The Qur’an (part 7 of 10)

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The latest set of suras contains some new and possibly original (i.e., non-Biblical) material. Most of this material comes in the form of parables, many of which do not have a particularly cohesive structure or clear message.

At least, that’s my opinion. You can judge for yourself in the sura-by-sura summary:

========== sura 18

  • God has never had a child.
  • A rather odd story is told here. Some young people (and their dog) were placed in a cave, and made to go to sleep for about 300 hundred years. When they awoke, they could not tell how long they had been there. It was decided that one of them should leave to buy food at the village. However, they knew that caution would be required lest the villagers tried to coerce them into following their “cult”.

The people were made aware of this story, which supposedly demonstrates that there is no doubt about the Hour of Judgment. Some wanted to construct a building over the people of the cave, others wanted to build a place of worship over them.

This story, which ends abruptly after some speculation about the precise number of young people in the cave (excluding the dog) and the length of time they were asleep, once again makes me wonder about the sanity of the author.

  • The sura immediately continues with the usual threats to unbelievers.
  • We are then offered a parable (and this one makes more sense): there are two men, one of whom has productive farmland and high respect among his peers, and another who does not. The first man brags about his success to the second man. But the second man replies that worshiping Allah is the only important thing, and leads to greater reward than mere farmland. The first man’s farm then goes into ruin, and he regrets being so arrogant. The message is that good deeds endure, while material riches do not.
  • A repeat of the story in which Satan refuses to bow down to Adam.
  • Next is an unusual story involving Moses and a servant of Allah. It comes on the heels of an unintelligible description of Moses’ Fish escaping into the sea – I won’t try to explain it.

The story goes thusly: Moses accompanies the servant of Allah, and is told to have patience, and not to object to what he sees. However, three things happen that Moses objects to: the servant deliberately sinks the boat they are in, he slays a young man, and he fixes a wall owned by people who have just denied them hospitality.

The servant offers these explanations for his deeds: the boat was scuttled because it was being chased by a king who takes all boats by force; the young man was killed to prevent him from shaming his parents by practicing false religion; the wall was repaired because it had collapsed on some buried treasure rightfully belonging to two orphan boys.

No further explanation or justification is given for this story. Instead, the narrative moves directly into a new story. In this one, Allah gives great powers to a man called Zul-qarnain. Zul-qarnain journeys in one direction, and sees the sun setting in a murky spring. He promises to punish the unbelievers and reward the believers living there. He then journeys in another direction and comes to a deep ravine. The people there are complaining of the evil deeds of the Gog and Magog (see Revelation), and wish to have a barrier erected between themselves and these sinners. Zul-qarnain helps them build an iron barrier, but he warns them that it will eventually fall.

  • The sura ends with more warnings to unbelievers, and then a rather beautiful metaphor. It is said that if all the oceans were ink, there would not be enough to write the words of the Lord.

========== sura 16

  • Allah has created all things.
  • Threats to unbelievers.
  • More than one reference to apostles that were sent down and rejected.
  • Two short parables are introduced. In the first, we have two men. One man is a slave under the second man. The second man has been bestowed with favors from Allah, and he “spends freely thereof”. The parable claims that the two men are not equal, but we are not told which one is better than the other. (Surely the parable isn’t claiming that masters are inherently better than slaves?)
  • In the second parable, there are also two men. One is “dumb”, and a “wearisome burden” to his master. The master is one who commands justice and is on a “Straight Way”. The parable ends by asking if the two men are equal.
  • Allah has created all things.
  • No mercy will be taken on unbelievers.
  • Apostates are, for the first time in my recollection, mentioned: they are warned of the “wrath” of Allah.
  • A lovely little parable about a city is told: the city is prosperous and peaceful, but its people do not show gratitude for Allah’s favor. So he visits extremes of hunger and terror on it. (Such a nice guy!)
  • Dead meat is forbidden, as are blood and pork. Also forbidden are foods which followers of other religions have prayed over. These restrictions will not be strictly enforced in times of great need.
  • Allah is with those who “restrain themselves”, “do good”, and “have patience”.

========== sura 71

A retelling of the Noah story.

========== sura 14

  • Another account of Allah’s messengers who have been rejected.
  • The usual threats to unbelievers.
  • There are a few one-line parables comparing unbelievers to ash blown in the wind, comparing evil words to uprooted trees, etc.
  • Another call to establish regular prayer.

========== sura 21

  • More finger-wagging at nonbelievers.
  • Previous apostles, rejected by the people, are mentioned again.
  • More warnings to unbelievers.

========== sura 23

  • Extramarital sex is forbidden.
  • The most graphic description of the gestation process thus far is provided: “Then We made the sperm into a clot of congealed blood; then of that clot We made a (foetus) lump; then we made out of that lump bones and clothed the bones with flesh; then we developed out of it another creature. So blessed be Allah, the best to create!”
  • Yet another repeat of the Noah’s ark story.
  • The usual stuff about the apostles sent with Allah’s message, and rejected by their people.
  • Unbelievers are berated and chastised in the usual way.
  • Allah had no son.

========== sura 32

  • Allah has created everything, and rules over it all.
  • The usual threats of violence to unbelievers.

========== sura 52

  • Description of Judgment Day.
  • Threats to believers and promises of luxurious living to the faithful.

========== sura 67

  • Threats and warnings to unbelievers.
  • Allah created everything, and is all powerful.

========== sura 69

  • A recounting of all the people destroyed by Allah.
  • Description of Judgment Day.
  • Threats of violence to unbelievers.

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