Sura 7 is named "The Heights" in one version and in another "the faculty of discernment". I presume we'll find out why as I read. (Note I really didn't find a reason.) Maybe it's a bad policy but I keep looking at the number of verses (ayat) in each Sura and this is yet another long winded one weighing in at 206 meandering thought units.
vv1-9 salvation, or something like it
We start with the premise that the book of the Koran/Quran is revealed to "you". I'm presuming that "you" means the people to whom Mohamed was speaking/writing. The point of the book is to teach believers and warn those who don't believe. It's a perfectly reasonable use for a religious book. Too bad Mohamed never thought systematically or for that matter in a linear fashion. But I digress. It's no use complaining about the distinctions between an eastern and western mindset in terms of directness and linear thought.
"How many towns have we destroyed for their sins?" moans Mohamed as he once again prepares to threaten his followers against the possibility that they somehow don't submit to his teaching.
In the end those who have done enough good will be saved, those who have only a little good will not.
Of course there is an awful lot of vagueness in that we mortals have no way of measuring our good, nor do we know by what scale we will be measured. Thus for the Muslim – there is no assurance of salvation. It's a crap shoot – and you only get to roll the dice once. Islam is a man made religion (though demon inspired) as such the best that man can conceive is the need to be good enough to be "saved".
v10-34 the fall
The fall narrative (it is just about as much a narrative as any I've yet read) begins with the brief creation of Adam and I presume Eve though that isn't entirely clear. God commands all the angels to worship Adam (sounds like a misunderstanding of Hebrews 1:6 /Psalm 97:7 which are aimed at Christ not Adam.) Iblis/ the Devil refuses because he is made of fire while Adam is made of clay. Subsequently the devil is kicked out of heaven. Then Iblis tempts Adam and Eve to sin saying
Sura 7:20 Your Lord has not forbidden you this tree except that you may not both become two angels or that you may (not) become of the immortals.
Interestingly enough Allah claims that he has made the demons as guardians of the unbelievers (surah 7:27). I find that to be somewhat odd considering that one verse later we discover that Allah does not enjoin indecency. It sounds like Allah is talking from both sides of his imaginary mouth.
Finally at the end of the section we discover that Allah claims to have fixed an immovable day for each person they will die when he says so.
v35- 58 Fire and brimstone
Ayat 35 begins with another one of those distinctions between believers (they believe the Quran) and unbelievers (they of course don't believe the Quran). Lump me in with group two please. The threat upon the unbelievers is "…the fire, therein to abide." The true measure of wickedness is not believing the message.
Once again we come to the decisive mark of a Muslim. Muslims, true Muslims believe every word of the Quran. Fake Muslims don't. This is why the insurgents in Iraq as well as radical Muslims in general are the way they are. The Quran is a book focused upon the earthly destruction of every non-Muslim; for the fundamentalists – only non-Muslims doubt this. Neither moderate Muslims nor anyone else can speak their thoughts to the contrary or they'll be killed. (reference some of my recent news posts on the matter).
Hell fire is the topic of this section. It's the destiny, claims Muhammad, for non-Muslims. I'm not sure if Muhammad was enjoying himself or not but he describes in moderate depth how as each person is thrown into hell he will curse everyone who went in before him and they in turn will curse him. I really get the feeling – though I can't prove it just yet, that Mohamed really liked the idea of hell. Yes I know a lot of "Christians" do to. That's because they don't know what they're talking about.
Think about it. If it was godlike to love hell, why would God have sent his son Jesus to take our place? No, the real God did everything possible to keep people out of hell. Allah or maybe just Mohamed just plain likes the concept of hell for his enemies. He even includes a passage promising a taunt from those in heaven to those in Hell.
Sura 7:44 And the dwellers of the garden will call out to the inmates of the fire: Surely we have found what our Lord promised us to be true; have you too found what your Lord promised to be true?
The remainder of the section is a longer dialog between those in hell and those in paradise. But there really isn't any new information.
v59-171 Other testimonies
vv59-64 is the testimony that Allah sent Noah and people didn't listen. He destroyed them in a flood of course.
vv65-72 a similar testimony concerning Hud and the people of Ad. I had to cheat again and read a footnote. The footnote says Hud was the first Arabian prophet, identified with the Biblical Eber (Gen. 10:21, 24f; 11:14ff; Num. 24:24; 1 Chr. 1:18f, 25; 5:13; 8:12, 22; Neh. 12:20). Allah promptly destroyed the people of Ad in a sandstorm (surah 66)
vv73-79 is another testimony of Salih to the tribe of Thamud. The footnote answers the "huh?" with news that Thamud was a Nabataean tribe descended from Ad. The testimony here again is the same, Allah sent Salih and nobody listened. This time an earthquake did them in.
vv80- 84 Ever one to dredge the Old testament to his diabolical purpose, Mohammed now calls on Lot as a great example of someone who gave the message to the people of Gomorrah and was ignored to their destruction. At least from this I get the first knowledge that Islam does despise homosexuality (v81).
vv85-93 Shuayb was sent to the people of Madyan – same story, he spoke, they ignored him and were destroyed in another earthquake. (redactionists probably would have fun with the similar earthquakes mentioned if they weren't afraid of losing their heads.)
vv94-102 is a summary of the concepts above. Allah has always sent a messenger. He has always tried to humble people but they wouldn't listen.
vv103- 171 Moses is the next in line to stand as testimony. The snake staff incident of Exodus 7:8-12 is extended with a rounding up of the sorcerers in Egypt. Only this time when Moses' staff (the Bible says it was Aaron's – go read it) ate the snakes of the sorcerers, the sorcerers became Muslims!
The plagues are usually mentioned briefly and even the crossing of the red sea is mentioned down around verse 138, the incident of the golden calf, the gathering of the ten commandments. Mohamed includes his typical embellishments from time to time but if you step back and squint you get the idea that he at least had something of a grip of the exodus somewhat accurately.
v172-206 Wrapping it all up
Mohammed tries to sum up, which is quite unusual. I haven't yet see him summarize anything in an orderly fashion. Not that I would call this orderly but compared to the preceding this is an orderly chapter! v177 probably summarizes the concept of this section best.
Sura 7:177 Evil is the likeness of the people who reject Our communications and are unjust to their own souls.
To put it plainly evil is defined by rejecting the Quran.
As far as the end times, almost every chapter thus far has talked about judgment day but this is the first time I've seen the question of "when" addressed. Mohamed didn't know, only Allah does and it will drop on your head suddenly.
vv189- address issues of idolatry. It is very reminiscent of Jeremiah. "Your idols are rocks and they can't talk" kind of stuff.
For the first time I sensed that Mohamed had a plan in this sura. He at least managed to stay mostly on target. This is the chapter which develops the fall of Satan, original sin, Allah's repeated sending of prophets and subsequent rejection. Of course there is lots of hellfire and brimstone. I've never like a hellfire Christian sermon myself – though some do like them. More power to them.
In short I didn't witness any tirades against Christians or Jews in particular though subtle hints throughout did raise my eyebrows concerning the issue.
One thing is for certain. Islam cannot see itself compatible with any other religion. And the defining characteristic isn't mere good works but full acceptance of the Quran. Anything less is not true Islam.