3543– Monday, August 19, 2019 — Muhammad and the Christian Money Lender

koran

My name is Muhammad.  I was born in 570 CE.  My father died the year before I was born.  My mother died when I was only six years old.  I was raised by a succession of family members until I was in my teens.  I was then sent to live with my uncle Abu Talib.  My uncle was a merchant and it was hoped that I could learn a commercial trade from him.   We traveled far and wide over many of the trading routes between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.  When I was eighteen, I decided that I had learned enough from my uncle and that it was time to go out on my own.  This story is about how I became an independent trader.

arabic rugs

It was a beautiful sunny morning in early March.  I had decided to walk to the market place in Jeddah near where I was staying to see what wares and goods were for sale.  It had become my intention to buy and sell rugs.  I loved the beauty and craftsmanship that went into an Arabian rug.  I could always feel proud that these were my products and that I was making the world a more beautiful place by sharing these fine Arabian rugs with others.  I never lied to my clients and I never made false or exaggerated claims to any people.  I was given the nickname “al-Amin” meaning faithful or trustworthy.

I was walking around the market place perusing the various wares of the other merchants.  In one of the alley ways I noticed a booth with a sign that read: “المال للإقراض “ or “Money for Lending.”  Suddenly, I had an idea.  If I could borrow some money, I could afford to buy a few more rugs.  Typically, I was short of money to buy enough rugs for a trip.  It would be much more worthwhile going on a caravan with enough rugs for my potential buyers.

The_Moorish

I walked up to the booth and greeted the merchant.  “Ahlan wa Sahlan”, I said.   He replied: “Ahlan wa Sahlan, my name is Musa.  I am a Christian money lender and I am happy to make your acquaintance.  How can I help you?”

I thought about his question for a brief second.  “I would like to borrow some money to help finance my rug business.  I can only afford a few rugs now but if I had more money, I could buy some extra rugs.”

The money lender looked at me very carefully and then answered: “It will take two things before I can give you some money.  The first is the collateral for the money that you need.”

“I am not familiar with the term collateral Sir,” I responded. “What is collateral?”

“Well, it is something that you give me so that if you fail to pay me back the money that I lend you, I will be able to sell your collateral and recover my money.  It might be some jewelry or gold or rugs that you will provide me to keep until you repay me.”

“Mr. Musa, I do not have any collateral that I can give you.  I only have my good name.  I am known far and wide as an honest merchant who never cheats anyone.  I always ask a fair price for my goods.  People call me ‘al Amin’ because I always pay my debts and I am very trustworthy.”

“Hmm” said Mr. Musa.  “I guess I can ignore the first requirement for my money since you have such a good honest reputation.  Now all we need to agree on is the interest that you will pay me for the loan.  Would you agree to pay me back at five percent per month of the total amount that I lend you?

“Mr. Musa, I do not understand this interest. What is the interest for?”

“It is my profit or commission for helping you with my money.”

“Sir, did you not say that you are a Christian and are not Christians followers of Jesus Christ?”

“Yes, young man, I am a Christian and I am a believer in Jesus.  But what does Jesus have to do with us doing business.”

“Well sir, I thought Jesus taught his followers to help the poor and needy.  Did he not say, ‘Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back?’ Then why Mr. Musa would you want to take money from me for helping me?”

“Young man, you do not understand the ways of the world.  Many things are spoken by the prophets, but one does not always live by their words.  In a perfect world, I suppose one could follow the path trod by Jesus, but Jesus did not live in our times.  If you do not feel that my terms are fair, then you do not have to borrow my money.  Truth be told, there are not many other money lenders in this bazaar who will lend you money at any better rates.”

“Mr. Musa, I am very disappointed in the Christianity that you profess.  I think that this idea of interest is very unneighborly and even seems to me to be greedy.  I think a religion should not allow such greed to exist.  If I were establishing a religion, I would make it a sin to charge interest to help others.”

“O ye who believe! Devour not usury, doubling and quadrupling (the sum lent). Observe your duty to Allah, that ye may be successful.”  — Qur’an (3:130

Muhammad went on his way and left the merchant looking puzzled and scratching his head.  “There goes a man who will never amount to anything” thought Mr. Musa.

“The invention of money opened a new field to human avarice by giving rise to usury and the practice of lending money at interest while the owner passes a life of idleness.” — Pliny the Elder

“It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” — Mark 10-25

 

A Candid Conversation With God:  What Do We Talk About?

How does an atheist or agnostic talk to God?  What do I call him or her?  What about the irony or would it be hypocrisy of an atheist talking to God?  I guess if I can be an agnostic, you can understand or dismiss my conversation as the musings of a man sitting on the proverbial fence.  Someone who wants to hedge his bets “just in case.”  However, even an atheist might want to hedge his bets.  (Listen to the song “Word of God Speak”- Mercy Me with Lyrics (High Quality)

talking-to-god (1)So what do I talk to God about?  The meaning of life?  When will the world end?  How can we eliminate evil in the world?  The weather?  Sports?  TV?  Movies?  What could I talk about that would keep his interest?  What if God is a her?  Would the same things interest her as him?

