Thursday, March 21, 2013

Quran Project (Part 2): The Islamic Creation Story and Ranting About Unbelievers

As I started reading chapter 2 of the Quran, I noticed it tends to repeat itself quite often. Verses 1-27 are repeats of the same few lines of ramblings about unbelievers, and people thought to be fake/insincere believers.

It goes on and on, ranting about unbelievers and the fate that awaits them, as well ramblings against people who are fake or insincere, and reading it makes me think of, well this:

If you do want to read those passages on your own, feel free to. You can read it at the University of Michigan library website, or I have made publicly available the Google Drive document of Chapters 1-3 that I use to read the Quran, and write these posts with.

There's only a few verses of note from verses 1-27 that I would like to point out, before going into later portions of the chapter, which talk about the Islamic version of the creation story.

Verses 6-9:
[2.6] Surely those who disbelieve, it being alike to them whether you warn them, or do not warn them, will not believe.

[2.7] Allah has set a seal upon their hearts and upon their hearing and there is a covering over their eyes, and there is a great punishment for them.

[2.8] And there are some people who say: We believe in Allah and the last day; and they are not at all believers.
[2.9] They desire to deceive Allah and those who believe, and they deceive only themselves and they do not perceive. 

I noticed parallels in these verse between the Quran and the Bible/Christian fundamentalist teachings, sometimes, like when I was writing the previous post here in the Quran Project, I feel like I'm reading the Bible or a book by a Christian minister/theologian, translated from a different language.

For instance, verse 7, where it says that unbelievers have a "covering over their eyes" to prevent them from believing. Similar imagery is used in the Bible as well. 2nd Corinthians 4:4 sounds rather similar:

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
(When the Bible uses the terms "god of this age", "god of this world", or similar wording, it is a euphemism for Satan.)

Verse 8 reminds me very much of what Jesus said in Matthew 7:21-23:
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Apparently the idea that there are frauds among the ranks of believers is not unique to either the Quran or the Bible.

Also of note is verses 21-22 in chapter 2 of the Quran:

[2.21] O men! serve your Lord Who created you and those before you so that you may guard (against evil).

[2.22] Who made the earth a resting place for you and the heaven a canopy and (Who) sends down rain from the cloud then brings forth with it subsistence for you of the fruits; therefore do not set up rivals to Allah while you know.

The idea that the earth was created by god for the use and enjoyment of humanity is also seen in the Bible in Genesis chapter 1:

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.
29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.

The Quran starts going on a different path around verse 29, and it starts to mention Adam, this is where the parallels between the Bible and Quran stand out even more:

[2.29] He it is Who created for you all that is in the earth, and He directed Himself to the heaven, so He made them complete seven heavens, and He knows all things.
[2.30] And when your Lord said to the angels, I am going to place in the earth a khalif, they said: What! Wilt Thou place in it such as shall make mischief in it and shed blood, and we celebrate Thy praise and extol Thy holiness? He said: Surely I know what you do not know.

[2.31] And He taught Adam all the names, then presented them to the angels; then He said: Tell me the names of those if you are right.

Apparently, khalif is an alternate spelling or a misspelling of the Arabic word "khalifa", meaning successor or prophet, it's where the term "Caliph", the English word for the Arab kings/prophets who ruled in the Islamic world after the death of Mohammed in the ancient Middle East, comes from.

Here's what Wikipedia says about the term:
The Caliph (Arabicخليفة‎ ḫalīfah/khalīfah) is the head of state in a Caliphate, and the title for the ruler of the Islamic Ummah, an Islamic community ruled by the Shari'ah. The word derives from the Arabic About this sound خليفة Khalīfah, which means "successor" or "representative". Following Muhammad's death in 632, the early leaders of the Muslim nation were calledKhalifat Rasul Allah, the political successors to the messenger of God (referring to Muhammad).
Caliph is translated from the Arabic word khalifa (خليفة ḫalīfah/khalīfah) meaning "successor", "substitute", or "lieutenant". It is used in the Quran to establish Adam's role as representative of God on earth. Kalifa is also used to describe the belief that man's role, in his real nature, is as khalifa or viceroy to Allah.[1]  
Adam is seen as a prophet sent by god in the Quran.
[2.32] They said: Glory be to Thee! we have no knowledge but that which Thou hast taught us; surely Thou art the Knowing, the Wise.

