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Elucidating Verse 33 of Surah Al-Maidah which is often misunderstood


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Author Topic: Elucidating Verse 33 of Surah Al-Maidah which is often misunderstood  (Read 1193 times)
Zeynab
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« on: April 02, 2011, 04:48:42 am »

 

BismEm


"The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and His messenger and strive after corruption in the land will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land. Such will be their degradation in the world, and in the Hereafter theirs will be an awful doom;"  5:33 (Al-Maidah)

The above verse of Surah Al-Maidah is frequently misinterpreted by both Muslims and non-Muslims.

Sometime ago, I had a detailed discussion with Brother Shabir Ally on this Verse after he interpreted it in one of his lectures, which didn't at all sound correct.  

Brother Shabir Ally stated that according to the "classical Islamic fiqh, verse 5:33 is commonly interpreted as the punishment for the crime of highway robbery."  He also stated that perhaps this punishment also applies to runaways for deserting the army and for treason.  But he wasn't sure of this.

The fact of the matter is that verse 5:33 does not at all conform with the notion of punishment for treason nor desertion of army nor highway robbery.

Furthermore, there are some non-Muslims with scant or no knowledge of the Quran who presume that verse 5:33 refers to the punishment for apostasy.  Needless to mention, this idea is also completely wrong.

While interpreting many verses of the Glorious Quran, it's essential to first thoroughly understand some of the preceding and following verses.  Trying to explain verses by picking them at random and separating them from their historical and social context (as many jurists do) can convey a far-fetched and inaccurate meaning, resulting in total misinterpretation.
 
For interpreting verse 5:33, it's important to start studying from 5:27 onward.  Please read the following carefully. 

"But recite unto them with truth the tale of the two sons of Adam, how they offered each a sacrifice, and it was accepted from the one of them and it was not accepted from the other. (The one) said: I will surely kill thee. (The other) answered: Allah accepteth only from those who ward off (evil)."  (5:27)

"Even if thou stretch out thy hand against me to kill me, I shall not stretch out my hand against thee to kill thee, lo! I fear Allah, the Lord of the Worlds."  (5:28)

"Lo! I would rather thou shouldst bear the punishment of the sin against me and thine own sin and become one of the owners of the fire. That is the reward of evil-doers." (5:29)

"But (the other's) mind imposed on him the killing of his brother, so he slew him and became one of the losers."   (5:30)

"Then Allah sent a raven scratching up the ground, to show him how to hide his brother's naked corpse. He said: Woe unto me! Am I not able to be as this raven and so hide my brother's naked corpse ? And he became repentant."  (5:31)

"For that cause We decreed for the Children of Israel that whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind. Our messengers came unto them of old with clear proofs (of Allah's Sovereignty), but afterwards lo! many of them became prodigals in the earth."   (5:32)


Allah Almighty begins by narrating about the two sons of Adam.   Verses 5:27 to 32 (as quoted above) convey the concepts of burying the dead body, the awfulness of manslaughter and the moral goodness of saving a life.  The last line of verse 5:32 states : "Our messengers came unto them of old with clear proofs (of Allah's Sovereignity), but afterwards lo! many of them became prodigals in the earth."  

Then comes verse 5:33 which is our focus of discussion.  I quote this verse again.

"The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and His messenger and strive after corruption in the land will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land. Such will be their degradation in the world, and in the Hereafter theirs will be an awful doom;"   (5:33)

There is no direct nor indirect link between verse 5:33 and highway robbery or treason or apostasy.  There's is nothing that suggests that this in a punishment for such acts.  The above Verse seems to be simply a verbal admonishment and a warning to the Israelites, mentioning that their unjust aggression and violations of the dictates of Allah would lead to serious consequences in earthly life as well as the permanent life because Divine Justice never falters.  

