The Parable of the Town in Ruins

The Parable of the Town in Ruins

 
Please read this famous story, ‘The Parable of the Town in Ruins’, as narrated in the Quran:

Or the similitude of one who passed through a town which had fallen into ruin. He said: “How shall God bring it to life after its death?” So God put him to death for a hundred years, then raised him. He said: “How long have you stayed here?” He said: “I have stayed here a day or part of a day.” He said: “Nay, but you have stayed here for a hundred years! Deeply observe your food and your drink, untouched is it by the passing of years. And deeply observe your donkey! Thus We make you a symbol for the people. And deeply observe the bones, how We erect them together and then clothe them with flesh.” So when this became clear to him, he said: “I know that God is all-powerful over everything!” 2:259

In the above, there are a few points to contemplate:

Or the similitude of one who passed through a town which had fallen into ruin. Now, like any story, this story is also narrated in the Quran in the past tense, apparently giving a first impression as if it is relating an event of the past. However, because it is a parable with certain moral intent, it is not time-bound. As a ‘thought experiment’, here the events are meant to be in all tenses – past, present and future – including present continuous.

He said: How shall God bring it to life after its death? While Muslims traditionally understand this popular story as a real historical account, this is obviously a parable meant to illustrate how God’s infinite creative power can resurrect a ghost town, as it can bring the dead back to life: and thus it is meaningfully placed between Abraham’s assertion in verse 258, “My Sustainer is the One who gives life and death”, and his subsequent curiosity, in verse 260, about life’s regeneration from the non-living.

I have stayed here a day or part of a day. Similar answers, involving time sensed as relative, are also given by people after resurrection when asked “How long have you stayed on Earth?” (23:112-114, 17:52, 18:19,10:45, 30:55-56).

Deeply observe your food and your drink, untouched is it by the passing of years. This is a description of divine nourishment that is eternal and thus feeds the human soul throughout the ages. Mentioned earlier in the same sura, this is the same timeless ‘food and drink’, of spiritual awareness (2:56-61), which remains unchanged and untouched by the passing of years.

And deeply observe your donkey! The donkey is the crude creature, the carrier (16:8-9, 62:5, 31:19). It appears to symbolize the animal part of human existence, i.e. the physical body that carries the soul. While this corporal vehicle is transitional and mortal, it is capable of being renewed by fresh growth. In contrast to the prevalent understanding, the verse doesn’t say that the donkey is dead. Rather it asks to deeply observe the resurrected ‘donkey’ (the fleshly carrier of human soul; note ‘Thus We make you a symbol for the people’) and the process of its creation and re-creation (note ‘… the bones, how We erect them together and …’).

And deeply observe the bones, how We erect them together and then clothe them with flesh. This is in line with the similar Quranic references to the “assembling of bones and clothing them with flesh” in descriptions of man’s birth and resurrection (23:14, 36:77-82, 75:3-4; cf. 17:49, 19:4, 23:35, 37:16, 56:47, 79:11).  In all these instances, like many other places, the Quran points to the ever-recurring miracle of birth, preceded by the gradual evolution of the embryo in its mother’s womb, as a visible sign of God’s infinite creative power to regenerate life, and therefore also to resurrect the dead (36:77-82).

The above reflections elaborate our understanding of the verse into the following rendering:

Or consider this ‘thought experiment’: A person passes through a town which has fallen into ruin. He says: “How shall God bring it to life after its death (How shall God resurrect this ghost town and how shall He bring the dead back to life)?” So God puts him to death for a hundred years, then raises him. He says: “How long have you stayed here?” He says: “I have stayed here a day or part of a day.” He says: “Nay, but you have stayed here for a hundred years (Not only time is relative, man’s earthbound concept of time is illusory)! Deeply observe your food and your drink, untouched is it by the passing of years (Spiritual nourishment that feeds your soul is eternal and therefore remains untouched by time). And deeply observe your donkey (Observe your resurrected body, the fleshly carrier of your soul, and observe the process of its creation and re-creation)! Thus We make you a symbol for the people (Succeeding generations may learn from your lesson how God’s infinite creative power can vivify a dead town or society, as it can resurrect the dead). And deeply observe the bones, how We erect them together and then clothe them with flesh (Observe how the ever-recurring miracle of the evolution of the embryo in mother’s womb presents evidence of God’s infinite power to create and resurrect).” So when this becomes clear to him, he says: “I know that God is all-powerful over everything!” 2:259

Some commentators have futilely tried to identify this story with a number of Biblical accounts, such as ♦ Ezekiel’s Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones (Ezekiel, 37:1-14); ♦ Nehemiah’s visit to Jerusalem which had lain in ruins for more than a century following the invasion by King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon and which was subsequently restored by King Cyrus of Persia (Nehemiah, i. 12-20); and ♦ Ezra’s observation of Israel’s captivity in Babylon and their return to Jerusalem (Ezra, 1-8). Thus there are attempts to identify the person with Ezekiel, Nehemiah or Ezra; the town with Jerusalem; and the bones with the ‘dry bones’, which represented the People of Israel in exile. However, Islamic scholars commonly agree that these alleged connections are no more than speculations and have no relevance to the very general narrative of this Quranic parable, where the identity of the man and the town is unspecified and therefore unimportant.

The Quran relates Hadith to shirk

The Quran relates Hadith to shirk

 
Earlier we noted that wherever the word ‘HADITH’ appears in the Quran to denote anything besides the Quran – in all the 20 instances – it is ALWAYS used in a negative sense and in a tone of strong disapproval. See The Quran prohibited hadiths and The Quran disapproves all hadiths other than the Quran

Now we will look into another interesting finding:

Wherever the word ‘HADITH’ appears in the Quran to denote anything besides the Quran (the Best Hadith) – in all the 20 instances – it ALWAYS occurs in a context that condemns SHIRK or association with God.

