Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sura 26 - The Poets

This sura is named after v. 224 which refers to the poets of Mecca who seem to be the orators that the Meccans are listening to instead of Muhammad.

Date, Context and Theme

This is a middle Meccan sura. Muhammad does not control Mecca yet and the Meccas are still asking for a sign that he is a prophet. Muhammad himself cannot provide one but this sura speaks of the signs that are available for the Meccans to consider.

Structure


Introduction

vv. 1-6, The Meccans are rejecting Muhammad. They are asking for a sign but will not believe even if one was given to them. They will face Allah’s wrath. While Muhammad may not have a sign Allah does give signs though.

The Signs of Allah

Vv. 7-9 Creation is a sign of Allah. Look at the way fruit grows.

vv. 10-68 The sign of Moses. The story of Moses before Pharaoh to the crossing of the sea.

Vv. 69-104 The sign of Abraham. It is logical to serve one god and not idols.

vv. 105-122 The sing of Noah.

vv. 123-140, The sign of Hud.

vv. 141-159 The sign of Salih and the camel.

vv. 160- The sign of Lot and human perversion.

vv. 176, The sign of Shu'eyb and bad business dealing.

Conclusion

vv. 192-227, Muhammad and the Qur’an are like the earlier prophets in the earlier scriptures.

What I found interesting.


1. Structure

This sura has a similar structure to sura 7 and 11 with the same prophets being referred to.

The sura is highly repetitive. When each prophet is referred to the follow points are said about them.

* They were asked for a sign.
* They wanted no wage for their preaching.
* They called on the people to obey them.
* They were rejected for various reasons
* The people were judged by Allah.
* The prophet was a sign from God.

Each section ends with these verses,
Lo! herein is indeed a portent; yet most of them are not believers. And lo! thy Lord! He is indeed the Mighty, the Merciful. 26:190-191

2. Assumed Knowledge. The retelling of these stories was often brief and with few details. This seems to indicate that the story was already known to some degree. This particularly seems to be the case in view of the reference to the Jewish scripture.
And lo! it is in the Scriptures of the men of old. Is it not a token for them that the doctors of the Children of Israel know it? 26:196-197

Again this shows how knowing the Bible aids a reader of the Qur’an.

3. Additions to the Biblical Accounts. The stories of the prophets in this sura have additional features. For instance, when Moses gives a sign in Pharaoh’s court, Pharaoh’s magicians become Muslims with a fully developed Islamic theology.
And the wizards were flung prostrate, Crying: We believe in the Lord of the Worlds, The Lord of Moses and Aaron. (Pharaoh) said: Ye put your faith in him before I give you leave. Lo! he doubtless is your chief who taught you magic! But verily ye shall come to know. Verily I will cut off your hands and your feet alternately, and verily I will crucify you every one. They said: It is no hurt, for lo! unto our Lord we shall return. Lo! we ardently hope that our Lord will forgive us our sins because we are the first of the believers. 26:46-51

This addition though is not unique to the Qur’an. Similar court conversion stories can be found in early hagiography like the account of Saint Katrina.

4. Abraham and Logic. Abraham is again seen as the prophet of logic and no doubt this convinces Muslims that any religion must be logical.
When he said unto his father and his folk: What worship ye? They said: We worship idols, and are ever devoted unto them. He said: Do they hear you when ye cry? Or do they benefit or harm you? They said: Nay, but we found our fathers acting on this wise. 26:70-74

5. The Use of the Prophets. Again we see that the way the stories are told about the prophets reflects what is happening in Muhammad’s life. Issues like the demand for a sign, that his followers are from the poorer people, that people think he is mad, etc., are all current issues for Muhammad. Thus reading these stories actually tells us a lot about Muhammad and his issues even though they are talking about an earlier prophet.

In fact sometimes the details of the early prophets are unimportant compared to Muhammad. Thus when Lot flees Sodom it is not his wife who is left behind but simply and "old woman" 26:171.

The way that Jesus retells the stories of the prophets is similar and different to Muhammad. Jesus, in the gospels, does sometimes retell the stories of the prophets and apply them to himself, but he gets the facts right.

6. Life in the Grave. There were several references to people in the grave crying out for a second chance but not being giving it.
Then will they be hurled therein, they and the seducers And the hosts of Iblis, together. And they will say, when they are quarrelling therein: By Allah, of a truth we were in error manifest When we made you equal with the Lord of the Worlds. It was but the guilty who misled us. Now we have no intercessors Nor any loving friend. Oh, that we had another turn (on earth), that we might be of the believers! 26:94-102

7. Medinan Verses. Islamic scholars say that the last verse is from the Medinan period and has been added on to the sura.
Save those who believe and do good works, and remember Allah much, and vindicate themselves after they have been wronged. Those who do wrong will come to know by what a (great) reverse they will be overturned! 26:227

Certainly the verse acts like a concluding prayer and so have been added on, but it also does contain the themes of the sura and could be an original ending.

11 comments:

  1. >Again this shows how knowing the Bible aids a reader of the Qur’an.

    No. Although there is nothing wrong for a muslim to read the bible and expand his horizons, it is not required for understanding the quran. What IS required is knowledge of the sunnah (and a little common sense). Typically when a verse was revealed, the prophet pbuh would explain it in further detail. For example, the quran mentions prayer but does not explain how to pray, leaving that to the prophet.

