Is It Love or Charity: What Did Paul Really Say?
I mean that. What exactly did Paul write in his letter to the Corinthians? What was he really talking about? What concept? Using what term or word to express that concept or idea or notion?
Some of the newer editions or versions of the Bible use the word Love. But not so the earlier ones.
That means, if you go back 50 or 70 or 80 or a hundred years or so -- just to be safe -- and read that same chapter (chapter 13: verses 1-13 of Corinthians I), it is not the word “Love” that you are likely to encounter. The word that will actually meet your eye is likely to be “Charity.”
That means, in the earlier versions, the Bible -- Paul, that is -- talks about the concept of Charity, using precisely that word, as it is translated in English. But in later, more recent, versions the word “Charity” has been replaced with the new word “Love.”
As to why it is so, I have neither the time nor the resources -- nor, in fact, the requisite qualifications -- to go into at this time.
Looking for Truth: Is Truth the Missing Link in Our Discourse?
I deliberately ended the quote from the New Testament on the word “truth.”Because, often, truth seems to be the missing link in much of our thinking and discourse these days.
Whereas in reality, whether the topic is Love or Charity, neither of them makes much sense without a deliberate, open, serious and unambiguous commitment to truth.
Nor, for that matter, does anything else make any sense in the absence, on our part, of a clear commitment to truth.
Once truth is ruled out as an arbiter of reality, or reduced to a helpless bystander, right ceases to be might and might -- brute force -- then automatically becomes right. This then paves the way for cheating, robbing and enslaving others as individuals, groups, nations and societies, which has been the dominant theme of much of the story of the world.
That is why a cynic can say that in talking about Love and Charity without any reference to or respect for Truth, our object may be in fact to use the lofty expressions and noble professions of Love and Charity themselves as a ruse to deny Love or Charity to others.
Subjecting others to all kinds of injustices and inequities then becomes possible -- in fact it becomes a lot easier and a lot more palatable -- once we remove truth from playing an active, visible and decisive role in human affairs.
Because once we eliminate truth as a factor, we can then freely commit all kinds of oppressive, atrocious and uncharitable acts on all kinds of others -- and then lie about it.
In a sense, it is precisely that kind of iniquity, unfairness and injustice that Islam came into this world to end.
Muslims and the Concept of Love
So, when the Muslims abandon, with such alacrity, to Christians and others, the concept of Love -- either in general or in relation to God, and especially in relation to God’s mercy and love for his creation -- I want them to pause and take another look at what they are doing.
In the haste of some of them to go down as the Taqwa people -- I am not going to comment on what Taqwa is at this time -- and as the people who fear God, rather or more than love him and be loved by him, they may have surrendered to others something so absolutely precious, so valuable -- and so quite possibly unique and special.
They may have thrown the baby out with the bath water.
Allah, The Most Forgiving One: A Quick Count
Let me give you a quick count, hoping I am right, and may Allah forgive me if I am wrong, of just one of those most beautiful and glorious names and attributes of Allah, namely, Ghafoor.
It is not one. It is not two. It is not 10 or 25 or 50. But a full 89 times by my count -- may Allah forgive me if I am wrong. That is how many times Almighty Allah uses that most amazing and beautiful name for himself in the Qur’an -- The Most Forgiving One!
What do you want me to say?
I did not make up these numbers. It does not matter whether the person doing the count is a Muslim or a non-Muslim. The numbers are there for anyone to see. And they are going to be the same numbers for everyone undertaking the count, regardless of the race, religion, faith or belief of those doing the counting.
It Is Not Just Ghafoor, But Also Ghaffaar
All this means that along with everything else that he says he is, Allah, Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala, is also the Most Forgiving.
He is Ghafoor.
And he is also Ghaffaar. Whatever the difference between the two names.
That means if the story of Allah’s mercy and love does not end withRahmaan and Raheem, but continues to unfold in the form of Ghafoor, a name that Allah uses for himself in the Qur’an about 89 times, it does not stop with Ghafoor either.
It finds even more reason to saturate his creation. And this time it does so in the form of another name of the same derivation as Ghafoor, namely, Ghaffaar.
In the same way as, earlier, Rahmaan was further described using another name of the same root, namely, Raheem.
Thus, in the Qur’an, Allah refers to himself by the name of Ghaffaar, not once or twice, but at least five times. And that is in addition to the 89 times where he refers to himself as Ghafoor.
So, he is both Al-Ghafoor and Al-Ghaffaar -- The Most Forgiving and The Most Forgiving, even more so -- just as he is both Ar-Rahmaan and Ar-Raheem -- the Most Merciful and Loving and the Most Merciful and Loving.
What does it all mean? I think I will be better off if just said “I haven’t a clue!”and moved on.
All I am doing is sharing with you what I see -- what is out there. Feel free to correct me if I am wrong.
But what I am saying is what is out there for any naked eye to see.
Once again, the Missing “Wau”: The Miracle of Conjunction without a Conjunction
But all this is not all either.
