Category Archives: islam

Qur’an 23: The Faithful

The twenty-third chapter of the Qur’an, The Faithful, re-iterates the attacks on the Catholic episcopacy in “Mary” and deepens themes found in “The Pilgrimage” (which still seems like it should be ordered as the last chapter). “The Faithful” is explicitly addressed to a population, that believes in God, that worships ‘gods,’ that believes there is some-kind of promise of salvation, but that it is unavailable to them. The Qur’an urges followers to repent directly to God, and go on a journey toward faith.

Noah speaks, and a new creation waits to be born. # Readings

A Reading, from the First Book of Enoch:

And it came to pass when the children of men had multiplied that in those days were born unto them beautiful and comely daughters. And the angels, the children of the heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one another: ‘Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men and beget us children.’ And Semjaza, who was their leader, said unto them: ‘I fear ye will not indeed agree to do this deed, and I alone shall have to pay the penalty of a great sin.’ And they all answered him and said: ‘Let us all swear an oath, and all bind ourselves by mutual imprecations not to abandon this plan but to do this thing.’ Then swore they all together and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it. And they were in all two hundred; who descended in the days of Jared on the summit of Mount Hermon, and they called it Mount Hermon, because they had sworn and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it. And these are the names of their leaders: Samlazaz, their leader, Araklba, Rameel, Kokablel, Tamlel, Ramlel, Danel, Ezeqeel, Baraqijal, Asael, Armaros, Batarel, Ananel, Zaq1el, Samsapeel, Satarel, Turel, Jomjael, Sariel. These are their chiefs of tens.
1 Enoch 6:1-8

A Psalm, from the Psalms

Then they despised the pleasant land;
They did not believe His word,
But complained in their tents,
And did not heed the voice of the LORD.
Therefore He raised His hand in an oath against them,
To overthrow them in the wilderness,
To overthrow their descendants among the nations,
And to scatter them in the lands.

They joined themselves also to Baal of Peor,
And ate sacrifices made to the dead.
Thus they provoked Him to anger with their deeds,
And the plague broke out among them.
Then Phinehas stood up and intervened,
And the plague was stopped.
And that was accounted to him for righteousness
To all generations forevermore.
Psalms 106:24-31

A Reading, from the Book of Jude:

For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ…

These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage. But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit.
Jude 4,12-15

Alleluia, Alleluia

Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.
Hebrews 7:27

Alleluia, Alleluia

A Reading, from the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew

And it came to pass on the third day of their journey, while they were walking, that the blessed Mary was fatigued by the excessive heat of the sun in the desert; and seeing a palm tree, she said to Joseph: Let me rest a little under the shade of this tree. Joseph therefore made haste, and led her to the palm, and made her come down from her beast.

And as the blessed Mary was sitting there, she looked up to the foliage of the palm, and saw it full of fruit, and said to Joseph: I wish it were possible to get some of the fruit of this palm. And Joseph said to her: I wonder that you say this, when you see how high the palm tree is; and that you think of eating of its fruit. I am thinking more of the want of water, because the skins are now empty, and we have none wherewith to refresh ourselves and our cattle.

Then the child Jesus, with a joyful countenance, reposing in the bosom of His mother, said to the palm: O tree, bend your branches, and refresh my mother with your fruit.

And immediately at these words the palm bent its top down to the very feet of the blessed Mary; and they gathered from it fruit, with which they were all refreshed. And after they had gathered all its fruit, it remained bent down, waiting the order to rise from Him who had commanded it to stoop.

Then Jesus said to it: Raise yourself, O palm tree, and be strong, and be the companion of my trees, which are in the paradise of my Father; and open from your roots a vein of water which has been hid in the earth, and let the waters flow, so that we may be satisfied from you.

And it rose up immediately, and at its root there began to come forth a spring of water exceedingly clear and cool and sparkling. And when they saw the spring of water, they rejoiced with great joy, and were satisfied, themselves and all their cattle and their beasts. Wherefore they gave thanks to God.
Pseudo-Matthew 20

Communion Antiphon

For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus
1 Timothy 2:5

A Qur’anic Homily

The Audience of the Qur’an

The Qur’an was written to a population that believed in God, was familiar with the Bible, were tempted by other ‘gods,’ and thought that death was the end.

They believed in God

Say, To whom does the earth and whoever it contains belong, if you know? They will say, ‘To God!’ Say, ‘Will you not then take admonition?

Say, ‘Who is the Lord of the Seven Heavens and the Lord of the Great Throne? They will say, ‘To God!’ Say, ‘Will you not then be wary of him? ‘

Say, ‘In whose hand is the dominion of all things, and who gives shelter and no shelter can be provided form Him, if you know?’ They will say, ‘To God!” Say, ‘Then how are you being deluded?’
Qur’an 23:84-89

Were familiar with the Bible:

Certainly We created man from an extract of clay.

Then we made him a drop of fluid in a secure abode.

Then We created the drop of fluid as a clinging mass.

Then We created the clinging mass as a fleshy tissue.

Then We created the fleshy tissue as bones.

Then We Clothed the bones with flesh.

Then We produced him as another creature.

So blessed is God, the best of creators!

Then, of course, you die after that.

Then you will indeed be raised up on the Day of Resurrection.
Qur’an 23:12-16

Were tempted by other gods:

We have indeed brought them the Truth and they are surely liars. God has not taken any offspring, neither is there any god besides Him, for then each god would take away what he created, and some of them would surely rise up against others. Clear is God of what they allege! The Knower of the sensible and the Unseen, He is above having any partners that they ascribe.
Qur’an 23:90-92

And believed death was the end:

Indeed, they say, just like what the former peoples said. They said, ‘What, when we are dead and become dust and bones, shall we be resurrected? Certainly we and our fathers were promised this before. These are nothing but myths of the ancients.
Qur’an 23:81-83

The reason, I believe, was the Qur’an was written to a Catholic population in the thrall of a forged document that borders on the heretical: the so-called Constitution of the Holy Apostles. This forged Constitution reflected the belief that the Bishops mediated the relationship between God and man, and the Old Testament Priests pointed, not towards Christ, but beyond him to the Bishops.

The bishop, is the minister of the word, the keeper of knowledge, the mediator between God and you in the several parts of the worship. He is the teacher of piety; and, next after God, he is your father, who has begotten you again to the adoption of sons by water and the Spirit. He is your ruler and governor; he is your king and potentate. he is, next after God, your earthly God, who has a right to be honored by you. For concerning him, amid such as he, it is that God pronounces: “I have said, Ye are gods, and ye are all children of the Most High.”
Constitution of the Twelve apostles II.IV.XXIV

The Bishops, the successors of the Twelve Apostles, are directly addressed by the Qur’anic author. Their actions are known by God, no matter what these “gods” do:

O Apostles! Eat of the good things and act righteously. I indeed know well what you do. This community of yours is indeed one community and I am your Lord, so be wary of Me.

But they fragmented their religion among themselves, each party boasting about what it had.
Qur’an 23:51-53

The Penitential Act

Like “Mary,” “the Faithful” contrasts the corruption of Bishops with the purity of Mary and her Son:

Certainly We gave Moses the Book so that they might be guided, and We made the Son of Mary and His mother a sign and sheltered them in a level highland with flowing water.
Qur’an 23:49-50

But while “Mary” is a sustained attack on the episcopacy, “The Faithful” has sustained sympathy for the community of believers. Those who follow the various Catholic creeds containing “We believe,” are welcomed in, and all who ask for the forgiveness of sins:

Indeed, there was a part of My servants who would say, ‘Our Lord! We have believed. SO forgive us and have mercy on us, and You are the best of merciful..’ But you took them by ridicule until they made you forget My remembrance and you used to lough at them. Indeed, I have rewarded them today for their patience. They are indeed the triumphant.
Qur’an 23:109-111

This is important because of the practice, ordered by Bishops at the time, of giving the Sacrament of Reconciliation only once or twice per lifetime. Those who mortally sinned after a the second reconciliation would be in grave danger of dying in mortal sin, and of losing an eternal reward. The Qur’anic author rejects this, and teachers instead to pray directly to God for forgiveness.

Say, ‘My Lord, forgive and have mercy, and You are the best of the merciful.’
Qur’an 23:118

The Journey of the Faithful

The Qur’anic author describes the faithful as on a journey, away from a corrupt world and towards God. In the preceding chapter, “The Pimgrimage,” the shocking destination of that journey (to a wholly new system of sacraments) is revealed. But that chapter may have originally been intended to be the Qur’an’s final chapter. In any case, the journey here is presented in more familiar terms:

Noah, fleeing a world, about to the drowned in water:

So We revealed to him: ‘Build the ark before Our eyes and by Our revelation. When Our edict comes and the oven gushes, bringing into it a pair of every kind, and your family, except those of them against whom the decree has gone beforehand, and do not plead with Me for those who are wrongdoers: they shall indeed be drowned.
Qur’an 23:27

(The infernal characterization of the flood comes from Jewish exegesis, which the Qur’anic author has incorporated before)

R. Johanan said: The corruption of the generation of the Flood is characterized as great, and their punishment is characterized as great. Their corruption is characterized as great, as it is written, And God saw that the wickedness of man, was great in the earth;2 and their punishment is characterized as great, as it is written, All the fountains of the great deep. R. Johanan said: Three of those [hot fountains] were left, the gulf of Gaddor, the hot-springs of Tiberias, and the great well of Biram.
Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 108b

The believer suffers in an unbelieving community, as have countless others before.

When We seize their affluent ones with punishment, behold, they make entreaties. ‘Do not make entreaties today! You will not receive any help from Us. Certainly My signs used to be recited to you, but you used to take to your heels, being disdainful of it, talking nonsense in your nightly sessions.
Qur’an 23:64-67

But remain steadfast, urges the Qur’anic author. When The Truth walked among men he did not serve the religious authorities by obeying them, but by obeying the true religious authority: God:

Had the Truth followed their desires, the heavens and the earth would have surely fallen apart with those who are in them. We have indeed brought them their reminder, but they are disregardful of their reminder.
Qur’an 23:71

And even the Apostle Paul wrote words that to all who reject the Donatist view of Bishops-as-Gods are important: bishops cannot be mediators because there is One Mediator, Jesus himself, the Word (or in the Qur’anic view, a Word in the Book)

Is it that they do not recognize their apostle, so they deny him? Do they say, ‘There is madness in him’? No, he has brought them the truth, and most of them are averse to the truth.
Qur’an 23:68-70

The “rebellion” of those bishops who have taken to calling themselves gods is like the rebellion of those false teachers. The fallen angels, the false teachers, the blaspheming bishops are malignant cancer.

Should We have mercy upon them and remove their distress, they would surely persist, bewildered in their rebellion.
Qur’an 23:75

But it is God, and not they, who will prevail.

When the Trumpet is blown, there will be no ties between them on that day, nor will they ask each other.
Qur’an 23:101

Conclusion

God, the Qur’anic author believes, urges men to repentance, and makes it available to them without an intermediary. There are in creation all sorts of creatures who would aggrandize themselves, and present themselves as “gods.” Indeed, one famous forgery even labeled bishop as such. But God does not tire of creation. God gives us all individually time to repent, and will wash creation of those who continue in their evil.

God is not tired of creation. For a while, he will let it continue to flourish.

Then after them We brought forth another generation.
Qur’an 23:31

Until the Trumpet blows. Then everything changes.

Qur’an 22: The Pilgrimage

The twenty-second chapter of the Qur’an, the pilgrimage, marks the journey away from the Christian tradition to a new monotheism of the Arabs. The Magnificat, the Eucharist, and the Sacraments are presented in unrecognizable forms. Prophets are accused to speaking the words of Satan, and this seems to be the explanation for the Prophetess Huldah telling King Josiah he would die in peace, just before he died in war. But, the Qur’anic author comforts, God will still provide ways to know Him, and He will judge all the races and faiths of man.

Readings

Entrance Antiphon

And the archers shot King Josiah; and the king said to his servants, "Take me away, for I am severely wounded.
2 Chronicles 35:23

A Reading, from the Second Book of Kings

Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jedidah the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath. And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in all the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.

So Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Achbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe. (She dwelt in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter.) And they spoke with her. Then she said to them,

"Thus says the LORD God of Israel,

‘Tell the man who sent you to Me,

"Thus says the LORD:

‘Behold, I will bring calamity on this place and on its inhabitants—all the words of the book which the king of Judah has read— because they have forsaken Me and burned incense to other gods, that they might provoke Me to anger with all the works of their hands. Therefore My wrath shall be aroused against this place and shall not be quenched.’ ” ’

But as for the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the LORD, in this manner you shall speak to him,

‘Thus says the LORD God of Israel:

"Concerning the words which you have heard— because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they would become a desolation and a curse, and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you,” says the Lord. "Surely, therefore, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace; and your eyes shall not see all the calamity which I will bring on this place."

