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"Removing the Middleman" Chapter 2: Surah Al-Baqarah (The Cow): Verses 194-195


Fight during the sacred months if you are attacked, for the violation of sanctity is bound by the same law of just retribution. Whoever acts aggressively against you, you can retaliate only to the extent they have done harm to you, and be mindful of your responsibilities to God (and mankind), and God supports those who are mindful of their duties (and are God conscious). 93

 Expend in the service of God, and do not make your hand (by not giving) move you toward destruction. Persevere in doing (and being) good to others, and God loves the doers of good. 94


93 In these verses we find additional details on the conduct of fighting and aggression. One should respect social norms that are healthy and supporting of peace, such as the sacred months where all forms of aggression are forbidden. It would be helpful if we created a global understanding where we agreed on these sacred months to be months of peace all over the world. Further, we need to establish rules that do not permit aggressive behavior beyond what one was made to suffer by the aggressor. There has been too much propaganda about Muslims being aggressors and of Islam being spread by war and jihad, but nothing could be further from the truth. If one looks at the way the Crusaders behaved with respect to the conquest of Jerusalem and other Arab lands and the colonial rule of Christian Europeans all over the Muslim world, one cannot but accept that it was Christianity that was spread by violence and tyranny. It is fundamentally important that each party recognize its failure to protect human dignity and human freedom, irrespective of religious affiliation. Otherwise, we color our judgment and preferences not based on universal human values and justice, as pronounced in the Qur’an and in other Books of revelation, but on our narrow self- and national interests, as are the examples of the major conflicts of our time: World Wars I and II, the Holocaust, the Palestinian conflict, the Iran-Iraq War, and the Vietnam war, to name a few.

94 Doing good deeds is a fundamental aspect of God’s teachings and an essential element of the Islamic way of life. As a matter of fact, worship of God and serving people go hand in hand on an equal basis. Thisdual responsibility is a critical balancing element in the life of a Muslim, and we go wrong when we lose this balance. Some Muslims (especially those who are trained in a Madrasssa or who come from conservative bends of thinking or roots) seem to think that if you worship God that is all that is needed. This cannot be further from the truth. Prophet Mohammad’s life and continuous struggles against oppression, social injustice, and neglect of those in need and of the underprivileged tell us otherwise. The Qur’an itself, in another verse, makes very clear what our mission is: “You are the best community, evolved for the benefit of mankind because you encourage what is good, you discourage what is evil, and you believe in God” (3:110). I do not think one can be more straightforward than this. The question is, are we willing to prioritize our lives and be truthful to the mission of Islam as God and His Prophet intended us to, or are we going to be guided by our own egos, tribal mentality, and hatred of people?


As we read Qur’anic verses, we need to carefully observe their messages and their underlying themes and then look into our own lives and activities to see if we conform to those teachings.


The global failure of Muslims and people of faith is that we are not driven to action based on what we know and the guidance that was revealed to us. Instead, greed, jealousy, hatred, and narrow self-interest and misunderstanding are what drive us more and more, even in the midst of an information age in which such misunderstanding can be contained.

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