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    Reflections on some Ayât

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    Following are some extracts from the reflections of Dr. Jeffery Lang, when first reading the Qur'an as an atheist (he is now Muslim).
    _____________________________________
    Are You Talkin’ to Me?

    That is the book, wherein no doubt, is guidance for those who are on their guard (2:2).
    I felt a shiver run through me as I read the above verse. I thought to myself, Are you talking to me?

    I was on only the second page of the Qur’an and I had already experienced a sensation I would have repeatedly as I made my way through the text. On the previous page of the Scripture was the first surah (chapter) of the Qur’an, which is essentially a prayer for guidance. It reads:
    Praise belongs to God, the Sustainer of the Worlds;
    The Merciful, The Compassionate;
    Master of the Day of Judgement.
    To You we pray, and You we seek.
    Guide us on the straight path,
    The path of those whom You have favored,
    Not of those who have strayed or upon whom is wrath (1:1-7).
    Here, on the second page, at the beginning of the second surah, God himself responds to the reader, stating that the guidance for which he or she just prayed is undoubtedly right in his or her hands. I thought, So you are saying that in this book is the guidance I just prayed for? I looked again at the second verse:
    “That is the book.”
    “What an original and appropriate way to present a revelation!” I said to myself. Instead of relating a history of a people, or a biography of a great teacher, or a collection of sayings of a prophet, the author, whom I assumed to be Muhammad, writes the Scripture in the form of a direct address from God to humanity. I thought that this is exactly what we should expect from a divine revelation— sort of like the Ten Commandments expanded to a book.
    As I made my way through the Qur’an, my respect for its cleverness grew. I was particularly impressed by the way I would repeatedly have the same experience I mentioned above—but on an increasingly profound level—where I would have the eerie feeling that the Qur’an was actually communicating to me, intellectually, and, for lack of a better word, spiritually. I figured that somehow the author inserted in the text a large number of passages that he knew would provoke certain questions and reactions in the reader, and then he responded to the anticipated reader’s reactions in the subsequent passages. This ability of the Qur’an to engage the reader in mental and spiritual conversation—or as Fredrick Denny puts it, “to read the reader”—gives it tremendous psychological power, and this I believed might account for the renowned religious fervor of Muslims. I felt that the author must have had deep insight into human nature, especially since this inherent power of the Qur’an, judging at least from my own experience of it, is still extremely strong fourteen centuries after it first appeared.
    The first twenty nine verses of the second surah concisely and eloquently summarize the Qur’an’s major themes: Humanity's need for self-surrender to God, Muhammed’s prophethood, the Hereafter and Final Judgment, the Qur’an's use of symbolism (2:26), the resurrection of man and God's ultimate sovereignty. These verses also contain a description of the Scripture’s potential audience. The readers who will benefit most from the Qur’an are the sincere believers. The readers who will gain the least are the close-minded who are bent on rejecting the Qur’an. In between these two categories are the pretenders and self-deluded who claim to be sincere in faith but who really put worldly pursuits and self-interests above faith. These will profit little from reading the Scripture unless they change their mindset. In form, the Qur’an’s introduction is not unlike introductions of many modern instructional texts, introductions which describe their books’ contents and the prerequisites needed to learn from them.


    You Gotta be Talkin’ to Me

    Verses 30 through 39 of the second surah introduce the parable of the first man and woman. Although the story as presented in the Qur’an shared many details with the Biblical one, there was something very peculiar about it. I scanned over the verses a few more times, but I could not make out exactly what point the Scripture was trying to make. It seemed to me that either it was saying something really profound or else it was just confused. I decided to go through the passage slowly and carefully, line by line, to see if it fit together to convey a coherent vision.

    Behold, your Lord said to the angels, “I will create a vicegerent on earth.” They said: “Will you put therein one who will spread corruption and shed blood? While we celebrate your praises and glorify you?” He said: “I know what you do not know” (2:30).
    The thirtieth verse of the second surah caught me off guard, not because it begins the allegory of the first man and woman, but because of the way it does it. As I read it this time, I suddenly felt very alone—singled out—as if the author had pulled me aside into some empty and silent space to speak directly and only to me.
    At first I wondered if the author had misheard or misunderstood the traditional story of Adam and Eve, because the verse before me denied the whole point and purpose of it. But as I read the verse a second, then a third, then a fourth time, I began to feel that the author had intentionally permuted and modified the details of the ancient tale.
    The setting of the verse is in Heaven, with God making an announcement to the angels that He is going to place man on earth to represent Him: “I will create a vicegerent on earth.” He has it all wrong, I objected. Humanity is not placed on earth to perform some positive function; mankind is placed on earth as a punishment for Adam’s sin. Yet there is no hint here in God’s announcement of any wrongdoing on Adam’s or Eve’s part, and as the subsequent verses show, no wrong has yet been committed.
    It is the angels who raise the natural objection: “Will you put there in one who will spread corruption and shed blood, while we celebrate your praises and glorify you?” It is the angels, here, who seem to want to steer the allegory back to its traditional meaning—to the one with which I grew up. In essence they ask, Why create this most sinful and violent creature? Why put on earth one who will wreak havoc there? Why create this defective being at all, when you could create us, the angels? As they plainly say, “While we celebrate your praises and glorify you?” Their question is given even greater force when we consider that it is being asked in Heaven. For on top of creating this most imperfect creature, God is about to place it in an environment where it could act out its worst criminal impulses, operating under the illusion of being distant from God. In other words, the question is: Why would God create this corrupt species and place it on earth when He could simply make them angels and place them in Heaven?
    This was my question! My objection! My life encapsulated in these three or four lines! I felt like the Qur’an was playing with my emotions, manipulating this story to provoke me. Then, to make matters worse, God simply replies to the angels, “I know what you do not know.” As if to say, “I know exactly what I’m doing.”
    You can’t do that! I shouted in my mind. You can’t do that to me! You can’t take my hurt, my anger, my life, place it all before me, and then tell me that You know what You are doing! You can’t get off that easy! You made me this way!
    Then it dawned on me: I was complaining to the God in whom I did not even believe.

