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?

Various colours in the Quran

Various colours in the Quran 1


The great diversity of colours

While referring to the infinite diversity of colours and shades of various objects and events in nature – in inanimate, animate and human world, the Quran insistently calls us to observe the beauty and depth of this diversity (e.g. And all that He has multiplied for you in the Earth of diverse colours; verily there is a message in this for a people who recollect. 16:13; cf. 16:69. 35:27, 35:28, 39:21).

The multifaceted Quranic references to colours range from the varied colours of honey, produced by the bees ‘instinctively feeding from all fruits’ (16:69), to the endless nuance of various colours and shades in rocks, plants, flowers, crops, fruits, animals and humans (35:27-28). And from the great diversity in outer and inner traits of the evolving man (30:22, 5:48, 11:118, 16:93, 35:27-28, 42:8, 49:13) to the never-ending ‘colours’ of countless minds (35:19-28, 16:13, 2:136-139, 30:9-24).

Please note that the word ‘colours’ in the Quran is attached with profound meaning and intent. On one hand, it refers to the persistent emphasis on the concepts of pluralism and multidimensionality of the Truth: One LIGHT (‘the Truth’) is split into many COLOURS (‘a truth’s’). On the other hand, it implies that, while there is only one universal principle of ‘islam’, there are infinite paths (‘PLURAL PATHS of peace’, subul as-salaam, 5:16) to achieve that principle: The Quran promotes religious pluralism

The full spectrum of colours

This appears in the famous ‘Colour Verses’:

See you not that God sent down water from the Heaven? With it We then bring out produces of various colours. And in the mountains are streaks of whites and reds, of various colours, and intense blacks. 35:27

And so amongst men and animals and livestock, are they of various colours. As such, only the knowledgeable among His servants stand in awe of God: surely God is Mighty, Forgiving. 35:28

Please observe how the above precisely portrays the full spectrum of all very different colours (‘of whites and reds, of various colours, and intense blacks. 35:27’).

After mentioning the full colour WHITE, which contains all the colours of light’s visible spectrum, and then the primary colour RED, which is the most distinct colour and is at the outermost end of the visible spectrum, it descends through ‘OTHER COLOURS’ (‘various colours’) of the range towards the inner end – i.e. orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet – and approaches the pure BLACK (‘and intense blacks’), which, being without colour and at the other end of the continuum, is the complete opposite of white.

This tremendous diversity of colours and hues in nature (16:13) includes not only the full range of visible colours (35:27-28), or ‘invisible colours’ as various radiations of electromagnetic spectrum (35:19-21), but also the infinite nuances of human minds, along with all the ‘spiritual colours’ (35:19-28): We are called to observe the colours

Below we will try to go through the various colours specifically mentioned in the Quran.

Colours mentioned in the Quran

All the three primary colours of light – red, yellow and blue, wherefrom all other colours can be obtained by mixing – appear in the Quran, each with its precise, idiosyncratic meaning/s and intent.

RED occurs in the Quran only once, in the ‘Colour Verses’ quoted above (35:27-28; ‘of whites and reds, of various colours, and intense blacks.’). Here red gets special importance as chosen out of all the colours of the rainbow, apparently as the first and the most distinct colour of the visible spectrum. Notably, the words whites, reds and blacks appear here in plural, indicating that there is not just one white or one red or one black, but there are countless intermediate shades and grades of each of them.

This Quranic categorisation of all colours into whites (layers of consciousness, 24:35), reds (and ‘various colours’, layers in-between, 35:27) and blacks (layers of ignorance, 24:40), with their spiritual connotations, is comparable to sattva, rajas and tamas of Bhagabadgita.

YELLOW, in all forms, occurs total five times in the Quran (2:69, 30:51, 39:21, 57:20, 77:33). Yellow, when golden bright, is a very attractive colour that tempts greed and materialistic pursuits (2:69). But when it is a colour of fiery flame, it is a terrifying reminder of the nature’s law of recompense (77:33).

Then yellow, when appears in the parable of fading plants, is also a colour of decline and degeneration (incl. spiritual degeneration: Then He grows therewith produce of various colours: then it withers; you see it grow yellow … 39:21; 30:51, 39:18-22, 57:20), thereby signifying the transitory nature of everything in this universal flux (27:88, 28:88, 39:21, 55:26-27, 57:20, 84:16-20).

BLUE is used once in the Quran, in an allegory about the hereafter to denote ‘blurred (blue) vision’ (The day the horn is blown, and We gather the offenders on that day blue. 20:102; cf. 20:124, 17:71-72). Here blue, as the least distinct in the visible spectrum, represents blurriness or relative blindness, spiritual blindness in this occasion. It may also imply ‘blueness’ (cyanosis) related to the panic felt by a convict in the face of divine judgment.

Apart from the primary colours, the Quran also specifically mentions the following mixed colours, as well as black, the non-colour:

GREEN recurrently appears throughout the Quran as a delightful colour that symbolises life (6:99, 12:43, 12:46, 18:31, 22:63, 36:80, 55:76, 76:21). This is evidently because ‘green’, by turning light energy into life energy and converting inorganic (dead) into organic (living) matter, represents the ultimate source of all life on Earth (22:63-66; cf. 18:32, 26:148).

