I started reading the Qur’an at Chapter 1, followed of course by Chapter 2. Al-Baqara “The Cow”, which is the longest chapter in the whole book. The others are all quite short. I wrote a blog post about my impression of both of those first two chapters.
Then I learned that the Qur’an is not written in “order of revelation”, (I have no idea why, nor how that was determined) and I was told that it is different if read in chronologically. So I found a site listing the (allegedly) original sequence. Again, I have no idea how they determined that sequence, and as I mentioned in the previous post, there are some obvious problems with it, but I am still reading it that way. I wrote a second blog post about Chapters 96, 68 & 73, and followed that with a video podcast wherein I interviewed a couple ex-Muslim apostates, just to clarify any uncertainties I had; since I was not raised with that religion and have no idea what the accepted interpretation is. I intend to repeat that practice for every few chapters I read from here on.
Someone commenting on that second blog post said:
“You can take any scientific paper and translate it into any human language, from Arabic to Zulu, and the contents of the paper will mean exactly what the paper says. [Yet] Muslims tell me this can not be done with the Qur’an, the supposed perfect word of Allah. I know which I will trust more”.
This illustrates another issue with reading the Qur’an in any language other than Arabic. Which translation do I use? Someone suggested I try Quran: A Reformist Translation by Edip Yuksel [et al]. But I found that unintelligible, just like I’d guess I should expect of any book claiming to be the “word of God”. When I was in Dubai a few years ago, a friend there gave me a copy of “The Qur’an, a New Translation by M. A. S. Abdel Haleem”. Other translations had been suggested a month or so ago, but I can’t find those references now. So I’ll stick with what I have for the moment.
Chapter 74. Al-Muddaththir
“Wrapped In His Cloak”
This surah begins with the “angel of revelation” telling the prophet to get up, clean-up, and warn everyone that:
“When the Trumpet sounds, that will be a Day of anguish for the disbelievers. They will have no ease. [Prophet], leave Me to deal with the one I created helpless, then gave vast wealth, and sons by his side, making everything easy for him—yet he still hopes I will give him more. No! He has been stubbornly hostile to Our revelation: I will inflict a spiralling torment on him. He planned and plotted—devilishly he plotted! ferociously he plotted!—and looked and frowned and scowled and turned away and behaved arrogantly and said, ‘This is just old sorcery, just the talk of a mortal!’”
You hear that, Christians? If you haven’t already converted to Islam before that trumpet sounds, you’re in trouble. What does Pascal’s Wager say about that?
The translator, Abdel Haleem says that much of this paragraph refers to someone Muhammad knew way back then. How that person is relevant to anyone living now is beyond me.
Whoever that person was, I have to agree with him, that this really is just the talk of a mortal, obviously. That’s the only reason there even could be such concern over whether we believe. If God were real, it wouldn’t matter whether we believed in him or not. Only imaginary beings need us to believe in them. The only reason belief is stressed so much is because God is just pretend. So when the posthumous promise of impossible rewards isn’t enough to seduce rational thinkers, the wanna-believers turn to the threat of a fate worse than death for the unbeliever, the infidel.
“I will throw him into the scorching Fire. What will explain to you what the scorching Fire is? It spares nothing and leaves nothing;
Except the soul. This mysterious fire obviously spares and leaves the soul, because how else could we endure this torture forever? It’s as if all these assertions were written with the assumption that we have an immortal spiritual counterpart of our physical selves, one that can feel pain yet doesn’t lose sensitivity. Or maybe it’s not eternal damnation. Maybe this is supposed to happen to our physical bodies once this trumpet sounds. I don’t know which it is supposed to be until I read further.
it scorches the flesh of humans; there are nineteen in charge of it—none other than angels appointed by Us to guard Hellfire–and We have made their number a test for the disbelievers.
Here are the test questions: Are all these angels equally yoked? Or are some of them just standing around or waiting their turn? How long can each angel stay on the job? What is the minimum number of angels required to maintain these flames? How do they do that? And why does anyone believe any of this obvious nonsense?
So those who have been given the Scripture will be certain and those who believe will have their faith increased: neither those who have been given the Scripture nor the believers will have any doubts, but the sick at heart and the disbelievers will say, ‘What could God mean by this description?’ God leaves whoever He will to stray and guides whoever He will– no one knows your Lord’s forces except Him– this [description] is a warning to mortals. Yes– by the moon! By the departing night! By the shining dawn! It is one of the mightiest things, a warning to all mortals, to those of you who choose to go ahead and those who lag behind.”
If an omnipotent god really existed and wanted you to know that, you’d know it. He wouldn’t need any disreputable advocates convincing the credulous. But this god apparently chooses to stay hidden from some people, so that he can punish them for not perceiving the imperceptible.
Here again, there is no justification, no reason why we should believe other than this threat against anyone who employs reason. Regardless how good or charitable you may be, you’ll be damned if you don’t believe. And it doesn’t seem to matter how evil you are either, because belief is the only requirement. Thus in Islam—as with Christianity—gullibility is the sole criteria for redemption, not anything to do with morality or human goodness.
Every soul is held in pledge for its deeds, but the Companions of the Right will stay in Gardens and ask about the guilty. ‘What drove you to the Scorching Fire?’ [they will ask] and they will answer, ‘We did not pray; we did not feed the poor; we indulged with others [in mocking the believers]; we denied the Day of Judgement until the Certain End came upon us.’ No intercessor’s plea will benefit them now.
So you have to feed the poor as well as pray, but you can’t deny the day of judgement and you can’t mock believers. I couldn’t possibly make myself believe in the day of judgement and I have to mock believers, because prayer is just a way of talking to yourself until you hear imaginary voices talking back to you. If an omniscient god existed, it’s not like he needs you to tell him anything. He already knows before you do and he knows better than you do. So what’s the point in asking for what he’s already decided whether he will or won’t do? It’s not like his divine plan needed you to improve it.
So I will continue to feed the poor, which I do whenever I can. But that won’t matter will it? It’s not like Allah would ever think, “well he wasn’t gullible enough to believe improbable claims from questionable sources on insufficient evidence, which means he isn’t a fool, and he feeds the poor when he has opportunity, so I should give him a break and not cast him into Hellfire”. I think we all know better than that, that the Abrahamic god of just and loving forgiveness doesn’t live up to that description in any of the books describing him.
What is the matter with them? Why do they turn away from the warning, like frightened asses fleeing from a lion? Each one of them demands that a scripture be sent down to him and unrolled before his very eyes– No! Truly they have no fear of the life to come– but truly this is a reminder.
Maybe it’s because we need evidence and we’re wise enough not to accept hearsay or urban legends in lieu of that. Sane people do tend to back away cautiously from raving lunatics, but otherwise we’re not running away like we would from a lion. I’m certainly not.
Believers may think this is an unfair assessment, but remember that religion and politics are not based on reason and cannot engage in rational discourse objectively, ready to change their position according to any new information. Instead both are prone to violent reactions borne out fear or emotional dependence upon belief and its attachment to their identity. That’s why there are countries where atheists will be killed simply because they present a rational challenge the faith. We who are neither influenced by religious extremes nor political totalitarianism will only respond with reason or ridicule. So believers are evidently more afraid of rational thinking than we are of their irrational raving.
Let whoever wishes to take heed do so: they will only take heed if God so wishes. He is the Lord who should be heeded, the Lord of forgiveness.
My goal is not just to bash every paragraph I read, but so far the Qur’an hasn’t given me anything worthy of any other response than continued criticism. Because here again we we see that Allah decides who will or won’t believe. So it’s not my fault if I can’t take any of this seriously. Thus he decides who he will damn to Hellfire, and there’s nothing I can do about that; since I can’t even pretend there is any chance of Hell being real. I would need God to convince me of that, but I haven’t heard from him. All I have is this unbelievable book to convince me that his unreliable minions made it all up.
According to Tanzil.net, the next chapter is order of revelation is Chapter 1. Al-Faatiha “The Opening”. I started with that one and already blogged about it in my first post of this series. So I’ll move on to the next chapter in that order.
This chapter consists of only a single paragraph. Translator Abdel Haleem prefaces this explaining that “This sura refers to an uncle of the Prophet who opposed him fiercely, as did his wife. He insulted the Prophet with ‘tabbet yadak’ (‘may your hands be ruined’). This Meccan sura is the retort.”
This is supposed to be the word of God, intended to inform the people of earth for all time about the nature of the heavens and of existence. Yet not only is the god of Abraham a provincial desert deity whose every deed to this point—in all of his religions—has only concerned a tiny portion of the middle east. Worse than that, rather than inform humanity about any of godzillions of other worlds or provide any useful information about our place in this one, Allah has to involve us in a pointless squabbles with Muhammad’s family and friends that reportedly took place 1,400 years ago, and don’t matter at all to us now.
In the name of God, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy, May the hands of Abu Lahab be ruined! May he be ruined too! Neither his wealth nor his gains will help him: he will burn in the Flaming Fire––and so will his wife, the firewood-carrier, with a palm-fibre rope around her neck.
So the Lord of Forgiveness will not forgive any disagreement that even family members may have with anyone pretending to be his prophet.
“Shrouded in Darkness”
When the sun is shrouded in darkness, when the stars are dimmed, when the mountains are set in motion, when pregnant camels are abandoned, when wild beasts are herded together, when the seas boil over, when souls are sorted into classes, when the baby girl buried alive is asked for what sin she was killed, when the records of deeds are spread open, when the sky is stripped away, when Hell is made to blaze and Paradise brought near: then every soul will know what it has brought about.
So extreme cloud cover or perhaps volcanic plumes could shroud the sun and obscure the stars, but once the seas boil over, there aren’t going to be any wild beasts herded together. Everything would be dead by then.
How exactly does the sky get stripped away? Because that would mean that the sun and stars would not be obscured. Unless this was written by ignorant primitives who didn’t know that the sun is a star that is nearly a hundred million miles away.
So Hell isn’t always ablaze? And Paradise is mobile? I’d like to hear more about that, as well as what “classes” the souls are to be divided into. But first I want to know why we’re talking about a baby girl being buried alive? Supposedly over sinning? How? And why only baby girls? What manner of barbaric stupidity is this? Haleem doesn’t explain this in his preface. He only says that female infanticide was a pagan Arab habit. So there were a lot of these horrible misogynist baby-killers. In any case, why is she being questioned for what she did to deserve being murdered? Why doesn’t Allah force the soul of her murderer to kneel before her in eternal servitude for the wrong he did to her?
I swear by the planets that recede, move, and hide, by the night that descends, by the dawn that softly breathes: this is the speech of a noble messenger, [the angel Gabriel] who possesses great strength and is held in honour by the Lord of the Throne––he is obeyed there and worthy of trust. Your [Muhammad’s] companion is not mad: he did see him on the clear horizon. He does not withhold what is revealed to him from beyond. This is not the word of an outcast devil.
Who is Muhammad’s companion? Is it the angel, Gabriel? I’m imagining some guy convincing Muhammad that he’s an angel. If everyone else thinks that Muhammad’s companion sounds like a madman, maybe he is. Either that, or maybe Muhammad is the one imagining an angel there.
Abdel Haleem says that this sura is supposed to be “a powerful description of the events of that day …asserting the truth of the Qur’an”, but that is clearly not at all what this is. Because I’m eight chapters into this thing, and all it has said so far is that you’d better believe it or else. It hasn’t even said what it is we’re supposed to believe. only that we’ll be sorry if we don’t. It really does sound like the words of an outcast devil, or a madman, both of which this passage denies, apparently because it sounds so much like that.
So where are you [people] going? This is a message for all people; for those who wish to take the straight path. But you will only wish to do so by the will of God, the Lord of all people.
So again, it says that I won’t even want to believe unless Allah wants me to. So if there is a god and I am an atheist, then it is his fault that I am. Yet he is going to punish me for the sin that he is committing against me.
I will schedule another video interview with a handful more interested people familiar with Islam, (whether practicing Muslims or apostates or both) to clarify, confirm or correct what I’ve written above. Once that discussion takes place, I will post the video here.