    Open Your Eyes

    Right after the angels asked their question would have been the perfect place for the author to attempt damage control and return to the traditional Biblical story. At that point he could have had God respond, “Yes, you angels are exactly right about human nature, and therefore I am going to punish them by letting this couple and all of their descendents suffer on earth when these two inevitably sin.” This still would not have fully answered the angels’ question, since it does not explain why God would create such a corrupt being in the first place, but at least it would get back to the idea that life on earth is a punishment for human sinfulness rather than an opportunity for us to serve as God’s representatives.
    It would soon become apparent to me that the Qur’an had another agenda, that it had an entirely different vision and message. Rather than revert to traditional lines, it begins an answer to the angels’ question that will first focus on human intellect (2:31-34), then on moral choice (2:35-36), and finally on divine guidance (2:37-39).
    And He taught Adam the names of all things. Then He placed them before the angels, and said: “Tell me their names if you are right” (2:31).
    I recalled that in the Biblical version Adam named the creatures around him, but it was not highlighted as part of a justification for the making of humanity. The Qur’an, however, begins an answer to the angels’ query by drawing attention to this point.
    I marveled at the way the Scripture packed so much meaning into so few words. Note that Adam does not merely name the things about him, instead God teaches him, which emphasizes his ability to learn, his intellect. Notice also what Adam is learning. He is acquiring the ability to name “all things,” to assign verbal symbols to everything that he becomes aware of, to all of his thoughts, experiences, and feelings. Of all human intellectual gifts, it is the gift of language that the Qur’an emphasizes, apparently because it is this highly developed intellectual tool that separates humanity from all other earthly creatures. It is through the use of language, more than any other talent, that humans grow, progress, and learn, individually and collectively, for it provides us a means to learn from and to teach others with whom we have no personal contact, including persons of times and places vastly different from our own, so that all human learning is endowed with a preeminent “cumulative character.”
    God then places the things that Adam names before the angels and states, “Tell me their names if you are right.” This clearly shows that human intellect figures prominently into a response to the angels’ question. The angels asked why God would create such a violent and pernicious creature, when from their viewpoint they are superior to man, since they are totally submissive to God’s will and they praise and glorify Him. The Qur’an seems to be saying in this verse and those that immediately follow that there are other qualities, human intelligence among them, that make mankind—at least potentially—greater than angels in God’s view.
    They said: “Glory to you! Of knowledge we have none, except what You have taught us. In truth it is You who are all knowing, all wise” (2:32).
    The angels admit their inability to meet the challenge. They lack the intellectual aptitude to create symbols and concepts for what they experience. They explain that to do so would require intelligence—knowledge and wisdom—far beyond their reach. They acknowledge that for God such a task would be easy, because He is “all knowing, all wise,” but as angels they are deficient in these qualities.
    He said: “O Adam! Tell them their names.” And when he had told them, God said: “Did I not tell you that I know the secrets of the heavens and the earth, and I know what you reveal and conceal?” (2:33).