The Quran describes the natural phenomenon of storage of solar energy in the form of fuel, via ‘green’, and then its rebirth into activated life-forces and flames through kindling of fire, as a proof and reminder of God’s ability to resurrect the dead: Every kindling of fire is a reminder!

Also, while identifying ‘green’ as the fountain of an endless range of harvests of all colours (6:99), the Quran asks us to ponder on this unity in diversity as an evidence of God’s oneness and greatness and His infinite creative and re-creative power (17:44, 57:1, 36:77-82; cf. 16:10-13): One ‘green’ with many products

A shower of divine rain provides our insight with perception of ‘green’, where ‘green’ functions as a metaphor for spiritual life (22:63).

PINK appears in the Quran to denote the alarming colour of a disintegrated sky (55:37).

Here is a way we can rationalize it. The sky is primarily black, unless secondarily illuminated by light-emitting objects (79:29).  However, due to the particles in our atmosphere, the sky appears to us blue during the day and red at sunrise and sunset. The day sky appears blue because molecules in the air scatter sunlight’s blue (short waves) more than they scatter red (long waves), leaving the blue to prevail. The sky is red at sunrise and sunset because, as the light then comes through the atmosphere at an angle, the blue light gets filtered or scattered out in its long journey, leaving the red to prevail. Also, an evening sky often looks red because of air pollution, since dust, vapour, and other floating particles in the air act as a filter on the sunlight.

Thus, while the apparent blueness of the sky is due to the integrity of the atmosphere, a worsening environmental pollution with increasing global warming and ozone hole expansion is likely to shatter this integrity, making the blue sky appearing ‘red’ instead (Then, when the Heaven is split asunder, and it turns rosy like murky oil. 55:37). Is this verse, with mention of ‘murky oil’, somehow warning us about the environmental dangers from the misconsumption of fossil fuels in our time?

DARK GREEN occurs in the Quran only once (55:64). As the colour of dense foliage, it allegorically portrays the thriving life of eternal garden.

WHITE appears in the Quran mainly to describe states of minds reflecting light of spiritual awareness (2:187, 7:108, 20:22, 26:33, 27:12, 28:32, 35:27, 37:46, 37:49; 3:106, 3:107, 12:84) .

BLACK, on the other hand, occurs mainly to describe states of minds lacking light of spiritual awareness (2:187, 16:58, 35:27, 39:60, 43:17, 3:106, 3:106).

Even when allegedly related to human appearance, these words, white and black, bear no more than a purely mental or spiritual connotation, with no reference to physical colour. See Black and White in the Quran

In brief, while ‘white’ in the Quran represents the mental state of enlightenment, i.e. the awareness of God’s oneness, and ‘black’ does the opposite, the word ‘colours’ describes the states in-between: Meaning of ‘colours’ in the Quran

Dialectics in society

Dialectics in society

 

Dialectics in society as understood by Marxism

Marxism developed out of three roots: German dialectical philosophy, Karl Marx’s analysis of French politics and class struggles during the 19th century, and his analysis of the then capitalist economic system in England.

The branch of Marxism that applies the dialectical principles in history and sociology is called historical dialectics (historical materialism). It is made of the following concepts:

  • People are divided into classes by their relations to the means of production – land and capital. The class that controls the means of production expectedly exploits, with surplus value (i.e. profit created by the unpaid labour of workers), the other classes in society.
  • It is this conflict of opposites in the society, i.e. the class struggle between the rich (capitalist and landowning classes) and the poor (proletariat and peasantry), which creates all the dynamic of history, i.e. all historical growth, change and development, which tends to drive the society towards a final uniformity. In fact, it is the same universal law of dialectical development, manifested in social level.
  • Since human beings create the forms of social life solely in response to economic needs, the social, political and intellectual life of society (superstructure) reflect only the economic structure (infrastructure).
  • History inevitably follows certain deterministic laws which are so powerful that individuals have little or no influence on its development.

Historical dialectics and the Quran

Interestingly, some of the concepts of historical dialectics, including ‘class struggle’, appear to resonate with the Quran. Take these famous verses, for example:

Say: O God, Owner of all dominion/ ownership! You grant dominion/ ownership unto whom You will and take away dominion/ ownership from whom You will; and You exalt whom You will and humble whom You will. In Your hand is all the good. Indeed, You are the Possessor of power over all things.

You merge the night into the day and merge the day into the night; and You bring forth the living from the dead and You bring forth the dead from the living; and You give sustenance to whom You will without reckoning. 3:26-27

The above starts with a reminder that the real Owner of all ownership, and the ultimate Possessor of all power and resources and means, is none but God alone (‘O God, Owner of all dominion/ ownership! …’).

Then we are told that it is the divine directive that has made the process of political empowerment and acquiring economic ownership by an individual, group or nation follow certain natural laws (‘You grant dominion/ownership unto whom You will and take away dominion/ownership from whom You will …’). Obviously, as God has appointed ‘a due measure’ or unchangeable law for everything in the Universe, including the society (17:30, 30:37, 39:52), and as His Rule is therefore the Rule of law, here as well as many other places in the Quran, ‘divine will’ infact means ‘divine laws’ (or what we humanly perceive as ‘natural laws’), and should not be misconceived in mortal terms as the erratic whim of a muddle-headed despot. These laws are dialectical and deterministic as we will observe below.

