In Hajj, people from all over the world meet at the same place, do quite the same things, and go back each to one’s home. Back at home each follows one’s own customs. What do these customs do ? They tell you how to behave well in society. That’s what the Quran does. If if I am a believer, the Quran tells me how to behave well when I am alone and when I am in society. I am never alone, actually. I am physically alone, but my soul is supposed to be linked to the Creator. The Quran helps me handle all my relationships : with myself first, with my kin, with my close community, with my state, with the country I live in, with the Ummah (The Islamic Nation), with mankind, with God and with Satan. In my relationship with myself, for example, I am advised on how to preserve my life, my money, my mind, my faith and my honour. I am advised on how to manage my relation to beauty and greatness. I am advised on how to turn my fragility (instincts, etc.) into a moral strength that preserves my honour and self-esteem. I am advised on how to elevate myself from an animal (a body) into a decent human being (a good soul in a good body).
What about Satan ? Should I fear him ? Well, God says : "Lo! the devil is an enemy for you, so treat him as an enemy." (35 : 6) "Will ye choose him and his seed for your protecting friends instead of Me, when they are an enemy unto you? Calamitous is the exchange for evil-doers." (18 : 50) So if I don’t want to be one of the evil-doers I should not take Satan for a friend. True, as the Quran says, "the devil's strategy is ever weak." (4 : 76) But I should nonetheless be wary of him.
What’s the difference between God and Satan ? Well, "The devil promiseth you destitution and enjoineth on you lewdness. But Allah promiseth you forgiveness from Himself with bounty. Allah is All-Embracing, All-knowing." (2 : 268) "Lo! Satan is for man an open foe." (12 : 5) "Satan was ever man's deserter in the hour of need." (25 : 29) As for God, "it was not Allah's purpose that your faith should be in vain, for Allah is Full of Pity, Merciful towards mankind." (2 : 143) "and He is the Most Merciful of those who show mercy." (12 : 64)
The Quran does not say to me go and sin, but it says if you sin, be honest and say sorry. If I heed Satan for a moment and commit a sin, then I have to repent, and I will be punished even if I repent, so that I will not be encouraged to go on that way, the way of Satan. "Forsake the outwardness of sin and the inwardness thereof. Lo! those who garner sin will be awarded that which they have earned." (6 : 120) God wants to save me. God wants me to lead a clean life in a clean society. If I am not clean I should not expect (my) society to be clean. If society is clean that’s not a guarantee that I’ll be clean too. I have to watch my own acts. If I am married, God would not want me to be constantly watching my wife. I can’t watch her all the time, anyway ! God will make her watch herself by keeping duty to Him, by taqwa. "Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded." (4 : 34) Nobody can watch anybody. I can never totally trust someone's integrity or probity, because anybody can deceive me. Even very, very good believers are fallable : they can make mistakes. So God thought of a way to minimize these mistakes. Scholars call it ( الذرائع سد) or Prohibition of what may lead to committing sins. If you leave a man with a woman alone they are likely to make a mistake, sooner or later. The prophet (pbuh) said : "No man is privately alone with a woman but their third is Satan." If you let your son or little brother go to a place where alcohol and drugs are served freely, he is very likely to do as others do. So what do you do to save him ? You prevent him from going there. If he doesn’t listen to you, what happens ? Idem for the Quran. The Quran prohibits adultery because, as you know, there may be bad consequences for everybody. Would you be pleased if you learnt that the child you call your son, the child you have fed for so many years, was in fact the son of another man ? If that didn’t happen to you personally, well, it did happen to many men. God knows that making love makes one feel so good, but for how long ? God knows that cocaine makes one feel so good, but for how long ? If I can’t marry, for material reasons, for example, and I make a mistake, at least, I should say sorry. At least I should consider that as a sin. "Will they not rather turn unto Allah and seek forgiveness of Him? For Allah is Forgiving, Merciful." (5 : 74) "And those who, when they do an evil thing or wrong themselves, remember Allah and implore forgiveness for their sins - Who forgiveth sins save Allah only? - and will not knowingly repeat (the wrong) they did." (3 : 135) So I should beg God’s pardon and implore Him to give me the means to marry. It’s not a matter of coertion. It’s not because God wants me to suffer from sexual deprivation. It’s because God wants me to elevate myself from an animal into a decent human