    Adam succeeds where the angels failed, demonstrating his superior intellect. Although Adam has not the wisdom and knowledge of God, he is endowed with more of these than the angelic hosts are.
    I was starting to believe that the author had not misunderstood the Biblical version of this story, but that he was recasting it to bring out an original meaning. He was saying that it is true that God created in man the ability to do wrong, but He also gave humanity other qualities that the angels could not understand or appreciate, and that fit into a more far-reaching design. Therefore the Qur’an has God state, “Did I not tell you that I know the secrets of the heavens and the earth?” Yet this question to the angels does not stop here, for it continues: “And I know what you reveal and what you conceal.”
    What did their question conceal? I wondered. It was obvious what it revealed. It exposed the destructive and sinister propensities of human beings, but what did it conceal?
    Then it came to me. The angels’ objection stressed only one side of human character: mankind’s ability to do great violence and wrong. Yet the angels were blinded, as was I, to the other side of human nature. Indeed some humans could do terrible wrong, but others could do tremendous good. Some individuals were capable of great self-sacrifice, of the noblest acts of justice, of the most generous displays of charity, warmth, and kindness. Some persons could show the greatest mercy and compassion to their fellow man. Yet I, like the angels, did not consider this. For too long I had seen only the dark side of human beings. While it is true that some of us can be terribly destructive, others can be tremendously kind and good, and we all know of great exemplars of both tendencies. Often they appear on the same stage of the human drama, as the appearance of one provokes the emergence of the other. It seems that goodness brings out the worst in some people, and evil brings out the best in others. Thus we can have the very good and the very destructive arising from the same surroundings and circumstances, sometimes coexisting in the same country, city, or neighborhood.
    And behold, We said to the angels: “Bow down to Adam” and they bowed down: not so Iblis. He refused and was arrogant. He was of those who reject faith (2:34).
    If I had any doubt that the Qur’an’s position is that the human character is potentially greater than the angelic one, this verse removed it. When Adam succeeds intellectually where the angels failed, God tells them, “Bow down to Adam.” They then bow down, demonstrating their acknowledgement of his superiority. Bowing is also a symbol of subservience and thus the Qur’an seems to be indicating that the angels will serve mankind in its development on earth.
    However, Iblis, Satan, refuses to bow down, and with his refusal the Qur’an presents the genesis of sin. According to the Qur’an, the root of sin is not money, greed, or lusts, but false and self-destructive pride. With the introduction of Satan, the Scripture has now added another main element to the drama and to its response to the angel’s original question, but why? Why the need for Satan? Why create one whose sole purpose is to avert men and women from doing good?
    Up to this point the Qur’an seemed to be putting together an intelligent response to the angel’s question. But now it appeared to me that it was beginning to falter and drift back to the Biblical story: Satan tempts man, man sins, man and all of his progeny are sentenced to life on earth. Yet I had promised myself to keep an open mind and not force my own unnecessary interpretations on the Scripture. I would give it the benefit of the doubt. Then what, I asked myself, could be the purpose of Satan?
    Every culture has its distinctive beliefs about the devil, but in almost all religious ideologies he plays the part of tempter, the subconscious seducer who slips evil suggestions into our thoughts. Just as the angels are to us the source of magnanimous urgings, Satan prods us to do wrong. We think of both as the opposing voices in our mind when we grapple with a moral dilemma.
    Is that it? I wondered. Is the Qur’an saying that in addition to giving us intelligence, God made us a moral being, a being that understands right and wrong? Is it saying that God also provided us with angelic inspiration and satanic temptation to heighten our moral awareness? Is it underlining the fact that we are creatures that can and must make moral choices? Although I could not yet see what logical purpose that might serve, I also could not see how this necessarily contradicted what the Qur’an presented so far.
    We said: “O Adam! Dwell you and your wife in the garden, and eat of the bountiful things therein as you wish, but do not approach this tree, for then you will be among the wrongdoers” (2:35).
    I was continuing to lose confidence in the Scripture. Despite its brilliant beginnings, the story now seemed to be definitely returning to the Biblical version: Adam and Eve eat from the tree and are punished with life on earth. Yet there was something very odd about this verse. In the Biblical story, God appears nervous and threatened by the prospect of man eating from the tree, for it is the tree of knowledge and immortality, and should humans eat of it, they will become gods themselves and rival God.
    However, in this passage, God seems curiously calm and in complete control. There is no suggestion that the fruit of the tree will have any great effect on Adam and Eve. It almost seems that the tree is picked at random. The Qur’an will later explain that Satan tempted the couple by saying that if they ate from the tree, then they would obtain eternal life and “a kingdom that never decays” (20:121), but this is a complete fabrication on his part. There is no hint that God is anxious that the couple may disobey Him; He merely informs them that if they do, then they will have committed a wrongful deed.
    In light of the preceding verses, we must conclude that eventually the couple had to sin. Why else make mankind into a moral being that is subjected to temptation? Everything the story has told us up until now, from the angels’ question to the introduction of Satan, suggests that God is well aware that the couple will eventually ere, and that He intentionally made them that way.
    We also do not know that this was the first command God gave to the couple. The Qur’an does not inform us. There could have been others before it. All we know is that this is the first one that they will disobey. I wondered if that could be its only real significance --that it is the couple’s first independent choice, the first time they choose to do other than what God had told them.
    Then Satan caused them to slip from it and to leave the state in which they had been. We said: “Go down, all of you together, with some of you adversaries of others, and on earth will be your dwelling place and provisions for a time” (2:36).
    With this verse I was ready to close the Qur’an and put it away for good, for I was now convinced that it had left its initial track and returned to the traditional theme that our earthly lives are essentially a punishment for Adam’s and Eve’s sin. But once again the subtle wording of the verse mystified me. Why would it refer to the greatest sin in the history of mankind, the very sin for which our entire race must suffer pain, hardship, and death on earth, as a mere “slip”? In English a slip is nothing more than a momentary loss of focus, a temporary loss of one’s footing, a minor error of no great consequence. At first I thought that this must have been a mistranslation, but I soon discovered from Arab friends that the Arabic word translated as “slip” (azala) conveys exactly the same sense as it does in English. How can that be? I asked myself. Does the author not understand the magnitude of Adam’s and Eve’s sin?
    I went back and reread this verse and the preceding one several times. And then it occurred to me: Did the couple really commit so grave a crime? Maybe I was the one who could not let go of the traditional interpretation. Maybe I was resisting the Qur’an’s message. After all, they did not commit murder, or rape, or adultery, or assault! After all, it was only a tree!
    I figured that calling this mistake a “slip” might be entirely appropriate. This would also explain the dispassionate tone of the passage. For instead of telling the couple that they will suffer terribly on earth, they are told that on earth “will be your dwelling place and provision for a time.” These are hardly the words of an angry, scolding deity. It is true that God tells them all—presumably all humanity—perhaps the satans and even the angels as well—to go down to earth and that some will be adversaries of others, but the angels’ question (2:30) and verse 2:34 already anticipated this would be the case.
    I was also interested in the statement that their “slip” caused them to leave the state in which they were. From what state did they depart? All that the text reveals is that they were no longer in a state of perfect conformity to God’s will, that they were now capable of choosing to do wrong as well as right. But how could that be a positive thing? How could that help men and women to act as God’s representatives on earth? I could almost answer these questions but I could not fit all the pieces together. There were too many other questions rushing into my mind, too many parts to the puzzle.
    Doubt kept creeping into my thoughts as well. Maybe I am being too generous with the Qur’an, giving it too much of the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps this verse is portraying life on earth as a penalty for mankind. Perhaps the Qur’an is telling two conflicting stories at the same time. Perhaps the author could not make up his mind which message he wanted to convey.
    I felt the next few verses would settle the matter. If in them God is portrayed as angry, vengeful, and punishing, then the Qur’an did stray from its original argument against the angels’ question. If not, then I knew I had a lot of rethinking to do.
    Then Adam received words from his Lord and his Lord turned towards him (compassionately), for He is Oft Returning, Most Merciful (2:37).
    The tone of the passage is far from condemnatory with its emphasis on God’s forgiveness and compassion. The next passage will show that the words Adam received from his Lord were words of consolation and hope.
    We said: “Go down, all of you, from here. And if, as is sure, there comes to you guidance from Me, whosoever follows My guidance will have nothing to fear, nor shall they grieve” (2:38).
    These two verses paint a sympathetic picture. The couple is sent from Heaven to begin their earthly sojourn. We must assume that they are filled with remorse for what they have done and apprehension about life in an unfamiliar environment. Their Lord turns to them and embraces them with forgiveness and mercy. He assures them that they will always have guidance from Him, and they have nothing to fear as long as they follow it. Like a parent tenderly consoling his or her child, God tells them, “I know you are afraid and I know this seems hard to you, but you will be all right. I will always be with you and I will always guide you. Just keep your eyes, ears and heart open to My many signs, and you will have nothing to fear.”
    Thus we find that God forgives the couple and comes to their aid, but then why does He not return them to Heaven? Suppose, for example, that my daughter does some wrong and I deduct five dollars from her allowance as a punishment. Assume she then apologizes to me and I forgive her, but I also inform her that I will still deduct the five dollars from her allowance. Her reaction would naturally be, “But you said you forgave me and yet you’re still punishing me! Make up your mind!” So if God forgives the couple, why does He leave them on earth?
    The answer came to me as quickly as the question did: because life on earth, according to the Qur’an, is not a punishment. From the very start of the allegory, God insists that our earthly existence serves a greater purpose. As long as I kept that in mind, the story was entirely coherent. Observe also that the Qur’an repeats the statement, “Go down, all of you, from here,” in 2:38, but this time surrounds it with lines that emphasize God’s forgiving, comforting, and reassuring the couple. As if the Scripture was telling me once and for all, “God did not put you on earth to punish you!”
    And those who rejected and gave the lie to Our signs, these are friends of the fire, they dwelled therein (2:39).
    Why did it have to say that? I felt a rush of indignation. Just as I was admiring the Qur’an’s intelligent approach, it had to resort to scare tactics. That’s hitting below the belt, I complained. I would have continued on with my reading anyway, if only out of curiosity, without the threats. I have been threatened enough already in my life, and it only produced more resistance and resentment. The Qur’an may be able to frighten others, but I will not be intimidated. I will continue to analyze this Scripture, page-by-page, verse-by-verse, and line-by-line.
    I may have been at first offended by this statement, but my brief history with the Scripture had taught me that when a passage agitates me, it often contains an important clue to its viewpoint. As I looked more carefully at these words, I again found the phrasing intriguing. Until this point in the narrative, the Qur’an was relating the allegory of Adam and Eve, of the beginnings of human experience on earth. In this verse, with its abrupt shift to the past tense, it transports the reader far into the future, to the conclusion of the human drama in the hereafter, where it reviews the state of those who rejected and denied God’s signs on earth. It is a brilliant device, for it ends God’s conversation with the first couple on a consoling and compassionate note, and at the same time introduces a warning to the reader in the next verse without interrupting the flow of ideas.
    Yet let us say, for the sake of argument, that there really is a God. Does anyone knowingly reject and give the lie to His signs, or do they simply miss them because they are too obscure? Do people consciously reject what they feel may be true? Do they distort in their own minds what they sense is right? Do they stubbornly go against their conscience?
    Of course they do, I told myself, and so have I. Many times I have denied, bent and manipulated the truth to indulge some personal vice. Many times I have rationalized patently destructive and self-destructive acts, refusing to admit my wrongs, even to myself? And even though my pursuit of what I felt might be wrong left me empty, ungratified, and restless, I continued to run headlong down the same path. If God did exist, I thought, then I definitely ignored His signs, but that is a big “if.”
    The phrase “These are friends of the fire” also struck me. For a friend is one who is dear to us, whose company we seek and whose companionship we desire. Is the Qur’an saying that some people pursue and court the misery they will experience in the next life? When it says that “they dwelled therein,” is it hinting that the hell they experience in the hereafter in some sense began for them in their earthly lives?
    Even though a hundred questions were now streaming into my mind and I could not yet see the big picture, I knew I was in for a battle. If these ten verses led me to this much agonizing, then the challenge ahead of me was going to be great. Not that I believed in God or that this author was other than a man, but I knew that I was up against an exceptionally capable opponent.

