I'm making pretty good time reading the Quran. Really, I've enjoyed it more than I expected! (So thanks to you know who for encouraging me to read it!) I know I have a bit more critical eye than a Muslim would, however, I hope that's not an awful thing. I would be understanding if a Muslim read the Bible with a skeptical eye as well. In fact I'd expect it. The two books do differ enough that a Muslim reading the Bible and a Christian reading the Quran should have a bit of...something (scrutiny? discernment?) when reading the other text. I hope this makes sense. It does to me. :)
So this morning I read Sura 11 -- Hud who was a prophet not mentioned in the Bible. He was sent to the people in 'Ad. In my last post I mentioned not knowing of any non-Jewish prophets outside of the Bible, however, I read this sura and was introduced to at least three. Besides Hud, there was Saleh send to Thamud and Shu'aib sent to the Midianites. All three are extrabiblical. I did recognize Lot, Moses and Noah though! I enjoyed reading more of their stories as recorded in the Quran.
As an aside let me make it clear that I don't mind evangelizing others. As a follower of Jesus I believe part of his message was to share the Good News (gospel) with others so I try to do this in obedience to him. I don't force conversions (are they even real if they are forced?). I don't even try to talk people into it with my oh-so-charming ways. No bribes, no promises for money or a new life in America. :) I just present the gospel, try to answer questions and such and leave the converting to God. It's His business anyway. I'm only supposed to share the message. That said, I don't mind Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, the local Baptist church down the road evangelizing either. One of the dearest things to me ever was when my Muslim friend shared his faith because he was concerned about my soul. I saw that as true love not as something offensive. I know I am peculiar compared to a lot of folks who hate "proselytizing" but I just wanted to make my position clear and why I have it. If you felt God wanted you to do something -- even commanded you to do it, wouldn't you desire to obey in order to please Him? When I tell others about Jesus, it's not because I find them lacking or I want to increase the Christian population in the world as if we are in some numbers race. It's because I love them, their souls and I love Jesus and the hope and peace he can give them. If you choose to stay as you are, no problem. I'll love you anyway and not drop you as a friend because you refused what I had to say. Now that that's cleared up . . we can return to this sura which includes a lot of evangelizing. Thus the tangent. :)
Verse 3 of this sura is curious to me as it contains the phrase "worthy of grace." I am mulling over this as I've always heard grace explained as unmerited favor. As in getting something wonderful when we did nothing to deserve or earn it. Therefore, can we be "worthy" of it? I think I'm getting entirely too nitpicky about some phrases, don't you? :-P
6. There is not a creature that moves on the earth whose nourishment is not provided by God, whose place of sojourning and depositing is not known to Him. All things conform to a manifest law.
I thought this was a nice verse reminding us of God's provision for us - the air we breathe, the water we drink, the sun that causes our food to grow, the bees and bats that pollinate food. God really took care of the details! This is likely those things mentioned that "conform to a manifest law."
I see in verse 13 another challenge concerning the Quran's beautiful suras. Let me say that I do believe they sound lovely recited in Arabic. They make no sense to me since I don't know Arabic, however, they are hauntingly beautiful and often make me cry because they bring to mind Syria and how much I loved the wonderful people there.
15. To those who desire the life of this world and its many allures, We shall pay them in full for their acts herein and will not withold any thing. 16. Yet these are the people for whom there is nothing but Fire in the world to come. Fruitless will be what they have fashioned, and whatever they have done will perish.
I thought these verses warned us about getting overly-attached to stuff here. A good reminder in this age of rampant materialism and desire for temporal things including power, fame and perhaps even land. How much better to seek first God's kingdom and then let all these other things be added to us (Matthew 6:33). In other words, prioritize! God's kingdom is much better -- and it's eternal!
I was glad to read a few more details about the Quranic view of Noah. Much of it was familiar, however, this
38. So he built the ark; and when groups of his people passed by him, they scoffed at him. He said to them: "Though you laugh at us (now), we shall laugh at you, as you are laughing at us.
didn't sit quite right. I never thought of Noah laughing at the destruction of the wicked. Can you imagine seeing everyone in your community and your extended family perishing and then laughing about it? I know it often saddens me when someone I know dies without having a relationship with God. I even felt sad for Saddam Hussein for going out into eternity without Christ on his side (according to my view, obviously.) So I thought Noah's reply in verse 38 was rather childish and not indicative of a man found righteous in God's eyes. The Bible declares that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:32) so somehow I think Noah was the same. I think he wept for those lost in their sins.
The Biblical and Quranic accounts differ somewhat in that only Noah, his wife, three sons and their wives were saved in the ark in the Biblical account. I think a few others were saved in the Quran's account. Surprisingly, however, one of Noah's sons -- in the Quran -- didn't board the ark and was drowned while trying to escape the rising waters! This is in contrast to Shem, Ham and Japheth being saved in the Bible's version. I was also surprised when I read this verse that I assumed was concerning Noah's son who drowned.
46. "O Noah", He answered, "truly he is not of your family. He is surely the outcome of an unrighteous act. So ask Me not of what you do not know. I warn you not to be one of the ignorant."
Drowned Son wasn't Noah's true son? Noah was mistaken? Drowned Son was the "outcome of an unrighteous act." Does this mean Noah's wife had been fooling around and gotten pregnant by another man, therefore, this Drowned Son wasn't truly Noah's child at all? What is the thought on this?
Concerning Lot's story ...
81. (The angels) said: "O Lot, we have verily been sent by your Lord. They will never be able to harm you. So, leave late at night with your family, and none of you should turn back to look; but your wife will suffer (the fate) they are going to suffer. Their hour of doom is in the morning: Is not the morning nigh?"
In the Bible's account Lot's family is told to leave and not look back, however, the fate of Lot's wife is not predicted. Instead she just turned back towards Sodom and was turned into a pillar of salt.
From the prophet Shu'aib
88. He said: "O my people, think. I have a clear sign from my Lord, who has also given me a goodly provision, and I do not wish for myself what I forbid you: I only wish to reform you as best I can. My success is from God alone. In Him I have placed my trust, and to Him I turn.
I liked the last part of this speech very much!
114. Stand up for the service of prayer at the two ends of day and the first watch of night. Remember that good deeds nullify the bad. This is a reminder for those who are observant.
I knew a bit of the importance of good deeds in Islam, however, I never knew good deeds could invalidate bad deeds. I know this can only be on a spiritual level since one's good deeds of giving to the poor, honoring parents, providing for family and so forth can never take away one's bad deed of raping a child. It's not like our scores of good actions can take away the fact that we hurt someone in a terrible way. Am I understanding this correctly?
116. If only there had been men endued with virtue in the ages before you, who could preserve men from doing evil in the world, other than the few We saved from among them. Those who were wicked followed that which made them dissolute, and became sinners.
117. Your Lord would not surely destroy unjustly human habitations so long as the people are righteous.
118. But if your Lord had pleased He could have made all human beings into one community of belief. But they would still have differed from one another, 119. Except those on whom your Lord had mercy for which He has created them. But fulfilled shall be the word of your Lord. "I will fill up Hell with jinns and men."
This passage is full of a number of interesting thoughts. On one hand you think men are responsible for preserving other men from doing evil (vs. 116) whereas in verse 118 I understand that God makes men differ in belief. And it's our difference of belief that causes some to be saved and others to be part of the ones filling Hell.
123. To God belong the secrets of the heavens and the earth, and all things will go back to Him. So worship Him and put your trust in Him; your Lord is not heedless of what you do.
And finally, another great verse to end the sura!