This is the 10th part of this series. We’re 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. We’ve covered roughly 1/3 of them so far. If you missed some of this series, you can see:
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.
and my 9th post on surahs 101, 75, 104 & 77.
Sūrah 50 “Qãf” (Qaaf)
[21st letter in Arabic alphabet]
(1) By the glorious Qur’an! (2) But the disbelievers are amazed that a warner has come from among them and they say, ‘How strange! (3) To come back [to life] after we have died and become dust? That is too far-fetched.’
It is literally unbelievable, I know: Yet another doomsday prophet making crazy claims pretending to speak for God, while contradicting every other supposed prophet of God; especially when this alleged “word of God” opens with God swearing by his own word, the “glorious” Qur’an. Meh.
(4) We know very well what the earth takes away from them: We keep a comprehensive record. (5) But the disbelievers deny the truth when it comes to them; they are in a state of confusion.
Once again, the truth is what the facts are, what we can show to be true. Empty claims of impossible absurdity do not qualify as “truth”. Unsupported assertions have no more credence than claims that have already been proven wrong. You shouldn’t say that something is the truth if you can’t show the truth of it, which no religion can. That’s why they all rely on faith instead. We infidels are not the ones who are confused about the burden of proof. It is the believers who are guilty of the fallacy of trying to shift it.
(6) Do they not see the sky above them––how We have built and adorned it, with no rifts in it;
Once again, the sky was not “built”. Ancient peoples all across Asia once believed that the earth was a flat disk covered by a giant crystal dome like a snow globe. But we now know that the “firmament” never existed, and that the sky couldn’t have rifts in it because it’s a layer of atmospheric gases, not the solid domicile that the holy books describe.
(7) how We spread out the earth and put solid mountains on it, and caused every kind of joyous plant to grow in it,
Again, once upon a time, primitive people from the middle east through the Orient believed that the earth was like a map, with all four quadrants “spread out” as if on a circular table supported by pillars or columns. This is the way the Bible describes it. So it’s not surprising that the Qur’an depicts it that way too. But it is still wrong.
The one new twist in this passage is the idea that “the god” [Allah] spread out this map and then set mountains on top of it as paperweights to hold it in place. We’ll explore this in more detail when we get to Sūrah 78.
(8) as a lesson and reminder for every servant who turns to God; (9) and how We send blessed water down from the sky and grow with it gardens, the harvest grain, (10) and tall palm trees laden with clusters of dates, (11) as a provision for everyone; how with water We give [new] life to a land that is dead? This is how the dead will emerge [from their graves].
Excusing for the moment that the human authors of the Qur’an obviously didn’t understand the water cycle or the hydrosphere, nor that we don’t need an administrator to decide when it should rain, does the Qur’an mean to imply that watering graveyards could cause corpses to spring up like daisies? Of course not. The people who wrote that didn’t understand natural chemical processes. They think everything is magical, i.e. supernatural.
(12) The people of Noah disbelieved long before these disbelievers, as did the people of Rass, Thamud, (13) ‘Ad, Pharaoh, Lot, (14) the Forest-Dwellers, Tubba’: all of these people disbelieved their messengers, and so My warning was realized.
Assuming that this is supposed to be God speaking here, (using the royal “we”) then I have to argue against your imaginary holiness. Your warning obviously couldn’t have been realized if none of these people believed in you. And how could they? Since some of the names listed here are either grossly embellished, exaggerated beyond all recognition, or they are wholly fabricated characters who only existed within some favored folklore and never in real life.
(15) So were We incapable of the ﬁrst creation? No indeed! Yet they doubt a second creation.
I get that many of these fables talk about a first magical conjuration, but I don’t understand what they mean by referring to a second one. Does this passage imply that necromancy on the day of judgement is an act of creation?
(16) We created man––We know what his soul whispers to him: We are closer to him than his jugular vein––(17) with two receptors [angelic scribes?] set to record, one on his right side and one on his left: (18) he does not utter a single word without an ever-present watcher.
It is both the height of conceit and extreme paranoia to imagine that invisible beings are always paying keen attention to everything that ever crosses your mind.
(19) The trance of death will bring the Truth with it:
Not if it’s still entirely subjective and can never be demonstrated to anyone who doesn’t already believe it. Especially when every outward appearance is that you died and that nothing was ever even possibly revealed to you in any way afterward.
‘This is what you tried to escape.’ (20) The Trumpet will be sounded: ‘This is the Day [you were] warned of.’ (21) Each person will arrive attended by an [angel] to drive him on and another to bear witness:
So, there are untold billions of angels, each personally assigned to a single human either living today or one of billions more who may have died centuries ago, and the purpose of these angels is to “bear witness” after it is too late, when whatever they say is no longer useful information. How could anyone believe this?
(22) ‘You paid no attention to this [Day]; but today We have removed your veil and your sight is sharp.’ (23) The person’s attendant will say, ‘Here is what I have prepared’– – (24) ‘Hurl every obstinate disbeliever into Hell, (25) everyone who hindered good, was aggressive, caused others to doubt, (26) and set up other gods alongside God. Hurl him into severe punishment!’– –
So once again, we see that disbelief is somehow bad, and that promoting skepticism is a damnable sin. We are not judged by whether we were kind or cruel, just or vain, but only on whether we believed the right set of impossible absurdities for no good reason, and we’ll be tortured mercilessly forever if we unable to pretend. If a god really existed, it wouldn’t be like this.
(27) and his [evil] companion will say, ‘Lord, I did not make him transgress; he had already gone far astray himself.’ (28) God will say, ‘Do not argue in My presence. I sent you a warning (29) and My word cannot be changed: I am not unjust to any creature.’
You are unjust to me—and to every other rational thinking person who cannot make-believe absurd atrocities just on the threat that we’d better believe it or else. Or rather, you would be unjust if you were real.
Another thing I could observe here is that if the Qur’an is infallible and this is the conversation Satan and Yahowah will have, then neither of those magical immortals can change their fate from what the scriptures predict. So that not even God has free will. Alternately, since God is supposed to have said all this nonsense himself, then he already knows what choices we will make and what conversations he will have with the devil he created, such that we don’t have free will.
(30) We shall say to Hell on that day, ‘Are you full?’ and it will reply, ‘Are there no more?’ (31) But Paradise will be brought close to the righteous and will no longer be distant:
Interesting that Hell, which is supposed to be a place, has been transformed into a thinking talking agent of mayhem.
This oft-repeated threat that most will be damned and only few will take the narrow path to salvation was originally described in the Zoroastrian religion, which predates even Rabbinic Judaism. The Avestas of Zarathustra say that when the righteous man dies, he will ascend to the Kingdom of Justice and Truth ruled by the wise Lord, Ahura-Mazda. But the wicked man will descend into the kingdom of the lie, ruled by Ahraman the opposer, also known as Ha-Shaitan. This is where the idea of “the satan” comes from.
Scholars say that Zoroastrianism contributed more to Judaism than any other ancient belief system, and Christianity is based on Judaism just as Islam is based on Christianity. But the Jews did not adopt this bit. Christians did, and later Muslims evidently got this notion from them.
(32) ‘This is what you were promised––this is for everyone who turned often to God and kept Him in mind, (33) who held the Most Gracious in awe, though He is unseen, who comes before Him with a heart turned to Him in devotion–– (34) so enter it in peace. This is the Day of everlasting Life.’ (35) They will have all that they wish for there, and We have more for them.
After only a few moments of thought, we should realize than an eternity in any state would be damnation. Even if we didn’t know that all these people we loved in life are being tortured while we are being pampered, whatever pleasures any eternity might offer would become hellish eventually. Especially if there is no way for us to learn, explore or improve, nor to save anyone being tortured in Hell.
(36) We have destroyed even mightier generations before these disbelievers, who travelled through [many] lands–– was there any escape?
Are we talking about the dinosaurs now? Or is this just the authors of the Qur’an giving God credit for any tragedy to befall the people of old?
(37) There truly is a reminder in this for whoever has a heart, whoever listens attentively. (38) We created the heavens, the earth, and everything between, in six Days without tiring.
Yet the Bible says God needed a rest after that. Yeah, I know, those were different authors. But my sources say this surah is Meccan, except for verse 38, which came from Medina. How could that be, except by human authors?
(39) So [Prophet], bear everything they say with patience; celebrate the praise of your Lord before the rising and setting of the sun; (40) proclaim His praise in the night and [prostrate] at the end of every prayer;
You could do this if you’re just trying to convince yourself that your god exists. Delusion can be reinforced this way. But if a god really did exist, it would neither need nor want your praise, being obviously far above all of this. Nor would it even care if you believed in it or not. Otherwise, it would have provided some reason to believe—other than the most questionable claims of the most dubious sources.
(41) listen out for the Day when the caller will call from a nearby place. (42) They will come out [from their graves] on that Day, the Day when they hear the mighty blast in reality.
That will never be “reality”.
(43) It is We who give life and death; the ﬁnal return will be to Us (44) on the Day when the earth will be torn apart, letting them rush out–– that gathering will be easy for Us. (45) We know best what the disbelievers say. You [Prophet] are not there to force them, so remind, with this Qur’an, those who fear My warning.
Every pronouncement I’ve read in this book so far are so obviously the indefensible ravings of human imagination that I just can’t take any of it seriously; especially not when all it is is some guy saying “believe me or be damned if you don’t”.
Sūrah 90 “Al-Balad” (the Town)
(1) I swear by this city [Mecca] –– (2) and you [Prophet] are an inhabitant of this city––(3) [I swear] by parent and oﬀspring, (4) that We have created man for toil and trial.
If you really had the truth on your side, you’d be able to show that. You wouldn’t require anyone’s faith, pleading with them to believe you just because you said so.
(5) Does he think that no one will have power over him? (6) ‘I have squandered great wealth,’ he says. (7) Does he think no one observes him? (8) Did We not give him eyes, (9) a tongue, lips, (10) and point out to him the two clear ways [of good and evil]?
No, you didn’t do any of that. You are a creature of the id. Consequently, you owe us your limited existence within the confines of the human mind.
(11) Yet he has not attempted the steep path. (12) What will explain to you what the steep path is? (13) It is to free a slave, (14) to feed at a time of hunger (15) an orphaned relative (16) or a poor person in distress, (17) and to be one of those who believe and urge one another to steadfastness and compassion. (18) Those who do this will be on the right-hand side, (19) but those who disbelieve in Our revelations will be on the left-hand side, (20) and the Fire will close in on them.
So our secular government did finally free the slaves, while some Muslims still keep slaves today. Atheists Helping the Homeless is one of the unbeliever charities feeding the hungry. There are also secular charities like United Way helping orphans and poor people in distress, and we have a number of atheist and humanist organizations filling all these other requirements of compassion: even though most of them are on “the left”, and are doomed to be damned regardless of good works; simply for not being gullible.
Sūrah 86 “Al-Taareq” (The Bright Star/Night-comer)
(1) By the sky and the night-comer––(2) What will explain to you what the night-comer is? (3) The piercing star––(4) there is a watcher over every soul.
We don’t have souls. So we don’t have anyone watching over them either.
(5) Man should reﬂect on what he was created from.
We evolved from apes and are still apes now. We were not created from anything.
(6) He is created from spurting ﬂuid, [semen] (7) then he emerges from between the backbone and breastbone:
This is just factually false, as sperm is produced in the testes. Abdel Haleem’s footnotes make the excuse that we come from the mother’s womb, which is closer to the indicated area, but still outside of it. The lower abdominal region is still not to be confused with the thoracic cavity, the chest area, which would be between the backbone and breastbone.
Quran The Final Testament (Authorized English Version translated from the Original by Rashad Khalifa, PhD. says:
Let the human reflect on his creation. He was created from ejected liquid. From between the spine and the viscera.
So this says that semen emerges between the chest cavity and the organs of the abdomen, not from the testes. The authors of the Qur’an definitely got this wrong, because they simply didn’t know what they were talking about.
(8) God is certainly able to bring him back to life.
You can’t be certain of anything that can’t be indicated or vindicated, verified or falsified, and may only be assumed on faith in lieu of reason.
(9) On the Day when secrets are laid bare (10) he will have no power and no one to help him. (11) By the sky and its recurring rain, (12) by the earth that cracks open!c (13) This is truly a decisive statement; (14) it is not something to be taken lightly.
Yet it can’t be taken seriously by rational, analytical skeptical thinkers.
(15) They plot and scheme, (16) but so do I: (17) [Prophet], let the disbelievers be, let them be for a while.
I’m 37 suras into the Qur’an, yet that’s the first good idea I’ve read in it so far.
Here is our video discussion of this post.