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

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Notes on Quran - Sura 43 & 44

Sura 43 - Az-Zukhruf

2. I call to witness the lucent Book, 3. That We made it a distinctly lucid Qur'an that you may understand.

While I agree the Quran's message is fairly simple, understanding it in Arabic (as some scholars want) is not as easy for non-Arabic speakers. I often hear of non-Arab Muslims who memorize passages of the Quran yet don't really understand what they are learning. Um, what good is a message if you can't understand it? How can they be life-changing words if they are not comprehended?

16. Or has He taken from those He has created daughters for Himself, and assigned sons to you?  17. Yet when news of (a daughter) they had reserved for Ar-Rahman comes to one of them, his face is blackened (with shame), and he grieves in silence inwardly.

It's really sad when a so-called holy book uses having daughters as an example of something lowly and shameful. :-(

32. Are they the ones who dispense the favour of your Lord? It is He who apportions the means of livelihood among them in this world, and raises some in position over the others to make some others submissive. The favours of your Lord are better than what they amass.

So this shows clearly that GOD is the one who puts us in positions of power or submission. So why fight our lots in life to become more powerful?

I enjoyed the story of Moses and Pharoah and clearly understood the people of Egypt as "a precedent and example for posterity." (vs. 56)

59. (Jesus) was only a creature whom We favoured and made an example for the children of Israel.

61.  He is certainly the sign of the Hour (of change). So have no doubt about it, and listen to me. This is the straight path.

63. When Jesus came with the signs, he said: "I have come to you with authority, and to explain some thing about which you are at variance. So fear God, and follow me.  64. Verily God is my Lord and your Lord; so worship Him. This is the straight path."

What does being "the sign of the Hour" mean?

I read again about people entering Paradise and having everything that pleases them. My nephew Michael has a friend named Malik so it was neat seeing his name and that he was the gatekeeper of hell (vs. 77).

86. Those they invoke apart from Him have no power of intercession, except those who testify to the truth and have knowledge.

Well, Jesus came with truth and knowledge and the Bible declared him our intercessor so I will stick with him over other intercessors including the angels.

Sura 44 -- Ad-Dukhan

One part of this sura mentions God saving the children of Israel from Pharoah.

32. And We exalted them over the other people knowingly,  33. And sent them tokens to bring out the best in them.

Like the Bible, the Quran notes that God chose the Israelites over other people. I wasn't sure about the "tokens" sent to "bring out the best in them" however. But maybe that is answered in sura 45 which also mentions the Israelites.

38. We have not created the heavens and the earth and all that lies between them, out of play.  39. We created them with definite purpose; but most of them do not understand.

It seems God wants to reiterate the fact that the earth wasn't created merely for all fun and games. He had a purpose in it.

I read more details of the tree of hell and the treatment of those there which included scalding water being poured on their heads! By contrast and as we would expect heaven is wonderful. So I was reading and contrasting the two, visualizing the two extremes and then these verses conclude the sura:

57. By the beneficence of your Lord. This will be the great success. 58. Therefore We have made this (Qur'an) easy in your tongue. They may haply take a warning.  59. So you wait. They are also waiting.

So the great success is heaven which is made easy for followers of the Quran since it's in their tongue. But what about those who argue the Quran needs to be read in Arabic? Is the power of the Quran in the Arabic language? Is it because it has some aesthetic beauty and loses its power, luster, hypnotic draw when not recited in Arabic? To me God's message has power regardless of the language because God's message is universal. It doesn't lose its control and power simply because it is translated, written and spoken in a language other people can understand. So I find these verses true only for those who speak Arabic and even so those who speak the Arabic dialect of the Quran which, I understand, is quite different than some Arabs speak in this day.

And what's with verse 59 and the waiting? It sounds so ominous. Like some sort of showdown at dawn. :)


Sarira said...

Susanne :) I'll be back for a more detailed ansswer but obviously I have to comment on this:

[b]17. Yet when news of (a daughter) they had reserved for Ar-Rahman comes to one of them, his face is blackened (with shame), and he grieves in silence inwardly.
This is not saying that people should be ashamed of having girls!! This was speaking of the 'strange' contradiction of the Arab Pagans. You see, they claimed to worship Allah or ArRahman (the Most Merciful) but they assigned Him 3 'daughters' who were angles. They had carved out their images as females, and these were their goddesses whom they worshiped.

Why is this strange?

