Qur’an Sura 68 (part 2) – God sees everything


This part of Sura 68 speaks to God’s awareness of everything going on.
He knows who follows Him – and who doesn’t.
He also knows who encourages people to stray away from Him.
And finally – He encourages believers to not follow those who want to transgress.

Let’s compare the verses from this Sura (The Pen) with what we see in Psalms from the Bible.

If you’re a Muslim, as you read this, I encourage you to take an open look at the God of the Bible.  Remember, He is the same God who made promises to Abraham, Hagar and Ishmael.  The Qur’an anticipates that you will examine the Bible, with the Book of Psalms as one of the points of emphasis.  That’s what we’re going to do in this session – see the similarities between both books.

If you’re a Christian, as you read this, I encourage you to do the exact opposite.  Remember the same promises – know that the God of the Bible did make those promises to Abraham, Hagar and Ishmael.  Take a fresh and open look at what David says – and how it relates to not just the people of Israel – but all of God’s people.

If you’re neither one, it will still be a different take on an important world issue.  Nothing like what you’ll find in the news reports – where seemingly neither the Bible or the Qur’an are actually being read or understood.

 

Sura 68 – The Pen

Order of Revelation – 2
Traditional order in Qur’an – 68

Sura 68 addresses the following:

1.  The sense from the Prophet that his first revelation was actually from an evil spirit. This appears to be confirming what his wife told him – that Muhammad was not crazy / hallucinating / etc.

2.  Confirms that God can see what people are doing.

3.  Compares the revelations to the Prophet to what others are told by their idols (gods).

4.  Says that God can take care of Himself.

5.  Tells Muhammad not to be like Jonah.

Part 1 was covered in introduction to Sura 68.

Sura 68, Part 2 – God can see what people do

[68:7] Your Lord is fully aware of those who strayed off His path, and He is fully aware of those who are guided.
[68:8] Do not obey the rejectors.
[68:9] They wish that you compromise, so they too can compromise.
[68:10] Do not obey every lowly swearer.
[68:11] A slanderer, a backbiter.
[68:12] Forbidder of charity, a transgressor, a sinner.
[68:13] Unappreciative, and greedy.
[68:14] Even though he possessed enough money and children.
[68:15] When our revelations are recited to him, he says, “Tales from the past.”

This part of Sura 68 speaks to God’s awareness of everything going on.
He knows who follows Him – and who doesn’t.
He also knows who encourages people to stray away from Him.
And finally – He encourages believers to not follow those who want to transgress.

This is about God not only knowing His people –
but He knows about peer pressure –
knows that if the transgressor can get a believer to follow his ways instead of God’s –
then it will be easier for the transgressor to do whatever he wants –
because the people of God will not be trying to correct him.

On the issue of compromise

This certainly isn’t a problem unique to Muslims – having people who want you to stray from your beliefs.  Whether they be people that don’t believe, or people that “sort of believe” – but don’t want to follow all of what your Holy Book says, there are always lots of non-believers and nominal believers wanting people of faith to water down your beliefs.

On the issue of God knowing / seeing all

This is another theme common to all Abrahamic religions – an all knowing / all seeing God.  While people may think they are “getting away with things” in this life, the transgressors are all seen by God.  He knows who follows His ways and who doesn’t.  He also knows who’s responsible for leading people astray.  They also will not get away with what they have done.

Psalm 139 – on God knowing each of us

One of the best examples in the Bible about just how much God knows about each of us –
God’s omniscience and omnipresence both –
knowing that God knows everything and is everywhere –
comes from the Psalmist, David –
in Psalm 139 –

Ps 139:1 O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.

Ps 139:2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
Ps 139:3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Ps 139:4 Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.

Ps 139:5 You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.
Ps 139:6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

Ps 139:7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
Ps 139:8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
Ps 139:9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
Ps 139:10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

Ps 139:11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
Ps 139:12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
Ps 139:13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Ps 139:14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
Ps 139:15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
Ps 139:16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

Ps 139:17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Ps 139:18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand.
When I awake,
I am still with you.

No matter where he goes, traveling as far as possible in any direction, David knows that God will already be there.
He knows that God sees all –

Ps 139:7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
Ps 139:8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
Ps 139:9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
Ps 139:10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

No matter where he goes –
even in the dark places where he really doesn’t want God to see him –
David realizes that God is there –
that God sees all –

Ps 139:11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
Ps 139:12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

And in all these places –
no matter what he’s doing – or thinking –
David realizes that God is there –
and that God knows everything about him –

Ps 139:1 O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.
Ps 139:2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
Ps 139:3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Ps 139:4 Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.

