Blogging the Qur’an: Sura 6, “Cattle,” verses 84-165

posted at 9:00 am on October 7, 2007 by Robert Spencer

Sura 6, “Cattle,” verses 84-90 expand upon the immediately preceding discussion of Abraham’s rejection of idolatry by enumerating the other prophets of Islam (remember, Abraham was a Muslim according to Qur’an 3:67): Noah before Abraham, then Abraham’s children Isaac and Jacob, and then after that David, Solomon, Job, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, Zechariah, John the Baptist, Jesus, Elijah, Ishmael, Elisha, Jonah, and Lot. These are, of course, all Biblical figures, although we shall see later on that the Qur’an does discuss some prophets who don’t appear in the Bible. Nevertheless, the Qur’an situates Muhammad as the crown and perfection of the Biblical prophetic tradition, explaining the differences between what Jews and Christians understand Abraham, Moses, Jesus and the rest to have said and what Muslims believe they said to the Christian corruption of their own scriptures.

Verses 91-103 emphasize the oneness of Allah, and the dependence of all creation upon him. Verse 91 begins this with yet another accusation that the Jews are not obeying the revelations given to Moses: they display it (“make it into separate sheets for show”) but they don’t obey it (they “conceal much of its contents”). Allah chastises those who say that he has not revealed anything to any human being. According to As-Suyuti’s Ad-Durrul Manthur, this verse was revealed after Muhammad teased a “hefty” Jewish scholar named Malik bin Sayf. Muhammad asked him, “Did you see in the Torah that Allah detests a hefty scholar?” Malik bin Sayf was enraged and shouted: “By Allah! Allah has not revealed anything to any human being!” His outburst is quoted, and rebuked, in verse 91.

The Qur’an is the “most blessed book,” confirming previous revelations. It also equips Muhammad to warn the “Mother of Villages” – that is, Mecca – of the impending judgment upon those who do not accept Islam (v. 92) and “invent a lie against Allah” (v. 93). Everyone will appear before Allah alone on the Day of Judgment, with no help from family or friends (v. 94). Verses 95-103 contain a stirring meditation on how Allah makes all things grow, sends the rain, and oversees all things: “No vision can grasp Him, but His grasp is over all vision: He is above all comprehension, yet is acquainted with all things” (v. 103). (لاَّ تُدْرِكُهُ الأَبْصَارُ وَهُوَ يُدْرِكُ الأَبْصَارَ وَهُوَ اللَّطِيفُ الْخَبِ) A beautiful verse in any language. V. 101 attempts a reductio ad absurdum on the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation: “How can He have a son when He hath no consort?” Ibn Kathir asks: “How can He have a wife from His creation who is suitable for His majesty, when there is none like Him How can He have a child? Then Verily, Allah is Glorified above having a son.” The idea that fatherhood and sonship might not be conceived of in physical terms is not considered.

In verses 104-117 Allah tells Muhammad to “turn aside from those who join gods with Allah” (v. 106), for “had Allah willed, they had not been idolatrous,” and it’s not Muhammad’s problem: “We have not set thee as a keeper over them, nor art thou responsible for them” (v. 107). The Muslims should not revile the gods of the unbelievers, lest the unbelievers revile Allah (v. 108); according to As-Suyuti’s Lubabun Nuqul, Allah revealed this verse in response to an actual incident, when the pagans responded to the Muslims’ denigration of their gods by denigrating Allah. Every prophet has enemies – devils who are both humans and jinn (v. 112). The jinn (from which comes the English “genie”) are spirit beings who can see humans, but humans cannot see them. The messengers from Allah have come to them also (v. 130).

Verses 118-121 tell Muslims not to eat meat unless Allah’s name has been pronounced over it; this is the foundation for the halal preparation of meat, which dictates that the jugular vein, windpipe and foodpipe of the animal be severed after the butcher recites “In the name of Allah.” Then the blood is drained out. The Muslims would be “pagans” if they obeyed the advice of unbelievers in this matter (v. 121). According to Ibn Kathir, this means that “when you turn away from Allah’s command and Legislation to the saying of anyone else, preferring other than what Allah has said, then this constitutes Shirk.” (Shirk, of course, is the greatest sin of all, the associating of partners with Allah.) This is one reason why democracy has had such difficulty taking root in Islamic countries.