    Will They Not Use Their Reason?

    When the angels demur at the announcement of the creation of mankind, the very first thing that God points to in order to demonstrate the superficiality of their case is human intelligence. In essence the Qur’an asserts that this human trait is more esteemed by God than the angels’ inability to sin. Thus right from the start the Qur’an makes it clear that God does not expect nor want men and women to be angels, that with all their faults, complexities, and contradictions, they have the ability to become something greater, and somehow human intellect plays a key role in that. The prominence assigned to reason in the human spiritual quest caught me off guard. I had always believed that reason ultimately undermines faith, but this Scripture seemed to say that faith is undermined when reason is ignored or poorly applied.
    The rational and often didactic tone of the Qur’an is one of its most salient features. One of its fundamental themes is that people ignore or reject God’s signs and corrupt religion because they do not use their reason. “They refuse to reason” and are “a people who do not reason,” the Qur’an complains of its detractors. “Will you not reason?” the Qur’an asks them. God reveals signs, lessons, and admonitions, so that, “Perhaps you [the unbelievers] will use your reason.”
    From the Qur’an’s viewpoint, reason and faith are allies, as are illogic and false belief, and it clearly sets the conflict along these lines: “the right way has become clear from error.” Those who benefit most from the Qur’an are “persons of insight,” “firmly rooted in knowledge,” “use their reason,” and stand on “clear evidence and proof.” While those who oppose revelation are “deluded,” “in manifest error,” “ignorant,” “foolish,” “have no understanding,” “only follow surmise and conjecture,” and blindly adhere to tradition.
    In an almost Socratic style, the Qur’an repeatedly quizzes the reader and calls into question his or her assumptions. Again and again it asks, “What do you think…?” “Have you considered…?” “Did you (or they) suppose…?” “Do they not ponder…?” “Do you (or they, the deniers, humans, etc.) think…?” The message is plain enough: to gain truer faith, we need to free ourselves from inherited notions and examine our beliefs rationally.

