An Infidel Reads Sūrah 21

An Infidel Reads Sūrah 21 March 21, 2021

This is the 42nd 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 1st post on surahs 1 & 2.
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,
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.
my 31st post on surah 37.
my 32nd post on suras 31 & 34.
my 33rd post on surah 39.
my 34th post on surah 40.
my 35th post on surah 41.
my 36th post on surah 42.
my 37th post on surah 44.
my 38th post on suras 45 & 46.
my 39th post of suras 51 & 88.
my 40th post on surah 16.
and my 41st post on suras 71 & 14.

Sūrah 21 (Al-’Anbiya’ ) The Prophets.

1Ever closer to people draws their reckoning, while they turn away, heedless. 2Whenever any fresh revelation comes to them from their Lord, they listen to it playfully 3with frivolous hearts.

There is a tradition the south, when we hear someone talking nonsense out of the back of their pants, that we say things like, “That’s cute” and “Bless your heart” and “You’re adorable”, all of which mean exactly the opposite of what they sound like.

The evildoers conferred in secret: ‘Is this man anything but a mortal like yourselves? Are you going to fall under his spell with your eyes wide open?’

This is as it should be when some weirdo makes extraordinary claims without any evidence at all. If it sounds like raving insanity, there’s a good chance that’s what it is.

4He said, a ‘My Lord knows everything that is said in the heavens and the earth: He is the All Hearing, the All Knowing.’

Yet he thinks the sun orbits the earth, and that the stars are merely lamps for angels to lob at devils who get too close to God’s hotel in the expanse of a firmament which doesn’t really exist.

5Some say, ‘Muddled dreams’; others, ‘He made it up’; yet others, ‘He is just a poet, let him show us a sign as previous messengers did.’ 6But of the communities We destroyed before them not a single one believed. Will these now believe?

See, this is why God should consider showing evidence and stop using prophets who sound like as madmen.

7And even before your time [Prophet], all the messengers We sent were only men We inspired–– if you [disbelievers] do not know, ask people who know the Scripture––8We did not give them bodies that ate no food, nor were they immortal. 9We fulfilled Our promise to them in the end: We saved them and those We wished to save, and We destroyed those who exceeded all bounds. 10And now We have sent down to you [people] a Scripture to remind you. Will you not use your reason?

I always use reason, which is why I wouldn’t refer to scripture when we’re talking with the supposed author through his self-appointed prophet.

11How many communities of evildoers We have destroyed! How many others We have raised up in their places!

None, but God is credited with whatever happens anyway. So it seems like he does a lot that he actually had nothing to do with.

12When they felt Our might coming upon them, see how they tried to escape it! 13‘Do not try to escape. Go back to your homes and the pleasure you revelled in: you may be questioned.’

You cannot escape, so stay inside your doors? Because an omniscient being has questions?

14They said, ‘Woe to us! We were wrong!’ 15and that cry of theirs did not cease until We made them burnt-off stubble.

So pointless and stupid! I guess it’s shoot first and ask questions later?

16We did not create the heavens and the earth and everything between them playfully.

That’s actually true. God didn’t create anything playfully, nor any other way, since God didn’t create anything at all.

17If We had wished for a pastime, We could have found it within Us– if We had wished for any such thing. 18No! We hurl the truth against falsehood, and truth obliterates it– see how falsehood vanishes away! Woe to you [people] for the way you describe God!

It’s important to remember how religion reverses everything, such that truth becomes lies and lies are asserted as truth by people who think their opinion trumps any fact and that facts are only opinion.

19Everyone in the heavens and earth belongs to Him, and those that are with Him are never too proud to worship Him, nor do they grow weary; 20they glorify Him tirelessly night and day.

That is a primary symptom of a self-inflicted and perpetuated delusion.

21Have they chosen any gods from the earth who can give life to the dead?

There are a few different gods who can reportedly do that, none of them actually can though, not even Allah.

22If there had been in the heavens or earth any gods but Him, both heavens and earth would be in ruins:

That explains why everything is in such obviously unguided chaos.

God, Lord of the Throne, is far above the things they say: 23He cannot be called to account for anything He does, whereas they will be called to account.

That’s a common theme throughout all religions, persecute others but show no accountability yourself.

24Have they chosen to worship other gods instead of Him? Say, ‘Bring your proof. This is the Scripture for those who are with me and the Scripture for those who went before me.’ But most of them do not recognize the truth, so they pay no heed.

They need a definition of what truth is. Mine is “what we can show to be true”. No religion has that, not even yours.

