Quran Read-A-Long: Al-`Imran 10-20 Discuss Hell and Surrender to God

I can’t assume that verse 11 refers to anything but the story of the Exodus and the Pharaoh who refused to free the enslaved Hebrews. True or false?

Is there something larger going on in this warning about hell and who goes there? It just seems like it’s straight-up talking about hell. You’re bad. Okay, to hell you go. I hate to ask, is there more going on here? It’s the Quran! Of course there’s more going on here 😉 but what is going on exactly?

As for verse 13 about the unequally matched forces in battle, Asad offers the dual interpretation (favoring the second) that this refers to the Battle of Badr but also to the more general occurrence of a battle between two sides, one numerically weaker but with faith and conviction in its cause and which therefore ultimately wins. Not that I can speak to the timing of this revelation, but I would tend to think that both interpretations are correct. On more than one occasion, to my knowledge, the Medinan Muslim community faced foes much larger than it and was victorious. Depending on the time of this revelation this verse could be referring to any number of those battles that any person being addressed witnessed (just a supposition, though). Thoughts?

In verse 19 it sounds like two different kinds of people are being discussed. On the one hand there are those who have received previous revelations but whose texts have become corrupted and whose communities have become fractured with sectarianism. These people, however, do not “deny the truth of God’s messages,” (except perhaps in their refusal to adopt Islam, though they are surrendering in their own ways to a single God, presumably) and so, therefore, they can still go to Heaven. I think. On the other hand are those who deny the truth of God’s messages, and they are another matter entirely. They, to be sure, cannot go to Heaven because they deny what is revealed. Verse 20 would seem to affirm this, pointing out that it is Mohammed’s duty to proselytize and bring the message of surrender to God to all people, those with previous revelation and those without. Whether or not they accept Mohammed’s Islam, so long as they surrender to God, they’ll be okay (i.e. get the opportunity to go to Heaven) because God knows what’s in their hearts and whether or not they’re truly surrendering, regardless of what they call their religion. Surrender to God is surrender to God.

What can you tell us about these verses or my interpretation of them?

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Al-`Imran 10-20

10. BEHOLD, as for those who are bent on denying the truth – neither their worldly possessions nor their offspring will in the least avail them against God; and it is they, they who shall be the fuel of the fire! 11. [To them shall – happen] the like of what happened to Pharaoh’s people and those who lived before them: they gave the lie to Our messages – and so God took them to task for their sins: for God is severe in retribution. 12. Say unto those who are bent on denying the truth: “You shall be overcome and gathered unto hell – and how evil a resting-place! 13. You have already had a sign in the two hosts that met in battle, one host fighting in God’s cause and the other denying Him; with their own eyes [the former] saw the others as twice their own number: but God strengthens with His succor whom He wills. In this, behold, there is indeed a lesson for all who have eyes to see. 14. ALLURING unto man is the enjoyment of worldly desires through women, and children, and heaped-up treasures of gold and silver, and horses of high mark, and cattle, and lands. All this may be enjoyed in the life of this world – but the most beauteous of all goals is with God. 15. Say: “Shall I tell you of better things than those [earthly joys]? For the God-conscious there are, with their Sustainer, gardens through which running waters flow, therein to abide, and spouses pure, and God’s goodly acceptance.” And God sees all that is in [the hearts of] His servants – 16. those who say, “O our Sustainer! Behold, we believe [in Thee]; forgive us, then, our sins, and keep us safe from suffering through the fire” – 17. those who are patient in adversity, and true to their word, and truly devout, and who spend [in God’s way], and pray for forgiveness from their innermost hearts. 18. GOD [Himself] proffers evidence* – and [so do] the angels and all who are endowed with knowledge – that there is no deity save Him, the Upholder of Equity: there is no deity save Him, the Almighty, the Truly Wise. 19. Behold, the only [true] religion in the sight of God is [man’s] self-surrender unto Him; and those who were vouchsafed revelation aforetime* took, out of mutual jealousy, to divergent views [on this point] only after knowledge [thereof] had come unto them.** But as for him who denies the truth of God’s messages – behold, God is swift in reckoning! 20. Thus, [O Prophet,] if they argue with thee, say, “I have surrendered my whole being unto God, and [so have] all who follow me!” – and ask those who have been vouchsafed revelation aforetime, as well as all unlettered people,* “Have you [too] surrendered yourselves unto Him?” And if they surrender themselves unto Him, they are on the right path; but if they turn away – behold, thy duty is no more than to deliver the message: for God sees all that is in [the hearts of] His creatures.