people of the Book, Our messenger has come to you to clarify for you much of what you have been concealing of the Book, and to pass over much (i.e., non-essential rules and rituals). Now there has come unto you from God a light, and a clarifying Book. 5:15

O you who acknowledge, do not forbid the good things that God has made lawful to you, and do not transgress; God does not like the transgressors. 5:87

Note 4

The Quran repeatedly condemns those clergymen, who decree fabricated laws in God’s name – and thus import false obligations and prohibitions in religion – as falsifiers, transgressors and idolaters:

And among the people are some who take other than God as equals to Him …/ O humankind, enjoy of what is lawful and good on Earth, and follow not devil’s footsteps …/ He only orders you evil and vice, and that you may say about God what you do not know. 2:165, 168-169

Say: Have you considered that, out of the provision God has sent down for you,  you have made some of it unlawful, and some lawful? Say: Has God allowed you, or do you fabricate a lie about God? 10:59

O you who acknowledge, do not forbid the good things that God has made lawful to you, and do not transgress; God does not like the transgressors. 5:87

And speak not about what your tongues falsely describe, “This is lawful and that is forbidden”, so as to fabricate a lie against God. Surely those who fabricate lies against God will not prosper. 16:116

Who is more wicked than one who fabricates lies about God? … Alas, God’s rejection is the due of all evildoers./ Those who repel others from the divine path and seek to twist it; and regarding the End they are in denial. 11:18-19

Note 5

While reminding man of God’s infinite compassion and benevolence, the Quran cheers him up with a jolly tune, and asks him to be ever optimistic and to never despair:

With the attribute/s of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful. 1:1 (routinely appears at the beginning of every chapter in the Quran)

All praise is due to God alone, the Sustainer of the worlds./ The Beneficent, the Merciful. 1:2-3

Most certainly God is unto humankind Merciful and Compassionate. 2:143

Say: Unto whom is all that is in the Heavens and the Earth? Say: To God, who has ordained mercy on Himself. He will gather you to the day of Resurrection in which there is no doubt. 6:12

Your Sustainer has ordained mercy on Himself. 6:54

Whoever brings a good deed will receive a tenfold reward. And whoever brings an ill deed will be requited for only one. And no one will be wronged. 6:160

And He gave you of all that you have asked of Him. And should you try to count God’s favours, never will you be able to number them; yet the human is indeed transgressing, unappreciative. 14:34

He said: And who despairs of the mercy of his Sustainer, except the misguided? 15:56   

Such is Our provisions, it does not run out. 38:54

Say: O My servants, who have transgressed against their own selves, despair not of God’s mercy: behold, God forgives all sins – for, verily, He is the Forgiver, the Merciful. 39:53

And He provides for him when/ce he imagines not. … indeed God has appointed for everything a due measure. 65:3

On all, these as well as those, do We freely bestow some of your Sustainer’s gifts, since your Sustainer’s giving is never confined. 17:20

Our Sustainer, You encompass all things with mercy and knowledge. 40:7

What is the matter with you, that you hope not the greatness from God,/ When He has created you in successive stages? 71:13-14

Note 6

In line with this extremely positive worldview, the Quran encourages man to pursue happiness by freely enjoying all the pleasures of life, though with an Epicurean attitude of prudence and moderation and justice and balance – rather than with a mere hedonistic pursuit of sensual pleasures or overindulgence:

Eat and drink from the provisions of God, but do not roam the Earth as corrupters. 2:60

“O our Sustainer! Grant us good in the immediate, and good in the End, and spare us from the torment of fire.” 2:201

O mankind, enjoy of what is lawful and good on Earth, and follow not the footsteps of the Devil: for, verily, he is your open foe. 2:168

O you who acknowledge, enjoy of the good things We have provided for you, and render thanks unto God, if it is only Him you worship. 2:172

So enjoy all the lawful, decent things which God has provided for you, and thank God for His blessings, if it is Him you truly serve. 16:114