25We never sent any messenger before you [Muhammad] without revealing to him: ‘There is no god but Me, so serve Me.’

Yet Jesus reportedly declared himself to be a god, and any definition of deity that accounts for the gods of other religions also includes the devil too.

26And they say, ‘The Lord of Mercy has taken offspring for Himself.’ May He be exalted! No! They are only His honoured servants:

This is referring to the belief that angels are God’s daughters.

27they do not speak before He speaks and they act by His command.

And none of them really exist.

28He knows what is before them and what is behind them, and they cannot intercede without His permission0––indeed they themselves stand in awe of Him.

IslamicStudies.info translates this differently: (21:28) “He knows whatever is before them and whatsoever is remote from them and they do not intercede except for him, intercession on whose behalf pleases Him, and they stand constantly in awe of Him.” They explain that “These two verses refute the two reasons for which the mushriks had made the angels their deities: (1) They took them for the offspring of Allah. (2) They thought that if they worshiped the angels, they would be so pleased that they would intercede with Allah on their behalf.”

29If any of them were to claim, ‘I am a god beside Him,’ We would reward them with Hell: this is how We reward evildoers.

So the Christian version of Jesus would be in Hell as an “evildoer”, according to the Qur’an.

30Are the disbelievers not aware that the heavens and the earth used to be joined together and that We ripped them apart, that We made every living thing from water? Will they not believe?

Of course we don’t believe that. We know better. Though I am sure some desperate apologist will try to rationalize how this could refer to the big bang, no one in past centuries could have read it that way, and subsequent verses refute that interpretation by referencing the firmament as “the heavens”. There is no such thing. Thus the heavens and earth were never together. On the cosmic scale, earth is an infinitesimally insignificant spec in an incomprehensibly vast universe of mostly emptiness. Everything the Qur’an or the Bible says about the earth in relation to the cosmos is laughably wrong.

31And We put firm mountains on the earth, lest it should sway under them, and set broad paths on it, so that they might follow the right direction,

This is another reference to the earth being a map on a flat, circular table, wherein the mountains were placed as paperweights so that the map would not move.

32and We made the sky a well-secured canopy– yet from its wonders they turn away.

This is another reference to the firmament, being the giant crystal dome that constitutes “the heavens” above the flat, disc-shaped map of the earth. While most translations describe it as a canopy, which is a cloth covering, like a tent, ClearQuran calls it a “protected ceiling” and Al-Islam.org calls it a “well-protected roof”. They also go on to explain that “it is not possible to pass through one sphere of the Heaven into another, as each sphere of the space has been fortified by invisible boundaries. In this connection, it may be noted that literally the Arabic word burj means a fortified place”. There is no apologetics defense for this. There is no impenetrable boundary, no dome over the earth.

33It is He who created night and day, the sun and the moon, each floating in its orbit.

Neither the sun nor the moon are in a true orbit. Most would consider the moon to orbit the earth, but the sun definitely does not and cannot, and the sun doesn’t orbit the center of the galaxy either. Because the entire galaxy is in a pinwheel rotation, and that would not constitute an orbit. Nor would such an interpretation make sense in this context since it is not explained and the only way people could have interpreted this is as the dome that so many other middle-eastern and Asian commonly believed in at that time. If the Qur’an had been written or dictated by an omniscient being, it would have described these things correctly such that it could have been understood correctly even in the 7th century. The reason it gets everything wrong in either time is because it was written by primitive men who didn’t know any better.

34We have not granted everlasting life to any other human being before you either [Muhammad]– if you die, will [the disbelievers] live for ever? 35Every soul is certain to taste death: We test you all through the bad and the good, and to Us you will all return.

An omniscient being who knows the future needs to test us? Yet we are told not to test him? I wonder why, (he said sarcastically).

36When the disbelievers see you, they laugh at you: ‘Is this the one who talks about your gods?’ They reject any talk of the Lord of Mercy. 37Man was created hasty: I will show you My signs soon, so do not ask Me to hasten them.

Soon? It’s been at least thirteen centuries so far, well over a millennium, nearly 70 generations. That doesn’t sound like “soon” to me. It sounds like someone is very late, well past the point where we realize they ain’t coming.

38They say, ‘When will this promise be fulfilled, if what you say is true?’ 39If the disbelievers only knew, the time will arrive when they will not be able to ward off the Fire from their faces or their backs, and they will get no help. 40It will come upon them suddenly and stupefy them; they will be powerless to push it away; they will not be reprieved.