being. Love was made to encourage people to marry and beget children. Some of these children would hopefully worship God. God knows that I can, if I will, and with His help, do without all that filth. God knows that I can be stronger than Satan and all his temptations. Experience will show me that Satan can sometimes be as good as a lion in a cage, and it’s I who will go and let him out of the cage. Experience will show me that I wouldn’t make such mistakes only if I were weak. Sometimes I would do it soon after being relieved from a long suffering ! "And if misfortune touch a man he crieth unto Us, (while reclining) on his side, or sitting or standing, but when We have relieved him of the misfortune he goeth his way as though he had not cried unto Us because of a misfortune that afflicted him." (10 : 12) What would I expect God to do to me in that case ? So when God punishes me for my mistakes, it’s because He wants me to be an honest, decent person. "O men of understanding! O ye who believe! Now Allah hath sent down unto you a reminder, A messenger reciting unto you the revelations of Allah made plain, that He may bring forth those who believe and do good works from darkness unto light. And whosoever believeth in Allah and doeth right, He will bring him into Gardens underneath which rivers flow, therein to abide for ever. Allah hath made good provision for him." (65 : 11) And even the worst punishment God would inflict on me, because of my mistakes, will only do me good ultimately. That’s a sign for me to know how God only wants good for me, how God wants me to be happy, how God loves me before I love Him. "O ye who believe! Whoso of you becometh a renegade from his religion, (know that in his stead) Allah will bring a people whom He loveth and who love Him." (5 : 54) God wants me to feel embarrased, ashamed of myself, so that I say SORRY. "O man! What hath made thee careless concerning thy Lord, the Bountiful, Who created thee, then fashioned, then proportioned thee? Into whatsoever form He will, He casteth thee." (82 : 6-8)
I too could say why should I be punished in the first place since it’s God who made Satan and gave him the power to mislead me ? Now, suppose your lovely beloved only son stole a car and went to prison, would you take responsibility for that ? Would you agree to go to prison in his place, because it’s you who did not give him the right upringing ? Maybe your son is good and would never do such things, but suppose your wife’s car was stolen by the son of a single mother who made love with her boyfriend during a school outing. Would your wife curse the boy who stole the car or the ex-High School student who gave birth to him ? If you (man) slept with a girl that you picked up on the street and you got AIDS, who would you blame for that ? The girl, her parents, yourself, society ? If you got a bad illness because of the junkfood you eat everyday, would you penalize the big food companies or the new ways of life or society, or who? Would you blame the whole food chain? The Quran sensitizes and empowers the faithful. The Quran speaks of nafs ammara (literally, the soul inciting to evil) and nafs lawama (The soul which blames itself) and nafs mutmainna (the soothed soul). It’s up to me, as a believer, to manage my nafs, with the help of God. "And a soul and Him Who perfected it And inspired it (with conscience of) what is wrong for it and (what is) right for it. He is indeed successful who causeth it to grow, And he is indeed a failure who stunteth it." (91 : 7-10) "But ah! thou soul at peace! Return unto thy Lord, content in His good pleasure! Enter thou among My bondmen! Enter thou My Garden!" (89 : 27-30) The Quran helps me organize my life as an individual and helps individuals to organize their life as a community. The Quran sets a set of rules, some are very specific, others are general. There are things that any literate believer can take directly from the Quran. Other things need erudition. Our erudites help us understand not only the words but also the spirit of the Quran. Anyone can know directly from the Quran how to give thanks to God for all His grace. "See ye not how Allah hath made serviceable unto you whatsoever is in the skies and whatsoever is in the earth and hath loaded you with His favours both without and within? Yet of mankind is he who disputeth concerning Allah, without knowledge or guidance or a scripture giving light." (31 : 20) But when it comes to handling our complex relations within society we need serious knowledge inspired by the Quran and the Haddith. It’s our scholars, those who have the knowledge, who tell us how we can accomplish our mission as viceroys of God in the earth. "Ask the followers of the Remembrance if ye know not!" (16 : 43) "remember Allah, as He hath taught you that which (heretofore) ye knew not." (2 : 239) "If only there had been among the generations before you men possessing a remnant (of good sense) to warn (their people) from corruption in the earth, as