This is the 32nd 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.
my 30th post on surah 6.
and my 31st post on surah 37.
Sūrah 31 Luqman
1Alif Lam Mim 2These are the verses of the wise Scripture, 3[with] guidance and mercy for those who do good, 4who keep up the prayer, pay the prescribed alms, and are certain of the Hereafter: 5these are rightly guided by their Lord, and it is they who will prosper.
We’ve seen a few suras start with the letters Alif Lām Ra, and a couple that started with Ta Sin Mīm. But this surah starts with a mix of them that we haven’t seen since Surah 2. I tried googling these letters to see if anyone knows what they might mean, but all I could find is speculation with no particular significance.
6But there is the sort of person who pays for distracting tales, intending, without any knowledge, to lead others from God’s way, and to hold it up to ridicule. There will be humiliating torment for him!
Translator, Abdel Haleem added a note here that this verse is “understood to refer to al-Nadr ibn al-Harith, who bought some ancient Persian stories to distract the people of Quraysh from listening to the Qur’an”. Of course that doesn’t mean anything to me. This is another instance in which the Qur’an missed its opportunity to clarify for anyone not familiar with 7th Century Arabian folklore.
7When Our verses are recited to him, he turns away disdainfully as if he had not heard them, as if there were heaviness in his ears. Tell him that there will be a painful torment! 8But for those who believe and do righteous deeds, there will be Gardens of bliss 9where they will stay: that is God’s true promise, and He is the Almighty, the All Wise. 10He created the heavens without any visible support, and He placed firm mountains on the earth––in case it should shake under you––and He spread all kinds of animals around it.
This reminds me of when I met Muslim apologist, Hamza Tzortzis. He tried to say that this notion of God using mountains as paperweights to hold down the map of the earth could be justified by geologic isostasy. Because he thought that mountains hold down the continental plates and keep them from moving. When I pointed out that the lithosphere still moves under the mountains unimpeded, he conceded that he was wrong, but he would not admit that this also meant that the Qur’an was wrong. Because he can’t admit that.
We sent down water from the sky, with which We made every kind of good plant grow on earth: 11all this is God’s creation. Now, show Me what your other gods have created. No, the disbelievers are clearly astray.
No gods ever made it rain, and neither your god nor theirs ever created plants or anything else that is real.
12We endowed Luqman with wisdom: ‘Be thankful to God: whoever gives thanks benefits his own soul, and as for those who are thankless––God is self-sufficient, worthy of all praise.’
Luqman the Wise is purported to be Abraham’s grandfather. Given the choice, he chose wisdom over [the power of] prophecy.
13Luqman counselled his son, ‘My son, do not attribute any partners to God: attributing partners to Him is a terrible wrong.’
The Qur’an is criticizing both pagans and Christians here.
14We have commanded people to be good to their parents: their mothers carried them, with strain upon strain, and it takes two years to wean them. Give thanks to Me and to your parents– all will return to Me. 15If they strive to make you associate with Me anything about which you have no knowledge, then do not obey them. Yet keep their company in this life according to what is right, and follow the path of those who turn to Me. You will all return to Me in the end, and I will tell you everything that you have done.
Translator Abdel Haleem says the word “knowledge” here is limited to “scriptural proof”. Imagine being prohibited from analyzing whatever you’re taught from scriptures that were written by mere fallible men, with likely no more understanding than you have.
16[And Luqman continued], ‘My son, if even the weight of a mustard seed were hidden in a rock or anywhere in the heavens or earth, God would bring it [to light], for He is all subtle and all aware.
I wasn’t sure what this might have meant. So I checked the website, IslamicInfo, which explained that “nothing can escape Allah’s knowledge and His grasp. A seed in the rock may be hidden for you, but it is known to Allah.”
17Keep up the prayer, my son; command what is right; forbid what is wrong; bear anything that happens to you steadfastly: these are things to be aspired to. 18Do not turn your nose up at people, nor walk about the place arrogantly, for God does not love arrogant or boastful people. 19Go at a moderate pace and lower your voice, for the ugliest of all voices is the braying of asses.’
