Quran Read-A-Long: The Cow 97-103 Is A Tough Nut to Crack

The Angel Gabriel and Allah’s Message Continued

As verse 97 insinuates, it was Gabriel who revealed the words of Allah to Mohammed. This, as we see here, “had been revealed before.”

Again and again these verses emphasize both that God has already revealed his message in previous books and that some people continue to reject this new message, which is quite obviously a continuation of the first. What’s more, God is the enemy of these people. My first question is, if God is the enemy of those who deny the continuation of his message, and Jews fall under this rubric, how come Jews are given the status of dhimmi in Muslim societies which would seem to accept their decision not to believe in God’s latest message? Do the Jews fall into two groups here, as we’ve discussed before?

Verses 102 and 103

Why did the sorcerers of Solomon’s time explicitly say that they were trying to deceive people? It seems like a silly question but at the same time, I can’t help but think that it’s a silly statement that I’m sure has been thought about, and answered, by others.

There is a tone in this verse that I don’t know if I’ve sensed before. I think I’m generally having trouble understanding this verse. Can anybody shed some light on it? Hmm, and the next one. What’s really going on here?

Summary

This Quran Read-A-Long post definitely has more questions than answers but I found it difficult to understand and more than a little confusing. What are your thoughts and reflections about these verses?

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The Cow 97-103

97. Say: “Whosoever is the enemy of Gabriel who revealed the word of God to you by the dispensation of God, reaffirming what had been revealed before, and is a guidance and good news for those who believe, – 98. Whosoever is the enemy of God and His angels and apostles, and of Gabriel and Michael, then God is the enemy of such unbelievers.” 99. We have sent clear signs to you, such as none can deny except those who trangress the truth. 100. And every time they made a pledge some of them pushed it aside, and many of them do not believe. 101. When a messenger was sent to them by God affirming the Books they had already received, some of them put (His message) behind their backs as if they had no knowledge of it. 102. And they follow what devilish beings used to chant against the authority of Solomon, though Solomon never disbelieved and only the devils denied, who taught sorcery to men, which, they said, had been revealed to the angels of Babylon, Harut and Marut, who, however, never taught it without saying: “We have been sent to deceive you, so do not renounce (your faith).” They learnt what led to discord between husband and wife. Yet they could not harm any one without the dispensation of God. And they learnt what harmed them and brought no gain. They knew indeed whoever bought this had no place in the world to come, and that surely they had sold themselves for something that was vile. If only they had sense! 103. Had they come to believe instead, and taken heed for themselves, they would surely have earned from God a far better reward. If only they had sense!

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4 Responses

  1. My first question is, if God is the enemy of those who deny the continuation of his message, and Jews fall under this rubric, how come Jews are given the status of dhimmi in Muslim societies which would seem to accept their decision not to believe in God’s latest message?

    Actually, I’d think your first question should be, “Why is God the enemy of such disbelievers?” But to answer your question first, the Jews and Christians, like the Muslims, are all members of the Ahl al-Kitab, the People of the Book, and while they may not believe as Muslims believe, they still worship the same God as we do, thus deserving that respect.

    Now, to answer my question… 😉 Ayat 97-98 are interesting in that the Jews claim to be enemies of Jibril, the angel Gabriel. Muhammad Asad writes:

    According to several authentic Traditions, some of the learned men from among the Jews of Medina described Gabriel as “the enemy of the Jews,” and this for three reasons: firstly, all the prophecies of the misfortune which was to befall the Jews in the course of their early history were said to have been transmitted to them by Gabriel, who thus became in their eyes a “harbinger of evil” (in contrast to the angel Michael, whom they regarded as a bearer of happy predictions and, therefore, as their “friend”); secondly, because the Qur’an states repeatedly that it was Gabriel who conveyed its message to Muhammad, whereas the Jews were of the opinion that only a descendant of Israel could legitimately claim divine revelation; and, thirdly, because the Qur’an – revealed through Gabriel – abounds in criticism of certain Jewish beliefs and attitudes and describes them as opposed to the genuine message of Moses. (For details of these Traditions, see Tabari, Zamakhshari, Baghawi, Razi, Baydawi, Ibn Kathir.)… (Quran Ref: 2:98)

    Ibn Kathir wrote:

    Allah said,

    (Whoever is an enemy to Jibril (Gabriel) (let him die in his fury), for indeed he has brought it (this Qur’an) down to your heart by Allah’s permission,) meaning, whoever becomes an enemy of Jibril, let him know that he is Ruh Al-Qudus who brought down the Glorious Dhikr (Qur’an) to your heart from Allah by His leave. Hence, he is a messenger from Allah. Whoever takes a messenger as an enemy, will have taken all the messengers as enemies. Further, whoever believes in one messenger, is required to believe in all of the messengers. Whoever rejects one messenger, he has rejected all of the messengers. Similarly, Allah said,

