How to Avoid Idol Worship

One of the definitions of idol worship is to think that something independent of God has the ability to harm or benefit us.

[5:76] Say, “Would you worship beside GOD powerless idols who can neither harm you, nor benefit you? GOD is Hearer, Omniscient.”

قُلْ أَتَعْبُدُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ مَا لَا يَمْلِكُ لَكُمْ ضَرًّا وَلَا نَفْعًا وَاللَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ

So what does this mean in practice? Let’s assume I have a headache and decide to take some Advil. If I think that the Advil will be able to relieve my hardship, independent of God, then that would be idol worship. This doesn’t make the Advil itself sinful or bad, but only the way that I am treating it as a source of relief that can benefit my condition, independent of God.

If on the other hand, I have a headache and implore God to allow the Advil to help eliminate my headache, then that would not be idol worship since I am attributing all power back to God. Because God is the only One who can benefit us, and therefore inversely harm us, then we must always be aware that it is only God’s will if our actions have the intended outcomes we are hoping to see.

This is the reason we use the following three expressions when discussing such matters:

  • God willing = إِنْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ = In Shã Allãh
  • This is what GOD has given me = مَا شَاءَ اللَّهُ = Mã Shã Allãh
  • No one possess power except God = لَا قُوَّةَ إِلَّا بِاللَّهِ = Lã Quwwata Ellã Bellãh

All three of these expressions can be found in Sura 18 of the Quran, with two of the expressions being given as a reminder to someone who forgot that his garden was provided to him because of God and not due to his cleverness.

[18:23] You shall not say that you will do anything in the future, [18:24] without saying, “GOD willing.” If you forget to do this, you must immediately remember your Lord and say, “May my Lord guide me to do better next time.”

وَلَا تَقُولَنَّ لِشَيْءٍ إِنِّي فَاعِلٌ ذَٰلِكَ غَدًا – ٢٣

إِلَّا أَنْ يَشَاءَ اللَّهُ وَاذْكُرْ رَبَّكَ إِذَا نَسِيتَ وَقُلْ عَسَىٰ أَنْ يَهْدِيَنِ رَبِّي لِأَقْرَبَ مِنْ هَٰذَا رَشَدًا – ٢٤

[18:39] “When you entered your garden, you should have said, ‘This is what GOD has given me (Mã Shã Allãh). No one possesses power except GOD (Lã Quwwata Ellã Bellãh).’ You may see that I possess less money and less children than you.

وَلَوْلَا إِذْ دَخَلْتَ جَنَّتَكَ قُلْتَ مَا شَاءَ اللَّهُ لَا قُوَّةَ إِلَّا بِاللَّهِ إِنْ تَرَنِ أَنَا أَقَلَّ مِنْكَ مَالًا وَوَلَدًا

By using these expressions in our speech we are acknowledging that (1) nothing happens to us that is not in accordance with God’s will, and that (2) all power belongs to God.

In the following example from Joseph, we see that after Joseph interpreted his two prison mates dreams, that he asked the one who was destined to be the wine butler for the king to remember him at his lord.

[12:42] He then said to the one to be saved “Remember me at your lord.” Thus, the devil caused him to forget his Lord, and, consequently, he remained in prison a few more years.

وَقَالَ لِلَّذِي ظَنَّ أَنَّهُ نَاجٍ مِنْهُمَا اذْكُرْنِي عِنْدَ رَبِّكَ فَأَنْسَاهُ الشَّيْطَانُ ذِكْرَ رَبِّهِ فَلَبِثَ فِي السِّجْنِ بِضْعَ سِنِينَ

This verse informs us that because the devil made Joseph forget God, that this mistake required that he remain in prison a few more years.

I don’t believe that Joseph’s error was asking his prison mate for such a request, but strictly due to the fact that he forgot God in the process. Had Joseph glorified God by simply acknowledging “if God wills,” I believe that he could avoided these extra years he had to stay in prison. To compound matters he used the expression “at your lord” which shows his momentary slip in remembering that God is the ultimate decision maker in all matters.

A possible clue to this is that in the following verse Joseph uses the expression “God willing” when welcoming his family to Egypt, thus acknowledging that it is God who will keep his family safe.

[12:99] When they entered Joseph’s quarters, he embraced his parents, saying, “Welcome to Egypt. GOD willing, you will be safe here.”

فَلَمَّا دَخَلُوا عَلَىٰ يُوسُفَ آوَىٰ إِلَيْهِ أَبَوَيْهِ وَقَالَ ادْخُلُوا مِصْرَ إِنْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ آمِنِينَ

Another example that reinforces this point can be seen with the story of the owners of the garden. These individuals were working diligently with expectations to reap the harvest of their efforts, but because they forgot God they lost any gains they thought they were going to have.

[68:17] We have tested them like we tested the owners of the garden who swore that they will harvest it in the morning. [68:18] They were so absolutely sure. [68:19] A passing (storm) from your Lord passed by it while they were asleep. [68:20] By morning, it was barren. [68:21] They called on each other in the morning. [68:22] “Let us harvest the crop.” [68:23] On their way, they confided to each other. [68:24] That from then on, none of them would be poor. [68:25] They were so absolutely sure of their harvest. [68:26] But when they saw it, they said, “We were so wrong! [68:27] “Now, we have nothing!” [68:28] The righteous among them said, “If only you had glorified (God)!” [68:29] They said, “Glory be to our Lord. We have transgressed.”

Their mistake was not the hard work they put into their garden, but again simply that they thought the outcome of their harvest was due solely to their hard work and not because of what God wills. This kind of thinking led to their rude awakening when they realized that they should have glorified God, which they could had they just said “God willing.”

This same principle holds for all benefits and provisions. We must realize that this all comes from God, and if we fail to remember this at all times then we can risk momentarily falling into idol worship and thus suffering the fate of such actions.

[34:36] Say, “My Lord is the One who controls all provisions; He grants the provisions to whomever He wills, or reduces them, but most people do not know.”

قُلْ إِنَّ رَبِّي يَبْسُطُ الرِّزْقَ لِمَنْ يَشَاءُ وَيَقْدِرُ وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ

[34:39] Say, “My Lord is the One who controls all provisions; He increases the provisions for whomever He chooses from among His servants, or reduces them. Anything you spend (in the cause of God), He will reward you for it; He is the Best Provider.”

قُلْ إِنَّ رَبِّي يَبْسُطُ الرِّزْقَ لِمَنْ يَشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ وَيَقْدِرُ لَهُ وَمَا أَنْفَقْتُمْ مِنْ شَيْءٍ فَهُوَ يُخْلِفُهُ وَهُوَ خَيْرُ الرَّازِقِينَ

[29:17] “What you worship instead of GOD are powerless idols; you have invented a lie.” The idols you worship beside GOD do not possess any provisions for you. Therefore, you shall seek provisions only from GOD. You shall worship Him alone, and be appreciative of Him; to Him is your ultimate return.

إِنَّمَا تَعْبُدُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ أَوْثَانًا وَتَخْلُقُونَ إِفْكًا إِنَّ الَّذِينَ تَعْبُدُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ لَا يَمْلِكُونَ لَكُمْ رِزْقًا فَابْتَغُوا عِنْدَ اللَّهِ الرِّزْقَ وَاعْبُدُوهُ وَاشْكُرُوا لَهُ إِلَيْهِ تُرْجَعُونَ

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The Places of Worship Belong to God Alone

One of the clear commandments in the Quran is to never associate any partners with God.

