Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sura 25 - The Criterion (of right and wrong)

The title of this sura comes from a word in verse 1

Date, Context and Theme

The Islamic scholars say it is a middle period Meccan sura and it certainly is dealing with issues from that period. The structure seems based around answering the objections that the Meccans have to Muhammad. It is an encouragement to Muslims and Muhammad to continue, and a warning of hell for those who reject Muhammad. It is very similar to many of the previous sura on this subject.


vv. 1-3 Blessed be Allah who gives the Qur’an and is the only lord, but the unbelievers ascribe him partners and do not listen to the Qur’an or Muhammad.

Vv. 4-9 The Meccan objections to Muhammad outlined.

* Vv. 10-19 They will burn in hell. Judgement described.

* Vv. 20- 21 The objections of the Meccans are answered.

* Vv. 22-29 The unbelievers will be punished and the believers rewarded.

Vv. 30-44 Another objection Meccan to Muhammad. This leads into the example of Moses, Aaron, Noah, and other destructions that Allah has brought and are now a warning.

Vv. 45-55 Look at the cycles of life that Allah has made in the world. Look at what Allah has created yet they do not serve him.

Vv. 56-77 Persevere in your task Muhammad, and faithful Muslim.

What I found interesting.

1. What are the Meccan objections?
Those who disbelieve say: This is naught but a lie that he hath invented, and other folk have helped him with it, so that they have produced a slander and a lie. And they say: Fables of the men of old which he hath had written down so that they are dictated to him morn and evening. 25:4-5

And they say: What aileth this messenger (of Allah) that he eateth food and walketh in the markets? Why is not an angel sent down unto him, to be a warner with him. Or (why is not) treasure thrown down unto him, or why hath he not a paradise from whence to eat? And the evil-doers say: Ye are but following a man bewitched. 25:7-8

And those who look not for a meeting with Us say: Why are angels not sent down unto us and (Why) do we not see our Lord! Assuredly they think too highly of themselves and are scornful with great pride. 25:21

And those who disbelieve say: Why is the Qur'an not revealed unto him all at once? (It is revealed) thus that We may strengthen thy heart therewith; and We have arranged it in right order. 25:32

While Muhammad has not been able to provide any evidence to answer their objections he does point them to creation as evidence of God’s power. Vv. 45-55.

2. The Meccans have been rejecting the Qur’an.
And the messenger saith: O my Lord! Lo! mine own folk make this Qur'an of no account. 25:30

Then We said: Go together unto the folk who have denied Our revelations. Then We destroyed them, a complete destruction. 25:36

And those who, when they are reminded of the revelations of their Lord, fall not deaf and blind thereat. ... They will be awarded the high place forasmuch as they were steadfast, and they will meet therein with welcome and the ward of peace, 25:73-75

3. I thought that this verse,
Hast thou seen him who chooseth for his god his own lust? Wouldst thou then be guardian over him? 25:43

was interesting in view of the Satanic Verses.

4. The descriptions of Allah’s power as creator reveal a lot of the Qur’an’s cosmology.
Hast thou not seen how thy Lord hath spread the shade - And if He willed He could have made it still - then We have made the sun its pilot; Then We withdraw it unto Us, a gradual withdrawal? 25:45-46

And He it is Who hath given independence to the two seas (though they meet); one palatable, sweet, and the other saltish, bitter; and hath set a bar and a forbidding ban between them. And He it is Who hath created man from water, and hath appointed for him kindred by blood and kindred by marriage; for thy Lord is ever Powerful. 25:53-54

Who created the heavens and the earth and all that is between them in six Days, then He mounted the Throne. The Beneficent! Ask anyone informed concerning Him! 25:59

5. Allah does not die

And trust thou in the Living One Who dieth not, and hymn His praise. He sufficeth as the Knower of His bondmen's sins, 25:58

6. As mentioned at the start this is a Meccan sura, dealing with Meccan issues, yet some Islamic sholars say that vv. 68-70 are from the Medinan period.
And those who cry not unto any other god along with Allah, nor take the life which Allah hath forbidden save in (course of) justice, nor commit adultery - and whoso doeth this shall pay the penalty; The doom will be doubled for him on the Day of Resurrection, and he will abide therein disdained for ever; Save him who repenteth and believeth and doth righteous work; as for such, Allah will change their evil deeds to good deeds. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful. 25:68-70

When I read it though it fits perfectly with the rest of the sura. I have still not yet been able to find out why some verses are believed to be from other periods. My guess is that it is felt they contain theology and issues from other periods, but this is just a guess.

6. The final warning to the Meccan.
Say (O Muhammad, unto the disbelievers): My Lord would not concern Himself with you but for your prayer. But now ye have denied (the Truth), therefor there will be judgment. 25:77

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sura 24 - Light

The sura is named after the description of God as light in 24:35-36.

Date, Context and Theme

This is a middle Medinan sura (5-6 A.H.) In it Muhammad is outlining the honourable life to his Islamic community, the life of light. I found it a beautiful sura at many points.


v. 1, Introduction - This Qur’an is for guidance.
Vv. 2-10 Dealing with adultery
vv. 11-26 Application - the situation with Aisha and questions about her faithfulness.
vv. 27-29 Entering houses honourably
vv. 30- 31 Lower your gaze with modesty
vv. 32- 33 Marriage
v. 34-36, Allah gives the light of honour
vv. 37-40 Those who follow the light will live in paradise, those who do not will face judgement.
Vv. 41- 46 Allah is light and great and made all things.
Vv. 47-57 Total obedience to Muhammad is required - The hypocrites
vv. 58- 63 How to ask for permission in different situations.
V. 64 Allah is judge and knows what you do.