[2.33] He said: O Adam! inform them of their names. Then when he had informed them of their names, He said: Did I not say to you that I surely know what is ghaib in the heavens and the earth and (that) I know what you manifest and what you hide?

 Ghaib or Al-Ghaib is the unknown, the forces that shape the world, that Allah knows, but we mere mortals are not allowed to see or understand. Notice that it strongly implies that Allah knows what we show to the world, and what we hide? Clearly the Quran believes that Allah is omniscient.
[2.34] And when We said to the angels: Make obeisance to Adam they did obeisance, but Iblis (did it not). He refused and he was proud, and he was one of the unbelievers.

Here's where the Bible and the Quran have a big departure from each other. I was confused by this verse, and I had to research it. Apparently, Allah created Adam, and then commanded the angels to bow before him, as a test of their obedience to Allah.

All the angels did, except for one: Satan. In Islam, Satan is referred to as Iblees or Sheitan. According to one Quran commentary, Satan/Sheitan failed this loyalty test by Allah, and refused to bow to Adam. Satan felt himself superior to Adam, a mortal, and because of his arrogance, Allah made him live on the earth until the Day of Judgement at the end of the world.
[2.35] And We said: O Adam! Dwell you and your wife in the garden and eat from it a plenteous (food) wherever you wish and do not approach this tree, for then you will be of the unjust.

[2.36] But the Shaitan made them both fall from it, and caused them to depart from that (state) in which they were; and We said: Get forth, some of you being the enemies of others, and there is for you in the earth an abode and a provision for a time.

[2.37] Then Adam received (some) words from his Lord, so He turned to him mercifully; surely He is Oft-returning (to mercy), the Merciful.

[2.38] We said: Go forth from this (state) all; so surely there will come to you a guidance from Me, then whoever follows My guidance, no fear shall come upon them, nor shall they grieve.

[2.39] And (as to) those who disbelieve in and reject My communications, they are the inmates of the fire, in it they shall abide.
Thus begins our fall from grace. Sin has entered the world by the simple act of eating fruit from the wrong tree. This is the Islamic parallel to the Christian concept of original sin. I wonder if in Islamic theology, if the deception of Satan is seen as Satan's revenge upon Allah and Adam for his fall from grace?

Next update will be going further into chapter 2, where another character most of us are familiar with from the Bible shows up: Moses.


  1. There is a misunderstanding of the depth of time in all of these writings therefore there is a difficulty in distinguishing historical events from the mythology that surrounds them. All the Abrahamaic religions borrow from each other and throw in a little bit of paganism or third dynasty pharaoh worship too when it suits them. As long as you can establish a hierarchy that stretches back to, and derives it's authority from, a supreme being, you can continue to control and exploit the masses who are not party to your divine right to rule them. It's all about control of the populace, if they know too much they'll rise up and overthrow you, king, caliph, president, whatever.......T.

    1. There's a lot to respond to in this comment.

      "All the Abrahamaic religions borrow from each other"

      That's becoming more apparent, the more I read the Quran.

      "and throw in a little bit of paganism or third dynasty pharaoh worship too when it suits them"

      Yes, ancient paganism for sure. Christianity has the holidays of Christmas and Easter, which come from ancient pagan festivals, and I do know that in Islam, the term Allah comes from an ancient moon god in present day Saudi Arabia (was it Mecca or Medina where that god was worshiped?). Hence the crescent moon on some Islamic countries' flags. But this pharaoh worship, I've never heard of that.....

      "As long as you can establish a hierarchy that stretches back to, and derives it's authority from, a supreme being, you can continue to control and exploit the masses who are not party to your divine right to rule them. It's all about control of the populace, if they know too much they'll rise up and overthrow you, king, caliph, president, whatever.......T."

      The marriage of religion and government: One of the worst ideas humanity ever came up with.....

