Reading the Qur’an

This month is Ramadan, and in addition to fasting from dawn to sunset Muslims recite the Qur’an over the course of the month. Yes, the whole thing. It is only 4/5 as long as the New Testament, but still quite a bit longer than, say, a New Yorker article. I’m going to do my best to re-read it myself (or technically, read the English Translation of the Meaning of the Qur’an, since the actual Qur’an, as I understand it, is in spoken/chanted Arabic.
I’m going to pick out some interesting bits as I go, and post them for folks to browse as they are inclined. Anyone else should please feel free to do the same if they happen to be reading and something catches their eye pertaining to economics or power. And of course I’d love to hear your thoughts about the excerpts that I’m sharing. I’ll offer some novice thoughts and questions, although I must say that I’m feeling a bit more humbled by the endeavor than when I first read it six years ago as research for a paper on the shared cooperative elements of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
I’m using the Qur’an Explorer site, with the Mufti Taqi Usmani translation.
First, an overview. So far I’ve read the first and second surahs (chapters). The first is short and sweet:
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful (1) Praise belongs to Allah,  the Lord of all the worlds  (2) The All-Merciful, the Very-Merciful. (3)The Master of the Day of Requital. (4) You alone do we worship, and from You alone do we seek help. (5) Take us on the straight path  (6) The path of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace,  Not of those who have incurred Your wrath, nor of those who have gone astray. (7)
The second is the longest of all, and took up the first 2 1/2 days of reading (the Qur’an is conveniently divided into 30 parts or juz). There’s a LOT going on in there, so I’ll just stick with this for the first dispatch:
Given all of the disturbing news coming out of Iraq and Syria, I have to bring up this passage, which highlights the clear defensive nature of the call to fight.
Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors. (190) And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter. And fight not with them at the Inviolable Place of Worship until they first attack you there, but if they attack you (there) then slay them. Such is the reward of disbelievers. (191) But if they desist, then lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. (192) And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah. But if they desist, then let there be no hostility except against wrong-doers. (193)
This is not to say that we can ignore those who purport to be Muslims but seek to kill noncombantants; nor can we ignore those who claim Christianity (or Judaism) as a rationale for using their wealth and power to oppress others. Nevertheless, scripture suggests different in both cases.
This surah also contains a warning against usury followed by an intriguingly detailed guide to giving loans. Watch out for verse 282 – it’s a big ‘un. The length and detail of this indicates its importance.
Those who take riba (usury or interest) will not stand but as stands the one whom the demon has driven crazy by his touch. That is because they have said: “Sale is but like riba.’’, while Allah has permitted sale, and prohibited riba. So, whoever receives an advice from his Lord and desists (from indulging in riba), then what has passed is allowed for him, and his matter is up to Allah. As for the ones who revert back, those are the people of Fire. There they will remain forever. (275) Allah destroys riba and nourishes charities, and Allah does not like any sinful disbeliever. (276) Surely those who believe and do good deeds, and establish Salah (prayer) and pay Zakah will have their reward with their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve. (277)
O you who believe, fear Allah and give up what still remains of riba, if you are believers. (278) But if you do not (give it up), then listen to the declaration of war from Allah and His Messenger. However, If you repent, yours is your principal. Neither wrong, nor be wronged. (279) If there is one in misery, then (the creditor should allow) deferment till (his) ease, and that you forgo it as alms is much better for you, if you really know. (280) Be fearful of a day when you shall be returned to Allah, then every person shall be paid, in full, what he has earned, and they shall not be wronged. (281)
O you who believe, when you transact a debt payable at a specified time, put it in writing, and let a scribe write it between you with fairness. A scribe should not refuse to write as Allah has educated him. He, therefore, should write. The one who owes something should get it written, but he must fear Allah, his Lord, and he should not omit anything from it. If the one who owes is feeble-minded or weak or cannot dictate himself, then his guardian should dictate with fairness. Have two witnesses from among your men, and if two men are not there, then one man and two women from those witnesses whom you like, so that if one of the two women errs, the other woman may remind her. The witnesses should not refuse when summoned. And do not be weary of writing it down, along with its due date, no matter whether the debt is small or large. That is more equitable in Allah’s sight, and more supportive as evidence, and more likely to make you free of doubt. However, if it is a spot transaction you are effecting between yourselves, there is no sin on you, should you not write it. Have witnesses when you transact a sale. Neither a scribe should be made to suffer, nor a witness. If you do (something harmful to them), it is certainly a sin on your part, and fear Allah. Allah educates you, and Allah is All-Knowing in respect of everything. (282)
If you are on a journey, and find no scribe, then (you may have resort to holding something as) mortgage, taken into possession. However, if one of you trusts the other, then the one who has been trusted should fulfill his trust, and should fear Allah, his Lord. Do not conceal testimony. Whoever conceals it, his heart is surely, sinful. Allah is All-Aware of what you do. (283)
And to end on a nice note, here’s another passage undermining the scriptural basis of Islamic State:
There is no compulsion in religion. The right direction is henceforth distinct from error. And he who rejecteth false deities and believeth in Allah hath grasped a firm handhold which will never break. Allah is Hearer, Knower. (256)
I’m a bit behind, but I’ll hopefully get another batch through surah 6 over the weekend.


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