Blogging the Qur’an: Sura 34, “Sheba,” and Sura 35, “The Angels”

posted at 8:00 am on July 20, 2008 by Robert Spencer

Sura 34 dates from the Meccan period, during a time when, according to Maududi, “the Islamic movement was being suppressed…by resort to derision and ridicule, rumor mongering, false allegations and casting of evil suggestions in the people’s minds.” It is noteworthy how large such incidents loom in Islamic sacred history, and helps illuminate the furious reaction some modern-day Muslims have had to mild ridicule in the form of political cartoons. In any case, objections to Muhammad’s message are repeated, each introduced by the phrase “the unbelievers say,” in verses 3, 7, 29, 31, and 43, and Allah at each point answers them.

Verses 1-9 warn the unbelievers of Allah’s omniscience and the coming Judgment. Given the universal Islamic teaching that Allah is the sole speaker throughout the Qur’an, v. 1 may seem jarring, what with Allah saying, “Praise be to Allah.” Such a phrase would be much more natural in the mouth of Muhammad – but having Muhammad speak would be inconsistent with the idea that the Qur’an is the perfect word of Allah that existed forever with him. In any case, this has never posed any difficulty for Islamic exegetes. Ibn Kathir is typical in ignoring the difficulty and glossing the verse as meaning that “Allah tells us that all praise belongs to Him alone in this world and in the Hereafter.”

In any case, despite Allah’s knowledge of everything (v. 2), the unbelievers deny that the Hour of Judgment will ever come (v. 3). Allah tells Muhammad to swear “by my Lord” that it will indeed come – as he does also in two other places: 10:53 and 64:7. Those who work against Allah’s signs (ayat, the word that is also used for verses of the Qur’an) will be painfully punished (v. 5).

These unbelievers ridicule the idea of a physical resurrection (v. 7) and ask if Muhammad is inventing lies about Allah (v. 8). Allah responds by saying that those who disbelieve in the afterlife are the ones who are wrong (v. 8), and that the fact that he can destroy the earth is a sign from Allah for the believers (v. 9).

Verses 10-21 invoke David (vv. 10-11), Solomon (vv. 12-14), and the people of Sheba (vv. 15-21). Allah orders the mountains and birds to join David in singing Allah’s praises (v. 10): Ibn Kathir says that Allah had blessed David “with a mighty voice. Such that when he glorified Allah, the firm, solid, high mountains joined him in glorifying Allah, and the free-roaming birds, who go out in the morning and come back in the evening, stopped for him, and he was able to speak all languages.” Then follows a list of Allah’s blessings to Solomon (vv. 12-14). The people of Sheba were also blessed with two bountiful gardens (v. 15), but when they rejected Allah, he turned the gardens’ fruit bitter (v. 16). Allah never does such things except to the ungrateful (v. 17) – a verse that strongly supports the commonly held idea in the Islamic world that piety in Islam will equal earthly success, and rejecting Allah will bring disaster in this world as well as in the next. Said Mujahid: “He does not punish anyone except the disbelievers.”

In verses 22-31 Allah tells Muhammad various things to say to the unbelievers: their idols are powerless (v. 22); no one will intercede for them on the Day of Judgment (v. 23). In v. 25, according to Ibn Kathir, Muhammad is instructed to disown the unbelievers, “saying, ‘you do not belong to us and we do not belong to you, because we call people to Allah, to believe that He is the Only God and to worship Him alone. If you respond, then you will belong to us and we to you, but if you reject our call, then we have nothing to do with you and you have nothing to do with us.’” Allah will ultimately judge between the believers and the unbelievers (v. 26). Muhammad is a universal messenger (v. 27); the Indian Qur’an commentator Maulana Bulandshahri records a hadith in which Muhammad says, “By Allah! The person, be he a Jew or a Christian, who does not believe in me after hearing of me shall be of the inmates of hell.”

Verses 32-54 continue these themes: the arrogant reject Muhammad’s message, but they will believe when they taste Allah’s punishment (v. 33); wealth holds people back from following Allah (vv. 34-37); but Allah decides who is wealthy and who isn’t (v. 39); the angels will disavow those who worshipped them (vv. 40-41); Muhammad seeks no reward from men, but only from Allah (v. 47).

Sura 35 is also Meccan, and repeats many familiar themes. Says Maududi: “The discourse is meant to warn and reprove the people of Makkah [Mecca] and their chiefs for their antagonistic attitude that they had then adopted towards the Holy Prophet’s message of Tauhid [the unity of Allah].” It also starts with the curious “Praise be to Allah” (v. 1). In it, Allah affirms his omnipotence (vv. 1-3) and tells Muhammad that if he is rejected, so were the earlier prophets (v. 4). Men should not be deceived by this present life (v. 5) or by Satan (v. 6); the unbelievers will suffer terrible punishment (v. 7); the believers and unbelievers are not equal, “for Allah leaves to stray whom He wills, and guides whom He wills,” so Muhammad shouldn’t waste his time grieving over the unbelievers. (v. 8).

Verses 9-17 and 27-28 detail Allah’s power as manifest in the natural world, in contrast to the powerlessness of the idols (vv. 13-14). Verses 18-22 stress the sharp contrast between believers and unbelievers. No one can bear another’s burdens; everyone must come to Allah individually (v. 18). Verses 23-26 are addressed to Muhammad, and he is reminded that he is only to warn the people of Allah’s punishment (v. 23); if they reject him, they rejected also the earlier prophets (v. 25). Verses 29-35 promise bountiful rewards to the righteous, and verses 36-37 return once again to the torments of hell, when the damned will cry to Allah for help and he will remind them that he sent them a messenger to warn them (v. 37).

Verses 38-45 conclude the sura with more warnings. The Muslims are “inheritors in the earth,” so those who reject Allah are simply cheating themselves (v. 39). Those whom people worship besides Allah are powerless, and don’t even have a book (as does Muhammad) (v. 40). The arrogant should travel through the earth and see how those who rejected Allah in earlier generations were destroyed (v. 44). Yet even so, Allah doesn’t punish men as they deserve (v. 45).

Next week: Sura 36, “Ya Sin,” which contains yet another ringing denial of free will: “And We have put a bar in front of them and a bar behind them, and further, We have covered them up; so that they cannot see. The same is it to them whether thou admonish them or thou do not admonish them: they will not believe.”

(Here you can find links to all the earlier “Blogging the Qur’an” segments. Here is a good Arabic Qur’an, with English translations available; 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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A very interesting read, Robert! It appeared to me that there were some strange contradictions from verse to verse, and the fact that they haven’t been questioned by most Quaranic scholars is just fascinating.

MB007 on July 20, 2008 at 8:29 AM

MB007:

What kind of contradictions did you see?

Robert Spencer on July 20, 2008 at 8:43 AM

Robert, I went through Ben’s entire series on Youtube and would just like to confirm a few things.

It is noteworthy how large such incidents loom in Islamic sacred history, and helps illuminate the furious reaction some modern-day Muslims have had to mild ridicule in the form of political cartoons.

Did Muhammad order the murdered of two poets that satirized him? One of them was reported to be a 120 year old man, and the other, a mother of 5 who was killed in her bed while she was suckling one of her children. Since Muslims are ordered to follow Muhammad’s Sunnah, wouldn’t it stand to reason they see insults to their faith as an affront punishable by death?

Said Mujahid: “He does not punish anyone except the disbelievers.”

Does that help explain why they always blame any misfortune on not being pious enough?

Muhammad is instructed to disown the unbelievers, “saying, ‘you do not belong to us and we do not belong to you, because we call people to Allah, to believe that He is the Only God and to worship Him alone. If you respond, then you will belong to us and we to you, but if you reject our call, then we have nothing to do with you and you have nothing to do with us.’”

