This next surah is named “Scattering Winds” because of the frequent mention of the sky and wind as witnesses to the power and truthfulness of Allah.

By those [winds] that scatter far and wide, and those that are heavily laden, that speed freely, that distribute [rain] as ordained! (51:1)

By the sky with its pathways. (51:7)

On earth there are signs for those with sure faith — and in yourselves too, do you not see? — in the sky is your sustenance and all you are promised. (51:20-22)

We built the sky with Our power and made it vast. (51:47)

I find it interesting that the central image appealed to here is wind.  That is very a pros pos.  Wind is every bit as invisible as God.  Yet, it is every bit as real as God, too.  Wind cannot be seen, but the results of the wind can be.  Wind can’t be seen, but it can be felt.  It is rather ridiculous at this point to deny the existence of the wind, a sentiment the Prophet would have said was true about the existence of Allah too.  It is not a perfect analogy.  Wind is still more physical than God, and therefore easier to accept as a reality.  However, it is an interesting choice of image.

I also find it interesting that central story in this short surah is the visit of honored guests to the tent of Abraham.  These guests prophesy the future, miraculous birth of a son for Abraham and Sarah.  They also foretell the destruction of the Cities of the Plain.  For those who know the Bible, this is a familiar story.

The interesting aspect is this: In the Qur’an, these are simply “guests.”  There is an implication that these are angels.  But this is not Allah.  That would be far too familiar, too immanent.  Allah does not do that sort of thing in the Qur’an.

The original story is told in Genesis 18.  Here is says 15 times that this is “the LORD,” that is the Christian God.  Abraham and Sarah are visited by God Himself in a theophany.  This sort of thing is not uncommon in Genesis.  Moreover, when Christians read this same biblical story they cannot help but see the Trinity all over it.  Throughout the entire chapter of Genesis 18 there is only one character, “the LORD,” speaking and interacting with Abraham and Sarah.  However, the story starts this way:

The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day.  Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby.  When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. (Genesis 18:1-2)

Abraham is visited by one LORD and by three men.  Christians cannot help but see the three aspects of God here in this story all wrapped up in the one LORD who visits with Abraham.

I have read over this section a couple of times and I don’t see much that stands out as new.  So instead of rehashing old posts, I thought I would give my “top ten favorite (or significant) quotes from this section.”  I would love to hear your favorites too!  Or pick one of the following ten and say what you like about that one. 

1.  Who is really in charge?

Everything in the heavens and earth belongs to God; it is to Him that all things return. (3:109)

2.  Follow Father Abraham and you can’t go wrong!

God speaks the truth, so follow Abraham’s religion: he had true faith and he was never an idolater. (3:95)

3.  A powerful image of the protection of God:

If you are steadfast and conscious of God, their [unbelievers who wish to see harm done to believers] scheming will not harm you in the least: God encircles everything they do. (3:120)

4.  Real, deep spirituality demands sacrifice.

None of you will attain true piety unless you give out of what you cherish. (3:92)

5.  Don’t blame God for the consequences of sin!

A frosty wind strikes and destroys the harvest of people who have wronged themselves: It was not God who wrong them; they wronged themselves. (3:117)

6.  God’s mercy is predicated upon active repentance.

Such people [those who know the truth and reject it anyway] will be rewarded with rejection from God, by the angels, by all people, and so they will remain, with no relief or respite for their suffering.  Not so those who afterwards repent and mend their ways: God is most forgiving and merciful. (3:87-89)

7.  Money can’t buy you love . . . or salvation!

Those who disbelieve and die disbelievers will not be saved even if they offer enough gold to fill the entire earth. (3:91)

8.  A recipe for a good community:

Be a community that calls for what is good, urges what is right, and forbids what is wrong: those who do this are the successful ones. . . . [Believers] you are the best community singled out for people: you order what is right, forbid what is wrong, and believe in God. (3:104, 110)

9.  Maybe there is hope for us after all!

There are some among the People of the Book who are upright, who recite God’s revelations during the night, who bow down in worship, who believe in God and the Last Day, who order what is right and forbid what is wrong, who are quick to do good deeds.  These people are among the righteous and they will not be denied [the reward] for whatever good deeds they do: God knows exactly who is conscious of Him. (3:113-115)

10.  One more . . . Allah calls people who reject him LOSERS!  Ha! 

If anyone seeks a religion other than complete devotion to God [islam], it will not be accepted from him: he will be one of the losers in the Hereafter. (3:85)

Okay that last one was flippant.  Sorry.  Now, how about you?

