Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Paragraph 92

Yea, in the writings and utterances of the Mirrors reflecting the sun of the Muḥammadan Dispensation mention hath been made of “Modification by the exalted beings” and “alteration by the disdainful.” Such passages, however, refer only to particular cases. Among them is the story of Ibn-i-Ṣúríyá. When the people of Khaybar asked the focal center of the Muḥammadan Revelation concerning the penalty of adultery committed between a married man and a married woman, Muḥammad answered and said: “The law of God is death by stoning.” Whereupon they protested saying: “No such law hath been revealed in the Pentateuch.” Muḥammad answered and said: “Whom do ye regard among your rabbis as being a recognized authority and having a sure knowledge of the truth?” They agreed upon Ibn-i-Súríyá. Thereupon Muḥammad summoned him and said: “I adjure thee by God Who clove the sea for you, caused manna to descend upon you, and the cloud to overshadow you, Who delivered you from Pharaoh and his people, and exalted you above all human beings, to tell us what Moses hath decreed concerning adultery between a married man and a married woman.” He made reply: “O Muḥammad! death by stoning is the law.” Muḥammad observed: “Why is it then that this law is annulled and hath ceased to operate among the Jews?” He answered and said: “When Nebuchadnezzar delivered Jerusalem to the flames, and put the Jews to death, only a few survived. The divines of that age, considering the extremely limited number of the Jews, and the multitude of the Amalekites, took counsel together, and came to the conclusion that were they to enforce the law of the Pentateuch, every survivor who hath been delivered from the hand of Nebuchadnezzar would have to be put to death according to the verdict of the Book. Owing to such considerations, they totally repealed the penalty of death.” Meanwhile Gabriel inspired Muḥammad’s illumined heart with these words: “They pervert the text of the Word of God.”

Here is the seventh paragraph, of thirteen, concerning the words, "And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet."

It's always worth remembering where we are in the context of this book. For example, we wouldn't have thought of this story as being a reference to "a great sound of a trumpet", but upon reflection this sure seems like a trumpet blast to us. It must have really shocked the people of the time, the Jews to whom He was talking. A real wake up call.

Here we have Muhammad, Who in their opinion would know nothing of Jewish law, proving that He knows it better than they do. In His initial speech leading up to the question, He is demonstrating that He is well aware of the history of these peoples and is referring to them with the utmost respect.

Then, when Ibn-i-Suriya responds, he does so with a sound argument. His rationale for why the law was changed sure seems to make sense. We can understand it.

But let's face it, the Jewish divines and the Amalekites, one of the Jewish tribes, got together and repealed that law, but they didn't have the authority to do that.

It opens up a very tricky question. What do you do when the conditions change, but you don't have the authority to change the law? Maybe they could have put into abeyance the penalty for the time being, but they didn't. They "totally repealed" it. They may have had the right to offer mercy, but instead they went further. That was beyond their right and authority. There were so many other options they could have chosen. They could have said that anyone who survived the massacre in Jerusalem was exempt from that penalty, provided they remained faithful to a new spouse. They could have done any number of things to provide for the dire conditions of the day, but instead, they chose a simple and expedient solution.

Worse, though, was that this was done for all time. The repealing of this law was taken for granted, so much so that at the time of Muhammad the people had forgotten all about the original penalty.

And so God, through the angel Gabriel, inspired Muhammad to say, in relation to this story, that they perverted the Word of God.

But they didn't change the Word. You could still go back to the Tanakh, the Old Testament, and see that this really was the law. The word "pervert" only refers to their interpretation and application of the law.

And so, when the people of the Bab's day claim that the Christians and Jews don't even have the Word of God, because the Text is "perverted" or "corrupted', they are quite simply wrong. In this context, "to pervert" simply means to twist the meaning of something, or to turn away from something that is good.

All this is a beautiful reminder that the Messenger of God is well aware of the truth and details of the older faiths. He was fully aware of the Text. It is also a reminder that we should go back to the original text and see what it actually says, as opposed to merely listening to what the people thin it says.

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