This is the 34th part of this series, reading The Qur’an; A New Translation by Abdel Haleem. We’ll occasionally compare that to other translations and with tafsirs for clarification. We’re also reading each “chapter” [surah] in order of revelation [mostly] rather than the order in which they are typically printed. If you missed some of this series, you can see:
my 1st post on surahs 1 & 2.
my 2nd post on surahs 96, 68 & 73.
my 3rd post on surahs 74, 111 & 81.
my 4th post on surahs 87, 92, 89, 93, 94 & 103.
my 5th post jumping to surah 18.
my 6th post on surahs 100, 108, 102, 107, 109 & 105
my 7th post was on surahs 113, 114, 112 & 53.
my 8th post on surahs 80, 97, 91, 85, 95 & 106.
my 9th post on surahs 101, 75, 104 & 77.
my 1oth post on surahs 50, 90 & 86.
my 11th post on surah 54,
my 12th post on surah 38,
my 13th post on surah 7,
my 14th post on surah 72,
my 15th post on surah 36,
my 16th post on surah 25,
my 17th post on surah 43,
my 18th post on surah 35.
my 19th post on surah 19.
my 20th post on surah 20,
my 21st post on surah 56.
my 22nd post on surah 26.
my 23rd post on surah 27.
my 24th post on surah 28.
my 25th post on surah 17.
my 26th post on surah 10.
my 27th post on surah 11.
my 28th post on surah 12.
my 29th post on surah 15.
my 30th post on surah 6.
my 31st post on surah 37.
my 32nd post on suras 31 & 34.
and my 33rd post on surah 39.
Sūrah 40 (Al-Ghafir) The Forgiver
According to Quora, “Surah 40 has two names: [Surah Al Mu’min (The Believer) and Surah Al Ghafir (The Forgiver)] and Surah 23 is [Surah Al Muminoon (The Believers)]”
Like many other surahs, this one starts with a notation of letters, the meaning of which was apparently known only by whoever first jotted them down.
2This Scripture is sent down from God, the Almighty, the All Knowing, 3Forgiver of sins and Accepter of repentance, severe in punishment, infinite in bounty. There is no god but Him; to Him is the ultimate return. 4It is only the disbelievers who dispute God’s revelations.
Yes, it is obviously only disbelievers who disbelieve. It’s rare that anything in the Qur’an makes sense, but this verse does.
[Prophet], do not be dazzled by their movements back and forth across the land.
Translator, Abdel Haleem says that this phrase refers to traders. So don’t be dazzled by traveling salesmen?
5Before them the people of Noah rejected the truth and so did those who formed opposition after them: every community schemed to destroy its messenger and strove to refute truth with falsehood; but it was I who destroyed them. How terrible My punishment was!
This is probably true only because the scripture doesn’t mention any atheists and only describes pagans instead. Had it been atheists, then instead of believing pagan falsehoods or the self-appointed prophets’ falsehoods, the people would have demanded truth instead, which the prophets could not provide.
6In this way your Lord’s sentence was passed against the disbelievers that they would be the inhabitants of the Fire.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Same empty threat all the time: Believe or else.
7Those [angels] who carry the Throne and those who surround it celebrate the praise of their Lord and have faith in Him.
So angels carry God’s throne? Why does God even have a throne? And if he did have one, why would anyone need to carry it? Didn’t he have a magic carpet to keep it on? Couldn’t he have made the throne move itself?
They beg forgiveness for the believers: ‘Our Lord, You embrace all things in mercy and knowledge, so forgive those who turn to You and follow Your path. Save them from the pains of Hell 8and admit them, Lord, to the lasting Gardens You have promised to them, together with their righteous ancestors, spouses, and offspring: You alone are the Almighty, the All Wise.
So the angels may plead with God to let in believers, but no unbelievers no matter how moral they may be. Unless, as the angels say the believers could be allowed in along with their pagan ancestors and unbelieving offspring. It has to be that way, because otherwise their ancestors and offspring would just be believers themselves and wouldn’t need to ride in on anyone else’s coattails.
9Protect them from all evil deeds: those You protect on that Day from [the punishment for] evil deeds will receive Your mercy– that is the supreme triumph.’
Triumph against what exactly? If mercy is the triumph, then what was the opposition?
10But those who disbelieved will be told, ‘When you were called to the faith and rejected it, God’s disgust with you was even greater then than the self-disgust you feel [today].’
