A Sexual Offender from ISIS: Is the Quran to Blame?

Epigraph:

This day all good things have been made lawful for you. … And lawful for you are chaste believing women and chaste women from among those who were given the Book before you, when you give them their dowries, contracting valid marriage and not committing fornication nor taking secret paramours. And whoever rejects the faith, his work has doubtless come to naught, and in the Hereafter he will be among the losers. (Al Quran 5:5/6)

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A New Commentary of the Holy Quran Emphasizing Compassion, Justice and Human Rights Launched

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

New York Times this week announced, “the Islamic State codifies sex slavery in conquered regions of Iraq and Syria and uses the practice as a recruiting tool,” I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of this claim, but, I want to vindicate the Holy Quran from any association with the crimes of ISIS.

The Bible was once used to justify slavery, but, I believe it had more to do with the rationalizations of the perpetrators than the book itself. I have previously written an article collecting the compassionate teachings in the Bible: A Message of Compassion and Love from the Holy Bible.

There are three fourth of a million registered sexual offenders in USA, living in the communities and posing a potential grave risk to the people in the neighborhood. There is very little public debate about the risk they pose, at least at the present time.

New York Times this week singled out one sexual offender from Iraq for a detailed mention and discussion, perhaps because that presented a chance to analyze Quranic prescriptions on the issue of marriage, sexuality and slavery.

The three hundred million US citizens are at risk from almost a million sexual offenders in their neighborhoods and crimes of ISIS, however heinous, do not pose any immediate potential risk or danger to the Americans.

Sexual offenders are not specific to US and Iraq alone. A recent publication suggested that 1 in every 35 persons in UK is potentially a pedophile; posing a grave danger to every child growing up in UK.

I start off with these facts not to apologize for the crimes of ISIS, but just to create a context for the reader, hoping to create a fair and balanced view of our global village.

The details of the ISIS sexual offender are horrific and very disturbing and viewer’s discretion is advised. Here I quote the first few paragraphs from the New York Times. The article is titled, ISIS Enshrines a Theology of Rape:

In the moments before he raped the 12-year-old girl, the Islamic State fighter took the time to explain that what he was about to do was not a sin. Because the preteen girl practiced a religion other than Islam, the Quran not only gave him the right to rape her — it condoned and encouraged it, he insisted.

He bound her hands and gagged her. Then he knelt beside the bed and prostrated himself in prayer before getting on top of her.

When it was over, he knelt to pray again, bookending the rape with acts of religious devotion.

‘I kept telling him it hurts — please stop,’ said the girl, whose body is so small an adult could circle her waist with two hands. ‘He told me that according to Islam he is allowed to rape an unbeliever. He said that by raping me, he is drawing closer to God,’ she said in an interview alongside her family in a refugee camp here, to which she escaped after 11 months of captivity.

Photograph of a Yazidi girl by MAURICIO LIMAAUG, from New York Times' article
Photograph of a Yazidi girl by MAURICIO LIMAAUG, from New York Times’ article

This sexual offender has his perverted rationalizations, just like the 750,000 in USA do and would have deserved no special mention except that the terrorist group ISIS is promoting this and now New York Times is trying to make it common knowledge.

Just like the terrorist group fails to understand the pro-life message of the Holy Quran, where in it equates the killing of one innocent life to triggering a genocide and instead in the disguise of Jihad is out there killing innocent men and women, ISIS is disregarding the Quranic pearls about chastity, marriage and family values and misrepresenting a teaching about slave women, applicable in primitive times, because of the circumstances prevalent then, to justify its crimes against humanity and sex slavery.

In the first century, at the time of Jesus, may peace be on him, only a quarter of the population of the Roman Empire were free and three fourth of them were slaves. Situation in the seventh century was not much different. When conquering armies defeated the enemies and took over lands they enslaved the populations and took women as concubines. It was in this context that some of the verses of the Holy Quran were revealed to create appropriate deterrence to those who would try to destroy Islam and the Muslims and make their women concubines. These verses, unfortunately have been hijacked, fourteen centuries later, by ISIS for their nefarious agenda.