Is it true that:
1) Allah was the name of supreme pagan rock god of the Ka`ba and Muhammad adopted him and the traditions of the Quraysh and tied him to the God of the Bible?
2) Muhammad prayed in the Ka`ba with pagan Quraysh while it still contained all 360 of their Pagan gods?

Men should not be deceived by this present life (v. 5) or by Satan (v. 6);

Like how the self-proclaimed greatest of all the Prophets was when he told the Quraysh in the Ka`ba (filled with all the pagan idols) that Allah’s daughters were gods who intercession was to be hoped for?

Also, is it true that in Islam ringing bells is associated with Satan yet Muhammad describes hearing bells during some of his revelations?

Verses 9-17 and 27-28 detail Allah’s power as manifest in the natural world, in contrast to the powerlessness of the idols

Is it true that Muhammad kissed the back stone in the Ka`ba leading one of his companions to remark something like, “I know you are just a stone and can do no harm or good and I wouldn’t have kissed you unless I had seen the Prophet do so?”

Those whom people worship besides Allah are powerless, and don’t even have a book (as does Muhammad)

Is it true that there wasn’t a single written version of the Qur’an during Muhammad’s lifetime and in fact it wasn’t committed to writing until after the battle of Yamama where a lot of the memorizers were killed?

Is it also correct that the memorizers had different versions they all claimed were correct. When Muhammad was asked which was correct, he revealed that they all were as the Qu`ran was revealed to him in 7 versions?

Is it also correct that there were many excellent, illiterate poets throughout Arab history prior to Muhammad?

TheBigOldDog on July 20, 2008 at 9:22 AM

A very interesting read, Robert! It appeared to me that there were some strange contradictions from verse to verse, and the fact that they haven’t been questioned by most Quaranic scholars is just fascinating.

MB007 on July 20, 2008 at 8:29 AM

This might help explain why it hasn’t been questioned:

Do not Question the Quran Part 148

Here’s some more contradictions for you:

Quranic Contradictions Part 6a
Quranic Contradictions Part 6b
Quran vs Bible Contradictions Part 23

TheBigOldDog on July 20, 2008 at 9:36 AM

TheBigOldDog:

Did Muhammad order the murdered of two poets that satirized him? One of them was reported to be a 120 year old man, and the other, a mother of 5 who was killed in her bed while she was suckling one of her children. Since Muslims are ordered to follow Muhammad’s Sunnah, wouldn’t it stand to reason they see insults to their faith as an affront punishable by death?

Yes. The old poet (120? I doubt it) was Abu Afak, and the poetess and mother was Asma bint Marwan. I believe she was actually pregnant, and the murderer ran her through along with her unborn child. And yes, these incidents form the foundation for the Islamic idea that insults are punishable by death.

Said Mujahid: “He does not punish anyone except the disbelievers.”

Does that help explain why they always blame any misfortune on not being pious enough?

Yes.

Is it true that:
1) Allah was the name of supreme pagan rock god of the Ka`ba and Muhammad adopted him and the traditions of the Quraysh and tied him to the God of the Bible?

Allah does seem to have been the name of a pagan deity, but it seems that pre-Islamic Jews and Christians in Arabia also used the word “Allah.”

2) Muhammad prayed in the Ka`ba with pagan Quraysh while it still contained all 360 of their Pagan gods?

Probably, but Islamic traditions insist that he never did, and was a precocious monotheist.

Men should not be deceived by this present life (v. 5) or by Satan (v. 6);

Like how the self-proclaimed greatest of all the Prophets was when he told the Quraysh in the Ka`ba (filled with all the pagan idols) that Allah’s daughters were gods who intercession was to be hoped for?

Yes, that story is coming in sura 53.

Also, is it true that in Islam ringing bells is associated with Satan yet Muhammad describes hearing bells during some of his revelations?

Bells are forbidden because they’re associated with Christian churches. Christian churches under the laws of dhimmitude could not have bells. Muhammad did say he heard a ringing sound on occasion.

Verses 9-17 and 27-28 detail Allah’s power as manifest in the natural world, in contrast to the powerlessness of the idols

Is it true that Muhammad kissed the back stone in the Ka`ba leading one of his companions to remark something like, “I know you are just a stone and can do no harm or good and I wouldn’t have kissed you unless I had seen the Prophet do so?”

Yes. In Islam all law is based essentially on fiat, although there are attempts to relate all provisions of Sharia to the preservation of life, religion, lineage, reason and property.

Those whom people worship besides Allah are powerless, and don’t even have a book (as does Muhammad)

Is it true that there wasn’t a single written version of the Qur’an during Muhammad’s lifetime and in fact it wasn’t committed to writing until after the battle of Yamama where a lot of the memorizers were killed?

Yes. But it was still a book. In an oral culture, a book was often something memorized, not written down. The Qur’an was collected and written down after Muhammad’s death when the caliph Uthman feared that those who had parts of it memorized would start dying, and parts of the Qur’an would be lost.

Is it also correct that the memorizers had different versions they all claimed were correct. When Muhammad was asked which was correct, he revealed that they all were as the Qu`ran was revealed to him in 7 versions?

Yes, that most revealing hadith is here.

Is it also correct that there were many excellent, illiterate poets throughout Arab history prior to Muhammad?

Yes.

Robert Spencer on July 20, 2008 at 9:38 AM

Allah never does such things except to the ungrateful (v. 17) – a verse that strongly supports the commonly held idea in the Islamic world that piety in Islam will equal earthly success…

…wealth holds people back from following Allah…

My head hurts…

flipflop on July 20, 2008 at 9:48 AM

Robert Spencer on July 20, 2008 at 9:38 AM

Thanks as always Robert. I’ve been drinking from a fire hose lately and I’m starting to hear bells myself! LOL!

TheBigOldDog on July 20, 2008 at 9:50 AM

Which parts are the hijacked parts………j/k

BL@KBIRD on July 20, 2008 at 9:55 AM

the damned will cry to Allah for help and he will remind them that he sent them a messenger to warn them (v. 37).

Since Allah decides who is a believer and who is not, what purpose is served by having sent a messenger to the unbelievers? Since Allah knew all along that the unbelievers would not heed the messenger’s warning (since Allah willed it so), what is the point of reminding the damned (unbelievers) about the messenger that Allah willed them to ignore?

AZCoyote on July 20, 2008 at 9:57 AM

flipflop:

Yes, that contradiction runs through Islamic history. If you read the writings of Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966), the foremost jihad theorist of the 20th century, wrote eloquently of how purity of adherence to Islamic principles would lead to earthly prosperity. But then he decries the wickedness of both capitalists and communists in plundering the Islamic world and leaving it in poverty. He never seems to notice the contradiction.

Robert Spencer on July 20, 2008 at 10:08 AM

TheBigOldDog:

O ye who believe! Ask not questions about things which, if made plain to you, may cause you trouble.

That’s Qur’an 5:101. The verse continues, however, with a promise that things will be made plain to the questioner who asks at the right time:

But if ye ask about things when the Qur’an is being revealed, they will be made plain to you, Allah will forgive those: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Forbearing.

Robert Spencer on July 20, 2008 at 10:13 AM

AZCoyote:

Since Allah decides who is a believer and who is not, what purpose is served by having sent a messenger to the unbelievers? Since Allah knew all along that the unbelievers would not heed the messenger’s warning (since Allah willed it so), what is the point of reminding the damned (unbelievers) about the messenger that Allah willed them to ignore?

The point seems to be that, once having been warned, the unbelievers will have no excuse for their unbelief when they are judged.

Robert Spencer on July 20, 2008 at 10:14 AM

The point seems to be that, once having been warned, the unbelievers will have no excuse for their unbelief when they are judged.