So don’t be an ass. At this point, the Qur’an is still teaching that Muslims should be tolerant of other people, even if God is not. I’m told that all such lessons will be contradicted later in the chronological order of revelation.
20[People], do you not see how God has made what is in the heavens and on the earth useful to you, and has lavished His blessings on you both outwardly and inwardly? Yet some people argue about God, without knowledge or guidance or an illuminating scripture.
Remember that the “illuminating scriptures” of every religion including Islam were all written by people arguing about their gods without knowledge, guided only by imaginative speculation based on superstitious traditions.
21When they are told, ‘Follow what God has sent down,’ they say: ‘We shall follow what we saw our forefathers following.’ What! Even if Satan is calling them to the suffering of the Blazing Flame?
Note how the orator simply asserts an unquestioned assumption that every other religion is being deceived by Satan, as if believers in those other faiths somehow agree with that assessment.
22Whoever directs himself b wholly to God and does good work has grasped the surest handhold, for the outcome of everything is with God.
Unless you’re Christian, or Jewish, or Hindu, or Sikh, etc. Then it doesn’t matter how committed your devotion to God. It’s still the wrong god or the wrong version of God. So you’re still doomed to eternal torture, despite all your wholesome humanity and sacrifice. There is no forgiveness for being born into a family or culture celebrating the wrong religious tradition.
23As for those who refuse to do this, do not let their refusal sadden you [Prophet]– they will return to Us and We shall tell them what they have done: God knows all that hearts contain– 24We let them enjoy themselves for a little while, but We shall drive them to a harsh torment.
See what I mean? It doesn’t matter how holy or humane you are. If you were innocently lead to believe in the wrong version of the god of loving forgiveness, you won’t be forgiven or given a lesser punishment. You’re still gonna burn.
25If you ask them who created the heavens and earth, they are sure to say, ‘God.’ Say, ‘Praise belongs to God,’ but most of them do not understand. 26Everything in the heavens and earth belongs to God. God is self-sufficient and worthy of all praise. 27If all the trees on earth were pens and all the seas, with seven more seas besides, [were ink,] still God’s words would not run out: God is almighty and all wise.
And that’s why the Qur’an is such a short book that only repeats the same miserable mantra with every surah, along with the Reader’s Digest version of some of the Biblical stories, while there are untold thousands or tens of thousands of hadiths written by men to clarify whatever they think God meant when he didn’t use all the ink he should have.
28Creating and resurrecting all of you is only like creating or resurrecting a single soul:
One miracle is just as impossible as many miracles.
God is all hearing and all seeing. 29[Prophet], do you not see that God causes the night to merge into day and the day to merge into night; that He has subjected the sun and the moon, each to run its course for a stated term; that He is aware of everything you [people] do? 30This is because God is the Truth, and what they invoke beside Him is false. He is the Most High, Most Great.
I see that God was imagined up by people who did not understand global rotation; that he did not separate day from night, that all of that is a lie, including God.
31[Prophet], do you not see that ships sail through the sea, by the grace of God, to show you [people] some of His wonders? Truly there are signs in this for every steadfast, thankful person.
You mean, every obstinate person with an unquestioning unreasonable faith to assume what is not true, and to attribute what we do not understand to a god that is not real.
32When the waves loom over those on board like giant shadows they call out to God, devoting their religion entirely to Him. But, when He has delivered them safely to land, some of them waver– only a treacherous, thankless person refuses to acknowledge Our signs.
In some cases, those people were coming to their senses. I wouldn’t have prayed even in the waves. Because I know no one is listening.
33People, be mindful of your Lord and fear a day when no parent will take the place of their child, nor a child take the place of their parent, in any way. God’s promise is true, so do not let the present life delude you, nor let the Deceiver delude you about God.
Because your lie is the only truth and any reality is dismissed as “fake news”.
34Knowledge of the Hour [of Resurrection] belongs to God; it is He who sends down the relieving rain and He who knows what is hidden in the womb. No soul knows what it will reap tomorrow, and no soul knows in what land it will die; it is God who is all knowing and all aware.
Translation: The phrase “God only knows” means that no one knows, really.
This was the 57th surah in the Order of Revelation. As there are 114 suras in total, that means that we have now covered half of them. Now we’ll move on to the next one.
