Blogging the Qur’an: Sura 7, “The Heights,” verses 1-102

posted at 9:00 am on October 14, 2007 by Robert Spencer

Sura 7, “The Heights,” is another Meccan sura, dating from around the same time as sura 6: Muhammad’s last year in Mecca before the Hijra to Medina. It begins, as do several other chapters, with a first verse consisting of mysterious Arabic letters – the meaning of which, we’re told, is known only to Allah. Then follows Allah telling Muhammad not to doubt the Qur’an, for it is “a Book revealed unto thee, so let thy heart be oppressed no more by any difficulty on that account” (v. 2). Verses 3-10 contain yet another warning of the dreadful judgment, when those whose good deeds outweigh their evil deeds will enter Paradise, while those who “wrongfully treated Our signs” – that is, ayat, or verses of the Qur’an – will be condemned. Allah reminds Muhammad of cities he has destroyed for their disobedience (v. 4).

Then comes the story of Satan (verses 11-25). It begins with the creation of Adam, and Allah’s command that the angels prostrate themselves before this new creation. Muhammad informs us that when Allah created Adam, he made him 60 cubits tall – that is, about 90 feet. “People,” he said, “have been decreasing in stature since Adam’s creation.” However, Muhammad also tells us that the first inhabitants of Paradise will be Adam’s size: “The first group of people who will enter Paradise, will be glittering like the full moon and those who will follow them, will glitter like the most brilliant star in the sky. They will not urinate, relieve nature, spit, or have any nasal secretions. Their combs will be of gold, and their sweat will smell like musk. The aloes-wood will be used in their centers. Their wives will be houris. All of them will look alike and will resemble their father Adam (in statute), sixty cubits tall.” The houris, of course, are the fabled virgins of Paradise.

Satan refused to prostrate himself before Adam (v. 11; we also saw this in 2:34). When Allah asks him why, he answers pridefully: “I am better than he: Thou didst create me from fire, and him from clay” (v. 12). Ibn Kathir explains that Satan was wrong about this. Satan, he says, “lost hope in acquiring Allah’s mercy” because “he committed this error, may Allah curse him, due to his false comparison. His claim that the fire is more honored than mud was also false, because mud has the qualities of wisdom, forbearance, patience and assurance, mud is where plants grow, flourish, increase, and provide good. To the contrary, fire has the qualities of burning, recklessness and hastiness. Therefore, the origin of creation directed Shaytan [Satan] to failure, while the origin of Adam led him to return to Allah with repentance, humbleness, obedience and submission to His command, admitting his error and seeking Allah’s forgiveness and pardon for it.” Allah banishes Satan – from Paradise, according to most commentators – but allows respite, which Satan then says he will use to spend his time tempting the Muslims away from the straight path (vv. 16-17).

What exactly is Satan? That’s unclear. Verse 11 groups him among the angels, as does 2:34; 15:28-31; 20:116; 38:71-74. However, 18:50 says “he was one of the jinns.” The angels “resist not Allah in that which He commandeth them, but do that which they are commanded” (66:6). Many of the jinns, however, “have hearts wherewith they understand not, eyes wherewith they see not, and ears wherewith they hear not. They are like cattle, nay more misguided: for they are heedless (of warning)” (7:179). This creates a difficulty. If Satan is an angel, how can he disobey Allah? But if he is a jinn, why is he blamed in sura 7 and its cognate passages for disobeying a command Allah gave not to the jinns, but to the angels? This has led to some ingenious explanations throughout Islamic history. The Tafsir Al-Jalalayn says Satan was “the father of the jinn, who was among the angels.” Muhammad Asad identifies the jinns with the angels (see also here), but this contradicts the passages of the Qur’an that say the angels are not disobedient. The contemporary Islamic apologist Dr. Zakir Naik contends that while Satan is grouped with the angels, he is never actually called an angel, and so there is no contradiction. He says that Satan is nevertheless held responsible for disobeying a command that is addressed to the angels because Allah meant it collectively — all the angels as well as Satan should obey it. The strains of this interpretation are many.