Notice this is still the angels talking, the ones who just said that believers should keep their ancestors, wives and offspring, implying that these other people are not believers. Now in the very next breath, the angels contradict themselves, knowing that God has consistently made clear no one will be protected, except for believers, and that there is no option for unbelievers under any circumstances. So the angels are pleading with an unreasonable god and they already know better.
11They will say, ‘Our Lord, twice You have caused us to be lifeless and twice You have brought us to life. Now we recognize our sins. Is there any way out?’
Abdel Haleem says that this verse means “Literally ‘dead’, leading some commentators to interpret this as referring to one’s initial death, followed shortly thereafter by a second ‘death’ after questioning in the grave. The more generally accepted view, however, is that earthly life is both preceded and succeeded by a state of lifelessness. The two acts of giving life therefore refer to birth and resurrection.”
IslamicStudies.info says: “It implies this: How can you disbelieve in Allah? He granted you life when you were lifeless; then He will give you death and then will again raise you back to life. The disbelievers do not deny the first three of these conditions, because they are perceptible and therefore un-deniable. But they refuse to accept the occurrence of the fourth condition, for they have not yet experienced it, and only the Prophets have foretold it. On the Day of Resurrection when the fourth condition will also be practically experienced by them, then they will acknowledge that the same which the Prophets had foretold had actually happened.”
Of course we unbelievers accept that we are alive, but we have no reason to believe that we will live again, nor that God did or will give us life. This passages says we’re created dead (quran.com says “Our Lord! You made us lifeless twice,”) So we are to believe that we were made lifeless, then given life, then made lifeless again, then given life again, just to be tortured mercilessly forever. So how can we believe in Allah? Everything said about him is wrong, internally contradictory, and coming from people who obviously don’t know what they’re talking about.
12[They will be told], ‘This is all because when God alone was invoked you rejected this, yet when others were associated with Him you believed [in them].’ Judgement belongs to God the Most High, the Most Great.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Believe or else. Same old song on an infinite loop.
13It is He who shows you [people] His signs and sends water down from the sky to sustain you, though only those who turn to God will take heed.
Here we learn that only believers believe. What a surprise.
14So call upon God and dedicate your religion to Him alone, however hateful this may be to the disbelievers:
I realize that Muhammad is talking about pagans here, and not atheists like myself. That’s too bad. I would love to see how he would have struggled against an atheist. Because praying to his god would be “hateful” to a pagan, someone who worships other gods, but I don’t hate Muhammad’s god over my own; I don’t have any gods. I just hate lies, and his god is a lie. So it’s close but not the same thing. Muhammad is asking me to talk to myself and to lie to myself.
15He is exalted in rank, the Lord of the Throne. He sends revelations with His teachings to whichever of His servants He will, in order to warn of the Day of Meeting,
Why does God need a throne? Does he sit down when his legs get tired or when his back hurts?
16the Day when they will come out and nothing about them will be concealed from God. ‘Who has control today?’ ‘God, the One, the All Powerful. 17Today each soul will be rewarded for whatever it has done; today no injustice will be done. God is swift in reckoning.’
So on that day, nothing will be concealed from God? What is concealed from God today?
18Warn them [Prophet] of the ever-approaching Day, when hearts are at throats, choking them. The evildoer will have no friends, nor any intercessor to be heeded.
Yeah, you’ve only repeated that empty threat a few hundred times so far.
19God is aware of the most furtive of glances, and of all that hearts conceal:
20God will judge with truth, while those they invoke besides Him will not judge at all. God is the All Hearing, the All Seeing.
This again is Muhammad comparing his god to some other gods. I wish I could see how he would struggle with my challenge of no god at all, or of the fact that his god does not judge with truth.
21Have they not travelled through the land and seen how those who lived before them met their end? They were stronger than them and made a more impressive mark on the land, yet God destroyed them for their sins– they had no one to defend them against Him–
Abdel Haleem had no note about this. Neither did IslamicStudies. So I have no idea who “they” are, nor the people who came before them either. Just one more thing the “most clear” of all books probably should’ve made clear.
22because messengers repeatedly came to them with clear signs and still they rejected them. God destroyed them: He is truly full of strength, severe in punishment.
But he’s no good at pattern recognition and he doesn’t learn. He just keeps repeating the same mistakes. and complaining that he gets the same outcome.
