Monday, April 26, 2010

Sura 6 - Cattle

My Title: Why no miracles?

Date and Context

This seems to be Muhammad’s last address to the Meccans before his flees Mecca and goes to Medina to live. The Meccans have rejected Muhammad and his message because he has not given them any proof. The main theme of this sura is to answer this objection and provide and explain the proof that Muhammad’s message is true. It also may be that this sura corrects sura 7 which compared Muhammad to Moses. However since Moses did miracles this comparison did not work and needed to be corrected.


vv. 1-73 Why Allah has not given a miraculous sign through Muhammad.

vv. 74-135 The sign of Abraham and wisdom not revelation. Abraham looked at the world and rightly saw its creator and worshipped him alone.

vv. 136-166 The Meccan claim that they do look at the world and follow its god refuted.

What I found Interesting.

1. The Meccan Objections - Muhammad you give us no proof for what you say!

No book from heaven.
Had we sent down unto thee (Muhammad) (actual) writing upon parchment, so that they could feel it with their hands, those who disbelieve would have said: This is naught else than mere magic. 6:7

No angel.
They say: Why hath not an angel been sent down unto him? If We sent down an angel, then the matter would be judged; no further time would be allowed them (for reflection). Had we appointed him (Our messenger) an angel, We assuredly had made him (as) a man (that he might speak to men); and (thus) obscured for them (the truth) they (now) obscure. 6:8-9

No sign.
They say: Why hath no portent been sent down upon him from his Lord? Say: Lo! Allah is Able to send down a portent. But most of them know not. 6:37

You are just speaking fables (6:25)

2. The Evidence of Muhammad.

a. Look at the world and see the power of Allah. Allah is the all powerful, all knowing, the all sustaining, the one to whom we all return. He makes the plants grow and the rain to come. There is no evidence of him having a partner. 6:59, 64
Proofs have come unto you from your Lord, so whoso seeth, it is for his own good, and whoso is blind is blind to his own hurt. And I am not a keeper over you. 6:104

Such is Allah, your Lord. There is no God save Him, the Creator of all things, so worship Him. And He taketh care of all things. 6:102

b. Even if you were given a miraculous sign you would not believe.
And they swear a solemn oath by Allah that if there come unto them a portent they will believe therein. Say; Portents are with Allah and (so is) that which telleth you that if such came unto them they would not believe. 6:109

c. Abraham - There is a great story about Abraham before he was a believer. One day he began to worship a star but it set so he didn’t worship it. The same happens with the moon and sun. Abraham then uses his logic to say these are not gods and that Allah alone should be worshiped. It is this logical argument that Muhammad puts to the Meccans. This argument certainly can give us evidence for God (Romans 1:18ff) but does not provide evidence for Muhammad being a prophet.
That is Our argument. We gave it unto Abraham against his folk. We raise unto degrees of wisdom whom We will. Lo! thy Lord is Wise, Aware. 6:83

d. It is Allah’s choice that you don’t believe Muhammad.
And whomsoever it is Allah's will to guide, He expandeth his bosom unto the Surrender, and whomsoever it is His Will to send astray, He maketh his bosom close and narrow as if he were engaged in sheer ascent. Thus Allah layeth ignominy upon those who believe not. 6:125

Say - For Allah's is the final argument - Had He willed He could indeed have guided all of you. 6:149

e. Muhammad says he has enough proof.
Say: I am (relying) on clear proof from my Lord, while ye deny Him. I have not that for which ye are impatient. The decision is for Allah only. He telleth the truth and He is the Best of Deciders. 6:57

f. The Meccans say they do worship the god/gods of creation with their animistic worship but Muhammad says they kill their children and do terrible things therefore this cannot be the true god. However, Muhammad used some of their animistic worship with the kissing and honouring of the Black Stone.
Bukhari, Muslim and Abu Daw'ud reported that 'Umar approached the Black Stone and kissed it. Then he said: "I know that you are a mere stone that can neither harm nor do any good. If I had not seen the Prophet (peace be upon him) kissing you, I would have never kissed you." Al-Khatabi said: "This shows that abiding by the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) is binding, regardless of whether or not we understand its reason or the wisdom behind it." Such information devolves obligation on all those whom it reaches, even if they may not fully comprehend its significance. It is known, however, that kissing the Black Stone signifies respect for it, recognition of our obligation toward it, and using it as a
means of seeking Allah's blessings. ... The underlying spirit of all this is unquestioning submission to Allah. (As-Sayyid Sabiq, Fiqh us-Sunnah, Hajj and 'Umrah, vol. 5, p. 75)

3. Threats for rejecting Muhammad. Many verses saying Allah will judge you and send you to hell, but more interestingly was the threat the Muhammad would come and punish them
Messengers (of Allah) have been derided before thee, but that whereat they scoffed surrounded such of them as did deride. 6:10

Yes, it is true that Muhammad did not fight when he was in Mecca but he was not peaceful. He seems to be active in making threats to the Meccans.