In 2 Samuel 12:8, God, speaking through the prophet Nathan, said that if David’s wives and concubines were not enough, God would have given David even more. Solomon, son of king David, had 700 wives and 300 concubines, according to 1 Kings 11:3. Mind you Solomon is a great hero in the Bible and not a villain. Actually, a large group of Orthodox Jews would like to rebuild the temple built by him and many would even like to see someone from Davidic lineage on the throne. New Testament, at great length tries to link Jesus lineage to king David. Now, Prince Charles on his coronation, as king of England would also be the supreme leader of the church of England, with 80 million followers. If, he were to acquire 700 wives and 300 concubines, I can assure you that he will have a mutiny at his hand.

For times have changed. We all understand that.

All I am suggesting is that the Quranic verses about slave women, which are often translated in English by the translators, “as what your right hands possess,” be understood in the context of slavery and tribal warfare in the seventh century and beyond.

The extent and prevalence of slavery in the Roman Empire can be judged from a comment of Prof. Elaine Pagels, of Princeton University, in the PBS documentary, titled From Jesus to Christ: the First Christians. She says that at the time of Jesus, in the Roman Empire, three quarters of the population consisted of slaves.”[1]

According to Encyclopedia Britannica 30 to 40 percent of population was enslaved in Roman Italy between 2nd century BC and 4th century AD.[2]

So, a large number of slave women were concubines and not married in primitive societies.

The Holy Quran aimed at regulating these relationships by changing them into marriages, albeit with some rights that were not fully enjoyed by the slave women, at least initially. But they were promised security of marriage and their children’s rights were fully acknowledged.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, “Concubinage is the state of cohabitation of a man and a woman without the full sanctions of legal marriage. … In Roman law concubinage was the permanent cohabitation of a man and a woman outside of their existing formal marriages. The partners in such relationships and the offspring of their union did not have the same legal rights accorded married persons and their legitimate children.”[3]

The Holy Quran did not make any distinction between the children of those who married as slave women or free women. They were all equal when it came to inheritance.

If you read the following verse about slave women, a few times, you would fully appreciate that the Quran is trying to promote marriage and family values and not prostitution and promiscuity:

And whoso of you cannot afford to marry free, believing women, let him marry what your right hands possess, namely, your believing handmaids. And Allah knows your faith best; you are all one from another; so marry them with the leave of their masters and give them their dowries according to what is fair, they being chaste, not committing fornication, nor taking secret paramours. And if, after they are married, they are guilty of lewdness, they shall have half the punishment prescribed for free women. This is for him among you who fears lest he should commit sin. And that you restrain yourselves is better for you; and Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful. (Al Quran 4:25/26)

The Quran is discouraging lewd behavior and trying to enroll everyone into the institution of marriage. Nevertheless, it is acknowledging the awkward circumstances of women, who are coming as slaves in the Muslim society after warfare. It is showing mercy to them in that if they are guilty of lewdness, their punishment is to be halved.

The Holy Quran prescribes believers to be kind and compassionate to the slaves in a verse, in which Allah recommends kindness to parents and near blood relatives:

And worship Allah and associate naught with Him, and show kindness to parents, and to kindred, and orphans, and the needy, and to the neighbor that is a kinsman and the neighbor that is a stranger, and the companion by your side, and the wayfarer, and those whom your right hands possess. Surely, Allah loves not the proud and the boastful. (Al Quran 4:46/47)

Every reasonable person can see that raping a slave woman is no kindness, except for some Islamists and Islamomophobes. There is no holy rape in the Holy Quran, it only exists in the perverted minds of some. In ascribing wrong teachings to the Holy Quran Islamists and Islamomophobes seem to agree. Indeed, birds of a kind flock together.

References

[1]http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/etc/script2.html

[2] http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/548305/slavery

[3] “concubinage.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 18 Dec. 2009.

Suggested reading

The truth about Muslims and sex slavery – according to the Quran, rather than Isis or Islamophobes

CBS Video: The Duality of President Thomas Jefferson

Can the Quran be Unjust? Can the Fundamentalists Kill Anyone Who Cheats Them?

Hijab: Quran is to be Understood in the Context of Time – Every One Knows It But Does Not Say It

‘Islamic Law’: A Myopic Reading of the Quran

The Holy Quran and the Seventh Century Arabian Metaphors

The Quran Only Means What Our Wisdom and Intentions Dictate

God Is Living, So Why Does Religion Treat God As Dead?

