This is the 24th 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 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 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.
and my 23rd post on surah 27.
Sūrah 28 (Al-Qasas) “The Story”
1Ta Sin Mim
We start with the same three Arabic letters that also began Sūrah 27. Again, no one knows why, and yet the Qur’an still assures us that…
2These are the verses of the Scripture that makes things clear:
3We recount to you [Prophet] part of the story of Moses and Pharaoh, setting out the truth for people who believe.
Note that it’s not the truth for those who do not believe, which means it’s not the truth at all. If something is truth, then it is true whether you want to believe it or not. If this was really true, then why would God not share it with unbelievers too? In other suras, we already read that he closed our eyes and ears to his “truth”, that he deliberately mislead us to disbelieve so that he could punish us for what he made us do.
4Pharaoh made himself high and mighty in the land and divided the people into different groups: one group he oppressed, slaughtering their sons and sparing their women––he was one of those who spread corruption––
And Allah made himself high and mighty in the land and divided the people into different groups: one group he damned to merciless eternal torture simply for not believing what he did not permit them to believe.
5but We wished to favour those who were oppressed in that land, to make them leaders, the ones to survive, 6to establish them in the land, and through them show Pharaoh, Haman, and their armies the very thing they feared.
7We inspired Moses’ mother, saying, ‘Suckle him, and then, when you fear for his safety, put him in the river: do not be afraid, and do not grieve, for We shall return him to you and make him a messenger.’
Yeah, Lady. Abandon your kid and let him [hopefully] grow up without you. What woman wouldn’t readily agree to that?
8Pharaoh’s household picked him up––later to become an enemy and a source of grief for them: Pharaoh, Haman, and their armies were wrongdoers––9and Pharaoh’s wife said, ‘Here is a joy to behold for me and for you! Do not kill him: he may be of use to us, or we may adopt him as a son.’ They did not realize what they were doing.
10The next day, Moses’ mother felt a void in her heart––if We had not strengthened it to make her one of those who believe, she would have revealed everything about him––
Wait, this lady put her infant child in a wicker basket and set him adrift because a voice in her head—that she did not believe—told her to do so? Or is it the case that she cast the baby off to almost certain doom and then said, “I can’t believe I just did that”?
11and she said to his sister, ‘Follow him.’ So she watched him from a distance, without them knowing. 12We had ordained that he would refuse to feed from wet nurses. His sister approached them and said, ‘Shall I tell you about a household which could bring him up for you and take good care of him?’ 13We restored him to his mother in this way, so that she might be comforted, not grieve, and know that God’s promise is true, though most of them do not know.
I’m confused. Did Pharaoh adopt the child into his own family? Or did he adopt it out to another family instead? “We found this kid. We were gonna keep it and raise it, but if you want, you can keep it and raise it. Then we can pretend like it’s ours, even though it’s not, and we had nothing to do with it.”
14When Moses reached full maturity and manhood, We gave him wisdom and knowledge: this is how We reward those who do good.
Actually no. First of all, Moses hadn’t done anything yet. So he didn’t deserve any such gifts. Secondly, God doesn’t exactly “reward” the people who do his bidding. Each of those whom God charges with some special task ends up having to do excessive work under challenging conditions, always while being hated, ridiculed and oppressed by others, until they either end up on a stick or shamelessly cursing their own kids. That’s how God typically “rewards” those who do “good”.
15He entered the city, unnoticed by its people, and found two men fighting: one from his own people, the other an enemy. The one from his own people cried out to him for help against the enemy. Moses struck him with his fist and killed him.
If you’re impressed that an unarmed assailant killed a guy with one punch, as the story implies, remember that whenever this happens in real life, it’s never that simple or innocent; it always turns out that someone kept getting brutally beaten a lot more than they needed to be, even after they’ve gone down.
He said, ‘This must be Satan’s work: clearly he is a misleading enemy.’
So Moses beat some guy to death, and then used the excuse that the devil made him do it?
16He said, ‘Lord, I have wronged myself. Forgive me,’ so He forgave him; He is truly the Most Forgiving, the Most Merciful.
Of course the god in your head forgives you for everything you did. The god in your head already knows all your excuses and he has to agree with you, because he *is* you!
