June 17, 2024

An Infidel Reads Sūrah 7

This is the 13th 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 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.
and my 12th post on surah 38.

Sūrah 7 (Al-A‘arãf) The Heights

(1) Əlif, Lam, Mim, Sad.

These are the names of Arabic letters spelled out. A. L. M. S. Translator Abdel Haleem gives no explanation for this verse, but other translations at least attempt to. MasjidTucson.org translation calls it a “mathematical miracle” and “proof of divine authorship”. Their “reasoning” (if we can call it that) appears to be an attempt to find a mathematic pattern however possible, another example of circular reasoning but one that combines a calculator and an obsessive compulsive disorder.

Not surprisingly, not everyone agrees with that degree of paranoid conspiratorial pattern-seeking, or else I’m sure Abdel Haleem would have mentioned it. I found another apologetic explanation that these initials represent a “revelation descended from Allah to gabrieL to Muhammad”. No explanation as what the ‘S‘ stands for. But my favorite explanation came from some apparent authority named Dr. Ghali writing for Quran.com. He said “These are the names of letters of the Arabic alphabet and only Allah knows their meaning here”. So the most amusing explanation is literally “God only knows”!

(2) This Book has been sent down to you [Prophet]––let there be no anxiety in your heart because of it––so that you may use it to give warning and to remind the believers: (3) ‘Follow what has been sent down to you from your Lord; do not follow other masters beside Him. How seldom you take heed!’

I’m at least 40 surahs into this now, and it really does seem like Muhammad is just repeating “believe me or else you’ll be sorry” ad nauseum.

(4) How many towns We have destroyed! Our punishment came to them by night or while they slept in the afternoon:

Once again, this reflects the tendency of the superstitious to blame every natural disaster on supernatural forces, as we’ve seen in the last few suras too.

(5) their only cry when Our punishment came to them was, ‘How wrong we were!’ (6) We shall certainly question those to whom messengers were sent–– and We shall question the messengers themselves––(7) and, with full knowledge, for We were never far from them, We shall tell them what they did. (8) On that Day the weighing of deeds will be true and just: those whose good deeds are heavy on the scales will be the ones to prosper, (9) and those whose good deeds are light will be the ones who have lost their souls through their wrongful rejection of Our messages.

The last time we heard Muhammad doing all this big-talk ranting for Allah, back in sura 75 it repeated it reminded me of Vinz Clortho, the raving Keymaster of Gozer.

(10) We established you [people] on the earth and provided you with a means of livelihood there––small thanks you give!

Did this remind you of your mother giving you one of her guilt trips?

(11) We created you, We gave you shape, and then We said to the angels, ‘Bow down before Adam,’ and they did. But not Iblis: he was not one of those who bowed down. (12) God said, ‘What prevented you from bowing down as I commanded you?’ and he said, ‘I am better than him: You created me from fire and him from clay.’(13) God said, ‘Get down from here! This is no place for your arrogance. Get out! You are contemptible!’ (14) but Iblis said,‘Give me respite until the Day people are raised from the dead,’ (15) and God replied, ‘You have respite.’ (16) And then Iblis said, ‘Because You have put me in the wrong, I will lie in wait for them all on Your straight path: (17) I will come at them–– from their front and their back, from their right and their left–– and You will find that most of them are ungrateful.’ (18) God said, ‘Get out! You are disgraced and banished! I swear I shall fill Hell with you and all who follow you!

This too was repeated in the last sura we just read. Although the dialogue is slightly different, which proves it can’t be completely accurate, the bigger issue is not deviation but the repetition.

(19) But you and your wife, Adam, live in the Garden. Both of you eat whatever you like, but do not go near this tree or you will become wrongdoers.’ (20) Satan whispered to them so as to expose their nakedness, which had been hidden from them: he said, ‘Your Lord only forbade you this tree to prevent you becoming angels or immortals,’ (21) and he swore to them, ‘I am giving you sincere advice’– – (22) he lured them with lies. Their nakedness became exposed to them when they had eaten from the tree: they began to put together leaves from the Garden to cover themselves. Their Lord called to them, ‘Did I not forbid you to approach that tree? Did I not warn you that Satan was your sworn enemy?’ (23) They replied, ‘Our Lord, we have wronged our souls: if You do not forgive us and have mercy, we shall be lost.’ (24) He said,‘All of you get out! You are each other’s enemies. On earth you will have a place to stay and livelihood–– for a time.’(25) He said, ‘There you will live; there you will die; from there you will be brought out.’

Now the Qur’an is repeating the fables of other story books instead of only repeating itself. But I must point out that while there are some “serious theologians” insisting that they have scholarly philosophical arguments implying divinity, those scholars know better than to try and defend the fable of Adam & Eve. We know that was just a parable at best, a modified myth adapted from earlier myths, with different meanings, and without even a kernel of truth that could be taken literally.

