"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Friday, May 28, 2010

Notes on Quran - Sura 18

Am I posting these notes too fast?

Sura 18 -- Al Kahf

This sura is called "The Cave" and fittingly enough there is a rather "cute" story near the beginning (note that! hehehe) about some people (the number is debated) and a dog who went into a cave, slept for a number of years and then woke up thinking they'd only slept a day or a few hours. I think they were hiding from evil people and, welllllllll, I didn't quite follow all the particulars, but I think the moral of the story was that God protected them because they were believers. If anyone wants to add more commentary on this story, please do. What is it: an allegory, parable, myth, supposed true story?

27. Recite what has been revealed to you of the Book of your Lord. There is no one who can change the word of God; and you will not find refuge except in Him.

Another pretty strong statement about NO ONE being able to change the word of God. Does this include the former Word of God?

Beginning in verse 32 there is a parable of two men who had vineyards. One man's crops fell into disaster and he rued the day he ever associated anyone with the Lord (vs. 42).

56. We never send apostles but to convey happy tidings, and to warn. But those who disbelieve contend with false arguments to nullify the truth. They make a mockery of My revelations and of what they had been warned.

Sadly most of the Old Testament prophets seemed to have gloomy words because the people had turned away from God, but I do agree that occasionally there were "happy tidings" about God having mercy and caring for His people like a good shepherd. I love this visual from Isaiah 40.

10 See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power,
and his arm rules for him.
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.

11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.

I found the dialog between Moses and (this translation said ) Joshua peculiar. I gathered that Joshua left the fish for lunch behind on a stone, they retraced their steps and encountered someone guided by God. This person agrees to take Moses with him after warning Moses not to question what he does. However, Moses observes this guy's actions and can't help but react! Why take a boat with holes? Are you going to drown your passengers? Why kill an innocent child? Why rebuild a wall? The person keeps warning Moses that he doesn't understand and to stop questioning. Only later does this person explain the bigger picture. I totally agree that we don't always know the bigger picture and that God's ways are higher than ours.

8 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,"
declares the LORD.

9 "As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts."

(Isaiah 55)

However, I must admit to having a problem with the little child being killed and reading the explanation for it. I would hope God could keep his people dedicated to Himself regardless of how a young man grows up to defy what his parents believe. And the hope that God would bless the parents with another child...well, I doubt I'd like to hear this explanation if I were the grieving parents. See what I mean?

80. As for the boy, his parents were believers, but we feared that he would harass them with defiance and disbelief. 81. We hoped their Lord would give them a substitute better than him in virtue and goodness.

After this story is something about Dhu'l-Qarnain (vs. 83). Who is this guy? And also who or what are Gog and Magog in your beliefs? The translation I have has very few notes, however, it does make a short case for Dhu'l-Qarnain being Cyrus the Great of Persia and Gog and Magog being two Mongolian tribes. Is this the generally-accepted thought among most Muslims?

103. Say: "Shall I tell you whose labour will be wasted? 104. Theirs whose effort is misspent in pursuit of the pleasures of the world, even though they think they are doing good things."

Lastly, I thought these verses were a superb reminder to all of us caught up in pursuing earthly pleasures even when we believe we are doing good things. Great reminder!


Sarah said...

I'm pretty sure these sort of things were pre-existing legends. Muhammad Asad in his translation states that they are literary devices used to illustrate a point, and not to be taken as literally true. I'm sure some do take them as literally true though.

The story of the cave proves that dogs are not haram! :) lol.

Wafa' said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Suroor said...

It's a myth. But for centuries Muslims have believed it to be true. I like Asad's interpretation that a common legend was used to show Allah's Mercy.

You can read more about them here - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Sleepers

But I guess you know it since it is a very ancient Christian legend having come from an even more ancient source.

That story of Moses talking to Joshua is also from a popular legend (but I don't remember the reference now). Don't be sad, the child wasn't really killed :D

Dhu'l-Qarnain is usually understood to be Alexander the Great. But no one really knows. Here is something on Gog and Magog in Islam - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gog_and_Magog#In_Islamic_tradition

Are you posting too fast?



Wafa' said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susanne said...

Sarah, thank you for sharing your understanding. LOL...yeah, dog in the cave! Good point! :)

Susanne said...

Wafa', thank you for your thorough reply!

"So while the "Cow-Baqara" can protect you from the devil if read in the houses, and The " Cave-Alkahf" can
protect you either and that's why most Muslims read it every Friday-some before Friday prayer and others after-."

Nooooooooooooo, I didn't know this! Really? How fascinating! Is this like to protect you from evil influences (the evil eye? jinn? or from your own sinful inclinations?)?

Thank you for explaining more about the cave story. It seems quite an interesting tale!

"What the translation mentioned is what people used to believe, but now you can hear different explaning of who is " thu Al-Qarnain" really "

Yes, that makes sense. I didn't know if the note in this Quran translation was still the generally-accepted thought so I appreciate your letting me know what you hear now so I can compare. I can understand their thoughts of China and its Great Wall. Kind of interesting that the hadiths are rather silent about this, huh?

