Monday, April 18, 2011

Sura 33 - The Clans

The title for this sura comes from the context of the sura which is clear, the battle of the Clans, also known as the Battle of the Trench.

Date, Context and Theme

The contents of this sura allow it to be dated to the famous Battle of Trench, 5-7th years of the Hijrah, a Medinan sura. This battle was initiated by the Meccans and some other tribes who wanted to defeat Muhammad once and for all. The Jewish tribe, Bani Qureyzah, broke their truce with Muhammad and supported these Arab tribes. They marched against Medinah and lay siege to it. But Muhammad had a trench dug on the side of attack and this halted their advance. After no progress for a month and difficult conditions, these tribes departed. Muhammad then marched on the towns of Jewish Bani Qureyzah and all their men were executed.

While this is the context of the sura it is not the main theme of the sura. The main theme is dealing with the complaints of “hypocritical” Muslims. There were two complaints. One had to do with questioning Muhammad’s advice about the situation under the siege, and the second was to do with Muhammad and the wives he was taking. Most of the sura deals with the issue of his wives and not the battle. The main theme is do not slander Muhammad but bless him instead.
O ye who believe! Be not as those who slandered Moses, but Allah proved his innocence of that which they alleged, and he was well esteemed in Allah's sight. 33:69

Lo! Allah and His angels shower blessings on the Prophet. O ye who believe! Ask blessings on him and salute him with a worthy salutation. 33:56


vv. 1-3 Do not listen to the unbelievers and hypocrites but listen to Allah instead.

vv. 4-6 All adoptions are now cancelled.

Vv. 7-27. Reflections on the battle of the Clans or Trench. Allah gave victory but the hypocritical Muslims did not trust Muhammad but the true Muslims did.

Vv. 28-34, Muhammad’s wives must be careful how they live among the hypocrites. They will be punished if they sin, so speak carefully, stay inside and obey Muhammad.

Vv. 35-36, The true believers must live carefully among the hypocrites too and obey Muhammad.

Vv. 37-38, Now they adoptions are cancelled Allah has given Muhammad Zayd’s wife.

vv. 39-48 Who is Muhammad? Father of none, a warner, a summoner, announcing good tidings. Therefore, listen to Muhammad and not the hypocrites.

Vv. 49-52 Marriage: Consummation makes the marriage, Muhammad alone can take whoever he likes in marriage, his wives are not to remarry

v. 53, Do not annoy the prophet, he does not like it and is too shy to say so.

vv. 53-62, Behaviour of his wives, must not remarry, can talk to their male relatives, must talk from behind a screen, must dress. Must not give the hyprocites any excuse.

* Vv. 56-58 Bless Muhammad and lift him up in the presence of the hypocrites.

* Vv. 59, Muhammad’s wives must dress with dignity.

* vv. 60-62, If the hypocrites do not stop complaining then fight them.

Vv. 63-73 The Final Hour - The hypocrites will pay and the true believers be rewards

What I found interesting.

1. Disjointed?

I have often heard non-Muslim scholars say that the Qur’an is disjoined and jumps from one topic to another. Sura 33 appears to be such a sura as it talks to and fro about the battle and then Muhammad’s wives, but I do not agree with these scholars. I think each sura does have a unity and we just need to work out what it is. In this case it is the accusations of the “hypocritical” Muslims against Muhammad. They are complaining about the battle and his wives.
Lo! those who malign Allah and His messenger, Allah hath cursed them in the world and the Hereafter, and hath prepared for them the doom of the disdained. 33:56

2. Adoption and Zaynab

The opening verses of the sura announce that all adoptions are now cancelled.
Allah hath not assigned unto any man two hearts within his body, nor hath He made your wives whom ye declare (to be your mothers) your mothers, nor hath He made those whom ye claim (to be your sons) your sons. This is but a saying of your mouths. But Allah saith the truth and He showeth the way. 33:4

I can understand why Islam wants remove idolatry, theft, gambling, but why adoption? The context behind this is quite revealing.
One day the Messenger of God went out looking for Zayd (his adopted son). Now there was a covering of haircloth over the doorway, but the wind had lifted the covering so that the doorway was uncovered. Zaynab (Zayd’s wife) was in her chamber, undressed, and admiration for her entered the heart of the Prophet. (Al-Tabari, The History of al-Tabari, vol. viii, p. 4)