Below we will try to read all these verses in context and observe how the Quran relates Hadith to shirk:

The Quran endorses no hadith except the divine hadith, the Quran

But they cannot hide any HADITH from God. …

Indeed God does not pardon that anything should be associated with Him, but He pardons all besides that, for whom He wills. And whoever associates with God anything has certainly devised an offense tremendous. …

Did you not see those who were given a portion of the book, they believe in superstition and evil. …

What is amiss with these people, they do not understand a HADITH ? …

Do they not study the Quran? And if it were from any other than God they would have certainly found therein many contradictions. …

God, there is no god but He. He will most certainly gather you on the Resurrection Day, no doubt of it. And whose HADITH is more truthful than God’s? 4:42, 48, 51, 78, 82, 87

Please see the repeated recurrence of the word ‘hadith’ and note how the context associates ‘hadith’ with polytheism and dogmas, concocted by false sources claiming to be divine. Also note how the context condemns shirk as the only unforgivable sin in Islam (4:48; cf. 4:116, 39:65, 6:88).

The Quran denounces hadiths as they mock God’s messages

As for those who ally themselves with the rejecters rather than the acknowledgers – do they seek dignity with them, when, behold, all dignity belongs to God alone?

It has been sent down to you in the Book, that when you hear God’s messages being rejected and ridiculed in, then do not sit with them until they move on to a different HADITH. …

As for those who repent, amend, hold fast to God, and devote their system to God alone; these will be with those who acknowledge. 4:139-140, 146

Here the Quran denounces ‘hadiths’ that ‘reject and ridicule’ the messages of the Quran (‘a different hadith’). Note how the word ‘hadith’ is associated with shirk, or deviation from God alone.

The Quran asks to keep distance from hadithmongers

And when you see those who engage in mocking Our messages, then turn away from them until they move on to a different HADITH. …

Say: Shall we call upon other than God what cannot benefit us or harm us, and we turn back on our heels after God has guided us? …

‘Surely I have turned my face, being upright, wholly to Him who originated the Heavens and the Earth, and I am not of those who associate’. 6:68, 71, 79

Once again, the Quran portrays Hadith as a deviation from the Quran (‘a different hadith’). Note how the word ‘hadith’ appears in a context that condemns shirk and how this is in line with its wider context, the sura 6 itself. The latter insists on the oneness of God; highlights the humanness of Muhammad; and confirms that the messenger delivered only the Quran. See Understanding chapter 6 from Abraham’s perspective  and The Quran describes Hadith as satanic revelation

The Quran predicts that Muslim polytheists would call their forged teachings hadith

As for those who give the lie to Our messages, We shall bring them low, step by step, by ways which they know not. …

… Then in which HADITH after this will they believe?

Whoever God misguides, then there is none to guide him; and He leaves them blundering in their transgression.

They ask you regarding the Hour: When will it come to pass? Say, Its knowledge is with my Lord, none can reveal its time except Him. …

Say: I do not possess for myself any benefit or harm, except what God wills.

… Do they associate those who do not create anything, while they are created?

They cannot help them, nor can they help themselves? …

Verily, those whom you call on besides God are servants, the likes of you: call on them then, and let them answer you, if you are truthful. 7:182, 185-188, 191-192, 194

Note how the word ‘hadith’ appears in a context that condemns shirk.

The Quran distances itself from all hadiths

The majority of them will not acknowledge God without setting up associates.

… This is not a fabricated HADITH, but a confirmation of what is before it, and a detailed explanation of everything, and a guide and a mercy to a people acknowledging. 12:106, 111

Note how the word ‘hadith’ appears in a context that condemns shirk.

The sole emphasis of the Quran is on the Quran only, and not on any hadith

Praise be to God who sent down the book to His servant, and allowed no flaw in it …

And to warn those who said: God has taken a son. …

Should you grieve yourself to death if they believe not in this HADITH? 18:1, 4, 6

Note how the word ‘hadith’ appears in a context that condemns shirk.

The Quran warns that hadiths would degrade Muhammadans

Then sent We Our Messengers successively; whenever there came to a nation its Messenger they cried him lies, so We made them follow one another in ruin and We made them HADITHS; so away with a people who acknowledge not! …

O messengers, enjoy of the good things and do right; surely I know what you do.

And certainly, this community of yours is one community and I am your Sustainer. So, remain conscious of Me.

But they split in their affair between them into sects, each rejoicing in what is with them. …

And those who acknowledge the messages of their Sustainer,

And they do not associate with their Sustainer. 23:44, 51-53, 58-59

Evidently, by basing their religion on baseless hadiths, Muhammadans themselves have turned into ‘hadiths’, meaning in this context ‘folk tales or outdated stories of the past’. Note how the word ‘hadith’ appears in a context that condemns shirk and its by-product, sectarianism.

The Quran warns that hadithmongers would import corruption in Islam

And among the people there are those who purchase baseless HADITHS to divert from the way of God without knowledge, making mockery of it. For those is a humiliating retribution.

And when Our messages are recited to him, he turns away arrogantly as if he did not hear them, as if there is deafness in his ears. So announce to him a painful retribution. …

This is God’s creation: show Me then what those besides Him have created. Nay, the unjust are in manifest error. 31:6-7, 11

Note how the word ‘hadith’ occurs in a context that condemns shirk.

The Quran discourages listening to hadiths

And do not obey the rejecters and the hypocrites, and disregard their abuses, and put your trust in God alone; for God is enough as trustee. …

O you who acknowledge, do not enter the Prophet’s dwellings unless invited. … When you finish dining, you shall leave, without staying to wait for a HADITH 

People ask thee about the Hour. Say: The knowledge of it is with God alone; and what makes thee to know whether the Hour is near! 33:48, 53, 63

Note how the word ‘hadith’ occurs in a context that describes the Prophet as a mere human, and not an associate with the Divine.

The Quran warns that hadiths would split up Muhammadans into sects

And they were unjust to themselves so We made them HADITHS and scattered them with an utter scattering. …

Say: Call upon those whom you assert besides God; they have no power on an atom’s weight in the Heavens or in the Earth nor have they any share in either, nor is any of them an auxiliary to Him. 34:19, 22

Compare the above with 23:44-54 and note how the word ‘hadith’ occurs in a context that disapproves the attribution of divine qualities to humans, while dismissing the belief in intercessions as absurd.

