11 June 2010

Surah 1: The Opening -- The Lord of the Worlds

OK, since KafirGirl is no longer doing it, I guess I have to.

A couple years ago, KafirGirl started to blog the Quran. And she did an absolutely fantastic job, too. I linked to all of her posts, revising the SAQ as she went along. Then, early last year and without warning, she suddenly stopped. She hasn't posted since and no one seems to know why. I sure hope she's OK.

So I've decided to start blogging my way through the Quran, starting with Surah 1. It's the only way I can force myself to re-read the Quran and revise the SAQ. I'm hoping that as I work my way through it, you'll read it along with me and point out things that I either missed or messed up.

There's not much to the first surah (or sura), just seven short verses (or ayat).

Here's the first verse.

1. In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

Now that sounds nice enough, until you read a bit more of the Quran and see just how anti-Beneficent and anti-Merciful Allah really is. But I'll save that for later.

The next verse is the most interesting to me. Allah is the "Lord of the Worlds."

2. Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds,

Does this mean that the Quran recognizes, prophesies even, the existence of other solar systems, planets, and earth-like worlds, an idea that Giordano Bruno was burned alive for (at least in part) nearly 1000 years after the Quran was written?

If so, then the Quran gets off to a better start (as far as science is concerned, anyway) in Surah 1 than the Bible does in Genesis 1.

And then Allah has to blow it all by repeating himself, saying how beneficent and merciful he is. He just lied bragged about that two verses ago.

3. The Beneficent, the Merciful.

Now we get to stuff that Allah really cares about: the Day of Judgment. As we'll see later, Allah is completely obsessed with it.

4. Master of the Day of Judgment,

Allah, like his buddy Yahweh, is stuck on himself. He wants us all to grovel in front of him forever. Worship him alone; ask him for help; ignore everyone and everything else.

5. Thee (alone) we worship; Thee (alone) we ask for help.

And if you do that, then maybe, if you ask him nicely, he'll tell you what to do. Just don't try to think about it yourself.

6. Show us the straight path,

The straight path, by the way, is the path of those that Allah favors (Muslims).

7a. The path of those whom Thou hast favoured;

All non-Muslims have either gone astray (like the Christians) or have earned Allah's anger (like the Jews).

7b. Not the (path) of those who earn Thine anger nor of those who go astray.

And that's the end of the first surah, Allah's praise of, and prayer to, himself.

I know that was kind of boring. But Allah has lots of interesting things to say in the next Surah. So don't give up on the Quran just yet.

Bogging the Quran
Surah 2:1-13 -- Allah is wise, mysterious, funny


Matthew Blanchette said...

Interesting... but why have you completely redone your blog page? The thing is a design eyesore, now! :-S

It'd probably be best for the content of your site, Steve, if you didn't have such a distracting layout around it.

Steve Wells said...

Yeah, sorry about that. I was just messing around and before I knew it I'd messed it up. I feel like the Wizard leaving Oz in the balloon. I can't go back, I don't know how it works.

skanksta said...

Changing the slimy green to black and it would look good imo ?

Great start on the Koran.

Steve Wells said...

Do I have a slimy green background, skanksta? I thought it was brown/tan or something. (I got rid of the creepy orange thing. Didn't I?)

Anonymous said...

The first important change to make to your commentary is that the alleged God didn't 'write' the Qur'an in the order it now appears so in at least one sense it's not true to say that the alleged God 'started' with Sura 1.

God also usually sounds strangely like he consideres himself to be in the plural and/or the third person so that's also worth an early mention to avoid/cause confusion.

Otherwise, I look forward to your further insights.

Matthew Blanchette said...

I like the design, now, but the font is too formal for me... if you understand what I mean; it's too serif-ey. :-P

Also, if Allah wrote the Qu'ran, why is he referring to himself in the third person in this surah?

As a final point, I'm pretty curious as to your opinion on the Diatessaron, the supposed "Gospel harmony" that became hugely popular in Syriac and Arabic Christianity... and may have even influenced the Qu'ran itself: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diatessaron ;-)

Steve Wells said...