Here we see why adoption is forbidden in Islam. Muhammad saw his daughter-in-law undressed and “admiration for her entered” his heart. Zayd offers to give Zaynab to Muhammad but this is scandalous as Muhammad would be marrying his daughter-in-law. Muhammad then receives a message from God saying that all adoptions are canceled. He then receives another word saying that Allah has given him Zaynab.
... So when Zeyd had performed that necessary formality (of divorce) from her, We gave her unto thee in marriage, so that (henceforth) there may be no sin for believers in respect of wives of their adopted sons, when the latter have performed the necessary formality (of release) from them. The commandment of Allah must be fulfilled. 33:37

It seems that the practice of adoption is cancelled so that Muhammad can be righteous. That is, the law confirms to Muhammad.

3. The Privileged Prophet

In 33:50 there is a big list of all the women that Muhammad can take as a wife or slave. The list is very broad but it is clear that it is,
... a privilege for you (Muhammad) only, not for the (rest of) believers ... 33:50

33:51 then says that Muhammad does not have to share his time equally with wives but can visit for sex whichever wife he wishes. So here we see that Muhammad has sexual privileges that no other Muslim is allowed to have.
Narrated Aisha (Muhammad’s wife): ... I said (to the Prophet), "I feel that your Lord hastens in fulfilling your wishes and desires." (Bukhari: vol. 6, bk. 60, no. 311, Khan)

4. Do not annoy the prophet.
O Ye who believe! Enter not the dwellings of the Prophet for a meal without waiting for the proper time, unless permission be granted you. But if ye are invited, enter, and, when your meal is ended, then disperse. Linger not for conversation. Lo! that would cause annoyance to the Prophet, and he would be shy of (asking) you (to go); but Allah is not shy of the truth. And when ye ask of them (the wives of the Prophet) anything, ask it of them from behind a curtain. That is purer for your hearts and for their hearts. And it is not for you to cause annoyance to the messenger of Allah, nor that ye should ever marry his wives after him. Lo! that in Allah's sight would be an enormity. (Qur’an 33:53)

Muhammad did not like being annoyed.

These examples of “revelations” demand questions to be asked. It really seems to me that Muhammad received revelations that fulfilled his desires. Revelations that allowed him to take another man’s wife, to have sexual privileges and to not be annoyed. It seems to me that these words are from Muhammad not God.

5. Bless the prophet

Maybe the reason the “hypocritical” Muslims were complaining was that they were not convinced that a Muhammad should be so privileged. This sura makes it very clear that you are not to question Muhammad about any of this. He is the best example and you must bless him.
The Prophet is closer to the believers than their selves, and his wives are (as) their mothers. And the owners of kinship are closer one to another in the ordinance of Allah than (other) believers and the fugitives (who fled from Mecca), except that ye should do kindness to your friends. This is written in the Book (of nature). 33:6

Verily in the messenger of Allah ye have a good example for him who looketh unto Allah and the Last Day, and remembereth Allah much. 33:21

And it becometh not a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His messenger have decided an affair (for them), that they should (after that) claim any say in their affair; and whoso is rebellious to Allah and His messenger, he verily goeth astray in error manifest. 33:36

There is no reproach for the Prophet in that which Allah maketh his due. That was Allah's way with those who passed away of old - and the commandment of Allah is certain destiny - 33:38

Lo! Allah and His angels shower blessings on the Prophet. O you who believe! Ask blessings on him and salute him with a worthy salutation. 33:56

This last verse explains why Muslims say, “peace be upon him” whenever they mention Muhammad’s name. The problem I have is the context. If the context was just, bless Muhammad, that would be ok, but the context here is do not question Muhammad, instead bless him. Therefore saying “peace be upon him” is actually a method of stopping any examination of Muhammad.

When we consider all of these previous points we see that no one is allowed to question Muhammad or annoy him, and that he is allowed special sexual privileges. We must be honest here and not make excuses. No other prophet is given these types of privileges. This type of behaviour is normally associated today with a cult leader.