In fact –
David realizes that God has known him since before he was even born –
and already knows the number of his days –
that God knew all of this –
before any of it happened –

Ps 139:13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Ps 139:14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
Ps 139:15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
Ps 139:16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

To some – this could be scary.
For the transgressor to realize that God knew everything about them would surely scare them –
maybe to the point of changing their ways.

On Not Glorifying God

As Sura 68 says about the owners of the garden who swore they would harvest it in the morning –

[68:17] We have tested them like we tested the owners of the garden who swore that they will harvest it in the morning.
[68:18] They were so absolutely sure.
[68:19] A passing (storm) from your Lord passed by it while they were asleep.
[68:20] By morning, it was barren.
[68:21] They called on each other in the morning.
[68:22] “Let us harvest the crop.”
[68:23] On their way, they confided to each other.
[68:24] That from then on, none of them would be poor.
[68:25] They were so absolutely sure of their harvest.
[68:26] But when they saw it, they said, “We were so wrong!
[68:27] “Now, we have nothing!” They Should Have Said: “God Willing.”
[68:28] The righteous among them said, “If only you had glorified (God)!”
[68:29] They said, “Glory be to our Lord. We have transgressed.”
[68:30] They started to blame each other.
[68:31] They said, “Woe to us. We sinned.
[68:32] “May our Lord grant us a better one. We repent to our Lord.”
[68:33] Such was the requital. But the retribution of the Hereafter is far worse, if they only knew.

Such was the requital. But the retribution of the Hereafter is far worse, if they only knew.

The righteous know these things –
but the transgressors do not.

As we see from David in Psalm 140 –

Ps 140:9 Let the heads of those who surround me
be covered with the trouble their lips have caused.
Ps 140:10 Let burning coals fall upon them;
may they be thrown into the fire,
into miry pits, never to rise.
Ps 140:11 Let slanderers not be established in the land;
may disaster hunt down men of violence.

Ps 140:12 I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor
and upholds the cause of the needy.
Ps 140:13 Surely the righteous will praise your name
and the upright will live before you.

Again – had those doing evil known what was coming to them –
maybe they would acted differently –
but they don’t know –
and will pay the price –
when the time comes.

There will be more later on what God does about the transgressors – part 4 of this Sura –
but before leaving this topic –
there’s one more thing I want to cover.

Why does God even want to deal with us?

Sometimes –
knowing that God really sees everything –
and knows everything –
even the unspoken things in our minds –
and the unacknowledged things in our hearts –
it’s amazing that He even wants anything to do with us.

Again turning to David –
we see this very question asked of God in Psalm 144 –

Ps 144:1 Praise be to the LORD my Rock,
who trains my hands for war,
my fingers for battle.
Ps 144:2 He is my loving God and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield, in whom I take refuge,
who subdues peoples under me.

Ps 144:3 O LORD, what is man that you care for him,
the son of man that you think of him?
Ps 144:4 Man is like a breath;
his days are like a fleeting shadow.

Ps 144:5 Part your heavens, O LORD, and come down;
touch the mountains, so that they smoke.
Ps 144:6 Send forth lightning and scatter the enemies ;
shoot your arrows and rout them.
Ps 144:7 Reach down your hand from on high;
deliver me and rescue me
from the mighty waters,
from the hands of foreigners
Ps 144:8 whose mouths are full of lies,
whose right hands are deceitful.

Ps 144:9 I will sing a new song to you, O God;
on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you,
Ps 144:10 to the One who gives victory to kings,
who delivers his servant David from the deadly sword.

Ps 144:11 Deliver me and rescue me
from the hands of foreigners
whose mouths are full of lies,
whose right hands are deceitful.

Ps 144:12 Then our sons in their youth
will be like well-nurtured plants,
and our daughters will be like pillars
carved to adorn a palace.
Ps 144:13 Our barns will be filled
with every kind of provision.
Our sheep will increase by thousands,
by tens of thousands in our fields;
Ps 144:14 our oxen will draw heavy loads.
There will be no breaching of walls,
no going into captivity,
no cry of distress in our streets.

Ps 144:15 Blessed are the people of whom this is true;
blessed are the people whose God is the LORD.

Not only are people transgressors –
but our lives are so short compared to God’s eternity –
why does He even care about us?

Ps 144:3 O LORD, what is man that you care for him,
the son of man that you think of him?
Ps 144:4 Man is like a breath;
his days are like a fleeting shadow.

And yet –
as we see in this Psalm –
from David – one whom God loved very much –
and one who in return loved God very much –
we see that God cares very much about us.