4. Muhammad does not know
Say (O Muhammad, to the disbelievers): I say not unto you (that) I possess the treasures of Allah, nor that I have knowledge of the Unseen; and I say not unto you: Lo! I am an angel. I follow only that which is inspired in me. Say: Are the blind man and the seer equal? Will ye not then take thought? 6:50

This is quite different from the New Testament descriptions of Jesus.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sura 5 - The Table Spread

My Title: Covenant Obligations
Date and Context - The date for this one is varied. Pickthall says from 5-10 A.H. It is certainly when Muhammad is dealing with many Christians and Jews.


The main theme of this sura is our duty to God because he has made a covenant with the Jews, Christians and Muslims. And each group is to fulfil their covenant.

vv. 1-11 Various duties and instructions for the Muslims about food, fighting, washing.
vv. 12-32 The example of covenant duty with Jesus, the Israelites and Adam’s sons.
vv. 33-108 Is a mixture of instructions to Muslims, Christians and Jews about what it means to live for Allah and keep his covenant. It deals with oaths, apostasy and how Muslims are to live with Christians.
Vv. 109-120 How each prophet with bear witness to his community as to whether they kept their covenant with Allah. A very interesting ending where Jesus’ disciples, the model of covenant keeping Christians, ask for a table spread with food from heaven, the covenant meal.

What I found Interesting.

1. Covenant - The idea of covenant was strong. There does not seem to be any sacrifice made to start the covenant as there was with Abraham, Israel and Jesus, instead I think it is just the giving of the revelation brings a covenant and maybe the Lord’s table at the end of the sura.

2. Living with Christians - There must have been a lot of Christians around Muhammad to warrant the amount of instruction about them, but it is a real mix of instructions.

Muslim can eat Christian and Jewish food (5:5) marry Christian women (5:5) and must treat them well.

Don’t have Christians as friends.
O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for friends. ... 5:51

The Christian leaders are liars 5:61-62

Have Christians as friends
Thou wilt find the most vehement of mankind in hostility to those who believe (to be) the Jews and the idolaters. And thou wilt find the nearest of them in affection to those who believe (to be) those who say: Lo! We are Christians. That is because there are among them priests and monks, and because they are not. 5:82

Christians and Jews have broken, forgotten and hidden part of their covenant with Allah 5:13-15, 41

Christians and Jews are to follow their own scriptures.
How come they unto thee (Muhammad) for judgment when they have the Torah, wherein Allah hath delivered judgment (for them)? ... Let the People of the Gospel judge by that which Allah hath revealed therein. Whoso judgeth not by that which Allah hath revealed: such are evil-livers. And unto thee (Muslims) have We revealed the Scripture with the truth, confirming whatever Scripture was before it, and a watcher over it. ... For each We have appointed a divine law and a traced-out way. Had Allah willed He could have made you one community. But that He may try you by that which He hath given you (He hath made you as ye are). 5:43-48

It is very interesting to see the idea here of three parallel religious codes and that Allah made it this way. Is this saying that the Jewish and Christian covenants continue alongside of the Islamic covenant?
Say O People of the Scripture! Ye have naught (of guidance) till ye observe the Torah and the Gospel and that which was revealed unto you from your Lord. ... 5:58

Overall it is continuing to sow distrust towards what Christians and Jews say about God.

