Monday, February 2, 2015

The Qur’an Surah 5: The Feast

The following is from a work-in-progress called The Qur'an: a Book Report, in which I read each surah of the Qur'an and write about what I learn.  I will also include some original Arabic text, because it is very beautiful.

The fifth surah of the Qur’an, entitled “The Feast,” deals (appropriately) with dietary laws—specifically foods which may or may not be eaten when Muslims are on pilgrimage to Mecca.  They may eat seafood, but may not hunt for game.   They may not eat carrion or pigs, and some other things.  The surah mentions the tradition of placing garlands on livestock, to show they are protected from being killed during pilgrimages.

This surah, like previous ones, shows a complex attitude toward Jews and Christians.  On one hand, the text is critical of these groups—the Jews for breaking their pledge (or covenant) with God, and the Christians for worshipping Jesus as God, when he was (according to Muslim tradition) only a prophet like other prophets.

On the other hand, the surah shows respect towards these traditions, and even contains some passages which suggest that God accepts these religions.  The text says, “All journeys lead to Him (God),” and elsewhere, “you will all return to God and he will make clear to you the matters you differed about.”  Throughout the Qur’an, it is emphasized that God, not man, is the ultimate judge of human hearts.

The text also contains laws forbidding murder which are similar to the Torah and the gospel: “In the Torah We (God) prescribed for them a life for a life, an eye for an eye…We sent Jesus, son of Mary, in their footsteps, to confirm the Torah…We sent to you (Muhammad) the Scripture with the faith, confirming the Scriptures which came before it.”   In contrast to taking life, the text also contains this very moving passage which mirrors a quote from the movie Schindler’s List: “if any saves a life it is as if he saves the lives of all mankind.”

Regarding the purpose of scripture, the text states: “A light has now come to you from God, and a scripture making things clear, with which God guides to the ways of peace those who follow what pleases Him, bringing them from darkness out into light, by His will, and guiding them to a straight path.”

Pages from The Qur'an Surah 5: The Feast (14th century)

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