    Something Wrong With This Picture

    The great importance the Qur’an assigns to reason in the pursuit of faith is surprising, especially considering the era and place in which it first appeared. By all accounts the Arabian Peninsula was at that time far from being a cradle of learning or philosophy. The Arabs were a callous, poor, illiterate, and uncultured people, often struggling fiercely against their harsh environment and each other for what little there was to extend their survival. While the Scriptures of the other major world religions appeared in developed and refined societies, the Qur’an first appeared in what can be aptly described as a cultural desert. Historians agree that the Arabs were a primitive people with no artistic, literary, or scientific heritage to speak of. They had no schools of philosophy, no significant works of visual art or literature; they were unknowledgeable in higher mathematics and possessed no other Scriptures or sacred writings. Their only developed art form was poetry, orally communicated and handed down. Such an environment is not expected to produce a work of such genius and literary power. We might assume that a long and gradual, cultural maturation would have preceded the Qur’an’s appearance.
    There is no evidence that Muhammad had any formal education. He may have led a few caravan expeditions in his twenties, but that would not provide him with the opportunity to develop his intellectual skills to such a high level. The whole style of the Qur’an, its stress on reason, its logical coherence, its ingenious employment of ambiguity and symbolism, its beauty and conciseness, suggests an author whose insight and wisdom come from far beyond the primitive confines of the then backward and isolated Arabian Peninsula.
    I thought that perhaps there may have been more than one author of the Qur’an, but, unlike other Scriptures, there is no internal evidence to support this. The personality behind the Revelations is clearly one and its coherence is too great for it to have been a collective effort. As the Scripture states:
    Surely if it were from other than God, they would find in it many a contradiction (4:82).
    They could not produce the like thereof, even if they backed up each other with help and support (17:88).
    The only reasonable explanation I could come up with is that Muhammad had to be humanity’s greatest genius, for history has known many unusually gifted minds but none that transcended their time and place as he must have. Einstein was an amazing physicist, but his development of the Theory of Relativity was preceded by centuries of discovery with the science of physics moving in that direction for some time. Had Einstein not come up with the Theory of Relativity when he did, one of his peers almost certainly would have soon after. Andrew Wiles’ recent proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem is a brilliant achievement, but hundreds of years of advancement in mathematics and work on this problem contributed to it. Mozart, Van Gough, and Shakespeare were exceptional, but their works built on and reflect trends within their cultural surroundings. But the Qur’an’s sudden appearance in the Hijaz seemed to me like a rose bush suddenly appearing in full bloom in the most barren sector of the Empty Quarter of Arabia.
    I felt that if Muhammad was the author of the Qur’an, then, besides being the most brilliant mind in history, he also must have been intensely devout and altruistic. The Qur’an is the purest testament to monotheism in existence, and it shows a deep, compassionate commitment to helping humanity, guiding men and women to the love of God, and righteous living. It would also seem that the Prophet must have been remarkably humble and self-effacing, as the Scripture repeatedly insists that Muhammad is only a man; that his only role is to deliver the message; that he has no supernatural powers; and that he, like everyone else, should pray for guidance and forgiveness. It criticizes and corrects him on several occasions. Such humility is rare in persons so intellectually superior to their peers.
    Therefore, if Muhammad had authored the Qur’an, it would seem that he was singularly devoted to serving God and humanity and to teaching virtue, but yet, I could not ignore that he must also have concocted the most audacious hoax, fabricating a Scripture that portrays itself as God’s direct communication through him. It does not fit that a person capable of such a colossal lie could also produce such a powerful call to truth and goodness. I toyed with the idea that the Prophet may have had multiple personalities, but the Qur’an is surely not the delusions of a fragmented personality, any more than it could be the work of several individuals.

    _______________________________
    Lang, pp. 5-14, 27-28, 29-30, 33-34.
    Reflections on some Ayât

    The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
    "Surely I was sent to perfect the qualities of righteous character" [Musnad Ahmad, Muwatta Mâlik]


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    Re: Reflections on some Ayât

    Salam bro
    Jk Khair for the article, i've enjoyed reading a few articles by Dr Lang, can you provide a link to other work by him

    Jk Khairun
    Reflections on some Ayât

    Make Dua for your Brothers and the Angels will make Dua for You!

    Happy moments, Praise Allah
    Difficult moments, Seek Allah
    Quiet moments, Worship Allah
    Painful moments, Trust Allah
    Every moment, Thank Allah
    If Allah brings you to it, He will bring you through it

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    Re: Reflections on some Ayât

    warhmatulahi wabarakathu

    Alhamdulilah such a beautiful article, i love this bit;

    Then it dawned on me: I was complaining to the God in whom I did not even believe.


    Alhamdulilah, jazahka Allah khair for sharing!

    Is it okay if i email it to my friends?

    warhmatulahi wabarakathu
    Reflections on some Ayât

    “Whoever puts his trust in Allah, sufficient is Allah for him.”

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    Re: Reflections on some Ayât

    Then it dawned on me: I was complaining to the God in whom I did not even believe.
    Ye i also liked that part, and i also like the following line aswel

    I had always believed that reason ultimately undermines faith, but this Scripture seemed to say that faith is undermined when reason is ignored or poorly applied
    Reflections on some Ayât

    Make Dua for your Brothers and the Angels will make Dua for You!

    Happy moments, Praise Allah
    Difficult moments, Seek Allah
    Quiet moments, Worship Allah
    Painful moments, Trust Allah
    Every moment, Thank Allah
    If Allah brings you to it, He will bring you through it

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    Re: Reflections on some Ayât


    Quote Originally Posted by Moss View Post
    Jk Khair for the article, i've enjoyed reading a few articles by Dr Lang, can you provide a link to other work by him
    The three books of his that I know of are Struggling to Surrender, Even Angels Ask, and Losing My Religion.

