Tuesday, March 5, 2013

ARQ Project: Surah Younus and Surah Hud

Okay, trying to get back in the swing of regular postings. :) Since we're still waiting for the conclave to begin, Pope Watch 2013!, and I don't have new pet rats to post a million pictures of, we'll go back to my reading the Qur'an. Which I am behind on in both posting and actual reading.

This is another combined post, since my notes for these two chapters are rather short.

Alrighty then. Surah Younus or, Jonah.

My first note reads: 'God speaks in plural? Our - We - Us?'

Because, and I've glanced back through the previous chapters of the Qur'an, but it feels like this is a change. As if God, when he spoke previous in the Qur'an - being quoted directly - spoke in the singular and then all of a sudden it's plural. Is my impression right or is this a misconception I've got stuck in my head?

10.19: Mankind were but one community; then they differed; and had it not been for a word that had already gone forth from thy Lord it had been judged between them in respect of that wherein they differ.

I think that in part this is a reference to sects within religions, but could it also be a reference to the story of Babel? Where all of humanity became divided in language?

10.37-38: And this Qur'an is not such as could ever be invented in despite of Allah; but it is a confirmation of that which was before it and an exposition of that which is decreed for mankind - Therein is no doubt - from the Lord of the Worlds. Or say they: He hath invented it? Say: Then bring a surah like unto it, and call (for help) on all ye can besides Allah, if ye are truthful.

There's this command, again and again that if you doubt that the Qur'an is from God, then write something like it. Obviously I can't read Arabic so maybe there's something special about the text in the original language, but the translation isn't that...*waves hands* It's not that spectacular. It's not anything that hasn't been written before, none of the information is information that was unknown to mankind prior to the time of the Qur'an, as far as I can tell. The language isn't particularly beautiful or poetic.

Ever since Susanne mentioned it in a comment on an earlier post, I've been watching for references to Moses. There are quite a few, aren't there? The same story, over and over again, of Moses and Pharoah. It runs from 10.75 through 10.93. 

Keeping in mind that this chapter is named after Jonah, of the Jonah and the whale fame, I was waiting and waiting for that story to be relayed, at least in part.

It wasn't. 

Jonah gets one line.

10.98: If only there had been a community (of all those that were destroyed of old) that believed and profited by its belief as did the folk of Jonah! When they believed We drew off from them the torment of disgrace in the life of the world and gave them comfort for a while.


Seriously. Who named these chapters?

Right. On to Hud.

Hud, who is a prophet in Islam but is unknown outside of it as far as I'm aware. I've been trying to find any articles that reference him outside of the Qur'an, in a historic context, but have come up blank. That goes for the people he was supposed to have been sent to as well, the people of 'Ad. But from what I've read, according to Islamic lore, he was a prophet prior to Abraham's time on the Arabian peninsula. So, there. Hud.

The Qur'an does reference a couple of prophets that, so far as I have been able to find, are mentioned in no other scriptures. Of course that could be taken as being because the other scriptures were corrupted, which is the Islamic claim. Or it could be taken that these are strictly Arabian, pre-Islamic figures that were folded into the Qur'anic text because the Arabian people were familiar with their stories.

Hud also isn't in this chapter much, but he at least gets more than one line.

In this chapter we have part of the story of Noah. It varies from the Biblical version a bit, which you can read here: Genesis 6 - 9 if you want to refresh your memory. The biggest difference is that one of Noah's sons, in the Qur'anic version, rejects his fathers' faith and is drowned with the rest of humanity.

11.42-46: And it sailed with them amid waves like mountains, and Noah cried unto his son - and he was standing aloof - O my son! Come ride with us, and be not with the disbelievers. He said: I shall betake me to some mountain that will save me from the water. (Noah) said: This day there is none that saveth from the commandment of Allah save him on whom He hath had mercy. And the wave came in between them, so he was among the drowned. And it was said: O earth! Swallow thy water and, O sky! be cleared of clouds! And the water was made to subside. And the commandment was fulfilled. And it (the ship) came to rest upon (the mount) Al-Judi and it was said: A far removal for wrongdoing folk! And Noah cried unto his Lord and said: My Lord! Lo! my son is of my household! Surely Thy promise is the truth and Thou are the Most Just of Judges. He said: O Noah! Lo! he is not of thy household; lo! he is of evil conduct, so ask not of Me that whereof thou hast no knowledge. I admonish thee lest thou be among the ignorant.

I've heard it said that the last line from God to Noah, about the dead son not being of his household, is a reference to the fact that he was not Noah's son at all, but rather the fruit of an illegitimate union between Noah's wife and another man. 

If that's the case though, it seems strange to me that there's no mention of what happens to Noah's wife after her adultery is discovered. I guess it would be hard for Noah to divorce her since there were (theoretically) no other people on the planet except for his sons and their wives, so maybe Noah just had to suck it up?

The other interpretation that I've seen is that when God says the son was not of Noah's family, it was because he was a disbeliever. Which I think should be patently clear from how he didn't believe his father and tried to escape by climbing a mountain. So...this is the story of God failing at comforting someone after he kills their child? I don't know. 

11.81: (The messengers) said: O Lot! Lo! we are messengers of thy Lord; they shall not reach thee. So travel with thy people in a part of the night, and let not one of you turn round - (all) save thy wife. Lo! that which smiteth them will smite her (also). Lo! their tryst is (for) the morning. Is not the morning nigh?

