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

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Notes on Quran - Sura 24

Sura 24 -- al-Nur

"The Light" begins with the rather dark topic of adulterers and adulteresses and the way they should be treated in the community. One hundred lashes for each one of them and then they may only marry another adulterer or their partners in crime. This is a bit peculiar to me since many adulterers are already married to other people (e.g. John Edwards the adulterer was married to Elizabeth). So I'm guessing this implies the husband or wife who was cheated on will for sure divorce the cheating spouse. Then the cheater can only marry other cheaters within the community. Fair enough, I suppose, though I see no mention of spouses actually staying married because the offended spouse decides to forgive. There are instructions in this sura for proving adultery like the required testimony of four witness and there are also strong words and promises for curses from God for those who dare to falsely accuse chaste women of having committed adultery (vs. 23).

I really liked this part of verse 21

But for the grace of God and His mercy upon you none of you would have escaped undefiled; but God makes whosoever He will grow in goodness.

as it's something I have often believed to be true. We should never look at someone else and mercilessly chastise her for what she does. Without God's grace in keeping us from this horrible deed, we are fully capable of doing the exact same thing! You think there is no way you would ever do that sin? Watch out, the Bible says, pride goes before a fall! Let this be a caution against judging and gossiping about others' sins.

It was interesting to read the instructions for both men and women on lowering gazes and being modest in order to promote goodness in the community. I've seen these verses on blogs, but never within the full chapter in which it was given. Also I see the instructions on who is permitted to be in mixed company and who is welcome to see women without all their coverings.

In the midst of these instructions about marrying off maids and slaves, there was this verse which took my attention.

34. We have sent down clear instructions to you, and illustrations from (the accounts) of those who have gone before you, and a warning for those who take heed for themselves.

I wondered if the illustrations from stories of those gone before could be the examples in the Bible. I've not seen anywhere in the Quran where it's noted that the Bible was changed nor does it declare Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon or any previous prophet as sinless or mostly sinless. It even admits that Moses murdered a man! Hardly something which constitutes one of those "small sins," eh? Instead I'd make a case that this verse shows that examples of previous people were given as illustrations and warnings so we will know how to live or how not to live.

36. (The light is lit) in houses of worship which God has allowed to be raised, and His name remembered in them. His praises are sung there morning and evening.

Lovely visual!! I love hearing God's praises sung! Why do some Muslims believe music is haram? Here is singing right here in the Quran!

40. Or like darkness in a wide, wide sea, waves surging upon waves, with clouds overhanging, darkness on darkness. If you stretch your hand, you could hardly see it. For him whom God does not give any light, there is no light.

Shows how God purposefully keeps some people in the dark on spiritual truths.

Contrast that with this from Jesus:

12When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8)

and this about God not having any darkness in Him at all.

5This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (I John 1)

and also this from Jesus:

14"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

45. God created every moving thing from water: One crawls on its belly, one walks on two legs, another moves on four. God creates whatsoever He will. Indeed God has power over everything.

I thought God created man from clay, but I've twice seen reference to His creating everything from water. Maybe it was muddy clay? Just something I wanted to ask about since I've now seen it two times.

From verses 46 on for about the next ten verses one reads how important and necessary it is to obey Muhammad. In fact the Quran says not to swear just obey (vs. 53) him. If you do, you will find success (vs. 52), be rightly guided (vs. 54), potentially be a leader in the land (vs. 55) and be shown mercy (vs. 56). Those are quite good incentives for obeying this mere man.

The remaining verses were more instructions about permissible times to visit people without knocking, when you should knock upon entering someone's room, seeing certain people, eating with them, greeting, blessing them and such things related to manners and getting along with others.

Overall a very interesting sura.


Suroor said...

I was waiting for you to read this chapter :-D

I don't understand why the Prophet would stone people for adultery when the Quran prescribes a completely different punishment! And it is not just me, it made early Muslims wonder too:

(Sahih Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 82, Number 804)

Narrated Ash Shaibani: I asked 'Abdullah bin Abi Aufa, 'Did Allah's Apostle carry out the Rajam penalty ( i.e., stoning to death)?' He said, "Yes." I said, "Before the revelation of Surat-ar-Nur or after it?" He replied, "I don't Know."

It seems that his judgment about adulterers changed after he found out the prescribed punishment in the Torah:

(Sahih Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 82, Number 809)

Narrated Ibn 'Umar:

A Jew and a Jewess were brought to Allah's Apostle on a charge of committing an illegal sexual intercourse. The Prophet asked them. "What is the legal punishment (for this sin) in your Book (Torah)?" They replied, "Our priests have innovated the punishment of blackening the faces with charcoal and Tajbiya." 'Abdullah bin Salam said, "O Allah's Apostle, tell them to bring the Torah." The Torah was brought, and then one of the Jews put his hand over the Divine Verse of the Rajam (stoning to death) and started reading what preceded and what followed it. On that, Ibn Salam said to the Jew, "Lift up your hand." Behold! The Divine Verse of the Rajam was under his hand. So Allah's Apostle ordered that the two (sinners) be stoned to death, and so they were stoned. Ibn 'Umar added: So both of them were stoned at the Balat and I saw the Jew sheltering the Jewess.

I am guessing that is how stoning in Islam started but the verse in the Quran already laid out a different punishment which is actually what the pagans used to follow. After that even if a person accepted four times by bearing witness against themselves that they had committed adultery, they were not shown mercy and were stoned to death.

