This is the 38th 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.
my 36th post on surah 42.
and my 37th post on surah 44.
Sūrah 45 (Al-Jathiyah) Kneeling
Translator, Abdel Haleem said that this surah is called “Kneeling”, but I know that “al” is the Arabic article “the”. So it should be “The Kneeling”, and other translations do have it that way.
No one knows why some suras begin with Arabic initials, including several surahs that start with these two initials specifically.
2This Scripture is sent down from God, the Mighty, the Wise.
Actually this scripture, like all scriptures was written by some guy who was not very wise but pretended to speak for God.
3There are signs in the heavens and the earth for those who believe:
Because, if you already believe, you don’t need any evidence. But if you’re one of those who needs evidence, then there are no signs for unbelievers. There is nothing for us in any scriptures of any religion.
4in the creation of you, in the creatures God scattered on earth, there are signs for people of sure faith;
Remember that “sure faith” means being completely self-assured even when there is no reason to be and you should not be.
5in the alternation of night and day, in the rain God provides, sending it down from the sky and reviving the dead earth with it, and in His shifting of the winds there are signs for those who use their reason.
No. Speaking as one who uses their reason, I must correct this verse. There are no signs of God, neither in the rain nor anywhere else.
6These are God’s signs that We recount to you [Prophet, to show] the Truth. If they deny God and His revelations, what message will they believe in?
I’ll believe any message you can show to be true, that doesn’t require faith.
7Woe to every lying sinful person 8who hears God’s revelations being recited to him, yet persists in his arrogance as if he had never heard them––[Prophet] bring him news of a painful torment!––9who, if he knows anything about Our revelations, ridicules it! Such people will have a humiliating torment:
Big talk, but I note that you can’t prove it. Nor can you give me one good reason to believe you.
10Hell lurks behind them and their gains will not benefit them, nor will those beings they took as protectors beside God––a tremendous torment awaits them.
Those pagans are in for the same fate as Christians and Muslims and atheists; literally nothing to look forward to.
11This is true guidance; those who reject their Lord’s revelations will have a woeful torment.
Let’s see this Lord reveal something himself, instead of listening to more empty promises and nonsense from his self-appointed prophets.
12It is God who subjected the sea for you––ships sail on it by His command so that you can seek His bounty and give Him thanks––
Here all this time, I thought that was the wind. Oh wait, it *is* the wind. No one “commands” the wind.
13He has subjected all that is in the heavens and the earth for your benefit, as a gift from Him. There truly are signs in this for those who reflect.
So the mysterious chevron (check mark) on Miranda, the tiny (500 km wide) 11th moon of Uranus was put there for the benefit of those on earth? How so?
14Tell the believers to forgive those who do not fear God’s days [of punishment] ––He will requite people for what they have done. 15Whoever does good benefits himself, and whoever does evil harms himself: you will all be returned to your Lord.
If that were true, it would be much more sensible than the idea of eternal damnation for unbelievers. If God had instead set things up such that whoever does good somehow benefits themselves and whoever does evil harms himself, that would be like every episode of the classic TV series, the Twilight Zone. That is the sort of world we could expect if Rod Serling was God. But alas, this verse is misleading, as unbelievers are not harming ourselves, and believers very often are, but the empty threat of damnation remains unchanged.
16We gave scripture, wisdom, and prophethood to the Children of Israel; We provided them with good things and favoured them above others;
Is that why the people of Israel say they’re among the most persecuted people in all of human history?
17We gave them clear proof in matters [of religion]. They differed among themselves out of mutual rivalry, only after knowledge came to them: on the Day of Resurrection your Lord will judge between them regarding their differences.
The “difference” being that the people of Israel were Jewish, and so were all their heroes like Moses and Jacob and Joseph, which the Qur’an says were all Muslim.