No, that day will never come, and there are plenty of people who already knew that way back then.

41Messengers before you [Muhammad] were also ridiculed, but those who mocked them were overwhelmed in the end by the very thing they had mocked.

Prove it. Show me.

42Say, ‘Who could protect you night and day from the Lord of Mercy?’ Yet they turn away when their Lord is mentioned.

If he really was the “lord of mercy”, we wouldn’t need protection from him, he would protect us himself. Instead, his prophets only make empty threats in contradiction to all they claim about him.

43Do they have gods who can defend them against Us? Their gods have no power to help themselves, nor can they be protected from Us.

It is interesting that Allah refers to the pagan gods as if they actually exist, by telling us what they cannot do and even what they will say when their power is tested.

44We have allowed these sinners and their forefathers to enjoy life for a long time. But do they not see how We are shrinking their borders? Is it they who will prevail?

What is the meaning of geographical borders on a spherical world? Or to a timeless cosmic deity? Clearly Islam was only a provincial religion.

45Say, ‘I warn you only through the Revelation.’ The deaf will not hear the warning call, 46yet if a mere breath of your Lord’s punishment touches them, they will be sure to cry, ‘Woe to us! We were wrong!’

That may have been true in the 7th century, but if I were to face a volcano, tornado or whatever other natural disasters Allah is claiming credit for, I would not assume they came from any god, and I would still be right.

47We will set up scales of justice for the Day of Resurrection so that no one can be wronged in the least, and if there should be even the weight of a mustard seed, We shall bring it out– We take excellent account.

Like the Bible, the Qur’an also uses the mustard seed as a metric of faith, the credulity that is the one and only thing that religious apologists consider redeeming.

48We gave Moses and Aaron [the Scripture] that distinguishes right from wrong, a light and a reminder for those who are mindful of God,

This may be the Qur’an’s first vague reference to the supposed commandments, which were not only plagiarized from earlier pagan religions, but they weren’t necessary either, as Moses and Cain had both murdered people and knew it was wrong before these alleged commandments ever said so.

49those who stand in awe of their Lord, though He is unseen, and who fear the Hour. 50This [Quran] too is a blessed message We have sent down– are you [people] going to deny it?

Yes, of course, as we should.

51Long ago We bestowed right judgement on Abraham and We knew him well.

The guy who was ready to murder his own child because the voices in his head told him to? If that’s what religion calls “right judgment” then it’s no wonder atheism is on the rise world-wide, even in Islamic countries.

52He said to his father and his people, ‘What are these images to which you are so devoted?’ 53They replied, ‘We found our fathers worshipping them.’ 54He said, ‘You and your fathers have clearly gone astray.’

Two clerics of different gods both claim the others have “gone astray”. How can we tell which one is right without merely assuming it?

55They asked, ‘Have you brought us the truth or are you just playing about?’ 56He said, ‘Listen! Your true Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth, He who created them, and I am a witness to this.

So again, there is only testimony, empty, unsupported assertions and no evidence, literally no reason to believe.

57By God I shall certainly plot against your idols as soon as you have turned your backs!’ 58He broke them all into pieces, but left the biggest one for them to return to. 59They said, ‘Who has done this to our gods? How wicked he must be!’ 60Some said, ‘We heard a youth called Abraham talking about them.’ 61They said, ‘Bring him before the eyes of the people, so that they may witness [his trial].’ 62They asked, ‘Was it you, Abraham, who did this to our gods?’ 63He said, ‘No, it was done by the biggest of them– this one. Ask them, if they can talk.’ 64They turned to one another, saying, ‘It is you who are in the wrong,’ 65but then they lapsed again and said, ‘You know very well these gods cannot speak.’ 66Abraham said, ‘How can you worship what can neither benefit nor harm you, instead of God? 67Shame on you and on the things you worship instead of God. Have you no sense?’

It is at this point when a wise man would have called Abraham’s god to take the stand and her God’s testimony, if he can talk. Then they would listen to Abraham’s feeble excuse that “you know perfectly well that God doesn’t speak in such a way that more than one person could hear and understand him and verify that he can talk at all”. At which point, everyone would know that Abraham’s god is no better and no different than any of the false gods he meant to destroy.

68They said, ‘Burn him and avenge your gods, if you are going to do the right thing.’ 69But We said, ‘Fire, be cool and safe for Abraham.’ 70They planned to harm him, but We made them suffer the greatest loss.

