I have saved these last three surahs for the end as they seemed like they would sum up the Qur’an well.

Surah 112 is precisely such a summation.  Muslim tradition says this minuscule surah is equal to one-third of the entire message of the Qur’an.  Given its emphasis on monotheistic devotion, I can certainly see why people think that.

Say, “He is God the One, God the eternal.  He begot no one nor was He begotten.  No one is comparable to Him.” (112:1-4)

As a Christian, I can’t help but feel that this surah is addressing the trinitarian beliefs of Christianity, and maybe also the pagan beliefs popular in Arabia at the time of the Qur’an.  Nonetheless, there may be no more foundational thought in Islam than this one.

One of the last revelations ever received by Muhammad before his death was Surah 110:

When God’s help comes and He opens up your way [Prophet], when you see people embracing God’s faith in crowds, celebrate the praise of your Lord and ask His forgiveness: He is always ready to accept repentance. (110:1-3)

As one of the final words from Allah, I am struck by this message.  It is prophetic in a sense: there are days coming when people will accept Islam in droves. That will be a reason to celebrate.  Yet the final word of all is an admonition to seek forgiveness and a reassurance that Allah is always ready to receive truly repentant people.  That is such a fitting ending to the Qur’an.  The door to God is always open.  Step through with a repentant heart, and a humble spirit that knows we are always in need of forgiveness.  But it is an open door.  What a welcoming ending.

Interestingly, down at the end of the Qur’an is this realistic surah.  Evidently, a group of pagans had come to Muhammad and proposed a compromise.  They pledged to worship Allah for a year if the Prophet would worship their gods for a year.  Muhammad was told to give this response:

Say [Prophet], “Disbelievers: I do not worship what you worship, you do not worship what I worship, I will never worship what you worship, you will never worship what I worship: you have your religion and I have mine.” (109:1-6)

As I read this surah I couldn’t help but think that these are precisely my sentiments as well.  I have thoroughly enjoyed reading closely the Qur’an this past year.  Even more so, I have enjoy the conversations I have had with people that this blog fostered, especially those with the Muslims who took the time to further educate me on their religion.  What is even more clear to me now than it was when I started is how intractable the religious differences are between differing religions.  It was true 1400 years ago when Muhammad spoke to these pagans.  It is true today when Muslims talk with Christians and Jews.  It is true of me as well.  I have an immense amount of respect for the religion of Islam (more on that in the next post).  I found a true zeal in the Muslims who have followed this blog.  I believe we can show love to each other as humans.  I believe we can cooperate with each other in areas of social concern.  I do believe we can learn to coexist in a democratic society that does not assert any religion over another.  But Muslims have their religion and I have mine.  I can’t bring myself to worship God apart from Jesus, and they couldn’t imagine doing so.  We are at an impasse.

One more final post later in the week as I reflect back on the past year.

I don’t like to be told I am wrong.  But I think most of us don’t like that.  The real question is what we will do when we are confronted with our error.  As everyone will be wrong eventually, our response is what makes all the difference.

As we come to a new surah, Saad, I see this as the main theme here.  When David was confronted about his infidelity (which is graciously never mentioned in the passage) by way of a parable involving stolen sheep, the great king quickly repented of his sin and asked for forgiveness (38:24).  David’s son Solomon is lifted up as a great example of repentance as well, an attribute that is never assigned to Solomon in the Bible nor is this specific story in there.  When his desire to own a pair of beautiful horses becomes more important to him than his devotion to God so that God punished him with a wasting disease (38:31-34), Solomon turned back to God as soon as he acknowledged the error of his ways (38:35).  Job is also held up as an “excellent servant” because he realized he dealt too harshly (or not harshly enough, depending on your interpretation) with his blasphemous wife (38:41-44).

We see none of this penitence with Iblis.  Once again the story recounts that when Iblis was commanded to bow before the newly created human, Iblis refused.  He was “too proud.  He became a rebel” (38:74).  And so punishment chases him until “the Appointed Day” (38:81).  Likewise, those who are rejecting the Qur’an with its simple reminder that there is only one God (38:1) are also described as “steeped in arrogance and hostility” (38:2).

And so it is.  Who will we be like?  When we see the error of our ways will we fight the arrogance that so easily rises up inside us telling us that we are right, that we need not bow down to anyone?  Will we respond with contrition and humility like David, Solomon, and Job?  Or will we harden our pride even to the point of self-destruction?  That is the question.

I am having a hard time figuring out Allah.  Is he forgiving or not?  And to what extent?

Yesterday, the following ayah made it sound that for some Allah would be a closed door.  No matter whether you penitently knocked for entrance, forgiveness would not come:

It makes no difference [Prophet] whether you ask for forgiveness for them or not: God will not forgive them even if you ask seventy times (9:80).

Today, I keep coming to ayahs that suggest the opposite (and that is only over the span of two days).  Allah so longs repentance that He is a widely opened door:  

God will accept their repentance (9:102).

He is always ready to accept repentance, most merciful (9:104).

God would not condemn for going astray those He has already guided [to the faith] before making entirely clear to them what they should avoid (9:115).

He [God] relented toward them in mercy in order for them to return [to Him] (9:118).

God is most forgiving and merciful (9:102, 117, 118)

I imagine a Muslim would say (as I would about the God who has made Himself known through Jesus) that we cannot fully “figure out” Allah.  That Muslim might even say, it is blasphemous to even try.  Point well taken.  But the dissonance is there and I am tripping over it.

How about you?