So eat and drink and be happy. 19:26

O messengers, enjoy of the good things and do right. 23:51

And seek the future abode by means of what God has granted you, and forget not your own share in this world, and do good to others as God has done good to you. And spread not corruption on Earth, for God loves not the corruptors. 28:77

Lawful for you is all water-game, and all the catch of the sea, as enjoyment (provision) for you and for those who travel. 5:96

“And ordain for us the good in this world and in the Hereafter; we have turned to You for guidance.” He said,“My chastisement is but through My law. But My mercy encompasses all things.” 7:156

He will make you enjoy an enjoyment until a term set. And He gives His grace to those who are of grace. 11:3

Leave Me alone with him whom I have created alone,/ And to whom I granted resources vast,/ And children as witnesses,/ And to whom I have spread out so wide a scope,/ And yet, he desires that I give yet more./ Nay, surely it is against Our messages that he has been stubborn. 74:11- 16

Surely We have placed all that is on the earth as an ornament thereof that We may test them as to which of them is best in conduct.18:7

And if they separate, then God will provide for each of them from His bounty. God is Vast, Wise. 4:130

Note 7

People have translated 34:13 variously, but its generally understood message is thanksgiving by Solomon and “the family of David” through display of their divine blessings, i.e., their material and cultural affluence topped up with art and crafts. The ancient lexicon Mufradat-Ul-Quran by Imam Raghib Isfahani, whose work is closer to Classical Arabic, defines the words in 34:13 broadly. For example, the words Jifanin Kaljawab = Any work of utility or enjoyment and entertainment; Jif = a stringed instrument with a drum attached. A relatively broad-spectrum translation of the verse is suggested by Muhammad Ahmed – Samira: They make/do for him what he wills/wants from the centers of the assemblies/sanctuaries and images/statues/pictures, and eyelids/fragments/pieces/small wells as the trough/tub, and pots anchors/firm (heavy) fixtures, David’s family do/work/make thanking/gratefulness, and little/few from My worshippers/slaves (is) the thankful/grateful (E).

Note 8

The word ‘family’ in “O the family of David” (34:13) means spiritual family, not biological family, as clarified by 11:45-47.

Note 9

The Quran inspires us to appreciate and enjoy this divine gift of life to the full, without being constrained by religious zealots who bring numerous prohibitions through false authorities:

O children of Adam, take your adornment at every time and place of prayer; and eat and drink, but waste not by excess, for God loves not the wasters./ Say: Who has forbidden the adornment/ beauty that God has brought forth for His creatures and the good things of provision? Say: They are in this worldly life for those who acknowledge, and they will be exclusive for them on the day of Resurrection. We thus explain the messages unto the people who know. 7:31-32

And among the people are some who take other than God as equals to Him, they love them as they love God; but those who acknowledge love God more than all else; …/ When those who were followed will disown those who followed them, they will see the retribution, with all attachments cut off. …/ O humankind, enjoy of what is lawful and good on Earth, and follow not devil’s footsteps: for, verily, he is your open foe,/ He only orders you evil and vice, and that you may say about God what you do not know./ And if they are told: Follow what God has sent down, they say: Nay, we follow that wherein we found our forefathers. What! even though their forefathers had no understanding of anything, and if they were not guided?/ And the parable of those who are unappreciative is like that (of a herd of sheep) which hears the shepherd’s call, but hears in it nothing but a sound and a shout; deaf, dumb, and blind, for they do not reason./ O you who acknowledge, enjoy of the good things We have provided for you, and render thanks unto God, if it is only Him you worship. 2:165-172

Say: “Bring your witnesses who bear witness that (through His associate/s, 6:19) God has forbidden this.” If they bear witness, then do not bear witness with them, nor follow the desires of those who have given the lie to Our messages, and those who do not acknowledge the End; and they make equals with their Sustainer! 6:150

