Archive for April, 2011

The Koran: more detail – 28 April

April 28, 2011

More detail on Surahs 2 and 3 of the Koran, as promised.

These first two chapters of the Koran make it plain that Allah wants, first and foremost, believers. Believers are promised blessings now and beyond death. Disbelievers are heading for Hell. ‘Disbelievers’ is the word in my official Moslem translation, which probably could equally be translated ‘infidels.’

The call to believe in Allah is often repeated, far more than the call to lead a righteous life. Good deeds and just dealing are commended, but are not given anything like the prominence of right belief. Right belief is to lead firstly to right worship. There is much, especially in Surah 2, about the importance of worship and pilgrimage. Living morally takes third place.

The fate of disbelieves is clearly specified as hell – the ‘awful doom’, ‘evil resting place’, ‘fire – they will abide therein.’ Surah 2 warns of hell in 28 out of 286 verses, Surah 3 in 24 out of 200 verses.

The disbelievers are simply those who do not believe in Allah. Most wrath is promised for those who refuse to believe, but those who have never had the opportunity to believe, never heard the Moslem message, are in the same category.

It is mostly for Allah to deal with disbelievers. The Koran calls on Moslems to see disbelievers as cursed and to be careful in their relations with disbelievers. There is no call to kill or torture disbelievers – this is Allah’s role. ‘There is no compulsion in religion.’ (2:256) It is not for Moslems to force people into believing. ‘It is of no concern at all of thee (O Muhammed) whether He relent toward them or punish them, for they are evil-doers.’ (3:128)

There is, however, also a continuing sense of struggle, of battle, between Moslems and disbelievers, which some people could take as a general call to arms against disbelievers. Surah 2 ends ‘give us victory over disbelieving folk.’ Surah 3:151 says ‘we shall cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve because they ascribe unto Allah partners…’

Surahs 2 and 3 are very clear that warfare is necessary and to be embraced, especially in retaliation. Those who refrain from fighting are castigated. (2:246, 3:167) ‘There is life for you in retaliation , O men of understanding, that ye may ward off (evil.)’ (2:179) ‘And fight not with them at theInviolable Placeof Worship until they first attack you there, but if they attack you (there) then slay them. Such is the reward of disbelievers.’ (2:191)

‘and fight them until persecution is no more and religion is for Allah.’ (2:192) ‘And one who attacketh you, attack him in like manner as he attacked you.’ (2:194)

It seems that the very worst that can happen to a Moslem is that they become a disbeliever, for this ensures them eternal torment – as opposed to dying a martyr’s death which ensures them eternal pleasures. So ‘persecution is worse than killing’ (2:217) and is to be met with a violent response.

The call to arms is made, as is all the Koran, to men. Women are mentioned but are not addressed. Women can maybe listen in, but the message of Allah is given directly only to men.

After right belief and the willingness to fight for the cause of Allah, righteous dealing between men, and between men and women, is commended:

‘Those who break the covenant of Allah after ratifying it, and sever that which Allah ordered to be joined, and make mischief in the earth, those are they who are the losers.’ (2:27)

‘Confound not truth with falsehood, nor knowingly conceal the truth.’ (2:42)

‘Shed not the blood of your people nor turn your people out of your dwellings.’ (2:84)

‘And each one hath a goal toward which he turneth; so vie with one another in good works.’ (2:148)

‘Righteous is he who believeth in Allah and the Last Day and the angels and the Scriptures and the Prophets; and giveth his wealth, for love of Him, to kinsfolk, and to orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask and to set slaves free, and observeth proper worship and payeth the poor-due. And those who keep their treaty when the make one, and the patient in tribulation and adversity and times of stress. Such are they who are sincere. Such are the God-fearing.’ (2:177)

Roger Harper


The Central Message of the Koran: 16 September

April 16, 2011

Is burning paper a violent act which justifies people responding with murderous violence? Only, apparently, when the paper has the Koran printed on it, and the speaker is a weasally UN official keen to justify those who murdered his colleagues. We should be saying more clearly ‘Killing people because someone has burned paper with words that are important to you is criminal over-reaction.’

Not that burning the Koran is a good thing. I would not want anyone publicly to burn the Bible, so I will not publicly burn any other holy book. It is not good to aggravate even the nastiest criminals. Burning the Koran is too much like retaliation for Moslem extremists burning the Stars and Stripes. Even this non-violent retaliation is against the teaching of Jesus.

John Simpson, whose books I am reading, describes in detail the burning of the Stars and Stripes in Peshawar shortly after 9/11 when theUSwas planning revenge on and inAfghanistan,  at which he was present. These pictures were shown repeatedly as evidence that ‘Moslems’ were ‘against Americans’ and other Westerners. Simpson is clear that extremist religious leaders orchestrated and fuelled the burning, with the crowd going along but not sharing the hatred. This was not a spontaneous crowd but the congregation from one mosque which had been whipped up into fervour. There was no hostility at all to the Western news crews. It was a piece of theatre which should not have been taken so seriously.

Rather than burn the Koran we should publicise it.

Surah 1 is a short prayer of praise and request for guidance, contrasting those who worship Allah and those who ‘go astray’ and earn Allah’s anger.

Surahs 2 and 3 are the longest in the Koran. The order was copied from the Old Testament where the longest book of a prophet, Isaiah, comes first, the second longest, Jeremiah, next, and so on. Both 2 and 3 were written inMedina, later than those written inMecca, and therefore more authoritative. My official Moslem introduction says that Surah 2 ‘might be described as the Koran in little. It contains mention of all the essential points of the Revelation, which are elaborated elsewhere.’

The overall message of Surah 2, and so of the whole Koran, echoed also in Surah 3, is simple: Believe in Allah or go to Hell!

‘As for the disbelievers, whether thou warn them or thou warn them not, it all one for them; they believe not.

Allah hath sealed their hearing and their hearts, and on their eyes there is a covering. Theirs will be an awful doom.’  (2:6.7)

… The curse of Allah is on disbelievers.

… They have incurred anger upon anger. For disbelievers is a shameful doom.  (2:89,90)

‘Lo! Those who disbelieve, and die the while they are disbelievers, on them is the curse of Allah and of angles and men combined.

They ever dwell therein. The doom will not be lightened for them, neither will they be reprieved.’  (2:161,162)

… Lo! those who disbelieve the revelations of Allah, their will be a heavy doom…  (3:4)

(On that day) neither the riches nor the progeny of those who disbelieve will aught avail them with Allah. They will be fuel for Fire.  (3:10)

 Lo! The riches and the progeny of those who disbelieve will not avail them augfht against Allah and such are the rightful owners of the fire. They will abide therein. (3:116) 

Let not the vicissitude (of the success) of those who disbelieve, in the land, deceive thee (O Mohammed)

It is but a brief comfort. And afterward their habitation will be Hell, an ill abode.  (3:196,197)

“Muhammad had nothing to say to the world other than, ‘If you don’t believe in God you will burn for ever.’ ” So wrote Sebastian Faulks. “With the Koran there are no stories. And it has no ethical dimension like the New Testament, no new plan for life. It says ‘the Jews and the Christians were along the right tracks, but actually, they were wrong and I’m right, and if you don’t believe me, tough — you’ll burn for ever.’ That’s basically the message of the book.”

More detail on Surahs 2 and 3 to follow.

Roger Harper