A big theme in today’s short surah — “Kneeling” — is the fact that God has placed evidence of Himself in nature.  The body of this post is entirely a string of quotes from the surah that send this message.  The pictures included are from my three favorite places on this planet (so far), places that confirm for me the existence of One Great and Powerful God. 

Sunrise in Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN

“There are signs in the heavens and the earth for those who believe: in the creation of you, in the creatures God scattered on earth . . . in the alteration of night and day, in the rain God provides, sending it down from the sky and reviving the dead earth with it, and in His shifting of the winds there are signs for those who use their reason. . . . It is God who made the

Fall in Grand Teton National Park (taken by WordPresser Tim Jennings)

sea of use to you . . . He has made what is in the heavens and the earth beneficial to you, all as a gift from Him.  There truly are signs in this fo those who reflect. . . . God created the heavens and earth for a true purpose. . . . Control of everything in the heavens and the earth belongs to God. . . . So praise be to God, Lord of the heavens and earth, Lord of the worlds.  True greatness in the heavens and earth is rightfully His.” (45:3-5, 12, 13, 22, 27, 36-37)

From Old Baldy Lookout across the Beaver Valley, Ontario

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This new surah, named “The Creator,” is one of those surahs where Dean’s sentiment expressed here a few weeks ago that he often finds a similar message in many surahs but each with a different slant or focus really proves true. 

Same message:  God is in control of all things.  Don’t worry.  He will reward or punish people justly based on their decisions about Him.  Muhammad, don’t worry if they call you a liar; they did the same to earlier messengers too. 

But true to the surah’s naturalistic name, this common message is brought home here by weaving in many mentions of nature as evidence of God’s power and control. 

So I today I will produce a string a nature quotes together from this surah and pair those with beautiful pictures of nature.  Enjoy! 

Praise be to God, Creator of the heavens and earth. (35:1)

Is there any creator other than God to give you sustenance from the heavens and earth?  There is no God but Him. (35:3)

It is God who sends forth the winds; they raise up the clouds; We drive them to a dead land and with them revive the earth after its death: such will be the Resurrection. (35:9)

No female conceives or gives birth without His knowledge. (35:11)

The two bodies of water are not alike — one is palatable, sweet, and pleasant to drink, the other salty and bitter — yet from each you eat fresh fish and extract ornaments to wear, and in each you see the ships ploughing their course so that you may seek God’s bounty and be grateful. (35:12)

He makes the night merge into the day and the day into the night; He has subjected the sun and the moon — each runs for an appointed term. (35:13)

Have you [Prophet] not seen how God sends water down from the sky and that We produce with it fruits of varied colours. (35:27)

If God were to punish people [at once] for the wrong they have done, there would not be a single creature left on the surface of the earth, but He gives them respite for a stated time and, whenever their time comes, God has been watching His servants. (35:45)

Ants are small . . . and so is this “Ant” surah, relatively.  So we finish it up with today’s reading.  Three passages stood out to me today.

Who is it that originates creation and reproduces it?  Who is it that gives you provision from the heavens and earth?  Is it another god beside God?  Say, “Show me your evidence then, if what you say is true.” (27:64)

I am trying to place myself in the context of this passage. Muhammad comes down the mountain with a message of radical monotheism.  Meccans respond with their traditional polytheistic explanations for reality.  Both are simply claims.  How can we tip the balance towards one or the other?  It is interesting that “evidence” is mentioned.  If the polytheists really want to hang on to the belief that their gods created or at least rule over elements of nature, then they need to provide some evidence that this is true.  But what evidence is Muhammad producing that support his claim that Allah has created the very mountains, river and “gardens of delight” that he has just mentioned (27:60-63)?  That they exist is not evidence enough. The pagans could use the same evidence for their claims.  What evidence do Muslims produce for not just a god but Allah?

You cannot make the dead hear, you cannot make the deaf listen to your call when they turn their backs and leave, you cannot guide the blind out of their error; you cannot make anyone hear you except those who believe in Our signs and submit [to Us]. (27:80-81)

So true!  If a person does not want to believe, you can’t say enough to make them believe.  Good reminder. As someone with a high view of human freedom, I am not comfortable with that meaning Allah prevents them from hearing or listening.  But certainly there are people who harden their own hearts to God.

Whoever comes with a good deed will be rewarded with something better, and be secure from the terror of that Day, but whoever comes with evil deeds will be cast face downwards into the Fire.  Are you rewarded for anything except what you have done? (27:89-90)

Is that grace?  Is doesn’t seem so.  That sounds like people getting what they deserve.  That sounds like a god who responds to the actions of humans, not humans who respond to the actions of the god.

Do Muslims do apologetics?  I have only had a chance to search a tiny bit but it seems there are a few Islamic apologists out there.  Most of the websites I found were actually Christian sites arguing against Islam.  Apologetics is a field more popular with Christianity, a religion heavily influenced by Aristotelian logic and Enlightenment rationality.  Christians are known for their doctrine, and Muslims for their actions.  So, maybe Islam is not as inclined to lay out a reasoned defense of their religion.  Let me know what you find out. 

