July 14, 2024

An Infidel Reads Sūrah 44

This is the 37th 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.
my 34th post on surah 40.
my 35th post on surah 41.
and my 36th post on surah 42.

Sūrah 44 (Al-Dukhan) Smoke

I thought that “al” meant “the” in Arabic, and that al-lah means “the god” for example. Thus this chapter should be called “the smoke”. But I note every other translation has it the same way. Anyway, today’s episode is brought to you by the letters….

1Ha Mim

NobleQuran says “These letters are one of the miracles of the Qur’an and none but Allah (Alone) knows their meanings”. Now compare that thought to the very next verse:

2By the Scripture that makes things clear,

Except that saying “God only knows” doesn’t clarify anything or explain why it is written in this book.

3truly We sent it down on a blessed night––We have always sent warnings––4a night when every matter of wisdom was made distinct 5at Our command––We have always sent messages to man––6as a mercy [Prophet] from your Lord who sees and knows all, 7Lord of the heavens and the earth and everything between––if only you people were firm believers––

Well, God, whose fault is that?

8there is no god but Him: He gives life and death––He is your Lord and the Lord of your forefathers––9yet in [their state of] doubt they take nothing seriously.

I tried. But it is really hard to take all these fables about djinni magic, talking animals and myriad other absurdities seriously.

10[Prophet], watch out for the Day when the sky brings forth clouds of smoke for all to see. 11It will envelop the people. They will cry, ‘This is a terrible torment! 12Lord relieve us from this torment! We believe!’

Is this another reference to a volcano? Translator, Abdel Haleem has a footnote here, saying that “Some interpret this as referring to an actual event that occurred in the lifetime of the Prophet––a drought and famine in Mecca during which hunger caused eyes to mist over when the sufferers looked at the sky––but it seems more likely to refer to the Day of Judgement.” Strange that we could have such confusion in “the scripture that makes things clear”.

13How will this [sudden] faith benefit them? When a prophet came to warn them plainly, 14they turned their backs on him, saying, ‘He is tutored! He is possessed!’

I didn’t understand how being tutored is equivalent to being possessed. Since that wasn’t clear, I turned to ClearQuran. Their translation is that the people said the prophet was “Educated, but crazy!”. Other translations concur, saying that the people rejected Muhammad as a madman, merely repeating what other people had told him.

15We shall hold the torment back for a while ––you are sure to return [to Us]––16and on the Day We seize [them] mightily We shall exact retribution.

Continuing with Abdel Haleem’s suggested alternate interpretation, he says, “If this passage is taken to refer to the Day of Judgement, here the torment is relieved rather than held back, and the people return to disbelief rather than to God.” Haleem’s primary interpretation differs from that of other translators, adding the words “to Us” which do not appear in other versions. For example, IslamicStudies.info translated this verse as “Yet We will hold the scourge back for a while, (but no sooner than We will do so) you will revert to your old ways.” Each of the other versions I’ve seen agree that the people will revert to their old ways rather than to God, as Haleem implied. Again, how could we have such confusion in “the Scripture that makes things clear”? 

17We tested the people of Pharaoh before them: a noble messenger was sent to them, 18saying, ‘Hand the servants of God over to me! I am a faithful messenger who has been sent to you. 19Do not consider yourselves to be above God! I come to you with clear authority.

I imagine the Pharaoh responding, “Alright, if what you say is true, we will readily comply. So let’s see your invoice, authentication and authorization. If any king had sent you, then you would bear a letter with his seal to prove that. So God should have given you at least that much, right? How else could we know whether you really are a messenger from God or whether you’re just one of many lonely schizophrenics in the desert who only think that God sent them? Surely you don’t expect us to believe you just because you say so, do you?” To which Moses nods. 

Then the Pharaoh has another thought: “What a minute, God is supposed to be an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent telepath who speaks to anyone who asks, right? So if all that is true, then I could just ask him myself right now. HEY, GOD! ANSWER ME IF YOU’RE REAL, AND TELL ME, DID YOU SEND THIS WEIRDO TO TAKE ALL OUR SLAVES AWAY?” Then, after a whole awkward minute of silence, Pharaoh would say to Moses, “We decided that it would be in your best interest if we put you somewhere where you could get the help that you need”.

Institution - Imgflip

Then, as the Egyptian guards drag Moses off to a padded cell in the loony bin, he shouts: 

20I seek refuge in my Lord and yours against your insults! a 21If you do not believe me, just let me be.’ 22[Moses] cried to his Lord, ‘These people are evildoers!’

For another moment, we can still hear the echoes of Moses’ raving, “I’m not crazy! You’re the one who is crazy”.

23[God replied], ‘Escape in the night with My servants, for you are sure to be pursued. 24Leave the sea behind you parted and their army will be drowned.’

I think it important to point out that had the Hebrews really crossed the red sea, they need only follow the shoreline North to the Mediterranean Sea, and then turn right to keep following that shoreline north too. Had they done that, they would have arrived in Canaan in less than a fortnight. But with God’s guidance, they remained lost in the desert for forty years, so that every one of the original pilgrims was dead before the children they had along the way finally made it where they were going, and were ultimately disappointed.

