An alternative to the heaven/hell dichotomy? 46:35

“…[O]n the day that they see the punishment that was promised them, it will be as if they had not stayed more than an hour in a single day. Proclaim the message, and none will be caused to perish (هلك ) except those who transgress?” 46:35

Everyone, regardless of their deeds or character, will eventually die. So this verse is not revealing to us that terrible people will die (perish). The terrible people mentioned in this verse will perish twice. If this is true, then the secular notion of non-existence after death could also be true– at least for those who believe it.

But even for believers, to cease to exist would be worse than hell (theoretically). Because in hell, one is able to remember God, and the remembrance of God is greater than everything else— even hell.

I understand that some of this seemingly contradicts other interpretations of the Quran, but literary paradox is a useful feature found throughout the Quran.

Khalifahs Redistribute Wealth (6:165)

“It is He Who has made you caretakers, inheritors, and khalifahs of the earth. He has raised you in ranks, some above others, that He may try you in the gifts He has given you. And your Lord is quick in punishment, yet He is indeed Oft-Forgiving, Mercifully Redeeming.” 6:165

God created the earth to sustain humanity (15:20). Only non-believers devour other people’s sustenance (4:160). It is therefore the believers’ job (among other things) to see that the earth’s resources are fairly distributed (6:165), by means of social mechanisms such as taxation, charity, welfare, public services, land reform, and monetary policies (foreign aid, trade agreements, etc.).

“[H]e bestowed blessings on the earth, and measure therein all things to give them nourishment in due proportion, in four days, in accordance with the needs of those who seek them.” 41:10

Quran and the deadliest Hajj disaster in history (5:2)

“O you who believe, do not impose on the symbols of God, nor on the sacred month…nor impose on the people visiting the Sacred House, seeking the bounty and blessings of their Lord…” (Quran 5:2)

On 24 September 2015, a crowd collapse caused the deaths of at least 2,236 pilgrims who were suffocated or crushed during the annul Hajj pilgrimage in Mina, Mecca making it the deadliest Hajj disaster in history.

Early eyewitnesses’ accounts stated that the crush was caused by the closure of eastern part of Street 206, which forced pilgrims travel up Street 223, colliding with a mass of people moving the opposite direction on Street 204. (source)

Mohammed Jafari, an advisor to the Hajj and Umrah Travel tour operator in the UK, said: ‘Talking to pilgrims on the ground, they say the main reason for this accident was that the King and his palace was receiving dignitaries including the minister of defense and members of the GCC (the Gulf Co-operation Council).

‘For this reason, they closed two of the entrances to where the (‘stoning of the devil’ ritual) happens and they closed two roads… which created two bottlenecks.

‘It is the fault of the Saudi government because any time a prince comes along, they close the roads and don’t think about the disaster waiting to happen.’ (source)

So before the next Hajj season, members of the Ummah should email the Saudi government demanding that they change their Hajj procedures to fully reflect this verse:

“O you who believe, do not impose on the symbols of God, nor on the sacred month…nor impose on the people visiting the Sacred House, seeking the bounty and blessings of their Lord…” (Quran 5:2)

Muslim’s and Christian Conservative Republican’s common problem, 7:12

God said, “What prevented you from bowing down when I asked you to?” Lucifer said, “I am better than he is.” (Quran 7:12)

Liberal, Christian extremists like Donald John Trump, and Muslim extremists like Abubakar Shekau are all simply acting on what many of their moderate colleagues have been saying for years, “Our group is better, and we deserve better– here and hereafter.” So if moderate leaders, Christian and Muslim, religious and political, don’t completely change this message, then the radicals who perfect that message will continue to represent them.

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” (Galatians 6:7)


“Salaam”: God’s sacred greeting, 33:44

“Their salutation on the day they meet Him will be ‘Salaam’. And He has prepared for them a generous reward.” 33:44

” ‘Salaam,’ a word from the Lord, the Merciful Redeemer.” 36:58

I notice that the greeting of “Salaam” isn’t good enough for some. Some see it as a stripped down version of “As Salaam Alaikum“. And feel slighted or even disrespected, as if it’s Arabic slang for “What’s up”. But as we see from the verses above, “Salaam” is both the greeting Allah wants to receive, as well as the greeting He chooses to offer. That says a lot.

