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

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Notes on Quran - Sura 8

As I mentioned in my last post I am now reading a more contemporary English version of the Quran that I borrowed from my local public library. Here is a link to what I read for those interested.

Sura 8 -- Al-Anfal

Now for a few notes on this chapter.

2. Only they are true believers whose hearts fill up with awe when the name of God is mentioned; and their faith is further strengthened when His messages are read out to them; and those who place their trust in their Lord.

I just liked this verse especially as I imagined hearts swelling with "awe" at the mention of God's name! It reminded me of a stanza from "Revelation Song" and I can say I've experienced this heart-filling awesomeness of God. I can also relate to my heart being strengthened when God's message is proclaimed. I experience this often from reading the Bible and hearing sermons and reading publications reminding me of God's great message to mankind.

5. As your Lord sent you from your home (to fight) for the true cause, a section of the faithful were averse,
6. Who argued with you about the matter even after it had become quite clear, as if they were being pushed into (the arms of) death as they waited.
7. Though God promised that one of two columns (would fall to you), you desired the one that was not armed. But God wished to confirm the truth by His words, and wipe the unbelievers out to the last,
8. So that Truth may be affirmed and falsehood negated, even though the sinners be averse.
9. Remember when you prayed to your Lord for help, He heard you and said: "I shall send a thousand angels following behind you for your aid."
10. He gave you the good news only to reassure your hearts, for victory comes from God alone, and certainly God is all-mighty and all-wise.

I especially loved verses 9 and 10 and how God sends the help and victory that we need. From verses 5-8, I thought of the Bible story where the Israelites were supposed to go into Canaan and they sent in 12 men to spy out the land. Ten of them came back with discouraging reports: "The people are huuuuuuuuuuge! The city well-fortified! There is no way we can defeat these people!" However Joshua and Caleb knew with God on their side, these huge people and fortified walls were nothing and they urged their people to go forth and claim the land God had given them. But.. the people sided with the discouraging report against what God had promised them! They chose to listen to men over God and had to wander in the wilderness until that generation had all passed away. You think God takes unbelief as something trivial? So anyway, these verses reminded me of this because I read it as God promising them that one of two (armed?) columns would go down in defeat to the advancing Muslims, however, some chose to go after unarmed men because they were perhaps too frightened to trust God when they had such a formidable foe right before their eyes! These people doubted God's ability to help them when they were faced with their enemy. But it seems these doubters were the minority and all turned out well for the Muslims in the end. No forty years of wandering in the wilderness for them such as the children of Israel had to do!

22. The worst of creatures in the eyes of God are those who are deaf and dumb and devoid of sense.
23. If God had seen any good in them He would surely have made them hear. Now even if He makes them hear they will turn away (in obduracy).
24. O believers, respond to the call of God and His Prophet when he calls you to what will give you life (and preservation). Remember that God intervenes between man and his heart, and that you will be gathered before Him.

Without reading this in context, one would think verse 22 was a slam against disabled people, however, I think this has to do with people who are spiritually deaf, dumb and without sense. Like those who choose to harden their hearts to any moral influence and talk of God. Verse 24 gives Islam a more free will flavor. This in contrast to the other day when one sura made me see "predestination" all over it. Then again verse 23 seems to indicate God will only allow people to spiritually hear if they first have any good in them. I wonder how much good is necessary. How much is "any" good? Are some people just rotten to the core? From verse 24, I wonder what God intervening between a man and his heart means in this sense? He gives understanding? He opens eyes and hearts to His truth? But only if there is first some good in people (vs. 23)?

Interesting things to ponder anyway.

28. Know that your worldly possessions and your children are just a temptation, and that God has greater rewards with Him.
29.  O believers, if you follow the path shown by God, He will give you a standard (of right and wrong), and overlook your sins, and forgive you. God is abounding in benevolence.

Something about verse 28 reminded me of the passage from Matthew 10 that I discussed here the other day. The one about putting Jesus ahead of spouses, mothers, fathers and children. Seeing children as a temptation was a bit boggling until I remembered Jesus' words.

I am just reflecting some on verse 29.

63. Whose hearts He cemented with love. You could never have united their hearts even if you had spent whatever (wealth) is in the earth; but God united them with love, for He is all-mighty and all-wise.
64.  God is sufficient for you, O Prophet, and the faithful who follow you.

Jesus spoke a lot about love. How people would know we were his disciples if we had love for one another. He even went so far as to tell us to love our enemies! He expounded upon the "love your neighbor" command by making a despised (by the Jews of that time) Samaritan included as a neighbor! Egads! So. I really like verse 63 and how love unites hearts. It's not money, material stuff, whatever, but love. And the Bible states that God is love. So God unites hearts. Great verse.