So they brought back word to the king.
2 Kings 22:1-2,14-20

A Psalm, from the Psalms

All the ends of the world
Shall remember and turn to the LORD.
And all the families of the nations
Shall worship before You.
For the kingdom is the LORD’s,
And He rules over the nations.

All the prosperous of the earth
Shall eat and worship;
All those who go down to the dust
Shall bow before Him,
Even he who cannot keep himself alive.
Psalms 22:27-29

A Reading, from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans

One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike.

Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.

He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it.

He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks.

For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
Romans 14:5-10

Alleluia, Alleluia

His servants therefore took him out of that chariot and put him in the second chariot that he had, and they brought him to Jerusalem. So he died, and was buried in one of the tombs of his fathers. And all Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah.
2 Chronicles 35:24

Alleluia, Alleluia

A Reading, from the Holy Gospel According to Luke

And Mary said:

"My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

He has helped His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his seed forever.
Luke 1:46-47,54-55

Communion Antiphon

Jeremiah also lamented for Josiah. And to this day all the singing men and the singing women speak of Josiah in their lamentations. They made it a custom in Israel; and indeed they are written in the Laments.
2 Chronicles 35:25

A Qur’anic Homily

This is not the Magnificat, the magnification of the Lord, you expected

It is not [camels’] flesh or blood that reaches god; rather, it is your piety that reaches Him. Thus has He disposed them for your benefit so that you may magnify God for His guiding you. And give good news to the virtuous.
Qur’an 22:37

This is not the sacrament and Eucharist (thanks-giving) that you know

We have appointed for you the camels as part of God’s sacraments.There is good for you in them. So mention the Name of God over them as they stand, and when they have fallen on their flanks, eat from them and feed the self-contained needy and the mendicant. Thus have We disposed them for your benefit so that you may give thanks.
Qur’an 22:36

There is a reason for this. All immortal things are moved by the Spirit, all things that last are sustained by Him.

The Prophetess and the King

The Lectionary ("Qur’an"), the Gospels, the Psalms, and the Torah are all elaborations of the Book, according to the Qur’anic author. Yet these elaborations, given to human prophets, are necessarily corrupted because of the influence that Satan has on all non-Resurrected flesh:

We did not send any apostle or prophet before you but that when he recited Satan interjected in his recitation. Thereat God nullifies whatever Satan has interjected, and then God confirms His Signs, and God is All-knowing, All-wise. That He may make what Satan has thrown in a test for those in whose hearts is sickness and those whose hearts have hardened. The wrongdoers are indeed steeped in extreme defiance.
Qur’an 22:52-53

This is an explanation for the mysterious case of the Prophetess Huldah and King Josiah, as seen in the readings. The Prophetess, when approached by the High Priest, said the King would die "in peace." Instead, the King was slain by an arrow. What happened here?

One explanation is that the Prophetess did not mean "in peace" like humans mean it – perhaps he died in the peace of God but in the war of man.

Or perhaps the Prophetess had a condition she attached to the prophecy.

Or perhaps the Prophetess was given a contingent picture of the future, which depended on other actions that did not come about.

Or perhaps — and this appears to be the Qur’anic author’s interpretation — her words were corrupted by Satan. By this reading the end of the sentence — "– and your eyes shall not see all the calamity which I will bring on this place." is in fact a correction from God, which as intended to replace the problematic part of Huldah’s prophecy, "you shall be gathered to your grave in peace."

This obscure event is a pressing issue for the Qur’anic author. The Qur’an is written after the sunset of the Arian sacrements, and in the shadow of a local church that taught that Bishops were Gods. Whether or not the introduction of these strange new sacraments was intended by the Qur’anic author — or if this chapter is written a lifetime after the rest of the Qur’an — it defends the emergence of new sacraments and new traditions to bring God to a people without holy orders, without Eucharist, and without confession.

The Theology of the Muslim Qur’an

The Qur’anic Author sees God not just as real thing, but even more so as the Real. Thomas Aquinas would agree strongly with the Qur’anic author on this point:

So will it be, because God is the Reality, and what they invoke besides Him is nullity, and because God is the All-exalted, the All-great.
Qur’an 22:62

Beneath God is the Logos, the Book, the passive reason for all things

Do you not know that God knows whatever there is in the heaven and the hearth? Al that is indeed in a Book. That is indeed easy for God.
Qur’an 22:70

Beneath the Book are all things, the Heaven and the Earth. Death is a transition between them, but cannot serve as an escape route from God. Someone who dies in this world angry at God finds himself, in the next, angry at God:

Whoever thinks that God will not help him in this world and the Hereafter, let him stretch a rope to the ceiling and hang himself, and see if his artifice would remove his range.
Qur’an 22:15

Beneath the humans on earth are the the divisions created by God, the elaborations of the Book found in many faiths…

God will indeed judge between the faithful, the Jews, the Sabaeans, the Christians, the Magians, and the polytheists on the Day of Resurrection. God is indeed witness to all things.
Qur’an 22:17

… and in many nations

For every nation We have appointed a rite so that they might mention God’s Name over the livestock He has provided to them.
Qur’an 22:34

God’s Realness is made manifest through the Book, on the earth, in the nations, by the religions, — according to the Qur’anic author — in the Sacraments, which vary according to rite and custom:

That, and whoever venerates the sacraments of God — indeed that arises from the Godwariness of the hearts.
Qur’an 22:32

These sacraments and liturgies are different from the Christian tradition — and perhaps objectionable to many of the community that agreed with earlier portions of the Qur’an. Yet to the Qur’anic author, it is better to state Reality in a different liturgy than (as he accuses the Catholics of doing) proclaim a Nullity with an old liturgy:

For every nation We have appointed rites which they observe; so let them not dispute with you about your religion. And invoke to your Lord. You are indeed on a straight guidance.
Qur’an 22:67

All of God’s promises will hold true, the adoption of these new rites and sacraments (according to the Qur’anic author) does not threaten the promises of God to His people:

They ask you to hasten the punishment, though God will never break His promise. Indeed,a day with your Lord is like a thousand years by your reckoning.
Qur’an 22:47

The Catholic victory over the Arians, the end of Arian apostolic succession, is a crisis for the Qur’anic author. Either his beliefs, or his access to the sacraments, need to be lost forever. The Qur’anic author is gambling his pilgrimage from the sacraments of the church — now abandoned forever — will be rewarded by God for his faithfulness to his creed. The Arian faithful have been expelled from their home. But a hope of a Monotheism-of-an-Undifferentiated-God remains:

— those who were expelled from their home unjustly only because they said, "God is our Lord." Had not God repulsed the people from one another, ruin would have befallen the monasteries, churches, synagogues, and houses of prayer in which God’s Name is much invoked. God will surely help those who help Him. God is indeed all-strong, all-mighty.
Qur’an 22:40

A creed of Arius, now embittered over the years

As persons having pure faith in God, not ascribing partners to Him. Whoever ascribes partners to God is as though he had fallen from a height, then were devoured by cultures, or blown away by the wind, far and wide.
Qur’an 22:31

And now with new rites and sacraments for those who submit to it — for the Muslims:

O you who have faith! Bow down and prostrate yourselves and worship your Lord, and do good, so that you may be felicitous. And wage struggle (jihad) for the sake of God, a strugle which is worthy of Him. he has chosen you and has not placed for you any obstacle in the religion, the faith of your father, Abraham. He named you ‘those who submit’ (muslims) before, and in this, so that the Apostle may be a witness to you, and that you may be witnesses to mankind. So maintain the prayer, give alms (zakat), and hold fast to God. He is your Master — an excellent Master, and an excellent helper.
Qur’an 22:78

Conclusion

The Prophetess Hudah told King Josiah he would be gathered to his grave in peace. He died in war. To the Qur’anic author this is not an abandonment of God, but a sign of Satan’s activity even in the hearts of religious leaders. A similar apostasy came, in the view of the Qur’anic author, was the apostasy of the Christianity community from what he saw as the teaching of the Apostles, of the earliest Fathers, and of Arius.

What remains is a choice: retain the forms of a faith, while accepting a new creed, or accepting new forms, while retaining the oldest Creed. The Qur’anic author urges a new way to follow the Apostles:

So do not supposed that God will break His promise to His apostles. Indeed, God is all-mighty, avenger. The way when the earth is turned into another earth and the heavens, and they are presented before God, the One, the All-paramount — on that day you will see the guilty bound together in chains, their garments made of pitch, and the Fire covering their faces, so that God may regard every soul for what is has earned. God is indeed swift at reckoning.
Qur’an 14:47-51

Follow our father-in-faith, Abraham:

Indeed, Abraham was a nation, obedient to God, a hanif, and he was not a polytheist. Grateful for his blessings, he chose him and guided him to a straight path. We gave him good in this world, and in the Hereafter he will indeed be among the righteous. Therefore, We reveled to you,

"Follow the creed of Abraham, a hanif, who was not a polytheist."
Qur’an 16:120-123

Qur’an 21: The Prophets

The twenty-first chapter of the Qur’an opens with the last of the Old Testament prophets, John the Baptist.
Time moves backwards as we meet his father Zechariah, other prophets, and and Tubal-Cain, and finally the moments before Creation. The Holy Spirit gives and we receive. The Holy Spirit overshadows the waters, overshadows Mary, and uses the prophets as mouthpieces. Through the Holy Spirit all things have immortality: the delights of the world will be for the just, but the wicked will see hell burn all the hotter for the creation they perverted.

Readings

Entrance Antiphon

The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
Genesis 1:2

A Reading, from the Book of Genesis:

Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden. And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. And he built a city, and called the name of the city after the name of his son — Enoch. To Enoch was born Irad; and Irad begot Mehujael, and Mehujael begot Methushael, and Methushael begot Lamech.

Then Lamech took for himself two wives: the name of one was Adah, and the name of the second was Zillah. And Adah bore Jabal. He was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal. He was the father of all those who play the harp and flute. And as for Zillah, she also bore Tubal-Cain, an instructor of every craftsman in bronze and iron. And the sister of Tubal-Cain was Naamah.

Then Lamech said to his wives:

“Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;
Wives of Lamech, listen to my speech!
For I have killed a man for wounding me,
Even a young man for hurting me.
If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold,
Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”
Genesis 4:16-24

A Psalm, from the Psalms:

For evildoers shall be cut off;
But those who wait on the LORD,
They shall inherit the earth.

For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more;
Indeed, you will look carefully for his place,
But it shall be no more.

But the meek shall inherit the earth, And shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.
Psalms 37:9-11

A reading, from the Second Letter of St Peter:

Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying,

“Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”

For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and

the earth
standing out of water
and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished,
being flooded with water.

But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
2 Peter 3:3-7

Alleluia, Alleluia

Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him.
Ezekiel 38:2

Alleluia, Alleluia

A Reading, from the Holy Gospel According to St. Matthew

For Herod had laid hold of John and bound him, and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. Because John had said to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” And although he wanted to put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet.

But when Herod’s birthday was celebrated, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod. Therefore he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask.

So she, having been prompted by her mother, said, “Give me John the Baptist’s head here on a platter.”

And the king was sorry; nevertheless, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he commanded it to be given to her. So he sent and had John beheaded in prison. And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. Then his disciples came and took away the body and buried it, and went and told Jesus.
Matthew 14:3-12

Communion Antiphon

And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”
Luke 1:35

A Qur’anic Homily

The Specific: John the Baptist and Herod Antipas

These are the last days. They have been the last days since the interrogation of John the Baptist, in front of the idiot Herod Antipas, whose heart was so set on magic tricks and his eyes on a belly dance that his ears missed the Word of the Spirit.

Mankind’s reckoning has drawn near to them, yet they are disregardful in obliviousness. There does not come to them any new reminder from their Lord but the listen to it as they play around, their hearts set on diversions. The wrongdoers secretly whisper together, “Is this not just a human being like yourselves? Will you give in to magic with open eyes?”

He said, “My Lord knows every word in the heaven and on the earth ,and He is the All-hearing, the All-knowing.”

But they said,

“Muddled dreams!”
“He has indeed fabricated it!”
“He is indeed a poet!”
“Let him bring us a sign like those sent to the former generations.”
Qur’an 21:1-5

The way this all began — the way the world was created — certainly was for men like John the Baptist. But not for Herod Antipas, not for the squandering of creation but rather the glorification of God through it. The serpent may bight now, but Christ and His Mother will crush its head.