"wow, i did explain a lot this time but i don't know if they are good or answered some of your thoughts."

Of course, you have been most helpful! Thanks so much! I look forward to your comments. :)

Susanne said...

Suroor, thanks for your explanations of these stories. I know Jesus told a lot of parables, but I wasn't sure if these were supposed to be parables or true stories or a mixture of both. Glad to know the little child wasn't really killed!

LOL @ "Yyyyyyyyeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaa

:D "

I'll try to slow down a bit. I just get too excited to learn more and get feedback that I feel restless keeping my posts in drafts. Hehehee...typical impatient American looking for self-gratification. Blah! ;)

I was so excited to post about Zachariah that I wanted to get this one "out of the way." Ha, ha!

Susanne said...

Wafa', re: your last comment, maybe God taught about His goodness also in parables. Jesus taught a lot about God through stories which taught spiritual truths. So it's not that God lied, but He showed how He protected the faithful through a story. Just a thought. Maybe Suroor or Sarah can add more.

Thanks so much for all your help, Ladies!

Suroor said...

I think Christians would really see this as doable. Muslims, who have not read the Bible, think and claim, and preach that these parables are true stories that really happened.

At one point when I was getting deeply involved into Islam I was restless and scared of getting disillusioned and at that point I thought that if I denied the truth of these parables, my entire religiosity would fall apart. I tried very hard to hold on to every story in the Quran and was deeply, very deeply distressed when I found out these were popular legends known to all in ancient Arabia.

But now I feel like all religious texts contain fables, legends and parables and it is not such a bad thing. In fact, it is a good thing.

I think the manner in which parables are cited in the Bible and the Quran is what causes the difference and confusion in the case of the latter. Jesus explicitly identified parables, whereas in the Quran they are narrated as if they really happened. It is a valid linguistic style, nevertheless and very common one in Arabic.

Wafa' said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Suroor said...

Oh I'm so sorry Wafa! I was traveling from one city to another and got only Susanne's comment directed to me on my BB (this one - May 28, 2010 5:25 PM). I didn't read all the comments. It is my fault; I'm so sorry. I hope you can see a way to pardon my careless mistake.

No my last comment was a more general one in support of parables in the Quran.

OK, I just read your comment, Wafa. I think (personally) that parables are not false, they are not even bad or lies. They are stories narrated to teach a lesson. Like for example, I would tell me child not to play with a knife and may tell a nasty story :)about a small child getting hurt with a knife, not to LIE but just to bring home the point. You know what I mean?

I think both parables and science that we may see in the Quran is to teach people how Grand God is, how Glorious and Magnificent He is. We get too lost in the story rather than the lesson.

I hope I have clarified what I meant. And I apologise once again for not reading your comment earlier. I must have come out as a totally horrible woman! I'm not that bad (on most days :) ).

Susanne said...

Wafa', I hate you removed your posts on this thread. :-( I thought you had good things to say.

You might be interested in the link Suroor provided as it discusses the cave story in Christian and Islamic history.


Perhaps it IS based on a true story! The only reason I questioned if it were a parable is because the translation of the Quran I am using mentioned this particular sura contains a number of parables. I don't consider parables lies, but ways to teach a lesson to people in a creative way.

Thanks for your comments, but please don't delete them any more! ;-P I value what you have to say. :)

Susanne said...

Suroor, I thought people knew parables were not real stories. Maybe the Arabic word doesn't lend itself to people knowing this or maybe in reality parables CAN be true stories, however, I am wrong in associating them with made up stories used to convey lessons. Hmmm.

Thanks for your comment to me and Wafa' concerning this. LOL @ your teaching your children not to play with knives by making up a "nasty story." :) I think of parables as illustrations. Not that God's Word is a bunch of fables. There are many TRUE stories of real-life people and events, however, some things are stories used to illustrate a spiritual truth.

Like when Nathan confronted David, he told him this tale. Please notice how it worked as per David's reply to it.

II Samuel 12

1 The LORD sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, "There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

4 "Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him."

5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, "As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity."

7 Then Nathan said to David, "You are the man!

Now that I've said the same thing about twenty times, I'll stop talking. :)

Suroor said...

Susanne, and now I feel terrible that I upset Wafa :( I'm so sorry :(

That is why I don't comment on all blogs I read and comment on only a few because I understand sometimes we just come out wrongly or make silly mistakes like I made just now. Internet communication is tricky business. One of my readers used to think I am a frowning, angry, professor-kind-of strict person and when she met me she began laughing in my face :D I talk and look like Gandhi - fiery in speech and insignificant to look at, haha!