The Quran highlights its consistency, which makes it different from all other hadiths

God has been sending down the best HADITH, a Book fully consistent in its oft-repeating, whereat shiver the skins of those who of their Sustainer stand in awe. … And whomever God leaves astray, for him there is none to guide. …

God cites a parable of a man belonging to many disputing partners and a man belonging to one master. Are they the same? Praise be to God; but most of them know not. …

Is God not sufficient for His servant? They frighten you with others beside Him. And whomever God leaves astray, for him there is none to guide. 39:23, 29, 36

Note how the word ‘hadith’ appears in a context that condemns shirk. The above verses are scanned from 39:23-36, which can be summarised as follows: As a complete and consistent guide, originating from one divine source – the Quran, the best hadith, doesn’t require all those contradictory hadiths, wrongly attributed to the messenger, who is misperceived as an earthly associate of God.

The Quran challenges the idea that it needs hadith as a supplement

These are God’s messages that We recite unto thee in truth. So, in which HADITH after God and His messages will they believe?

Woe to every guilty fabricator;

He hears God’s messages recited unto him, yet persists arrogantly, as if he had not heard them: then give him tidings of a painful retribution!

And if he learns anything from Our messages, he takes it for a jest. For these is a humiliating retribution.

Awaiting them is inferno; and what they earned will avail them not, nor will the allies whom they had taken besides God, and for them is an awesome retribution. 45:6-10

It is interesting to observe that the Quran here not only condemns hadith straightaway by its name, but also calls it a blasphemous fabrication against God’s messages (i.e. the Quran; cf. 26:222). Note how the word ‘hadith’ appears in a context that condemns shirk.

The Quran insists that it is very different from all other hadiths

Then let them produce a HADITH like this, if they are truthful. …

Or are thy Sustainer’s treasures with them, or are they in charge?

Or have they a stairway whereby they overhear (Heaven’s secrets)? Then let their overhearer bring an authority clear! …

Or is the Unseen with them so they can write it down? …

Or have they a god, other than God? Glory be to God, above that which they associate! 52:34, 37-38, 41, 43

Note how the word ‘hadith’ appears in a context that condemns shirk.

The Quran constantly highlights only one hadith, i.e. the Quran itself

Approaching is the Approaching;

None except God can disclose it.

Do you then find this HADITH strange?

And you laugh and not weep?

Just insisting on your ways?

You rather prostrate to God and serve Him alone. 53:57-62

Note how the word ‘hadith’ occurs in a context that denounces shirk.

The Quran declares that minds polluted with hadiths cannot grasp the Quran

It is indeed an honourable Quran,

In a Book well-protected/covered.

None can grasp it except the purified.

A descent from the Sustainer of the worlds!

Are you disregarding this HADITH?

And make your denial your livelihood? 56:77-82

So, none can touch (grasp) the Quran and its ‘covered’ messages in particular (56:78), except those who approach it with an open mind, purified (‘mutahharoon’) from false gods, misconceptions and bias. Note how the word ‘hadith’ occurs in a context that denounces ‘contamination with false gods’ (alluded by the term ‘purified’).

The Quran criticizes sharing, reporting and spreading of hadiths

O you Prophet, why do you prohibit what God has made lawful for you? …

When the Prophet disclosed a HADITH to one of his wives, then one of them spread it, and God let him know about it, he recognized part of it and denied part. …

They could not help them at all against God. 66:1, 3, 10

The above text dismisses the idea that the Prophet was a second author in divine legislation (66:1); spotlights the fallibility of hadiths due to its dubious mode of transmission (66:3); and shatters the myth of intercession (66:10). Note how the word ‘hadith’ thus occurs in a context that disapproves ‘association with God’.

The Quran predicts the gradual downfall of the hadith-following Muhammadans

Should We treat the submitters like the evildoers?

What is wrong with you then, how do you judge?

Or do you have another Book which you study?

In it you find all that you may wish to find?

Or do you have an oath from Us, reaching to the resurrection day, that you can judge as you please?

Ask them which of them will be a guarantor for this.

Or do they have divine associates? Then let them bring their associates, if they are truthful.

The day comes when they are exposed, and they are required to prostrate (to God alone), but they are unable to.

With their eyes subdued, abasement covers them, for they were summoned to prostrate while they were sound.

So leave Me alone with him who gives the lie to this HADITH. We shall bring them low, step by step, by ways which they know not. 68:35-44

Note how the word ‘hadith’ occurs in a context that condemns ‘shirk’ and that contains a prophetic description of the hadith-following Muhammad-worshippers, while predicting their ‘step by step’ material and spiritual downfall (cf. 7:182-185; 45:6).

The Quran disapproves all hadiths other than the Quran

And now when they are told to bow down, they do not bow down (to God alone).

Woe on that Day to those who give the lie to the truth!

Then in which HADITH after this will they believe? 77:48-50

Please observe that this objection to all hadiths after the Quran appears in a context that condemns the reluctance of the polytheists to submit to one God alone (cf. 68:35-44; 7:182-185; 45:6).

SUMMARY

Wherever the word ‘HADITH’ appears in the Quran to denote anything besides the Quran (the Best Hadith) – in all the 20 instances – it ALWAYS occurs in a context that condemns SHIRK or association with God.

Distortion of shahada through the political slogan of the Umayyads

Distortion of shahada through the political slogan of the Umayyads

 
A review of the Dated texts and coins mentioning Prophet Muḥammad from the earlier Islamic decades and Abbasid coins exposes the gradual distortion of the Quranic shahada (the testimony of Unity) into the present day “dual shahada” (shahadatan, the testimony of Duality).

