Up to this point, I had been reading The Qur’an; A new translation by M. A. S. Abdel Haleem, (downloadable in PDF). It is easy for a beginner, and I will still refer to that since I can’t read the original Arabic. However my tutors have repeatedly commented that this translation is noticeably different from all others. So I have been advised to switch to a more standard English translation in The Study Quran, which has quite a lot of useful commentary for those who are unfamiliar with Islam. We’re also not reading these surahs in the sequence that they’re normally printed, but in the “Order of Revelation”, and comparing them to Tafsirs for additional clarification of Islamic history and traditional interpretations.
Surah 113 “Al-Falaq” (Dawn)
(1) Say, “I seek refuge in the Lord of the daybreak (2) from the evil of what He has created, (3) from the evil of darkness when it enshrouds, (4) from the evil of those who blow upon knots, (5) and from the evil of the envier when he envies.”
Pickthall translates verse 4 as “And from the evil of malignant witchcraft”, which is a different interpretation than everyone else. Otherwise, we’re supposed to interpret this as the dawn conquering the night; the way Allah conquers the evil Satan that he himself created, which renders this whole surah moot, in my opinion.
Surah 114 “An-Naas” (People)
(1) Say, “I seek refuge in the Lord of mankind, (2) the King of
mankind, (3) the God of mankind, (4) from the evil of the stealthy whisperer, (5) who whispers into the breasts of mankind, (6) from jinn and mankind”.
Let me guess; the “evil whisperers” are those who try to reason against faith, spoiling the fantasy?
This is the final “surah” (chapter) of the Qur’an in the normally printed sequence, but it is only #20 in the Order of Revelation. It and Surah 113 are meant to be recited together as “the two protectors”, as an incantation to ward off evil. Yet those who believe in the god of Abraham still insist they don’t believe in magic. Curses and blessings are both magical enchantments. Adam was created with a golem spell. Christians and Muslims also believe in necromancy. So it’s no surprise that they both believe in incantations too, but I’m confused as to why they just won’t admit that all of that is in the realm of magic.
Surah 112 “al-Ikhlāṣ” (Sincerity)
(1) Say, “He, God, is One, (2) God, the Eternally Sufficient unto Himself. (3) He begets not; nor was He begotten. (4) And none is like unto Him.”
Now reading the translator’s description:
“According to many early authorities, the Prophet said that this sūrah is “equivalent to one-third of the whole Quran, which is understood by some to mean that the message regarding the Oneness of God is one-third of the Quran’s message.”
This quote is one-tenth of a 700-word description of a surah that has just two dozen words in itself. It was then followed by subsequent commentary wherein 565 words explained the meaning of the first verse. That was followed by 256 words of commentary for verse two, 285 words for verse 3, and another 244 words to explain the 4th and final verse. Yes, I read them all, but I didn’t need to. The four original verses didn’t really need all that clarification, thank you.
Nor do these thousands of words of explanation adequately explain what this God would be if there was such a thing. So this surah is still unintelligible for anyone trying to understand it.
It seems we have a common tendency to assign agency to everything, as if a radio has a tiny band of musicians inside it, or that flowers grow because subterranean fairies are pushing up the daisies. Everything that ever happens, no matter how random it is, someone out there thinks it happened for a reason, as if everything that doesn’t have a mind is part of a mind. That’s what this surah is saying, that reality itself is somehow somebody; someone who thinks without a brain to think with, and who exists only within itself, with nothing but itself to exist in, as if we are all a dream of Brahma.
I have to mention this other comment from the description:
“It has been reported on the authority of the Prophet’s wife ʿĀʾishah that the Prophet would recite al-Ikhlāṣ and the two immediately following it, al-Falaq and al-Nās, together while breathing into his palms, and then rub them over himself every night.”
Muhammad chants into his hands and effectively rubs the words all over himself every night, and we’re not supposed to think of that as creepy, weird or insane?
