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al-Mudathir: Hell Sucks

July 29, 2010 1 comment

Hell sucks, right? Cuz it's Hell. It defines suckage. The Urban Dictionary covers suckage pretty well, for example:

  1. Total state of suck. Where everything in sight is teh sux0r.
  2. Something that goes well beyond the normal extent of misery or sucking.
  3. An EXTREMELY bad situation.

The Urban Dictionary doesn't actually mention Hell, but… I mean, Hell is teh sux0r, right?

Al-Mudathir has some details in ayas 27-29:

What do you think Hell-fire is?
It leaves nothing, nor does it spare;
It glows and burns the skin.

Suckage. Hot, burning, you-ain't-got-no-epidermis suckage. 

OK, ok, I'm being a little facetious. In fact, Al-Mudathir doesn't have much about the particulars of Hell beyond those three lines. Most of it's about how you get there, namely, sinning and Judgment Day.

But there are two interesting bits I want to call out.

First, the matter of "Peoples of the Book" and whether they go to Hell. "Peoples of the Book" is a term used to describe those who follow revelation revealed by a previous Messenger from God such as Moses or Jesus.

The People of the Book and believers may not be deceived.

It's a single line, but it implies one of the central tenets of Islam; that Jews and Christians received the same message from God (albeit garbled over time) and that they, just like Muslims, will do well on Judgment Day.

The second, it's a nifty little detail about who presides over Hell. It's not the devil (at least, not in this sura).

Over [Hell] we have appointed nineteen (guards)
We have not appointed anyone but angels
as Keepers of Hell…

Nineteen. Nineteen? Hell's a big place, right? You're gonna need more than 19 to cover all that territory. Or, well, maybe the angels are a bit more omnipresent. So maybe three should be enough, working alternating 8-hour shifts? OK, they might want vacations, so five or six angels would be better.

Nineteen. Gimme a break.

Wait, there's a tad bit more about the nineteen.

…and their number that We have fixed
is to make it a means of contention for disbelievers…
and the skeptics and infidels may say:
"What does God mean by this parable?"
That is how God leads whosoever He will astray…
None knows the armies of your Lord save Himself.
This is no more than reminder for mankind.

Oh.

Infidel. That's me. Ok, man, you got me. Good one.

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al-Mudathir: This Dude Bites

July 29, 2010 Leave a comment

OK, so my Ali Unal translations claims that ayas 11-26 refer to Walid ibn al-Mughirah–the leader of the Makhzum clan of the Quraysh tribe responsible for security in Muhammad's time. I can't find much about Walid, except that a) he lead Qurayshi forces at the Battle of Badr, and b) his son, Khalid, was a leading general for the early Islamic Empire serving under Abu Bakr and 'Umab b. Al-Khattab.

The Battle of Badr is a big deal, and I believe there's even a whole sura about it. So I'm not going to get into it here.

The short summary of ayas 11-26 is that Walid got loads of money and kids (a good life), but he was a major figure opposing Muhammad. So God's sending him to hell. Eventually.

Al-Mudathir: Do this stuff

July 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Another sura about someone enfolded or wrapped or whatever.

This is a pretty long one–56 verses, some of which are many lines long–so I am going to have to take further steps than just breaking it up, and start skipping entire sections (or just summarize them super quick).

I'm going to break this one down into three sets of ayas: "do this stuff, not that stuff" (1-10,42-47), "this dude bites" (11-26) and "hell sucks" (27-41, 48-56).

I'm mostly going to skip the bits about hell sucking. I mean, it's hell. It's the poster child for suck. The specific number of angels making sure you embrace the suck (19, actually) isn't all that revealing. Having one angel more or less isn't likely to change the relative suckiness to any great degree.

"This dude bites"–if I can find more information about the dude, could be really interesting.

So now, on to the "do this, not that."

O you Enfolded in your mantle of reform,
Arise and warn,
Glorify your Lord,
Purify your inner self,
And banish all trepidation.
And persevere in the way of your Lord.
For when the trumpet blows
It will be a day of distress,
Dolorous for the unbelievers

[ask the evil-doers in hell]
"What was it that brought you to Hell?"
They will answer: "We did not fulfill our devotional obligations,
And did not feed the needy,
And plunged into useless things (sin) with those who were obstinate (sinful),
And rejected the Day of Judgment as a lie
Until the certainty of death had come upon us."

That's actually pretty clear:

  1. Glorify God
  2. Pray and meet your devotional obligations
  3. Give to those less fortunate than you
  4. Don't get all into the sin
  5. Believe in Judgment Day

This actually covers most of Islam's "Five Pillars"; that is, the five duties that are required of every Muslim.

Daily prayer (2) and Ritual fasting (4) fall under the rubric of "devotional obligations." Giving to those less fortunate is zakat (3), which requires you to donate 2.5% of your income to the needy or, if you can't afford the minimum amount, donate your labor to help others. Perhaps even the Hajj pilgrimage (5) falls under devotional obligations,
though to me, it feels like this is something separate. The Shahadah, the first pillar, is a one-time thing where you testify in front of two other Muslims that you are a Muslim, and then you are.

Pretty cool. I mean, I want to see the other requirements detailed out, but there it is. The third revealed sura, and there are the beginnings of the Five Pillars.