We get a little bit of the story of Lot here, but this is the verse that sticks out to me. It seems to be saying that the angels (the messengers) told lot to run and to tell all of his fleeing family not to turn back, except for his wife. Who, as we all know, turns back and is turned into a pillar of salt. Is that what you guys are getting from this? And what about 'their tryst is for the morning'? Does that mean to say that Lot's wife was having an affair?


  1. Please do a Pope Watch 2013 coverage lol

    I found Hud to be odd too. Where did he come from? Is it a prophet from the Bible with a different name? I never figured that one out.

    1. :)

      Pope Watch 2013 update: Still waiting for all of the cardinals to arrive in Rome. From what I hear, they should all be there tomorrow and then they can make the decision of when to start the conclave.

      There are a couple of prophets mentioned in the Qur'an that aren't mentioned anywhere else I've been able to find. I know that the Arabic names differ from the Hebrew names, but I've not come across anyone claiming that Hud (for example) is X prophet from the Torah. I think these people are unique to the Qur'an, which makes me think that they're uniquely Arabian characters.

  2. Yay, I was waiting (patiently, of course) for you to resume these posts. I always enjoy the Amber point of view.

    I can't remember if I suddenly noticed God using plural. I wonder how it reads in Arabic and if it means "Muhammad and Allah" since parts of the Quran come across that way to me (God and His Messenger...like the call to prayer and how Muslims always pray for Muhammad - or I think they do.)

    I guess they couldn't call ever chapter Moses so they would see who was mentioned at least once - like Jonah - and use it. Did we ever decide who came up with the chapter titles?

    Yes, the Moses and pharaoh story - wow, I never read it so many times! Even a Moroccan Muslim did a short quiz for me when I mentioned reading the Quran. He asked which prophet was talked about the most and I said I kept seeing Moses, Moses, Moses...and he said that was right. So ...

    I noticed the differences in Noah's story, too, and about his son not really being his son. Still, Noah must have loved the boy to grieve over his loss. Also in the Quran didn't more people survive the flood? I think more like 80 instead of the Jewish version which was about 8.

    Maybe Hud wasn't included in the Bible because he was Arab (or proto-Arab)or before Abraham. *shrug*

    Interesting about Lot's wife. It makes it seem everyone was warned not to turn around except Lot's wife. God knew she would turn around (as most people would if they were not warned) and it was punishment as you gathered for some affair. Hmmm.

    OK, tryst can mean simply a meeting place and *now* has the affair connotation so maybe it wasn't that she was having an affair. Maybe God just wanted someone to turn into salt.

    1. You are the most patient of Susannes! :)

      It could just be a change in the translation, I guess. But my recollection is that when the Qur'an speaks of Mohammed and Allah it differentiates between the two. Allah and the prophet, etc. This is 'we', which feels different to me. *shrug* Not saying I'm right, of course. :)

      Yeah, that might get confusion. Surah Moses 1, 2, 3, 4....

      But you'd think that whoever named the chapters, that they'd choose something that was a stand out feature. Jonah gets one line, near the end. That's not a stand out feature to me.

      The Moses thing seems strange to me. The Muslim line, as it were, traces from Abraham, not from Moses. Moses is from the 'cousin' line, yes? So why is Moses the most mentioned prophet and not Abraham, or Ishmael, to whom they can trace their lineage?

      I mean I have ideas about the appeal of the Exodus story, after all it contains magic and bravery and escapes and it's just generally a more entertaining story and there's a lot to get out of it in parallels and mythology, but I can't prove that that's why it's more mentioned in the Qur'an.

      Noah grieves, but then his grief seems to vanish once God says, 'Cut it out. He wasn't your family in the first place.' So...*waggles hands* Maybe that's just a failure of the text, or my reading of it though. I don't see any concrete numbers mentioned re: survivors of the flood, at least in this chapter. Maybe in a later chapter? I'll try to keep an eye out for a hard number.

      But, if Noah's wife was guilty of adultery and there was a viable population of people, then why don't we get a mention of Noah taking a new wife? 'Lo, and then Noah divorced the wife of his youth and married the pretty young thing from across the way.' Or something.

      Maybe Hud wasn't included in the Bible because he was Arab (or proto-Arab)or before Abraham. *shrug*

      Possibly. But then he can't have been very important, can he? ;)

      Interesting about Lot's wife. It makes it seem everyone was warned not to turn around except Lot's wife. God knew she would turn around (as most people would if they were not warned) and it was punishment as you gathered for some affair. Hmmm.

      Basically, to me, it reads like God saying, 'But forget about your wife. Screw her, she's doomed anyway. Don't even bother.' Which is not, I feel, congruent with God's instructions to his prophets (since Lot is counted as a prophet in Islam) in other scenarios. They're always sent to warn the people, to give them the chance to turn back to God, even those who God knows won't take the chance. They have to be given the opportunity in order to exercise their free will.

      Basically, I think Lot was just a poor communicator. "Flee for your lives!" *mumbling to himself* "And don't look. Don't look. Don't look. No matter what you hear, don't look."

      Wife: What's that dear?

      Lot: Just keep running!

      re: tryst: True, and I checked some of the other translations and they read as 'appointment' or 'appointed time' so maybe it was referring more to the time of the destruction rather than referring to Lot's wife in particular.

      Maybe God just wanted someone to turn into salt.

      Because turning people into salt is a pretty awesome party trick. I mean the whole water to wine thing later on really just wiped the people into salt trick off the map, but for the time it was pretty cool.


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