23We sent Moses with Our signs and clear authority 24to Pharaoh, Haman, and Korah and they said, ‘Sorcerer! Liar!’ 25When he brought the truth to them from Us, they said, ‘Kill the sons of those who believe with him; spare only their women’– the scheming of those who reject the truth can only go wrong–
Because it wasn’t truth, and none of that really happened. Moses never existed, and no Pharaoh ever had hundreds of thousands of Hebrew slaves.
26and Pharaoh said, ‘Leave me to kill Moses– let him call upon his Lord!– for I fear he may cause you to change your religion, or spread disorder in the land.’ 27Moses said, ‘I seek refuge with my Lord and yours from every tyrant who refuses to believe in the Day of Reckoning.’
Yet again, believe or else. It seems like every other surah is going to repeat these same quips, making the Qur’an the most repetitive and redundant book of all time.
28A secret believer from Pharaoh’s family said, ‘How can you kill a man just for saying, “My Lord is God”? He has brought you clear signs from your Lord– if he is a liar, on his own head be it– and if he is truthful, then at least some of what he has threatened will happen to you. God does not guide any rebellious, outrageous liar.
If it’s unfair to kill a man just for saying “My Lord is God”, then how unfair is it for God to damn good and innocent people to ever-lasting excessively cruel and merciless torture simply for saying “I don’t believe that”? Especially when God should know why we can’t and it’s his fault that we don’t.
29My people, as masters in the land you have the power today, but who will help us against God’s might if it comes upon us?’ But Pharaoh said, ‘I have told you what I think; I am guiding you along the right path.’
Yeah, everyone thinks that, but can they prove it?
30The believer said, ‘My people, I fear your fate will be the fate of those others who opposed [their prophets]: 31the fate of the people of Noah, Ad, Thamud, and those who came after them– God never wills injustice on His creatures.
Yes, God wills injustice in the form of merciless barbaric torture of people whom he decided would not and could not believe in him. That is a horrible injustice that God wills according to the Qur’an.
32My people, I fear for you on the Day you will cry out to one another, 33the Day you will turn tail and flee with no one to defend you from God! Whoever God leaves to stray will have no one to guide him.
So on the day of Judgment, when God brings the dead back to life just to torture them in the fires of Hell, he won’t get all of them and will leave some to stray?
34Joseph came to you before with clear signs, but you never ceased to doubt the message he brought you. When he died, you said, “God will not send another messenger.”’ In this way God leaves the doubting rebels to stray–
That didn’t make any sense to me, so I checked a couple other versions. IslamicStudies.info had some notes on this, but they didn’t help. There was nothing relevant there, just lies about Moses being a man of the highest morals. Moses. The murderer who ordered women and children to be slaughtered, and for their traumatized pre-teen orphan girls to be kept as sex slaves. That Moses? Oh yes, high morals indeed.
35those who dispute God’s messages, with no authority given to them, are doing something that is loathed by God and by those who believe. In this way God seals up the heart of every arrogant tyrant.
This didn’t make any sense either. People do things, and “in this [unidentified] way, God [who has nothing to do with it] does something undefined?
36Pharaoh said, ‘Haman, build me a tall tower so that I may reach the ropes that lead 37to the heavens to look for this God of Moses. I am convinced that he is lying.’ In this way the evil of Pharaoh’s deed was made alluring to him and he was barred from the right path– his scheming led only to ruin.
Are we to believe there is a right path to the ropes that lead to Heaven? That must have been before the lady in the song bought that stairway.
38The believer said, ‘My people, follow me! I will guide you to the right path. 39My people, the life of this world is only a brief enjoyment; it is the Hereafter that is the lasting home.
No thanks. I’ll pass.
40Whoever does evil will be repaid with its like; whoever does good and believes, be it a man or a woman, will enter Paradise and be provided for without measure.
Not true. It’s whoever BELIEVES. If you’re not credulous enough to buy into this nonsense, then you’re doomed to burn no matter what good you’ve done. This is just one more reason not to believe it.
41My people, why do I call you to salvation when you call me to the Fire?
This is like trying to reason with a delusional conspiracy theorist.
42You call me to disbelieve in God and to associate with Him things of which I have no knowledge; I call you to the Mighty, the Forgiving One.
Will he forgive me if I don’t believe you?
43There is no doubt that what you call me to serve is not fit to be invoked either in this world or the Hereafter: our return is to God alone, and it will be the rebels who will inhabit the Fire.
As an atheist, I would not have you serve anyone or anything, but to honor truth, meaning the actual truth, what we can show to be true. Because truth doesn’t require faith.
