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?

Get a FREE Bonus Chapter from The Zen of South Park.

Read More Quran Read-A-Long.

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.

The Boys Build a “Ladder to Heaven” to Find Kenny and Claim Candy in South Park Episode 612

This is a great episode. It’s got fascinating talk of Heaven, Saddam Hussein, idiotic military men and politicians, God being dumb, the country being retarded, and Cartman being an antisemite. Who could ask for anything more?!

Earlier in season 6, Kenny dies for real (Matt and Trey were tired of the regular killing and decided to kill him off for good), but the boys remember that he died after holding onto a special candy store lottery ticket. They won the lottery and must have that ticket. To figure out where Kenny put the ticket the boys decide to build a ladder to Heaven and ask him themselves.

The parents think they just miss Kenny and must see him and don’t have the heart to tell them that there is no Heaven to reach. The news gets wind of the story and the boys give hope to an entire nation that has lost hope in Heaven; the military starts funding the journey, both because the Japanese are trying to beat the Americans to Heaven and because they think Saddam Hussein is up there building WMDs at a factory in Heaven (he is).

When Bush tries to get UN support for a bombing of Heaven, explaining the South Parkian lore of what happened between Saddam and Satan and how the former ended up there, he is asked by another country’s representative if he’s stupid or high. Very funny stuff.

This is the wonderful conversation that ends the episode:

Stan: Yeah, well people make us kids believe that heaven is this white place with fluffy clouds and angels…

Kyle: Yeah, but now we think maybe heaven isn’t a place you can get to. Maybe heaven is just an idea, a frame of mind or, or something gay like that. Maybe heaven is this moment, right now.

General: So, you’re saying we should bomb this moment right now? Right! Johnson!

Randy: No, no. We shouldn’t bomb anybody. These boys are right. The only heaven we can hope for is one here on earth, now. We should stop waiting to get into heave and start trying to create it.

What did you think of this episode?

Get a FREE Bonus Chapter from The Zen of South Park.

Read about other South Park episodes.

Kenny Saves Heaven from Satan During a Right to Life Debate in South Park Episode 904, “Best Friends Forever”

With the release of the new PSP and the accompanying game, Heaven vs. Hell, Kenny is found to be the greatest player on earth. Thus, God strikes him with a truck so that he can come to Heaven and defend it against the minions of Hell. That’s right: God designed the game to find Heaven’s very own Keanu Reeves (think, Constantine).

But in the past Satan has actually been a rather pleasant – if misunderstood – fellow, so why is he now attacking Heaven? Well, his minion/adviser/boyfriend, Kevin, has persuaded him to do so, and so in Lord of the Rings fashion (this episode hits just about everything) orcs are created to do battle against Heaven.

Unfortunately for Heaven’s retention of Kenny and his excellent ability to defend it against Hell, doctors on earth have hooked Kenny up to life support, thereby trapping his soul in his vegetative body. Think Terry Schiavo. I told you: this episode hits everything. Since Kenny left his PSP to Cartman in his will, Cartman wants him to remain dead, but sensing Cartman’s evil machinations, Kyle and Stan try to keep Kenny alive. As it turns into a national debate with Republican involvement on the pro-life, and in this case, Satanic side.

In the end more of Kenny’s will is discovered; he requested that he never be shown on tv in a vegetative state. Realizing that they were wrong but for the right reasons, Kyle and Stan allow Kenny to die. He goes to Heaven and defends it successfully in a battle that is amazing but which we are never allowed to see.

This great episode tackles so many elements of pop culture while making a mockery of America’s handling of the Terry Schiavo situation. A true testimony to Matt and Trey’s skills.

What did you think? What was your favorite part?

Get a FREE Bonus Chapter from The Zen of South Park.

Read about other South Park episodes.

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.

Summary

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

Get a FREE Bonus Chapter from The Zen of South Park.

Read More Quran Read-A-Long.

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.

Quran Day: The Cow 62-71 Discusses Who Gets Into Heaven and What They Need to Believe

This is a very interesting passage, but I’m only going to comment on the beginning of it.

The Other Part, Though I Just Promised Otherwise

If you have anything to say or add about God’s command regarding the cow and the ensuing conversation between Moses and the Israelites, I’d love to hear it and better understand what’s going on. In part, it seems like a microcosm of Jewish law and debate, perhaps the Quran’s way of noting the constant struggle between the Jewish people and what they think they should be doing to please God: not just doing it, but arguing about it all day long and finally doing something. I certainly appreciate that sentiment and anyone’s help understanding these verses better.

