Today we come to a new surah, “The Feast” or “The Table” in English.  Food will be a recurring topic in this Medinan surah, and it likely takes its name from a feast the disciples of Jesus ask God to send down as a sign.  We will see many of the same themes we have already seen, including more on Jesus.

The surah starts by laying out laws about clean and unclean food.  Nothing new here.  See this post for details on Islamic food restrictions or “halal.”

Next, further instructions are given on the washings Muslims should do in preparation for prayer.  See this post for details on these.  I found this line of explanation interesting:

God does not wish to place any burden on you; He only wishes to cleanse you and perfect His blessing on you, so that you may be thankful. (5:6)

These customs are not meant to be legalistic and burdensome.  Instead they will lead the believer to a way of life that brings blessing and, therefore, gratitude for the oversight of God.  Law blesses.  It is only this view of Law that allows a psalm like Psalm 119 to make sense.  Take one verse as an example:

I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. (Psalm 119:14)

Take the time to read through Chris Altrock’s recent, wonderfully re-written paraphrases of this great psalm.  You will see Law very differently.

I love this next line:

Do not let hatred of others lead you away from justice, but adhere to justice, for that is closer to awareness of God. (5:8)

Our world would be a better place if people of all faiths followed this instruction.

The connection between “remember” and “trust” in 5:11 is profound.  It reminds me of Deuteronomy.  If trust is what God wants most for us, and I believe it is, vigilantly hanging on to the memories of the great acts of God may be one of the most important things we can ever do.

Then the nobility of this passage disintegrates into an attack on Jews and Christians again.  This is getting wearisome.

This section ends with an address to the “People of the Book” to listen to Muhammad because he now comes to bring “light” to show the “right path” (5:16) and to “warn” us against danger (5:19).

On a cold night I am looking for a blazing bonfire, the kind that attracts from a distance, that beats back the chill and surrounds one in its radiating heat.  It seems like that is the kind of light that should come from God.  I am afraid I am finding the Qur’an to be more like a struggling campfire that flares up brilliantly when a new log is placed but then quickly dies back down to dim embers.

I have already found a “light” (John 1:9) that seems to burn much brighter.