[4:36] You shall worship GOD alone—do not associate anything with Him…

وَاعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ وَلَا تُشْرِكُوا بِهِ شَيْئًا

Sadly such a simple commandment is at odds with most people who self identify as Muslims. Proof of this is that in almost every masjid in the world a person cannot enter without seeing the prophets name propped up right next to the name of God.

God informs us that the places of worship belong to God alone and not to call on the name of anyone else next to the name of God.

[72:18] The places of worship belong to GOD; do not call on anyone else beside GOD.

وَأَنَّ الْمَسَاجِدَ لِلَّهِ فَلَا تَدْعُوا مَعَ اللَّهِ أَحَدًا

It doesn’t matter if a masjid has 99 names of God and a single mention of Muhammad next to the name of God, this is still idol worship and prohibited. A true believer of God should be 100% satisfied with mentioning only the name of God at every place of worship and in their declaration of faith (Shahadah).

The declaration of faith in the Quran is mentioned 19 times, and it always only mentions God alone. In Sura 47, entitled Muhammad we see the Shahadah clearly stated for us.

[47:19] You shall know that: “There is no other god beside GOD,” and ask forgiveness of your sins and the sins of all believing men and women. GOD is fully aware of your decisions and your ultimate destiny.

فَاعْلَمْ أَنَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ وَاسْتَغْفِرْ لِذَنْبِكَ وَلِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ مُتَقَلَّبَكُمْ وَمَثْوَاكُمْ

God even confirms that this is the Shahadah of God, the angels, and the knowledgable.

[3:18] GOD bears witness that there is no god except He, and so do the angels and those who possess knowledge. Truthfully and equitably, He is the absolute god; there is no god but He, the Almighty, Most Wise.

شَهِدَ اللَّهُ أَنَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ وَالْمَلَائِكَةُ وَأُولُو الْعِلْمِ قَائِمًا بِالْقِسْطِ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ

Yet most Muslims still insist on including the name of the prophet next to the name of God in their Shahadah. This goes in direct conflict with what God tells us in the Quran. Ironically, the only time we see individuals bear witness to Muhammad being a messenger of God in the Quran is by the hypocrites in Sura 63 which appropriately enough is entitled The Hypocrites (Al-Munaafeqoon). In this verse God calls such people who do this not just hypocrites, but also liars.

[63:1] When the hypocrites come to you they say, “We bear witness that you are the messenger of GOD.” GOD knows that you are His messenger, and GOD bears witness that the hypocrites are liars.

The reason the hypocrites are liars is because unless they were present when prophet Muhammad was summoned to the High Horizon where he received the revelation of the Quran in his heart then they cannot claim to bear witness. God confirms this in the following verses:

[28:44] You were not present on the slope of the western mount, when we issued the command to Moses; you were not a witness.

وَمَا كُنْتَ بِجَانِبِ الْغَرْبِيِّ إِذْ قَضَيْنَا إِلَىٰ مُوسَى الْأَمْرَ وَمَا كُنْتَ مِنَ الشَّاهِدِينَ

Then why is it that with such clear commandments from God and simple logic that most people still fail to take heed? The answer is because most people who claim to believe do not do so without committing idol worship.

[12:106] The majority of those who believe in GOD do not do so without committing idol worship.

وَمَا يُؤْمِنُ أَكْثَرُهُمْ بِاللَّهِ إِلَّا وَهُمْ مُشْرِكُونَ

In order to determine if a person is a true worshiper of God alone or an idol worshiper, God provides us the following simple test: if someone is only satisfied when another entity is mentioned beside God, then they are not a worshiper of God alone.

[39:45] When GOD ALONE is mentioned, the hearts of those who do not believe in the Hereafter shrink with aversion. But when others are mentioned beside Him, they become satisfied.

وَإِذَا ذُكِرَ اللَّهُ وَحْدَهُ اشْمَأَزَّتْ قُلُوبُ الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْآخِرَةِ وَإِذَا ذُكِرَ الَّذِينَ مِنْ دُونِهِ إِذَا هُمْ يَسْتَبْشِرُونَ

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Tower of Babel and The Deterioration of Language

In the following verse we are informed about certain knowledge two angels disseminated in Babel, that was later misused by people in such ways as causing seperation between a husband and a wife.

[2:102] They pursued what the devils taught concerning Solomon’s kingdom. Solomon, however, was not a disbeliever, but the devils were disbelievers. They taught the people sorcery, and that which was sent down through the two angels of Babel, Haroot and Maroot. These two did not divulge such knowledge without pointing out: “This is a test. You shall not abuse such knowledge.” But the people used it in such evil schemes as the breaking up of marriages. They can never harm anyone against the will of GOD. They thus learn what hurts them, not what benefits them, and they know full well that whoever practices witchcraft will have no share in the Hereafter. Miserable indeed is what they sell their souls for, if they only knew.

وَاتَّبَعُوا مَا تَتْلُو الشَّيَاطِينُ عَلَىٰ مُلْكِ سُلَيْمَانَ وَمَا كَفَرَ سُلَيْمَانُ وَلَٰكِنَّ الشَّيَاطِينَ كَفَرُوا يُعَلِّمُونَ النَّاسَ السِّحْرَ وَمَا أُنْزِلَ عَلَى الْمَلَكَيْنِ بِبَابِلَ هَارُوتَ وَمَارُوتَ وَمَا يُعَلِّمَانِ مِنْ أَحَدٍ حَتَّىٰ يَقُولَا إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ فِتْنَةٌ فَلَا تَكْفُرْ فَيَتَعَلَّمُونَ مِنْهُمَا مَا يُفَرِّقُونَ بِهِ بَيْنَ الْمَرْءِ وَزَوْجِهِ وَمَا هُمْ بِضَارِّينَ بِهِ مِنْ أَحَدٍ إِلَّا بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ وَيَتَعَلَّمُونَ مَا يَضُرُّهُمْ وَلَا يَنْفَعُهُمْ وَلَقَدْ عَلِمُوا لَمَنِ اشْتَرَاهُ مَا لَهُ فِي الْآخِرَةِ مِنْ خَلَاقٍ وَلَبِئْسَ مَا شَرَوْا بِهِ أَنْفُسَهُمْ لَوْ كَانُوا يَعْلَمُونَ

God calls this knowledge السِّحْرَ / l-siḥ’ra and is translated as “magic”, “sorcery”, or “witchcraft.” When we look at the root of this word we see it has additional derivative meanings which have to do with the manipulation of speech e.g. eloquence, seduction, hypnotism, or transforming a thing from a proper manner to another manner.

It is also noteworthy that the verse references Babel, which was the capital of Babylon but also signifies the meaning of gibberish. Typically the most common depiction of Babel is in the story of the Tower of Babel which is described in Genesis 11. The main takeaway from this passage is that when people communicate in a common language they can prosper, but when their language gets confused and muddled their progress is halted.

This same lesson applies for us today. When we confuse speech and obfuscate the meaning of words it sets back societal integrity. This becomes particularly problematic when the objective is to cause separation and division among the people. We see this example in the following verse regarding people who extrapolate meanings in the Quran with malicious intent.