Note 10

The Quran asks us to live our life in such a rational way that wisely strives for the lasting (akhirat) instead of getting absorbed in the instant:

And man calls to evil with his call to good, for man has been too hasty. …/ Whoever seeks that which hastens away, We hasten for Him what he wishes, then We appoint inferno for him, he burns therein, despised, rejected./ And whoever seeks the End and strives for it with striving, while acknowledging (the End), then their effort is appreciated. 17:11, 18-19

On all, these as well as those, do We freely bestow some of your Sustainer’s gifts, since your Sustainer’s giving is never confined./ Observe how We prefer one of them above another, and certainly the End is higher in degree and greater in excellence. 17:20-21

When you are told, “Make room for one another in your collective life”, do make room: God will make room for you. 58:11

Note 11

Despite the weakness of our human nature, which is prone to evil and excess, we are reassured that God remains all-forgiving and ever-merciful as always:

God wants to make easy for you; and humankind was created weak. 4:28

I do not claim innocence for myself: for the self is inclined to evil, except for those upon whom my Sustainer bestows His grace. Surely, my Sustainer is Forgiving, Compassionate. 12:53

O My Sustainer, these (idols) have misled many people. So, whoever follows me, then he is of me, and whoever disobeys me, then You are Forgiving, Compassionate. 14:36

Say: O My servants, who have transgressed against their own selves, despair not of God’s mercy: behold, God forgives all sins – for, verily, He is the Forgiver, the Merciful. 39:53

The Heavens are about to rent asunder from above themselves; and the Forces hymn the praise of their Sustainer and seek for­giveness for those on Earth: Behold! Verily God is the Forgiving, the Merciful. 42:5

The Quran promotes art and aesthetics

The Quran promotes art and aesthetics

An artwork of the Umayyad Period of Muslim Spain

 

Sunni Muslim orthodoxy, with a hadith-based shallow understanding of Islamic monotheism, prohibits visual representations of any living thing. This religious rejection of depictions of humans and animals has seriously handicapped Islamic art, which largely remained constrained throughout the centuries1 within the flourishes of decorative tilework, Arabic calligraphy, intricate geometric patterns and floral designs.

Contrary to this traditional misteaching, however, the Quran not only approves but also appreciates and encourages all the beauty of life and even promotes creation of images, paintings, statues and sculptures, of both animate and inanimate, especially for beauty and artistic purposes (5:87, 6:116, 6:150, 7:31-32, 10:59, 16:114, 34:12-13).

It is important to observe that, while the Quran calls to worship God alone without deifying anything in any way besides Him (4:36, 4:48, 18:110), nowhere does it contain any prohibition of making graven images, one of the ‘ten commandments’ of the Old Testament (Exod 20:2-17, Deut 5:6-8; cf. 2:83, 6:151-152, 17:101). This Quranic wisdom to gently bypass this specific Mosaic Law appears deliberate (cf. 5:15) when we observe that the Quran seems to precisely confirm only the nine out of the ‘ten commandments’ of the Judaeo-Christian tradition (27:12, 7:108, 26:33; cf. 20:22, 28:32; even Abraham rejected only idols, not statues; note: he kept the biggest one, 21:58).

In line with the above observation, we further note how the Quran, for example, applauds Prophet Solomon as an art enthusiast who was “decorating his kingdom with beautiful arches, images, paintings, statues and sculptures …”. These activities it describes as a way of thanksgiving by “the descendants of David” through a display of their divine blessings, i.e., their material and cultural affluence topped up with art and crafts. The Quran asks us to act in the same spirit, in gratitude for what we have been given (34:12-13; note: “Work, O the spiritual family of David, in gratitude”, 34:13).