3. Jesus

Is not God
They indeed have disbelieved who say: Lo! Allah is the Messiah, son of Mary. ... 5:17, 72-75

No Trinity
They surely disbelieve who say: Lo! Allah is the third of three; when there is no God save the One God. If they desist not from so saying a painful doom will fall on those of them who disbelieve.5:73

Mary is not part of the Trinity
And when Allah saith: O Jesus, son of Mary! Didst thou say unto mankind: Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allah? 5:116

Just a prophet
The Messiah, son of Mary, was no other than a messenger, messengers (the like of whom) had passed away before him. And his mother was a saintly woman. And they both used to eat (earthly) food. See how We make the revelations clear for them, and see how they are turned away! 5:75

On judgement day Jesus will testify against the Christians for their false beliefs about him and his mother.
In the day when Allah gathereth together the messengers, and saith: What was your response (from mankind)?... 5:109

The disciples of Jesus are put forward as the model Christians. 5:112-14

4. Son of God - Not only is Jesus not the son of God, but Christians and Jews must not call themselves this also.
The Jews and Christians say: We are sons of Allah and His loved ones. Say: Why then doth He chastise you for your sins? Nay, ye are but mortals of His creating. ... 5:18

5. The Promised Land. Allah gave Israel the promised land.
O my people! Go into the holy land which Allah hath ordained for you. Turn not in flight, for surely ye turn back as losers: 5:21

I wonder how this is understood in the light of Muslims wanting to remove Israel from the land?

6. Cutting Off Hand - This is a famous verse.
As for the thief, both male and female, cut off their hands. It is the reward of their own deeds, an exemplary punishment from Allah. Allah is Mighty, Wise. But whoso repenteth after his wrongdoing and amendeth, lo! Allah will relent toward him. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. 5:38-39

V. 39 says that Allah will relent towards him, this means that the thief will not go to hell not that his hand will not be cut off.

7. Apostasy - It is interesting to see that at this stage if someone leaves Islam they are not to be killed but instead Allah will raise up a better Muslim people. This is a great verse of what it means to be a covenant keeping Muslims. So what does a good Muslim look like? Read on ...
O ye who believe! Whoso of you becometh a renegade from his religion, (know that in his stead) Allah will bring a people whom He loveth and who love Him, humble toward believers, stern toward disbelievers, striving in the way of Allah, and fearing not the blame of any blamer. Such is the grace of Allah which He giveth unto whom He will. Allah is All-Embracing, All-Knowing. 5:54

8. The Bible - more confessions that Muslims believe all the scriptures 5:59.

9. Do not ask questions.
O ye who believe! Ask not of things which, if they were made known unto you, would trouble you; but if ye ask of them when the Qur'an is being revealed, they will be made known unto you. Allah pardoneth this, for Allah is Forgiving, Clement. 5:101

10. Games of Chance.
5:90 and 2:219 both prohibit games of chance. The Shariah says:
Every game played by two or more people that relies on luck, conjecture, and guessing is unlawful, no matter whether money is stipulated or not. (k29.5)... gambling, whether by itself or connected with offensive games like chess or unlawful ones like backgammon ... (w.52.1 (423)) Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, "Reliance of the Traveller."

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sura 4 - Women

Date: 4 A.H. Muhammad has had the Islamic state in Medina going for 4 years now. In this sura he deals with social issues and with questions raised by the Jewish tribes in Medina. There is also some interaction with Christians.


vv. 1- 43 Women’s and orphans rights
vv. 44-56 Answering the People of the book
vv. 57- 86 Urging the Muslims to fight
vv. 87-127 Issues about those trying to turn the Muslims away.
vv. 128-130 Women’s Issues.
vv. 131- 176 Humanity and Allah
v. 177 Inheritance (An odd ending though this is where the sura started?)

What I found interesting

1. Women - This sura has much teaching about how to treat women. The dominant theme was of being kind and caring for women, but, the understanding of what it means to be king was not the Christian or Western understanding.

Polygamy is allowed (4:3) but only if you can deal equally to each wife. However later it says:
Ye will not be able to deal equally between (your) wives, however much ye wish (to do so). 4:129

But polygamy is still allowed and Muslim men know this. I have had two Muslim friends try to convert me on this point and leading Australian Muslims are calling for its introduction in Australia. I wonder what Islamic wedding vows look it?

Exchange your wife.
And if ye wish to exchange one wife for another and ye have given unto one of them a sum of money (however great), take nothing from it. 4:20

How different this is to Jesus’ teaching.

Beat your wife
... As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. ... 4:34

Women are unclean when menstruating (2:222).
O ye who believe! Draw not near unto prayer when ye are drunken, till ye know that which ye utter, nor when ye are polluted, ...4:43

The result is that it is sin for a woman to pray when she is menstruating (or touch a Qur’an or enter certain areas of Mecca).

