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Monday, August 18, 2008

Blogging the Qur'an: Sura 39, "Throngs"

Robert Spencer has the installment here.

Portions of this sura speakl of believers and unbelievers being "not equal." Not equal in what way? They are certainly not equal in what afterlife they will receive, as is the case in the Bible. But the Koran rejects the Biblical notion that humans all have equal value despite the fact that they do not share the same degree of devotion toward God. It further rejects the idea of equality under the law for beleivers and unbelievers, an idea stated explicitly in Sura 9:29 (cited in the following excerpt - see added emphasis):

The believer and the unbeliever are not equal (vv. 9, 22, 24). This oft-repeated notion has many implications; the emphasis in this sura is on the fact that they will not receive equal treatment on the Day of Judgment. At the same time, however, the absolute way in which the statement is made underscores the idea that the Muslims are the "best of people" (3:110) and the unbelievers are the "vilest of created beings" (98:6). There is no compatibility of this with the idea of the equality of dignity of all people as created by the same God. Instead, there is a sharp dichotomy between believer and unbeliever that runs through all of Islam – including its laws for the governance of states. In light of this, it should come as no surprise to anyone that there is not a single Muslim-majority state in the world today, even though Islamic law is not fully enforced in almost all of them, where non-Muslims enjoy absolute legal equality with Muslims. Even in secular Turkey there are restrictions on conversion from Islam to another religion, and immense amounts of red tape involved in trying to get official permission to build a church. This is no accident: it is a cultural hangover of the deeply ingrained traditional idea that non-Muslims in a state that Muslims control should "feel themselves subdued" (9:29), in accordance with the dictum that they are not equal to the believers, and should be made in every possible way to remember their perversity in rejecting Islam.

Click the "Koran" label to see all my posts on this series.

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