Robert Spencer on July 20, 2008 at 10:14 AM

Really? It seems like “I was an unbeliever because you, Allah, willed me to be” would be the ultimate excuse for being an unbeliever.

AZCoyote on July 20, 2008 at 10:21 AM

AZCoyote,

Really? It seems like “I was an unbeliever because you, Allah, willed me to be” would be the ultimate excuse for being an unbeliever.

Yes, indeed, but the Qur’an posits two contradictory propositions together at once: Allah wills and controls all things, including the disbelief of the disbelievers, but the disbelievers are responsible nevertheless and will be punished.

The unbelievers actually make the complaint you suggest, and are brushed aside:

“The worshippers of false gods say: ‘If Allah had so willed, we should not have worshipped aught but Him – neither we nor our fathers, nor should we have prescribed prohibitions other than His.’ So did those who went before them. But what is the mission of messengers but to preach the Clear Message?” — Qur’an 16:35

And the correctness of their complaint is indirectly acknowledged:

“And unto Allah leads straight the Way, but there are ways that turn aside: if Allah had willed, He could have guided all of you.” — Qur’an 16:9

So if Allah could have guided all of them, but chose not to, the unbelievers are perfectly correct in their complaint that if Allah had willed, they would not have been idolators. But they are damned to hell nevertheless.

Robert Spencer on July 20, 2008 at 10:26 AM

Robert Spencer on July 20, 2008 at 10:08 AM

Sayyid Qutb also was one of the founders of the modern Muslim Brotherhood, wasn’t he?

flipflop on July 20, 2008 at 10:48 AM

flipflop:

He wasn’t a founder, but he was one of the Brotherhood’s leading intellectual lights.

Robert Spencer on July 20, 2008 at 11:21 AM

With respect to “Allah,” as a word, my understanding is that it is just the definite article ‘the’ or Al added to the word for ‘god’ or ‘illah;’ hence Al’illah or Allah. Other Semitic languages like Aramaic used the same kind of derivation to come up with very similar words for the supreme deity. There is evidence that pre-Islamic Arabs used to word “Allah” to refer to the God of the Bible and Torah.
With respect to Allah ‘guiding whom he will,’ remember the scene in Exodus where the Pharoh was about to let Moses go but God ‘hardened his heart?’ Guess it was a bad day to be Pharoh.

TABoLK on July 20, 2008 at 12:48 PM

TABoLK:

You’re quite right about “Allah”: Arabic-speaking Jews and Christians use the word for God (with the partial and notable exception of the Copts), and I do believe that many American non-Muslims make much too much of the word.

With respect to hardening Pharaoh’s heart, that passage is certainly there, but the Bible cannot be understand apart from its attendant traditions any more than the Qur’an can. The idea that God leads people away from the truth has never been taught by the Catholic or Orthodox Churches, which comprise the great bulk of Christians, or by most Protestant sects. And even the Calvinists do not believe that God, as in the Qur’an’s words, actually leads people astray.

In any case, we have been down this road before. The object of this exercise is not to say that the Qur’an is worse than the Bible. But to pretend that they teach the same thing is simply to ignore the data.

Robert Spencer on July 20, 2008 at 12:57 PM

You’re quite right about “Allah”: Arabic-speaking Jews and Christians use the word for God (with the partial and notable exception of the Copts), and I do believe that many American non-Muslims make much too much of the word.

Perhaps, but, if it can be shown that the pagan Quraysh worshiped Allah prior to Muhammad and Muhammad kept the symbol of Allah (the black stone) while banishing the other 360 gods (except the 3 daughters who made a short Islamic appearance) it seriously undermines the idea that he was divinely inspired. It would be like a Greek Muhammad saying, “There is no God but Zeus and Greek Muhammad is his Messenger,” and keeping all the symbols of Zeus while tying him to the God of Abraham to give him a new pedigree.

Muhammad’s father was a pagan and his name meant, slave of Allah, no? So what are Pagans doing taking the of a monotheistic God – The God?

To me, it’s just another piece of the puzzle explaining what happened….

TheBigOldDog on July 20, 2008 at 1:35 PM

to pretend that they teach the same thing is simply to ignore the data.
Granted with respect to the New Testament, but not so much with the Old — which is why I brought up Exodus.

Also you are correct in that the Calvinists (and the theological offspring of Calvinism) believed God did not so much lead people astry as refuse to grant his Grace to them, but either way in those schools of thought the vast majority of people were born just to burn. This is an important point, I think. Furthermore, the idea that Grace (which is entirely un-earned) is manifested in earthly wealth and power can still be found in several strains of American Evangelical thought, and also has its roots in Calvin (IIRC).

I do wonder how things would have been different if these people: had become the dominent school within Sunni Islam.
After all, what the Koran says is only about 1/3 to 1/4 of what Islam is in current practice as it stands now — the rest being the Hadith, subsequent jurisprudence, and pre-Islamic Arab culture, customs, and superstitions. It (Mutazilism) wasn’t a perfect theology, and they didn’t show much tolerance when they did find themselves with power for a while (or so the story goes), but it was still different from modern Islam in ways more compatible with tolerant co-existance with the rest of the world, I think. That may be why it failed, I suppose.
What are your plans once the Koran overview is complete? A review of the several theological schools, and a bit more about the Hadith? You have been bringing the Hadith into this discussion, which is good, but there’s a lot there.

A hostile reading of the Bible will result in a highly inaccurate understanding of Judaism and Christianity for similar reasons — though Christian and Jewish veneration for the Bible is usually a pale and paltry thing compared to the absolute veneration most Muslims have for the Koran. Obviously this is true with a hotile reading of the Koran. However, it should also be noted that some of the most ‘hostile’ readings of the Koran, which make it out to be a handbook for mayhem and murder, are written by perfectly devout and learned Muslims as some of the Tasfir you link show quite clearly. THAT is troubling.

Another book says “By their fruits shall you know them.” It’s always seemed to be good advice to me.

TABoLK on July 20, 2008 at 2:13 PM

Oh, crap I forgot to close the tag.

TABoLK on July 20, 2008 at 2:13 PM

In v. 25, according to Ibn Kathir, Muhammad is instructed to disown the unbelievers, “saying, ‘you do not belong to us and we do not belong to you, because we call people to Allah, to believe that He is the Only God and to worship Him alone. If you respond, then you will belong to us and we to you, but if you reject our call, then we have nothing to do with you and you have nothing to do with us.’”

Looks like a potential foundation for the deportation of Mohammedans en masse from the West, especially for those Westerners who endorse allowing Mohammedans in the West to adapt Shariah over Western laws. After all, as per Q34:25 itself, since we have been called upon to embrace Islam (particularly several times by al Qaeda) and have rejected the call, they don’t belong to us and have nothing to do with us.

Ergo, they need to leave. Give them a 1 way ticket haj flight and send them there. If CAIR, ACLU or anyone else objects, say ‘It’s 34:25 of the Qur’an, so who are they to argue?’

infidelpride on July 20, 2008 at 2:56 PM

So if Allah could have guided all of them, but chose not to, the unbelievers are perfectly correct in their complaint that if Allah had willed, they would not have been idolators. But they are damned to hell neverthelessRobert Spencer

for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Forbearing. For if he weren’t,….

infidelpride on July 20, 2008 at 3:10 PM

TheBigOldDog:

Perhaps, but, if it can be shown that the pagan Quraysh worshiped Allah prior to Muhammad and Muhammad kept the symbol of Allah (the black stone) while banishing the other 360 gods (except the 3 daughters who made a short Islamic appearance) it seriously undermines the idea that he was divinely inspired. It would be like a Greek Muhammad saying, “There is no God but Zeus and Greek Muhammad is his Messenger,” and keeping all the symbols of Zeus while tying him to the God of Abraham to give him a new pedigree.

