Monday, April 1, 2013

ARQ Project: It's a three-fer! (13, 14 & 15)

By which I mean that we cover three surah's rather than the usual one or two. Because two of the surah's I have very, very little to say about.

Very little.

Surah 13: ar-Ra'd or The Thunder

My notes on this chapter consist of this: 'Who named these things? Who arranged them? Whyyyyyyyyyy?'

Okay. So, my mental impression of how the Qur'an was revealed is that certain verses were given in response to certain questions. I'm assuming that each surah was revealed as one piece, like a sermon. So that's why they have internal harmony as opposed to just being a collection of sayings. But they weren't revealed in the order that they're maintained in the Qur'an. Assuming that I'm remembering correctly, the chapters of the Qur'an have been arranged from longest to shortest, excluding al-Fatiha at the very beginning.

Why were they arranged that way? What sort of logic was being used for this? Without knowing the context of each revelation, there's no way of knowing which chapters came first, where and when they were revealed, etc. There's a lack of logic (to me) in arranging the chapters all out of chronological order this way. I can understand why they wouldn't be arranged according to a theme, there are mentions of the same subject or problem in various chapters of the Qur'an. Assuming that each chapter was revealed as one piece, cutting them apart to place all of the relevant verses on a subject together would be impossible.

Oh! I did also make a note of the only mention of thunder in this chapter:

12-13. He it is Who showeth you the lightning, a fear and a hope, and raiseth the heavy clouds. The thunder hymneth His praise and (so do) the angels for awe of Him. He launcheth the thunderbolts and smiteth with them whom He will while they dispute (in doubt) concerning Allah, and He is mighty in wrath.

Reminds me of Zeus, with the thunderbolts and all. But then so do some portrayals of the Father in Christian art.

Surah 14 - Ibrahim or Abraham

Again, really really short notes. Keep in mind that these posts are just the things that struck or interested me. They're by no means meant to convey the meaning of the chapters of the Qur'an. If they were I'd be doing a terrible job.

9. Hath not the history of those before you reached you: the folk of Noah, and (the tribes of) A'ad and Thamud, and those after them? None save Allah knoweth them. Their messengers came unto them with clear proofs, but they thrust their hands into their mouths, and said: Lo! we disbelieve in that wherewith ye have been sent, and lo! we are in grave doubt concerning that to which ye call us.

This is another case of peoples' being mentioned that are only (so far as I can find) attested to in the Qur'an and Islamic literature. Of course I could always just not be looking deeply enough. Any idea if these people are known under different names in archaeological circles?

Reading all the descriptions of how much hell was going to suck in this chapter made me remember a question I've had before. How much influence do you think the Islamic description of hell has had on the Christian idea of it? 

Surah 15 - al-Hijr or The Rocky Tract

14. And even if We opened unto them a gate of heaven and they kept mounting through it,

I'm assuming that it's not what is meant, but this verse reminded me of Jacob's ladder and the vision he had of angels ascending and descending it constantly. But like I said, given that this verse is in the context of people being able to walk into heaven and still not believing, I'm guessing that this wasn't meant to be a reference to that vision.

For this next one I'm including multiple translations:

He said: Here are my daughters, if ye must be doing (so).
Yusuf Ali
He said: "There are my daughters (to marry), if ye must act (so)."
He said: These are my daughters, if you will do (aught).
Dr. Ghali
He said, "These are my daughters (to marry), if you would be performing (that)."
Sahih International
[Lot] said, "These are my daughters - if you would be doers [of lawful marriage]."
Muhsin Khan
[Lout (Lot)] said: "These (the girls of the nation) are my daughters (to marry lawfully), if you must act (so)."
So, at least in a couple of the translations, there seems to be the implication that Lot was offering up his daughters for a lawful marriage. Does anyone know if this is something that's been added in by the translators/tradition or if it's something that's implied by the original words used? It's definitely not something that's been carried over from Biblical tradition, but given the Islamic need for the prophets to be perfect I can see where they'd want to make it clear that Lot wasn't suggesting anything improper here when he offered his virgin daughters up to the lust crazed mob of rapists.
80. And the dwellers in Al-Hijr denied (Our) messengers. 
al-Hijr, by my understanding, is Petra. So are the Nabateans, the people who built Petra, meant to be the Thamudians? Or are the Thamudians a later people? 
87. We have given thee seven of the oft-repeated (verses) and the great Qur'an.
What are the seven oft-repeated verses? Any ideas? I can't recall any verses off the top of my head that are repeated, word for word, more than any others.
88. Strain not thine eyes toward that which We cause some wedded pairs among them to enjoin, and be not grieved on their account, and lower thy wing (in tenderness) for the believers.
I think it's clear that this is a verse referring to being jealous of what some other couple may have. Do you think it's referring specifically to children or just maybe the happiness that some couples have that others don't? Or something else entirely? 


  1. "How much influence do you think the Islamic description of hell has had on the Christian idea of it? "

    Never thought of that...hmmmm. I don't recall hearing about eating prickly fruit and drinking boiling water in my Christian view of hell. Some have blamed Dante's Inferno for the (now) Christian idea of hell (I guess it's different from how Christians thought initially). Never heard people mention Islam's influence on it, but that's an interesting suggestion!

    "but given the Islamic need for the prophets to be perfect I can see where they'd want to make it clear that Lot wasn't suggesting anything improper here when he offered his virgin daughters up to the lust crazed mob of rapists." -- good point. I wish we had a Muslim reader who could shed light on these things! You have some good observations/questions.

    1. I'm not sure that there is any influence or if it doesn't perhaps even go the other way. It is definitely true that our image of hell is not the same as it was in the beginnings of Christianity and I believe that it was influenced by the Greek and Roman versions of the nastier parts of the after life, but there's just something about the descriptions of hell in the Qur'an that remind me so much of Dante's hell that I wonder if there wasn't some cross over. But I have no proof of that, just a random thought.

      I think my Muslim readers are all busy. Or I'm boring. Possibly both. ;P


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