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As I have suggested, just as the Qur'an recognizes the existence of messengers beyond any religion's exclusive lists, it also recognizes those who undergo the suffering of messengers in their attempt to bring humanity out of corruption and bloodshed, those who want to spread justice and compassion among us1. Those who call for justice are recognized in the class of messengers, for they are faced with the same call to mission, the most sacred recognized by the Qur'an: "We sent aforetime our messengers with clear signs and sent down with them the Book and the Balance (of right and wrong), that people may stand forth in justice . . . ." (Surah 57 A1 Hadid: 25)

The Qur'an also anticipates the same experience of rejection, enmity, and harm faced by those who call for justice, and pronounces the same penalty on those who oppose them:

As to those who deny the signs of God, and in defiance of right, slay the prophets, and slay those calling humankind to justice, announce to them a grievous penalty.
They are those whose works will bear no fruit in this world and in the hereafter, nor will they have supporters. (Surah 3 Ali `Imran: 21-22)2

By adding those who call for justice to the list of messengers, the world enters a new era, a new way of knowing, and a new way of reception from God. Divine revelation and the testimony of people of knowledge who call for justice are directly connected: calling for justice is monotheism; it is the thread of unicity in prophetic messages.

The central message of the Qur'an sums up all the prophets' message into one unique expression, used in Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH) correspondence with world leaders of his time.

Say: `O people of the Book! Come to a word of equity (fair terms) between us and you:
That we worship none but God
That we associate no partners with him (practice polytheism)
That we take not each other as deities other than God.' If they, then, turn back, say ye: `Bear witness that we are Muslims (surrendering to God)'. (Id. at 64)3

This is the word of eguity, light and heavy at the same time. It is at once apparent and subtle, a stage which cannot be grasped, for when some believe they have reached it, in fact they have moved away &om it as Adam's flight in terror from the Garden reminds us4. At the edge of equity, civilizations have collapsed and many have been destroyed. Perhaps we can never approach this world of equity unless we admit our distance from it. For in the Bible we read: "Enter by the narrow gate. Wide is the gate, and broad the road that leads to destruction, and many enter that way"; "Narrow is the gate and constricted that road that leads to life, and those who find them are few." (Matt 7:13-14)

The word of equity is the message of all prophets. After the end of prophecy, this message is the responsibility of those who call for justice, and it is the core of the monotheistic tradition. A devout person's closeness to God is judged by the degree to which he or she is capable of comprehending this message, teaching it and committing to it. The status of any society with God is also dependent on its realization of equity according to the Qur'an5: "For the like of this, let all strive, who wish to strive." (Surah 37 A1 Saffat: 61) "Come to a word of equity," the Surah says6. The word of equity is to give the other what you give yourself, and to deny yourself what you deny the other. In the Bible, the same notion is presented as a law of the universe: "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled [abased]; and whoever humble himself will be exalted." (Matt 23:12) The Qur'an succinctly sums up this central message of monotheism, the word of equity and the unity of prophets, in two sentences in Surah 16 which call for equity, justice and piety.

For We assuredly sent amongst every nation (community) a messenger, (with the command), "Serve God, and eschew tyranny . . ." (Surah 16 A1 Nahl: 36)

"(God) committed them to a term of piety; and well were they entitled to it and worthy of it . . ." (Surah 48 A1 Fath: 26) This is the core of religion, the essence of truth, and the goal of prophets, messengers, reformers and those of knowledge. This is what is sacred, what is in all the Books. We read in the Bible: "Always treat others as you would like them to treat you: that is the law and the prophets." (Matt 7:12) It is also what the Qur'an presents7. The word of equity was explained in the Qur'an in three ways8: (1) that we worship none but God, (2) that we associate no partners with him (will not practice polytheism), (3) and that we take not each other as deities. These explanations are part of an overarching interpretation of the word of equity that subsumes within it the denunciation of tyranny and prohibition of religious coercion:

(1) for rushd9 (moral and intellectual maturity) stands out as clearly distinct from wickedness (ghay). (2) Whoever rejects tyranny and believes in God (3) has grasped the most secure handhold, that never breaks loose'. (Surah 2 A1 Baqarah: 256)
The word of equity is also the witness that `there is no god, but God.'