Actually the Greek word Dios, used by Christians, is related to the word “Zeus” — which indicates again what I believe to be the weakness of arguments about Islam’s divine inspiration that are based on the word “Allah.” If the use of the word undermines Islam, it also undermines Christianity, since Arabic-speaking Christians have survived 14 centuries in difficult circumstances and maintained their faith, while using this very word.

Robert Spencer on July 20, 2008 at 4:03 PM

TABoLK:

Also you are correct in that the Calvinists (and the theological offspring of Calvinism) believed God did not so much lead people astry as refuse to grant his Grace to them, but either way in those schools of thought the vast majority of people were born just to burn. This is an important point, I think.

Sure. But in the USA we can get an exaggerated idea of the importance of this perspective in Christian history. In reality it was never the Christian mainstream. None of the apostolic churches, or anything close to even a half or a quarter of all Christians, ever subscribed to such a view.

Robert Spencer on July 20, 2008 at 4:09 PM

TABoLK:

I do wonder how things would have been different if these people: had become the dominent school within Sunni Islam.

It is an interesting thought experiment, but it is no surprise, given the contents of the Qur’an and Hadith, that they were ultimately declared heretics.

Robert Spencer on July 20, 2008 at 4:10 PM

TABoLK:

What are your plans once the Koran overview is complete? A review of the several theological schools, and a bit more about the Hadith? You have been bringing the Hadith into this discussion, which is good, but there’s a lot there.

I don’t have any such plans. After this is over, it is over. If, however, Michelle Malkin asks me to continue with something else once this is done, I would be happy to oblige.

Robert Spencer on July 20, 2008 at 4:11 PM

TABoLK:

A hostile reading of the Bible will result in a highly inaccurate understanding of Judaism and Christianity for similar reasons — though Christian and Jewish veneration for the Bible is usually a pale and paltry thing compared to the absolute veneration most Muslims have for the Koran. Obviously this is true with a hotile reading of the Koran. However, it should also be noted that some of the most ‘hostile’ readings of the Koran, which make it out to be a handbook for mayhem and murder, are written by perfectly devout and learned Muslims as some of the Tasfir you link show quite clearly. THAT is troubling.

While most people assume that this is a hostile reading of the Qur’an, given that I am opposed to Islamic jihad and Islamic supremacism, in fact it isn’t. It is simply an accurate reading of the Qur’an and explanation of how it is understood by mainstream Muslims. The standing challenge is for anyone to show that anything I have written here is inaccurate. No one has done so yet.

Robert Spencer on July 20, 2008 at 4:15 PM

Is it just me, or are we getting into some really confusing stuff this week…trying to make heads or tails out of this weeks lesson. I have a couple questions, but I want to make sure I’m putting it right.

heh…I still feel like I went back to college. But this is extremely interesting stuff.

JetBoy on July 20, 2008 at 4:32 PM

JetBoy:

Probably it is my limitations as a narrator. What confuses you?

Robert Spencer on July 20, 2008 at 4:35 PM

Probably it is my limitations as a narrator. the confusing contradictory nature of the material. What confuses you?

Robert Spencer on July 20, 2008 at 4:35 PM

That would be more accurate.

You have, in my opinion, excelled at explaining it.

dentalque on July 20, 2008 at 5:05 PM

dentalque:

Thanks. I much appreciate it.

Robert Spencer on July 20, 2008 at 5:33 PM

Probably it is my limitations as a narrator. What confuses you?

Robert Spencer on July 20, 2008 at 4:35 PM


Not at all!
More like my limitations coming off a huge weekend seeing Billy Joel at Shea, and the fact that my brain is finally coming to after being dragged (?) out to the clubs til 4am last night. ;-)

OK…well, my first thought is still what seems to be bothering me, and by the above comments…I’m not alone…is the “Allah knows all” and everyone has their predestination.

from above:

Muhammad is a universal messenger (v. 27); the Indian Qur’an commentator Maulana Bulandshahri records a hadith in which Muhammad says, “By Allah! The person, be he a Jew or a Christian, who does not believe in me after hearing of me shall be of the inmates of hell.”

So then…if one hears the “truth” of Islam, yet rejects it, he shall be in hell. You may have answered this previously, but I can’t remember…if one has never heard the word of Islam, say by simple geographics (and given the time the Koran was written, most of the Earth wouldn’t have heard it) are they too condemned to hell, even though they never had the chance to know the Koran?

JetBoy on July 20, 2008 at 5:36 PM

JetBoy:

Not at all! More like my limitations coming off a huge weekend seeing Billy Joel at Shea, and the fact that my brain is finally coming to after being dragged (?) out to the clubs til 4am last night. ;-)

When will you realize Vienna waits for you?

So then…if one hears the “truth” of Islam, yet rejects it, he shall be in hell. You may have answered this previously, but I can’t remember…if one has never heard the word of Islam, say by simple geographics (and given the time the Koran was written, most of the Earth wouldn’t have heard it) are they too condemned to hell, even though they never had the chance to know the Koran?

Every people has been sent a messenger. They will be judged for rejecting that messenger. “To every people was sent a messenger: when their messenger comes before them, the matter will be judged between them with justice, and they will not be wronged.” — Qur’an 10:47

Robert Spencer on July 20, 2008 at 5:40 PM

For the information of the readers:

Christian Arabs & Jews under Muhammadan Islam call Allah God because Abbasid caliph Al-Mu’tazz (866 AD — 869 AD)FORCED the Arab Christians to use Allah INSTEAD in their Bible
The oldest known Arabic Bible that was written in 867 AD falls under his rule
In NO ORIGINAL Bible would anyone find the names: ALLAH MECCA ARABIA KA’BA or MADINA

muhammadsquran on July 20, 2008 at 5:43 PM

When will you realize Vienna waits for you?

Another Joel fan I see!

But as with Koran 10:47, there seems to be a need to actually reject Islam. I’m not understanding how, if “to every people was sent a messenger…” followed immediately by”…when their messenger comes before them…”

OK…so to all the peoples of the world, Allah has sent a messenger. Now, I know Muhammed was the last prophet. I take it a “messenger” is something else entirely.

I was figuring that perhaps those who don’t know of Islam may have been part of those which Allah created to send to hell for His amusement.

If I’m on the right track here.

JetBoy on July 20, 2008 at 5:49 PM

muhammadsquran,

There is, I believe, evidence of pre-Islamic Jews and Christians in Arabia using “Allah,” but I am on the road and do not have access to my library, so I can’t check that immediately.

Robert Spencer on July 20, 2008 at 5:49 PM

For your information:

The word Islam is ROOTED in the verb ASLAMA meaning SUBMISSION

In the Arabic of the Quran Surat al Baqara 2:126 to 136 shows BEYOND a reaonable doubt that ANY creature in the universe who believes in the One & Only God is AUTOMATICALLY a MUSLIM and has absolutely NOTHING to do as to whether or NOT he/she believes in Muhammad or his Quran
Based upon this statement ALL Israelites, Jews, Unitarian Christians and the like ARE MUSLIMS!

muhammadsquran on July 20, 2008 at 5:52 PM

muhammadsquran:

Based upon this statement ALL Israelites, Jews, Unitarian Christians and the like ARE MUSLIMS!

Most Christians are Trinitarians. The great preponderence of Christian tradition is Trinitarian. But in any case, yes, you may be interested to know that in this Blogging the Qur’an series I have discussed at great length the fact that Islam considers those who bear the name of Jew or Christian to be renegades who have perverted the true faith of Moses and Jesus, which was Islam.