This is strange because at the very same time, they were ashamed themselves of having daughters. Often, if their wives gave birth to daughters, they would practice a barbaric custom- infactide, which the Qura'an clearly condemmned.

Remember, in Surah 16, it is described more:
When news is brought to one of them, of (the Birth of) a female (child), his face darkens and he is filled with inward grief! With shame does he hide himself from his people because of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain her on (sufferance) and contempt, or bury her in the dust? Ah! What an evil (choice) they decide on? (Qur'an 16: 58-59)


And when the girl [who was] buried alive is asked (8) For what sin she was killed (Surat Al Takweer)

This verse is a complete threat and also shows complete justice. The girls who were not allowed to have a voice in this world will have one in the Next, and those who thought they had a right 'to be', won't even be addressed. God will ignore them completely!

As for what the Qur'an actually says of women:

The Quran clearly tells us in many ayahs that men and women are equal in the sight of God, created from a single soul (Adam).

"O Mankind, keep your duty to your Lord who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate (of same kind) and from them twain has spread a multitude of men and women" (Qur'an 4: 1).

He (God) it is who did create you from a single soul and therefrom did create his mate, that he might dwell with her (in love)...(Qur'an 7:189)

Since both are considered equal, both are responsible for their actions and will be justly rewarded.

Whoever works righteousness, man or woman, and has faith, verily to him will We give a new life that is good and pure, and We will bestow on such their reward according to the their actions. (Qur'an 16:97, see also 4:124).

Btw, many 'tend to leave this hadiht out', but the Prophet described that men and women as SIBLINGS.

And so, verse 17, was only describing their situation, not ordering others to do that. It was basically reprimanding them for making up their own religion- at least, if they wanted their religion to make sense they should have 'loved to have daughter's themselves, right'. It was all just nonsense.

Sarira said...

I often hear of non-Arab Muslims who memorize passages of the Quran yet don't really understand what they are learning. Um, what good is a message if you can't understand it? How can they be life-changing words if they are not comprehended?

Definitely that is true. That is why many scholars actually don’t just encourage people to ‘memorize’ the Arabic words but to actually learn the Arabic language. It’s not necessarily an easy task but the purpose is for the person to read Allah’s words directly, rather than relying on an interpretation. Like yesterday in that verse that you pointed out about singing- I noticed that the translator wrote ‘sing’, but from my studies of Arabic, I know the Arabic word used in the verse isn’t actually ‘the English sing’. This is why they tell us not to take a translator’s words as God’s words, but to accept them only ‘translated’ meanings. If we want to read His words directly, then a little effort may be required to learn Arabic and read the actual words ;) (In fact, the “Jesus verse you’re asking about is also a matter of translation.)

The way I have always understood this verse and the many ones like it though is the Qur’an is very clear in terms of the fundamental creed. You walk away and there is no doubt that we believe God is One and that Prophet Mohammed was sent as the final Messenger to mankind and that we should follow this example. Its creed can be understood by a 5 year old non-Arab. There is no ‘rocket science’ needed- no ‘riddles’ to be interpreted.

The fact is we don’t have many different ‘denominations’ of Islam because to us the Qur’an is rather clear. However, in other religions, Hinduism, even Christianity as far as I have understood, there exist a number of denominations because of disagreements over the interpretation of Scripture.

What does being "the sign of the Hour" mean?
First, I would translate it as ‘A’ sign of the Hour, not “the”, sign of the hour.

Second, I understand it to mean that Prophet Jesus' birth without a father and his making a bird out of clay and his raising the dead back to life has been presented as a proof of the possibility of Resurrection/of the Hour actually coming. Second, we also believe and it has been recorded in numerous hadiths that when Prophet Jesus comes again (his second coming), there will be little time left for the Hour. Thus, Prophet Jesus and his second coming is one of the Major Signs of the Hour.

Oooo, and about Moosa and Pharaoh, I just wanted to say one thing cause I always thought- the irony of it all.

Did you notice how Pharoah said: O my people: Is not the kingdom of Egypt mine? And are not these rivers flowing beneath me? In the end, he ends up being drowned by the very thing he claimed to be under his control (rivers).

I read again about people entering Paradise and having everything that pleases them. My nephew Michael has a friend named Malik so it was neat seeing his name and that he was the gatekeeper of hell (vs. 77).