Abraham's Family

Judaism, Christianity and Islam all look to Abraham as a sort of “father.”  These three are called the Abrahamic religions.  That Judaism claims a connection to Abraham makes the most sense.  The connections are historical, quick and genealogical.   Abraham’s grandson was Jacob whose name was changed to “Israel,” the namesake of the nation.  Abraham’s twelve great-grandsons became the heads of the twelve ethnic tribes of Israel.  The millions of ethnic Jews past and present are part of the fulfillment to the promise of descendants God gave Abraham. 

The connections between Abraham and Christianity are less direct.  Jesus was a descendent of Abraham.  Jesus was the Jew who saves the Jews, who returns and fulfills the promised blessings to the Jews.  Paul also asserts other, more conceptual connections between any Christian — Jewish or Gentile — and Abraham.  As Paul sees it, when a person regardless of ethnicity is baptized and comes “into Christ” he becomes a part of the lineage or “seed” of Abraham and therefore an heir (Galatians 3:26-29).  Furthermore, simply approaching God through faith not law makes one a spiritual ancestor of Abraham, as this was entirely how Abraham approached God in a pre-Mosaic Law world (Galatians 3:6-9; Romans 4:16).  Abraham is the “father” of all who step out in trust, whether circumcised Jews or uncircumcised Gentiles (Romans 4:9-12).  Yes, even Americans, Canadians, Asians and Africans without an ounce of Jewish blood.

Why do Muslims look to Abraham as their father as well?  Muhammad is said to have been a descendent of Abraham too, but this time through Ishmael, Abraham’s son with Hagar the slave girl.  Thus, we are again talking about a genealogical connection.  In 2:126 from today’s section, Abraham asks that God maintain a blessing on the people of Arabia who believe in the One God.  Abraham is given credit in the Qur’an for the name “Muslim” which means “those who submit” (22:78).  Maybe the biggest reason for the Islamic identification with Abraham is their assertion that he was the original monotheist, and thus the original Muslim — that is a “submitter” to the will of God.  It was believed even before the time of Muhammad that Abraham and Ishmael had built the black, cubic shrine called the Ka’ba in the middle File:Kaaba mirror edit jj.jpgof Mecca as the first house of worship to God.  In surah 19 Abraham debates the merits of idolatry with his own polytheistic father, Azar (Terah in Genesis).  Abraham declares it faulty and displeasing to the sole true God, so when Azar rejects his son’s advice Abraham disassociates himself from his father (9:114).  Muslims claim that what was really started with Abraham was the religion that reached its most complete manifestation in Islam.  Therefore, what started formally with Muhammad actually existed in spirit even before Judaism.  Hence, Islam claims not only a historical connection to Abraham but also one of ideology or faith, not unlike Christians do as well. 
Christians look at Islam and say how dare they co-opt our God, add a new revelation onto what we have (and discredit our Bible), and then claim that their religion is only what God started in the beginning in its purest form.  But then I imagine that is what a devote Jew would say about Christianity too.  
In today’s reading, the Qur’an says this:
 So you believers say, “We believe in God and in what was sent down to us and what was sent down to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the tribes, and what was given to Moses, Jesus, and all the prophets by their Lord.  We make no distinction between any of them, and we devote ourselves to Him.”  So if they believe like you [Muslims] do, they will be rightly guided.  But if they turn their backs, then they will be entrenched in opposition. (2:136-37)
So as long as a devoted monotheistic Jew or Christian is truly following the guidance of God then they too will be blessed.  They are actually following the submissive way of Islam anyway, so why be concerned?  And if that is the case, could a Muslim not say that Jew or Christian is actually and truly a Muslim?  It is an interesting way to cut the Gordian knot of religious diversity while maintaining an approach of exclusivity.