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Human Behaviors in the Qur’an: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives

In this article, I delve into the profound teachings of the Qur’an and explore its timeless relevance in shaping human behavior across different eras. By juxtaposing historical narratives with contemporary scenarios, I seek to understand how the eternal wisdom of the Qur’an continues to guide and influence the moral and ethical choices of individuals in modern society. Through a thoughtful examination of verses and their interpretations, I aim to bridge the gap between the past and the present, highlighting the enduring impact of spiritual teachings on everyday life.

Recently, I was with a retired religious official who had worked for years as an imam, mufti, and diplomat abroad under the Directorate of Religious Affairs. After dinner, we talked for nearly two hours. You wouldn’t believe the things we discussed. At one point in the conversation, we touched upon the oppressions happening in Turkey. With tears welling in his eyes, he spoke in depth about some incidents he was intimately aware of. Then he said, “Give me a Qur’an!” and read to us the verses I will share below.

But first, he warned: “Yes, these verses were revealed about events that took place in Medina 14 centuries ago. They specifically describe Jews and infidels living in Medina at that time. However, look at what they did there and what is being done here today. Make comparisons and think about the characteristics. For the love of God, aren’t the traits mentioned in the verses also present in people who inflict such cruelty on Muslims while claiming to be Muslims? Can you then say ‘these verses do not address them’?”

Before moving on to the verses our teacher drew our attention to, let me share the commentary written at the beginning of this set of verses from the Qur’an Yolu, a tafsir published by the Directorate of Religious Affairs: “…the noble verse states that material and temporary powers like wealth and offspring are not means that bring people closer to God or make them valuable in His sight, and that such riches cannot prevent the punishments that come from God.”

The verses reveal the true feelings and thoughts of some Jews and infidels living in Medina with Muslims. Why do I say ‘some’? Because both Qur’anic verses and historical facts tell us this. For instance, God says: “It is a fact that not all Jews are the same. Among them are upright people who act in accordance with their words. They rise from their beds during the night to recite God’s verses and prostrate in worship. (3/113)”

Now, setting aside these exceptions, let’s discuss the real feelings and thoughts of the portion harboring hostility towards Muslims. Yes, this set of verses brings them to our attention and implies, “They may have promised to live in peace with you in Medina, even signing the Medina Charter, but…” The essence of the matter is hidden after this ‘but’ conjunction. God is warning the believers.

Let’s now look at these verses; let’s read them together:

“As for the infidels, neither their wealth nor their children will benefit them in the presence of God. They will plunge into hell and remain there forever.

Their charitable deeds in this transient world are like the case of a people who wrong themselves by disobeying God, having crops that are then destroyed by a fierce wind sweeping everything before it. Know that God has not wronged them, but they have wronged themselves with their rebellious attitudes.

O believers! Do not take those who are not your brothers in religion as close friends and confidants to the extent of revealing all your secrets. They will do you harm whenever they find an opportunity. They desire to see you in distress.

As you can see, their anger, hatred, and animosity towards you spill from their tongues. The anger, hatred, and animosity they hide inside are undoubtedly even greater. If you reflect, you will understand that revealing these characteristics of your enemies to you is a grace, a blessing, and a favor. You love them with good intentions, but they do not love you at all…” (3/116-119)

The verses continue. I deliberately stopped halfway. Those curious about what else God has said in these divine words can continue reading from any translation of the Qur’an in today’s world where access to information is so easy.

So, what do I think?

I don’t think differently from that teacher. The Qur’an is saying something concrete to the society of revelation, and it also wants to convey something to Muslims who will live from the post-revelation era until the Day of Judgment. It gives us messages through the events and the characteristics of the people involved in those events.

I am not declaring anyone an infidel.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am a person who has studied Islamic sciences enough to know that people of qibla are not to be declared infidels. But I believe it is necessary to recognize that the merciless oppressors also share common characteristics with the people mentioned in these verses. A look in the mirror is sufficient.

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AHMET KURUCAN
AHMET KURUCAN
Dr. Ahmet Kurucan is a an author and scholar focusing on Islamic Studies and Law.
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