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

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Notes on Quran - Sura 36

My blogger friend Sarira recently made a thought-provoking comment about prophets as role models. That coupled with a quote I read in a publication inspired me to work on a post concerning prophets and their sinfulness vs. their near sinlessness so stayed tuned if you are interested in such things!

I read more of the new book I got from the library. It's so interesting to read of ancient cultures and imagine living back then. I find myself daydreaming about the past. The way far past. :)

I've read through sura 42 now. Fewer than 150 pages to go in the translation that I have. I'll go ahead and post these notes for those who are waiting for more. Those who are still trying to catch up, don't worry. I love your comments so keep 'em coming even if the post is "old." :)

Sura 36 - Ya Sin

Rather interesting sura full of descriptions of pastimes of paradise (vs. 55) as well as "roasting" in hell declared for the unbelievers (vs. 64). Not a new message since nearly every other chapter has the same types of warning. However, I did enjoy reading some of the actual things people in heaven do. Here are a few verses that I noted.

6. That you may warn a people whose ancestors had never been warned, who are therefore heedless.

I took this to mean that Muhammad was given the Quran so he could warn the Arabs - people whose ancestors had never been warned before. Yet I thought of Ishmael whom I believe is thought to be Arab and a prophet as well. Is is Arab? Was he a prophet? And if yes to both did he not warn the ancestors of the Arabs? Or is this verse talking about someone totally different than Muhammad?

Interesting description of those who refuse to believe.

8. We will certainly put iron collars on their heel's which will come up to their chins, so that they will not be able to raise their heads.
9. And We shall raise a barrier in front of them and a barrier behind them, and cover them over so that they will not be able to see.
10. Whether you warn them or do not warn, it is all the same; they will not believe.

It seems God means for them to be in darkness and spiritual bondage.

11. You can only warn him who listens to the warning and fears Ar-Rahman secretly. So give him good news of forgiveness and a generous reward.

At least there is hope and good news for those who secretly listen and believe!

Verse 13 began a story about people of a city who were sent three messengers. I didn't follow who these people were or the messengers sent since no proper names were given. Maybe it was more of a parable with a lesson about people who accept or reject the message of God.

34. We have laid out gardens of dates and grapes upon it, and made springs of water flow, 35. So that they may eat of its fruit; yet it was not done by their hands. Then why do they not acknowledge thanks?

I liked this description and question. God gave us all things, yet so often we fail to realize what a gift these things are. Instead we take things for granted and try to find proof that God doesn't exist so we don't have to be responsible, accountable, or even thankful perhaps.

47. When they are told: "Spend of what God has given you," the unbelievers say to those who believe: "Why should we feed those whom God should have fed if He pleased?" You are only in palpable error.

I read this verse a few times as I found it thought-provoking. It sounds as if its an accusation against God's predestinatory characteristic. (Predestinatory? Hopefully you know what I mean by that.)

65. We shall seal their lips that day; and their hands will speak, their feet testify to what they had done.

I remember someone commented recently about the Islamic belief that their bodies would testify for or against them. Their eyes for what they looked at. Their ears for what they listened to. So when I read this verse I could visualize it. It seems this is a picturesque way of telling us we shouldn't merely talk well, but act well.

82. When He wills a thing He has only to say: "Be," and it is.

I've seen this a few times in the Quran and have to agree. With God all things are possible. He can say the word and it happens. He is all-powerful.


Suroor said...

This was the first surah I memorised by heart :-) Didn't know what it meant at that time, though.

It is interesting that just last week someone commented on Alif Laam Meem speculating what Sin in Ya'Sin (Oh, Sin!) means. I didn't publish the comment because it was derogatory in terms of the spirit of the blog.