It reveals how this distorted shahada went through a devolution: first as a concept, then as a military slogan and finally as a well-devised politico-theological formula. And how Muhammad’s name was slowly permeated next to God’s name over the decades in line with an ever-increasing idolization of the messenger. And also, how this occurred partly as a Muslim response to their non-Muslim challengers during the period of Arab expansion. See Distortion of shahada evidenced by archaeology

To understand how politics played a major role in this process of distortion, we will observe the following imperialistic slogan of the Umayyads (661–750). This is a common text seen inscribed on the Arab coins since the reign of the 5th Umayyad Caliph ʿAbd al-Malik (685–705):

Muḥammad rasūl Allāh arsalahu bi-l-huda wa dīn al-ḥaqq liyudhhiru ʿala al-dini kullahi wa-law karih-al-mushrikūn

Muhammad is God’s messenger whom He sent with guidance and the religion of truth, that He may make it prevail over all other religions, even though the associators may dislike it.

At first sight this appears to be a simple paraphrase, adapted only innocently, of the following verses of the Quran (note the highlighted words):

He is the One who sent His messenger with the guidance and the system of truth, that He may make it prevail over all other systems. God is enough as witness:/ Muhammad is God’s messenger; and those who are with him are stern towards the rejecters and kind among themselves. 48:28-29

He is the One who sent His messenger with guidance and the system of truth, that He may make it prevail over all other systems, even though the associators may dislike it. 9:33 (cf. 61:6-9, 9:31-33, 14:48, 18:48)

Here one may get easily deceived by an initial impression that the Umayyad text simply connects the verse 48:28 with ‘Muhammad is God’s messenger’, a fragment from its next verse, 48:29 – though by turning the sequence upside down – and then imports, only unintentionally, the last phrase of 9:33.

On an attentive reading, however, it becomes evident that this seemingly spiritual, Quranic-looking text is in fact an extremely aggressive, chauvinistic slogan, which was instigated by a specific sentiment of those earlier Muhammadans and their hawkish rulers, who were insisting on making their messenger greater than all other messengers, partly as a reaction and a military propaganda effort against their Christian-Byzantine contestants. With this obvious religious-political agenda, the text was concocted by deliberately joining several unconnected fragments from the above verses, while carefully detaching them from their contexts, thereby distorting the actual messages of the Quran.

For example, note the fragment ‘Muhammad is God’s messenger’. This exact expression appears in the Quran only once, i.e. in 48:29 above, and that is also only immediately after a clear PROHIBITION for humans to include the messenger’s name in shahada: God is enough as witness:/ Muhammad is God’s messenger (48:28-29)”. Here we are reminded of a serious warning, which recurs throughout the Quran: God is enough as witness that Muhammad was God’s messenger.

The Umayyad masterminds detached ‘Muhammad is God’s messenger’ from its context by removing its preceding words,God is enough as witness’, in order to avoid this clear warning of the Quran. Then, after turning the sequence of 48:28-29 upside down, they purposely picked up the last phrase of 9:33 to make the expansionist threat to their enemies specific and also starker and louder.

This is how they, acting under religious-political motivation, performed a creative surgery of the holy texts and thus contributed to the increasing idolization of Muhammad. And this in turn contributed to the eventual transmutation of the original shahada of Unity into the present day shahadatan of Duality.

Related articles:

Distortion of shahada evidenced by archaeology

Earliest ‘dated Muslim texts’ constantly remember God but never Muhammad

The spirit-bearing man who gave Mary a pure son was a real, mortal man

The spirit-bearing man who gave Mary a pure son was a real, mortal man

 
Please read this interesting passage:

And relate in the Book, Mary, when she withdrew herself from her people to a place in the east. 19:16

So she took a barrier to separate her from them. Then We sent to her Our Spirit, and that appeared for her as a man full-grown.” 19:17

Here we will observe why this divine spirit (‘Our spirit’) that was ‘sent’ to Mary – that ‘appeared for her’ as ‘a full-grown man’ who ‘gave her a pure son’ (19:17-19) – refers to a real, mortal man.

To better understand a text like this, we need to keep in mind the unique literary style of the Quran as a scripture that is laced with allegories, similes and idioms.

Take the word ‘sent’ as an example. Since God is not bound in space or time, here the word ‘sent’ cannot literally mean ‘sent from a specific place or dispatched at a specific moment’. Rather it implies actualization of a potential (i.e. ‘a divine word’) for an addressee, through a natural process involving a cause and effect chain (cf. 4:171). When God ‘sends’ something to someone, He actually endows her with it through a spontaneous course, rather than directly transferring it from somewhere.

Now, it is important to observe that the divine spirit (‘Our spirit’) that was ‘sent’ to Mary through a male human form (19:17) actually parallels the divine spirit that is re-mentioned in the phrase ‘We breathed into her of Our spirit’ as a reference to Mary’s conception of Jesus (21:91). Note the same words ‘Our spirit’ in both instances. However, as stated elsewhere, this expression ‘breathed into … of Our spirit’ in 21:91, contrary to popular belief, is not exclusive to Jesus since the Quran uses the same expression ‘breathed into … of Our spirit’ in three other places with reference to the creation of man in general (15:29, 32:9, 38:72), thus making it clear that God ‘breathes of His spirit’ into every human. One may postulate that the word ‘spirit’ in these occasions refers to a set of highly organized information, buried deep in the essence of matter.

In other words, the ‘spirit’ that was ‘sent’ to Mary through a man parallels the ‘spirit’ that was ‘breathed into her’ on her conception of Jesus. And this ‘spirit’ in turn parallels the ‘spirit’ that is ‘breathed into’ every woman on her conception of a child and is ‘sent’ to her, obviously, through a man prior to her pregnancy.

The above interactive explanation also clarifies the phrase ‘appeared for her’ (tamaththala laha), which is very different from ‘appeared to her’. Sharing common root with mith’l (resemblance) and mathal (bodily form; cf. mathal of Jesus, 3:59), the verb ‘tamaththala’ means ‘it presented itself in a different form1. Evidently, here, it implies the representation of the ‘spirit’ through a physical carrier, i.e. a mortal man, actualized via a natural, evolutionary process involving a long cause and effect chain. Thus the whole narrative is about a real life experience of Mary with a real man. Not about any illusory vision of an angelic mirage (also cf. Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 1:26-38).

This ‘spirit’, which one may figure as ‘a set of highly organized information’ (such as the information stored in DNA), in fact approaches every woman through ‘a full-grown man’ prior to her conception of a child.

