Chapter Ma’un- Small kindnesses (17th revealed chapter)
107:1 “Have you considered the one who denies the religion?”
107:2 “Such is the one who treats the orphan with harshness,”
107:3 “and does not encourage the feeding of the needy.”
The chapter started as early as in the 2nd year of revelation with the foundations being established. When the prayers are mentioned, it is not the ritualistic prayers we understand right now. There were no prescribed prayers as we know right now. There was no established religion when “deen” is used. Similarly, there was no such concept as Islam and Muslims. We need to bear this context in mind and understand these verses as being introduced to the foundations. The idea is for me to develop a new world view in the context that I am physically experiencing here. I must start my world view on the sequence of these revealed teachings.
- There was no concept of Islam as religion or “deen” in the earlier revelations. We must look for the meaning of “deen” not as it is known to us in the form of rituals, rather what it means to the development of my humanity.
- I am being taken through the journey of understanding religion.
- I must establish my worldview on the sequence of the teachings of the Qur’an. For us, this is the last revelation, whose original text is preserved.
Speech of the Creator is preserved and repeated because humanity needs guidance. The prior speech was corrupt because back then there was no reliable means of recording and we usually adjust things (including revelation) according to our likings. As long as the original text is not lost as being the word of an Eternal Creator, then there is no reason to renew it.
As revelation took place in different places at different times, every revelation was a correction and clarification of the previous one. The addressees at the time of this verse had no connection with what was happening elsewhere as we do now. The revelation reveals according to the needs of the people and according to their environments. Let’s not put our ideas that there was one prophet at one time only.
Why does the Quran reference so much Torah (Hebrew Bible) and Moses?
- Limiting the teachings of the Torah to only one race.
This mentality of chosen people, our race, ignoring the rest of the races is contradictory to a human being. By mentioning the names of some Arab prophets disliked by the children of Israel should not restrict the human mind to a representative or presenter of God available to a certain chosen people.
At every society in every age, there was a person employed to convey the truth. Back then, they did not have the concept of having a scripture text or Prophets and so they needed to be directed through live representatives of God. The following is prevalent in every culture:
- Racial pride.
- The concept of God exists in people’s mind, but they did not have any established and satisfying way of communicating with God.
People called Agnostics have a concept of God as well. God introduced religion to a kind of people who had no background of religion at all. When the Prophet came with similar concepts and presented to the Bedouin Arabs who were admiring the Arab Jews for their way of life, there was no resistance at all among the Medinan Arab population. Judaism and Christianity were almost the only known religions referred to as God’s revelation.
Torah sources were the only sources known to Medinan people. Quran brought in what is missed out and brought it back.
The directly revealed scriptures by God as known to Medinan population were the three monotheistic religions at the time of the revelation of the Qur’an. Two of these introduce ethical teachings and were taken as such, not how we are going to study matters related to belief.
Quran has two functions:
- Introducing/refreshing the belief system which is established around the pivot of Oneness of God and explaining everything as God being Absolute and creates and controls the whole universe. Nothing shares its Dominion.
- Demonstrates the corrupted part of the prior revelations (mainly belief, moral and practical teachings), correcting the corrupted paths and completing omitted stories. Example: In our era, some people are trying to remove some verses on “Jihad” from the Quran i.e., such verses are being abrogated for their own political agenda. This is an example of a corruption that happened to the previous revelations.
“Islam” is the attitude of a person, ready to submit to the truth. “Muslim” is the one who submits to the truth. Non-Believer (Munkar or Kafir) is the one who rejects the truth.
107:1 – Have you considered the one who denies the religion?
What is religion? We cannot approach religion as an institutionalized religion. Take it as an ideology or worldview within yourself. The root is “daana”, dayn, adyaan (plural), duyuun (plural) means “debts”. They all come from the root “daana”. When you are in debt to someone, the word is “dayn”. Where the “duyuun” (debts) are paid is called “Medina.” For example, IRS is where the taxes are paid. In practical culture, Medina was where the debts were paid i.e. taxes. Symbolizing the capital city of the administration.
What does deny religion mean? They do not want to pay their debt (responsibility) to the authority it is due to. They deny their debt. In other words, I am denying that I owe something to someone.
How does this fit into the Quranic teaching? Why does God send revelation by definition?
- Is the Quran saying not to deny your debt to people?
- God, you are telling me that I have to pay debt to the loan giver. Every society knows that if you have a debt, you have to return/pay it back.
I know that I have to pay debt, it is in my humanity. The Quran must explain a new way of making me understand this. The main purpose of the Quran is how to establish Absoluteness of God and maintain a relationship with Him. Establish the notion of God i.e. relationship between me and my Creator.
- Who are we in this world? Do we owe anything to Him?
- Who bought me to this world? Do I owe anything to Him?
- The universe, whole world, my existence is given to me. For example, the relationships with parents. We know that parents have taken care of me growing up given the conditions of this universe. I feel indebted to the already given favors.
The Quran says don’t deny your debt
- Ask yourself: What am I indebted to?
- Quranic verse (55:67): “Then which favors of your Lord will you deny?”
- Quranic verse (14:34): “And He gave you from all you asked of Him. And if you should count the favors of your Lord, you could not enumerate them. Indeed, mankind is most unjust and ungrateful.”
Early revelations are more poetic than the later ones. Early revelations are mostly abstract, talking to the human psyche. The verses in the Medinan time changes with less poetry and more conversational Arabic. In our understanding, we may still be a pagan, that is why we need to benefit from the message of the Quran as being revealed anew to us.
Tags: Al-Maun, Expectations, Full Satisfaction, Ma'un Series, Source of Existence, Worldview