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?

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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.

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Fun with the Bible: The Harmony of God’s Creation in Genesis 1

Common Misconceptions about the Creation Story

When you ask most people what God created on each of the six days of creation (remember, the seventh day was for chillin’ like a villain), they will generally answer incorrectly. Test this out. Don’t ask your local biblical scholar, of course, just someone who is aware of his or her religion, goes to church or synagogue occasionally and might have something to say. Day by day, his/her answer may go a little something like this:

1. The universe

2. Land and water

3. Sun and Moon

4. Plants

5. Animals

6. Adam and Eve

Now, that wouldn’t be a terrible guess, mind you. In some fashion or another those things were created, the order is not terrible, and they managed to fill six days. Of course, my made up answer might be a little biased since I know what really happened. They may skip one or two, wind up with Adam and Eve on day 4 and then have to backtrack and think about what happened in those last few days. “Uh, pot and beer, dude? Hehehe.”

The Beautiful Symmetry of Creation

In any case, I’d like to take a moment to show you what God created on which days (not that you couldn’t read it for yourself), just so that you can see the inherent harmony in the plan and in the mind of the author of Genesis 1.

1. Night and Day                          4. Sun, Moon and Stars

2. Sky and Water                          5. Birds and Fish

3. Dry land and Vegetation           6. Animals and Humankind

Now isn’t that special? Do you notice anything?

The way I laid it out should give away the beautiful symmetry of creation, how everything created in the first three days is complemented by what is designed for it specifically in the latter three days. The Sun, Moon and Stars make Night and Day a reality. The birds and fish populate the sky and water and then animals and mankind (or mammals, if you will) populate the dry land and utilize the vegetation. Beautiful!

One thing you might notice is that there’s no Adam and Eve. That’s right, in Genesis 1, the creation of humankind is the simultaneous existence of man and woman and what’s more, they look like God because they were created “in His image.” That means what it says. Notice also how humanity is the culmination of creation.

Some Differences in the Creation Story of Genesis 2

If you look at Genesis 2, which happens to be an entirely different creation story – that is, a competing story, not a complementary one – you will notice that initially some stuff is around and so is God and then God makes man and the rest of creation comes from man. All the animals and finally the woman (eventually Eve) come from man’s existence. Moreover, that story is “sloppier” in the sense that it does not provide us with the distance, majesty and order of the first creation story. In Genesis 2-3 God “forms” man and breathes life into his nostrils. Very physical and image oriented. In Genesis 1 how does God create everything? With his words: “God said.” Very different ideas of God who create different things for different reasons. Fascinating stuff.

Imagine the Cosmos

Also, what do the cosmos look like before God began creating in Genesis 1? Can you envision it? If you want to know what the cosmology of the author (or original teller of this tale) was, try to visual what’s happening in the first 10 verses.

First, there is basically nothing but water. God makes light and separates it from dark but how does he create where we end up? Starting with Genesis 1:6 imagine a snowglobe being inserted into the water – this is the “separation of the waters from the waters.” Why would ancient people think that water was above and only a dome kept us from it? Think about lying in an empty field at night: looks like a dome, huh? Plus, during the day the sky is blue and when it rains, water comes from it – like the water dome is leaking. This was the vision, and after the snowglobe separates the waters, God can make land in the bottom water for us to hang out on.

Summary

What do you think about all that I’ve just said? Is there anything else you’d like to point out for us? Does anything not make sense that you’d like to discuss further?

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