Elsewhere, for example, the Quran admiringly speaks of a Chest, alluding to The Ark of the Covenant, which contained the relics of the heritage left behind by “the descendants of Moses and the descendants of Aaron”, being conveyed by the controllers (2:248). These relics are similar to those imageful relics revered by the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Fascinatingly, the Quran indeed holds a very positive approach to all the beauty of life, often with references using such terms as husn (excellence, beauty, bliss, integrity, perfection), zeenah (adornment, ornament, decoration, beauty, finery), jamal (attraction, cheer, beauty, luxury, elegance), alwan (colours, hues, shades), baheej (beautiful, delightful) and so on (3:14, 6:160, 7:26, 7:31, 7:32, 7:180, 10:24, 12:31, 13:4, 13:29, 15:16, 16:6, 16:8-9, 17:110, 20:8, 22:5, 23:17-32, 24:31, 27:59-60, 27:89, 28:84, 33:52, 35:27, 35:28, 37:6, 39:10, 40:64, 42:23, 44:54, 50:6, 50:7, 52:20, 52:24, 55:70, 55:72, 55:76, 56:17, 56:22, 59:24, 61:12, 64:3, 67:5, 76:19). For example: Say: Who has forbidden the beauty and adornment that God has brought forth for His servants? … 7:32 

Here we cite some of the nuances of the Quranic messages related to beauty. Thus, beauty is a mode of divine manifestation since, as we are repeatedly reminded, all the divine attributes are beautiful (7:180, 17:110, 20:8, 59:24); we should deeply observe the Universe to witness how it is perfectly built and beautified (50:6); we have to deeply observe the celestial systems like galaxies in order to behold their profound beauty (15:16); our solar system is beautified with the ornament of glittering planets (37:6, 41:12, 67:5); God has beautified the Earth with things multiplied with diverse hues (16:13); God has caused the Earth to bring forth growths/ plants of all beauteous kinds (22:5); praise be to God who grows gardens, full of beauty (27:59-60); God has grown in the Earth all beautiful kinds of living species/ animals (50:7); we are expected to find beauty in the livestock when we relax and when we go out (16:6); one of the purposes God has created the riding animals like equines, such as horses, mules and donkeys, is beauty (16:8-9); God has fashioned humans with a beautified design (40:64, 95:4); humans are created with beautiful potentials, for a divine purpose (64:3); men are naturally attracted by female beauty (24:31, 24:60, 33:52); women can be entranced by male beauty (12:31); life’s beauty is fleeting (10:24, 28:60, 57:20); a divine reason humans are gifted with garments is “for beauty and adornment” (7:26); we should look into the infinite diversity of colours and hues of various objects and events in nature – in inanimate, animate and human world, and should observe the beauty and depth of this diversity, celebrating it as a mode of divine manifestation (16:13, 16:69, 35:27, 35:28, 39:21); the infinite diversity of the colours of the human minds’ garden, the garden of Adam, is not only divinely intended but also profoundly beautiful (13:4, cf. 23:17-32); no one can prohibit us from enjoying the beauty and adornment of life (7:32); life’s all beauty and adornment are for a test, how we act on them, and not for materialistic overindulgence (18:7, 18:28, 18:46, 28:79, 33:28); we should strive for what is beautiful in the immediate and what is beautiful in the long-term (2:201); we should beautify ourselves at every act of worship (7:31); all our actions should be beautiful (16:30, 16:125, 28:54, 41:34); beautiful deeds will be rewarded (6:160, 27:89, 28:84, 39:10, 42:23); everything in the heavenly gardens will be excellent and beautiful (55:70); the righteous ones are destined for a beautiful abode (13:29, 3:14); they will be reclining there on cushions green and carpets beauteous (55:76); they will be coupled with pure companions with beautiful eyes (houris, 44:54, 52:20, 55:72, 56:22); they will be served by eternally youthful, handsome boys with “dazzling beauty of scattered pearls” (gelmans; 52:24, 56:17, 76:19); … and so forth.