This understanding that Mary underwent an actual spousal relationship with a real, mortal man is confirmed by the Quran in many ways, e.g.: ♦ The Quran insistently maintains that creation is invariably through the UNION OF OPPOSITES (6:101, 7:189, 36:36, 42:11, 51:49, 53:45-46, 76:2). This same natural process, where no one can have a child without having a sexual counterpart, also involves the birth of Jesus: “Originator of the Heavens and the Earth, how can He have a son when He never took a mate?” 6:101. ♦ The Quran narrates events when Mary left behind her monastic life (3:42-47) and went to live in an eastern location unattended by her people (19:16-17). Note: the prelude of the pregnancy required a PRECONDITION like this. ♦ The Quran then graphically portrays, with remarkable sophistication, how Mary’s pregnancy was initiated by her meeting there with ‘a full-grown man’ (19:17), who ‘gave her a pure son’ (19:19; 19:16-28). Note: the initiation of the pregnancy required a FULL-GROWN MALE, not a child or a female. ♦ The Quran obliquely mentions JESUS’ FATHER: “And Zachariah and John, and Jesus, and Elias … and from their fathers” 6:85-87.

Final thoughts

The ‘spirit’ that was ‘sent’ to Mary through ‘a full-grown man’ (19:17) actually parallels the ‘spirit’ that was ‘breathed into her’ on her conception of Jesus (21:91). And this ‘spirit’ in turn parallels the ‘spirit’ that is ‘breathed into’ every woman on her conception of a child (15:29, 32:9, 38:72) and is ‘sent’ to her, obviously,  through ‘a full-grown man’.

In other words, this is the same ‘spirit’ – which one may figure as a set of highly organized information, buried deep in the essence of matter (such as the information stored in DNA) – which approaches every woman, and is transferred into her, through a man prior to her pregnancy.

Thus, the ‘spirit’-bearing man who gave Mary a pure son was NOT a mysterious angel, but a real, mortal man.

Further reading: Does the Quran really support the Virgin Birth of Jesus?

 

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1 The Qur’an: An Encyclopedia

The story of Lot condemns xenophobic hate, not homosexual love

Understanding the story of Lot

To better understand the Quranic story of Lot, it is important to remember that the Quran clarifies itself through its interactive explanatory process, where verses are explained through verses. Thus, verses need to be observed within a cluster rather than detached from their correlations. A superficial, isolated reading may often give us an incorrect understanding.

Below, as a case for study, we will try a holistic reading of all the four interrelated passages, 7:80-81, 26:165-166, 27:54-55 and 29:28-29, scanned from this story, where the prophet Lot is giving witness, four times, against his misguided nation.

During the course of this study, we will find it necessary to pay due attention to the recurring word ‘BAL’, translated here as ‘NAY, BUT’. The word essentially means ‘nay’, ‘nay, but’, ‘rather’, ‘no, instead’, ‘on the contrary’, ‘no, but the fact is’, ‘no, but the actual issue is’ and so on. As a flexible conjunction, especially when occurs in the middle of a sentence, ‘bal’ appears to rectify, amend or negate a previous concept by introducing a completely new one.

Also, we will find it interesting to note that all these interrelated passages are structured in the form of QUESTIONS.

And that, apart from 29:28-29, each of them contains the conjunction ‘BAL’ (‘NAY, BUT’, ‘No, but the fact is’, ‘on the contrary’ etc).

And that, in each of these occurrences, ‘BAL’ appears as a response to the QUESTION/S (“Do you …? Nay, but …”).

And that, in each of these responses, ‘BAL’ appears as a NEGATION or rectification of the content/s of the question/s, while condemning those who “transgress the limits”.

To observe the implications of the above, we will go through the passages, of which the first three involve NEGATION (‘nay, but’) and the last involves AFFIRMATION (without ‘nay, but’):

1ST NEGATION

And Lot, when he said to his people: Do you approach indecency such as no one among the nations has exceeded you therein?/ You really approach men with desire instead of women? NAY, BUT (‘No, but the fact is’) you are a people who transgress the limits. 7:80-81

So, do these transgressors really approach men (from other nations, 26:164-165) with desire? NAY, but …

They do it with the aggression of rape (11:77-78, 11:80, 15:70, 29:29, 54:37), not with the desire to love and be loved.

Thus, in the Quranic story of Lot, as Frank Parmir rightly observes, the crime is rape, not love. Of course the violence of rape is wrong. And of course the gentleness of love is right. This understanding is important as it is consistent with the Quran’s profound dedication to reason and compassion. And it is very deeply troubling that people so often tell their LGBT children that God is going to burn them in Hell for loving the people that they do love.

2nd NEGATION

Do you approach the males of the nations?/ And you leave what your Sustainer created for you of your mates? NAY, BUT (‘No, but the fact is’) you are a people who exceed the bounds. 26:165-166

So, do these ‘nationalists’ approach ‘the males of other nations’, for attraction and love, leaving what is meant for them out of their mates? NAY, but …

Instead, they violate the divine message of one humanity (note: ‘the Sustainer of the nations. … the males of the nations?’ 26:164-165) and commit xenophobic attacks on foreigners and strangers (‘people from other nations’; cf. 26:164, 15:70, 7:80). Their acts of hostility and inhospitality are solely intended to bully, eject and crash all the outsiders (15:70,15:76, 29:29). Thus, when these jingoists approach their subdued victims with xenophobic violence such as gang rapes, they are not driven by homosexual attraction or consensual love. If they were, Lot wouldn’t have advised them to seek love in their own women (whom he calls ‘My daughters’, i.e. daughters of his community; note: ‘MY people! MY daughters’, 11:78; cf. ‘their brother Lot’, 26:161), and not to disgrace him by sexually assaulting his foreign visitors (11:78, 15:70-71; cf. 26:166).

In the passage above, unlike 7:81 and 27:55, the word ‘desire’ doesn’t occur, while ‘men’ and ‘women’ are replaced by ‘males’ and ‘MATES’ (not by ‘females’). One may sense ‘same sex MATES’ and ‘same sex pairs’ in the Quranic assertion that humans are created as ‘zawjayn’ (two mates/ two pairs, 75:39, 51:49, 53:45; cf. Adam and his mate, 2:35; cf. two pairs in every fruit, 13:3).