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  2. >when Moses gives a sign in Pharaoh’s court, Pharaoh’s magicians become Muslims with a fully developed Islamic theology.

    I'm not sure where u got 'fully developed Islamic theology' from. Prophet Moses did preach every time he went to the pharoah to free the israelites though and the entire court would hear him.

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  3. >The way that Jesus retells the stories of the prophets is similar and different to Muhammad. Jesus, in the gospels, does sometimes retell the stories of the prophets and apply them to himself, but he gets the facts right.

    In the verse where you mention this, you have not proven a factual inaccuracy. Lut's wife was an old women. Also, the quran clearly mentions time and again that the bible is filled with alterations. Christians THEMSELVES accept this fact and admit to the old testament in particular being written by ATLEAST four authors, who are completely unknown! its a bit rich for you to use that as the barometer for 'facts' when dealing with a book claiming to be the literal word of god and not 'inspired by God', which is the best the bible can do.

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  4. I have also not received a reply to my my previous comments particularly in the surah of the cave.
    I should mention that I am glossing over a lot of errors that arise from your natural unfamiliarity with the subject matter. But your intentional inaccuracies (like in some previous cases), and laziness in even rudimentary leg work to verify your assumptions is not excusable. I would expect the same conviction from you if I were posting a blog on the bible.

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  5. Imran, all I can say is that being familiar with the Biblical stories helps in understanding the Qur'anic accounts in the light of the fact that the Qur'an has few details. I agree that we need to know the life of Muhammad too but my point remains.

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  6. Regarding Lot's wive, in 27:57 it says it is his wife while in 26:171 just an old woman. This seems to indicate that Muhammad learned more of the details. It would be strange to call his wife "an old woman".

    Regarding the Quran saying that all the earlier prophets are corrupted, I am afraid that I do not accept this. The Qur'an makes similar statements about about its own corruption in the hands of hypocritical Muslims,

    So We sent it down to the partitioners, who have broken the Koran into fragments. Now by thy Lord, We shall surely question them all together concerning that they were doing. (15:90-93, Arberry)

    They have sold the signs of God for a small price, and have barred from His way; truly evil is that they have been doing (9:9, Arberry)

    Yet Muslims do not conclude that only the fragments of the Qur'an remain. Muhammad honoured the previous scriptures.

    Narrated Abdullah Ibn Umar: A group of Jews came and invited the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) to Quff. So he visited them in their school. ... They placed a cushion for the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) who sat on it and said: Bring the Torah. It was then brought. He then withdrew the cushion from beneath him and placed the Torah on it saying: I believed in thee and in Him Who revealed thee. (Abu Dawud: bk. 38, no. 4434, Hasan)

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  7. >Imran, all I can say is that being familiar with the Biblical stories helps in understanding the Qur'anic accounts in the light of the fact that the Qur'an has few details. I agree that we need to know the life of Muhammad too but my point remains.

    With all due respect, you completely ignored what I said. And I never mentioned 'the life' of the prophet pbuh. I said 'sunnah', which while inclusive of the prophet's pbuh life, is more focused on his sayings. The two are different (biography vs quotes). I further explained that I was talking about those quotes of his in which he explained the verses and gave detail to their meaning. In their presence knowledge of the bible (while still respected) is not necessary. You have not addressed any of this.

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  8. >Regarding the Quran saying that all the earlier prophets are corrupted, I am afraid that I do not accept this.

    I think you meant earlier scriptures and not prophets.

    >The Qur'an makes similar statements about about its own corruption in the hands of hypocritical Muslims,

    >So We sent it down to the partitioners, who have broken the Koran into fragments. Now by thy Lord, We shall surely question them all together concerning that they were doing. (15:90-93, Arberry)

    You misunderstood this verse. It addresses corruption in the learning of the quran and not of its texts. 'Breaking into fragments', even in the ill-translated english, can hardly be interpreted as corruption of the text. What it means is those muslims who accept some of its teachings while rejecting others, taking some verses while ignoring others, thus breaking the quran into fragments. Similar offences were done to previous scriptures, in addition to textual corruption. An example of this phenomnon amongst muslims are the terrorists, who take the verses related to Jihad without context and ignore other verses in the quran of protecting innocents and being compassionate, forgiving and merciful.

    >They have sold the signs of God for a small price, and have barred from His way; truly evil is that they have been doing (9:9, Arberry)

    :) now you're reaching. Even for someone unfamiliar with any context of this verse, signs of god is not only the quran and selling it does not mean corrupting it in anyway let alone corrupting the text.

    I do not dispute that the prophet pbuh honored the previous scriptures as must all muslims. My response wasnt meant to insult the bible, but your use of it as the barometer for factual information when you yourself admit to its corruption.

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  9. >Regarding Lot's wive, in 27:57 it says it is his wife while in 26:171 just an old woman. This seems to indicate that Muhammad learned more of the details. It would be strange to call his wife "an old woman".

    I am not quite sure how to reply to conjecture and speculation. You have not even proven the sequence of revelation of the two verses before you lobbed that clumsy accusation.

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