This blog is by way of a response to Ziauddin Sardar’s excellent book Reading the Qur’an. I begin with Al Baqarah 25: “But give good tidings to those who believe and do deeds of righteousness, that their portion is Gardens, graced with flowing streams”. Ziauddin Sardar summarises this as “those who spend will prosper”. This idea of spending is one that runs through Ziauddin Sardar’s commentary on this book of the Qur’an.
My second quote, “Truth stands out clear from error, whoever rejects evil and believes in God has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that never breaks”, Al Baqarah, 256. Ziauddin Sardar’s conclusion from this verse is that “Faith and religion… are an exercise of reason and intellect, a work of knowledge as well as of spirit.”
So we have the interconnected ideas of giving and deeply thinking as one of the ways along the “straight path”.
Dietrich Bonheoffer, a Protestant Christian, wrote two books whose titles resonate with the idea of spending or giving. One is The Cost of Discipleship and the other No Cheap Grace. His thesis was that you could not become aware of God without becoming aware of the will of God You could not have a proper relationship with God without making a response to that challenge.
How did Bonheoffer do against the call set out in the verses of the Qur’an as articulated above? He was executed on the orders of Hitler for his part in the 1944 assassination attempt. He was an Assistant Professor of Theology at the age of 24 and is one of a group of Protestants who not only stood alone and unaided before God, as all Protestants believe we should, but employed the whole of his intellect in this encounter. He kept the tryst.
Bonheoffer’s belief was that in the act of giving he was following the example of God. I suspect this idea of God’s “Endeavour and expense” is much more developed in Christianity than it is in Islam but Al Fatiha describes God as “Merciful to all, compassionate to each”. These are gifts and surely gifts involve a cost.
I am sure there are Muslims who were martyrs as Bonheoffer was a martyr. They are a hard act to follow. We need all the help we can get. It now seems to me incredible that most Christians see the Qur’an as irrelevant at best and an inspiration to violence at worst. Nor can I begin to understand how so many Muslims, seeing reference after reference to “The Book” in the Qur’an seem to have no curiosity whatsoever as to what it actually says. Take my word for it, the Psalms of David are a “stronghold sure” in time of trouble.
Multiculturalism exists in two forms in the UK. Adult intellectuals talk about it. Those aged 5-18 practice it every day, not in their RE lessons but in the playground and on their way to and from school. They need to be given the encouragement and support that is all too often not forthcoming from their parents and teachers. Too often they face a thousand frowning uncles. But I believe these young people will form a type of Coalition that will succeed where others have failed. If you were a hate-monger in Peshawar or Alabama, would you not despair?
Ken Mafham is a Muslim Insitute Fellow and a Town Planning Consultant with 40 years experience. His work has taken him to Mauritius, Bauch State Nigeria , Merseyside and the East Midlands. He has also taught lessons to 30-40 individuals a week for the last fifteen years, from Year 1 to A level. This leaves little time for hobbies but he does like to play the violin and sing. Not both at the same time though.