Interesting stuff!

Sarah said...

I actually enjoyed the beginning part because I felt it was much more about slander than it was about adultery. If people took it seriously, no-one would have to worry about reputation and gossip and all that.

The occasion here was Aisha having been slandered after she got left behind on a journey and another man brought her back. I think the verses here cleared her name, if I remember right. She was very upset with Muhammad about the whole thing.

Susanne said...

Sarah, thanks for your great comment. I think I was expecting "light" in the sense of beauty, brightness and not adultery and slander. HOWEVER, after reading your thoughtful comment, I can now consider "light" in a new, well, light...hehehe.:)

Light as in shedding light on the truth which the anti-slander sura does. So that's why I'm glad you brought this up. I didn't mind that this sura discussed this. I'm glad to see the verses about not slandering others. I just made the connection to a "dark topic" wrongly which as your comment later lead me to rethink and say instead, "This sura is about light in that truth IS light and when we slander another, we are not promoting light/truth."

So thank you! I'm so glad when you give me feedback! :)

Susanne said...


"I don't understand why the Prophet would stone people for adultery when the Quran prescribes a completely different punishment!"

Don't you remember, stoning was part of the original revelation, but the goat ate that one? ;-)

Interesting about Muhammad going back to the Law to get this stoning prescription. Huh. So he checked the original sources and actually reverted back to Moses' Law instead of this new revelation. Too bad people never checked Jesus' teachings! Mercy is a good thing! We all might need it one of these days. :)

Which leads me to ask, "why not?" Why not read and study Jesus' teachings and example? He is far superior to the one who gets special privileges, IMO. Is it because Muslims read about Jesus and think it's too lenient on people they want to hate? Is it because it's easier to hate and want revenge than to love our enemies and show them kindness and go the extra mile? Was it this reason that Jesus' teachings get tossed out as being corrupted simply because they are too hard, therefore, not from God? You know my thoughts...of course those things are too hard! WithOUT God. This is exactly why we need GOD to work *through us* to accomplish these things. NO ONE truly loves her enemy unless GOD does a wonderful work in her heart. It's a shame most people don't see Jesus' teachings and apply them. Including myself most days! :-) :-/

Thanks for the comment. Lots of interesting stuff!

Sarah said...

Interesting way of looking at it. It seems the titles of the suras often have very little to do with the content, as you have pointed out in different posts. I often wonder how the titles were chosen.

Susanne said...

"I often wonder how the titles were chosen."

That's a good question. I don't even know who did that. Maybe Suroor can help. :)

Durriyyah said...

I don't know if it is assumed that the couple gets divorced or not. It is obviously better if they can remain married, but understandable if they are unable to do so. There are other verses that outline the rules and guidelines of divorce, and within that is trying to forgive and reconcile the differences.

24:21 - I totally agree with you!! We never know people situations and background, and if we were put in the same situation, how do we know that we would act so much more righteously?! It is presumptuous and prideful, as you said, to think that we are free from sin enough that we can judge another.

It's interesting in the verses about lowering the gaze that men are instructed to do so -first-. I've heard many scholars point this out as proof that it not all about the women and God says "Oh yeah, you too, guys."

24:34 - Yes, the stories given in the Qur'an are for examples, on how to live and not to live. As stated before, each story has a purpose and meaning that we should relate to our lives. We learn not only from the prophets, but also from the people they were trying to guide. As for the Bible being changed, here's some verses that point to this: 2:59, 2:79, 2:101, 3:78, 3:187, 5:14, 7:162

24:40 - The commentary I have on this verse talks about the one who cuts themselves off from the Light of God and from guidance. In order to be a "full fledged" unbeliever, you need to have been given the guidance and rejected it, thus shutting yourself out from the Light available. God does not give light to those who reject it. (Pharaoh comes to mind again… he seems to be the ultimate antagonist).

24:45 - Yes, we are created from clay, and from water. :)

23:46 - Swearing vs. obeying is in terms of going out in war, or assisting in the cause. Anyone can swear that they are going to help, but who is going to -do- it? :) My notes I wrote from reading this the first time are "Promises means nothing if actions don't reflect."

One thing that I want to point out with this set of verses is in 54 - "If ye obe him, ye shall be on right guidance. The Messenger's duty is only to preach the clear Message." So we see that obeying the Messenger is directly obeying God. Then in verse 55 it starts with "Allah has promised to those among you who believe and work righteous deeds, that He will…" so we must have the believe and correct character of faith in order to gain these rewards. Obeying the Messenger by empty (lacking intention) action is not enough.

I love in the end where we are given guidelines for even visiting our neighbors. This turns even our visits into worship when we do them with the intention of obeying God.

Susanne said...

Durriyyah, thanks again for taking time to explain so many of the verses. It is very helpful and I truly appreciate your dedication in doing that so thoroughly and in an interesting way. :)

Love what you said about lowering the gaze and it being not just an afterthought to the men! True! :D

Ohhhh, I'll have to read those verses about the Bible being changed. I see they are earlier suras in the Quran so I likely forgot their messages.

23:46 - Swearing vs. obeying is in terms of going out in war, or assisting in the cause. Anyone can swear that they are going to help, but who is going to -do- it? :) My notes I wrote from reading this the first time are "Promises means nothing if actions don't reflect."

I like that quote!