We did not create the heaven and the earth and whatever is between them for play. Had We desired to take up some diversions We would have taken it up with Ourselves, were We to do. Indeed, We hurl the Truth against falsehood, and it crushes its head, and behold, falsehood vanishes! And woe to you for what you allege.
Qur’an 21:16-18

But let’s think more of Herod Antipas. Yes, he wanted to see magic tricks. Yes, he enjoyed a lap dance. Yes, he was foolish in promises. But — he wanted to hear. And later, he wondered if Jesus could be John, raised from the dead. Herod remembered what people said of the prophets. Even a man as lost as he could still see — dimly — the consequences of the Lord God, of life returned:

Have they taken gods from the earth who raise the dead? Had there been any gods in them other than God, they would surely have fallen apart. Clear is God, the Lord of the Throne, of what they allege.
Qur’an 21:21-22

The Pattern: Zachariah and Tubal-Cain

But the stories of John the Baptist and Herod Antipas are not just of one man executed by another. Consider another pair, separated by thousands of years: the father of John the Baptist and (one might say) the father of Herod Antipas. John’s father was Zachariah, a priest, and a righteous man.

And Zechariah, when he cried out to his Lord, “My Lord! Do not leave me without an heir and You are the best of inheritors.’ So We answered his prayer and gave him John and cured for him his wife. They were indeed active in good works, and they would supplicate Us with eagerness and awe and were humble before Us.
Qur’an 21:89-90

But God’s credit does not end at the gift of a child. He also gave things that are missed. The Qur’anic author gives God credit for the invention of armor, which in the Biblical tradition is associated with Tubal-Cain. Tubal’s name is given to the land of Tubal, governed by Prince Gog of Magog. And as a man, Tubal-Cain was intermediary between the murderer Cain and the murderer Lamech:

We taught him the making of coats of mail for you, to protect you from your violence. Will you then be grateful?
Qur’an 21:80

There’s a pattern here, a pattern of what is good and how man uses it. How man receives the gifts of the Spirit. For the things that protect man cannot save him apart from God:

Do they have gods besides Us to defend them? Neither can they help themselves, nor can they shield from Us. We have indeed provided for them and their fathers until they lived on for long hears. Do they not see how We visited the land diminishing it at its edges? Are they the ones who will prevail?
Qur’an 21:43-44

And no deed done, for God, is without reward

Whoever is faithful and does righteous deeds, his endeavor shall not go unappreciated, and We will indeed record it for him.
Qur’an 21:94

Cain’s lineage is an early split in humanity: there’s an Enoch descended from Cain, and another Enoch who judged angles. Tubal-Cain is removed in bot ancestry and age from Zechariah. But as Jesus wished that we and He could be One as He and the Father are One, to the Qur’anic author reminds us of our common Lord and our common call. Catholics today may[] dare to hope that all may be saved](http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2019/12/31/impressions-of-dare-we-hope-that-all-men-be-saved-with-a-short-discourse-on-hell-by-hans-urs-von-balthasar.html) — the Qur’anic author seemed to, as well.

This community of yours is indeed one community and I am your Lord. So worship Me. They have fragmented their religion among themselves; everyone of them will return to Us.
Qur’an 21:92

The Elemental: The Spirit and the Deep

So see the pattern.

John the Baptist and Herod the Great. The prophet, and he who misused creation. For one, his life on earth was but the earliest part of his glory. For the other, the deeds of the earth are the makings of his torment.

And continue to Zechariah, and Tubal-Cain. Both famous fathers, one of John the Baptist, the other of armor. From God we have the greatness of what they crafted, his family and his ironworks. Zechariah, being faithful to God, sees the lasting legacy be something he intended. Tubal-Cain sees the kind parts of his invention remembered, while the cruelties have no life of their own.

This pattern extends beyond the material world. John baptized with water, the symbol of chaos, the thing over which the Spirit of God hovered at Creation:

Have the faithless not regarded the heavens and the earth were interwoven and We unraveled them, and We made every living thing out of water? Will they not then have faith?
Qur’an 21:30

The Spirit of God, who also overshadowed Mary:

And her who guarded her chastity, so We breathed into her of Our Spirit, and made her and her Son a sign for all the nations.
Qur’an 21:91

This combination of Spirit and the Deep — the life from beyond this world and the matter within this world — will either be the very thing that makes Hell so hot, or the very delights of paradise.

The Deep received the Spirit and, through Him, Creation.

Mary received the Spirit and, through Him, Jesus.

But human deeds and will, twisted, burn in the presence of the Spirit, for only Spirit upholds their existence, and the Spirit’s love to the wicked is as unquenchable fire.

Indeed, you and what you worship besides God will be fuel for hell, and you will enter it. Had they been gods, they would not have entered it, and they will all remain in it. Their lot therein will be groaning, and they will not hear anything in it.
Qur’an 21:98-100

So turn away from sin! Turn toward the Holy Spirit! The whole earth is given to you, as Christ’s life was given for you!

Certainly we wrote in the Psalms, after the Torah: “My righteous servants shall indeed inherit the earth.”
Qur’an 21:105

Even the end of the world, Gog and Magog, are part of the plan. With the Spirit all things will come to completion. Life and death, the Virgin Mary and Christ Jesus, the Natural World and the Supernatural Sacraments, all things are moved by the Spirit toward His ends!

It is forbidden for any town that We have destroyed: they shall not return until when Gog and Magog are let loose and they race down from every slope
Qur’an 21:95-96

Conclusion

The twenty-first chapter of the Qur’an, “The Prophets,” concerns the spokesmen for the Holy Spirit. The Qur’an author teaches that the Holy Spirit is at work in all things. The Qur’an’s author had earlier described the “We Believe,” the Nicene Creed, as emblematic of the rival non-Arian theology that he criticized. But in “The Prophets,” the Qur’anic author meets the Council, perhaps, halfway:

And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life… who has spoken through the prophets.

Qur’an 20: Ta Ha

The twentieth chapter of the Qur’an, “Ta Ha,” describes the birth, corruption, and potential transfiguration of holy orders. Aaron was established priest to help Moses. He helped Moses preach to Pharaoh, and in the Qur’anic narrative deserves credit for the conversion of Pharaoh’s magicians. But he built the golden calf, led the people astray, and mimicked instead of imitated Moses. Yet God was merciful, Aaron was re-united with Moses, and he was able to truly follow Moses after this correction.

Readings

Entrance Antiphon

If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.
Genesis 4:7

A Reading, from the Book of Exodus

Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”

And Aaron said to them, “Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf.

Then they said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!”

So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord.” Then they rose early on the next day, offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.
Exodus 32:1-6

A Psalm, from the Psalms:

He made a path for His anger;
He did not spare their soul from death,
But gave their life over to the plague,

And destroyed all the firstborn in Egypt,
The first of their strength in the tents of Ham.

But He made His own people go forth like sheep,
And guided them in the wilderness like a flock;

And He led them on safely, so that they did not fear;
But the sea overwhelmed their enemies.
And He brought them to His holy border,
This mountain which His right hand had acquired.
Psalms 78:50-54

A Reading, from the Letter to the Hebrews:

Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law. For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar.

For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life. For He testifies:

“You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.”

For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.
Hebrews 7:11-19

Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ, King of Endless Glory!

“This is he who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, the one who received the living oracles to give to us.
Acts 7:38

Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ, King of Endless Glory!

A Reading, from the Holy Gospel according to John:

“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another.
John 15:11-17

Communion Antiphon

And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the ordinance of the Passover: No foreigner shall eat it.
Exodus 12:43

A Qur’anic Homily

The Lost and the Found

We read of those great events in the wilderness, the Epiphany in the desert. That day of Moses, foreshadowing the Day of the Lord:

So when he came to it, he was called, “Oh Moses!

I am indeed your Lord! So take off your sandals. You are indeed in the sacred valley of Tuwa.

I have chosen you, so listen to what is revealed.

I am indeed God — there is no god except Me. So worship me, and maintain the prayer for My remembrance. Indeed, the Hour is bound to have.

I will have it hidden, so that every soul may be rewarded for its endeavor. So do not let yourself be distracted from it by those who do not believe in it and who follow their desires, or you will perish.
Qur’an 20:11-16

Let’s look at what that promised Hour is. It’s the restoration of things, when the way they should have been, are made again. Consider the transfiguration of Moses’s staff:

Moses, what is that in your right hand?’

He said, ‘It is my staff. I lean on it and with it I beat down leaves for my sheep, and I have other uses for it.

He said, ‘Moses, throw it down.’

So he threw it down, and lo! It was a snake, moving swiftly.

He said, ‘Take hold of it and do not fear. We will restore it to its former state.
Qur’an 20:17-21

Now let’s briefly look at another thing, lost but to be found. One man, Moses himself. Lost to his mother, and found again after his sister Mary became his helper.

When your sister walked up, saying “Shall I show you someone who will take care of him?” Then We restored you to your mother, so that she might not be grieve and comforted. Then you slew a soul, whereupon We delivered you from anguish, and We tried you with various ordeals. Then you stayed for several years among the people of Midian. Then you turned up as ordained, O Moses!
Qur’an 20:40

Man, lost during the fall, but regained through the Redemption:

Certainly We had enjoined Adam earlier, but he forgot, and We did not find any resoluteness in him…

Then his Lord chose him and turned to him clemently, and guided him.
Qur’an 20:115,122

Between the apparent triviality of Moses’s staff, the clear importance of a man’s own life and our existential (to us, at least) importance as humans, comes another class of creation: the priest. Like the staff it was created at first for Moses (according to the Qur’anic author), to assist him in his work:

Appoint for me a minister from my family, Aaron, my brother. Strengthen my back through him and make him my associate in my task, so that we may glorify You greatly, and remember You much. You indeed are watching us.

He said, “Moses, your request has been granted!”
Qur’an 20:29-36

Moses, and that kind of other-Moses the priest, are here to provide instruction, correction, and encouragement. Even Pharaoh should be spoken to softly.

Go ahead, you and your brother, with My signs, and do not flag in My remembrance. Both of you go to Pharaoh, for he has indeed rebelled. Speak to him in a soft manner; maybe he will take admonition or fear.

They said, “Our Lord! We are indeed afraid that he will forestall us or will exceed all bounds.”

He said, “Do not be afraid, for I will be with the two of you, hearing and seeing.
Qur’an 20:42-46

God will never abandoned us, never abandon anyone. As Christ said during Maundy Thursday, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you”:

And I chose you for Myself.
Qur’an 20:41

The Magicians

Even those who, from our perspective, were always lost may be found. Consider the Pharaoh’s magicians, who were never Hebrews, and never loyal to the God of Moses:

They said, “These two are indeed magicians who indeed to expel you from your land with their magic and to abolish your excellent tradition.
Qur’an 20:63

God is the ultimate sovereign, and God can save even them. Even persecutors from whom you have never experienced kindness may be saved by the Lord:

Thereat the magicians fell down prostrating. They said, “We have believed in the Lord of Aaron and Moses!”

[Pharaoh] said, “Did you believe him before I should permit you? He is indeed your chief who has taught you magic! Surely, I will cut off your hands and feet from opposite sides, and I will crucify you on the trunks of palm trees, and you will know which of us can inflict a severer and more lasting punishment.”

They said, “We will never prefer you to the clear proofs which have come to us and to Him who originated us. Decide whatever you want to decide. You can only decide about the life of this world. We have indeed believed in our Lord that He may forgive us our offenses and the magic you compelled us to perform. God is better and more lasting.”
Qur’an 20:70-73

Of course, the opposite fate may befall them. Others, who were never gracious, will be destroyed:

We revealed to Moses, “Set out with my servants at night and strike out for them a dry path through the sea. Do not be afraid of being overtaken, and have no fear.

Then Pharaoh pursued them with his troops, whereat they were engulfed by what engulfed them of the sea. Pharaoh led his people astray and did not guide them.
Qur’an 20:77-79

The difference is clear: there is always the option to turn towards the Lord. In all places and in all times the Lord has the right to forgive who he wishes, and the contrite heart is always his desire:

I indeed forgive those who repent, become faithful, act righteously, and thereafter follow guidance.
Qur’an 20:83

Now, let’s turn from these two situations: the once virtuous who were lost, and the simply lost, to another: when the lost are your religious leaders.

When the Priests Turn From God

When Moses went up the mountain he left his brother Aaron as a shepherd over the flock of Israel, as a watchman over the people.

It did not go well.