17He said, ‘My Lord, because of the blessings You have bestowed upon me, I shall never support those who do evil.’
Moses did plenty of evil himself after this! In fact, he was one of the most evil characters in all the Abrahamic mythos!
18Next morning, he was walking in the city, fearful and vigilant, when suddenly the man he had helped the day before cried out to him for help. Moses said, ‘You are clearly a troublemaker.’ 19As he was about to attack the man who was an enemy to both of them, the man said, ‘Moses, are you going to kill me as you killed that person yesterday? You clearly want to be a tyrant in the land; you do not intend to put things right.’ 20Then a man came running from the furthest part of the city and said, ‘Moses, the authorities are talking about killing you, so leave– this is my sincere advice.’ 21So Moses left the city, fearful and wary, and prayed, ‘My Lord, save me from people who do wrong.’
Mind you, Allah already knows everything that has ever happened. Nothing ever happens unless Allah wills it. So Allah already knew what trouble Moses was in. Allah willed that Moses would get into that trouble in the first place.
22As he made his way towards Midian, he was saying, ‘May my Lord guide me to the right way.’
Remember that the Lord’s guidance turned a two-week journey—following the coastline from Ramses to Canaan—into forty years lost in the desert, all the while committing all manner of unconscionable evil at God’s command, wherein none of the original party survived to reach their destination. So don’t turn to God to guide you on anything.
23When he arrived at Midian’s waters, he found a group of men watering [their flocks], and beside them two women keeping their flocks back, so he said, ‘What is the matter with you two?’ They said, ‘We cannot water [our flocks] until the shepherds take their sheep away: our father is a very old man.’ 24He watered their flocks for them, withdrew into the shade, and prayed, ‘My Lord, I am in dire need of whatever good thing You may send me,’ 25and then one of the two women approached him, walking shyly, and said, ‘My father is asking for you: he wants to reward you for watering our flocks for us.’
According to Al-Islam.org, it is “Makruh” (detestable, abominable) to speak with a “non-Mahram” woman (outside your own family) except when necessary, especially if it is a young woman, as is the case here. A young woman can speak to a non-Mahram man only when it is necessary and provided she does not make her voice sound soft and attractive.
When Moses came to him and told him his story, the old man said, ‘Do not be afraid, you are safe now from people who do wrong.’ 26One of the women said, ‘Father, hire him: a strong, trustworthy man is the best to hire.’ 27The father said, ‘I would like to marry you to one of these daughters of mine, on condition that you serve me for eight years: if you complete ten, it will be of your own free will. I do not intend to make things difficult for you: God willing, you will find I am a fair man.’ 28Moses said, ‘Let that be the agreement between us– whichever of the two terms I fulfil, let there be no injustice to me– God is witness to what we say.’
Note that the daughter said “hire him”, not “I want you to marry me off to him”. Because back then, and in that place still today, women are just property with no independent rights or say of their own. They were (and sometimes still are) even used as currency in trade for goods and services.
29Once Moses had fulfilled the term and was travelling with his family, he caught sight of a fire on the side of the mountain and said to his family, ‘Wait! I have seen a fire. I will bring you news from there, or a burning stick for you to warm yourselves.’ 30But when he reached it, a voice called out to him from the right-hand side of the valley, from a tree on the blessed ground: ‘Moses, I am God, the Lord of the Worlds. 31Throw down your staff.’ When he saw his staff moving like a snake, he fled in fear and would not return. Again [he was called]: ‘Moses! Draw near! Do not be afraid, for you are one of those who are safe. 32Put your hand inside your shirt and it will come out white but unharmed– hold your arm close to your side, free from all fear. These shall be two signs from your Lord to Pharaoh and his chiefs; they are truly wicked people.’ 33Moses said, ‘My Lord, I killed one of their men, and I fear that they may kill me. 34My brother Aaron is more eloquent than I: send him with me to help me and confirm my words– I fear they may call me a liar.’ 35God said, ‘We shall strengthen you through your brother; We shall give you both power so that they cannot touch you. With Our signs you, and those who follow you, will triumph.’