That said, I have to add that we also know that the serpent in the garden was not originally intended to be “the Devil” (or Satan) in disguise. The Bible neither implies nor even allows for that interpretation, yet modern Christians still read it that way anyway, Muslims simply borrowed that interpretation and changed their version of the devil character that Christians previously borrowed from Zoroastrians.

(26) Children of Adam, We have given you garments to cover your nakedness and as adornment for you; the garment of God-consciousness is the best of all garments–– this is one of God’s signs, so that people may take heed.

After a bit of web-searching, I still have no idea what “the garment of God-consciousness” is. But I’m sure it should be something in white.

(27) Children of Adam, do not let Satan seduce you, as he did your parents, causing them to leave the Garden, stripping them of their garments to expose their nakedness to them: he and his forces can see you from where you cannot see them: We have made evil ones allies to those who do not believe.

In other words, Satan knows the color of your underwear and seems to be way too interested in that.

(28) Yet when [these people] do something disgraceful, they say, ‘We found our forefathers doing this,’ and, ‘God has commanded us to do this.’ Say [Prophet], ‘God does not command disgraceful deeds. 

Haleem’s footnotes refer to someone named Razi, who says that “something disgraceful” in this case means walking around the Ka’ab naked.

How can you say about God things that you do not know [to be true]?’

Isn’t that what religion is all about?

 (29) Say, ‘My Lord commands righteousness. Direct your worship straight to Him wherever you pray; call on Him; devote your religion entirely to Him. Just as He first created you, so you will come back [to life] again.’ (30) Some He has guided and some are doomed to stray: they have taken evil ones rather than God as their masters, thinking that they are rightly guided.

And God did nothing to correct that misinformation. When I see someone who thinks they’re being rightly-guided but are really being mislead, I do what I can to help set them right again. In fact, that’s part of why I’m doing this series.

(31) Children of Adam, dress well whenever you are at worship, and eat and drink [as We have permitted] but do not be extravagant: God does not like extravagant people.

That must be the difference between the Muslim and Christian concepts of God. Have you seen how extravagant our tele-evangelists are? They say that Trump was a literal God-send. How extravagant is he?

(32) Say [Prophet], ‘Who has forbidden the adornment and the nourishment God has provided for His servants?’ Say, ‘They are [allowed] for those who believe during the life of this world: they will be theirs alone on the Day of Resurrection.’ This is how We make Our revelation clear for those who understand. (33) Say [Prophet], ‘My Lord only forbids disgraceful deeds– – whether they be open or hidden–– and sin and unjustified aggression, and that you, without His sanction, associate things with Him, and that you say things about Him without knowledge.’

Everyone who speaks about whatever god(s) they believe in do so without knowledge.

(34) There is a time set for every people: they cannot hasten it, nor, when it comes, will they be able to delay it for a single moment. (35) Children of Adam, when messengers come to you from among yourselves, reciting My revelations to you, for those who are conscious of God and live righteously, there will be no fear, nor will they grieve. (36) But those who reject Our revelations and arrogantly scorn them are the people of the Fire and there they will remain.

Yeah, I know. I’m supposed to believe you for no good reason or else suffer a fate worse than death. That’s your answer for everything.

(37) Who is more wrong than the person who invents lies against God or rejects His revelations?

How about the person who invents lies FOR God, demanding forced conformity and undeserved reverence along with a percentage of everyone’s income, and who threatens rational people with damnation if they’re unable to submit to all those empty assertions on faith?

Such people will have their preordained share [in this world], but then, when Our angels arrive to take them back, saying, ‘Where are those you used to call on beside God?’ they will say, ‘They have deserted us.’ They will confess that they were disbelievers and (38) God will say, ‘Join the crowds of jinn and humans who have gone before you into the Fire.’

If the Jinni are made of fire, what’s the problem with them going into the fire?

Every crowd curses its fellow crowd as it enters, then, when they are all gathered inside, the last of them will say of the first, ‘Our Lord, it was they who led us astray: give them double punishment in the Fire’–– God says, ‘Every one of you will have double punishment, though you do not know it’– –

That’s why I prefer reason over religion. It doesn’t matter what you believe. All that matters is why you believe it, what is your evidence? And is it sound? Because it is all testable, and if doesn’t stand up to scrutiny or doesn’t really support your position, then either your data is wrong or you’re understanding is, and so you would want to correct yourself either way. All this nonsense about believing the raving insanity of some self-professed prophet or else be damned by a judgmental god who doesn’t know how to make a compelling case for himself is all just madness.

(39) and the first of them will say to the last, ‘You were no better than us: taste the punishment you have earned.’

Notice, you “earn punishment” not by doing evil but by not believing whatever the strange man or the weird book tells you.

(40) The gates of Heaven will not be open to those who rejected Our revelations and arrogantly spurned them; even if a thick rope were to pass through the eye of a needle they would not enter the Garden.