He said, “We indeed tried your people in your absence, and the Watchman has lead them astray.
Qur’an 20:85

The Qur’anic author sees Aaron’s specific mistake as something between idolatry and iconography. Aaron creates a Golden Calf, and appears to equate it with his own God, Moses’s God, the God of salvation. This is in keeping with the old religion’s view of God as bull-like:

Then he produced for them a calf — a body with a low — and they said. This is your God and the god of Moses, so he forgot! Did they not see that it did not answer them, nor could it bring them any benefit or harm?
Qur’an 20:89

Aaron had turned away from God, insisting the people follow his (instead of the Lord’s) command — until Moses comes again, said the people:

Aaron had certainly told them earlier, “O my people! You are only being tested by it. Indeed, your Lord is the All-beneficent. So follow me and obey my command!’ They had said, ‘We will keep on attending to it until Moses returns to us.”

He said, “O Aaron! What kept you, when you saw them going astray, from following me? Did you disobey my command?”
Qur’an 20:90-93

The parallel to the Catholic Church is clear. Aaron’s conception of intermediaries made it easy for him to become a law to himself. Pope Benedict XVI wrote of a similar phenomenon, the secularization of the bishops, and their move to be powers of their own. This processed criticized as early as the Qur’an was not corrected until the middle 20th century:

While the medieval text prescribed a so-called indicative sacramental formula and saw the ordination as resulting from the indicative of the conferral of power, ordination is accomplished according to the 1947 text in a supplicatory form, in the manner of a petition, of a prayer. Thus it is apparent even in the external form that the true conferrer of powers is the Holy Spirit, to whom the sacramental prayer is addressed, not the human consecrator.

The medieval rite is formed on the pattern of investiture in a secular office. Its key word is potestas. The rite that Pius XII decrees represents a return to the form used in the early Church. It is pneumatologically oriented in terms of both gesture (since the imposition of hands signifies the conferral of the Holy Spirit) and word: the Preface is a petition for the Holy Spirit. Accordingly, the key word is now ministerium or munus: service and gift; hence the words of priestly ordination speak also of the duty of good example and moral discipline.
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology, p. 241

The Priest mimicked Moses out of love. But the Qur’anic author distinguishes this mimicry from true imitation. Consider the dust came from Moses’s walk on his way. The Priest also throws up dust in mimicry, but by his hands and not his feet:

He said, “I saw what they did not see. I took a handful from the messenger’s trail and threw it. That is how my soul prompted me.”
Qur’an 20:96

From this Aaron is restored. Neither the Torah, nor the Psalms, nor the Gospels, nor the Qur’an itself (according to the Qur’anic author) are there to cause misery, but are hope and help from God.

We did not send down the Lectionary to you that you should be miserable, but only as an admonition to him who fears. A sending down from Him who created the earth and the lofty heavens — the All-beneficent, settled on the Throne.
Qur’an 20:2-4

Aaron was transfigured from a sinner he becomes a sacred priest and a preacher of righteousness.

He said, “Begone! It shall be yours throughout life to say, “Do not touch me!” There is indeed a tryst for you which you will not fail to keep! Now look at your god to whom you kept on attending. We will burn it down and then scanner it into the sea.

“Your God indeed is God; there is no God except Him. He embraces all things in knowledge.”
Qur’an 20:97-98

And thus, the Qur’anic author at last finally turns to his audience: religious and priests of the Catholic Church.

The Audience

The Qur’anic community was Arian Christians who were cut off from the Sacraments. But the novel theology of his denial of the Church and attack on corrupt bishops— combined with his reassuring love of Mary, devotion to the Passion and admiration of Peter — made him attractive for Catholic priests and religious too. The Qur’anic author seems to be speaking to Catholic priests and monks, whose alienation has a different source than the Qur’anic authors (presumably wavering Catholics upset by perceived unfair and unjust treatment, as opposed to Arian die-hards. But to this new audience the Qur’an (“Lectionary”) is presented as addressed to a particular people, and in a way that requires close reading to understand. The response to reading a part of it should not be to actually change one’s practices, but to give the rest a fair hearing as well:

Thus We have sent it down as an Arabic Lectionary and We have paraphrased the warnings in it variously, so that they may be Godwary, or it may prompt them to remembrance. So, exalted is God, the True Sovereign. Do not hasted with the Lectionary before its revelation is completed for you, and say, “My Lord! Increase me in knowledge.”
Qur’an 20:113-114

The bishops, those antagonists of the Qur’anic author, are much more powerful than either the author or his audience. But in the most prophetic part of the Lectionary, he looks upon the bishops in their cathedrals and remembers others who have been torn down:

Does it now dawn on them how many generations We have destroyed before them, and in whose dwellings they walk? There are indeed signs in this for those who have a good sense. Were it not for a prior decree of your Lord and a stated time… would have been immediate!
Qur’an 20:128-129

The solution is to be patient, as Moses was patient with Pharaoh. In the end the Pharaoh’s armies were smashed, and the same thing would happen to those armies loyal to the bishops. But just as Aaron was able to enlist the magicians to his side, the early Christian sympathizers to the Qur’anic author may gain allies as well.

Say, “Everyone is waiting.” So wait! Soon you will know who are the people of the right path, and who is guided.
Qur’an 20:135

So for now, be patient, and pray the Liturgy of the Hours. The Sacraments may not be physically available, but God still turns his ears to prayer.

So be patient with what they say, and celebrate the praise of your Lord before the rising of the sun and before the sunset, and glorify Him in watches of the night and at the day’s ends, so that you may be pleased.
Qur’an 20:130

But what of the ‘family’ of these — other priests and religious who are still in the Church? And what of the beloved dead, whose names would be forgotten if monasteries close? Will they be forgotten?

They are not forgotten, because God remembers them:

[Pharaoh] said, “Who is your Lord, Moses?”

He said, “Our Lord is He who gave everything its creation and then guided it.”

He said, “What about the former generations?”

He said, “Their knowledge is with my Lord, in a Book. My Lord neither makes any error nor forgets.”
Qur’an 20:49-52

And the beloved living should be encouraged in prayer. Pray. And trust in God. For God will decide what happens next.

And bid your family to prayer and be steadfast in maintaining it. We do not ask any provision of you: it is We who provide for you, and the ultimate outcome belongs to Godwariness.
Qur’an 20:132

Conclusion

The twentieth chapter of the Qur’an, “Ta Ha,” follows directly from the nineteenth, “Mary.” “Mary” contrasted the grace and simplicity of Mary with the behavior of the apostles and their successors, and asks the question: why rely on sacraments from the successors to the apostles when one can imitate the devotions of our holy mother? “Ta Ha” takes a similar aim but to a specific argument: Catholic religious. In “Ta Ha” the unique features of the Qur’an are minimized, the bishops are sympathetically if critically compared to Aaron, and the true nature of the imitation of Christ is explored.

In a dialogue intended to be between an angel and Moses, but applicable to all the faithful, the Qur’anic author writes:

Certainly We have down you a favor another time, when We revealed to your mother whatever was to be revealed: “Put him in the casket and cast into the river. Then the river will cast it on the bank, and he shall be picked up by an enemy of Mine, and an enemy of his.” And I made you endearing, and that you might be reared under My eyes.
Qur’an 20:37-39

Indeed. It is by entering a casket in a river — dying to ourselves — that we may be re-united with our holy mother. To this pious exhortation the Qur’anic author of course adds his heretical views — in his post-ecclesial community, a priest to die to himself means abandoning the bishops, abandoning the sacraments, and accepting a role as a preacher and a helper to the One whose return he awaits.

Qur’an 19: Mary

The nineteenth chapter of the Qur’an, “Mary,” contrasts Mary with the Bishops. The unparalleled access to Christ provided by Mary is contrasted to the Bishops, the successors of the Twelve Apostles. The Qur’anic author urges the God-wary to turn away from the successors to the Apostles, and look to Mary’s example of making Christ manifest.

Readings

Entrance Antiphon:

“Sing to the Lord,
For He has triumphed gloriously!
The horse and its rider
He has thrown into the sea!”
Exodus 15:21-22

A Reading, from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel

Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the front of the temple faced east; the water was flowing from under the right side of the temple, south of the altar…

When I returned, there, along the bank of the river, were very many trees on one side and the other. Then he said to me: “This water flows toward the eastern region, goes down into the valley, and enters the sea. When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed. And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes. It shall be that fishermen will stand by it from En Gedi to En Eglaim; they will be places for spreading their nets. Their fish will be of the same kinds as the fish of the Great Sea, exceedingly many.
Ezekiel 47:1,7-10

A Psalm, from the Psalms:

They do not know, nor do they understand;
They walk about in darkness;
All the foundations of the earth are unstable.

I said, “You are gods,
And all of you are children of the Most High.
But you shall die like men,
And fall like one of the princes.”

Arise, O God, judge the earth;
For You shall inherit all nations.
Psalms 82:5-8

A Reading, from the Acts of the Apostles:

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey. And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.
Acts 1:12-14

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And exalted the lowly.
Luke 1:52

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

A Reading, from The Holy Gospel According to Matthew:

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”

But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”

And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Luke 1:26-38

Communion Antiphon

And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.
Revelations 22:17

A Qur’anic Homily

Moses, Aaron, and Mary

Consider that holy family, the children of Amram. Wee see the way that Jews over the centuries honored Moses and Aaron. But perhaps Miriam — Hebrew for “Mary” — was the greatest sign for us:

For I brought you up from the land of Egypt,
I redeemed you from the house of bondage;
And I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.
Micah 6:2-4

Paul spoke of many gifts of the spirit, including prophecy and priesthood. But Mary is greater than any of these gifts. Follow Mary!

Jesus and Mary

God could have granted Jesus an earthly foster father named Moses or Aaron. God didn’t. Think if this was a sign to what is Real — to what it means to really know what is Real:

That is Jesus, son of Mary, a Word of the Real concerning whom they are in doubt.
Qur’an 19:34

Mary is the prototypical submitter-to-God. Mary sister-of-Moses sung of God’s glory when horse and rider were thrown into the sea. And Mary mother-of-Jesus said “Yes!” and did not demand any honor or praise, beyond what was given to her by God. The Qur’anic author elides even Mary’s response — “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” — to emphasize Mary’s lack of pretension or demands on God:

She said, ‘How shall I have a child seeing that no human being has ever touched me, nor have I been unchaste?”

He said, ‘So shall it be. Your Lord says, “It is simple for Me, and so that We may make him a sign for mankind and mercy from us, and it is a matter already decided.”
Qur’an 19:20-21

Mary points to Christ the real in a way beyond how Moses and Aaron could, because she is more perfect than them. The Qur’anic author makes this point by having townspeople (who are accusing Mary of fornication) call her “kinswoman of the Aaronites.” Her namesake Miriam was kinswoman of Aaron. But As Christ’s priesthood is more perfect than Aaron’s, treating Mary as second to Aaron is just absurd.

Then, carrying him, she brought him to her people. They said, ‘O Mary, you have certainly come up with an odd thing! O kinswoman of the Aaronites! Your father was not an evil man, nor was your mother unchaste.’
Qur’an 19:27-28

Here’s another way to think of Mary’s priesthood. Consider that which makes Christ’s presence real — the Sacrament. While the Eucharist is the source & summit of the Catholic faith, Christ’s presence was even more complete and more manifest when Mary gave birth. Likewise, the true presence requires words from a priest’s mouth:

Take this, all of you, and eat of it:
for this is my body which will be given up for you.
Take this, all of you, and drink from it:
for this is the chalice of my blood,
the blood of the new and eternal covenant.
which will be poured out for you and for many
for the forgiveness of sins.
Do this in memory of me.

But when Mary made Christ manifest, he spoke for himself. The Qur’anic author emphasizes the closeness of Mary to Christ, by noting that a purpose of the Incarnation was itself kindness to Mary:

Then she pointed to him.

They said, “How can we speak to One who is yet a baby in the cradle?

He Said, “I am indeed a servant of God.

He has
given me the Book and
made me a Prophet.

He has
made me Blessed,
wherever I may be,

and He has enjoined me to the

The Prayer, and
The Alms-Giving (as long as I live), and To be good to my Mother.

And He has not made me self-willed and wretched.

Peace to me the day
I was born,
the day I die, and the day I am raised alive.
Qur’an 19:29-33

The Apostles and Mary

Now consider two groups: the bishops — the successors to the Apostles — and Mary. Which is a surer hope. The ones with worldly power and riches?