The Qur’an has to be the most repetitive book ever written! But the contrasts and contradictions are amusing. Those who already know this story from the earlier, “original” version in the Old Testament know that Moses didn’t happen across the burning bush until the Jews began their exodus out of Egypt. So the Qur’an is taking liberties re-writing this story out-of-order. Seems that every new sect wants to “get back to” some “originally intended” interpretation that never really existed before. This version also has different dialogue than we read in sura 20, yet both versions are supposed to be verbatim, as both accounts are alleged to come from the same infallible figure.
36But when Moses came to them with Our clear signs, they said, ‘These are mere conjuring tricks; we never heard this from our forefathers.’ 37Moses said, ‘My Lord knows best who comes with guidance from Him and who will have the final Home: wrongdoers will never succeed.’
This explains why Moses himself failed to make it to the promised land. Actually there are a handful of sins to blame for that, some listed as such in the Bible, while other acts of abominable immorality were lauded as righteous.
38Pharaoh said, ‘Counsellors, you have no other god that I know of except me. Haman, light me a fire to bake clay bricks, then build me a tall building so that I may climb up to Moses’ God: I am convinced that he is lying.’
If that sounds ridiculous, remember that Allah felt threatened by construction of the Tower of Babel.
39Pharaoh and his armies behaved arrogantly in the land with no right–
So did the Israelites in their turn.
they thought they would not be brought back to Us– 40so We seized him and his armies and threw them into the sea. See what became of the wrongdoers!
Funny that the Egyptian historians can’t account for this at all. I don’t want to call God a liar, but I think all his prophets are. There was never a time over this whole possible period when the armies of Egypt disappeared or when they did not maintain military control over their whole and surrounding area.
41We made them leaders calling [others] only to the Fire: on the Day of Resurrection they will not be helped. 42We made Our rejection pursue them in this world, and on the Day of Resurrection they will be among the despised. 43After We had destroyed the earlier generations, We gave Moses the Scripture to provide insight, guidance, and mercy for people, so that they might take heed.
Bear in mind that the “scripture” referred to here is the Tanakh, basically the Hebrew Bible and the Torah in one. Portions of this were later rejected or re-written by the Christians, and much of their revision was revised again by Islam. I don’t think one could honestly say that the scripture in question provided insight or mercy for any of these three religions at war with each other since the founding of each. We could fairly say that it guided them all, but only if we admit that each were mis-guided.
44You [Muhammad] were not present on the western side of the mountain when We gave Our command to Moses: you were not there– 45We have brought into being many generations who lived long lives– you did not live among the people of Midian or recite Our Revelation to them– We have always sent messengers to people–
Actually, Moses pillaged, raped and destroyed the Medianites, slaughtering every man, woman and child, except for the preteen girls. If they were determined to be virgins, then they were kept alive to be used as sex-slaves. This is according to the scripture that Allah here says provided insight, guidance and mercy.
46nor were you present on the side of Mount Sinai when We called out to Moses. But you too have been sent as an act of grace from your Lord, to give warning to a people to whom no warner has come before, so that they may take heed,47and may not say, if a disaster should befall them as a result of what they have done with their own hands, ‘Lord, if only You had sent us a messenger, we might have followed Your message and become believers.’
A just and righteous god would not send a “warner” when an informer would be more appropriate. But then any god worthy of worship wouldn’t need or trust a prophet to speak for him either. Nor should a god who is actually real care whether we believed that or not.
48Even now that Our truth has come to them, they say, ‘Why has he not been given signs like those given to Moses?’ Did they not also deny the truth that was given to Moses before? They say, ‘Two kinds of sorcery, helping each other,’ and, ‘We refuse to accept either of them.’
That is the wise response.
49Say [Muhammad], ‘Then produce a book from God that gives better guidance than these two and I will follow it, if you are telling the truth.’ 50If they do not respond to you, you will know that they follow only their own desires. Who is further astray than the one who follows his own desires with no guidance from God? Truly God does not guide those who do wrong.
Those who do most of the worst wrongs very often cite God as their guide.
51We have caused Our Word to come to them so that they may be mindful. 52Those to whom We gave the Scripture before believe in it, a 53and, when it is recited to them, say, ‘We believe in it, it is the truth from our Lord. Before it came we had already devoted ourselves to Him.’
