True Power

One day a famous congressman stopped by a diner for breakfast with his entourage. Upon entering the diner, the customers and staff swarmed around the congressman attempting to shake his hand, take his picture, or have him kiss their baby. As the congressman made his way to his table, his snappy requests with the staff made it clear that he expected to be served more diligently than the other patrons. Things came to a crescendo when the congressman demanded more butter for his toast to one of his servers who unlike the rest didn’t seem to provide him the special attention he expected. After the third request, the congressman ran out of patience and asked his server if he knew who he was. The server respond, “Why yes of course,” and asked the congressman if he knew who he was. The congressman looking dumbfounded by the question, blurted out, “no.” In which the server responded, “congressman, I am the person with the butter.”

In any exchange the one with the power is not always the one with the authority. We see two examples of this in Sura 27 of the Quran regarding the history of Solomon.

In the following verse we see Solomon’s dialogue with one of his subordinates, the hoopoe. Clearly in this dynamic, Solomon had the authority as he made it clear that he could choose to sacrifice the hoopoe if he so wished.

[27:20] He inspected the birds, and noted: “Why do I not see the hoopoe? Why is he missing? [27:21] “I will punish him severely or sacrifice him, unless he gives me a good excuse.”

Despite this, the hoopoe had one key advantage that Solomon did not have: certain knowledge, which in this case was about the people of Sheba.

[27:22] He did not wait for long. (The hoopoe) said, “I have news that you do not have. I brought to you from Sheba, some important information. [27:23] “I found a woman ruling them, who is blessed with everything, and possesses a tremendous palace. [27:24] “I found her and her people prostrating before the sun, instead of GOD. The devil has adorned their works in their eyes, and has repulsed them from the path; consequently, they are not guided.” [27:25] They should have been prostrating before GOD, the One who manifests all the mysteries in the heavens and the earth, and the One who knows everything you conceal and everything you declare. [27:26] GOD: there is no other god beside Him; the Lord with the great dominion. [27:27] (Solomon) said, “We will see if you told the truth, or if you are a liar. [27:28] “Take this letter from me, give it to them, then watch for their response.”

Even though Solomon was clearly more powerful in authority than the hoopoe, the knowledge that the hoopoe had that Solomon did not made him the one with more power in the exchange.

The second example occurred when Solomon asked one of the elders to bring him the Queen of Sheba’s palace.

[27:38] He said, “O you elders, which of you can bring me her mansion, before they arrive here as submitters?”

The first one to respond was one of the strong and powerful jinns, an afrit. One would assume because of his strength he would be able to get it faster than the others.

[27:39] One afrit from the jinns said, “I can bring it to you before you stand up. I am powerful enough to do this.”

But we see in the following verse that it was not the strongest of them who was able to get the palace the fastest, but instead the one who had knowledge.

[27:40] The one who possessed knowledge from the book said, “I can bring it to you in the blink of your eye.” …

Again we see that the one with the real power was not the one with more authority or the one with more strength, but the one with the most knowledge.

[27:40]…When he saw it settled in front of him, he said, “This is a blessing from my Lord, whereby He tests me, to show whether I am appreciative or unappreciative. Whoever is appreciative is appreciative for his own good, and if one turns unappreciative, then my Lord is in no need for him, Most Honorable.”

Knowledge, Authority & Wisdom

There are many lessons in Sura 27, The Ant/Al-Naml, regarding Solomon and the understanding between knowledge, authority, and wisdom.

The first thing we learn about Solomon was that he was bestowed with knowledge.

[27:15] We endowed David and Solomon with knowledge, and they said, “Praise GOD for blessing us more than many of His believing servants.”

The second thing we learn about Solomon was that he was the heir of David, making him a king, along with some of the knowledge that was bestowed upon Solomon.

[27:16] Solomon was David’s heir. He said, “O people, we have been endowed with understanding the language of the birds, and all kinds of things have been bestowed upon us. This is indeed a real blessing.”

We then see that Solomon had a vast army of jinns, humans, and birds at his disposal.

[27:17] Mobilized in the service of Solomon were his obedient soldiers of jinns and humans, as well as the birds; all at his disposal.

So far we see the that Solomon had knowledge and authority, but it is not until his interaction with the ants do we see his first sign or wisdom.

[27:18] When they approached the valley of the ants, one ant said, “O you ants, go into your homes, lest you get crushed by Solomon and his soldiers, without perceiving.” [27:19] He smiled and laughed at her statement, and said, “My Lord, direct me to be appreciative of the blessings You have bestowed upon me and my parents, and to do the righteous works that please You. Admit me by Your mercy into the company of Your righteous servants.”

This is evident that despite having knowledge and authority that he was still concerned with the well being of the smallest of creatures and even more-so that he does not take such blessings for granted.