    Even though I always find the introductory chapters of his books (discussing Suratul Baqarah and the purpose of life) to be insightful, I do not recommend his books for a number of reasons, stemming from mistakes in later chapters.

    Quote Originally Posted by Proud Ukht
    Is it okay if i email it to my friends?
    Well, its not my work, so you don't really have to ask me.

    Reflections on some Ayât

    The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
    "Surely I was sent to perfect the qualities of righteous character" [Musnad Ahmad, Muwatta Mâlik]


    Visit Ansâr Al-'Adl's personal page HERE.
    Excellent resources on Islam listed HERE.

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    Re: Reflections on some Ayât

    Quote Originally Posted by Ansar Al-'Adl View Post


    Even though I always find the introductory chapters of his books (discussing Suratul Baqarah and the purpose of life) to be insightful, I do not recommend his books for a number of reasons, stemming from mistakes in later chapters.



    why what do you mean bro? What kind of mistakes does he do
    Reflections on some Ayât

    Make Dua for your Brothers and the Angels will make Dua for You!

    Happy moments, Praise Allah
    Difficult moments, Seek Allah
    Quiet moments, Worship Allah
    Painful moments, Trust Allah
    Every moment, Thank Allah
    If Allah brings you to it, He will bring you through it

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    Re: Reflections on some Ayât

    Quote Originally Posted by Moss View Post
    why what do you mean bro? What kind of mistakes does he do
    I don't intend to start compiling a list, but just general issues such as the Sunnah, and Islamic rulings on certain things like hijab and beard. His intentions are good, but it is dangerous to speak without knowledge. May Allah swt forgive him for his errors and mistakes and reward him for his Da'wah contributions.

    Reflections on some Ayât

    The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
    "Surely I was sent to perfect the qualities of righteous character" [Musnad Ahmad, Muwatta Mâlik]


    Visit Ansâr Al-'Adl's personal page HERE.
    Excellent resources on Islam listed HERE.

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    Re: Reflections on some Ayât


    wow i must say i hardly read long articles that are posted but for some reason this article really caught my attention and i read right through it with such interest
    the dude who wrote it really knows how to write well because i was reading it with such interest
    that was a very good read
    jazak Allah khair for the article bro
    Reflections on some Ayât

    "The ancestor of every action is a thought."
    Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882)

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    Re: Reflections on some Ayât



    Brother Ansar, could you perhaps direct me to other material in some way similar to this. Where logical examples are used from Qur'an, and the way the prophet Muhammed SAW acted that proved he wasn't God. I find these more intersting than scientific facts.

    I read a good book by Gary Miller called Amazing Qur'an, he analysed everything so logically with clear concise proofs, for example Surah Lahab and how Muhammed PBUH can't have known he was always going to life life of a kaafir. I'm halfway through reading another book by him THE BASIS OF MUSLIM BELIEF http://members.tripod.com/saif_w/exp...n%20of%20Words

    Do you know of other similar works?
    Jazakallah Khairun
    Reflections on some Ayât

    Make Dua for your Brothers and the Angels will make Dua for You!

    Happy moments, Praise Allah
    Difficult moments, Seek Allah
    Quiet moments, Worship Allah
    Painful moments, Trust Allah
    Every moment, Thank Allah
    If Allah brings you to it, He will bring you through it

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    Re: Reflections on some Ayât

    Aslamu alaykum
    great post bro
    jazak allah kair
    Walaykum salaam
    Reflections on some Ayât

    وَإِن كُنتُنَّ تُرِدْنَ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ وَالدَّارَ الْآخِرَةَ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ أَعَدَّ لِلْمُحْسِنَاتِ مِنكُنَّ أَجْرًا عَظِيمًا

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    Re: Reflections on some Ayât


    Quote Originally Posted by Moss View Post
    Brother Ansar, could you perhaps direct me to other material in some way similar to this. Where logical examples are used from Qur'an, and the way the prophet Muhammed SAW acted that proved he wasn't God.
    Yes, I would strongly recommend The First and Final Commandment by Dr. Laurence Brown MD. A significant portion of the book is dedicated towards analyzing the prophethood of Muhammad pbuh and the divine authorship of the Qur'an using logical examples.

    Reflections on some Ayât

    The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
    "Surely I was sent to perfect the qualities of righteous character" [Musnad Ahmad, Muwatta Mâlik]


    Visit Ansâr Al-'Adl's personal page HERE.
    Excellent resources on Islam listed HERE.

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    Re: Reflections on some Ayât


    More extracts from Dr. Jeffery Lang's work:
    _________________
    Why Me?

    Human suffering has always posed an enormous dilemma for religious thought. Is it to entertain bored, capricious, and rival gods? Is it punishment for our sinful natures? Is it something from which we must be saved? Is it a necessary aspect of creation to be transcended through spiritual training and meditation? Is it the product of chance accidents that occur in a godless universe?
    All of these questions take for granted that human suffering is damaging and undesirable. This is natural, since it reflects the human perspective, the point of view of one who feels victimized. However, the Qur’an has a very different view of human earthly suffering. It claims that it is a necessary and key element in the human growth process, and that all of us, good and bad, sinful and righteous, believer and unbeliever, will and must experience it.
    Most assuredly We will test you with something of danger, and hunger, and the loss of worldly goods, of lives and the fruits of your labor. But give glad tidings to those who persevere—who when calamity befalls them, say, "Truly unto God do we belong and truly unto Him we shall return (2:155).