3rd NEGATION

And Lot, when he said to his people: Do you approach indecency whilst you are clearly seeing?/ Do you really approach men with desire instead of women? NAY, BUT (‘No, but the fact is’) you are a people who act ignorantly. 27:54-55

So, do these transgressors really approach men (from other nations, 26:164-165) with a clear vision and desire? NAY, but …

They do it with the aggression of rape, not with the conscious desire to love and be loved. Note how ‘seeing clearly’ is NEGATED and reciprocated by ‘acting ignorantly’ (cf. similar reciprocity in other passages).

“It is both unreasonable and un-compassionate of us to continue with the claim that an otherwise commendable romantic relationship should be rendered illegitimate simply on the basis of the genders involved.” In this regard, let us be reminded of the intense homoerotic imagery of the Quranic paradise, full of handsome serve boys, eternally youthful with “dazzling beauty of scattered pearls” (gelmans; 52:24, 56:17, 76:19).

THE AFFIRMATION

And Lot, when he said to his people: You really approach indecency such as no one among the nations has exceeded you therein./ Do you really approach men (from other nations, 26:165), and you cut off the highway and commit evil in your gatherings (you commit gang rapes and highway robbery, 15:76)? 29:28-29

So, do these transgressors approach men (from other nations, 26:164-165) to commit xenophobic attacks like gang rapes and highway robbery? YEA, they do.

It is important to notice that this is the only passage, out of the four, which doesn’t contain the conjunction ‘BAL’ (‘nay, but’). In other words, this is the only instance that doesn’t negate any content of the questions posed in it. And this is how it clarifies the negations (‘nay, but’) contained in the other passages, while confirming the eventual meaning of ‘the transgression of limits’ mentioned in them. Please observe that the passage doesn’t mention those elements that are negated by the other passages.

Thus, once again, the actual issue is NOT any sexual orientation or sexuality itself, but all the heinous crimes committed by these transgressors.

Why are the questions asked and then negated?

So, in the four interrelated passages above, structured as questions, Lot is giving witness, four times, against his misguided nation. While it seems in line with the Quranic injunction of witnessing four times, it delivers a prophetic reminder for all humanity:

“Instead of offering love and hospitality to the people from ‘other nations’ (26:165; who all share the same ‘Sustainer of the nations’, 26:164), you are targeting them with hate crimes. You are transgressing the divine limits.”

Thus these questions, followed by ‘bal’ (‘Nay, but’), are posed by the messenger to the transgressors as challenges:

Are your actions driven by attraction and love? No, they are not. They are intended to bully and control. To subdue and crash all the outsiders.

This is to differentiate the acts of attraction and love from the acts of hate and oppression. And so to deliver a timeless message for us and all generations.

Final thoughts

Same sex orientation is one of the natural expressions of human’s sexual diversity. This diversity in turn is just another expression of the great diversity of nature.

This important awareness is promoted by the very spirit of the Quran, which insistently asks us to celebrate all sorts of diversity in creation, wherein we should witness the diverse signs of divine manifestation.

Take the passage 30:21-22 as an example. Here, stressing on the wonder of how mates among humans are created for mutual love and care, also as a part of the infinite diversity of life, the Quran calls us to appreciate the diversity of human minds’ expressions and desires as evidence of God’s infinite creative power.

This is in line with our observation that the story of Lot in the Quran condemns xenophobic hate, not homosexual love.

Further reading:

Does the Quran disapprove homosexuality?

Sexual diversity in Islam

Does the Quran disapprove homosexuality?

Does the Quran disapprove homosexuality

 
Two people can be intimate with each other to love and be loved. It should not be an issue whether the individuals are of the same sex or the other, provided it doesn’t harm anyone. There is nothing more beautiful than a sincere love, whether it is homosexual, straight or lesbian.

Homosexuality, as one of the natural expressions of sexuality among animals, has been documented so far in several hundred species, including humans. Like any sexuality, homosexuality is also a normal product of, and run by, the universal laws of physics and chemistry.

Now, there is a widespread misconception among traditional Muslims that the Quran speaks against homosexuality.

A careful reading of the texts, however, demonstrates that this is far from true.

In fact, the Quran only condemns the aggression of rape, not the gentleness of love.

Below we will try to have a closer look into the relevant verses, sticking to a simple LITERAL READING.

The Quran doesn’t condemn homosexuality

We will start with the following most misinterpreted text of the Quran on this particular issue:

And Lot, when he said to his people: Do you approach indecency such as no one among the nations has exceeded you therein? 7:80

You really approach men with desire instead of women? NAY, BUT you are a people who transgress the limits. 7:81

The Quran clarifies itself through its interactive explanatory process where verses are explained through verses. So, verses need to be observed within a cluster rather than detached from their correlations. A superficial, isolated reading may often give us an incorrect understanding.

Thus, when we read the above verses together with their interrelated texts, we find clarifications. For example, in the phrase “You really approach men”, the ‘men’ are in fact ‘men from other nations’  (26:164-165, 15:70, 7:80, 29:29), while ‘approach’ refers to xenophobic hate attacks (15:70,15:76, 29:29). This is followed by the negation ‘Nay, but’, a challenge that deserves due attention. Then ‘the transgression of limits’ is explained elsewhere as xenophobic assaults like gang rapes and highway robbery (29:28-30; cf. 11:77-78, 11:80, 15:70, 54:37).

This holistic reading elaborates our understanding of 7:81 into the following rendering:

You really approach men (from other nations, 26:164-165, 15:70, 7:80, 29:29) with desire instead of women? NAY, BUT (‘No, but the fact is’) you are a people who transgress the limits (by committing xenophobic attacks like gang rapes and highway robbery, 29:29). 7:81

As we can see, this is not a message against homosexuality or consensual love.