There is a correlation with power and unappreciation. We see this throughout the Quran that the more God gives his servants the more unappreciative they become.

[74:11] Let Me deal with one I created as an individual. [74:12] I provided him with lots of money. [74:13] And children to behold. [74:14] I made everything easy for him. [74:15] Yet, he is greedy for more.

[16:112] GOD cites the example of a community that used to be secure and prosperous, with provisions coming to it from everywhere. But then, it turned unappreciative of GOD’s blessings. Consequently, GOD caused them to taste the hardships of starvation and insecurity. Such is the requital for what they did.

We also see this proven in countless studies.

But there is another mechanism at work that causes people to become unappreciative. Typically, people who are wealthier are busier, and place have a higher value on their time. Therefore, they are more likely to prioritize their own concerns above the concerns of others. This can cause people to become self-centered and less sympathetic to the needs of others. A famous example of this was the good samaritan experiment.

In the case of Solomon, despite having tremendous authority and wealth he still paused to listen to the concerns of single ant, and used that moment to reflect on God for all the blessings that He bestowed upon him.

Can We Encompass A Single One of God’s Blessings?

In the verses 14:34 and 16:18 it states that if we count God’s blessings we will not be able to encompass them. While the translations for these expressions appear almost identical, there is a subtle difference that is worth reflecting upon.

Here is the word by word breakdown of the expression in 14:34:

[14:34] And He gives you all kinds of things that you implore Him for. If you count GOD’s blessings, you can never encompass them. Indeed, the human being is transgressing, unappreciative.

وَآتَاكُمْ مِنْ كُلِّ مَا سَأَلْتُمُوهُ وَإِنْ تَعُدُّوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ لَا تُحْصُوهَا إِنَّ الْإِنْسَانَ لَظَلُومٌ كَفَّارٌ

Notice that this verse uses the plural form of the word “blessing” which is “نِعْمَتَ”. Additionally, it uses the Arabic word تُحْصُوهَا which comes from the root ” ح ص ي ” which has to do with counting.

Now let’s contrast this with the expression in 16:18.

[16:18] If you count GOD’s blessings, you cannot possibly encompass them. GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful.

وَإِنْ تَعُدُّوا نِعْمَةَ اللَّهِ لَا تُحْصُوهَا إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَغَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ

And here is the word by word breakdown of the verse.

If we notice this time it uses the singular form of the term blessing “نِعْمَةَ”.

My understanding of this is that even if we attempt to encompass just a single one of God’s blessings we will never be able to fully appreciate it. To put this in perspective let’s read the following verses which constitute the prayer of Abraham to God.

[14:35] Recall that Abraham said, “My Lord, make this a peaceful land, and protect me and my children from worshiping idols. [14:36] “My Lord, they have misled so many people. As for those who follow me, they belong with me. As for those who disobey me, You are Forgiver, Most Merciful. [14:37] “Our Lord, I have settled part of my family in this plantless valley, at Your Sacred House. Our Lord, they are to observe the Contact Prayers (Salat), so let throngs of people converge upon them, and provide for them all kinds of fruits, that they may be appreciative. [14:38] “Our Lord, You know whatever we conceal and whatever we declare— nothing is hidden from GOD on earth, nor in the heavens. [14:39] “Praise be to GOD for granting me, despite my old age, Ismail and Isaac. My Lord answers the prayers. [14:40] “My Lord, make me one who consistently observes the Contact Prayers (Salat), and also my children. Our Lord, please answer my prayers. [14:41] “My Lord, forgive me and my parents, and the believers, on the day when the reckoning takes place.”

Now take in consideration that from this one person, Abraham, the impact he has had from his one single prayer for so many countless believers. Because God answered his one prayer, He has blessed generations of humans with the Salat, Hajj, and even the Quran, and Submission as a whole.

[2:127] As Abraham raised the foundations of the shrine, together with Ismail (they prayed): “Our Lord, accept this from us. You are the Hearer, the Omniscient. [2:128] “Our Lord, make us submitters to You, and from our descendants let there be a community of submitters to You. Teach us the rites of our religion, and redeem us. You are the Redeemer, Most Merciful. [2:129] “Our Lord, and raise among them a messenger to recite to them Your revelations, teach them the scripture and wisdom, and purify them. You are the Almighty, Most Wise.”

The name Jesus

“Jesus” is the English derivative of the Greek transliteration of “Yehoshua” via Latin. In the New Testament, all instances of the word “Yehoshua” are written as “Ἰησοῦς” (Iēsoūs), which is the closest Greek transliteration of the Aramaic: ישוע; Yeshua‎.

Because of the lack of a “sh” sound in Greek when the Bible was translated from Greek to Latin it retained the name as Iēsus and eventually changed into Jesus when translated to English from Greek.