    Hence everyone must experience pain, loss, hardship, and calamities on earth, regardless of their religiosity. I felt this was a frank admission, but the statement, “Give glad tidings to those who persevere,” at first seemed to me too sanguine or insensitive in a passage that discusses human misery. Is the Qur’an oblivious to the terrible injury acute suffering does to our personalities? Instead it emphasizes just the opposite, that we can greatly benefit from how we respond to life’s misfortunes, and that this response is inextricably linked to our state in the afterlife.
    Do you think that you could enter paradise without having the like of those who passed away before you? Suffering and adversity befell them, and so shaken were they that the apostle and the believers with him would exclaim, "When will God's help come?" Oh truly, God's help is always near (2:214).
    I stopped at this passage and read it several times. What does suffering have to do with Paradise? I thought. Why not just bypass this earthly stage and put us in Heaven?
    “Do you think that you could enter Paradise without having the like of those who passed away before you?”
    Why not? Why is suffering necessary? What is the connection between suffering and Heaven? Why can’t it be made clear?
    “Do you think that you could enter Paradise without having the like of those who passed away before you?”
    What is it saying? What am I missing?
    “Suffering and adversity befell them, and so shaken were they that the apostle and the believers with him would exclaim, "When will God's help come?” Oh truly, God's help is always near.”
    Note that this portrayal of human suffering involves truly devout believers—“the apostle and the believers with him”—and their agony was intense—“so shaken were they that they cried, ‘When will God’s help come?’”
    Why would good people have to endure agony and fear? I wondered. Why must we live an existence so precarious and vulnerable?
    You will certainly be tested in your possessions and yourselves (3:l86).
    Why do we have to die, if we are only going to be brought back to life? I thought.
    Every soul must taste of death. And We test you with calamity and prosperity, [both] as a means of trial. And to Us you are returned (21:35).
    Repeatedly, the Qur’an recalls, most notably after some verses that emphasize the essentiality of human earthly suffering, that to God we return. But does suffering bring us closer to God in some essential way?
    O man! Truly you've been toiling towards your Lord in painful toil—but you shall meet him! (84:6).
    How are we “Toiling towards [our] Lord in painful toil”? How does our affliction bring us nearer to God? I could only find the assertion, but not the answer. I could clearly see that the Scripture insists that suffering is a crucial element in human development, yet I could not see why this had to be.
    We certainly have created man to face distress. Does he think that no one has power over him? He will say: “I have wasted much wealth.” Does he think that no one sees him? Have We not given him two eyes, and a tongue and two lips and pointed out to him the two conspicuous ways? But he attempts not the uphill climb; and what will make you comprehend the uphill climb? [It is] to free a slave, or to feed in a day of hunger an orphan nearly related, or the poor one lying in the dust. Then he is of those who believe and exhort one another to patience and exhort one another to mercy (90:4-17).
    This was for me another of those haunting, eye-opening passages, interspersed throughout the Qur’an, with their abrupt and dramatic shifts from one unexpected angle of vision to another, the type with which I wrestled hard. The assertion, “We have certainly created man to face distress,” struck me with its grim candor, even though upon reflection I saw that it fit well with everything the Qur’an had presented so far. Whether by chance or grand design, I could not deny that mankind seemed eminently well suited for struggle. Our species seems to thrive on it as tragedy and strife has marked and guided our evolution throughout history. Even when hardship is not our lot, we seek it out in the form of self-made challenges and competitions. Yet while human beings may be made “to face distress,” the Qur’an does not focus here on the part this has played in human worldly progress. It is more concerned with its moral and spiritual repercussions and begins by warning of its potential negative effects. Struggle, which ends in either success or failure, can lead to either hubris or despair, respectively, and in both cases to a loss of God-consciousness and/or confidence in God’s omnipotence, and sometimes, to agnosticism or atheism. Therefore the Qur’an states:
    “Does he think that no one has power over him? He will say: “I have wasted much wealth!” Does he think that no one sees him?”
    The remorseful exclamation “I have wasted much wealth!” epitomizes a life of struggle solely for temporal ends.
    “Have We not given him two eyes, and a tongue and two lips and pointed out to him the two conspicuous ways?”
    Several such statements appear in the Qur’an, most often citing the faculties of hearing, sight, and the heart (the latter apparently representing human intellect in the most general sense) as gifts that people often ill-use. Here we are told that through observation and communication the way to genuine well-being should be evident, that by just studying the lives of those around us, it should be obvious what makes people truly content.
    Upon reading this line, my thoughts turned to my mother. Despite all the hardships she encountered, she had always been at peace with herself. She used to teach us that the key to happiness was in giving to others. Reflecting on other contented persons I had known, I realized that they too lived by the same principle.
    A strange sense of sadness overtook me as I reminisced about my mom, because I knew that I had not done her justice. Although I loved and admired her, I had always thought that she was living a delusion, that she was a kind of female Don Quixote. I used to wonder how she could be so blind to reality, how she could not see that life is not at all about giving, but about survival, competition, and protecting oneself from life’s many accidents and dangers. But now I could see from my own life and those of others I had known who lived this creed that this is not the way to inner peace. If I had only stopped to reflect on what I had seen all around me, I would have easily discerned that there are but “two conspicuous ways” in life and that I had been traveling the barren one. Like so many others I had ignored “the uphill climb.”
    “But he attempts not the uphill climb; and what will make you comprehend the uphill climb? [It is] to free a slave, or to feed in a day of hunger an orphan nearly related, or the poor one lying in the dust. Then he is of those who believe and exhort one another to perseverance and exhort one another to mercy.”
    “Uphill climb” is an interesting choice of words. On the one hand it could mean an arduous task, demanding struggle and perseverance. This is consistent with everything else the Qur’an has to say about a successful life. On the other hand, “uphill climb” may also symbolize a path to spiritual ascent, a vertical climb toward nearness to God. Thanks partly to the Qur’an, the first concept had become easy for me to accept. I could see that a life dedicated to helping others could be difficult but rewarding, and although a self-seeking lifestyle may appear ostensibly easier, it is not the way to true contentment. However, I could not see the connection between our personal development and our relationship with God. Is there an organic link between them? Does our self-sacrifice bring us closer to God in some intrinsic way? If not, then it seems that this earthly stage of our existence could have been avoided, that we could be brought near to God without having to suffer earthly strife. Yet the Qur’an maintains that our lives on earth serve a fundamental purpose.
    Those [are believers] who remember God standing and sitting and lying down and reflect upon the creation of the heavens and the earth [and say]: Our Lord, you did not create all this without purpose (3:191).

