God negotiates.

We all know the story of our beloved Prophet’s trip to Heaven to speak directly to God, and how on the way back the Prophet met with each of the other prophets from past eras.
When Muhammad (P) met with Moses, Moses asked him what he had discussed with God. Muhammad (P) replied that God had commanded his followers to pray 100 times a day.

Moses was perplexed. He asked Muhammad (P) to return to God and ask that the number of required prayers be lowered. The Prophet did so, and returned with 90 prayers. Moses, unsatisfied, asked again for the number to be lowered. The Prophet returned with 80. Moses asked again, certain that the people would not be able to meet this demand either. This went until the prescribed number of prayers was down to 5.

Still, Moses asked once more for the number to be lowered. 3 prayers, he insisted, instead of 5. But the Prophet by then was a little embarrassed by how many times he had gone back to God for this favor.

And so the number remains 5.

When I was a child of about seven I found this story to be the most absurd thing I’d ever heard. Surely God would know that we would not be able to perform 100 prayers a day! Why would such a demand be made in the first place?

And then, a couple of years later, I realized the true message, glistening like a golden key half-hidden in the sand. One that unlocks everything. Everything.

And it fit. It fit with stories in the Qur’an in which God makes exceptions. It fit with changes in approaching dilemmas in the Qur’an when circumstances were austere. Most miraculously, it fit with dictations and revelations prompted not by schedule but by events.

God does not just command. God talks it out with you. God allows you to explain your sins.

It’s like the most obvious thing in the universe. But we are so frequently presented with such unchangeable rules that, if broken, we are told, will unleash such unimaginable wrath… we forget that God is Considerate.

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