I just remembered a parable in the Quran:

When they climbed into the prayer room and entered upon Dawood he was frightened of them. They said, "Do not be frightened, the two of us are disputing a wrong that one has done the other. So decide between us with justice and do not act unjustly; and guide us on the straight path. This is my brother. He has 99 ewes and I have but a single ewe, but he says, `Make me the owner of that one also', and he has overcome me in arguing." (Quran 38:22,23)

This passage refers to two angels who come to David and act out a parable to make him realise (I understand from my reading of the Bible since it is not mentioned in the Quran) that he wrongly took someone else's wife.

So in this situation the angels used a parable to teach David a lesson. Not a lie or deception but a teaching technique :) I do that all the time!

Susanne said...

Suroor Gandhi, (grin), thanks for the David parable from the Quran.

I know you didn't mean anything against Wafa'. Don't worry. Wafa' is a sweetheart so I'm sure she will accept your apology. It was an honest mistake as her comment apparently never reached your blackberry so you never knew she asked you a question. I hate when computers cause misunderstandings. :-/

Wafa', please let us know you are OK, dear.

Suroor said...

Susanne, I got only your message on my phone and when I got home and had the time to relax and comment, I went straight to putting up a general comment. It's my fault. I should have read all the comments. There are so many posts on Quran on your blog :) that I never know what is happening. Yes, so it is ultimately your fault :-D

Please post the next surah now. I was joking. I am thoroughly enjoying reading the Quran all over again. This is what I wanted on Alif Laam Meem, but people cheated me and stoppe dreading/posting :D

Susanne said...

Suroor, well, I knew I was posting long stuff too quickly so your honesty was FINE! That said, I just posted sura 19 notes so feel free to read and comment. I almost named it 'Y'all can blame Suroor for this' but didn't. :)

I didn't know about your Alif blog until it was "old." I didn't realize it was one where Quran readers could participate. Ah well, I enjoy your thoughts here.

Everyone's thoughts are helpful and welcomed!

Wafa' said...

well Susanne is blaming surror and Surror is blaming Susanne :P lol so i think i should blame my hormons, my period is close. lol

No, seriously i was upset cuz i was felt ignorned and like this stupid person.And thought that what have i wrote was all full of mistakes and stupidity and that i shouldn't have written it, so i decided to deleted it. But i was looking for an apology with what i did and i am sorry to have upset you two. Surror, it's ok really . Your apology is accepted though it was not needed. I love your comments and i like to read them in general and i agree with most of what you write so when you ignored my question-as i thought- i felt stupid. Please accpet my apology too. I am so sorry.
And i guess i am coming to your blog soon to argue with you there, lol.

Susanne, i am sorry to have removed the comments and sounded childish. i guess i will think more before writing and deleting next time.

I am so sorry nice ladies again :)

Susanne said...

Wafa', no problem, Sweetie. I just wanted you to know I enjoy your comments and don't want to see them gone. :) I didn't think you sounded stupid at all. I really am so happy that you are sharing your understanding of things. You've been a huge help so please keep posting your thoughts. I value EVERYONE's comments!

Off to bed. Have a great day! <3

Suroor said...

Yay! Wafa is back. Yay! :)

I'm glad we are all ok with each other now: Wafa is back, Susuie is back to posting, and I am back to commenting :)

Life is good.

Durriyyah said...

Sorry to go so far back… hope I'm not making too much extra work for you! I haven't read everyone's comments, but it is a rainy day where I am, so I'm hoping to catch up to you.

The story of the cave is generally taken as a historical account because we don't find words such as "it is like…" or anything of the sort. Anyway, the people went to hide in a cave to hide from danger (if I recall correctly) and they woke up a number of years later. There was controversy about this story on how many people were in the cave. When Muhammed (pbuh) was asked about it, God revealed what both sides were thinking as it is obvious that one side would call him a liar if he said one or the other… but to tell people what the two parties are thinking, that proves the point (that it is revealed from God).

18:27 - This goes for the original texts as well in terms of no one can change the Word of God. They may write with their own hands things that are not the Word of God, but it doesn't change the commands He sent.

18:80 - It is hard for us to swallow the killing of a child. "I would hope God could keep his people dedicated to Himself regardless of how a young man grows up to defy what his parents believe." - But this just shows that God gives us choices, even knowing what the end result of these choices is going to be. I guess when I read these verses the first time, it didn't shock me as much when I got to the end. Why? As a parent, and when I worked as a supervisor for 9 years, I so often get "Why are you doing that? You are ruining everything!" but they never saw the big picture. I had a number of people get promoted to the point that they now had the clearance to know more information about why I made the decisions I did, and they agreed with them, just about every time!! I just thought to myself, "Yes, we need to remember that we can't see the big picture and that we must humble ourselves as servants to God." We need to ask questions, and make sure we are on the right path, but we need to remember not to give in to misgivings about the here and now when we have no idea what is going to happen in the future.

Susanne said...

Durriyyah, I'm glad you are reading through older posts and leaving your thoughts. I really appreciate hearing your point of view.

I totally agree that we can't see the bigger picture. I guess I just reacted like Moses in the story that killing the young boy was shocking. :)

Thanks again!