Basically, many interpreters don't know what Sin (pronounced as seen) means in this surah. Asad offers some interpretations:

O THOU human being! [Whereas some of the classical commentators incline to the view that the letters y-s (pronounced ya sin) with which this surah opens belong to the category of the mysterious letter-symbols (al-muqatta at) introducing a number of Quranic chapters, Abd Allah ibn Abbas states that they actually represent two distinct words, namely the exclamatory particle ya ("O") and sin, which in the dialect of the tribe of Tayy is synonymous with insan ("human being" or "man"): hence, similar to the two syllables ta ha in surah 20, ya sin denotes "O thou human being!" This interpretation has been accepted by Ikrimah, Ad-Dahhak, Al-Hasan al-Basri, Said ibn Jubayr, and other early Quran-commentators (see Tabari, Baghawi, Zamakhshari, Baydawi, Ibn Kathir. etc.). According to Zamakhshari, it would seem that the syllable sin is an abbreviation of unaysin, the diminutive form of insan used by the Tayy in exclamations.On the whole, we may safely assume that the words ya sin apostrophize the Prophet Muhammad, who is explicitly addressed in the sequence, and are meant to stress - as the Quran so often does - the fact of his and all other apostles' humanness.

I don't necessarily agree with him since Quran was supposed to have been in the Qureshi dialect and not Tayy dialect. That would have made the Quran Yemeni!

Many non-Muslim readers of the Quran claim that Ya'Sin refers to the god Sin (meaning wisdom) which was a very common idol worshipped in Mecca having being brought there from Iraq (Sin is a Sumerian name). Interesting bit there. In fact, I once read somewhere an Arabic atheist explaining each of al-muqattaat (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muqatta%27at) as referring to an idol. For example, Alif Laam Meem to Alif (Allat), Laam (Lat), and Meem (Manat). He explained that no one knows what they mean because no one *wants* to accept they refer to names of idols.

According to him the Prophet kept trying to compromise with the pagans by referring to their gods through these letters. He noted that all these surahs that begin with Muqattaat are Meccan surahs when the Prophet still had hope that the pagans would accept him and he stopped using these letters once he gained power in Medina and didn't need pagan support.

Just a *different* way of looking at history.

Susanne said...

Suroor, wow, that IS a different way to look at history...hmmm. I did see the letters on a number of suras, but I just tried to say them and didn't think much about questioning why they were there. But I'm glad you spoke up about it. :)

What is your understanding of my question about Ishmael? Did I not understand the verse and what it was saying?

Loved your comment. Many thanks!

Suroor said...

Yes, it is a different if odd way of looking at the letters. Apparently, the Prophet's cousin explained YaSin as the Sin being a name of Allah. That is what a commenter on my Quran blog said but I can't verify that.

Regrading Ishmael, do you remember I once asked the same question on my old blog? In Islam Ishmael was a prophet and he was Arab and preached there with a revealtion. What happened to all of that? Don't know. But then you know that I don't believe Ishmael was ever in Mecca :-) So, I believe that the Quran is right that Arabs never had a messenger or book before the Prophet and his Quran.

Susanne said...

Suroor, thanks for answering me. I agree with what you said. I don't think of Ishmael as a prophet, but since Muslims DO then why do they not question this most basic thing? Or maybe details like this aren't important and I am being too picky?

Another name for Allah may be "Sin"? Interesting thought.

I appreciate your help!

Sarira said...

Susanne, I am so behind on your blog I almost didn't want to open it, lol. (I saw your new post, too, about the Prophets ;). I hope to get to that),

but since I have like zero time, rather than 'ignoring everything', I thought I would answer something very very quickly that caught my eye that I had previously explained to a person (so basically I am copy pasting something I wrote once on a collobarative blog :P)

I didn't follow who these people were or the messengers sent since no proper names were given. Maybe it was more of a parable with a lesson about people who accept or reject the message of God.

What we are supposed to learn from this part is the importance of pro-activeness in Islam.

This village ALREADY had 3 Prophets sent to them. 3 Messengers. Most of us would take that as an excuse not to 'get up ourselves and preach the Message'. Most of us would just accept that

Yet, one man, didn't. He refused to give up. He felt compelled to try again- to tell them the message:

Allah says, “Then there came running, from the farthest part of the City, a man, saying, ‘O my people! Obey the apostles. Obey those who ask no reward of you (for themselves), and who have themselves received Guidance’.” (36:20,21).

This man didn't sit down and say 'Dude, this is not my duty. These people are doomed". He went running to them, asking them again to believe. He tried to demonstrate the logic in that the apostles weren't asking for any wage/or recompensation.