Here Abdel Haleem’s footnotes (quoting Razi) provide information that very few Christians I’ve met are even aware of. “The roots of the words for ‘camel’ and ‘thick twisted rope’ are the same in Arabic and ‘rope’ makes more sense here”. Another source says that the Greek words for ‘rope’ and ‘camel’ are very similar too. More importantly, Arabic, Aramaic and Hebrew all have common roots, while primitive forms of Aramaic and Hebrew have no vowel points. So the same word “gmla” can mean either a camel or a rope made of camel hair, depending on the context. So Jesus in the Bible never said anything about a camel going through the eye of a needle. Matthew 19:24, Mark 10:25, and Luke 18:25 were all mistranslated.

This is how We punish the guilty– – (41) Hell will be their resting place and their covering, layer upon layer–– this is how We punish those who do evil. (42) But those who believe and do good deeds–– and We do not burden any soul with more than it can bear–– are the people of the Garden and there they will remain.

Notice, as the scripture always conflates guilt and evil with disbelief. Those who believe and do good deeds will be saved, but not those who only do good deeds. Neither the Bible nor the Qur’an will admit that people even can be good unless they believe the lies of religion.

(43) We shall have removed all ill feeling from their hearts; streams will flow at their feet. They will say, ‘Praise be to God, who guided us to this: had God not guided us, We would never have found the way. The messengers of our Lord brought the Truth.’ A voice will call out to them, ‘This is the Garden you have been given as your own on account of your deeds.’ (44) The people of the Garden will cry out to the people of the Fire, ‘We have found what our Lord promised us to be true. Have you found what your Lord promised you to be true?’ and they will answer, ‘Yes’. A voice will proclaim from their midst, ‘God’s rejection [hangs] over the evildoers: (45) those who turned others away from God’s path and tried to make it crooked, those who denied the Hereafter.’

Note that “evildoers” = “unbelievers”.

(46) A barrier divides the two groups with men on its heights recognizing each group by their marks: they will call out to the people of the Garden, ‘Peace be with you!’–– they will not have entered, but they will be hoping, (47) and when their glance falls upon the people of the Fire, they will say, ‘Our Lord, do not let us join the evildoers!’– – (48) and the people of the heights will call out to certain men they recognize by their marks, ‘What use were your great numbers and your false pride? (49) And are these the people you swore God would never bless? [Now these people are being told], “Enter the Garden! No fear for you, nor shall you grieve.”’

This is a seemingly endless repetition of the stick and the carrot. But there is no “height”, no garden, no Hellfire, and no god. Believers will not be rewarded when they die. Neither will unbelievers be punished. It’s what we do and understand while we live that matters, not whatever we “believed”.

(50) The people of the Fire will call to the people of Paradise, ‘Give us some water, or any of the sustenance God has granted you!’ and they will reply, ‘God has forbidden both to the disbelievers– –

There you have it. Disbelievers are evildoers, regardless whether they actually do anything but good deeds. If you don’t believe, you will be punished as if being reasonable means being evil.

(51) those who took their religion for distraction, a mere game, and were deluded by worldly life.’ Today We shall ignore [forget] them, just as they have ignored their meeting with this Day and denied Our Revelations.

See, you didn’t have to do anything wrong. You just didn’t believe the impossible absurdities claimed by the raving mad man. That’s evil enough to deserve damnation.

(52) We have brought people a Scripture–– We have explained it on the basis of true knowledge–– as guidance and mercy for those who believe. (53) What are they waiting for but the fulfilment of its [final prophecy]? On the Day it is fulfilled, those who had ignored it will say, ‘Our Lord’s messenger spoke the truth. Is there anyone to intercede for us now? Or can we be sent back to behave differently from the way we behaved before?’ They will really have squandered their souls, and all [the idols] they invented will have deserted them.

These arguments must have carried a lot more clout with those who worshiped idols, but I find it impossible to take them seriously.

(54) Your Lord is God, who created the heavens and earth in six Days, then established Himself on the throne; He makes the night cover the day in swift pursuit; He created the sun, moon, and stars to be subservient to His command; all creation and command belong to Him. Exalted be God, Lord of all the worlds!

Not one word of that is true.

(55) Call on your Lord humbly and privately–– He does not like those who transgress His bounds:

Yet it’s never God laying down the rules, but some guy pretending to speak for God, and all these guys lay down different rules. So we know they didn’t all come from the same god.

(56) do not corrupt the earth after it has been set right–– call on Him fearing and hoping. The mercy of God is close to those who do good.

…but only if they believe magical things without evidence. Otherwise to Hell with them.

(57) It is God who sends the winds, bearing good news of His coming grace, and when they have gathered up the heavy clouds, We drive them to a dead land where We cause rain to fall, bringing out all kinds of crops, just as We shall bring out the dead. Will you not reflect? (58) Vegetation comes out of good land in abundance, by the will of its Lord, but out of bad land only scantily: We explain Our Revelations in various ways to those who give thanks.

