Quran Read-A-Long: The Cow 164-167

Why Give a Creation Account?

Well as the end of verse 164 tells us, the results of creation are “signs for the wise.” Every single one of these natural phenomena that we take for granted should be reminders to us that God is the ultimate creator, all-powerful and capable of anything.

Foolishly, however, there are people who don’t recognize this seemingly obvious fact of life and worship something other than God, giving that thing the love due God. No good, we learn, but this seems like par for the course when reading a religious text such as this.

But That’s Not Where My Confusion with These Verses Lies

My confusion concerns what follows in verses 166 and 167, the discussion of which I’ll begin by noting that all of the followers (of those people who were receiving God’s love) burn forever in Hell. That is, those who didn’t recognize that they should worship God, who didn’t see the signs inherent in creation, are going to Hell for worshiping something else (is that something else a person – e.g. kings or royalty – or a thing, like the sun?).

Okay, makes sense from the back end, but what I don’t get is how it seems that they understood what they did wrong by saying that, knowing what they know now about God, they would leave those they had followed just as they were left by what they followed. If they understood enough to leave and repented, despite their foolishness from the outset, shouldn’t a merciful God show them their deeds and fill them with remorse but then not make them burn in eternal hellfire?

Is my question clear because without understanding it I fear that my great companions on this journey through the Quran will not be able to correct my reading where I have erred?

So, to any and all who can help me understand who is being punished, why they are being punished and how that fits into a larger Muslim understanding of Allah in these verses, I would be most appreciative.


What are your thoughts about these verses? Did I miss anything important you’d like to add?

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The Cow 164-167

164. Creation of the heavens and the earth, alternation of night and day, and sailing of ships across the ocean with what is useful to man, and the rain that God sends from the sky enlivening the earth that was dead, and the scattering of beasts of all kinds upon it, and the changing of the winds, and the clouds which remain obedient between earth and sky, are surely signs for the wise. 165. And yet there are men who take others as compeers of God, and bestow on them love due to God; but the love of the faithful for God is more intense. If only the wicked could see now the agony that they will behold (on the Day of Resurrection), they will know that to God belongs the power entirely! And the punishment of God is severe. 166. When those who were followed will disclaim those who followed them, and see the torment all ties between them shall be severed, 167. And the followers will say: “Could we live but once again we would leave them as they have abandoned us now.” God will show them thus their deeds, and fill them with remorse; but never shall they find release from the Fire.


3 Responses

  1. verse 164—-There is a quote by someone that explains the Quranic position on faith—“Faith, without the light of reason and science, degenerates into superstition”. Thus, Tawheed is incorporated into all pursuits of knowledge. We are supposed to use our (God-given) intellectual abilities to understand the divine in order to live “God-conscious” Lives. (right intentions leading to right action.)

    These verses may be better understood when we keep verse 170 in mind—-“When it is said to them: follow what God has revealed: They say: No! we shall follow the ways of our fathers. What! even though their fathers were void of wisdom and guidance?”

    Those who mislead others and their followers will cut off relations with each other in the hopes that this will save them from punishment–but it won’t.(mentioned elsewhere in another surah.) The reason for this is that in the Quran–the word “unbeliever” means “ungrateful” (and not “ignorant”) Thus an unbeliever is one who knowingly rejects guidance that has been given to them. (and does not apply to those who were not given guidance) So, those who mislead others for power or egoic purposes by creating someone or something (king, prophet, sun/moon, holy books…etc) to which only they have special access (God/Quran is meant to be accessible to all) and the followers who refuse to have a direct relationship with the one God or the Quran but instead insist on blindly following someone are both making a mistake.

    The Quran is meant to be a guide—but this means that the reader must engage intellectually and spiritually with the book. As the Quran itself says—its verses must be reflected upon. Islam is not meant to be a religion where one blindly “follows” a priest or religious leader who “interprets” the religion for them. —they are supposed to use their own intellectual abilities as well. This is an important message for today’s muslims—a few of whom seem to be easily misled into violence thinking it is “right”.

    We must make choices and these choices are our responsibility—others cannot be blamed for them. In order to help us in this, God has given us guidance as well as intellectual capacity to understand it in order to make the right choices.—-Now its all upto us.

    verse 167—I hope I answered your question—that feeling “remorse” at the time of judgement (day) is too late.—they made their choices–they must take responsibility for them. God is merciful and compassionate—any mistakes we make which we repent/correct —during the short period of time between birth and death can be forgiven, God-willing. But after that–it is too late.

  2. That was great – thank you, Kay. Your portrayal of Islam and the relationship of people to God and the Quran is something that I can understand and relate to.

    I was wondering also about the particulars of Judgment Day in Islam, and wanted to reflect on it within these verses. Judgment Day is some day in the future on which a number of things will happen, primarily judgment. That judgment is by God of all people. Does He judge all people who have ever lived and who are now in Heaven or Hell or have those people presumably been judged and so God is only judging those still alive at the time that Judgment Day hits? Once He judges them is it like everyone is dead and those remaining on earth are sent to their appropriate destination, whether Heaven or Hell, or is it more like a Judeo-Christian conception in which a new state of being exists on Earth for all those who have been deemed worthy? Does anything else happen on Judgment day?

  3. Jay–these are interesting and deep questions. I will have to answer them on the basis of how I have interpreted the verses of the Quran (—-Maybe JDsq can find some scholarly works/ viewpoints on this issue?)

    day of judgement–for an introduction to the concept read Sura 99,100,101.
    “We” (soul/self/consciousness) will be judged. “we” inhabit the body. When our body is unconscious or asleep “we” leave our bodies. –surah 39 verse 42.(apart from the nafs(self) we also have the “ruh” (God’s breath) this does not leave our bodies until death. It is the life-giving force/force that animates). When our body “dies” or its term comes to an end–“we”/self experience “death” (death of form/body). (also from Quran–I forget which surah)
    At Judgement day, our bodies will be resurrected and stand as witness to our deeds. Apart from the witness (body/form) there are also 2 registers(books) called the illyun(good deeds) and the sijjin(bad deeds) —surah 84. These record our deeds during our lifetime. (In our modern legal terminology —these might be referred to as exhibits A and B) God is the judge and the angels and “ruh” might be similar to “Jury” (though they do not pass a sentence / judgement–they only witness the proceedings). In those cases were the person is a follower of a Prophet, the particular Prophet will be called upon during Judgment to clear up if the nafs/self followed the teachings or not.

    All nafs/self will be judged at the same time at judgement day. It will be decided who goes where (for a long period of time). Nafs will be divided into 3 classes (surah 56) 1. “those who are foremost”—they are closest to God and will go to the first heaven. 2) Companions of the right hand–they will go to the 2nd heaven. 3)Companions of the left hand—they will go to hell. (there are several degrees/levels to hell called “gates” –I don’t remember how many—a person will be punished according to their level .)

    At this time, our universe will come to an end (big crunch) and at some point after that,(a long period) a new universe will begin (big bang).

    Note–Besides “us” (mankind) there is another creation/entity with free-will who will also be judged at judgment day. (—and that is another complicated subject!!)

    New Earth—Judaism has the Olam Haba (Maimonides) concept, and Christianity has the “Kingdom”. The Quran does not have the same type of concept but Islamic “tradition” might have.

    What happens to Nafs/self after death?—this is an interesting question–there is a lot of speculation among early Islamic scholars on this issue. Surah 4 verse 1 has an interesting passage about Nafs….
    “O Mankind! Fear your Guardian Lord who created you from a single “nafs”, created out of it her mate and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women……
    Some may feel that “we”/self are created from a “singularity” and we may connect back to this singularity after the death of our form.

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