Reading the title, some people
might think of the ‘The Ten Commandments,’
one of the most financially successful
movies and rated as one of the best ten ever.
Or the title might stir the memories of the national debate of putting ‘The
Ten Commandments’ on public property and use in public schools that ended in
the Supreme Court in 2005.
Leaving aside the movies and the media, basic facts on
Ten Commandments are little known. That is why in the following three articles we
will explore what the Ten Commandments are? Who follows them? What is their
relevance to (modern) American life? What solutions, if any, do they provide
for today’s challenges?
Let us start with the basics. The Ten Commandments have
their origin in the Jewish religion, but they are also found in the Christian
Bibles. It is said to be inscribed on two tablets that were given by God to
Moses. In the Bible, they are recorded in Exodus 20:2-17 and Deuteronomy
5:6-21. The Exodus list is more commonly accepted by Christians. Encyclopedia
Britannica describes them to be a “list of religious precepts that…were
divinely revealed to Moses on Mt. Sinai and were engraved on two tablets of
“Judaism teaches that the first tablet, containing the
first five declarations, identifies duties regarding our relationship with God,
while the second tablet, containing the last five declarations, identifies
duties regarding our relationship with other people.” Catholics
believe, “The Ten Commandments are precepts bearing on the fundamental
obligations of religion and morality and embodying the revealed expression of
the Creator's will in relation to man's whole duty to God and to his
The Hebrew, Protestant, and Catholic versions differ. This is not a well-known
What place does the Biblical version hold in modern
society? Jews are careful not to publicly over emphasize them so as not to
create the impression that Judaism has only these ten commandments and no
others. Christian theologians, on the other hand, consider them to be the moral
law of God to guide society, a standard of sorts to measure the health of the
society. As a result, what place, if any, should these commandments hold in
modern Western, secular societies is a hotly debated subject. Should they be
part of public schooling? Can they be displayed in public? The issues have been
debated even by the Supreme Court of the US. Despite the attention, most
commandments are simply ignored by the society. Secularists even consider the
Biblical version to be intolerant.
Great emphasis is placed on these commandments in the
Islamic faith: three verses in the Quran, the sacred book of Islam, speak of
them. Prophet Muhammad’s companions emphasized their centrality.
The Quran speaks of them in Surah Anaam, 6:151-153 and Surah Isra’, 17:23-39. Surah Isra’, 17:23-39 is like a commentary
on the commandments listed in Surah Anaam. Some scholars call them the “verses
of the ten commandments” simply because they speak of ten significant
commandments to be observed by a Muslim. The Quran does not directly state that
these are the same commandments that were given to Moses.
Ibn Mas’ud, a famous companion of Prophet Muhammad said:
“Whoever wishes to ascertain the will of Prophet
Muhammad on which the Prophet has put his seal, let him read the Statement of
God, and then he recited the three verses.”
The Prophet of Islam himself said,
“Who among you will give me his pledge to do three
things,” he then recited the verse 6:151 and continued, “Whoever fulfills (this
pledge), then his reward will be with God, but whoever fell into shortcomings
and God punishes him for it in this life, then that will be his recompense.
Whoever God delays (his reckoning) until the Hereafter, then his matter is with
God. If He wills, He will punish him, and if He wills, He will forgive him.''
In summary, in the Islamic view, these commandments
contain what God wills for the life of all people. It has five orders and a
similar number of prohibitions that define the relationship of man and his
Creator, man’s obligations to his family, and commandments that order his social
life. What follows are the ten commandments of Quran and their relevance to