This is the 31st 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.
my 23rd post on surah 27.
my 24th post on surah 28.
my 25th post on surah 17.
my 26th post on surah 10.
my 27th post on surah 11.
my 28th post on surah 12.
my 29th post on surah 15.
and my 30th post on surah 6.
Sūrah 37 (As-Saaffaat) “Ranged in Rows”
1By those [angels] ranged in rows, 2who rebuke reproachfully 3and recite God’s word, 4truly your God is One,
This title probably should be read “arranged in rows”, as it is alternately translated as “The Aligners” or “Those who set the ranks”. To compare the variance of translation, Quran.com translates the above thus:
1. By those ˹angels˺ lined up in ranks,
2. and those who diligently drive ˹the clouds˺,
3. and those who recite the Reminder!
4. Surely your God is One!
While ClearQuran translates slightly differently:
1. By the aligners aligning.
2. And the drivers driving.
3. And the reciters of the Reminder.
4. Your God is indeed One.
So “arranged in rows” refers to a strategic military arrangement of army of angels.
5Lord of the heavens and earth and everything between them, Lord of every sunrise. 6We have adorned the lowest heaven with stars, 7and made them a safeguard against every rebellious devil: 8they cannot eavesdrop on the Higher Assembly ––pelted from every side, 9driven away, they will have perpetual torment––10if any [of them] stealthily snatches away a fragment, he will be pursued by a piercing flame.
Here the Qur’an explains that near the top of the crystalline dome known as the firmament, the highest level of Heaven is guarded by a host of angels. They are armed guards, literally shooting stars at any djinni who breech the outermost barriers. So Heaven is essentially a castle, and the djinni are spies trying to listen in on God’s secret plans. That is interesting in that Arabians didn’t yet know about gun powder when this was written. But then, back in those days, readers probably imagined flaming arrows instead.
More importantly, former believers tell me that most Muslims accept this description as literally true, sometimes even including the flat earth and firmament.
11So [Prophet], ask the disbelievers: is it harder to create them than other beings We have created? We created them from sticky clay.
No, you didn’t. We created you out of irrational imagination.
12You marvel as they scoff, 13take no heed when they are warned, 14and resort to ridicule when they see a sign, 15saying, ‘This is no more than blatant sorcery.’ 16‘What! After we have died and become dust and bones, shall we really be raised up again, 17along with our forefathers?’ 18Say, ‘Yes indeed, and you will be humiliated.’ 19Just one blast and––lo and behold!––they will look 20and say, ‘Woe to us! This is the Day of Judgement.’ 21[It will be said], ‘This is the Day of Decision, which you used to deny.
I still deny it, and you’ll still repeat your empty bluff until that day never comes. When will that be, by the way, because it’s been like 13 centuries already, and the sacred scriptures of every religion have all lost a lot of credibility lately.
22[Angels], gather together those who did wrong, and others like them, as well as whatever they worshipped 23beside God, lead them all to the path of Hell, 24and halt them for questioning: 25“Why do you not support each other now?” ’––26no indeed! They will be in complete submission on that Day––27and they will turn on one another accusingly. 28They will say, ‘You came to us from a position of power.’ a 29They will say, ‘No! It was you who would not believe– 30we had no power over you– and you were already exceeding all limits. 31Our Lord’s sentence on us is just and we must all taste the punishment. 32We led you astray as we ourselves were astray.’ 33On that Day they will all share the torment: 34this is how We deal with the guilty. 35Whenever it was said to them, ‘There is no deity but God,’ they became arrogant, 36and said, ‘Are we to forsake our gods for a mad poet?’ 37‘No: he brought the truth and confirmed the earlier messengers; 38you will taste the painful torment, 39and be repaid only according to your deeds.’
No, your god’s sentence is NOT just. Abdel Haleem notes that “The Arabic expression ‘from the right-hand side’ conveys the meaning of being in the right or approaching from the most honourable angle, or with power and influence.” This indicates that unbelievers were perfectly justified in having trusted their sages, scribes, authorities and guides. Therefore they are not really “wrongdoers” simply because they didn’t believe. Consequently, they do not deserve Hell. But the unjust (and thankfully imaginary) god of Islam will supposedly damn them anyway, without exception or excuse, without mercy or justification.