44[One Day] you will remember what I am saying to you now, so I commit my case to God: God is well aware of His servants.’
Hopefully whoever shares your sentiment now will remember them later and realize how foolish they were then.
45So God saved him from the harm they planned. A terrible punishment engulfed Pharaoh’s people; 46they will be brought before the Fire morning and evening.
Wait, so we’re not in the fire all the time? Like we get out for lunch and at night we sleep somewhere else?
On the Day the Hour comes, it will be said, ‘Throw Pharaoh’s people into the worst torment.’
Because Pharaoh’s people only knew what he told them, and he didn’t really know anything himself. So they are innocent, and it would be wrong to damn them to eternal torment. In fact it would be wrong even to damn evil people to eternal torment. Because no one could ever be THAT evil.
47In the Fire they will quarrel with one another: the weak will say to the haughty, ‘We were your followers, so can you now relieve us from some share of the Fire?’ 48but they will say, ‘We are all in this together. God has judged between His creatures.’ 49Those in the Fire will say to the keepers of Hell, ‘Ask your Lord to lessen our suffering for one day,’ 50but they will say, ‘Did your messengers not come to you with clear evidence of the truth?’ They will say, ‘Yes they did,’ and the keeper will say, ‘You can plead, then, but the pleas of disbelievers will always be in vain.’
But that is NOT what they would say. “Did your messengers not come to you with clear evidence of the truth?” No, he seemed like a raving madman spouting all sorts of impossible nonsense and trying to threaten everyone. He believed in genies and didn’t seem to understand anything real. He even claimed to have split the moon in half, but- Well, just look at it. It’s still in one piece! So he never presented an ounce of evidence of any kind ever. He just kept on repeating his lunacy like he was out of his mind.
51We support Our messengers and the believers, in the present life and on the Day when witnesses arise. 52On the Day when excuses will not profit the evildoers, their fate will be rejection and they will have the worst of homes.
Wait, we get homes (plural) in Hell now? Is that where we sleep and eat lunch when we’re not in the fire?
53We gave Moses guidance and passed down the Scripture to the Children of Israel, 54as a guide and a reminder to people of understanding. 55So be patient, Prophet, for what God has promised is sure to come. Ask forgiveness for your sins; praise your Lord morning and evening.
It’s not sure to come because God didn’t promise it. There is no god. You’re listening to men who have no idea what they’re talking about pretending to speak for the god they imagine.
56As for those who, with no authority to do so, dispute God’s messages, there is nothing in their hearts but a thirst for a greatness they will never attain. Seek refuge in God, for He is the All Hearing, the All Seeing.
What about those like Muhammad who have no authority to speak for God?
57The creation of the heavens and earth is greater by far than the creation of mankind, though most people do not know it.
Neither were created ex-nihilo, out of nothing. Both were derived to their current state. But otherwise, yes, the universe is obviously much greater than the parasites of this one planet.
58The blind and the sighted are not equal, just as those who believe and do good works and those who do evil are not equal: how seldom you reflect!
Remember that the Qur’an makes no distinction between disbelief and doing evil. In reality, there are plenty of people who do much more good than believers, and there are plenty of believers in different religions who do much more good than many Muslims. But every religion pretends that they’re the only important ones, and to Hell with everyone else.
59The Final Hour is sure to come, without doubt, but most people do not believe.
If most people do not believe, then you can’t say the final hour will come without a doubt. Obviously there will be plenty of doubt, right up until the big reveal, when God explains himself and everyone asks why he wouldn’t speak for himself earlier, when it would it would have mattered.
60Your Lord says, ‘Call on Me and I will answer you; those who are too proud to serve Me will enter Hell humiliated.’
It really isn’t a matter of pride or humiliation. I simply can’t make believe things that are not evidently true, because that is tantamount to lying.
61It is God who has given you the night in which to rest and the day in which to see. God is truly bountiful to people, but most people do not give thanks. 62Such is God your Lord, the Creator of all things: there is no god but Him. How can you be so deluded?
Speak for yourself, Mo. You’re the one who is deluded. God didn’t give me night and day. That is the rotation of the earth as it orbits the sun, things you obviously didn’t understand or your book wouldn’t have said the things that it did.
63This is how deluded those who deny God’s messages are. 64It is God who has given you the earth for a dwelling place and the heavens for a canopy. He shaped you, formed you well, and provided you with good things. Such is God your Lord, so glory be to Him, the Lord of the Worlds.
