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Al-Qiyamah: The power to create is the power to resurrect

September 21, 2010 Leave a comment

The final line of this sura asks a question, which comprises the sura's entire message:

Is not He [who created man and woman] able to bring the dead back to life?

It's taken me a while to get what the Islamic Day of Judgment is really about. I think I've picked up by osmosis this Christian Evangelical thing where the spirits arise and go to Heaven (or Hell) after being judged. But in Islam, before being judged, everyone is resurrected, in the flesh, back to life, rather than just rising in spirit form. When you're judged, you are fully corporeal and alive.

This sura must be addressing doubts among the Quraysh about this resurrection in corporeal form. Muhammad's contemporaries believed that Allah was the senior god, the one who create humanity. But Allah had left the world after creating man. He was a disinterested god, and could only be approached via intermediaries, namely other lesser gods, and specifically, three female deities, Uzzah, Manat and al-Lat who were also sort of Allah's progeny. Not only that, but Allah only had the power of creating life, not of bringing back to life one who has died.

This sura denies this (and by implication any) limitation on the power of Allah by equating the power to resurrect with the power to create:

Thinketh man that We shall not assemble his bones?
Yea, verily! We are able to restore his very fingers
But man would fain deny what is before him

Thinketh man that he is to be left aimless?
Was he not a drop of fluid which gushed forth?
Then he became a clot; then (Allah) shaped and fashioned
And made of him a pair, the male and female
Is not He (Who doeth so) Able to bring the dead to life?

I feel like I'm finally getting a grasp of where the Quraysh were religiously. They worshiped Allah already and believed him to be the most powerful god. They were almost monolatrists–people who recognize that there are many gods but worship only a single one. I say almost in that the cult of Allah had three lesser dieties who would intercede with Allah on behalf of their worshipers. Muhammad was changing the definition of Allah. He wasn't the most senior of many. He was the only one, and, as we saw in The Star, these three deities were simply angels. No one needed to pray to them. 

There's a lot more text to this sura, of course: I only picked a few lines. There's a bunch of stuff about the Day of Reckoning and how the unrighteous will plead for forgiveness and be denied, and descriptions of what the day will be like. But I've seen that before. You can read the entire text here.

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