Friday, March 13, 2015

The Qur’an Surah 21: The Prophets

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. 

“The Prophets” emphasizes a central narrative that is repeated throughout the Qur’an, which is as follows.  God created the world and mankind, but mankind continually turned away from God by worshipping idols.  So God sent prophets to tell the people to turn away from idols and worship the one true God.  These prophets included Noah, Abraham, Moses, Job, Jonah, John the Baptist, Jesus, and ultimately Muhammad, the last prophet.  The function of these prophets was to warn the people that, if they continued in their idolatry, God would destroy them.  In every instance, some people followed the prophet (to their salvation), and others rejected the prophet (to their destruction).

A main message of Muhammad, in the Qur’an, is to warn people of the coming Day of Judgment, when God will separate the righteous believers from the unrighteous unbelievers.  This may sound harsh (and it is), but it was the same message of the Hebrew prophets in the Old Testament, who continually scolded the Israelites for idolatry. When Israel was invaded and conquered by Babylon, prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah blamed it on Israelites’ idolatry.   This was also the same message of John the Baptist in the New Testament, who told people to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near!” (Matthew 3: 2).  It was also the message of Jesus, who continually spoke of the coming “Kingdom of God” and the final separation of the righteous and the wicked.  Jesus also scolded religious leaders of his day for “shedding the blood of the prophets.”

This tradition of the righteous prophet is found in both the Bible and the Qur’an.  The picture of God that emerges from this tradition is a bit troublesome.  This is the jealous God of wrath, who destroys people who don’t believe in him, either in this life or in the afterlife.  This is a scary God, who uses fear to instill obedience.  In my personal view, fear is not the healthiest motivator.  Love is better.

Muhammad leads Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and other Prophets in Prayer (from a Persian Miniature)

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