[3:7] He sent down to you this scripture, containing straightforward verses—which constitute the essence of the scripture—as well as multiple-meaning or allegorical verses. Those who harbor doubts in their hearts will pursue the multiple-meaning verses to create confusion, and to extricate a certain meaning. None knows the true meaning thereof except GOD and those well founded in knowledge. They say, “We believe in this—all of it comes from our Lord.” Only those who possess intelligence will take heed.

هُوَ الَّذِي أَنْزَلَ عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ مِنْهُ آيَاتٌ مُحْكَمَاتٌ هُنَّ أُمُّ الْكِتَابِ وَأُخَرُ مُتَشَابِهَاتٌ فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ زَيْغٌ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ مَا تَشَابَهَ مِنْهُ ابْتِغَاءَ الْفِتْنَةِ وَابْتِغَاءَ تَأْوِيلِهِ وَمَا يَعْلَمُ تَأْوِيلَهُ إِلَّا اللَّهُ وَالرَّاسِخُونَ فِي الْعِلْمِ يَقُولُونَ آمَنَّا بِهِ كُلٌّ مِنْ عِنْدِ رَبِّنَا وَمَا يَذَّكَّرُ إِلَّا أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ

The verse informs us to beware of people who extrapolate from the multi-meaning verses to seek الْفِتْنَةِ / l-fit’nati, which in this context means division or disputes.

But I don’t think this is limited to scripture. One method the devil uses to make abhorrent ideas palatable to the masses is through the use of euphemisms.

In some so-called Islamic countries they have a practice known as “nikah al-mut’ah: نكاح المتعة‎, which literally translates to “pleasure marriage.” From the surface level this does not sound objectionable, but when we realize what this practice actually is do we realize the truth. Nikah al-mut’ah is a temporary marriage, where the divorce date is already determined upon the marriage. So put another way this is just legalized prostitution for the Islamic world, but by using this euphemism one would not get that sense from the name alone.

Another example is that of abortion. Rather than calling it the killing of innocent life in the womb, we hear terms like “family planning” or “pro-choice” as a substitute for this heinous act. We saw saw the term “marriage equality” used for reference to homosexual marriage, or the classic example of calling a nuclear bomb as a “peace maker” in place of a “widow maker.”

Such deceptive tactics help sway public opinion, but it only hides the true meanings, effects, and agenda of such movements. As we saw in the previous article such methods are signs of corruption. Someone who is righteous and has the proper motivations should not try to obscure their message in order to make it seem more appealing to the masses. They should be direct and straightforward, and if it is good then it should stand on it’s own merit without needing to resort to such manipulation.

But while this is bad, the latest approach is even worse. Rather than trying to hide the meaning of something through a clever play on words, now many people are trying to change the meaning of words outright.

For instance, marriage as formally understood between a man and a woman is now meant to encompass members of the same sex.

Even the definitions for the terms “man” and “woman” are being twisted. Where first it was argued that while sex is determined from biology and gender is a social construct, now institutions as prominent as the ACLU are going so far as to claim there is no such thing as biological sex.

Recently J.K Rowling, author of Harry Potter, is being threatened and pushed to be canceled for her tweet defending that only women can give birth or menstruate.

Who would have believed that such a statement would be controversial, but this is what happens when Satan hypnotizes the masses. By manipulating speech and specifically the meaning of words Satan can push his agenda without much pushback, but like any of Satan’s schemes this always backfires against him.

[35:43] They resorted to arrogance on earth, and evil scheming, and the evil schemes only backfire on those who scheme them. Should they then expect anything but the fate of those who did the same things in the past? You will find that GOD’s system is never changeable; you will find that GOD’s system is immutable. 

اسْتِكْبَارًا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَمَكْرَ السَّيِّئِ وَلَا يَحِيقُ الْمَكْرُ السَّيِّئُ إِلَّا بِأَهْلِهِ فَهَلْ يَنْظُرُونَ إِلَّا سُنَّتَ الْأَوَّلِينَ فَلَنْ تَجِدَ لِسُنَّتِ اللَّهِ تَبْدِيلًا وَلَنْ تَجِدَ لِسُنَّتِ اللَّهِ تَحْوِيلًا

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Drowned Out Voices

One of the criticisms that the Quran receives from people who are unaware is that it at times appears to jump between two unrelated topics, but upon further analysis by God’s leave, we are able to understand the connection which was overlooked. An example of this is in the following passages. In the first set of verses it is discussing the the exile of Satan, while the second series of verses are discussing being stranded out at sea. So what could be the connection between these two seemingly unrelated topics?

[17:61] When we said to the angels, “Fall prostrate before Adam,” they fell prostrate, except Satan. He said, “Shall I prostrate to one You created from mud?” [17:62] He said, “Since You have honored him over me, if You respite me till the Day of Resurrection, I will possess all his descendants, except a few.” [17:63] He said, “Then go; you and those who follow you will end up in Hell as your requital; an equitable requital. [17:64] “You may entice them with your voice, and mobilize all your forces and all your men against them, and share in their money and children, and promise them. Anything the devil promises is no more than an illusion. [17:65] “As for My servants, you have no power over them.” Your Lord suffices as an advocate. 

[17:66] Your Lord is the One who causes the ships to float on the ocean, that you may seek His bounties. He is Most Merciful towards you. [17:67] If you are afflicted in the middle of the sea, you forget your idols and sincerely implore Him alone. But as soon as He saves you to the shore, you revert. Indeed, the human being is unappreciative. [17:68] Have you guaranteed that He will not cause the land, on shore, to swallow you? Or, that He will not send upon you a tempest, then you find no protector? [17:69] Have you guaranteed that He will not return you to the sea another time, then send upon you a storm that drowns you because of your disbelief? Once this happens, we will not give you another chance.

In 17:64, God allows Satan the following privileges for him to attempt to prove his point:

[17:64] “You may entice them with your voice, and mobilize all your forces and all your men against them

وَاسْتَفْزِزْ مَنِ اسْتَطَعْتَ مِنْهُمْ بِصَوْتِكَ وَأَجْلِبْ عَلَيْهِمْ بِخَيْلِكَ

From this we see the Arabic word that is translated as entice is “وَاسْتَفْزِزْ” this root only occurs three times in the entire Quran and every occurrence is in sura 17.

If we look at the other two occurrences of this word we get a better sense of the meaning of this word:

[17:76] They almost banished you (layastafizzūnaka) from the land to get rid of you, so they could revert as soon as you left.

وَإِنْ كَادُوا لَيَسْتَفِزُّونَكَ مِنَ الْأَرْضِ لِيُخْرِجُوكَ مِنْهَا وَإِذًا لَا يَلْبَثُونَ خِلَافَكَ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا

[17:103] When he pursued them, as he chased them out of the land, we drowned him, together with those who sided with him, all of them.

فَأَرَادَ أَنْ يَسْتَفِزَّهُمْ مِنَ الْأَرْضِ فَأَغْرَقْنَاهُ وَمَنْ مَعَهُ جَمِيعًا

From this we see that Satan is not allowed to only “entice”, but also to “scare or banish” with his voice and mobilize all his soldiers to push his point of view in this world as a bludgeon towards individuals. Additionally, we see in the following verses a similar tactic referenced in the story of David and the two brothers who were feuding regarding their sheep.