And “Peace” will be their greeting, and the end of their prayer will be, “Praise God, Lord of all the worlds.” 10:10

Does God cause extreme poverty or do we? 17:30

“Indeed your Lord provides sustenance in abundance to whom He pleases, and He provides it in just measure, for He knows and is regardful of all His servants.” 17:30

The translation above interprets “يَبْسُطُ الرِّزْقَ” as “provides sustenance in abundance”. But I think this sounds like God is actively serving a line of people, piling it on for some and turning away others. This can give us the excuse that the lack of basic human needs in Sub-Saharan Africa is solely in the hands of God.

Here’s another translation:

“Indeed your Lord provides (natural) resources in abundance for whom He wills, and He provides it in just measure, for He knows and is regardful of all His servants.” 17:30

Instead of translating “يَبْسُطُ الرِّزْقَ” as ” ‘provides sustenance in abundance’ for whom He wills”, I say ‘provides (natural) resources in abundance’ for whom He wills”. This reminds us that God does in fact provide sustenance in abundance to the nations and tribes who are currently experiencing crushing poverty. But it is complacency, foreign invasion, corruption, and miscalculations that have made needy those who God has given abundance. 

Would Bush vote for Trump? 49:11, 49:6

“O you who believe. Let not some men among you laugh at others. It may be that the latter are better than the former. Nor let some women laugh at others. It may be that the latter are better than the former. Nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by offensive names. Shameful is a name connoting evil, to be used of one after he has believed. And those who do not desist are indeed doing wrong.” (49:11)

I am grateful that Trump is up and Jeb Bush is out, because Bush represents the significant number of misguided, yet decent, God-fearing, White, Republican, males who might stay home and repent rather than vote for Donald Trump. And a vote saved is a vote earned– for Hillary Clinton and her running mate.

O ye who believe. If a corrupt person comes to you with any news, ascertain the truth, lest you harm people unwittingly, and afterwards become full of repentance for what ye have done. (49:6)


What could God do Himself, but hasn’t?

“If God inflicts you with pain, there are none that can remove it but Him. If He does design some benefit for you, there is none who can keep back His favor. He causes it to reach whomever of His servants He pleases, and He is the Oft-Forgiving, Mercifully Redeeming.” 10:107

What good thing could God easily do Himself that He has not done? Whatever answer comes to mind, just might be our life’s work. After-all, what good are servants if you have to do everything yourself?

“Say to my servants who have believed, that they should establish prayer, and give out of the sustenance we have given them, secretly and openly, before the coming of a day in which there will be neither bargaining nor befriending.” 14:31

Trump, like Lucifer, should teach us not to hate (15:39-42)

“Lucifer said, ‘O my Lord, because You have put me in the wrong, I will make wrong attractive to them on the earth, and I will put them all in the wrong. Except Your devotees among them, sincere and innocent.'” 

“God said, “This is indeed a way that leads straight to Me. ‘For over My servants, no authority will you have, except those who put themselves in harms way by following you.'” (15:39-42)

Why has God raised Donald Trump high enough for the whole world to see? I think it’s for the same reason He raised Lucifer (Iblis). Lucifer fell from grace because he hated human beings. Trump will fall from grace because he hated human beings. But we too will fall from grace if we hate human beings.

We includes all people. But it is ironic that Muslims hate that Mr. Trump hates Muslims when many of those same Muslims have a deep and emotional extreme dislike for a whole range of people. Some hate– or at least dislike–  Jews, clubbers, drunks, gays, Whites, Blacks, females, atheists, celebrities and others. 

I shouldn’t hate those human beings who hate, instead, I should hate hating other human beings. 