While this book claims to offer “clear proof” it really only makes vague allusions about what we’re supposed to assume without explanation. That shouldn’t be good enough for anyone. So Al-Islam.org explains that Abraham was thrown into a blazing fire, and that God made the fire cold, so cold that Abraham came out of it with his teeth chattering from the chill. In a book full of falsehoods and nonsense, this silliness is offered as our only evidence. IslamicStudies.info even says that the people who saw this didn’t believe it was a miracle at that time. It is easy enough to imagine a guy being tossed into a large campfire and staggering back out of it. I don’t even have to imagine that. I’ve actually seen that once in my youth. But no one thought it was a miracle.

71We saved him and Lot [and sent them] to the land We blessed for all people,

IslamicStudies.info explains that “The blessed land refers to Syria and Palestine, which contains both material and spiritual blessings. It is one of the most fertile regions in the world. Moreover, it was blessed for two thousand years with more Prophets than any other region of the world.”

Could that be because every action of God, including every prophet chosen in the Hebrew Bible, the Christian New Testament and the Qur’an combined all happened inside this circle?

If this god was real, and the creator of the whole world, then there should be prophets of this particular god on every continent. Actually, we wouldn’t need any prophets at all. So the fact that we have so many prophets disagreeing with each other about different versions of God, and we don’t have anything like this anywhere else are all facts in evidence against this being a real god and creator of anything.

72and We gave him Isaac and Jacob as an additional gift, and made each of them righteous.

The reason your children look like you is because they were formed by your genetics rather than being gifts from God.

73We made all of them leaders, guiding others by Our command, and We inspired them to do good works, to keep up the prayer, and to give alms: they were Our true worshippers. 74We gave Lot sound judgement and knowledge and saved him from the community who practised obscenities– they were shameless people who broke God’s law! 75We admitted him to Our mercy; he was a righteous man.

Remember that Lot is the guy who offered his own daughters to a rape mob before getting drunk and impregnating them both himself once his wife was conveniently eliminated. Noah, Abraham and Muhammad were just as bad, proving that God is a poor judge of character.

76Long before that, We answered Noah when he cried out to Us: We saved him and his family from the great calamity 77and We helped him against the people who rejected Our signs– they were evil people, so We drowned them all.

So it wasn’t the naked old drunk cursing his own kids who was evil, it was absolutely everyone else everywhere else. The previous surah made clear that Noah asked Allah to destroy all the disbelievers on earth, and in this surah, God says “we drowned them all”, including millions of people in Africa, the Orient, the Americas or the Pacific who had never even heard of this god, and thus could not have believed in him. There is no other way to be good in Islam. So everyone else in the world was an unbeliever, and therefore must be evil.

78And remember David and Solomon, when they gave judgement regarding the field into which sheep strayed by night and grazed. We witnessed their judgement 79and made Solomon understand the case [better], though We gave sound judgement and knowledge to both of them.

Remember that Solomon killed prize horses because they were beautiful and he found that distracting from his religious extremism.

We made the mountains and the birds celebrate Our praises with David– We did all these things– 80We taught him how to make coats of mail for the benefit of you [people], to protect you in your wars, but are you grateful for this?

Why didn’t God prevent the wars?

81We harnessed the stormy wind for Solomon, so that it sped by his command to the land We had blessed– We have knowledge of all things– 82and We made some of the jinn subservient to him, to dive for him and do other works besides. We were watching over them.

Yes, we are expected to believe that Solomon could talk to animals and that the wind blew by Solomon’s command.

83Remember Job, when he cried to his Lord, ‘Suffering has truly afflicted me, but you are the Most Merciful of the merciful.’ 84We answered him, removed his suffering, and restored his family to him, along with more like them, as an act of grace from Us and a reminder for all who serve Us.

The story was that God made a bet with his friend, Satan that he could torture Job all he wanted to, and Job would still be dumb enough to praise God as “merciful forgiving and just”.

85And remember Ishmael, Idris, and Dhu’lKifl: they were all steadfast. 86We admitted them to Our mercy; they were truly righteous. 

Translator, Abdel Haleem has a footnote here saying that Dhu’lKifl refers to Ezekiel, the prophet in the Bible who got everything wrong, who said that Nebuchadnezzar would conquer and utterly destroy the island city of Tyre and that he would leave Egypt a desolate uninhabited wasteland for forty years, neither of which happened.

87And remember the man with the whale, when he went off angrily, thinking We could not restrict him, but then he cried out in the deep darkness, ‘There is no God but You, glory be to You, I was wrong.’ 88We answered him and saved him from distress: this is how We save the faithful.