I get it. Whatever you don’t understand about nature, you say Goddidit; like faeries in the garden pushing up the daisies that we mentioned back when we read sura 80.

Sura 7 is not the longest chapter in the Qur’an, but it is close; over fifteen pages in Haleem’s book. It is tedious partly because it is so repetitive. Much of the rest of this sura recites the “they got theirs, and you’ll get yours next” warning that we already saw repeated in suras 38, 54 and 50. Verses 59-64 re-tell the Noah’s ark story that came up in all three of those suras. The funniest bit being when Muhammad says,

Remember how He made you heirs after Noah’s people, and increased your stature: remember God’s bounties, so that you may prosper.’

Remember how none of that really happened? Because we know and can prove that it didn’t.

Verses 65-72 repeat the story of ‘Ad. Verses 73-79 repeat the tale of the tragedy at Thamud. Verses 80-84 repeat the story of Lot, all of which we already seen in each of the last three suras we read before this one. After that, there was this new story.

(85) To the people of Midian We sent their brother, Shu’ayb. He said, ‘My people, serve God: you have no god other than Him. A clear sign has come to you from your Lord. Give full measure and weight and do not undervalue people’s goods; do not cause corruption in the land after it has been set in order: this is better for you, if you are believers.

But if you’re not that gullible then you’re screwed.

(86) Do not sit in every pathway, threatening and barring those who believe in God from His way, trying to make it crooked. Remember how you used to be few and He made you multiply. Think about the fate of those who used to spread corruption. (87) If some of you believe the message I bring and others do not, then be patient till God judges between us. He is the best of all judges.’

…except that he has the worst criteria, and the stories of Lot and of Noah (among others) prove that God is an awful judge of character.

(88) His people’s arrogant leaders said, ‘Shu’ayb, we will expel you and your fellow believers from our town unless you return to our religion.’ He said, ‘What! Even if we detest it? (89) If we were to return to your religion after God has saved us from it, we would be inventing lies about Him: there is no way we could return to it–– unless by the will of God our Lord: in His knowledge He comprehends everything. We put our trust in God. Our Lord, expose the truth [and judge] between us and our people, for You are the best judge.’ (90) The disbelieving leaders among his people said, ‘You will certainly be losers if you follow Shu’ayb’– –

(91) an earthquake seized them: by the next morning they were lying dead in their homes; (92) it was as if those who had rejected Shu’ayb had never lived there; it was those who had rejected Shu’ayb who were the losers– – (93) so he turned away from them, saying, ‘My people, I delivered my Lord’s messages to you and gave you sincere advice, so why should I grieve for people who refused to believe?’

Because belief should be a trust that is earned, and not an issue of morality.

(94) Whenever We sent a prophet to a town, We afflicted its [disbelieving]a people with suffering and hardships, so that they might humble themselves [before God], (95) and then We changed their hardship into prosperity, until they multiplied. But then they said, ‘Hardship and affluence also befell our forefathers,’ and so We took them suddenly, unawares. (96) If the people of those towns had believed and been mindful of God, We would have showered them with blessings from the heavens and earth, but they rejected the truth and so We punished them for their misdeeds.

If only they believed, then I would have been nice to them. But they would not be such ready fools, so I killed them all, even the children. You see boys and girls, it doesn’t matter whether you’re good or bad. All that matters is how gullible you are.

(97) Do the people of these towns feel secure that Our punishment will not come upon them by night, while they are asleep? (98) Do the people of these towns feel secure that Our punishment will not come upon them by day, while they are at play? (99) Do they feel secure against God’s plan? Only the losers feel secure against God’s plan.

Count me among the losers then.

(100) Is it not clear to those who inherit the land from former generations that We can punish them too for their sins if We will? And seal up their hearts so that they cannot hear? (101) We have told you [Prophet] the stories of those towns: messengers came to them, and clear signs, but they would not believe in what they had already rejected–– in this way God seals the hearts of disbelievers. (102) We found that most of them did not honour their commitments; We found that most of them were defiant.

Yet, God chooses who will believe or reject “clear signs”. So it his fault that I don’t believe.

Most of the rest of this sura is another version of the story of Moses confronting Pharaoh, which we already saw in the previous three suras too, but this one is very different from the Bible, and paraphrased the way that word-of-mouth tales tend to be. I think readers who are only familiar with Christianity might find that interesting. So I’ll leave it in, even though it is long.

(103) After these, We sent Moses to Pharaoh and his leading supporters with Our signs, but they rejected them. See the fate of those who used to spread corruption. (104) Moses said, ‘Pharaoh, I am a messenger from the Lord of all the Worlds, (105) duty-bound to say nothing about God but the truth, and I have brought you a clear sign from your Lord. Let the Children of Israel go with me.’ (106) He said, ‘Produce this sign you have brought, if you are telling the truth.’ (107) So Moses threw his staff and–– lo and behold!–– it was a snake, clear to all, (108) and then he pulled out his hand and–– lo and behold!–– it was white for all to see.

I had to check this against a few other translations. They all say Moses’ hand was white, but none of them explain what that’s supposed to mean. I found another source that explained that his hand turning white is supposed to be one of the nine miracles of Moses, and that this was explained in Sura 28, which I haven’t read yet; another reason to doubt whether the “order of revelation” is correct.

(109) The leaders among Pharaoh’s people said, ‘This man is a learned sorcerer! (110) He means to drive you out of your land!’ Pharaoh said, ‘What do you suggest?’ (111) They said, ‘Delay him and his brother for a while, and send messengers to all the cities (112) to summon every learned sorcerer to you.’

Other translations call Moses a magician rather than a sorcerer.

(113) The sorcerers came to Pharaoh and said, ‘Shall we be rewarded if we win?’ (114) and he replied, ‘Yes, and you will join my inner court.’ (115) So they said, ‘Moses, will you throw first or shall we?’ (116) He said, ‘You throw,’ and they did, casting a spell on people’s eyes, striking fear into them, and bringing about great sorcery. (117) Then We inspired Moses, ‘Throw your staff,’ and–– lo and behold!–– it devoured their fakery. (118) The truth was confirmed and what they had produced came to nothing: (119) they were defeated there and utterly humiliated.

I do enjoy a wizards’ duel.

Boris Karloff vs Vincent Price in “The Raven” (1963)

(120) The sorcerers fell to their knees (121) and said, ‘We believe in the Lord of the Worlds, (122) the Lord of Moses and Aaron!’ (123) but Pharaoh said, ‘How dare you believe in Him before I have given you permission?

It’s interesting how often I see this notion of believing something not because you’ve been convinced by reason but simply because you’re told to believe it. In some historic instances, people have been paid to believe or threatened that they’d be murdered on the spot unless they believe, and here we hear about someone told not to believe because they don’t have permission. Did the concept of reason not even exist back when these stories were made up?

This is a plot you have hatched to drive the people out of this city! Soon you will see: (124) I will cut off your alternate hands and feet and then crucify you all!’

Haleem’s footnotes assure us that somehow we’re supposed to know that they only got their right hand and left foot cut off, or visa versa, but not both hands and both feet, because that would be cruel. Other translations confirm this.

(125) They said, ‘And so we shall return to our Lord– – (126) Your only grievance against us is that we believed in the signs of our Lord when they came to us. Our Lord, pour steadfastness upon us and let us die in devotion to You.’

ClearQuran translates this as “Pour out patience upon us, and receive our souls in submission.”

(127) The leaders among Pharaoh’s people said to him, ‘But are you going to leave Moses and his people to spread corruption in the land and forsake you and your gods?’ He replied, ‘We shall kill their male children, sparing only the females: We have complete power over them.’

And why is it important that the children you take as be female?

(128) Moses said to his people, ‘Turn to God for help and be steadfast: the earth belongs to God–– He gives it as their own to whichever of His servants He chooses–– and the happy future belongs to those who are mindful of Him,’

That didn’t work out so well for Job did it? Nor the Blues Brothers either. Plus I see that famed Muslim holy man, Zakir Naik has fled India to Maylaysia, where he has just been banned from making public speeches because of his inciting racism.

(129) and they replied, ‘We were being persecuted long before you came to us, and since then too.’ He said, ‘Your Lord may well destroy your enemy and make you successors to the land to see how you behave.’

That ought to keep them in line. That’s what religion is for, manipulation of the masses.

(130) We inflicted years of drought and crop failure on Pharaoh’s people, so that they might take heed, (131) then, when something good came their way, they said, ‘This is our due!’. When something bad came, they ascribed it to the evil omen of Moses and those with him, but their ‘evil omen’ was really from God, though most of them did not realize it. (132) They said, ‘We will not believe in you, no matter what signs you produce to cast a spell on us,’

Imagine that. We will not believe in YOU, the guy we’re talking to. Sure.

(133) and so We let loose on them the flood, locusts, lice, frogs, blood–– all clear signs.

…of a volcano. I have read some pretty good arguments that the plagues of Egypt weren’t originally of Egypt but were related to a volcanic eruption; which was likely also one of the primary inspirations for the god, YeHoWaH, who is described as a volcano dozens of times throughout the Pentateuch.

They were arrogant, wicked people. (134) They would say, whenever a plague struck them, ‘Moses, pray to your Lord for us by virtue of the promise He has made to you: if you relieve us of the plague, we will believe you and let the Children of Israel go with you,’ (135) but when We relieved them of the plague and gave them a fixed period [in which to fulfil their promise]–– lo and behold!–– they broke it. (136) And so, because they rejected Our signs and paid them no heed, We exacted retribution from them: We drowned them in the sea (137) and We made those who had been oppressed succeed to both the east and the west of the land that We had blessed. Your Lord’s good promise to the Children of Israel was fulfilled, because of their patience, and We destroyed what Pharaoh and his people were making and what they were building.