NAY, BUT the Quran only condemns the transgression of limits

Now we will observe the above passage for some further details:

And Lot, when he said to his people: Do you approach indecency such as no one among the nations has exceeded you therein? 7:80

You really approach men with desire instead of women? NAY, BUT you are a people who transgress the limits. 7:81

When we reflect on the first verse, with special focus on the words ‘exceeded’ (‘sabaqa’, precede, race, overtake, exceed) and ‘therein’ (‘bihā’, which refers to indecency), it becomes obvious that the ‘indecency’ committed by the people of Lot was in fact shared also by other nations, though less severely in nature and/or amount.

So the Quran here doesn’t really say that any particular form of sexuality, including homosexuality, was unknown to, or not practiced by, other nations in the past. Nor does it say that those other nations did not commit indecencies related to sexuality, including homosexuality. It only says that, in committing indecency, no other people could surpass the people of Lot, in quality and/or quantity.

Thus, what is denounced here is NOT any sexual orientation or sexuality itself, but some gross indecency of unrestrained excess.

Then, coming across the second verse (and accepting ‘men’ and ‘women’ as adequate translations, though some Quran students disagree with these gender-based translations), we observe that, while it may appear to the hasty reader a mention of homosexual behaviour, it doesn’t really judge sexuality in any form. Rather (‘nay, but’), once again, it accuses only the crimes of those ‘who transgress the limits’, by committing xenophobic hate attacks.

To better understand this verse, and also the story of Lot, we need to pay due attention to the key word ‘BAL’, translated here as ‘NAY, BUT’.

The Arabic conjunction ‘bal’ has a wide range of meanings: ‘nay’, ‘nay, but’, ‘not this merely but also’, ‘well, but’, ‘no’, ‘rather’, ‘but’, ‘and even’, ‘in fact’, ‘no, instead’, ‘on the contrary’, ‘but the truth is’, ‘no, but the fact is’, ‘no, but the actual issue is’, and so on. It is the 34th highest frequency word in the Quran with total occurrence 122 times (first 2:88; last 89:17). ‘Bal’ usually indicates the end of a current topic (a thesis) and the abrupt change to a new, opposing one (an antithesis). In the Quran, especially when occurs in the middle of a verse, it heralds a fresh statement which is quite different or even entirely opposite to its previous statement. In brief, as a flexible conjunction, ‘bal’ appears to rectify, amend or negate a previous concept by introducing a completely new one. For example: They say: “You are making this up!” Nay, but most of them do not know. 16:101; cf. 3:149-150, 4:157-158, 7:179, 38:1-2.

Now, when we read the verse more attentively, keeping in mind the versatility of ‘bal’ with all the above connotations, we get the following rendering:

You really approach men with desire instead of women? NAY, BUT (‘No, but the fact is’) you are a people who transgress the limits. 7:81

In other words, once again, what the Quran really condemns here is NOT any form of sexuality, but ‘the transgression of limits’, which, as we noted earlier, refers to heinous crimes of xenophobic assaults like gang rapes and highway robbery (29:28-30; cf. 11:77-78, 11:80, 15:70, 54:37).

Can homosexuality itself be this ‘transgression of limits’? No. The simple fact that the Quran doesn’t spell out any punishment for homosexuality, indicates that it cannot be homosexuality that is described in 7:80 as the ‘indecency to an unsurpassed extent’. Also, if male homosexuality was the issue, then why was it Lot’s wife, out of all his ‘spiritual family’, who lagged behind (7:83, 11:81, 15:60)? And why was the entire community, with children and women, doomed (7:84, 11:82, 27:58)? And also, why no other nation was doomed for the same reason, when homosexuality – because of its biological and evolutionary basis – existed and was practiced by ancient nations since time immemorial, and long before by antediluvian humans and animals?

Please note that homosexuality, or any sexuality, doesn’t intrinsically or necessarily involve indecency. On the other hand, indecency may be associated with any form of sexuality, including homosexuality, when it exceeds its morally acceptable limits, i.e. when it harms others.

The Quran condemns xenophobic hate, not homosexual love

For a deeper insight, we will go through a comparative reading of the above passage with all its identical passages:

1ST NEGATION

And Lot, when he said to his people: Do you approach indecency such as no one among the nations has exceeded you therein?/ You really approach men with desire instead of women? NAY, BUT (‘No, but the fact is’) you are a people who transgress the limits. 7:80-81

So, do these transgressors really approach men (from other nations, 26:164-165) with attraction and love? NAY, but … No, in fact, they do it with hate and the aggression of rape (11:77-78, 11:80, 15:70, 29:29, 54:37).

2nd NEGATION

Do you approach the males of the nations?/ And you leave what your Sustainer created for you of your mates? NAY, BUT (‘No, but the fact is’) you are a people who exceed the bounds. 26:165-166

So, do these ‘nationalists’ approach ‘the males of other nations’, because of attraction and love, leaving what is meant for them out of their mates (7:81, 27:55)? NAY, but … Instead, they violate the divine message of one humanity (note: ‘the Sustainer of the nations. … the males of the nations?’ 26:164-165) and commit xenophobic attacks on foreigners and strangers (‘people from other nations’; cf. 26:164, 15:70, 7:80).

3rd NEGATION

And Lot, when he said to his people: Do you approach indecency whilst you are clearly seeing?/ Do you really approach men with desire instead of women? NAY, BUT (‘No, but the fact is’) you are a people who act ignorantly. 27:54-55

So, do these transgressors really approach men (from other nations, 26:164-165) with a clear vision and conscious desire? NAY, but … No, in fact, they do it with hate and the aggression of rape.

THE AFFIRMATION

And Lot, when he said to his people: You really approach indecency such as no one among the nations has exceeded you therein./ Do you really approach men (from other nations, 26:165), and you cut off the highway and commit evil in your gatherings (you commit gang rape and highway robbery, 15:76)? 29:28-29

So, do these transgressors approach men (from other nations, 26:164-165) to commit xenophobic attacks like gang rapes and highway robbery? YEA, they do.

It is interesting to note that all these interrelated passages above (7:80-81, 26:165-166, 27:54-55, 29:28-29) are structured in the form of QUESTIONS.