Surah 53 “An-Najm” (The Star)
(1) By the star when it sets, (2) your companion has neither strayed nor erred; (3) nor does he speak out of caprice. (4) It is naught but a revelation revealed, (5) taught him by one of awesome power. (6) Possessed of vigor, he stood upright (7) when he was upon the highest horizon. (8) Then he drew nigh and came close, (9) till he was within two bows’ length or nearer. (10) Then He revealed to His servant what He revealed. (11) The heart lied not in what it saw. (12) Do you then dispute with him as to what he saw?
I don’t know. Why don’t you tell me what he saw?
Is this supposed to be God speaking? If so, why does he talk about himself in a way that no one would? And why is God swearing on a star?
This time, Abdel Haleem’s translation is a bit clearer. This is Allah [the god] talking to Muhammad [the prophet] about Gabriel [the angel], and “it is a revelation revealed” refers to the Qur’an rather than the form of the angel in this manifestation. But then it changes, such that it isn’t God talking to Muhammad anymore; it’s the story-teller challenging the listener, daring them to question what any reasonable person should question, but we know the danger of doing so in this case, because it is forbidden.
Continuing with Abdel Haleem for the moment.
(13) A second time he saw him: (14) by the lote tree beyond which none may pass (15) near the Garden of Restfulness, (16) when the tree was covered in nameless [splendour]. (17) His sight never wavered, nor was it too bold, (18) and he saw some of the greatest signs of his Lord.
Did you ever think that surely God would realize that visiting one guy alone as his prophet would seem to others later on as an episode of schizophrenia? I mean, Allah could just as easily have appeared in the sky, or he could have had a squadron of angels appear in the sky to speak to whole cities or nations at once, or everyone in the world at once, or he could always be perceptible to anyone at all times. God could also appear to someone in Japan or North America, or Australia, and detail these accounts to be explained for those people and be corroborated later, when everyone shows the same story in all their ancient books. But instead the Lord works in delirious ways, and even the prophets who met him or his angels all have conflicting stories implying that at least some–if not all of them–are lying or insane or both. God always chooses to only communicate with one guy already following the middle-eastern religion who seems so crazy and/or dishonest that no one should believe him, especially since they never have any evidence either. And this self-professed prophet can never pass even the simplest tests of their alliance with the almighty. You’d think God would realize the many problems with each of these prophets and try something smarter.
(19) [Disbelievers], consider al-Lāt and al-ʿUzzā, 20and the third one, Manat [pagan Arabian goddesses]–– (21) are you to have the male and He the female? (22) That would be a most unjust distribution!
In my admittedly corrupt western mindset, I completely misread this, thinking “I’ll gladly take my share of the women; that’s fair”. But Abdel Haleem says they’re talking about daughters vs sons here, and that [they think] being saddled with daughters is a disgrace. Shows what they know. I’m enormously proud of MY daughter. She’s a flight engineer currently serving in the armed forces and stationed in a Muslim country, where she can’t leave the base because they don’t know the full value of women there. Instead it seems that Muslim men are more often threatened by women and have to do more to oppress them according to Islamic tradition.
–– (23) these are nothing but names you have invented yourselves, you and your forefathers. God has sent no authority for them. These people merely follow guesswork and the whims of their souls, even though guidance has come to them from their Lord.
So says every self-appointed prophet pretending to speak for his magic imaginary friend. To my experience, following the Lord is a sure way to get lost and never find your way to any truth.
(24) Is man to have everything he wishes for, (25) when the present life and the life to come belong only to God? (26) There are many angels in heaven whose intercession will be of no use until God gives permission to those He will, whose words He will accept.
Notice how God never chooses anyone who doesn’t gullibly believe unsubstantiated nonsense for no good reason? You must be an unquestioning and obedient minion. I think that if there really was a god, he would be delighted to politely reason with skeptics to our mutual satisfaction. Yet instead, we are threatened with torture or death and more torture after death if we don’t immediately swallow even the silliest claims from every apparent lunatic pretending to speak for their god.
(27) Those who deny the life to come give the angels female names. (28) They have no knowledge to base this on: they merely follow guesswork. Guesswork is of no value against the Truth.
Tell me about it! That’s precisely why I’m not religious. The truth is what the facts are, but no religion has that. Instead, you do realize that the Qur’an and every other supposedly holy book was written by men who were just guessing right? Or following delusional apparitions or dreaming up phantasms. Worse than that, they were guesses or dreams or lies that were then assumed and asserted as absolute fact–without any way for anyone to actually know if there’s any truth to it.
(29) So [Prophet] ignore those who turn away from Our revelation, who want only the life of this world. (30) Their knowledge does not go beyond that.
Translation: Ignore those who prefer the real world and what we can prove to be true in favor of empty assertions of irrational make-believe delusions from the realm of pure imagination.
Your Lord knows best who strays from His path and who follows guidance. (31) Everything in the heavens and earth belongs to God. He will repay those who do evil according to their deeds, and reward, with what is best, those who do good. (32) As for those who avoid grave sins and foul acts, though they may commit small sins, your Lord is ample in forgiveness. He has been aware of you from the time He produced you from the earth and from your hiding places in your mothers’ wombs, so do not assert your own goodness: He knows best who is mindful of Him.
Unless they don’t believe in the sacred fables. In which case, (as every surah so far has explained) it no longer matters whether they do good or not. Because God will damn every unbeliever into Hellfire, regardless how good they are, no matter why they didn’t believe. Because remember that he also chooses who believes and who doesn’t. Yet this surah defines “good” as being “mindful of God”. So we have no free will and no choice and we aren’t being judged fairly.
(33) [Prophet], consider that man who turned away: (34) he only gave a little and then he stopped. (35) Does he have knowledge of the Unseen? Can he see [the Hereafter]?
No, and nor do you. But that doesn’t mean that the unbeliever has stopped giving to those who are deserving or in need. Just because we stopped giving to the clergymen pretending to pass those payments onto the indigent, but who instead build bigger mosques and churches and other monuments to ignorance.
(36) Has he not been told what was written in the Scriptures of Moses (37) and of Abraham, who fulﬁlled his duty: (38) that no soul shall bear the burden of another;
Yes, we were told that, but we were given no reason to believe it, and it sounds like a scam to secure our tithing to keep the priests and imams from having to get real jobs.
(39) that man will only have what he has worked towards; (40) that his labour will be seen (41) and that in the end he will be repaid in full for it;
Here is the ploy to keep workers satisfied supporting a system that knows they’ll never really have to repay those workers when they die. There is also an exception of people who will receive what they have not worked for; the priests and imams.
(42) that the ﬁnal goal is your Lord; (43) that it is He who makes people laugh and weep;
If God determines whether we’re happy or not, then why do we pretend to have free will?
(44) that it is He who gives death and life; (45) that He Himself created the two sexes, male and female, (46) from an ejected drop of sperm;
One has to wonder why God is so inefficient then that 15 million sperm will still fail even in the odd chance that they could reach an egg, because only one out of all those millions will make it–if there’s even an egg there at that time. Then the the vast majority of fertilized eggs are miscarried, most even before the mother knew she was pregnant. That’s such an outrageously inefficient system that–not only does it undermine conservative views of the sanctity of sex and gamete cells–the whole convoluted process seems like an accidental configuration, not an intelligent design.
(47) that He will undertake the second Creation; (48) that it is He who gives wealth and possessions; (49) that He is the Lord of Sirius;
Why that star and not our star, Sol? Why only one star over all others?
(50) that it was He who destroyed, in their entirety, ancient ‘Ad (51) and Thamud, (52) and before them the people of Noah who were even more unjust and insolent; (53) that it was He who brought down the ruined cities (54) and enveloped them in the punishment He ordained for them?
This reminds me of when I met Adnan Rashid of the Islamic Education and Research Academy, a bogus propaganda mill that doesn’t do research and isn’t an academy. That’s why Adnan was wrong when he told me the Qur’an didn’t talk about “the great flood”. I now know that it does. What’s his excuse?
(55) Which then of your Lord’s blessings do you deny?
All of them. There is no way that I could refer to a curse as a blessing, especially when we’re talking about a merciless eternal punishment for disbelief of unsupported absurdities told by the least trustworthy people imaginable and based on no evidence at all. The price of this imaginary paradise is that we devalue the life that we really do have and enslave ourselves to rituals dedicated to reinforcing delusion. How could and why would anyone want that?