Yet the pyramids are still there.

(138) We took the Children of Israel across the sea, but when they came upon a people who worshipped idols, they said, ‘Moses, make a god for us like theirs.’ He said, ‘You really are foolish people: (139) [the cult] these people practise is doomed to destruction, and what they have been doing is useless. (140) Why should I seek any god other than God for you, when He has favoured you over all other people?’ (141) Remember how We saved you from Pharaoh’s people, who were subjecting you to the worst of sufferings, killing your male children, sparing only your females–– that was a mighty ordeal from your Lord.

A few scholars I’ve spoken to about this say that Moses never existed and the Exodus never happened, at least not in Egypt. Much of this story seems to stem from somewhere else. Perhaps part of it was based on Hebrews in Babylon? In any case, no one has yet identified the volcano in this story, but it is an element that keeps coming up, including in this next passage.

(142) We appointed thirty nights for Moses, then added ten more: the term set by his Lord was completed in forty nights. Moses said to his brother Aaron, ‘Take my place among my people: act rightly and do not follow the way of those who spread corruption.’ (143) When Moses came for the appointment, and his Lord spoke to him, he said, ‘My Lord, show Yourself to me: let me see You!’ He said, ‘You will never see Me, but look at that mountain: if it remains standing firm, you will see Me,’ and when his Lord revealed Himself to the mountain, He made it crumble: Moses fell down unconscious. When he recovered, he said, ‘Glory be to You! To You I turn in repentance! I am the first to believe!’ (144) He said, ‘Moses, I have raised you above other people by [giving you] My messages and speaking to you: hold on to what I have given you; be one of those who give thanks.’

Hmm. A mountain that crumbled. Add that to the list of times that the God of the Exodus was described as a volcano. Think about it. If you’re impressed by the parlour trick of turning a stick into a snake, imagine how godlike a volcano would be!

(145) We inscribed everything for him in the Tablets which taught and explained everything, saying, ‘Hold on to them firmly and urge your people to hold fast to their excellent teachings. I will show you the end of those who rebel. (146) I will keep distracted from My signs those who behave arrogantly on Earth without any right, and who, even if they see every sign, will not believe in them; they will not take the way of right guidance if they see it, but will take the way of error if they see that. This is because they denied Our signs and paid them no heed: (147) the deeds of those who denied Our signs and the Meeting of the Hereafter will come to nothing–– why should they be repaid for anything other than what they have done?’

Here’s an idea. Stop giving “signs”. Why not just appear? Like to everyone, instead of whispering in the ear of the one lone weirdo in the desert?

(148) In his absence, Moses’ people took to worshipping a mere shape that made sounds like a cow–– a calf made from their jewellery. Could they not see that it did not speak to them or guide them in any way?

I’m sure their golden calf spoke to them and guided them just as well as any other god doesn’t either. All you have to do is believe hard enough, and whatever spirits you think are listening will begin trying to communicate back to you, even if they only ever existed in your own imagination.

Yet they took it for worship: they were evildoers.

Worshiping the wrong god doesn’t make you evil. Everyone who worships any god is worshiping the wrong god, because there is no such thing as gods. What determines whether you’re evil is how you treat other people and animals, NOT what you or they believe.

(149) When, with much wringing of hands, they perceived that they were doing wrong, they said, ‘If our Lord does not have mercy and forgive us, we shall be the losers.’

(150) On his return to his people, angry and aggrieved, Moses said, ‘How foul and evil is what you have done in my absence! Were you so keen to bring your Lord’s judgement forward?’ He threw the tablets down and seized his brother by the hair, pulling him towards him. Aaron said, ‘Son of my mother, these people overpowered me! They almost killed me! Do not give my enemies reason to rejoice! Do not include me with these evildoers!’ (151) Moses said, ‘My Lord, forgive me and my brother; accept us into Your mercy: You are the Most Merciful of all who show mercy. (152) Those who took to worshipping the calf will be afflicted by their Lord’s wrath, and by disgrace in this life.’ This is the way We repay those who invent such falsehoods, (153) but your Lord is most forgiving and most merciful towards those who do wrong, then repent afterwards and truly believe.

Because that’s all that matters, whether you believe. Whether you’re a good person or bad doesn’t matter in the least. That’s why the so-called “ten commandments” list belief as the most important thing of all.

