The thirteenth chapter, “Thunder,” introduces the Qur’an’s gendered ecology. The focus on God’s creation of the natural world recalls Pope Francis’s Laudato Si or Steve Boint’s Did Jesus Die for Dogs. But the use of mythical or archetypal gender in describing the source of this natural world recalls Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life and Maps of Meaning of this lectionary. The Qur’anic author takes the listener through this gendered ecology by focusing on the opening, the fire and flow, and the destination of all creation.
As before, this chapter appears to be a homily, so I will first present biblical readings that the chapter reflects.
A Reading, from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel:
The word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Son of man, the house of Israel has become dross to Me; they are all bronze, tin, iron, and lead, in the midst of a furnace; they have become dross from silver. Therefore thus says the LORD God: ‘Because you have all become dross, therefore behold, I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem As men gather silver, bronze, iron, lead, and tin into the midst of a furnace, to blow fire on it, to melt it; so I will gather you in My anger and in My fury, and I will leave you there and melt you. Yes, I will gather you and blow on you with the fire of My wrath, and you shall be melted in its midst. As silver is melted in the midst of a furnace, so shall you be melted in its midst; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have poured out My fury on you.’”
A Song, from the 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.
A Reading, from the Book of Proverbs:
Does not wisdom cry out, And understanding lift up her voice?
“The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way,
Before His works of old.
I have been established from everlasting,
From the beginning, before there was ever an earth.
Proverbs 8:1,22-23paul thomas anderson
A Reading, from the Gospel according to Matthew:
Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away.
And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither away so soon?”
So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
A Qur’anic Homily
I have a suspicion that this chapter acts as a key for what I have read so far. “The Opening” is literally the title of the first Qur’anic chapter. The second chapter is named after a young female creature. And while we have had chapters with titles that tease a final destination — the Elevations, the Spoils, and so on — that so far is out of reach.
In any case, let’s begins at the beginning:
Chaos is the feminine complement to order. Wisdom is chaos within the Logos — in Qur’anic terms, within the Book.
In the Name of God, the All-beneficent, the All-merciful.
Alif, Lam, Ra. These are the signs of the Wise Book.
The material aspect of the Book may be problematic considering the Qur’anic author’s attack on Christians for stating that women are mates with the Lord, but I feel this is unfair. The Qur’anic author is not stating that God is married to the Book like the Christians believe the Son is married to the Church, or the Holy Spirit is the spouse of Mary.
And now Our mind and heart turn back to those hopes with which We began, and for the accomplishment of which We earnestly pray, and will continue to pray, to the Holy Ghost. Unite, then, Venerable Brethren, your prayers with Ours, and at your exhortation let all Christian peoples add their prayers also, invoking the powerful and ever-acceptable intercession of the Blessed Virgin. You know well the intimate and wonderful relations existing between her and the Holy Ghost, so that she is justly called His Spouse. The intercession of the Blessed Virgin was of great avail both in the mystery of the Incarnation and in the coming of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles. May she continue to strengthen our prayers with her suffrages, that, in the midst of all the stress and trouble of the nations,t hose divine prodigies may be happily revived by the Holy Ghost, which were foretold in the words of David: “Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created, and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth” (Ps. ciii., 30).
Pope Leo XIII, Divinum illud Munus, AD 1897
The Qur’anic author rejects feminine partners to God, but views the Book — chaos and wisdom within the Logos — as feminine:
Thus We have sent it down as a dispensation in Arabic; and should you follow their desires after the knowledge that has come to you, you shall have neither any friend nor defender against God.
Certainly We have sent apostles before you, and We appointed wives and descendants for them; and an apostle may not bring a sign except by God’s leave.
There is a written for every time:
God effaces and confirms whatever he wishes and with Him is the Mother Book.
Rather, the relationship is if anything closer to the Father and Wisdom, of the Creator and a feminine creature. Indeed, the Qur’an is neither able to intercede for the faithful (as Christians believe the Church and Mary are)…
If only it were a Qur’an whereby the mountains could be moved, or the earth could be toured, or the dead could be spoken to… Indeed, all dispensation belongs to God.
… nor is it as useful as a personal attribute, such as faith. Wisdom is the process of correct creativity. Within the home of our mothers, Wisdom allows the increase and the reduction of new life.
God knows what every female carries, and what the wombs reduce and what they increase, and everything is by measure with Him, the Knower of the sensible and the Unseen, the All-great, the All-sublime.