Now, while the first verse illustrates dialectics in political dominion and economic ownership (‘You grant dominion/ownership unto whom You will and …’) and then dialectics in social class and status (‘and You exalt whom You will and …’), its following verse goes on depicting dialectics in physical nature (‘You merge the night into the day and …’) and also dialectics in living world (‘You bring forth the living from the dead and …’).

Please note how this dynamic duality in socio-politico-economics is mentioned here within the greater context of universal dialectics, which involves perpetual coiling of the opposites through ‘negation of the negation’ (e.g. ‘night and day’ and ‘living and dead’). And note how this indicates that ‘class struggle’, i.e. the interaction between the rich and the poor, also generates a similar ‘thesis-antithesis cycle’ leading to dialectical development, as conceived by historical dialecticians.

In other words, the mutual interpenetration of dominion/ ownership/ class into its opposite creates a dialectical cycle through ‘union and conflict of opposites’, like nature’s other similar dialectical cycles, such as night and day and living and dead.

This universality of dialectics is idiosyncratically expressed here in terms of dualities, by recurrent mention of ‘pairs of opposites’ (grant … and take away …, exalt … and humble …, night and day, living and dead, etc). This further implies that everything in the Universe, from galaxies to living organisms to socio-economics to human thoughts, is interactive and in constant flux that results from the struggle between two disputing forces – thesis and antithesis – the opposition being resolved by their synthesis (cf. 13:3, 35:11, 36:36, 39:6, 42:1-12, 43:12, 51:49, 53:45, 75:39, 78:8).

Finally, this description of various ‘dialectical cycles’ comes to an end with a rebound of the initial ‘socio-politico-economic’ topic, with a reassurance about the possible bestowal of God’s unlimited provisions to man (‘and You give sustenance to whom You will without reckoning’), something the Quran is very positive about (65:3, 17:20). This reminds us of the tremendous potential for humanity’s growing prosperity as an outcome of the increased amount and fairer distribution of resources through the dialectical development of society, as predicted by historical dialecticians.

Further reflections

It is interesting to compare the above passage on discussion, 3:26-27, with its related passages like 42:1-12 and 53:42-48, where social dialectics is similarly mentioned within the greater context of universal dialectics.

Some Marxists who consider ‘revolution’ as a necessary step towards social justice may find a bit of resonance in 22:60-61, which sanction a proportionate response, when it becomes essential in order to remedy great injustice and oppression (cf. 2:191, 2:217, 4:75). Interestingly here, once again, the Quran expounds the struggle between the darkness of oppression and the light of freedom in terms of the dialectical cycle of night and day:

Thus shall it be. And whoever responds to aggression only in proportion to what he is afflicted, and then is further transgressed, God will certainly aid him. For God is Pardoning, Forgiving.

That is because God merges night into day, and merges day into night, and that God is Hearer, Seer. 22:60-61

According to the Quran, the same deterministic principles, which govern the physical Universe, also govern the society, including all its provisions and conditions (39:52, 30:37, 13:26, 17:30, 65:3; cf.15:21, 25:2, 41:10). This clearly conforms with the Marxist tenet that history inevitably follows certain very powerful deterministic laws.

The Quran disapproves all hadiths other than the Quran

the-quran-disapproves-all-hadiths-other-than-the-quran

 
The Quran exposes hadith by negatively spotlighting the exact word ‘hadith’

The word ‘hadith’ has a plethora of meanings: saying, utterance, word, speech, statement, narration, story, discourse, opinion, account, etc. In its traditional usage, it describes the alleged sayings of the Prophet or narrations about him.

The word ‘hadith’ in the Quran, on the other hand, mainly refers to fabricated teachings that illegitimately claim divine status besides the Quran.

It is interesting to observe that the Quran constantly uses the exact word ‘hadith’ in statements that strongly disapprove any ‘hadith’ as a co-authority along with the Quran.

Thus, whenever 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.

Also, whenever a statement in the Quran disapproves all ‘hadiths’ other than ‘God’s hadith’ (4:87), i.e. the Quran, it always appears in a context that condemns ‘shirk’ or ‘association with God’, the only unforgivable sin in Islam (4:48; cf. 4:116, 39:65, 6:88).

Please note that, while the Quran thus exposes hadith by unfavourably spotlighting the exact word ‘hadith’ (saying, narration), it chooses it out of dozens of Arabic words that convey a similar meaning. For example, qawl (word), khabar (message, news), hikma (wise saying), athaar (teaching, tradition) and so on.

Curiously, this Quranic condemning of ‘hadiths’, by using the exact word ‘hadith’, was centuries before any of the alleged sayings of the Prophet or narrations about him was ever referred to as hadith! This is another example how the divine wisdom invariably selects the right word.

