This is the 35th 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.
my 33rd post on surah 39.
and my 34th post on surah 40.
Sūrah 41 (Fussilat) Made Distinct
Abdel has a bracket in this title that we are talking about [verses] being “made distinct”. Other translations say that Fussilat means “explained (or presented) in detail”. I noticed that a couple translations don’t even agree on the Arabic title, saying that Sūrah 41 is also known as Al-Aquat, whatever that means. Though I remember an old joke that a feral feline in the inner city is known as an Al-Aquat.
Several surahs begin with different combinations of letters. NobleQuran.com says “These letters are one of the miracles of the Qur’an, and none but Allah (Alone) knows their meanings.” But I really don’t think it’s quite a miracle that one of the mere fallible people involved in composing and compiling these works tried to apply his own perhaps categorical or sequential notation, and that the intended meanings of those initials were lost when that guy died before explaining them.
2A revelation from the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy; 3a scripture whose verses are made distinct as a Qur’an in Arabic for people who understand,
Remember that it says the Qur’an is distinctly clear immediately after admitting that God only knows what those letters mean. Remember also that this book is so “clear” that I have to read multiple translations and tafsirs that can’t even agree on the title, neither for this surah nor of the previous one either. Because that also had two names, but only according to some sources. Because not even that is clear!
Then there is so much more study required just to get to the level where you can argue with other scholars who disagree on everything this book says or means. For example, just today I read a post from a philosopher, Αλέξανδρος Νεφέλη who said:
I’ve read Quran as a whole many times, I’ve studied many Hadith and sciences of Hadith, I’ve studied Maliki Fiqh books and through online classes, I’ve studied the biography of Muhammad from multiple classical and modern sources and I’ve also studied Islamic history from 2 classical sources. In the end observing history as a whole and the world we live in today I come to the conclusion that,
1. Islam is just as barbaric and crazy as Judaism/Christianity but much more dangerous.
2. Religion and the theory of a creator/sustainer/sovereign god/gods that speak, move and legislate laws and rituals for humans to obey is completely primitive and quite simply STUPID.
3. Science, freedom, human rights, secular education, compassion and selflessness is the only hope for us and future generations becoming a truly great species.
And 4. No one knows where or how life or the existence of everything that exists came to be. No one knows what happens after death. Will we ever know, I don’t know.
Thus the Qur’an is not clear even to those who seriously study it! Apparently, it only really seems clear to those who cannot question it or their understanding of it.
4giving good news and warning. Yet most of them turn away and so do not hear.
So Muhammad is telling all these different people to bow in submission to him, and to believe all his raving insanity without question—or else! They’ll be tortured savagely for all eternity. And this he says is “good” news?!
5They say, ‘Our hearts are encased against [the faith] you call us to; our ears are heavy; there is a barrier between us and you. So you do whatever you want, and so shall we.’
So the Pagans want to live and let live. They want freedom of religion and to tolerate diversity, which is great. But how do you think Allah feels about that? Let’s see.
6Say [Prophet], ‘I am only a mortal like you, [but] it has been revealed to me that your God is One. Take the straight path to Him and seek His forgiveness. Woe to the idolaters, 7who do not pay the prescribed alms and refuse to believe in the world to come! 8Those who believe and do good deeds will have a reward that never fails.’
In other words, “Believe me and you’ll have endless rewards. Doubt me and there will be Hell to pay.” Note also that believing equals good deeds, and the most important of those good deeds is paying alms, because that’s what religion is really about, exerting and extorting power over others.
9Say, ‘How can you disregard the One who created the earth in two Days? How can you set up other gods as His equals? He is the Lord of all the worlds!’ 10He placed solid mountains on it, blessed it, measured out its varied provisions for all who seek them––all in four Days. 11Then He turned to the sky, which was smoke––He said to it and the earth, ‘Come into being, willingly or not,’ and they said, ‘We come willingly’––12and in two Days He formed seven heavens, and assigned an order to each. We have made the nearest one beautifully illuminated and secure. Such is the design of the Almighty, the All Knowing.
