Quran Read Along: Al’-Imran 190-200 – The Message of the Final Verses

Nature Ex Nihilo
The opening verse here is very philosophical in its nature, insinuating that written all throughout nature is evidence of God – we only have to know what we’re looking at. That is to say, everything comes from God and the reason there is so much harmony in nature and things are designed as they are is because it is all divinely planned.
A few examples regarding the absurd construction of natural things often pop into my head when people talk about how perfect nature is, but setting these things aside, nature certainly is wondrous and the argument of God being behind its design is a most necessary one religiously for a great many people.
The terminology here makes me want to confirm, though: does Islam believe in creation ex nihilo? Islam has a strong philosophical tradition, and much of that philosophy champions the notion that the cosmos are eternal. What is the traditional Islamic line about that notion?
The Conclusion of Al’-Imran
Verse 195 holds quite a promise and a reassurance for the downtrodden. The notion of suffering in God’s name is one I associate generally with Christianity, as it is a religion focused almost obsessively on suffering. This is not a focus of Islam, or at least I haven’t found that to be so, but it makes sense that God would promise those who do happen to suffer for righteous reasons a stake in the afterlife. “Efface their bad deeds” sounds like “sin forgiveness,” another concept I associate with Christianity.
Pointing out these similarities is not meant to undermine what is written here by applying a syncretistic bend to it, but merely to say that it is rather logical that these religions born of the same impetus (people who needed more than they were getting) and of the same God are to emphasize these inherently humane notions: all will be okay for those who are good yet suffer. When we think, why do bad things happen to good people, the Quran replies, God straightens it all out in the end.
My thoughts incline towards the fact that these are the concluding verses of Al’-Imran. Why? Are they a warning to the new Muslim community not to ultimately misinterpret this revelation as the religions before it misinterpreted theirs’? Verse 199 certainly seems to champion this notion as it provides the other side of this coin: that there are those of earlier revelations who have remained true to said religions and who deserve the same recompense as Muslims in the hereafter.
Please add what you can to our understanding of these final verses of Al’-Imran!
Al’-Imran 190-200
190. Verily, in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the succession of night and day, there are indeed messages for all who are endowed with insight, 191. [and] who remember God when they stand, and when they sit, and when they lie down to sleep, and [thus] reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth: “O our Sustainer! Thou hast not created [aught of] this without meaning and purpose. Limitless art Thou in Thy glory! Keep us safe, then, from suffering through fire! 192. “O our Sustainer! Whomsoever Thou shalt commit to the fire, him, verily, wilt Thou have brought to disgrace [in this world]; and such evildoers will have none to succor them. 193. “O our Sustainer! Behold, we heard a voice call [us] unto faith, `Believe in your Sustainer!’ – and so we came to believe. O our Sustainer! Forgive us, then, our sins, and efface our bad deeds; and let us die the death of the truly virtuous! 194. “And, O our Sustainer, grant us that which Thou hast promised us through Thy apostles, and disgrace us not on Resurrection Day! Verily, Thou never failest to fulfill Thy promise!” 195. And thus does their Sustainer answer their prayer: “I shall not lose sight of the labour of any of you who labors [in My way], be it man or woman: each of you is an issue of the other. Hence, as for those who forsake the domain of evil, and are driven from their homelands, and suffer hurt in My cause, and fight [for it], and are slain – I shall most certainly efface their bad deeds, and shall most certainly bring them into gardens through which running waters flow, as a reward from God: for with God is the most beauteous of rewards.” 196. LET IT NOT deceive thee that those who are bent on denying the truth seem to be able to do as they please on earth: 197. it is [but] a brief enjoyment, with hell thereafter as their goal – and how vile a resting-place! – 198. whereas those who remain conscious of their Sustainer shall have gardens through which running waters flow, therein to abide: a ready welcome from God. And that which is with God is best for the truly virtuous. 199. And, behold, among the followers of earlier revelation there are indeed such as [truly] believe in God, and in that which has been bestowed from on high upon you as well as in that which has been bestowed upon them. Standing in awe of God, they do not barter away God’s messages for a trifling gain. They shall have their reward with their Sustainer – for, behold, God is swift in reckoning! 200. O you who have attained to faith! Be patient in adversity, and vie in patience with one another, and be ever ready [to do what is right], and remain conscious of God, so that you might attain to a happy state!

