Blogging the Qur’an: Sura 9, “Repentance,” verses 81-129

Blogging the Qur’an: Sura 9, “Repentance,” verses 81-129


Allah then excoriates Muslims who refused to accompany Muhammad on his expedition to Tabuk, where he had hoped to fight the Byzantines in the year 631 (vv. 81-89). Some begged off because of the scorching heat in Arabia, making an expedition particularly trying — leading Allah to taunt them about the heat of hell, for “they hated to strive and fight,” that is, wage jihad (yujahidoo, يُجَاهِدُوا) “with their goods and their persons, in the cause of Allah” (v. 81). Ibn Kathir explains: “if they have any comprehension or understanding, they would have marched with the Messenger of Allah during the heat, so as to save themselves from the Fire of Jahannam [Hell], which is much more severe.”

Even if the Hypocrites were to change their minds and want to join Muhammad on a future expedition, they are forever barred from doing so (v. 83). Muhammad and the Muslims should not even pray for them when they die (v. 84). They will be punished in this world also (v. 85 — a repeat of v. 55). But Muhammad and the Muslims who do “strive and fight [jahadoo, جَاهَدُواْ] with their wealth and their persons” will enter the gardens of Paradise (vv. 88-89).

Allah singles out for the Bedouin Arabs for especial criticism for not going to Tabuk (vv. 90-105). Ibn Juzayy says that this in itself invalidated their claim to be Muslim: “They were the people who did not go on jihad nor ask excuses to stay behind them, so they lied when they claimed to believe.” This is not to say that no one can be excused from jihad: one may stay behind if he is “infirm, or ill,” or has “no resources to spend (on the cause)” (v. 91). Ibn Kathir explains the conditions: “Allah mentions here the valid excuses that permit one to stay away from fighting. He first mentions the excuses that remain with a person, the weakness in the body that disallows one from Jihad, such as blindness, limping, and so forth. He then mentions the excuses that are not permanent, such as an illness that would prevent one from fighting in the cause of Allah, or poverty that prevents preparing for Jihad. There is no sin in these cases if they remain behind, providing that when they remain behind, they do not spread malice or try to discourage Muslims from fighting, but all the while observing good behavior in this state.”

But the rich claim exemption (v. 93) and present excuses to Muhammad, who is not to accept them (v. 94), for these people are unclean (v. 95). The worst unbelievers and Hypocrites are the Bedouins (v. 97). Allah accused some of them of plotting against Muhammad, and warned that their plots would backfire (v. 98). However, some truly believe (v. 99). Allah may forgive those who repent of their wrongdoings, who have “mixed an act that was good with another that was evil” (v. 102). Ibn Juzayy explains that “this ayat was sent down about Abu Lubaba. His virtuous action was jihad and his bad action consisted of advising the Banu Qurayza” — that is, the Jewish tribe that broke their covenant with the Muslims and that Muhammad subsequently had massacred. Those who repent can seal their repentance by giving alms (vv. 103-104).

Allah contrasts false belief with the genuine article (vv. 106-112). On the way back from Tabuk, Muhammad received news about a mosque that a group of Muslims had built in opposition to his authority. Allah gave him a revelation making clear the malign intent of the builders, despite their protestations of good intentions (v. 107). Muhammad ordered his followers to burn the mosque to the ground. Ibn Kathir says that its builders had “made it an outpost for those who warred against Allah and His Messenger.”

Allah then guarantees of Paradise to those who “kill and are killed” for him (v. 111). This verse has become in the modern age the rationale for suicide bombing. Ibn Kathir explains: “Allah states that He has compensated His believing servants for their lives and wealth — if they give them up in His cause — with Paradise.” Ibn Juzayy adds, significantly: “It is said that it was sent down about the Homage of Aqaba [an early pledge of Muslims’ willingness to wage war for Islam], but its judgment is general to every believer doing jihad in the way of Allah until the Day of Rising.”

So it has been understood. Abu Abdel Aziz, a modern-day jihadist who fought in Afghanistan and Bosnia, said in a 1994 interview: “I have found that the best sacrifice we can offer for the sake of Allah, is our souls, then our possession[s].” Then he quoted v. 111.

The Qur’an says that this promise of Paradise to those who kill and are killed for Allah is also in the Torah and Gospel, but in reality, it isn’t — which is in itself more evidence for pious Muslims that those documents have been tampered with.

