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Offline Reader Questions

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Obey Those in Authority - Significance of 4:59
« on: May 24, 2012, 05:51:41 PM »

I was brought to your website by a friend. I am a believer in the Quran as the divine message from God. However I have some doubts regarding the hadith.

I hope I have come to the right place.

I have read your work with interest, but as a trained scientist I must be able to criticize and still be able to form a strong belief, as a very strong test to a belief is questioning it and breaking it down.

In An Nisa 59, obey the Messenger and those in authority seems to imply even those who do not believe in the same as we do. And by referring to the messenger, we depend on the messenger's law.  Followed by An Nisa 60, who does "the people who assert that they believe in what has been revealed to you and what was revealed before you" include? Does that include myself as well?

Thank you for your work.

I only wish to learn, as I am not an Arabic reader nor speaker.

Offline Joseph Islam

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Re: Obey Those in Authority - Significance of 4:59
« Reply #1 on: May 24, 2012, 05:52:56 PM »
Salamun Alaikum.

Truth has no reason to hide or fear. If something cannot stand vigorous, sustained scrutiny, then it is most likely not the truth. Therefore, I absolutely concur with your sentiment and the approach you suggest.

4:59 has a primary context and a specific audience. 'Those who believe' were those that had come to agree on a common truth - that of the veracity of the Quran and of Prophet Muhammad's messengership.

One clearly notes from the verse that this new believing community was 'expanding' which is suggested by the Arabic 'minkum' (amongst you) when referring to those in authority. Therefore, some delegation of responsibility was taking place amongst the 'believers'. This implies some kind of community growth where individuals were being granted certain management responsibilities.

This verse in its context is not a reference to obeying those outside the group of 'believers'. 'Minkum' means 'amongst you'. Also referring the matter to the Prophet clearly means that he was the head of the community as a leader, not only in governance, but also as a spiritual guide. However, the Prophet too had a responsibility to consult with believers before making a decision.

"It was by the mercy of God that you (Muhammad) were lenient with them, for if you had been rude and harsh of heart they would have dispersed from round about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult (Arabic: watamiru) among yourselves. And when you have decided, then put thy trust in God. Indeed! God loves those who put their trust (in Him)"

Therefore, verse 4:59 clearly seems to be establishing a need for a chain of command. This seems to have resulted due to some disputations / disagreements that arose. This is given by the Arabic "tanaza'tum' (you disagree). 4:60 seems to suggest that 'some' of the disputations / disagreements were by those that though asserting 'belief' (yaz'umuna annahum amanu) had no real desire but to cause dissension and agree on a judgment which was contrary to true Islam. This is given by the Arabic "yuriduna an yatahakamu ila-taghuti" (They wish to go for judgment to the false deities).

Applying this verse in today's context is a totally different affair. There is no Prophet amongst us, nor is there a budding Arab Islamic society of the 7th century with their specific set of circumstance. There is no Prophet to consult nor are there any prophetic contemporaries to consult with.

Today, in the absence of the Prophet, we have the law and guidance he gave us from God to manage our lives and spiritual affairs (the Quran). It is the same law / guidance he used to manage his society decisions and guide his spiritual affairs.

Therefore, the Quran remains the final authority for all believers.

We remain obedient to those that are entrusted to look after our affairs and respect the law of the land. If the law of the land seriously conflicts with our religious beliefs or stops us from practicing our tenets of faith, we have a duty to migrate.

I hope that helps, God willing.
'During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act' 
George Orwell