Quran Read-A-Long: 153-163 Has a Line That’s Nearly Identical to Deuteronomy 6:4

I’m going to start out with a bold question and I hope no one takes offense. I’m just looking to understand what I read and understand how it relates to Islam or anyone who believes or interprets the Quran in any way.

Is verse 154 one that people use to kill and die in the name of God? To ask that more bluntly, is this a verse that terrorists exploit? It tells us not to think “that those who are killed in the way of God are dead, for indeed they are alive, even though you are not aware.” If I was reading this more innocently I would say that this line means that those who die as good Muslims live on in the afterlife, but all things considered, I can see how someone could exploit this line to justify their actions as for God and insist that they are going to the good afterlife.

What are Safa and Marwa and in what ways are they the symbols of God?

Verse 158, I think, is referring to the Hajj, a Muslim’s required journey once in his lifetime to Mecca at a particular time of year to worship at the Ka’aba. The latter part of the verse, though I don’t think it’s saying this directly, seems to excuse the person who can’t do this (it’s allowed not to if you are truly unable for some reason) and say that his judgment will be based entirely on his merit – whether or not he does good of his own accord. Gotta appreciate that.

Interesting that the latter half of verse 159 brings up people who are worthy of condemning others. I know that judgment is reserved for God and that God has already condemned those who are being judged in this verse, but are there really people who are allowed to pass such judgment, too. I recall discussing that simply passing judgment is something that can get you condemned, if nothing else, so who is doing the condemning?

Verse 163 sounds like Deuteronomy 6:4 which is a prayer of supreme importance in Judaism, called the shemah. It is a one line prayer about God being the only God: “The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.” This line says, “Your God is one God. There is no god other than He.” Pretty similar, hmm? Very interesting.

What are your thoughts about these verses? Did I miss anything important or get anything wrong?

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The Cow 153-163

153. O you who believe, seek courage in fortitude and prayer, for God is with those who are patient and persevere. 154. Do not say that those who are killed in the way of God are dead, for indeed they are alive, even though you are not aware. 155. Be sure We shall try you with something of fear and hunger and loss of wealth and life and the fruits (of your labor); but give tidings of happiness to those who have patience, 156. Who say when assailed by adversity: “Surely we are for God, and to Him we shall return.” 157. On such men are the blessings of God and His mercy, for they are indeed on the right path. 158. Truly Safa and Marwa are the symbols of God. Whoever goes on pilgrimage to the House (of God), or on a holy visit, is not guilty of wrong if he walk around them; and he who does good of his own accord will find appreciation with God who knows every thing. 159. They who conceal Our signs and the guidance We have sent them and have made clear in the Book, are condemned of God and are condemned by those who are worthy of condemning. 160. But those who repent and reform and proclaim (the truth), are forgiven, for I am forgiving and merciful. 161. But those who deny, and die disbelieving, bear the condemnation of God and the angels and that of all men, 162. Under which they will live, and their suffering will neither decrease nor be respite for them. 163. Your God is one God; there is no god other than He, the compassionate, ever-merciful.

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17 Responses

  1. hey Jay
    Terrorists—I am unfamiliar with the doctrine terrorists use but if they were misusing verses of the Quran—Surah 2, verses 190-193 would be more likely.
    —There are other “battle” verses also in the medina surahs because the muslim community in medina/yathrib were defending against the Meccans. The 2 important battles were “Badr” and “Uhud” after which a peace treaty was signed with the Meccans (treaty of Hudaibiya) which was repeatedly violated by the Meccans causing things to come to a final showdown around 630CE. (Meccans surrendered without bloodshed. Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) died in 632CE)
    By the way –out of 114 surahs–about 28 are medina surahs.

    verse 154—there are many levels of understanding the Quran—Some scholars have studies the Quran verses concerning soul/self/nafs. According to them this verse could be interpreted to mean that our “soul/nafs” does not die—it only experiences the death of the physical form/body that it inhabits. (for one example see surah 39 verse 42) At judgement it is this soul/nafs that will stand before God, the angels and the “spirit” and be judged (the form/body will be a witness). After judgement—we (all) go to heaven or hell (until then there is a “respite”).
    —the nature of the soul (nafs) is an interesting topic of study.

    safa/marwa are two hills that are part of the Hajj. Pilgrims run/walk between them to re-enact the scene when Hagar tried to find water for her young son Ishmael. (The story of Hagar and Ishmael is different from the Jewish version)

  2. Shema—see surah 112 (only 4 verses long)

  3. Thank you, Kay. And I’m glad you brought up that part of the Hajj that is occurring right about now. I’m not sure when that particular part is over the course of the Hajj, but I remember hearing about that once and being fascinated by the associated rituals, including Abraham’s casting of rocks at the devil to send him away, among others.

