Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Qur’an Surah 55: The Lord of Mercy

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.

This surah is structured like a poem, which describes the wonders of nature and of the afterlife, with the repeating line, “Which, then, of your Lord’s blessings do you both deny?”  My footnote tells me that “both” refers to humans and jinn (which are spirits, the origin of the word “genie”).

The first half focuses on elements of the natural world, which God is said to have created: the sun and moon, plants and trees, bodies of water, and finally humanity.  Then the surah describes, quite evocatively, both hell and heaven.  Hell is a place of “flames and scalding water.”  Heaven (which exists on two levels) is described as a lush desert oasis—a garden with shady date palms and flowing streams.  It’s interesting that paradise is described as something familiar to desert-dwelling Arabs.

It would be interesting to compare and contrast different cultures’ ideas of paradise, to see how the geography of their actual landscapes affects their visions of the hereafter.

In the Qur'an, heaven is often seen as a desert oasis.

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