Quran Read-A-Long: The Cow 130-141 Speaks of Islam’s Relationship to Judaism, Christianity and Their Shared Prophetic History

Verses 130 to 133 affirm the commitment of the ‘forefathers,’ if I can use a particularly Jewish word for referring to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (is that word used in Islam?) to the one and only God and Abraham’s very language reminds us of the importance of submitting to God – of Islam.

In verse 134 something fascinating happens: we are told that each person is judged by his own merit. Fantastic! In the Bible this is not so. Numbers 14:18 says, “The LORD is slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generations.” Well that sucks!

We’re responsible for what the people before us did? In the real world this sometimes seems to be the case: future generations will suffer the transgressions of our current (and recent politicians), by having to mend relations with the world, endure the destruction of social security’s false promises and bail ourselves out of a seemingly insurmountable debt – but is God inflicting this punishment on us because of previous generations? The Bible says yes and the Quran says no. Each man is responsible for his own fate, a notion that manifests again at the end of this section.

I also like the call of verse 135, which says, forget the religion (Judaism or Christianity) and emulate the righteous and pious person who came before them both: Abraham. Of course, we are supposed to understand, I’d imagine, that Abraham was the archetype of the good Muslim and being a good Muslim means being like Abraham, but we see that the importance here is the qualities: upright and not an idolater. The Quran follows up by showing reverence for all the prophets to whom God provided revelation and who acted properly, not distinguishing between them.

The continuation and links to the previous religious traditions, I think, is a very special element of Islam. For obvious reasons, Judaism can’t easily link forward, and the development of modern Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity is the story of the two traditions trying to differentiate themselves from one another in the early centuries of the Common Era. Islam, however, draws on the strengths of both (their righteous prophets and not their tangential modern results) and gives us, in a sense, a more inclusive religious offering.

What do you think about these verses? What did I miss?

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The Cow 130-141

130. Who will turn away from the creed of Abraham but one dull of soul? We made him the chosen one here in the world, and one of the best in the world to come, 131. (For) when his Lord said to him: “Obey,” he replied: “I submit to the Lord of all the worlds.” 132. And Abraham left this legacy to his sons, and to Jacob, and said: “O my sons, God has chosen this as the faith for you. Do not die but as those who have submitted (to God).” 133. Were you present at the hour of Jacob’s death? “What will you worship after me?” he asked his sons, and they answered: “We shall worship your God and the God of your fathers, of Abraham and Ishamel and Isaac, and one and only God; and to Him we submit.” 134. Those were the people, and they have passed away. Theirs the reward for what they did, as yours will be for what you do. You will not be questioned about their deeds. 135. They say: “Become Jews or become Christians, and find the right way.” Say: “No. We follow the way of Abraham the upright, who was not an idolater.” 136. Say: “We believe in God and what has been sent down to us, and what had been revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and their progeny, and that which was given to Moses and Christ, and to all other prophets by the Lord. We make no distinction among them, and we submit to Him.” 137. If they come to believe as you did, they will find the right path. If they turn away then they will only oppose; but God will suffice you against them, for God hears all and knows everything. 138. “We have taken the coloring of God; and whose shade is better than God’s? Him alone we worship.” 139. Say: “Why do you dispute with us about God when He is equally you Lord and our Lord? To us belong our actions, to you yours; and we are true to Him.” 140. Or do you claim that Abraham and Ishamel and Isaac and Jacob and their offspring were Jews or Christians? Say: “Have you more knowledge than God?” Who is more wicked than he who conceals the testimony he received from God? God is not unaware of all you do. 141. They were the people, and they have passed away. Theirs the reward for what they did, as yours will be for what you do. You will not be questioned about their deeds.

2 Responses

  1. Great job Jay

    verse 134—I liked the way you compared the two concepts—your explanation of consequences and its effects helps to explain the “visiting iniquity” bit in numbers—(I think somewhere in the bible it is also mentioned about ” visiting blessings” on future generations?). In the Quran, neither sin nor blessings are “inherited”. Each individual soul(nafs) is responsible for whatever actions/intentions we take. As you mentioned though—an action has consequences and sometimes another person or generation has to “clean up the mess”. When a person/group has an “extra burden” placed on it due to the consequences of someone else’s actions, they also get “extra merit”. The responsibility / accountability for an action remains with the initiator of the action and this person/soul will be judged accordingly. The person/s suffering from the consequences of an action of which they were not a part, if they decide to take corrective action for the betterment of society, their actions will have more merit than if they had taken it in better/easier circumstances. —so in other words, they reap the benefits of what they do (in just proportion / balance). The concept of balanced justice implies that blessings come with responsibilities and suffering comes with merit. Both blessings and suffering are tests for our soul(nafs).

    verse 135–I like the way Lao Tzu explains—

    “…..Therefore, to see beyond boundaries
    to the subtle heart of things,
    dispense with names,
    with concepts,
    with expectations and ambitions and differences…..

    This is the beginning of all understanding”

    Once we get rid of the limitations of identity labels —we will more easily find common ground.

    Jew, Buddhist, Christian or Muslim, We all have our own “language” communicating with God/Creator/Divine. The sufi—Nizzamuddin Auliya said–“There are as many ways of worshipping God as there are grains of sand.” The Vedas (book of wisdom of India) says “Truth is one, the wise call it by different names”
    …….basically everyone is saying the same thing but using different words.

  2. There’s not much for me to add at this point, although I’ll make two brief comments.

    First, congratulations! You’ve made it through the first juz’. A juz’ (literally, “part”) is a measure of the Qur’an; specifically, one-thirtieth of the Qur’an. When Muslims want to read through the Qur’an in one (lunar) month, they will read one juz’ per day; this happens especially during the month of Ramadan (which was this past month of September). So, now you know roughly how long it will take you to get through the remainder of this series before you finish all of the Qur’an. 😉

    Secondly, one of the more important verses in this section, to me, is 136:

    Say ye: “We believe in God, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma’il, Isaac, Jacob, and the
    Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: We make no difference
    between one and another of them: And we bow to God (in Islam).”

    As Yusuf Ali points out, this is essentially the creed of Islam: belief in (one) God, belief in His revelation (and more specifically, belief in the Qur’an, the revelation given to “us,” the Arabs at the time of the Prophet (pbuh)), belief in prior revelations (that given to Abraham (pbuh) and those who followed his revelation, the revelations given to Moses and Jesus (pbut), which were given separately, and all the other revelations given to various Prophets (pbut), named and unnamed in the Qur’an). Last, but not least, the revelations may differ in the details, but the basic message remains the same, so we do not distinguish between the Prophets (pbut) in terms of any “superiority” of one over another.

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