[38:22] When they entered his room, he (David) was startled. They said, “Have no fear. We are feuding with one another, and we are seeking your fair judgment. Do not wrong us, and guide us in the right path. [38:23] “This brother of mine owns ninety-nine sheep, while I own one sheep. He wants to mix my sheep with his, and continues to pressure me.

The Arabic that is translated as “and [he] continues to pressure me” is وَعَزَّنِي فِي الْخِطَابِ, and has the literal translation of “he overpowers me in speech or argument.” The word الْخِطَابِ is the same root as the word for sermon in Arabic khutbeh.

From this verse we see that the brother with a single sheep was feeling overpowered by his brother’s argument causing him undue pressure towards combining their properties.

So how does any of this relate with the verses discussing being stranded out at sea?

Oftentimes, when standing up for the truth it requires to go against the crowd. When a person communicates their viewpoint they achieve this by pushing waves of sound by means of their voice through the medium of air. As it is Satan’s privilege to attempt to crush dissenting voices he can choose to mobilize his army of hypnotized followers to drown out such opposing opinions. This can lead advocators of truth to feel lonely and scared. It is during these moments where a person will implore God for support, to provide them the right words, counterpoint, or courage to remain steadfast in the face of the opposition. When a person does this, God can choose to support them but the question is: will they be appreciative for such saving grace or revert after the help from God.

[17:66] Your Lord is the One who causes the ships to float on the ocean, that you may seek His bounties. He is Most Merciful towards you. [17:67] If you are afflicted in the middle of the sea, you forget your idols and sincerely implore Him alone. But as soon as He saves you to the shore, you revert. Indeed, the human being is unappreciative. [17:68] Have you guaranteed that He will not cause the land, on shore, to swallow you? Or, that He will not send upon you a tempest, then you find no protector? [17:69] Have you guaranteed that He will not return you to the sea another time, then send upon you a storm that drowns you because of your disbelief? Once this happens, we will not give you another chance.

In the Quran, we read the insecurity Moses initially felt when he was commanded to face Pharaoh. That Pharaoh resorted to mocking and intimidation to strengthen his argument in an attempt to tear down Moses.

[43:51] Pharaoh announced to his people, “O my people, do I not possess the kingship over Egypt, and these flowing rivers belong to me? Do you not see? [43:52] “Which one is better; me or that one who is lowly and can hardly speak? [43:53] “How come he does not possess a treasure of gold; how come the angels do not accompany him?”

Again we read the fear Moses harbored when he had to face off against the magicians.

[20:65] They said, “O Moses, either you throw, or we will be the first to throw.” [20:66] He said, “You throw.” Whereupon, their ropes and sticks appeared to him, because of their magic, as if they were moving. [20:67] Moses harbored some fear. [20:68] We said, “Have no fear. You will prevail. [20:69] “Throw what you hold in your right hand, and it will swallow what they fabricated. What they fabricated is no more than the scheming of a magician. The magician’s work will not succeed.”

Another example of a believer going against the mob is seen when Lot was debating with his people and the powerlessness he felt being in the minority.

[11:77] When our messengers went to Lot, they were mistreated, and he was embarrassed by their presence. He said, “This is a difficult day.” [11:78] His people came rushing; they had grown accustomed to their sinful acts. He said, “O my people, it would be purer for you, if you take my daughters instead. You shall reverence GOD; do not embarrass me with my guests. Have you not one reasonable man among you?” [11:79] They said, “You know well that we have no need for your daughters; you know exactly what we want.” [11:80] He said, “I wish I were strong enough, or had a powerful ally!”

In our lives we are guaranteed to be tested to see if we will support God and stand up for the truth despite the opposition.

[29:2] Do the people think that they will be left to say, “We believe,” without being put to the test? [29:3] We have tested those before them, for GOD must distinguish those who are truthful, and He must expose the liars.

It is at these moments that the devil will do his utmost to squelch such dissenting opinions through his voice and his army of devoted soldiers in an attempt to instill fear into us so that we revert from God’s path.

[3:175] It is the devil’s system to instill fear into his subjects. Do not fear them and fear Me instead, if you are believers.

إِنَّمَا ذَٰلِكُمُ الشَّيْطَانُ يُخَوِّفُ أَوْلِيَاءَهُ فَلَا تَخَافُوهُمْ وَخَافُونِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ مُؤْمِنِينَ

But if we are steadfast and trust in God, then God will support us and grant us victory against such evil people.

[3:160] If GOD supports you, none can defeat you. And if He abandons you, who else can support you? In GOD the believers shall trust.

 إِنْ يَنْصُرْكُمُ اللَّهُ فَلَا غَالِبَ لَكُمْ وَإِنْ يَخْذُلْكُمْ فَمَنْ ذَا الَّذِي يَنْصُرُكُمْ مِنْ بَعْدِهِ وَعَلَى اللَّهِ فَلْيَتَوَكَّلِ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ

Alternatively if we fail, then we are much like the person stranded in the middle of the sea who reverts after obtaining God’s support.

[29:10] Among the people there are those who say, “We believe in GOD,” but as soon as they suffer any hardship because of GOD, they equate the people’s persecution with GOD’s retribution. But if blessings from your Lord come your way, they say, “We were with you.” Is GOD not fully aware of the people’s innermost thoughts? [29:11] GOD will most certainly distinguish those who believe, and He will most certainly expose the hypocrites.

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Quran and Freedom of Speech

Economist Walter Williams stated the following regarding the true test to a an individuals commitment to the freedom of speech:

“The true test of one’s commitment to free speech…does not come when you allow people to say things that you think they should say. It comes when you allow people to say those things that you find despicable.”

Consistently in the Quran we see that God strongly promotes the freedom of speech. God advocates for people to be able to speak freely about their views, understandings, or beliefs without fear of violence or banishment. But how does the Quran hold up to the test put forth by Walter Williams?

One of the worst sins one can commit through speech is mocking God’s revelations, and in such situations God in the Quran does not command us to silence such people or to use force to compel them from speaking. Instead, God simply informs us to avoid being around such individuals as they do this by not sitting with them until they delve into another subject.

[6:68] If you see those who mock our revelations, you shall avoid them until they delve into another subject. If the devil causes you to forget, then, as soon as you remember, do not sit with such evil people.

وَإِذَا رَأَيْتَ الَّذِينَ يَخُوضُونَ فِي آيَاتِنَا فَأَعْرِضْ عَنْهُمْ حَتَّىٰ يَخُوضُوا فِي حَدِيثٍ غَيْرِهِ وَإِمَّا يُنْسِيَنَّكَ الشَّيْطَانُ فَلَا تَقْعُدْ بَعْدَ الذِّكْرَىٰ مَعَ الْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ

[4:140] He has instructed you in the scripture that: if you hear GOD’s revelations being mocked and ridiculed, you shall not sit with them, unless they delve into another subject. Otherwise, you will be as guilty as they are. GOD will gather the hypocrites and the disbelievers together in Hell.