(154) When Moses’ anger abated, he picked up the Tablets, on which were inscribed guidance and mercy for those who stood in awe of their Lord. (155) Moses chose from his people seventy men for Our appointment, and when they were seized by trembling, he prayed, ‘My Lord, if You had chosen to do so, You could have destroyed them long before this, and me too, so will You now destroy us for what the foolish among us have done? This is only a trial from You– – through it, You cause whoever You will to stray and guide whoever You will–– and You are our Protector, so forgive us and have mercy on us. You are the best of those who forgive. (156) Grant us good things in this world and in the life to come. We turn to You.’ God said, ‘I bring My punishment on whoever I will, but My mercy encompasses all things. ‘I shall ordain My mercy for those who are conscious of God and pay the prescribed alms; who believe in Our Revelations; (157) who follow the Messenger–– the unlettered [Gentile?] prophet they find described in the Torah that is with them, and in the Gospel–– who commands them to do right and forbids them to do wrong, who makes good things lawful to them and bad things unlawful, and relieves them of their burdens, and the iron collars that were on them. So it is those who believe him, honour and help him, and who follow the light which has been sent down with him, who will succeed.’ (158) Say [Muhammad], ‘People, I am the Messenger of God to you all, from Him who has control over the heavens and the earth. There is no God but Him; He gives life and death, so believe in God and His Messenger, the unlettered prophet who believes in God and His words, and follow him so that you may find guidance.’

I would have thought that giving the people an understanding and a plan would have been infinitely better than keeping all the knowledge to yourself and merely threatening people to believe you or else. Just imagine what folks could accomplish my way rather than God’s [fallible human prophet’s] way.

(159) There is a group among the people of Moses who guide with truth, and who act justly according to it. (160) We divided them into twelve tribes [as distinct] communities, and, when his people asked him for water, inspired Moses to strike the rock with his staff [so that] twelve springs gushed out. Each tribe knew its own drinking place; We gave them the shade of clouds and sent down to them manna and quails [saying], ‘Eat the good things We have provided for you.’ They did not wrong Us; it was themselves they wronged. (161) When they were told, ‘Enter this town and eat freely there as you will, but say, “Relieve us!” and enter its gate humbly: then We shall forgive you your sins, and increase the reward of those who do good,’ (162) the wrongdoers among them substituted another saying for that which had been given them, so We sent them a punishment from heaven for their wrongdoing. 

I’m curious how “sins” are defined here.

(163) [Prophet], ask them about the town by the sea; how its people broke the Sabbath when their fish surfaced for them only on that day, never on weekdays–– We tested them in this way: because of their disobedience– – (164) how, when some of them asked [their preachers], ‘Why do you bother preaching to people God will destroy, or at least punish severely?’ [the preachers] answered, ‘In order to be free from your Lord’s blame, and so that they may perhaps take heed.’ (165) When they ignored [the warning] they were given, We saved those who forbade evil, and punished the wrongdoers severely because of their disobedience. (166) When, in their arrogance, they persisted in doing what they had been forbidden to do, We said to them, ‘Be like apes! Be outcasts!’

People have no choice but to be like apes. We ARE apes!

(167) And then your Lord declared that, until the Day of Resurrection, He would send people against them to inflict terrible suffering on them. Your Lord is swift in punishment but He is most forgiving and merciful.

But he won’t tell us anything about microbes or vaccines or electricity or anything useful at all–ever.

(168) We dispersed them over the earth in separate communities– – some are righteous and some less so: We tested them with blessings and misfortunes, so that they might all return [to righteousness]– – (169) and they were succeeded by generations who, although they inherited the Scripture, took the fleeting gains of this lower world, saying, ‘We shall be forgiven,’ and indeed taking them again if other such gains came their way. Was a pledge not taken from them, written in the Scripture, to say nothing but the truth about God? And they have studied its contents well. For those who are mindful of God, the Hereafter is better. ‘Why do you not use your reason?’

I do use reason actually. That’s why I say that truth is what we can show to be true, not just what we merely assert while pleading with others to believe us for no good reason.

(170) But as for those who hold fast to the Scripture and keep up the prayer, We do not deny righteous people their rewards. (171) When We made the mountain loom high above them like a shadow, and they thought it would fall on them, We said, ‘Hold fast to what We have given you, and remember what it contains, so that you may remain conscious of God.’

I wonder why “righteous” never means moral or noble, just gullible? Because there is no allowance that one can be morally justified unless they believe things that are not evidently true or even possible.

(172) [Prophet], when your Lord took out the offspring from the loins of the Children of Adam and made them bear witness about themselves, He said, ‘Am I not your Lord?’ and they replied, ‘Yes, we bear witness.’ So you cannot say on the Day of Resurrection, ‘We were not aware of this,’ (173) or, ‘It was our forefathers who, before us, ascribed partners to God, and we are only the descendants who came after them: will you destroy us because of falsehoods they invented?’ (174) In this way We explain the messages, so that they may turn [to the right path].

Forefathers proposing a partner’s to God? Is this another reference to the “previous religion” being the claims of the Christian trinity?

