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

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Notes on Quran - Sura 37

Sura 37 - As-Saffat

I liked this sura as it had many interesting tales. It speaks some of God's power and "those who stand arrayed in rows" (vs. 1). Beginning in verse 41, I read some of the "goodies" of heaven -reclining on couches in a delightful garden, drinking a "clear, delicious drink" (vs. 46) with lovely maidens lounging nearby. I learned of a tree in hell, Zaqqum, which is filled with prickly fruit for the unbelievers who can eat their fill and then wash it down with boiling water (vs. 67). This was new to me so I found it interesting as I read.

Later I read of Noah, Moses, Aaron and Lot briefly and more about Abraham's story. About Abraham I see him challenging his idolatrous family who later decide to put Abraham in the fire. I suppose to purify him from his slander against the family idols. Abraham later prays for a righteous son and God gives him Isaac. Somewhat like the Biblical story God put Abraham's loyalties to the test by asking Abraham to sacrifice his son! God had earlier promised Abraham that his descendants would be vast, yet Abraham was childless until he and his wife, Sarah, were very old. When finally the promised child, Isaac, was born, God wanted to see if Abraham was willing to give him up. Could Abraham trust God with his beloved child? One, in fact, promised and finally given by God?

Surely Abraham had some questions, but as a man of faith perhaps he knew God could raise his son to live again. Because Abraham knew God has said his seed would be many and that the son of Sarah was the child of the promise so . . . What faith Abraham displayed in his willingness to follow through with this bizarre command! Did God want to see if Abraham loved Him or Isaac more? Did God want to give us an example of a faith-filled person --one who trusted Him so much that he (Abe) was willing to sacrifice the long-awaited son? Perhaps God's wasn't being cruel by His commanding Abraham to do this as much as He was showing us that we can trust our children with Him. That even when it seems He requires us to do bizarre things such as offer our children to Him, He is faithful. He is in control. He will work out the details.

Like with Abraham and Isaac.

Abraham was willing to trust God and set out to offer his son to his Lord. God saw Abraham's faith and stopped him.

Here is the full biblical version for those interested -- Genesis 22

1 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!"
"Here I am," he replied.

2 Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about."

3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, "Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you."

6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, "Father?"
"Yes, my son?" Abraham replied.
"The fire and wood are here," Isaac said, "but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?"

8 Abraham answered, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." And the two of them went on together.

9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, "Abraham! Abraham!"
"Here I am," he replied.

12 "Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son."

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, "On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided."

15 The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, "I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me."

I was also happy to see Elijah (Elias) mentioned in this sura! I love the story of Elijah as he confronted the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel! The Quran doesn't give a lot of details - or hasn't so far - so if you don't know the story you should read it. There are other wonderful Elijah stories as well!

It was also good to see a bit more of Jonah's story even though it was just a brief sketch compared to the Bible's version which is told in a few chapters in the book of Jonah. You should read the whole story of Jonah as well.


Suroor said...

I love Jonah''s story. It is so mesmerising. Thanks for this post, Susie!

Susanne said...

And thank you for reading, Sweet Suroor! :)

Anonymous said...

I've to read all that bibilical stories to understand more about the prophets briefly described in Quran.Most muslims don't do that.They are only interested in the prophet Muhd and the others are sidelined! Not fair! :)

Susanne said...

Lat, I wish more people thought like you. I think it's good to read the biblical accounts if nothing more than to see how the prophets are portrayed in a book read by many many people over the centuries. :)

Thanks for your comment!

Durriyyah said...

37:101 - Muslims actually understand this to be Ishmael, and not Isaac. Even in the Biblical account we are told that Ishmael was the first born (Gen 16) and that his name means "God has heard" as in "God has heard your prayer". Now, it depends on what Bible you have whether it says that Hagar was his wife or concubine. The majority of the Bibles I have at home say wife. In the Christian circles I find myself in, this seems to be a large problem for them and it gives many people the idea that Islam is based on Ishmael, or "the religion of Ishmael", as I've heard. This is not the case. I think the motivation, at least with the people that surround me, is the love for current day Israel and the belief that it is this dark, ancient, engendered jealousy that dates back to Isaac and Ishmael. So, with that said, maybe this isn't a big deal to you. It seems to be paramount to those around me though.

Now, in the Biblical account of this story, the ages of the boys become unclear when we look at the descriptions given. When we read the description of Hagar being cast into the desert, Ishmael would have to be a teenager, roughly 17. Yet, Abraham "took break and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder along with the child" (Gen 21:14). In the notes from the Anchor Bible Vol. 1 p. 155 it says "…the real problem is Ishmael's age at the time… his mother would not have carried him… The various emendations that have been proposed merely substitute one set of problems for another. An acceptable solution has yet to be discovered."

In the next verse, we are told that "she cast the child under one of the shrubs."

In verse 17 it says the angel commands Hagar "Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand;" (all verses quoted from RSV)

There's further notes in regards to Abraham's family, but I'll leave it at this, unless requested otherwise.

Now, I don't have the very original transcripts in my hands, nor do I claim to know exactly what happened there. My point with this is to open discussion or thoughts on the texts available to us. If we state that the Bible has mistakes because of a slip of the hand from the copy writers, what areas do we count as fact, and what areas do we say "God knows best", or further, discard?

Susanne said...

Durriyyah, yeah, I no Muslims often say Ishmael, but from my understanding not all do nor did the earliest Muslim scholars. I think it's innovation that came about later that claimed Ishmael as that son. The Quran doesn't say his name in regard to the sacrifice. The Bible does. The Quran DOES say to get understanding from the Jews and Christians who have the prior books. Remember Quran is a reminder so it's like cliff notes or reading a book jacket cover instead of the full novel.

But thanks for what you shared. I've read most of that before and found it all interesting, but I still think Abraham was supposed to sacrifice the child of the promise/covenant which was by his wife, Sarah.

Hagar was his wife's slave whom he married (per Sarah's suggestion) and Ishmael was not the promised child. I don't think people debate this point.

Enjoyed your comment - thanks!