Verses 19-25 recount the temptation of Adam and Eve, their sin, and their banishment from the garden. Then verses 26-41 then warn the Children of Adam to heed the commands and signs (ayat) of Allah, and to avoid sin. Verses 42-50 recount a conversation between the “Companions of the Garden” and the “Companions of the Fire.” The Companions of the Garden will point out that Allah’s promises have proven true (v. 44); the Companions of the Fire will ask for “water or anything that Allah doth provide for your sustenance,” but the Companions of the Garden will reply: “Both these things hath Allah forbidden to those who rejected Him” (v. 50). Verses 51-58 remind believers to acknowledge and obey Allah.

Then come in verses 59-95 some stories of other prophets: Noah (vv. 59-64); the extrabiblical figures Hud (vv. 65-72) and Salih (vv. 73-79); Lot (vv. 80-84); and another extrabiblical prophet, Shu’aib (vv. 85-95). These stories all follow the same pattern: the prophets warn the people to whom they are sent in language much like Muhammad’s, and they are scorned in rejected in much the same way that Muhammad was by those who are characterized in the Qur’an as hypocrites and unbelievers. For example, Shu’aib tells the arrogant people of the Madyan that he and the Muslims would “invent a lie against Allah if we returned to your ways after Allah hath rescued us therefrom” (v. 89) – just as earlier Allah says to the Children of Adam: “Who is more unjust than one who invents a lie against Allah or rejects His Signs?” (v. 37). Lot’s story bears traces of the Sodom and Gomorrah incident in the Bible, as Lot tells his people: “Do ye commit lewdness such as no people in creation (ever) committed before you? For ye practise your lusts on men in preference to women: ye are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds” (v. 81). Verses 96-102 warn again of the destruction that will come to towns that reject Allah. For “there came indeed to them their messengers with clear (signs): but they would not believe what they had rejected before. Thus doth Allah seal up the hearts of those who reject faith” (v. 101).

Next week: “So We sent plagues on them: wholesale death, locusts, lice, frogs, and blood…”

(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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900-foot Jesus is not impressed.

saint kansas on October 14, 2007 at 9:42 AM

The more I read of the Qu’ran, the more I am convinced that Islam is nothing more than a hodge-podge of Judaism and Christianity mixed together by an illiterate bastard. What makes it worse is that the Qu’ran, and other Islamic texts, were written hundreds of years after his death. And that’s why I’m baffled as to why some people convert. Those who were born into Islam may sometimes just be cultural Muslims who don’t give a damn for theology. But the converts have done their share of research yet still choose Islam. I don’t know who in their right mind would convert to Islam.

mram on October 14, 2007 at 12:18 PM

If everybody is 90 feet tall then it’s no big deal. 90 is the new 6!

I’m always struck by how convoluted Mohammad’s understanding of the Bible is. The way he twists some biblical events and characters into unrecognizable tales would be comical if the end result, the Koran, weren’t so tragic. It’s like were getting a Sunday school lesson from Archie Bunker or the pathelogical liar from SNL.

Mojave Mark on October 14, 2007 at 12:19 PM

The more I read of the Qu’ran, the more I am convinced that Islam is nothing more than a hodge-podge of Judaism and Christianity mixed together by an illiterate bastard. mram on October 14, 2007 at 12:18 PM

With some Arabic paganism thrown in, just for good measure, and I think some Greek tales as well.

What I want is a resource that shows the linkage from where Mo stole stuff and brought it into this idiot book. Some I can see for myself, but others not.

CrimsonFisted on October 14, 2007 at 2:28 PM

Is the height of Adam and the early man meant to be actual, or is it similar to the Bilbe stating, for example, Noah being what, over 500 years old? I always understood the extremely high age of Old Testament figures was simply meant to enhance the honor of a person….and just wondering if the enhanced tallness was used similarly…to enhance a percieved honor and respect…

JetBoy on October 14, 2007 at 2:29 PM

CrimsonFisted:

What I want is a resource that shows the linkage from where Mo stole stuff and brought it into this idiot book. Some I can see for myself, but others not.