40Not so God’s true servants. 41They will have familiar provisions ––42fruits– and will be honoured 43in gardens of delight; 44seated on couches, facing one another. 45A drink will be passed round among them from a flowing spring: 46white, delicious to those who taste it, 47causing no headiness or intoxication.
So Hell is the lake of fire that burns even devils made of fire, an eternal torture without killing. Meanwhile Heaven is the great hall of God’s castle, where gulli-believers sit on sofas in the lobby drinking non-alcoholic soft drinks forever and ever and ever. It’s just another form of eternal damnation, and not even a good one. If you were damned to Hotel California instead, you could at least have some wine. You could also go lay down in your room to get away from those insufferable idiots on the sofas for a while. If you were damned to Vallhalla, you could go back into the lounge and kill those other guys over and over again, followed by feasting, beer and debauchery. And the women wouldn’t be slaves or robots but real people who are really into what they’re doing for their own enjoyment. How much better would that be?
48With them will be spouses– modest of gaze and beautiful of eye– 49like protected eggs.
Translation: “Modest gaze” means they have to look down. They may be pretty, but they’re lower class subjects with no rights or will of their own; literally just playthings of the men they’re doomed to try and please for all eternity.
50They will turn to one another with questions: 51one will say, ‘I had a close companion on earth 52who used to ask me, “Do you really believe that 53after we die and become dust and bone, we shall be brought for judgement?”’ 54Then he will say, ‘Shall we look for him?’ 55He will look down and see him in the midst of the Fire, 56and say to him, ‘By God, you almost brought me to ruin! 57Had it not been for the grace of my Lord, I too would have been taken to Hell.’ 58Then he will say [to his blessed companions], ‘Are we never to die again after our earlier death? 59Shall we never suffer? 60This truly is the supreme triumph!’ 61Everyone should strive to attain this.
So those who are sipping Fresca in the lobby of eternal monotony can peer over the balcony to be heard by their unbelieving friends and family writhing in endless excruciation. What is even sadder than that is the fact that a billion people around the world still make-believe that this is real. They believe because they want to. But why would anyone want to believe something so pointlessly horrible and stupid?
62Is this the better welcome, or the tree of Zaqqum, 63which we have made a test for the evildoers? 64This tree grows in the heart of the blazing Fire, d 65 and its fruits are like devils’ heads. 66They will fill their bellies eating from it; 67then drink scalding water on top of it; 68then return to the blazing Fire.
The translator notes that disbelievers said, scornfully, ‘How can there be a tree in the Fire?’ But those skeptics should understand that logical arguments have no effect on irrational religion. So there’s no point in mentioning that if you’re SO immortal that torture can’t kill you, then you’re not going to have thirst or hunger either. Why does no one ever critically examine religious nonsense?
69They found their forefathers astray, 70and rushed to follow in their footsteps– before the disbelievers [of Mecca], 71most men in the past went astray, 72even though We sent messengers to warn them.
Allah admits a long list of repeated failures for a supposedly omniscient and infallible being.
73See how those who were warned met their end!
They lived sensibly and rationally and died honorably, with no resurrection ever going to happen.
74Not so the true servants of God.
Who lived their lives in fear of lies, and died as fools duped by absolutely nonsense.
75Noah cried to Us, and how excellent was Our response! 76We saved him and his people from great distress, 77We let his offspring remain on the earth, 78We let him be praised by later generations: 79‘Peace be upon Noah among all the nations!’
Nope. None of that ever happened. There was no world-wide flood and there was no Noah. All of that is just exaggeration and lies.
80This is how We reward those who do good:
“Do good” = believe what you’re told, no matter how pointless, stupid and evil that is—simply because we told you so.
81he was truly one of Our faithful servants. 82We drowned the rest.
That didn’t happen. So that’s just a lie. But even if it did happen, then God would still be evil.
83Abraham was of the same faith: 84he came to his Lord with a devoted heart. 85He said to his father and his people, ‘What are you worshipping? 86How can you choose false gods instead of the true God?
All gods are false, Abraham. There is no “true” one.
87So what is your opinion about the Lord of all the Worlds?’
There isn’t one.