So God “told” the heavens and the earth to come into being, and they answered him before doing as he said. So they must have already existed somewhere, somehow, right? And they’re sentient as well!
It took God only two days to create the earth. Remember that the archaic view of the earth is that of a map on a flat round table. Then he placed mountains on it, to be used as paperweights to hold the map down. Not even kidding! I had an argument with Hamza Tzortzis, a famous Muslim apologist who was trying to defend that exact point! God also built the “heavens”, inside the “firmament”, a giant crystalline dome that covers the whole map of the earth, and contains not only God’s ethereal hotel but also the sun, moon and stars, which are all smaller than that old notion of the flat table-top earth. It took God two days to do that too.
Translator, Abdel Haleem points out that God created the earth and the firmament both at the same time, and that it took him only two days to all the big stuff. Then it somehow took God twice that long just to place the mountains on his assembled game board. But when you add it all up, it still comes out to six days. Because that’s what you’re supposed to believe, and it doesn’t matter that we know the earth isn’t like that, and that the firmament doesn’t exist. Ignore all that and believe in the fable anyway—or else!
13If they turn away, say, ‘I have warned you about a blast like the one which struck Ad and Thamud:
Interestingly, for such a “clear” Qur’an, there is argument as to who was Ad and Thammud. You have to be raised in that area and in that tradition to have any idea about them anymore.
14when their messengers came to them, from all angles, a saying, “Serve no one but God,” they said, “If our Lord had wished, He would have sent down angels. We do not believe in the message with which you have been sent.”
That’s a fair point. All gods are imaginary to everyone but the believer, and those who believe think that theirs is the one true faith. All the gods and religions make the same claims, and all have the same weaknesses, because they are no more than pretend.
15The people of Ad behaved arrogantly throughout the land without any right, saying, “Who could be stronger than us?” Did they not realize that God, who created them, was stronger than them?’ They continued to reject Our message, 16so We let a roaring wind loose on them for a few disastrous days to make them taste the punishment of shame in this world; more shameful still will be the punishment of the life to come, and they will not be helped. 17As for Thamud, We gave them guidance but they preferred blindness, so they were struck by a blast of humiliating punishment for their misdeeds. 18We saved those who believed and were mindful of God.
So if anything bad ever happens to any community, like a hurricane, earthquake or volcano, pretend it was your god smiting them for not believing in the same nonsense you do. Then your god will appear so much stronger, at least in your own mind. You can also pretend that the only survivors were the “good” ones who believed in your religion, even though your religion didn’t even exist yet.
19On the Day when God’s enemies are gathered up for the Fire and driven onward, 20their ears, eyes, and skins will, when they reach it, testify against them for their misdeeds. 21They will say to their skins, ‘Why did you testify against us?’ and their skins will reply, ‘God, who gave speech to everything, has given us speech– it was He who created you the first time and to Him you have been returned– 22yet you did not try to hide yourselves from your ears, eyes, and skin to prevent them from testifying against you. You thought that God did not know about much of what you were doing, 23so it was the thoughts you entertained about your Lord that led to your ruin, and you became losers.’
Really? Our skin will talk to us? And our skin will tell us that we should have hidden our disbelief from our eyes and ears, because it was they who tattled on us to our skin? I’m told that Muslims read the Qur’an literally. So are there are people who believe that this really happen? Seriously?
24The Fire will still be their home, even if they resign themselves to patience, and if they pray to be allowed to make amends, they will not be given permission to do so.
The threat has to be scary enough that you’ll believe the lie without proof. That’s called extortion.
25We have appointed, for the disbelievers, companions b who make their past and present seem fair and right to them, but the sentence has already been passed on them, along with generations of jinn and men before them: they were losers. 26The disbelievers say, ‘Do not listen to this Qur’an; drown it in frivolous talk: you may gain the upper hand.’ 27We shall certainly give the disbelievers a taste of severe punishment. We shall repay them according to their worst deeds– 28that is the reward of the enemies of God– the Fire will be their lasting home, a payment for their rejection of Our revelations. 29The disbelievers will say, ‘Our Lord, show us those jinn and men who misled us and we shall trample them underfoot, so that they may be among the lowest of the low.’