Later on, the transmitters and collectors of hadiths, while mocking the messages of the Quran, followed the destiny when, ironically, they cherry-picked this particular word ‘hadith’ to label their hearsay materials as the second divine source of Islam. This demonstrates not only the falsity and self-deception of hadithism, but also its lack of understanding of a very central Quranic message that strongly disapproves any ‘hadith’ other than the Quran.

Please mark this tacit consensus among the hadith narrators on the use of the same word ‘hadith’, i.e. the exact word that the Quran chose to expose hadith, out of so many Arabic synonyms with a similar meaning!

Appearing to be more than a mere coincidence, this points to an important prophetic vision and one of the many ‘literary miracles’ of the Quran.

The word ‘hadith’ in the Quran has specific meaning and intent

The Quran creates its own lexicon by attaching specific contents and intents to specific words, expressions, metaphors and parables through its interactive explanatory process.

Thus, certain terms and narrations used by the Quran have their precise meanings that often transcend their popular renderings and do not necessarily or entirely conform with the conventional lexicons or earlier scriptures. These precise meanings cannot be properly grasped unless we read the texts contextually and holistically, keeping our mind free from the shackles of traditions.

For example, the term ‘colours’ in the Quran consistently implies pluralism and multifacetedness of the truth. And ‘bird’ in the Quran invariably refers to self or life-processes. In the same way, the word ‘hadith’, when occurs in the Quran to denote anything besides the Quran, contains specific meaning that surpasses the traditional dictionaries.

If we reflect on all the 20 instances where the Quran uses the word ‘HADITH’ to denote anything besides the Quran, we find that the word actually refers to manmade sayings and narrations that have the following specifics:

They are hearsays – invented, transmitted and collected by those ‘upon whom the devils descend’ (6:112; cf. 26:210-213, 221-226).

They are forged teachings that will be accepted and called by Muhammadan polytheists as ‘hadiths’ (7:185, 12:111; 31:6; 33:38; 35:43; 45:6; 52:34; 77:50).

They are ‘decorative speech’, inspired by ‘satanic whisper’, where falsehood is colourfully dressed up with deceptive half-truths to misguide people (6:68, 6:112).

They pretend to be another divine authority besides the Quran (e.g. 52:34, 4:87, 12:111) and as true as the Quran (39:18-23, 52:34, 4:87, 18:6, 77:50, 53:59).

They are ‘Devil’s babble’ that tries to silence the Quran (6:112; cf. 41:26-29, 33-36; 7:182, 185, 200-204; 16:98).

They distort and mock the actual messages of the Quran (6:68, 6:112; cf. 4:120, 140; 15:95; 31:6, 21), which is otherwise ‘a different HADITH 6:68, 4:140 ’, ‘God’s hadith 4:87’, ‘this hadith 77:50, 18:6, 53:59, 56:81’, ‘the best hadith 39:23’, ‘inimitable hadith 52:34’ and ‘not a fabricated hadith 12:111’.

They pollute the mind, interfering in its way to understand the Quran (56:79-82). One should not listen to them (33:53) and should not share, report or spread them (66:3).

They are fabricated, unlike the Quran, which therefore openly distances itself from them (12:111) and challenges the idea that it needs them as a supplement (45:6-9, 26:222).

They are baseless narratives, which will be ‘purchased’ by some people to mislead others from the divine path and import corruption into Islam (31:6). Obviously, one needs to keep away from them (4:140, 6:68).

They will degrade the Muslims and split them up into sects (23:44-54, 34:19, 68:35-44, 7:182-194).

In brief, the word ‘hadith’, when occurs in the Quran to denote anything besides the Quran, refers to fabricated teachings that illegitimately claim to be a divine authority besides the Quran. 

Looking into the above, we wonder what other thing could fit into all these descriptions, if not hadith, i.e. all those alleged sayings of the Prophet or narrations about him, traditionally accepted as the second authority of Islam?

So, what better English word could the Quranic term ‘hadith’ be translated to, if not ‘hadith’?

Why we should keep the word ‘hadith’ in Arabic

When translating the verses, we preferred to keep the word ‘hadith’ in Arabic. This is not really because ‘hadith’, like ‘quran’, has now become such a universal household word that it otherwise requires no translation! The actual reasons we left the word ‘HADITH’ in Arabic are the following:

  • The word ‘hadith’, when occurs in the Quran to denote anything besides the Quran, has a very specific meaning. This consistently alludes to the fabricated teachings, based on half-truths and hearsays, i.e. all what we traditionally know as hadith. We can acknowledge this specific meaning of ‘hadith’ by leaving the word in Arabic.
  • The word ‘hadith’, when occurs in the Quran to denote anything besides the Quran, has a very specific intent. By negatively spotlighting the exact word ‘hadith’, the Quran presagefully exposes the whole hadith corpus as an illegitimate source of religion, which would be concocted mainly to invade the integrity of the Quran. We can acknowledge this specific intent, and also highlight the related prophetic message, by leaving the word in Arabic.
  • The word ‘hadith’, when left in Arabic, can expose the evil scheme of Hadith and denounce the corruptions it brought in Islam, as anticipated in the Quran (6:112-116, 6:150, 7:182-185, 16:20-25, 16:89, 17:45-46, 25:30-31, 28:62, 28:74-75, 39:45, 68:35-44).

