On the Qur'an
In the Qur’ān man appears in a variety of capacities: as prophet, messenger, sage; as Muslim, Momin, Jew, Christian, Sabian, Magian; as disbeliever, skeptic, hypocrite, idolater; as tyrant and his victims crying out for justice; as one whose self-regard has made him deaf, dumb and blind to the signs of God; as men whose hearts tremble with awe when God is mentioned.
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The Qur'anic Paradigm: A Contest Over Man
خَلَقَ الْإِنسَانَ مِن نُّطْفَةٍ فَإِذَا هُوَ خَصِيمٌ مُّبِين
“He created man of a sperm-drop;
and, behold, he is a manifest adversary.”
In the Qur’ān, God fights to save man from himself: only humanly speaking and using
analogy to describe God’s plan of creation.
In manifold ways, the Qur’ān describes a cosmic contest between God and Iblīs
for the soul of man. To speak of a ‘contest’ is not to say that there exists a symmetry
between the two protagonists in this contest: for it is God who is staging this contest.
It is God who created Iblīs – His ‘antagonist’ so to speak – and man, the object and the
prize of this contest. It is God who created the heavens and earth, the Garden and Fire,
angels and jinn, and much else besides, that serve as the stage for the contest over
the soul of man. Possessing strong appetites that can keep him anchored to his
earthly frame, but also endowed with faculties that are capable of directing his gaze
towards his Creator, man is free to enter this contest on one side or the other: he can
choose God or he can choose Iblīs. At the dawn of creation, God gives leave to Iblīs to
lead men and women astray even as He works to bring them to the straight path.
Click here for more. First posted July 26, 2010. In the new window, the one-click download will take you to the full article.
Ishmael and Isaac
يَا بُنَيَّ إِنِّي أَرَى فِي الْمَنَامِ أَنِّي أَذْبَحُكَ فَانظُرْ مَاذَا تَرَى
“O my dear son, I have seen in a dream that I should sacrifice you.
Consider, then, what would be your view.”
Qur'an (As-Sāffāt/37: 102)
In their accounts of Abraham’s near-sacrifice, the Torah and Qur'an differ in several
particulars that are not are not merely incidental: instead, they may be read as pointers
to the divergent moral economies of the two Semitic scriptures.
These narratives share the same simple plot. God commands Abraham, his righteous
servant, to sacrifice his son. Abraham submits to the command, but God stays his hand
just as he lays his knife on his son’s neck. Abraham passes the test of faith even as God
spares his son: God rewards Abraham for his obedience.
Click here for more. First posted, June 10, 2010