Abdel Haleem says that this passage of the Qur’an refers to the Qur’an. But it can’t be. Because at this point, Muhammad is still composing the Qur’an as he reads from it. If we’re talking about those who received the scripture BEFORE, we can only be talking about the same scripture that God just said he had already given to Moses. That was only three verses ago! So we are still talking about the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible.
54They will be given their rewards twice over because they are steadfast, repel evil with good, give to others out of what We have provided for them, 55and turn away whenever they hear frivolous talk, saying, ‘We have our deeds and you have yours. Peace be with you! We do not seek the company of ignorant people.’
Except that those people who were given the scripture referred to here are called the Jews, whom Islam considers mortal enemies now.
56You [Prophet] cannot guide everyone you love to the truth; it is God who guides whoever He will: He knows best those who will follow guidance.
And it is entirely God’s fault when we don’t believe in him, because of his questionable prophets and their indefensible demands of faith. An infallible omniscient god would have to know better than that.
57They say, ‘If we were to follow guidance with you [Prophet], we would be swept from our land.’ Have We not established for them a secure sanctuary where every kind of produce is brought, as a provision from Us? But most of them do not comprehend.
This passage refers to Mecca being that secure sanctuary.
58We have destroyed many a community that once revelled in its wanton wealth and easy living: since then their dwelling places have barely been inhabited– We are the only heir.
Then you’re neither a good teacher nor a good god.
59Your Lord would never destroy towns without first raising a messenger in their midst to recite Our messages to them, nor would We destroy towns unless their inhabitants were evildoers.
Yet Noah’s flood was said to have wiped out everyone everywhere regardless of morality, killing every innocent fawn in America or Joey in Australia over the attitudes of some middle eastern tribe that could easily have been corrected by a competent ambassador.
60Whatever things you have been given for the life of this world are merely [temporary] gratification and vanity: that which is with God is better and more lasting– will you not use your reason?
I must employ reason, which is why I cannot accept your unsupported assertions.
61Can the person who will see the fulfilment of the good promise We gave him be compared to someone We have given some enjoyments for this worldly life but who, on the Day of Resurrection, will be summoned [for punishment]?
Sure; Why not?
62The Day will come when God will call them, saying, ‘Where now are those you allege are My partners?’ 63and those [ringleaders] against whom the verdict will be passed will say, ‘Our Lord, these are the ones we caused to deviate. We caused them to deviate as we ourselves deviated, but now we disown them before You: they did not really serve us.’ 64It will then be said to them, ‘Now call those you worshipped as partners,’ and they will call them but receive no answer. They will see the suffering and wish they had followed guidance.
You hear that, Christians? I think he’s talking to you. Pascal’s Wager didn’t prepare you for that, did it?
65On that Day He will call them, saying, ‘How did you respond to My messengers?’
It seems the people were compliant in every case, immediately believing almost everything the prophets told them. Yet every one of your messengers still failed to deliver your message. Of those who came before Muhammad, Lao Tsu established Taoism, Siddhartha Gautama started the Buddhist religion, and Zarathustra began Zoroastrianism, all at about the same time, roughly 600 BCE. That’s also about when Hellenism launched a thousand ships. Mithraism is based on Mithras, of course. I’m not sure about all the rest, but most of the others reinforced Hinduism, except for Jesus, who founded Christianity, and Moses is said to be the father of Judaism. Yet no one had ever heard of Islam until Muhammad wrote the Qur’an. So I don’t think you sent any effective messengers for Muslims.
66All arguments will seem obscure to them on that Day; they will not be able to consult one another. 67Yet anyone who has repented, believed, and done good deeds can hope to find himself among the successful.
Not so. In one sense or another, you’re damned if you and damned if you don’t in this belief-system. There is no way to be “successful”.
68Your Lord creates what He pleases and chooses those He will– they have no choice– so glory be to God, and may He be exalted above the partners they ascribe to Him!
Once again we see how the Qur’an confirms that humans do not possess free will.
69Your Lord knows what their hearts conceal and what they reveal. 70He is God; there is no god but Him; all praise belongs to Him in this world and the next; His is the Judgement; and to Him you shall be returned.
