Juz 8 contains the last 55 verses of Surat al- An'am and the first 87 verses of Surat al-A’raaf. In today’s episode, we’ll explore a few verses from Surat al-An’am which criticise the flawed ethical pre-Islamic practices of the pagans. One of these flawed practices was that they formed their own laws entirely arbitrarily without divine guidance and wisdom. Unlike their forged laws, every law that Allah (swt) places has a certain wisdom behind it and is not randomly constructed. Moreover, the basic laws of Allah (swt) as espoused in all divine religions and as a part of the message of all Prophets are discussed in verses 150-157. These standards are the foundation of all divine religions. Surat al- An'am ends with a beautiful message for us that we should perform every action for the sake of Allah (swt) through His divine guidance.
Innaa Hadha Al Qur'ana Yahdee li-latee hiya aqwamu wo yo-bashir Al mu'mineen Al-lathi ya'malun al-salihat Anna lahum Ajran Kabira (17:9) [Verily, this Qur'an guides to that which is the most upright, and gives good tidings to the believers who do righteous deeds that they shall have a great reward. (17:9)]
Juz 8. 'A'udhu billahi min as-shaytani r-rajim(I seek refuge in Allah from the outcast Shaitan). Bism-Illah, ar-Rahman, ar-Rahim. I begin in the name of Allah, Compassionate to all, Merciful to each. As-salamu alaykum, and welcome to the eighth episode in this podcast series titled, "Journeying Our Eyes Through the Qur'an: Exploring 30 Juz in 30 days".
Today, InshaAllah, we will continue our journey through the pages of the Qur'an, as we take a brief look into the eighth Juz of the Qur'an, which consists of the last 55 verses of Surat al-An'am - "The Cattle" and the first 87 verses of Surat al-A'raf - "The Elevations".
Both of these surahs are Meccan, unlike the others that we have mainly discussed thus far. What this means is that the major themes of these chapters include critiques of pagan and polytheistic practices, as well as explanations of the basic tenets of Islam, namely Tawhid (Oneness of God), Nabuwwah(Prophecy), and Ma'ad (Resurrection). While Surat al-An'am is a Meccan surah and as such, does not explore topics of Islamic law in detail in the same way that Medinan surahs do, it does mention some general concepts of laws and the basic Shari'ah(Islamic Law) that was revealed to all Prophets, and it is these general concepts that will be our discussion for today.
To start the discussion and the chapter, we see that Allah, Subhana Wa Ta'ala, critiques the practices and laws that took place in pre-Islamic Arabia, and he critiques their ethical foundation, calling them baseless. From verses 136 to 146, there is a lengthy description of how the polytheistic non-Muslims had devised their own rules for sacrificing animals. Among these verses, 'cattle' are mentioned as one of the animals that were sacrificed, and that is where the chapter takes its name, "An'am". Note, verses 138 to 140, whose translation we will now read:
"And they say, 'These animals and crops are restricted; none may eat them, except those we permit,' by their claims, and animals whose backs are forbidden, and animals over which they do not pronounce the name of God - fabricating lies against Him. He will repay them for what they used to invent" (6:138). "And they say, 'What lies in the wombs of these animals is exclusively for our males, and prohibited to our wives.' But if it is stillborn, they can share in it. He will surely punish them for their allegations. He is Wise and Knowing" (6:139). "Lost are those who kill their children foolishly, with no basis in knowledge, and forbid what God has provided for them - innovations about God. They have gone astray. They are not guided" (6:140).
Some of the pre-Islamic practices mentioned here are with regards to dietary law and sacrificial law. They used to forbid the consumption of something inside the animal, likely a fetus, according to Allamah Tabataba'i, for women, while permitting it for men, an exception being if the fetus was stillborn. In addition to these flawed dietary laws, they used to participate in honour killings - killing their children with no good reason. What is interesting about these verses is that Allah, Subhana Wa Ta'ala, calls them out for creating their own standards of what is good and bad, or what is permissible and impermissible. They created laws arbitrarily with zero divine guidance and zero reason and zero foundation. There were bid'ahs [innovations], and they were not actually rules that Allah, Subhana Wa Ta'ala, had created for them.
There was no rule that Allah had said, to allow women to eat this or to not allow women to eat this, or to allow only men to eat this. What this shows is that an important component of laws is that they should be rooted in the divine, in accordance with a strong foundation, i.e. Allah, Subhana Wa Ta'ala. They are not up to us to create arbitrarily. In this regard, Allah, Subhana Wa Ta'ala, says:
"Bism-Illah, ar-Rahman, ar-Rahim". "Am kuntum shuhada'a idh wassakum Ullaahu bi hadha; fa man adhlamu mimman iftaraa 'al Allahi kadhiba liyuddilla an-nasa bighairi 'ilm;(6:144) "Were you witnesses when Allah enjoined this upon you? So who is a greater wrongdoer than him who fabricates a lie against Allah to mislead the people without any knowledge?" (6:144).
In somewhat this verse means is Allah is asking, were you there when Allah said this? When did Allah say it? We know that in Islam we do have restrictions and dietary laws that must be followed. The details of many of these are mentioned in the Qur'an, albeit in later verses that were revealed in Medina, in Medinan surahs.