25Many a garden and spring they left behind, 26many a cornfield and noble building, 27many a thing in which they had delighted: 28We gave these to another people to inherit. 29Neither heavens nor earth shed a tear for them, nor were they given any time.

Doesn’t really sound like they were really slaves, does it? Sounds like they actually preferred Egypt. 

30We saved the Children of Israel from their degrading suffering 31at the hands of Pharaoh: he was a tyrant who exceeded all bounds.

If you think Pharaoh is a tyrant, wait ‘til you meet Allah!

32We chose them knowingly above others: 33We gave them revelations in which there was a clear test.

Except that we have no reason to believe that story at all, and there is a growing consensus among archaeologists and historians that none of that ever really happened.

34These people here [Meccans] assert, 35‘There is nothing beyond our one death: we will not be resurrected.

And those old Meccans were correct.

36Bring back our forefathers, if what you say is true.’ 37Are they better than the people of Tubba and those who flourished before them? We destroyed them all– they were guilty.

Abdel Haleem has another footnote here, saying the Tubba was an “Honorific title of the King of Yemen given to a succession of powerful kings who ruled over southern Arabia in ancient times”. IslamicStudies agrees, saying “Tubba was the title of the kings of the Himyarites, like the titles of Khosroes, Caesar, Pharaoh etc. which have been associated with the kings of different countries. They were a branch of the Sabaeans, who attained domination over Saba in 115 B.C. and ruled it until 300 A.D. They have been a well known people of Arabia for centuries.”

38We were not playing a pointless game when We created the heavens and earth and everything in between; 39We created them for a true purpose, but most people do not comprehend.

Notice how poorly written the Qur’an is. It was just quoting the Meccans. Now it’s quoting Allah, but it doesn’t say that. We have to understand it from the context.

40The Day of Decision is the time appointed for all; 41a Day when no friend can take another’s place. 42No one will receive any help except for those to whom God shows mercy: He is the Mighty, the Merciful Lord.

Again, anyone who would damn someone to an eternal torture of this type doesn’t even know what mercy is.

43The tree of Zaqqum 44will be food for the sinners: 45[hot] as molten metal, it boils in their bellies 46like seething water.

So what would happen if the people who are already being roasted alive and can’t die decided not to eat either? I mean, why would you need to eat in the afterlife? I would think being constantly burned and flayed alive would really dampen the apatite.

47‘Take him! Thrust him into the depths of Hell! 48Pour scalding water over his head as punishment!’

Oh thank you! This 1,500° fire will really dry your skin out. It’s so nice to cool down with this mere 90° shower.

I went to India once in January. It was 78°F, tee-shirt and shorts weather back home. But the Indians were all wearing sweaters under jackets that were zipped up as if it was cold. It would have to be colder than 40°F for people to dress like that back home. So after centuries of writhing in the fires of Hell, immortal souls would acclimate to the new climate.   

49‘Taste this, you powerful, respected man!

How many times have I heard that?

I compared translations again. ClearQuran says “Taste! You who were powerful and noble”. Meanwhile NobleQuran said, “”Taste you (this)! Verily, you were (pretending to be) the mighty, the generous!”

50This is what you doubted.’ 51But those mindful of God will be in a safe place 52amid Gardens and springs, 53clothed in silk and fine brocade, facing one another:

All of them sobbing because of their family and friends being mercilessly tortured by an amoral monster who is beyond all reason in every respect.

54so it will be. We shall wed them to maidens with large, dark eyes.

With or without the maidens’ consent. That doesn’t matter. Nor does it matter if the men are already married. Where do the maidens come from? Oh, God made them just to serve the pleasures of the men in Heaven. So they are literally sex slaves with no souls or will of their own. What do the wives of these men get? What do any women who die and go to Heaven get? Punished if they complain, that’s what. Muslim Heaven offers nothing to women but continued objectification and oppression. 

55Secure and contented, they will call for every kind of fruit.

Except forbidden fruit of course. Take that how you want. Homosexuality is a damnable sin, and so, apparently is knowledge. So you don’t want to eat of the fruit of that tree either. Or else you might wonder, why do we need to eat in an afterlife where we can never die?

56After the one death they will taste death no more. God will guard them from the torment of Hell, 57a bounty from your Lord. That is the supreme triumph.

Which doesn’t make any sense because people have compassion and would know that everyone they love is being roasted alive for the “crime” of not believing unbelievable nonsense. The real “triumph” here would be if God really was merciful at all. Then he would allow us to just die, completely, body and soul, and be out of all misery. 

58We have made this Quran easy to understand– in your own language [Prophet]– so that they may take heed.

So whatever mere fallible humans wrote the Qur’an, they were only provincial, and didn’t have the foresight to imagine that Islam would one day have adherents in every country, speaking every language around the world, and that the vast majority of them would not speak Arabic. The Arabs who cobbled this together out of Jewish and Christian mythology only intended this message for Arabs of that time and not for the rest of the world nor for all time.

59So wait; the disbelievers too are waiting.

Well, I don’t think we’re really waiting for anything because we know this day of judgement is never going to happen. So we get about our lives and try to live better than this empty promise of Heaven.

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