Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sura 30 - The Romans

The title of this sura comes from v. 2 which speaks of the Roman (Byzantine) armies.

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

Structure

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)

4. Fitra

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

5 comments:

  1. >There are not many prophecies in the Qur’an but this is one of them.
    Actually there are plenty, particularly scientific.

    >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.
    No. They were seen as people of the scripture, closer to muslims than to God. The Kuffar would taunt the muslims regarding them after their defeat to show how polytheism (the religion of the persians) was superior to the christian romans (who were of abrahamic origin like the muslims. The Kuffar would say that muslims would suffer a similar fate at their hands. This prophecy was to reassure the muslims regarding themselves as well as the people of the book.

    >This attitude changes dramatically by the end of Muhammad’s life where he instructs his followers to now conquer the Romans.

    No. Nowhere does islam command muslims to conquest for the sake of conquest, or for any offensive purpose. Whenever you read something that suggests otherwise try to find the context. The verse you mention was revealed shortly before the Tabouk expedition wherein the Muslims heard that the Romans were advancing for the purpose of conquest.

    >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.

    Abrogation in the quran is never arbitrary. Transient verses, which are later abrogated aren't to serve a whim but for a greater and reasonable purpose. So the verse regarding not coming to pray when drunk which was later abrogated by the verse which bans drinking served to ween the muslims off of drinking since a sudden ban would have been more difficult.

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  2. >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.

    I would be very interested in the strength of these scriptural evidence but I suppose this is the wrong forum.

    >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.

    None of the above is association with God. We kiss the black stone not for worship but out of respect for it. The prophet's pbuh tomb in the mosque is never worshipped and was only later included in the grounds of the mosque as it expanded WELL after his passing. Collecting his relice is again due to the great repect muslims have for him and never for worship. The prophet pbuh is recognized at every turn in Islam as the messenger who brought the truth but never associated with God. There is a clear and obvious difference which you are muddling here. Never the less I will be interested in your article.

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  3. >The issue of Muhammad not providing a miracle is still a matter that is being addressed.

    Actually there are many miracles associated with the prophet pbuh. His miracles were a source of blessing for the people around him and not for proof to kuffar. Healing illness, splitting of the moon, supplication for rain are just some of these. But again, thee were never to placate the kuffar but to bless people.

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  4. People of the Scripture are those who believed in the Creator, the Day of Judgement with endorsement to Hell or Heaven and believed in words of the Creator about the appearance of a prophet that will bring seal of all covenant.

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