    (Verily, those who disbelieve in Allah and His Messengers and wish to make distinction between Allah and His Messengers (by believing in Allah and disbelieving in His Messengers) saying, “We believe in some but reject others.”) (4:150)

    Allah decreed that they are disbelievers, because they believe in some Prophets and reject others. This is the same with those who take Jibril as an enemy, because Jibril did not choose missions on his own, but by the command of his Lord…

    (Jibril (Gabriel) and Mika’il (Michael)). Allah mentioned Jibril and Mika’il specifically – although they are included among the angels who were messengers – only because this Ayah was meant to support Jibril the emissary between Allah and His Prophets. Allah also mentioned Mika’il here, because the Jews claimed that Jibril was their enemy and Mika’il was their friend. Allah informed them that whoever is an enemy of either of them, then he is also an enemy of the other as well as Allah. We should state here that Mika’il sometimes descended to some of Allah’s Prophets, although to a lesser extent than Jibril, because this was primarily Jibril’s task, and Israfil is entrusted with the job of blowing the Trumpet for the commencement of Resurrection on the Day of Judgment. It is recorded in the Sahih that whenever the Messenger of Allah would wake up at night, he would supplicate,

    (O Allah, Lord of Jibril, Mika’il and Israfil, Creator of the heavens and earth and Knower of the seen and the unseen! You judge between Your servants regarding what they differ in, so direct me to the truth which they differ on, by Your leave. Verily, You guide whom You will to the straight path.)

    Do the Jews fall into two groups here, as we’ve discussed before?

    Of course. Even then, during the time of the Prophet (pbuh) there were Jews who understood the message and became Muslims. (If you search around the Muslim blogs long enough, you’ll come across several of Jews who reverted to Islam as well.) I don’t believe the Qur’an uses blanket condemnations; this is what free will, independent reasoning and individual responsibility are all about. Ibn Kathir wrote:

    Anas bin Malik said, “When `Abdullah bin Salam heard of the arrival of the Prophet in Al-Madinah, he was working on his land. He came to the Prophet and said, `I am going to ask you about three things which nobody knows except a Prophet. ‘What will be the first portent of the Hour? What will be the first meal taken by the people of Paradise? Why does a child resemble its father, and why does it resemble its maternal uncle?’ Allah’s Messenger said, (Jibril has just told me the answers.) `Abdullah said, `He (i.e. Jibril), among all the angels, is the enemy of the Jews.’ Allah’s Messenger recited the Ayah,

    (Whoever is an enemy to Jibril (Gabriel) (let him die in his fury), for indeed he has brought it (this Qur’an) down to your heart). Allah’s Messenger then said, (The first portent of the Hour will be a fire that will bring together the people from the east to the west; the first meal of the people of Paradise will be the caudate lobe of the liver of fish. As for the child resembling his parents: If a man has sexual intercourse with his wife and his discharge is first, the child will resemble the father. If the woman has a discharge first, the child will resemble her side of the family.) On that `Abdullah bin Salam said, `I testify that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and you are the Messenger of Allah.’ `Abdullah bin Salam further said, `O Allah’s Messenger! The Jews are liars, and if they should come to know about my conversion to Islam before you ask them (about me), they will tell a lie about me.’ The Jews came to Allah’s Messenger, and `Abdullah went inside the house. Allah’s Messenger asked (the Jews), (`What kind of man is `Abdullah bin Salam?’) They replied, `He is the best among us, the son of the best among us, our master and the son of our master.’ Allah’s Messenger said, (What do you think if he would embrace Islam) The Jews said, `May Allah save him from it.’ Then `Abdullah bin Salam came out in front of them saying, `I testify that none has the right to be worshiped but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.’ Thereupon they said, `He is the evilest among us, and the son of the evilest among us.’ And they continued talking badly about him. Ibn Salam said, `This is what I feared, O Messenger of Allah!.”’ Only Al-Bukhari recorded this Hadith with this chain of narration. Al-Bukhari and Muslim recorded this Hadith from Anas using another chain of narration.

    More later, insha’allah.