What was the actual age of Noah

what-was-the-actual-age-of-noah

 
Based on the findings from modern methods that can evaluate the age of human remains with a fair degree of precision (e.g. through radiocarbon dating of bones, mummies, fossils etc), and also considering the greater fragility of earlier man, now it is an established fact that the average life-expectancy of our human ancestors was definitely LESS, and never more, than average ours.

Thus, whether any member of human species during the last 10,000 years could have survived several hundred years, is out of the question!

Could Noah, or any of those great patriarchs, have lived several hundred years?

THE QURAN DOESN’T CONFIRM NOAH’S ACTUAL AGE

The Quran re-narrates Noah’s story as one of “the PARABLES, the meaning of which can be grasped by none except the knowledgeable. 29:43” (cf. 29:41, 11:24-25)”. See Understanding the Flood Parable of Noah

“Parable is a short story that uses familiar events to illustrate a moral or religious lesson.”

In this parabolic story, Noah’s actual age is irrelevant.

There is a general misconception among traditional Muslims that, by re-narrating various biblical stories, the Quran confirms them literally and so no deeper understanding of these accounts is allowed or necessary.

To our observation, however, this is not the case. As the Quran attaches its own moral imports and intents to these ‘stories of the ancients’, they function in the Quran purely as parables rather than factsheets of literal or historical accounts (24:34-35, 25:33, 39:27, 12:111; cf. 12:7, 12:111, 15:75, 23:30, 54:15). Thus they actually belong to the veiled corpus of the Quran, which comprises literary devices like symbols, idioms, metaphors, allegories, stories, parables, analogies etc whereby the scripture presents deeper, complex and abstract ideas.

In other words, as these Quranic re-narrations are idiosyncratic in both contents and intents, they do not confirm any literal understanding of their Biblical parallels.

We will take the AGE OF NOAH as an example.

First, why should we discuss this at all? Is the actual age of Noah really important, or even relevant to us? If not, then what purpose would it serve in a handbook of divine enlightenment?

In our opinion, it is inconceivable that the Quran, with its sole purpose to guide, would be concerned about any actual age or any historical biography of a character of the remote past.

And this should explain why the Quranic wisdom gently BYPASSES (cf. 5:15) this specific focus of this Genesis myth on Noah’s age as immaterial, while attaching to it a very different dimension:

And certainly We sent Noah to his people, and he remained among them a thousand YEARS except fifty years. 29:14

Please observe how this Quranic description significantly differs from its Biblical counterpart, “Noah LIVED a total of 950 years, and then he died. Genesis ix, 29”.

Here one may ask: If the Quran really wanted to confirm a literal understanding of the Biblical narration of Noah’s age, why doesn’t it directly repeat the exact number “nine hundred and fifty” as mentioned there, but rather uses this brainstorming expression “a thousand less fifty” instead?

Again, if the Quran doesn’t somehow intend to differ from this Biblical account of Noah’s longevity (“Noah lived a total …”), why doesn’t it simply repeat it ad verbum, but rather rephrases it in such an oblique way (“he remained with them …”) instead? Why ‘remained’, instead of ‘lived’?

Also, why does the phrase “a thousand YEARS less fifty years” use two contrasting terms, ‘YEARS’ (sana) and ‘years’ (‘aam), if not with a purpose to highlight some key differences between their connotations?

Why does the Quran need to use an expression so distinct from the Biblical, after all?

THE QURAN DOESN’T EVEN MENTION NOAH’S ACTUAL AGE

Let us read the statement once again:

And certainly We sent Noah to his people, and he remained among them a thousand YEARS except fifty years. 29:14

On a closer study of the above, and the highlighted words in particular, we get the following findings:

Here we have two different time units: ‘YEARS’ (sana) and ‘years’ (‘aam)

Though not noticeable in English translations, there are infact two different time units being used here: ‘YEARS’ (sana) and ‘years’ (‘aam).

Often translated as ‘years’, the word sana in Arabic vaguely refers to season, crop or year as a non-specific period of time. Hence it doesn’t necessarily mean a year (365 days), just as yawm does not necessarily mean a day. In contrast, translated as ‘years’, the word ‘aam often more specifically refers to a calendar year.

Moreover, while sana generally indicates a period of hard work and hardship (12:47-48; 7:130), ‘aam usually indicates a year of ease and blessing (2:259, 12:49).

While there is thus some contrariety between sana and ‘aam, the Quran uses these two analogous words in 29:14, in one sentence, obviously to highlight some key difference between their connotations.

‘Thousand YEARS’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘thousand calendar years’

Usually translated as ‘thousand’, the word ‘alf’ in Arabic doesn’t invariably or necessarily mean ‘thousand’ in the literal sense. As ‘alf’ often stands for a certain well-rounded number or a large number, it may also simply mean ‘many’ or ‘too many’ (2:96; 8:9, 22:47, 32:5, 97:3).

