Using Scripture for Our Own Petty Ends
Sheikh Salman al-Oadah
A woman was chairing a conference. One of the male participants found her infuriating, especially the way she was involved in the details of the proceedings, regulated the time of the speakers, the seating arrangements, summarily concluded difficult points of the discussion, and was pretentious in her attempts at Arabic fluency.
When it came time for him to speak, he blurted out: "A people will not succeed who put a woman in charge of their affairs!"
Now, our purpose right now is not to discuss the meaning of this hadîth or the rulings that are derived from it. What concerns us is the way this man used a hadîth to vent his personal frustrations. Is it right to take cheap shots at others using the words of the Prophet (peace be upon him)?
On another occasion, a man had a disagreement with his friend – who was also his cousin and neighbor – over a money issue. They had been involved in some business venture that failed. A lot of money was lost and a lot of big hopes when up in smoke. Sadly, the two men had a falling out over it.
Some time later, a family function brought them together again. The time for prayer arrived, and the one cousin stepped forward to lead the prayer. This was nothing out of the ordinary, since he held a university degree in Islamic studies.
What did he recite in prayer? In the first unit, he recited: "Do not think that Allah is heedless about what the wrongdoers are doing. He but gives them respite against a Day when the eyes will fixedly stare in horror!" [Sûrah Ibrâhîm: 42]
In the second unit, he recited: "Did you not see how Allah dealt with the companions of the elephants!" [Sûrah al-Fîl: 1]
What he was hinting at was blatantly obvious to everyone. At the time, there was a civil case pending in court between the two cousins regarding their business dispute. Now religion was being brought into it, as one of the former friends hurled verses of the Qur'ân at the other, verses that had nothing to do with their dispute.
Allah does not permit us to use His verses in this way. They were revealed for a purpose, and for their intended meanings, not for us to use them out of context in our personal squabbles. They were certainly not revealed to give us a broader palate of insults to enrage others with. Indeed, the Qur'ân is supposed to be a comfort and a healing for the believers.
After prayer, this cousin was still not finished. While they were all still sitting down in their prayer positions, he took the opportunity to exhort them on how some of those who pray, their prayers do not increase them except in estrangement from Allah. –(incidentally, that statement is not authentically attributed to the Prophet) – especially those who seize the wealth of others unjustly, and do so under false pretenses, and..., and ...
This is a violation of the trust that we assume when we acquire religious knowledge. It is a betrayal of that trust to take the verses of the Qur'ân and the hadîth that Allah blesses us to know and use them to wage personal arguments. This becomes all the worse when it causes those of lesser Islamic knowledge to retaliate by rejecting the verses themselves or by condemning them.
Allah tells us, speaking about the polytheists: "And do not revile those they pray to besides Allah, lest they out of spite revile Allah in their ignorance." [Sûrah al-An`âm: 108]
To keep our hearts pure, we must never forget the importance of conveying Allah's message, and the great trust that this entails. It is essential that we endear people's hearts to Islam, to Allah, and to the Prophet (peace be upon him). This means we must never co-opt the meaning of the scriptures to our own petty ends, to score points in our arguments. Religious truths should not be brought down to such a level.
Allah says: "Be not in haste (O Muhammad) with the Qur'an before its revelation to you is completed, but say, 'O my Lord! advance me in knowledge'. " [Sûrah TâHâ: 114]