[Stories from the Quran] An Uncalled-For Murder

quran-2The Background

This is a story about the nature of evil, anger and hostility- as well as-the nature of goodness, forgiveness and peace. These two characteristics are in complete contrast, and result in the first murder that humanity ever experienced. This is the story told in Surah Maidah, verses 27 to 31.

Fraternity

“And (O Muhammad (sa)) recite to them (the Jews) the story of the two sons of Adam in truth…”Allah (swt) narrates the tale of two brothers who are the sons of Adam (as). This story occurs only once in the Quran, and we know that it is the truth. No authentic Hadeeth, or Quran, mentions the names of the main characters – the two sons, nor are we told the time or place where the incident occurs. Ibn Qutb says: “Leaving the story in the general terms in which it is given in the Qurān ensures that the purpose of relating it is fulfilled and its lessons are understood”.

Generally, siblings fight with each other, but they also love and protect one another; this is inherent in our nature as humans. Siblings are essentially the people we are closest to and care about. So, let’s see what happened between the two sons that resulted in a violent crime.

Faith or Fury?

“…when each offered a sacrifice (to Allah), it was accepted from the one but not from the other.”

Each of the sons offered a sacrifice to Allah (swt). This situation in any normal person’s mind is about pleasing and obedience to Allah (swt). However, when they both offered their sacrifices, one was accepted and the other was not. The Quran or Hadeeth does not detail the nature of how an offering was accepted at that time; hence, we deem it as unimportant. What we must focus on is that one son offered the best sacrifice only to please and obey Allah (swt), he proved to be God-fearing; while, the other brother’s sacrifice was not accompanied by Taqwa.

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The fire of desire

“The latter said to the former: I will surely kill you.” This statement clearly shows the evil intent of one brother. It makes us shocked and horrified. How can such a severe punishment be given for no crime at all? We all disapprove of this son’s behaviour and thought process. The only reason for such a statement is envy. Envy is a serious disease of the heart; it is what led Iblees towards pride, which resulted in Allah’s (swt) disobedience.

“The former said: Verily, Allah accepts only from those who are Al-Muttaqun. If you do stretch your hand against me to kill me, I shall never stretch my hand against you to kill you, for I fear Allah; the Lord of the ‘Alamin (mankind, Jinns, and all that exists).Verily, I intend to let you draw my sin on yourself as well as yours, then you will be one of the dwellers of the Fire, and that is the recompense of the Zalimun (polytheists and wrong-doers).”

Envy is a serious disease of the heart; it is what led Iblees towards pride, which resulted in Allah’s (swt) disobedience.

The other brother did not react violently; he remained calm and tried to reason with his sibling. He put the entire matter in a proper perspective. This son of Adam said that, “It is not you or I who is better- it is the way we perform our sacrifices for Allah (swt).” This brother after explaining why the sacrifice was not accepted tried to reason with his sibling. He assured his brother, “I shall not lay my hand on you to kill you…” He feared Allah (swt) and would not commit a sin, even though he was being wronged. This was his advice, in a gentle calm manner.

Ibn Qutb describes this as, “What we have here is a case of a peaceful man making clear that his attitude is based on fearing God and implementing His commandments. We must admire the victim’s calmness, reassurance, and the fact that he fears God alone. His gentle words should have been sufficient to quench his brother’s rage, reduce his anger, re-establish the feelings of brotherhood and the reassurance of faith.”

The just brother added a warning- in case his gentle words were not heeded. He said that, “If you murder me, it would only add to all your other sins and you would ultimately be a loser.” The murdering brother would be gaining a double sin. He, the just brother, was staying on the right path at the stake of his life. He was not ready to go against Allah’s (swt) commands.

The narcotic Nafs

“So the Nafs (self) of the other (latter one) encouraged him and made fair-seeming to him the murder of his brother; he murdered him and became one of the losers. Then Allah sent a crow who scratched the ground to show him to hide the dead body of his brother. He (the murderer) said: Woe to me! Am I not even able to be as this crow and to hide the dead body of my brother? Then he became one of those who regretted.”