Sometimes when we think about it, it may seem arbitrary. What is the difference between the laws that we have and some of the laws that are mentioned in this verse? But the difference is not always in what something looks like or the form of it, but rather, it is contingent on whether or not it is rooted in Allah's wisdom.
The verses continue to give a general overview of the halal types of meat, and mention how the Jewish people, or Bani Israel, had more stringent measures on their dietary restrictions. Some of what used to be forbidden for them maybe halal for us, and the reason that this was forbidden for them was a consequence for their actions and due to Allah, Subhana Wa Ta'ala's wisdom and desire to test and purify them. This does not mean that Allah's Law is arbitrary or randomly applicable or non-applicable - sometimes to us and sometimes to them - but rather what it means is that these were permissible foods that were forbidden to them for a specific reason.
While the rules may be different in these scenarios, they were not arbitrary. They were both rooted in the guidance of Allah, Subhana Wa Ta'ala, , and this is what is important. After addressing this ethical discussion from verses 150-157 of the same surah, Surat al-An'am, Allah, Subhana Wa Ta'ala, discusses the basic tenets of all revealed religions; ethical laws that are basic but also entirely in line with the 'aql(intellect). As a Meccan surah, we will note that these explanations and injunctions are relatively basic, and do not enter a lot of detail like the laws that are mentioned in later Medinan surahs.
These were the messages of all of God's Prophets, the heart of our Shari'ah, and included the following injunctions: one, not associating partners with Allah, Subhana Wa Ta'ala, as mentioned in verses 6:150 to 6:151; two, not being unkind to parents, as mentioned in 6:151; three, not committing indecencies or fahisha, as mentioned in verse 6:151; four, not killing any innocent souls without a just cause, including killing one's own children in fear of poverty, as mentioned in verse 6:151; five, not laying hands on the property of orphans except in good cause to help them, as mentioned in verse 6:152; six, not giving full measure and weight with justice, or committing financial corruption, which is mentioned in verse 6:152; seven, avoiding unjust speech, as mentioned in verse 6:152; eight, to fulfill Allah, Subhana Wa Ta'ala's covenant, which is mentioned in verse 6:153; and nine, not to follow any other path other than that of Allah, Subhana Wa Ta'ala, and that this results in religious disagreement, as mentioned in verse 6:155.
These religious standards base the unity over which the divine religions were revealed. It is interesting to note that since this was revealed in Mecca, we see very general injunctions and reminders of prior religions and that Islam is tied to these previous revealed religions. In verses 6:154-157, Allah(SWT) mentions the Tawrat, i.e. the Old Testament. And the Rasul Allah's message is tied to this message of the other prophets, showing and indicating that throughout time there has been a singular, unified thread and message of Tawhid that makes the basis of our religion. Sura't al-An'am ends off with a beautiful conversation with Allah, Subhana Wa Ta'ala, and somewhat of a 'mantra' of what our attitude should be to life.
Everything that we do should be for the sake of Allah, Subhana Wa Ta'ala, we are responsible for our own actions and it is Allah, Subhana Wa Ta'ala, who has blessed us, especially with guidance and by making humans, his representatives on Earth.
"Bism-Illah, ar-Rahman, ar-Rahim."Qul innani hadani Rabbi illa Siratim Mustaqimin deenan qiyaman Millata Ibrahima hanifa; wa ma kana min al-mushrikeen". (6:161)'Say, 'Indeed, my Lord has guided me to a straight path, the upright religion, the creed of Abraham, a Hanif, and he was not one of the polytheists.'
"Qul inna Salati wa nusuki wa mahyaya wa mamate lil-Lahi Rabbil 'alamin" (6:162) 'Say, 'Indeed, my prayer and my worship, my life and my death are for the sake of Allah, the Lord of all the worlds.'
"La sharika lahu wa bidhalika umirtu wa ana awwalu al-muslimin" (6:163)'He has no partner. And I have been commanded to follow this creed. And I am the first of those who submit to Allah.'
"Qul aghaira Allahi abghi Rabbana wa Huwa Rabbu kulli shaiy'n; wa la taksibu kullu nafsin illaa 'alaihaa; wa la taziru wa aziratun wizra ukhra; thumma ila Rabbikum marji'ukum fa yunabbi'ukum bima kuntum fihi takhtalifun" (6:164) 'Say, 'Shall I seek a Lord other than Allah, while He is the Lord of all things? No soul does evil except against itself, and no bearer shall bear another's burden. Then to your Lord will be your return where He will inform you concerning that, about which you used to differ'.
"Wa Huwa alladhi ja'alakum khala'ifa al-ardi wa rafa'a ba'dakum fawqa ba'din darajatin liyabluwakum fi ma atakum; inna Rabbaka sari'u al-'iqaabi wa innahu laGhafuru ar-Rahim (6:165) 'It is He who has made you successors on the Earth and raised some of you in rank above others so that He may test you in respect to what He has given you. Indeed, your Lord is swift in retribution, and indeed He is all-forgiving, all-merciful.'
Wa Al-Hamdulil-Lahi Rabbi Al-Alameen, wa salla Allahu alaa nabiyyina Muhammadin, wa alihi, al-tayibeen, al-tahireen. Wa assalamu alaykum, wa rahmatullahi, wa baraktu.
Rabbana La tuzigh Qulubana (3:8) [Our Lord, let not our hearts deviate (3:8)]