Sūrah 34 Sheba
1Praise be to God, to whom belongs all that is in the heavens and earth, and praise be to Him in the life to come. He is the All Wise, the All Aware. 2He knows all that goes into the earth and all that comes out of it; He knows all that comes down from the heavens and all that goes up to them. He is the Merciful, the Forgiving.
You can see the whole prayer above on this video.
3Still, the disbelievers say, ‘The Last Hour will never come upon us.’ Say, ‘Yes, by my Lord, [it will], by Him who knows the unseen!
Very rarely, the Qur’an gets something right. I’m a disbeliever, and I do in fact say that this “last hour” will never come, because it never will. Every year that it doesn’t, is another year that I was right.
Not even the weight of a speck of dust in the heavens or earth escapes His knowledge, nor anything smaller or greater. It is all recorded in a clear Record
The scriptures keep telling of events God did not foresee, like his own mistakes, where he had to wipe out everyone in the area and start over again. The Qur’an especially is full of things God got wrong.
4so that He can reward those who believe and do good deeds: they will have forgiveness and generous provision.’ 5But as for those who work against Our Revelations, seeking to undermine them, there will be a torment of painful suffering. 6[Prophet], those who have been given knowledge can see that what has been sent to you from your Lord is the truth, and that it leads to the path of the Almighty, worthy of all praise.
I hate when people say that their lies are the truth. The truth is what the facts are. If you can’t prove it’s true, don’t say it is.
7But the disbelievers say, ‘Shall we show you a man who claims that, when you have been utterly torn to pieces, you will be raised in a new creation? 8Has he invented a lie about God? Is he mad?’ No! It is those who do not believe in the life to come who will suffer torment, for they are in gross error.
Religious prophets are often, though not always necessarily mad. They can also be dishonest, deluded and deceived.
9Do they not think about what is in front of them and behind them in the heavens and earth? If We wished, We could make the earth swallow them, or make fragments from the heavens fall down upon them.
There truly is a sign in this for every servant who turns back to God in repentance. 10We graced David with Our favour. We said, ‘You mountains, echo God’s praises together with him, and you birds, too.’
So the Qur’an and the Hebrew Bible both say that the mountains sing to the God of Abraham, while the Gospels imply that rocks praise Jesus. Yet people make fun of me when I point out that rocks are atheistic, meaning without a god belief.
We softened iron for him, 11saying, ‘Make coats of chain mail and measure the links well.’ ‘Do good, all of you, for I see everything you do.’
Notice that in every story of creation regardless of religion, whichever deity simply tells things to be as they are, and they do as they’re told.
12And [We subjected] the wind for Solomon. Its outward journey took a month, and its return journey likewise. We made a fountain of molten brass flow for him, and some of the jinn worked under his control with his Lord’s permission. If one of them deviated from Our command, We let him taste the suffering of the blazing flame.
IslamicStudies.info says “Some former commentators have taken this to mean that a spring from the earth had erupted for the Prophet Solomon (peace be upon him) from which molten copper flowed out instead of water.” Uh huh. Sure.
13They made him whatever he wanted– palaces, a statues, basins as large as water troughs, fixed cauldrons. We said, ‘Work thankfully, family of David, for few of my servants are truly thankful.’ 14Then, when We decreed Solomon’s death, nothing showed the jinn he was dead, but a creature of the earth eating at his stick: when he fell down they realized– if they had known what was hidden they would not have continued their demeaning labour.
ClearQuran also says that the clue to Solomon’s death was a worm eating at his staff. However it is still unclear whether the genies figured out he was dead. I guess they didn’t, since they reportedly kept working. But if that’s the case, then who noticed the maggot? Surely the jinn figured out their master was dead eventually, right?
15There was a sign for the people of Sheba, too, in their dwelling place: two gardens, one on the right, one on the left: ‘Eat from what your Lord has provided for you and give Him thanks, for your land is good, and your Lord most forgiving.’ 16But they paid no heed, so We let loose on them a flood from the dam and replaced their two gardens with others that yielded bitter fruit, tamarisk bushes, and a few [thorny] lote trees. 17In this way We punished them for their ingratitude– would We punish anyone but the ungrateful?
