The fourteenth surah — Abraham — is named after the patriarch who shows up late in the surah in a secondary way.  Tomorrow we will look at the theme of gratitude that is at the beginning and end of the chapter.  Today is more of a miscellany of interesting ideas from the first part of the surah.

1.  There have been many threats of punishment in the past few surahs.  In fact, it seems like you can’t read very long anywhere in the Qur’an without running up on these reminders.  So it is good to be reassured right from the beginning of this surah that Allah’s intention is to forgive and bless humanity:

This is a Scripture which We have sent down to you [Prophet] so that you may bring people from the depths of darkness into light, to the path of the Almighty. (14:1)

He calls you to Him in order to forgive you your sins and let you enjoy your life until the appointed hour. (14:10)

Later in today’s reading the point comes out that Allah is not simply trying to get his own way.  If so, he could have destroyed the rebellious and started over (14:19).  Instead, Allah wants to redeem these people, and redemption is his greatest goal. 

2.  Still, punishment is a possibility and it is interesting that “prefer[ing] the life of this world over the life to come” (14:3) is a recurring description of those who incite God’s ire greatly.  If that was truly 1400 years ago when the Qur’an was written, what about now?  It seems this description is even more true today. 

3.  Ayah 4 is a good description of how Allah relates to those who choose to follow him and those who do not:

God leaves whoever He will to stray, and guides whoever He will. (14:4)

Humans are free to choose Allah or not.  Then Allah acts passively in the life of those who choose to walk away from him — he does not stop them.  But Allah works actively to guide those who do choose Him, and we have to imagine that life becomes easier when Allah is actively involved. 

4.  The people of Mecca respond to Muhammad’s plea for faith with a request for proof:

You want us to turn away from what our forefathers used to worship.  Bring us clear proof then [if you can.] (14:10)

But there’s the rub. Of course, someone would want proof in order to switch worldviews, but God operates by faith, maybe faith with evidence, but faith nonetheless:

We cannot bring you any proof unless God permits it, so let the believers put their trust in Him. (14:11)

Unless one is willing to walk by faith, they will not find Allah.

5.  There is a very vivid image used to describe Hell late in today’s reading:

Hell awaits each one; he will be given foul water to drink, which he will try to gulp but scarcely be able to swallow. (14:16-17)

That’s Hell: working with the things of life intended to bring satisfaction (i.e., water) but not finding fulfillment at all.  Hell is sex without love, company without belonging, work without reward.  It is “hav[ing] no power over anything they have gained” (14:18).  This image of Hell is such a strong contrast with the image of Paradise in ayah 23: “Gardens graced with flowing streams.”

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