2. Again a strong theme of the belief in the previous scriptures to the Qur’an.
O ye who believe! Believe in Allah and His messenger and the Scripture which He hath revealed unto His messenger, and the Scripture which He revealed aforetime. Whoso disbelieveth in Allah and His angels and His scriptures and His messengers and the Last Day, he verily hath wandered far astray. 4:136, 47, 162

3. The Jews and Christians do not teach their scriptures faithfully
O People of the Scripture! Do not exaggerate in your religion nor utter aught concerning Allah save the truth. ... 4:171

Some of those who are Jews change words from their context ... 4:46 (44)

4. Jesus is not lord or died on the cross.
And because of their saying: We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Allah's messenger - they slew him not nor crucified him, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain. But Allah took him up unto Himself. Allah was ever Mighty, Wise. 4:157-158

O People of the Scripture! Do not exaggerate in your religion nor utter aught concerning Allah save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah, and His word which He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers, and say not "Three" - Cease! (it is) better for you! - Allah is only One God. Far is it removed from His Transcendent Majesty that He should have a son. His is all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. And Allah is sufficient as Defender. 4:171

5. Man is not corrupt but weak.
Allah would make the burden light for you, for man was created weak. 4:28

6. Verses on sin

If ye avoid the great (things) which ye are forbidden, We will remit from you your evil deeds and make you enter at a noble gate. 4:31

And surely I will lead them astray, and surely I will arouse desires in them, and surely I will command them and they will cut the cattle' ears, and surely I will command them and they will change Allah's creation. Whoso chooseth Satan for a patron instead of Allah is verily a loser and his loss is manifest. 4:119

7. If you fight for Islam then you have higher status with Allah.
Those of the believers who sit still, other than those who have a (disabling) hurt, are not on an equality with those who strive in the way of Allah with their wealth and lives. Allah hath conferred on those who strive with their wealth and lives a rank above the sedentary. Unto each Allah hath promised good, but He hath bestowed on those who strive a great reward above the sedentary; Degrees of rank from Him, and forgiveness and mercy. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful. 4:95-96

8. I was surprised to see that immigrating for Islam is commended.
Whoso migrateth for the cause of Allah will find much refuge and abundance in the earth, and whoso forsaketh his home, a fugitive unto Allah and His messenger, and death overtaketh him, his reward is then incumbent on Allah. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful. 4:100

There are many migrations in Muhammad’s history: to Ethiopia, Medina, and to the colonies that Muhammad began to setup, no doubt some Muslims are still immigrating for Islam today.

9. Hiding your true intentions is also taught.
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 (3:28, 18, 16:106)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Sura 3 - The Family of Imran

Date: 3-4 A.H. Muhammad has now established himself in Medina.


The sura is named after Imran, the father of Moses, Aaron and Miriam. It has four sections:
1. Explaining the nature of the Qur’an.
2. Muhammad’s discussion with the Christians from the Najran.
3. Explaining the Muslim military defeat at the battle of Uhud.
4. Closing reflection and prayer.

What I found interesting:

1. This sura still has the strong theme that the Qur’an confirms the previous scripture.
He hath revealed unto thee (Muhammad) the Scripture with truth, confirming that which was (revealed) before it, even as He revealed the Torah and the Gospel. 3:3

Say (O Muhammad): We believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto us and that which was revealed unto Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and that which was vouchsafed unto Moses and Jesus and the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered. 3:84

2. Interpreting the Qur’an. I wonder which bits are allegorical?
He it is Who hath revealed unto thee (Muhammad) the Scripture wherein are clear revelations - they are the substance of the Book - and others (which are) allegorical. But those in whose hearts is doubt pursue, forsooth, that which is allegorical seeking (to cause) dissension by seeking to explain it. None knoweth its explanation save Allah. And those who are of sound instruction say: We believe therein; the whole is from our Lord; but only men of understanding really heed. 3:7

3. I found this verses to be very liturgical as it seems to be a response to 3:7
Our Lord! Cause not our hearts to stray after Thou hast guided us, and bestow upon us mercy from Thy Presence. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Bestower. 3:8 (also 3:192-194)

Again, the Qur’an does not sound like Allah speaking but a community speaking about Allah.