When Our clear signs are recited to them, the faithless say to the faithful, ‘Which of the two groups is superior in station and better with respect to company?’ How many a generation We have destroyed before them who were superior in furnishings and appearance!
Qur’an 19:73-74

The Bishops — especially in the middle east, and for three centuries before the Qur’anic author — insisted they were to be treated as “earthly gods.” Is this how we would expect Mary to demand to be treated? Does it give us a clue who is the surer hope?

The bishop, he is the minister of the word, the keeper of knowledge, the mediator between God trod you in the several parts of your divine worship. He is the teacher of piety; and, next after God, he is your father, who has begotten you again to the adoption of sons by water and the Spirit. He is your ruler and governor; he is your king and potentate; he is, next after God, your earthly god, who has a right to be honored by you.

For concerning him, arid such as he, it is that God pronounces,

“I have said, Ye are gods; and ye are all children of the Most High.”

And,

“Ye shall not speak evil of the gods.”

For let the bishop preside over you as one honored with the authority of God, which he is to exercise over the clergy, and by which he is to govern all the people. But let the deacon minister to him, as Christ does to His Father; and let him serve him blamelessly in all things, as Christ does nothing of Himself, but does always those things that please His Father. Let also the deaconess be honored by you in the place of the Holy Ghost, and not do or say anything without the deacon; as neither does the Comforter say or do anything of Himself, but gives glory to Christ by waiting for His pleasure.
The Constitution of the Holy Apostles, c. 325, II.IV.XXVI

The Qur’anic author has a number of criticisms of the Catholic Church. He seems to have been a heretic — at the time of the writing, his “Arian” beliefs that Christ was created at the beginning of all ages (instead of begotten before all ages) was in its last breaths, and Arian sacraments mediated by the successors of the apostles were nearly impossible to obtain. But were the remaining successors — who called themselves gods — the appropriate thing for the community take?

They have taken gods besides God so that they may be a might to them. No Indeed! Soon they will disown their worship, and they will be their opponents. Have you not regarded that We unleash the devils upon the faithless to urge them vigorously?
Qur’an 19:81-83

But Mary’s goal was not might among men, but quietly allowing her body to do the work of God. Thus did God send the Holy Spirit to Mary, and thus was the perfect child, Jesus, born:

And mention in the book Mary, when she withdrew from her family to an easterly place. Thus did she seclude herself from them, whereupon We sent to her Our Spirit and he became incarnate for her as a perfect human. Qur’an 19:17

Mary is a perfect imitation to and a perfect sign to Jesus, suffering in her birth pains as Christ would suffer in her passion, but while Christ was guided directly by God, it is Christ who even in the womb announces the gospel to His mother (in words that echo the Prophet Ezekiel, who notes that springs will flow from the Temple, in keeping with the traditional view that sees Mary as the perfect Temple).

Thus she conceived him, then withdrew with him to a distance place. The birth pangs brought her to the trunk of a date palm. She said, “I wish I had died before this and become a forgotten thing, beyond recall.”

Thereupon he called her from below: “Do not grieve! Your Lord has made a spring to flow at your feet. Shake the trunk of a palm tree, freshly picked dates will drop upon you. Eat, drink, and be comforted. Then if you see any human, say, “I have indeed vowed a fast to the All-beneficent, so I will not speak to any human today.”
Qur’an 19:22-26

The Qur’an’s view of Mary is very close Taylor Marshall‘s, who emphasizes Mary’s special and greater relationship, not just with Christ but with the Holy Spirit as well:

While the Holy Apostles were generally ignorant of the Holy Ghost, the Immaculate Mary knew Him intimately. Mary had already experienced the descent of the Holy Ghost at her Immaculate Conception since at that moment she was not merely preserved from all sin, but also filled with grace and the Holy Spirit. She was perfectly possessed by the Holy Ghost from the first moment of her existence. This is why Saint Francis of Assisi and other great saints have called Mary “Spouse of the Holy Spirit.” The analogy of matrimony is the strongest and best way to signify a union of two persons in their mission.
The Spirit and the Bride,” by Taylor Marshall

It was obvious in the day of the Qur’anic author, and in our own day, that legitimate apostolic succession is not a guarantee of a shared communion. Today Catholic and Orthodox bishops recognize each others succession, but deny communion to each other. Even dire heresies — like the Arian divide, the Nestorian divide, and so on — had bishops on each side. Following the successors of the twelve men who made up the Apostles have not given us a united community.

[Jesus said,’ “God is indeed my Lord and your Lord. So worship Him. That is a straight path.

But the factions differed among themselves. So woe to the faithless at the scene of a tremendous day. How will they will hear and how well they will see on the day when they come to Us! But today the wrongdoers are in plain error.
Qur’an 19:37-38

Even worth, it has often not given us a gracious community. [Many bishops in the late classical world gave the Sacrament of Reconciliation only once or twice a lifetime. But does anyone believe that Christ would not forgive a repentant sinner the second time? Or that His mother would spurn such a contrite heart?

But they were succeeded by an evil posterity who neglected the prayer and followed appetites. So they will soon encounter perversity, barring those who

repent, believe, and act righteously.

Such will enter paradise and they will not be wronged in the least.
Qur’an 19:59-60

What good is the Sign of Peace from a bishop who will not cooperate with Christ to forgive sins? To be with Mary, to follow the signs to Jesus, means knowing a Sign of Peace that is without vanity, without pretension, but full of grace.

Therein they will not hear vain talk, but only “Peace!” Therein they will have their provision morning and evening. This is the paradise that We will give as inheritance to those of Our servants who are Godwary.
Qur’an 19:62-63

In Conclusion

Arian heretics considered themselves catholic, and professed the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. They believed that Christ was created at the beginning of all ages, while the rest of the church taught that Christ was begotten before all ages. The successful obliteration of he Arian heresy among Bishops made it impossible for remaining Arian communities to receive the sacraments from an Arian bishop. At the same time, many Catholic bishops in the near east considered themselves “gods” and refused granting the Sacrament of Confession more than once or twice per lifetime — views both well documented and now considered bizarre. The Qur’anic author, caring for an Arian community in this context, urged the faithful to abandon the idea of the “church” and apostolic succession. He urged those who feared God to turn from the bishops and instead seek Mary as a sure way to God.

Qur’an 18: The Cave

The eighteenth chapter of the Qur’an emphasizes God’s greatness, and His use of all of His creation to reach your soul. Not only the Torah, or the Psalms, or the Gospels, but popular stories (including this Lectionary!) proclaim his goodness. The Lord has given you the Rock, the Fish, the Life of the World — just stay focused on him, use these signs for what they are, and proclaim this good news to others.

Readings

Entrance Antiphon:

And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah, before Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan.
Genesis 23:19

A Reading, from the Book of Genesis:

And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

So the LORD God said to the serpent:

“Because you have done this,
You are cursed more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you shall go,
And you shall eat dust
All the days of your life.
Genesis 3:13-14

A Song, from the Psalms:

The mountains skipped like rams,
The little hills like lambs.
What ails you, O sea, that you fled?
O Jordan, that you turned back?
O mountains, that you skipped like rams?
O little hills, like lambs?

Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the LORD,
At the presence of the God of Jacob,
Who turned the rock into a pool of water,
The flint into a fountain of waters.
Psalms 114:4-8

A reading from the Letter of St. James

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the LORD wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.
James 4:13-16

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”
John 6:51

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

A Reading, from the Holy Gospel According to Luke

Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”

Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”‘ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’

“So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
Luke 12:13-21

Communion Antiphon

Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it.
John 11:38

A Qur’anic Homily

God controls time. This is vital for understanding the spiritual sense of scripture. The cave that Abraham acquired for Sarah is the one that Christ freed Lazarus from. The gulf of time means nothing to the Lord, nor do man’s plans for the future

Do not say about anything, ‘I will indeed do it tomorrow!’ without, ‘God willing.’ And when you forget, remember your Lord and say, ‘Maybe my Lord will guide me to more akin to rectitude than this’
Qur’an 18:23-24

Consider Christ’s parable of the foolish man, prompted by someone asking for more inheritance from his brother. The interlocutor demanded more land, more of a Garden of Eden, without even realizing the Living Water was right besides him, Water sent from God through the Wind:, the Word from the Lord through the Spirit:

Draw for them the parable of the Life of this World: like the Water We send down from the sky. Then the earth’s vegetation mingles with it. Then it becomes chaff, scattered by the Wind. And God has power over all things.
Qur’an 18:45

Draw for them the parable of two men for each of whom We had made two gardens of vines and We had surrounded them with date palms and placed crops between them. Both gardens yielded their produce without stinting anything of it. And We had a stream gush through them.
Qur’an 18:32-33

A wise ‘poor’ man realizes his blessings, and the ‘rich’ man harms himself most through his greed. The worship of Mammon besides God had left the foolish rich man condemned and helpless:

Why did you not say when you entered your garden, ‘As God has willed! There is no power except by God!’ If you see that I have lesser wealth than you and children, maybe my Lord will give me better than your gardens and He will unleash it upon bolts from the sky, so that it becomes a bare plain. Or its water will sink down, so that you will never be able to obtain it.’

And ruin closed in on his produce and as it lay fallen on its trellises he begin to wring his hands for what he had spent on it. He was saying ‘I wish I had not ascribed any partner to my Lord.’ He had no party to help him besides God, nor could he help himself. Qur’an 18:39-41

In the proper perspective — God’s perspective — the mountains themselves move. They are built up and torn down. Every false god — Money, Fame, Pride — will fall leaving only the soul, and God:

The day We shall set the mountains moving and you will see the earth in full view, We will muster them and We will not leave out anyone of them. They will be presented before your Lord in ranks: “Certainly you have come to Us just as We created you the first time. But you maintained that We will not appoint a tryst for you.’
Qur’an 18:47-48

This is not to say that Money, Fame, and Pride weren’t created by God. Surely, they were as much as Satan, Iblis, the Devil. But these things are not helpers, and the evil they cause is from the wrong orders. If Iblis had been at Eve’s feet from the beginning we would not experience the wrong ordering of our sinful world. As it is, that serpent will be at the feet of another pair of man and woman — Jesus and Mary — who will crush its head:

When We said to the angels, ‘Prostrate before Adam,’ they prostrated, but not Iblis. He was one of the jinn, so he transgressed against his Lord’s command. Will you take him and his offspring for masters in My stead, through they are your enemies? How evil a substitute for the wrongdoers!
Qur’an 18:50

Other Stories

The stories from the bible, in their spiritual meaning, are parables. Whether or not they physically happened, or whatever their full historical context, we are supposed to understand a deeper meaning through them

We have certainly interspersed this Lectionary with every kind of parable for the people. But man is the most disputation of creatures. Nothing has kept these people from believing and pleading to their Lord for forgiveness when guidance came to them, except that the precedence of the ancients come to pass for them, or that punishment come to them, face to face.
Qur’an 18:54-55

To this end, in the eighteenth chapter the Qur’anic author includes several popular stories, such as

In the same way, last Sunday my priest worked Home Alone into the homily. The spiritual sense of scripture can be made easier to understand using these works. Because all good things point to God. For instance, take the story of the search for the Fountain of Youth, with its Fish…

So when they reached the confluence between them, they forgot their fish, which found its way into the sea, sneaking away. SO when they had passed on, he said to his lad, ‘Bring us our meal. We have certainly encountered much fatigue on this journey.’

He said, ‘Did you see?! When we took shelter at the Rock, indeed I forgot about the fish — and none but Satan made me forget to mention it! — and it made its way into the sea in an amazing manner!

He said, ‘This is what we were after!’ So they returned, retracing their footsteps.’
Qur’an 18:61-64

The world was made God, and the world points to God.

The Rock provides shelter. The Fish provides a meal. And the things that point to them — the Shelter of the Rock — are good, and right. But the Shelter is not a Master. Indeed, Satan will trick you into forgetting about the object of your love — God – the Real – and distract you into false gods, into idols, things less real than the Real.

Or consider the Sleepers of Ephesus, a story of how God protected persecuted Christians by allowing them to sleep (with a pet dog!) in the safety of a Cave:

When the youths took refuge in the Cave, they said ‘Our Lord! Grant us mercy from Yourself and help us on the rectitude in our affair.’

So We put them to sleep in the Cave for several years…

You will suppose them to be awake, though they are asleep. We turn them to the right and to the left, and at the threshold their dog stretching its forelegs. If you come upon them, you will surely them to flee from them and will be filled with a terror of them…
Qur’an 18:10-11,18

The Cave can be a place of safety, protected by the Rock. Or it can be a grave. The difference is if you worship the Rock, or the Cave – if you worship God, or a creature.

