Friday, October 31, 2014

On the Question of Halloween

A’uzu Billahi Min ash-Shaitain ir-Rajeem.
Bismillah ir-rahman ir-raheem.
Al Hamdu Lillahi Rabbil ‘Alameen.
Wasa’atu Wassalamu ‘Ala Muhammad wa ‘Ala Alihi was Sabhihi was Sallim
Ahmaduhu subhanahu wa Ta’ala wa ashkurhu wa Huwa Ahlul-Hamdi wath-thana.
I praise Him (Allah) the Exalted One and the High and I thank Him. It is He who deserves the praise and gratitude.

Ah-hamdu lillahi nahmaduhu wa nassta’eenuhu wa nasstaghfiruhu, wa natoobu ilayhi, wa na’oozu billahi min shurouri anfusina wa saiyaati a’maalina.
Praise be to Allah, we Praise Him and seek help from Him; we ask forgiveness from Him; we repent to Him, and we seek refuge in Him from our own evils and from our own bad deeds.

Surah 113, Al-Falaq:
Qul a’udhu biRabbil-falaq,
Min sharri ma khalaq.
Wa min-sharri ghasiqin idha waqab.
Wa min-sharrin-naffathati fil-uqad.
Wa min-sharri hasidin idha hasad.

Say:  I seek refuge with the Sustainer of the rising dawn,
From the evil of aught that He has created,
And from the evil of the black darkness whenever it descends,
And from the evil of all human beings bent on occult endeavours,
And from the evil of the envious when he envies.

Late in the afternoon of Halloween, chances are that kids will come to our front doors dressed in costumes, holding out bags or buckets into which we are expected to put candy.  I grew up with this tradition.  Since we lived on a farm, and houses in our area were pretty spread out, my mother would drive my brothers and I around from house to house.  It was great fun, and the neighbors were always happy to see us, especially the ones we knew who could guess who we were under our costumes.  When we got home, we would dump out our bags and see who got what treats, and trade with each other – three pieces of bubble gum for a Reeses Cup, etc.  I loved Halloween, and I still love Halloween.  Summer has gone, the pumpkins are harvested and decorated, leaves are blowing around, and the chill in the air reminds us that we had better enjoy whatever warmth is left because ice and snow are on the way. 

After I converted to Islam, I discovered that Muslims have a real problem with Halloween.  Some of them take it very seriously.  Imam Zaid Shakir summed up this attitude recently on a post to his blog entitled “Between the Deen and Halloween”:
"One the tragedies of our times is found in the easy willingness some Muslims accept practices, rituals or cultural symbols that have their roots in demonic or occult practices. Halloween is a perfect example. Most scholars trace the origins of Halloween to the then pagan Celtic people who believed that on a certain night, the dead would come alive and could walk among the living. On this night some of these people would dress up in ghoulish costumes believing that the spirits of the dead would mistake them for one of their own and not harass them. Others would offer these “spirits” sweets in order to earn their good favor. This is the origin of the Halloween costumes and the gifts of candy…. The darkness surrounding these practices is compounded by the representations and symbols rooted in the world of the occult and demons, such as witches, werewolves, vampires, etc. Like many aspects of demonology and the occult, Halloween has been sanitized and made to appear as something “cute.” Along these lines, some Muslims actually have “Halaloween” parties. It’s just “fun.” This is one of the ways children in our society, increasingly Muslim children are no exception, are introduced to occult and demonic symbols and rituals. Make it appear cute and fun and no one will notice the dark underside…. Halloween as well as Halaloween are Haram!”

Imam Shakir is right about the roots of Halloween.  It dates back to pagan rituals in England and Ireland, before the advent of Christianity.  But it is also associated with the Christian celebration of All Saint’s Day, Nov. 1, and All Souls Day, Nov. 2, during which Christians are enjoined to pray for those who have died.  The word Halloween is reported to date to about 1745 and to be of Christian origin. The word "Halloween" means “hallowed evening" or "holy evening."

My purpose here is not to present an exhaustive history of the roots and development of Halloween.  Suffice it to say that the history is long, complex, and multi-faceted.  My purpose is rather to explore the question of whether my faith really does proscribe me from celebrating this holiday.  As an American convert who does not believe that my conversion to Islam requires me to reject the positive or unharmful aspects of my native culture, I naturally ask myself this question.  For Muslims who grew up in places where Halloween was not a part of their childhood and youth, or for converts who may have negative memories of their childhood, it might be easy to dismiss this holiday as a celebration of demonology.  I cannot blame them.  If I thought Halloween is a celebration of demonology, I would also want nothing to do with it. 