Robert Spencer on July 20, 2008 at 5:57 PM

In the Arabic of the Quran Surat al Baqara 2:126 to 136 shows BEYOND a reaonable doubt that ANY creature in the universe who believes in the One & Only God is AUTOMATICALLY a MUSLIM and has absolutely NOTHING to do as to whether or NOT he/she believes in Muhammad or his Quran
Based upon this statement ALL Israelites, Jews, Unitarian Christians and the like ARE MUSLIMS!

muhammadsquran on July 20, 2008 at 5:52 PM

If I may…So if one believes in a monotheistic godhead, as you say Jews and Christians included, that that makes them Muslim in the eyes of the Koran?

As for the term “allah” being used by Jews and Christians, I hadn’t ever heard of that. There was a Dutch Catholic (I believe) Bishop who actually suggested that Christians start calling God by that name.

Needless to say, it didn’t go over very well.

JetBoy on July 20, 2008 at 6:01 PM

JetBoy:

OK…so to all the peoples of the world, Allah has sent a messenger. Now, I know Muhammed was the last prophet. I take it a “messenger” is something else entirely.

No, a messenger is a prophet. In Islamic fable, every people on earth has been sent a prophet. This is, of course, just fable.

Robert Spencer on July 20, 2008 at 6:04 PM

OK…so to all the peoples of the world, Allah has sent a messenger. Now, I know Muhammed was the last prophet. I take it a “messenger” is something else entirely.

I was figuring that perhaps those who don’t know of Islam may have been part of those which Allah created to send to hell for His amusement.

If I’m on the right track here.

JetBoy on July 20, 2008 at 5:49 PM

I like that question, and it would seem to me that makes sense. Is there a difference between Prophet and Messenger? Have there been other identified messengers?

CrimsonFisted on July 20, 2008 at 6:06 PM

JetBoy:

If I may…So if one believes in a monotheistic godhead, as you say Jews and Christians included, that that makes them Muslim in the eyes of the Koran?

As I’ve explained in previous Qur’an blogs, the Islamic idea is that the Biblical prophets — Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, etc., as well as Jesus — were all Muslims who taught Islam. It was their followers who perverted their teachings to create Judaism and Christianity. So in the eyes of the Qur’an, the true Jews and Christians are essentially…Muslims.

As for the term “allah” being used by Jews and Christians, I hadn’t ever heard of that. There was a Dutch Catholic (I believe) Bishop who actually suggested that Christians start calling God by that name.

Needless to say, it didn’t go over very well.

Yes, but that was in Holland. In Lebanon, Syria, etc., as well as in expatriate Arabic-speaking Christian communities, the word “Allah” is used for God, referring to the God of the Bible, not to the deity of the Qur’an. I have considerable first-hand experience of this.

Robert Spencer on July 20, 2008 at 6:07 PM

CrimsonFisted:

Is there a difference between Prophet and Messenger?

No. The word for prophet in Arabic, rasool, is “messenger.”

Have there been other identified messengers?

Yes. We’ve discussed them all through the Qur’an blog: Abraham, Noah, Lot, Moses, Hud, Shuaib, Salih, David, Solomon, Jesus, etc. etc. See, for example, sura 21, for a kind of general overview, but you can find mention of other messengers in many suras of the Qur’an that we’ve already covered.

Robert Spencer on July 20, 2008 at 6:11 PM

Thanks, and you answered the question before I asked it too!

I guess I was also thinking of other messengers in a modern sense, sort of like missionaries if you will, who brings the Islamic message to people today. According to Islam, after Mohammed, that was the end of the messengers. That was where I was going.

CrimsonFisted on July 20, 2008 at 6:16 PM

CrimsonFisted:

I guess I was also thinking of other messengers in a modern sense, sort of like missionaries if you will, who brings the Islamic message to people today. According to Islam, after Mohammed, that was the end of the messengers. That was where I was going.

There are plenty of Islamic missionaries. They are not “messengers” in the way Muhammad was. They are simply carrying out da’wa, Islamic proselytizing — spreading the message of Islam. They do not receive their own new message from the supreme being, as Muhammad claimed to have received (although he claimed to have received not a new message, but the same old message that had been given to all the other prophets).

Robert Spencer on July 20, 2008 at 6:23 PM

I once had a evangelical girl (she was annoyingly cheerful and frustratingly cute (in a permanently unavailable way)) explain to me when I was working my way through Leviticus (which was miserable, by the bye) that any reading of the Bible outside of the Grace of the Holy Spirit (or some phrase like that) was by definition hostile. To an extent I think that is correct in a way — every religion has aspects which can easily be seen ways that makes them look stupid, ridiculous, or frighteningly violent to an outside observer; but which seem perfectly reasonable and explainable from within.
Except maybe for Unitarianism, which is just so vague and undefined as to be utterly meaningless to outsiders — maybe that just goes to looking stupid.
My main point there was that the tasfirs you quote make it look worse than you could even if you tried because these are the people who are obviously defending and justifying it.

An irreverent source I like is the Skeptic’s Annotated Koran. They helpfully break things down as “Good Stuff” and “Cruelty and Violence.” They have 71 thumbs up for good stuff in the Koran, and 514 death heads for violence: a ratio of 7:1. The Bible’s ratio is about 3:1, with most of that from the Old Testament and Revelations. The Bible is less repetitive, and longer to boot. So mathematically speaking, Christianity is less than half as violent and cruel as Islam. I blame the ‘forgiveness’ and ‘turning the other cheek’ bits for that, personally. It’s a shame that such a great religion should fall so far behind in such an important metric.
But I’m just waiting for the Skeptic’s Annotated Das Kapital and Communist Manifesto. There’s a modern religion whose body count dwarfs that of all others, if taken on a per annum basis. So all you Christians would fall even further behind.
Slackers.
;)

TABoLK on July 20, 2008 at 6:25 PM

CrimsonFisted and I were thinking the same thing. Yeah, I know we have gone over this a few times previous, but I swear as we move forward, there seems to be a lot of contradictions from one Sura to the next. As when, if Muhammed is the last messenger (or prophet) then I take that as there have been, nor will be, any more.

As one last question for the evening…Does that mean peoples like those who lived in the Americas at the time, who mainly adhered to multitheism, and the peoples of Australia, and Eskimos in the North…all had an Islamic messenger of Allah sent to them? And is this really taken a fable, or serious Islamic thought?

Thank you again, Mr. Spencer for what truly is an educational journey into the Koran. Wish we could all meet up and throw you a big party at series end! You deserve it.

JetBoy on July 20, 2008 at 6:25 PM

We would like to take this opprtunity to THANK Robert Spencer for allowing us to JOIN the debates about Muhammad, his Quran and ‘Islam’ in general.

We are not in competition since our objective and that of Robert’s is to ENLIGHTEN an abysmally IGNORANT humanity of the greatest threat to human civilization in the 21st century emanating from:

FUNDAMENTALIST MUHAMMADAN ISLAM

We shall join the discussions whenever appropriate and we shall try and help in informing people by answering their questions also especially since our mother tongue is ARABIC

Thank you again Robert

muhammadsquran on July 20, 2008 at 6:28 PM

TABoLK:

every religion has aspects which can easily be seen ways that makes them look stupid, ridiculous, or frighteningly violent to an outside observer; but which seem perfectly reasonable and explainable from within.

Sure, but that is not my objective here, and that is not something in any case that I believe can be done to an equal extent with every religion in the same way.

Robert Spencer on July 20, 2008 at 6:31 PM

JetBoy:

As when, if Muhammed is the last messenger (or prophet) then I take that as there have been, nor will be, any more.

Right. This has been a very serious point of contention between Muslims and groups like the Bahais that claim to follow an additional, post-Muhammad messenger.

As one last question for the evening…Does that mean peoples like those who lived in the Americas at the time, who mainly adhered to multitheism, and the peoples of Australia, and Eskimos in the North…all had an Islamic messenger of Allah sent to them? And is this really taken a fable, or serious Islamic thought?