Verses 122-134 return to the perversity of the unbelievers who demand signs from Allah but wouldn’t believe even if they received them. Whether or not someone becomes a Muslim depends entirely upon whether Allah wills to lead him to Islam or to lead him astray (v. 125). By following the “straight path” (v. 126) of Islam, Muslims will make Allah their friend (v. 127). Verses 128-131 address jinns as well as humans, warning them of the same Judgment. Ibn Jarir and Dhahak say that jinn prophets were sent to the jinn; however, Mujahid and Ibn Jurayj contend that the jinn listened to the human prophets. This is the more common view.

Verses 135-145 criticize various pagan practices, notably the sacrifice of children (verses 137, 140). “Be not prodigal” (v. 141) refers, says Ibn Jurayj, to over-enthusiasm in charity: “This Ayah was revealed concerning Thabit bin Qays bin Shammas, who plucked the fruits of his date palms. Then he said to himself, ‘This day, every person who comes to me, I will feed him from it.’ So he kept feeding (them) until the evening came and he ended up with no dates.” Others, however, maintain that it simply directs Muslims not to be wasteful in general. Verses 142-144 forbid various pagan customs regarding the usage of animals.

Then verses 146 and 147 detail the specifics of Jewish food laws. Allah tells Muhammad that if the Jews accuse him of lying about this, he should respond: “Your Lord is full of mercy all-embracing; but from people in guilt never will His wrath be turned back.” Ibn Kathir observes that “Allah often joins encouragement with threats in the Qur’an.”

The sura ends with a final appeal to the unbelievers in verses 148-165. According to Ibn Mas‘ud, verses 151-153, a summary of what is prohibited in Islam, constitute “the will and testament of the Messenger of Allah on which he placed his seal.” One should not kill, since Allah has made life sacred, “except by way of justice and law” (v. 151). What does that mean? Muhammad explained that the “blood of a Muslim…cannot be shed except in three cases: in Qisas [retaliation] for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who reverts from Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims.” So adultery, apostasy and revenge are the only justifications for taking a life. Verses 153 and 161 repeat that Islam is the straight path.

Allah will “try you in the gifts He hath given you” (v.165). Muhammad explained this also: “Verily, this life is beautiful and green, and Allah made you dwell in it generation after generation so that He sees what you will do. Therefore, beware of this life and beware of women, for the first trial that the Children of Israel suffered from was with women.”

Next week: Sura 7, “The Heights.” “How many towns have We destroyed?”

(Here you can find links to all the earlier “Blogging the Qur’an” segments. Here is a good Arabic/English Qur’an, here are two popular Muslim translations, those of Abdullah Yusuf Ali and Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall, along with a third by M. H. Shakir. Here is another popular translation, that of Muhammad Asad. And here is an omnibus of ten Qur’an translations.)


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V. 101 attempts a reductio ad absurdum on the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation: “How can He have a son when He hath no consort?” Ibn Kathir asks: “How can He have a wife from His creation who is suitable for His majesty, when there is none like Him How can He have a child? Then Verily, Allah is Glorified above having a son.” The idea that fatherhood and sonship might not be conceived of in physical terms is not considered.

1 John 2:22 Who is the liar but the person who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This one is the antichrist: the person who denies the Father and the Son.

VinceP1974 on October 7, 2007 at 10:07 AM

006.125
YUSUFALI: Those whom Allah (in His plan) willeth to guide,- He openeth their breast to Islam; those whom He willeth to leave straying,- He maketh their breast close and constricted, as if they had to climb up to the skies: thus doth Allah (heap) the penalty on those who refuse to believe.
PICKTHAL: And whomsoever it is Allah’s will to guide, He expandeth his bosom unto the Surrender, and whomsoever it is His Will to send astray, He maketh his bosom close and narrow as if he were engaged in sheer ascent. Thus Allah layeth ignominy upon those who believe not.
SHAKIR: Therefore (for) whomsoever Allah intends that He would guide him aright, He expands his breast for Islam, and (for) whomsoever He intends that He should cause him to err, He makes his breast strait and narrow as though he were ascending upwards; thus does Allah lay uncleanness on those who do not believe.

“Whether or not someone becomes a Muslim depends entirely upon whether Allah wills to lead him to Islam or to lead him astray ”

That’s clear as mud. So let me get this straight. Allah is in control of whether a Muslim believes in Him or not. So those who don’t believe are really those who Allah has passed his worst judgment on? And because that judgment comes from Allah in the first place, it absolves all Muslims from having to make any kind of judgment themselves? Therefore anyone who doesn’t believe, is automatically considered by Muslims to be one of Allah’s cast offs, rejects, or anything they want to call them God has already passed judgment, so they don’t have to?

