This post and the replies to it explore the notion of measurement in the Qur'an and the range of meanings that it conveys, from the mundane to the more esoteric and divine. These posts then focus on the association between measurement and precision in the Qur'an and how intertwined the two concepts are. Given that improvements in precision are associated with technological development - it is hypothesised that the latter could be considered a 'good' thing.
A previous blog post, that I had written by myself) on this subject disappeared after it was posted. So here is another attempt, but this time I have resorted to posting a conversation with GPT4, pursuing lines of thought that had motivated the previous post. So usual caveats apply i.e. the references it gives etc. do need to be checked for accuracy.
Please give some examples of the usage of the word 'measure' as used in English translations of the Qur'an.
Sure, I can provide some examples from well-known English translations of the Qur'an that feature the concept of 'measure'. However, please remember that translations can vary based on the translator's understanding and interpretation. Here are a few examples:
In the context of divine creation: In Surah Al-Furqan (25:2), the concept of 'measure' is used to describe the precision and orderliness of God's creation: "He to whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth and who has not taken a son and has not had a partner in dominion and has created each thing and determined it with [precise] determination."
In the context of sustenance and livelihood: In Surah Al-Isra (17:30), it is said that God provides for whom He wills in measured amounts: "Indeed, your Lord extends provision for whom He wills and restricts [it]. Indeed He is ever, concerning His servants, Acquainted and Seeing."
In the context of time and life: In Surah Al-Insan (76:3), the term 'measure' is used to refer to the predetermined life span of every individual: "Indeed, We created man from a sperm-drop mixture that We may try him; and We made him hearing and seeing."
In the context of moral and ethical standards: In Surah Al-Mutaffifin (83:1-3), those who give less than due when they measure or weigh for people are condemned: "Woe to those who give less [than due], Who, when they take a measure from people, take in full. But if they give by measure or by weight to them, they cause loss."
These are just a few examples to illustrate how the concept of 'measure' is used in the Qur'an. It's a multi-faceted term with different implications depending on the context.
Please expand on the references to the notion of measurement when applied to moral and ethical standards.
The Qur'an, as the central religious text of Islam, contains numerous references to moral and ethical standards. These standards are often articulated in terms of measures, weights, balances, scales, or equivalents, metaphors that imply fairness, justice, and equity.
Here are some instances where the notion of measurement is applied to moral and ethical standards:
Fair dealings and honesty in transactions: In Surah Al-Mutaffifin (83:1-3), it is emphasized that people should be fair and honest in their transactions. The word 'measure' is used metaphorically to represent the moral standard for economic transactions. Those who cheat or give less than due when they measure or weigh for others are condemned.
The recompense of deeds: The metaphor of scales or balance is often used in the context of judgment in the Hereafter. In Surah Al-Qari'ah (101:6-9), it is mentioned that on the Day of Judgement, people's deeds will be weighed, and those whose scale of good deeds is heavy will be successful, while those whose scale is light will have lost their souls. Here, 'measure' is used to metaphorically represent the weight of a person's good and bad deeds.
Justice: Justice is a key value in Islamic ethics. The Qur'an urges believers to uphold justice, even against themselves or their kin. In Surah An-Nisa (4:135), it states, "O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives." Here, the notion of 'measure' is inherent in the concept of justice, implying fairness and impartiality.
Equitable treatment and reciprocity: In Surah Al-Baqarah (2:279), the Qur'an provides guidance about dealing with debts and emphasizes the importance of writing down the amount borrowed to ensure fairness and prevent disputes. This is a metaphorical use of 'measure', representing clear and fair dealings in social and economic transactions.
These examples demonstrate how the Qur'an uses the concept of 'measure' to prescribe moral and ethical standards for individuals and societies. The consistent theme is a call for fairness, justice, and honesty in all dealings.
Please expand on the issue of measurement where the references are to do with fair dealings and honesty in transactions.
In the Qur'an, the concept of fair dealings and honesty, especially in business transactions, is heavily emphasized. The term 'measure' is often used as a metaphor to reinforce this principle. Here are some key examples:
Surah Al-Mutaffifin (Defrauding; 83:1-3): "Woe to those who give less [than due], who when they take a measure from people, take in full. But if they give by measure or by weight to them, they cause loss." These verses clearly condemn dishonest business practices, specifically those involving shortchanging or defrauding others in measurements or weights.
Surah Al-An'am (The Cattle; 6:152): "And give full measure when you measure, and weigh with an even balance. That is the best [way] and best in result." This verse underscores the importance of giving full measure and maintaining a balanced weight, both literally in commerce and metaphorically in all dealings.