I love the reminder in verse 64 that God is sufficient. Amen!

Now one last thing. In my post about Muhammad and Jesus and the Word of God comparison, someone left an interesting comment. I'd just read this sura so when she wrote it, I could actually relate to the Companion who "blundered" in this hadith. Let me explain.

Commenter wrote:

In fact, the Prophet himself used to emphasize that he was just a man. It is reported that once a Bedouin met him; when the Bedioun saw him, he was so awed by his presence, he trembled in fear. Seeing this Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: 'Calm down. I am only the son of a woman who used to eat dry meat in Makkah (meaning a poor woman).'

Also, it is said that once one of the Companions said he was going to do something, “If God willed and if His apostle did, too”. Prophet Mohammed grew so angry and asked him why he was associating a partner with God! He explained that this was blasphemous.

And while my thoughts are likely flawed and the verses out of context, let me show why I can understand the Companion who was rebuked after having just finished reading these verses from sura 8.

13. For they had opposed God and His Apostle; but whosoever opposes God and his Apostle (should know) that God is severe in retribution.

20. O believers, obey God and His Messenger, and do not turn away from him when you hear (him speak);

24. O believers, respond to the call of God and His Prophet when he calls you to what will give you life (and preservation). Remember that God intervenes between man and his heart, and that you will be gathered before Him.

46. Obey God and His Apostle, and do not disagree among yourselves or you will be unmanned and lose courage. Persevere, for God is with those who endure.

Notice how often God is coupled with Muhammad. Wouldn't "obey God" have sufficed? Then again maybe this was God's way of giving credence to whatever Muhammad was ordering the people to do. What do you think?


Durriyyah said...

I love your comments on each one and how you connect them with the teachings of Prophets from earlier times. God keeps sending us reminder after reminder after reminder. Amazing how patient He is! I heard in a halaqa (religious discussion group) that Moses preached for hundreds of years or so before the flood came! I wish I had a source to back this up, but given how long they lived, it isn't surprising.

About the verses "God and the Apostle", not everything that Muhammed (pbuh) told people was direct revelation from God. Now, if he fell out of line or spoke on something incorrectly, he was corrected by revelation, but listening and obeying him is connected, but separate. Most Muslims will also use these verses to point to the need to use hadith (there are some Muslims who don't believe we need hadith at all... that's a whole different discussion).

Hope that helps!

Amber said...


But how do you (in the universal sense, not *you* you) judge the filling with awe? I can tell you that I have never felt ecstatically transported in any church service, ever. I feel reverential awe and respect, yes. I feel strengthened after Mass and after reading the Bible, and reading other faith oriented materials, but heart-swelling awe? I'm just not built that way.

'Then again maybe this was God's way of giving credence to whatever Muhammad was ordering the people to do. What do you think?'

I think it's *someones* way of giving authority to what Mohammed said. Or trying to, anyway...

This would probably be one of the points from where the obsession with doing things just as Mohammed did them would take off.

Suroor said...

Susanne, I'm currently reading Hindu scriptures and I can't tell you how many verses in the Quran seem almost identical to Hindu Texts. It is quite an amazing discovery since generally Muslims believe Hindus to be ‘ignorant’ and ‘misguided.’

My general statement would be that the Source is the same. However, it is also interesting that the writers of these Hindu texts were NOT prophets according to Islam. Perhaps that is why whenever I discuss those passages from Hindu Texts, my Muslim friends and readers completely ignore the discussion since they can’t say “hey, prophet Krishna taught the same thing” :D But it seems he did - centuries before the Quran was revealed! Not everything in the Quran can be traced to the OT and NT; there is a lot in it from other religions as well, some of which we, Muslims, are guilty of looking down upon.

It was Hindu scripture that first put a cap on unlimited polygamy by making the maximum number of legal wives to be no more than 4 (for Brahmins), with unlimited concubines! This happened more than 400 years before Islam. It was Hindus that first instituted the concept of bridal price or Mahr and had been practicing it for centuries before Islam came to Arabia. Hindus first called mountains as pegs used to put the earth in place (If I write “God has firmly fixed the earth with pegs around it” without a reference you wouldn’t know it is not from the Quran or Bible but from a Hindu Text!). It was Hindu scripture that first declared “There is no likeness of Him.” Hindus first preached that God can neither have parents nor children. A Hindu Text first teaches that when people disbelieve, they will neither see nor hear.

So what am I saying?

I'm saying that all religions teach goodness but we ONLY see the goodness in the religion of our choice or birth. That is why I urged you once to read the Quran and see for yourself that Quran does have very good bits. I just wish we are more aware and tolerant of all religions.

I’m really proud to have you as my friend. You are so open-minded and although I know that you don’t think Islam is from God, you are not blind to the beautiful passages in the Quran. That is very, very sweet of you. I wish more people were like you and appreciated other religions’ texts as well.

