By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam
15 April 2019
To begin with, religion was completely counter intuitive and went against instinct, as every religious rule or law requires curbing what gives man pleasure to avoid what is harmful to self or society, and doing what may be painful or disagreeable, for the greater good of the society. Over a period, through practice under compulsion, man learned the great benefits of following the religion and became a willing follower. Allah has civilized mankind through progressive revelations and finally revealed the Quran which contains the complete and perfected religion to Muhammad (pbuh), the seal of the prophets.
Was the final revelation completely clear and understandable, or were certain parts still counter intuitive and required faith to follow? Adaptation is different from following based on reason. We adapt to our environment over which have no control, or to a religion under compulsion or to the religion because we have faith in it although not everything is clearly understood. Faith therefore plays an important part, when not every rule of religion is clearly understood, until it is understood. Those with faith who make sincere efforts to understand, will gain understanding, and those without faith may lose their way.
Take for example, the permission to have sex with female slave. To us, it sounds morally reprehensible and unacceptable, but then this was allowed. What could be the justification? To find the answer requires:
1. Not being in denial or rejecting the clear meaning through the many devices of “interpretation” that the scholars have developed to take whatever meaning is convenient to them. The first step is to accept, that what sounds morally reprehensible was in fact allowed.
2. Complete faith in Allah, that if this was allowed, then the permission to have sex with female slave was in some way morally superior to disallowing it, although not obvious.
3. Look for all the evidence which explains why this was so.
I have gone through such an exercise and the result was the following article:
The Morality or the Immorality of the Institution of Slavery and the Quranic Permission That Allowed Sex with Female Slaves
Did The Prophet Face Similar Dilemmas?
There is clear evidence in the Quran that not every revelation was to the Prophet’s liking, or was immediately understood as what was good. For example:
(11:12) Perchance thou mayest (feel the inclination) to give up a part of what is revealed unto thee, and thy heart feeleth straitened…….
The Quran does not make clear what the Prophet was uncomfortable with. It is enough for us to know that there was a part that made him uncomfortable.
Fighting Was Disliked
(2:216) Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not.
This verse is addressed to the Prophet because he disliked fighting, or maybe it is his followers who are being indirectly addressed through him because many of them disliked fighting. There is plenty of evidence that fighting was not what any of the Muslims wanted including perhaps the Prophet, but were forced into it, by the revelations from Allah. This may have been from a fear of annihilation because they were numerically inferior and no match for their enemy.
Compromise with Polytheistic Beliefs Rejected
The following verses are referring to the satanic verses that were immediately cancelled by Allah. However, Satan could succeed even though only for a while, because the Prophet desired reconciliation to conflict. Any compromise with polytheism in religion was however firmly rejected by Allah.
(22:52) Never did We send a messenger or a prophet before thee, but, when he framed a desire, Satan threw some (vanity) into his desire: but Allah will cancel anything (vain) that Satan throws in, and Allah will confirm (and establish) His Signs: for Allah is full of Knowledge and Wisdom:
(53) That He may make the suggestions thrown in by Satan, but a trial for those in whose hearts is a disease and who are hardened of heart: verily the wrong-doers are in a schism far (from the Truth):
(54) And that those on whom knowledge has been bestowed may learn that the (Qur´an) is the Truth from thy Lord, and that they may believe therein, and their hearts may be made humbly (open) to it: for verily Allah is the Guide of those who believe, to the Straight Way.
(55) Those who reject Faith will not cease to be in doubt concerning (Revelation) until the Hour (of Judgment) comes suddenly upon them, or there comes to them the Penalty of a Day of Disaster.
Beating Was Distasteful
Verse 4:34 advises beating as an option and as a last resort to correct a wife who is negligent about guarding her modesty in the husband’s absence. This however was against what the Prophet had wanted. The following is from Muhammad Asad’s notes on verse 4:34.
“It is evident from many authentic Traditions that the Prophet himself intensely detested the idea of beating one's wife, and said on more than one occasion, "Could any of you beat his wife as he would beat a slave, and then lie with her in the evening?" (Bukhari and Muslim)
According to another Tradition, he forbade the beating of any woman with the words, "Never beat God's handmaidens" (Abu Da'ud, Nasa'i, Ibn Majah, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Ibn Hibban and Hakim, on the authority of Iyas ibn 'Abd Allah; Ibn Hibban, on the authority of 'Abd Allah ibn 'Abbas; and Bayhaqi, on the authority of Umm Kulthum). When the Qur'an-verse 4:34 authorizing the beating of a refractory wife was revealed, the Prophet is reported to have said: "I wanted one thing, but God has willed another thing - and what God has willed must be best" (see Manar V, 74). With all this, he stipulated in his sermon on the occasion of the Farewell Pilgrimage, shortly before his death, that beating should be resorted to only if the wife "has become guilty, in an obvious manner, of immoral conduct", and that it should be done "in such a way as not to cause pain (Ghayr Mubarrih)"; authentic Traditions to this effect are found in Muslim, Tirmidhi, Abu Da'ud, Nasa'i and Ibn Majah. On the basis of these Traditions, all the authorities stress that this "beating", if resorted to at all, should be more or less symbolic - "with a toothbrush, or some such thing" (Tabari, quoting the views of scholars of the earliest times), or even "with a folded handkerchief" (Razi); and some of the greatest Muslim scholars (e.g., Ash-Shafi'i) are of the opinion that it is just barely permissible, and should preferably be avoided: and they justify this opinion by the Prophet's personal feelings with regard to this problem.”
We know from modern studies however, that Common Couple Violence is an effective tool for conflict resolution among young couples, and verse 4:34 may have corrected the behaviour of many women and saved many marriages. This wisdom is however not immediately available even to a Prophet and requires acceptance based on faith.
Pitfalls to Avoid
There are many Muslims who lack faith and lose their way. The lack of faith comes from arrogance and looking down upon the Quran as an outdated “seventh century” Book, rather than as the eternally valid revelations from Allah. This is not a new phenomenon and has been a common failing of all those with a little learning. In the tenth century, many “Muslim” philosophers turned against religion studying the works of Greek philosophers, little realizing that all the philosophers put together did not, and indeed could not have produced a single moral principle. The fact that these moral principles could now be understood by them based on reason made them think foolishly that these could have been produced by men like themselves. They jumped to the conclusion that the prophets were only philosophers and there was no god and no revelations! It appears to be a law of Allah, that arrogant fools will lose their way, unless they pay heed whenever they are made to see the truth, and make efforts to correct themselves.
Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent contributor to NewAgeIslam.com