6. The True Believers and Hypocrites

As we have seen there was a lot in this sura about true and hypocritical Muslims. The hypocrites are reminded that they are under a covenant. This is a very important verse for understanding the concept of covenant in the Qur’an and for seeing how it compares to the Bible.
And when We exacted a covenant from the prophets, and from thee (O Muhammad) and from Noah and Abraham and Moses and Jesus son of Mary. We took from them a solemn covenant; 33:7

The true believers will be rewarded, the hypocrites punished.
There were the believers sorely tried, and shaken with a mighty shock. And when the hypocrites, and those in whose hearts is a disease, were saying: Allah and His messenger promised us naught but delusion. 33:11-12

That Allah may reward the true men for their truth, and punish the hypocrites if He will, or relent toward them (if He will). Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. 33:24

On the day when their faces are turned over in the Fire, they say: Oh, would that we had obeyed Allah and had obeyed His messenger! 33:66

So Allah punisheth hypocritical men and hypocritical women, and idolatrous men and idolatrous women. But Allah pardoneth believing men and believing women, and Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful. 33:73

Here is another verse that threatens war on the hypocrites.
If the hypocrites, and those in whose hearts is a disease, and the alarmists in the city do not cease, We verily shall urge thee on against them, then they will be your neighbours in it but a little while. Accursed, they will be seized wherever found and slain with a (fierce) slaughter. (33:60-61, 2:278-279, 9:73, 49:9)

It is important to realise that the Qur’an and Hadith actually command war on hypocrite Muslims. I say this because I keep hearing people say, “that person is not a Muslim because he attacked other Muslims”. This fails to engage with the many verses of the Qur’an which command such action. See The War on Muslims. It also raises the practical question of who are the "true" Muslims who have the duty to fight "hypocritical" Muslims? Who decides?

7. The seal of the prophets

This is the famous verse from which Muslims understand that Muhammad is the last prophet.
Muhammad is not the father of any man among you, but he is the messenger of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets; and Allah is ever Aware of all things. 33:40

In the Hadith literature, the “seal” is a literal seal or birthmark on Muhammad
Narrated As-Sa'ib:My aunt took me to Allah's Apostle and said, "O Allah's Apostle! My nephew is- ill." The Prophet touched my head with his hand and invoked Allah to bless me. He then performed ablution and I drank of the remaining water of his ablution and then stood behind his back and saw "Khatam An-Nubuwwa" (The Seal of Prophethood) between his shoulders like a button of a tent. (Sahih al-Bukhari: vol. 7, bk. 70, no. 574, Khan)

Abdullah b. Sarjis reported: ... I then went after him (Muhammad) and saw the Seal of Prophethood between his shoulders on the left side of his shoulder having spots on it like moles. (Sahih Muslim: bk. 30, no. 5793, Siddiqui)

8. The Sunnah

This verse is a key verse for the sunnah.
Verily in the messenger of Allah ye have a good example for him who looketh unto Allah and the Last Day, and remembereth Allah much. 33:21

The Sunnah is the practices of Muhammad. Muslims are required to imitate him.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Sura 32 - The Prostation

The title comes from verse 15 and seems to represent the ideal response to the sura.

Date, Context and Theme

It is a middle Meccan sura. The main theme seems is answering the objections of the Meccans who say that what Muhammad is saying is strange and doubtful.


v. 1, Mystery letters.

Vv. 2-3, Doubting the Qur’an and Muhammad. This is the issue the sura addresses.

Vv. 4-9, Allah is the one God who created all things. A declaration of tawheed. You should not doubt this.

Vv. 10-22, How can Allah recreate us when we are dead? Allah will and will bring you to judgement.

Vv. 23-26 You have seen a book before with Moses so be not surprised at the coming of the Qur’an..

Vv. 27-30 Allah will bring his judgement therefore wait for the victory.

What I found interesting.

1. This sura seems to answer this verse.
Or say they (the Meccans): He hath invented it? Nay, but it is the Truth from thy Lord, that thou mayst warn a folk to whom no warner came before thee, that haply they may walk aright. 32:3

There were three main evidences that were put forward for why the Qur’an and Muhammad are genuine.

a. Allah is the one God who rules over all. This is logically seen in the created order. Tawheed, one God, is the logical conclusion from creation.

b. The idea that Allah would send a book is not new. You already know this from Moses.
We verily gave Moses the Scripture; so be not ye in doubt of his receiving it; and We appointed it a guidance for the Children of Israel. 32:23

This assumes that the Meccans know about Moses.

c. Allah will resurrect to judgement. Look at the dry land and see how it goes from death to life.
Have they not seen how We lead the water to the barren land and therewith bring forth crops whereof their cattle eat, and they themselves? Will they not then see? 32:27

This is similar to Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 15:35-36.