But there is more than one Yeshua in the Bible. Yeshua was also one of the leaders of the Children of Israel at the time of Moses, which we know as Joshua. The reason Yeshua was transliterated closer to the original name as opposed to Jesus was because Yeshua was translated straight from Hebrew to English without the Greek translation as an intermediary.

So Jesus is the English form of Latin Iēsus which is the Hebrew name Yēšua (ישוע), which is in turn is the shortened form of Hebrew Yehōšua (יהושע) or “Joshua” in English.

What is the meaning of Yehoshua?

Yehoshua comes from two words Yahweh which means “God” + Shua from the root יָשַׁע (yasha’) which means salvation. Therefore, the literal translation of Yehoshua would be “God saves” or “God is salvation.”

What is interesting is that according to Numbers 13:8 we see that the original name of Yehoshua, or Joshua in English, was Hoshea, but in Numbers 13:16, Moses changed his name to Yehoshua/Joshua.

Numbers 13

1 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.” 3 So at the Lord’s command Moses sent them out from the Desert of Paran. All of them were leaders of the Israelites. 4 These are their names…

Numbers 13:8 from the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea son of Nun;

Numbers 13:16 These are the names of the men Moses sent to explore the land. (Moses gave Hoshea son of Nun the name Joshua.)

There is some debate to why Moses called Hoshea Joshua, but if we look at the meaning of Hoshea it might shed some light.

Hoshea comes from the same root as Joshua יָשַׁע (yasha’) which means salvation, but unlike Joshua which means God is salvation, Hoshea would simply mean Salvation. As salvation only comes from God it makes sense that Moses could have decided to call him Joshua as in “God is salvation” which he is called throughout the rest of the Bible.

What does this have to do with Jesus?

Christians believe that Jesus is God, and this is contrary to the very name God gave him as his name is a testament that salvation only comes from God, otherwise it would make more sense that his name would have been Hoshea which would simply mean salvation.

[4:172] The Messiah would never disdain from being a servant of GOD, nor would the closest angels. Those who disdain from worshiping Him, and are too arrogant to submit, He will summon them all before Him.

Also, it is quite funny that Christians put so much importance on Jesus, and specifically his name, yet we don’t even know 100% for sure what he was called by the people at the time as we do not have the original Gospels in Aramaic.

[3:45] The angels said, “O Mary, GOD gives you good news: a Word from Him whose name is `The Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary. He will be prominent in this life and in the Hereafter, and one of those closest to Me.’

What else is interesting is that it is not clear why the Quran uses the term Isa for Jesus. God willing hoping to dig into explore this in the future.

Man: The Best Design & Circumcision

How do we reconcile circumcision with God informing us that He created man in the best design?

To understand this question we need to understand that the form of a human being has been around long before Adam; for hundreds of thousands of years. What set Adam apart was not just his form, but specifically his soul. That is why the human form is not entirely distinct from all other animals, but instead falls into the category of mammals, and even more specifically primates.

One of the commonalities of all mammals is that they are endowed with foreskin. The main purpose of the foreskin is twofold (1) as a protective layer against the environment (2) to expedite time to ejaculation for increased probability of conception. While both these cases are highly advantageous for all other mammals and their survival, this is not the case for modern humans.

1. Humans wear clothes animals do not

No surprise, but animals do not wear clothes, therefore it makes sense that their vulnerable parts have an additional layer of protection rather than being out in the open. But human beings do wear clothes for protection and additionally, unlike animals humans feel shame in nudity, which again originated with Adam & Eve’s soul being assigned to human bodies.

[20:121] They ate from it, whereupon their bodies became visible to them, and they tried to cover themselves with the leaves of Paradise. Adam thus disobeyed his Lord, and fell.

[7:26] O children of Adam, we have provided you with garments to cover your bodies, as well as for luxury. But the best garment is the garment of righteousness. These are some of GOD’s signs, that they may take heed.

Since animals do not wear clothes, their genitals have more exposure to air, reducing bacterial growth under the foreskin. This is not the case for humans. Humans wear clothes and do not require the extra protection that the foreskin serves, and due to the fact that humans wear clothes, this actually has a negative impact for uncircumcised men in regards to hygiene. Also, humans sweat more than any other mammal, while this is great for disseminating of heat, it does not function well for the genitals covered in clothes with excessive foreskin. It is a proven fact that infants, teenagers, and men that uncircumcised are at much higher risk of Urinary Tract Infections and sexually transmitted diseases both for themselves and even for their partners, compared to ones who are circumcised.