Who is Going to Heaven – The Cow 62

I LOVE this verse of the Quran, which states explicitly that not just Muslims go to Heaven. This is not the most common of religious beliefs. Though many Christians today think that good people get into Heaven, traditional Christianity is quite clear that only those who believe in Jesus as God (plus other stuff) go to Heaven. The rest of us burn.

So, that the Quran states front and center that many other people besides practicing Muslims go to Heaven (pending, “shall have his reward” means that) is really incredible. Of course, you must believe a few key things, but hey, what good party lets just anybody in, right?

I also find it fascinating (and I think this is in another comment of mine elsewhere on a Quran Day Post) that instead of Christians, it’s written Nazareans, as in, those who follow the Nazarite (or Jesus), since Christians do not really do so much what Jesus said as follow the religion that Paul created about him. This Quranic verse implicitly recognizes this important historical fact, though as JDsg and I have discussed, Muslims also believe that the Torah followed by the Jews is a corrupted text, leading me to wonder if the Jews mentioned hear refers to Jews generally, or Jews whose hearts are with this real Torah or something else like that.

Follow up

What do you think about these verses from the Quran? Do you have answers to any of my questions? Who do you think gets into Heaven? And why?

Get a FREE Bonus Chapter from The Zen of South Park.

Read more Quran Read-A-Long.

The Cow 62-71

62. Surely the believers and the Jews, Nazareans and the Sabians, whoever believes in God and the Last Day, and whosoever does right, shall have his reward with his Lord and will neither have fear nor regret. 63. Remember the day We made the covenant with you and exalted you on the Mount and said; ‘ Hold fast to what We have given you, and remember what is therein that you may take heed.’ 64. You know and have known already those among you who had broken the sanctity of the Sabbath, and to whom We had said: ‘Become (like) apes despised,’ 66. And whom We made an example for the people (of the day) and those after them, and warning for those who fear God. 67. Remember, when Moses said to his people: God demands that you sacrifice a cow,” they said: “Are you making fun of us?’ And he said: “God forbid that I be of the ignorant.’ 68. ‘Call on your Lord for us,’ they said, ‘that He might inform us what kind she should be.’ ‘Neither old nor young, says God, but of age in between,’ answered Moses. ‘So do as you are bid.’ 69. ‘Call on your Lord,’ they said, ‘to tell us the color of the cow.’ ‘God says,’ answered Moses, ‘a fawn colored cow, rich yellow, well pleasing to the eye.’ 70. ‘Call on your Lord,’ they said, ‘to name its variety, as cows be all alike to us. If God wills we shall be guided aright.’ 71. And Moses said: ‘He says it’s a cow unyoked, nor worn out by ploughing or watering the fields, one in good shape with no mark or blemish.’ ‘Now have you brought us the truth,’ they said; and then, after wavering, they sacrificed the cow.

Quran Day: The Cow 47-59 Recounts Exodus and God’s Relationship with the Israelites

Though there are an endless number of things to say about these verses, I’m going to go with two in particular: the first is the events recounted in Exodus and recalled here and the second is this notion of remembering.

What Comes from Exodus

Verse 49 begins a list of things that happened to the Israelites in the second book of the Bible, Exodus, the one that begins with the Israelites’ enslavement. God recounts how He saved the children of Israel from Egypt, parted the sea to aid their escape, communed with Moses, and how the Israelites made a calf, how God gave Moses the Book and Discernment (which I believe means the Bible and Prophecy, though instead of prophecy perhaps wisdom and [juris]prudence), how God sent manna and quails, etc.

Another hot topic in these sections is the Israelites’ disobedience (and they were so unruly between Egypt and Canaan that it’s a wonder they got anything – worse than bratty children in the backseat of a car!), and God’s continual mercy as he forgave them and still allowed them to go forward.

The Actual Bible in the Bible…and Then in the Quran

I would like to point out three things though. First, how it says that God gave Moses the Book. As I take this to mean the Bible, I must say that according to the Five Books of Moses, this didn’t happen. God didn’t give Moses a book (to read about Moses’ biblical authorship and the specifics of Deuteronomy’s mention of this, click HERE). Now, of course, this isn’t too important because the inherited tradition is that God did give Moses the Bible (or at least the beginning of it) so we’ll move on.

My Trouble with Verse 58

The second thing is verse 58, the one part of the events recounted (which admittedly seem to extend outside of Exodus), that I don’t understand or at least can’t match up to anything in the Bible. I don’t remember God ever saying that or anything like it to the Israelites, but perhaps it’s the Quran’s way of saying that God gave the Israelites every chance to go to Heaven (this great city?) and that they just had to do it a certain way and as the following verses showed, they just kept sinning and perverting God’s word.