John:  Dear God, I am not doing much today, so I thought maybe we could have a little talk.

God:  I’m kind of busy, will it take long?

John:  Uhn, I dunno.  Got fifteen minutes?

God:  I guess so.  Who do you want saved?

John:  No one I can think of.  I know a lot of people I would like to send to hell.

God:  I don’t do that.  Talk to Satan.

John:  Just kidding.  Thought you might have a sense of humor.

God:  If I didn’t, I would not have created humans.

John:  Good point.  So why did you create us?

God:  For the hell of it.  (Laughs)

John:  Good one God.  But really, what was your purpose in creating humans?

God-creationGod:  If you really want to know, it was kind of an experiment.  In the entire universe, I was the only sentient being.  I wondered what would happen if I created a whole bunch of sentient beings and put them in one place.  So I created stars, planets, the solar system, earth and all the things that you would need to satisfy your emotional and intellectual needs.  I then created humans and let you grow and develop.

John:  You mean you never interfered or interceded on our behalf?

God:  Well, sometimes. I like to speed things up a bit, so I send some prophets or a few demagogues.

John:  So you sent Jesus and Buddha and Mohammed and Abraham?

God:  Nope, just Jesus and Mohammed.

John:  What about Hitler?

God:  Nope

John:  So who created Hitler and where is he now?

God:  You created Hitler and he is now in Hell.

John:  Where is Hell?

God:  For Hitler, it is a land ruled by Jews.

John:  Is that your idea of justice or is it vengeance?

God:  Justice is where kindness and compassion and love flourish.  Hitler will someday come to appreciate the Jewish people.  I don’t do vengeance.  It throws the entire universe out of kilter.

John:  So you mean, we can all get to Heaven some day?

God:  Only if you want to.

John:  Since we don’t have much time, I would like to be very candid with you.

God:  So?

John:  Well, you really made a mess with the earth and humanity.  Have you bothered to look at the earth and see the wars, poverty, disease, crime, injustice, famine and misery that you have created?

God:  You people.  You always want to blame someone else.

creation-of-the-universeJohn:  Who more than you?  You are All Knowing and All Powerful.  Yet you sit up there and laugh at the human race or perhaps worse, you take pleasure in our misery.

God:  I never said I was all powerful or all knowing.  I told Moses I always was and always will be, but I never said anything about omniscience or omnipotence.   You created those myths with your stories and desires; always hoping that someone like Superman or some super-hero will get you out of the shit that you create for yourselves.

John:  People look up to you. They pray to you.  They sacrifice lambs and goats for you. They build altars for you.

God:  Yes, and they fight for me. They kill for me.  They wage war in my name.  They pray that I will protect them and destroy their enemies. They pray for their relatives and ask for death for their neighbors in the next state or next town or next country.

John:  Are you blaming people for praying for these things?

God:  Have you not heard that I gave people free will?

John:  Free will for what?  To kill and maim and scourge and rape and destroy?  Is that supposed to be some kind of a blessing?

adam and eveGod:  I meant to give humans a choice.  Maybe I made a mistake.  I never told anyone that I was infallible.  I have toyed with destroying the entire human race and trying something else, but nothing really comes to mind.  How could I create a race of sentient beings and not give them free will?  Should I have created a race of puppets or robots?  Say the word and I will destroy your entire planet and all the people on it!  It is really a very small thing to do in terms of creativity and imagination.

John:  Please, don’t put that on me!  I don’t want that decision on my shoulders.  I thought maybe you would have some better ideas.

God:  Well, if you think of any, let me know.  I have things to do now and I need to end this conversation.

John:  One last question.  Are you planning to send any more prophets?  I think we need some help down here.

God:  Each time I send one, you listen for a while and then you somehow change the message back to what you want to hear or what you want to do.  The Ten Commandments become the two “maybe” Commandments.  The Eight Beatitudes become the Christ_at_the_Cross_-_Cristo_en_la_Cruzeight “Would be nice to do” but they are kind of impractical.  The Eight Fold Path becomes “I don’t have time.” The Six Articles of Faith become a prescription for Jihad.   You have a propensity for converting the words of the prophets I have sent into formulas for bigotry and intolerance.  Nevertheless, when I can, I will continue to send more prophets and messengers.  Keep in mind; they will all say the same thing:  “Love One Another.”

John:  Well, thanks for your time God, and Merry Christmas.

God:  Merry Christmas to you John, but I don’t do Santa.

Time for Questions:

Do you ever speak to God? Does he answer? Is God a he or she? Does it matter? Do you get the answers you need from God?  Do you think God should wipe out the human race and start over? Why or why not?  Did God screw things up with “Free Will?”

Life is just beginning.

“In the beginning..
when ray and day hadn’t yet come into existence at all,
there was a kind of radiance that illuminates universe.
That radiance is the light of knowledge and goodness.
That radiance will persistently and consistently shine brightly
even after all the stars and moons in this vast universe die out.”
― Toba Beta,

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: