This is the 19th 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 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,
and my 17th post on surah 43,
and my 18th post on 35.
Sūrah 35 (Maryam) Mary
1Kaf Ha Ya Ayn Sad
We’ve seen a few suras begin with some seemingly random sequence of Arabic letters, and I’m told that “God only knows” why they’re there in whatever number and order in each case. Isn’t that a brilliant way for our loving father to impart his most important wisdom? Encoded and unintelligible, both to the 7th century Arab who “received” it and to advanced modern societies as well?
2This is an account of your Lord’s grace towards His servant, Zachariah, 3when he called to his Lord secretly, saying, 4‘Lord, my bones have weakened and my hair is ashen grey, but never, Lord, have I ever prayed to You in vain: 5I fear [what] my kinsmen [will do] when I am gone, for my wife is barren, so grant me a successor––a gift from You––6to be my heir and the heir of the family of Jacob. Lord, make him well pleasing [to You].’ 7‘Zachariah, We bring you good news of a son whose name will be John––We have chosen this name for no one before him.’ 8He said, ‘Lord, how can I have a son when my wife is barren, and I am old and frail?’ 9He said, ‘This is what your Lord has said: “It is easy for Me: I created you, though you were nothing before.” ’
10He said, ‘Give me a sign, Lord.’ He said, ‘Your sign is that you will not [be able to] speak to anyone for three full [days and] nights.’ 11He went out of the sanctuary to his people and signalled to them to praise God morning and evening.
12[We said], ‘John, hold on to the Scripture firmly.’ While he was still a boy, We granted him wisdom, 13tenderness from Us, and purity. He was devout, 14kind to his parents, not domineering or rebellious. 15Peace was on him the day he was born, the day he died, and it will be on him the day he is raised to life again.
Wouldn’t it be nice if this empty promise of eternal life came without having to die first?
Yes, this is the Qur’anic version of the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke, wherein Zacharias is the father of John (Yahya) the Baptist. This gives us the first clue that the title of this surah refers to the Christian Madonna.
16Mention in the Qur’an the story of Mary. She withdrew from her family to a place to the east 17and secluded herself away; We sent Our Spirit to appear before her in the form of a perfected man.
So many questions. First, I notice that the mere fallible men who made all this up simply borrowed from the Biblical fables that Islam is based on, changing the names occasionally and shamelessly adding new details and embellishments to make it their own. And just like some Star Wars sequels, they don’t even respect their own canon, because they also change really important things that were supposed to be the absolute and unalterable truth before.
Second, why did Mary run away from home and squirrel herself away in a cave? Where did that idea come from? Not that I object to hooking up with any available babes that you happened to find while spelunking the underground. I mean, who HASN’T done that? We’ve all been there, right? But why was SHE there?
Thirdly, why does God have a spirit that is separate from himself? I thought God was spirit? Although we know that can’t be true because the common thread of all the Abrahamic religions says that God walks, talks, eats, sits, waves his hand, turns his head, shows his backside and cheats at wrestling. No man can see God and live, except for Adam, Abraham, Moses, and at least 73 other people whom God allowed to see his face and live.
Finally, I don’t know what a “perfected man” is, but maybe we’re talking about an appealing temptation to your average nubile teen-aged runaway hiding in private quarters alone in the wilderness.
Mary! Baby, I am literally God’s gift to you!
18She said, ‘I seek the Lord of Mercy’s protection against you: if you have any fear of Him [do not approach]!’
That’s cute. Can you imagine that bluff working on anyone today?
19but he said, ‘I am but a Messenger from your Lord, [come] to announce to you the gift of a pure son.’ 20She said, ‘How can I have a son when no man has touched me? I have not been unchaste,’
We can fix that, Honey. Trust me. I’m here to help.
21and he said, ‘This is what your Lord said:
No, that’s what SHE said. ;-P
“It is easy for Me– We shall make him a sign to all people, a blessing from Us.”’
I gotta admit, that’d be a pretty good pick-up line, but only if you look like a “perfected man”.
22And so it was ordained: she conceived him. She withdrew to a distant place 23and, when the pains of childbirth drove her to [cling to] the trunk of a palm tree, she exclaimed, ‘I wish I had been dead and forgotten long before all this!’
There goes the whole Christmas nativity. No cuckolded Joseph, no manger, no little drummer boy, and no trio of Zoroastrian magi showing up suspiciously either. Neither was it a virgin birth. She never asked if there was room at the inn. Instead she was in a hole in the ground banging an under-cover angel.
24but a voice cried to her from below, ‘Do not worry: your Lord has provided a stream at your feet 25and, if you shake the trunk of the palm tree towards you, it will deliver fresh ripe dates for you, 26so eat, drink, be glad, and say to anyone you may see: “I have vowed to the Lord of Mercy to abstain from conversation, and I will not talk to anyone today.”’
Think about this. A girl of probably fifteen years-old has to give birth standing up? Or at least kneeling in front of a tree, which would be the only way to really “cling to” it the way the story describes. And she has to crawl around the trunk to pick up fruit. Is that how Israeli girls really gave birth back then? All on their own in the wilderness? Is that how Arabian girls did it?
27She went back to her people carrying the child, and they said, ‘Mary! You have done something terrible! 28Sister of Aaron! Your father was not an evil man; your mother was not unchaste!’
Now imagine an unwed mother trying to explain a bastard child to either orthodox Jews or Muslims back then, because that’s still a stoning offense in some places even today.
29She pointed at him. They said, ‘How can we converse with an infant?’
How could anybody think that she meant to ask the baby where he came from?
30[But] he said: ‘I am a servant of God. He has granted me the Scripture; made me a prophet; 31made me blessed wherever I may be. He commanded me to pray, to give alms as long as I live, 32to cherish my mother. He did not make me domineering or graceless. 33Peace was on me the day I was born, and will be on me the day I die and the day I am raised to life again.’ 34Such was Jesus, son of Mary. [This is] a statement of the Truth about which they are in doubt:
No kidding? There are people who doubt this story? Really? Because I’m getting the impression that most people are credulous enough to believe absolutely any absurdity, and for no good reason, without any evidence at all.
Yes, the Qur’an says that Jesus, the one day-old toothless infant was speaking to his mother’s critics, explaining how he is a prophet of God. Even if he had been incarnated with the mind to speak, an infant does not have a mouth capable of producing speech, as I explain in one of my biology videos. So that’s yet another scientific error in the Qur’an. Inane claims like talking babies are never too silly for scripture, not even when a story that ridiculous wasn’t in the original version either. Religions just keep adding exaggerations beyond all reason.
35it would not befit God to have a child. He is far above that: when He decrees something, He says only, ‘Be,’ and it is.
Now that’s real power! [he said sarcastically] Lesser magi would have to say “abra-cadabera” or “ala-kazam” or something like that. Of course the point of this passage was to deny the divinity of Jesus. In Islam, Jesus was divinely created complete with magic powers, but he was only a prophet of God. Jesus was not in an incarnation of God like the Hindu Krishna was. However, since it was the spirit of God who appeared as a perfected man to impregnate Mary, then Jesus is literally the son of God. There is no argument for Islam to get out of that.
36‘God is my Lord and your Lord, so serve Him: that is a straight path.’
Interpreter, Abdel Haleem says that no one is sure whether the Qur’an means that Jesus said that as a newborn baby or whether Muhammad said it. It’s only God’s perfect word, [he said sarcastically]. Why should we expect it to be written as well as any competent human author would have composed it?
37But factions have differed among themselves. What suffering will come to those who obscure the truth when a dreadful Day arrives! 38How sharp of hearing, how sharp of sight they will be when they come to Us, although now they are clearly off course! Warn them [Muhammad] of the Day of Remorse when the matter will be decided, 39for they are heedless and do not believe.
Well, whose fault is that, Mr Infallible? You said earlier in this very book that you decide who believes and who doesn’t. So if you were a just and righteous judge, you’d have only yourself to blame, but you’re going to blame us anyway—for YOUR sins, and you’re going to punish us for doing what you forced to do when we had no choice.
40It is We who will inherit the earth and all who are on it: they will all be returned to Us.
There goes another of the few pleasant notions that Bible had, that the weak would inherit the earth. It seems the Qur’an exists only to ruin the religions on which it is based.
41Mention too, in the Qur’an, the story of Abraham. He was a man of truth, a prophet. 42He said to his father, ‘Father, why do you worship something that can neither hear nor see nor benefit you in any way?
Why didn’t Abraham ask himself that question?
43Father, knowledge that has not reached you has come to me, so follow me: I will guide you to an even path. 44Father, do not worship Satan– Satan has rebelled against the Lord of Mercy. 45Father, I fear that a punishment from the Lord of Mercy may afflict you and that you may become Satan’s companion [in Hell].’ 46His father answered, ‘Abraham, do you reject my gods? I will stone you if you do not stop this. Keep out of my way!’
So even before Abraham [allegedly] began the family of religions that are based on him, (or rather the fable about him) the elder pagan religions also already permitted parents to stone disobedient or disrespectful children. Why is religious faith so fragile that it requires violence and death in defense of delusion?
47Abraham said, ‘Peace be with you: I will beg my Lord to forgive you–
According to all the Abrahamic scriptures, God does not, nay CAN not forgive disbelief.
He is always gracious to me–
No. Remember that God punked Abraham by demanding that he kill his son as demonstration of his commitment to delusion. An omniscient fortune-teller made Adam do this as a test, as if God didn’t already know better.
48but for now I will leave you, and the idols you all pray to, and I will pray to my Lord and trust that my prayer will not be in vain.’
But if Abraham’s father died believing in other gods or no gods at all, then he’s doomed. The scriptures allow no exceptions. So Abraham’s prayers were in vain.
49When he left his people and those they served beside God, We granted him Isaac and Jacob and made them both prophets:
So God made Isaac and Jacob both prophets, even though Jacob in the Qur’an is the Biblical Ishmael, who was said to worship idols. Abraham even banished him to the wilderness because of his disbelief. So in what sense was he a prophet?
50We granted Our grace to all of them, and gave them a noble reputation.
Except that the story goes that Jacob/Ishmael became the common ancestor of all Arabian people, and Isaac became the father of all Jewish people, and these two nations have been at war with each other perpetually ever since. So much for all of them having noble reputations.
51Mention too, in the Qur’an, the story of Moses. He was specially chosen, a messenger and a prophet: 52We called to him from the right-hand side of the mountain and brought him close to Us in secret communion; 53out of Our grace We granted him his brother Aaron as a prophet.
Remember that Aaron was the one who made the golden calf, while his brother, Moses was up on the mountain get the dozens of commandments that are now mistakenly referred to as only “ten”. Immediately after God said “thou shalt not kill”, he ordered Moses to “kill every man and his brother” over what Aaron did. Yet Moses’ own brother, was spared, even though he was the only one to have actually done anything illegal at that time. Somehow on the next page, Aaron has not only been inexplicably forgiven, but he’s a high priest now, and God is giving all these specific details for how fine his robes should be, how the people should tailor and cater to him, and how much money the populace need pay him. Seems that nepotism and hypocrisy are rampant throughout religion.
54Mention too, in the Qur’an, the story of Ishmael. He was true to his promise, a messenger and a prophet. 55He commanded his household to pray and give alms, and his Lord was well pleased with him.
Maybe in the Qur’an, but not in the Bible, where “Ishmael had not grown up as his father had hoped. He was inclined towards many things Abraham considered wicked. Ishmael even prayed to idols when he believed himself unobserved.Sarah observed him and realized that he would have a bad influence upon the young Isaac. She therefore implored Abraham to send Ishmael away. Abraham understood the motive of his wife’s request, but he feared to send his son away to a place where he might become even worse. However, G‑d told Abraham to do as Sarah had requested, and Abraham then sent Hagar and Ishmael away, ….Ishmael lived his life in his own way. He married and had many children. His children multiplied and became known under the name of Ishmaelites, or Arabs, the people of the desert.”
56Mention too, in the Qur’an, the story of Idris. He was a man of truth, a prophet. 57We raised him to a high position.
Reading the Qur’an in order of Revelations has not been as illustrative as I was told it would be. Perhaps I missed the mention of Idris. Looking him up, it seems that most Muslims think of Idris as the Islamic version of the Biblical Enoch, but some associate that character with Hermes Trismegistus, who may also be the Greek god Hermes and the Egyptian god, Thoth, all at the same time. Now that is interesting. Hopefully, when we discuss this on video, someone can explain this to me.
58These were the prophets God blessed– from the seed of Adam, of those We carried in the Ark with Noah, from the seed of Abraham and Israel– and those We guided and chose.
Several Muslims have told me that the Qur’an doesn’t talk about a global flood. Yet here again, it implies that everyone is necessarily descended from Noah.
When the revelations of the Lord of Mercy were recited to them, they fell to their knees and wept, 59but there came after them generations who neglected prayer and were driven by their own desires. These will come face to face with their evil,
Importantly, each of these earlier characters had already come “face to face” with their evil. God met them all face to face, so that no faith was required of any of them. But faith is required of us to believe that any of them ever even existed.
60but those who repent, who believe, who do righteous deeds, will enter Paradise. They will not be wronged in the least: 61they will enter the Gardens of Lasting Bliss, promised by the Lord of Mercy to His servants– it is not yet seen but truly His promise will be fulfilled.
Oh sure it will, but there is never any deadline for that, is there? Nor any rational reason to believe any of it. Which is good because, imagine having to watch your mouth under constant observation for all eternity.
62There they will hear only peaceful talk, nothing bad; there they will be given provision morning and evening. 63That is the Garden We shall give as their own to those of Our servants who were devout.
So we need provisions even in Heaven, where we’ll only hear nice things. How many nice things can we hear given ‘leventy jillion centuries to the power of a thousand orders of magnitude of talking with the same limited number of people, deprived of free will so that we can’t even complain about how long eternity takes?
64[Gabriel said], a ‘We only descend [with revelation] at your Lord’s command––everything before us, everything behind us, everything in between, all belongs to Him––your Lord is never forgetful.
Why did he have to send a flood to wipe people out and start over? How many times has he done something like that now? In Sodom, according to the Tanakh and in other cities according to the Qur’an.
65He is Lord of the heavens and earth and everything in between so worship Him: be steadfast in worshipping Him. Do you know of anyone equal to Him?’
I know people better than him, who are more moral, with a better sense of judgment, and they’re REAL people too. So I don’t need faith to believe in them.
66Man says, ‘What? Once I am dead, will I be brought back to life?’ 67but does man not remember that We created him when he was nothing before?
No. No one remembers that, because it didn’t happen.
68By your Lord [Prophet] We shall gather them and the devils together and set them on their knees around Hell; 69We shall seize out of each group those who were most disobedient towards the Lord of Mercy– 70We know best who most deserves to burn in Hell–
No one, that’s who. Not even devils could do enough to deserve eternal torture, certainly not mere mortal men.
71but every single one of you will approach it, a decree from your Lord which must be fulfilled. 72We shall save the devout and leave the evildoers there on their knees.
So you keep saying, and I am still unable to believe you. But of course you know that already, as your prophets say that whether I believe is entirely your choice, not mine.
73When Our revelations are recited to them in all their clarity, [all that] the disbelievers say to the believers [is], ‘Which side is better situated? Which side has the better following?’
Wrong again. What you say are not “revelations” but only empty assertions. So what we would really say is “Show me the truth of it”, as we’ve been doing from the beginning. But for whatever reason, you’re never able to answer that challenge.
74We have destroyed many a generation before them who surpassed them in riches and outward glitter!
But you never gave any of these groups of people good reason to believe you. Apparently that is the one thing that is beyond your ability.
75Say [Prophet], ‘The Lord of Mercy lengthens [the lives] of the misguided, until, when they are confronted with what they have been warned about– either the punishment [in this life] or the Hour [of Judgement]– they realize who is worse situated and who has the weakest forces.’
We know that already. You’ve had thousands of years to make your case, and after all this time we’ve seen that you can’t do it, which is why your followers have to rely on empty assertions, hallucinations, lies and threats of violence.
76But God gives more guidance to those who are guided, and good deeds of lasting merit are best and most rewarding in your Lord’s sight.
God giving guidance to the guided is like saying he helps those who help themselves. He’s not actually doing anything in either case; especially since this book also says that God is a deceiver who guides people like me away from believing in him, only to punish me for it later.
77Have you considered the man who rejects Our revelation, who says, ‘I will certainly be given wealth and children’? 78Has he penetrated the unknown or received a pledge to that effect from the Lord of Mercy? 79No! We shall certainly record what he says and prolong his punishment: 80We shall inherit from him all that he speaks of and he will come to Us all alone. 81They have taken other gods beside God to give them strength, 82but these gods will reject their worship and will even turn against them.
And you turn against your own people too. What is Islam’s position on the children of Isaac, also known as the Jews? Weren’t they your “chosen” people at one time?
83Have you [Prophet] not seen how We send devils to incite the disbelievers to sin?
So not only are you at fault for making me skeptical of your existence, but every “sinful” [evil?] thing I do is your fault too? I can’t even say that the devil made me do it, because God made the devil make me do it. Clearly I have no free will. What’s the purpose of Hell again? To punish me for all the evil you’ve done to me?
84There is no need for you to be impatient concerning them: We are counting down their [allotted] time. 85On the Day We gather the righteous as an honoured company before the Lord of Mercy 86and drive the sinful like a thirsty herd into Hell, 87no one will have power to intercede except for those who have permission from the Lord of Mercy.
Did Abraham have your permission with regard to his father? Has any non-believer ever been spared your unjust insecurity?
88The disbelievers say, ‘The Lord of Mercy has offspring.’
The translator says this line is referring to pagans who believed that angels were the daughters of God, but it also refers to Christians as “unbelievers”. So that Pascal’s wager is completely nullified.
89How terrible is this thing you assert: 90it almost causes the heavens to be torn apart, the earth to split asunder, the mountains to crumble to pieces, 91that they attribute offspring to the Lord of Mercy. 92It does not befit the Lord of Mercy [to have offspring]:
It damned sure does not fit that the “Lord of Mercy” even could send anyone to Hell, or do any of the crap attributed to him in the Tanakh, the gospels, the Qur’an, nor in the Book of Mormon, nor the Kitáb-i-Aqdas of Bahá’u’lláh, the most recent prophet, or ‘manifestation’, of God. And that’s why we should not believe in any prophets. Let the God speak for himself. We have millions of microphones ready. They should all pick him up at once.
93there is no one in the heavens or earth who will not come to the Lord of Mercy as a servant– 94He has counted them all: He has numbered them exactly– 95and they will each return to Him on the Day of Resurrection all alone.
But you will not be there. We’ve numbered the gods too, and found not one who is real.
96But the Lord of Mercy will give love to those who believe and do righteous deeds: 97We have made it easy, in your own language [Prophet], so that you may bring glad news to the righteous and warnings to a stubborn people.
It was so easy that it required human authors to write untold thousands of hadiths to clarify what God obviously can’t have been clear at all, if any of them felt the need to do that.
98How many generations We have destroyed before them! Do you perceive a single one of them now, or hear as much as a whisper?
From the people professing belief in each of their various gods still today, yes. But it seems we’ve never heard from any of these gods themselves. I’m calling them all out right now, and we already know why I will never hear so much as a whisper from any of them, not even from you. Your followers may punish me for saying this, but you will never do anything yourself, because you can’t, because you aren’t.