Thanks, Matthew, for your suggestions on the blog design. I need all the help I can get with that sort of thing. (And I've changed to a non-serif type font.)

And you're right about the Allah's use of the third person in Surah 1. I guess Allah made an exception for this surah.

I hadn't heard about Tatian's gospel harmony. If the church had of adopted it would have saved it a whole lot of trouble. Thanks for telling me about it.

skanksta said...

I meant the slimy, green colour of the slimy, green typeface !


There is a strange mood descended on London town - everyone is wearing national dress, flags hang from every tavern, building and car. Every newspaper, tv and conversation is talking about one thing...

June 11th, Group C
ENGLAND vs USA from Rustenburg (altitude) from 19.30 local time, South Africa !

You guys gonna get it....

Luftritter said...

I'm a long time reader, excellent work as always, Steve!
What a wonderful timing!
I just finished with the Bible today and in fact I was planning reading your comments on Revelation today and afterwards start with the Quran.
It will be a pleasure read the book alongside all of you.
By the way I read that you are supposed to say amin every time you read a surah (it's the "sonna", custom)and if you are a real muslim you need to read it in arabic, even if you don't understand arabic, because otherwise, the Quran magic do not work.
I think that if you do it like that the only thing you will achieve is putting yourself in a hypnotic trance...
Oh wait!!!

Matthew Blanchette said...

"I hadn't heard about Tatian's gospel harmony. If the church had adopted it would have saved it a whole lot of trouble. Thanks for telling me about it."
You're welcome... except that I think the whole "four gospels" concept was already entrenched in church theology due to that giant prick Irenaeus, not to mention that nobody dared to try and actually dig further, to see if there was any historical truth (or even a historical man) under the bullcrap the Gospels were peddling: http://jesuspuzzle.humanists.net/home.htm

skanksta said...

You didn't get it.


busterggi said...

Shanksta - I almost never do.

skipper said...

The Qur'an commentary couldn't have been timelier, what with the escalation of tension around the world fed by Islamic fundamentalism and all. We can better understand what exactly makes such entities like Al-Qaeda and its hordes of militant suidide bombers tick.

It's clear that Allah is loosely modelled after Yahweh, in terms of his temparament. But whereas the cruelty of Yahweh is largely contextual, the Qur'an has no context, and everything said therein is applicable for all eternity. So all the verses calling for the annihilation of the Jews, pagans, idolators and pretty much everyone who doesn't believe in this sick ideology, is very much practised by its deranged adherents today.

At least the Yahwists acknowledge the biblical cruelty and admit it doesn't apply in the modern context.

kat said...

Steve, if you are annoyed by my comments---feel free to let me know, i'll bugger off....

"We" in Quran----It is understood to be the "royal We"---as in denoting the office.

The Quran is divided into roughly two, the early revelations that occured in Mecca and the later revelations that occured in Medina/Yathrib. These are not precise divisions as some early (Meccan verses) ended up in the later Surahs and some later verses ended up in the earlier surahs. This is because as the revelations came, the Prophet(pbuh)instructed exactly where in the Quran they were meant to go.
As to context----The Quran is always read in context (unless it is being recited for purposes of prayer) The context comes from Tafsir. Translation of Quran with tafsir of Muhammed Asad is on the net for free another tafsir that is popular is one of Yusuf Ali---it is not on the net but could be found in the library. M. Asad, is a convert (from Judaism) and may be a bit harsh on the "people of the book"(Jews and Christians) in his tafsir---but otherwise he does a good job of placing the verses in context and in providing semantics.

kat said...

If you want to know about Suicide terrorism---read Robert Pape's "Dying to win"---the strategic logic of suicide terrorism---it is a book based on fact-based research data and not on myths.

Steve Wells said...

No, kat, I'm not annoyed by your comments. I'd be interested, though, to know (if you don't mind sharing the information) what your views are with respect to the Quran. Are you a believer, skeptic, disbeliever, or what?

kat said...