I don’t endorse your language, but in any case you may find this interesting:

The Sources of the Qur’an by W. St. Clair Tisdall.

Robert Spencer on October 14, 2007 at 3:07 PM

The koranic satan. Angel or genie? Perhaps genies are fallen angels (demons in biblical nomenclature). Allah only knows.

Two things, Robert Spencer. Maybe three.

1)I might be mistaken, but in an earlier lesson you pointed out that the muslims deny original sin and A & E’s fall from grace and expulsion from the garden, but Verses 19-25 recount the temptation of Adam and Eve, their sin, and their banishment from the garden. Can you clarify, please?
2)This business of a 90 ft. tall Adam and his shrunken human descendants reads like a convoluted misinterpretation of long lived pre-flood people & a decreasing post-flood life expectancy. In that same vein, mohammed’s perversion of the trinity which mistakenly includes worship of the virgin mary strikes me as a convoluted misinterpretation.

Dr. Robert Reymond attributes these types of errors to ancient jehovah’s witnesses – debunked heretical ‘arian’ Christian philosophers which set up shop in the mid east around 250-300 A.D. Could this debunked, heretical arian philosophy have influenced mohammed’s knowledge of triune Christian doctrine?

3)Thanks for all your hard work on this study. It is greatly appreciated.

locomotivebreath1901 on October 14, 2007 at 3:24 PM

Is the height of Adam and the early man meant to be actual, or is it similar to the Bilbe stating, for example, Noah being what, over 500 years old? I always understood the extremely high age of Old Testament figures was simply meant to enhance the honor of a person….and just wondering if the enhanced tallness was used similarly…to enhance a percieved honor and respect…

JetBoy on October 14, 2007 at 2:29 PM

Actually JetBoy, the ages of people in the old testament is supposed to be based on their ACTUAL age. Not just an honor scheme. As in, Adam died when he was over 960 years old, or after the earth had gone around the sun 960 times. They’re based on true age.

j_ehman on October 14, 2007 at 4:28 PM

LocomotiveBreath:

1)I might be mistaken, but in an earlier lesson you pointed out that the muslims deny original sin and A & E’s fall from grace and expulsion from the garden, but Verses 19-25 recount the temptation of Adam and Eve, their sin, and their banishment from the garden. Can you clarify, please?

No, no, quite obviously they don’t deny Adam and Eve’s temptation and sin and banishment. They just deny that their sin has anything to do with anyone else — i.e., they deny original sin, the idea that the decision of our first parents has placed the world in a condition of separation from God from which all suffer.

Robert Spencer on October 14, 2007 at 4:31 PM

The Sources of the Qur’an by W. St. Clair Tisdall.

Robert Spencer on October 14, 2007 at 3:07 PM

Thank you.

I admire your patience and wish I could be more like you that way. I truly do, and I am sure my family would agree that more patience on my part would be a true virtue.

CrimsonFisted on October 14, 2007 at 5:09 PM

And that’s why I’m baffled as to why some people convert.

Like who? Blacks in prison?
Skinny scared white kids in England?
People in countries where Christianity is asleep or dead?

It involved some form of intimidation.

JiangxiDad on October 14, 2007 at 5:57 PM

Next week: “So We sent plagues on them: wholesale death, locusts, lice, frogs, and blood…”

Indeed – GodAllah knows what kind of menace those frogs can be!

RD on October 14, 2007 at 6:11 PM

Indeed – GodAllah knows what kind of menace those frogs can be!

RD on October 14, 2007 at 6:11 PM

EWWWWWWW Yuk! Must take shower now!

Next week: “So We sent plagues on them: wholesale death, locusts, lice, frogs, and blood…”

Who is “We” I wonder? Allah and Mohammed? A form of the trinity?

I will tune back in next week, same bat time, same bat channel.

