Quran Read-A-Long: The Cow 113-121 Discusses Jews, Christians, the Day of Judgment and More

Christian or Jew: We’re All Gettin’ Judged

Verse 113 is really capturing an age-old argument, huh? The latter half of the verse says that God alone will judge Jews and Christians in their differences on the Day of Reckoning, but I can’t help but think that this is not saying that God will judge who is right, Christians or Jews, but rather that each will be judged on his individual merit, like Muslims.

Jews and Christians both believe in God and the Day of Judgment and as the Quran has already told us, with those elements in place, they are now to be judged based on whether they have done good. This, I think, is a great attitude for the Quran to have about such matters. It’s almost a, “stop bickering now, do what you’re supposed to, and we’ll just have to see on the Day of Judgment” sort of attitude.

Let’s Talk Jesus

Verse 116 does seem to be taking issue with the whole Jesus thing (his son status, not his prophet status), and interestingly, what is implicit here is actually the way that the original phrase, Son of God, was intended. The Quran says that everything belongs to God and that all are obedient to Him. Thus, calling Jesus God’s son seems to be a tautology. For we are all of God. Indeed, in Jesus’ time the phrases “Son of God” and “Children of God” were very common and everyone used them. Today, we over-interpret them to make Jesus the actual Son of God. The Quran seems to acknowledge this fact.

Verse 118 actually reflects a concern of Jesus, that only the wicked in any generation ask for signs (Matthew 16:4) – the Quran seems to agree. Signs come when God wants to give them, and asking for them is tantamount to not having faith.

How Do We Read the Quran? As It Should Be Read, of course

The remaining verses affirm the veracity of the Quran (I think I’m right in assuming that’s the book being referred to here?), and note that the Jews and Christians will continue trying to instigate a reversal of belief in the Quran.

I do find the words “read it as it should be read” to be very interesting. First, it means that there must be a vast literature on how the Quran should be read and surely not everyone agrees on how (plain sense only, deeper meaning beneath, interpreted like crazy, etc.) and second it means that people then have the ability to say that it is they who are “reading it as it should be read.” Just seems like the line, though intended innocently enough to say that you can’t read the Quran however you please, will actually be used to claim authority and back up people’s varying interpretations.

What do you think of these verses? Do you have anything to add? Please share with us.

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The Cow 113 – 121

113. The Jews say: “The Christians are not right,” and the Christians say: “The Jews are in the wrong;” yet both read the Scriptures; and this is what the unread had said too. God alone will judge between them in their differences on the Day of Reckoning. 114. And who is more unjust than he who prohibits the name of God being used in His mosques, who hurries to despoil them even though he has no right to enter them except in reverence? For them is ignominy in the world and severe punishment in the life to come. 115. To God belong the East and the West. Wherever you turn the glory of God is everywhere: All-pervading is He and all-knowing. 116. Yet they say that God has begotten a son. May He be praised! Indeed every thing in the heavens and the earth belongs to Him, and all are obedient to God. 117. Creator fo the heavens and the earth from nothingness, He has only to say when He wills a thing: “Be,” and it is. 118. But those who are ignorant say: “Why does God not speak or show us a sign?” The same question had been asked by men before them, who were like them in their hearts. But to those who are firm in their faith We have shown Our signs already. 119. And We have sent you with the truth to give glad tidings and to warn. You will not be questioned about those who are inmates of Hell. 120. The Jews and Christians will never be pleased with you until you follow their way. Say: “God’s guidance alone is true guidance;” for if you give in to their wishes after having received the (Book of) knowledge from God, then none will you have as friend or helper to save you. 121. Those to whom We have sent down the Book, and who read it as it should be read, believe in it truly; but those who deny it will be losers.