Thus, time and again, the Quran draws our attention towards the beauty of divine attributes and its manifestation through the beauty of creation (7:180, 17:110, 20:8, 59:24), e.g., through the beauty of cosmos and its structure (50:6); beauty of celestial systems (15:16); beauty of solar system and its planets (37:6, 41:12, 67:5); beauty of Earth with things multiplied with diverse hues (16:13); beauty of plants (22:5); beauty of gardens (27:59-60); beauty of living species/ animals (50:7); beauty of the livestock (16:6); beauty of riding animals (16:8-9); beauty of human form and design (40:64, 95:4); beauty of purposeful human potentials (64:3); beauty of the female (24:31, 24:60, 33:52); beauty of the male (12:31); beauty in its fleetingness (10:24, 28:60, 57:20); beauty of apparels (7:26); beauty of colours and hues and their diversity (16:13, 16:69, 35:27, 35:28, 39:21); beauty of the colourful garden of human minds (13:4, cf. 23:17-32); beauty of life’s blessings that no one can prohibit (7:32); beauty whose true purpose is lost under materialism (18:7, 18:28, 18:46, 28:79, 33:28); beauty in the immediate and in the long-term (2:201); beauty that is to be embraced at every act of worship (7:31); beauty that is to be added to all our actions (16:30, 16:125, 28:54, 41:34); beauty that makes the deeds rewardable (6:160, 27:89, 28:84, 39:10, 42:23); beauty of heavenly gardens (55:70); beauty of the abode destined for the righteous (13:29, 3:14); beauty of heavenly carpets (55:76); beauty of heavenly companions (44:54, 52:20, 55:72, 56:22); beauty of heavenly serve boys (52:24, 56:17, 76:19); and so on.

This is how the Quran constantly reminds us of the necessity to behold the beauty in everything and everywhere, perceiving it as a manifestation of the beautiful divine attributes, which we need to trail as epitomes of perfection, and thereby also to beautify our thoughts and actions accordingly.

Final thoughts

As the early Muslim communities were over-concerned about idolatry, perhaps the operative reasoning behind their strict prohibition of imaging of any living thing was avoiding the possibility that the image or sculpture would be worshipped or idolized. This explains why many hadith hearsays so harshly prohibit imaging of any living thing, with special mention of severe punishment for artists.

On the contrary, there is absolutely nothing in the Quran against making images of living beings. Rather the Quran not only approves but also appreciates and encourages all the beauty of life and even promotes creation of images, paintings, statues and sculptures, of both animate and inanimate, especially for beauty and artistic purposes.

The Quran constantly reminds us of the necessity to behold the beauty in everything and everywhere, perceiving it as a manifestation of the beautiful divine attributes, which we need to trail as epitomes of perfection, and thereby also to beautify our thoughts and actions accordingly.

 

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Note 1

“But attitudes towards figurative art have varied somewhat throughout the course of Islamic history and across different Islamic cultures. Animals and humans appear sporadically throughout the centuries, and there are many surviving examples of beautiful figurative art from the Islamic world, most of which come from the late medieval period in Iran. These depict events in the life of Muhammad, the prophets, scenes of Paradise and Hell, battles of Iranian kings, everyday life, and other human subjects.

Today, as is well known, figurative art is widely rejected in Islam and depictions of Muhammad are considered especially offensive. The following article http://www.religionfacts.com/islam/art seeks to provide a factual background for this, chronicling the history of figurative depictions in Islamic art, pinning down exactly what is prohibited in the Qur’an and hadith, and exploring the reasoning given for the special sensitivity to depictions of Muhammad.”

 

Lailatul Qadr: Night of Meditation

Lailatul Qadr Night of Meditation

 
In popular Islamic thought, Lailatul Qadr is believed to be a specific night during the month of Ramadan wherein Prophet Mohammad first received divine revelation. This specific night in Ramadan now requires annual celebration through additional prayers and rituals.

While this belief has prejudiced Muslim minds throughout the centuries, however, it has no basis in the Quran.