“Not equal are benefit and harm. Repel wrong with what is better. Then those who hated each other will become close friends.” 41:35


Why is the remembrance of God the greatest thing? 29:45

“[T]he remembrance of God is the greatest thing…” 29:45

It is hard to know if we existed before we were babies, and God does not put the question to rest in the Quran. But if we believe that God created us, then it isn’t hard to believe that we existed before being born– at least in the mind of God. But after all, what is the difference between God’s idea of a human soul and a real human soul?

So is it possible that we can remember those good old days with God? Well, have you noticed that it takes no mental work to remember God? It almost as if the default setting of the human is on God.

So perhaps the fact that it is so easy to remember God means that we are reliving a real experience. The time when it was just us and our Creator– the greatest experience with doubt.

“Those who believe and whose hearts find satisfaction in the remembrance of God, for without doubt in the remembrance of God do hearts find satisfaction. 13:28

Hillary Clinton is not the enemy (anymore), 49:9

 “But if the enemy reaches out for peace, you should reach out for peace, and trust in God, for He is One who hears and knows all things.” 8:61

Below is verse 49:9 plus some thoughts that came to mind while reading it.

If two factions among the believers fall into a quarrel, make peace between them. But if one of them transgresses beyond bounds against the other, then all of you should argue against the one who transgressed, until it complies with the command of God, but if it complies, then make peace between them with justice and be fair, for God loves those who are fair and just. 49:9

“If two factions (the first faction that comes to mind is the 2008 and 2015 partisan Democrats lead by Hillary and Bill Clinton. The second faction is the 2008 coalition of Democrats, most of the Independents, and 10% of Republicans known as Obama Republicans all lead by Barack Obama) among the believers (those Americans who believe in basic fairness, justice, and equality) fall into a quarrel, make peace between them (there was a serious rift between the 2008 Clinton supporters and the 2008 Obama supporters, and many of those differences still exist. But Barack Obama could not have won without them, and Hillary Clinton can’t win without us. So had Barack Obama and his campaign strategists succeeded again in nominating one of our own (Biden or Shah), it might have been too traumatic for millions of Clinton supporters to experience again. Like Hillary Clinton, many of them are unpredictable and might have staged a protest vote for a Republican, or they might have protested by staying home. If Democrats are going to win this year, then we need every Democrats’ vote).

“But if one of them transgresses beyond bounds against the other, then all of you should argue against the one who transgressed,  (one reason I do not like Hillary Clinton is that many of her and her husband’s attacks against Obama and his supporters were out-of-bounds) until it complies with the command of God (but since the 2008 campaign, Hillary and her husband have been very supportive of Barack) but if it complies, then make peace between them with justice and fairness, for God loves those who are fair and just (if we fail to make peace with the partisan Democrats, then we will end up with a President immeasurably worse than Clinton). The believers are brothers. So make peace and reconciliation between your brothers, and be conscious of God, that you may receive mercy (the gender non-neutral wording in this verse reminds me that having a female president will be good for gender-equality).” 49:9-10

Clinton/Shah 2016!

“And not equal are benefit and harm. Repel wrong with what is better. Then the two who hated each other will become close friends.” 41:34

Is the Quran literary fiction, non-fiction, both, or neither? 3:7

“It is He who sent down to you the Book. In it are verses of obvious wisdom. These verses are the mother of the Book. Still there are other verses containing esoteric wisdom. Those in whose hearts is deviation, they only follow the esoteric verses, seeking disharmony and seeking its hidden meaning. But none has the understanding of their interpretations except God and those well-grounded in the knowledge. They say, ‘We believe in it; all of it is from the presence of our Guardian Evolver.” But none will remember this, except the possessors of insight and a penetrating intellect.” 3:7

Is the Quran literary fiction revealed by God, non-fiction revealed by God, both literary fiction and non-fiction revealed by God, neither, or do you not know?