Jaynie59 on October 7, 2007 at 10:24 AM

What would it matter if “God” were two (Male and Female) or three (Father, Son & Holy Spirit) or Nine Billion (Hinduism)?

Why is this obesssion with unity/oneness so important?

Other than as a mirror of an earthly despot who will not allow any co-rulers, advisors or threats to his absolute command and utter dominance?

This fanatical insistence on “One” paves the way for earthly tyrants, since it sanctifies the concept.

(Although it appears to be a rationalization of the earthly model of the Great King onto the Divine, then explained backwards as being the opposite influence.)

What would it hurt Muslims it “God” were Two?

Why fulminate and war over what may be a human misunderstanding of the numerical nature of the Divine?

Why a murderous monotheism?

profitsbeard on October 7, 2007 at 11:24 AM

1 John 2:22 Who is the liar but the person who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This one is the antichrist: the person who denies the Father and the Son.

VinceP1974 on October 7, 2007 at 10:07 AM

Verses 122-134 return to the perversity of the unbelievers who demand signs from Allah but wouldn’t believe even if they received them.

Does it strike you that something doesn’t quite jibe here?

Connie on October 7, 2007 at 11:55 AM

Isaiah 9:6
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Vanquisher on October 7, 2007 at 12:20 PM

Each book of the Bible has a unifying theme unto itself. It seems that the koran is a meandering collection of useless wandering thought.

Verses 142-144 forbid various pagan customs regarding the usage of animals.

How much worse can it be than it is now? IIRC, 1400 people in Turkey were killed or seriously injured performing these animal sacrifices.

Didn’t they get the message, along with plagiarizing the rest of the Bible, that since Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice, using animals were no longer necessary? Even if they don’t get Jesus and Christianity, surely that message came through?

CrimsonFisted on October 7, 2007 at 12:52 PM

Allah will “try you in the gifts He hath given you” (v.165). Muhammad explained this also: “Verily, this life is beautiful and green, and Allah made you dwell in it generation after generation so that He sees what you will do. Therefore, beware of this life and beware of women, for the first trial that the Children of Israel suffered from was with women.”

They completely missed the point on that one!

Beware of WOMEN? Great advice. Only if you are a complete and utter failure as a man. Yup, Mo ain’t no Alpha male.

CrimsonFisted on October 7, 2007 at 12:55 PM

This sura affirms the role of predetermination in Islam. This may be further confirmed in the sira and hadith. For example:
Tabari I:199
“I heard the Prophet say: ‘The first thing created by Allah was the Pen. Allah said to it: “Write!” The Pen asked, “What shall I write?” Allah replied, “Write what is predestined.”’”

Tabari I:202
“There are people who consider predestination untrue. Then they consider the Qur’an untrue…. People merely carry out what is a foregone conclusion, decided by predestination and written down by the Pen.”
(The Pen in question is a reference to Sura 68.)

Bukhari :V4B55N549
Narrated Abdullah:

Allah’s Apostle, the true and truly inspired said, “(as regards your creation), every one of you is collected in the womb of his mother for the first forty days, and then he becomes a clot for an other forty days, and then a piece of flesh for an other forty days. Then Allah sends an angel to write four words: He writes his deeds, time of his death, means of his livelihood, and whether he will be wretched or blessed (in religion). Then the soul is breathed into his body. So a man may do deeds characteristic of the people of the (Hell) Fire, so much so that there is only the distance of a cubit between him and it, and then what has been written (by the angel) surpasses, and so he starts doing deeds characteristic of the people of Paradise and enters Paradise. Similarly, a person may do deeds characteristic of the people of Paradise, so much so that there is only the distance of a cubit between him and it, and then what has been written (by the angel) surpasses, and he starts doing deeds of the people of the (Hell) Fire and enters the (Hell) Fire.”

(I’m sure the first part of this is taught in all the good university level madrassa biology classes.)