Carmen said...

Oooh, I too, have felt that awe rise up and encompass me. There is nothing I love more than to be in a service where I am barely able to stand because God's presence is so thick in the room.

Unfortunately, I am not in those services as often as I used to be. There are times I crave to experience that intimacy and closeness and realness that I can feel.

Susanne, you mentioned Revelation Song and that song can invoke that feeling in me. I believe it's because God gave that song to a modern "David".

David's songs and music could soothe the evil inside of King Saul. Certain songs, seem to really welcome and invite the very presence of God.

Here is a rendition of Revelation Song. I can sense that through the computer. Amazing.


Another song that really speaks to my heart is How He Loves


Susanne said...

Durriyyah, thanks for your helpful comment! Yes, I see why hadith would be important for getting the fuller version of things. Yes, many believe Noah preached for many years while building the ark. I agree that God is patient with us. I'm enjoying your feedback. Thanks much for taking time to help me out with the suras. :)

Susanne said...

Amber, well, I am not as strongly geared toward "heart swelling awe" as some people, but there are times when I felt some amazing thankfulness and wonderment at God's loving gift to us. I suppose it's somewhat subjective and unique to the individual and, therefore, not measurable. Which, I know many people like. Measurable things. Lists. Rules. Standards. Rituals. So they can *know* what they are supposed to do or feel. I just don't think it's easy to explain as for one it might be something very different than for another. Sorry, I know that answer likely won't satisfy you, but that's how it is for me. :) I don't think I grasp it like some people and nothing like we will experience when we see our Savior and realize all we have is because of Him.

"This would probably be one of the points from where the obsession with doing things just as Mohammed did them would take off."

Yes, it seems the two (God and Muhammad) are paired a lot so I can see why people would think to copy Muhammad.

Thanks for your comment!

Susanne said...

Suroor, one of my older friends (she's nearly 50) talks about "recycled stories" re: religious texts so it's interesting to hear you confirm this somewhat by your reading of Hindu scriptures. I loved what you shared. I really appreciate you taking time to write that for my enlightenment! I found it all so interesting! :)

"I'm saying that all religions teach goodness but we ONLY see the goodness in the religion of our choice or birth. "

Ah, yes, that's what I like about you and Amber. You ventured out. And I did not. Well, maybe I'm learning a bit from you. After all I did finally started reading the Qur'an. And, yes, you encouraged me to do so! Thank you for that. I am finding some passages quite lovely. I hope to mention enough of them for people to realize I am not trying to purposefully pick out "hard" passages. Some I will. Some are just passages that remind me of Bible stories. Some I like to contrast with Bible stories. I'm not out trying to share only good or only bad things, but just my honest thoughts and impressions as I do my first-ever reading of a translation of the Quran. Thanks much for supporting me in this and thanks for your super-sweet words. I just read them for the first time and found them so not worthy of me. But thank you! You're too sweet! :)

Susanne said...

Carmen, yay! Nice to see you again! Wow, I clicked on that first link and thought it was YOU singing! Ha, ha! Glad you could relate to my thoughts. Usually songs about Jesus get me to thinking about His sacrifice and they make my heart fill with joy and my eyes with tears. I'm thinking "Jesus, Messiah" and "Revelation Song." Sometimes "Amazing Grace My Chains are Gone."

"David's songs and music could soothe the evil inside of King Saul. Certain songs, seem to really welcome and invite the very presence of God. "

Yes, yes, yes! Exactly! Worshipful songs - wow! Not all of them -- some I find too repetitive, but some of them are great! I've often had a wonderful time playing praise/worship songs via YouTube and singing along.

BTW, while writing this post I looked up "Revelation Song" on YouTube, played it (of course) and found myself singing it off and on allllllllllll day today! Hehehehe.

"Worthy is the
Lamb that was slain.
Holy, holy is He." - wow!

And the "Jesus your name is Power...breath and living water." :)

Thanks for your comment. I always enjoy hearing from you!

Carmen said...

Clothed in rainbows, of living color
Flashes of lightning, rolls of thunder
Blessing and honor, strength and
Glory and power be
To You the Only Wise King

I get overwhelmed with gratefulness and awe every time I sing this song.

And then the next stanza that you started quoting

Filled with wonder,
Awestruck wonder
At the mention of Your Name
Jesus, Your Name is Power
Breath, and Living Water
Such a marvelous mystery

What I liked about the version I posted is the spontaneous worship she sings too.

Sarira said...

Hey Susanne!

