November 20, 2008

The Qur'anic Version of the Stories of Ibrahim and Lut (pbut)

Cross-posted from Street Prophets. Also, see the note down at the bottom of the post.

I thought I'd touch on Southern Mouth's diary Sodom and Gomorrah from a slightly different perspective. What I'm trying to show, insha'allah, are some of the differences between the stories of Lut and Ibrahim (pbut) in the Qur'an vs. what is told in the Old Testament. Some of the comments in Southern Mouth's diary made light of topics that either don't appear in the Qur'an or have a different perspective. What follows is the most significant passage in the Qur'an (11:69-83) regarding Lut, Ibrahim (pbut) and the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah, followed by some of the differences between the two holy books. I've also added two minor notes in the Qur'anic passage to clarify certain passages, highlighted in [brackets].

There came Our messengers to Abraham with glad tidings. They said, "Peace!" He [Ibrahim (pbuh)] answered, "Peace!" and hastened to entertain them with a roasted calf.

But when he saw their hands went not towards the (meal), he felt some mistrust of them, and conceived a fear of them. They said: "Fear not: We have been sent against the people of Lut."

And his wife [Sarah] was standing (there), and she laughed: But we gave her glad tidings of Isaac, and after him, of Jacob.

She said: "Alas for me! shall I bear a child, seeing I am an old woman, and my husband here is an old man? That would indeed be a wonderful thing!"

They said: "Dost thou wonder at Allah's decree? The grace of Allah and His blessings on you, o ye people of the house! for He is indeed worthy of all praise, full of all glory!"

When fear had passed from (the mind of) Abraham and the glad tidings had reached him, he began to plead with us for Lut's people.

For Abraham was, without doubt, forbearing (of faults), compassionate, and given to look to Allah.

O Abraham! Seek not this. The decree of thy Lord hath gone forth: for them there cometh a penalty that cannot be turned back!

When Our messengers came to Lut, he was grieved on their account and felt himself powerless (to protect) them. He said: "This is a distressful day."

And his people came rushing towards him, and they had been long in the habit of practising abominations. He said: "O my people! Here are my daughters: they are purer for you (if ye marry)! Now fear Allah, and cover me not with shame about my guests! Is there not among you a single right-minded man?"

They said: "Well dost thou know we have no need of thy daughters: indeed thou knowest quite well what we want!"

He said: "Would that I had power to suppress you or that I could betake myself to some powerful support."

(The Messengers) said: "O Lut! We are Messengers from thy Lord! By no means shall they reach thee! now travel with thy family while yet a part of the night remains, and let not any of you look back: but thy wife (will remain behind): To her will happen what happens to the people. Morning is their time appointed: Is not the morning nigh?"

When Our Decree issued, We turned (the cities) upside down, and rained down on them brimstones hard as baked clay, spread, layer on layer,-

Marked as from thy Lord: Nor are they ever far from those who do wrong! (11:69-83)

Points that aren't made in the Qur'an:
* Southern Mouth wrote that "Again, Abraham asked and God agreed to save Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of 10 righteous people." As you can see, Ibrahim (pbuh) pleaded with Allah (swt) on behalf of Lut's (pbuh) people, but an exact number isn't mentioned. One assumes from verse 74 that he pleaded on behalf of all of the people.
* Likewise, JCH quotes the following: "In the final analysis there were only three righteous in Sodom, Lot and his two daughters." Again, the Qur'an doesn't say how large the family that departed is, only that they all escaped with the exception of Lut's wife.
* Grada pointed out that "After all, there are indications from the incest part of the story that he was a drunk..." In no part of the Qur'an is it suggested that Lut (pbuh) committed incest or had gotten drunk. In fact, I think most Muslims would probably argue that the former charge is an outright fabrication.

Other points:
* Southern Mouth also wrote, Personally, I found it repulsive that Lot - who was saved from the towns' destruction - offer the men clamoring at his door his two virgin daughters to do as they wanted. In some of the exegesis for the Qur'an, it is pointed out that the use of the phrase "my/thy daughters" (verses 78-9) does not necessarily refer to Lut's (pbuh) biological daughters; rather, it refers to the young women of the town, just as in modern cultures, younger men who are not relations might be called "my son" or, especially here in S'pore, older men and women who are not relations are very frequently called "uncle" or "aunty."
* Ramara wrote: Lot's wife must have been also good, since she also escaped but looked back and became a pillar of salt. In the Qur'an, Lut (pbuh) is warned (in verse 81) that his wife would turn away from him. The lure of the sinful life was too great for her to resist.
* An interesting difference between the Old Testament and the Qur'an can be found in Andrew White's comment. He quotes that Ibrahim (pbuh) "stood by them under the tree while they ate." Likewise, Lut (pbuh) "...made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate...." And yet in verse 70, the angels don't eat of Ibrahim's (pbuh) roasted calf: But when he saw their hands went not towards the (meal)...

Note: One point that isn't discussed in this post that is very relevant to the discussion is an earlier comment I made on the original diary by Southern Mouth. There, I wrote:

Well, seeing how you brought the Qur'an into it...

The main point of this diary was my disagreement and distaste for those who preach/teach that America is on the brink of destruction because of all the sin. I read nothing in the Sodom and Gomorrah account where Abraham went to Sodom to preach their impending doom.

Well, Abraham (pbuh) didn't go to Sodom; that was Lot (pbuh). ;)

The Qur'an also teaches that nations/civilizations are "on the brink of destruction because of all the sin," although Muslims don't normally harp on such themes as you ascribe to American Christians. There are numerous passages in the Qur'an telling of the destruction of various cities, the tale of Sodom and Gommorah being only one. There are also a number of verses in the Qur'an that tell Muslims to consider the ruins of formerly inhabited cities, ghost towns, in the region, to consider the fates of those peoples. The purpose of all these stories and verses is not to gloat, so to speak, over a people's impending destruction, but to warn them of the need to repent before time runs out.

However, it's not just individuals who need to repent, but communities as well. In Islam we have two types of duties, fard al-'ayn, in which every individual is responsible, and fard al-kifaya, which is a collective duty imposed on a community. Communities are also given time to repent; if they don't, they may suffer a similar fate to individual men; i.e., a failed civilization. The immediate warning in the Qur'an was to the pagan Makkan society in which Muhammad (pbuh) was born. Essentially, Allah (swt) is trying to tell them: "Look, I want you all to repent but My patience won't last forever. There may come a time that I will give up on you because you all gave up on Me. So repent now while you have the chance." I believe that this is also the message the American Christians are trying to say as well, but they've taken a different tone and tact from how Muslims would treat the subject.

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