Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
Can the fundamentalist’s kill those who do not ascribe to their political ideology? How about those who double cross or cheat them? If they act like God they may feel they have the right even duty to do that, for it is recorded in the Quran that God punished and destroyed the people of Midian with an earthquake for they were not giving full measure and cheating their fellow citizens and challenged the prophet Shu’aib. The holy Quran says:
And to Midian We sent their brother Shu‘aib. He said, ‘O my people, worship Allah; you have no other deity but Him. A clear Sign has indeed come to you from your Lord. So give full measure and full weight, and diminish not unto people their things, and create not disorder in the earth after it has been set in order. This is better for you, if you are believers. (Al Quran 7:84/85)
And to Midian We sent their brother Shu‘aib. He said, ‘O my people, worship Allah. You have no God other than Him. And give not short measure and short weight. I see you in a state of prosperity and I fear for you the punishment of a destructive day. (Al Quran 11:84/85)
Regarding their destruction and the earthquake the Quran claims:
So the earthquake seized them and in their homes they lay prostrate upon the ground. Those who accused Shu‘aib of lying became as if they had never dwelt therein. Those who accused Shu‘aib of lying — it was they who were the losers. (Al Quran 7:91-92/92-93)
Well, God is All-Knowing and has created all of humanity and has jurisdiction over us and has a grand scheme for the humanity. He knows best when to punish a section of humanity, for the greater good. But, what would happen if a section of the believers start playing God and start punishing others for their perceived or actual petty crimes, with capital punishment?
Every Muslim, moderate or fundamentalist, realizes that God is Just and the Quran, the literal word of God, can never suggest any thing that is unjust to any human being. At least that is how the believers read the Quran. Each one of us also realizes that life is precious and sacred and taking away an innocent life willy nilly is like triggering a genocide. (Al Quran 5:32/33)
Luckily for every one that the fundamentalists are not killing people for not weighing properly or for accepting bribes in the Muslim majority countries. They are not using the above verses as road map for them.
But, may use the punishment meted out to the people of Lot, the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah, as justification to take away human rights of gays and lesbians and even prescribe capital punishment for sodomy.
Sodom and Gomorrah were cities mentioned in the Book of Genesis and throughout the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament and in the deuterocanonical books, as well as in the Quran and the Hadith. According to the Torah, the kingdoms of Sodom and Gomorrah were allied with the cities of Admah, Zeboim and Bela.
Divine judgment by God was then passed upon Sodom and Gomorrah and two neighboring cities, which were completely consumed by fire and brimstone. Neighboring Zoar (Bela) was the only city to be spared. In Abrahamic religions, Sodom and Gomorrah have become synonymous with impenitent sin, and their fall with a proverbial manifestation of divine retribution.
Some Muslims would use the following and similar verses of the Quran to discriminate against homosexuals:
And We saved Lot and his family, except his wife: she was of those who stayed behind. And We rained upon them a rain (of stones). Now see, what was the end of the sinners! (Al Quran 7:84-85/85-86)
So when Our command came, We turned that town upside down and We rained upon it stones of clay, layer upon layer. (Al Quran 8:82/83)
This and similar verses in both the Quran and the Bible have led to legislation in countless countries over the centuries.
In Africa, male homosexual acts remain punishable by death in Mauritania, Sudan, and some parts of Nigeria and Somalia. Male and sometimes female homosexual acts are minor to major criminal offences in many other African countries; for example, life imprisonment is a prospective penalty in Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Uganda. A notable exception is South Africa, where same-sex marriage is legal.
In Asia, male homosexual acts remain punishable by death in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Brunei, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Additionally, life imprisonment is the formal penalty for male homosexual acts in Bangladesh, the Maldives, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Qatar. But anti-sodomy laws have been repealed in Israel (which recognises but does not perform same-sex marriages), Japan, Kazakhstan, the Philippines, and Thailand.
This article is not a defense for homosexuality, but only for the human rights of every human being regardless of sexual orientation and to establish sanctity of human life, which is too easily eroded by the terrorists and the fundamentalists by erroneous, concrete and literal reading of some of the verses of the holy Quran, including what has come to be known as the sword verse.
In reading and understanding the Quran we should not lose sight of the fact that there are scores of verses of the holy Quran emphasizing the ideal of justice in different social and spiritual scenarios. For example:
Surely, Allah guides not the unjust people. (Al Quran 6:144/145)
Surely, Allah loves not the treacherous. (Al Quran 8:58/59)
Indeed, Allah enjoins justice, and the doing of good to others; and giving like kindred; and forbids indecency, and manifest evil, and wrongful transgression. He admonished you that you may take heed. (Al Quran 16:90/91)
‘That is because of that which your hands have sent on before yourselves, and know that Allah is not at all unjust to His servants.’(Al Quran 8:51/52 and 22:10/11)
Allah has raised the heaven high and set up the measure, that you may not transgress the measure. So weigh all things in justice and fall not short of the measure. (Al Quran 55:8-9/9-10)
There is also an over riding emphasis on human compassion in the Quran. In fact, I have previously authored an article: Two Hundred Verses about Compassionate Living in the Quran.
Some day I will make an extensive catalog of the verses emphasizing justice, God willing. We have to always read each and every verse of the holy Quran in this broader context of compassion and justice.
Muhammad Asad, born Leopold Weiss; 12 July 1900 – 20 February 1992, was a Jewish-born Austro-Hungarian journalist, traveler, writer, linguist, thinker, political theorist, diplomat and Islamic scholar.
He was one of the most influential European Muslims of the 20th century. In his Introduction to his English translation of the holy Quran, regarding commentary from one’s opinion, he writes:
I have tried to observe consistently two fundamental rules of interpretation. Firstly, the Qur’an must not be viewed as a compilation of individual injunctions and exhortations but as one integral whole: that is, as an exposition of an ethical doctrine in which every verse and sentence has an intimate bearing on other verses and sentences, all of them clarifying and amplifying one another. Consequently, its real meaning can be grasped only if we correlate every one of its statements with what has been stated elsewhere in its pages, and try to explain its ideas by means of frequent cross—references, always subordinating the particular to the general and the incidental to the intrinsic. Whenever this rule is faithfully followed, we realize that the Qur’an is — in the words of Muhammad ‘Abduh — ‘its own best commentary.’
He adds at a different place in the Introduction to his translation of the holy Quran:
If, on occasion, I have found myself constrained to differ from the interpretations offered by the latter (early commentators), let the reader remember that the very uniqueness of the Qur’an consists in the fact that the more our worldly knowledge and historical experience increase, the more meanings, hitherto unsuspected, reveal themselves in its pages.
When we begin to read the Quran with a broad perspective and greater knowledge of history, psychology, law and host of other subjects, the scripture begins to reveal its hitherto unknown message to us. It begins to speak to us in a more clear and unambiguous tone and voice.