Lailatul Qadr signifies the secluded/quiet hours (‘night’) of reflection and contemplation that bring inner awakening

To better understand the meaning of Lailatul Qadr it is important that we go through a careful reading of sura Qadr (ch 97).

The word qadr, with its primary meaning MEASURING, has a rich plethora of undertones in the Quran, including – to measure, reflect, contemplate, meditate, analyse, estimate, evaluate, calculate, decide, empower, conclude, judge, determine and so on (6:91, 17:30, 21:87, 22:74,  30:37, 36:38, 39:67, 74:18, 74:19, 74:20, 87:3). In the setting of ch 97, in our observation, the best of its possible meanings could be meditation, thus rendering Lailatul Qadr as ‘Night of Meditation’.

In the sura we are given clues to recognize Lailatul Qadr as ‘Night of Meditation’ (97:1-2). Only a night of mindfulness can be better than a thousand months of mindlessness (97:3). Only a night of reflection and contemplation can be the best time when one is bestowed from on high with a deeper insight (97:4). Only a night of critical thinking and introspection can bring the inner awakening that brings the desired Peace (97:5).

The Quran attaches special importance to meditation and, in particular, night meditation (3:17, 9:112, 17:79-80, 25:63-66, 26:217-220, 39:9, 50:39-40, 97:1-5). Also, in Quranic idiosyncrasy, night embodies a time of seclusion (73:6-7). A reader who ponders over the Recital during the dark hours of night is heavily endowed with a profound message (73:4-5). This explains the emphasis in ch 97 on NIGHT, which is repeated in three of the five verses. Here the ‘Night of Meditation’ is described as the great time of revelation that presents Peace “till the break of dawn” (97:5)”. That is because: Verily the time of the night impresses the mind most strongly and speaks with the clearest voice,/ Whereas there is for thee by day prolonged occupations. 73:6-7.

Lailatul Qadr signifies the secluded/quiet hours of reflection and contemplation that generate inner awakening. Thus it refers to the general phenomenon of attaining revelation, achievable by every truth-seeker. It was not, and is not, a specific night in Ramadan.

It is neither a past event nor a specific night

Now, sura Qadr starts with a declaration with the perfect verb ‘anzalna’, which is usually, though inadequately, translated as ‘We sent down’ (Indeed We sent it down in a Night of Meditation. 97:1). This gives a first impression as if it is narrating an event of the past.

However, this doesn’t seem to be the case when we note that the Quran too frequently uses the same word ‘anzalna’, e.g., for ‘sending down of rain’, an oft-repeated Quranic expression to describe revelation, in the same way in the perfect/past tense (31:10; cf. 2:22-23, 6:99, 16:2-13, 22:63, 23:17-32, 35:27-28, 39:21-22). But, because ‘sending down of rain’ cannot be an event exclusively of the past, this use of the perfect/past tense can as easily be meant to stress the continuous recurrence of the phenomenon of rain: a continuity which, in opinion of some interpreters, is more clearly brought out in translation by the use of the present tense (cf. 7:172, 3:59). Following this line of reasoning, “anzalna mina alssama-i maan 31:10” is better translated as “We recurrently send down water from the Heaven”. And, further through this analogy between rain and revelation, 97:1 can be better understood as Indeed We recurrently send it down in a Night of Meditation. 97:1.

Interestingly, the same translators who fail to understand ‘anzalna’ in 97:1 in the present tense, understand its immediately following verb ‘adraka’ (which is also a perfect/past verb) in the present tense. It is important to observe that the rest of the sura then is invariably in the present tense, without any reference to the past. Note ‘is’ instead of ‘was (kana)’ in 97:2-3. Also note the sudden shift of the verbal form ‘anzalna’ (perfect/past tense) in 97:1 to ‘tanazzalu’ (imperfect/present continuous tense) in 97:4. Similar sudden shift of verbal forms from past to present can be noted in many other places in the Quran in reference to a present continuous ‘series of events’ rather than to a specific past event (cf. 3:59, 6:99).