18Now We have set you [Muhammad] on a clear religious path, so follow it. Do not follow the desires of those who lack [true] knowledge– 19they cannot help you against God in any way. Wrongdoers only have each other to protect them; the righteous have God Himself as their protector.
Better bring along a bit more protection than just your faith, Muhammad. Simply having God on your side has never been enough for anyone yet; especially if your enemies have chariots of iron.
20This [revelation] is a means of insight for people, a source of guidance and mercy for those of sure faith.
Remember that those people of Israel were “guided” to become Jews, enemies of Islam, after they were “guided” through the desert for forty years on a trip that should only have taken a couple weeks. Beyond that, they weren’t “guided” to know anything beyond what was already known by other cultures who never believed in your god.
21Do those who commit evil deeds really think that We will deal with them in the same way as those who believe and do righteous deeds, that they will be alike in their living and their dying? How badly they judge!
Yes. I do good deeds, but I am an unbeliever. So the Qur’an and the Bible both imply that I will be punished as an evil-doer none the less. Plenty of Christians do good deeds too. Yet the Qur’an says they’d damned to Hell right along with me; simply because they didn’t believe in the right scriptures to the right version of the god they already worshiped. There are Muslims who do good deeds too, but the New Testament says that they will be denied and tossed into the lake of fire for not accepting Jesus as their lord.
22God created the heavens and earth for a true purpose: to reward each soul according to its deeds. They will not be wronged.
But God is not judging us according to our deeds. He’s judging us for our beliefs instead, and he gives us no choice in that, because he decides who will or won’t believe and why.
23[Prophet], consider the one who has taken his own desire as a god, whom God allows to stray in the face of knowledge, sealing his ears and heart and covering his eyes– who can guide such a person after God [has done this]? Will you [people] not take heed?
See? God allows me to stray, and God has sealed my ears and my heart and covered my eyes, and given me no ability to believe in him. Yet he will punish me for what he has forced me to do. If this god really existed, he’d be an evil judge.
24They say, ‘There is only our life in this world: we die, we live, nothing but time destroys us.’ They have no knowledge of this; they only follow guesswork.
As someone who studies science, I must correct this verse as well, which was based only on guesswork without knowledge. Science offers substantially more than that. We have ways of testing and confirming or correcting ourselves, so that we actually know what we know instead of simply pretending like all religions do.
Their only argument, 25when Our clear revelations are recited to them, is to say, ‘Bring back our forefathers if what you say is true.’
Now you’re talking about pagans. I would pose much more substantial challenges than they did, but Muhammad and his god couldn’t even satisfy the pagans, even though they already believed in superstition.
26[Prophet], say, ‘It is God who gives you life, then causes you to die, and then He gathers you all to the Day of Resurrection of which there is no doubt, though most people do not comprehend.’
Correction: There is PLENTY of doubt, ESPECIALLY among those who comprehend.
27Control of everything in the heavens and the earth belongs to God. When the Hour comes, those who follow falsehood will be the losers on that Day.
Good. I have nothing to worry about then. But you’re gonna have a lot of confused believers on that day!
28You will see every community kneeling. Every community will be summoned to its record: ‘Today you will be repaid for what you did.
I’ve heard this before. Christians like to say that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, …And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11) So what do we do when their empty threat contradicts your empty threat? When neither of you can show that the other is wrong nor that there is any truth to any of this god-talk at all? I’d be happy to let all the irrational pretenders point fingers at each other while I go about living in the real world.
29Here is Our record that tells the truth about you: We have been recording everything you do.’
Yeah, well, I know what you did last summer.
30Those who believed and did good deeds will be admitted by their Lord into His mercy– that is the clearest triumph–
When I began this project, reading the Qur’an and commenting on it, I expected it to say different things, not repeat the exact same mantra all the way through.
31but those who disbelieved [will be asked]: ‘When My revelations were recited to you, were you not arrogant and persistent in wicked deeds?
Remember: The Qur’an thinks that not being easily fooled is a wicked deed. Not believing is neither arrogant nor wicked nor even a deed.