After all the peaceful persuasion and gentle warnings, the crime was committed. The murderer’s evil soul was able to overrule his good side. Following only his Nafs, removed all obstacles and drove him towards killing. He lost a sibling, a brother who was a friend, a shoulder to cry on, and a companion. More importantly, he lost his after life, as he added that new sin to his earlier ones. Once the deed was done, the crime then took on a physical shape in the form of his brother’s dead body. It began to rot and he did not know what to do. He felt helpless and weak, not because he was remorseful, but because he did not know what to do.

Allah (swt) sent a crow who scratched the ground to show him how to hide the dead body. Once he had hidden the body, he was regretful; not because he killed- but because he realized how useless the crime was. This son of Adam (as) did not gain anything from murder; the killing of his brother didn’t make his sacrifice more acceptable to Allah (swt). He was helpless and weak, in complete loss due to his actions – a result of envy and pride.

Moral of the story

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Transcribed and adapted by Tasneem Vali.

Pearls of Peace – An extract from Surah Maidah

pearls7Learning the Quran – a better trade!

Many people do not study Quran or learn the basics of their religion, because they measure it along worldly benefits. People say, “What will I get by studying the Quran? It cannot pay my bills.” When people put the Shariah behind their backs, it is then that they lose peace from their lives. Surrender to Allah (swt), His commands and the teachings of His Prophet (sa) and you will attain peace Insha’Allah. You will see the benefits right away and eventually you will see it was a better trade. May Allah (swt) gives us the ability to surrender to Him and His commands. Ameen.

Then, there are people who conduct debates on Quranic verses. They adopt a pick-and-choose policy in Islam. Sometimes, they would negate the Prophetic narrations and even challenge them. Look at what Allah (swt) says, “This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion. But as for him who is forced by severe hunger, with no inclination to sin (such can eat these above-mentioned meats), then surely, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Al-Maidah 5:3)

This was one of the last verses to be revealed. The Jews present at the time of its revelation commented; if this verse was revealed to them, they would have rejoiced and celebrated that day. What is our attitude in contrast? We challenge the Quran and conduct debates on it? Nothing can be added or deleted from what the Prophet (sa) conveyed to us. The creditability of Shariah is valid till the last moment of this world.

Honouring commitments

Once again, we study the obligation of honouring our commitments, “O you who believe! Fulfill (your) obligations.” (Al-Maidah 5:1) We barely reach on the time that we commit for an appointment. So let’s not talk about our very important  official contracts, as it would lead to nothing but shame.

Then Allah (swt) guides us regarding how we should live with one another in a society, “Help you one another in Al-Birr and At-Taqwa (virtue, righteousness and piety); but do not help one another in sin and transgression.” (Al-Maidah 5:2) A person who plots evil plans cannot live in peace. Likewise, a person, who helps the evil person accomplish his evil plans, earns the burden of the sin as the person who initiated it. Why would someone want to waste his time and energy for something that can never be beneficial for him? Allah (swt) says, “O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah and be just witnesses and let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice.” (Al-Maidah 5:8) Even if you have to stand against your own father or your son in justice do not back away. A Muslim cannot love anyone more than he loves Allah (swt). Therefore, nothing should stop him from abiding by what Allah (swt) has commanded.

Salah – the cleansing gift

Many of us treat Salah as a burden; forgetting that it was actually given as a gift to the Prophet (sa). And because we consider it as a burden, our attitude towards Salah is that of laziness. We delay it to the last possible time, and when we get up, we are least particular about our clothes or purity. Standing in Salah is equivalent to standing before Allah (swt). If one knows he is going to have a meeting with Allah (swt), how should his dress be like and what should be his state of cleanliness? Allah (swt) says, “O you who believe! When you intend to offer As-Salat (the prayer), wash your faces and your hands (forearms) up to the elbows, rub (by passing wet hands over) your heads, and (wash) your feet up to ankles.” (Al-Maidah 5:6)

The Prophet (sa) informed us that every time a person performs ablution, his sins are wiped off. If we consciously remember this statement each time we perform Wudhu, would we rush through it? Bilal’s (ra) footsteps were heard in Paradise because he used to perform fresh ablution for each Salah, and also offer two Rakats of ablution before the Salah.