    We have not created the heaven and the earth and whatever is between them in sport. If We wish to take a sport, We could have done it by ourselves—if We were to do that at all (21:16-17).

    Do you think that We created you in jest and that you will not be returned to Us? The true Sovereign is too exalted above that (23:ll5).

    We did not create the heavens and the earth and all that is between them in play (44:38).

    I suppose the good news was that through reading the Qur’an I had come to see that many of my objections to the existence of God were not as ironclad as I had once thought. It had caused me to question the premises upon which I built my atheism. The bad news was that I had only some thirty pages to go in the Scripture and I still could not find what real purpose life served. My Muslim friends were of little help. They often did not really understand my questions, and the only answer they could offer is that we are here so we could be judged, seemingly arbitrarily, when we enter the next life. This knowledge was apparently enough for them and they never tried to penetrate the matter deeper, but this was hardly enough for me and I despaired of ever finding a rational explanation. And yet the Qur’an made it sound like it was all so simple, like when I explain to my students something obvious that they are missing when they overcomplicate a problem. I wondered if I too had overlooked something, if I was making it overly hard. I decided that the natural place to search is in the Qur’an’s descriptions of the relationship between God and humankind. How does the Qur’an describe the relationship between God and the believers, how does it describe the true believers, how does it describe God, and what, if any, is the connection between them?
    Before turning to these questions I should mention that the Qur’an’s depictions of the illusory character of life took some of the bite out of my objections to human suffering on earth. Recall that when people enter the next life and are asked how long they spent on earth, they will have only faint and distant recollections, as if they are awakened from a dream. This image of the dreamlike character of life is enhanced by many of the descriptions in the Qur’an of the Day of Judgment. A trumpet blast will awaken the dead (6:73). The unbelievers will rush from their graves, which the Qur’an refers to as their "sleeping places," in terror. People will be groggy and swoon (39:68). They will be disoriented. Their earthly lives will seem like an illusion (27:88). Peoples' sight will be confused like when one arises from sleep (75:7), then their vision will sharpen, and they will have a keen grasp of the present reality (50:20). In verse 39:42 the Qur’an compares awakening from sleep to resurrection of the dead. These descriptions suggest that regardless of the suffering we endure on earth, our recollection of it when we enter the next life will be much like that of a sleeper when he or she awakens from a nightmare. All the pain and agony which seemed so intense and real in our earthly existence will seem to us like nothing more than a distant illusion, almost like the creation of our imagination, when we enter the next stage of our being. The Qur’an is not saying that earthly existence is not real, but that the suffering we experience in it will seem to us unreal when we perceive the greater reality of the hereafter.

    __________
    Reflections on some Ayât

    The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
    "Surely I was sent to perfect the qualities of righteous character" [Musnad Ahmad, Muwatta Mâlik]


    Visit Ansâr Al-'Adl's personal page HERE.
    Excellent resources on Islam listed HERE.

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    Re: Reflections on some Ayât


    bump them back to the top.

    to anyone who hasnt read them: enjoy it.

    Last edited by Mezier; 07-31-2006 at 01:37 AM.

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    Re: Reflections on some Ayât

    Good read...makes you think and opens ur eyez..

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    Re: Reflections on some Ayât



    Worth reading. Jazakallah Khair.

    Perhaps some of the atheists on here can benefit from it.
    Last edited by Ibn Abi Ahmed; 02-01-2007 at 02:24 AM.
    Reflections on some Ayât

    Do not argue with your Lord on behalf of your soul, rather argue with your soul on behalf of your Lord.” - Dhul-Nun

    "It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness." - Victor Frankl

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    Re: Reflections on some Ayât

    i watched him in a talk, he basically said the same thing

    but he reasons well
    Reflections on some Ayât

    READ THE QURAN

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    Re: Reflections on some Ayât



    To loooooooong, BUT worth to read, jazaKAllah khair.

    Last edited by Khayal; 05-02-2007 at 01:20 PM.
    Reflections on some Ayât


    Even a Smile is charity!





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    Re: Reflections on some Ayât

    Reflections on some Ayât

    Text without context is pretext
    If your opponent is of choleric temperament, seek to irritate him


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    Re: Reflections on some Ayât

    Yet let us say, for the sake of argument, that there really is a God. Does anyone knowingly reject and give the lie to His signs, or do they simply miss them because they are too obscure? Do people consciously reject what they feel may be true? Do they distort in their own minds what they sense is right? Do they stubbornly go against their conscience?
    Of course they do, I told myself, and so have I. Many times I have denied, bent and manipulated the truth to indulge some personal vice. Many times I have rationalized patently destructive and self-destructive acts, refusing to admit my wrongs, even to myself? And even though my pursuit of what I felt might be wrong left me empty, ungratified, and restless, I continued to run headlong down the same path. If God did exist, I thought, then I definitely ignored His signs, but that is a big “if.”
    The phrase “These are friends of the fire” also struck me. For a friend is one who is dear to us, whose company we seek and whose companionship we desire. Is the Qur’an saying that some people pursue and court the misery they will experience in the next life? When it says that “they dwelled therein,” is it hinting that the hell they experience in the hereafter in some sense began for them in their earthly lives?
    Even though a hundred questions were now streaming into my mind and I could not yet see the big picture, I knew I was in for a battle. If these ten verses led me to this much agonizing, then the challenge ahead of me was going to be great. Not that I believed in God or that this author was other than a man, but I knew that I was up against an exceptionally capable opponent.

    Reflections on some Ayât



    25:36 And the true servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk the earth with humility and when the ignorant address them, they respond with words of peace.


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