32When it was said to you, “God’s promise is true: there is no doubt about the Hour,” did you not reply, “We know nothing of the Hour. This is only conjecture in our opinion. We are not convinced”?’
Yeah, that’s about right. Because neither God nor his prophets know how to present evidence or make a compelling argument.
33The evil of their actions will [then] become clear to them. The punishment they mocked will engulf them.
The “evil” of rationality, of not being credulous fools.
34It will be said, ‘Today We shall ignore you just as you ignored your appointment with this Day. The Fire will be your home and no one will help you, 35because you received God’s revelations with ridicule and were deceived by worldly life.’ They will not be brought out of the Fire on that Day, nor will they be given the chance to make amends.
Being unable to make amends is what changes this from a righteous judgement to an act of indefensible evil. Besides, if I still don’t believe, that’s God’s fault. He even admitted that above.
36So praise be to God, Lord of the heavens and earth, Lord of the worlds. 37True greatness in the heavens and the earth is rightfully His: He is the Mighty, the Wise.
Sūrah 46 (Al-Ahqaf) The Dunes
Other translations call this surah “The Sand Dunes”. But I used to live in Sin City (surprise). So we’ll go with “the Dunes”.
I suspect that these initials were never meant to be copied into the Qur’an; that they were only notations put there by some human scribe trying to determine the order of these surahs, as if everything starting with Ha Mim was supposed to be one block of chapters and those beginning with Alif Lām Ra were supposed to be part of a different block. For example, we’re right at the end of a short run of surahs 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45 & 46 where the order of publication matches the order of revelation, implying a consensus that these should be placed together. All of them, except surah 39, begin with the initials, Ha Mim. So I can’t be sure about that first one.
2This Scripture is sent down from God, the Almighty, the Wise.
No, this scripture was reportedly brought to you by Muhammad the short eyes.
3It was for a true purpose and a specific term that We created heaven and earth and everything in between, yet those who deny the truth ignore the warning they have been given. 4Say [Prophet], ‘Consider those you pray to other than God: show me which part of the earth they created or which share of the heavens they own; bring me a previous scripture or some vestige of divine knowledge––if what you say is true.’
This is how monotheists dominated polytheists in an age where atheists didn’t yet exist in large numbers. Because one super-god is better than a bunch of lesser gods and they’re all still superstitions, which was all people had until they devised science.
5Who could be more wrong than a person who calls on those other than God, those who will not answer him till the Day of Resurrection, those who are unaware of his prayers, 6those who, when all mankind is gathered, will become his enemies and disown his worship?
All believers in different gods are equally wrong in the absence of The Divine.
7When Our revelations are recited to them in all their clarity, the disbelievers say of the Truth that has reached them, ‘This is clearly sorcery,’ 8or they say, ‘He has invented it himself.’ Say [Prophet], ‘If I have really invented it, there is nothing you can do to save me from God. He knows best what you say amongst yourselves about it; He is sufficient as a witness between me and you; He is the Most Forgiving, the Most Merciful.’
“Most” here meaning “least” even compared to all the collective gods of the pagans.
9Say, ‘I am nothing new among God’s messengers. I do not know what will be done with me or you; I only follow what is revealed to me; I only warn plainly.’ 10Say, ‘Have you thought: what if this Quran really is from God and you reject it? What if one of the Children of Israel testifies to its similarity [to earlier scripture] and believes in it, and yet you are too proud to [do the same]? God certainly does not guide evildoers.’
Yet, lots of evil people have claimed to have been guided by God, including quite a lot of Muslims. The Qur’an dismisses Christians, Jews, Sikhs and Hindus all as evil doers. But what if their religions are true instead of Islam? You take the same risk as the rest of us. If there really was a god, he would know that, and he wouldn’t allow any of his prophets to preach what Muhammad does about judging everyone who believes differently as if a belief makes one evil.
11Those who disbelieve say of the believers, ‘If there were any good in this Quran, they would not have believed in it before we did,’ and, since they refuse to be guided by it, they say, ‘This is an ancient fabrication.’
Translator, Abdel Haleem has a footnote here that “The disbelievers had particular difficulty in accepting the fact that some of those who believed in Islam were people they considered to be humble riff-raf”. It seems Islam has always had that problem right from the very beginning. They really should work on their P.R.
12Yet the scripture of Moses was revealed before it as a guide and a mercy, and this is a scripture confirming it in the Arabic language to warn those who do evil and bring good news for those who do good. 13For those who say, ‘Our lord is God,’ and then follow the straight path there is no fear, nor shall they grieve: 14they are the people of Paradise, there to remain as a reward for what they were doing.
Except that the books attributed to Moses spawned Judaism first, then Christianity and eventually Islam, as well other arguably separate offshoots since then like Mormonism and the Baháʼí Faith. Quran.com and IslamicStudiesInfo both translate this verse saying “those who say “Our Lord is Allah,” and then remain steadfast” will have nothing to fear. But what about all those people who say that “Our Lord is YeHoWaH” or “Our Lord is Jesus”? This would mean that if there was a god, then most of his own prophets were working against his intended message.
15We have commanded man to be good to his parents: his mother struggled to carry him and struggled to give birth to him– his bearing and weaning took a full thirty months. When he has grown to manhood and reached the age of forty he [may] say, ‘Lord, help me to be truly grateful for Your favours to me and to my parents; help me to do good work that pleases You; make my offspring good. I turn to You; I am one of those who devote themselves to You.’
I checked this verse in IslamicStudiesInfo, and their explanation is:
“This verse tells that although the children should serve both the mother and the father, the mother’s right is greater in importance on the ground that she undergoes greater hardships for the sake of the children. The same is borne out by a Hadith, which has been related with a little variation in wording in Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Daud, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Musnad Ahmad, and in Adab al- Mufrad of Imam Bukhari, to the effect that a person asked the Prophet (peace be upon him): Who has got a greater right to my service? The Prophet replied (peace be upon him): Your mother. He asked: Who after her? He replied: Your mother. He asked: Who after her? He replied: Your mother. He asked: Who after her? He replied: Your father. This Hadith precisely explains this verse, for in it also allusion has been made to the triple right of the mother: (1) His mother bore him with hardship. (2) She gave him birth with hardship. (3) His bearing and his weaning took thirty months.”
So even the explanation is silly.
16We accept from such people the best of what they do and We overlook their bad deeds. They will be among the people of Paradise– the true promise that has been given to them. 17But some say to their parents, ‘What? Are you really warning me that I shall be raised alive from my grave, when so many generations have already passed and gone before me?’ His parents implore God for help; they say, ‘Alas for you! Believe! God’s promise is true,’ but still he replies, ‘These are nothing but ancient fables.’ 18The verdict has been passed on such people, along with all the communities that went before them, jinn and human: they are lost. 19Everyone will be ranked according to their deeds and God will repay them in full for what they have done: they will not be wronged. 20On the Day when those who deny the truth are brought before the Fire, it will be said to them, ‘You squandered the good things you were given in your earthly life, you took your fill of pleasure there, so on this Day a punishment of shame is yours: you were arrogant on earth without any right, and exceeded all limits.’
So we will overlook their bad deeds—as long as they believe. But even if they’re just children and haven’t even done any bad deeds, if they simply don’t believe what their parents are feeding them, then that is a damnable arrogance beyond all limits, and the only just and fair thing to do is to torture those children mercilessly for all eternity and never allow any chance of rehabilitation.
21Mention [Hud] of the tribe of Ad: he warned his people among the sand dunes– other warners have come and gone both before and after him–‘ Worship no one but God: I fear for you, that you will be punished on a terrible Day,’ 22but they said, ‘Have you come to turn us away from our gods? If what you say is true, bring down that punishment you threaten us with!’
See, you can’t call out the other guy’s foolishness when you’re afflicted with the same foolishness yourself.
23He said, ‘Only God knows when it will come: I simply convey to you the message I am sent with but I can see you are an insolent people.’
Muslims and Christians rarely put a time limit on their gods’ prophesies. The Jews did, but that’s why their prophesies failed; they passed all the expiration dates.
24When they saw a cloud approaching their valley, they said, ‘This cloud will give us rain!’ ‘No indeed! It is what you wanted to hasten: a storm-wind bearing a painful punishment 25which will destroy everything by its Lord’s command.’ In the morning there was nothing to see except their [ruined] dwellings: this is how We repay the guilty.
As a westerner, I am unfamiliar with the people of Ad or their supposed prophet, Hud. The authors of Qur’an didn’t include these stories in any depth, not even a Readers Digest summary. So I looked it up on Wikipedia. The best I can guess, the people of Ad were a primitive tribe whose town was destroyed by a strong tornado.
26We had established them in a way we have not established you [people of Mecca]; We gave them hearing, sight, and hearts, yet their hearing, sight, and hearts were of no use to them, since they denied God’s revelations. They were overwhelmed by the punishment they had mocked.
Even if they were a god-fearing people, and even if they feared the RIGHT god, and even if they were all wonderful, charitable humanitarians, if their community was wiped out by a multiple-vortex tornadic storm, (such as we often have where I live in Texas) then everyone back then would still have said that it must have happened because they were bad and somehow deserved it. I’m sure that’s what happened when a volcano destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah too.
27We have also destroyed other communities that once flourished around you– We had given them various signs so that they might return to the right way– 28so why did their gods not help them, those they set up as gods besides God to bring them nearer to Him? No indeed! They failed them utterly: it was all a lie of their own making.
All gods fail their followers. I just saw a video compiling over an hour of several different Evangelical Christians saying that God spoke to them personally and promised that Trump would win the 2020 election. Their god failed them as all gods do. Do they now admit that their God was wrong? Or that they were wrong for imagining that a god was ever talking to them? Reality never dawns on some people.
29We sent a group of jinn to you [Prophet] to listen to the Quran. When they heard it, they said to one another, ‘Be quiet!’ Then when it was finished they turned to their community and gave them warning. 30They said, ‘Our people, we have been listening to a Scripture that came after Moses, confirming previous scriptures, giving guidance to the truth and the straight path. 31Our people, respond to the one who calls you to God. Believe in Him: He will forgive you your sins and protect you from a painful torment.’
Why doesn’t God send one of those djinni instead of just another human hobo with a sandwich board? I would so readily believe a djinn over any of those random weirdos always making baseless predictions of “judgement days” that will never come.
32Those who fail to respond to God’s call cannot escape God’s power anywhere on earth, nor will they have any protector against Him: such people have clearly gone far astray.
But the folks on the International Space Station will be fine, being just barely out of reach.
33Do the disbelievers not understand that God, who created the heavens and earth and did not tire in doing so, has the power to bring the dead back to life? Yes indeed! He has power over everything.
But, I always heard that on the seventh day, he rested.
34On the Day the disbelievers are brought before Hell [it will be said to them], ‘Is this not real?’ ‘Yes, by our Lord,’ they will reply and He will say, ‘Then taste the punishment for having denied the truth.’
Once again, there is no truth to this—or any—religion.
35Be steadfast [Muhammad], like those messengers of firm resolve. a Do not seek to hasten the punishment for the disbelievers: on the Day they see what they had been warned about, it will seem to them that they lingered no more than a single hour of a single day [in this life]. This is a warning. Shall any be destroyed except the defiant?
According to this book, everyone will be destroyed if they show any sense or faculty of reason; that is ultimate sin.