Sura 7 - Al A'raf
3. Follow (O men!) the revelation given unto you from your Lord, and follow not, as friends or protectors, other than Him. Little it is ye remember of admonition.
Not sure if I am thinking of this correctly, but it reminds me that God is our perfect example, truly the only trustworthy one. Too often we are disappointed when a family member, friend or person of influence fails us because of something they did. It's like something I was taught when I was young that people will disappoint us, hurt us, fail us, that's why we trust in God over any mere human. As one Christian hymn goes, "The arm of flesh will fail you, ye dare not trust your own." Because, in reality, I am often that person who disappoints, hurts or fails others. I thought this verse was a good reminder of this fact.
10. It is We Who have placed you with authority on earth, and provided you therein with means for the fulfilment of your life: small are the thanks that ye give!
This is a great reminder that all we have is from God, yet, sadly, we often forget to thank Him for His blessings. I like how it states God has provided the means for the fulfillment of life. As if He has given us the raw materials, but it's up to us to find the fulfillment therein. Using my analogy, I wonder what would the "raw materials" be and what would give you fulfillment in life?
11. It is We Who created you and gave you shape; then We bade the angels bow down to Adam, and they bowed down; not so Iblis; He refused to be of those who bow down.
12. ((Allah)) said: "What prevented thee from bowing down when I commanded thee?" He said: "I am better than he: Thou didst create me from fire, and him from clay."13. ((Allah)) said: "Get thee down from this: it is not for thee to be arrogant here: get out, for thou art of the meanest (of creatures)."
First of all "meanest of creatures" is quite the good description of Satan! And it makes me smile for some reason as well. :)
I am always puzzled when I read about God commanding angels to bow down to man. I know at times people bow to royalty and leaders due to their powerful positions and as a show of respect and submission maybe. Perhaps this is the way I should think of this bow-to-Adam story, however, more ingrained in me - especially related to God! - is that we should not bow down before anyone but Him! Therefore, to read this about angels bowing to Adam makes me wonder if this is part of the problem we have now -- man as his own god such as much of humanistic thinking portrays. (Where God is not needed, in fact He is made up. Man has reasoned himself [or maybe evolved is a better word] into a good state, a better state than even God could have come up with.)
I am still mulling over this quite a lot. I do recall in the Bible that Joseph had a dream where his parents and brothers bowed to him, however, I also recall in the New Testament where the apostles of Jesus were bowed down to and in response protested for the people to get up as they were mere men and not God! Also the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego..how these Israelite men were thrown into a fiery furnace because they refused to bow down to a false god. So something about this bowing to Adam just doesn't sit right with me. But I suppose if God tells you to bow, you bow. My problem is more in the thought that God would command such a thing. Guess this is why I'm not a Muslim if I am questioning God on such things! :-) And, in reality, I guess bowing isn't necessarily the same as worshiping so that's the key difference. Perhaps this was to show God had made man higher than the angels? To elevate man somehow. Do you agree that this is the case (men higher than angels)?
38. He will say: "Enter ye in the company of the peoples who passed away before you - men and jinns, - into the Fire." Every time a new people enters, it curses its sister-people (that went before), until they follow each other, all into the Fire. Saith the last about the first: "Our Lord! it is these that misled us: so give them a double penalty in the Fire." He will say: "Doubled for all" : but this ye do not understand.39. Then the first will say to the last: "See then! No advantage have ye over us; so taste ye of the penalty for all that ye did !"
This shows me that we cannot blame those who went before us for our going down the wrong path. In fact if we want God to curse the first people for this by giving them harsher judgment, He, in fact, created harsher punishment for all. Thus we are not able to use the excuse of others. We are accountable for ourselves.
44. The Companions of the Garden will call out to the Companions of the Fire: "We have indeed found the promises of our Lord to us true: Have you also found Your Lord's promises true?" They shall say, "Yes"; but a crier shall proclaim between them: "The curse of Allah is on the wrong-doers;-
45. "Those who would hinder (men) from the path of Allah and would seek in it something crooked: they were those who denied the Hereafter."
46. Between them shall be a veil, and on the heights will be men who would know every one by his marks: they will call out to the Companions of the Garden, "peace on you": they will not have entered, but they will have an assurance (thereof).
47. When their eyes shall be turned towards the Companions of the Fire, they will say: "Our Lord! send us not to the company of the wrong-doers."
48. The men on the heights will call to certain men whom they will know from their marks, saying: "Of what profit to you were your hoards and your arrogant ways?49. "Behold! are these not the men whom you swore that Allah with His Mercy would never bless? Enter ye the Garden: no fear shall be on you, nor shall ye grieve."
I found myself trying to visualize this sequence of events in order to keep the story straight. I'm assuming these are neutral observers on the heights who are seeing those in heaven (Companions of the Garden) and those in hell (Companions of the Fire). I think I followed their dialogue well enough until verse 47. Who are the certain men whom they know from their marks? Are these people who have not yet entered into eternity (heaven or hell)? And what are "their marks"? Does this go back to that mistranslation of baptism from sura 2? I think I remember someone saying it was in reality a mark. I didn't really follow 48 and 49 and who was being addressed as arrogant and hoarding and then welcomed into the Garden.
56. Do no mischief on the earth, after it hath been set in order, but call on Him with fear and longing (in your hearts): for the Mercy of Allah is (always) near to those who do good.
This verse is pretty nice although I could argue that "those who do good" don't really need mercy. I think it's the ones who do bad who can appreciate the mercy of God more. :-) But I like the principle of this verse: calling upon God and His mercy being near.
There are things I want to say about verses 157 and 158, but maybe that will be for another post. This one is long enough and it's just one sura!
166. When in their insolence they transgressed (all) prohibitions, We said to them: "Be ye apes, despised and rejected."
168. We broke them up into sections on this earth. There are among them some that are the righteous, and some that are the opposite. We have tried them with both prosperity and adversity: In order that they might turn (to us).
I think this was talking about the Jews. First the reference to turning them into apes was peculiar. But the part in verse 168 I can see since the Jews were scattered throughout the world for hundreds of years. Yet they always kept their longing for their homeland and seemed to have passed this yearning from generation to generation much as the Palestinians of today do with their own children.
204. When the Qur'an is read, listen to it with attention, and hold your peace: that ye may receive Mercy.
205. And do thou (O reader!) Bring thy Lord to remembrance in thy (very) soul, with humility and in reverence, without loudness in words, in the mornings and evenings; and be not thou of those who are unheedful.
206. Those who are near to thy Lord, disdain not to do Him worship: They celebrate His praises, and bow down before Him.
These are quite lovely verses especially bringing the Lord into remembrance and celebrating His praises. And see bowing down before God as noted here causes me no problems. This is what I expect...not the bowing down to man (Adam) as mentioned above.
"Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!" - Psalm 95:6
This is what I am used to! :)
Today I borrowed an English translation of the Quran from the public library. It's a more contemporary version by Ahmed Ali. I plan to read sura 8 from it next.