With this, if we consider that ‘sana’ vaguely refers to season, crop or year, often accompanied by hardship, we can understand ‘alfa sanat’ (‘thousand YEARS’) as a very long, non-specific period of time, of long waits and difficulties, which doesn’t precisely or necessarily mean ‘thousand calendar years’.

“A thousand sana except fifty ‘aam” doesn’t mean 950 years

As noted above, the Quran uses these two contrasting time units to highlight some key difference between their connotations. In order to better understand the verse, we need to appreciate the fact that the Quran does this deliberately, with some real purpose.

Thus the phrase “A thousand sana (years/ months/ periods/ time-cycles) less fifty aam (years)” contains two dialectical categories – two different types/natures/lengths of time – where one is more specific than the other.

Now, we cannot do simple arithmetic between two different dialectical categories. We cannot from thousand sana just numerically deduct fifty aam and calculate the instant result 950. If we could, then in what unit would we express our resultant number – in sana or aam?

Thus it is impossible to derive from the Quran any mention of Noah’s actual age.

THE QURAN HERE CONVEYS A MESSAGE

Then, let us read the statement in its context:

And certainly We sent Noah to his people, and he remained among them a thousand YEARS except fifty years; so/then the deluge overtook them while they were transgressing.

But We saved him and the people of the Ark, and we set it up as a sign for the worlds. …

And these are the PARABLES We propound unto man, but none grasps their meaning except the knowledgeable. 29:14-15, 43

Since this story is a parable, we need to read it figuratively through the symbols to get its deeper meaning and moral.

Here Noah is an archetype who personifies the human longing for divine illumination that guides the soul throughout this challenging journey of life (23:29). He constructs a moral system, ‘a simple craft made of planks and nails’ (54:13), which is ‘built gradually, under divine inspiration (11:37-38, 23:27). …

Now, as Muhammad parallels Noah, his Quran parallels the Ark. Also, like Noah, the age of his prophetic dispensation among the people spans many centuries (‘thousand years’). Out of it, the first few decades (‘fifty years’) were the years of spiritual progress, which were followed by many centuries (‘thousand years’) of spiritual degeneration (29:14).

Throughout the ages, however, the messenger’s true followers remain spiritually alive, preserved in the Ark of his teachings as incorporated in the Quran (11:23-25, 29:15). …

While others become spiritually dead (11:21-25), drowned by the overwhelming deluge of mental shallowness and worldly desires (11:15-25, 29:14, 71:11-12, 71:21-25).

FINAL THOUGHTS

The re-narrated ‘stories of the ancients’ function in the Quran purely as parables, rather than factsheets of literal or historical accounts. As they thus belong to the veiled corpus of the Quran, they do not confirm any literal understanding of their Biblical parallels.

The same applies to the Parable of Noah, where Noah’s actual age is irrelevant. Here we have carefully observed how the Quranic wisdom gently bypasses this specific focus of this Genesis myth on Noah’s age, and how it attaches to the narration a very different dimension (5:15, 29:14-15, 29:43).

The Quran not only doesn’t confirm Noah’s actual age, it doesn’t even mention it.

Understanding the Flood Parable of Noah

understanding-the-flood-parable-of-noah

 
The Quran re-narrates the Biblical flood myth in its own way (11:25-48, 23:22-30, 29:14-15, 54:9-15, 71:1-28), as a ‘parable’ of earlier generations (‘mathal’; 24:34, 25:33, 29:43; cf. 3:3-7; 5:27). See Why the flood story of Noah is similar to the Hindu flood legend of Manu

Interestingly, while Noah’s story in 11:25-48 and 25:37 is introduced by reminders of its allegorical nature (parable, 11:24; parable, 25:33), the story in 7:59-7:69, 17:3-17, 71:1-26 and 29:14-15 is accompanied by similar reminders (parable, 7:176; parables, 17:89; covering, 17:89; covered, 71:7; parable, 29:41; parables, 29:43). Also, 29:43 directly calls Noah’s story “one of the parables, meaning of which can be grasped only by the knowledgeable.”

Since this story in the Quran is a parable, intended mainly to serve as a moral lesson with some deeper message (24:34-35, 25:33, 39:27, 12:111; cf. 12:7, 12:111, 15:75, 23:30, 54:15), it is not meant to be understood as a literal, historical account. That is, we need to read it figuratively through the symbols to get its deeper meaning and moral.

The Quranic Noah is an archetype who personifies the human longing for divine illumination that guides the soul throughout this challenging journey of life (23:29). He constructs a moral system, ‘a simple craft made of planks and nails’ (54:13), which is ‘built gradually, under divine inspiration, despite ridicules from critics’ (11:37-38, 23:27). …

Now, as Muhammad parallels Noah, his Quran parallels the Ark. Also, like Noah, the age of his prophetic dispensation among the people spans many centuries (‘thousand years’). Out of it, the first few decades (‘fifty years’) were the years of spiritual progress, which were followed by many centuries (‘thousand years’) of spiritual degeneration (29:14). See What was the actual age of Noah

Throughout the ages, however, the messenger’s true followers remain spiritually alive, preserved in the Ark of his teachings as incorporated in the Quran (11:23-25, 29:15), which takes them to the ‘blessed destination’ (23:29) that is situated in ‘an elevated setting’ (11:44).

