Tuesday, June 23, 2015

There are trees and then there's a Tree

I haven't posted in so long I figure this is going to be rather like speaking into the void. But here we are anyway.

I'm reading the Qur'an this Ramadan, and can I just take a moment to tell you how pleased I was when I discovered that my shiny new Qur'an indicates where it breaks into juz? I had a list printed and everything, which was a little annoying but you do what you must, and then I discovered this feature.

Shiny new Qur'an has many features. Yay shiny new Qur'an!

It's this one, in case you're curious: Al-Qur'an. 

So I'm reading the other night and I come across some verses in relation to Adam and Eve in the Garden. Now, the Qur'an is laid out differently from the Bible, and in many cases a story is revisited in different surahs throughout the Qur'an, spreading the details of the story out. Which, I admit, can get annoying when you're used to having the style of the Bible to look at. Story begins, story ends.

I know that there are more verses that deal with Adam and Eve and the 'fall', but this isn't about those, it's about the thought I had while reading these early verses. They're Surat al-Baqarah, 35-37. It's just a short little reference to a story that is familiar to most people. Adam and Eve are in the Garden and God tells them that they can eat from any of the trees therein. Except for this one.

In the Bible, it is called the 'tree of the knowledge of good and evil'. We see it in Genesis 2:16-17 and 3:1-7, generally speaking. There's obviously more to those chapters, but those are the verses that refer to the same incident. Here's a link to Genesis 2-3 for reference.

Now, having been raised in Christianity, more or less, I have always filled in the blank when reading Qur'anic references to this story and known that it was the Tree of Knowledge (because the whole name is long and I'm being a lazy typist). However, when I was reading these verses again, it struck me that the Qur'an doesn't spell any such thing out. One might infer it, given the stance that the Qur'an is there to correct mistakes in the previous revelations (mistakes by people, not God) or places where the stories have been corrupted. The fact that the Qur'an doesn't explicitly correct the attribution could be considered support for it or you could look at the fact that the Qur'an doesn't name the tree similarly to say that it was not, in fact, the Tree of Knowledge.

Adam and Eve do realize their nakedness after eating the fruit, which could be taken as another sign that this is the Tree of Knowledge, but it could also be taken that there was nothing special about the tree itself, knowledge wise, only that their first sin brought into possibility shame and other sins.

So. What I was thinking was, there are two different messages that are being presented here, depending on how you look at it. In the Biblical story, the prohibition with regard to the Tree was specifically because it was the Tree of Knowledge. There was also the Tree of Life, but there doesn't seem to be an edict not to eat the fruit of that one. One could interpret the prohibition to mean that knowledge is a part and parcel with sin.

I don't think most people do interpret it that way, or have historically, but it's a thought. I know plenty of people who wish to go back to what they view as the simplicity of the 'Garden times' and I could easily see some of them making this connection. Adam and Eve were happy and in line with God when they were ignorant. Then they gained knowledge (against God's edict) and boom. Everything went to pot.

On the other hand, you have the Qur'anic version of the story which makes no mention of the tree being anything other than a tree. Just a tree that God said not to touch. Which makes Adam and Eve's sin fairly straight forward. God said 'no', they did it anyway. Much simpler. God's not, in this story, even appearing to be wanting to keep them from knowing things as He is in the Biblical version.

There's a rule. They break it. They get punished and forgiven.

Does the Biblical story even mention forgiveness? There's a lot of punishment, a lot of blame going around, but I don't see or recall an explicit mention of Adam or Eve repenting and seeking forgiveness for their transgression.

In the Qur'an they do receive a punishment, they're put out of the Garden to live on/in the rest of the earth and life is much more difficult there, but they are also shown to look for God's forgiveness and to receive it.
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