The story of Allah’s mercy and love continues -- unstopped, unstoppable, immense, overwhelming, immeasurable and without pause or interference.
Remember the Wau-less conjunction of Ar-Rahmaan Ar-Raheem?
A conjunction without a conjunction?
A glorious example, in our own hands, of the power of Kun fa Yakoon?
Others need the aid of a conjunction like “and” to be able to pile one thing on top of another. Allah does not.
When he wants to do something, he just says to it “Be!” and lo and behold it happens -- it comes into being.
So, remember the wave after wave of the flood of Allah’s mercy and love -- unremitting and without so much as the pause or interference caused by an alien and interjecting “Wau”? There is much more of it in the Qur’an than many of us seem to know -- or care about.
Instant and Blanket Amnesty for Wrongdoers
So, the flood of Allah’s boundless mercy and love and forgiveness continues to flow. Now in the form of a loud and open call for those seeking an escape from this flood of mercy to stop and turn back.
Now the invitation goes out to all those on the run from Allah’s mercy and love to stop running and return to Allah’s mercy and love.
To all those gone astray -- and which one of us has not strayed at one time or another, in one way or another, for one moment or longer?
To all those on the run -- those who had foolishly turned their back on Allah’s mercy and love.
An open and unconditional invitation to all wrongdoers to return.
A blanket and instant amnesty of the kind the world never heard and never could imagine.
So, It Is Not Just Ghafoor and Ghaffaar, But Also Tawwaab and ‘Afuw
Allah now calls himself Tawwaab -- the one who is most welcoming and accepting of repentance: of those who return to him.
Those who pause in their waywardness and decide to turn back.
And he calls himself Afuw.
And that is in addition to Ghafoor and Ghaffaar.
And again he does so not once or twice or five times but about 11 times or so.
Furthermore, he couples that expression of Tawwaab with Raheem -- the most merciful and loving. For example, in the two Aayats below:
1. Wa Anat Tawwaabur Raheem (2:160).
And I am the most welcoming and accepting of repentance and the most merciful and loving.
2. Innallaha Huwat Tawwaabur Raheem (9:104; 9:118).
Surely Allah, he is the most welcoming and accepting of repentance and the most merciful and loving.
This is what Allah has to say about himself in the Qur’an.
So, how do you explain away any of these things? How do you so nonchalantly surrender the turf of Love to others -- without so much as making an effort?
More importantly, is that how you explain the notion of God to yourself, your family and friends, and to the rest of the world of Allah, Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala?
Or are you one of those who never thought of explaining God -- either to yourself or to anyone else?
How Like a Doting Parent!
And how like a doting parent it all is! The way Allah treats the children of Adam!
First, shower your favourite child with a topless mountain of favours and gifts of the kind no one can imagine.
Then, let lose on that child a bottomless ocean of mercy and love and compassion and kindness from all sides.
And in between continue to overlook the errors and follies of that child with utmost grace and compassion and tolerance and accommodation.
And in the end, when that child continues to misbehave, chase that child down and do everything to bring that child back to his senses and smother him with forgiveness.
And, when that child continues to insist on his foolishness, and continues to ignore all warnings and invitations, leave the door of repentance and return wide open for that child.
An “open-door” policy? We invented that idea and that expression!
Well, our God of infinite love and mercy did!
And “leave the lights on”? We invented that idea and that expression too!
Well, our God of infinite compassion and tolerance and forgiveness did!
Did I hear you say someone out there has a more dynamic and more complete model of God’s mercy and love and compassion and grace and tolerance and forgiveness for his creation?
I Am Glad You Are with Us
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Nothing but Drafts
Do bear in mind, however, that our manuscripts -- whatever we write, put on the Web or send in the form of letters and E-mails, etc. -- are mostly drafts in need of further research and revision, which we are often unable to undertake or complete due to serious time and resource constraints.
Part of that time and resource constraint is our inability to be more exact in our Transliteration. If there are inconsistencies, please overlook them.
Don’t Forget Us in Your Du’as!
As you read, please do not forget me, my family, my parents, my teachers and my ancestors in your Du’as.
And all those wonderful people, Allah bless them, who may help me, now or in future, with this immense project. Especially, our wonderful Webmaster, Allah bless him, who slaps these E-Letters on the Web with the same speed with which I finish writing them.
And do please find within you the generosity and compassion to forgive me if I have in any way offended you; or said something I should not have said; or said it in a way that you thought was not appropriate.
Ask Allah to forgive me for any errors that there may be in my E-Letters and to protect me from them in future.
May Allah be with you!
Where and in the way you want him to be!
Allahummaghfir Li-Ummati Muhammadin, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam!
Wassalaamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullah!
© 2006 Syed Husain Pasha
Dr. Pasha is an educator and scholar of exceptional
talent, training and experience. He can be reached at DrSyedPasha [at]
AOL [dot] com or www.IslamicSolutions.com.