While others become spiritually dead (11:21-25), drowned by the overwhelming deluge of mental shallowness and worldly desires (11:15-25, 29:14, 71:11-12, 71:21-25).

Pairing God with Muhammad violates holistic logic

(Reason 11 of24 serious reasons shahada should contain no name except God’s’)

pairing-god-with-muhammad-violates-holistic-logic

 
Pairing God with Muhammad

We have observed how the Quranic shahada ‘There is no god but God’ was gradually distorted into the present day ‘extended shahada’, ‘There is no god but God, Muhammad is God’s messenger’.

With this association of Muhammad’s name with God in shahada, Muhammad-worshippers of earlier generations somehow perceived God + Muhammad as two reciprocal halves of a divine pair.

Then, by binding, coupling, interweaving and mingling Muhammad with God in countless occasions, they gradually concocted in their unrestrained fantasy an idolatrous conception of a very intimate, special, dual relationship between their fictional, mocked God and their imaginary, legendary Muhammad.

And with time they eventually transmuted Muhammad into a demigod and a terrestrial counterpart with God, and therefore an associate in divinity and a shareholder in divine legislation (Warning! And God has said: Do not take two gods, two. There is only One god. So Me, only Me, shall you revere. 16:51). …

Are God and Muhammad so vitally interconnected and hence so mutually interdependent that God’s unity constantly needs to be paired with Muhammad in the core testimony of faith, and so in all the duties and rituals (Warning! God has no counterpart: And in everything have We created pairs, so that you might bear in mind (that God alone is One). 51:49)?

Is the Creator not independent enough that He should continuously require, to be conjoined along with His divinity, a mere creation, a human (Warning! God is the Independent the Absolute. 112:2; 6:133, 17:111)?

God’s oneness in holistic reasoning

The Quran narrates the famous story of Abraham’s observation of the Universe during his quest for God (6:75-79, 37:88, 14:33-35). This is an allegory of mankind’s spiritual journey in search for the ‘Ultimate’ behind the laws and harmony of nature, manifested in the absolute unity within its infinite diversity (6:75-79).

While deeply observing the world – this transitory world, where ‘being’ exists only through ‘becoming’ and where everything is ephemeral and nothing lasts – Abraham’s holistic reasoning refuses to sanctify anything that is mortal or temporal (6:75-79; ‘I love not setting ones 6:76’) and thus eventually settles in and submits to the ‘changeless and eternal’, the ever-living One God alone (6:78). See Abraham’s observation of the Universe and Understanding chapter 6 from Abraham’s perspective.

As Abraham of the Quran epitomises all monotheists (4:125, 22:78), this HOLISTIC REASONING – which helps perceive the absolute unity and indivisibility of the Divine – remains essential for anyone who truly seeks to attain logical certainty in their monotheistic path (6:75).

No wonder the Quran places a constant emphasis on the all-inclusive study of ‘the whole’ that considers everything and every part within the grand, unified context of the totality of the Scripture, and so of the Book of Nature, up to ‘the End’ (‘al-akhirat’, 17:45-46; 6:92, 112-113). See Importance of holistic reading.

It is the same holistic observation that led the greatest scientists like Galileo to stand against the clerical establishment; Newton to reject the traditional Christian doctrine of the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus by arguing it to be polytheistic and contradictory to the first Commandment of the Bible; Darwin to conclude that all life forms are mutually related as they all share a unitary origin from a common ancestor; Einstein to dream unifying all laws of physics into one single law that motivates modern quests for a ‘theory of everything’, such as string theory; and so on.

It is this holistic observation that makes reflective minds bear witness to the absolute oneness and wholeness of The Reality, based on their awareness of the perfect harmony and unity in the governance of the Universe (6:79; 3:18; cf. ‘knowledge, upright with equity’ 3:18; cf. 21:22, 23:71).

This indivisibility of God’s absolute oneness implies the absolute indivisibility of His sovereignty which in turn leads to the conception of the Universe as a coherent, moral singularity rather than a disjointed, moral chaos, as misconceived by polytheism (21:22; cf. 23:71).

Associating God with ‘others’ violates this holistic awareness

Now, despite the overwhelming signs of God’s oneness evident throughout the Universe, there is a polytheistic inclination in the majority of humans that cannot accept the Divine without setting up associates (The majority of them will not acknowledge God without setting up associates. 12:106).

The ‘extended shahada’ is just one of the countless modes whereby this idolatrous inclination displays itself.

This violates the holistic logic that understands God as Infinite and Unsplittable and, therefore, absolutely One and Independent (112:1-4), who cannot be associated by anyone or anything in any way whatsoever (4:36, 18:110).

Thus people who lack this holistic awareness, i.e. ‘who do not acknowledge the END (whole, holistic)’, fail to accept God’s oneness without associating Him with ‘OTHERS’:

When God Alone is mentioned, the minds of those who do not acknowledge the END (whole, holistic) are filled with aversion; and when OTHERS are mentioned beside Him, they rejoice! 39:45

So it is due to their lack of holistic awareness that the pagans venerate various natural forces as divinities and intermediaries:

And to God belongs the END (whole, holistic) and the Instant.