But that has not been my experience of Halloween.  As a Muslim and as a mother, I did not feel that allowing my child to dress up in a fantasy costume and get candy from the neighbors was something that was prohibited by my faith.  In fact, I felt that nothing in my faith could justify preventing her from doing something that obviously brought so much joy and fun for her classmates, friends and cousins, and the sense of alienation and confusion that would bring.  It seemed ridiculous to tell her that she could not celebrate Halloween because it is a demonic holiday.  It was so obviously being celebrated as something fun, and not demonic.  Was she supposed to believe in demons, and that her friends and cousins could become possessed by them by putting on costumes? 

There is a different way of understanding Halloween.  I have always understood the holiday as a way of poking fun at superstition and the idea that demonic forces have any real power over us.  Making fun out of ghosts and skeletons and witches and vampires makes us realize that we can conquer our fears.  Those scary things aren’t real, after all, it’s our imaginations that make them scary.


Our faith tells us that God has power over Satan, and all demonic forces.  They have no power other than the power we let them have over us.  In Qur’an, Satan is the symbol of the rejection of God’s will.

            Surah 14, Ibrahim:
And when everything will have been decided, Satan will say:  “Behold, God promised you something that was bound to come true!  I, too, held out promises to you – but I deceived you.  Yet I had no power at all over you:  I but called you – and you responded unto me.  Hence, blame not me, but blame yourselves.  It is not for me to respond to your cries, nor for you to respond to mine:  for, behold, I have refused to admit that there was any truth in your erstwhile belief that I had a share in God’s divinity… (22).

Surah 34, Saba:
Say:  Point out to me those beings that you have joined with Him in your minds as partners in His divinity.  Nay – nay, but He [alone] is God, the Almighty, the Wise.  (27)

Thinking about Halloween as a symbolic conquest of our fear of evil and superstition made me ask myself, is there any practice in the Islamic tradition that also symbolizes our need to confront and disempower the demons in our minds?  And then I remembered the Hajj rituals.  One of the last of the Hajj rituals is the symbolic stoning of three pillars at Mina – the three pillars representing Satan.  The act of stoning the devil commemorates the three attempts the devil made to tempt the Prophet Ibrahim, pbuh, out of following a directive from God that he could not understand.  Prophet Ibrahim rejected all three of the devil’s attempts, stoning him and driving him away. The three stone pillars represent the places where the failed temptations took place and the act of stoning commemorates Prophet Ibrahim’s constant obedience to Allah and the vanquishing of the devil.

Halloween can be understood as a holiday that, through satire, disempowers the belief that evil spirits and demonic forces have any real power over us.  It robs those beliefs of their power to instill fear in us.  Seen in this way, Halloween can be understood as an expression of faith in Allah, al-Rahman, al-Raheem – God, the most Gracious, the most Merciful. 

Of course I recognize that not everyone, Muslim, Christian or otherwise, will agree that this interpretation of Halloween is an accurate representation.  But it is one possible interpretation.  I am not arguing that all Muslims should now celebrate Halloween.  We should all do what we feel comfortable doing, or not doing.  But I am arguing for the need to broaden the Muslim perspective and acknowledge that there are different ways of understanding things, and they all deserve consideration, and that those who do not reject this holiday are not necessarily doing something haram.

Friday, October 17, 2014


A’uzu Billahi Min ash-Shaitain ir-Rajeem.
Bismillah ir-rahman ir-raheem.
Al Hamdu Lillahi Rabbil ‘Alameen.
Wasa’atu Wassalamu ‘Ala Muhammad wa ‘Ala Alihi was Sabhihi was Sallim

Ahmaduhu subhanahu wa Ta’ala wa ashkurhu wa Huwa Ahlul-Hamdi wath-thana.
I praise Him (Allah) the Exalted One and the High and I thank Him. It is He who deserves the praise and gratitude.

Ah-hamdu lillahi nahmaduhu wa nassta’eenuhu wa nasstaghfiruhu, wa natoobu ilayhi, wa na’oozu billahi min shurouri anfusina wa saiyaati a’maalina.
Praise be to Allah, we Praise Him and seek help from Him; we ask forgiveness from Him; we repent to Him, and we seek refuge in Him from our own evils and from our own bad deeds.

The title of my khutbah today is “Separation”.