I expect that most Muslims would answer that the Quran is neither fiction nor non-fiction, but instead it is scripture. However, by attempting to elevate the Quran by saying that it falls into neither group, instead of saying that it has elements of both, we take away its value as non-fiction– a work whose creator, in good faith, assumes responsibility for the truth or accuracy of the events, people, and/or information presented. And we take away its value as fiction– a work that offers deliberate social commentary, political criticism, or focus on the individual to explore some part of the human condition.

I suspect that most non-Muslims would either answer that the Quran is scripture or it is fiction. These people either choose not to read it, read it for entertainment, or read it like literary fiction– to better understand the human condition. 

Continue reading “Is the Quran literary fiction, non-fiction, both, or neither? 3:7”

Strike at the necks of unbelievers? Quran 47:4

Therefore, when you meet the unbelievers in war, strike at their necks, then when you have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly. Afterwards is the time for either generosity or ransom, but not until the war lays down its burdens, but if it had been God’s will, He could certainly have taken retribution from them Himself. But He wills to challenge you with others, but those who are slain in the way of God, He will never let their deeds be lost. (Quran 47:4)

After reading verse 47:4 in context we see that it is not one of those verses followed up with another verse specifying when it should or should not be applied. And there is no reason to think that this verse can no longer be applied because of modern pluralistic societies or the use modern weapons. There are still plenty of “unbelievers” to pick a fight with, and all the best modern military forces are still trained in hand to hand combat with knives, so striking the neck can result in a quicker death which is ultimately better for both soldiers.

And another way to apply verse 47:4 literally, is to proactively start wars with those who do not believe like you and to behead them, right?

Wrong? Ok, good. So we all agree that just because a verse of Quran or a passage in Hadith can be applied literally does not mean that it should be applied literally.

Those who listen to the word, and adhere to the best of it. Those are the ones who God has guided, and those are the ones endowed with understanding. (Quran 39:18)

The desert Arabs say, ‘We believe.’ Say, ‘You have no faith, just say we have become muslim, because faith has not yet entered your hearts, but if you actually follow Allah and His messenger, He will not deprive you of any of your deeds, for God is Oft-Forgiving, Mercifully Redeeming.” (Quran 49:14)

(verify translations here)

We didn’t find the Night of Power, it found us. 2:185, 97:1-5

“Ramadan is the month the Quran was revealed as a guide to humanity, as proof, and as the guidance and the criterion.” 2:185

“We have indeed revealed it in the Night of Power. 

And what will explain to you what the Night of Power is? 

The Night of Power is as good as a thousand months. 

There comes down the angels and the spirit by God’s permission, for every will. 

Peace, until the rise of morn.” 97:1-5

Can something even as central to tradition as the belief in God ever be suspended? Should it ever be exchanged for something not necessarily better or worse, but different? Have you ever experienced a brief period when you no longer needed belief in God because God’s existence was in fact more real than your own?

Last night, I too had such a moment.

I didn’t seek the Night of Power according to tradition, but I sought such a moment throughout the year, yet didn’t received it until, in accordance to the Quran, I observed Ramadan. 

I often try to reproduce this brief Night of Power experience throughout the year but end up having to settle on simply praying for it. I believe they should not need to come too often because they are powerful enough to sustain belief for more than a thousand months– which of course is a lifetime.

Healthy food and Satan? 2:168

“O you people, eat of what is on the earth, permissible and healthy. And do not follow the footsteps of Satan, for he is to you a sworn enemy.” 2:168

Why does God connect healthy eating to Satan?

After deciding to harness the power of Ramadan to establishing healthy eating once and for all, I recalled the only health expert that Fareed Zakaria has ever had on his show– David Agus author of End of Illness. In this important book David Agus recommended what he considered the best book on healthy eating– In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan.

The book In Defense of Food explains many connections between food and Satan while explaining why Americans should –but don’t– simply eat the kinds of food mentioned in the Quran.

Ramadan: A time for cultural evolution and refinement, 49:13

“O humanity, We created you from a single male and female, and made you into communities and families, that you may know each other…” 49:13

Whether or not you are a Sunni Muslim, there is no better month than Ramadan to evolve our communities’ culture, and reestablish healthy family traditions.