    And I took a look at Surah 112. It does indeed appear to be closely related to the Shemah. Interesting are the lines about God begetting no one (and of course being begotten by no one). I can’t ever help but read such lines as veiled (or even in this case not so veiled) polemics – against Christianity and the idea that Jesus was actually the son of God.

  4. There are many fascinating legends/stories in Islam—I think the arabs may have enjoyed storytelling. —I am not familiar with the hadiths (sayings of Prophet Muhammed(pbuh) and the science of authentication behind it) so—I tend to only take the Quran seriously and the rest as stories. I think the part about Prophet Abraham (pbuh) and the devil is not mentioned in the Quran. (Prophet Abraham (pbuh)and sacrifice -Surah 37 verse 99-113)

    Jewish/Christain perspective—It is an interesting point. Apparently, Jewish readers feel that the Quran favours Chritians/Christianity while Christian readers often feel that the Quran respects Judaism more because much of the stuff (they feel) is from the Torah/Midrash and rabbinical writings. (the Quran also refers to the “children of Israel” as those who have been given a special favor). From the muslim perspective—Jews and Christians are people of the book and are part of what the Quran refers to as “believers”. Thus the Quran is against only those parts of the doctrine that have become “corrupted”/misunderstood. ( It is also against those it terms as “hypocrites”—those who use religious labels but don’t actually believe/follow the guidance)

    veiled polemics—Not sure if there is anything “veiled” in that, I think the Quran is uncomfortably and brutally honest and says what it wants to say. (trinity–see surah 4 verse 171—its clear where the Quran stands….”say not 3, desist. It will be better for you. for God is one God…..(far exalted is he) above having a son….”) Surah 112 is not aimed at the Christians. It is one of the early Meccan surahs and introduces the concept of one God to the (pagan) Meccans. (they thought God had daughters)

  5. surah 112

    At the heart of the muslim faith and world view is what is called “tawheed” (shema). All (early)muslim knowledge/research /jurisprudence began from this starting point/premise. Thus–for example– the concept of equality in politics and jurisprudence begins with the idea that only God is “superior” and all else are equal before God. This means that the “law” applies equally to all. In politics, the caliph(leader) was not inherently “superior” but was a trustee of the people—he discharged the responsibilities given to him by the people (who were his equals). In the early days of Islam,(after the death of Prophet Muhammed(pbuh) the caliphs were chosen by a committee and some among the muslims were unhappy with the choice–splitting the community into 2 “parties” or groups. (which eventually became the Sunni/Shia split) —-Unfortunately this political concept was not popular and the muslims resorted back to dynastic rule. However, the Tawheed remained popular in other areas of knowledge such as Philosophy, Science, Law, Mathematics…..etc.

  6. Fascinating about the polemical aspects you pointed out, particularly 112 being an early Meccan surah aimed at pagan Arabs. In my Christo-centric consumed viewpoint of study, I sometimes forget that lots of people attribute children to God or the gods and think that the gods were born of a higher force (Greek mythology with Zeus has both and as you’ve said pagan Arabs believed that god/s had daughters).

    The early equality of Islam is very interesting, and on some levels it’s a shame that dynastic impulses overrode this early attempt at political equality. However, peaceful transitions of power were rare in all cultures. It was actually a huge surprise in America when the party of John Adams peacefully handed the executive branch over to Thomas Jefferson and his political party at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Today we expect that party transitions in government are just the way we play the game but 200 years ago it was still new a wonder that power transferred (peacefully) at all. It’s not surprising then, that peaceful democratic proceedings were hard to come by. The true shame is that the Sunni-Shia split has had such detrimental ramifications over the ages and even today amongst people who originally only disagreed about a leader. What are your thoughts on that issue?

    Great though that this concept of tawheed managed to remain a guiding force amongst other areas of science. All of the knowledge of the ancient world (which is to say Greco-Roman technology, science, etc.) was given to the Arabs when they expanded; it was preserved by them, enhanced by them in tremendous ways, and then passed onto Christian-European cultures centuries after Arab expansion. I imagine that the idea of equality before God and that everyone had the right and ability to pursue these subjects contributed to the flourishing of knowledge at the time – something I hadn’t thought of before.