Moreover, it is also a confirmed historical fact that this form of punishment was NEVER implemented at any period throughout the history of Islam (that is, crucifying or cutting of the hands and feet  on alternate sides).  In fact, according to references in the Glorious Quran, this particular form of punishment was practiced during the days of Pharoah when he had threatened to inflict the same punishment on the wizards who believed in the Message of Moses (pbuh).   Reference verses 7:123-124 as follows:

"Pharaoh said: Ye believe in Him before I give you leave! Lo! this is the plot that ye have plotted in the city that ye may drive its people hence. But ye shall come to know! Surely I shall have your hands and feet cut off upon alternate sides. Then I shall crucify you every one."   (7:13-124)  Surah Al-Araf

As for desertion from army or treason, it is definitely a serious violation according to the principles of the Quran as elucidated in several Verses, but there is certainly no death penalty mentioned for such a crime anywhere in the Quran.


I conveyed this information to Brother Shabir and his reply was, I quote: "Your response seems quite informed and informative. Please allow me some time to study it."  But I never heard from him even though I requested him to send me his findings.  I can only assume he had nothing to add nor subtract.


Only Allah, The Exalted, has the final authority to explain each verse of the Glorious Quran


 
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Ruhi_Rose
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« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2011, 09:55:54 pm »

Thanks sister Zeynab.  You've gathered all very logical points of explanation superbly.  I really never even heard that V.5:33 was taken as  punishment for highway robbery, treachery or apostasy..  I don't see how any "classical fiqh" or even the most ignorant non-Muslim can come up with such distant ideas on V.5:33 as it doesn't mention nor refer to any such issues at all. 

You are also right that to understand V.5:33 (as with many other verses) it's necessary to first study the preceding verses.  After being focused from verses 27 to 33 of this Surah, I too consider that verse 33 is a warning to the yahuds of the consequences of their ill-deeds which would come upon them as per the laws of nature & justice as ordained by Allah in the course of time and years.  I also think that the reference here is that the Jews (or yahuds), unless they give up their wrong-doing, might have to face harshness at the hands of other people in return for their harshness & injustice.   
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« Reply #2 on: April 04, 2011, 04:37:08 am »



Thanks my sister.  I knew that Verse 5:33 has a moral and historical connotation, but I hadn't quite gotten down to studying its details.  Your work is truly helpful.  I completely agree that it refers to the aspect of 'what goes around come around' with regard to the Israelis.  This has been very helpful education for me. I must save this.   Allah bless!
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« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2019, 10:24:13 am »



V.5:33 is basically a symbolic reprimand for trouble-makers, right?  That's how I saw it too.

Indeed it was very helpful when I printed this piece and took it to my discussion group last week that was really getting argumentative over this Verse.  Some of these folks just don't want to think coolly but they so much love to squabble.

Thanks sister.

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« Reply #4 on: June 30, 2019, 05:35:31 am »




Yes brother, as I clearly understand it, the contents of V.5:33 are allegorical / metaphorical.  The reference is primarily to those who carry out deadly mischief such as mayhem, arson, rape, destruction of farmlands and animals etc.  Thus, though allegorical, the Verse carries a clear message that unjust persecutors who intend destruction and to bar people from the path of Allah will eventually fail and pay the penalty in both the worlds.   This was true with many such persecutors in the past, in that, they met with defeat and did not succeed in controlling the believers and deviating them from the path of Allah.  Nowadays the world is going in very different direction where we see the deviation of almost the entire Muslim world and the non-Muslims gaining control over them.  In such a scenario whoever remains steadfast will be for the benefit of their souls; and those who are subjecting them to torment (in whatever manner) may get away in this world but not in the next.

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« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2019, 05:37:45 am »




Thanks again sister.   I get that perfectly.
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« Reply #6 on: June 30, 2019, 05:57:05 am »



In a nutshell, it means unprovoked aggression with the goal of undermining the establishment of an Islamic state that's working for its people peacefully within its boundaries.

Unfortunately, today's world is a picture of sorrow replete with such marauders and their marauding.  Woefully, few of them are facing punishment.  But Allah is Watching.  Those folks cannot escape after leaving the earthly world.



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« Reply #7 on: June 30, 2019, 05:58:56 am »



Spot-on sister Heba.  I couldn't have put it any better.
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« Reply #8 on: June 30, 2019, 06:00:26 am »


Exactly sister.   I welcome this additional clarification.

Sister Ruhi's interpretation is worded and alluded very sensibly too.
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