The Koran: more detail – 28 April

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

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