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Interpretation of Sura Cow - Verse 189

Reigious Calendar to be according to the Lunar Year - Regard for the sanctity of the Sacred Month - Fighting in self-defence - Regard for the sanctity of the holy city - Self-defence during the sacred month - Pilgrimage under restrictions - combining 'Umrah' with 'Haj'

189. " They ask you concerning the new moons; say: ' They are times appointed for mankind and (for) the Hajj'. It is not righteousness that you should enter dwellings from their backs but righteousness is this that one should guard himself (against evil) ; and enter the dwellings by their (proper) doors, and fear Allah: that you may be prosperous."

Occasion of Revelation

It has been said that Ma'az-ibn-Jabal came to the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and said that he was frequently asked about the crescent of the moon and that why it gradually changes to a full shape and then alters to its first status. Also, it is narrated that the Jews asked the Messenger of Allah (p.b.u.h.) what the crescent of the moon was for and what the use of it was. At that time the above verse was sent down and announced that the different states of the moon have different material and spiritual advantages in the system of the human beings' lives.

Commentary

As mentioned in the occasion of revelation of the verse, some people asked the Prophet of Islam (p.b.u.h.) a few questions about the reason of the different peculiar shapes that the Moon seemed to have and the concerning use of them. In answer to these questions, Allah ordered the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) to tell them the effects and the different usages of the crescent for all people. They ask you concerning the new moons; say: ' They are times appointed for mankind and (for) the Hajj'. It is not righteousness that you should enter dwellings from their backs but righteousness is this that one should guard himself (against evil) ; and enter the dwellings by their (proper) doors, and fear Allah: that you may be prosperous."

The rising of the Moon at the beginning of each lunar month in the form of crescent, and then its gradual change, can be the source of many uses in the act of practising worship and the accomplishment of religious duties by people, and in their material career as well. Every body can easily count days of the month and enumerate the month of the year by the help of the varying shapes or forms of the Moon when dealing with trading and writing agreements due to appointing the times of promises and contracts. Besides that, fasting , the performance of the great worship of Pilgrimage and festivals, etc., prescribed by Islam, are timed according to the lunar months. The best way for people to recognize them and decide to arrange the affairs is this very form of the crescent in various shapes when they see them differently at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end of the months.

It is obvious that the regularity of the social life of man without a common and precise means of dating is impossible. So, the Moon, indeed, is a natural calendar for all human beings. It is a natural phenomenom that the entire people, whether literate or illiterate, wherever in the world they are, can make use of it.

For this reason, the Creator, the Great, has made this worldly calendar available for the use of the human race in their life system.

Natural Measures

One of the advantages of Islamic laws is that their orders have usually been arranged corresponding with the natural measures, for these measures are some means that are available to all people and, besides that, the passing of time does not affect them. But, on the contrary, unnatural scales are not within reach to all human beings for every thing. For example, the population of the world have not been able to use of some international measures for timing the evening yet. Therefore, we see that Islam has sometimes assigned the measure of a span, or a man's height and the like of it. And, for appointing a time, phenomena such as sunset, break of dawn, decline of sun from the meridian and the vision of the Moon are usually pointed out.

" It is not righteousness that you should enter dwellings from their backs..."

In this verse the statement is partly about the Hajj Pilgrimage which can be performed at its proper time by visual noting the crescent of the Moon. It has also pointed to one of the superstitious customs of the Age of Ignorance accomplished in the rites of pilgrimage which Allah prohibited them from.

It was the practice among Arabs that after getting into the pilgrim garment ('Ihram) they considered it unlawful to enter their house through the usual doors. Hence they cut a new entrance under the ground from behind their premises. They did so because they thought it was a good action since it was a desuetude of habit and, therefore, they would complete the act of the pilgrim garment which was a desuetude of habits. 84 But the Qur'an explicitly says that righteousness lies in piety, not in the superstitious customs. So, it immediately tells them seriously to enter their houses from the very ordinary doors.

But the object and the significance of the revelation of this verse is reasonably wider, greater, and more common. For the fulfilment of any action, whether it is a ritual action or a non-religious one, we should enter it through its proper way, not from a deviated path. Here, entering from behind is a figurative expression for turning aside from the right course, and entering by the door means sticking to the right path. This meaning is narrated from Imam Baqir (a.s.) by Jabir, one of his companions. 85

In the commentaries from Ahlul-Bayt (a.s.) it is narrated about this verse that they have said: " We are the doors and the ways of Allah that invite unto (His) Heaven...". 86 his tradition means that in your total religious affairs you should arrive by the main door and take your agenda from them (a.s.) whom are trained in the school of revelation and the Divine Messages were revealed in their house, (Ahlul-Bayt) . The phrase: " It is not righteousness..." may point to another narrow meaning saying that your question about the crescent, instead of inquiring about theology, is like the manner of the one who has put the main and right path of the house aside and enters it through a burrow from behind the premise. What a disgraceful manner!

Notes:

85. Majma'-ul-Bayan, vol. 2, p. 282

86. Ibid

Adapted from the book: "The Light of The Quran - Interpretation of Sura Al-Baqarah (The Cow)" by: "Sayyid Kamal Faghih Imani and A Group of Muslim Scholars"

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