He refused to sit down and do nothing. He took charge even though apostles had been sent. He 'grabbed the oars' and tried his best to (in his view) save his village by encouraging them to believe.

Because he did that, his story is immortalized. His is an example that even us- lowly us- can invite people to God, can work for God, can serve Him.

Not only can we, but we SHOULD. We have no excuse. Again, that village had 3 prophets sent--

It's similar to the story of the Hoodhood in Soloman's story. You already read that part, right? I'm pretty sure I missed that post. The hoopoe, a bird, who traveled far took a pro-active measure and wanted to correct a Queen and her people.

Allah says “But the Hoopoe tarried not far: he (came up to Solomon and) said: “I have compassed (territory) which you have not compassed , and I have come to you from Sheba with tidings true.”

“Behold, I found there a woman ruling over them; and she has been given [abundance] of all [good] things, and hers is a mighty throne,

27:24 “I found her and her people worshipping the sun besides Allah. Satan has made their deeds seem pleasing in their eyes, and has kept them away from the Path,- so they receive no guidance,

27:25 So that they worship not Allah, Who bringeth forth the hidden in the heavens and the earth, and knoweth what ye hide and what ye proclaim...

This mere bird went off by himself and found this people...And that is how Sulyman (Alyhee as salam) invited the Queen to Islam—and how eventually, they all became Muslim.

Again, we are being told to be pro-active and not passive. It doesn't matter if 3 prophets have been sent or one is with us, right now (Soloman), we can still each of us do something....

No matter how tiny we are ;)

Susanne said...

Sarira, welcome back! It's fine that you are behind. I have been a posting machine and it's hard to keep up. Just jump in if/when you want and I'll be sure to enjoy reading whatever you have to share. :) Thanks much for taking time to share the meaning of the story I asked about. That has a great message about being proactive and how God can work through even "tiny" us. :) I appreciate your taking time to share that!

Durriyyah said...

Whew, well, I'm taking your invitation to comment on old posts! :P

36:6 - Yes, Muslims do believe that Ishmael (pbuh) is a prophet… the question you ask though could be asked for all prophets since we all come from Adam, right? I'm thinking that the time is so far off that it is as if these people did not receive revelation at all.

36:10 - I don't understand how you are reading that this means God means for them to be in spiritual darkness. (I hope that doesn't sound direct/mean/rude… it isn't intended that way.) It states that these people do not want to believe and will do anything to keep themselves that way. It is sad, but I know people like this today. I think people think that if they deny the Truth, they are not responsible for it, but God knows what is in their hearts.

36:13 - This is a parable, so we don't take this as a historical event. Also, it talks about two groups of people - the Messengers, and the people they are preaching to - and it is showing how the message is strengthened by another man coming and proclaiming that it is true, but the people do not listen and instead stay in their ways they are comfortable in, not allowing the possibility that they could be in error.

36:47 - It is funny (or not) how people play the predestination card in order to get out of what they don't want to do. In this case, it is giving in charity. The people are saying "why should we give charity if God didn't grant them the ability to get food themselves?" But I'm sure if we were able to read their hearts, we would see that they don't want to part with their all-so-precious money.

Susanne said...

Durriyyah, welcome back! I missed reading your thoughts lately and of course I want you to read old posts and leave comments! I get them by e-mail so old posts comments and topics are perfectly fine! Just read and post as time and inclination allows. I was thinking of you yesterday and hoping you were OK so it was very nice that God sent you back to let me know you were! :)

36:6 -- Well, I read it to mean Arabs and *ancestors* are mentioned so I figured if Ishmael were supposed to be an Arab ancestor then he would have been a prophet to them. That would mean Muhammad wasn't the first as the Quran says here. Maybe I read it too literally.

36:10 -- OK, I see your point of view. I was reading it along with verses 8 and 9 which seemed as if God were bounding and blinding them and then saying in v. 10 that no matter if you want to warn them, you cannot. But I maybe didn't read it right. Thank you!

So true what you said about how people "play the predestination card." That also struck me as a bit amusing! :)

I greatly appreciate your comments. I promise to get to them all, Lord willing, but I have to go somewhere for a few hours now. Keep commenting as you wish though. Great to see you again! I hope you and your daughter are enjoying the summer and her lessons are going well! :)