Blogging the Quran: Sura 1


So now we're off with Sura 1 in which there are only six verses.
I didn't know what "Sura" meant so Wikipedia to the rescue:

Sura (sometimes spelt “Surah” سورة sūrah, plural “Suwar” سور) is an Arabic term literally meaning “something enclosed or surrounded by a fence or wall.” The term is commonly used to mean a “chapter” of the Qur’an, each of which is traditionally ordered roughly in reverse order to its length.

The Sura are traditionally ordered in roughly reverse chronological order, with Madinan suras coming first and Makkan ones last for the most part. Each Surah is divided into ayat, or verses." I take that to mean that Muhammad got his visions/messages first in Mecca and then in Medina later on.

translations

I should note that Muslims consider the actual Arabic to be inspired and so a translation is unacceptable as a final authority. Therefore any translation is viewed as little more than a foreign language commentary on the "real" Quran (I think I've settled on a spelling now. Is Quran the one preferred by Muslims?). which explains the differences. I however am not about to learn Arabic for this exercise. My hat is already full with a pathetic smattering of Greek, and virtually nonexistent Hebrew add a few other "Phrasebook" type collections of other languages and I'm not certain I have room for Arabic. Though I'd eventually like to learn English too so I could become proficient in it's proper use.
verse one: Already the differences in my translations become evident. But not to worry I have Muhammad Asad's footnotes!

I've discovered already that Muslims call the first Sura "the oft repeated verses" because they not only condense the entire Quran (does that mean I can quit here?) but they also repeat them in the daily prayers. (Five times a day). Even though this is the first chapter it seems the scholars are disagreed as to whether or not this was the first stuff that Muhammad wrote.
So Muslims believe that Allah is the Lord of the worlds ( not planets but all areas of life, so say the footnotes.) Suddenly I'm aware of a question I should have already asked. Should I rely on footnotes to help me interpret? What if I just read it like an ignoramus ala David Plotz? I think I'm going to lean on that more because my goal is not to become an Islamic scholar who holds Mr. Asad's views but to take the text in its raw -albeit English- meaning.
I'm going to limit my usage of footnotes then. That will help the reading move along a bit quicker too. Please note that I will capitalize Allah as it is appropriate in English to capitalize names. I will also use the word "Allah" and not "God" to refer to the Islamic deity because I do not believe that the God of Israel is the same as Allah the deity of Islam.

Eternal Insecurity

Sura 1 is a proclamation of the character of Allah and a prayer that he keep them from falling off the good path and onto the path of those upon whom wrath is brought down.
Apparently (cref 1:7) Muslims view salvation (do they believe in salvation?) as tenuous rather than certain because God's wrath will fall on those who go astray. So they share that much with Armenian theologians. Whereas I'll just go on record here as a "once saved always saved" kind of Christian guy. Lots of false Christians out there who look and smell like it but aren't. The proof in the pudding is the fact that they leave the church proving they were never really in it in the first place. (1 John 2:19). But I digress.
So Muslims don't have eternal security. Lots of Christians [think they] don't either.

I am a little curious about the second ayat/verse which calls Allah merciful and beneficent. I'd be interested to hear from Muslims and others who know if they really see Allah like that. Personally I don't see much beneficence in blowing up the world trade center and murdering thousands of innocent civilians. Damnable heresy against sura 1.2 in my opinion.

Summary

 

The rest of it is pretty average deity speak. Allah is the master of the day of judgment and Muslims serve him. However, It's clear that the Quran teaches that non-Muslims are the ones upon whom favor is not bestowed and upon whom wrath is brought down.