In a number of surahs, the Qur’an makes clear that God has decided who will believe and who will have their eyes and ears closed by God. So that we have no free will and no choice to believe in him. Here it says that the Muslim God even controls the people around us too, causing them to be “evil” (non-believers) and he uses them to lie to us (reason with us) so that we don’t believe. Then, God will throw us and our companions into the fires of Hell as punishment for doing what he gave us no choice but to do. We are merely God’s toys with no will of our own. Because God alone decides who will be good or bad, and God is neither righteous nor just.
30As for those who say, ‘Our Lord is God,’ and take the straight path towards Him, the angels come down to them and say, ‘Have no fear or grief, but rejoice in the good news of Paradise, which you have been promised. 31We are your allies in this world and in the world to come, where you will have everything you desire and ask for 32as a welcoming gift from the Most Forgiving, Most Merciful One.’
Yes, you can have everything you ask for, unless you’re a woman, or a gay man. Remember also that Heaven has prohibition, no alcohol allowed. Nor is there any way to just die and stay dead, to avoid or escape the endless monotony of this so-called Heaven. You’re not allowed to be reincarnated either. So it’s not quite everything one could ask for, and God damn-sure isn’t forgiving.
33Who speaks better than someone who calls people to God, does what is right, and says, ‘I am one of those devoted to God’?
The answer is most of the people who are NOT devoted to delusional divinity.
34Good and evil cannot be equal. [Prophet], repel evil with what is better and your enemy will become as close as an old and valued friend, 35but only those who are steadfast in patience, only those who are blessed with great righteousness, will attain to such goodness.
But how do we tell our enemies from our friends? How do I know that my best friends were not created by God only to deceive me into disbelief? How do I that I was not created and forced by God to deceive others?
36If a prompting from Satan should stir you, seek refuge with God: He is the All Hearing and the All Knowing.
How could we tell if we were being prompted by Satan? How is that any different than being deceived by God himself?
37The night, the day, the sun, the moon, are only a few of His signs. Do not bow down in worship to the sun or the moon, but bow down to God who created them, if it is truly Him that you worship.
So if you don’t understand what the moon is or what holds it up, you’re told to assume it to be a “sign” of God’s magic.
38If the disbelievers are too arrogant, [remember, Prophet, that] those who are with your Lord glorify Him tirelessly night and day.
Who is more arrogant than those who believe that the universe was created just for them?
39Another of His signs is this: you see the earth lying desolate, but when We send water down on to it, it stirs and grows. He who gives it life will certainly give life to the dead. He has power over everything.
So if you don’t know where rain comes from, because you don’t understand the water cycle, assume that too is a “sign” of God’s magic, and that everything else you don’t understand should be a sign of God’s magic too.
40Those who distort the meaning of Our message are not hidden from Us. Is he who is hurled into the Fire better, or he who comes through safely on the Day of Resurrection? Do whatever you want, God certainly sees everything you do.
With this lie, the clergy can assume power over the credulous.
41Those who reject the Qur’an when it comes to them– though it is an unassailable Scripture 42which falsehood cannot touch from any angle, a Revelation sent down from the Wise One, Worthy of All Praise– 43[should remember that] you [Prophet] are not told anything that the previous messengers were not told: your Lord is a Lord of forgiveness, but also of painful punishment.
This series shows that the Qur’an is easily assailable, full of falsehoods, and obviously not any sort of revelation, and that it certainly is not from anyone who ever understood anything beyond the feeble knowledge of the 7th century.
44If We had made it a foreign Qur’an, they would have said, ‘If only its verses were clear!
Coincidentally, the Qur’an *is* foreign to me, as an English-speaking American, and I am in fact complaining that the verses should have been made clear. However, I note that Arabic speakers also have the same complaint.
