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