Thus, the Qur'an warns that those who cross the boundaries of justice into oppression by dominating and overpowering others (the verb "tagha" is significant since many people, including even Arabs, do not always understand the relationship between the verb "tagha" and the term "taghut," and since the term "taghut" is used throughout the document perhaps a footnote about the verb should be placed under the first time the term "taghut" appears) "spread (heap) therein corruption (mischief)." (Surah 89 A1 Fajr: 11-12) The story of Pharaoh and Moses is the paradigmatic story in the Qur'an of both tyranny and "speaking to power." Mentioned numerous times, the name Pharaoh ceased to be simply the name of an individual and became instead a symbolic reference to all domination that violated the precepts of equity10. "Truly Pharaoh elated himself in the land and broke up its people into sects, dominating (depressing) a group among them: their sons he slew, their women he enslaved. He was indeed one of the (class ofJ corrupters (on earth)." (Surah 28 Al Qasas: 4)

The word of equity, the word of monotheism and the order to avoid domination and eschew tyranny all resonate within each other. Similarly, in the Bible the connection between monotheism and equity is clear: the Bible condemns the human mastery over other persons: "And call no man your father upon the earth; for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ." (Matt 23:9-10)11


1 The Qur'an attests to the hostile reception faced by those who prophesy: "Do they seek for other than the religion of God?" "while all creatures in the heavens and on earth have, willing or unwilling, bowed to his will, and to Him shall they all be brought back." Surah 3 Ali `Imran: 81-83. The Qur'an further states:

And remember, Jesus, the son of Mary, said: `Oh, children of Israel! I am the messenger of God (sent) to you, confirming the Law (which came) before me, and giving glad tidings of a Messenger to come after me, Whose name shall be Ahmad. (another name for Muhaxnmed).' But when he came to them with clear signs, they said, `This is evident sorcery!' Surah 61 A1 Saff: 6.

2 Similarly, the Qur'an joined the testimony of God and angels to that of the learned ones who call for justice: "There is no god but He: that is the witness of God, his angels, and those endued with knowledge, standing firm on justice. There is no god but He the exalted in power, the wise." Surah 3 Ali `Imran: 18.

3 The prophet (PBLlH) wrote these leaders letters in which he called on them for what had been revealed to him . In his letters, he included this term, which is captured in the quoted verse.

4 T'he Bible tells us:

And the Lord God . . . said, `The man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; what if he now reaches out and takes fruit from the tree of life also, and eats it and lives for ever': When he drove him out, God settled him to the East of the garden of Eden, and he stationed the cherubim and a sword whirling and tlashing to guard the way to the tree of life. Gen 3:22, 24.

The flaming sword at the gate of Eden is the narrow gate in Matthew which only few will find.

5 For instance, the Surahs read: "[AJnd for this let the competitors compete." Surah 83 Al Mutaffifin: 26.

6 Surah 3 Ali `Imran: 64.

7 As just some examples of this word of equity, we might look at the Bible:

How can you say to your brother, `let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own? You hypocrite! First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's. Matt 7:4-5.

The Qur'an also enunciates this word more specifically:

Woe to those that deal in fraud. Those who, when they have to receive by measure from people, exact full measure, But when they have to give by measure or weight to others, give less than due. Do they not think that they will be called to account? On a Mighty Day, A Day when all humankind will stand before the Lord of the Worlds. Surah 83 Al Mutaffifin: 1-6.

To call forth the demand forjudgment in equity in parallel ways:

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. For as you judge others, so you will yourselves be judged, and whatever measure you deal out of others will be dealt to you. Matt 7:2.

Do you enjoin right conduct on the people, and forget (to practise it) yourselves. And yet you study the Scripture? Will you not reason. Surah 2 Al Baqarah: 44.

Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay tithe of mint and dill and c~xnmin; but you have overlooked the weightier demands of the law justice, mercy, and good faith. It these you should have practised, without neglecting the others. Matt 23:23. Perhaps through these comparisons, our level will rise beyond mint and cummin. We, then, will take the law unlike those who `strain off a midge, yet gulp down a camel.' Id. at 23:24.

Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like tombs covered with whitewash; they look fine on the outside, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and of corruption. So it is with you: outwardly you look like honest men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (iniquity]. Id. at 24:27-28.

and lawlessness spreads [because iniquity shall abound], the love of many will grow cold. But whoever endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the earth as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come. Id. at 24:12-14.