    I was just telling my class the other day that without Arab enhancements to knowledge we wouldn’t have the concept of zero in mathematics – at least not for as long as we have had it. My students, who were sick of math at that point, were less than grateful, but hopefully the point resonates later. 🙂

  7. Sunni-Shia—It is an interesting look at human behavior. There are people on both sides who try to foster “differences”. Saying that the other side are on the “wrong path”. But actually, both use the exact same Quran and pray to the one God. The Shia have a more well defined clergy. However—there may have been other deeper (cultural) undercurrents that could have helped shape the split. Some scholars theorize that the pre-Islamic Arab religion was very flexible–allowing for many pilgrims to come to the Kaba to worship their Gods—there was no particular “clergy” only caretakers of the Kaba. The Persians on the other hand came from an ancient and sophisticated culture with a more defined religion (Zoarastrianism)—that also had a supreme God (Ahura Mazda) –So what had simply been political, may have evolved into two proud peoples trying to find where they belong.—-I am not sure I buy the theory—but I can accept the premise that a lot of factors affected the split.

    Children of God—Religions start out right but get corrupted over time—What happened in Mecca is an example—The Kaba was built by Prophet Abraham(pbuh) and his son Ishmael with the intent to dedicate it to the worship of the One God—but over time the concept got corrupted and there were many Gods/Godesses and children of God.

    Tawheed and knowledge—this is a concept you will encounter often in the Quran—That the pursuit of knowledge, (scientific, geological, archeological, astronomy, maritime…..etc) can help us understand the nature of the Divine.
    Tawheed and Science—God is most supreme, the eternal—all else is created and finite—thus the universe has a starting point (the big bang–S21 v30, S51 v47,S41 v11) and an ending (the big crunch-surah 21 verse104)
    Thus the pursuit of scientific knowledge would begin with the first hypotheses of Tawheed. —because acquiring knowledge was about understanding the divine.
    Tawheed and Math—God is one,most supreme, and the force that controls all creation keeping it in “just” balance. –and this tawheed was incorporated into Algebra.
    Even Plato and Aristotle and other greek ideas were re-worked with tawheed incorporated into them. Though this is interesting—I think todays pursuit of knowledge for the sake of knowledge itself is working out fine. Today, scientists try to find the “unbiased truth” without pre- conceived constraints.

    Groaning students—I have two kids who have to study chem, algebra, and trig—I know what you mean!!!! I tell them to imagine the guys in the 10th century trying to figure all this out without computers and calculators!!!

  8. forgot to mention—-John Adams/Thomas Jefferson—thanks for the info—pleased to learn a little of American history.

  9. @ Kay: I am not sure I buy the theory

    Don’t. 😉 The Sunni-Shia history is very complicated; for example, we think of Iran today as a Shia country, as it is, but this was not the case prior to 1501, when Ismail I conquered Sunni Persia and made Shiism the state religion. Sunnis were either forced to become Shia or go into exile. Likewise, Egypt is now Sunni, but they had originally been Shia (the Fatimid dynasty) and made the switch when Saladin became Sultan of Egypt. This is not just an Arab-Persian issue.

    @ Jay: Sorry for the lack of comments; been rather busy the past few weeks, although there are a number of things I’d like to comment about, both this week and last. Will try to do so as time permits. Thank you very much for the e-mail. I appreciated it. 🙂

  10. JDsg—Yes, It was because of the Abbasids (Iraq) and Fatimids(Egypt) that I was a bit skeptical of the theory—-I like the scholars of this period—they came up with a lot of interesting ideas. —I don’t know much about later Iranian history—I have looked into Zoarastrianism because of the reference to sabians and Dhul-kifr in the Quran. But–as you said, there are a lot of shifting alliances of sunni/shia in muslim history—which does make one suspect that the whole thing is more about political conveniences than doctrinal differences. Today there are more “splits” within the sunni/shia/sufi branches with a range of beliefs. I think that is great—and I hope muslims will continue to embrace the diversity within our brotherhood. But I am afraid that the constant focus on terrorism might cause Islam to narrow down its ideas on who is and is not a “muslim”.

