Theme of Juz Six – The Perfect Shariah
At this point, I need to clarify that the division of the Qur’an into Ajzaa (plural of Juz) was not divinely revealed. Rather, it was the work of Scholars. However, the division of the Qur’an into Surahs was revealed by Allah and therefore the themes of the Qur’an are not from Juz to Juz but from Surah to Surah. As the Surahs get shorter, we will discuss the theme of each Surah separately if needed.
The Sixth Juz begins with the last few passages of Surah An-Nisaa
and the theme of this Surah was covered in the previous chapter. The rest of the Juz is comprised of Surah Al-Maa’ida
– The Chapter of the Table.
This was one of the latter Surahs to be revealed in Madinah and contains some of the last few verses and commandments to be revealed. The theme of the Surah is that of the importance of the Shariah and its implementation in our daily lives, and the Surah covers this theme from two angles, the first is a detailed list of Shariah Laws and Prohibitions. The other is a firm warning against rejecting the Shariah, by showing the importance of following the Shariah and stating that rejecting the Shariah is a form of disbelief.
The word Shariah needs to be explained because many people have limited its meaning to criminal law. The criminal laws found in this Surah and other chapters of the Qur’an are actually called the Hudood and make up a part of the Shariah but the Shariah is a far broader term. The word ‘Shariah’ means a way and it refers comprehensively to the principles, laws and foundations on which Islam is built. It is distinct from Fiqh in that the Shariah refers to that which was revealed and agreed upon, while Fiqh refers to that which is understood and generally differed over.
Among the Shariah laws covered in this Surah are the following:
1. Halal and Haraam Food (5:1-5)
2. Laws related to dealings with the Jews and Christians (5:5, 51,57)
3. Laws related to being in the state of Ihraam (5:94-97)
4. Permission to eat seafood (5:96)
5. Laws related to Salah and Wudhu (5:6)
6. Criminal Law for thieves (5:38-39)
7. Prohibition of Alcohol and Gambling 5:90-91)
The Surah begins with a firm commandment: “Oh you who believe, fulfil your covenants!” (5:1)
and this refers primarily to our covenant as Muslims to obey the laws of Allah. The relationship to the theme is clear, these are laws of Allah and you are duty-bound as believers to uphold them to the best of your ability.
The Surah also declares the perfect nature of the Shariah: “Today I have perfected for you your way of life, and completed my favour upon you and am pleased to make Islam your way of life,” (5:3)
This verse is the clearest evidence that the religion as revealed is perfect and therefore any innovations added to the religion are to be rejected. We should also ponder over the fact that if the Shariah is perfect, it would only benefit us to follow it.
The first point deserves some elaboration. Over the centuries, many groups tried to change the fundamental beliefs and laws of Islam and in doing so, they invented their own sects. The clearest way to distinguish between the true Islam and man-made sects is to look at which understanding is free from alteration and human innovation.
The word for innovation in Arabic is Bidah, and is often misunderstood. This term refers primarily to any changes, additions or subtractions to the beliefs and acts of worship of Islam. Our beliefs and acts of worship must be taken directly from revelation and followed as revealed. This is not an area for human logic as it is Allah’s right and His revelation. Human logic can never override Divine Revelation.
This prohibition of innovation, however, applies to these two areas only. Islam leaves humans with a lot of room for creativity and innovation when it comes to worldly matters. We have freedom to invent, study, build, change and establish worldly things and customs within the boundaries of the Shariah. Such worldly innovation is recommended and does not fall under this prohibition.
This Surah also contains a brief mention of the story of the time when the Children of Israel refused to go for Jihad with Prophet Musa
and as a result they were humiliated. The lesson here is that when the believers refuse to follow the Shariah, Allah will humiliate them. Reflecting on this, the way forward for Muslims in our current situation is to revive the Shariah in our daily lives.
There are many verses in this Surah which indicate that rejecting the Shariah is an act of Kufr, but the most clear of these is the verse: “So whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed, then they are disbelievers.” (5:44)
this verse has been misinterpreted by contemporary extremists as an excuse to declare the majority of Muslims as disbelievers. This misinterpretation has had dangerous repercussions and has formed the foundation for militant extremist movements.
My advice to the young people caught up in these ideas is to reflect on the Mercy of Allah and the merciful Shariah He has revealed. Islam is meant to be a uniting force, and a source of peace, justice and mercy. If your understanding of Islam is turning you into a hate-fuelled, violent and bitter individual, then it is time to accept that you have misunderstood the very basics of this religion.
It is true that to outright reject the Shariah and to claim that man-made laws are superior to it is an act of disbelief. However, it is not our place to play judge and jury over individuals. It is Allah who will judge people on the Last Day. Our job is to guide with wisdom and mercy. Mass Takfeer (excommunication) has never been the cause of any good for this Ummah.
Allah also confirms in verse 54 that He is not in need of us and that should we reject the Shariah, He will replace us with true believers who will uphold it. He describes them as people who are gentle in dealing with the believers, firm in dealing with their enemies, those who strive to revive and uphold Allah’s religion and who do not fear criticism.
The last point is crucial, as any effort at revival of Islam will be met with criticism by those who fear change and enjoy the status quo. If we wish to revive Islam, we must rise above criticism and focus on pleasing our Creator.
Source: Themes of the Qur'an by Abu Muawiyah Ismail Kamdar