LOL, I laughed at this!!! Suzy, your nephew’s friend’s name is probably not the gatekeeper of hell, hehehe! Malik depending on how it is pronounced and spelled can also mean ‘sovereign’, ‘king’, ‘owner’ which is rather a common name :D Gatekeeper of hell is not a common name ;) [Btw, Allah is AL Malik. Meaning “THE Sovereign, The Real and Only Owner.]


InshaAllah I'll be back for the other surah ;0

Suroor said...

Interesting questions, Susanne. I see that Sarira has provided excellent answers to your questions.

In a lot of countries now memorization of the Quran is being discouraged. Instead the focus is now being placed on reflecting upon the Quran. This would be easy for Arabic speakers, like you pointed out. There are 1.2 billion Muslims and Arabs are actually just a minority. Majority of Muslims are also not rich enough to study Quranic Arabic. Even modern Arabic speakers can't always understand it. I have myself met and heard Arabs who don't consider Egyptians or Syrians or even Palestinians as "Arab" people. I have had people tell me to my face that Egyptians speak "wrong Arabic and so they can't know what Quran means"."I think it is all a matter of claim over the religion. Everyone wants to be the only one to know exactly what God is saying :D

Susanne said...

Sarira, thanks for the explanation about the daughters! :) Since I knew how much sons were prized over daughters even now (or so it seems) I thought maybe Muslims got this justification from their holy book and I found it shocking and sad. But I see I just wrongly read those verses. *whew!* :)

Thanks also for what you shared about learning Arabic in order to understand the Quran. Interesting. I think of it more in these terms:

"The first Wycliffe Bible Translators was founded in 1942 by William Cameron Townsend. A missionary to the Cakchiquel Indians of Guatemala, Townsend had caught the vision for translation when a Cakchiquel man challenged him: “If your God is so great, why doesn’t He speak in my language?” The challenge still rings today."

And I agree. If God is so great, why does He not talk to me in my language? Why Arabic? And an old dialect at that? God is greater than one language and He can speak to me - in fact He does speak to me - even in my southern-accent American English!

Glad I made you laugh with my comment about Malik. I didn't mean that his name meant "gatekeeper of hell" only that it was his job according to that sura. :-P

Thanks much for your thorough answers. You were very helpful! :)

Susanne said...

Suroor, great comment. I remember even the young Naz who commented here a few times said she had a hard time understanding Quranic Arabic. I got the impression she relied on commentators since it was a bit of a struggle for her. (I think she is Somali.)

""I think it is all a matter of claim over the religion. Everyone wants to be the only one to know exactly what God is saying :D"

Yeah, I know. I've been pondering lately more on this aspect. It's rather dangerous to put our eternal destinations in the thoughts/opinions/interpretations of men and women. Years ago the Catholic church wanted to keep the Bible in Latin which the common people didn't understand. They wanted to control what the people learned and heard from Scripture. Maybe they wanted to spoon-feed the people and make them dependent on them. For sure this meant lots of control for the priests if you have to rely on your spiritual leaders to know what God desires.

This is why I am so adamant about God's message being translatable! Why I strongly reject the notion that God can ONLY truly speak to mankind in Quarish-dialect Arabic language. Some people are merely surviving so how in the world are they going to have the time, money, energy to go learn an old Arabic dialect well enough so they can *hopefully* see what the heck God wanted them to know?!

This is Arabic people wanting to keep God in a box.Their box. So they can dictate to the masses what God wants. It's all about control, control, control. You see that strongly in Islam with the control it has over EVERY SINGLE DETAIL of people's lives. It's alllllllll about controlling your wallet, your dress, your sex lives, your children, your inheritance, your food choices, your cleanliness, your grooming habits, your entering a bathroom, your family relationships, your silly expressions (even nonArabs saying "maashallah" and all that stuff). It's suffocating! No wonder the Middle East is often in such turmoil. You put people in a pressure cooker where every detail is governed and you make them fear with threats of angels sitting there on your shoulders recording your deeds then why NOT feel stressed to the point of breaking? Fear produces a lot of stress! And the Quran - while it does have some nice verses about praise to God - mostly is the same message over and over and over again. Muhammad isn't a liar, a sorcerer, a poet so believe him. And if you don't, dang it, you will roast in hell, eat prickly fruit and drink boiling water! There is no real message of the power GOD can give you - is offering you freely to help you do things that are pleasing to Him.

Anyway, I digress. Guess I had a lot on my mind this morning.

Thanks for your comment! It always encourages me to read your feedback. :)