did a few of those whom We saved from them!" (11 : 116) Life in society needs organization. People need to know their rights and obligations ; they need to know, for example, the extent of the freedom they are allowed in society. But people also need to understand why they should abstain from doing things that others, in the same society, would do without embarrassment. Even a truly intellectual person can end up obeying God’s do’s and don’ts without protesting. That’s ’ibada, worship. But there’s ’ibada (worship) and ma’rifa (knowledge). I strive, within the faith, to understand, to know the end God "had in mind" when He commanded this or prohibited that. God says : "They question thee about strong drink and games of chance. Say: In both is great sin, and (some) utility for men; but the sin of them is greater than their usefulness." (2 : 219) As a believer, I understand that God did not prohibit that without reason: "the sin of them is greater than their usefulness." For practical reasons. If I want alcohol or drugs or sex out of wedlock or whatever to be depenalized time will show me the bad consequences of such a decision. Take men-women relationships, for example. From a societal point of view, there might be no problem for a sensible, honest, faithful woman to receive her male friend in her tent or in her personal room. But it’s because human experience has always shown that people don’t behave in the same way and that man can be weak that religion wanted to put rules and regulations. "And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment save to their own husbands or fathers or husbands' fathers, or their sons or their husbands' sons, or their brothers or their brothers' sons or sisters' sons, or their women, or their slaves, or male attendants who lack vigour, or children who know naught of women's nakedness. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And turn unto Allah together, O believers, in order that ye may succeed." (24 : 31) Even in positive law many people tend to look for loopholes and derogations in order to get that which is not theirs, to circumvent the law. Freedom is not only an individual responsibilty. It’s also a collective responsibilty. If the City (the state, the authority) outlaws the use of drugs, for example, the aim is noble, the aim is to save many people from addiction, from falling into delinquency. It’s an (amaana), a trust ; it is a general interest. Your children are not only your children ; they are the children of the nation ; they are the future of the nation, they are the treasure of the nation, be it Morocco, Malaysia or America. The City too should have a say in the way you bring up your child. Idem for the Quran. If I am a believer, the Quran shows me how to deal with my child, how to deal with my wife, how to behave in society as a whole. God says : "But seek the abode of the Hereafter in that which Allah hath given thee and neglect not thy portion of the world, and be thou kind even as Allah hath been kind to thee, and seek not corruption in the earth; lo! Allah loveth not corrupters." (28 : 77) The Quran wants you and me to be responsible persons. Even when it comes to elections, I have to vote –if I do vote– for the person I think is best ––even if I don’t really need anything from that person or his/her party. I am doing this as part of my responsibility towards the City. Whether I go and vote or sit at home on election day, my responsibilty will not end there. I am responsible everyday : "and be thou kind even as Allah hath been kind to thee, and seek not corruption in the earth." (28 : 77) That’s everyday ! At least I should not contribute to corruption. Because if corruption becomes rampant, widespread, everybody would suffer, even good people. "And guard yourselves against a chastisement which cannot fall exclusively on those of you who are wrong-doers." (8 : 25)
That’s why the Quran wanted to organize our life, individual and collective, in such a way that everybody would enjoy the beauty of the world in a decent, legitimate way that wouldn’t harm anybody : Life is a precious gift. God wants life for us, not death. "And there is life for you in retaliation, O men of understanding, that ye may ward off (evil)." (2 : 179) The Quran even cares for our feelings. If I don’t like somebody I may turn away from him, but if he says helllo I should return the greeting. "When ye are greeted with a greeting, greet ye with a better than it or return it. Lo! Allah taketh count of all things."(86) This teaches us humility. Every individual is important. Even a sick person, even a mad or penniless unemployed person, is important at least quantitatively –because he/she has to eat, to get dressed, to get medical care .... Everybody contributes directly or indirectly to the smooth running of the economic machine here or elsewhere. When we talk about a country’s economy, we say it's a market of 100,000000 consumers. We put everything in that number: the wise and the crazy.