What I found interesting.

1. This sura has much to say about dealing with adultery or suspicions of adultery.
The adulterer and the adulteress, scourge ye each one of them (with) a hundred stripes. And let not pity for the twain withhold you from obedience to Allah, if ye believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a party of believers witness their punishment. 24:2

However, 4:15 seemed to proscribe confinement.
Such of your women as commit indecency, call four of you to witness against them; and if they witness, then detain them in their houses until death takes them or God appoints for them a way. 4:15

And in the hadith stoning.
Narrated Jabir bin Abdullah Al-Ansari: A man from the tribe of Bani Aslam came to Allah's Apostle and Informed him that he had committed illegal sexual intercourse and bore witness four times against himself. Allah's Apostle ordered him to be stoned to death as he was a married Person. (Bukhari: vol. 8, bk. 82, no. 805, Khan)

These different punishments are a good example of the doctrine of abrogation. This is where a later verse in the Qur'an or event in Muhammad's life can cancel an earlier revelation.
Nothing of our revelation (even a single verse) do we abrogate or cause be forgotten, but we bring (in place) one better or the like thereof. Knowest thou not that Allah is Able to do all things? 2:106

And when We put a revelation in place of (another) revelation, - and Allah knoweth best what He revealeth - they say: Lo! thou art but inventing. Most of them know not. 16:101

Four witnesses are required for the charge of adultery. If the only witnesses are the husband and wife then they are to swear 4 times their testimony and a 5th time calling Allah's curse on them if they are lying. 24:6-9.

But false accusations are to be firmly punished.

And those who accuse honourable women but bring not four witnesses, scourge them (with) eighty stripes and never (afterward) accept their testimony - They indeed are evil-doers - 24:4

This section on adultery ends with rebukes against those Muslims who have suspicions about Aisha, Muhammad's wife. She was left behind on a journey and brought back to Muhammad by a young soldier. This caused suspicion and is addressed here.

2. There was this often repeated phrase:
Had it not been for the grace of Allah and His mercy unto you, and that Allah is Clement, Merciful, (ye had been undone). 24:20

3. Here is the famous verse requiring women to be covered. However, it does not seem to say cover their hair or face, and men are required to be modest as well.
Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and be modest. That is purer for them. Lo! Allah is aware of what they do. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment save to their own husbands or fathers or husbands' fathers, or their sons or their husbands' sons, or their brothers or their brothers' sons or sisters' sons, or their women, or their slaves, or male attendants who lack vigour, or children who know naught of women's nakedness. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And turn unto Allah together, O believers, in order that ye may succeed. 24:30-31

4. There are the verses from which the sura takes it name. They are beautiful. Allah is the light that should light our lives, he makes them honourable.
Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The similitude of His light is as a niche wherein is a lamp. The lamp is in a glass. The glass is as it were a shining star. (This lamp is) kindled from a blessed tree, an olive neither of the East nor of the West, whose oil would almost glow forth (of itself) though no fire touched it. Light upon light. Allah guideth unto His light whom He will. And Allah speaketh to mankind in allegories, for Allah is Knower of all things. Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The similitude of His light is as a niche wherein is a lamp. The lamp is in a glass. The glass is as it were a shining star. (This lamp is) kindled from a blessed tree, an olive neither of the East nor of the West, whose oil would almost glow forth (of itself) though no fire touched it. Light upon light. Allah guideth unto His light whom He will. And Allah speaketh to mankind in allegories, for Allah is Knower of all things. 24:35-36

This seems to be as close to the idea of, “Be holy because I the lord your God am holy”, that I have found in the Qur’an. As there is no image of God concept, it seems to be honourableness rather than God likeness that is encouraged in the Qur’an.

5. There was a section dealing with Muslims who did not obey Muhammad.
And they say: We believe in Allah and the messenger, and we obey; then after that a faction of them turn away. Such are not believers. 24:47

The saying of (all true) believers when they appeal unto Allah and His messenger to judge between them is only that they say: We hear and we obey. And such are the successful. 24:51

Make not the calling of the messenger among you as your calling one of another. Allah knoweth those of you who steal away, hiding themselves. And let those who conspire to evade orders beware lest grief or painful punishment befall them. 24:63

Total obedience to Muhammad is required to be a true Muslim. This no doubt leads some Muslims to think that other Muslims are not true Muslims.

6. This verse regarding hypocritical Muslims reminded me of Samuel and Saul.

They swear by Allah solemnly that, if thou order them, they will go forth. Say: Swear not; known obedience (is better). Lo! Allah is Informed of what ye do. 24:35

But Samuel replied: "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22

7. Again we see that the Qur’an only refers to three prayers a day. In this case it is the slave asking for permission to pray.

O ye who believe! Let your slaves, and those of you who have not come to puberty, ask leave of you at three times (before they come into your presence): Before the prayer of dawn, and when ye lay aside your raiment for the heat of noon, and after the prayer of night. Three times of privacy for you. It is no sin for them or for you at other times, when some of you go round attendant upon others (if they come into your presence without leave). Thus Allah maketh clear the revelations for you. Allah is Knower, Wise. 24:58, 11:116, 17:78-79