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"Removing the Middleman" Chapter 2: Surah Al-Baqarah (The Cow): Verses 188-189


Do not grab the property of others by wrongful means nor seek access to judges so that you can gain (title to) the property of others wrongfully while you know (that it is wrong) 89

They ask you about the new moon. Reply, “These are times appointed for (use by) mankind, including the time for Hajj.” It is of no righteousness that you enter the house through the back (door), but it is righteous that you develop a sense of proper responsibility and enter the house through their (normal) doors. (Therefore), be mindful of your responsibilities to God that you may be successful. 90


89 Wrongly forcing other people out of their property, bribing judges to gain title to property by illegal means, and extracting unlawful fees from property owners are matters of serious concern in many Muslim countries, and the resultant violence and loss of life are indeed a sad commentary on the social fabric of the societies in which they occur. In the face of clear injunctions, the situation of law and order in Muslim countries needs to be improved to stop this violation of God’s command, which is good for everyone in the society and creates stability and peace in the country.

90 Islam came to break down all kinds of superstitious and meaningless practices and customs that have no basis. For example, the Arabs at the time of the Prophet used to enter their houses through the back door during the Hajj season as a sign of right- eousness. God refuted such practices, saying that righteousness is defined in terms of righteous acts and not by acts of changing your entry into the house without reason. The controversy over moon sightings is another example of this type of behavior. The real issue here is our ability to ascertain when the month begins with the moon and not necessarily the sighting of the moon itself. In this verse, God assigns the moon as the mechanism by which we decide the beginning of the lunar month. During the Prophet’s lifetime, sighting the moon was the only practical way to ascertain the beginning of the month. In today’s context, with the existence of scientific advances, which are gifts from the God we serve and given the consistency and constancy of the natural phenomenon, such as the orbital motion (another example of God’s control and regulation of our universe), one can, with accuracy, define the beginning of lunar months well in advance. Continued controversy and failure to achieve consensus in matters like this are contrary to what God says at the end of this verse, which is that we need to behave with righteousness and responsibility to be truly successful!


Two major issues mentioned here, safeguarding individual property and negating all forms of superstition, are as relevant today as they were at the time of the Prophet. Corrupt leadership, lack of law and order, and the people’s inability to defend their property and person are lacking in many places where a majority of Muslims live. On the other hand, the proliferation of meaningless practices and superstition permeates in many Muslim societies fed by ancient traditions and deviant religious, community, and political leaders serving their own interests.


Responsible Muslims and leaders need to rise to the occasion and defend people’s rights and property while eliminating deviant practices, even with consid- erable personal risks and sacrifices. It is only in this way that we can establish our true faith in God. The basic tenets of Islam and, for that matter, of all religions are simple and consistent: respect each other, safeguard each other’s lives and property, speak the truth, maintain peace and justice, and develop and sustain social and moral orders to improve the condition of each and every person without any prejudice or birthright based on universal human rights and the rights conferred on us by the Creator. Living up to these tenets is what makes individuals and societies prosper and create peace and harmony on this planet.

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