The Quran was revealed for personal salvation, not racial discrimination
Posted By ABDOLLAH VAKILY
Oct. 25, 2008
The Quran, just as other divine books such as the Torah and the Gospels, is a book of guidance for leading a life that is pleasing to God. None of these scriptures are a history book or a historical record. They refer to historical events only to underline the fact that salvation lies in belief in God and in obedience to Him, and consequently violation of divine rules could lead to a swift and severe punishment.
The Quranic stories of the drowning of the people of Noah (peace by upon him), the destruction of the people of Madyan who rejected Prophet Shuaib (p. b. u. n.), the destruction of the people of Thamoud who defied Prophet Salih (p. b. u. h.) and challenged him to bring down punishment on them, and the punishment of the follower of Moses (p. b. u. h.) for worshipping the golden calf are all reminders of this basic truth.
One of the Quranic stories that is narrated to illustrate this point, but unfortunately is often taken out of the context and misrepresented, is about a group of Jewish fishermen and their particular punishment. As most of us know, the Jewish Sabbath Law forbids the Jews from working on Saturdays, and according to Exodus xxxi the penalty for breaking this rule is death. However, according to the Quran, a group of Jewish fishermen decided to ignore this rule and persisted in fishing on Saturdays. Consequently they were cursed by God and turned into monkeys. The story as it appears in the Quran 2:65-66 is as follows: "You are well aware of those from among you who transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath, whereupon We said to them, 'Be ye apes. Despised and rejected.'" The immediate audience for this narration is the Tribe of Israel.
The Quran makes a second reference to the story of transgressors turned to animals, referring to a different group of people, although its historical context is not clear. This narration is addressed to the Christians and Jews of the time. After asking why they disapprove of Muslims while Muslims believe in God and the Revealed Books, it goes on to read, "Say: 'Shall I point out to you something much worse than this, (as judged) by the treatment it received from God? Those who incurred the curse of God and His wrath, those of whom some He transformed into apes and swine, those who worshipped Evil,.'"(Quran 5:60) This refers to people of previous times who have been punished by God, according the previous scriptures of the Jews and Christians themselves (for example: Deut. i. 34, Deut. xi. 28, xxviii. 15-68, Hosea viii. 14, ix. 1, Jeremiah, xvi. 11-13, Matt. iii. 7.)
It should be noted that many Quranic commentators, both classical and modern, understand these statements to be symbolic, not literal. However, in either case, the obvious aim of these narrations is to warn people against transgressing divine laws. Therefore their moral has a universal application, yet their context is clearly limited to a specific time and a specific group of individuals.
There is no categorical judgement rendered in these narrations about the Jewish people, either as a racial group or as followers of a religious tradition. The Quran, like its preceding scriptures, is not a book on race-relations or an ideological manifesto for, or against, a particular race or class. Its aim and function is to aid human beings from all races and classes of society in their search for a wholesome life that is pleasing to the Creator and harmonious and pleasant to other creatures.
Questions and Comments are welcome and can be addressed to Abdollah Vakily at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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