“The Poets,” the twenty-sixth chapter of the Qur’an, directly addresses the previous chapter, “The Criterion.” In “The Criterion” you are expected to the a Prophet of God, and to elaborate the Book, the logos, in your “criterion.” But what happens when others ignore the way you point to God, and mock the book of your life?
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!
A reading, from the Book of Genesis:
Then the Lord said to Noah, “Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation. You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female; two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female; also seven each of birds of the air, male and female, to keep the species alive on the face of all the earth. For after seven more days I will cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and I will destroy from the face of the earth all living things that I have made.” And Noah did according to all that the Lord commanded him. Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters were on the earth.
On the very same day Noah and Noah’s sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them, entered the ark
A reading, from the Second Letter of St. Peter:
For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)— then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment
2 Peter 2:4-9
A reading, from the Holy Gospel According to St. Matthew
Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent:
“Woe to you, Chorazin!
Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you.
And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.”
Thus Israel saw the great work which the Lord had done in Egypt; so the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord and His servant Moses.
A Qur’anic Homily
While addressed to a specifically Arab-speaking audience, the twenty-sixth chapter of the Qur’an continues to speak directly to you, the reader. The Holy Spirit continues to speak to you, as it speak to your ancestors and the great figures of the Bible:
This is indeed sent down by the Lord of all the worlds, brought down by a Trustworthy Spirit upon your heart (so that you may be one of the warners), in a clear Arabic language. It is indeed in the scriptures of the ancients.
Catholics concerned about the Universal Call of Holiness may face despair at all those who seem totally deaf to holiness. Likewise, the Universal Call to Prophethood found in the Qur’an’s twenty-fifth chapter can lead to despair over those who not only do not join in the universal call, but who are deaf to the resulting signs pointing to God.
You are liable to imperil your life that they will not have faith.
But the results of prophecy — whether others actually listen or not — is up to God, not the prophet. You, as a prophet, do not have the power to compel obedience or worship. God can do all things as He wants. For you, responding to the Call is enough.
If We Wish, We will send down to them a sign from the heavens before which their heads will remain bowed in humility. There does not come to them any new reminder from the All-beneficent but that they disregard it. They have already impugned, but soon there will come to them at the news of what they have been deriding.
Indeed, the twenty-sixth chapter of the Qur’an includes six summaries of prophets, both biblical (Moses to Egypt, Abraham to the Chaldeans, Noah to his antediluvian people, Lot to Sodom) and otherwise (Salih to Thamud, Shu’ayb to Aykah), each of which are described as following this pattern.
The universal call to prophethood gives each individually a mandate to ensure the book of their lives — their “Criterion” — points to God. You have a duty to protect those you listen to you to the best of your ability. But do not despair of those who reject your righteous signs.
Warn the nearest of your kinsfolk, and lower your wing to the faithful who follow you. But if they disobey you, say, “I am absolved of what you do.” And put your trust in the Almighty, the All-Merciful, who sees you when you stand, and your going out about among those who prostrate.
By doing so you will be writing a book of your life within the logos — elaborating the Book in daily living — and thus prophet. The opposite fate is to be writing a book that is outside the logos, and elaborates something different than the Book. These “poets” ultimately channel ideas from devils:
Shall I inform you on whom the devils descend? They descend on every sinful liar. They eavesdrop and most of them are liars. As for hte poets, the perverse follow them. Have you not regarded that they rove in every valley and that they say what they do not do?
The archetypal imagery of Light and Water, order and chaos, are repeated in the life of every prophet.
Have they not regarded the earth, how many of every splendid kind We have caused to grow in it? There is indeed a sign in that; but most of them do not have faith. Indeed, your Lord is the All-Mighty, the All-Merciful.
But so is the narrative. Within “The Poets” the most detailed example is of Moses, but every poet in his own life lives the same drama. Obeying God and starting on a heroic path:
So approach Pharaoh and say, “We are indeed envoys of the Lord of the worlds, that you let the Children of Israel leave with us.”
Rapidly leads to a reminder of your weakness and your past missteps:
He said, “Did we not rear you as a child among us, and did you not stay with us for years of your life? Then you committed that deed of yours, and you are an ingrate.”
God, in His greatness, may send a sign:
Moses said to them, “Throw down whatever you have to throw!” So they threw down their sticks and ropes, and said, “By the might of Pharaoh, we shall surely be victors!”
Thereat Moses threw down his staff, and behold, it was swallowing what they had faked.
Which — for a few, at least — maybe persuasive:
Thereat the magicians fell down prostrating. They said, “We believe int he Lord of all the worlds, the Lord of Moses and Aaron.”
But often enough, ignored by the person we think we are there to prophecy to:
He said, “Did you believe him before I should permit you? He is indeed your chief who has taught you magic! Soon you will know! I will cut off your hands and feet form opposite sides, and I will crucify you all.”
Our good deeds, once more leading to insults and humiliations:
Then Pharaoh sent heralds to the cities: “These are indeed a small band. They have aroused our wrath, and we are alert.”
But have patience. God works wonders in His time, not yours.
Thereupon We revealed to Moses: “Strike the sea with your staff!” Whereupon it parted, and each part was as if it were a great mountain. There, We brought the others near, and We delivered Moses and all those who were with him. Then We drowned the rest.
These patterns repeat over and over, in the Scriptures and without, in Arabia and without, in your life and in your years and months and days. They repeat endlessly.
Until the last day.
The twenty-sixth chapter of the Qur’an, “The Poets,” examines the consequences of responding to the universal call to prophethood. Your life is a book, the criterion by which you will be judged. It is a Book of the Lord, or merely a book of poetry. If it is a Book of the Lord, have patience. God could show dazzling signs and wonders to all who reject you if He wished. Your prophethood is not wanted because God needs a prophet — Your prophethood is wanted because God is all-good, and prophecy points to the good. If the book of your life is not a Book of the Lord — if it is merely a book of poetry inspired by devils — well, you will see how it ends soon enough.