This is indeed the idea in Islam. Messengers have been sent everywhere. This is related also to the idea that everyone was originally Muslim, until they are corrupted by their parents and societies. This is why Muslims call converts “reverts” — they are returning to their original religion, the religion that everyone is born with.

Thank you again, Mr. Spencer for what truly is an educational journey into the Koran. Wish we could all meet up and throw you a big party at series end! You deserve it.

That would be great fun, especially if there were much open display of wine and pork, in defiance of the regulations for dhimmis.

Robert Spencer on July 20, 2008 at 6:36 PM

Wish we could all meet up and throw you a big party at series end! You deserve it.

JetBoy on July 20, 2008 at 6:25 PM

There should be something at the end of this, it has been a long journey and should be marked.

CrimsonFisted on July 20, 2008 at 6:36 PM

muhammadsquran:

You, and everyone, are most welcome to comment here. Thanks.

Robert Spencer on July 20, 2008 at 6:37 PM

CrimsonFisted:

There should be something at the end of this, it has been a long journey and should be marked.

There is still a long way to go, and I will continue here as long as Michelle Malkin wishes. It will start to go faster now, however, as the suras grow shorter, and shouldn’t take more than another year. Although it might. In any case, at the end I was planning at least one summation week, and then so long, good luck, and goodbye.

And I have already contracted with Regnery Publishing to write in 2009 The Infidel’s Guide to the Koran, which will not be this series in book form (although I’d still like to publish that sometime), but will be a thematic guide to the Qur’an based on this series.

Robert Spencer on July 20, 2008 at 7:25 PM

muhammadsquran on July 20, 2008 at 6:28 PM

Welcome aboard Ben.

As I said earlier, I went through all 152 chapters of your series over the last few days. Did you know YouTube pulled 69? Also, 151 is missing I can’t even find it at MuhammadTube.

I’ve turned them into MP3s for listening on iPods/MP3 players, burning to CDs, etc. if you want them to put on your website for downloading by visitors, just email me and I will get them to you. It will make you a little less dependent on the whims of YouTube.

Again, thanks to you and Robert for all you do. The least we can do in return is help get the word out.

TheBigOldDog on July 20, 2008 at 7:32 PM

Wish we could all meet up and throw you a big party at series end! You deserve it.

JetBoy on July 20, 2008 at 6:25 PM

That would be great fun, especially if there were much open display of wine and pork, in defiance of the regulations for dhimmis.

Robert Spencer on July 20, 2008 at 6:36 PM

I’m thinking pig roast at my house. That way you would not have to disclose your “undisclosed location.”

If you do a book tour when you release The Infidel’s Guide to the Koran, that would work, too. I would bring a ham sandwich while you sign my copy.

dentalque on July 20, 2008 at 9:23 PM

I’m thinking pig roast at my house

dentalque on July 20, 2008 at 9:23 PM

Sounds like a winner! I have some pretty good wines I’ve been saving.

JetBoy on July 20, 2008 at 9:37 PM

dentalque, JetBoy:

Sounds great. I’ll bring the Dos Equis.

Robert Spencer on July 20, 2008 at 9:49 PM

I don’t have any such plans. After this is over, it is over. If, however, Michelle Malkin asks me to continue with something else once this is done, I would be happy to oblige.

Robert Spencer on July 20, 2008 at 4:11 PM

Paging Ms. Malkin!! Ms. Malkin, please come to the reception area!!! At your earliest convenience, please ask Mr. Spencer to continue.

cthulhu on July 20, 2008 at 10:45 PM

An irreverent source I like is the Skeptic’s Annotated Koran. They helpfully break things down as “Good Stuff” and “Cruelty and Violence.” They have 71 thumbs up for good stuff in the Koran, and 514 death heads for violence: a ratio of 7:1. The Bible’s ratio is about 3:1, with most of that from the Old Testament and Revelations. The Bible is less repetitive, and longer to boot. So mathematically speaking, Christianity is less than half as violent and cruel as Islam. I blame the ‘forgiveness’ and ‘turning the other cheek’ bits for that, personally. It’s a shame that such a great religion should fall so far behind in such an important metric.TABoLK on July 20, 2008

Speaking of the Skeptics Annotated Quran, they do a good job documenting the various verses and counts of all advocacies of violence, but one major flaw I found with that was that they allow multiple categorizations of the same verse under cruelty, violence, intolerance, et al – making it look almost like they are trying to make it look worse than it really is, rather than letting the data speak entirely for itself.

Another shortcoming of the SAQ is that under the ‘Good Stuff’ category, they list verses, which if understood under their Islamic meanings, don’t remain good any more. For instance, surah 109 is mentioned there, but the context in which it was revealed – namely when Mohammed was haggling with the Meccans on whether to worship their 3 pagan gods, and he refused, thereby revealing the above verse. Yet, SAQ makes it look like that was a passage advocating tolerance of Infidels.

Thank you again, Mr. Spencer for what truly is an educational journey into the Koran. Wish we could all meet up and throw you a big party at series end! You deserve it. JetBoy on July 20, 2008 at 6:25PM

I’ll second that. It’s somewhat of a pity that so many people I agree with, I’ll never meet, while so many people I am acquainted with, I’ll never agree. Could be the kinder, gentler side to Allah ;-)

infidelpride on July 20, 2008 at 11:26 PM

Another great posts + comments! thank you, Mr. Spencer.

Spirit of 1776 on July 21, 2008 at 1:40 AM

Robert, I commend you for doing this. I have read two versions of the Koran, and it is mind boggling to me how this wretched little book holds such sway over the minds and hearts of so many people. How do you keep sane? Assuming that you continue to be sane, that is.

Jewel on July 21, 2008 at 3:17 AM

Jetboy
The Muhammadan exgetes – as usual with their methodology – DELIBERATELY mistranslated a HEBREW LOAN word to Arabic to mean LAST when in fact it meant INSCRIBED

The word in Arabic used is KHATIM al Anbiyyaa from the Hebrew Khatima

We have a WHOLE chapter on it on our website if you are interested

muhammadsquran on July 21, 2008 at 5:14 AM

cthulhu:

Paging Ms. Malkin!! Ms. Malkin, please come to the reception area!!! At your earliest convenience, please ask Mr. Spencer to continue.

I didn’t mean to give the impression that I was stopping. Certainly I had hoped for more of a response, but we’ve been through that. I am going to go on through to Qur’an 114 unless I am expressly asked to stop, in which case I will continue on to the end at Jihad Watch.

Robert Spencer on July 21, 2008 at 7:37 AM

Jewel:

How do you keep sane? Assuming that you continue to be sane, that is.

There are many people who would give you some very interesting answers on this!

Robert Spencer on July 21, 2008 at 7:39 AM

muhammadsquran:

The Muhammadan exgetes – as usual with their methodology – DELIBERATELY mistranslated a HEBREW LOAN word to Arabic to mean LAST when in fact it meant INSCRIBED

This is a fascinating area of study: Christoph Luxenberg and my friends Hans Jansen and Ibn Warraq have done notable work in this area, and I thank you for yours also.

In the Blogging the Qur’an series I am explaining only the mainstream understanding of the Qur’an among Muslims. I thus haven’t gotten into and don’t intend to get into (although you are welcome to do so in the comments) the problems with the Arabic text, but since the original Qur’anic text is not pointed, there are many.

That is, for those of you who are unfamiliar with Arabic, the original Qur’anic text lacks not only vowels but the points that allow one Arabic letter to be distinguished from another: many Arabic letters are ONLY distinguishable from other ones by means of these points. Accordingly, several courageous modern scholars are exploring the origins of the Qur’an by positing that the thing has been pointed incorrectly. Once I had an unforgettable dinner with Hans Jansen during which he took a Qur’anic phrase about the virgins of Paradise and explained how, if differently pointed, it became a standard Christian hymn of the early Byzantine era.