As Muslims, we recite, aloud or in our heads,  surah Al-Fatihah with every raka in every prayer that we make to God.  When we say this prayer we don’t say, “to You alone I pray” or “Guide me to the path of the righteous”- the pronoun that is used is “we”. “To You we pray”, “to You we ask for guidance”.  This pronoun is a reminder that “we”, as human beings- like it or not- we are all on this world in this experiment with human free will, together at this time. All of us. Surah Fatihah also doesn’t mention Muslims, or Christians, or monotheists or polytheists- it is vague. It is an interfaith moment.  It is ‘we’, humans. When we are down on our luck, losing hope and need strength and guidance, we ask for help from the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate, the Most High. These are just a few of the names we give God in our feeble attempt to define the divine. When we are suffering from spiritual thirst, it is to God that we cry out to for succor.

It would be nice if we could remember we are all in the same boat on this blue planet, but unfortunately, remembering is not one of humanity’s strong suits. We tend to get distracted easily, make mistakes, and forget our connections. This has been our story starting with Adam. The German theologian, Paul Tillich, believed that man’s original sin consists in our forgetting our connection to God and our life on this earth is a separation from God.

As Muslims, we believe that it It is our higher nature, our fitra, that seeks to re-establish this connection to the Creator of the Worlds, despite living in a world where we are easily distracted. It is in our prayers that we seek connection to the Most Merciful, and it is in the ritual prayer with other Muslims when we stand shoulder to shoulder, where we can remember our connection to one another.

Although we are all human beings and we share a connection, we are also completely unique. Even down to the microscopic level of the physical manifestation of our existence, our DNA code, we are unique. Our brain chemistry and how our brains are wired and information processed is unique. All this gives rise to a rich diversity of preferences and desires, which at times can seem quite puzzling. And although we all share that same spiritual thirst, each of us may choose to sate that thirst in different ways. Some may prefer a tall glass of chilled well water, others want apple juice, or Coke or Pepsi or a hot cup of tea, or a gin and tonic.  Our personal preferences, the choices we make, and how we carry out our actions can also lead to separation. Getting too involved in the 'cola wars' leads to separation.  But just ritual prayer reminds us of our common human existence, it also reminds us of the Day of Judgment when all of humankind will be arranged before God.

Surah The Sundering  74:1-14
“When the heaven is split asunder and attentive to her Lord in fear, and when the earth is spread out and hath cast out all that was in her, and is empty and attentive to her Lord in Fear! Thou, verily, O man, art working toward thy Lord a work which thou wilt meet (in His presence). Then whoso is given his account in his right hand, he truly will receive an easy reckoning and will return unto his folk in joy.  But whoso is given his account behind his back, he surely will invoke destruction and be thrown to scorching fire. He verily lived joyous with his folk, he verily deemed that he would never return (unto Allah).” (Pickthall translation)

On this day, God will judge us and He will separate us based on our actions and how well we remembered our connections to Him and to one another. In this final separation, we will be rewarded or punished. The last lines of Surah Fatiha serve as a reminder of the defining features of bad choices,

“Ghayril maghdubi ‘alayhim wa lad-daalin”
“(Make us ) Not of those who earn Thine anger nor of those who go astray”.


Al-hamdu lillahi rabbil ‘alameen was-salutu was-salamu ‘ala khairil mursaleen. Muhammadin al-nabiyil ummiyee, wa  ‘ala alihi wa sahbihi ajma’een.
Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the universe. May the greeting and the peace be upon the best messenger, Muhammad, the unlettered prophet, and upon his family and upon all of his companions.
Innal-la ha was malaaikatahu yussalloona Alan-nabiy.  Yaa aiyuhal latheena aamanoo, salloo alaihi, wa sallimoo tassleema.
Lo! Allah and His angels shower blessings on the prophet. O you who believe! Ask blessing on him and salute him with a worthy greeting.

In all communities there are differences of opinion and belief. Although the Prophet Muhammad’s community is often held as an exemplar for all communities, they too, had their own problems. In reading through Surah Tauba, there are many historical references where the Medina community failed to meet the expectations of the Prophet. This surah is the only one that does not begin with “Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Raheem”, and there is a lot of harsh pronouncements in it. For example 9: 97-99:

“The wandering Arabs are more hard in disbelief and hypocrisy, and more likely to be ignorant of the limits which Allah hath revealed unto His messenger. And Allah is Knower, Wise. And of the wandering Arabs there is he who taketh that which he expendeth (for the cause of Allah) as a loss, and awaiteth (evil) turns of fortune for you. The evil turn of fortune will be theirs. Allah is Hearer, Knower. And of the wandering Abarbs there is he who believeth in Allah and the Last Day, and taketh that which he expendeth and also the paryers of the messenger as acceptable offerings in the sight of Allah. Lo! verily it is an acceptable offering for them. Allah will bring them into His mercy, Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful”  (Pickthall translation)

Clearly, even in this “best of communities”, there were problems. While there are some that look back on the Prophet’s community as some kind of utopia, I don’t get that feeling in reading Surah Tauba. There was a lot of intrigue, hypocrisy, and jostling for rank and privilege. In this respect, not much has changed since the time of the Prophet!