And just like the previous Psalms –
God knows the difference between those who follow Him –
and those who are His enemies –
and He will take care of those who love Him –

Ps 144:11 Deliver me and rescue me
from the hands of foreigners
whose mouths are full of lies,
whose right hands are deceitful.

So –
we started with

[68:7] Your Lord is fully aware of those who strayed off His path, and He is fully aware of those who are guided.

And then saw some of the examples from David –
Trying to show the extent of God’s knowledge –
but even for Him –

Ps 139:5 You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.
Ps 139:6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

– it was too much for him to understand.

So –
in his usual way –
he ends up saying –

Ps 139:17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Ps 139:18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand.
When I awake,
I am still with you.

And that’s the way it should be with us –
having God’s thoughts be precious to us –
knowing that we couldn’t even begin to count them
(much less understand them all) –
but always realizing that we are with God –
(and that He is with us).


 Common Thoughts

So – what does all this mean?

If we look with an open mind, removing preconceptions about what we may think the two books mean, there’s a lot in common.

Let’s deal with what may be the most controversial / contentious item first.

Who are the guided (followers) and who are the ones who stray off His path (foreigners full of lies)

The reason I say this one will be contentious is that many will assume each book means the people of their faith are the followers, and everyone else is one of those who stray.  But – let’s look at this from God’s point of view.  Wouldn’t He look at those who are the followers being the ones who follow Him?  He’s made promises to Abraham – the “father” of all three Abrahamic religions.  Yes – there’s a difference promise in the Bible to Isaac as compared to Ishmael.  But at the core – there are promises to the descendants of both children of Abraham.  So – at some level – followers of all three religions are following the same God – whether they call Him Allah, God, YHWH – He is the God of Abraham.  Clearly – there are differences that come about.  And we’ll examine them, as they come up in the Qur’an.  But at it’s core – there is one God of Abraham.

So – when we read in the Qur’an –

[68:7]  Your Lord is fully aware of those who strayed off His path, and He is fully aware of those who are guided. 

Those who are guided are those who follow the God of Abraham.
Those who stray off His path are those who do not follow the God of Abraham.  Whether it be outright rejection or failure to follow some (many) of God’s laws – they have strayed off the path.

And when we read  in Psalms –

Ps 144:11 Deliver me and rescue me
from the hands of foreigners
whose mouths are full of lies,
whose right hands are deceitful.

I think we should be prepared for a surprise.  When translating the Qur’an from Arabic to any other language, some meanings get dropped.  The same thing happens with the Bible.  If we go to a more literal translation, we see that some of the words have a different meaning.  This is especially true for the word “foreigners”.  In the Authorized version, we read –

11 Rid me, and deliver me from the hand of strange children, whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood: ((The Holy Bible: King James Version. (1995). (electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version., Ps 144:11). Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.))

Note the translation now.  Instead of “foreigners”, it reads “strange children”.  Which is, in fact, more in line with what the Hebrew original says.  The original is two words – not one.  One of those words means strange.  The other is generally translated as sons or children.  So we can see that foreigners – in today’s words – isn’t correct.  Especially when considering the rest of the verse – the concepts of lying and being deceitful – foreigners doesn’t line up at all.  In fact – many of David’s problems came from the Israelites themselves.  Certainly not foreigners.  But they were straying from God’s path.  And that’s who David was addressing – those who strayed from God’s path, whether they were Israelites or not.

So if we consider all of this – from the point of view of God, not ourselves, both are talking about those who either follow God – or don’t.  After all – isn’t it up to Him to decide who follows and who doesn’t?  If He has made promises to Abraham – and through Abraham to both Ishmael and Isaac – who are we to take those promises away?  

If we try to take away God’s promises to someone – even someone we consider our “enemy” – are we not by that very act straying from the path of God?

God knows all

 Hopefully, there’s no disagreement on this – both books affirm this.  And again – if we go back to the God of Abraham – this is obviously the same God.  And again – differences will come up – and we’ll get to them as they arise.  But at this point – the two appear to be common.

Tales from the past

We see this very clearly in the Qur’an –

[68:15]  When our revelations are recited to him, he says, “Tales from the past.”

While not specifically addressed in the verses from Psalms – it is also a problem for Jews and Christians.

We all probably think falling away from one’s religion is a new thing – but we see that it was happening from the very beginning.