2. God and Time
He directeth the ordinance from the heaven unto the earth; then it ascendeth unto Him in a Day, whereof the measure is a thousand years of that ye reckon. 32:5

This is similar to Psalm 90:4, 2 Peter 3:8.

3. The Creation Account.
Allah it is Who created the heavens and the earth, and that which is between them, in six Days. Then He mounted the Throne. Ye have not, beside Him, a protecting friend or mediator. Will ye not then remember? 32:4

At first I thought that this verse was saying the same thing as Genesis 1. But I do not think so now because in the Bible it never says God created the world in six days and finish there. It always refers to the seven days. There is work and then there is rest. A rest that we as the image of God share in.

This is just another example of how the Qur’an appears to be similar to the Bible yet lacks the content and details. For example the Qur’an mentions Abraham but there is no mention of covenant of circumcision. It has sacrifices but none for sin. It talks about the Spirit but there is no gift. It alludes to many of the Biblical stories yet has very few details. Most of the content and detail from the Law of Moses, the Prophets, the Psalms and the Gospel are missing.

4. The sura ends with promise of victory to the Muslims. Muhammad must have been preaching that he would rule and the Meccans did not seem to think that this would happen.
And they (the Meccans) say: When cometh this victory (of yours) if ye are truthful? Say (unto them): On the day of the victory the faith of those who disbelieve (and who then will believe) will not avail them, neither will they be reprieved. So withdraw from them (O Muhammad), and await (the event). Lo! they (also) are awaiting (it). 32:28-30

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sura 31 - Luqman

The name of this sura comes from v. 12. Luqman is recounted in this sura as a man of wisdom.

Date, Context and Theme

The scholars say that it could be a Meccan or Medinan sura so I am not sure. It felt like it was dealing with Meccan issues to me. The theme is wisdom. The Qur’an and Islamic worship are portrayed as the wise way to live.


v. 1, Mystery letters, Alif. Lam. Mim.

Vv. 2-3, the Qur’an is introduced as wisdom.

Vv. 4-11, Those who believe in the here-after will receive this guidance but the unbelievers turn away and will receive doom.

Vv. 12-34 The story of the wisdom of Luqman and it application to Muhammad’s situation.

* vv. 12-13 Luqman’s receives wisdom from God.

* Vv. 14-15 Luqman’s wisdom applied to Muhammad’s situation.

* vv. 16-20 Luqman’s conversation of wisdom to his son.

* Vv. 21-34 Luqman’s wisdom applied to Muhammad’s situation.

What I found interesting.

1. This sura was quite short and had an easy structure. My Muslim friends tell me that Luqman is a famous name in Islamic culture for wisdom. Lugman is not a person from the Christian and Jewish scriptures. Thus the Qur'an is not bound to the Jewish and Christian scriptures.

2. It is interesting to see that the word for Jihad is used of those (Meccans?) who are trying to turn the Muslims away from Allah.
But if they strive (jihad) with thee to make thee ascribe unto Me as partner that of which thou hast no knowledge, then obey them not. ... 31:15

3. We learn about what the pre-Islamic Meccans believe in these verses.
And if it be said unto them: Follow that which Allah hath revealed, they say: Nay, but we follow that wherein we found our fathers. What! Even though the devil were inviting them unto the doom of flame? 31:21

If thou shouldst ask them: Who created the heavens and the earth? they would answer: Allah. Say: Praise be to Allah! But most of them know not. 31:25

4. Some Muslims have said to me that John 21:25 is a bit ridiculous,
Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. John 21:25

But there is a similar description in the Qur’an.
And if all the trees in the earth were pens, and the sea, with seven more seas to help it, (were ink), the words of Allah could not be exhausted. Lo! Allah is Mighty, Wise. 31:27

5. I want to think more on this verse.
Your creation and your raising (from the dead) are only as (the creation and the raising of) a single soul. Lo! Allah is Hearer, Knower. 31:28

When it talks about creation and a “single soul” is that referring to Adam or is it describing the ease with which Allah creates and resurrects?

6. I thought that this verse beautifully preserves the ancient view that ships lead to discovery and wonder, in this case Allah's wonders. I think we do not view ships this way any more, though we may view space ships this way?
Hast thou not seen how the ships glide on the sea by Allah's grace, that He may show you of His wonders? Lo! therein indeed are portents for every steadfast, grateful (heart). 31:31