I'm like a possessed woman reading chapters and churning out posts. Sorry if they bore you. Well, I did break the cycle and post about Dying for Heaven the other day? (Kind of fitting with today's topic, eh?) And, of course, there were those sinful prophets of God whom I discussed last weekend. I have thoughts on Esther that I want to share soon. I finished a fiction book based on her story as told in the Bible. It's quite familiar, but I had a few quotes from the book that I wanted to note here. Have any of you ever thought of Queen Vashti and how brave she was in her defiance of King Xerxes?
But for now, Islamic heaven is on the agenda! First, read these few verses from Revelation 19.
5Then a voice came from the throne, saying:
"Praise our God,
all you his servants,
you who fear him,
both small and great!"
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
7Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
Along with the joys of seeing loved ones again and enjoying the splendor of a glorious place where we will never be separated by sinful actions, this is how I think of heaven. When I read in Revelation 5 of people from every tribe, nation and tongue praising God it gives me a sense of joy and awe of our loving God.
So please keep my point of view in mind as I share how these next chapters in the Quran came across to me.
Sura 54 - al-Qamar
This sura begins with the moon being split as some sort of sign to those who continue in disbelief. Again we see examples of Noah, Lot, the Thamud and Pharaoh which have been noted numerous times throughout this book.
22. Easy have We made the Qur'an to understand: So is there any one who will pay heed?
This verse - or one very similar - was spoken at least three times. Again, I counter that the Quran is easy to understand only to those blessed to speak Arabic. So it was easy for those Muhammad spoke with, but not so much for me if I am to really get the full experience of the Quran's majesty by reading it in Arabic which many Muslims agree should be the goal. Apparently the Quran loses its luster when you are unable to recite it in Arabic.
23. The Thamud rejected the warnings, 24. And said: "Should we follow only one man among us? In that case we shall be in error and insane. 25. Was he the one of all of us to have been given the exposition? He is surely an impudent liar."
If I am honest in putting myself in a situation like this, I can imagine myself asking the same questions. I tend to be a bit skeptical of men coming with life-altering messages, claiming to speak for God and doing miracles. I have even wondered would I believe in Jesus if I were one of the people of his day. Would I be one of his followers or one of his critics? Or would I have mere apathy for this man and his message? Maybe this is why Jesus says we have to come with childlike faith. Children just accept people and things often with little questioning (except for things like "why is the sky blue?" and "how does water come from the sky?"). They trust easier until we make them fearful of people and skeptical of others' motives.
54. Surely those who fear God and follow the straight path will be amidst gardens and light, 55. At the still centre in the proximity of the King all-powerful.
I think this is the first mention I've seen of God in heaven with the believers! Most of the time the Quran is extolling sensual pleasures such as gardens of delight, flowing rivers, refreshing wine, delicious meats, sweet fruits, pretty waitresses, reclining on couches with all those maidens with bright, big eyes. So I'm glad to see God finally make an appearance in heaven! :-)
Sura 55 - ar-Rahman
This was the most hypnotic chapter I read in the Quran! Within seventy verses or so, this phrase -- "How many favours of your Lord will then both of you deny?" -- was repeated many many many times! (Over thirty, I believe!) It became trance-inducing especially since the verses surrounding them quickly moved to those sensual heavenly pleasures like those "undeflowered" maidens which were mentioned twice in this sura alone! What an incentive for any man of Muhammad's day to convert to this religion! Any man really. Heavenly sex - wow, a man's paradise for sure! I notice how often things men desire are extolled when the Quran speaks of the hereafter. Was the prevailing thought that if the men could be convinced of this message from Muhammad -- and these sexual pleasures are pretty good incentives for men! -- then the women would follow suit? Or that men would be the holdouts as the women were converting to Islam in droves simply because they are easier to convince in religious matters? I'm speculating, I know, but since I see so much reference to lovely maidens in heaven, I get this idea. I don't see much talk of "women, if you convert and 'win' the hereafter, you will get strong, good-looking, Shemar Moore-like men at your beck and call." Just thinking out loud.
What's with these four gardens (vs. 46, 62) of heaven? Are people going to live in different places according to their deeds on earth?
Sura 56 - al-Waqi'ah
It's kind of funny that this chapter is titled "The Inevitable" in English. So fitting. :)
First I see mentioning of three groups of people - two happy groups (the right and favored), one damned group (the left). Great descriptions given as to the sensual heaven again.
13. A number of the earlier peoples, 14. And a few of later ages,
It seems like people of old have a better chance - or there will be a greater number of them in heaven - than people of the later years.
I see a heaven for those who prefer cute boys (vs. 22-23) and another for those who prefer those lovely women (vs. 34). I laughed when I read:
25. They will hear no nonsense there or talk of sin, 26. Other than "Peace, peace" the salutation.
Seems to say, "Don't worry, guys and gals! That homosexual and promiscuous behavior which we condemned as 'sin' on earth, will be perfectly fine in heaven!" And before you protest that God would not allow homosexual sex in His heaven because you consider it more sinful than promiscuous heterosexual sex, I've heard Muslims say that whatever you desire in heaven you would get. Normally this was in the context of assuring women that even though the men would be with their seventy-two virgins for all eternity, Muslim women didn't have to worry as whatever they desired in heaven would be given to them. So, if whatever our hearts desire will be ours in heaven then homosexual sex will happen. Because we all know even among Muslims that some men prefer sex with men and some women desire sex with women. You can't say you get whatever you desire and start making exceptions because YOU happen to not like what some people would select as desirous. For me, I'd never choose to let men have a harem of women, but if God knows this is secretly or not-so-secretly what every man wants and heaven is all about your wants being fulfilled, so be it.
I'm glad to read that the companions are matched in age (vs. 37) so we won't have any of this horrid young girl having to marry/have sex with an old man stuff that is happening in many Islamic communities.
I contrast this sensual talk of heaven in the Quran with things I read in Revelation about worshiping around God's throne. I can't help but see that for Muslims the main focus of heaven is all about them, whereas, I believe the main focus eternally is God and not all these things God allowed us to enjoy on earth. There is more to true living, worshipful living, eternally living than food, drink and sexual needs and wants. Why settle for food and wine and even hot chicks and cute boys when you can be in the presence of God Himself?
77. That this is indeed the glorious Qur'an 78. (Inscribed) in the well-kept Book. 79. Only they can reach it who are clean (of mind).
It's interesting that one must be clean before approaching the Quran. In my view we do not pollute God's Word, but His Word purifies us. For those who have gone fishing (or even if you haven't), you know first you must catch a fish before you can clean it, right? So how can one be clean before God's Word cleans her? This is human effort -- this is cleaning the fish before its caught. God purifies people. We can't clean ourselves enough to come before His presence. Thankfully we can come to Him just as we are, yielded and waiting as we allow His cleansing words to wash away our filth.