  2. 97-101.—In Judeo-Islamic thought–angels mean “messengers”–Malachi in hebrew and Malak in arabic. When the prophet had his first revelation, he was frightened and thought he was losing his mind. —His wife had a christian relative (eastern christianity) who explained to the couple that the angel Gabriel had brought a revelation and that this was something that happened to prophets. (I have a slightly different perspective on this after studying Judaism) — Apparently, the Jewish people in Medina (sura 2 is a later sura—the Meccan surahs were revealed earlier and are mostly towards the back of the Quran)
    —when they understood the claim that the revelation was from angel Gabriel, they rejected the message because they felt it should have come from angel Micheal (whom they claimed was superior). My translation of verse 98 is slightly different than yours–it says “whoever is an enemy to Allah(God) and his angels and prophets, to Gabriel and Micheal, Allah(God) is an enemy to those who reject faith”—this is a general verse aimed at those who actively and knowingly reject faith—all faith (including the Jewish and Christian faith) by denying God and all his messengers. verse 100 refers to broken treaties—this was a time of changing geopolitics—Byzantium was to the north and
    another empire to the south—I forget the name—and tribal and political rivalries in
    Mecca/Medina areas. From the Quranic perspective—all treaties, contracts…etc have God as a witness and to break this because of deciet and dishonesty is to be false to the laws of religion.
    The word “kuffr” or unbeliever (as translated) comes from the word “ungrateful” and refers
    to only those to whom a message has come yet they knowingly reject it —are ungrateful.
    (It does not refer to those to whom no message/knowledge has been given)

    verse 102–103 the occult. During this time the Arab culture was steeped in superstitions
    of all sorts. It is this situation the verses are probably reffering to.
    The concept of “satan” is very Interesting —but a bit too complicated to get into now—The difference between Judaism and Islam in the concept of Satan is that in Islam.
    satans are created beings with free-will (as are we–mankind) and this is not exactly the case in Judaism(as per my understanding) Solomon is said to have control over these beings. In Islam–all knowledge comes from God or by God’s will—Humans have the free
    will to use it for good or bad. This is exemplified in the example of Harut and Marut who
    practiced “good magic”/healing arts, they taught this to people and cautioned them to use it with wisdom and for good—but people used it for their own egoic, selfish purposes.
    (Prophet Jesus(pbuh) also used good magic/healing arts with the help of God)

    Someone said that the Quran is like a spiders web—concepts/themes are all intertwined in the various surahs and the pieces begin to fit together once the Quran is read as whole. Many of the themes in this section are elaborated on in other surahs.
    I would also recommend reading several translations of the same verse in order to better understand what is meant—In Islamic thought—contrary to christianity—translations are generally not considered “revalation” rather they fall into the catagory of “tafsir” or explanation. The bias of the translator—their background and culture effect the translation/explanation.

    I am only an average muslim—not a scholar—the above is based on my (inadequate) understanding

  3. In my opinion–Jews/Christians/Muslims are divided into 2 groups in the Quran–the “believer” and the “hypocrite”. The hypocrite is one who uses the “label” of Jew, Christian, Muslim for the sake of convenience and selectively follows those parts
    of the religion which are convenient only –to remain a superficial part of the “label”/group. (This theme is also elaborated on in other surahs.)

  4. Thanks to both JDsg and Kay for their comments. As my own remarks indicate, I struggled with this section, and the depth that you added to my own understanding certainly enhanced my appreciation of the verses.

    JDsg, I find it interesting that there are multiple reasons recorded as the answer to your question (the one that should have been my first), and that these answer are so specific. As I read these verses, it seemed quite obvious to me that God would be the enemy of such people as were described in the lines leading up to that declaration. How could He not be the enemy of those who reject his angels (and angels who we know are providing the Quranic prophecies to Mohammed)?

    What I failed to recognize was that there were a lot of specific reasons related to the relationship between the Jews and specific angels (like Gabriel). Funny enough, I’ve never come across anything about Gabriel or Michael in my studies and their connection to the delivering of prophecy, whether good or bad. Presumably, either of them is involved somewhere, but I wonder whether or not this was a theme and tradition common to more eastern Jews (which is to say, Jews around Babylonia, Persia and the Arabian Peninsula) or if it’s something that just became buried in Jewish tradition and preserved primarily in Islamic tradition as it relates to these lines.

    I can imagine two other possibilities: a. it was intentionally buried within Jewish culture as a reaction to Islam picking up on it (though I’m skeptical of this possibility and more likely to go with) b. I simply hadn’t heard about it.

    Kay, bringing the Occult into verses 102 and 103 actually allows me to stand back from them a bit and assess a little better – thanks. I think it’s interesting especially that the verses speak of Solomon as one who was not into such things (i.e. sorcery) and then spends time condemning sorcery as something that will keep people out of Heaven because they should have just turned to God.

    Jewish tradition feels similarly about such things (though throughout history hasn’t always adhered), but at least the Bible is quite clear about the unacceptability of sorcery. A point of agreement, I see. Interestingly, though king Solomon condemned sorcery, king Saul employed a conjurer at one point in order to speak with Samuel, a prophet without whom Saul felt lost and confused. This, we all know as we read the story, is a huge no-no.

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