And that, apart from 29:28-29, each of them contains the conjunction ‘BAL’, translated as ‘NAY, BUT’ (‘No, but the fact is’, ‘on the contrary’ etc).

And that, in each of these occurrences, ‘BAL’ appears as a response to the QUESTION/S (“Do you …? Nay, but …”).

And that, in each of these responses, ‘BAL’ appears as a NEGATION or rectification of the content/s of the question/s, while condemning those who “transgress the limits”.

And that, 29:28-29 is the only passage, out of the four, which doesn’t contain ‘BAL’ (‘nay, but’). In other words, this is the only instance that doesn’t negate any content of the questions posed in it. And this is how it clarifies the negations (‘nay, but’) contained in the other passages, while eventually confirming the meaning of ‘the transgression of limits’ mentioned in them. Please observe that the passage doesn’t mention those elements that are negated by the other passages.

And that, this explains why the first three passages involve NEGATION (‘nay, but’) and the last involves AFFIRMATION (without ‘nay, but’).

To further study the implications of the above, we have carefully gone through the passages here: The story of Lot condemns xenophobic hate, not homosexual love

Please note how this interactive explanatory process clarifies the verses. Thus ‘men who are approached’ (7:81) are identified as ‘men from other nations’ (foreigners, outsiders; 26:164-165; cf. 15:70, 7:80, 29:29). And the acts that ‘transgress the limits’ (7:81) are specified as xenophobic atrocities against foreigners and travellers, such as gang rapes and highway robbery (29:28-29). This is further clarified by the example where the transgressors try to coerce the visiting guests into sexual acts (11:77-80, 15:67-70, 54:37). This is an attempt to rape, which is about power, and which is unleashed to bully, control and punish the victim. This is not an account of healthy desire and tender love.

In these four interrelated passages above, structured as questions, Lot is giving WITNESS, FOUR TIMES, against his misguided nation. And the questions, followed by ‘bal’ (‘Nay, but’), are posed by the messenger to the transgressors as challenges:

Are your actions driven by attraction and love? No, they are not. They are intended to bully and control. To subdue and crash all the outsiders.

Obviously, what is being denounced here is inhospitality and oppression. Not homosexuality, not even sexuality in any form. Thus, when we read all these verses as a cluster, we get a bigger and clearer picture.

Final thoughts

The Quran clarifies itself through its interactive explanatory process, where verses are explained through verses. That is why, instead of hurrying with a text with a detached reading, we need to reflect on all the related texts, thereby allowing the real message to gradually reveal itself in our mind as an integrated whole. See: Importance of holistic reading

This we must remember when we read the story of Lot as re-narrated in the Quran.

Above we have tried to study holistically all the relevant verses in this story that have been otherwise misread by traditional interpreters as condemning homosexuality.

Our findings demonstrate that the Quran never disapproves or judges any particular form of sexuality, including homosexuality. Rather the related verses only condemn the acts of transgression against the outsiders, i.e. inhospitality and serious xenophobic crimes like gang rapes and highway robbery.

Finally, though we have read these texts here literally, it is important to remember that, according to the Quran itself, the Quranic story of Lot demands profound interpretation (15:75-76, 26:174). It is one of those ‘parables’ of earlier generations (‘mathal’; 24:34, 25:33; cf. 3:3-7; 5:27) that are re-narrated in the Quran mainly to deliver a range of deeper messages with moral lessons and are not necessarily meant to be understood literally as real or historical events (24:34-35, 25:33, 39:27, 12:111; cf. 12:7, 12:111, 15:75, 23:30).

Further reading:

The story of Lot condemns xenophobic hate, not homosexual love

Sexual diversity in Islam

Circumcision: an overview

From a MEDICAL PERSPECTIVE. Though circumcision can be prescribed in rare cases to treat a special medical condition, most doctors feel that the potential benefits of circumcision are not great enough to recommend routine circumcision for the general population. Also, to them, routine circumcision of young children should be illegal as it violates the medical ethics of ‘informed consent’ to elective surgery. No one owns another person’s body, and adults have no right to impose nonessential genital alteration on a child who is incapable of granting consent.

From a JEWISH PERSPECTIVE. Male circumcision was practised by Jews as a religious rite (bris) as part of the Abrahamic covenant (Gen 17:9-25 and Exod 4:25). Clearly, male genital mutilation was glorified in patriarchal Judaism as a token of men’s authority over women and Jewish supremacy over non-Jews (arelim or uncircumcised, a pejorative term used for the Philistines and heathen as impure; cf. 1 Sam 14:6, 31:4; cf. story of the hundred foreskin dowry, 1 Sam 18:25-27).

From an ISLAMIC PERSPECTIVE. Since there is no specific recommendation for circumcision in the Quran, we cannot accept it as Islamic. The Quran cautions against the risk of misguidance by some of the teachings of the previous Abrahamic traditions (3:100; cf. 5:15, 5:48-51) as it endorses or confirms only those important elements of the ancient scriptures that remained valid as timeless universal values (3:3; cf. 5:46). Now, instead of endorsing or confirming the Jewish practice of circumcision, it appears that the Quran deliberately bypasses it as either inappropriate or irrelevant (cf. 5:15). Moreover, remarkably, the Quran condemns ritualistic mutilation of living creatures as a superstitious, devilish act (4:119-120) while defining human body as a creation with a divinely perfected design (40:64, 4:119, 64:3; cf. 13:8, 25:2, 32:7, 82:6-9). Evidently, circumcision is one of those obvious examples of Judaeo-Christian imports that deeply penetrated Islam through the backdoor of unreliable secondary sources in the guise of sunnah and remained there unscrutinized till modern days. Thus, while one may choose it due to one’s personal understanding or to gain specific health benefits, it doesn’t form in any way part of one’s religious duties.

From a SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE. Routine circumcision of boys and girls is nothing but genital mutilation, based on ancient cultural traditions and superstitions adapted within organized religions. Both unnatural and intellectually absurd, and a violation of genital integrity, this pagan practice has so powerfully conditioned overtime the minds of practising millions that any success of a legislation to incriminate it as child abuse may remain uncertain for many years.

Further reading: Should we recommend circumcision?