  2. The Quran seems very stream-of-consciousness, and it references stories and events without explaining them, as if the authorship expects the audience to know them already. The Quran, like the Bible, has human fingerprints all over it.

    Are you familiar with the Satanic verses controversy? (The Quran controversy, not the novel by Salman Rushdie.)

    1. Yes, it does presume a lot of the part of the reader. I have to research as I read and as I write posts. It's time consuming. I wish they would have went with a narrative style, from beginning to end.

      Are the Satanic verses the Quran's equivalent of the Apocrypha?
      Not only do I have the Quran to get through, there's also the hadith, which was supposed to be saying of Mohammed

    2. See here:

    3. Interesting.... It they were real, it could shake up the Islamic faith.

  3. Great job Sheldon,

    I really like the parallels you have of the Koran and Bible verses.

    1. The more I read into the Quran, the more I realize I'm neck deep in parallels between the two.

  4. I am a Muslim. It is not my intention to proselytize---but there are so many misunderstandings about Islam in the West---I wonder if it will be ok to correct some?

    Before that---I would like to commend you for the effort you have taken to try to understand the Quran---Surah 2 is an especially difficult Sura......

    If one were to read the story of Adam from a Christian-Centric perspective---Perhaps one could "see" original sin---but neither Judaism nor Islam have "original sin" and neither religion interprets the story of Adam the way Christians do. Both religions say God forgives Adam. (In Islam this would be Prophet Adam, peace be upon him---he is the First prophet that taught the message of One God)

    Both Judaism and Islam posit that Human beings are inherently good. In Islam this concept is called the "Fitra". (all of nature is also inherently good)---(see Genesis also).

    There is also a misunderstanding of how the Quran uses the concept of khalifa and the concept of "free-will".......

    I don't know if this type of response is allowed on this site or not---I will understand if it is not.....

    1. It mostly certainly is allowed, thanks for commenting!

      I wrote a response to this comment in today's blog post:

    2. This is awesome!

      I'm definitely looking forward to Sheldon's Quran project as it will be an opportunity to learn something about Islam, which I know very little about. My understanding is that Sheldon is in a similar boat to me on this, so we will certainly make mistakes along the way.

      The idea that a muslim will be reading along and correcting things is really great. I hope you decide to follow along with us Anon :)

  5. Thankyou for your invitation.
    I also hope to learn. There are always different ways to read a book----and some of the comments were very interesting. Ahab mentioned "stream-of-consciousness"---it is an interesting perspective. I also appreciate Sheldon's comparison with the Bible.

    Free-will. In the Quran, the general rule is "God does not change a condition of a people unless they first change what is in themselves" (Quran surah 13:11). This means that the first decision is taken by the human being. If we Re-read verse 2:6---then we can notice that the words "surely those who disbelieve" (Human action/human will) come before verse 2:7---action by God.

    Some concepts are unavoidably lost in translation. The first portion of Surah 2 is actually defining several types of "spiritual condition". verses 1-5 define a "Muttaqeen"= one who has Taqwa (Taqwa=God-awareness) and the Quran lists the set of propositions/assumptions that a muttaqueen accepts. 6-7 defines a "Kaffir"=one who is ungrateful (and rejects belief). (this is not the same as someone who does not know) Verses 8 onwards define the "Munafiqueen" or the hypocrite.

    Khalifa---is similar to the legal concept of Trust. A settlor transfers responsibility to a trustee for the benefit of a beneficiary.---In this case, the settlor is God, the trustee is Humanity and the beneficiary are all of God's creations. This entails a fiduciary responsibility on the part of the trustee....
    (In terms of Government---this would mean that citizens allocate responsibility to a "leader"---either elected or dynastic for the benefit and protection of all. (Quran does not advocate or discourage any particular form of government))

    I tried to make this post as short as possible---if I have not been clear or there are questions....please ask.....

    1. Thanks for staying around, it appears you are a regular reader of the blog.

      I've found your commentary to be quite enlightening, would you be interested in writing a guest post for the blog? I can publish it under your name, or if you wish to remain anonymous, I can use a screen name for the post.

      If you're interested, let me know, my blog e-mail is


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