The mindset is to always to give credit some imaginary agent who wasn’t involved, who doesn’t exist. Because if you’re ungrateful, then something bad will happen, which would eventually happen anyway, and superstitious minds will blame that inevitable bad thing your failure to thank the ghost who didn’t do anything. This leaves people utterly unprepared for the real reasons that things happen, while they waste their lives and mental resources chatting up phantasms.
18Also, We had placed, between them and the towns We had blessed, other towns within sight of one another to which they could travel easily–‘ Travel safely in this land by night and by day’– 19but [still] they complained, ‘Our Lord has made the distance between our staging posts so long!’ They wronged themselves and, in the end, We made their fate a byword, and scattered them in countless fragments. There truly are signs in this for every patient, thankful person.
Remember that the ‘signs’ are anything that one can erroneously associate with or attribute to the imaginary magic they believe to be involved. That’s why they think God made these distances too great instead of understanding that things are as they are for much more rational reasons, like the fact that people—not gods—built these towns where they wanted them.
20Satan was proved right in his opinion of them, for they all followed him– except for a group of believers– 21even though he had no authority over them.
I checked the extensive notes provided by IslamicStudies.info, but they only gave archaeological references to an earlier religious group without explaining the context of this verse such that a Westerner could understand it.
But [We aim] to distinguish those who believe in the life to come from those who doubt it: [Prophet], your Lord observes everything. 22Say, ‘Pray to your so-called gods besides God: they do not control even the weight of a speck of dust in heaven or earth, nor do they have any share in them, nor are any of them any help to God.
Coincidentally, I could say the same thing about your god, who doesn’t really do or know any of the things believers imagine. So it’s obvious why you want to distinguish between those who buy into the religious claims, granting the prophets money and prestige, and those who aren’t so foolish as to fall for that.
23Intercession will not work with Him, except by those to whom He gives permission.’ They will be asked, after the terror is lifted from their hearts [on the Day of Judgement], ‘What did your Lord speak?’ and they will answer, ‘The Truth. He is the Most High, the Most Great.’
Nope, that will never happen. Threaten all you like, but you got nothing.
24Say [Prophet], ‘Who gives you sustenance from the heavens and earth?’ Say, ‘God does,’ and ‘[One party of us] must be rightly guided and the other clearly astray.’
Replace “God” with “Nature” here.
25Say, ‘You will not be questioned about our sins, nor will we be questioned about what you do.’
So we’re not gonna look at each other’s browser history?
26Say, ‘Our Lord will gather us together, then He will judge justly between us; He alone is the All Knowing Judge.’ 27Say, ‘Show me those you joined to Him as partners. No indeed! He alone is God, the Almighty, the All Wise.’
Sorry, but there is no “all knowing judge”, and no other gods either.
28We have sent you [Prophet] only to bring good news and warning to all people, but most of them do not understand.
The “good” news being that we will be tortured mercilessly if we do not submit to the violent madmen claiming to represent an unjust indomitable despot.
29And they say, ‘If what you say is true, when will this promise be fulfilled?’ 30Say, ‘You have an appointment for a Day which you cannot put off nor bring forward, even by a single moment.’
So you can’t answer the question.
31The disbelievers say, ‘We will believe neither this Qur’an nor the Scriptures that came before it.’ If only you could see [Prophet] how the wrongdoers will be made to stand before their Lord, hurling reproaches at one another. Those who were oppressed will say to the oppressors, ‘If it were not for you, we would have been believers.’ 32The oppressors will say to them, ‘Was it we who prevented you from following right guidance after it had reached you? No! You yourselves were sinners.’ 33The oppressed will say to them, ‘No, it was your scheming, night and day, ordering us to disbelieve in God and set up rivals to Him.’ When they see the punishment, they will fall silent with regret, and We shall put iron collars on the disbelievers’ necks. Why should they be rewarded for anything other than what they have done?
Notice again that in all this, there is no consideration for any good person who happened to be raised in the wrong faith, or who was not convinced of the apparent lies of the madmen claiming to come from God. All unbelievers are “wrong doers”, including even the most devout and Christ-like followers of any other version of God other than that sanctioned only in the Qur’an.
