Day 4- Surat Aal Imran – Part (1)

Main Theme of the Surah: Steadfastness in the Face of Internal & External Challenges

We continue our journey with the book of Allah, trying to give a macro-level understanding of each Surah. Today: Surah Aal Imran which is always paired with Surah Al-Baqara. Both Surah’s are given the nickname الزهراوان “The two bright ones”
They are also related in their scope; the discussion in Surah Al-Baqara was about the responsibility given to the Muslims as stewards on earth. The Surah after it mentions how the believers will be tested, and how they need to be resilient and steadfast against two types of tests:

  1. An internal battle of the minds and hearts against misguidance [Ayahs 1-120]
  2. An external physical battle against those who may fight this message [Ayahs 120-200]

​Surah Al-Baqara was concluded with a beautiful duaa “ربنا لا تحملنا ما لا طاقة لنا به”, “oh Allah do not burdgen us with things that are above our capability to handle”, and this Surah picks off from where Al-Baqara ended, and mentions the two burdens awaiting us, the internal and the external ones

Section (1): Ayahs 1-120: The Internal Battle Against Misguidance

A group of Christian monks came to Madinah to debate the messenger of Allah Peace be upon him. They stayed at the mosque for about 3 days and engaged in theological conversation with the Muslims. The first 120 Ayahs from Surah Aal Imran comments on that event and provides the prophet PBUH with arguments.

Common Role Models with the People of The Book

Before the actual conversation, Allah mentions stories about a role model family that both Muslims and Christians look up to: the family of Imran, particularly Maryam, Zachariah, and Issa:

هُنَالِكَ دَعَا زَكَرِيَّا رَبَّهُ قَالَ رَبِّ هَبْ لِي مِن لَّدُنكَ ذُرِّيَّةً طَيِّبَةً إِنَّكَ سَمِيعُ الدُّعَاء  
There and then Zachariah prayed to his Lord, saying, ‘Lord, from Your grace grant me virtuous off-spring: You hear every prayer.’[3:38]

وَإِذْ قَالَتِ الْمَلائِكَةُ يَا مَرْيَمُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ اصْطَفَاكِ وَطَهَّرَكِ وَاصْطَفَاكِ عَلَى نِسَاء الْعَالَمِينَ
The angels said to Mary: ‘Mary, God has chosen you and made you pure: He has truly chosen you above all women. [3:42]

فَلَمَّا أَحَسَّ عِيسَى مِنْهُمُ الْكُفْرَ قَالَ مَنْ أَنصَارِي إِلَى اللَّهِ قَالَ الْحَوَارِيُّونَ نَحْنُ أَنصَارُ اللَّهِ آمَنَّا بِاللَّهِ وَاشْهَدْ بِأَنَّا مُسْلِمُونَ
When Jesus realized they [still] did not believe, he said, ‘Who will help me in God’s cause?’ The disciples said, ‘We will be God’s helpers; we believe in God— witness our devotion to Him [3:52]
 
The Etiquette of Debate 

The Quran teaches us the etiquette of debate, such as starting from a common ground:

قُلْ يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ تَعَالَوْا إِلَى كَلِمَةٍ سَوَاء بَيْنَنَا وَبَيْنَكُمْ أَلاَّ نَعْبُدَ إِلاَّ اللَّهَ وَلاَ نُشْرِكَ بِهِ شَيْئًا وَلاَ يَتَّخِذَ بَعْضُنَا بَعْضًا أَرْبَابًا مِّن دُونِ اللَّهِ
Say, ‘People of the Book, let us arrive at a statement that is common to us all: we worship God alone, we ascribe no partner to Him, and none of us takes others beside Go as lords.’ [3:64]

It invites the Christians to go back to their own books, and brings evidence from the Torah itself:

قُلْ فَأْتُواْ بِالتَّوْرَاةِ فَاتْلُوهَا إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ  
Say, ‘Bring the Torah and read it out if you are telling the truth [3:94]

The idea is that once they truly understand their own revelation, they will definitely arrive at the conclusion that Islam is the one unified message that was sent from Allah to humanity:

إِنَّ الدِّينَ عِندَ اللَّهِ الإِسْلامُ
True Religion, according to Allah, is Islam [3:19]

وَمَن يَبْتَغِ غَيْرَ الإِسْلامِ دِينًا فَلَن يُقْبَلَ مِنْهُ
If anyone seeks a religion other than [islam] complete devotion to God, it will not be accepted from him: he will be one of the losers in the Hereafter. [3:85]

It is interesting to note that Surat Al-Baqarah focused on the theme of IMAN (faith) and TAQWA (God consciousness) and all are actions of the heart, while Surah Aal Imran focused on ISLAM, which is the outer manifestation of faith. Both are important and both are two sides of the same coin.

Do NOT Generalize

Delivering the message of Islam, and carrying that good to people requires that you start from an unbiased mindset, treat people of other religions with respect, and make sure you don’t generalize and assume all are bad or evil. The Quran teaches this beautiful concept in this Surah:

وَمِنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ مَنْ إِن تَأْمَنْهُ بِقِنطَارٍ يُؤَدِّهِ إِلَيْكَ وَمِنْهُم مَّنْ إِن تَأْمَنْهُ بِدِينَارٍ لاَّ يُؤَدِّهِ إِلَيْكَ إِلاَّ مَا دُمْتَ عَلَيْهِ قَائِمًا
There are People of the Book who, if you [Prophet] entrust them with a heap of gold, will return it to you intact, but there are others of them who, if you entrust them with a single dinar, will not return it to you unless you keep standing over them, [3:75]

لَيْسُواْ سَوَاء مِّنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ أُمَّةٌ قَائِمَةٌ يَتْلُونَ آيَاتِ اللَّهِ آنَاء اللَّيْلِ وَهُمْ يَسْجُدُونَ
But they are not all alike. There are some among the People of the Book who are upright, who recite God’s revelations during the night, who bow down in worship [3:113].

ACTION ITEMS:

  1. Prophet Muhammad PBUH hosted Christians in his mosque for three days & debated with them. And although they did not accept Islam, that was a practical manifestation of religious tolerance at a time when religious wars and persecution was the norm even among Christians
  2. It is essential to mention common prophets and role models between us & the people of the book
  3. Start any debate with defining the common ground with the other party.
  4. Refer them to their own books and creed 
  5. Never generalize and paint all non-Muslims with the same brush

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