This latest set of suras has produced a small amount of new material buried among the constant warnings to unbelievers and the repetitive reproductions of certain parts of the Bible.
At one point, I got quite excited about what appeared to be a completely original story, until I realized that it was a slightly tweaked version of the Queen of Sheba narrative that appears in First Kings.
Furthermore, we have a set of laws concerning behavior that has not appeared in the Qur’an until now.
Here’s a sura-by-sura overview:
========== sura 56
Everyone, on the day of Judgment will be put into one of three classes:
1. Those at the right hand (of what, we are not told). These will make up the main population of heaven, with access to fruit, rivers, and virgin “companions”.
2. The foremost (in faith). These will be the creme of the crop, and will consume fruit, chicken, and wine from the comfort of gold and jewel-encrusted thrones. They too will have virgin “companions”.
3. Those at the left hand. These will be condemned to fire, boiling water (which they’ll have to drink), and black smoke. Obviously they won’t have any young “companions”.
More arguments about the evidence of Allah in creation, and warnings for those who don’t acknowledge such signs.
========== sura 26
- A repeat of Moses’ talk with Pharaoh, in which he tries to convince him that he is not a madman or sorcerer.
- Magic tricks are performed, and Pharaoh’s sorcerers are amazed at Moses’ powers.
- The red sea is parted.
- More warnings to unbelievers.
- Another recounting of Noah and his ark.
- More warnings to unbelievers, in the form of further repetition of messengers who have been rejected by their people.
========== sura 27
- Another recounting of Moses and the burning bush.
- Finally, we have a somewhat new story – not altogether new, because much of it is in the Bible, but it has some additions. It is the story of the Queen of Sheba, based on the narrative in 1 Kings 10. Here’s the summary:
Solomon marshals all birds to his army (along with men and Jinn). Except, the hoopoes are missing.
But after a while, along the hoopoes come, and they bring tidings of a place called Saba, where a woman on a throne is leading her people in worship, but not to Allah. So, Solomon sends the hoopoes back to the queen with a message.
The message commands her to come to him and submit to Allah. She decides against responding with force, and instead sends Solomon a gift. When Solomon receives the gift, he declares that what Allah has given him is far greater than any gift. Solomon decides to invade Saba, and he sends an appropriate message back to the queen.
In the meantime, Solomon asks if anyone can bring him the queen’s throne before they invade. One of the Jinns works his magic, and the throne appears before Solomon in an instant. Then, the queen arrives at Solomon’s place, sees her own throne there, and agrees that this is a sign that Allah is the one true God.
Solomon invites the queen into his Palace. She mistakes the smoothly polished stones for water, and raises her skirt to avoid getting wet. Embarrassment ensues.
- After this story, there is a rather sudden switch to material that has appeared a number of times already: the account of messengers who have been rejected by their people.
- The sura closes with the usual warnings of the apocalypse.
========== sura 28
- Another recounting of the life story of Moses, and his interactions with Pharaoh.
- General discussion about how everything comes from Allah.
========== sura 17
- Threats of punishment to the sinful.
- A nice little discussion of the methods of punishment, for instance “When We decide to destroy a population, We (first) send a definite order to those among them who are given the good things of this life and yet transgress; so that the word is proved true against them: then (it is), We destroy them utterly.” And, “There is not a population but We shall destroy it before the Day of Judgment or punish it with a dreadful Penalty: that is written in the (eternal) Record.”
There are several moral commands:
- Honour your parents.
- Don’t squander your wealth, but give to your family what they deserve. Give also to the needy and the “wayfarer”.
- Don’t be miserly either.
- Don’t kill your children just because you can’t afford them (this one’s for you, Hansel and Gretel’s mom!)
- Do not commit adultery or murder.
- Don’t steal from orphans.
- Be fair in business dealings.
- I’m not sure I understand this one: “pursue not that of which thou hast no knowledge”. Does that mean we shouldn’t become educated?
- Don’t be insolent.
- Don’t worship other gods.
There are seven heavens, apparently.
Establish regular prayers at sundown and in the morning. Make additional prayers in the “small watches” of the morning – the wee hours, perhaps? Don’t pray too softly or too loudly.
More choice words for unbelievers: “On the Day of Judgment We shall gather, them together, prone on their faces, blind, dumb, and deaf: their abode will be Hell; every time it shows abatement, We shall increase from them the fierceness of the Fire.”
========== sura 10
- Unbelievers ignore all the obvious signs of Allah. They are insolent and will burn in hell.
- The Qur’an blows its own trumpet.
- Jesus is not the son of Allah.
- Yet another repeat of the travails of Moses and Pharaoh.