Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)

Verse 106

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Session 120

Chapter 2

Verse 106

 

Any revelation We cause to be nullified or forgotten, We replace with something better or similar. Do you not know that God has power over everything? (Chapter 2, Verse 106)

              Some of the people of the scripture do not want any good for the believers because they recognized that what Muhammad was given is better than what they have.  The message of Islam is superior to what had remained of Judaism and Moses' teachings.  It is also superior to what had remained of Christianity and Jesus' teachings.  This does not mean that we degrade or think less of what the previous Prophets brought.  In fact, we as Muslims firmly believe in all that came from our Lord.  The previous messages, however, were best suited for their time.  Every scripture before the Quran was intended for a specific people and time.  Then a new Prophet would follow for another nation and another period of time.  Take the example of what prophet Jesus said to his people  -the children of Israel-:

I have come to confirm the truth of the Torah which preceded me, and to make some things lawful to you which used to be forbidden. I have come to you with a sign from your Lord. Be mindful of God, obey me (03:50)

              This reflects that Jesus was sent to cancel some of the rulings of the Torah, and build on others.  In fact, every time a messenger came, humanity moved from good towards a greater good.   Prophet Muhammad, the seal of the Prophets, was granted total good because Islam perfected all the fine aspects of pervious messages, and is intended for all mankind until the day of resurrection.  He, peace be upon him said: “My example with respect to the prophets before me is like that of a man who built a beautiful house and made it complete except for one brick.  People were looking at how nice the house was but were wondering about that missing brick.  I am that brick, and I am the last of the prophets.”   

              Keep in mind that all heavenly message shared the same core creed of monotheism and accountability for one's actions.  God is one, to Him belongs absolute perfection, He is glorified in His essence and glorified in His actions.  The heavenly messages differed, however, in the matters regulating daily life.  As life progressed, new circumstances arose that were not an issue in the previous era.  These matters required new heavenly legislation to address them.  God says:

In matters of faith, He has laid down for you the same commandment that He gave Noah, which We have revealed to you and which We enjoined on Abraham and Moses and Jesus: ‘Uphold the faith and do not divide into factions within it’- what you call upon the idolaters to do is hard for them; God chooses whoever He pleases for Himself and guides towards Himself those who turn to Him. (42:13)

              All heavenly messages are one in creed and the oneness of our Lord.  When it comes to day to day teachings, we see that prophet Muhammad brought rulings that were different from the previous prophets as did Jesus, Moses and many before them (peace be upon them all).  Islam is the final and complete heavenly teaching after which no other religion will come and no changes will be made.  God says in the 3rd verse of Chapter 5:

Today I have perfected your religion for you, completed My blessing upon you, and chosen as your religion Islam

              So heavenly messages and religions progressed to address the modern issues of the time.  God says: ‘Any revelation We cause to be nullified or forgotten, We replace with something better or similar.'  This verb 'nullify' means that one thing is completely removed and maybe replaced with another.  This word is commonly used in the practice of law and the writing of new legislation.  Even in the best run governments, the laws set by humans are often deficient and limited.  This is because once a law is implemented it often becomes apparent that parts of it were flawed.  Whoever initially set this laws, had either an incomplete knowledge of the present, a limited vision of the future, or was self-serving.  Once faults become clear, a new law or an amendment is passed nullifying the one before it. 

              Here, the logical question to ask is:  Allah is all competent, all knowledgeable and all wise........How come then that some ruling were nullified and replaced with new ones?  Did something occur that was not considered before?  Was there something outside of God's knowledge? We answer: of course not.  God's knowledge is absolute and eternal.   When He commands or makes a ruling in the first place, He is aware that this ruling is for a limited time.  Once its time expires, a new ruling will replace it.  In some occasions, changes need to be applied gradually.  This is does not mean that the original ruling given by God turned out to be faulty, to the contrary, it was a necessary step to reach the goal.  Take the example of the Islamic prohibition of Alcohol.  Alcohol was a big part of the social life of the Arab society in Mecca -much like today's western cultures-.  Here is how Islam gradually marginalized then prohibited Alcohol.  God says:

They ask you about intoxicants and gambling: say, ‘There is great sin in both, and some benefit for people: the sin is greater than the benefit.’ They ask you what they should give: say, ‘Give what you can spare.’ In this way, God makes His messages clear to you, so that you may reflect (2:219)

then the following verse was revealed:

You who believe, do not come anywhere near the prayer if you are intoxicated, not until you know what you are saying (4:43)

and finally, the prohibition came:

O you who believe! Intoxicants, games of chance, sacrifices to idols, and divination by arrows are a loathsome evil of Satan’s doing; so avoid it completely so that you may prosper (5:90)

              In another example, God Almighty set the Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem as the direction Muslims should face during prayer -also known as Qibla-.  Did God initially plan that Jerusalem will be the Qibla of the Muslims until the last day? Did it later appear that the Ka’ba in Mecca is a better choice? Of course not, this was never the case.  The circumstances are not what made God change the orientation of the Qibla from the Aqsa to the ka’ba.  In fact, it was in His knowledge from the very beginning that after a certain period He will command changing the direction towards ka’ba.  Perhaps there is a spiritual reason behind it.  The direction towards Jerusalem or Ka’ba does not demand any additional effort from a person, neither does it add any new obligation.  To face to the west requires the same effort and belief as to face the east.  But it was a spiritual test for the believers.  If Allah says turn to Jerusalem, we will direct ourselves as commanded.  If the order then comes to turn to the Ka’ba, then we shall immediately direct ourselves to it.  Nothing is sacred in itself.  Sacredness only belongs to God’s command.  That was the spiritual test the believers had to pass.  God says:

The ignorant people will say, ‘What has turned them away from the prayer direction they used to face?’ Say, ‘East and West belong to God. He guides whoever He will to the right way.’   In this way, we have made you into a just community, so that you may bear witness before others and so that the Messenger may bear witness before you. We only appointed the direction you used to face in order to distinguish those who follow the Messenger from those who turn back on their heels. That test was hard, except for those God has guided. God would never let your faith go to waste, for God is most compassionate and most merciful towards people. (2:142, 143)