88then he looked up to the stars. 89He said, ‘I am sick,’ 90so [his people] turned away from him and left. 91He turned to their gods and said, 92‘Do you not eat? Why do you not speak?’ 93then he turned and struck them with his right arm. 94His people hurried towards him, 95but he said, ‘How can you worship things you carve with your own hands, 96when it is God who has created you and all your handiwork?’
Your magic imaginary god is no more real than anyone else’s.
97They said, ‘Build a pyre and throw him into the blazing fire.’ 98They wanted to harm him, but We humiliated them. 99He said, ‘I will go to my Lord: He is sure to guide me. 100Lord, grant me a righteous son,’ 101so We gave him the good news that he would have a patient son.
Wait. Wut? The pagans are throwing Abraham into the fire and suddenly the story changes, and he finds out he’s going to have a son? Is Allah the absolute worst storyteller ever? How did he escape being burned by the pagans? I checked a couple other translations, and they were just as bad. Only Quran.com offered any clarification:
97. They said ˹to one another˺, “Build him a furnace and cast him into the blazing fire.”
98. And so they sought to harm him, but We made them inferior.
99. He later said, “I am leaving ˹in obedience˺ to my Lord. He will guide me.
So I guess maybe they only threatened to throw him in the fire, and he wisely skedaddled. Then we abruptly jump to a completely different story sometime later. It’s as if the Qur’an was edited by Quinton Tarantino. That’s why I have to read it in order of revelation as opposed to the confusing sequence in which it is presented.
102When the boy was old enough to work with his father, Abraham said, ‘My son, I have seen myself sacrificing you in a dream. What do you think?’
He said, ‘Father, do as you are commanded and, God willing, you will find me steadfast.’
Yeah, sure. That’s what happened. Um-hmm.
103When they had both submitted to God, and he had laid his son down on the side of his face, 104We called out to him, ‘Abraham, 105you have fulfilled the dream.’ This is how We reward those who do good–
A voice in your head tells you to murder your loved ones?
106it was a test to prove [their true characters]– 107We ransomed his son with a momentous sacrifice, 108and We let him be praised by succeeding generations:
Then God says “just kidding”? Because an omniscient being needed to test you to see how blindly credulous you are? Insanity be praised!
109‘Peace be upon Abraham!’ 110This is how We reward those who do good: 111truly he was one of Our faithful servants. 112We gave Abraham the good news of Isaac– a prophet and a righteous man– 113and blessed him and Isaac too: some of their offspring were good, but some clearly wronged themselves.
I think this refers to why Judaism is a completely different, and violently opposed religion to Islam, even though they and the Christians and the Baháʼí are all claiming the same gods and most of the same prophets.
114We also bestowed Our favour on Moses and Aaron: 115We saved them and their people from great distress; 116We helped them, so they were the ones to succeed; 117We gave them the Scripture that makes things clear; 118We guided them to the right path; 119We let them be praised by succeeding generations: 120‘Peace be upon Moses and Aaron!’
Two more people who never existed.
121This is how We reward those who do good: 122truly they were among Our faithful servants. 123Elijah too was one of the messengers. 124He said to his people, ‘Have you no fear of God? 125How can you invoke Baal and forsake the Most Gracious Creator, 126God, your Lord and the Lord of your forefathers?’
Those pagans are no different than you would be if a Hundu asked why you worship the schizophrenic phantasm of Abraham instead of your true creator, Vishnu. That’s what happens when fairy tales collide, and neither one is true but both claim to be.
127but they rejected him. They will be brought to punishment a as a consequence; 128not so the true servants of God.
Wrong. When they die, when you die, when I die, it is the same for all of us. We simply shut off and that’s it. We don’t have souls and there is no afterlife of any kind.
129We let him be praised by succeeding generations: 130‘Peace be to Elijah!’
Someone else who never existed as described.
131This is how We reward those who do good: 132truly he was one of Our faithful servants. 133Lot was also one of the messengers. 134We saved him and all his family– 135except for an old woman who stayed behind– 136and We destroyed the rest.
So not only do most of the wives in the Bible not get any names like all the men do, but Lot’s wife is now cast as just some old lady who decided not to leave? What happened to her being Lot’s wife? What happened to her being cursed by God for having curiosity? One of the most damnable sins for this or any religion.