I love your comments on verses 22-24. Yes, definitely this is not a slam against ‘special needs people’. We know this 100% because we have a verse that says:

“So have they not traveled through the earth and have hearts by which to reason and ears by which to hear? For indeed, it is not eyes that are blinded, but blinded are the hearts which are within the breasts.” 22:46

Also, what you said about God allowing people to spiritually hear if they have good in them- this is exactly right. I personally believe you only need to have a morsel of real goodness...I don't know but this made me think of this:

”And if he draws near to Me an arm's length, I draw near to him a fathom's length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed…”

As you can see in this excerpt of the hadith qudsi, God says that if we just think about going to Him, He will ‘run’ to us in a manner that befits Him.

As you said, also, you can also notice the ‘free will’ in this hadith. If the person CHOOSES to come near to God, then God comes much nearer to them.

About your observation about God always being coupled Prophet Mohamed. Ma’shaAllah, good observation and yet, again, another one of my comments has made it into anther post! I’m getting proud of myself, here, hahah. Yes, definitely the Qu’ran most often than not has Allah mentioned than the Prophet. It is for the very reason that you say- it is God’s way of giving credence to whatever Prophet Mohammed orders the people.

But to me, there are also other reasons. Let’s no t forget the pagan Arabs used to say they ‘believed in Allah’ (however, they associated Him, istagfirAllah, with 3 ‘daughters’, etc. and were gravely wrong about other things about Him.) But remember, the word Allah in Arabic essentially means God. The Pagan Arabs did not deny God's existence; telling them to obey “Allah” would not have been enough as they would have simply said “we are obeying Him”, when in reality they were obeying some weird ‘voodoo’ lol, they made up- what with cutting the cows’ ears and whatnot. Telling them to obey Allah and the Prophet clearly then said, “follow the religion of Islam”. Surrender to Allah and the commands that He has divinely inspired his Prophet not your own cultural practices.

Also, Allah subhanoo Wa’ Tala knew what would happen. Many groups, in this century, have risen that claim to be Islamic but they completely discard the Prophet’s sunnah and all that he came with. If they actually read the Qu’ran, they would notice as YOU noticed, that Allah tells us to obey the Prophet and his commands. Instead, they simply say, “we don’t need to follow the Prophet”.

Lastly, this goes back to what we said about the Prophet implementing the Qur'an or the Word of God as best as possible; therefore, it's like what Allah is saying is that you have with the Prophet a clear example of what to do and should obey him, since he followed the Qu’ran in the best way.

So was the Companion then NOT wrong in saying what he said? No, he was wrong because he was actually talking about power. The Prophet has no power on his own. To Allah is the Dominion and all Power. The Prophet could not will anything to happen- we have only to look at what he said when his 2 year old son, Ibrahim (the only ‘surviving son’ he had) passed away: “Truly, the heart grieves and the eyes tear and we do not say but that which pleases Allah: to Allah we belong and to Him we return”.


Sarira said...

ooo, related to what I just wrote, I just thought of another example in which the Prophet refused that we elevate him greater than he deserved (remember, the whole idea that we do 'shirk with him'). I'm copy pasting this as I'm too lazy to type it up ;)

The death of Ibrahim coincided with a solar eclipse. The people of Madinah began attributing the eclipse to the death of the Prophet's son, Ibrahim. Greatly displeased by this, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) gathered the people and addressed them, saying:

"Eclipses of the sun and the moon are not caused by the death of any human being; they are two of Allah's signs. When you see the eclipse, you should show gratefulness to Almighty Allah and offer prayer to Him."

So the Prophet refused to be treated anymore than a Prophet, but God, honors the Prophet (and also this humble behavior) by 'elevating his rank' and coupling his name with His name...

(A last point for me to ponder on :D)

Sarah said...

"Notice how often God is coupled with Muhammad."

Uh huh. This is difficult for Quran-only people I think, as they don't like to think that the messenger had any authority, only the message. It is an awkward thing to discover in a religion where shirk is the biggest sin, I still can't get over "salaam alaika ya nabi" in the prayer (peace be upon you, O prophet).

Suroor's comment was so interesting!

Susanne said...

Sarira, neat about the "morsel of real goodness" examples you gave. Some of those are really pleasant! :)

LOL...yes, you are quite an inspiration for posts! Ha, ha! Thanks for explaining why "the prophet" was often coupled with Allah since Allah was also the known pagan gods as well.

I'm sorry to read of his son's death. How sad. :(

"So the Prophet refused to be treated anymore than a Prophet, but God, honors the Prophet (and also this humble behavior) by 'elevating his rank' and coupling his name with His name..."

That's really interesting. I always thought it was convenient how Muhammad got special provisions. I tend to like those who lead by example, but I understand you think GOD elevated Muhammad so it makes sense that you would see Muhammad's special privileges as fine.

Thanks for your great comments as usual! :)

Sarah, thanks for adding what you did. Good points to consider!