 وَقَدْ نَزَّلَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِي الْكِتَابِ أَنْ إِذَا سَمِعْتُمْ آيَاتِ اللَّهِ يُكْفَرُ بِهَا وَيُسْتَهْزَأُ بِهَا فَلَا تَقْعُدُوا مَعَهُمْ حَتَّىٰ يَخُوضُوا فِي حَدِيثٍ غَيْرِهِ إِنَّكُمْ إِذًا مِثْلُهُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ جَامِعُ الْمُنَافِقِينَ وَالْكَافِرِينَ فِي جَهَنَّمَ جَمِيعًا

The best disinfectant to speech that we do not agree with often times is simply to ignore it. What most people want when they perform public acts of abhorrent speech is attention, and by not providing them this valuable resource it effectively diffuses and demotivates people from speaking.

Ironically what most people do when they hear speech that offends them is the opposite. They shine a huge light on it and provide the very thing the person speaking is so desperately searching for: an audience.

[25:72] They do not bear false witness. When they encounter vain talk, they ignore it. [25:73] When reminded of their Lord’s revelations, they never react to them as if they were deaf and blind.

Even in the case of disbelief, God in the Quran advocates tolerance. We read in the Sura 109 entitled The Disbelievers (Al-Kaaferoon) what we are to say to individuals who disbelieve.

In contrast, we see that it is the disbelievers in the Quran who are the ones consistently opposing free speech.

Disbelievers

[8:30] The disbelievers plot and scheme to neutralize you, or kill you, or banish you. However, they plot and scheme, but so does GOD. GOD is the best schemer.

وَإِذْ يَمْكُرُ بِكَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لِيُثْبِتُوكَ أَوْ يَقْتُلُوكَ أَوْ يُخْرِجُوكَ وَيَمْكُرُونَ وَيَمْكُرُ اللَّهُ وَاللَّهُ خَيْرُ الْمَاكِرِينَ

Pharaoh

[20:71] He said, “Did you believe in him without my permission? He must be your chief; the one who taught you magic. I will surely sever your hands and feet on alternate sides. I will crucify you on the palm trunks. You will find out which of us can inflict the worst retribution, and who outlasts whom.”

قَالَ آمَنْتُمْ لَهُ قَبْلَ أَنْ آذَنَ لَكُمْ إِنَّهُ لَكَبِيرُكُمُ الَّذِي عَلَّمَكُمُ السِّحْرَ فَلَأُقَطِّعَنَّ أَيْدِيَكُمْ وَأَرْجُلَكُمْ مِنْ خِلَافٍ وَلَأُصَلِّبَنَّكُمْ فِي جُذُوعِ النَّخْلِ وَلَتَعْلَمُنَّ أَيُّنَا أَشَدُّ عَذَابًا وَأَبْقَىٰ

The People of Lot

[26:160] The people of Lot disbelieved the messengers. [26:161] Their brother Lot said to them, “Would you not be righteous? [26:162] “I am an honest messenger to you. [26:163] “You shall reverence GOD, and obey me. [26:164] “I do not ask you for any wage; my wage comes only from the Lord of the universe. [26:165] “Do you have sex with the males, of all the people? [26:166] “You forsake the wives that your Lord has created for you! Indeed, you are transgressing people.” [26:167] They said, “Unless you refrain, O Lot, you will be banished.”

[27:54] Lot said to his people, “How could you commit such an abomination, publicly, while you see? [27:55] “You practice sex with the men, lustfully, instead of the women. Indeed, you are ignorant people.” [27:56] The only response from his people was their saying, “Banish Lot’s family from your town; they are people who wish to be pure.”

As if threat of banishment wasn’t enough, we see that prior to this the People of Lot even prohibited him from contacting anyone.

[15:70] They said, “Did we not enjoin you from contacting anyone?”

The enemies of God in the Quran resort to any means necessary to silence opposing views: threats, intimidation, violence, or banishment. They will not cease until the believers are stopped or they revert to their religion by choice or by force.

[14:13] Those who disbelieved said to their messengers, “We will banish you from our land, unless you revert to our religion.” Their Lord inspired them: “We will inevitably annihilate the transgressors.

وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لِرُسُلِهِمْ لَنُخْرِجَنَّكُمْ مِنْ أَرْضِنَا أَوْ لَتَعُودُنَّ فِي مِلَّتِنَا فَأَوْحَىٰ إِلَيْهِمْ رَبُّهُمْ لَنُهْلِكَنَّ الظَّالِمِينَ

[7:88] The arrogant leaders among his people said, “We will evict you, O Shu`aib, together with those who believed with you, from our town, unless you revert to our religion.” He said, “Are you going to force us?

قَالَ الْمَلَأُ الَّذِينَ اسْتَكْبَرُوا مِنْ قَوْمِهِ لَنُخْرِجَنَّكَ يَاشُعَيْبُ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مَعَكَ مِنْ قَرْيَتِنَا أَوْ لَتَعُودُنَّ فِي مِلَّتِنَا قَالَ أَوَلَوْ كُنَّا كَارِهِينَ

From these verses we see that God is setting an example for us by contrasting believers against disbelievers: where consistently the believers advocate the freedom of speech, while the disbelievers will use any means to curtail it.

Ironically this is what we see in so-called Islamic countries who establish blasphemy laws with strict punishments. These laws have no basis in the Quran, and actually perpetuate the traits of the enemies of God; similar to their laws regarding stoning as was covered previously.

[25:63] The worshipers of the Most Gracious are those who tread the earth gently, and when the ignorant speak to them, they only utter peace.

وَعِبَادُ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الَّذِينَ يَمْشُونَ عَلَى الْأَرْضِ هَوْنًا وَإِذَا خَاطَبَهُمُ الْجَاهِلُونَ قَالُوا سَلَامًا

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Corruption – Lying by Obscurity

One of the observations when reading the Quran is that it often times appears to jump between what seem to be two unrelated topics, but upon further analysis there is usually a connection that is overlooked.

The following two verses are an example of this:

[2:188] You shall not take each others’ money illicitly, nor shall you bribe the officials to deprive others of some of their rights illicitly, while you know.

 وَلَا تَأْكُلُوا أَمْوَالَكُمْ بَيْنَكُمْ بِالْبَاطِلِ وَتُدْلُوا بِهَا إِلَى الْحُكَّامِ لِتَأْكُلُوا فَرِيقًا مِنْ أَمْوَالِ النَّاسِ بِالْإِثْمِ وَأَنْتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ

[2:189] They ask you about the phases of the moon! Say, “They provide a timing device for the people, and determine the time of Hajj.” It is not righteous to beat around the bush; righteousness is attained by upholding the commandments and by being straightforward. You shall observe GOD, that you may succeed.

 يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الْأَهِلَّةِ قُلْ هِيَ مَوَاقِيتُ لِلنَّاسِ وَالْحَجِّ وَلَيْسَ الْبِرُّ بِأَنْ تَأْتُوا الْبُيُوتَ مِنْ ظُهُورِهَا وَلَٰكِنَّ الْبِرَّ مَنِ اتَّقَىٰ وَأْتُوا الْبُيُوتَ مِنْ أَبْوَابِهَا وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ

In 2:188, the verse is discussing the condemnation of bribery and corruption, while 2:189 is discussing people’s malicious intent when asking about the phases of the moon. The literal translation of the Arabic idiom used in 2:189 is “do not enter homes through their back” which is equivalent to the English expression “do not beat around the bush.” Therefore, this verse is informing us that righteousness is being straightforward with people when we communicate, but what is the connection between this and corruption?