In surah Tauba, there are many references to a historical incident that I found particularly interesting.  This centers around the Tabuk expedition, in which the Prophet asked his community to follow him to the northern most border of the Muslim territory to defend themselves against the Romans. 

Muhammad Asad writes in his note 142 of his translation of Surah Tauba:
“Ever since his exodus from Mecca to Medina the Prophet was violently opposed by one Abu Amir (‘the Monk”) a prominent member of the Khazraj tribe, who had embraced Christianity many years earlier and enjoyed a considerable reputation among his compatriots and among the Christians of Syria. From the very outset he allied himself with the Prophet’s enemies, the Meccan Quraysh, and took part on their side in the battle of Uhud. Shortly thereafter he migrated to Syria and did all that he could to induce the Emperor of Byzantium, Heraclius, to invade Medina and crush the Muslim community once and for all. In Medina itself, Abu Amir had some secret followers among the members of his tribe, with whom he remained in constant correspondence. In the year  9 H, he informed them that Heraclius had agreed to send out an army against Medina, and that large-scale preparations were being made to this effect (which was apparently the reason for the Prophet's preventive expedition to Tabuk). In order that his followers should have a rallying place in the event of the expected invasion of Medina, Abu Amir suggested to his friends that they should build a mosque of their own in the village of Quba, in the immediate vicinity of Medina (which they did). And thus obviate the necessity of congregating in the mosque which the Prophet himself had built in the same village at the time of his arrival in Medina . It is this ‘rival’ mosque to which the verse refers:
Only a house of worship founded, from the very first day, upon God-consciousness is worthy of setting thy foot therein (a house of worship) wherein there are men desirous of growing in purity; for God loves all who purify themselves.” 9:108

This rival mosque was demolished at the Prophet’s orders immediately after his return from the Tabuk expedition. Abu Amir himself died in Syria shortly afterwards.” (more commentary from Tabari and Ibn Kathir on this verse)

So, here you have a situation where people are being asked to go out and fight, and some of them don’t want to do it- for good reasons and for not so good reasons. People are making excuses right and left on why they can’t go. There are mosques being built as meeting points in a conspiracy.  But, you might say, in the end, the Tabuk expedition was a wash.  The Romans never showed up, no one had to actually fight. So in a way, this seems like a moot point. Why are you getting so upset when we didn’t have to fight anyhow? Well, God  actually got irritated at Prophet Mohammad because the prophet excused  people from going on the expedition. God was using the battle, or just the concept of battle, to separate the hypocrites from the believers. By being too easy on them, the Prophet now had a much more difficult time distinguishing the hypocrites from the believers. 

I guess what this reminds me is that while we are all one community, our intentions, desires, and actions make us distinct, separate. While this separation can be painful because most of us do not like to fight,  the separation leaves you the truth. You know where you stand, and they know where they stand. And on the Day of Judgment, that’s where we all will be; standing with the history of our choices.

My closing Du’a is from 2:286. Our Lord! Do not punish us if we forget or make a mistake. Our Lord! Do not load on us a severe test as You did burden on those before us. Our Lord! Do not impose upon us that which we have not the strength to bear; and pardon us and forgive us and have mercy on us, You are our Defender, so help us against the ungrateful people.

Rabbana la tu’akhizna in-nasina aw akh-ta’na. Rabbana wa la tahmil ‘alayna isran kama hamaltahu ‘ala-llatheena min qablina. Rabbana wa la tuhammilna ma la taqata lana bih, wa- ‘fu ‘anna wa ‘ghfirlana warhamna anta Maulana fansurna ‘alal-ghawmil kafirin. Ameen.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Language of Quran

The second verse of the longest surah in the Quran, Surat Al-Baqara, states the following:
Dhalikal-Kitabu la rayba fih.  Hudal-ilmuttaqin.
This Divine writ – let there be no doubt about it - is a guidance for all the God conscious.  (2:2) 

As Muslims, we accept this as a literal truth.  And yet, the Quran presents us with a paradox.  It claims itself to be a book for all those who are conscious of God.  And yet, it came in the language of one specific people, with a very specific culture.  As Muslims in the 21st century we cannot escape this paradox:  the Quran is our holy book, and yet it was not revealed to us.  The more I study the words of Quran – in English and in Arabic - the more I realize how specifically it addressed one Prophet and his community as they grappled with the circumstances engendered by its revelation.

