Today’s new surah, named “The Poets” because of historical references late in the surah that we will discuss later, is largely a rehash of familiar topics — Allah has given us many reasons to believe in His creation; prophets have always been opposed; and the consequences of denying Allah is always dire.  Today, the story of Moses and Pharaoh is rehearsed once again.  Nothing terribly notable.

However, the following passage really struck me:

[Prophet], are you going to worry yourself to death because they will not believe?  If We had wished, We could have sent them down a sign from heaven, at which their necks would stay bowed in utter humiliation.  (26:3-4)

The context appears to be that Muhammad is naturally discouraged at the way the Meccans are rejecting his message.  Muhammad is acting as an ambassador of Allah.  Allah responds by saying, “Do not fret.  I am not weak.  I could send them a sign that would overwhelm them if I wanted to.”

What struck me, though, was the effect a sign from Allah would bring: humiliation, disgrace, shame.  If Allah were to choose to suspend freedom for a moment and overwhelm the heart of a person, why produce humiliation?  I am sure the point is that these people have had a choice to accept Allah already and they have not, thus they will feel ashamed of their choice when they are flooded with a glimpse of the glory of Allah.  Still, it seems odd to me.

I think that is because of what I was expecting.  If the God of the Christian Bible were to suspend freedom and overwhelm a human heart for a moment, what emotion would He want to evoke in the heart of a person who is not in a relationship with Him?  I cannot think of a verse in the Bible that addresses this hypothetical situation directly, but I think the answer is that God would choose to evoke an immense feeling of love.  Love is the cornerstone of Christian theology.  God is love (1 John 4:8, 16) the Bible says.  Love drives so much of what God does in the narrative of the Bible.  Creation, fall, and redemption (each in the multifaceted ways they are manifested all throughout the Bible) make the most sense when centered in divine love.  So I imagined that God would flood the person with such a sense of love and desire for relationship that it would melt the unbeliever’s hard heart.

So why would Allah want to produce shame not love?  I think part of the answer comes from the frequency of the concept of divine love in the Qur’an.  It is simply incorrect to say that Allah does not say that he loves humanity, at least those who obey Him; the Qur’an most certainly says that.

God loves those who do good. (3:134)

This is just not as strong a chorus in the Qur’an as it is in the Bible, and the love of Allah seems to be quite conditioned by the degree of obedience a person chooses to give.

As for those who believe and do good deeds God will pay them their reward in full but God does not love evildoers. (3:57)

Much more common is the thought that humans are to respond to Allah with respect or fear of His glory and power.  Paying attention to word frequency is not without flaws, but it can tell us something.  The word “fear” occurs three times more frequently than the word “love.”

It seems we have a significant difference in how we humans are to relate to God.

What do you think?

Advertisements