I am a Muslim. I read the Yusuf Ali translation with Tafsir.

Sometimes, some Non-Muslims feel they know how to understand the Quran better than Muslims and this can cause misunderstanding and confusion---so, I try to bring the Muslim perspective to those who might be interested. Not everyone is interested---they would rather stick with the "Islam is bad" narrative---if that is the case, they may find my views annoying and it is best to let me know upfront.

As an example---In the Quran the word "Muslim" means "one who submits"(to God)---it does not mean "follower of Prophet Muhammed(pbuh)"---though it is used this way by Muslims today in the social context. However, the Quran uses this word differently, such as calling Prophet Abraham(pbuh) a Muslim---because he was "one who submits"(to God).

Yusuf Ali, Pickthall, M. Asad are more or less accepted translations by mainstream Muslims. However, in all these translations, the bias of the translator comes through---which is why they are not considered The Quran, only translations of the Quran.

If you have questions please ask. I won't be offended if people are skeptical....as long as it is done in the spirit of dialogue.

Anonymous said...

I'm coming a bit late to this, but I found it and wanted to throw in my two cents. Like kat, I have a slightly different view of all this, though not because I'm a Muslim. I was actually raised Christian but am now agnostic for everyone else, i.e. for some people there might be a God, but atheist for me.
Aaaanyway, my slightly different view stems from the fact that I am double majoring in linguistics and religion, with a focus on Arabic and Islam as well as the other Judeo-Christian religions.
So, let me start off by saying that your version of the Qur'an has been translated into English (duh), and ignoring the fact that Muslims would say that as such it is just an interpretation because Arabic is supposed to be the language of the angels, it is an interpretation for the sole reason that translating one language into another is difficult; concessions must always be made as to how to translate it, though another way might better explain what Muslims get out of the text, or at least not raise questions of supposed contradictions. For example, this "Lord of the Worlds" line could also be taken from Arabic to be "Ruler of the Universe." As you can see, this translation isn't quite so contradictory.
Even if you could read Arabic (which, believe me, is very difficult, especially if your native language is a Western one), your interpretation of the Qur'an could and probably would differ from someone else's, especially a Muslim's. Some Muslim scholars devote their lives to studying the Qur'an, attempting to divine more meaning from it. Apparently there are I think seven meanings to a given text, and the seventh is only for God to know. But you see my point. Though I'm inclined to agree with you that God doesn't exist, going through the Qur'an and trying to point out all it's contradictions knowledgably can become impossible unless you were raised in a Muslim, Arabic-speaking home.
I know I feel much more comfortable pointing out all the ridiculousness in the Bible.
Also, Yahweh and Allah are the same God, at least how I've come to understand it in my studies. That's why Christians and Jews are considered People of the Book: their worship of one God is considered right by Muslims, but Jews brought down Yahweh/God/Allah's wrath by bringing politics into the religion, and Christians went astray by deifying Jesus.

Uss said...

I am a Muslim. I read the Quraan (& understand it) in Arabic. It's VERY different from reading a translation. May sound like a Cliche, but literally, a lot is lost in translation. So, when you criticize the wording of a verse, realize it's the wording chosen by the translator, not the Author. Even if we assume that there is a "perfect" translation (which is impossible, anyone who's multilingual knows this), the properties of the Arabic language are lost. One example is that you can take a verb, add letters/vowels to increase the extent of the action or take away from it to decrease the extent. Most likely, all 3 forms of the verb would be translated the same in English.

Having that said, I'm happy to answer any questions you have from an Arabic speaker about the Quraan as long as it doesn't involve mockery of Allah or any of the Prophets. Genuine questions pls!

What is considered the first verse of this chapter is actually an opening phrase to all the chapters in the Quraan (w/one exception)... so, it is exactly a self repetition. How ever, there are several verses that are repeated in the Quraan; whether for emphasis, grabbing the attention of the listener, communicating an emotion...etc.

Syeem said...

quran is allah's words, right? so, who the hell is speaking here? allah talking to himself, asking him to show him the right path? erm.. ima freakin' confuchingfused here... wait, what? errr...

