Islamic Sources - Time and Place



It is perhaps the core of orthodox Islamic belief to believe that the Koran is the final moral code for humanity and the prophet Mohamed (pbuh) is the example we should follow for eternity.  The strange thing about this is even non-practicing Muslims still think this should be the goal.

Here, let us examine some of this.  First we deal with the idea that the prophet and the Sahabah are the ideal example we should follow for eternity.

The Hadith - The Life of the Prophet

The more I read, the more I come to the conclusion that the prophet and his companions were living the life of a people 1400 years ago in the uncivilized desert lands of Arabia.  The life was not a pretty one and not one we would be morally proud to uphold today.  So why do people think we should follow the example of such people today?  This is not to say they were bad men.  Not by any stretch of the imagination.  Yet they are by no means the final perfect morality of man for eternity.  Such is the case with all great people of history.


Such was the case with all religions and all societies in history.  I want to emphasize this point.  Pretty much all societies and religions back then would appear immoral today.  The Christian world had slaves. The Muslim world had slaves. So did the Aztecs. The Aztecs had concubines. The Muslims had concubines and female sex slaves. They killed each other, sacrificed people and animals.Women were not given equal choice as men and were largely seen as being 'given' to serve men and raise the family.

The difference is largely that in Islam, it is still the orthodox and dominant view that we should aim to live as they did 1400 years ago. Whereas most other people have moved on or adjusted their belief system.


The hadith match reasonably close to what we expect of such tribal and uncivilized societies 1400 years ago.

Let us examine the Hadith.  The same sources that tell a Muslim how to pray, how to fast, how to perform Hajj, to grow beards...  Test this against the morality written into your heart and contemplate if you should try and live according to the Hadith.  That is according to how they lived 1400 years ago.  In these examples, I will only use the strong hadiths (Bukhari, Muslim...)

One can find much more controversial histories if using other sources  For example, Ibn Ishaq's biography of Mohamed (pbuh).  Bukhari for example was compiled 200 years after the death of the prophet (pbuh) and was filtered quite extensively.  But for the purposes here, let's take the filtered, best case history of Bukhari and Muslim.

Society is not just about the advancement of science.  Our ways of life and morality have evolved as well.  The enlightenment, civil rights, women's rights, children's rights, political systems, our understanding of human development, mental illness.. have all advanced as well.

Slaves and use slave girls for sex

Bukhari (Book #47, Hadith #765)
 1) Narrated Kurib: the freed slave of Ibn 'Abbas, that Maimuna bint Al-Harith told him that she manumitted (free a slave) a slave-girl without taking the permission of the Prophet. On the day when it was her turn to be with the Prophet, she said, "Do you know, O Allah's Apostle, that I have manumitted my slave-girl?" He said, "Have you really?" She replied in the affirmative. He said, "You would have got more reward if you had given her (i.e. the slave-girl) to one of your maternal uncles."  (Book #47, Hadith #765)
There are many such Hadith where slaves are traded hands and the prophet not emphasizing they should be freed.  Here, it is actually suggested that the freeing of a slave was actually not a good thing.  It would have been better to give the slave girl to her uncle.

Bukhari (Book #62, Hadith #137)

Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri:
We got female captives in the war booty and we used to do coitus interruptus with them. So we asked Allah's Apostle about it and he said, "Do you really do that?" repeating the question thrice, "There is no soul that is destined to exist but will come into existence, till the Day of Resurrection."
This is not the only verse.  This is also a standard Sunni view point as well.  You can read most traditional sources as well as well as in Tafsir.
http://islamqa.info/en/ref/10382

Praise be to Allaah.  
Islam allows a man to have intercourse with his slave woman, whether he has a wife or wives or he is not married. 
A slave woman with whom a man has intercourse is known as a sariyyah (concubine) from the word sirr, which means marriage. 
This is indicated by the Qur’aan and Sunnah, and this was done by the Prophets. Ibraaheem (peace be upon him) took Haajar as a concubine and she bore him Ismaa’eel (may peace be upon them all). 
Our Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) also did that, as did the Sahaabah, the righteous and the scholars. The scholars are unanimously agreed on that and it is not permissible for anyone to regard it as haraam or to forbid it. Whoever regards that as haraam is a sinner who is going against the consensus of the scholars.

 Now this is not really unusual if you understand the timeline.  This was not really unusual in the ancient context.  Slaves were very common.  Concubines were also common.  Many peoples did such things.  The question we need to ask is whether or not the example of these people is to used eternally.