Nature Ex Nihilo
The opening verse here is very philosophical in its nature, insinuating that written all throughout nature is evidence of God – we only have to know what we’re looking at. That is to say, everything comes from God and the reason there is so much harmony in nature and things are designed as they are is because it is all divinely planned.
A few examples regarding the absurd construction of natural things often pop into my head when people talk about how perfect nature is, but setting these things aside, nature certainly is wondrous and the argument of God being behind its design is a most necessary one religiously for a great many people.
The terminology here makes me want to confirm, though: does Islam believe in creation ex nihilo? Islam has a strong philosophical tradition, and much of that philosophy champions the notion that the cosmos are eternal. What is the traditional Islamic line about that notion?
The Conclusion of Al’-Imran
Verse 195 holds quite a promise and a reassurance for the downtrodden. The notion of suffering in God’s name is one I associate generally with Christianity, as it is a religion focused almost obsessively on suffering. This is not a focus of Islam, or at least I haven’t found that to be so, but it makes sense that God would promise those who do happen to suffer for righteous reasons a stake in the afterlife. “Efface their bad deeds” sounds like “sin forgiveness,” another concept I associate with Christianity.
Pointing out these similarities is not meant to undermine what is written here by applying a syncretistic bend to it, but merely to say that it is rather logical that these religions born of the same impetus (people who needed more than they were getting) and of the same God are to emphasize these inherently humane notions: all will be okay for those who are good yet suffer. When we think, why do bad things happen to good people, the Quran replies, God straightens it all out in the end.
My thoughts incline towards the fact that these are the concluding verses of Al’-Imran. Why? Are they a warning to the new Muslim community not to ultimately misinterpret this revelation as the religions before it misinterpreted theirs’? Verse 199 certainly seems to champion this notion as it provides the other side of this coin: that there are those of earlier revelations who have remained true to said religions and who deserve the same recompense as Muslims in the hereafter.
Please add what you can to our understanding of these final verses of Al’-Imran! Al’-Imran 190-200
190. Verily, in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the succession of night and day, there are indeed messages for all who are endowed with insight, 191. [and] who remember God when they stand, and when they sit, and when they lie down to sleep, and [thus] reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth: “O our Sustainer! Thou hast not created [aught of] this without meaning and purpose. Limitless art Thou in Thy glory! Keep us safe, then, from suffering through fire! 192. “O our Sustainer! Whomsoever Thou shalt commit to the fire, him, verily, wilt Thou have brought to disgrace [in this world]; and such evildoers will have none to succor them. 193. “O our Sustainer! Behold, we heard a voice call [us] unto faith, `Believe in your Sustainer!’ – and so we came to believe. O our Sustainer! Forgive us, then, our sins, and efface our bad deeds; and let us die the death of the truly virtuous! 194. “And, O our Sustainer, grant us that which Thou hast promised us through Thy apostles, and disgrace us not on Resurrection Day! Verily, Thou never failest to fulfill Thy promise!” 195. And thus does their Sustainer answer their prayer: “I shall not lose sight of the labour of any of you who labors [in My way], be it man or woman: each of you is an issue of the other. Hence, as for those who forsake the domain of evil, and are driven from their homelands, and suffer hurt in My cause, and fight [for it], and are slain – I shall most certainly efface their bad deeds, and shall most certainly bring them into gardens through which running waters flow, as a reward from God: for with God is the most beauteous of rewards.” 196. LET IT NOT deceive thee that those who are bent on denying the truth seem to be able to do as they please on earth: 197. it is [but] a brief enjoyment, with hell thereafter as their goal – and how vile a resting-place! – 198. whereas those who remain conscious of their Sustainer shall have gardens through which running waters flow, therein to abide: a ready welcome from God. And that which is with God is best for the truly virtuous. 199. And, behold, among the followers of earlier revelation there are indeed such as [truly] believe in God, and in that which has been bestowed from on high upon you as well as in that which has been bestowed upon them. Standing in awe of God, they do not barter away God’s messages for a trifling gain. They shall have their reward with their Sustainer – for, behold, God is swift in reckoning! 200. O you who have attained to faith! Be patient in adversity, and vie in patience with one another, and be ever ready [to do what is right], and remain conscious of God, so that you might attain to a happy state!

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7 Responses

  1. ex nihilo—the “first cause” argument was formed by the Kalam scholars–look into the Kalam cosmological argument—-revived by W.L.Craig. Within this argument are 2 positions, Averroes(Ibn Rushd) posited existence precedes essense, while Avicenna (Ibn Sina) posited essense precedes existence. It may be due to a limitation of my intelligence and/or limitations of the translation—but, it seemed that both were working the argument from a different nuance of the words “existence” and “essence”…….
    “Cosmos is eternal”—“eternal” is best understood as “a long period of time as God wills”—as far as I know, the Big Bang theory is accepted as being in line with the Quran—with the Big Crunch as the likely outcome in time.
    “God straightens it all out in the end.”—Justice is one out of 3 important aspects/concepts of the Quran. The other 2 are Compassion and Mercy. Therefore, when an injustice/sufferring occurs because of man-made causes or because of natural disasters, this will be compensated by blessings, either in this life or the next. Likewise, for those who seem to have blessings, (which some may feel they don’t deserve, )this is actually a trial and they will be held accountable for how they used these blessings—whether for the benefit of God’s creations or the benefit of the “self” alone.
    So why people are given blessings, when it seems they don’t deserve any?—-God is Compassionate and Merciful and gives every opportunity to Mankind to do God’s will (God’s will=right belief that inspires right intentions that lead to right actions for the benefit of God’s creations)
    It is best to understand concepts of the Quran “in stereo”—-to be aware that duality creates nuance and balance.
    sin forgiveness—-Goes back to the concept of Justice, Compassion and Mercy. Both blessings and trials are a test. The most important thing is to strive (Jihad). Because we have free-will, we will be held accountable—but God is Compassionate and Merciful and gives us many chances. We always have the opportunity to repent our mistakes and try to do better.
    Though there is a lot of focus on the next life, the Quran is also concerned about our happiness in this life. That is why Guidance in law and social justice is given so that we can strive for happiness in this life and be grateful.