34Never have We sent a warner to a community without those among them who were corrupted by wealth saying, ‘We do not believe in the message you have been sent with.’ 35They would say, ‘We have greater wealth and more children than you, and we shall not be punished.’
Don’t blame their wealth. Good, kind and charitable community-supporting humanitarian families are understandably confused when some random weirdo calls them evil for not believing in an evil god who punishes disbelief instead of immoral behavior.
36Say [Prophet], ‘My Lord gives in abundance to whoever He will and sparingly to whoever He will, though most people do not understand. 37Neither wealth nor children will bring you nearer to Us, but those who believe and do good deeds will have multiple rewards for what they have done, and will live safely in the lofty dwellings of Paradise, 38whereas those who work against Our messages, seeking to undermine them, will be summoned to punishment.’
So here I am hypothetically talking to the same people Muhammad would be pleading with, reminding them that the promise of Islam is that if you give up all your natural and secular values, you’ll be doomed to soft-drinks on a sofa in the lounge of perpetual monotony for longer than anyone can stand. So you’re better off living your best life in the real world and being proud of the love and respect you’ve earned when you die at the end, never to rise again.
39Say, ‘My Lord gives in abundance to whichever of His servants He will, and sparingly to whichever He will; He will replace whatever you give in alms; He is the best of providers.’
He’s reportedly very good about providing floods, plagues, brimstone, prejudice, madness and injustice, but not so much with wisdom though.
40On the Day He gathers them all together, He will say to the angels, ‘Was it you these people worshipped?’ 41They will reply, ‘May You be exalted! You are our supporter against them! Really, they worshipped the jinn– most of them believed in them.’ 42‘So today neither of you has any power to benefit or harm the other,’ We shall tell the evildoers, ‘Taste the torment of the fire which you called a lie.’
Threaten all you want. I’m calling your bluff. Your fire of perpetual torment is still a lie.
43When Our messages are recited to them, clear as they are, they say, ‘This is only a man who wants to turn you away from what your forefathers worshipped,’ and, ‘This [Qur’an] is nothing but lies he has made up.’ When the Truth comes to the disbelievers, they say, ‘This is just plain sorcery,’
That’s because the truth *IS* that this just plain sorcery.
44though We have not given them any books to study nor sent any warner before you.
We’re better off without that, as god-given scriptures and self-proclaimed prophets tend to be wrong about everything anyway.
45Those who lived before them also denied the truth– these people have not attained even a tenth of what We gave their predecessors– they, too, rejected My messengers, and how terrible My condemnation was!
Well God, have you yet noticed the pattern of mistakes you keep repeating? Are you gonna correct your frequently failed strategy now?
46Say [Prophet], ‘I advise you to do one thing only: stand before God, in pairs or singly, and think: there is no sign of madness in your companion [the Prophet]– he is only warning you before severe suffering arrives.’
Show me your god, and I’ll do that. But if you can’t show the truth of your claims, then I literally have no reason to believe you, and I’m right not to.
47Say, ‘If I have asked you for any reward, you can keep it. It is God alone who will reward me: He is witness to everything.’
Then let’s hear His testimony rather than yours, Muhammad.
48Say, ‘My Lord hurls the Truth down [before you]. He has full knowledge of all that is unseen.’
Unsupported assertions are not truth.
49Say, ‘The Truth has come; falsehood is powerless.’
Then why are you still preaching at us, Muhammad?
50Say, ‘If I go astray, that is my loss, and if I am rightly guided, it is through what my Lord has revealed to me. He is all hearing, and ever near.’
Yet your lord can never be found and does not share any information.
51[Prophet], if you could only see their terror! There will be no escape when they are seized from a nearby place; 52they will say, ‘Now we believe in it,’ but how can they reach it from such a distant place– 53they denied it all in the past, and threw conjecture from a far-off place– when a barrier has been placed between them and what they desire, just as was done with their kind before? They were deep in doubt and suspicion.
Having heard at least half of Muhammad’s arguments by now, I can tell that doubt and suspicion are appropriate responses.