In 1946, Rudolph Flesch designed the Flesch Readability Score, which is a method to measure the readability of text. The higher the score the easier it is to read the text, while the lower the score the more difficult and incomprehensible the text.

For reference, newspaper comics scored a 93, Sports Illustrated scored a 63, Wall Street Journal scored a 43, and the IRS tax code scored a -6.

In the book “Why Business People Speak Like Idiots: A Bullfighter’s Guide” the authors looked at company share holder letters from the turn of the millennium to assess their Flesch Readability Scores. The researchers analyzed these scores for two kinds of companies. The first group were of well managed companies, and the other group were companies that were found later to be plagued with scandals.

What they discovered was the properly managed companies all had scores in the 40 range or readability, while the scandalous companies had scores all in the 20’s and below. This difference in scoring is attributed to the fact that companies that were operating under legitimate business practices would have less to hide compared to a companies that were trying to obfuscate their shady dealings.

These findings do not mean that all confusing corporate jargon in share holder letters is a sign of corruption, but an indication that a great way to hide corruption in plain sight is through confusing speech.

Another example of the connection between speech and corruption can be seen with lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who in 2006 was sentenced to six years in prison for bribery and fraud. The cornerstone to his prosecution was regarding a single obscure sentence he bribed politicians to include into a piece of legislation that would provide his clients millions of dollars without anyone realizing what he had done.

As Abramoff stated in a 2011 60 Minutes interview: “So what we did was we crafted language that was so obscure, so confusing, so uninformative, but so precise to change the US code.”

Here is the language he got tacked on to the reform bill:

“Public law 100-89 is amended by striking section 207 (101 stat. 668, 672).”

The fascinating thing about this sort of language was no one except Abramoff and his client had any idea what this amendment meant let alone what the results would be. Specifically, by conspiring to insert this single obscure sentence into the targeted reform bill it would give a backdoor license to an Indian casino owned by one of Abramoff’s clients.

So now when we revisit these verses we see the connection: that being straightforward is a sign of fair dealings, while using imprecise or ambiguous speech is a sign of corruption.

[2:188] You shall not take each others’ money illicitly, nor shall you bribe the officials to deprive others of some of their rights illicitly, while you know.

 وَلَا تَأْكُلُوا أَمْوَالَكُمْ بَيْنَكُمْ بِالْبَاطِلِ وَتُدْلُوا بِهَا إِلَى الْحُكَّامِ لِتَأْكُلُوا فَرِيقًا مِنْ أَمْوَالِ النَّاسِ بِالْإِثْمِ وَأَنْتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ

[2:189] They ask you about the phases of the moon! Say, “They provide a timing device for the people, and determine the time of Hajj.” It is not righteous to beat around the bush; righteousness is attained by upholding the commandments and by being straightforward. You shall observe GOD, that you may succeed.

 يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الْأَهِلَّةِ قُلْ هِيَ مَوَاقِيتُ لِلنَّاسِ وَالْحَجِّ وَلَيْسَ الْبِرُّ بِأَنْ تَأْتُوا الْبُيُوتَ مِنْ ظُهُورِهَا وَلَٰكِنَّ الْبِرَّ مَنِ اتَّقَىٰ وَأْتُوا الْبُيُوتَ مِنْ أَبْوَابِهَا وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ

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A Heavy Soul

CIP (congenital insensitivity to pain) is a condition where a person who has this ailment is unable to feel pain. Individuals who have CIP typically do not survive for long as it is not uncommon for them to suffer a life-debilitating injury, but since they are unable to sense the severity of their injury they can fail to address it which ultimately leads to their death.

In this life, we have a similar condition where we cannot directly detect the pain we may afflict upon our souls when we behave unrighteously and commit sin. If we do not take the appropriate actions, when we are whole and able, to address the damage we are causing to our souls we may suffer eternal loss in the Hereafter for this neglect.

[68:42] The day will come when they will be exposed, and they will be required to fall prostrate, but they will be unable to. [68:43] With their eyes subdued, humiliation will cover them. They were invited to fall prostrate when they were whole and able.

[35:37] They will scream therein, “Our Lord, if you get us out of here, we will work righteousness, instead of the works we used to do.” Did we not give you a life-long chance, with continuous reminders for those who would take heed? Did you not receive the warner? Therefore, taste (the consequences). The transgressors will have no one to help them.

The aim for every human being in this life should be to redeem their soul, the real-self. Because while our bodies will eventually die and go to dust, our souls are to remain for eternity, but it is the decisions in this life that will determine the eternal state of our souls. in the Hereafter.

If we spend this life neglecting to properly care for our souls then we may permanently damage our real-selves without realizing the severity of our actions until the Day of Resurrection.

In the following verses of Sura 91, The Sun (Al-Shams), verses 9-10 we read about these two outcomes for an individual.

[91:7] The soul and Him who created it.

وَنَفْسٍ وَمَا سَوَّاهَا

God is the One who granted each of us our lives through the creation of our souls. The word سَوَّاهَا used in the above verse comes from the root س و ي, which has the following derivative meanings.

This verse informs us that God made the soul perfect in form and balance.

[91:8] Then showed it what is evil and what is good.

فَأَلْهَمَهَا فُجُورَهَا وَتَقْوَاهَا

God then placed innate knowledge inside every soul so it can be able to clearly differentiate between good and evil. This is firmly engrained in every human being and is evident in the youngest of ages, that we have an innate knowledge between right and wrong, justice and injustice.

[91:9] Successful is one who redeems it.

 قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَنْ زَكَّاهَا

The successful person is someone who as they age they purify their soul in order to redeem themselves from their original sin. Verse 91:9 uses the term زَكَّاهَا which is the same root as Zakat. When we give Zakat we purify our income, and similar when we give to charity we purify our souls. When we go through hardship and it causes us to draw closer to God we are ridding our soul of its impurities.

When God asked the angels to fall prostrate before Adam and Satan refused, he argued that he was made from fire and Adam was made from clay, thus he believed that he was better than him. But when one puts clay inside fire, the fire purifies the clay. Similarly, when Satan test’s the humans, by attempting to send them astray, if the human resists then Satan will be serving as an essential tool in the purification process.

[91:10] Failing is one who neglects it.

But the person who neglects their soul will never have their soul grow, get purified, and ultimately redeemed. Verse 9:10 uses the term دَسَّاهَا. This root only occurs twice in the entire Quran. The word comes from the root د س س and has the following derivative meanings: to hide, bury, conceal, corrupt. The only other time int he Quran this root is used is in the following verse 16:59:

[16:58] When one of them gets a baby girl, his face becomes darkened with overwhelming grief. [16:59] Ashamed, he hides from the people, because of the bad news given to him. He even ponders: should he keep the baby grudgingly, or bury her in the dust. Miserable indeed is their judgment.

In the above verse, we see that when a disbeliever in the past would get news of a baby girl that he contemplated burying this blessing in the dust to die and be long forgotten. By doing so the baby would never have a chance to grow and prosper.

Sadly, a disbeliever takes similar actions towards their soul. By burying it and leaving it to die and to be forgotten, they are taking a blessing that God has given them and completely neglecting it. But just like the baby will be resurrected on the Day of Judgement to hold the father who committed such a horrendous act responsible, the soul too will be restored to the body and the one who neglected it will have to live with the consequences of their actions for the rest of eternity.

