“The End is Near!”

It is coming.  Be guaranteed.  People may doubt, but be assured.  Everyone will be judged for what they have done.  Then sit back and enjoy your reward on a comfortable couch with a beautiful woman, sumptuous food and drink that does not make you drunk.  Or dread the day you wrote the Prophet off as a mad-man. 

Such is the message of this new surah, a now familiar refrain. 

Towards the end of today’s section, the Meccan disbelievers are quoted as saying the following:

We will wait to see what happens to this dubious poet, then decide. (52:30)

We think he just made this up himself. (52:33)

The Prophet is instructed to answer them with these ten questions:

  1. Are you being driven by reason or insolence? (52:32)
  2. Can they come up with a message like the Qur’an? (52:34)
  3. Did they create all of this? (52:35-36)
  4. Do they have control over the “treasures” of this world? (52:37)
  5. Can they listen in on God’s deliberations? (52:38)
  6. Do you really think God has daughters when you yourself only want sons? (52:39)
  7. Am I [Muhammad] trying to burden you with debt by following this God? (52:40)
  8. Do they really think they can see and describe the unseen? (52:41)
  9. Why are they trying to ensnare the Prophet when it won’t succeed? (52:42)
  10. Is there really some other god they think they can set alongside the one true God? (52:43)

Maybe the one question that sums all of this up is, “Who do you think you are?”  Quite an on-target question from a religion that is all about submission.

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It’s not religion that matters most of all.  It is not even just belief alone.  It is faith submissively expressing itself in obedience, respect, and love. 

Such is the message of today’s short surah, “The Private Rooms.”   

The desert Arabs say, “We have faith.”  [Prophet] tell them, “You do not have faith.  What you should say instead is, ‘We have submitted,’ for faith has not yet entered your hearts.” . . . The true believers are the ones who have faith in God and His Messenger and leave all doubt behind, the ones who have struggled [jihad?] with their possessions and their persons in God’s way: they are the one who are true. . . . They think they have done you [Prophet] a favor by submitting.  Say, “Do not consider your submission [islam] a favor to me; it is God who has done you a favor, by guiding you to faith, if you are truly sincere.”  (49:14-15, 17)

As we read through this surah we read of Muslims who treat Muhammad with such disrespect that they stand outside his “private rooms” and yell for his to come out (49:4).  When he is talking, they shout over him, presumably not laking what he is saying (49:2).  They have forgetten Muhammad is God’s chosen Messenger, not just one of the guys (49:2). 

People are believing any report they hear, without showing the accused brother or sister the respect to find out if it is true first (49:6).  Of course, this causes tension and even arguments, which they are all only too willing to get into (49:9-10).  Offensive remarks, name-calling, back-biting, mockery, looking down on other Muslims, trying to catch people doing something wrong, jumping to conclusions about each other — too many were engaging in this kind of unsuitable behavior (49:11-12). 

And yet these same Muslims were quick to say they have faith (49:14).  No, they have religion.  No, they wear a label that identifies themselves as one of the group.  Do they believe in Allah?  Sure, it seems they do, but that belief has had little effect on their life.  They have a religion called “Islam,” but they have completely missed what “islam” really is: submission. 

Sure, they have “submitted” to Muhammad, in the sense that they do not rebel against his authority.  But real submission requires a heart that is tender and kind to others.  A true submitter has “struggled” or “done war” with his own “person” or will or desires, so that he treats others with respect and love.  A true believer would not act the way this group is acting. 

That is a great message!  And universally applicable, regardless of your religion.

The Apostle Paul of the Bible said it this way:

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value.  The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. (Galatians 5:6)

Today’s shorter passage chimes in to what I am seeing is a major theme in the Qur’an: the Hereafter.  You can’t go one or two surahs before you are reminded of impending judgment.  In a culture that is hyper-focused on the here-and-now, the Islamic attention to the Hereafter seems a bit odd.  At the same time it might be the reminder that people of faith need to live life with the end in mind, not simply for today. 

There is not much that is new here, just some interesting phraseology.

[Prophet], this is your community, one community, and I am your Lord, so serve Me.  They have torn their unity apart, but they will all return to Us. (21:92-93)

Humans are truly one community.  We are sons and daughters of One Father, creatures from One Creator.  We have done a great job of letting race, nationality, gender, religion, age, and socio-economics separate us, but in the end we will once again be “one community” (c.f., Revelation 7:9).

. . . when the peoples of Gog and Magog are let loose and swarm swiftly from every highland . . . (21:96)

Here we have another mention of Gog and Magog, a barbaric group of people who come at the end of time as an instrument of God’s punishment to bring “terror” and “woe” to those who don’t believe.  The name is most likely code, borrowed from the Bible, for a horrible people.  The point: things are going to get worse before they get better. 

You [disbelievers] and what you worship instead of God will be fuel for Hell: that is where you will go . . . you will all stay there. (21:98-99)

Hell is everlasting punishment.  This is not annihilationism

But those for whom We have decreed Paradise will be kept far from Hell — they will not hear a murmur from it. (21:101-102a)

Total separation of Good and Bad. 

. . . endlessly they will enjoy everything their souls desire. (21:102b)

Once again, I see Paradise is described in a human-centered manner, appealing to what we might want to be rewarded with.  As Onewilltry has pointed out in the comments on this post, Muslims do believe that the greatest reward one can receive is to be in the presence of Allah, so maybe that takes the edge off the human-centeredness we find here. 

On that Day, We [Allah] shall roll up the skies as a writer rolls up [his] scroll.  We shall reproduce creation just as We produced it the first time. (21:104)

What a wonderful way to describe the “re-creation” that Paradise truly will be.  There is another world to come and it isn’t “out there”, it will be “right here.”  The Qur’an does a very good job of making it clear that Paradise is really just a return to the original Garden, a view that I believe is very biblical as well. 

Say, “What is revealed to me is that God is one God — will you submit to Him?” (21:108)

The basic message of Islam.