Today’s passage, however, seems rather apologetic to me (and I don’t mean someone’s sorry!)  Today we begin a new surah entitled “Jonah,” the first of several surahs named after traditional Bible characters.  Jonah will make an appearance in this surah, but he won’t be a main character.  As I read the first few ayahs it struck me that Muhammad is called to warn a disbelieving city (Mecca) in hopes that they would turn towards God.  Sounds a lot like Jonah.

When Muhammad shows up in Mecca fresh from his first encounter with the angel Gabriel with the first of his revelations, remember that he is a familiar face.  This is good ole Muhammad.  They had just traded wares with him last week.  Their families knew each other.  They had grown up together.  Muhammad was that neighbor down the street.  And now he claims to have a special message from the same God those Jews and Christians talked about, but his message is a new one.  Moreover, this radical monotheism he is talking about is going to overturn the apple cart of our culture. 

Can we trust him?  How do we know he isn’t pulling a fast one?  What proof does he have for his claims?  How do we know his God is real? 

Today’s passage offers the following reasons, woven comfortably into a sermon of sorts, as good apologetics usually are:

  1. This natural world didn’t just come from nowhere; this God created it (10:3). 
  2. The intricate bodies we have were a creation of this God (10:4).
  3. Have you noticed how the sun and moon are on finely-tuned cycles by which we can keep time and order life (10:5)?  That didn’t come from nowhere either. 
  4. Pain and hardship even have a way of moving people towards God instead of away, as if we know instinctually we need a power outside ourselves and that such a power does in fact exist (10:12).
  5. There are also recitations (the Qur’an) that testify to this God.  He can be found there, if we will read, listen, and obey (10:15). 
  6. Last, just use your God-given gift of reason (10:16).  Belief in this God is logical. 

That’s not a bad list.  As a Christian, I would point to all of the same things to testify to God.  As a teacher of apologetics, I have used all these arguments as evidence for God. 

Nestled in this passage is another truth: all of the best arguments and convincing proofs will not win over someone who does not want to be convinced:

Those who do not expect to meet Us [Allah] [in the Hereafter] and are pleased with the life of this world, contenting themselves with it and paying no heed to Our signs, shall have the Fire for their home because of what they used to do (10:7-8).

But there is ample evidence if you want to see it.

Ayah 23 gets to the root of why I have started this blog:

If you have doubts about the revelation [of the Qur’an] We [Allah] have sent down to Our servant [Muhammad], then produce a single surah like it — enlist whatever supporters you have other than God — if you truly think you can.

That seems like a fair claim.  If you are going to dismiss the Qur’an, then read it and do some comparison.  Christians would say the same about the Bible.  That is why it is important to me to read this alongside the Bible, and to flow between the two.  How does the Bible and the vision it has for the world compare?  Allah has invited us to do so.   

This section of the second surah sounds like a creation story of sorts, and maybe that is what it is.  Its more sermonic than narrative.  God the maker and sustainer, all-powerful and all-knowing, creates this world and the seven heavens and, therefore, surely deserves worship from his creatures.  Then along comes a prideful angel named Iblis (also called Satan or Shaytan) who leads Adam and his wife astray to eat the forbidden fruit.  They are cast out but not before “the Ever Relenting, the Most Merciful” God accepts Adam’s repentance.  (Notice, mercy follows repentance.)  Sounds familiar, but we need to remember that Muslims are supersessionists — they don’t claim a new story; they claim their understanding of the same Jewish and then Christian story of history is the unadulterated, truthful one.  So of course it is the same basic story.

Muhammad in Paradise during his Night Vision

In the middle of this description of creation is an equally vivid picture of Paradise or simply the Garden (lush, watered gardens of delight and purity).  Quickly paired with the question of how one could dream of ignoring the One who creates is how one could ignore the One who resurrects and returns the believer to Himself.  Are we talking about creation or resurrection, the beginning or the end?  Yes.  Both.  I like the way the reader, caught in the middle of fallen time, is taken back to the perfect beginning and forward to the glorious end simultaneously. 

Today at teacher inservice, a friend rehearsed for us the mind-blowing, soul-thrilling story of Creation, Fall, and Re-Creation.  For Christians this is our metanarrative, our “grand story,” the warp and woof of life, the pulse that underlies every breath.  Re-Creation is there in Genesis as well:

I will put enmity between you [serpent] and the woman, and between your offspring and hers [Messianic?]; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel. (Genesis 3:15)

We do well to remember in those fleeting Creation moments of life when all is right with the world that there is a Re-Creation that makes the ethereal ever real.  In the sting and stench of Fall we must hang on the delight and purity of Re-Creation.  In Life there is Death, but in Death there is Life. 

In what part of your life do you need to hear that Re-Creation is as sure as Creation?