Grover said...

In discussions with Muslims on other boards I have learnt that Muslims have to learn the Quran in Arabic in order to earn sort of points that allow them through the gates of heaven. Thus hundreds of millions of Muslims who do not speak Arabic may be able to recite parts of the Quran in Arabic, but they don't know the meaning of what they say. Bizarre but apparently true. This is not perceived as an embarrassment because of the taboo of questioning their actions. If it's not questioned then it's fine, no, really, it is. ;-)

Of course like modern spoken English and Medieval English, the Arabic in use on the streets of Mecca is quite different, if not practically unintelligible, to the one as spoken 1,300 years ago. As such I'd like to know whether ANY Arabic speaker can understand the gist of ANY passage without reference to someone's inherently biased interpretation via a Tafsir - an explanatory note.

I'd also like to know whether Arabic versions of the Quran include parenthetical additions as you typically get in English versions - in order that the passages make sense or for clarification.

Unknown said...

Oh sister Kat, I have become your fan. Among all you seems to be the most knowledgeable. May God bless you, may the reflection of your words and intentions clears the hindrances of the way people think.

Unknown said...

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ocean said...

From my understanding , the bible has various editions and additions . It's a compilation of parables and divine books . So some chapters are authored by people , like you and I , and others are reportedly GOds word.
The QURaan is the authentic word of GOD , exactly as it was revealed to the Prophet (saw) not praphrased , therefore in almost direct speech , so often verses start with "say " or "tell them"
In the QURaan GOD promises that the originals texts will not be contaminated in any form as what happened to the Torah and gospel (also GODs word revealed to Moses and Jesus.)
So all over the world , irrespective of what culture , nationality , race all Muslims are taught to read the QURaan in Arabic . Absolutely everywhere. Also , in every Muslim community there are individuals who memorize the QURaan in Arabic (they also lead very secular lives) this ensures that if you get 5 people from every corner of the globe together in one room , they may not be able to communicate with each other in a common tongue , but they will be able to recite the holy texts in unison.
When they refer to the QURaan being for all time , it refers to the guidance to humanity , and the fact that it constantly needs to be studied . The 1st verses ever revealed , first word is READ ! And it is incumbent on every male and female to seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave, so although we are taught to recite it in Arabic , we are instructed to study it further so we can understand . However , since GOD is the author we accept that there are certain areas that we have not understood as yet , hence the on going studies .
There are scientific proofs in the QURaan that are only being researched now , so just because we don't get it now ... Doesn't mean that in generations to come , more and more wont be revealed. After all , mankind did once believe the world was flat? It subsequently changed its mind and disproved the initial belief.
So I find it infinitely amusing that people , especially non Muslims , who are not reading the QURaan with an openness , but merely to disprove it , are boggled and confused and use that confusion as a reason to prove their cause . Maybe the confusion stems from a lack of understanding and intellect or maturity. My nephew thinks Shakespeare is the worst author ever , that he wrote to deliberately confuse people and that nothing he wrote about makes sense. He is 15 and hasn't quite reached his intellectual self yet(I hope)
No the QURaan is not written in english(with all its limitations ... Did u know The Japanese alphabet has 10000 letters? We only have 26) 2ndly , it's not in your venacular , neither is the works of Shakespeare , and even in English , many English speaking people don't get it , and wait ... HAVE to study it ... Put it in context etc.
The Quran is supposed to be read in context , hence every verse is dated to place and time.
When it refers to the organs of sight and hearing it mentions the eyes first and ears second , true to its anatomical positioning, when it refers to the senses of sight and hearing it mentions hearing first again true to its physiological location. The centre of sight is at the back of the head.
This physiological information could not have been discovered 1400 years ago?
When it talks about storms and the oceans it describes it as it is ... The Prophet was dessert bound , he never saw the ocean ... He could neither read or write and learned the QURaan by repetition , like a 2 year old learns twinkle twinkle little star
"Verily in it are signs for those who reflect" al QURaan