4. This verse makes it hard for Muslims to have non-Muslim friends.
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

I could see Islamic Fundamentalists using this verse to attack Muslim governments which are friendly with non-Islamic countries.

5. There is a big section in this sura about Mary (Miriam) Jesus’ mother (3:35-45). But the she is the daughter of Imran the father of Moses and Aaron. Here we see that Muhammad confuses Mary the mother of Jesus with Mary (Miriam) the daughter of Imran.

6. There is a big section about Jesus. The stories of Jesus speaking in the cradle (v. 46) and making birds of clay (v. 49) come from well known apocryphal gospels. This gives us an insight as to the sources that were available to Muhammad.

Muhammad seeks to explain Jesus’ relationship to the Torah:

And (I come) confirming that which was before me of the Torah, and to make lawful some of that which was forbidden unto you. I come unto you with a sign from your Lord, so keep your duty to Allah and obey me. 3:50

And for those Christians who do not access Muhammad’s teaching Muslims are to solve the issue with a curse.
And whoso disputeth with thee concerning him, after the knowledge which hath come unto thee, say (unto him): Come! We will summon our sons and your sons, and our women and your women, and ourselves and yourselves, then we will pray humbly (to our Lord) and (solemnly) invoke the curse of Allah upon those who lie. 3:61

7. There is much about Abraham in this sura but Abraham is portrayed as a monotheist and not a man of the covenant. The result is the theme of the covenant which unites the Torah and Gospel is not understand.
O People of the Scripture! Why will ye argue about Abraham, when the Torah and the Gospel were not revealed till after him? Have ye then no sense? 3:6

Lo! those of mankind who have the best claim to Abraham are those who followed him, and this Prophet and those who believe (with him); and Allah is the Protecting Guardian of the believers. 3:68

It seems that being a monotheist is all that matters (v. 95) and the unifying promises given to Abraham are not present. This shows that Muhammad has no understanding of the main themes of the prophets.

It seems that the Christians were trying to explain the scriptures to the Muslims but Muhammad is telling the Muslims not to listen to the Christians or Jews but instead to only listen to what he is saying and that this is the way of Abraham. Muhammad has turned Muslims away from the writing of the prophets.

I think that we need to see what the Qur’an says about Jesus and Christians in order to understand an important aspect of how Muslims think of Christians. Imagine if there were Pharisees around today. Would not Christians think of them in terms of their NT description? I think that this is how Islamic culture sees Christians.

8. There was a lot about how to be “saved”
And obey Allah and the messenger, that ye may find mercy. And vie one with another for forgiveness from your Lord, and for a paradise as wide as are the heavens and the earth, prepared for those who ward off (evil); 3:132-133 and 136, 157, 163

Say, (O Muhammad, to mankind): If ye love Allah, follow me; Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. 3:31

Every soul will taste of death. And ye will be paid on the Day of Resurrection only that which ye have fairly earned. Whoso is removed from the Fire and is made to enter paradise, he indeed is triumphant. The life of this world is but comfort of illusion. 3:185

There was a very strong martyr theme saying that the martyrs of Jihad are the ones in paradise. 3:169-172

9. In the second half there were many verses about giving away/using your wealth to follow Muhammad and join the Jihad. It is interesting to compare this call to the call of Jesus to give away and use our wealth to follow him.

10. A Common Word
Say: O People of the Scripture! Come to an agreement (common word) between us and you: that we shall worship none but Allah, and that we shall ascribe no partner unto Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside Allah. And if they turn away, then say: Bear witness that we are they who have surrendered (unto Him). 3:64

This verse is a key verse for how Muslims are to approach Christians. It is the call for Christians to be true monotheist like Muslims. It calls on Christian to worship God alone and not to associate (shirk) anything or anyone with God. This is a significant verse for Christian Muslim relations.

The assumption of the verse is that Christians do associate others with God and that Muslims do not, however, Christians need to realize that Muslims kiss the black stone in an animistic practice, that Muhammad in included in the Shahada, he is prayed to him in the Salaat, relied on for his intercession on the last day, his tomb is in the mosque in Medina and he approved of the collecting of his relics. Muhammad is associated with Allah at every point of Islamic practice. I am currently writing an article about this where I will provide all the references. 3:64 is indeed a key verse for Christian Muslim relations because Islam is Muhammadism.