God takes care of His people

In the Qur’an we read –

[68:17]  We have tested them like we tested the owners of the garden who swore that they will harvest it in the morning.
[68:18]  They were so absolutely sure.
[68:19]  A passing (storm) from your Lord passed by it while they were asleep.
[68:20]  By morning, it was barren.
[68:21]  They called on each other in the morning.
[68:22]  “Let us harvest the crop.”
[68:23]  On their way, they confided to each other.
[68:24]  That from then on, none of them would be poor.
[68:25]  They were so absolutely sure of their harvest.
[68:26]  But when they saw it, they said, “We were so wrong!
[68:27]  “Now, we have nothing!” They Should Have Said: “God Willing.”
[68:28]  The righteous among them said, “If only you had glorified (God)!”
[68:29]  They said, “Glory be to our Lord. We have transgressed.”
[68:30]  They started to blame each other.
[68:31]  They said, “Woe to us. We sinned.
[68:32]  “May our Lord grant us a better one. We repent to our Lord.” 

 which says that God will have punishment for those who don’t believe.  The implication, although not actually stated, is that those who follow God will have abundant crops, “God Willing”.

In Psalms, we read –

Ps 144:13 Our barns will be filled
with every kind of provision.
Our sheep will increase by thousands,
by tens of thousands in our fields;
Ps 144:14 our oxen will draw heavy loads.
There will be no breaching of walls,
no going into captivity,
no cry of distress in our streets.
Ps 144:15 Blessed are the people of whom this is true;
blessed are the people whose God is the LORD.

which gives the same message, but from the opposite side.  This time we see  the rewards for those that follow God – blessed are the people whose God is the LORD.  And the assumption that the others are not blessed.

Again – the key thing to remember here is that when both books talk about “The Lord” – they are talking about the God of Abraham.  The God who made promises to Abraham, Hagar, Ishmael and Isaac.

What is man? 

There is one apparent difference that I want to point out.  As I do this, I also want to point out that we are going through the Qur’an in order of revelation to The Prophet – and going through the Bible as appropriate to find matching concepts in it.  Therefore, we may come across things in the Bible that come up later in the Qur’an.  This is a function of how this is being approached.  Having said that – there is one difference in what has been read and presented so far.  And that has to do with the concept of what is man in relation to God?

We read –

 Ps 144:3 O LORD, what is man that you care for him,
the son of man that you think of him?
Ps 144:4 Man is like a breath;
his days are like a fleeting shadow. 

where David asks this very question.  Earlier – I asked something I’ve wondered about – why does God even want to deal with is at all?  To date, we haven’t seen this question in the Qur’an.  Yes – we’re only in the second Sura.  In the Bible, it actually comes up very early in Genesis, as we saw from Sura 96. 

What we’ve seen so far, again in only two Sura’s, but it’s there nonetheless, tends towards the issue of punishment more than the issues of reward.  We saw above that this Sura talks about the punishments for the non-believers, with an assumption of rewards for the believers.  In Psalms, we see rewards for the believers as the focus.

We also see in Psalms –

Ps 139:13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Ps 139:14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

So in the Sura 96 comparison, we saw from Genesis that God was very personally involved in the creation of Adam and Eve – more so than in everything else He created.  We also saw that, at the end of each day, God looked and saw that things were “good”.  Until He created Adam and Eve.  Then things were “very good”.

This concept of the special relationship between God and His people is very much ingrained into the Bible.

And one more time – let me point out that regardless of what each of the Abrahamic religions may feel – God is God – and He gets to choose His people.  Not us.  The God of Abraham made the promises that He wanted to make.  And He wanted a relationship with everyone – regardless of whether they were descended from Ishmael or Isaac.  Know this.  Even if it it’s not in line with what we believe – or want to believe – it’s what God said.

If we try to take away God’s promises to someone – even someone we consider our “enemy” – are we not by that very act straying from the path of God?

This message is for every one of God people.  


 Conclusion

So now we’ve seen in this Sura visions of both
•The God of Ishmael
•The God of David

The God who promised to protect Ismael and make a great nation from Him is the very same God that David writes about.

I pray that you seek out this God directly –
as Abraham did –
as Hagar did –
as Ismael did –
as David did.

Not with an intermediary of any kind –
no human between you and Him –
no angel between you and Him –
but just God –
the God of Abraham, Hagar, Ismael and David.

He will answer you.

Hope to see you in Sura 68, part 3.

 This is part of a continuing series looking at The Qur’an and The Bible to see the relationship between Islam and Christianity.  
Click here to see a page listing the current posts, with a short description of each.
The plan is to at least start by going through the Qur’an, in the order in which each of the Sura’s was revealed to the prophet Muhammad.

image from clker.com

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