This is another fanciful legend that we know never really happened.

89Remember Zachariah, when he cried to his Lord, ‘My Lord, do not leave me childless, though You are the best of heirs.’ 90We answered him– We gave him John, and cured his wife of barrenness– they were always keen to do good deeds. They called upon Us out of longing and awe, and humbled themselves before Us.

None of this convincing like it certainly would be if the Qur’an had been written or dictated by an actual deity who really existed.

91Remember the one who guarded her chastity. We breathed into her from Our Spirit and made her and her son a sign for all people.

This verse is talking about Mary, mother of Jesus. Remember that in the Muslim version of this story, she was not a virgin. God’s spirit appeared to her in the form of a physically beautiful man to impregnate her. But somehow Jesus is not the son of God even though that is exactly what describes. In any case, this version of Jesus is only a prophet of Islam, who refers pilgrims to Muhammad.

92[Messengers],e this community of yours is one single community and I am your Lord, so serve Me. 93They have torn their unity apart, but they will all return to Us. 

Al-Islam.org explains that all monotheistic religions are unified in purpose and in destination, even though we’re talking about Jews, Christians and Muslims right now. It goes on to say “Those who always cause separation among people must prepare themselves to respond before the throne of Allah”. So I have to wonder how that relates to the conflict between Sunnis and Shia?

94If anyone does good deeds and is a believer, his efforts will not be ignored: We record them for him.

Once again, belief = good and the only way to be good is to believe. Actual morality or good judgement have no relevance here.

95No community destroyed by Us can escape its return,

Translator, Abdel Haleem has a footnote for this saying that it could either mean that  ‘they will not return to the world’ or that ‘they will not turn
away from their misdeeds’. This was a bit confusing for me. IslamicStudies.info translates this as: “It has been ordained against every town that We ever destroyed that they shall not return (to enjoy a new lease of life)”. Meanwhile, Al-Islam.org says:  “And there is a ban upon (the people of) the towns which We destroyed: that they shall not return.” So it’s not the town that God destroyed but the people of the town that God destroyed that will never come back. In either case, I point again to the city of Tyre, which still exists, was never destroyed, and returned to power immediately after it was sacked, despite prophesies to the contrary.

96and when the peoples of Gog and Magog are let loose and swarm swiftly from every highland, 97when the True Promise draws near, the disbelievers’ eyes will stare in terror, and they will say, ‘Woe to us! We were not aware of this at all. We were wrong.’

No, we won’t, because that day will never come and that god doesn’t exist.

98You [disbelievers] and what you worship instead of God will be fuel for Hell: that is where you will go– 99if these [idols] had been real gods they would not have gone there– you will all stay there. 100There the disbelievers will be groaning piteously, but the [idols] will hear nothing. 101But those for whom We have decreed Paradise will be kept far from Hell– 102they will not hear a murmur from it– and endlessly they will enjoy everything their souls desire. 103They will have no fear of the great Terror: a the angels will receive them with the words, ‘This is the Day you were promised!’

So the gullible will enjoy Heaven while being able to hear the tortured screams of their friends and family in Hell. How can there be any concept of morality if there is not even a hint of compassion?

104On that Day, We shall roll up the skies as a writer rolls up [his] scrolls.

Again, this is impossible unless we’re talking about something like the cloak of night draped over the firmament, which is a notion taken from the belief in Mithraism. That is not how or what the sky really is.

We shall reproduce creation just as We produced it the first time: this is Our binding promise. We shall certainly do all these things.

No, you won’t.

105We wrote in the Psalms, as We did in [earlier] Scripture: ‘My righteous servants will inherit the earth.’ 106There truly is a message in this for the servants of God! 107It was only as a mercy that We sent you [Prophet] to all people. 108Say, ‘What is revealed to me is that your God is one God– will you submit to Him?’

I would if he asked me himself. And if he was real, he could. Otherwise, Muhammad, you’re asking me to submit to you instead. That’s not going to happen.

109But if they turn away, say, ‘I have proclaimed the message fairly to you all. I do not know whether the judgement you are promised is near or far, 110but He knows what you reveal and conceal.

He’s making a list and checking it twice; gonna find out who’s naughty and nice.

111I do not know: this [time] may well be a test for you, and enjoyment for a while.’ 112He said, ‘My Lord, pass the true judgement.’ And, ‘Our Lord is the Lord of Mercy. We seek His assistance against what you [disbelievers] say.’ 

Because you will not listen to reason.

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