Surah Al-Isra (The Night Journey; 17:35): "And give full measure when you measure, and weigh with an even balance. That is the best [way] and best in result." This verse is a near-repetition of the one in Surah Al-An'am, further emphasizing the importance of honest measurements and dealings.
Surah Hud (11:84-85): "And O my people, give full measure and weight in justice and do not deprive the people of their due and do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption." These verses were spoken by the prophet Shu'aib, admonishing his people to act justly in their business transactions and warning them against spreading corruption.
These verses underscore the Qur'anic emphasis on integrity, honesty, and fairness in business transactions. From a broader perspective, these principles can be seen as fundamental to the Islamic concept of 'Adl (justice) and Ihsan (doing what is good and right). This includes upholding trust (Amanah), being truthful (Sidq), and avoiding deceit and corruption. Such principles are seen as crucial for maintaining social harmony and economic justice in society.
You used the word metaphorically in your last answer. Can you please expand on the notion of how measurement refers in the Qur'an on a more metaphorical basis in the context of dealings?
In the Qur'an, the concept of measurement is often used metaphorically to convey deeper moral and ethical lessons. When applied to the context of dealings, especially in business transactions, the 'measure' becomes a symbol of integrity, fairness, and justice.
Symbol of integrity: When the Qur'an instructs to give full measure, it's not just about the literal physical measure in transactions, but also about being fully truthful and transparent in all aspects of life. For example, when you promise something, you should fulfill it completely, not partially or deceitfully.
Indicator of fairness: The measure in the Qur'an often symbolizes fairness. When it instructs to give full measure, it's urging fairness not just in transactions, but in all interactions with others. This includes treating others with respect, not taking advantage of others, and giving everyone their due rights.
Representation of justice: The Qur'anic emphasis on accurate measurement can be seen as a metaphor for justice. Just as you wouldn't want to be cheated out of a full measure in a transaction, you should not cheat others out of their rights. This concept extends to social justice, implying that everyone should get their fair share of society's resources and opportunities.
A signifier of balance: The Qur'an often pairs the concept of measure with balance, especially in the context of dealings. This can be interpreted metaphorically as a call for balance in all aspects of life, including personal conduct, social relationships, and economic activities. This balance is crucial in maintaining harmony and preventing exploitation or excess.
These metaphorical interpretations of 'measure' highlight the depth of Qur'anic teachings, where simple instructions carry profound moral and ethical implications. It's a reminder that the principles of integrity, fairness, justice, and balance should permeate every aspect of a person's life, from business transactions to personal relationships and societal interactions.
Can you give references to any commentators who have written about these metaphorical uses of measurement in the Qur'an, quotations from their works would be useful.
Islamic scholars and commentators have indeed explored the metaphorical aspects of the Qur'an's teachings on measurement, particularly in the context of ethics, justice, and societal dealings. While I don't have direct quotations available, I can provide an overview of these interpretations based on various well-known exegeses (Tafsir).
Tafsir Ibn Kathir: Ibn Kathir, a renowned medieval scholar, in his commentary on Surah Al-Mutaffifin (Defrauding; 83:1-3), explains the metaphor of measurement in terms of fairness and honesty in transactions, and extends this to mean fairness and honesty in all aspects of life.
Tafsir Al-Jalalayn: The two Jalals, Jalaluddin Al-Mahalli and Jalaluddin As-Suyuti, in their Tafsir Al-Jalalayn, provide succinct interpretations of the Qur'an. Regarding verses about measurement, they stress the importance of justice and integrity, interpreting these metaphors in both a literal and ethical sense.
Tafsir Al-Tabari: Al-Tabari, a prominent early Islamic scholar, interpreted the verses related to 'measure' as moral and ethical guidelines applicable to all aspects of life, not just business transactions. His interpretation also highlights the repercussions of dishonesty and deceit.
Tafsir Al-Qurtubi: Al-Qurtubi, known for his emphasis on the practical and legal implications of the Qur'an, interpreted the verses about measurement and balance as guidelines for just dealings and the establishment of a fair society.
For direct quotations and a more in-depth understanding, I would recommend consulting the mentioned Tafsirs or commentaries. They are widely available in various languages, including English.
Remember, interpretation of religious texts can be complex and subjective, and different scholars may have different interpretations of the same verses. For a nuanced understanding, it's important to consider the historical context, the entirety of the Qur'an, Hadiths (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad), and scholarly interpretations.