Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Verses 204 & 205..........Part 2
Verses 204 & 205
And from among the people are those whose words about worldly life pleases you, and he cites God as witness to what is in his heart. Yet he is the fiercest of opponents. And when he turns his back, he strives about the earth to foment disorder and corruption; destroying crops and future generations. God does not like corruption. (Chapter 2: Verses 204, 205)
When it comes to your daily affairs, try not to claim that God is a witness to what you say; rather if you need proof, bring witnesses to testify to the authenticity of your statement. When you say: “God is my witness,” you are declaring that God is on your side and claiming that He, Almighty, will vouch for your statements. This is not true. You have no knowledge of God; and if you intend to bring credibility to your statements do not involve God in the matter. Similarly, when you hear someone say to you: ‘God is my witness,’ say to him or her: this is an assertion from you that God is on your side, but you may be wrong. I prefer that you bring two people as witnesses and not involve God in this matter’
The verse continues: ‘Yet he is the fiercest of opponents.’ God is referring to those who are entrenched in disobedience and sin; those who go too far in argument and dispute supporting unjust matters. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “indeed the most detested men to God is the fierce disputant.” Why are the hypocrites the fiercest of opponents? Because the person who openly confronts you with a matter makes his stand known, and allows you to take precautions. But the one who appears to be friendly while working behind the scenes to hurt you may catch you off guard. Thus, the opponent who makes things obvious and clear is better.
The verse continues: “And when he turns his back, he strives about the earth to foment disorder and corruption; destroying crops and future generations.” Here, you can see the core of hypocrisy: a person says things that please you to your face, but as soon as he or she turns away, this person shows the reality which was hidden and acts to cause corruption and harm. The earth was created and maintained without human intervention as a good, peaceful and thriving place. Corruption is almost exclusively the result of human action. Take a look around you; wherever you see pollution and destruction of nature, you see human interference. Why have we complained of food shortages but not of air shortages? Because food production and distribution is controlled by humans, while there is no human involvement in air production and distribution. We have intervened in fresh water management and as a result we have polluted and wasted it. In fact, corruption is often proportional to the extent of human intervention.
Thus, there is a dire need for faith to guide people. It is the framework that governs our actions and respects the rights of people and nature alike. There are no guiding scriptures for animals or plants because God created them to faithfully and instinctively perform their task. Livestock obey their owner even when lead to slaughter. A tamed bull would neither stop you from putting your load on it, nor refuse to plough. And on the rare occasions when the animal refuses to act, it is often due to illness or for being physically overburdened.
As for us humans, who enjoy freedom of choice, there is a need for a religion and a guiding book to direct us to do certain things and refrain from others. If we commit ourselves to the Quran and its teachings, life would be balanced and the corruption of man and nature would diminish. This is what we understand from the verse: “And when he turns his back, he strives about the earth to foment disorder and corruption; destroying crops and future generations.” It shows that corruption requires effort, cunning, and a life away from God’s teachings. Leave nature alone as God created it, and you will find it working beautifully to perfection. God says regarding the hypocrites:
When it is said to them, ‘Do not cause corruption in the land,’ they say, ‘We are only putting things right,’ No indeed! They are the corrupters, but they are not aware of it. (02:11-12)
Allah is the creator of the earth, and He is best aware of the needs of nature. Any work done outside the frame of Allah’s teachings will cause corruption and destruction of nature. We have the freedom of choice in our actions, thus, God has given us heavenly guidance to protect us and protect our environment. Look at the stupidity and short-sightedness of those who cause corruption on earth. Do these individuals or companies think that they alone are allowed to benefit from the land, while spoiling it for others? The plunder of natural resources affects each and everyone of us, even those who think they are benefiting in the short term.
The word ‘crops’ in the phrase ‘destroying crops and future generations’ is translated from the Arabic origin ‘Harth.’ ‘Harth’ can hold two meanings, it could mean plants and crops, and could mean women. Let’s take them one by one:
God blessed us with fertile earth that we can cultivate. We loosen the soil and plant seeds, and then utilize the resources God granted us to grow the crop. Keep in mind that Allah is the one who created the seed, the land, the water and the sun. All are essential components for the growing plants. God reminds you:
Consider the seeds you sow in the ground, Is it you who make it germinate or are We the Germinator? If We wished We could have made it broken stubble. You would then be left devoid of crops, distraught (56:63-66)
The second meaning of ‘Harth’: women, can be found in the following verse:
Your wives are the bearers of your seed; so, approach your tillage however you wish and send good ahead for yourselves. Act in due reverence for God, and know that you are to meet with Him; and give glad tidings to the believers (02:223)
Your child is you seed and your future crop. Some have used this verse, and more specifically the phrase “so, approach your tillage however you wish’ to prove that sexual intercourse is allowed in all parts a woman’s body. We answer: read the verse closer, and study the phrase “so, approach your tillage’ which specifically means that you can only enter into the place of germination and reproduction. The verse is not to generalize; rather it is to specify the place of intercourse.
The verse ends with: “God does not like corruption.” God is telling you that if you do intend to work in nature, then the very least that you could do is to leave matters as God has created them.
This verse gives an example to one of the ways in which Islam was received and fought. There were a group of hypocrites who infiltrated the Muslim society, pretending to be believers and saying things that were pleasing to the Muslims; in reality, they were there to spy and cause damage. We should look at hypocrisy as an indicator of strength for the Muslims. How can that be, you may ask? We answer that you lie and try to deceive someone only if you are afraid to confront him or her. Hypocrisy did not arise in Mecca because the Muslims were few and weak. When Islam grew stronger in Medina, the hypocrites appeared. God says:
Some of the desert Arabs around you are hypocrites and some of the people of Medina are adamant in their hypocrisy. You do not know them but We know them. We will punish them twice over and then they will be returned to a terrible punishment. (9:101)
While in Mecca, the Muslims were few and weak, so their enemies confronted them directly with torture, boycott and physical attacks. But in Medina, Islam became strong, so the enemies changed tactics and the hypocrites were born. Hence, the presence of hypocrisy in Medina was a healthy phenomenon that indicated a strengthening and wide spreading faith; even those who had no faith started to claim it. They would say good and beautiful things and hide what is in their hearts. When they were in charge of land or life, however, they would work to destroy it.