Robert Spencer on July 21, 2008 at 7:49 AM

I got this question in my Jihad Watch email:

Why not encourage HotAir to open up their discussion list?

I have no control over this, but consider them duly encouraged.

My question: If Allah has all these negative plans for non-believers, why do living Muslims feel obliged to preempt Allah and carry out what they think Allah will do, long before Allah has an opportunity to inflict his own punishment of non-believers. Frankly, I don’t think muslims really have that much faith in Allah if they have to do his work for him, maybe they think Allah might actually NOT do all that stuff claimed in the miracle publication then cite to prove the existence of Allah, namely the Koran.

The Qur’an tells Muslims to kill various groups of people: renegades who have rejected Islam (4:89), idolators (9:5), etc. Thus they are only doing what they’re told. The punishments of Allah can be executed by means of the Muslims.

Robert Spencer on July 21, 2008 at 8:05 AM

The punishments of Allah can be executed by means of the Muslims.

But doesn’t Allah do that himself at his will? That question above from your email has plagued me as well. Although you’ve answered it, I still feel confused (not your fault!) about all this predestination in Islam vs. Faith.

The Muhammadan exgetes – as usual with their methodology – DELIBERATELY mistranslated a HEBREW LOAN word to Arabic to mean LAST when in fact it meant INSCRIBED

The word in Arabic used is KHATIM al Anbiyyaa from the Hebrew Khatima

We have a WHOLE chapter on it on our website if you are interested

muhammadsquran on July 21, 2008 at 5:14 AM

Interesting website…thanks for sharing. I’ll delve into it more.

That is, for those of you who are unfamiliar with Arabic, the original Qur’anic text lacks not only vowels but the points that allow one Arabic letter to be distinguished from another: many Arabic letters are ONLY distinguishable from other ones by means of these points.

Robert Spencer on July 21, 2008 at 7:49 AM

This I didn’t know. I find it interesting as well that, much like various Christian bibles, the Koran also has differing translations. Is there any particular one translation that is most widely used? And are the main differences because of the translation difficulty re: vowels, or does it represent differences between Sunni/Shia understandings?

JetBoy on July 21, 2008 at 9:24 AM

JetBoy:

But doesn’t Allah do that himself at his will? That question above from your email has plagued me as well. Although you’ve answered it, I still feel confused (not your fault!) about all this predestination in Islam vs. Faith.

Ultimately, this is an unresolved paradox.

I find it interesting as well that, much like various Christian bibles, the Koran also has differing translations. Is there any particular one translation that is most widely used? And are the main differences because of the translation difficulty re: vowels, or does it represent differences between Sunni/Shia understandings?

No, this is not what I meant. I was discussing some scholarly investigations that have been undertaken by only a very few people. The pointing is not at all disputed among Muslims themselves. There is a standard way in which the Qur’an is pointed, and an Arabic text that is official and standard. For Muslims, only the Arabic Qur’an is the Qur’an (in accordance with its own words), and any translation is simply a summary of the meanings of the Qur’an, not the Qur’an itself. Muslims the world over, whether they understand Arabic or not, must recite the Qur’an in Arabic in Islamic prayers. To recite it in any other language would not be to recite the Qur’an at all.

As for the Shi’ites, they do have a few extra chapters of the Qur’an, although some Shi’ites deny this. It is not clear whether or not their denial is an example of taqiyya or not. But those extra chapters (which you can find online fairly easily) have nothing to do with the pointing of the Qur’anic text.

Robert Spencer on July 21, 2008 at 9:32 AM

Jetboy
The Muhammadan exgetes – as usual with their methodology – DELIBERATELY mistranslated a HEBREW LOAN word to Arabic to mean LAST when in fact it meant INSCRIBED

The word in Arabic used is KHATIM al Anbiyyaa from the Hebrew Khatima

We have a WHOLE chapter on it on our website if you are interested

muhammadsquran on July 21, 2008 at 5:14 AM

This particular article can be found here:

Khatim al Anbiyya.

The Hebrew noun “chatimah” can mean signature, seal and end or finish, such as “chatinat perek”, the “end of a chapter”. The related verb “chatam” can mean to tie up, close or lock.

So saying that Mohamed was the “chatim(ah)” of the prophets (in Hebrew “chatimat ha’nevi’im) is in fact a figuratively acceptable way of saying he was the last one. So I think your article needs to be modified.

Not that it makes Mohamed any more impressive to us anyway. ;)

Shy Guy on July 21, 2008 at 10:22 AM

Robert,

Am I correct in assuming that the primary method of learning and teaching the Qu`ran for centuries was orally and that would have prevented any radically different readings of the text among the believers?

TheBigOldDog on July 21, 2008 at 10:24 AM

Shy Guy on July 21, 2008 at 10:22 AM

His analysis might be clearer if you listen to the complete analysis. Here’s a link to the video version on Youtube:

Muhammad Last Prophet? Part 28

The issue, as I understand it, is how Arabs used the word, not acceptable Hebrew interpretations of the word. After all the Arabs had a perfectly acceptable word for “last.” But, they lacked a word for “seal” meaning “authenticator” and hence adopted the Hebrew word and he shows when and why Muhammad adopted the word. He goes on to show how every time it is used in the Qu`ran it means the same thing, “seal.”

TheBigOldDog on July 21, 2008 at 10:56 AM

TheBigOldDog:

Am I correct in assuming that the primary method of learning and teaching the Qu`ran for centuries was orally and that would have prevented any radically different readings of the text among the believers?

The primary way of learning and teaching the Qur’an is still orally: young Muslims memorize all or large portions of the text, without necessarily knowing what it means. They do this in Arabic, whether or not they speak Arabic. One Pakistani Muslim once told me that he was very proud of his religion, and had memorized almost all of the Qur’an, and that he one day intended to get hold of a translation and find out what it meant. The task of interpreting the text is now and always has been the province not of the individual believer, but of the various theological authorities: the schools of jurisprudence, the ulema of various countries, etc.

Robert Spencer on July 21, 2008 at 11:14 AM

After all the Arabs had a perfectly acceptable word for “last.”

TheBigOldDog on July 21, 2008 at 10:56 AM

So does Hebrew, “acharon”, a completely different word.

I’m not a language expert but my simpleton opinion is that the claims here are inconclusive.

Shy Guy on July 21, 2008 at 11:14 AM

ShyGuy:

It is noteworthy that a text that advertises itself as containing only “pure Arabic” (Qur’an 16:103) contains loan words from many other languages used in Arabia at the time of Muhammad, and in the surrounding areas.

Robert Spencer on July 21, 2008 at 11:16 AM

Robert, I have always had an interest in point out on your posts here and at JW words which I recognize in Hebrew and Aramaic that are same or similar to Arabic words in the Qur’an.

Maybe ‘pure Arabic’ doesn’t mean that Arabic does not contain words originating from other languages. It may simply mean that the words used are part of the accepted Arabic language and no transliterated words from other languages are used which had not, at the time of the Qur’an’s compilation, been accepted in use in Arabic.

Could that be possible?

Shy Guy on July 21, 2008 at 11:25 AM

ShyGuy:

Yes, it could be possible, but there does seem to be some question as to whether many of these loan words were indeed in accepted use in Arabic in Muhammad’s time. The works of Ibn Warraq on the origins of the Qur’an contain some essays that go into this in depth.

Robert Spencer on July 21, 2008 at 11:37 AM

It is noteworthy that a text that advertises itself as containing only “pure Arabic” (Qur’an 16:103) contains loan words from many other languages used in Arabia at the time of Muhammad, and in the surrounding areas.