And how many Forces there are in the Heavens, who have no power to intercede, except after God has given leave for whom He wills and is pleased with.

Only those who do not acknowledge the END (whole, holistic) have given the Forces female names. 53:25-27

Again, though In all worship we should remember only the ever-living One who never dies, it is due to this lack of holistic awareness that the devotees revere dead messengers, holy persons and sanctified images as idols, often as mediators and intercessors (cf. 7:191-194):

And those they call on besides God, they can create nothing, while they are themselves created!

They are dead, not living, and they even know not when they will be raised.

Your god is One god. Those who do not acknowledge the END (whole, holistic), their hearts are denying, and they are arrogant.…

Whenever they are asked: What has your Sustainer sent down?, they answer: Fairytales of the past.

They will carry their burdens in full on the day of Resurrection, and also from the burdens of those whom they misguided without knowledge. Evil indeed is what they bear. 16:20-25

With this same fragmented, non-holistic mind-set, and through its offshoot, the ‘extended shahada’ – where a dead human is constantly named and remembered along with the ever-living God as His earthly EQUAL – clergymen and their blind following Muhammadans have complicated the simple divine directives with man-made rules and prohibitions:

Say: “Bring your witnesses who bear witness that (through His associate/s, 6:19) God has forbidden this (cf. 16:35).” If they bear witness, then do not bear witness with them, nor follow the desires of those who have given the lie to Our messages, and those who do not acknowledge the END (whole, holistic); and they make EQUALS with their Sustainer! 6:150

Who is more wicked than one who fabricates lies about God? They will be brought before their Sustainer, and the witnesses will say, “These are the ones who lied about their Sustainer.” Alas, God’s rejection is the due of all evildoers.

Those who repel others from the divine path and seek to twist it; and regarding the END (whole, holistic) they are in denial. 11:18-19

Summary

Pairing God with Muhammad violates holistic logic

With association of Muhammad’s name with God in the ‘extended shahada’, Muhammad-worshippers of earlier generations somehow perceived God + Muhammad as two reciprocal halves of a divine pair.

Then, by binding, coupling, interweaving and mingling their fictional, mocked God with their imaginary, legendary Muhammad in countless occasions, they gradually transmuted Muhammad into a terrestrial counterpart with God, and therefore an associate in divinity and divine legislation (16:51).

Are God and Muhammad so vitally interconnected and hence so mutually interdependent that God’s unity constantly needs to be paired with Muhammad in the core testimony of faith, and so in all the duties and rituals (51:49)? Is the Creator not independent enough that He should continuously require, to be conjoined along with His divinity, a mere creation, a human (112:2; 6:133, 17:111)?

While deeply observing the world, Abraham’s holistic reasoning refuses to sanctify anything that is mortal or temporal (6:76; cf. 6:75-79) and thus eventually settles in and submits to the ‘changeless and eternal’, the ever-living One God alone (6:78). See Abraham’s observation of the Universe and Understanding chapter 6 from Abraham’s perspective.

As Abraham of the Quran epitomises all monotheists (4:125, 22:78), this HOLISTIC REASONING – which helps perceive the absolute unity and indivisibility of the Divine – remains essential for anyone who truly seeks to attain logical certainty in their monotheistic path (6:75).

No wonder the Quran places a constant emphasis on the all-inclusive study of ‘the whole’ that considers everything and every part within the grand, unified context of the totality of the Scripture, and so of the Book of Nature, up to ‘the End’ (‘al-akhirat’, 17:45-46; 6:92, 112-113). See Importance of holistic reading.

It is this holistic observation that makes reflective minds bear witness to the absolute oneness and wholeness of The Reality, based on their awareness of the perfect harmony and unity in the governance of the Universe (3:18, 6:79; cf. 21:22, 23:71).

Now, there is a polytheistic inclination in the majority of humans that cannot accept the Divine without setting up associates (12:106). The ‘extended shahada’ is just one of the countless modes whereby this idolatrous inclination displays itself. This violates the holistic logic that understands God as Infinite and Unsplittable and, therefore, absolutely One and Independent (112:1-4), who cannot be associated by anyone or anything in any way whatsoever (4:36, 18:110).

Thus people who lack this holistic awareness, i.e. ‘who do not acknowledge the END (whole, holistic)’, fail to accept God’s oneness without associating Him with ‘OTHERS’ (39:45).

So it is due to their lack of holistic awareness that the pagans venerate various natural forces as divinities and intermediaries (53:25-27). Again,though In all worship we should remember only the ever-living One who never dies, it is due to this lack of holistic awareness that the devotees revere dead messengers, holy persons and sanctified images as idols, often as mediators and intercessors (16:20-25; cf. 7:191-194).

With this same fragmented, non-holistic mind-set, and through its offshoot, the ‘extended shahada’ – where a dead human is constantly named and remembered along with the ever-living God as His earthly EQUAL – clergymen and their blind following Muhammadans have complicated the simple divine directives with man-made rules and prohibitions (6:150, 11:18-19; cf. 6:19, 16:35).