It is simply well documented in the Koran and the Hadith that they used sex-slaves. Muslim 'free-woman' were deemed to be more pure and had to be covered. Slave-girls were for entertainment and would often be less clothed or to some interpretations nude.

This is not unlike the use of the veil in other culture where nobility used to cover and be hidden from public view.
http://suite101.com/article/a-history-of-the-veil-in-mesopotamia-and-persia-a183203



If you change your religion from Islam, you should be killed

Bukhari, Book 83, #17
    Bukhari, Book 83, #17
 "Narrated Abdullah: Allah's Messenger said, "The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Messenger, cannot be shed except in three cases: in Qisas (equality in punishment) for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who reverts from Islam (Apostate) and leaves the Muslims."
Bukhari Book 84, #57
Bukhari, Book 84, #57
Narrated 'Ikrima: Some Zanadiqa (atheists) were brought to 'Ali and he burnt them. The news of this event, reached Ibn 'Abbas who said, "If I had been in his place, I would not have burnt them, as Allah's Apostle forbade it, saying, 'Do not punish anybody with Allah's punishment (fire).' I would have killed them according to the statement of Allah's Apostle, 'Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.'"

This is not the only verse.  This is also a standard Sunni view point as well.  You can read most traditional sources as well as well as in Tafsir.
http://islamqa.info/en/ref/20327/apostasy

 Again, not uncommon in older times was to simply slaughter those who disagreed with you.  A common occurrence in such times.  Naturally, it is found in the Hadith and in the actions of the people living in those days.  Not just the prophet, but others like Ali. The question we need to ask is whether or not the example of these people is to used eternally.

You Can Marry Children

Well this one should be no surprise to many people.  I won't go into it too much as I've done it before.
problem-with-aisha

Narrated By 'Aisha : That the Prophet married her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old. Hisham said: I have been informed that 'Aisha remained with the Prophet for nine years (i.e. till his death)."

Sahih Bukhari Book 62. Wedlock, Marriage (Nikah)  

 Narrated 'Aisha: I asked the Prophet, "O Allah's Apostle! Should the women be asked for their consent to their marriage?" He said, "Yes." I said, "A virgin, if asked, feels shy and keeps quiet." He said, "Her silence means her consent."  
Bukhair (Book #86, Hadith #101)

This is not the only verse.  This is also a standard Sunni view point as well.  You can read most traditional sources as well as well as in Tafsir.
http://islamqa.info/en/ref/1493/aisha

Not only is the age of Aisha problematic as a 9 year old girl having sex with a 50+ year old man.  This can be excused by times were different back then.  The greater problem is that Aisha was married off by her father at 6 years old.  Can a 6 year old give informed consent of who she wishes to marry? The question we need to ask is whether or not the example of these people is to used eternally.  Again, I'm not saying these were bad man.  These were common actions at the time.  Yet, why would we look to follow the details of such people who acted so commonly?

Shariah Law Should be spread by force

Narrated Ibn 'Umar: Allah's Apostle said: "I have been ordered (by Allah) to fight against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Muhammad is Allah's Apostle, and offer the prayers perfectly and give the obligatory charity, so if they perform a that, then they save their lives an property from me except for Islamic laws and then their reckoning (accounts) will be done by Allah." 
Bukhari (Book #2, Hadith #24)

...He would say: Fight in the name of Allah and in the way of Allah. Fight against those who disbelieve in Allah. Make a holy war, do not embezzle the spoils; do not break your pledge; and do not mutilate (the dead) bodies; do not kill the children. When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and withold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them. Then invite them to migrate from their lands to the land of Muhairs and inform them that, if they do so, they shall have all the privileges and obligations of the Muhajirs. If they refuse to migrate, tell them that they will have the status of Bedouin Muilims and will be subjected to the Commands of Allah like other Muslims, but they will not get any share from the spoils of war or Fai' except when they actually fight with the Muslims (against the disbelievers). If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah's help and fight them....

Sahih Muslim (Book #019, Hadith #4294)

 His Highness, sent to us from among ourselves a Prophet whose father and mother are known to us. Our Prophet, the Messenger of our Lord, has ordered us to fight you till you worship Allah Alone or give jizya (i.e. tribute); and our Prophet has informed us that our Lord says:-- "Whoever amongst us is killed (i.e. martyred), shall go to Paradise to lead such a luxurious life as he has never seen, and whoever amongst us remain alive, shall become your master."
Bukhair (Book #53, Hadith #386)

This is not the only verse.  This is also a standard Sunni view point as well.  You can read most traditional sources as well as well as in Tafsir.
http://islamqa.info/en/ref/43087/spread%20islam%20force

Again, not uncommon in older times was to simply force people into submission.  A common occurrence in such times.  Naturally, it is found in the Hadith and in the actions of the people living in those days. If you were to picture the life those days filled with war, violence, struggling to rule over people... That was simply how things were back then.