Purely intentional on Allah’s part, I am sure. It’s his book and his well-documented state of unfetteredness allows for him to change his mind, which apparently, he does quite often.

awake on July 21, 2008 at 11:52 AM

Purely intentional on Allah’s part, I am sure. It’s his book and his well-documented state of unfetteredness allows for him to change his mind, which apparently, he does quite often.

awake on July 21, 2008 at 11:52 AM

Sura 2:106 If memory serves.

dentalque on July 21, 2008 at 1:48 PM

It does serve you correctly and the rebuttal to the inspipid claim of those wicked Jews about Allah’s hand being ftettered, 5:64.

awake on July 21, 2008 at 2:54 PM

As I’ve explained in previous Qur’an blogs, the Islamic idea is that the Biblical prophets — Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, etc., as well as Jesus — were all Muslims who taught Islam. It was their followers who perverted their teachings to create Judaism and Christianity. So in the eyes of the Qur’an, the true Jews and Christians are essentially…Muslims.

Robert Spencer on July 20, 2008 at 6:07 PM

Robert, throughout your series there is so much documentation of the huge differences between Christianity and Judaism, on one hand and Islam on the other. Between Christians and Jews the schism formed when some few Jews decided Jesus was the Messiah. That being decided, they formed many new doctrines, but the base is shared including the text of the Old Testament and concepts from the Old Testament, expounded by Jesus, such as free will.

However you have presented so well how Islam rejects the documentation shared by Judaism and Christianity as ‘misprints’ of the real story. Yet, in what is called an ecumenical outreach, many religious leaders in the West insist we share the Book with Islam, that implying the same God. Islam describes people of the Book as better than pagans which also implies a shared understanding.

To me it is obvious we do not share the same Book. I am eternally grateful for the Book(s) preserved by the Jews, but I do not have any gratitude for ‘the Book’ published by the isalmists.

What do you think would happen if our world did a 180 and started a movement to tell the world we do not share the Book? The opposite is now being promoted as ecumenical, but how can ecumenicism be based upon a lie? Would there be fatwas against Westerners who state we do not share the same Book, or would islam back down from the aggressive insistance on more and more changes in Western behaviour?

The lie has been rolling unimpeded because no one will stand up and say anything

entagor on July 21, 2008 at 5:26 PM

many religious leaders in the West insist we share the Book with Islam, that implying the same God. Islam describes people of the Book as better than pagans which also implies a shared understanding

You might find these short videos from fellow HA membermuhammadsquran informative:

Quran vs Bible Contradictions Part 23

Biblical Corruption Allegations Part 37

They started to make the corruption charges in 1064 to explain the differences with the Bible.

TheBigOldDog on July 21, 2008 at 5:54 PM

entagor:

What do you think would happen if our world did a 180 and started a movement to tell the world we do not share the Book? The opposite is now being promoted as ecumenical, but how can ecumenicism be based upon a lie? Would there be fatwas against Westerners who state we do not share the same Book, or would islam back down from the aggressive insistance on more and more changes in Western behaviour?

No one who knows anything about Islam actually claims that we “share the same book.” The New Testament is bound with the Old, and it’s the same Hebrew Scriptures as are used by the Jews. But the Qur’an is never bound with the Jewish and Christian Scriptures. This simple fact in itself is enough, or should be, to establish that Muslims consider the earlier Scriptures to be corrupted.

Robert Spencer on July 21, 2008 at 9:19 PM

entagor on July 21, 2008 at 5:26 PM

Christians do not in any way, shape or form, accept Islam as anything but a false ideology, borne of an anti-Christian, sociopathic mindset, founded by Muhammad, (who in reality, despised the Jews exponentially more than the Christians). READ BOSTOM ON THIS.

In absolute reality, Christ and Muhammad are diametric opposites.

Islam is simply, a vehicle for Arab supremacy. It always was Muhammad’s supremacy specifically. Darfur should have taught you that, rather quickly in my estimation, but some are slower learners than others.

I do not care for your thinly veiled accusation that Robert has anything but contempt for Islam, with his objective, Muslim sourced, “Blogging the Qur’an” series, notwithstanding, and apparently ignored by you.

awake on July 21, 2008 at 11:06 PM

This particular article can be found here:

Khatim al Anbiyya.

The Hebrew noun “chatimah” can mean signature, seal and end or finish, such as “chatinat perek”, the “end of a chapter”. The related verb “chatam” can mean to tie up, close or lock.

So saying that Mohamed was the “chatim(ah)” of the prophets (in Hebrew “chatimat ha’nevi’im) is in fact a figuratively acceptable way of saying he was the last one. So I think your article needs to be modified.

Not that it makes Mohamed any more impressive to us anyway. ;)

Shy Guy on July 21, 2008 at 10:22 AM

With all due respect, KHATIMA means INSCRIBED/AUTHENTICATED/SIGNIATURE BUT NOT LAST!!!

Please visit my website and click on the letter K and scroll to find the COMPLETE analysis and THEN please comment your opinion

Regards
Ben

muhammadsquran on July 22, 2008 at 3:55 PM

muhammadsquran on July 22, 2008 at 3:55 PM

With all due respect, how can you expect anyone to take you seriously, over Spencer?

JUST WONDERING?>

awake on July 23, 2008 at 1:03 AM

It is ass-hats like you that give Robert Spencer a bad name, generally.

awake on July 23, 2008 at 1:07 AM

What do you think would happen if our world did a 180 and started a movement to tell the world we do not share the Book? The opposite is now being promoted as ecumenical, but how can ecumenicism be based upon a lie? Would there be fatwas against Westerners who state we do not share the same Book, or would islam back down from the aggressive insistance on more and more changes in Western behaviour? entagor on July 21, 2008 at 5:26 PM

I do not care for your thinly veiled accusation that Robert has anything but contempt for Islam, with his objective, Muslim sourced, “Blogging the Qur’an” series, notwithstanding, and apparently ignored by you.

awake on July 21, 2008 at 11:06 PM

I guess I did not express myself well. This series by Robert Spencer is fantastic and I have recommended it to many. I am struck by the huge difference between what is said about islam publically and the details revealed by Robert.

Lately, I think to keep things calm after 911, our society is being informed by various ecumenical groups that Muslims, Jews and Christians ‘worship the same God’. I have heard the line ‘we are all people of the Book’ so many times but read Spencer once to get over that delusion

Those ecumenical outreach efforts emphasize similar moral values like rules against murder, stealing etc. That leads people to think someone following islamic doctrine will make decisions similar to someone following judeo-christian doctrine. This is being taught in many public schools now.

The Pope recently requested a dialogue with muslim religious leaders to establish that there is a common yearning in all humans for certain human rights, regardless of the faith they follow, especially the right to freedom of religion. According to a discussion I watched on EWTN the Catholic channel, the invitation was presented three times to muslim religious leaders, and three times he received a reply that they were willing to convene to discuss the truth that there is one god.

I believe the Pope worded his invitation carefully. Had they agreed to accept the premise of his invitation, it would be a good sign for the West that the ecumenicists were right. That they would not accept his premise was a good wake up for the West, if anyone was listening.

This Pope is quite an intellect. I am not a Catholic but I respect him. He made a discrete and careful step to document the chasm between the Western faiths and islam. He was also fishing for hope that we could get along

I am worried that if someone doesn’t start some kind of broader based effort, the Western world is going to fool itself out of existance.

No one wants to challenge the urban legend of shared values because we ‘worship the same god’ so the islamists increase their pressures on changing our society and they are making gains.

What if we just said no? Right now the only ones defining Judaism and Christianity are the politically correct. Except for the Pope, and people like Spencer making an effort to inform, it looks like most are going with the program.

People who do not equate themselves with islam do not get roundtable discussion programs on sunday morning cable. They do not have a voice. They could at least show their numbers.

entagor on July 23, 2008 at 7:33 AM