A New Commentary of the Holy Quran Emphasizing Compassion, Justice and Human Rights Launched

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Surah Anbiyya: The Prophets — They Make One Community

Introduction

Once again the two fundamental teachings of the Quran that this surah emphasizes are Monotheism and our accountability in Afterlife, the two beliefs shared by the three Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  We believe that the key or the fundamental verse in this surah is the verse 92.  After describing different prophets, by name or indirectly, starting with the prophet Muhammad and including, Moses, Aaron, Abraham, Lot, Isaac, Jacob, Noah, David, Solomon, Ishmael, Idris, Dhul Kifl, Zakariah and Jesus, the Quran states in this verse: “This is your Ummah or community, one Ummah and I am your Lord, so worship me alone.” A very categorical and unambiguous message for universal brotherhood and interfaith tolerance. This message of universal brotherhood is then reinforced by verse 107, which says about the prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, “We did not send you but as mercy for all people.”

The verses emphasizing Deism and Monotheism in this surah have a unique style, probably not repeated in other surahs.  These verses are:

We created not the heaven and the earth and all that is between the two in sport. Had We wished to find a pastime, We would surely have found it in that which
is with Us, if at all We would have been inclined in that way? (17)

And:

Have they taken gods from the earth who give life to the dead? If there had been in the heavens and the earth other gods beside Allah, then surely both would have gone to ruin. Then glorified be Allah, the Lord of the Throne, above that which they ascribe to Him. (21-22)

And:

Do not the disbelievers realize that the heavens and the earth were a solid mass, then We split them asunder, and We made from water every living thing? Will they not then believe? We have placed in the earth firm mountains lest it roll beneath them; and We have made wide pathways therein that they may thereby journey from place to place. We have made the heaven a guarded and protecting roof; yet they turn away from its Signs. He it is Who created the night and the day, and the sun and the moon each gliding freely in its orbit. (30-33)

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

21:1. The time of reckoning is drawing near for the people, yet they are heedless and turn away.

اقْتَرَبَ لِلنَّاسِ حِسَابُهُمْ وَهُمْ فِي غَفْلَةٍ مُّعْرِضُونَ

21:2. Whenever any fresh revelation comes to them from their Lord, they listen to it playfully

مَا يَأْتِيهِم مِّن ذِكْرٍ مِّن رَّبِّهِم مُّحْدَثٍ إِلَّا اسْتَمَعُوهُ وَهُمْ يَلْعَبُونَ

21:3. with frivolous hearts. The wrongdoers conferred in secret: ‘Is this man (Muhammad) anything but a mortal like yourselves? Are you going to fall under his spell with your eyes wide open?’

لَاهِيَةً قُلُوبُهُمْ

 ۗ وَأَسَرُّوا النَّجْوَى الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا هَلْ هَـٰذَا إِلَّا بَشَرٌ مِّثْلُكُمْ ۖأَفَتَأْتُونَ السِّحْرَ وَأَنتُمْ تُبْصِرُونَ

21:4. He (Muhammad) said,  ‘My Lord knows everything that is said in the heavens and the earth: He is the All Hearing, the All Knowing.’

قَالَ رَبِّي يَعْلَمُ الْقَوْلَ فِي السَّمَاءِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۖ وَهُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ

21:5. They go on to say: ‘These are his confused dreams; nay, he has invented it all; he is but a poet with a fertile imagination. Let him bring us a Sign, as he alleges the former Prophets did.’

بَلْ قَالُوا أَضْغَاثُ أَحْلَامٍ بَلِ افْتَرَاهُ بَلْ هُوَ شَاعِرٌ فَلْيَأْتِنَا بِآيَةٍ كَمَا أُرْسِلَ الْأَوَّلُونَ

21:6. But of the communities We destroyed before them not a single one believed. Will these now believe?

مَا آمَنَتْ قَبْلَهُم مِّن قَرْيَةٍ أَهْلَكْنَاهَا ۖ أَفَهُمْ يُؤْمِنُونَ

21:7. And even before you (Muhammad), all the messengers We sent were only men We inspired, if you [disbelievers] do not know, ask people who know the Scripture.

وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا قَبْلَكَ إِلَّا رِجَالًا نُّوحِي إِلَيْهِمْ ۖ فَاسْأَلُوا أَهْلَ الذِّكْرِ إِن كُنتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ

21:8. We did not give them bodies that needed no food, nor were they to live for ever.