What? Foreign speech to an Arab?’
NobleQuran translated this verse thus: “And if We had sent this as a Qur’an in a foreign language other than Arabic, they would have said: “Why are not its Verses explained in detail (in our language)? What! (A Book) not in Arabic and (the Messenger) an Arab?” So the Qur’an is only intended for Arabs, and not for the rest of man-kind?
Say, ‘It is guidance and healing for those who have faith, but the ears of the disbelievers are heavy, they are blind to it, it is as if they are being called from a distant place.’
I’m “being called” from the realm of reason, where baseless claims of irrational absurdity are not compelling.
45We gave the Scripture to Moses but disputes arose about it– if it were not for a decree that had already been issued from your Lord, they would already have been judged– and still they are doubtful and suspicious of it.
Remember that Moses never existed. Thus God never gave him the Qur’an, which also didn’t exist at that time. Jews and Christians believe that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, but not the Qur’an. That’s why Moses wasn’t a Muslim and neither are Jews or Christians.
46Whoever does good does it for his own soul and whoever does evil does it against his own soul: your Lord is never unjust to His creatures.
Eternal punishment for finite thought crimes are always unjust.
47Knowledge of the Hour belongs solely to Him and no crop comes out of its sheath, nor does any female conceive or give birth, without His knowledge. On the Day He asks them, ‘Where are My partners?’ they will answer, ‘We admit to You that none of us can see [them]’: 48the gods they invoked before will have vanished away; they will know that there is no escape.
So it will be with this god too. No one can see this god any better than any other. They are all equally invisible, and will all vanish eventually, as they are all similarly imaginary.
The passenger pigeon was once the most abundant bird in North America, numbering in the billions at the start of the 19th century, yet they were entirely extinct in the 20th century. Likewise, Islam was the fastest-growing religion, and there are still over a billion Muslims right now, but that won’t last. That religion, like all others, will diminish profoundly over the next hundred years.
49Man never tires of asking for good, but if evil touches him he loses all hope and becomes despondent.
Not true. People still believe in God, and they still worship frauds and failed dictators.
50Whenever We let him taste some of Our mercy after he has been afflicted, he is sure to say, ‘This is all my own doing: I do not think the Hour will ever come, but even if I were to be taken back to my Lord, the best reward would await me with Him.’ We shall most certainly inform the disbelievers of what they have done and give them a taste of severe torment.
It is true that virtually everyone who believes in God also believes they will be in Heaven with him. This includes most of the Christians who still outnumber Muslims around the world. And they tell Muslims to accept Jesus or else be damned to the Christian Hell. One empty unsupported assertion is just as worthless as another.
51Whenever We are gracious to man, he goes away haughtily, but, as soon as evil touches him, he turns to prolonged prayer.
This too is true of believers, but not so much atheists, who know better.
52Say [Prophet], ‘Have you ever thought, what if this revelation really is from God and you still reject it?
If God wants Muhammad to ask people to consider “what if this really is from God”, then God already understands why those people don’t believe in him, and he would know how to show the evidence we need to see. But he won’t because he can’t, because he is only imaginary.
Who could be more astray than someone who cuts himself off so far [from God]?’
The answer is, one who one who refuses reason and believes without reason and against all reason is invariably far more astray than those not so easily fooled.
53We shall show them Our signs in every region of the earth and in themselves, until it becomes clear to them that this is the Truth.
Yet no one sees these signs. Consequently, religion is in a state of decline world-wide, and even Islam is experiencing an already unprecedented attenuation as believers walk away unable to misinterpret the moon as if it were a sign from a mute god.
Is it not enough that your Lord witnesses everything?
Since there is no evidence of that, then yeah, the empty assertion alone is not enough.
54Truly, they doubt that they will meet their Lord; truly He encompasses a everything.
Translator, Abdel Haleem has a footnote here that “encompass” is really “muhit, a metaphor in Arabic for having full knowledge and full power over everything.” Yet, one thing God is unable to do is to show himself to those who are guided by reason.