Shared Prophets

Cain and Abel

Shared ProphetsOf all the stories from the Bible that have found their way into the Koran, the story of Cain and Abel is probably one of the most significant for both Christians and Muslims.

Allah, with this story about brother killing brother (the Koran does not mention Adam’s two sons by name), establishes a fundamental difference between the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and His Revelations. Where Jesus said to turn the other cheek, Allah countered with repay a wrong done to you in kind and a wrong done to Me, or my Messenger, in spades.

2:179 In retaliation there is life for you, O people of understanding, that you may be God-fearing.

5:33 Indeed, the punishment of those who fight Allah and His Messenger and go around corrupting the land is to be killed, crucified, have their hands and feet cut off on opposite sides, or to be banished from the land. That is a disgrace for them in this life, and in the life to come theirs will be a terrible punishment.

We take up the story of Cain and Abel after Allah has asked Moses to tell this cautionary tale to his unruly followers whom He has condemned to wander the desert for forty years for refusing to enter the Promised Land because they feared its inhabitants.

5:27 And recite to them in all truth the tale of Adam’s two sons, when they offered a sacrifice, which was accepted from one, but not accepted from the other. The latter said: “I will surely kill you”, the other replied: “Allah accepts only from the God-fearing.

5:28 “Should you stretch your hand out to kill me, I will not stretch my hand out to kill you; for I fear Allah, Lord of the Worlds.

5:29 “I only wish that you be charged with my sin and yours and thus be one of the companions of the Fire; and that is the reward of the evildoers.”

5:30 Then, his soul prompted him to kill his brother; and so he killed him and became one of the losers.

5:31 Then, Allah sent forth a raven digging the earth to show him how to bury his brother’s corpse. He said: “Woe is me, am I unable to be like this raven and bury the corpse of my brother?” Thus he became one of the remorseful.

Narrated Abdullah:

Allah's Apostle said, "Whenever a person is murdered unjustly, there is a share from the burden of the crime on the first son of Adam for he was the first to start the tradition of murdering."

Bukhari 55.552

Law of Retaliation

With the murder of Abel, Allah confirms that the Law of Retaliation i.e. talion law is the law of the land where murder is concerned.

5:32 For that reason, We decreed for the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul, not in retaliation for a soul or corruption in the land, is like one who has killed the whole of mankind; and whoever saves a life is like one who saves the lives of all mankind. Our Messengers came to them with the clear proofs; but afterwards many of them continued to commit excesses in the land.

To limit these excesses may be why Allah imposed a slaying limit on retaliatory murders.

17:33 Do not kill the soul which Allah has forbidden except for a just cause. Whoever is killed unjustly, We have given his heir the power [to demand satisfaction]; but let him not exceed the limit in slaying, for he will be the victor.

After the attacks of 9/11, Muslim community leaders said that those who caused the deaths of thousands in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania were not true Muslims because in verse 5:32 Allah said that “whoever kills a soul is like killing all of mankind”, therefore no Muslim could have done this. Conveniently leaving out the part about a person who kills another is not “like one who has killed all of mankind” if the murder is in retaliation for a previous murder, or a real or perceived wrong done to Allah or His Messenger i.e. corruption of the land.

President Bush, Prime Minister Blair, journalists, Islamic scholars and others echoed this “politically correct fabrication” according to the Chairman of the British National Party “to avoid an explosion of hostility against Muslims” by leaving the impression that the central message of the Koran is all about peace and love; that “Islam… is Christianity with a towel on its head.”

Retaliation is a central theme of the Koran: brutal retaliation if the alleged crime is deemed to be a crime against Allah or His Messenger, proportionate retaliation for wrongs done to the believers and sometimes, perhaps not often enough, forgiveness.

Obey Allah and His Messenger, forgive your fellow men (revelation 3:134) and ask for forgiveness from your Lord for your sins, and Paradise is a sure thing.

3:132 And obey Allah and His Messenger, that perchance you may find mercy.

3:133 And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord and a Paradise as wide as the heavens and the earth, prepared for the God-fearing;

3:134 Those who spend freely in prosperity and in adversity, those who curb their anger and those who pardon their fellow men. Allah loves the beneficent.

3:135 And those who, when they commit an indecency or wrong themselves, remember Allah and ask forgiveness for their sins. For who but Allah forgives sins? And they will not persist in what they do knowingly.

3:136 The reward of these is Forgiveness from their Lord and Gardens beneath which rivers flow, abiding therein forever. Blessed is the reward of the workers!

There is no down-side to retaliation in kind, even when fighting evil with evil; but there may be an upside to not doing so under certain circumstance.

42:36 For whatever you have been given is only the enjoyment in the present life, but what Allah has is better and more enduring for those who believe and put their trust in their Lord;

42:37 And those who avoid the grave sins and foul acts, and, if angered, will forgive;

42:38 And those who answer their Lord, and perform the prayer – their affair being a counsel among themselves (consult among themselves, Moududi), and of what We provided them with, they spend;

42:39 And those who, if they are oppressed, will overcome.

Fight evil with evil, and perhaps not, if it will lead to the reforming of the wrongdoer i.e. he becomes a believer.

42:40 The reward of evil is an evil like it, but he who pardons and makes amends, his wage is with Allah. Indeed, He does not like the wrongdoers.

Moududi’s comments (partial):

Although it is permissible to retaliate against the one who has committed a violence, wherever pardoning can be conducive to reconcilement, pardoning is better for the sake of reconcilement than retaliation. And since man pardons the other by suppressing his own feelings, Allah says that the reward of such a one is with Him, for he has suppressed his own self for the sake of reforming the evil-doers.

Should you still decide to retaliate in kind, it will not be held against you.

42:41 He who overcomes after being wronged – upon those there is no reproach.

42:42 The reproach is surely upon those who wrong mankind and transgress in the land unjustly. To those a painful punishment is in store.

42:43 Be he who bears patiently and forgives – that is a sign of real resolve.

It is unfortunate that, more often than not, Allah follows resounding moral declarations, such as forgiving, with a brutal reminder that these are meant for co-religionists only; and, notwithstanding what I have just said, there are other conditions you must meet before I give you the keys to Paradise, dying while killing unbelievers being one of them for some (revelations 3:140-142).

3:137 There have been examples (of how Allah dealt with the unbelievers) before you; so travel in the land and behold the fate of those who disbelieved (who disbelieved the messengers).

3:138 This is a declaration for mankind, a guidance and admonition for the God-fearing.

3:139 Do not be faint-hearted and do not grieve; you will have the upper hand, if you are true believers.

3:140 If you have been afflicted by a wound, a similar wound has afflicted the others (the unbelievers). Such are the times; We alternate them among the people, so that Allah may know who are the believers and choose martyrs from among you. Allah does not like the evildoers!

3:141 And that Allah might purify the believers and annihilate the unbelievers.

3:142 Or did you suppose that you will enter Paradise, before Allah has known who were those of you who have struggled, and those who are steadfast.

3:143 You were yearning for death before you actually met it. Now you have seen it and you are beholding it.