CrimsonFisted on October 14, 2007 at 6:32 PM

Sounds like Mohammad was hitting the “jinn“.

Without the tonic.

profitsbeard on October 14, 2007 at 7:14 PM

The Sources of the Qur’an by W. St. Clair Tisdall.

Robert Spencer on October 14, 2007 at 3:07 PM

From your link:

(Surah Ixxxv. 21).[1] Thus God alone is held to be the “Source” of Islam; and if so, then all effort to find a human origin for any part of it must be in vain. Now, if we can trace the teaching of any part of it, to an earthly Source, or to human systems existing previous to the Prophet’s age, then Islam at once falls to the ground.

Christianity has been scrutinized mercilessly. Time for Islam to undergo the same.

Connie on October 14, 2007 at 8:27 PM

mram, I doubt most converts do so after a careful study of the Koran. I think most people who convert do so on the basis of the popular “five pillars,” which taken by themselves, seem pretty easy and enticing. More more so than the Ten Commandments.

Jezla on October 15, 2007 at 7:18 AM

Some thoughts

I don’t know who in their right mind would convert to Islam.

mram on October 14, 2007 at 12:18 PM

Hmmm… I think that about says it all right there.

And I wonder, with their throwing around the idea of a “shaitan” (Satan), whether they are not actually listenting to the one they fear. Jesus, speaking to the Pharisees said:

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
(John 8:44, ESV)

Mohammed gave his source name as “Gabriel”, didn’t he? In the Scriptures, Gabriel is (if I remember correctly), the messenger associated with the coming of Jesus. I wonder if Satan wasn’t playing the part of Gabriel for old Mohammed, if Mohammed wasn’t making it all up anyway.

Thank you again, Mr. Spencer.

BNCurtis on October 15, 2007 at 8:41 AM

The more I read of the Qu’ran, the more I am convinced that Islam is nothing more than a hodge-podge of Judaism and Christianity mixed together by an illiterate bastard.

mram on October 14, 2007 at 12:18 PM

You put that very nicely. I was just going to call it plagerism.

As for western converts, I wouldn’t be surprised if many are attracted to it because they don’t have to think for themselves within the belief system (as I see it). About three years ago, I had coffee with a young man who had converted to islam and he truly believed in the jinn, satan, etc. and could quote the book like there was no tomorrow. He wasn’t coerced to convert but he was crazy (for real, red flags were popping up all over). This doesn’t mean all converts are crazy but they are definitely looking to fill an emptiness inside and somehow islam does it for them. This guy was definitely running on empty and holding onto his new religion as tight as possible.

This young man also tried to convert me relentlessly in those bizarre few hours and he was incredibly convincing and charming, except for the creepiness of his persona. For lack of a better way to say it, a weaker willed person would have fallen for his BS. I would hope that he’s an exception but I don’t plan on trying to find out ever again.

yggdrasil on October 15, 2007 at 9:20 AM

Goodness, I’ve forgotten my manners.

Thank you, Robert Spencer, for all your time and effort. It’s greatly appreciated.

yggdrasil on October 15, 2007 at 9:21 AM

Does this mean that at least some of the “martyrs,” who get fast tracked to their 72 houris, were 90 feet tall? I don’t recall hearing about such tall people at any time since the 7th century.

Annar on October 15, 2007 at 5:05 PM

The “giant” angle does seen cobbled together from prior Biblical sources… particularly the story of the Nephilim in the O.T. —

“a race that consisted of offspring of human women and “sons of God” (proposed to be giants or proto humans), who appear significantly in Genesis 6 and are mentioned also in other biblical texts and in some non-canonical Jewish writings. Others consider the Nephilim, in contrast, to be the offspring of human men descended from Seth and human women descended from Cain.[1] Both interpretations say that the lustful breeding of the Nephilim was one of the provocations for Flood, which is also referred to as the Deluge.”

Thanks Wikipedia!

max1 on October 15, 2007 at 5:08 PM