Additionally, it is interesting that God encourages cleanliness throughout the Quran, but specifically in the context of sexual relations:

[2:222] They ask you about menstruation: say, “It is harmful; you shall avoid sexual intercourse with the women during menstruation; do not approach them until they are rid of it. Once they are rid of it, you may have intercourse with them in the manner designed by GOD. GOD loves the repenters, and He loves those who are clean.”

2. Humans have sex for pleasure more than they do for procreation, animals do not

Most animals have sex strictly for the sake of procreation, therefore an animal that can ejaculate faster than its peers has a better chance to pass their genes for future generations. This is not the case for humans.

Humans are one of the only mammals who have sex for pleasure. A simple example of this is that on average a couple will have sex 1,000 times before a birth of a child, while other primates, like gorillas, have sex only about twelve times before a birth. Also, humans’ duration of copulation is one of the longest for any mammals. Actually, human sexuality can be argued serves primarily as a bonding device between monogamous couples and secondly for procreation. Again this goes counter to the function of the foreskin. Foreskin speeds up ejaculation because in the animal kingdom the purpose of sex is for procreation, so the faster that one can complete the task the more likely they are to pass their genes to the next generation.

It is a fact that men who are circumcised have a much longer “Intravaginal ejaculation latency time” (IELT). This means that they can perform intercourse for longer. The advantage of this is (1) they can enjoy this blessing for a longer duration of time (2) their partners, who physiologically take longer to climax, will also be able to enjoy intercourse for longer (3) therefore the probability of their partner reaching climax during intercourse is higher. While these points may be obvious, the fourth reason is very profound (4) the amount of oxytocin release is higher during prolonged intercourse and especially after climax. Oxytocin is known as the love hormone. It is a major factor in what keeps couples monogamous and even more awesome is that it is linked to couples’ drive to stick together through relationship hard patches.

Now consider this, you are a about to have a son and as a parent you have the opportunity to bestow a gift for them that will leave them with better hygiene, less prone to infection, a better sex life with their spouse when they get married, and also the ability to have a stronger bond with their spouse to increase their chances of staying together through relationship difficulties – would you want to provide such a blessing for them?

Milat Ibraheem (Religion of Abraham) in the Hebrew Bible

The expression مِلَّةَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ (millata ib’rāhīma), which means the “religion of Abraham”, occurs eight times in its various forms in the Quran: 2:130, 2:135, 3:95, 6:161, 16:123, 4:125, 12:38, and 22:78)

[2:135] They said, “You have to be Jewish or Christian, to be guided.” Say, “We follow the religion of Abraham—monotheism—he never was an idol worshiper.”

وَقَالُوا كُونُوا هُودًا أَوْ نَصَارَىٰ تَهْتَدُوا قُلْ بَلْ مِلَّةَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ حَنِيفًا وَمَا كَانَ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ

[16:123] Then we inspired you (Muhammad) to follow the religion of Abraham, the monotheist; he never was an idol worshiper.

 ثُمَّ أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْكَ أَنِ اتَّبِعْ مِلَّةَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ حَنِيفًا وَمَا كَانَ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ

The Arabic word millat comes from the root م ل ل (mim-lam-lam). This root has the following meanings: to dictate; to embrace a religion; faith; religion; creed.

Does this expression also occur in the Bible?

In order to find out we need to determine what is the Old Testament Hebrew equivalent of the Arabic word millat مِلَّةَ. As both Arabic and Hebrew are semitic languages, they share a lot of similarities, including many relationships between words and roots. Therefore, we can check to see if there exists a Hebrew equivalent root, and it just happens that it does.

The equivalent root to the Quranic Arabic word millat مِلَّةَ in Old Testament Hebrew is מלל (mēm-lamed-lamed). When used as a verb this root in the Hebrew Old Testament has four distinct meanings in the form of מלל (malal). The definition for all four verbs have to do with: separating or severing something from what it’s normally connected to.

One of these four definitions specifically means to circumcise and is a by-form of the verb מול (mul). We see this form used in the following verse of Genesis 17:11.

If we look at all the other occurrences of the word מול (mul) in the Bible, we see this word occurs thirty-six times. There are two verses in the entire Bible where this word is preceded after the name Abraham. These two verses are Genesis 17:26 and Genesis 21:4. Below are both verses showing the the Hebrew equivalent of the Arabic مِلَّةَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ (millata ib’rāhīma / the religion of Abraham), which in Old Testament Hebrew occurs as the “circumcision of Abraham”.

This discovery corresponds with the following verse from the Quran where God put Abraham to the test with certain commands that he fulfilled.

[Quran 2:124] Recall that Abraham was put to the test by his Lord, through certain commands, and he fulfilled them. (God) said, “I am appointing you an imam for the people.” He said, “And also my descendants?” He said, “My covenant does not include the transgressors.”

The Jews call this covenant Brit Milah which translates to the “Covenant of Circumcision”.