We’ve reached the third surah! What’s more, verse two begins with a very important affirmation that we’ve discussed before: that there is no deity but God. Why important other than the obvious truth of the matter? Because Mohammed had to make it clear to the Quryash and other Arabs that Allah was the only God and that the secondary daughter deities that they worshiped and had shrines to were not real.
Verse three is a noteworthy internal affirmation of the Quranic revelation. The idea, as Asad seems to interpret it, is that whatever still remains so of the Torah has its verity confirmed by the Quran wherever the Quran speaks of similar things. We’ve discussed that the Quran believes the Torah and the Gospels to be corrupted. I have agreed that the Torah is not a single text but actually a series of interwoven texts (this theory is known as the Documentary Hypothesis). What I am particularly interested in at this moment is the Injil, or what the Quran believes the Synoptic Gospels are based on – a more accurate Gospel of Jesus. Is this document the same one that biblical scholars believe exists – the document known as Q? Or is this more similar to the Torah situation in which there is believed to be a complete and accurate document that lacks corruption and tells the story of Jesus’ life exactly as it happened (the implication here being that scholars don’t believe that Q is necessarily the truth so much as a document closer to Jesus and which the documents we have would have been partially based on)?
It seems significant that the directly stated verses are the “essence of the divine writ,” though there are many other verses that are allegorical in nature and require more strenuous mental searching and understanding. I think this is for the benefit of everyone who reads the Quran. All Muslims – not just the wise – should be able to read the Quran, God’s word, and take away from it the most important points, values and rules. There are plenty of simple people in the world and they should not be intimidated by reading the Quran and hearing God’s word: they should have the pleasure of knowing what God wants from them on their own. This speaks to the Islamic lack of clergy (which I think is awesome, by the way) because Muslims don’t require someone else to tell them what the Quran says. It is God’s word right to their ears. Similarly, Muslims don’t need any sort of intermediary through which to offer their prayers, whether a preist or Jesus (or Mohammed, as the case may be). Their prayers go right to God – perhaps in part because they are able to undersand God’s simple and most important words for themselves.
What are your thoughts about these verses? Please feel free to answer any posed questions or just address your own issues with the opening verses of Al-‘Imran.
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In the name of God, the most gracious, the dispenser of grace:
1. Alif. Lam. Mim. 2. GOD – there is no deity save Him, the Ever-Living, the Self-Subsistent Fount of All Being! 3. Step by step has He bestowed upon thee from on high this divine writ, setting forth the truth which confirms whatever there still remains [of earlier revelations]: for it is He who has bestowed from on high the Torah and the Gospel 4. aforetime, as a guidance unto mankind, and it is He who has bestowed [upon man] the standard by which to discern the true from the false. Behold, as for those who are bent on denying God’s messages – grievous suffering awaits them: for God is almighty, an avenger of evil. 5. Verily, nothing on earth or in the heavens is hidden from God. 6. He it is who shapes you in the wombs as He wills. There is no deity save Him, the Almighty, the Truly Wise. 7. He it is who has bestowed upon thee from on high this divine writ, containing messages that are clear in and by themselves – and these are the essence of the divine writ – as well as others that are allegorical. Now those whose hearts are given to swerving from the truth go after that part of the divine writ which has been expressed in allegory, seeking out [what is bound to create] confusion, and seeking [to arrive at] its final meaning [in an arbitrary manner]; but none save God knows its final meaning. Hence, those who are deeply rooted in knowledge say: “We believe in it; the whole [of the divine writ] is from our Sustainer – albeit none takes this to heart save those who are endowed with insight. 8. “O our Sustainer! Let not our hearts swerve from the truth after Thou hast guided us; and bestow upon us the gift of Thy grace: verily, Thou art the [true] Giver of Gifts. 9. “O our Sustainer! Verily, Thou wilt gather mankind together to witness the Day about [the coming of] which there is no doubt: verily, God never fails to fulfil His promise.”