In the home of our world, this regulation of creation includes both secular features of creation, such as astral bodies:
It is God who raised the heavens without any pillars that you see, and then presided over the Throne. He disposed the sun and the moon, each moving for a specified term. he directs the command, and elaborates the signs that you may be certain of encountering your Lord.
It is He who has spread out the earth and set in it firm mountains and streams, and of every fruit He has made it in two kinds, He draws the night’s cover over the day. There are indeed signs in that for people who reflect.
As well the cyclical nature of lightning, fear, hope, and clouds:
It is He who shows you the lightning, inspiring fear and hope, and He produces the clouds heavy. The Thunder celebrates His praise, and the angels, in awe of Him, and He releases the thunderbolts and strikes with them whomever He wishes. Yet they dispute concerning God, though He is great in might.
To Him belongs the true invocation; and those whom they invoke besides Him do not answer them in any wise — like someone who stretches his hands toward water that is should reach his mouth, but it does not reach it — and the invocation of the faithless only go awry.
These openings of the world were created by God, both for every human life, and for all of creation.
The Fire and the Flow
The feminine, fluidic part of creation is the complement to order. Viewed from a masculine perspective, the Logos leads to the destruction by fire, an analogy in Both the Bible (“dross”) and Qur’an (“scum”):
He sends down water from the sky, whereat the valleys are flooded to their capacity, and the flood carries along a swelling scum. A similar scum arises from what they smelt in the fire for the purpose of ornaments or wares. That is how God compares truth and falsehood. As for the scum, it leaves as dross, and that which profits the people stays in the earth .That is how God draws comparisons.
These themes tie together as it is not only the unborn that the womb either produces or reduces, it is nations as well. They come and go
Thus have We sent you to a nation before which many nations have passed way, so that you may recite to them what We have revealed to you. Yet they defy the All-beneficent. Say, ‘he is my Lord, there is no God except Him; in Him alone I have put my trust, and to Him alone will be my return.’
as do apostles:
Apostles were certainly derided before you. But then I have respite to those who were faithless, then I seized them; so how was My retribution?
The Qur’anic author is giving chaos its positive meaning, and beyond just wisdom: Chaos includes the destruction of old orders that should be destroyed. To the Qur’anic author, God — who creates as He wishes and destroys as He wishes — uses chaos and order for His will.
In the Bible God created man outside the Garden of Eden, and then placed him into it. Eden is not our true starting point…
And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being… Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.
… but a picture of our destination:
A description of the paradise promised to the Godwary: streams run in it, its fruits and shade are everlasting. Such is the requital of those who are godwary, and the requital of the faithless is the Fire.
Just as hell contains humans and non-humans, so does the Garden:
It someone who knows the truth what what has been sent down to you from your Lord is the truth, like someone who is blind? Only those who possess intellect take admonition — those who fulfill God’s covenant and do not break the pledge solemnly made, and those who join what God has commanded to be joined, fear their Lord, and are afraid of an adverse reckoning — those who are patient for the sake of their Lord’s leisure, maintain the prayer, and spend secretly and openly out of what We have provided them, and repel evil with good.
For such will be the reward of the abode: the Gardens of Eden, which they will enter along with whoever is righteous from among their forebears, spouses, and descendants, and the angels will call on them from every door.
Through faith and thru works man will be saved:
Those who have faith and do righteous deeds — happy are they and good is their destination.
God has knowledge of the mother Book, and witness to you:
The faithless say, ‘You have not been sent.’ Say, ‘God suffices as a witness between me and you, and he who possess the knowledge of the Book.’
In Christianity the eschaton is a wedding feast, an image taken Jeremiah’s romantic comedy view of salvation history and, before that, the stories of God’s drinking party. The view of love as central to God’s creation extends to the present day in Hans urs von Balthasar‘s focus on both eros and agape as forms of Christian love. To the Qur’anic author, God knows Wisdom, in keeping with this analogy.
“Thunder” emphasizes creation and its gendered origin. The Qur’an is revealed as female, and a component to the Proverbial “Wisdom” as a female creature through which creation was instituted. This is also the most explicit connection between the Book and the Logos, the ordering agency at the center of late classical Greek, Hebrew, and Christian thought.
And it is in this history of Christian thought, I believe, the Qur’anic author resolves Paul’s message.
For Jews request a sign,
and Greeks seek after wisdom;
but we preach Christ crucified,
to the Jews a stumbling block
and to the Greeks foolishness,
but to those who are called,
The Qur’anic author does not see himself contradicting Paul, but in keeping with him. For to the Jews and Greeks, he seems to write, was given Christ, and the power of God, and the wisdom of God.