The language in Quran is uniquely tailored to the 7th century Arabs.  Poetry was the creative form of expression they used and admired above all.  The poet or sha’ir filled the role of historian, soothsayer and propagandist - poets were the “rock stars” of that era.  The sha’ir represented an individual tribe's prestige and importance in the Arabian Peninsula, and mock battles in poetry or zajal would sometimes stand in lieu of real wars.  ‘Ukaz, a market town not far from Mecca, would play host to a regular poetry festival where the craft of the sha’irs would be exhibited.

The Quran not only capitalized on that cultural norm, it took poetic expression to a whole new level, with the introduction of hundreds of words previously unknown in the Arabic language, with an elegance of phrasing that could communicate complex ideas in astonishingly few words, and turns of phrase that could communicate ideas on multiple levels simultaneously.   Quran even challenges the Arab poets to produce anything comparable. 

Surat 2, Al-Baqara:
And if you doubt any part of what We have bestowed from on high, step by step, upon Our servant Muhammad, then produce a surah of similar merit, and call upon any other than God to bear witness for you – if what you say is true. [2:23]
And if you cannot do it – and most certainly you cannot do it – then be conscious of the fire whose fuel is human beings and stones which awaits those who deny the truth! [2:24]

The words of Quran also reflect the culture and sensibilities of 7th century Arabs.  Tribes frequently fought each other; life was harsh and dangerous.  Intra-tribal and inter-tribal relationships were governed by a complex code of social conduct in which there was the ever-present menace of death, especially untimely death.  Religious ideas were little developed before the Quranic revelations.

One of the early collections of pre-Islamic poetry related to war is contained in the Hamasa, an anthology compiled by Ilabib ibn Aus at-Ta'i, surnamed Abu Tammam.  The collection includes poems descriptive of constancy and valor in battle, patient endurance of calamity, steadfastness in seeking vengeance, and manliness under reproach and temptation.  This poetry was full of vivid portrayals of violence; graphic descriptions of fighting and killing.  An illustrative example from this collection is a verse by the poet Qais bin al-Hatim al-Ausi:

Out of vengeance I wounded Abdalqais with a spear and made a wound so great that it would have been filled with light had not blood poured from it on all sides.  I kneaded in it (the wound) with the palms of my hands and widened the opening, so that there could be seen what lay behind it.[1]

This is the kind of language that is referenced in some of the verses of the Quran.  It seems to be tailored to resonate with the tribal Arabs at an emotional level.  It seems to have been crafted to make sense to them.   But Quran uses this language to illustrate concepts about faith that the Prophet was instructed to share with his community.  I am going to take verses out of context here, which I do not normally advocate.  Every verse has its own story, and it will be useful to explore those stories elsewhere, but now I am citing them just to make the point about the language used in them.

There are 83 references to fighting in God’s cause in Quran, (as indexed in M. Asad’s The Message of the Quran).   Some of the main themes are “fighting is ordained for you” (2:216-218), “fight in God’s cause” (2:243-245, 4:71-76 and 84-85, 8:5-10), “rewards for those fighting in God’s cause” (4:95-104), “those slain in God’s cause are protected in heaven (47:4-10), “those who fought are above those who did not” (57:10), and references to the hypocrites who refused to fight in the Battle of Uhud  (3:152-155).  Here are some of the examples:

Surah 2, Al-Baqara:
Fighting is ordained for you, even though it be hateful to you; but it may well be that you hate a thing the while it is good for you, and it may well be that you love a thing the while it is bad for you:  and God knows, whereas you do not know. [2:216]

Surah 4, An-Nisa:
Hence, let them fight in God’s cause – all who are willing to barter the life of this world for the life to come:  for unto him who fights in God’s cause, whether he be slain or be victorious, We shall in time grant a mighty reward. 4:[74]

Those who have attained to faith fight in the cause of God, whereas those who are bent on denying the truth fight in the cause of the powers of evil.  Fight, then, against those friends of Satan:  verily, Satan’s guile is weak indeed! [4:76]

Fight thou, then, in God’s cause – since thou art but responsible for thine own self – and inspire the believers to overcome all fear of death.  God may well curb the might of those who are bent on denying the truth:  for God is stronger in might, and stronger in ability to deter. [4:84]

The language of God as punisher was the language needed to communicate the idea of consequences to 7th century tribal Arabs.  The language of burning flesh and scalding water were apt metaphors to describe to them the agony of dying in a state of disbelief.  Quran promises that those who fight in God’s cause will attain paradise, and those who defy God will go to hellfire, from which there will be no escape.  