Keep God first, kneel when you should kneel, be in the proper order

There, all authority belongs to God, the Real. He is best in rewarding and best in requiting.
Qur’an 18:44

Conclusion

God is patient. Be patient with God. And one day, you will see Him face to face, like a friend. Pray, do what you should in remembrance of Him, praise Him with other believes. Just love Him, and not the glittering that surrounds Him

Content yourself with the company of those who supplicate their Lord morning and evening, desiring His Face, and do not loose sight of them, desiring the glitter of the life of this world. And do not obey him whose heart We have made oblivious to Our remembrance and who follows his own desires, and whose conduct is profligacy.
Qur’an 18:28

Every good book, every good story, every good thing sings of the Lord. There is no end to the instruction that you have available to you. The Torah, the Psalms, the Gospels, popular stories, and this Lectionary all point to Him:

Say, “If the sea were ink for the words of my Lord, the sea would be spent before the words of my Lord are finished, though We replenish it with another like it.”
Qur’an 18:109

Now go, and evangelize in your own words, be that good thing that points to God:

Say, “I am just a human being like you. It has been revealed to me that your God is the One God. So whoever expects to encounter his Lord, let him act righteously and not associate anyone with the worship of his Lord.”
Qur’an 18:110

Qur’an 17: The Night Journey

The seventeenth chapter of the Qur’an, the “Night Journey,” emphasizes the role of the Holy Spirit as a guide, even for Christ. One of the most “Arian” chapters of the Qur’an, “Night Journey” presents a remarkably different explanation for the Trinity than common in Catholicism, Orthodoxy, or Protestantism. The different persons of the Trinity exist to show that none by God — the first person of the Trinity serves as guide.

As the Qur’an appears to be a set of homilies, this chapter begins with a series of readings it appears to be based on. I am not sure what of the specific rules for creating Syriac liturgies in the 6th or 7th centuries, so I am using a contemporary Catholic pattern: three readings (one from the Old Testament, Epistles, and Gospels), a Psalm, and then short one-sentence ‘antiphons.’ To me, “Night Journey” makes the sense sense if read while keeping these readings in mind.

Readings

Entrance Antiphon:

And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from you, that the Spirit of the Lord will carry you to a place I do not know; so when I go and tell Ahab, and he cannot find you, he will kill me. But I your servant have feared the Lord from my youth.
1 Kings 18:12

A reading, from the Book of Deuteronomy:

When you besiege a city for a long time, while making war against it to take it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them; if you can eat of them, do not cut them down to use in the siege, for the tree of the field is man’s food. Only the trees which you know are not trees for food you may destroy and cut down, to build siegeworks against the city that makes war with you, until it is subdued.
Deuteronomy 20:19-20

A Song, from the Book of Psalms:

Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;
Let the sea roar, and all its fullness;

Let the field be joyful, and all that is in it.
Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice

before the Lord.
For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth.
He shall judge the world with righteousness,
And the peoples with His truth.
Psalms 96:11-13

A reading, from the St Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians:

Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech— unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
2 Corinthians 3:12-18

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
John 14:6

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

A reading, from the Holy Gospel According to Matthew:

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.”

He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”

Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Matthew 26:36-41

Communion Antiphon:

Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.
Luke 4:1

A Qur’anic Homily

The Arians, who denied that Jesus was the same substance as God, nonetheless believed Jesus was God. According to the Ulfian Creed:

I believe in only one God the Father,
the unbegotten and invisible,

and in his only-begotten Son,
our Lord and God,
the designer and maker of all creation,
having none other like him

Therefore, there is one God of all,
who is also God of our God;
and in one Holy Spirit, the illuminating and sanctifying power

Arians believed in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the oneness of God, and also that all three persons in the Trinity were God.

They question you concerning the Spirit. Say, ‘The Spirit is the Word of my Lord, and you have not been given of the knowledge except a few.’
Qur’an 17:85

It is in this context that the Qur’an’s blessings upon the Holy Spirit, for carrying Christ make the most sense:

Immaculate is He who carried His servant on a journey by night from the Sacred House of Prayer to the Farther House of Prayer whose environs We have blessed, so that We might show him some of Our signs. Indeed, He is the All-hearing, the all-Seeing. Qur’an 17:1

Outside the Qur’an, there is unanimous agreement that the “Farther House of Prayer” is the top of Mount Zion, God’s Holy Mountain. To me it makes the most sense the “Holy House of Prayer” is the Garden of Gethsemane, where Christ shed blood in prayer and gave the most heart-rending of all prayers to his Father and God. But just as the Holy Spirit led the Son into the wilderness, so it led Him to Caiaphas, to Pilate, and the proclamation that He is the Truth.

This was necessary, according to the Qur’anic author, because no one can guide themselves. Even Christ was guided by the Spirit, and Christ himself was offered as a guide to the people of Israel. But Israel rejected him, and became due to the Word:

Whoever is guided is guided only for his own soul, and whoever goes astray, goes astray only to its detriment. No bearer shall bear another’s burden.

We do not punish until We have sent an apostle. And when We desire to destroy a town We command its affluent ones. But they commit transgression in it, and so the Word becomes due against it, and We destroy it utterly.
Qur’an 17:15-16

This difference between being guided by God and being guided by oneself can be thought of as Books — the Word of the Lord and the word of the self. Lord, protect me from being guided by my own book separate from yours:

We have strapped every person’s register to his neck, and We shall bring it out for him on the Day of Resurrection as a book that he will find wide open. ‘Read your book! Today your soul suffices as your own reckoner!’
Qur’an 17:13-14

Instead, guide me with your Word, the Gospel, which you sent down with the Truth:

With the Truth did We sent it down, and with the Truth did it descend, and We did not send you except as a bearer of Good News and a warner. We have sent the Lectionary in parts so that you may recite it for the people a little at a time, and We have sent it down piecemeal.
Qur’an 17:105-106

The disciples could not stay away with Christ. He invited them to prayer in that holy house of prayer — the garden — and it was too hard for them. But He still asks us to pray with him, and through the liturgy of the hours we are still able to.

Maintain the prayer from the sun’s decline till the darkness of the night, and the dawn recital. The dawn recital is indeed attended.

And keep vigil for a part of the night, as a supererogatory for you. It may be that your Lord will raise you to a praiseworthy station.
And say, ‘My Lord! Admit me with a worthy entrance, and bring me out with a worthy departure, and render me a favorable authority from Yourself!’
Qur’an 17:78-80

Christ exhibited perfect humility, asking the Lord to forgive those who persecuted him, and teaching his disciples to do likewise:

Lower the wing of humility to them mercifully, and say, ‘My Lord! Have Mercy on them, just as they reared me when I was small!’ Your Lord knows best what is in your hearts. Should you be righteous, He is indeed most forgiving toward penitents.
Qur’an 17:24

This is not to say — in the Qur’anic author’s view — that intercession is possible. But prayers for others show the humble and contrite heart desired by the Lord. It is for the reason that the Qur’an stresses the blessings Christ received during the Passion — “so that We might show Him some of Our Signs” — as opposed to the Catholic view of Christ’s merit’s directly saving others:

The friends of the King of the Universe were not won in the Qur’anic author’s view by the Passion, though the Christ showed compassion on them in the passion:

And Say, ‘All praise belongs to God, who has neither any offspring, nor has He any partner in sovereignty, nor has He made any friend out of weakness,’ and magnify Him with a magnification.
Qur’an 17:111

Given God’s greatness, the appropriate response of man is humility. God is without limits:

Indeed, your Lord expands and tightens the provision for whomever He wishes. He is indeed a well-informed observer of His servants.
Qur’an 17:30

And Christ’s mission was not only to the humans, but even the trees. One was cursed, another became the Cross:

When We said to you, ‘Your Lord indeed encompasses those people,’ We did not appoint the vision that We showed you except as a tribulation for the people and the tree cursed in the Lectionary. We warn them, but it only increases them in their outrageous rebellion.’
Qur’an 17:60

Every thing responds to God according to its capacity and God’s will. From the smallest microbe to the greatest angel, God is the origin and purpose of creation:

The seven heavens glorify Him and the earth, and whoever is in them. There is not a thing but celebrates His praise, but you do not understand their glorification. He is indeed all-forbearing, all-forgiving.
Qur’an 17:44

Yet there’s a dialectic at work too: all glorify God, but God created all in different degrees of greatness. Not all prophets are as great as David, not all books as great as the Psalms:

Your Lord knows best whoever is in the heavens and the earth. Certainly We gave some prophets an advantage over the others, and We gave David the Psalms.
Qur’an 17:55

It is hard for men to keep this in mind: the overwhelming greatness of God, the total diversity of creation. But God can. God understands the way that Christ can minister to both the trees and the creatures, but not but an angel: for (according to the Qur’anic author) it would be one like an angel who would minister to angles, and one like a man (or a tree) who would minister to men and trees:

They say, ‘We will not believe you until you make a spring gush forth for us from the ground. Or until you have a garden of date palms and vines and you make streams gush through it. Or until you cause the sky to fall in fragments upon us, just as you have averred. Or until you bring God and the angels in front of us. Or until you have a house of gold, or you ascend into the sky. And we will not believe your ascension until you bring down for us a book that we may read.’

Say, ‘Immaculate is my Lord! Am I anything but a human apostle?! ‘Nothing has kept these people from believing when guidance came to them, but their saying, ‘Has God sent down a human as an apostle!’ Say, ‘Had there been angels in the earth, walking around and residing, We would have sent down to them an angel from the heaven as an apostle.’
Qur’an 17:90-95

The use of dialectics (only one God but a Trinity, only one Book for many scriptures, only one creation but multiple levels of creation) can be rejected or accepted by men. But in this it is no different than the world itself. There’s a Truth that created it and that came into it. Man’s irritation at the subtlety of God’s creation is not the fault of God, but may be the doom of man. For the Lord casts a veil over the heart of those who reject His wisdom:

When you recite the Lectionary, We draw a hidden curtain between you and those who do not believe in the Hereafter, and We cast veils on their hearts, lest they should understand it, and a deafness into their ears. When you mention your Lord alone in the Lectionary, they turn their backs in aversion.
Qur’an 17:45-46

God is the beginning and the end, the maker and destroyer of all. Literalist atheists mock basic promises like the next world by asking how physics would work, how souls would enter dead bodies, now a world without death can also have feasts (and digestion). The promise of God is more wonderful than the scoffers can imagine.

They say, ‘What, when we have become bones and dust, shall we really be raised in a new creation?’ Say, ‘You should become stones or iron — or a creature more fantastic to your minds!’ They will say, ‘Who will bring us back?Say, ‘He who originated you the first time.’ They will nod their heads at you and say, ‘When will that be?’ Say, ‘Maybe it is near! The day He calls you, you will respond to Him, praising Him, and you will think you remained only for a little while.’

Did your Lord prefer you for sons, and adopt females from among the angels? You indeed make a monstrous statement!
Qur’an 17:40

I think the natural Catholic reaction to the Qur’an’s rejection of intercessors is one of sadness — is there really no opportunity to help each other? But the Qur’an emphasizes the hopefulness of this. Like Calvinists who despair of the wickedness of man’s heart, the Qur’an emphasizes that it is through God that we can have a hope. Men, according to the Qur’anic author, would turn their back to each other:

Say, ‘Even if you possessed the treasuries of my Lord’s mercy, you would withhold them for the fear of being spent, and man is very niggardly.’
Qur’an 17:100

And fall for each other’s tricks:

They were about to beguile you from what God has revealed to you so that you may fabricate against Us something other than that, whereat they would have befriended you. Had We not fortified you, certainly you might have included toward them a bit.
Qur’an 17:73-74

But it is from God that we have more compassion than we can imagine, and more hope than we deserve

Conclusion

The seventh chapter of the Qur’an is thematically concerned with the Holy Spirit leading Jesus from the Garden to Mt Zion.  In the Qur’anic theology, Jesus is a member of the Trinity, along with the Holy Spirit and God (the Father).  The Qur’anic author was writing near the extinction of the Arian creed, and his separation from other believers seems to pain him.

Tell My servants to speak in a manner which is the best. Indeed, Satan incites ill feeling between them, and Satan is indeed man’s open enemy.
Qur’an 17:49-53

But the Qur’an denies that Christ’s role was intercessory.  The Qur’an casts the Passion as exemplary and doxological, rather than sacrificial.   The Word and the Holy Spirit, who along with God are called “the all-Hearing and all-Seeing,” are either creations or God or emanations of God, not persons of God.  Ultimately Unitarian and Modernist, the Qur’an preaches a faith which is not the Catholic faith.