Then again, the whole narration is very general, with no specific reference to any particular event of history. For instance, in “Inna anzalnahu fee laylatialqadri. 97:1” the singular object pronoun ‘hu’ – which means ‘it’ or ‘this’ – only refers to the message/the revelation in general. It doesn’t include the implication ‘to him’ or ‘to the Prophet’ and, therefore, doesn’t refer to any particular event of his life. This contrasts with, e.g., 2:23, a more specific verse in this regard, where the word ‘nazzalna’ (‘We have been sending down’) is followed by the word ‘AAala’ (‘upon’) to specifically refer to the Prophet. Thus there is no indication that ch 97 binds itself to any precise time or place.

Moreover, the Quran, according to the Quran itself, was revealing in Prophet’s mind – and is being gradually clarified in individual and collective human mind – NOT in a particular night but as a process of UNFOLDING (39:23, 16:101, 53:1, 56:75, 25:32, 17:106, 20:114). The continuous verbal forms ‘nazzala’ (‘has been sending down’ 39:23), ‘nazzalna’ (2:23, 17:106) and ‘yunazzil’ (16:101) in these instances further indicate this gradualness and continuity in revelation instead of its sending down in a specific night.

A humble rendering of sura Qadr

Keeping the above reflections in mind, here is a humble rendering of ch 97:

Indeed We recurrently send it down in a Night of Meditation. 97:1

And what makes thee realize what a Night of Meditation is? 97:2

A Night of Meditation is better than a thousand months (of mindlessness). 97:3

Descend therein the Universal Forces along with the Force of Inspiration, by their Sustainer’s leave, for every affair. 97:4

Peace it is till the break of dawn. 97:5

Summary

Sura Qadr is NOT about any past event or any particular night. Rather this short chapter can be better understood if the whole narration including 97:1 is rendered in present continuous tense, and interpreted in terms of ongoing recurrence and constant unfolding of divine revelation in human mind/s.

Lailatul Qadr signifies the secluded/quiet hours (‘night’) of reflection and contemplation that bring inner awakening.

Final thoughts

We can safely conclude that the traditional belief that Lailatul Qadr refers to a past event or a specific night is an innovation. Not supported by the Quran, it is a byproduct of Islamic secondary sources.

Lailatul Qadr, as it appears in the Quran, is the time of fruitful meditation that yields flashes of sudden awareness and insights. These are the great moments of revelation when we have deeply connected ourselves with the Divine, by ‘hearing’ the voices of our consciousness at its sanest states, when the reasoning is sound and the conscience is clear (28:71-72, 27:86, 40:61, 10:67). It is these Eureka moments of inner awakening we should continuously strive for. The moments when we leaped further in measuring, reflecting, analysing, deciding and determining.

A night of contemplation that brings this inner awakening and thereby brings Peace, which is the eventual goal of revelation (97:5), is certainly better than a thousand months of mindless inertia and ignorance. And this must be the true meaning of Lailatul Qadr that makes sense. This cannot be confined to just one particular night.

Circumcision: an overview

Circumcision an overview

 
From a MEDICAL PERSPECTIVE. Though circumcision can be prescribed in rare cases to treat a special medical condition like phimosis or a penile infection, most doctors feel that the potential benefits of circumcision are not great enough, and do not necessarily outweigh the potential harms, to recommend routine circumcision for the general population. Also, many argue that routine circumcision of young children should be made 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, a ‘signature’ for being a Jewish man, was glorified in patriarchal Judaism as a token of men’s authority over women and Jewish supremacy over non-Jews. Even some Rabbinic sources used the pejorative term uncircumcised (arelim) as a linguistic marker for the Philistines and heathens to describe them 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, it cannot be considered as Islamic. The Quran cautions against the risk of misguidance by some of the previous ‘Abrahamic’ traditions (3:100, 5:15, 5:48-51) as it endorses or confirms only those important elements of the earlier 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). Furthermore, 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, 95:4), the Quran condemns ritualistic mutilation of living creatures as a superstitious, devilish act that ‘corrupts God’s creation’ (4:119, 4:118-120). Evidently, circumcision is one of those obvious examples of traditional Judaeo-Christian imports that deeply penetrated Islam through the backdoor of fabricated 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 a Muslim’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?