Correction: there is no god. Nor is there any “next” world either. Instead, history will be our judge.
71Say [Prophet], ‘Just think, if God were to cast perpetual night over you until the Day of Resurrection, what god other than He could bring you light? Do you not listen?’
No other god, nor yours either. There is no god. They’re all made up.
72Say, ‘Just think, if God were to cast perpetual day over you until the Day of Resurrection, what god other than He could give you night in which to rest? Do you not see?
No other god, no gods at all, for all gods are imaginary.
73In His mercy He has given you night and day, so that you may rest and seek His bounty and be grateful.’ 74The Day will come when He will call out to them, saying, ‘Where are the partners you claimed for Me?’ 75We shall call a witness from every community, and say, ‘Produce your evidence,’ and then they will know that truth belongs to God alone; the gods they invented will forsake them.
If we knew when “that day” is supposed to be, then we would know the day that Muslims too would fail to produce any evidence of their god.
76Qarun was one of Moses’ people, but he oppressed them. We had given him such treasures that even their keys would have weighed down a whole company of strong men. His people said to him, ‘Do not gloat, for God does not like people who gloat. 77Seek the life to come by means of what God has granted you, but do not neglect your rightful share in this world. Do good to others as God has done good to you. Do not seek to spread corruption in the land, for God does not love those who do this,’ 78but he answered, ‘This wealth was given to me on account of the knowledge I possess.’
Qarun in the Qur’an is the same character as Korah, Korach, or Korak in the Hebrew Book of Numbers.
Did he not know that God had destroyed many generations before him, who had greater power than him and built up greater wealth? The guilty will not be questioned about their sins.
I’m confused as to who is speaking here. We’re usually expecting it to be Muhammad reciting what the Angel Gabriel said while repeating God. God often uses the real “We” but never refers to himself in third person.
79He went out among his people in all his pomp, and those whose aim was the life of this world said, ‘If only we had been given something like what Qarun has been given: he really is a very fortunate man,’ 80but those who were given knowledge said, ‘Alas for you! God’s reward is better for those who believe and do good deeds: only those who are steadfast will attain this.’ 81We caused the earth to swallow him and his home: he had no one to help him against God, nor could he defend himself.
Mind you, the story goes that his wealth was a blessing from God, and Qarun was punished for how he had the blessings God had bestowed upon him.
82The next day, those who had, the day before, wished to be in his place exclaimed, ‘Alas [for you, Qarun]! It is God alone who gives what He will, abundantly or sparingly, to whichever He will of His creatures: if God had not been gracious to us, He would have caused the earth to swallow us too.’ Alas indeed! Those who deny the truth will never prosper. 83We grant the Home in the Hereafter to those who do not seek superiority on earth or spread corruption: the happy ending is awarded to those who are mindful of God.
The lesson here being, if you’re born rich, Goddidit. If you were worked hard and were smart enough to become rich, God still did it. And if anything ever happened to you, like you eventually died decades later, God did that too. Whatever happens, you’re required and conditioned to believe that Goddidit, not you.
84Whoever comes before God with a good deed will receive a better reward; whoever comes with an evil deed will be punished only for what he has done.
Except that we already know that whoever comes to God with a good deed will still be punished if they don’t believe. Because it’s not about morality. It’s about gullibility. It’s not about truth, it’s about having the power to manipulate people.
85He who has made the Qur’an binding on you [Prophet] will bring you back home [to God]. So say, ‘My Lord knows best who has brought true guidance and who is blatantly astray.’
Except that he really doesn’t know anything at all.
86You yourself could not have expected the Scripture to be sent to you; it came only as a mercy from your Lord. So give no help to the disbelievers. 87Do not let them turn you away from God’s revelations after they have been revealed to you.
What reading the Qur’an has revealed to me is that there is no truth to this religion.
Call people to your Lord. Never become one of those who ascribe partners to God. 88Do not call out to any other god beside God, for there is no god but Him. Everything will perish except His Face. His is the Judgement and to Him you shall all be brought back.
Fortunately none of this is even possibly true. There is no god; no, not even one.