Not only does a person who performs his ablution correctly, feels contentment and cleanliness; but Shaytan too stays away from a person who is in a state of purity. May Allah (swt) help us understand how high the level of ablution is in His Sight. Ameen.

What happens when we hear the word ‘Shariah’?

Images of one eye and amputated arms cross our minds. Subhan’Allah! It is Allah’s (swt) law that we are talking about. Allah (swt) says, “Cut off (from the wrist joint) the (right) hand of the thief, male or female, as a recompense for that which they committed, a punishment by way of example from Allah. And Allah is All-Powerful, All-Wise.” (Al-Maidah 5:38)

Anywhere in the world, where you see the crime rate high, know that their justice system is weak or probably it is almost non-existent. The reason Allah (swt) has decided for harsh punishment for the criminals, is to deter them and others from repeating the crime. One has to set the example. If the law of Allah (swt) was being followed in its actual sense, would the crime rate and the number of rapes be as high as they are today? May Allah (swt) protect our men, women and children. Ameen.

Halal consumption

Allah (swt) then tells us what we should consume, “And eat of the things which Allah has provided for you, lawful and good, and fear Allah in Whom you believe.” (Al-Maidah 5:88) The Halal and Tayyab means no begging, no stealing and no eyeing what your neighbors are eating. Do not put anything and everything that you come across in your mouth. Find out the source and know what you are eating. Some people live on packaged food and do not give much value to fresh vegetables and fruits. Many of us do not even know where our food comes from. If it is a command from Allah (swt) to be particular about what we are eating, shouldn’t we find the source? Secondly, some people consider it piety to consume stale and rotten food. They would not throw if the food has gone bad, but rather eat it and end up with food poisoning. Allah (swt) has not made Haram upon His slaves to eat good food. What matters is that what you are eating is permissible; it is bought with Halal income, and there is no extravagance in your consumption.

Society blues!

He then talks about some of the prevalent ills of the society, “O you who believe! Intoxicants (all kinds of alcoholic drinks), gambling, Al-Ansab, and Al-Azlam (arrows for seeking luck or decision) are an abomination of Shaytan’s (Satan) handiwork. So avoid (strictly all) that (abomination) in order that you may be successful.” (Al-Maidah 5:90)

The problem of drug addiction has gone out of our hands. Little children are drug addicts. Dad is not home because he is busy drinking with his friends. Some people say, “I am only a social drinker.” as if that is something acceptable. Some say, “Well, the entire world is drinking,” Allah (swt) says, “Say (O Muhammad ): Not equal are Al-Khabith (all that is evil and bad as regards things, deeds, beliefs, persons, foods, etc.) and At-Tayyab (all that is good as regards things, deeds, beliefs, persons, foods, etc.), even though the abundance of Al-Khabith (evil) may please you.” (Al-Maidah 5:100)

Accidents and divorces are taking place due to drug addiction and drinking problem. Homes are breaking and families are tearing apart. Quit this evil habit today and attain peace in your life.

If the entire world is following what is sinful and forbidden; neither should we follow them nor be fearful of their reaction, Allah (swt) says, “O you who believe! Take care of your own selves, [do righteous deeds, fear Allah much (abstain from all kinds of sins and evil deeds which He has forbidden) and love Allah much (perform all kinds of good deeds which He has ordained)]. If you follow the right guidance and enjoin what is right (Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam orders one to do) and forbid what is wrong (polytheism, disbelief and all that Islam has forbidden) no hurt can come to you from those who are in error. The return of you all is to Allah, then He will inform you about (all) that which you used to do.” (Al-Maidah 5:105)

Allah (swt) is the only Being Who we should really revere and be fearful of. Nothing and no one else can destruct us except Him. If we are doing what Allah (swt) commanded us to do, and if we have surrendered to Him, He will protect us and look after our well-being. Insha’Allah.

(Adapted from Mufti Ismail Menk’s “Pearls of Peace” series, Cape Town, Ramadan 2013. The lecture can be listened to at this link.)