You Should Stone an Unmarried Pregnant Women

Then a woman of Ghamid, a branch of Azd, came to him and said: Messenger of of Allah, purify me, whereupon he said: Woe be upon you; go back and beg forgiveness from Allah and turn to Him in repentance. She said: I find that you intend to send me back as you sent back Ma'iz. b. Malik. He (the Holy, Prophet) said: What has happened to you? She said that she had become pregnant as a result of fornication. He (the Holy Prophet) said: Is it you (who has done that)? She said: Yes. He (the Holy Prophet) said to her: (You will not be punished) until you deliver what is there in your womb. One of the Ansar became responsible for her until she was delivered (of the child). He (that Ansari) came to Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) and said the woman of Ghamid has given birth to a child. He (the Holy Prophet) said: In that case we shall not stone her and so leave her infant with none to suckle him. One of the Ansar got up and said: Allah's Apostle, let the responsibility of his suckling be upon me. She was then stoned to death. 
Muslim (Book #017, Hadith #4205)

I don't think we need to elaborate much more on this one. It's in plenty of other Hadiths and is still in common practice today in Islamic countries. Of course there are variations on lashing versus stoning. Married adultery versus fornication...

Interestingly, the issue of stoning is also one of the major areas questioning Quranic integrity.

 Allah sent Muhammad with the Truth and revealed the Holy Book to him, and among what Allah revealed, was the Verse of the Rajam (the stoning of married person (male & female) who commits illegal sexual intercourse, and we did recite this Verse and understood and memorized it. Allah's Apostle did carry out the punishment of stoning and so did we after him. I am afraid that after a long time has passed, somebody will say, 'By Allah, we do not find the Verse of the Rajam in Allah's Book,' and thus they will go astray by leaving an obligation which Allah has revealed. And the punishment of the Rajam is to be inflicted to any married person (male & female), who commits illegal sexual intercourse, if the required evidence is available or there is conception or confession.Allah sent Muhammad with the Truth and revealed the Holy Book to him, and among what Allah revealed, was the Verse of the Rajam (the stoning of married person (male & female) who commits illegal sexual intercourse, and we did recite this Verse and understood and memorized it. Allah's Apostle did carry out the punishment of stoning and so did we after him. I am afraid that after a long time has passed, somebody will say, 'By Allah, we do not find the Verse of the Rajam in Allah's Book,' and thus they will go astray by leaving an obligation which Allah has revealed. And the punishment of the Rajam is to be inflicted to any married person (male & female), who commits illegal sexual intercourse, if the required evidence is available or there is conception or confession.
Bukhari (Book #82, Hadith #817)

Here we see people thinking the Koran has the versus on stoning.  But the final Koran does not have it.

Going by the history, these Hadith seem to match the reality of life at the time.  The Arab tribes after all used to fight all year round.  Except for the holy months, which is where we get Ramadan from.

The Koran

The next issue comes of that in the Koran.  Indeed, it is popular for many Muslims today to dismiss the Hadith and try to simply be Koran only Muslims.  While interesting in their ideas, it does leave a lot open to change, but I believe it is a dishonest ideology.  Even the most progressive reading of the Koran cannot ignore certain realities that make it within a time and place or require the hadith for clarification.  I don't even go into many of controversial areas like lashing...

Slavery

The Koran itself never bans slavery.  There are plenty of versus that do speak of slavery.  Let me be clear, I don't have an issue with the reality that the Koran deals with slavery and in many cases improves the condition and rights of slaves.  My point is that it is never banned.  Which begs the question if the Koran is supposed to be the final morality of mankind, then why is slavery allowed?
[24.33] And let those who do not find the means to marry keep chaste until Allah makes them free from want out of His grace. And (as for) those who ask for a writing from among those whom your right hands possess, give them the writing if you know any good in them, and give them of the wealth of Allah which He has given you; and do not compel your slave girls to prostitution, when they desire to keep chaste, in order to seek the frail good of this world's life; and whoever compels them, then surely after their compulsion Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
 In standard jurisprudence, slavery is allowed.
We reply emphatically and without shame that slavery is permitted in Islam, but we should examine the matter with fairness and with the aim of seeking the truth, and we should examine the details of the rulings on slavery in Islam
 http://islamqa.info/en/ref/94840/slavery