Is adoption prohibited in Islam?

Is adoption prohibited in Islam

 
People often ask: Is adoption prohibited in Islam?

The answer is very obviously: No.

Rather, looking into some of the core messages of the Quran that desperately call to help and care for the poor and the weak and the orphan, adoption of needy children by the willing able people appears not only allowed in Islam but also highly encouraged.

The most famous orphan in the history of Islam is, no doubt, the Prophet Muhammad himself, who was allegedly fostered by Halima and subsequently raised and protected by his uncle Abu Talib. Also, the Prophet himself reportedly practiced adoption when he freed Zaid and raised him as his own son.

The Quran clearly acknowledges and approves adoption (33:4, 33:5, 33:37, 2:220, 12:21). Also, it asks to care for adopted children as one’s own children (2:220; cf. 12:21).

Now, at least in essence, I do not think there is any actual difference between Islam and the Western system as far as adoption is concerned as a concept, though there are a few possible ‘differences’ (not necessarily irreconcilable) in implication.

This is due to the assertion in the Quran that adoption does not dismiss or change the blood relationship between the child and her real (biological) parents and siblings, nor does it generate a ‘real’ relationship between her and her adoptive parents and their children (33:4-5).

The implication of the above involves three related issues: name, inheritance and incest.

First, the Quran recommends adopted children, for the sake of better justice, to be named after the names of their natural parents, though without making it any strict requirement (33:5).

Second, the Quran considers blood-related children to be more entitled in inheritance compared to the adopted ones, though, once again, leaving the issue to the consideration of the involved parties, without making it any legal binding (8:75). Moreover, contrary to the popular misconception, the Quran clearly safeguards the right of the adopted children in inheritance, which, though requires a documentary process, can give them shares unlimited (2:180; cf. 2:83).

Third, the Quran disagrees with pre-Islamic ethics of what constitutes incest by adding to it the deserved importance of ‘relationship by lineage’ or genetics (33:4, 4:23).

In order to better understand this third point, below we will go through the verses that deal with the concepts of kinship and incest.

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While acknowledging kinship by descent and by marriage-tie (25:54), the Quran prohibits marriages between individuals who are too closely related, i.e. whose corporal relationship would involve ‘incest’ (4:23).

Now, the prohibitions in the Quran of various marriages define incest according to an immediate biological relationship established by blood or mother’s milk (children sharing a common suckling ‘mother’ become siblings), or a close in-law or step-relationship (4:23).

This Quranic definition of incest – especially when 4:22-24 are studied within context – seems to consider both biological and socio-emotional factors, while emphasizing integrity in relationships.

However, when we try to grasp the true spirit of 4:23, we observe that its marriage prohibitions are largely based on ‘lineage’ component of incest, rather than solely on the ‘socio-emotional taboo’ of incest.

It appears that the divine wisdom of the Quran also remains concerned about the potential health hazards (genetic defects and diseases) and evolutionary disadvantages (less diverse DNA) of consanguine marriages.

Then, while the Quran thus calls to regard and respect blood ties between relatives by birth (‘by womb’, 4:1, 8:75, 33:6, 47:22, 60:3), it breaks with pre-Islamic ethics of what constitutes incest by adding to it the real importance of ‘relationship by lineage’ or genetics (33:4, 4:23).

The Quran does this, for example, by differentiating biological son from adopted son: a man is prohibited to marry the ex-wife of his biological son (‘the wives of your sons that are from your seed’ 4:23), but is allowed to marry the ex-wife of his adopted son (33:37).