Qur’an 16: The Bees

God creates things, in time. God is the God of promise, while Satan is the devil of the eternal meaningless now. Wait, it will not be long, but as quick as the twinkling of a star, or an eye. The present is made real in the past and the future, as the Spirit brings the Word of the Lord.

Of all the chapters in the Qur’an so far this is the closest to poetry, the closest to Scripture.

The hint half guessed, the gift half
understood, is Incarnation.
Here is the impossible union.
Of spheres of existence is actual
here the past and future
Are conquered, reconciled
T.S. Elliot, The Dry Salvages

Readings

A reading, from the Book of Ecclesiastes:

The end of a thing is better than its beginning;
The patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.

Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry,
For anger rests in the bosom of fools.

Do not say,
“Why were the former days better than these?”
For you do not inquire wisely concerning this.
Ecclesiastes 7:8-10

A song, from The Psalms:

He sends the springs into the valleys;
They flow among the hills.
They give drink to every beast of the field;
The wild donkeys quench their thirst.
By them the birds of the heavens have their home;
They sing among the branches.
He waters the hills from His upper chambers;
The earth is satisfied with the fruit of Your works.

He causes the grass to grow for the cattle,
And vegetation for the service of man,
That he may bring forth food from the earth,
And wine that makes glad the heart of man,
Oil to make his face shine,
And bread which strengthens man’s heart.
Psalms 104:10-15

A reading, from the First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians:

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.

For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

“O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?”

The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
1 Corinthians 15:51-58

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, But he who is impulsive exalts folly.
Proverbs 14:29

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

A reading, from the Holy Gospel According to St. Matthew

“You have heard that it was said,
‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’

But I tell you
not to resist an evil person.
But whoever slaps you on your right cheek,
turn the other to him also.
If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic,
let him have your cloak also.
And whoever compels you to go one mile,
go with him two.
Matthew 5:38-41

A Qur’anic Homily

Patience is from God.

Near the start of the fifteen chapter is an idyllic scene, a farmer with his cattle:

He created the cattle,
in which there is warmth for you and uses,
and some of them you eat.

There is in them a beauty for you
when you bring them home for rest
and when you drive them forth to pasture.

And they carry your burdens to towns
which you could not reach
except by straining yourselves.

Your Lord is indeed most kind and merciful.
Qur’an 16:5-7

This patience, this time is spent on God’s creation of the feminine: the water, the pasture, the fruits:

It is He who sends down water from the sky; from it you get your drink and with it are the plants wherein you pasture your herds. With it He makes the crops grow for you ad lives, date palms, vines, and fruits of all kinds. There is indeed a sign in that for people who reflect.
Qur’an 16:10-11

And the masculine: the mountains, the hills, and stars:

He cast firm mountains in the earth lest it should shake with you, and streams and ways so that you may be guided — and the landmarks — and by the stars they are guided.
Qur’an 16:15-16

The multitude of the blessings, given by God through time, leads to an irony. There are so many blessings that patience — infinite patience would be needed even to enumerate them:

If you enumerate Gods blessings, you will not be able to count them. God is indeed all-forgiving, all-merciful, and God knows whatever you hide and whatever you disclose.
Qur’an 16:18-19

Whereas the lack of patience leads to ghastly horrors. Men kill baby girls because they wanted baby boys, now, sooner. Thank God for the Mary’s family, that Mary’s namesake was not treated by her father like Moses was by the Pharaoh!

And they attribute daughters to God — immaculate is He — while they have what they desire! When one of them is brought the news of a female, his face becomes darkened and he chokes with suppressed agony. He hides from the people out of distress at the news he has been brought: shall he retain it in humiliation, or bury it in the ground! Behold, evil is the judgment that they make.
Qur’an 16:57-59

This is the underlying unity in Moses’s “eye for an eye” and Christ’s “turn the other cheek.” One can get the justice one is owed. But through patience is Godliness, exceeding mere justice with justice and mercy

If you retaliate, retaliate with the like of what you have been made to suffer, but if you are patient, that is surely for the steadfast.

So be patient and you cannot be patient except with God. And do not grieve for them, nor be upset by their guide. Indeed, God is with those who are Godwary and those who are virtuous.
Qur’an 16:126-128

And yet, this patience from human perspective does not mean that God tarries. The age of a nation’s dominance is but a day to God:

By God, We have certainly sent to nations before you. But Satan made their deeds seem decorous to them. So he is their master today and there is a painful punishment for them.

We did not send down the Book to you except that you may clarify for them what they differ about, and to guidance and mercy for those who have faith.
Qur’an 16:63-64

And the Hour — the hour of judgment — will occur as rapidly as the twinkling of an eye:

To God belongs the Unseen of the heavens and the earth. The matter of the Hour is just like the twinkling of an eye, or shorter. Indeed, God has power over all things.
Qur’an 16:77

Have faith in God, have patience in God. He formed you, slowly and fast, like any parents know:

God has brought you forth from the bellies of your mothers while you did not know anything. He invested you with hearing, sight, and the hearts, so that you may give thanks.
Qur’an 16:78

Impatience is the root of disbelief. We do not see with our own eyes the dead walk, and so we assume it cannot happen. But the Hour approaches, and God resurrects whom He will:

They swear by God with solemn oaths that God will not resurrect those who die. Yes indeed it is a promise binding upon Him, but most people do not know.
Qur’an 16:38

Polytheism can be thought of as a lack of patience. No one says that Mammon the God of Wealth can raise the dead, or has a garden at the end of time, but the benefits of worshiping money appear right now. (Note also, for what its worth, God referring to God, a Lord referring to a Lord):

God has said,

“Do not worship two gods. Indeed, He is the One God, so be in awe of Me.”

To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and the earth, and to Him belongs the enduring religion. Will you, then, be wary of other than God?
Qur’an 16:51-52

But people think the lack of immediate punishment means they can keep secrets from God, and the lack of obvious miracles mean the absence of God. Both are arrogant attitudes that separates the soul from God:

Undoubtedly, God knows whatever they hide and whatever they disclose. Indeed, He does not like the arrogant. When they are asked, “What is is that your Lord has sent down?,’ they say, ‘Myths of the ancients.”
Qur’an 16:23-24

The love of impatience, the root of polytheism, can be Satanic. Satan’s goal is to steal the past and the future from the soul, leaving it in a perpetual, endless Now. The false gods — money, pride, wealth, and so on — will fall away, even from the sinner. Their will will not be done. God will be worshiped. Or the self. None other.

When the polytheists sight their partners, they will say “Our Lord!” These are our partners whom we used to invoke besides You.: But they will retort to them: “You are indeed liars!” They will submit to God on that day, and what they used to fabricate will forsake them.”
Qur’an 16:86-87

This is what makes the promise and hope of Abraham so striking. Abraham lived a complete life, aware of the past in the Chalcedees, and the promise of the future. God is a God of Promise, the God of patience, and Abraham patiently lived in that promise:

Indeed, Abraham was a nation, obedient to God, a hanif, and he was not a polytheist. Grateful for his blessings, he chose him and guided him to a straight path. We gave him good in this world, and in the Hereafter he will indeed be among the righteous. Therefore, We reveled to you,

“Follow the creed of Abraham, a hanif, who was not a polytheist.”
Qur’an 16:120-123

As a chapter, The Bees is one of the most natural. The lessons are part of the natural religion that should be available to all, even without supernatural revelation, as long as one can see and think.

God sends down water from the sky with which He revives the earth after its death.

There is indeed
a sign in that for people who listen.
There is indeed
a lesson for you in the cattle:

We give you to drink pure milk,
pleasant to those who drink,
from what is in their bellies,
from between waste and blood.
And from fruits of date palms and vines
you draw wine and goodly provision.

There are indeed
signs in that for people who exercises their reason.
Qur’an 16:65-67

And not just cattle, God sends the bees and cares for them. Be patient with the Lord:

Have they not regarded the birds disposed in the air of the sky: no one sustains them except for God. There are indeed signs in that for people who have faith.
Qur’an 16:79

And not just birds. Consider all the good works — the architecture, the honey, the society — even God grants bees as they work in time. Consider how much more you can accomplish, surely God loves you as much as a bee:

And your Lord inspired the bee: “Make your home in the mountains and on trees and the trellises that they erect. Then eat from every fruit and follow meekly the way of your Lord.” There issues from its belly a juice of diverse hues, in which there is a cure for the people. There is indeed a sign in that for people who reflect.
Qur’an 16:68-69

The Author

The Bees is fascinating because maybe no chapter since The Heifer is as confusing as to authorship. The writer uses Trinitarian formulas to describe the Gospel:

He sends down the angels with the Spirit of His Word to whomever He wishes of His servants: “Warn that there is no god except Me; so be wary of Me.”
Qur’an 16:2

And yet the post-Christian influence is there — both because the author suggests questions be directed to the “people of the reminder”:

We did not send before you except as men to whom We revealed. Ask the People of the Reminder if you do not know with clear proofs and scriptures. We have sent down the Reminder to you so that you may clarify for these people that which has been sent down to them, so that they may reflect.
Qur’an 16:43-44

And more on the nose, the author rejects the view that a previous non-Arab speaker is the true source of his teaching:

We certainly now that they say, “It is only a human that instructs him.” The language of him to whom they refer is non-Arabic, while this is a clear Arabic language.”
Qur’an 16:103

And to whom the Lectionary (qur’an) is, at least in some form, already present:

When you recite the Lectionary, seek the protection of God against the outcast Satan. Indeed, he does not have any authority of those who have faith and put their trust in their Lord. His authority is only over those who befriend him ad those who make a partner.
Qur’an 16:98-100

Is this one author or two? A Trinitarian who looks at Christians as similar to Jews, and is associated with a non-Arabic teacher? I don’t know. And what to claim of the ongoing, Trinitarian revelation that is inspiring the author:

When We change a sign for another in its place — and God knows best what He sends down — they say, “You are only a fabricator.” Indeed, most of them do not know. Say, the Holy Spirit has brought it down duly from your Lord to fortify those who have faith and as a guidance and good news for those who submit.
Qur’an 16:101-102

I don’t know. In my mind there is a picture of a decaying post-Arian community struggling with the lost of the sacraments. An Arab deacon, a genius, giving homilies after training for a Syriac monk, but neither able to celebrate the sacraments.

Maybe that is all an illusion.

Conclusion

The sixteenth chapter of the Qur’an, The Bees, is a meditation on patience. As with other chapters it makes the most sense when taken as a homily that integrates multiple passages of the Old and New Testaments. The author refers to the Qur’an as an already existing book, and also refers to another teacher who may be his direct inspiration.

The river is within us, the sea is all about us;
The sea is the land’s edge also, the granite
Into which it reaches, the beaches where it tosses
It hints of earlier and other creation:
The starfish, the hermit crab, the whale’s backbone;
T.S. Elliot, The Dry Salvages

Qur’an 15: The Rock

Everything can rise or fall. Some things fall like a rock. Sometimes, the rock is thrown.

In the fifteenth book of the Qur’an, the author dwells on the imagery of falling or casting down. These words can be used for things expelled from heaven like demons or punishments. They can also be used for blessings given by heaven. Implicit in all of this are how the imagery of the Rock is used in the Bible: to describe God, Christ, Peter. Given the era of the extinction of the Arian sacraments that the Qur’an was written in, the Qur’anic author may be contemplating the blessing and curses given to the community of believers by Peter’s successors — the Popes. Or how the same God who could be the Rock of faith could be associated with a church that the Qur’an denies exists.

Readings

A reading, from the Book of Genesis

When the morning dawned, the angels urged Lot to hurry, saying, “Arise, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be consumed in the punishment of the city.” And while he lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. So it came to pass, when they had brought them outside, that he said, “Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed.”

Then Lot said to them, “Please, no, my lords! Indeed now, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have increased your mercy which you have shown me by saving my life; but I cannot escape to the mountains, lest some evil overtake me and I die. See now, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one; please let me escape there (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live.”

And he said to him, “See, I have favored you concerning this thing also, in that I will not overthrow this city for which you have spoken. Hurry, escape there. For I cannot do anything until you arrive there.”

Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.

The sun had risen upon the earth when Lot entered Zoar. Then the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Lord out of the heavens. So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.

But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.
Genesis 19:15-26

A song, from the Psalms

The Lord lives!
Blessed be my Rock!
Let the God of my salvation be exalted.

It is God who avenges me,
And subdues the peoples under me;

He delivers me from my enemies.
You also lift me up above those who rise against me;
You have delivered me from the violent man.