Annar on October 7, 2007 at 1:13 PM

This fanatical insistence on “One” paves the way for earthly tyrants, since it sanctifies the concept.
profitsbeard on October 7, 2007 at 11:24 AM

What utter nonsense. I suppose the Jews’ fanatical insistence on “One” is also tyrannical? Of course, the Shema, which is a decalaration of G-ds’ oneness (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) is immediately followed by the command, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

That’s what’s missing from Islam, the love. It’s the fanatical insistence on submission that’s the problem.

nobaloney on October 7, 2007 at 1:13 PM

CrimsonFisted on October 7, 2007 at 12:55 PM

It’s why he could only get his way with a young girl of 9. Most women would make him feel small.

mram on October 7, 2007 at 1:15 PM

nobaloney-

What is “nonsensical” about wondering where this insistence on Mono-God comes from in the human spirit?

Why insist that it MUST be “One”?

Other than for our own simplicity?

What would it matter if it were Two (Male/Female), since that is the course of most of Life? (And how could it “create” the Two (male and female), “in its own image”, otherwise?)

Why limit the Deity?

And why should it demand “Love”?

That is tyrannical, in itself.

Love is won, not ordered.

And, having read the Old Testament (Torah/Talmud), too much of the O.T.’s El is despotic and brutal.

Ask Job.

The taming of this idea of a cosmic tyrant is one of humanity’s greatest achievements.

Christ had a lot to do with it. (“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”, etc.)

Mohammad simply reversed things back to “Old Nobodaddy” (as Blake calls this dictatorial construct), the Celestial Humorless Warlord-in-Chief.

Islam is retrograde.

Judaism and Christianity progressed. (Cross-pollinating each other for the better, and for more a humane expression of their faith[s].)

Islam regressed.

Killing over this point.

Instead of humbly wondering.

Or are we not supposed to use the brain except as an echo chamber?

That’s too Islamic for my mind.

profitsbeard on October 7, 2007 at 3:19 PM

Connie on October 7, 2007 at 11:55 AM

Not sure what you mean

VinceP1974 on October 7, 2007 at 3:29 PM

Noah before Abraham, then Abraham’s children Isaac and Jacob, and then after that David, Solomon, …

Does the Koran skip over Joseph, son of Jacob all the time? He was definitely a prophet, since he interpreted a dream that foretold the future of Jacob’s family and Egypt.

pedestrian on October 7, 2007 at 4:27 PM

Does the Koran skip over Joseph, son of Jacob all the time? He was definitely a prophet, since he interpreted a dream that foretold the future of Jacob’s family and Egypt.

pedestrian on October 7, 2007 at 4:27 PM

Um, did you stop reading midsentence?

Noah before Abraham, then Abraham’s children Isaac and Jacob, and then after that David, Solomon, Job, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, Zechariah, John the Baptist, Jesus, Elijah, Ishmael, Elisha, Jonah, and Lot.

VinceP1974 on October 7, 2007 at 5:28 PM

VinceP1974 on October 7, 2007 at 3:29 PM

Islam denies that Jesus is the son of God, yet chastises those who deny the signs from God even when they see them.

Connie on October 7, 2007 at 7:09 PM

Islam is the religious cover for an ideology that weds violence, robbery and faux spirituality. It is structured to allow the most negatively able, violent and cynical man to lead the ummah in an endless predatory/parasitic lifestyle against anyone they encounter. Mohammed wrote his own script for success. I’m sure even he was amazed at the result.

Never grant religious status to Islam in your mind. Pity the slaves of Allah, they have to wear the black rags of Islam everyday and guess how best to serve the greatest deceiving hate filled god that was ever conjured up by a dark heart.

BL@KBIRD on October 7, 2007 at 8:08 PM

BL@KBIRD on October 7, 2007 at 8:08 PM

I totally agree with you. Islam is the religion of perputual war and misery on earth.

VinceP1974 on October 7, 2007 at 8:30 PM

Never grant religious status to Islam in your mind.

Here’s how I view Islam. I really believe every word of this is true:

Islam is a philosophy and a way of life that allows a Muslim man to do whatever he wants, to whoever he wants, whenever he wants, as long as he can say it is defense of Islam. And everything is in defense of Islam.

Jaynie59 on October 7, 2007 at 9:08 PM

BL@KBIRD on October 7, 2007 at 8:08 PM

Exactly true. Islam is a perversion of Judaism and Christianity. It is from hell as sure as darkness exists.

enoughalready on October 8, 2007 at 11:46 AM

Many thanks once again to Robert Spencer for this educational series!

T J Green on October 8, 2007 at 8:01 PM