137You [people] pass by their ruins morning 138and night: will you not take heed?
It’s important to note that no one knows where the city of Sodom was supposed to be. It could have been in Saudi Arabia, but then it could have been anywhere from the Red Sea to Jordan. So it’s not like anyone was ever aware that they’re walking by those ruins every day.
139Jonah too was one of the messengers. 140He fled to the overloaded ship. 141They cast lots, he suffered defeat, 142and a great fish swallowed him, for he had committed blameworthy acts.
So fish only eat those who are guilty? What did Quint do? How can God even honestly claim this guy as a messenger when Jonah was actively trying not to be one?
143If he had not been one of those who glorified God, 144he would have stayed in its belly until the Day when all are raised up, 145but We cast him out, sick, on to a barren shore, 146and made a gourd tree grow above him. 147We sent him to a hundred thousand people or more. 148They believed, so We let them live out their lives.
Of course, when you’re appropriating old legends for a new god and a newly-invented religion that you want to seem old and original, then those ancient people who were famously prosperous have to be cast as godly, and if calamity befalls any of those old cultures, they will now be regarded as sinners who deserved what they got; all so that it looks like the newly-appointed God was in charge of all those things he had nothing to do with, that happened long before this religion or deity was ever imagined.
149Now [Muhammad], ask the disbelievers: is it true that your Lord has daughters, while they choose sons for themselves?
Again, Abdel Haleem offers western readers a note of clarification, explaining that “pagan Arabs were ashamed to have daughters themselves, yet attributed daughters to God”. Why did the Arabs, Semites and so many other people around that area oppress women and girls so much?
150Did We create the angels as females while they were watching? 151No indeed!
Did you put up a changing curtain?
It is one of their lies when they say, 152‘God has begotten.’ How they lie!
Exactly, yes. It is such a lie to say that created anyone or anything.
153Did He truly choose daughters in preference to sons? 154What is the matter with you? How do you form your judgements?
I do it by way of reason, following logic and evidence.
155Do you not reflect?
156Do you perhaps have clear authority?
No, and neither do you. Besides, as Carl Sagan said, “There are no sacred truths. All assumptions must be critically examined. Arguments from authority are worthless. Whatever is inconsistent with the facts, no matter how fond of it we are, must be discarded or revised.”
157Bring your scriptures, if you are telling the truth.
I don’t have any scriptures. I have demonstrable truth instead.
158They claim that He has kinship with the jinn, yet the jinn themselves know that they will be brought before Him.
The jinn don’t know anything, not even that they’re not real.
159God is far above what they attribute to Him–
Spoiler alert: There is no god either.
160the true servants of God do not do such things– 161and neither you nor what you worship 162can lure away from God any 163 except those who will burn in Hell.
Except that there is no Hell. That’s all fantasy stuff. It’s not real.
164[The angels say], ‘Every single one of us has his appointed place: 165we are ranged in ranks. 166We glorify God.’
Angels are fictional too. Sorry.
167[The disbelievers] used to say, 168‘If only we had a scripture like previous people, 169we would be true servants of God,’
Can you imagine how much better off y’all would be if you had textbooks on modern science instead?
170yet now they reject [the Qur’an]. They will soon realize. 171Our word has already been given to Our servants the messengers: 172it is they who will be helped, 173and the ones who support Our cause will be the winners.
It might have looked like that back in the 7th century, and maybe still a couple decades ago, but not so much now.
174So [Prophet] turn away from the disbelievers for a while. 175Watch them: they will soon see.
How soon will we see? When will we know that it didn’t happen when it should have already?
176Do they really wish to hasten Our punishment?
I’m calling your bluff, yes.
177When it descends on their courtyards, how terrible that morning will be for those who were warned! 178[Prophet], turn away from the disbelievers for a while. 179Watch them: they will soon see. 180Your Lord, the Lord of Glory, is far above what they attribute to Him.
No, you attribute far more than he is.
181Peace be upon the messengers 182 and praise be to God the Lord of all the Worlds.
If we ever meet another extraterrestrial civilization, they will have never heard of our gods until we tell them. Then, once they realize that so many humans really believe such absurdity for no good reason, those aliens will remember that they have a bridge to sell us.