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Sura 57
Aya 27
ثُمَّ قَفَّينا عَلىٰ آثارِهِم بِرُسُلِنا وَقَفَّينا بِعيسَى ابنِ مَريَمَ وَآتَيناهُ الإِنجيلَ وَجَعَلنا في قُلوبِ الَّذينَ اتَّبَعوهُ رَأفَةً وَرَحمَةً وَرَهبانِيَّةً ابتَدَعوها ما كَتَبناها عَلَيهِم إِلَّا ابتِغاءَ رِضوانِ اللَّهِ فَما رَعَوها حَقَّ رِعايَتِها ۖ فَآتَينَا الَّذينَ آمَنوا مِنهُم أَجرَهُم ۖ وَكَثيرٌ مِنهُم فاسِقونَ

Yusuf Ali

Then, in their wake, We followed them up with (others of) Our messengers: We sent after them Jesus the son of Mary, and bestowed on him the Gospel; and We ordained in the hearts of those who followed him Compassion and Mercy.1 But the Monasticism which they invented for themselves, We did not prescribe for them:2 (We commanded) only the seeking for the Good Pleasure of God. but that they did not foster3 as they should have done. Yet We bestowed, on those among them who believed,4 their (due) reward, but many of them are rebellious transgressors.5
  • The chief characteristic of the teaching in the Gospels is humility and otherworldliness. The first blessings in the Sermon on the Mount are on “the poor in spirit”, “they that mourn”, and they that are “meek” (Matt. 5:3-5). Christ’s disciples were enjoined to “take no thought for the morrow”, and told: “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof (Matt. 6:34). They were also commanded “that ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matt. 5:39). These are fragmentary presentments of an imperfect philosophy as seen through monastic eyes. Insofar as they represent pity, sympathy with suffering, and deeds of mercy, they represent the spirit of Christ.
  • But God’s Kingdom requires also courage, resistance to evil, the firmness, law, and discipline which will enforce justice among men. It requires to mingle with men, so that they can uphold the standard of Truth, against odds if necessary. These were lost sight of in Monasticism, which was not prescribed by God.
  • God certainly requires that men shall renounce the idle pleasures of this world, and turn to the Path which leads to God’s Good Pleasure. But that does not mean gloomy lives, (“they that mourn”), nor perpetual and formal prayers in isolation. God’s service is done through pure lives in the turmoil of this world. This spirit was lost, or at least not fostered by monastic institutions. On the contrary, a great part of the “struggle and striving” for noble lives was suppressed.
  • Many of them lost true Faith, or had their Faith corrupted by superstitions. But those who continued firm in Faith saw the natural development of Religion in Islam. Their previous belief was not a disadvantage to them, but helped them, because they kept it free from false and selfish prejudices. These are the ones who are further addressed at the beginning of verse 28 below.
  • The corruptions in the Christian Church, the hair-splitting disputes, and mutual strife and hatred of sects had become a scandal by the time that the light oflslam came into the world. The pages of Gibbon’s great History bear witness. Not only had the religion become void of grace, but the lives of the people, priests and laity, had fallen into great depths of degradation. See remarks in my Appendix 5, and the general picture in Kingsley’s Hypatia.