For instance, the invaluable ritual of eating dinner as a family often frays throughout the year. The month of Ramadan is a great time to re-establish this age-old tradition.

Ramadan is also a wonderful month to get into the habit of eating dinner with other families as often a possible. This gives all of our families a chance to break out of the habit of eating the same types of meals with the same kinds people, and instead exposes us to new dishes, new people, and new ideas.

If you are single, then Ramadan and dinner, are terrific opportunities to reconnect with old friends (or foes).

Ramadan Mubarak from my family to yours.

Religion is serious but our application is often amusing, (Quran 6:32, 6:70)

“Leave those alone who take their religion to be play and entertainment– and are deceived by the life of the present.” 6:70

Some of the smartest, most successful people born to religious parents understandably, though mistakenly, do not take their religion seriously.

“What is the life of the present but play and entertainment*? Best is the home in the hereafter, for those who are righteous. Will you not then understand?” 6:32

Perhaps paradoxically, the verse above says the life of the present is play and entertainment. Perhaps this means take religion seriously but understand that because all humans are fallible, we should not take any of our understandings or proposed applications of that religion as seriously.

One things for sure, balancing fierce religious conviction with a sense of humor will do us all some good.

*Yes it actually says this (see Arabic in a word for word translation). No it is not talking specifically to unbelievers (see context).

Skipping prayer takes a neurological toll (find the time), 20:130

“Therefore be patient with what they say, and praise your Lord, before the rising of the Sun, and before its setting. Yes, praise for part of the hours of the night, and at the sides of the day. That you may have joy.” 20:130

In David Agus’s book, the End of Illness, he explains how finding time to pray (or any other down-time) “allows us to better learn information, and to come up with new ideas. At the University of California, San Francisco, scientists found that when their subjects have a new experience, such as exploring an unfamiliar area, their brains show new patterns of activity. But only when they take a break from their exploration do they process those patterns in a way that seems to create a persistent memory of the experience. The researchers suspect that the findings apply to how we learn as humans.

Down-time let’s the brain take a breather and go over experiences it had, solidify them, and turn them into permanent long-term memories. When the brain is constantly stimulated, we could be preventing this learning process. The moral of the story is that we all need to call a time-out, and more often than we probably wish given the volume of distractions we increasingly encountered throughout the day.”

Since obesity is a disease should obese believers fast? 2:184

“Abstain for a fixed number of days. But if any of you are sick, or on a journey, the prescribed number should be made up days later, for those who can do it, is an exchange of feeding one who needs food. But he who will give more of his own free will it is better for him. And it is better for you that you abstain, if you only knew.” 2:184

Since we do not have to fast if we are sick, and since disease is worse than mere sickness, then certainly we don’t have to fast if we have a disease.

Disease- a disorder of structure or function in a human, animal, or plant, especially one that produces specific signs or symptoms or that affects a specific location and is not simply a direct result of physical injury.

In 2013 the American Medical Association (the United State’s largest physician organization adopted policy that recognizes obesity as a disease requiring a range of medical interventions to advance obesity treatment and prevention.

The United States National Library of Medicine (the USNLM is operated by the United States federal government, and the world’s largest medical library) defines obesity as “having too much body fat” and explains that it occurs over time when you eat more calories than you use. According to the USNLM obesity means having too much body fat. It is different from being overweight, which means weighing too much. The weight may come from muscle, bone, fat, and/or body water. Both terms mean that a person’s weight is greater than what’s considered healthy for his or her height.

So, should the person who thinks that fasting will not advance their obesity treatment use the power of Ramadan to establish a healthy lifestyle?  

“Every one of you who are present during that month should spend it abstaining, but if anyone is ill or on a journey, the prescribed period should be made up days later. God intends good for you, He does not want to make it difficult for you, instead He wants for you to complete the prescribed period, and to praise Him, for He has guided you, so that you might be grateful.” 2:185