[81:1] When the sun is rolled. [81:2] The stars are crashed into each other. [81:3] The mountains are wiped out. [81:4] The reproduction is halted. [81:5] The beasts are summoned. [81:6] The oceans are set aflame. [81:7] The souls are restored to their bodies. [81:8] The girl who was buried alive is asked: [81:9] For what crime was she killed?

In contrast, the individual who spent this life nurturing, purifying, and growing their soul will see the fruits of their labor on the Day of Judgement.

[7:8] The scales will be set on that day, equitably. Those whose weights are heavy will be the winners. [7:9] As for those whose weights are light, they will be the ones who lost their souls, as a consequence of disregarding our revelations, unjustly.

On that day, the one who spent their life growing and developing their soul through a life of righteous works, will be at odds with the one who spent this life neglecting it and leaving it buried to be forgotten. These outcomes in our decisions regarding how we spent this life will be evident for everyone to see.

[69:18] On that day, you will be exposed, nothing of you can be hidden. [69:19] As for the one who receives his record with his right hand, he will say, “Come read my record. [69:20] “I did believe that I was going to be held accountable.” [69:21] He has deserved a happy life. [69:22] In an exalted Paradise. [69:23] Its fruits are within reach. [69:24] Eat and drink happily in return for your works in days past. [69:25] As for him who is given his record in his left hand, he will say, “Oh, I wish I never received my record. [69:26] “I wish I never knew my account. [69:27] “I wish my death was eternal. [69:28] “My money cannot help me. [69:29] “All my power is gone.”

Satan as Khalifa

The word khalīfatan / خَلِيفَةً occurs twice in the Quran.

[2:30] Recall that your Lord said to the angels, “I am placing a khalifa on Earth.” They said, “Will You place therein one who will spread evil therein and shed blood, while we sing Your praises, glorify You, and uphold Your absolute authority?” He said, “I know what you do not know.”

وَإِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلَائِكَةِ إِنِّي جَاعِلٌ فِي الْأَرْضِ خَلِيفَةً قَالُوا أَتَجْعَلُ فِيهَا مَنْ يُفْسِدُ فِيهَا وَيَسْفِكُ الدِّمَاءَ وَنَحْنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِكَ وَنُقَدِّسُ لَكَ قَالَ إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ

[38:26] O David, we have made you a khalifa on earth. Therefore, you shall judge among the people equitably, and do not follow your personal opinion, lest it diverts you from the way of GOD. Surely, those who stray off the way of GOD incur severe retribution for forgetting the Day of Reckoning.

 يَادَاوُودُ إِنَّا جَعَلْنَاكَ خَلِيفَةً فِي الْأَرْضِ فَاحْكُمْ بَيْنَ النَّاسِ بِالْحَقِّ وَلَا تَتَّبِعِ الْهَوَىٰ فَيُضِلَّكَ عَنْ سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَضِلُّونَ عَنْ سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ شَدِيدٌ بِمَا نَسُوا يَوْمَ الْحِسَابِ

The root for this word is خ ل ف and has the following derivative meanings:

خ ل ف: To follow/come after/succeed another, substitute or supersede, to supply/be a supplier to someone, to restore or replace a thing to someone, smite or strike from behind, yearn towards other than one's spouse (in the spouses absence/behind his or her back), speak of/mention someone behind his or her back, remain behind/not go forth, to be kept back from all good, to not prosper or be successful, to become corrupt or altered for the worse, retire/withdraw/go away, to turn away from/avoid/shun a thing, to become foolish/idiotic/deficient in intellect, contrarious/hard in disposition, to leave behind, to appoint someone as successor, disagree with or differ from someone, contradict or oppose someone, to break/fail to perform a promise, to follow reciprocally/alternate/interchange, repeatedly move to and fro (coming and going), to differ/ be dissimilar

Throughout the Quran we see that this root is used 127 times with one of several meanings:

  • To break or violate an agreement
  • To dispute
  • To alternate
  • To stay behind
  • To come after (e.g. succeed)
  • various
  • successor, inheritor, ruler

But what is the meaning of khalīfatan / خَلِيفَةً in 2:30 and 38:26.

When we read 38:26, it is clear that David is an inheritor/successor of the Earth, and God is making him a ruler by asking him to judge equitably. Therefore, it make sense to translate khalīfatan / خَلِيفَةً as ruler in English.

[38:26] O David, we have made you a ruler on earth. Therefore, you shall judge among the people equitably, and do not follow your personal opinion, lest it diverts you from the way of GOD. Surely, those who stray off the way of GOD incur severe retribution for forgetting the Day of Reckoning.

Additionally, we see this confirmed in the following verse that David was a king and was given authority to judge.

[2:251] They defeated them by GOD’s leave, and David killed Goliath. GOD gave him kingship and wisdom, and taught him as He willed. If it were not for GOD’s support of some people against others, there would be chaos on earth. But GOD showers His grace upon the people.

فَهَزَمُوهُمْ بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ وَقَتَلَ دَاوُودُ جَالُوتَ وَآتَاهُ اللَّهُ الْمُلْكَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَعَلَّمَهُ مِمَّا يَشَاءُ وَلَوْلَا دَفْعُ اللَّهِ النَّاسَ بَعْضَهُمْ بِبَعْضٍ لَفَسَدَتِ الْأَرْضُ وَلَٰكِنَّ اللَّهَ ذُو فَضْلٍ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ

But who is the Khalifa in 2:30, and what is the proper way to translate this word in this verse?

Let’s start by looking at the verse in context.

[2:30] Recall that your Lord said to the angels, “I am placing a khalifa on Earth.” They said, “Will You place therein one who will spread evil therein and shed blood, while we sing Your praises, glorify You, and uphold Your absolute authority?” He said, “I know what you do not know.”

From this exchange between God and the angels we can make the following inferences.

  1. The angels understood the concept of Earth
  2. From this exchange with God, the angels had a reason to believe that the Khalifa of Earth would not be righteous
  3. That despite God placing a Khalifa on Earth, the angels will continue to sing God’s praises
  4. God is letting the angels know that He knows what they do not, meaning there is more to the story than God is letting it be known

[2:31] He taught Adam all the names then presented them to the angels, saying, “Give Me the names of these, if you are right.” [2:32] They said, “Be You glorified, we have no knowledge, except that which You have taught us. You are the Omniscient, Most Wise.” [2:33] He said, “O Adam, tell them their names.” When he told them their names, He said, “Did I not tell you that I know the secrets of the heavens and the earth? I know what you declare, and what you conceal.”

Up until this point, it appears that the Khalifa that God is selecting is Adam, but there is a major issue with this assumption: Adam is in Paradise not Earth. Up until this point there is no indication of Adam being placed on Earth, but it told that he will reside in Paradise.

[2:34] When we said to the angels, “Fall prostrate before Adam,” they fell prostrate, except Satan; he refused, was too arrogant, and a disbeliever.

At this point it becomes clear that this creation of Adam, was to expose Satan’s true convictions. This event caused Satan to turn from an angel to a jinn.