Allah emphasizes that loyalty to Allah comes before everything, and that he controls all (vv. 113-129). Muhammad and the Muslims should not pray for pagans, even relatives (v. 113, cf. v. 84). Abraham even dissociated himself from his father when he realized he was an “enemy of Allah” (v. 114). Allah will not mislead a people after he has guided them to the truth (v. 115) — Ibn Juzayy explains: “This ayat was sent down about some Muslims who asked forgiveness for the idolaters without permission and then they feared for themselves on that account and so the ayat was sent down to console them, i.e. Allah would not take you to task for that before it was clear to you that it was forbidden.”

The “three who were left behind” who are forgiven in v. 118 were three Muslims who, according to Ibn Juzayy, “stayed behind the Tabuk expedition without excuse and without hypocrisy nor intention to stay behind.” The believers must “Fear Allah and be with those who are true,” which means, according to as-Suyuti, “to be truthful in everything and in every situation.” However, Muhammad is said to have allowed for lying “in battle, for bringing reconciliation amongst persons and the narration of the words of the husband to his wife, and the narration of the words of a wife to her husband (in a twisted form in order to bring reconciliation between them).”

The people of Medina and the Bedouins should not have hesitated to follow Muhammad, because anything they suffered in that adventure would have been credited to them as a deed of righteousness. Nothing that infuriates the unbelievers will go unrewarded (v. 120). However, all the Muslims need not go forth to wage jihad warfare (v. 122). Ibn Abbas says, “it is not necessary for all the Muslims to go on raids.” This is a foundation for the Islamic legal principle that jihad is fard kifaya — that is, a community obligation from which some are freed if others take it up. Jihad becomes fard ayn, or obligatory on every believer, when a Muslim land is attacked. In general, Muslims must fight against the unbelievers, and be harsh toward them (v. 123).

The suras of the Qur’an increase the Muslims’ faith (v. 124), but only add to the doubts of the disbelievers (vv. 125-127).

(Revised May 2015)

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Reporter Kicked Out Of Michelle Obama
Conference For Violating ‘Black Girl Code’

The Black Entertainment Television channel recently hosted a conference in south Florida for black women known as “Leading Women Defined,” which featured a casual conversation between former first lady Michelle Obama and former senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett.

But according to the New York Post’s Page Six, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who was in attendance was booted from the remainder of the conference after she wrote an article about some of the comments Obama had made during the discussion.

Robin Givhan, a fashion critic and staff writer for The Washington Post, documented the highlights of the friendly chat between Obama and Jarrett.

Some of the highlights of the conversation included the former first lady’s thoughts on President Donald Trump’s inauguration as the Obamas prepared to leave the White House, the role she played during the 2008 election, her difficulty settling in as “the spouse” to the president, how she described her White House garden as a “subversive act” to garner trust with the public and her upcoming memoir. Of course Givhan also wrote about what Obama was wearing … after all, she is a fashion critic.

But following the publication of the article, according to Page Six, BET demanded Givhan leave the conference early amid claims that she had violated a “sacred space” by publishing the content of the conversation.

They also canceled a panel discussion that Givhan initially had been asked to moderate.

However, Page Six noted that BET’s claim that Obama’s discussion was “private” and not intended to be shared with anyone else outside the small gathering in attendance didn’t hold up to scrutiny given the fact that BET itself posted clips from the discussion on its site.

Furthermore, Jarrett also posted those clips on social media and told everyone to “tune in” to the network so they could hear what Obama had to say.

Shortly thereafter, the dispute descended into a sharp back-and-forth on social media between Givhan and others who were irked at what she had done, as can be seen on Givhan’s Twitter feed.

Several of her critics asserted that the conversation had been “off-the-record” — an assertion Givhan flatly denied — and one user claimed the reporter had “violated a sacred trust” between black women.

Another said what she had done was a “complete violation of journalistic ethics and Black girl code, all at once,” while still another asserted through a hashtag that Givhan was “#notoneofus,” as if she were being banished from the exclusive realm of accepted professional black women.

For their part, a BET representative told Page Six that Givhan had been “invited as a guest (not working press) to moderate a fashion panel,” and noted that her travel and lodging expenses had been paid for by the network.

“She was made aware that it was an intimate conversation in a sacred space of sisterhood and fellowship,” the rep added.

Neither Givhan nor representatives for Obama responded to requests for comment on the report from Page Six.

If the WaPo reporter really was instructed ahead of time that the conversation between Obama and Jarrett was “off the record” and a private affair, but published anyway, then BET was justified in booting her from the remainder of the conference — though the mean-spirited commentary she received on social media still crossed the line.

But if Givhan received no prior warning on the matter — and given the fact that BET itself published the conversation later — then this is just a major display of hypocrisy and unnecessary infighting.

What do you think?


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