Therefore I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the Gentiles, And sing praises to Your name.
Psalms 18:46-49

A reading from the First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians:

Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
1 Corinthians 10:1-11

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

The prayer of the humble pierces the clouds,
and he will not be consoled until it reaches the Lord;
he will not desist until the Most High visits him,
and does justice for the righteous, and executes judgment.
Sirach 35:17

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew:

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ
Matthew 16:15-20

A Qur’anic Homily

Gates are defensive structures. The Gates of Hell cannot over a rock, when a heavy enough Rock is sent down on a mission.

Angels are sent down to do God’s will, but messengers like Peter were sent down with warnings:

They said, ‘O you, to whom the Reminder has been sent down, you are indeed crazy! Why do you not bring us the angels if you are truthful?!’

We do not send down the angels except with due reason, and then they will not be granted any respite.

Indeed, We have sent down the Reminder, and, indeed, We will preserve it.
Qur’an 15:6-9

Heaven has Gates too. But while the prayers of the faithful can penetrate them, the wicked cannot — and would not even believe if they saw:

That is how We let it pass through the hearts of the guilty: they do not believe in it, and the precedence of the ancients has already passed.

Were We to open for them A gate of the heaven so that they could go on ascending through it, they would surely say, ‘Indeed, a spell has been cast on our eyes; indeed, we are a bewitched lot.
Qur’an 15:12-14

Heaven also has Towers, towards that produce Fire. Many prophets have seen this fire and been welcomed in, but the demons fear and tremble:

Certainly We have appointed towers in the heaven and adorned them for the onlookers, and We have guarded them from every outcast Satan, except someone who may eavesdrop, whereat there peruses him a manifest flame.
Qur’an 15:16-17

Messengers like Peter are sent down like rain for the people, to give them the living water:

There is not a thing but that its source are with Us, and We do not send it down except in a known measure.

And We send the fertilizing wends and send down water from the sky providing it for you to drink and you are not maintainers of its resources.
Qur’an 19:21-22

But as Peter is a rock with a mission, to break down the gates of hell, the heaviness of the wicked instead consigns them away from paradise. They are like Lot’s wife, who will be left as a rock salt:

[Abraham] said, ‘O messengers, what is now your errand?’

They said, ‘We have been sent toward a guilty people, except the family of Lot. We will indeed deliver all of them, except his wife, We have ordained, will indeed be among those who remain behind.

So when the messengers came to Lot’s family, he said, ‘You are strangers,’

They said, ‘Indeed, we bring you what they used to doubt. We bring you the truth, and indeed we speak truly. Take your family in a watch of the night and follow in their rears, and none of you should turn around, and proceed as you are bidden.’ We apprised him of the matter that these will be rooted out by dawn.
Qur’an 15:57-66

For the wicked their greatest ‘triumphs will become their undoing, their elevations are instead their lowest points. The Fire for them is not redemptive but destructive.

The Qur’anic author teaches that these signs and symbols are given as a lesson. Both Peter and Lot’s wife were rocks, it was their relationship with God which determined what kind of rock they would be.

The rocks to the wicked will be their doom and torment

By your life, they were bewildered in their drunkenness. So the Cry seized them at sunrise, and We made its topmost part its nethermost, and rained on them stones of shale.

There are indeed signs in that for the percipient. Indeed, it is on a standing road, and there is indeed a sign in that for the faithful.
Qur’an 15:72-74

But for the righteous, the Rock will crash the gates of hell, and enter them into Paradise:

Indeed, the Godwary will be amid gardens and springs.

“Enter it in peace and safety!”

We will remove whatever rancor there is in their breasts; brothers on couches — facing one another — therein neither weariness shall touch them, nor will they be expelled from it.
Qur’an 15:45-48

The Speaker

Throughout my reading of the Qur’an I’ve there’s a mystery that doesn’t quite go away. Who is the speaker? The closest in narrative composition to the Qur’an is the Book of Jubilees, where the speaker is obviously a group of angels

And thereupon we saw His works , and praised Him, and lauded before Him on account of all His works; for seven great works did He create on the first day.
Jubilees 2:3

But it seems unusually clear in this chapter (or I’ve just begun noticing it), that Creation is split between the royal “We”…

Indeed, it is We who give life and bring death and We are the inheritors.

Certainly We know the predecessors among you and certainly We know the successors, and indeed it is your Lord who will resurrect them. He is all-wise, all-knowing.

Certainly We created man out of a dry clay from an aging mud, and We created the jinn earlier out of a piercing fire.
Qur’an 15:23-27

And God, as in this doublet where creation is ascribed to both “We” and “your Lord”:

We did not create the heavens and the earth and whatever is in between them except with consummate wisdom, and indeed the Hour is bound to come. So forbear with a graceful forbearance. Indeed, your Lord is the all-Creator, the all-Knowing.
Qur’an 15:85-86

If “We” are another creator, it is a creator who is not God, at least according to the Qur’anic author:

So proclaim what you have been commanded, and turn away from the polytheists. We will indeed suffice you against the deriders — those who set up another Deity besides God. Soon they will know! Certainly We know that you become upset because of what they say. So celebrate the praise of your Lord and be among those who prostrate, and worship your Lord until certainty comes to you.
Qur’an 15:94-99

But if the Royal We is not God, nor can it be Christ as commonly understood:

Certainly We gave Moses the Book and followed him with the apostles, and We gave Jesus, the son of Mary, clear proofs and confirmed him with the Holy Spirit. Is it not that whenever an apostle brought you that which was not to your liking, you would act arrogantly; so you would impugn a group, and slave a group?
Qur’an 2:57-58

At this point my thought is that the Royal We are either a group of angels specifically tasked with Creation, or else Jesus Son-of-God, distinct from Jesus Son-of-Mary. Presumably that answer is to be found in whether the Royal We ever bow, but even that is not clear, as Christ himself came in the form of a servant…

When your Lord said to the angels, ‘Indeed, I am going to create a human out of a dry clay from an aging mud. So when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My spirit, then fall down in prostration to him.

Thereat the angels prostrated, all of them, but not Iblis: he refused to be among those who prostrated.

He said, ‘O Iblis! What kept you from being among those who have prostrated?’

Said him, ‘I will not prostrate before a human whom You have created out of a dry clay form an aging mud,.

He said, ‘Begone hence, for you are indeed an outcast, and indeed the curse shall lie on you until the Day of Retribution.’
Qur’an 15:28-34

The last time I noted this question of the Royal We’s identity in the Qur’an is in the Qur’anic chapter that references a letter of St Peter, and this chapter is called “The Rock.” I don’t know what to make of this for now.

Conclusion

The Qur’anic author believed that some not-quite-Divine entity or entities co-created the universe with God, and in that universe they send down blessings and curses to man. These things sent down — from rain to apostles– are not ends in themselves, but signs that should point the heart toward God. Men are naturally impatient and want definite proof — but man’s ability to doubt means he can always talk himself out of every evidence, and by the time of the final judgment, too much will be revealed for the wayward man to take.

Qur’an 14: Abraham

The fourteenth chapter of the Qur’an, Abraham, contrasts two would-be intercessors: Abraham and Satan. They are contrasted twice in the Gospels, and have parallel, if opposite, roles in the Bible: Abraham’s faithful leadership of Sarah lead to the birth of Isaac: Satan’s faithless leadership of Eve lead to humanity being expelled from the Garden. Abraham’s obedience to God was tested during the sacrifice of Isaac, where it triumphed: Satan’s disobedience to God led him to being destroyed in the end. Abraham is our father in faith — Satan is the father of lies.

Readings

A Reading, from the Book of Genesis:

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”

And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'”

Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.
Genesis 3:1-6

A Song, from the Psalms:

Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.

He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.
Psalms 1:1-3

A Reading, from the First Letter of St. Peter:

Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.

Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.

For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.
1 Peter 3:1-6

A Reading, from the Holy Gospel according to John:

“I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.”

They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.”

Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. You do the deeds of your father.”

Then they said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father—God.”

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.
John 8:37-44

A Qur’anic Homily

Satan’s promises will fail, and the Qur’anic author believes at the end Satan himself will preach God’s glory:

When this matter is all over, Satan will say, ‘Indeed, God made you a promise that was true and I made you a promise, but I failed you, I have no authority over you, except that I called you and you responded to me. So do not blame me but blame yourselves. I cannot respond to your distress calls, neither can you respond to my distress calls. I indeed disavow your taking me for partner aforetime. There is indeed a painful punishment for the wrongdoers.’
Qur’an 14:22

Satan’s declaration here should be read carefully. Satan’s promises and intercessions only appeared to be a result of his power: their only actual result (according to the Qur’anic author) was to encourage a change in intention in a sinner. Abraham likewise made intercessions, and (in the Qur’anic view) the effects of these should be seen to be pious and devotional:

All praise belongs to God, who gave me Ishmael and Isaac despite old age. My Lord indeed hears all supplications. My Lord! Make me a maintainer of prayer, and my descendants, Our Lord, accept my supplications. Our Lord! Forgive me, my parents, and all the faithful, on the day when the reckoning is held.
Qur’an 14:39-41

We can think of Abraham and Satan as the two trees in the garden of Eden, the two men crucified with Christ, or the hero and the shadow archetypes — Abraham is a good tree, Satan a wicked one:

Have you not regarded how God has drawn a parable? A good word is like a good tree, its roots are steady and its branches are on high. It gives its fruit every season by the leave of its Lord. God draws these parables for mankind so that they may take admonition.

And the parable of a bad word is that of a bad tree: uprooted from the ground, it has no stability.
Qur’an 14:24-25

Or in the Biblical verse the Qur’an is paraphrasing here:

Thus says the Lord:

“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
And makes flesh his strength,
Whose heart departs from the Lord.

For he shall be like a shrub in the desert,
And shall not see when good comes,
But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness,
In a salt land which is not inhabited.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
And whose hope is the Lord.

For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit.
Jeremiah 17:5-8

Satan, the father of lies, is the wicked reflection of Abraham, our father in faith. Both sought to organize parts of the created order into a power hierarchy with themselves at the top. But see how this goes. Consider the long blessing of Hebron, which began with Abraham negotiating it from Lot:

So Abram said to Lot, “Please let there be no strife between you and me, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we are brethren. Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left.”

And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar. Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. And they separated from each other. Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom. But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the Lord.

And the Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are—northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever. And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered. Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you.”

Then Abram moved his tent, and went and dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and built an altar there to the Lord.
Genesis 13:8-18

continued with Abraham purchasing land from the Canaanites:

And Ephron answered Abraham, saying to him, “My lord, listen to me; the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver. What is that between you and me? So bury your dead.” And Abraham listened to Ephron; and Abraham weighed out the silver for Ephron which he had named in the hearing of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, currency of the merchants.

So the field of Ephron which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field and the cave which was in it, and all the trees that were in the field, which were within all the surrounding borders, were deeded to Abraham as a possession in the presence of the sons of Heth, before all who went in at the gate of his city.

And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah, before Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan. So the field and the cave that is in it were deeded to Abraham by the sons of Heth as property for a burial place.
Genesis 23:14-20

The Qur’an incorporates this “city” — Hebron — and Abraham’s prayers for it. . Abraham prayed to God, both to bring his followers to God, and to ask that Hebron itself be transfigured:

When Abraham said, ‘My Lord! Make this city a sanctuary, and save me and my children from worshiping idols. My Lord! They have indeed misled many people. So whoever follows me indeed belongs with me, and as for those who disobey me, well, You are indeed all-forgiving, all merciful!
Qur’an 14:35-36

But Satan does not have the faith that can move mountains, and his schemes will come to not:

They certainly devised their plots, but their plots are known to God, and their plots are not such as to dislodge the mountains.
Qur’an 14:46

The point is obvious. While Satan grows his own power:

Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully.

For some have already turned aside after Satan.

If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows.
1 Timothy 5:14-16

We know that God is righteous, God is faithful to us, He will remember the promises the made to Abraham, while the promises of Satan are meaningless:

So do not supposed that God will break His promise to His apostles. Indeed, God is all-mighty, avenger. The way when the earth is turned into another earth and the heavens, and they are presented before God, the One, the All-paramount — on that day you will see the guilty bound together in chains, their garments made of pitch, and the Fire covering their faces, so that God may regard every soul for what is has earned. God is indeed swift at reckoning.
Qur’an 14:47-51

Consider this good news a warning. The LORD God, He is one God! Let he who has eyes see, and has ears, hear!

This is a proclamation for mankind, so that they may be warned thereby and know that He is indeed the One God, and those who possess intellect may take admonition.
Qur’an 14:52