On Facebook, a friend asked me to check out a posting.
Begin quote: “So after watching the Livestream I began reciting it to myself but I had to stop when I got to verse eight which is talking about those who did not believe in Muhammad’s message. I just didn’t feel like reciting any more:
إِنَّا جَعَلْنَا فِي أَعْنَاقِهِمْ أَغْلالاً فَهِيَ إِلَى الأَذْقَانِ فَهُم مُّقْمَحُون ) 36:8)
36:8 . We have put shackles round their necks right up to their chins, so that their heads are forced up.
It’s a strange feeling I have now, because despite the fact that this Sura is linked to some cherished memories and life experiences, the reality of the words are… well how can I put it? They’re horrible!!
Someone told me this Sura sounds beautiful. I used to think so too. But now it reminds of movies where they play happy joyful music when some awful torture is taking place.” End of quote.
I fully empathize with the individual for feeling that way. I have been on that road before. I chose to become a Muslim in the late 90’s – it was not easy, I didn’t need to. I was looking for a religion that cared for the entire humanity and focused on caring for life and the environment and bring sanity, and harmony between humans and what surrounds them. Islam fits the bill and hence I chose to become a Muslim.
Prior to choosing Islam, every now and then I will open up the Quran and read the translations, and I would say to myself – get out of here, Quran is not for you, and Islam is not for you. I was a cultural Muslim but not a religious one.
Then one day (the full story is in the book American Muslim Agenda), the Bhagavad Gita inspired me to find the truth. I decided to jettison what was given to me as Islam by Muslims; I rejected the Hadiths and started from scratch. I started studying the Quran and looked at all the so-called maligned verses and started seeing the context.
A concrete formula was emerging, and that came after reading three verses before and three afterward the given verse. The meaning began making sense. Then I went to different translations, and each translator and interpreter had tweaked his/her understanding based on his/her learning environment. The Indians had an advantage of the Pluralistic environment similar to the one Prophet lived and it was easy to see the pristine Islam.
It struck to me what the Prophet had said, ” I am leaving this book (Quran) to you, and you read and understand it” – he never assigned the reading and understanding to Al-Azhar University or some super Sheikh. No, the responsibility for our actions is ours, and we must understand it. We cannot pass the buck to Al-Azhar or the Super Sheik.
Unlike some Muslims, I am not a typical believer – who cannot handle criticism and parrots, ‘God says so’ in defense. I am a scientist and accepted the wisdom of the Quran after thoroughly criticizing and rejecting it many times before I chose to be a Muslim. I am comfortable doing the research and respond to the best of my ability to any criticism of the Quran. My logic is, if it is not common sense, then it is not Islam.
Since 1999, I have dealt with many challenges and have gracefully responded to the criticism of the Quran. It has become easy for me- as I have trodden the same path before.
Now, responding to the verse that the Facebook man found it difficult, I am pleased to put forth, what the verse actually says. I have not done anything but simply posting 5 verses before and after the verse.
Read five verses before and five after – see what you get.
36:2 Consider this Qur’an full of wisdom:
36:3 verily, thou art indeed one of God’s message-bearers,
36:4 pursuing a straight way
36:5 by [virtue of] what is being bestowed from on high by the Almighty, the Dispenser of Grace,
36:6 [bestowed upon thee] so that thou mayest warn people whose forefathers had not been warned, and who therefore are unaware [of the meaning of right and wrong].
36:7 Indeed, the word [of God’s condemnation] is bound to come true against most of them: for they will not believe.
36:8 Behold, around their necks We have put shackles, reaching up to their chins, so that their heads are forced up (Asad)
36:8 We laid yokes on their necks up to the chins, so that they are ones who are stiff-necked (Laleh)
36:8 We have put yokes round their necks right up to their chins, so that their heads are forced up (and they cannot see). (Ali)
36:8 We placed shackles around their necks, up to their chins, so they are stiff-necked. (Itani)
36:8 Surely, We have put shackles (of customs and prejudices) round their necks and they are (reaching right) up to their chins, so that they have become stiff-necked (due to their pride and false notions of superiority). (Amatul Omar)
36:9 and We have set a barrier before them and a barrier behind them, and We have enshrouded them in veils so that they cannot see:
36:10 thus, it is all one to them whether thou warnest them or dost not warn them: they will not believe.
36:11 Thou canst [truly] warn only him who is willing to take the reminder to heart, and who stands in awe of the Most Gracious although He is beyond the reach of human perception: unto such, then, give the glad tiding of [God’s] forgiveness and of a most excellent reward!
36:12 Verily, We shall indeed bring the dead back to life; and We shall record whatever [deeds] they have sent ahead, and the traces [of good and evil] which they have left behind: for of all things do We take account in a record clear.
A standard common-sense formula has evolved in understanding justice verses of the Quran. Do you see the following understanding?
” Those who don’t know the wrong from the right, let them know about it. Warn them of the consequences of their actions; chaos and distrust in the society, which goes against the idea of creating cohesive communities (Islamic ideal). They are so arrogant (shackles) that there is no humility left in them and cannot see due to their stiff necks (arrogance). Remember, arrogance kills relationships, whereas humility builds bridges. Indeed, if they see the truth (wisdom of God), they will find solace. The barriers mentioned from the 9th verse onwards are the bubbles. Tyrants live in bubbles, not knowing what is happening around them and gloat in what their ‘yes’ men tell them. But if they see what is wrong from the right, God is merciful, always generous.”
I hope you got the message, if you did not, please write to me MikeGhouse@gmail.com
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Dr. Mike Ghouse is the founder and president of the Center for Pluralism. He is a speaker, thinker, author, consultant, pluralist, activist, newsmaker, and an interfaith wedding officiant. He is deeply committed to Religious Freedom, Human Rights, and Pluralism in Religion, Politics, Societies, and the workplace, and to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions to the media and the policymakers. Book information is at www.AmericanMuslimAgenda.com and his info at www.TheGhousediary.com
Mike frequently speaks to a full range of audiences in international, faith and interfaith, civic, educational, and community life. He would welcome the opportunity to speak to you and your communities, as well as to invite you to events and programs that he and the Center for Pluralism offer. He also welcomes your thoughts, comments, and inquiries.