It is fascinating that God tells the Israelites to repent in these verses because repentance and forgiveness by God were concepts entirely absent from ancient Israelite religion (that is, the religion reflected in Genesis, Exodus-Deuteronomy). I believe that forgiveness and repentance are very important concepts in Islam and so it’s interesting that in recounting ancient Israelite history, the Quran has God emphasizing the importance of repentance to the Israelites, though the concept was never there and doesn’t exist in that part of the Bible, beyond basic apologizing after the Golden Calf incident, but certainly not as a theological emphasis or doctrinal necessity.

Finally, though a quick summary, I would like to say that for the most part this section captures the gist of the Old Testament. God did the Israelites a lot of favors from Egypt forward, the Israelites treated God poorly and were totally ungrateful, and then throughout the Prophets the Israelites are accused, like verse 59 here, of perverting the word of God and being sinners. Thus, retribution was sent, ultimately for the Jews in the form of the Babylonian Exile.

Remembrance

The last thing I want to mention is the way many of these verses start, emphasizing “Remember.” This makes me think of the Passover holiday celebrated by Jews that is designed to make Jews remember the many things that God did for them. Jews recount the events so that they never forget what they owe God. That feeling, though obviously in brief, seems echoed here based on the interweaving of God’s great actions, mercy and forgiveness.

What do these verses make you think about? What can you add to our understanding of these verses? Is there any part of the summary of ancient Israelite history that you have trouble placing as a biblically recounted event?

Get a FREE Bonus Chapter from The Zen of South Park.

Read more Quran Read-A-Long.

The Cow 47-59

47. Remember, O Children of Israel, the favors I bestowed on you, and made you exalted among the nations of the world. 48. Take heed of the day when no man will be useful to man in the least, when no intercession matter nor ransom avail, nor help reach them. 49. Remember, We saved you from the Pharaoh’s people who wronged and oppressed you and slew your sons but spared your women: In this was a great favor from your Lord. 50. Remember, We parted the sea and saved you, and drowned the men of Pharaoh before your very eyes. 51. Yet, remember, as We communed with Moses for forty nights you took the calf in his absence (and worshiped it), and you did wrong. 52. Even so, We pardoned you that you may be grateful. 53. Remember, We gave Moses the Book and Discernment of falsehood and truth, that you may be guided. 54. Remember, Moses said: “My people, by taking this calf you have done yourselves harm, so now turn to your Creator in repentance, and kill your pride, which is better with your Lord.” And (the Lord) softened towards you, for He is all-forgiving and merciful. 55. Remember, when you said to Moses: “We shall not believe in you until we see God face to face,” lightening struck you as you looked. 56. Even then We revived you after you had become senseless that you might give thanks; 57. And made the cloud spread shade over you, and sent for you manna and quails that you may eat of the good things We have made for you. No harm was done to Us, they only harmed themselves. 58. And remember, We said to you: “Enter this city, eat wherever you like, as much as you please, but pass through the gates in humility and say: ‘May our sins be forgiven.'” We shall forgive your trespasses and give those who do good abundance. 59. But the wicked changed and perverted the word We had spoken to a word distorted, and We sent from heaven retribution on the wicked, for they disobeyed.

Religion in the News: Where God Comes into the Republican Presidential Ticket

It should be noted up front that this is not an endorsement of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama or his vice-presidential running mate, Joe Biden. It is merely a few thoughts I have about the religious elements of the Republican nominee, John McCain and his running mate, Sarah Palin, prompted by my recent viewing of the Republican National Convention.

First, I’d like to mention something that McCain said about a month ago when he was at a gathering of religious folk and required to talk about his religious beliefs. He said that he knew that no matter what he did in this life, he would be forgiven by God and accepted into Heaven.

Holy crap! I cried. That is not the kind of attitude I want my president to have. That attitude does not go well with leadership. No leader should have the luxury of believing that no matter what he does, simple repentance will result in forgiveness and a trip through the pearly gates. Such a belief leads to the possibility for cavalier missteps, especially by someone who self-promotes the whole maverick idea, wide open. I want a president who fears for his soul with every action he takes so that he calculates each and every move with unparalleled precision and forethought. Or one who isn’t concerned at all with the afterlife…

Then there’s Palin. Palin doesn’t believe in evolution. I happen to think what she’s done in Alaska is great and I like her governing style. But wait: she doesn’t believe in evolution. Seriously? You don’t believe in evolution, Mrs. Palin. Oh boy….

And those are some brief thoughts about the Republican ticket and religion.

What do you know about any of the candidates religious proclivities that you’d like to share? Anything worry you or set your mind at ease? Do you think faith should have a place in politics?

Get a FREE Bonus Chapter from The Zen of South Park.

Read more Religion in the News posts.