  2. I haven’t really delved into the Muslim philosophers, so I can’t really speak to this topic of creation ex nihilo very well. I do agree with Kay’s comments in her “cosmos is eternal” paragraph.

    …insinuating that written all throughout nature is evidence of God – we only have to know what we’re looking at.

    This verse may only “insinuate,” but the Qur’an makes abundantly clear elsewhere that natural phenomena are evidence (ayat, signs) of Allah (swt). As Ibn Kathir wrote, “Allah criticizes those who do not contemplate about His creation, which testifies to His existence, Attributes, Shari`ah, His decree and Ayat.”

    More later, insha’allah; gotta go run off to get the kid from grandma! 🙂

  3. In Islam, science and religion are not in conflict. In fact, the “pursuit of knowledge” is encouraged by the Quran and one might say, it is a sort of “religious duty”. All knowledge is from God.

    “….we only have to know what we’re looking at.”—–
    The concept of “virgin birth” of Prophet Jesus(pbuh), is not an “unreasonable superstition”—but an “ayah” (sign) of the nature of God and his relationship with creation. All of creation functions according to “Laws”. These laws (of nature) are put in place by God, yet he himself is independent of them. —he is omnipotent.
    Nothing functions of its own accord—-but according to God’s plan. Science sometimes misses this point by positing that the laws (of nature) are the cause of the effects we see around us—instead of going a little further and understanding that these laws are themselves creations of God. (—but then that isn’t really the function of science—so its OK.) God can suspend these “laws” as he wills.

  4. I love that science and religion aren’t in conflict in Islam, because that certainly can’t be said of all religions, but I hardly understand how we can learn without that acceptance. Thank you guys for illuminating these verses more.

    The notion of suspending laws is interesting. Maimonides, the 12/13th century Jewish philosopher and doctor to the Muslim leader of Egypt (among other professions and talents), believed that laws didn’t need suspending. Miracles weren’t really that but just laws we didn’t know about.

    He felt the need to detract from anything that wasn’t natural and bound by laws (he was quite philosophical at heart), but there’s something valuable to the notion of miracles and laws being bent only by God.

  5. I would agree with Maimonides…..
    “Man cannot make principles, he can only discover them”—Thomas Paine.

    There is a problem with “Miracles”—If we define miracles to be a mysterious (unexplainable by the “laws” we know about) phenomenon, there is always a danger that we may worship the phenomenon or the “agent” precieved to be the cause of it—for example the “holy water” at Lourdes, France.
    “Faith, without the light of reason and science, degenrates into superstition” —and superstition is not encouraged in the Quran.
    —why?—-because belief in superstition gives “power” to the phenomenon or agency that is the precieved cause—-whereas the purpose of faith/belief/Tawheed, is to empower human beings (right belief that leads to right intentions that promote right actions for the benefit of all of God’s creations)
    IMO, this may have been what happened to Prophet Jesus(pbuh) —he was precieved to be the agent that caused the healing miracles, and this phenomenon, along with his unique birth, elevated him into a “diety” worthy of worship.
    If we require “miracles” to have faith or belief, then perhaps we need to pursue further knowledge and increase in spirituality……..?
    Contemplation of God’s omnipotence should bring about other questions such as —-why are some people born handicapped?, why is there evil in the world?….etc…in order to understand the nature of God and his relationship with his creation.

  6. that’s an interesting theory about Jesus – the inability to separate the reason behind his miracles from him led to the worship of him as God, the cause of miracles

  7. “Faith, without the light of reason and science, degenrates into superstition” —but one could also say, —reason and science, without the guidance of faith degenerates into aimlessness.
    Some people of science say we are all purposeless accidents—that because we understand and can (somewhat) manipulate the “laws”, there is no need for God. (R. Dawkins….etc) …that reason and science can replace God. (ex–it is not God that causes earthquakes but the laws governing tectonic plates…etc) In this perspective–power of creation is reduced to “random accident” that could possibly be replicated by human beings. Because the human intellect has the capacity to understand and possibly replicate some of the “laws”, we then consider ourselves to be “powerful”.—though this perspective empowers human beings to some extent—it does not create the transformative force of goodness/altruism for the purpose of betterment of all—rather, it can create aimless arrogance/pride.
    —-that is why “right belief” is important. —knowledge is not a random accident—it is a blessing from God and comes with a responsibility.

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