[18:50] We said to the angels, “Fall prostrate before Adam.” They fell prostrate, except Satan. He became a jinn, for he disobeyed the order of His Lord.

Additionally, we see in this verse, that in this world we have one of two choices, either God or Satan.

[18:50]…Will you choose him (Satan) and his descendants as lords instead of Me, even though they are your enemies? What a miserable substitute!

This further confirms that Satan is the Khalifa depicted in 2:30, as he is the alternative choice for the Children of Adam. This is significant because one of the meanings of خَلِيفَةً in addition to ruler, as shown in 38:26, is also as an alternate e.g. an alternative option to God.

The Devil is the Other Alternative
[36:60] Did I not covenant with you, O Children of Adam, that you shall not worship the devil? That he is your most ardent enemy? [36:61] And that you shall worship Me alone? This is the right path. [36:62] He has misled multitudes of you. Did you not possess any understanding?

This makes sense because when God told the angels that he is placing a khalifa (alternate option), this was why the angels firstly knew that this entity would be evil as this khalifa would be as an alternate to God, and what is the opposite of God except evil. Secondly this clarifies why the angels opted to singing God’s praises despite this alternative choice.

[2:30] Recall that your Lord said to the angels, “I am placing a khalifa (alternative option) on Earth.” They said, “Will You place therein one who will spread evil therein and shed blood, while we sing Your praises, glorify You, and uphold Your absolute authority?” He said, “I know what you do not know.”

We see that this was a scheme that God devised to dupe Satan and his constituents, that not even the angels were aware of when God informed them of His decision. The entire time God made it appear that the alternative ruler that He was placing on Earth was going to be Adam, but what the angels and Iblees were not aware of was that the alternative ruler was destined to be Satan.

In this world, we have a choice: to either follow God or to follow Satan. The angels made their choice in heaven without even considering the alternative that they would stick with God and continue to sing His praises. Adam, on the other hand, selected to take his chances in Paradise knowing that if he failed to uphold God’s command that he would be destined to fall. This is in contrast to Satan, who made his stance known when God commanded him to fall prostrate before Adam and he refused. After making this stance, Satan vowed that his mission till the Day of Judgement would be to recruit as many humans as he can away from God as their Lord.

[7:172] Recall that your Lord summoned all the descendants of Adam, and had them bear witness for themselves: “Am I not your Lord?” They all said, “Yes. We bear witness.” Thus, you cannot say on the Day of Resurrection, “We were not aware of this.” [7:173] Nor can you say, “It was our parents who practiced idolatry, and we simply followed in their footsteps. Will You punish us because of what others have innovated?” [7:174] We thus explain the revelations, to enable the people to redeem themselves. [7:175] Recite for them the news of one who was given our proofs, but chose to disregard them. Consequently, the devil pursued him, until he became a strayer.

This is the reason that Rashad Khalifa, translated Khalifa in 2:30 as “a representative (temporary god)” since a believer will choose God as their god, while a disbeliever alternatively will choose Satan as their god.

[2:30] Recall that your Lord said to the angels, “I am placing a representative (a temporary god) on Earth.” They said, “Will You place therein one who will spread evil therein and shed blood, while we sing Your praises, glorify You, and uphold Your absolute authority?” He said, “I know what you do not know.”

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Hourin in the Quran

The Quran describes that in Paradise the believers will have حُورٍ / ḥūrin, but what is the meaning of this word in this context?

Before attempting to understand the meaning of this word, it is worth remembering that the descriptions of Paradise in the Quran are purely allegorical. These are just depictions for us to attempt to grasp how amazing and beautiful Paradise is, but we will not be able to fully grasp it until God willing we get to experience it for ourselves.

[2:25] Give good news to those who believe and lead a righteous life that they will have gardens with flowing streams. When provided with a provision of fruits therein, they will say, “This is what was provided for us previously.” Thus, they are given allegorical descriptions. They will have pure spouses therein, and they abide therein forever.

[32:17] You have no idea how much joy and happiness are waiting for you as a reward for your (righteous) works.

The word حُورٍ comes from the same root as the word الْحَوَارِيُّونَ which is translated as “the disciples” as in the disciples of Jesus. From this we can insinuate the the word is associated with being a companion.

These two words share the same trilateral-root for حُورٍ is ح و ر and from this root we have the following derivative meanings:

The word حُورٍ in the context of Paradise, occurs in the following verses: 44:54, 52:20, 55:72, and 56:22. Let’s take a look at each of these occurrences in context, which happen to all be in Paradise.

[44:51] The righteous will be in a secure position. [44:52] Enjoying gardens and springs. [44:53] Wearing velvet and satin; close to each other. [44:54] We grant them wonderful spouses. [44:55] They enjoy in it all kinds of fruits, in perfect peace.

Here is the word by word breakdown of the verse:

In the above verse, we see that it is indicating that in Paradise the righteous will be paired or married with “بِحُورٍ عِينٍ”. The بِ at the beginning of the word بِحُورٍ is to signify the word “with”.

The word عِينٍ, throughout the Quran has one of two meanings, either as a spring or eyes. The use of this word in conjunction with حُورٍ is to signify companions with wide or large eyes.

When a human sees something they find attractive their eyes get wide, and additionally, one of the physiological affects is that our pupils dilate and become bigger making the outside of our eyes appear more white.

This is noteworthy because the root of حُورٍ has the meaning:

to whiten as in to wash clothes and make them white, but also the intense whiteness of the white of the eye and intense blackness of the black. 

So this verse is informing us that the righteous will be paired with companions with white wide eyes, to signify that the righteous will be attracted to them and they in return will be attracted to their spouses.

We see this same expression used again in 52:20

56:22 also uses this expression, but this time describes them as that of “like protected pearls.”

[56:17] Serving them will be immortal servants. [56:18] With cups, pitchers and pure drinks. [56:19] They never run out, nor do they get bored. [56:20] Fruits of their choice. [56:21] Meat of birds that they desire. [56:22] Beautiful mates. [56:23] Like protected pearls.

This depiction can be better understood when we look at the last occurrence of the word حُورٍ in the Quran which occurs in 55:72. Here are the verses in context:

[55:62] Below them are two gardens (one for the jinns and one for the humans). [55:63] Which of your Lord’s marvels can you deny? [55:64] Side by side. [55:65] Which of your Lord’s marvels can you deny? [55:66] In them, wells to be pumped. [55:67] Which of your Lord’s marvels can you deny? [55:68] In them are fruits, date palms, and pomegranate. [55:69] Which of your Lord’s marvels can you deny? [55:70] In them are beautiful mates. [55:71] Which of your Lord’s marvels can you deny? [55:72] Confined in the tents. [55:73] Which of your Lord’s marvels can you deny? [55:74] No human ever touched them, nor a jinn. [55:75] Which of your Lord’s marvels can you deny? [55:76] They relax on green carpets, in beautiful surroundings. [55:77] Which of your Lord’s marvels can you deny?

These verses inform us that the spouses the righteous will have in Paradise will be beautiful and chaste. All three verses reaffirm these allegorical spouses purity, beauty, and commitment.

It is clear from these verses that the ḥūrun, as described in the Quran, are an allegorical representation of the companions the righteous will have in Paradise. That they will be chaste, perfectly paired, and cause their spouses to dilate and widen their eyes showing that they are mutually attracted and pleased with one another.

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