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8 Responses

  1. Verse 113 makes more sense when read with 111 and 112, verse 111 talks of inclusion—that not just a jew or christian alone will enter paradise—112 goes on to say what matters is that we do good and that is how we enter paradise–113 then says it is not for people to judge who is right/wrong, or if one religion is right/wrong—that is something God will handle. (see surah 3 verse 113-115)
    “…and yet they read the (same) scriptures…” My translation has the word same written in brackets….Both Christians and Jews read the “Old Testament” Yet their interpretations are very different. For example—The story of Adam/Eve—the Jews do not interpret it as a story about “original sin” Yet the Christians do. Some Christians see many of the OT stories as foreshadowing of Jesus Christ and his life and death (a book of predicitions)—the Jews ofcourse do not see it that way.
    Jesus—-They say: “God has begotten a son”: Glory be to him. —The objection here seems to be about the “divinity” status–to worship the “son of God”—the verse goes on to say …more or less…that only God is worthy of worship. (in another surah, the Quran objects to the “triune God” concept as well).
    The concept of verse 117 is repeated elsewhere in the Quran ….that Prophet Adam and Prophet Jesus were both created by God’s will—he simply said “be” and they existed—both do not have a father, (Prophet Adam does not have a mother either) yet both are human beings.
    118—It is interesting that the word ayah, translated as “verse” actually means “sign”. So…this verse could also mean—people asking why the Quran/verse/scripture came only to the prophets and not to each person individually. This is answered by saying that if each individual opens their heart to their books with faith, the books will speak to them (at their level)—they will see the “signs”. (Generally—–how we “surrender” to God/God’s will is a personal matter between God and our “nafs”/soul. Thus, the Quran is meant as a guide/reminder to people.)
    How to read the Quran—–This is explained in another surah. The Quran should be read as a whole and each surah must also be read as a whole. The Quran asks the believers not to break it into pieces to “profit from it”—this probably means—not to break down the verses to bolster one argument/perspective/theory or other. (this has been totally ignored by many muslim scholars—with verses often used to “prove” both sides of a debate, or they are used to bolster some wild theories—their works are nevertheless interesting to read) The Quran is not a book meant to be read only once—that is why it “explains things in stages”—that is, one surah might introduce a concept which is further explained or elaborated on in other surahs. Some readers feel it is a book of answers because the questions that arise while you read some verses, often are answered in other verses/surahs.

  2. Sorry about not writing. Other priorities, ya know. 😉 I’m not sure I can write about everything right now, but, insha’allah, I’ll also get back to the previous two weeks posts as well.

    With respect to verse 113, I agree with Kay on this. While I think your first two paragraphs on verse 113 are very good (I can see that your analysis on the Qur’an is maturing), the previous two verses must be included to help explain the context of 113.

    Thus, calling Jesus God’s son seems to be a tautology. For we are all of God. Indeed, in Jesus’ time the phrases “Son of God” and “Children of God” were very common and everyone used them. Today, we over-interpret them to make Jesus the actual Son of God. The Quran seems to acknowledge this fact.

    No. We are not all of God, but we are all from God. “From Allah (swt) do we come, and unto Allah (swt) do we return.” (This is what we Muslims say upon hearing about the death of a person.) The subject of calling someone a “son of God” (astaghfirullah) is addressed in 9:30. Basically, the Qur’an condemns the usage of this phrase, regardless of whether it was the Jewish practice to call a righteous man this, or the Christian practice, still extent today, with respect to Jesus (pbuh). Jeffrey Lang, a noted Muslim speaker and author, discusses this topic in this Youtube video:

    It’s gotten to the point to where when I hear anyone referring to themselves or others as “a god of…” this or “a goddess of…” that, I’m like astaghfirullah, Astaghfirullah, ASTAGHFIRULLAH! I can’t stand it when people say this now. It’s very offensive, especially as people are so ignorant as to why they shouldn’t use the phrase.

    Signs come when God wants to give them, and asking for them is tantamount to not having faith.

    Verses like 118 are actually fairly common in the Qur’an. The irony is that people ask to see signs (or angels (e.g., 2:210, 6:111, 6:158) or a ladder ascending to heaven (e.g., 6:35, 17:93)) and yet the signs are there all around us for us to see if only we could recognize them as such.