O Prophet! Why do you prohibit what God has made lawful for you, in terms of your Coptic handmaiden Māriya — when he lay with her in the house of Hafsa, who had been away, but who upon returning [and finding out] became upset by the fact that this had taken place in her own house and on her own bed — by saying, ‘She is unlawful for me!’, seeking, by making her unlawful [for you], to please your wives? And God is Forgiving, Merciful, having forgiven you this prohibition.
Quran Sura 6, Verse 1 - Tafsir by Tafsir al-Jalalayn

There is simply no question that slavery was happening during the time and the prophet and his companions readily partook of the practice.  Though there are rewards for freeing a slave, it is nonetheless a reality that slavery was common place and accepted.  The problem here again is viewing the Koran as the end of human morality.  Since the Koran does not ban slavery, should we always accept it as permissible?  Or do we take our improved morality as we have evolved as a society over 1400 years?  If we take the Koran to be a book revealed to the Arab people 1400 years ago, then it can be understood.  Yet, it does not mean we cannot improve on the morality.

Time and Place Versus

If you read the Koran and understand its revelation, you will come to see that it was revealed as situations came up during the lifetime of the prophet.

[9.1] (This is a declaration of) immunity by Allah and His Apostle towards those of the idolaters with whom you made an agreement.
[9.2] So go about in the land for four months and know that you cannot weaken Allah and that Allah will bring disgrace to the unbelievers.
[9.3] And an announcement from Allah and His Apostle to the people on the day of the greater pilgrimage that Allah and His Apostle are free from liability to the idolaters; therefore if you repent, it will be better for you, and if you turn back, then know that you will not weaken Allah; and announce painful punishment to those who disbelieve.
[9.4] Except those of the idolaters with whom you made an agreement, then they have not failed you in anything and have not backed up any one against you, so fulfill their agreement to the end of their term; surely Allah loves those who are careful (of their duty).
[9.5] So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

This is the full context of the so-called sword versus of Islam.  Notice at the start of the Sura it begins with a specific event.
(This is a declaration of) immunity by Allah and His Apostle towards those of the idolaters with whom you made an agreement.
It is an entire sura dedicated to a particular instance of history.

There are also loads of Hadiths that show the Koran was revealed as per circumstance thus clarifying what is actually meant by the verse.

For a little more depth, one can read just one of these issues concerning the hijab/niqaab:
http://yaminb.blogspot.ca/2012/09/the-niqab-is-cultural.html

Aisha added, "(Later) the people asked Allah's Apostle, for instructions, and then Allah revealed: 'They ask your instruction concerning the women . . . And yet whom you desire to marry.' (4.127) 
Bukahri (Book #62, Hadith #71)

Narrated Anas bin Malik: The Verse: 'But you did hide in your mind that which Allah was about to make manifest.' (33.37) was revealed concerning Zainab bint Jahsh and Zaid bin Haritha. 
 Bukhari (Book #60, Hadith #310)

Narrated Ibn 'Umar: During the lifetime of the Prophet we used to avoid chatting leisurely and freely with our wives lest some Divine inspiration might be revealed concerning us. But when the Prophet had died, we started chatting leisurely and freely (with them).  
Bukhari (Book #62, Hadith #115)

Narrated 'aisha: The wives of the Prophet used to go to Al-Manasi, a vast open place (near Baqia at Medina) to answer the call of nature at night. 'Umar used to say to the Prophet "Let your wives be veiled," but Allah's Apostle did not do so. One night Sauda bint Zam'a the wife of the Prophet went out at 'Isha' time and she was a tall lady. 'Umar addressed her and said, "I have recognized you, O Sauda." He said so, as he desired eagerly that the verses of Al-Hijab (the observing of veils by the Muslim women) may be revealed. So Allah revealed the verses of "Al-Hijab" (A complete body cover excluding the eyes). 
Bukhari (Book #4, Hadith #148)