In the Qur'an, it is also said:

Say: `Not equal are things that are vile and things that are seemly, even though the abundance of vileness may dazzle you; so fear God, O you that of hearts (understand); that you may prosper.' Surah 5 A1 Ma'idah: 103.

And no one will be granted such goodness except those who exercise patience and self restraint, none but persons of greatest good fortune. Surah 41 Fussilat: 35.

It is those who are endowed with hearts (understanding) that remember. Those who fulfill the covenant of God and fail not in their plighted word; Those who join together those which God had commanded to be joined, hold their Lord in awe, and fear the terrible reckoning; Those who patiently persevere, seeking the countenance of their Lord; establish regular prayers; spend, out of what We have bestowed for their sustenance, secretly and openly; and repel off evil with good (compassion): for such there is the attainment of the (etemal) home. Surah 13 A1 Ra'd: 19-22.

8 And all prophets were sent with the commands to worship God and avoid tyranny (taghut) (domination) and that the word of polytheism is in opposition to the word of equity. We see this clearly stated in these words: "It has already been revealed to you as it was those before you. `If you were to commit polytheism, truly obsolete will be your work, and you will surely be in the ranks of those who lose."' Surah 39 A1 Zummar: 65. It is important to understand that obedience is voluntary; in Surah 2 we read: "There is no coercion in religion . . . .' Surah 2 Al-Baqarah 256.

9 The Arabic term "rushd" has a variety of interrelated meanings which include "(physical) maturity and adulthood." The root word for "rushd" in Arabic means "guidance or reason." The Qur'anic concept of "rushd," however, is ticher in meaning than the corresponding Arabic word. It refers to other less literal and more conceptually sophisticated meanings, such as: moral and spiritual maturity, or political legitimacy. In the Qur'an "rushd" is used to distinguish a certain path or even a model of behavior. For example, the Qur'an describes the Pharoah as someone who was not "rashid." Surah 11 Hud: 97. In other places, the Qur'an states that God will turn away from the "path of rushd" those who are arrogant, and unjustly defiant. Surah 7 Al-A'raf: I46. The word "rushd" is used repeatedly in the Qur'an to embody meanings of reason, guidance and political or social legitimacy in a community. Because of the richness of this Qur'anic term, the editors have opted not to translate i~, but to use the word "rushd" instead throughout the text. This approach preserves the richness of its meaning and maintains the integrity of this Qur'anic concept.

10 "Serve God, and eschew tyranny . . . ." Surah 16 A1 Nahl: 36. Taghut and tughyan comes from the Arabic verb tagha which means to dominate and control; to pass the limits in oppression. The Qut'an uses this verb in relation to the Pharaoh in many instances as we saw in the earlier quotes. This verb was also used in relation to the tribes A'ad and Thamoud in addition to Pharaoh. The longest dialogue in the Qur'an between a prophet and his people is the dialogue between Moses and Pharaoh. The Pharaoh was mentioned in the Qur'an more than 70 times and Moses over I00 times. The struggle of the prophet Moses was with one of the greatest and most domineering civilizations, which has left us the pyramids, a symbols of the power they possessed. Pharaoh, in the Qur'an, is more of an archetype. He was the king, the god whom the Qur'an quoted in phrases that indicate subjugation and conquest, and the division of his people into classes. The Qur'an quotes different utterances by Pharaoh. "He (Pharaoh) said: `I am your Lord, Most High."' Surah 79 A1 Nazi'at: 24. "Pharaoh said: `O chiefs! No god do I know for you but myself . . . ."' Surah 28 A1 Qasas: 38. "Pharaoh said: `If thou dost put forward any god other than me, I will certainly make thee imprisoned."' Surah 26 A1 Shu'ara': 29. And of him: "Truly Pharoah elevated himself in the land and splintered up its people into factions, taking advantage of a weak group among them: their sons he slew, and he kept the women alive, for he was indeed a maker of mishief." Surah 28A1 Qasas: 4.

11 This verse is from the King James version. This translation is more in accord with the Arabic version. And the verses are more consistent with each other in this translation, since, in this version, God is presented as Father and Master. In the King James, "even Christ" is added to emphasize that no one is called master, even Christ.