    Behold! in the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of the night and the day; in the sailing of the ships through the ocean for the profit of mankind; in the rain which God Sends down from the skies, and the life which He gives therewith to an earth that is dead; in the beasts of all kinds that He scatters through the earth; in the change of the winds, and the clouds which they Trail like their slaves between the sky and the earth;- (Here) indeed are Signs for a people that are wise. (2:164)

    The sunrise and the sunset, the sailing of ships upon the ocean (a very common sight here in S’pore 😉 ), the rain from the sky and the growing of plant life; these are all signs of God. I call this the case of the big miracle vs. the little miracle. People who want to see the angels and the ladders want the “big” miracle. And a lot of atheists note the so-called lack of miracles since the writing of the Bible. Which really means they too expect to see the “big” miracles. But the Qur’an says that Allah (swt) provides huge numbers of “little” miracles every day yet, because we are so used to seeing these phenomena, we have tuned them out of our minds. Are they “natural phenomena?” No, they are signs of God.

    More later, insha’allah.

  3. Kay and JDsg – I look forward to Quran Day every week because I know that it is the day that I get to learn the most from maintaining this blog. Thank you both for your wonderful comments.

    Though I’m not as familiar with the practice of picking out verses here and there to support any side of any argument, I can certainly believe that it’s true, as I am familiar with people using the Bible in the same way. It drives me nuts. Absolutely anything can be defended with biblical verses – pro-life or pro-choice, gun control or deregulation, murder or not (same argument I keep repeating?), or whatever else you want. It’s filled with every opinion.

    I guess the Quran can be used similarly, but perhaps we’re referring to things and debates more internal to Islam and Islamic jurisprudence. In any case, I sympathize and appreciate that internally the Quran is not down with this. The Bible doesn’t stand up for itself in quite the same way.

    It seems in a certain way I am guilty of this myself. As you both pointed out, I needed to read 113 in the context of 111 and 112 but I’d let the guideline divisions of my translation cut the Quran up into such manageable chunks that I failed to realize that it is one flowing narrative that needed to be read in context and not each chunk in isolation. I will try to “read through” more carefully in the future.

    Thank you both again!

  4. Jay
    I enjoy reading your comments and questions regarding the passages/verses. It is delightful to have another perspective. Sometimes–my mind is set in one way and I miss out another point of view or interpretation unless it is pointed out to me.

    debates—from around the 9th century, there was a lot of scholarship with people seeking knowledge and debating points in relation to Islam. Greek, Indian, Chineese, Persian, and Egyptian knowledge had much influence during this time. Many of the works of these scholars subsequently influenced western “secularism” as well as Christianity and Judaism. Among the ideas debated by scholars/philosophers were questions such as what is the nature of the divine, can God be understood through reason and logic alone? what is the nature of “man/self” ……..etc. Because these debates took place within the context of Islam—the Quran and its verses ended up being used. In the pursuit of knowledge and exchange of ideas, this is probably inevitable —what we have to be careful is that in our passion to present our point of view, we do not distort the intent and meaning of the Quran (that would be egoic).
    thankyou for starting this.

  5. JDsq
    I enjoy your input, especially the “extras” (the pasted stuff), and references to other surahs/verses.

    Sons of God—-Your frustration seems to come through in your post. God is all-knowing. He knows what is in our hearts and it is not for us to judge another or what they mean when they use some phrases or words. For example, in Shintoism, they feel that the divine is embedded in everything, from a rock to a mountain. (The Quran says something similar,… God encompasses everything from a grain of sand, to mankind, to the galaxy and universe.) Thus all created things must be cherished. The concept of “kami” is about the sacredness of everything around us. A person not familiar with it could misunderstand the concept—but not God because God knows everything in our hearts. It seems to me, religion is about intentions. After all, God is most merciful, most compassionate.

    I enjoy your posts—thankyou for taking the time and I look forward to more.

  6. I’ve been reading ahead and noticed the Holy Mosque is referred to as the direction of prayer. Since the Kaaba is the direction of prayer is the Holy Mosque the same as the Kaaba or does a mosque sit around the Kaaba and that is the Holy Mosque?

  7. The verse is referring to the Kaaba; at the time of the Prophet (pbuh) there was no masjid surrounding the kaaba. It was in an open plaza, surrounded by homes. Today, of course, there’s a huge masjid that surrounds the Kaaba.

  8. Back to my last comment, you might find this picture, as small as it is, of benefit. Picture #4 is roughly of the time of the Prophet (pbuh).

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