    Thanks for the info and link—it is always great to learn!
    I would also like to read more of your comments.

  11. lol i remember my maths teacher telling me about the number 0 and most of us couldn’t figure out why it was such an incredible discovery! apparantley the greeks were always getting their maths wrong because they started counting from 1 and if you mess up at the start, everything after that is also messed

  12. Hi,

    Until now, this is the most dificult post, I guess.
    The verse that talk about the martyr:

    Do not say that those who are killed in the way of God are dead, for indeed they are alive, even though you are not aware. (2:154)

    Let’s compare with this verse from the bible:

    Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the book of Moses, in the account of the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'[d]? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!”
    Mark(12:26,27)

    I don’t know if the verse says that they are alive now or that they will be alive after ressurrection, and since for God there is no future, so they are alive now in God’s eyes.

    The martyr has a great position in the Islam, Judaism and Christianity. This is because he gives his life defending his faith, his family or his community. One thing I found interesting is that the muslims were not alowed to fight in the early days in mecca. One of the reasons is because they had no power. But the most important, muslims say, is because the concept of tawhid was not fully developed among the believers. So when they went to Medina and they had already 13 years of preaching of tawhid, they were allowed to fight. So they fought just for God’s sake. Not because they want worldly things, but they fought to preserve their lives and the message of God. So how can we expect that this people won’t be in a high rank with God?

    The thing about suicide bombs are very difficult. In the Quran muslims are told to not commit suicide. But there are scholars that say that the suicide bombers are a different case, since they are not killing themselves because they cannot handle with their problems. They are killing themselves for defending their religion and their community. This may be true.

    But the prophet (pbuh) prohibited the killing of woman, children, religious people, olders and non-combatents in general. And a lot of suicide bombs acts that we see violate this conditions.

  13. About who can judge people:

    “They who conceal Our signs and the guidance We have sent them and have made clear in the Book, are condemned of God and are condemned by those who are worthy of condemning.” (3:159)

    What I understood from this verse is that the believers can condemn the disbelievers. I guess this condemnation is not the same as judgment. They are condemn because of their rejection of God and because of their attack against the muslims.

    We have to look at the next verses:
    “But those who repent and reform and proclaim (the truth), are forgiven, for I am forgiving and merciful. But those who deny, and die disbelieving, bear the condemnation of God and the angels and that of all men,” (3:160-161)

    Here we see that the believers cannot say to the disbeliever that they will go to hell, because the disbelievers can repent and if they repent God will forgive then.

  14. kay,

    I like very much your comments!

    I reccommend that you study about the preservation of the hadith. They are not perfect preserved as the Quran, but they are much more preserved then the Torah and the New Testament.

    About the diversity of thinking inside the muslim world I think it’s good, but the division of the community into branches are condemned in the Quran. This is because a divided Ummah loose its force.

    “As for those who divide Their religion and break up into sects, thou hast no part in them in the least: Their affair is with Allah: He will in the end tell them the truth of all that they did.” (6:159)

    This is what happend to the Christians in the early Christianity and make them go astray. So a group of them said that Jesus (pbuh) was a prophet of God, other said that he was the son of God, other that he was God. Some of them said that his mother Mary was the mother of God and others end up praying to them and to the saints. So this is what the division into sects brings. The worst result is weakness of the Ummah and shirk.

    Thank you!

  15. Marcelo! Welcome! I’m so sorry that I haven’t managed to start replying to some of your comments, but I really appreciate you joining Quran Read-A-Long and sharing some of your thoughts as you make your way through previous posts.

    Above we had been discussing the Sunni-Shia split and the way that should be interpreted in light of these verses. I was wondering what your thoughts were on that (not whether you were Sunni or Shia or who you think is right – just the effects that a split like that has in light of the Quran’s injunctions).

  16. Hi Jay,

    Thanks for the welcoming me!

    As I mentioned in other post I’m not a muslim yet. So I don’t have a lot of knowledge yet.

    What I know is that there is a lot of Hadiths talking about splits issues. The prophet(pbuh) said that his community would split into more than 70 sects and only one would be right.

    I think this is because when a split ocours it frequently brings inovation and shirk. One interesting thing about Sunni-Shia split is that the Shias were always allowed to make hajj in Makka, even though Makka is a Sunni place.

    So although there are problems, both are considered muslims.

  17. And there is a lot of help coming from the Shias to the Sunni opressed people nowadays.

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