MQSP: Field Notes #7

FN#7 covers Surah Al-Qalam, verses 8-16, and its Part II (this is long-er chapter). To recap, check out FN#2 Part I. By the time these verses of Al-Qalam are revealed the message of the Quran was being openly propagated by the Prophet. He was also facing stiff opposition.

Opposition…there’s the external sort, and then the internal sort. I personally am feeling a bit overwhelmed by the project currently. Its that internal oppositional self doubt I was hoping to share before diving in.

Every time I sit down to do the reading, write up my notes, jot down reflections, I am reminded that I need to sit down to blog about it. The blogging part is getting to be a bit cumbersome. I wonder if people really even want to read any of this. When so many Muslims haven’t bothered reading the Quran, why would people want to follow along with my process? And even more importantly, honestly, there are such a great deal of learned wisdom dripped onto pages and pages regarding the Quran, what I have to offer isn’t even  fraction of a fraction of a fraction worthy of being jotted down.

My motivation is the idea that I can only leave three things behind that will benefit me after I die. So far, this is probably the most tangible thing I can leave and potentially continue to get the blessings for. If even one person stumbles on the site and finds it meaningful, I find I’ve accomplished something.

First Impressions- Faith: Uncompromising

I guess my confusion on revelation order continues. I am beginning to fully appreciate the differences of opinions on when what revelation came. It appears to me that differences of opinion are based on a deep understanding of the Prophets life and on the Quran, its just not a matter of saying this appears to fall here and that over there. I find myself questioning the revelation order I am following, but in a good way. In the way a person engages with the subject matter and deeply enjoys the challenge presented by the engagement.

One of the first messages I take away from this reading is that there is no compromising faith. Islam is not a barter system, to believe in the Oneness of God is to fully commit to that standard, a “firm standing. as the verse refers to here. However, there is this idea that one who becomes a practicing Muslim becomes harsh to others, and to themselves. There is an intensity of faith in not compromising. This creates a situation of being mean toward others, of not being merciful to others, or oneself. I would like to read more verses that go into that aspect, and would like to read about how you balance these two situations.

The verses, again are referring to a specific antagonist. There is no way these are just generalized. Who is this person, that is going to be “branded on their snout”- like literally?!?- if not Abu Lahab? I did this mistake before, I thought the verse from Surah al-Mudathir (FN#5) was talking about Abu Lahab, the Prophets uncle and main antagonist of Islam in Mecca.

Muadudi Notes

  • In his notes on this chapters verses, Muadudi says this of compromise, “if you become inclined to effect some changes in your Faith to suit these people, they too would effect compromise with you.” Which is a strong message, however, I feel like it lacks qualification. There are so many genuine disagreements within Islam, from scholarly perspectives. There is room for flexibility in opinions, obviously room for compromise. however, here, the qualification that seem critical to understanding the verse is the fact that the Pagan Arabs gave the Prophet a deal, negotiating with him on believing certain parts of Islam’s monotheistic principles, while retaining certain pagan pantheistic practices.
  • Speaking to my question about who the person being “branded on their snout” is, Maududi discusses the Arabic word zanim, saying that in Arabic it is used to describe someone of illegitimate birth, who does not, “in fact belong to a family but has joined it.” Maududi relates that Said ibn Jubair and Sha’bi say that the word is used for a eprosn who is notorious among his people for evil doing, he is an out right evil doer. Maududi speculates that there could be three people this verse is referring to
    1. Walid ibn Maghirah, someone I spoke about relating to another (few) verse(s) found in FN#5 
    2. Aswad bin Abdi Yaguth
    3. or Aenas bin Shurayq
  • If you notice, none of these are Abu Lahab! But there is no discussion on this idea of “branding of the snout” which is a significant thing!

Asad Notes

  • The tack Asad takes is significantly different. Asad in regards to the above discussion on who God is pointing out in the verse, goes for a gernealization that allows him to discuss the broader appeal of the verse and its applicability to present times. He focuses on the translation used to suggest that those who are “cruel” are “possessed by greed” therefore cruelty is driven by greed and this quality is signaled out in this verse as being unique and special. Something Muslims should be cognizant of. Again Asad does not speculate as to who this person might be, which I find interesting because he didn’t do it for the {earlier verse identifying Walid ibn Mughirah} either.
  • Again Asad doesn’t really discuss the “branding of the snout” which is something I find completely strange. Do both Asad and Maududi take this as literal? Is this a thing to happen in this life, or the hereafter? Is there a consensus opinion on this verse that seems to be a given, therefore, neither of them throughly discusses it?
    • Going back to the text, I found that I didn’t fully write out my notes on this verse but rather left this note (see verse) in the margins. Asad says that this verse is an “idiomatic phrase” and has “strictly metaphorical meaning, namely, ‘We shall stigmatize him with indelible disgrace.’ (quoting both Raghib and Taj al’Arus).”
  • Asad has a discussion on the Arabic word zany string that there are divergent views explaining what this word refers to in this verse. He says that the word is “derived from zananamah” which are the fleshy potrusions of skin hanging below the skin of the ears of a goat, and serves no physiological purpose, and therefore, it signifies, to Asad, that its “someone who seres no purpose”, a person so “socially useless” is “the logical assumption” that Asad derives.
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