Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Allah's Guidance on Slavery

What will explain to you what the steep path is? It is to free a slave, to feed at a time of hunger an orphaned relative or a poor person in distress, and to be one of those who believe and urge one another to steadfastness and compassion. Those who do this will be on the right-hand side, but those who disbelieve in Our revelations will be on the left-hand side, and the Fire will close in on them. Quran 90:12-20
It is impossible to read Allah's guidance to the prophet without seeing his disdain for slavery. In 2:177 and 90:13 Allah makes it clear that he sees the freeing of slaves as a pre-requisite for earning his favor. Allah puts the freeing of slaves on the same plane as poverty eradication when he makes it one of the acceptable uses of required alms-giving (zakat):
Alms are meant only for the poor, the needy, those who administer them, those whose hearts need winning over, to free slaves and help those in debt, for God’s cause, and for travellers in need. This is ordained by God; God is all knowing and wise. Quran 9:60

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Allah's Guidance on Commerce

Although Allah places primacy on prayer, Allah also understands the need to trade and conduct commerce:
Believers! When the call to prayer is made on the day of congregation, hurry towards the reminder of God and leave off your trading—that is better for you, if only you knew— then when the prayer has ended, disperse in the land and seek out God’s bounty. Remember God often so that you may prosper. Quran 62:9-10
Its noteworthy that the prophet was a trader prior to receiving revelations. Perhaps that is why Allah reinforces the numerous verses which call for honoring pledges to one another with a command to accurately record contracts:

Monday, July 16, 2012

Allah's Flexibility

...God makes things easy for those who are mindful of Him. Quran 65:4
We shall show you the easy way. Quran 87:8
Allah tells us that he chose to reveal the Quran to an Arab in Arabic (instead of Jesus's Aramaic or Abraham's Hebrew) to make it easier for the prophet to spread the message among his people. Allah doesn't want the language of revelation to be a barrier to its adoption:
Yet the scripture of Moses was revealed before it as a guide and a mercy, and this is a scripture confirming it in the Arabic language to warn those who do evil and bring good news for those who do good. Quran 46:12
We have made it easy, in your own language [Prophet], so that you may bring glad news to the righteous and warnings to a stubborn people. Quran 19:97 similar 12:2, 13:37, 14:4, 16:103, 19:97, 20:113, 26:195, 39:28, 41:3, 42:7, 43:3, 44:58

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Interacting with Non-Muslims

'People of the Book, let us arrive at a statement that is common to us all: we worship God alone, we ascribe no partner to Him, and none of us takes others beside God as lords.' If they turn away, say, ‘Witness our devotion to Him.' Quran 3:64
Growing up in the US, I have had to reconcile my faith with the reality that I live in a non-Muslim society. Fortunately, Allah's guidance to the Prophet was extremely straightforward about interacting with non-Muslims. For fellow monotheists (ie 'People of the Book') we are repeatedly told to try to find common ground. For those with whom we can't find common ground:
Say, ‘Disbelievers: I do not worship what you worship, you do not worship what I worship, I will never worship what you worship, you will never worship what I worship: you have your religion and I have mine.' Quran 109

Friday, July 13, 2012

Understanding Goodness

"Goodness does not consist in turning your face towards east or west. The truly good are those who believe in God and the Last Day, in the Angels, the Scripture, and the prophets; who give away some their wealth, however much they cherish it, to their relatives, to orphans, the needy, travelers and beggars, and to liberate those in bondage; those who keep up the prayer and pay the prescribed alms; who keep pledges whenever they make them; who are steadfast in misfortune, adversity, and in times of danger. These are the ones who are true, and it is they who are aware of God.” Quran 2:177
When people ask me about Islam, I inevitably return to this powerful verse from the Quran. Allah summarizes his religion in this verse better than any Imam I ever heard. The opening sentence of the verse is a reference to the incident of al-Qiblatain. The Prophet Muhammad had been leading a prayer at Masjid al-Qiblatain in Medina, and received the following revelation from Allah: