Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sura 25 - The Criterion (of right and wrong)

The title of this sura comes from a word in verse 1

Date, Context and Theme

The Islamic scholars say it is a middle period Meccan sura and it certainly is dealing with issues from that period. The structure seems based around answering the objections that the Meccans have to Muhammad. It is an encouragement to Muslims and Muhammad to continue, and a warning of hell for those who reject Muhammad. It is very similar to many of the previous sura on this subject.


vv. 1-3 Blessed be Allah who gives the Qur’an and is the only lord, but the unbelievers ascribe him partners and do not listen to the Qur’an or Muhammad.

Vv. 4-9 The Meccan objections to Muhammad outlined.

* Vv. 10-19 They will burn in hell. Judgement described.

* Vv. 20- 21 The objections of the Meccans are answered.

* Vv. 22-29 The unbelievers will be punished and the believers rewarded.

Vv. 30-44 Another objection Meccan to Muhammad. This leads into the example of Moses, Aaron, Noah, and other destructions that Allah has brought and are now a warning.

Vv. 45-55 Look at the cycles of life that Allah has made in the world. Look at what Allah has created yet they do not serve him.

Vv. 56-77 Persevere in your task Muhammad, and faithful Muslim.

What I found interesting.

1. What are the Meccan objections?
Those who disbelieve say: This is naught but a lie that he hath invented, and other folk have helped him with it, so that they have produced a slander and a lie. And they say: Fables of the men of old which he hath had written down so that they are dictated to him morn and evening. 25:4-5

And they say: What aileth this messenger (of Allah) that he eateth food and walketh in the markets? Why is not an angel sent down unto him, to be a warner with him. Or (why is not) treasure thrown down unto him, or why hath he not a paradise from whence to eat? And the evil-doers say: Ye are but following a man bewitched. 25:7-8

And those who look not for a meeting with Us say: Why are angels not sent down unto us and (Why) do we not see our Lord! Assuredly they think too highly of themselves and are scornful with great pride. 25:21

And those who disbelieve say: Why is the Qur'an not revealed unto him all at once? (It is revealed) thus that We may strengthen thy heart therewith; and We have arranged it in right order. 25:32

While Muhammad has not been able to provide any evidence to answer their objections he does point them to creation as evidence of God’s power. Vv. 45-55.

2. The Meccans have been rejecting the Qur’an.
And the messenger saith: O my Lord! Lo! mine own folk make this Qur'an of no account. 25:30

Then We said: Go together unto the folk who have denied Our revelations. Then We destroyed them, a complete destruction. 25:36

And those who, when they are reminded of the revelations of their Lord, fall not deaf and blind thereat. ... They will be awarded the high place forasmuch as they were steadfast, and they will meet therein with welcome and the ward of peace, 25:73-75

3. I thought that this verse,
Hast thou seen him who chooseth for his god his own lust? Wouldst thou then be guardian over him? 25:43

was interesting in view of the Satanic Verses.

4. The descriptions of Allah’s power as creator reveal a lot of the Qur’an’s cosmology.
Hast thou not seen how thy Lord hath spread the shade - And if He willed He could have made it still - then We have made the sun its pilot; Then We withdraw it unto Us, a gradual withdrawal? 25:45-46

And He it is Who hath given independence to the two seas (though they meet); one palatable, sweet, and the other saltish, bitter; and hath set a bar and a forbidding ban between them. And He it is Who hath created man from water, and hath appointed for him kindred by blood and kindred by marriage; for thy Lord is ever Powerful. 25:53-54

Who created the heavens and the earth and all that is between them in six Days, then He mounted the Throne. The Beneficent! Ask anyone informed concerning Him! 25:59

5. Allah does not die

And trust thou in the Living One Who dieth not, and hymn His praise. He sufficeth as the Knower of His bondmen's sins, 25:58

6. As mentioned at the start this is a Meccan sura, dealing with Meccan issues, yet some Islamic sholars say that vv. 68-70 are from the Medinan period.
And those who cry not unto any other god along with Allah, nor take the life which Allah hath forbidden save in (course of) justice, nor commit adultery - and whoso doeth this shall pay the penalty; The doom will be doubled for him on the Day of Resurrection, and he will abide therein disdained for ever; Save him who repenteth and believeth and doth righteous work; as for such, Allah will change their evil deeds to good deeds. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful. 25:68-70

When I read it though it fits perfectly with the rest of the sura. I have still not yet been able to find out why some verses are believed to be from other periods. My guess is that it is felt they contain theology and issues from other periods, but this is just a guess.

6. The final warning to the Meccan.
Say (O Muhammad, unto the disbelievers): My Lord would not concern Himself with you but for your prayer. But now ye have denied (the Truth), therefor there will be judgment. 25:77

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sura 24 - Light

The sura is named after the description of God as light in 24:35-36.

Date, Context and Theme

This is a middle Medinan sura (5-6 A.H.) In it Muhammad is outlining the honourable life to his Islamic community, the life of light. I found it a beautiful sura at many points.


v. 1, Introduction - This Qur’an is for guidance.
Vv. 2-10 Dealing with adultery
vv. 11-26 Application - the situation with Aisha and questions about her faithfulness.
vv. 27-29 Entering houses honourably
vv. 30- 31 Lower your gaze with modesty
vv. 32- 33 Marriage
v. 34-36, Allah gives the light of honour
vv. 37-40 Those who follow the light will live in paradise, those who do not will face judgement.
Vv. 41- 46 Allah is light and great and made all things.
Vv. 47-57 Total obedience to Muhammad is required - The hypocrites
vv. 58- 63 How to ask for permission in different situations.
V. 64 Allah is judge and knows what you do.

What I found interesting.

1. This sura has much to say about dealing with adultery or suspicions of adultery.
The adulterer and the adulteress, scourge ye each one of them (with) a hundred stripes. And let not pity for the twain withhold you from obedience to Allah, if ye believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a party of believers witness their punishment. 24:2

However, 4:15 seemed to proscribe confinement.
Such of your women as commit indecency, call four of you to witness against them; and if they witness, then detain them in their houses until death takes them or God appoints for them a way. 4:15

And in the hadith stoning.
Narrated Jabir bin Abdullah Al-Ansari: A man from the tribe of Bani Aslam came to Allah's Apostle and Informed him that he had committed illegal sexual intercourse and bore witness four times against himself. Allah's Apostle ordered him to be stoned to death as he was a married Person. (Bukhari: vol. 8, bk. 82, no. 805, Khan)

These different punishments are a good example of the doctrine of abrogation. This is where a later verse in the Qur'an or event in Muhammad's life can cancel an earlier revelation.
Nothing of our revelation (even a single verse) do we abrogate or cause be forgotten, but we bring (in place) one better or the like thereof. Knowest thou not that Allah is Able to do all things? 2:106

And when We put a revelation in place of (another) revelation, - and Allah knoweth best what He revealeth - they say: Lo! thou art but inventing. Most of them know not. 16:101

Four witnesses are required for the charge of adultery. If the only witnesses are the husband and wife then they are to swear 4 times their testimony and a 5th time calling Allah's curse on them if they are lying. 24:6-9.

But false accusations are to be firmly punished.

And those who accuse honourable women but bring not four witnesses, scourge them (with) eighty stripes and never (afterward) accept their testimony - They indeed are evil-doers - 24:4

This section on adultery ends with rebukes against those Muslims who have suspicions about Aisha, Muhammad's wife. She was left behind on a journey and brought back to Muhammad by a young soldier. This caused suspicion and is addressed here.

2. There was this often repeated phrase:
Had it not been for the grace of Allah and His mercy unto you, and that Allah is Clement, Merciful, (ye had been undone). 24:20

3. Here is the famous verse requiring women to be covered. However, it does not seem to say cover their hair or face, and men are required to be modest as well.
Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and be modest. That is purer for them. Lo! Allah is aware of what they do. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment save to their own husbands or fathers or husbands' fathers, or their sons or their husbands' sons, or their brothers or their brothers' sons or sisters' sons, or their women, or their slaves, or male attendants who lack vigour, or children who know naught of women's nakedness. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And turn unto Allah together, O believers, in order that ye may succeed. 24:30-31

4. There are the verses from which the sura takes it name. They are beautiful. Allah is the light that should light our lives, he makes them honourable.
Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The similitude of His light is as a niche wherein is a lamp. The lamp is in a glass. The glass is as it were a shining star. (This lamp is) kindled from a blessed tree, an olive neither of the East nor of the West, whose oil would almost glow forth (of itself) though no fire touched it. Light upon light. Allah guideth unto His light whom He will. And Allah speaketh to mankind in allegories, for Allah is Knower of all things. Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The similitude of His light is as a niche wherein is a lamp. The lamp is in a glass. The glass is as it were a shining star. (This lamp is) kindled from a blessed tree, an olive neither of the East nor of the West, whose oil would almost glow forth (of itself) though no fire touched it. Light upon light. Allah guideth unto His light whom He will. And Allah speaketh to mankind in allegories, for Allah is Knower of all things. 24:35-36

This seems to be as close to the idea of, “Be holy because I the lord your God am holy”, that I have found in the Qur’an. As there is no image of God concept, it seems to be honourableness rather than God likeness that is encouraged in the Qur’an.

5. There was a section dealing with Muslims who did not obey Muhammad.
And they say: We believe in Allah and the messenger, and we obey; then after that a faction of them turn away. Such are not believers. 24:47

The saying of (all true) believers when they appeal unto Allah and His messenger to judge between them is only that they say: We hear and we obey. And such are the successful. 24:51

Make not the calling of the messenger among you as your calling one of another. Allah knoweth those of you who steal away, hiding themselves. And let those who conspire to evade orders beware lest grief or painful punishment befall them. 24:63

Total obedience to Muhammad is required to be a true Muslim. This no doubt leads some Muslims to think that other Muslims are not true Muslims.

6. This verse regarding hypocritical Muslims reminded me of Samuel and Saul.

They swear by Allah solemnly that, if thou order them, they will go forth. Say: Swear not; known obedience (is better). Lo! Allah is Informed of what ye do. 24:35

But Samuel replied: "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22

7. Again we see that the Qur’an only refers to three prayers a day. In this case it is the slave asking for permission to pray.

O ye who believe! Let your slaves, and those of you who have not come to puberty, ask leave of you at three times (before they come into your presence): Before the prayer of dawn, and when ye lay aside your raiment for the heat of noon, and after the prayer of night. Three times of privacy for you. It is no sin for them or for you at other times, when some of you go round attendant upon others (if they come into your presence without leave). Thus Allah maketh clear the revelations for you. Allah is Knower, Wise. 24:58, 11:116, 17:78-79

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sura 23 - The Believers

The title comes from the main theme of sura which is that Allah will save the believers.

Date, Context and Theme

This is a late Meccan sura, maybe the last Muhammad said before he fled to Medina (the hijrah). The theme is that the believers will have success and be saved.

Key Verses
And when thou art on board the ship, thou and whoso is with thee, then say: Praise be to Allah Who hath saved us from the wrongdoing folk! 23:28

He who crieth unto any other god along with Allah hath no proof thereof. His reckoning is only with his Lord. Lo! disbelievers will not be successful. 23:117


vv. 1-11, Introduction - The success of those who practice genuine religion.

Vv. 12-21, The signs of Allah’s power. This shows that the believers with have success.

vv. 22-30, Noah was rejected by his people for being just a mortal (like Muhammad) but Allah saved him from unbelievers.

Vv. 31-41, An unnamed prophet, rejected by his people for only being mortal, resurrection denied, but the unbelievers were destroyed and the prophet saved.

Vv. 42-44 A general summary of how the nations of the world have rejected their prophets.

Vv. 45-49, Moses and Aaron, they were denied as prophets because they were only mortal. Their scriptures they gave led to success.

V. 50 Jesus and Mary lead to success.

Vv. 51-54, The messengers from Allah do right and have one religion therefore leave the unbelievers in their error.

Vv. 55-77, The character of the unbelievers and their punishment.

Vv. 78-90 A dialogue between Allah and the unbelievers.
*vv. 78-80, Allah has made you and spread you out on the earth.
*vv. 81-84, The unbelievers say they still reject Muhammad and that his story is a fable. They see their proof for how to live in the lives lived by their forefathers. They reject the resurrection and judgement.
*85-90 They confess to knowing Allah but are liars.

Vv. 91-92, Allah has no son and is exalted by they deny him and the resurrection.

Vv. 93-98, The believers do the opposite, the request guidance.

Vv. 99-108, Dialogue genre. The torment of the unbelievers on judgement day will be irreversible.

Vv. 109-114, Dialogue genre. At the judgement the believers will win.

Vv. 115-118, Conclusion. Allah did not create you for nothing but for a purpose and therefore judgement.

What I found interesting.

1. 23:1-11 sounded a bit like Beatitudes.

Successful indeed are the believers
Who are humble in their prayers,
And who shun vain conversation,
And who are payers of the poor-due;
And who guard their modesty -
Save from their wives or the (slaves) that their right hands possess, for then they are not blameworthy,
But whoso craveth beyond that, such are transgressors -
And who are shepherds of their pledge and their covenant,
And who pay heed to their prayers.
These are the heirs
Who will inherit paradise. There they will abide. 23:1-11

2. Muhammad and Galen - Some Muslims say that the Qur’an has scientific information that was unknown at the time. The following verse is an example.

Then fashioned We the drop a clot, then fashioned We the clot a little lump, then fashioned We the little lump bones, then clothed the bones with flesh, and then produced it as another creation. So blessed be Allah, the Best of creators! 23:14

The description is actually wrong as the bones are not made and then clothed with flesh. But the description was the commonly understood development from Galen a 2nd-3rd century physician, surgeon and philosopher.

3. There was a reoccurring theme of the prophets just being mortals. It seems that the Meccans were rejecting Muhammad because he was just a man.

4. A great verse about the fact that there is only one religion with God.
And lo! this your religion is one religion and I am your Lord, so keep your duty unto Me. But they (mankind) have broken their religion among them into sects, each group rejoicing in its tenets. So leave them in their error till a time. 23:52-54

5. The dialogue structure of much of this sura was interesting. It is almost like reading the script of a play. In this case it was used for the conversations that the unbelievers and believers would have with God on Judgement day. I guess you could say it was like Matthew 25:34-46.

6. The resurrection is rejected by the Meccans but the many references to the Biblical stories show that they were known. Therefore while the Biblical stories are know, in some form, the Meccans to not have Biblical beliefs. If the Meccans were Christian to some degree then we would expect them to accept the resurrection?

7. Here is an interesting reason for why there cannot be two gods.
Allah hath not chosen any son, nor is there any god along with Him; else would each god have assuredly championed that which he created, and some of them would assuredly have overcome others. Glorified be Allah above all that they allege. 23:91

8. What happens on Judgement Day?
Then those whose scales are heavy, they are the successful. And those whose scales are light are those who lose their souls, in hell abiding. 23:102-103

Lo! there was a party of My slaves who said: Our Lord! We believe, therefor forgive us and have mercy on us for Thou art Best of all who show mercy; 23:109

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sura 22 - The Pilgrimage

This sura is named after what seems to be the main issue (v. 25) of the sura, that is, that the Muslims have been denied access to perform pilgrimage in Mecca.

Date, Context and Theme

There are mixed opinions for the date of this sura. Some scholars say it is a late Meccan while others an early Medinan. This difference is not an issue because what is clear is that Mecca is under the control of the Meccans (Quraysh) and not the Muslims. 22:39 seems to indicate fighting so I go with an early Medinan date.

The main theme is the day of doom (judgement) for those who reject God. There is a lot in this about how great God is. I think the key verse is,
They measure not Allah His rightful measure. Lo! Allah is Strong, Almighty. 22:74

This is a warning to the Meccans who are denying the Muslims access to Mecca for pilgrimage. The irony is the when the Muslims took control of Mecca they banned all non-Muslims from pilgrimage (sura 9).


The Day of Doom (Judgement)
vv. 1-2 Announce that the day of doom (judgement) is coming.

Issues about the Day of Doom
Vv. 3-4 Do not let the devil turn you away from this warning.
Vv. 5-7 How can people be raised to life to be judged? Allah causes you to grow and gives life by rain to the desert so he can raise you from death.
Vv. 8-10 People without knowledge doubt this message
vv. 11-13 Some only believe when things are good but turn away when there is hardship.
Vv. 14 But Allah will reward the believer.
v. 15 If you want Muhammad to fail then you should hang yourself.
Vv. 16-17 The Qur’an is clear and explains itself. All people will be judged by what they believe and do.

It is right to worship Allah
v. 18 All of creation worships Allah and so should you.
Vv. 19-22 Those who refuse to will be in hell.
Vv. 23-24 The righteous will be in paradise.

The Pilgrimage
V. 25 The Muslims are being barred from performing the pilgrimage.
Vv. 26-41 The pilgrimage is for all mankind. Perform it and live the righteous life. Abraham did it.

The Messenger Denied
v. 42-56 A short history of how the prophets before Muhammad were denied. Reaffirming that Muhammad is just a prophet.
Vv. 57-62 Allah will judge and reward those who listen to the messenger.
63-78 Look at Allah’s power. He will judge and just mercy. Do not reject the message but serve Allah.

What I found interesting.

1. This verse sounded like Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21.
On the day when ye behold it, every nursing mother will forget her nursling and every pregnant one will be delivered of her burden, and thou (Muhammad) wilt see mankind as drunken, yet they will not be drunken, but the Doom of Allah will be strong (upon them). 22:2

And they will bid thee hasten on the Doom, and Allah faileth not His promise, but lo! a Day with Allah is as a thousand years of what ye reckon. 22:47

2. I have been told that suicide is strictly forbidden in Islam, yet Muhammad wishes it upon his enemies.
Whoso is wont to think (through envy) that Allah will not give him (Muhammad) victory in the world and the Hereafter (and is enraged at the thought of his victory), let him stretch a rope up to the roof (of his dwelling), and let him hang himself. Then let him see whether his strategy dispelleth that whereat he rageth!. 22:15

3. It is true that Islam has the doctrine of taqiya (hiding you are a Muslim) but Muslims are still to tell the truth. It has both teachings.
That (is the command). And whoso magnifieth the sacred things of Allah, it will be well for him in the sight of his Lord. The cattle are lawful unto you save that which hath been told you. So shun the filth of idols, and shun lying speech, 22:30

4. It is clear that Allah does not need the sacrifices but they are a way of showing devotion.
Their flesh and their food reach not Allah, but the devotion from you reacheth Him. Thus have We made them subject unto you that ye may magnify Allah that He hath guided you. And give good tidings (O Muhammad) to the good. 22:37

5. The destruction of any acceptable religious building is seen with disapproval.
Those who have been driven from their homes unjustly only because they said: Our Lord is Allah - For had it not been for Allah's repelling some men by means of others, cloisters and churches and oratories and mosques, wherein the name of Allah is oft mentioned, would assuredly have been pulled down. Verily Allah helpeth one who helpeth Him. Lo! Allah is Strong, Almighty - 22:40

6. I did not know that Moses was denied in Midian.
(And) the dwellers in Midian. And Moses was denied; but I indulged the disbelievers a long while, then I seized them, and how (terrible) was My abhorrence! 22:44

This comes in a section where many prophets are said to have been rejected. It seems that Muhammad has gone too far and assumed that Moses was rejected in Midian.

7. The Meccans have been opposing Muhammad’s message (and the other prophets?).
While those who strive to thwart Our revelations, such are rightful owners of the Fire. 22:51

While those who disbelieved and denied Our revelations, for them will be a shameful doom. 22:57

And when Our revelations are recited unto them, thou knowest the denial in the faces of those who disbelieve; they all but attack those who recite Our revelations unto them. Say: Shall I proclaim unto you worse than that? The Fire! Allah hath promised it for those who disbelieve. A hapless journey's end! 22:72

8. Here is some more cosmology.
Hast thou not seen how Allah hath made all that is in the earth subservient unto you? And the ship runneth upon the sea by His command, and He holdeth back the heaven from falling on the earth unless by His leave. Lo! Allah is, for mankind, Full of Pity, Merciful. 22:65

9. There were some great descriptions of the greatest of God in this sura.
Lo! those who believe (this revelation), and those who are Jews, and the Sabaeans and the Christians and the Magians and the idolaters - Lo! Allah will decide between them on the Day of Resurrection. Lo! Allah is Witness over all things. 22:17

And they will bid thee hasten on the Doom, and Allah faileth not His promise, but lo! a Day with Allah is as a thousand years of what ye reckon. 22:47

The Sovereignty on that day will be Allah's, He will judge between them. Then those who believed and did good works will be in Gardens of Delight, 22:56

And He it is Who gave you life, then He will cause you to die, and then will give you life (again). Lo! man is verily an ingrate. 22:66

Hast thou not known that Allah knoweth all that is in the heaven and the earth? Lo! it is in a record. Lo! that is easy for Allah. 22:70

They measure not Allah His rightful measure. Lo! Allah is Strong, Almighty. 22:74

He knoweth all that is before them and all that is behind them, and unto Allah all things are returned. 22:76

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Sura 21 - The Prophets

The title is from the fact that this sura deals with the mission and nature of the former prophets.

Date, Context and Theme

Some scholars date this is as a Meccan sura, others as a Medinan sura. Both of these dates seem to come from the contents of the sura itself which is a bit ambiguous. It feels as though Muhammad is addressing the Meccans (Meccan sura) yet there is an engagement with strong Christian themes (Medinan period). From my reading it seems that it is a Meccan sura but that the Meccans were far more Christian than we might think.


1-24 against the Meccans or maybe Christians. They are not accepting Muhammad and are sinning in their understanding of God.

Main Argument
25-29 The nature of the prophets.
30- 47 You are mortal and going to judgement.
48-50 The Qur’an is the new revelation like the revelations of Moses and Aaron.
51-71 Righteous Abraham who destroyed the idols of his tribe and was saved from his people.
72-73 Isaac and Jacob established true worship
74-75 Righteous Lot was saved from unrighteous people.
76-77 Righteous Noah was saved from unrighteous people
78-82 David and Solomon were righteous in judgement.
83-84 Job
85-86 Ishmael, and Idris, and Dhu'l-Kifl
87-88 The repentance of Dhu'n-Nun
89-90 Zechariah and John
91 Mary or Elizabeth??
92 Summary verse of the above

93- 100 Concluding remarks to the Meccans. You have rejected the true religion and are going to hell.
101-105 Believers go to paradise
106-112 The final words Muhammad is to say on this matter.

What I found interesting.

1. Rejecting Muhammad
With hearts preoccupied. And they confer in secret. The wrong-doers say: Is this other than a mortal like you? Will ye then succumb to magic when ye see (it)? 21:3

Nay, say they, (these are but) muddled dreams; nay, he hath but invented it; nay, he is but a poet. Let him bring us a portent even as those of old (who were God's messengers) were sent (with portents). Not a township believed of those which We destroyed before them (though We sent them portents): would they then believe? 21:5-6

2. The prophets were just men and nothing more. This seems to be an interaction with Christians who are claiming that Jesus is more than a prophet.
And We sent not (as Our messengers) before thee other than men, whom We inspired. Ask the followers of the Reminder if ye know not? 21:7

Say: It is only inspired in me that your God is One God. Will ye then surrender (unto Him)? 21:108

Now We have revealed unto you a Scripture wherein is your Reminder. Have ye then no sense? 21:10

Unto Him belongeth whosoever is in the heavens and the earth. And those who dwell in His presence are not too proud to worship Him, nor do they weary; 21:19

Or have they (the prophets) chosen other gods beside Him? say: Bring your proof (of their godhead). This is the Reminder of those with me and those before me, but most of them know not the Truth and so they are averse. And We sent no messenger before thee but We inspired him, (saying): There is no God save Me (Allah), so worship Me. And they say: The Beneficent hath taken unto Himself a son. Be He Glorified! Nay, but (those whom they call sons) are honoured slaves; They speak not until He hath spoken, and they act by His command. He knoweth what is before them and what is behind them, and they cannot intercede except for him whom He accepteth, and they quake for awe of Him. And one of them who should say: Lo! I am a god beside Him, that one We should repay with hell. Thus We Repay wrong-doers. 21:24-26

We appointed immortality for no mortal before thee. What! if thou diest, can they be immortal? Every soul must taste of death, and We try you with evil and with good, for ordeal. And unto Us ye will be returned. 21:34-35

3. God has the right to judge and question everyone.
He will not be questioned as to that which He doeth, but they will be questioned. 21:23

And We set a just balance for the Day of Resurrection so that no soul is wronged in aught. Though it be of the weight of a grain of mustard seed, We bring it. And We suffice for reckoners. 21:47

4. Abraham smashes the idols of his family and when questioned asks them to question the remaining idol.
They said: Is it thou who hast done this to our gods, O Abraham? 21:62

This sounds like a modified version of Gideon's story in Judges 6 but it actually comes straight from Jewish commentaries. In the Genesis Rabbah we find this story by Rabbi Hiyya to explain Genesis 11:28.
Terah was an idol-manufacturer. Once he went off on a trip and put Abraham in charge of the store. Someone would come in and want to buy an idol. He would say to him, `How old are you?' He said `Fifty years old.' He said, `Woe to that man, who is fifty years old and is going to bow down to something a day old.' So the man would be ashamed and go on his way. One time a woman came in with a bowl of flour, and said to him, `Take this and offer it before them.' He went and took a stick, and broke the idols, and put the stick in the hand of the biggest idol. When his father came back he said to you (sic), `Why in the world have you been doing these things?' He said to him, `How can I hide it from you? One time a woman came in with a bowl of flour, and said to me, "Take this and offer it before them." Then this idol said, "I'll eat first", and that idol said, "I'll eat first." One of them, the largest, got up and grabbed the stick and broke the others.' (Terah) said to him, `Why are you making fun of me! Do those idols know anything (that such a thing could possibly happen)? (Obviously not!)' He said to him, `Should not your ears not hear what your mouth is saying?' He took him and handed him over to Nimrod. He said to him, `Bow down to the fire.' He said to him, `We really should bow down to water which puts out fire.' He said to him, `Bow down to water.' He said, `We really should bow down to the clouds, which bear the water.' He said to him, `Then let's bow down to the clouds.' He said to him, `We really should bow down to the wind, which disperses the clouds.' He said to him, `Then let's bow down to the wind.' He said to him, `We really should bow down to human beings, who can stand up to the wind.' He said to him, `You are just playing word games with me. Let's bow down to the fire. So now, look, I am going to throw you into the fire, and let your God whom you worship come and save you from the fire.' Now Haran was standing there undecided. He said, `What's the choice?' If Abram wins I'll say I'm and Abram's side, and if Nimrod wins, I'll say I'm on Nimrod's side. (So how can I lose?)' When Abram went down into the burning furnace and was saved, Nimrod said to him, `On whose side are you?' He said to him `Abram's.' They took him and threw him into the fire, and his guts burned up and came out, and he died in the presence of his father. That is in line with the verse of Scripture: `And Haran died in the presence of his father, Terah' (Gen. 11:28)(Jacob Neusner, Genesis Rabbah: The Judaic Commentary To The Book of Genesis, Atlana, Georgia: Scholars Press, 1985, pp.55-56)

This identification of the original source of the story gives us some clue as to what type of literature/oral tradition Muhammad was exposed to.

5. God and Magog are part of the end of the times and coming of God’s judgement.
Until, when Gog and Magog are let loose, and they hasten out of every mound, 21:96

The Day when We shall roll up the heavens as a recorder rolleth up a written scroll. As We began the first creation, We shall repeat it. (It is) a promise (binding) upon us. Lo! We are to perform it. 21:104

6. A quote from the Gospel?
And verily we have written in the Scripture, after the Reminder: My righteous slaves will inherit the earth: 21:105

7. Qur’anic cosmology

Have not those who disbelieve known that the heavens and the earth were of one piece, then We parted them, and we made every living thing of water? Will they not then believe? And We have placed in the earth firm hills lest it quake with them, and We have placed therein ravines as roads that haply they may find their way. And we have made the sky a roof withheld (from them). Yet they turn away from its portents. And He it is Who created the night and the day, and the sun and the moon. They float, each in an orbit. 21:30-33

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sura 20 - Ta Ha

This sura is named after the first two letters of v. 1. These are the mystery letters of the Qur’an at the beginning of some suras. No one knows for sure their purpose.

Date, Context and Theme

This is an early Meccan sura and continues the theme that the Qur’an is from Allah, Allah’s judgement is coming so you must listen to Muhammad. It puts forward the example of Moses and the miraculous work that Allah did through him. Adam is mentioned as an example of being deceived and repenting in the conclusion.

The sura is also famous as it is said to be the sura that lead to the conversion of Umar to Islam. Umar became a powerful supporter of Muhammad and the second caliph after Muhammad’s death.

I think the key verse is,
And they say: If only he would bring us a miracle from his Lord! Hath there not come unto them the proof of what is in the former scriptures? 20:133

There is a clear simply structure to this sura.

vv. 1-8, Introduces Muhammad, the Qur’an and Allah and the purpose

vv. 9-48, Moses and the burning bush.
Vv. 49-58 , Moses in Pharaoh’s court.
Vv. 59-76, Moses brings the signs and the Egyptian magician convert to Islam and preach Muhammad’s message.
Vv. 77-79 The Exodus event
vv. 80-98, The golden calf

vv. 99-114, Words addressed to Muhammad and the Muslims about the purpose of the Qur’an and the terrible judgement awaiting those who reject the Qur’an.
Vv. 115-123, Adam is the model of those who listen to Satan, reject Allah’s word but later repent. He is an example to the Meccans.

Vv. 124-132, A call for the Meccans to turn to Allah and be saved on judgement day and a call for Muhammad to continue in worship.
Vv. 133-135 Answering Meccan objections to Muhammad’s call to repentance.

What I found interesting.

1. Moses preaches Muhammad’s message to Pharaoh, then the Egyptian magicians all convert to Islam.
Then the wizards were (all) flung down prostrate, crying: We believe in the Lord of Aaron and Moses. 20:70

Then the magicians instantly preach fully developed Islam theology. This type of story again reminds me of the hagiography I have read from the Coptic church. I think it was the story of Katrina.

2. Moses and the Samaritan. In Sura 19 I showed how Muhammad called Mary of the mother of Jesus, the sister of Aaron and the daughter of Imram, and that this showed that he seems to be unaware of history. Well here we see the same situation again but this time with a Samaritan. It is a Samaritan who mislead the Israelites into worshipping the golden calf.
He said: Lo! We have tried thy folk in thine absence, and As-Samiri hath misled them. 20:85, 87, 95

There were no Samaritans at the time of Moses. The Samaritans come into about 700 years after the Assyrian conquest of the ten norther tribes of Israel.

3. The story of Adam’s sin is told in some detail. Some details are the same as the Bible, others different.
And verily We made a covenant of old with Adam, but he forgot, and We found no constancy in him. 20:115

It is (vouchsafed) unto thee that thou hungerest not therein nor art naked, 20:118

But the devil whispered to him, saying: O Adam! Shall I show thee the tree of immortality and power that wasteth not away? 20:120

The Bible stories must have been well know to the Meccans for them to be used so often as examples.

4. Again there are three times for prayer not five.
Therefor (O Muhammad), bear with what they say, and celebrate the praise of thy Lord ere the rising of the sun and ere the going down thereof. And glorify Him some hours of the night and at the two ends of the day, that thou mayst find acceptance. 20:130

5. Still not sign from Muhammad. The Meccans have been asking for some evidence from Muhammad for what he is saying. To this stage he has not given anything. In this sura it seems that he offers the miracles that Moses did (the stories he has just told) as sufficient evidence.
And they say: If only he would bring us a miracle from his Lord! Hath there not come unto them the proof of what is in the former scriptures? 20:133

This is very interesting because it means that Muhammad is not like Moses in this regard.

6. Again we see that intercession with Allah is not banned but is not through the Mecca gods.
On that day no intercession availeth save (that of) him unto whom the Beneficent hath given leave and whose word He accepteth. 20:109

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sura 19 - Mary

This sura is named after Mary, the mother of Jesus, though the sura is not about her in particular.

Date, Context and Theme

It is a Meccan sura. The story behind this sura is that some of the early Muslims fled from Mecca and went to Abyssinia (a Christian kingdom). The Christian king (Negus) gave them protection. He asked about their beliefs and it is reported that sura 19 or part of it was read out to him.


The example and pious life of the prophets
vv. 1-11 Zechariah
vv. 12-15 John
vv. 16-34 Mary and Jesus
vv. 35-40 A rebuke to the Meccans (or maybe Christians???)
vv. 41-50 Abraham
vv. 51-53 Moses and Aaron
vv. 54-55 Ishmael
vv. 56- 57 Idris (Enoch)
v. 58 summary
The final address to the Meccans
vv. 59-66 Turn to God, blessing if your do, hell if you don’t.
Vv. 67-72 Meccan questions - Will I really be judged?
Vv. 73- 83 Meccan boast - Our army and families are bigger than yours
vv. 84-98 Be patient Muhammad. Your time will come.

What I found interesting.

1. The sura has a clear structure that is easy to follow.

2. Again the lives of the prophets are told in such a way (very few details) that it assumes you know about them already, like Hebrews 11.

3. Often the details it does give are just wrong.
(It was said unto him): O Zachariah! Lo! We bring thee tidings of a son whose name is John; we have given the same name to none before (him). 19:7

John is a common name in Israel and was widely used before John the Baptist.
He said: My Lord! Appoint for me some token. He said: Thy token is that thou, with no bodily defect, shalt not speak unto mankind three nights. 19:10

Zechariah could not speak until the birth of John.

Jesus' mother Mary, is Mary (Miriam) the sister of Aaron.
O sister of Aaron! Thy father was not a wicked man nor was thy mother a harlot.

4. Jesus’ conception and birth is described in this sura.
He said: I am only a messenger of thy Lord, that I may bestow on thee a faultless son. 19:19

He said: So (it will be). Thy Lord saith: It is easy for Me. And (it will be) that We may make of him a revelation for mankind and a mercy from Us, and it is a thing ordained. 19:21

Jesus is a revelation for all mankind not just Israel. And he speaks from the cradle.

5. A very clear denunciation of God having a son.
It befitteth not (the Majesty of) Allah that He should take unto Himself a son. Glory be to Him! When He decreeth a thing, He saith unto it only: Be! and it is. 19:35

And they say: The Beneficent hath taken unto Himself a son. Assuredly ye utter a disastrous thing 19:88-89

In fact you can never be more than a slave with Allah.
When it is not meet for (the Majesty of) the Beneficent that He should choose a son. There is none in the heavens and the earth but cometh unto the Beneficent as a slave. 19:92-93

But you can be a loved slave.
Lo! those who believe and do good works, the Beneficent will appoint for them love. 19:96

How different this is to the prophets that talk about Israel and the Messiah and all God’s people being sons.

6. Here is a reference to Abraham being given Isaac and Jacob.
So, when he had withdrawn from them and that which they were worshipping beside Allah, We gave him Isaac and Jacob. Each of them We made a prophet. 19:49

But it seems that it should read Isaac and Ishmael. This is particularly the case in,
And make mention in the Scripture of Ishmael. Lo! he was a keeper of his promise, and he was a messenger (of Allah), a prophet. 19:54

Here Ishmael is not connected to Abraham as a son. In Medinan suras Ishmael is Abraham’s son, but it does not seem to be the idea here. It would be interesting to see when Ishmael is explicitly said to be Abraham’s son. Is it part of Meccan or Medinan theology?

7. Here is an interesting verse in which the “we” of the Qur’an is not referring to God but angels. This is a record of angels speaking not God.
We (angels) come not down save by commandment of thy Lord. Unto Him belongeth all that is before us and all that is behind us and all that is between those two, and thy Lord was never forgetful - Lord of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them! Therefor, worship thou Him and be thou steadfast in His service. Knowest thou one that can be named along with Him? 19:64-65

8. It seems that everyone is taken to the edge of hell and then Allah rescues those he wills.
There is not one of you but shall approach it. That is a fixed ordinance of thy Lord. Then We shall rescue those who kept from evil, and leave the evil-doers crouching there. 19:71-72

9. There is no intercession except if you have a covenant with Allah.
They will have no power of intercession, save him who hath made a covenant with his Lord. 19:87

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sura 18 - The Cave

The title comes from one of the stories in the sura.

Date, Context and Theme

It is a middle Meccan sura and deals not this time with “Biblical” stories but with folk stories that were known at the time. These stories are used as signs as to why the Meccans should accept Muhammad and Allah.


vv. 1-8 Opening statement that the Qur’an is from God and the challenge to the Meccans to accept it because of the signs that Allah gives.

vv. 9-27 The sign of the sleepers in the cave.

vv. 28-32 Warning the Meccans again.

vv. 33-45 The parable of the two gardeners, one who thanks Allah and the other who doesn’t.

v. 46 Parable of life, comes from water, dies and is scattered by the wind.

vv. 47-50, The coming of judgement on all.

vv. 51-60 Therefore turn to God now and don’t be deceived.

Vv. 61-83 Moses and his servant sail a boat, lose their food, meet a man, travel with the man and then have all of the events in the days explained as to why they happened. The reason for each thing was not apparent at the time.

Vv. 84-102 Muhammad is asked about Dhu'l-Qarneyn.

Vv. 103-111 Final address to the Meccans to accept Muhammad and Allah.

What I found interesting.

1. The use of stories as signs. In this sura there are many non-biblical stories. It seems that Muhammad was asked about these stories (possibly as a test). But on this occasion Muhammad assumed that he would receive a revelation to answer their question and he was rebuked.
And say not of anything: Lo! I shall do that tomorrow, except if Allah will. And remember thy Lord when thou forgettest, and say: It may be that my Lord guideth me unto a nearer way of truth than this. 18:24-25

But even when the answer comes I found it vague. In the story of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus (a Christian hagiography about Christian martyrs sealed in a cave) Muhammad is asked how many sleepers there were and how long they were in the cave. To both these he basically says,
Say: Allah is Best Aware how long they tarried. 18:27

It just seems that Muhammad cannot really answer their questions.

2. The story about Moses traveling and having different events happen and then having the events explained was quite interesting and showed how revelation makes sense of random events. I thought this was a useful message.

3. The story of Dhu'l-Qarneyn is about a man who travels to the furthest part of the world. It seems that he actually finds the place where the sun sets!
Till, when he reached the setting-place of the sun, he found it setting in a muddy spring 18:87

The people he meets ask for help from Gog and Magog and so he build them and iron wall (v. 97). It would be good to examine these stories historically.

4. Again, Muhammad is the context of this sura because it is his interactions with the Meccans that are shaping the use of these stories.

5. "And to warn those who say: Allah hath chosen a son" 18:4

6. There does seem to be a sense of assurance in this verse.
Lo! as for those who believe and do good works - Lo! We suffer not the reward of one whose work is goodly to be lost. 18:31

7. Here is a short description of paradise.
As for such, theirs will be Gardens of Eden, wherein rivers flow beneath them; therein they will be given armlets of gold and will wear green robes of finest silk and gold embroidery, reclining upon throne therein. Blest the reward, and fair the resting-place! 18:32

8. The doctrine of human free will and God’s sovereignty are taught side by side.
And naught hindereth mankind from believing when the guidance cometh unto them, and from asking forgiveness of their Lord unless ...18:56
... Lo! on their hearts We have placed coverings so that they understand not, and in their ears a deafness. And though thou call them to the guidance, in that case they can never be led aright. 18:58

9. God’s words are unchangeable.
And recite that which hath been revealed unto thee of the Scripture of thy Lord. There is none who can change His words, and thou wilt find no refuge beside Him. 18:28

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sura 17 - The Children of Israel

The title comes from the first and last verses of the sura but Israel is not the main theme of the sura. Muhammad’s experience is parallel to that of Moses.

Date, Context and Theme

The context of this sura is well known. Muhammad claimed that he had been taken by a magical horse to Jerusalem and this is meant to have happened one year before the Hijrah. This makes the sura a late Meccan sura. The sura continues the themes of Muhammad’s interactions with the Meccans and some references to the Jews.


v. 1 The vision/journey of Muhammad to Jerusalem
vv. 2-8 God’s judgement on the temple as a sign for today.
Vv. 9-10 The Qur’an as a sign
vv. 11-15 All men are destined for judgement
vv. 16-22 Allah has judged many towns so repent
vv. 23-39 The righteous life the Muslims are to live.
vv. 40- 64 Charges against the Meccans and how they have rejected the Qur’an and Muhammad. Engages with their reasons for rejecting Muhammad and explains why they reject.
Vv. 65-72 God’s provision and expectation from mankind
vv. 73-96 Issues addressed to Muhammad in particular explaining who he is and why the Meccans respond the way they do.
Vv. 97-100 Words against the Meccans
vv. 101-111 Moses the example for Muhammad.

What I found interesting.

1. Muhammad’s journey to Jerusalem
Glorified be He Who carried His servant by night from the Inviolable Place of Worship to the Far distant place of worship the neighbourhood whereof We have blessed, that We might show him of Our tokens! Lo! He, only He, is the Hearer, the Seer. 17:1

There are many interesting things to consider with this event.

a. Jerusalem is not named. Why not? In fact there are no details of the journey to Jerusalem. To get any details you have to read the Hadith.

b. We are not told what Muhammad did at Jerusalem but instead told about the destruction of the temple.
(Saying): If you (Jews) do good, you do good for your own souls, and if you do evil, it is for them (in like manner). So, when the time for the second (of the judgments) came (We roused against you others of Our slaves) to ravage you, and to enter the Temple even as they entered it the first time, and to lay waste all that they conquered with an utter wasting. It may be that your Lord will have mercy on you, but if ye repeat (the crime) We shall repeat (the punishment), and We have appointed hell a dungeon for the disbelievers. 17:7-8

This verse is saying that if the Jews repeat their crimes God will repeat his punishment, that is the destruction of the temple. But there is know temple. From my reading it seems that Muhammad thinks a 3rd temple is now standing and could be judged. This of course is not the case as there was no temple in Jerusalem at the time.

c. Muhammad and Ezekiel - The references to a journey to Jerusalem and a threat of the destruction of the temple seems to be a copy of the prophet Ezekiel (chapter 8). Maybe Muhammad had read Ezekiel’s story.

d. The claim of the journey to Jerusalem still does not seemed to have provided evidence of the miracle that the Meccans were asking for.
(The Meccans say) Or thou have a house of gold; or thou ascend up into heaven, and even then we will put no faith in thine ascension till thou bring down for us a book that we can read. Say (O Muhammad): My Lord be Glorified! Am I aught save a mortal messenger? 17:93

e. In the Hadith, this journey to Jerusalem is when Muhammad is told to pray 5 times a day. However in this sura, from the journey itself, says to pray three times a day!
Establish worship at the going down of the sun until the dark of night, and (the recital of) the Qur'an at dawn. Lo! (the recital of) the Qur'an at dawn is ever witnessed. And some part of the night awake for it, a largess for thee. It may be that thy Lord will raise thee to a praised estate. 17:78-79 also 11:116, 24:58.

2. Judgement Day - There were many interesting verses about judgement.
And every man's augury have We fastened to his own neck, and We shall bring forth for him on the Day of Resurrection a book which he will find wide open. (And it will be said unto him): Read thy Book. Thy soul sufficeth as reckoner against thee this day. 17:13-14

Whosoever goeth right, it is only for (the good of) his own soul that he goeth right, and whosoever erreth, erreth only to its hurt. No laden soul can bear another's load, We never punish until we have sent a messenger. 17:15

On the day when We shall summon all men with their record, whoso is given his book in his right hand - such will read their book and they will not be wronged a shred. 17:71

3. Muhammad is still be rejected by the Meccans and it is an issue for him (and the Qur’an)
And We place upon their hearts veils lest they should understand it, and in their ears a deafness; and when thou makest mention of thy Lord alone in the Qur'an, they turn their backs in aversion. 17:46

We are Best Aware of what they wish to hear when they give ear to thee and when they take secret counsel, when the evil-doers say: Ye follow but a man bewitched. 17:47

And verily We have displayed for mankind in this Qur'an all kind of similitudes, but most of mankind refuse aught save disbelief. 17:89

Say: Verily, though mankind and the jinn should assemble to produce the like of this Qur'an, they could not produce the like thereof though they were helpers one of another. 17:88

Regarding this last verse, the claim of uniqueness is not limited to the Qur'an alone but equally applies to all of God's books.
Say (unto them, O Muhammad): Then bring a scripture from the presence of Allah that giveth clearer guidance than these two (Qur'an and Torah)(that) I may follow it, if ye are truthful. 28:49

Therefore the "sura like it" challenge can be used to prove that all of God's books are from him and not just the Qur'an.
4. David is mentioned.
And thy Lord is Best Aware of all who are in the heavens and the earth. And we preferred some of the prophets above others, and unto David We gave the Psalms. 17:55

5. The Satanic Verses - The event of the Satanic verses is where Muhammad said that the gods of the Meccans were ok. Later he said that Satan gave him these words not God. This event is recorded and accepted by all the early accounts of Muhammad’s life. This sura is after this event yet claims it never happened!
And they indeed strove hard to beguile thee (Muhammad) away from that wherewith We have inspired thee, that thou shouldst invent other than it against Us; and then would they have accepted thee as a friend. And if We had not made thee wholly firm thou mightest almost have inclined unto them a little. 17:73-74

But Muhammad did give in to the Meccans and accepted their gods. The Meccans did accept Muhammad as a friend for doing this. Muhammad did "incline unto them a little." This verse is a blatant lie.

6. Moses and Muhammad - Here the experience of Moses is paralelled to Muhammad, expect for the miracles of course.
We gave unto Moses the Scripture, and We appointed it a guidance for the children of Israel, saying: Choose no guardian beside Me. 17:2

And verily We gave unto Moses nine tokens, clear proofs (of Allah's Sovereignty). Do but ask the Children of Israel how he came unto them, then Pharaoh said unto him: Lo! I deem thee one bewitched, O Moses. 17:101

It also seems that the Qur’an only knows about the nine plagues on Egypt.

7. I am sure that these verses are famous ones for Muslims about the righteous lives they are to live.

Set not up with Allah any other god (O man) lest thou sit down reproved, forsaken. Thy Lord hath decreed, that ye worship none save Him, and (that ye show) kindness to parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age with thee, say not "Fie" unto them nor repulse them, but speak unto them a gracious word. And lower unto them the wing of submission through mercy, and say: My Lord! Have mercy on them both as they did care for me when I was little. Your Lord is Best Aware of what is in your minds. If ye are righteous, then lo! He was ever Forgiving unto those who turn (unto Him). Give the kinsman his due, and the needy, and the wayfarer, and squander not (thy wealth) in wantonness. Lo! the squanderers were ever brothers of the devils, and the devil was ever an ingrate to his Lord. But if thou turn away from them, seeking mercy from thy Lord, for which thou hopest, then speak unto them a reasonable word. And let not thy hand be chained to thy neck nor open it with a complete opening, lest thou sit down rebuked, denuded. Lo! thy Lord enlargeth the provision for whom He will, and straiteneth (it for whom He will). Lo, He was ever Knower, Seer of His slaves. Slay not your children, fearing a fall to poverty, We shall provide for them and for you. Lo! the slaying of them is great sin. And come not near unto adultery. Lo! it is an abomination and an evil way. And slay not the life which Allah hath forbidden save with right. Whoso is slain wrongfully, We have given power unto his heir, but let him not commit excess in slaying. Lo! he will be helped. Come not near the wealth of the orphan save with that which is better till he come to strength; and keep the covenant. Lo! of the covenant it will be asked. Fill the measure when ye measure, and weigh with a right balance; that is meet, and better in the end. (O man), follow not that whereof thou hast no knowledge. Lo! the hearing and the sight and the heart - of each of these it will be asked. And walk not in the earth exultant. Lo! thou canst not rend the earth, nor canst thou stretch to the height of the hills. The evil of all that is hateful in the sight of thy Lord. This is (part) of that wisdom wherewith thy Lord hath inspired thee (O Muhammad). And set not up with Allah any other god, lest thou be cast into hell, reproved, abandoned. 17:22-39

8. The traditions say that Muhammad was asked about the spirit (holy or human? and gave this reply:
They are asking thee concerning the Spirit. Say: The Spirit is by command of my Lord, and of knowledge ye have been vouchsafed but little. 17:85

To be honest I do not find this a very impressive answer. He basically says nothing.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sura 16 - The Bee

The title is from one of the examples that are to be pondered to see Allah’s provision.

Date, Context and Theme

This sura continues the theme of warning the Meccans against rejecting Muhammad and the word of Allah. The context seems to be addressing a time of suffering for the “fugatives” of Islam. These are those who have left their houses because of persecution. The sura is a call to endurance and righteous living, and the promise of hell and paradise. A Meccan sura.


vv. 1-2, Allah word will come to pass so serve him.
vv. 3-16, Allah has created many good things for you to enjoy and find useful.
vv. 17-18, Therefore serve him.
vv. 19-22, Polytheism is no help.
vv. 23-29, in fact they will be judged.
vv. 30-34, but those who serve Allah will go to paradise.
vv. 35-42, The polytheists defend themselves but are liars. Those who suffer for Allah go to paradise
vv. 43- 47 This is the true message.
Vv. 48-52 Observe how all creation worships Allah.
Vv. 53- 56 Don’t just cry out to Allah for help but worship him all the time.
Vv. 57- 64 The false teachings of the Meccans - the daughters of Allah, and the true of Allah.
Vv. 65- 83 Ponder Allah’s provision of rain, milk, date- palm, the bee and our very creation. Allah is not equal to others.
Vv. 84-117 The nature of the coming judgement of the nations. Live righteously while you wait.
vv. 120-127 Engaging with Jewish righteousness. Abraham is the model thankful worshipper.

What I found interesting.

1. Here is a good description of the inspiration of the Qur’an
He sendeth down the angels with the Spirit of His command unto whom He will of His bondmen, (saying): Warn mankind that there is no God save Me, so keep your duty unto Me. 16:2

2. The Meccans seem to be turning Muhammad’s arguments against him. He says that Allah is all sovereign and so they say,
And the idolaters say: Had Allah willed, we had not worshipped aught beside Him, we and our fathers, nor had we forbidden aught without (command from) Him. Even so did those before them. Are the messengers charged with aught save plain conveyance (of the message)? 16:35

Muhammad’s answer seems to be that he is just a messenger.

3. Here the Meccans and maybe Muhammad are asked to read the previous scriptures to see the truth of what Muhammad is saying.
And We sent not (as Our messengers) before thee other than men whom We inspired - Ask the followers of the Remembrance if ye know not! - 16:43

4. It seems that all people are guilty before Allah and need his forgiveness before judgement day.
If Allah were to take mankind to task for their wrong-doing, he would not leave hereon a living creature, but He reprieveth them to an appointed term, and when their term cometh they cannot put (it) off an hour nor (yet) advance (it). 16:61

And (bethink you of) the day when we raise up of every nation a witness, then there is no leave for disbelievers, nor are they allowed to make amends. 16:84

And (bethink you of) the day when We raise in every nation a witness against them of their own folk, and We bring thee (Muhammad) as a witness against these. And We reveal the Scripture unto thee as an exposition of all things, and a guidance and a mercy and good tidings for those who have surrendered (to Allah). 16:89

Though Allah’s choice is regularly repeated.
Had Allah willed He could have made you (all) one nation, but He sendeth whom He will astray and guideth whom He will, and ye will indeed be asked of what ye used to do. 16:93

5. There is a strange understanding of where milk comes from
And lo! in the cattle there is a lesson for you. We give you to drink of that which is in their bellies, from betwixt the refuse and the blood, pure milk palatable to the drinkers. 16:66

6. Reciting the Qur’an drives away the Satan. I guess this is why you can recite it in Arabic and not have to understand. There is a blessing is just saying it whether you understand or not.
And when thou recitest the Qur'an, seek refuge in Allah from Satan the outcast. Lo! he hath no power over those who believe and put trust in their Lord. 16:98-99

7. Here are two reasons why the Meccans did not accept Muhammad and his answer to these objections.
And when We put a revelation in place of (another) revelation, - and Allah knoweth best what He revealeth - they say: Lo! thou art but inventing. Most of them know not. 16:101

And We know well that they say: Only a man teacheth him. The speech of him at whom they falsely hint is outlandish, and this is clear Arabic speech. 16:103

8. Islamic scholars say that this verse comes for the Medinan period and has been inserted into this sura.
Then lo! thy Lord - for those who became fugitives after they had been persecuted, and then fought and were steadfast - lo! thy Lord afterward is (for them) indeed Forgiving, Merciful. 16:110

The reason for saying this is that it refers to fighting in the Meccan period and according to Islamic tradition Muhammad did not fight until the Medinan period. The verse fits with the flow of the sura,
If ye punish, then punish with the like of that wherewith ye were afflicted. But if ye endure patiently, verily it is better for the patient. Endure thou patiently (O Muhammad). Thine endurance is only by (the help of) Allah. Grieve not for them, and be not in distress because of that which they devise. 16:126-127

and so there is not textual reason for saying that it was inserted here. It seems to me that the verse belongs here and that Islamic tradition may not have the whole story on Muhammad. I seems that he was fighting while he was in Mecca. This raises a whole range of questions.

9. This is a famous verse about how Muslims can deny that they are Muslims when under persecution.
Whoso disbelieveth in Allah after his belief - save him who is forced thereto and whose heart is still content with the Faith - but whoso findeth ease in disbelief: On them is wrath from Allah. Theirs will be an awful doom. 16:106

The other related verses are,
And when ye go forth in the land, it is no sin for you to curtail (your) worship if ye fear that those who disbelieve may attack you. In truth the disbelievers are an open enemy to you. 4:101

Let not the believers take disbelievers for their friends in preference to believers. Whoso doeth that hath no connection with Allah unless (it be) that ye but guard yourselves against them, taking (as it were) security. ... 3:28

10. Abraham is the model for how to respond to Allah.
Lo! Abraham was a nation (model) obedient to Allah, by nature upright, and he was not of the idolaters; 16:120

11. There are many verses in the Qur'an which say that each person only bears their own load of deeds before Allah on judgement day (17:15), but here is a verse that says people share their load.
That they may bear their burdens undiminished on the Day of Resurrection, with somewhat of the burdens of those whom they mislead without knowledge. Ah! evil is that which they bear! 16:25

Here are some other references.
But they verily will bear their own loads and other loads beside their own, and they verily will be questioned on the Day of Resurrection concerning that which they invented. 29:13

Narrated Ibn Abbas: A man came to the Prophet and said, "O Allah's Apostle! My mother died and she ought to have fasted one month (for her missed Ramadan). Shall I fast on her behalf?" The Prophet replied in the affirmative and said, "Allah's debts have more right to be paid." ... (Sahih al-Bukhuri: vol. 3, bk. 31, no. 174, Khan)

Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: A woman from the tribe of Juhaina came to the Prophet and said, "My mother had vowed to perform Hajj but she died before performing it. May I perform Hajj on my mother's behalf?" The Prophet replied, "Perform Hajj on her behalf. Had there been a debt on your mother, would you have paid it or not? So, pay Allah's debt as He has more right to be paid." (Sahih al-Bukhari: vol. 3, bk. 29, no. 77, Khan)

Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: The mother of Sad bin 'Ubada died in his absence. He said, "O Allah's Apostle! My mother died in my absence; will it be of any benefit for her if I give Sadaqa on her behalf?" The Prophet said, "Yes," Sad said, "I make you a witness that I gave my garden called Al Makhraf in charity on her behalf." (Sahih al-Bukhari: vol. 4, bk. 51, no. 19, Khan)

These references show that others can bear your load. The Islamic opposition to Jesus being unable to pay our debt could be challenged by these references.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sura 15 - Al-Hijr

The title, Al-Hijr, comes from the name of a town that was judged.

Date, Context and Theme

This sura continues the theme of warning the Meccans against rejecting Muhammad and the word of Allah. One of the main themes seems to be that you can still see the towns that were judged and so you can know that Allah will judge you.


vv. 1-18, The Meccans are rejecting the Qur’an.
vv. 19-25, Allah has given them so many good things.
vv. 26-44, But the Meccans are following the way of Satan and will go to hell.
vv. 45-48, While the Muslims will go to paradise.
vv. 49-50, Muhammad is to announce this message, ie, vv. 26-48.
vv. 51-77, The example of Abraham, Lot and the judgement of Sodom and Gomorrah which can be seen now.
vv. 78-79, The example of the people who lived in a forest and were judged and can be seen now.
vv. 80-84, The example of the judgement of the people of Al-Hijr which can be seen now.
vv. 85-99, The application of all this for Muhammad.

What I found interesting.

1. I found it interesting that the Qur’an says you can see where Allah has judged other towns (Sodom, the forest town, and Al-Hijr). I assume that this means that there were old towns around Muhammad and there were stories associate with them as to how they met their demise.

2. The Qur’an is called a “Reminder” and Muhammad a madman.
And they say: O thou unto whom the Reminder is revealed, lo! thou art indeed a madman! 15:6

Lo! We, even We, reveal the Reminder, and lo! We verily are its Guardian. 15:9

3. The words of Satan are interesting. Allah creates Adam from mud and then commands all his angels to bow down before Adam. Satan refuses and it seems that his reason is a very monotheistic reason.
He said: I am not one to prostrate myself unto a mortal whom Thou hast created out of potter's clay of black mud altered! 15:33

Satan’s answer seems correct but there may well be a good explanation for this.

4. Again we see that the earlier prophets are made to address the issues that Muhammad has with the Meccans.
And bring thee the Truth, and lo! we are truth-tellers. 15:64

5. Here is a reference to the Qur’an being mistreated by the Meccan. Therefore it is not only the unfaithful Christians and Jews who have mistreated their scriptures.
Those who break the Qur'an into parts. 15:91

6. Again we see that in all the story that are told there are very few details.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sura 14 - Abraham

Date, Context and Theme

This sura continues the theme of explaining and exploring why the Meccans are still rejecting Muhammad and the word of Allah. The main crime in this sura that of thanklessness. In spite of this rejection Muhammad is told,
So think not that Allah will fail to keep His promise to His messengers. Lo! Allah is Mighty, Able to Requite (the wrong). 14:47


vv. 1-4 Introduces the Qur’an, Allah, the Muslim life and Muhammad.
Vv. 5-8 Moses and the Exodus and the people still thankless.
vv. 9- 23 The experience of all the prophets. Thanklessness. Rejected but in the end victorious and receive the land.
Vv. 24-27 Parable about Allah’s word and how people receive it.
Vv. 28- 30 Look at the unbelievers: thankless, false religion, live for this world,
vv. 31-41 Allah is for the believers. Abraham is the example: thankful and asking for help to establish worship
vv. 42-52 All people will have to face Allah and then it will be too late.

What I found interesting.

1. The mystery letters. I have not mentioned the mystery letters yet. These are a group of letters at the beginning of some suras.
Alif. Lam. Ra. (This is) a Scripture which We have revealed unto thee (Muhammad) that thereby thou mayst bring forth mankind from darkness unto light, by the permission of their Lord, unto the path of the Mighty, the Owner of Praise, 14:1

No one knows what these letters are for. Some Muslims believe that this mysterious element to the Qur’an proves it miracle from Allah.

2. Abraham - Again we see that Muhammad’s concerns are made Abraham’s concerns.
My Lord! Make me to establish proper worship, and some of my posterity (also); our Lord! and accept my prayer. 14:40

3. There is still the issue of why Muhammad does not give a sign.
Their messengers said: Can there be doubt concerning Allah, the Creator of the heavens and the earth? He calleth you that He may forgive you your sins and reprieve you unto an appointed term. They said: Ye are but mortals like us, who would fain turn us away from what our fathers used to worship. Then bring some clear warrant. 14:10

4. Here is another prayer of intercession by a prophet.
Our Lord! Forgive me (Abraham) and my parents and believers on the day when the account is cast. 14:41

5. Here is a good glimpse into Qur’an eschatology.
On the day when the earth will be changed to other than the earth, and the heavens (also will be changed) and they will come forth unto Allah, the One, the Almighty, 14:48

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sura 13 - The Thunder

The Thunder is a great title for this sura. It brings the idea of God’s coming judgement.

Date, Context and Theme

This is a Meccan sura and continues the theme of Muhammad being rejected by the Meccans (Quraysh). The sura is a call to perseverance as the Muslims wait for the truth of Muhammad’s message to be seen.
Whether We let thee see something of that which We have promised them, or make thee die (before its happening), thine is but conveyance (of the message). Ours the reckoning. 13:40


vv. 1-6 Allah is the sovereign lord and judge and has his time for everything.
vv. 7- 43 The rest of the sura encourages the Muhammad and the Muslim to persevere in the face of: still has given no sign (13:7, 27), non-Muslims prospering (13:26, 33), being mock (13:32), apostates (13:25), accepting God’s time, living righteous lives, and knowing that God will judge the non-Muslims.

What I found interesting.

1. Both God’s choice and human choice at taught as real
For him are angels ranged before him and behind him, who guard him by Allah's command. Lo! Allah changeth not the condition of a folk until they (first) change that which is in their hearts; and if Allah willeth misfortune for a folk there is none that can repel it, nor have they a defender beside Him. 13:11

Had it been possible for a Lecture to cause the mountains to move, or the earth to be torn asunder, or the dead to speak, (this Qur'an would have done so). Nay, but Allah's is the whole command. Do not those who believe know that, had Allah willed, He could have guided all mankind? As for those who disbelieve, disaster ceaseth not to strike them because of what they do, or it dwelleth near their home until the threat of Allah come to pass. Lo! Allah faileth not to keep the tryst. 13:30-31

2. Another creedal statement.
Say (O Muhammad): Who is Lord of the heavens and the earth? Say: Allah. Say: Take ye then (others) beside Him for protectors, which, even for themselves, have neither benefit nor hurt? Say: Is the blind man equal to the seer, or is darkness equal to light? Or assign they unto Allah partners who created the like of His creation so that the creation (which they made and His creation) seemed alike to them? Say: Allah is the Creator of all things, and He is the One, the Almighty. 13:16

3.Allah makes parables to explain his truth. This is a common phrase.
He sendeth down water from the sky, so that valleys flow according to their measure, and the flood beareth (on its surface) swelling foam - from that which they smelt in the fire in order to make ornaments and tools riseth a foam like unto it - thus Allah coineth (the similitude of) the true and the false. Then, as for the foam, it passeth away as scum upon the banks, while, as for that which is of use to mankind, it remaineth in the earth. Thus Allah coineth the similitudes. 13:17

4. Don't be discouraged by apostates.
And those who break the covenant of Allah after ratifying it, and sever that which Allah hath commanded should be joined, and make mischief in the earth: theirs is the curse and theirs the ill abode. 13:25

5. Don't be discouraged that there is still no sign.
Those who disbelieve say: If only some portent were sent down upon him from his Lord! Thou art a warner only, and for every folk a guide. 13:7
Those who disbelieve say: If only a portent were sent down upon him from his Lord! Say: Lo! Allah sendeth whom He will astray, and guideth unto Himself all who turn (unto Him), 13:27

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Sura 12 - Joseph

Date and Context

This sura gives the Quranic version of the life of Joseph. His life is set forward as an example for Muhammad. The content of the sura suggests that Muhammad was in despair regarding his prophethood and sura explains this situation.
Till, when the messengers despaired and thought that they were denied, then came unto them Our help, and whom We would was saved. And Our wrath cannot be warded from the guilty. 12:110

A Meccan sura.


vv. 1-3, Introduces the mission of Muhammad to the Meccan (Quraysh)

vv. 4-18 The story of Joseph begins with his dream. He is betrayed by his brothers and taken into slavery.

vv. 19-34 Joseph is seduced by his master’s wife but is innocent. Though innocent he goes to prison.

vv. 35-49, Joseph preaches Islam to the prisoners and interprets their dream.

vv. 50-57 Joseph brought to the king. The women confess their crimes against Joseph. Joseph made ruler or the storehouses.

Vv. 58-82 Joseph’s brothers arrive, then return with the other son. Joseph has the cup put in saddle bag.

vv. 83-88 The brothers return to Jacob. Jacob tells them to return to Joseph

vv. 89- 101 Joseph is revealed to his brothers.

vv. 102-Conclusion - These prophets despaired but where justified and this is the same for Muhammad.

What I found interesting.

1. It is interesting how this sura has been changed from the original Biblical version. It is clearly based on the Biblical version yet also an interaction with it. But it is not just retelling the story but is a commentary on the story.

a. Differences

Planets instead of sheaves.

When Joseph said unto his father: O my father! Lo! I saw in a dream eleven planets and the sun and the moon, I saw them prostrating themselves unto me. 12:4

Joseph’s brothers do not sell him to the traders instead leave him in the well to be found by them (12:10). When Joseph is tempted by his master’s wife, his master calls for witnesses and establishes that Joseph is innocent. His wife then explains that Joseph is the most beautiful of men. Joseph's beauty is such that all women are uncontrollably distracted by it and cut their hands when cutting vegetables (12:26-31). When the cupbearer is released from prison he hears the kings dream and does back to ask Joseph to interpret it (12:46). Jacob’s sons used camels to get to Egypt (12:70) not donkeys (Genesis 44:3). I wonder if Muhammad had any idea where Jacob actually lived? It is the kings cup that Joseph plants in Benjamin’s bag (12:73). Jacob knows by revelation that Joseph is alive before his sons return to Egypt (12:87). And Joseph says,
Go with this shirt of mine and lay it on my father's face, he will become (again) a seer; and come to me with all your folk. 12:93

Joseph’s mother is alive and comes to Egypt (12:100)

b. History

The Bible says they sold Joseph for 20 shekels (a shekel being a unit of weight not a coin), but the Qur’an says he was bought with coins.
And they sold him for a low price, a number of silver coins; and they attached no value to him. 12:20

There were no coins that this period of history. There was also no crucifixion at this time.
O my two fellow-prisoners! As for one of you, he will pour out wine for his lord to drink; and as for the other, he will be crucified so that the birds will eat from his head. Thus is the case judged concerning which ye did inquire. 12:41

c. Details

I was struck by the lack of names in the story. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph are named (12:38) but there are no names for the traders, Joseph’s brothers, his Egyptian master or the king. The details are very general. Also the account of Judah and Tamar (Genesis 38) is not included in the Qur’anic account. Again, the Qur'an is not telling the story of Joseph but is giving a commentary on the story of Joseph.

The Qur’an is meant to confirm the Biblical account and give a detailed explanation.
In their history verily there is a lesson for men of understanding. It is no invented story but a confirmation of the existing (Scripture) and a detailed explanation of everything, and a guidance and a mercy for folk who believe. 12:111

However, it does not do this. The Bible gives far more detail. Instead the Qur'an provides a truncated account which reflects the culture and theological questions at the time of Muhammad.

2. Intercession of the prophets
They said: O our father! Ask forgiveness of our sins for us, for lo! we were sinful. He said: I shall ask forgiveness for you of my Lord. Lo! He is the Forgiving, the Merciful. 12:97-98

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sura 11 - Hud

I think the traditional name of “Hud” is because it specifically says he has no sign and this is similar to Muhammad.

Date and Context

This sura is really a sura of pleading. It has a clear structure in which is parallels the lives of previous prophets to that of Muhammad. It is a late Meccan sura. This is yet another sura dealing with the fact that Muhammad brought no sign from Allah. This must have really been and issue for Muhammad to have it addressed in so many suras.


vv. 1-4, Muhammad’s concern for the Meccans.

vv. 5-24, The sins of the Meccans and why they need to repent. They have invented lies against Allah and denied his revelations.

vv. 25-48, Noah preaches and pleads with his people but they reject him. They live with injustice and sin. The judgement comes and Noah is saved.

vv. 50-60, Hud preaches and people reject him. They live with injustice and sin. Hud brings no sign from God but the judgement comes and Hud is saved.

vv. 61-68, Salih preaches and the people reject him. They live with injustice and sin, but the judgement comes and Salih is saved.

vv. 69-83, Abraham, Lot and Sodom. Lots speaks to him people but they will not listen. They live with injustice and sin. The judgement comes but Lot is saved.

Vv. 84-95 Shu'eyb, pleads with his people to repent and worship Allah alone. His righteous life is the sign. They do not listen and are destroyed.

Vv. 96-99 Moses spoke to Pharaoh but Pharaoh did not listen but was destroyed.

vv. 100-102 summary of vv. 25-99 as a warning to the Meccans.

Vv. 103-108 What is going to happening on judgement day

vv. 109-123 Live in repentance and wait

What I found interesting.

1. The voice of Muhammad is strong in this sura. Maybe because it is a pleading sura. I have not seen this before. Normally it is “We” speaking, but here it is Muhammad.
Alif. Lam. Ra. (This is) a Scripture the revelations whereof are perfected and then expounded. (It cometh) from One Wise, Informed, (Saying): Serve none but Allah. Lo! I am unto you from Him a warner and a bringer of good tidings. And (bidding you): Ask pardon of your Lord and turn to Him repentant. He will cause you to enjoy a fair estate until a time appointed. He giveth His bounty unto every bountiful one. But if ye turn away, lo! (then) I fear for you the retribution of an awful Day. Unto Allah is your return, and He is Able to do all things. 11:1-4

And, O my people! Let not the schism with me cause you to sin so that there befall you that which befell the folk of Noah and the folk of Hud, and the folk of Salih; and the folk of Lot are not far off from you. Ask pardon of your Lord and then turn unto Him (repentant). Lo! my Lord is Merciful, Loving. 11:89-90

2. No sign again and the Qur’an offered as the sign.
A likely thing, that thou wouldst forsake aught of that which hath been revealed unto thee, and that thy breast should be straitened for it, because they say: Why hath not a treasure been sent down for him, or an angel come with him? Thou art but a warner, and Allah is in charge of all things. Or they say: He hath invented it. Say: Then bring ten surahs, the like thereof, invented, and call on everyone ye can beside Allah, if ye are truthful! 11:12-13

This claim of uniqueness is not limited to the Qur'an alone but equally applies to all of God's books.
Say (unto them, O Muhammad): Then bring a scripture from the presence of Allah that giveth clearer guidance than these two (Qur'an and Torah)(that) I may follow it, if ye are truthful. 28:49

Therefore the "sura like it" challenge can be used to prove that all of God's books are from him and not just the Qur'an.
3. Again we see that the story of the prophets are retold to fit into Muhammad’s life.
The chieftains of his folk, who disbelieved, said: We see thee but a mortal like us, and we see not that any follow thee save the most abject among us, without reflection. We behold in you no merit above us - nay, we deem you liars. (11:27 also 10:88)

They said: O Shu'eyb! We understand not much of that thou tellest, and lo! we do behold thee weak among us. But for thy family, we should have stoned thee, for thou art not strong against us. 11:91

4. The act of pray wipes away sin.
Establish worship at the two ends of the day and in some watches of the night. Lo! good deeds annul ill-deeds. This is reminder for the mindful. 11:114

It is interesting that this is not saying pray five times a day.

5. Again there is a strong sovereignty theme. In this case predestination to hell.
Save him on whom thy Lord hath mercy; and for that He did create them. And the Word of thy Lord hath been fulfilled: Verily I shall fill hell with the jinn and mankind together. 11:119

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sura 10 - Jonah

My Title Jonah is a great title as Jonah is the prophet whose people listened to him and were saved from judgement.

Date and Context

This is a late Meccan sura and deals with the Meccan’s rejection of Muhammad, and also the issue of why Muhammad has no sign.


vv. 1-71, The signs that Allah has given the Meccans. The sun, moon and plants (v. 6, 25) all show his power. Allah is merciful to you (13, 22-23) but after you have received it you forget and turn away. The religion of the Meccans is a lie against Allah.

vv. 72-75, Noah warned his people. They rejected him and then the judgement came.

vv. 76-96, Moses warned the Egyptians. They rejected him and then the judgement came.

v. 99, Jonah warned his people. They listened to him and were saved from judgement.

vv. 100-110 The Meccans are going to meet Allah and judgement day and Muhammad will testify against them.

What I found interesting.

1. Things we learn about Muhammad

a. Called a wizard
Is it a wonder for mankind that We have inspired a man among them, saying: Warn mankind and bring unto those who believe the good tidings that they have a sure footing with their Lord? The disbelievers say: Lo! this is a mere wizard. 10:3

b. Asked to change the Qur’an. He did this with the Satanic Verses.
And when Our clear revelations are recited unto them, they who look not for the meeting with Us say: Bring a Lecture other than this, or change it. Say (O Muhammad): It is not for me to change it of my accord. I only follow that which is inspired in me. Lo! if I disobey my Lord I fear the retribution of an awful Day. 10:16

c. Muhammad has spent his life in Mecca.
Say: If Allah had so willed I should not have recited it to you nor would He have made it known to you. I dwelt among you a whole lifetime before it (came to me). Have ye then no sense? 10:17

d. Is this verse suggesting that Muhammad was waiting for a sign too?
And they will say: If only a portent were sent down upon him from his Lord! Then say, (O Muhammad): The Unseen belongeth to Allah. So wait! Lo! I am waiting with you. 10:21

e. Muhammad is to believe the earlier prophets if he doubts the revelation he has received.
And if thou (Muhammad) art in doubt concerning that which We reveal unto thee, then question those who read the Scripture (that was) before thee. Verily the Truth from thy Lord hath come unto thee. So be not thou of the waverers. And be not thou of those who deny the revelations of Allah, for then wert thou of the losers. 10:95-96

2. Since Muhammad has not miraculous sign from Allah, the Qur’an is again said to be the sign.
And this Qur'an is not such as could ever be invented in despite of Allah; but it is a confirmation of that which was before it and an exposition of that which is decreed for mankind - Therein is no doubt - from the Lord of the Worlds. Or say they: He hath invented it? Say: Then bring a surah like unto it, and call (for help) on all ye can besides Allah, if ye are truthful. 10:38-39

There is more to this "sura like it" challenge though because this claim of uniqueness is not limited to the Qur'an alone but equally applies to all of God's books.
Say (unto them, O Muhammad): Then bring a scripture from the presence of Allah that giveth clearer guidance than these two (Qur'an and Torah)(that) I may follow it, if ye are truthful. 28:49

Therefore the "sura like it" challenge can be used to prove that all of God's books are from him and not just the Qur'an.
3. The day of judgement.
And for every nation there is a messenger. And when their messenger cometh (on the Day of Judgment) it will be judged between them fairly, and they will not be wronged. 10:48

4. It is interesting how the way the story of Moses is told is really addressing the issue of how the Muslims are to live in Mecca when people are hostile to them.
And We inspired Moses and his brother, (saying): Appoint houses for your people in Egypt and make your houses oratories, and establish worship. And give good news to the believers. 10:88

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sura 9 - Repentance

My Title

I think that “Repentance” is a good title, though “The Great Commission” could also work.

Date and Context

This is the last main sura that Muhammad gives, 9 A.H. It really is his great commission for the Islamic community. His forces have conquered Mecca, he has sent envoys to all the surrounding empires calling them to Islam and now he is beginning his push north into the Byzantine empire. This first northern push was with a battle at Tabuk. Many Muslim tribes did not join him for this offensive and much of this sura is aimed at them.


vv. 1-28 What to do with Mecca and the Arabs who hold to the traditional religions now that Islam controls Mecca. Fight them; they are unclean and ban them from Mecca.
vv. 29-35 Fight the Christians and Jews because they are heretics.
vv. 36- 98 The Muslims who would not fight at Tabuk covenant breakers, have rejected the Quran, are unclean and so you must fight them.
vv. 97-99 The Wandering Arab - some help some don't.
vv. 100-129 To the believers: paradise, reward how to behave

It is interesting that this sura comes after sura 9. Sura 8 is the beginning of fighting while sura 9 is the last word on fighting. This canonical position seems deliberate.

What I found interesting.

1. New Rules for Mecca

Mecca was the religious centre for the region. Now that Muhammad controls Mecca he can control the shape of Arab religion.
It is not for the idolaters to tend Allah's sanctuaries, bearing witness against themselves of disbelief. As for such, their works are vain and in the Fire they will abide. 9:17

O ye who believe! The idolaters only are unclean. So let them not come near the Inviolable Place of Worship after this their year. If ye fear poverty
(from the loss of their merchandise) Allah shall preserve you of His bounty
if He will. Lo! Allah is Knower, Wise. 9:28

The Muslims are to fight the idolaters. If they have a treaty with them they are to wait until the treaty ends and then fight. There is no obligation to have peace with them. Warfare is the only state of existence. (9:3-5)

2. Fight Christians and Jews because they are heretics
Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the Religion of Truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low. And the Jews say: Ezra is the son of Allah, and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah. That is their saying with their mouths. They imitate the saying of those who disbelieved of old. Allah (Himself) fighteth against them. How perverse are they! ... Fain would they put out the light of Allah with their mouths, but Allah disdaineth (aught) save that He shall perfect His light, however much the disbelievers are averse. He it is Who hath sent His messenger with the guidance and the Religion of Truth, that He may cause it to prevail over all religion, however much the idolaters may be averse. 9:29-33

3. Fighting in Allah’s cause is the highest service to God
Count you the slaking of a pilgrim's thirst and tendance of the Inviolable Place of Worship as (equal to the worth of) him who believeth in Allah and the Last Day, and striveth in the way of Allah? They are not equal in the sight of Allah. Allah guideth not wrongdoing folk. Those who believe, and have left their homes and striven with their wealth and their lives in Allah's way are of much greater worth in Allah's sight. These are they who are triumphant. 9:19-20

4. Muhammad’s War on Muslims

Many of the Muslims seemed not interested in Muhammad’s war against everyone. They are called hypocrites, unclean, unbelievers and covenant breakers. It is very serious for Muslims not to join the jihad. Their destiny is hell and Muhammad is to make war on them.
They alone ask leave of thee who believe not in Allah and the Last Day, and whose hearts feel doubt, so in their doubt they waver. 9:45

They will swear by Allah unto you, when ye return unto them, that ye may let them be. Let them be, for lo! they are unclean, and their abode is hell as the reward for what they used to earn. 9:95

So He hath made the consequence (to be) hypocrisy in their hearts until the day when they shall meet Him, because they broke their word to Allah that they promised Him, and because they lied. 9:77

The road (of blame) is only against those who ask for leave of thee (to stay at home) when they are rich. They are content to be with the useless. Allah hath sealed their hearts so that they know not. 9:93

O Prophet! Strive against the disbelievers and the hypocrites! Be harsh with them. Their ultimate abode is hell, a hapless journey's end. 9:73

This is one of the reasons why “true” Muslims fight nominal Muslims today.

5. Choose God over your family.
O ye who believe! Choose not your fathers nor your brethren for friends if they take pleasure in disbelief rather than faith. Whoso of you taketh them
for friends, such are wrong-doers. 9:23

This is like what Jesus says in the gospel.

6. Zakat - The Charity Tax?

The Zakat is a tax that all Muslims pay and is often translated as “charity”. This verse shows what it is to be spent on:
The alms are only for the poor and the needy, and those who collect them, and those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and to free the captives and the debtors, and for the cause of Allah, and (for) the wayfarer; a duty imposed by Allah. Allah is Knower, Wise. 9:60

Therefore it is not just charity but also for the “cause of Allah” which is Sura 9 is fighting on Jihad. I have seen many Islamic “charity” organisations get in trouble for supporting the Mujahadeen but they are simply doing what the Qur’an says.

7. Independent Mosque Planting!

It seems that there were other mosques that were not under Muhammad’s control. Maybe Muhammad was just part of a broader monotheistic movement? These other Muslims did not follow Muhammad exclusively and did not want to fight. They were peaceful Muslims. Muhammad had their mosque burnt down. (Ibn Ishaq, Sirat Rasul Allah, p. 609)
And as for those who chose a place of worship out of opposition and disbelief, and in order to cause dissent among the believers, and as an outpost for those who warred against Allah and His messenger aforetime, they will surely swear: We purposed naught save good. Allah beareth witness that they verily are liars. Never stand (to pray) there. A place of worship which was found upon duty (to Allah) from the first day is more worthy that thou shouldst stand (to pray) therein, wherein are men who love to purify themselves. Allah loveth the purifiers. 9:107-108

8. The Gospel of Jihad

In order to justify his doctrine of Jihad Muhammad claimed that this was the message of all the prophets.
Lo! Allah hath bought from the believers their lives and their wealth because the Garden will be theirs: they shall fight in the way of Allah and shall slay and be slain. It is a promise which is binding on Him in the Torah and the Gospel and the Qur'an. Who fulfilleth His covenant better than Allah? Rejoice then in your bargain that ye have made, for that is the supreme triumph. 9:111