Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Qur’an Surah 11: Hud

The following is from a work-in-progress called The Qur'an: a Book Report, in which I read each surah of the Qur'an and write about what I learn.  I will also include some original Arabic text, because it is very beautiful.

The eleventh surah of the Qur’an is named after Hud, a prophet who lived in pre-Islamic Arabia.  Like the seventh surah (The Heights), this one tells stories of a series of prophets who came before Muhammad, some biblical, some Arabic: Noah, Hud, Salih, Abraham, and Shu’ayb.

Each of these prophet stories follows a similar pattern.  God speaks to the prophet, commanding him to tell his people to change their ways (mostly to put away idolatry and worship God).  These prophetic messages are met with various responses of belief and unbelief.  Ultimately, in the case of each prophet, God judges/punishes those who refuse to believe/change their ways, thus vindicating the prophet and his message.

This surah begins and ends with words of encouragement to Muhammad, to hold fast to his prophetic messages.  Even though some people don’t believe the prophet (calling him a “sorcerer” or a “liar”), Muhammad is told that he is part of a long series of prophets of God, all of whom experienced some rejection.

It seems that rejection is part of what it means to be a prophet.  This theme is also presented in the biblical books of prophecy.  Guys like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, and others delivered dire messages.  Some people believed, some didn’t, but ultimately the prophets (and God) were vindicated.

Reading this surah raised many questions in my mind:  Who are the prophets of today?  What does it mean to be a prophet in an age of reason and science?  Did prophecy end with Muhammad, or have there been other prophets?  What is the source of prophecy?  The idealist would say God, or at least divine inspiration.  The cynic would say mental illness, hallucination, or a desire for power/control.  The very idea of a prophet seems an ancient and out-dated one—part of a pre-scientific worldview.  And yet, billions of people (Jews, Christians, and Muslims) still believe in the words of ancient prophets.  Why?

An exquisite Qur'an once owned by Sultan Abdal Hamid II

No comments:

Post a Comment