(175) [Prophet], tell them the story of the man to whom We gave Our messages: he sloughed them off, so Satan took him as his follower and he went astray– – (176) if it had been Our will, We could have used these signs to raise him high, but instead he clung to the earth and followed his own desires–– he was like a dog that pants with a lolling tongue whether you drive it away or leave it alone. Such is the image of those who reject Our signs. Tell them the story so that they may reflect. (177) How foul is the image of those who reject Our signs! It is themselves they wrong: (178) whoever God guides is truly guided, and whoever God allows to stray is a loser.

Because God allowed it.

(179) We have created many jinn and people who are destined for Hell, with hearts they do not use for comprehension, eyes they do not use for sight, ears they do not use for hearing. They are like cattle, no, even further astray: these are the ones who are entirely heedless.

Yeah, but MY eyes ARE for sight! My “heart” (passion) is for comprehension. Were it otherwise, THEN maybe I could believe in gods and such. But that is not possible when truth and understanding are my goals.

(180) The Most Excellent Names belong to God: use them to call on Him, and keep away from those who abuse them–– they will be requited for what they do. (181) Among those We created are a group of people who guide with truth and act justly according to it. (182) But We lead on those who reject Our messages, step by step, without them realizing it:

So God admits he will mislead and deceive. Interesting.

(183) I will give them respite, but My plan is sure. (184) Has it not occurred to them that their companion [Muhammad] is not mad but is giving clear warning? (185) Have they not contemplated the realm of the heavens and earth and all that God created, and that the end of their time might be near? What [other revelation] will they believe in if they do not believe in this?

I like truth. I believe in that, which is why I can’t believe in this.

(186) No one can guide those God allows to stray: He leaves them blundering about in their insolence.

And he will punish us for what he has chosen to do to us. That’s how he creates people and jinni who are destined for Hell. His choice, not ours.

(187) They ask you [Prophet] about the Hour, ‘When will it happen?’ Say, ‘My Lord alone has knowledge of it: He alone will reveal when its time will come, a time that is momentous in both the heavens and earth. All too suddenly it will come upon you.’ They ask you about it as if you were eager [to find out]. Say, ‘God alone has knowledge of [when it will come], though most people do not realize it.’ (188) Say [Prophet], ‘I have no control over benefit or harm, [even] to myself, except as God may please: if I had knowledge of what is hidden, I would have abundant good things and no harm could touch me. I am no more than a bearer of warning, and good news to those who believe.’

But just imagine what humanity could have done if God had given them the knowledge of what was then still hidden 1,400 years ago? Rather than forcing belief in what will never be revealed?

(189) It is He who created you all from one soul, and from it made its mate so that he might find comfort in her: when one [of them] lies with his wife and she conceives a light burden, going about freely, then grows heavy, they both pray to God, their Lord, ‘If You give us a good child we shall certainly be grateful,’ (190) and yet when He gives them a good child they ascribe some of what He has granted them to others. (191) God is far above the partners they set up alongside Him! How can they set up with Him these partners that create nothing and are themselves created, (192) that cannot help them at all, or even help themselves?

I think we ARE talking about Jesus here.

(193) If you [believers] call such people to guidance, they do not follow you: it makes no difference whether you call them or remain silent. (194) Those you [idolaters] call upon instead of God are created beings like you. Call upon them, then, and let them respond to you if what you say is true. (195) Do they have feet to walk, hands to strike, eyes to see, or ears to hear? Say [Prophet], ‘Call on your “partners”! Scheme against me! Do not spare me! (196) My protector is God: He has revealed the Scripture, and it is He who protects the righteous, (197) but those you call on instead of Him cannot help you or even help themselves.’ (198) If you [believers] call such people to guidance, they do not hear. You [Prophet] may observe them looking at you, but they cannot see. (199) Be tolerant and command what is right: pay no attention to foolish people.

Would that I could, but they own and control everything at every level of State and Federal government, and must be dealt with or else they’ll be left unchecked.

(200) If Satan should prompt you to do something, seek refuge with God–– He is all hearing, all knowing– – (201) those who are aware of God think of Him when Satan prompts them to do something and immediately they can see [straight]; (202) the followers of devils are led relentlessly into error by them and cannot stop. (203) When you do not bring them a fresh revelation, they say, ‘But can you not just ask for one?’ Say, ‘I merely repeat what is revealed to me from my Lord: this revelation brings you insights from your Lord, and guidance and mercy for those who believe, (204) so pay attention and listen quietly when the Qur’an is recited, so that you may be given mercy.’ (205) [Prophet], remember your Lord inwardly, in all humility and awe, without raising your voice, in the mornings and in the evenings–– do not be one of the heedless– – (206) [even] those who live in the presence of your Lord are not too proud to worship Him: they glorify Him and bow down before Him.

I realize that quite a lot of people somehow derive something meaningful from these supposedly sacred scriptures, but for me, reading a really long sura like this is just a disorienting descent into madness.

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