There are 160 references to punishment in Quran, such as:
Surah 2, Al-Baqara
…If they who are bent on evildoing could but see – as they will when they are made to suffer – that all might belongs to God alone, and that God is severe in punishment. (2:165)

Surah 12, Yusuf
…never can Our punishment be averted from people who are lost in sin. (12:110)

Surah 13, Ar-rad
Nay, goodly seems their false imagery to those who are bent on denying the truth, and so they are turned away from the [right] path: and he whom God lets go astray can never find any guide. (13:33)
For such, there is suffering in the life of this world; but truly [their] suffering in the life to come will be harder still, and they will have none to shield them from God. (13:34)

And the descriptions of God’s punishment in Quran are at times quite graphic.  There are 122 references to hell in Quran, described as an “evil,”  or “vile resting place,” for those who fail to grasp the Truth. 

Surah 4, An-Nisaa:
And nothing could be as burning [as the fire of] hell:  (4:55)  For verily, those who are bent on denying the truth of Our messages We shall, in time, cause to endure fire:  [and] every time their skins are burnt off, We shall replace them with new skins, so that they may taste suffering [in full].  Verily, God is almighty, wise. (4:56)

Surah 9, At-Taubah:
on the Day when that [hoarded wealth] shall be heated in the fire of hell and their foreheads and their sides and their backs branded therewith, [those sinners shall be told:]  “These are the treasures which you have laid up for yourselves!  Taste, then, [the evil of] your hoarded treasures! (9:35)

Surah 11, Hud:
[as for those who refuse to avail themselves of divine guidance,] that word of thy Sustainer shall be fulfilled:  “Most certainly will I fill hell with invisible beings as well as with humans, all together!”  (11:119)

Surah 14, Ibrahim:
And [thus it is:] every arrogant enemy of the truth shall be undone [in the life to come], (15)  With hell awaiting him, and he shall be made to drink of the water of most bitter distress (16)  Gulping it [unceasingly,] little by little, and yet hardly able to swallow it.  And death will beset him from every quarter – but he shall not die:  for [yet more] severe suffering lies ahead of him.  (14:17)

Surah 17, Al-Isra:
…for those whom He lets go astray thou canst never find anyone to protect them from Him:  and [so, when] We shall gather them together on the Day of Resurrection, [they will lie] prone upon their faces, blind and dumb and deaf, with hell as their goal; [and] every time [the fire] abates, We shall increase it for them [its] blazing flame.  (17:97)

We cannot escape the fact that, in English translation as in the original Arabic, the Quran is filled with language that glorifies fighting, and provides graphic descriptions of eternal suffering for those who deny God, and vivid descriptions of the paradise waiting for those who fight in God’s cause.  I accept that these are the words revealed to the Prophet.  And yet, I have to understand them in context. 
It would not have worked for God to send a message to 7th century Arabs in a way that speaks to me now.  If God had communicated something along the lines of – “There are spiritual laws of cause and effect just like there are physical laws of action and reaction, and you came into physical being subject to those laws, but you have the power to separate yourself from this life-giving Creative Spirit – the
Source of all things - and if you cut yourself off from belief in One Creator and life beyond the physical realm, you will have one heck of a time when you ultimately pass from life in this world” – or something to that effect – it would have gone right over their heads.   

Quran did not come to us in our own native languages and does not refer to events in our own time and culture.  God put us in the position of being, of necessity, interpreters of Quran.  I thank God for the gift of a brain, a brain designed to be put to use to understand how revelation applies to me today.  And as I study, the miracle of Quran becomes all the more apparent to me…. the miracle that an opening to the Creative Force beyond our earthly existence was manifested through human language at a certain point in time, in linguistic and cultural perfection, to change the course of human civilization.

[1] From The Hamasa of Abu Tamman, Felix Klein-Franke, 1972, p. 158.