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"Removing the Middleman" Chapter 2: Surah Al-Baqarah (The Cow): Verses 219-220


They (people) ask you (Prophet Mohammad) about intoxicants and games of chance (e.g., gambling). Say, “In both of them is great evil and some benefit for mankind, but their harm is far greater than their benefit.” They (further) ask you about what they should spend. Say, “Spend according to your ability.” Thus, God makes the messages clear for you so that you may reflect on this worldly life and the life in the Hereafter. They (also) ask you about the orphans. Say, “To help them with their (affairs) is good, and when you mix with them, treat them as your (own) sibling (brother or sister).” God knows who makes mischief (with orphans’ affairs) and who makes things right (for them). God could have made matters difficult for you if He had intended (so do not take advantage of them). Surely, God is Mighty and Wise!  108


108 Three important things are mentioned here and give guidance for the benefit of the Muslim community as well as for society. First is the matter of addiction to wine and drugs that affects human perception and capability. In addition, any kind of gambling or superstition based on games of chance is strongly discouraged. In another verse of the Qur’an, all forms of addiction are forbidden (5:90). Second, practical advice is given with regard to charity and spending for the benefit of others. Here, the notion is that each one of us should help and support others in need based on our own abilities and available resources. Each person would be rewarded based not on how much one gives but in relationship to one’s available resources. Third, the treatment of orphans is emphasized in very practical and generous terms. As members of the community (Ummah), we have an obligation to ensure that orphans, who are the most vulnerable of us all, are treated fairly and that people do not take unfair advantage of their persons or resources. It is encouraged for people to get involved in the affairs of orphans to the extent that they intend to do good things for them and help them with their affairs. Rules and regulations need to be built in regard to social and legal matters to ensure the provision of their rights.

The challenge for the Muslim community and for the human race is to reflect on these guidelines, recommendations, and injunctions presented by God and to put them into practice, which is an individual and collective responsibility.


The foundation of Islam is based on reasoning and practicality and should enhance human dignity in front of God and our fellow men. Therefore, any act or provision that diminishes human dignity is discouraged. Intoxicants and other forms of addiction are forbidden in Islam. At the same time, the provision of any form of help or charity is strongly encouraged, no matter how small it may be. Additionally, the dignity and rights of those who are disadvantaged (e.g., orphans) are to be safeguarded.


As we become aware of injunctions and recommendations, we need to not only follow them in our personal lives but also create legal and social provisions to ensure that they are followed by others. Too many of God’s injunctions go unnoticed or unim- plemented in Islamic countries or by Muslim communities, yet there is a rise in ritual prayers, so-called Islamic dressing, and in some countries, shamefully, religious police enforcement, whose very acts are un-Islamic but are done in the name of preserving Islam. Unless we straighten out our priorities and focus on the key enablers of human upliftment, such as education, a just society, personal freedom, serving citizens, etc., no amount of pretentiously serving God will bring the Muslims out of the quagmire and despair we are in. For example, how is it that though the very first word in the Qur’an is “Read,” Muslim masses all over remain less educated and their leaders remain consumed by material consumption and the preservation of power rather than the education of their citizens? How is it that building a so-called Islamic atom bomb (a shameful concept) is more important than increasing economic development?