Date, Context and Theme
The Byzantine armies have just lost territory to the Persians. The Byzantines are considered monotheists at this stage and the theme is this sura is that the monotheists will win out in the end. It is a middle Meccan sura.
So have patience (O Muhammad)! Allah's promise is the very truth, and let not those who have no certainty make thee impatient. 30:60
v. 1, Mystery letters, ALM
vv. 2-4, The defeat and future victory of the Roman armies.
vv. 3- 16 Allah gives victory to those who believe, but most do not believe but follow false hopes.
Vv. 17-31, Therefore worship Allah. Consider his signs. Worship him alone.
Vv. 32-59, Persevere and know that the others are wrong.
v. 60, Conclusion related to vv. 2-4 but applied to Muhammad now.
What I found interesting.
1. The Romans
The reference to the Roman (Byzantine) defeat is mentioned and used as a lesson for Muhammad and his armies, vv. 2-4. The Romans are seen as fellow believers to the Muslims. It is predicted that they will win against the Persians again within 10 years.
Within ten years - Allah's is the command in the former case and in the latter - and in that day believers will rejoice 30:4
There are not many prophecies in the Qur’an but this is one of them. The Romans were victorious over the Persians and this prophecy is used by Muslims to show that the Qur’an is true.
It is interesting to note that at this early period the Romans are seen as monotheists and there victory something that will make the Muslims rejoice. This attitude changes dramatically by the end of Muhammad’s life where he instructs his followers to now conquer the Romans.
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! 9:29-30
This is a good example of abrogation and how the Qur’an not only revolves around Muhammad’s life but also evolves around his life.
2. Beautiful Repetition.
Verses 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 all begin with the phrase, “And of His signs ...”and then proceed to declare the natural signs of Allah. I found this memorable even in the translation so I am sure that it is beautiful in the original Arabic.
And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the difference of your languages and colours. Lo! herein indeed are portents for men of knowledge. 30:22
3. This seems to be another reference to worship being three times a day, not five.
So glory be to Allah when ye enter the night and when ye enter the morning - Unto Him be praise in the heavens and the earth! - and at the sun's decline and in the noonday. 30:17-18 (see 24:58, 11:116, 17:78-79, 20:130)
This is the verse often used by Muslims to show that we are not corrupted by sin but are born pure and that the religion of Islam is the natural religion or Fitra. Fitra is an important doctrine in Islam.
So set thy purpose (O Muhammad) for religion as a man by nature upright - the nature (framed) of Allah, in which He hath created man. There is no altering (the laws of) Allah's creation. That is the right religion, but most men know not - Turning unto Him (only); and be careful of your duty unto Him and establish worship, and be not of those who ascribe partners (unto Him); 30:30-31
This idea is further developed in the Hadith literature.
Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Apostle said, "No child is born but has the Islamic Faith, but its parents turn it into a Jew or a Christian. It is as you help the animals give birth. Do you find among their offspring a mutilated one before you mutilate them yourself?" The people said, "O Allah's Apostle! What do you think about those (of them) who die young?" The Prophet said, "Allah knows what they would have done (were they to live)." (Sahih al-Bukhari: vol. 8, bk 77, no. 597, Khan)
Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Apostle said, "Five practices are characteristics of the Fitra: circumcision, shaving the pubic region, clipping the nails and cutting the moustaches short." (Sahih al-Bukhari: vol. 7, bk 72, no. 777, Khan)
5. Evidence from the Scriptures
I have often read verses like this one which ask for scriptural evidence for associating others with God.
Or have We revealed unto them any warrant which speaketh of that which they associate with Him? 30:35
Muslims would be critical of Christians at this point. However, Christians do have much scriptural evidence for how we understand Jesus: The doctrine of the image of God, the son of man and the son of God are teachings in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, the Psalms and the Gospel.
But I would ask Muslims what evidence they have for kissing the black stone, including Muhammad in the Shahada, praying to him in the Salaat, relying on his intercession on the last day, having his tomb in a mosque and collecting 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.
6. Beautiful Description
I found the phrase, “the prints of Allah's mercy” to be a moving description of how to think about the signs of God in creation.
Look, therefore, at the prints of Allah's mercy (in creation): how He quickeneth the earth after her death. Lo! He verily is the Quickener of the Dead, and He is Able to do all things. 30:50
7. The issue of Muhammad not providing a miracle is still a matter that is being addressed.
Verily We have coined for mankind in this Qur'an all kinds of similitudes; and indeed if thou camest unto them with a miracle, those who disbelieve would verily exclaim: Ye are but tricksters! 30:58