Narrated 'aisha:...But, by Allah, I never thought that Allah would reveal about my case, Divine Inspiration, that would be recited (forever) as I considered myself too unworthy to be talked of by Allah with something of my concern, but I hoped that Allah's Apostle might have a dream in which Allah would prove my innocence. But, by Allah, before Allah's Apostle left his seat and before any of the household left, the Divine inspiration came to Allah's Apostle. So there overtook him the same hard condition which used to overtake him, (when he used to be inspired Divinely). The sweat was dropping from his body like pearls though it was a wintry day and that was because of the weighty statement which was being revealed to him. When that state of Allah's Apostle was over, he got up smiling, and the first word he said was, 'O 'aisha! Allah has declared your innocence!' Then my Mother said to me, 'Get up and go to him (i.e. Allah's Apostle). I replied, 'By Allah, I will not go to him, and I praise none but Allah. So Allah revealed the ten Verses:-- "Verily! They who spread the slander Are a gang, among you............." (24.11-20) Allah revealed those Quranic Verses to declare my innocence. Abu Bakr As-Siddiq who used to disburse money for Mistah bin Uthatha because of his relationship to him and his poverty, said, 'By Allah, I will never give to Mistah bin Uthatha anything after what he has said about aisha.' Then Allah revealed:-- "And let not those among you who are good and wealthy swear not to give (any sort of help) to their kinsmen, those in need, and those who have left their homes for Allah's cause, let them pardon and forgive. Do you not love that Allah should forgive you? And Allah is oft-Forgiving Most Merciful." (24.22)...

Bukhari (Book #59, Hadith #462)

Narrated Anas bin Malik: When Allah's Apostle married Zainab bint Jahsh, he invited the people to a meal. They took the meal and remained sitting and talking. Then the Prophet (showed them) as if he is ready to get up, yet they did not get up. When he noticed that (there was no response to his movement), he got up, and the others too, got up except three persons who kept on sitting. The Prophet came back in order to enter his house, but he went away again. Then they left, whereupon I set out and went to the Prophet to tell him that they had departed, so he came and entered his house. I wanted to enter along with him, but he put a screen between me and him. Then Allah revealed: 'O you who believe! Do not enter the houses of the Prophet...' (33.53)  
 [33.53] O you who believe! do not enter the houses of the Prophet unless permission is given to you for a meal, not waiting for its cooking being finished-- but when you are invited, enter, and when you have taken the food, then disperse-- not seeking to listen to talk; surely this gives the Prophet trouble, but he forbears from you, and Allah does not forbear from the truth And when you ask of them any goods, ask of them from behind a curtain; this is purer for your hearts and (for) their hearts; and it does not behove you that you should give trouble to the Apostle of Allah, nor that you should marry his wives after him ever; surely this is grievous in the sight of Allah.
Bukhari (Book #60, Hadith #314)

Irony - Slavery versus House Guests

Indeed, few things can truly articulate the time sensitive nature of the Koran than the above Koranic Verse and the associated Hadith.  The Koranic verse [33.53] is an entire verse of the Koran dealing with the Prophet Mohamed having guests stay too long at his house. This is supposed to be the 'eternal revelation' to man kind. Yet, it has some specific instructions on when to leave the prophet's home when having a meal? That seems rather trivial to put into an eternal religious text does it not?

And yet, an eternal revelation that manages to talk about the etiquette of visiting the prophet's home does not ban something as evil as slavery?

I think it's pretty hard to not see that the Koran itself was revealed for a particular time and place as a guide for the people living at that time.  It is not a grand pronouncement of how to live eternally. It was revealed for specific circumstances as they arose in the day to life of the prophet Mohamed (pbuh).



Final Thoughts

This is just something to ponder when people think about living like they did according to the Shariah.  It has been 1400 years since those days and our morality has evolved and circumstances have changed.  We should always keep in mind the society in which these events took place.  It was a long time ago filled with war, oppression, slavery, drunkeness, women as property..  So one should contemplate the realities of the Islam and the Sunnah.  Why grow the beard or wear the Hijab, while ignoring the more important parts of life as above (slavery, sex, war, force...).  

Indeed, 'Moderate' Muslims can complain about the Taliban, Osama Bin Laden, Al-Shahab in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, the Janjaweed is Sudan.  They can say this is not 'real Islam'.  In reality, it is closer to the original Islam as practiced 1400 years ago than anything they believe or practice today.  You can tell this by history and by looking at the Hadith as I've shown above. 

The challenge to 'Moderate' Muslims is to either acknowledge that they don't really believe in the eternal moral and social perfection of the Sahabah in those days and to acknowledge the time and place nature of the Koran... or to admit that real Islam is the Islam they claim to be the 'extremists'. 



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