No, that was evolution again.
65He is the Living One and there is no god but Him, so call on Him, and dedicate your religion entirely to Him. Praise be to God, the Lord of the Worlds.
Just ‘cuz you say so doesn’t make it true. Show me the evidence.
66Say [Prophet], ‘Since clear evidence has come to me from my Lord I am forbidden to serve those you call upon besides God: I am commanded to submit to the Lord of the Worlds.’
That’s your delusion, not mine. Assumed conclusions are logically fallacious and thus not evidence.
67It is He who created you from dust, then from a drop of fluid, then from a tiny, clinging form, then He brought you forth as infants, then He allowed you to reach maturity, then He let you grow old– though some of you die sooner– and reach your appointed term so that you may reflect.
That’s not how conception and gestation work. God would know better than that, if he existed. But Muhammad and his Qur’an don’t know that.
68It is He who gives life and death, and when He ordains a thing, He says only ‘Be’ and it is.
Notice that all the mythic gods of even pagan religions simply speak things into action or being.
69[Prophet], do you see how deluded those who dispute God’s messages are– 70those who reject the Scripture and the messages We have sent through Our messengers? They will find out 71when, with iron collars and chains around their necks, they are dragged 72into scalding water, and then burned in the Fire, 73and asked, ‘Where now are those you called upon 74besides God?’
We get slave collars now?
They will say, ‘They have abandoned us: those we called upon before were really nothing at all.’ ‘This is how God lets disbelievers go astray,
Yeah yeah, “you’ll be sorry” constantly repeated. Except that this is obviously the fiction of someone desperate to coerce obedience. If an actual god really existed, unbelievers wouldn’t be dragged into Hell like this. Because a real god wouldn’t be so insecure as to demand blind belief. If it wanted us to know it existed, we would, and there wouldn’t be any human prophets speaking for him, because he could speak for himself.
75all because on earth you revelled in untruth and ran wild.
That may be true of the pagans being addressed here, but it is not true for the atheists.
76Enter the gates of Hell, there to remain– an evil home for the arrogant.’
You know, when you put it that way, it sounds so inviting. It really does, at least to an arrogant and slightly Goth metal-head like me.
77So be patient [Prophet], for God’s promise is sure: whether We show you part of what We have promised them in this life or whether We take your soul back to Us first, it is to Us that they will be returned.
God’s promise isn’t sure. It isn’t even God’s promise. It is the empty threat of those posing as God’s representatives, trying to assume his perceived authority as their own.
78We have sent other messengers before you– some We have mentioned to you and some We have not– and no messenger could bring about a sign except with God’s permission.
When [the Day] God ordained comes, just judgement will be passed between them: there and then, those who followed falsehood will be lost.
So the Muslims and Christians and so on will be lost? Got it.
79It is God who provides livestock for you, some for riding and some for your food;
Nope. Evolution did that, not any god.
80you have other benefits in them too.
I hope he’s not hinting about sheep here.
You can reach any destination you wish on them: they carry you, as ships carry you [on the sea]. 81He shows you His signs: which of God’s signs do you still ignore?
I am not aware of any “signs”. Show me one that doesn’t require the question-begging fallacy.
82Have they not travelled through the land and seen how those who lived before them met their end? They were more numerous than them, stronger than them, and made a more impressive mark on the land, yet what they achieved was of no use to them at all.
Who are we talking about now?
83When messengers came to them with clear signs, they revelled in the knowledge they had, and so they were engulfed by the very punishment they mocked: 84when they saw Our punishment, they said, ‘We believe in God alone; we reject any partner we ascribed to Him,’ 85but believing after seeing Our punishment did not benefit them at all– this has always been God’s way of dealing with His creatures– there and then the disbelievers were lost.
I am reading the Qur’an the way I am because I want to do this the best way I can, to make sure my understanding is correct. I want to be fair in my assessment of this work. That said, I sincerely think it is fair to say that the Qur’an is very poorly written. If you want to understand the stories in the Qur’an, you’ll need to read the longer original versions that are found in the Bible, and if you read the Qur’an first, you’ll appreciate the Bible more. Because the Qur’an only gives summaries of those stories, expecting that you already know them. The Qur’an is tediously repetitive, ignorant even for its time, and internally inconsistent, full of contradictions and notions that would be laughably silly if they weren’t so evil and politically imposed to oppress believers even in the modern day. It’s a really awful, stupid book.