وَمَا جَعَلْنَاهُمْ جَسَدًا لَّا يَأْكُلُونَ الطَّعَامَ وَمَا كَانُوا

خَالِدِينَ

21:9. We did fulfill Our promise to them in the end: We saved them and those We wished to save, and We destroyed those who exceeded all bounds.

ثُمَّ صَدَقْنَاهُمُ الْوَعْدَ فَأَنجَيْنَاهُمْ وَمَن نَّشَاءُ وَأَهْلَكْنَا الْمُسْرِفِينَ

21:10. We have now sent down to you (people) a Book which makes provision for your uplift; will you not then understand?

 لَقَدْ أَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكُمْ كِتَابًا فِيهِ ذِكْرُكُمْ ۖ أَفَلَا تَعْقِلُونَ

21:11. How many a township that acted wrongfully have We utterly destroyed, and raised up after it another people?

وَكَمْ قَصَمْنَا مِن قَرْيَةٍ كَانَتْ ظَالِمَةً وَأَنشَأْنَا بَعْدَهَا قَوْمًا آخَرِينَ

21:12. When they perceived Our chastisement, they prepared to flee from it.

فَلَمَّا أَحَسُّوا بَأْسَنَا إِذَا هُم مِّنْهَا يَرْكُضُونَ

21:13.  Flee not, but return to the comforts and luxuries you reveled in.  You would indeed be questioned.

لَا تَرْكُضُوا وَارْجِعُوا إِلَىٰ مَا أُتْرِفْتُمْ فِيهِ وَمَسَاكِنِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُسْأَلُونَ

21.14. At this they exclaimed: Alas, we were indeed wrongdoers.

قَالُوا يَا وَيْلَنَا إِنَّا كُنَّا ظَالِمِينَ

21:15. They continued to bewail till We mowed them down into stubble.

فَمَا زَالَت تِّلْكَ دَعْوَاهُمْ حَتَّىٰ جَعَلْنَاهُمْ حَصِيدًا خَامِدِينَ

21:16. We created not the heaven and the earth and all that is between the two in sport.

وَمَا خَلَقْنَا السَّمَاءَ وَالْأَرْضَ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا لَاعِبِينَ

21:17. Had We wished to find a pastime, We would surely have found it in that which is with Us, if at all We would have been inclined in that way.

لَوْ أَرَدْنَا أَن نَّتَّخِذَ لَهْوًا لَّاتَّخَذْنَاهُ مِن لَّدُنَّا إِن كُنَّا فَاعِلِينَ

21:18. No! We hurl the truth against falsehood, and truth obliterates it– see how falsehood vanishes away! Woe to you for the way you describe God!

بَلْ نَقْذِفُ بِالْحَقِّ عَلَى الْبَاطِلِ فَيَدْمَغُهُ فَإِذَا هُوَ زَاهِقٌ ۚ وَلَكُمُ الْوَيْلُ مِمَّا تَصِفُونَ

21:19. To Him belongs whosoever is in the heavens and in the earth. Those who are in His presence do not disdain to worship Him, nor do they weary of it;

وَلَهُ مَن فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ

 ۚ وَمَنْ عِندَهُ لَا يَسْتَكْبِرُونَ عَنْ عِبَادَتِهِ وَلَا يَسْتَحْسِرُونَ

21:20. they glorify Him night and day, and cease not.

 يُسَبِّحُونَ اللَّيْلَ وَالنَّهَارَ لَا يَفْتُرُونَ 

21:21. Have they taken gods from the earth who give life to the dead?

أَمِ اتَّخَذُوا آلِهَةً مِّنَ الْأَرْضِ هُمْ يُنشِرُونَ

21:22. If there had been in the heavens and the earth other gods beside Allah, then surely both would have gone to ruin. Then glorified be Allah, the Lord of the Throne, above that which they ascribe to Him.

لَوْ كَانَ فِيهِمَا آلِهَةٌ إِلَّا اللَّـهُ لَفَسَدَتَا ۚفَسُبْحَانَ اللَّـهِ رَبِّ الْعَرْشِ عَمَّا يَصِفُونَ

21:23. He cannot be called to account for anything He does, whereas they will be called to account.

 لَا يُسْأَلُ عَمَّا يَفْعَلُ وَهُمْ يُسْأَلُونَ

21:24. Have they taken gods beside Him? Say to them: Bring your proof.  This scripture is a source of honor for those who are with me and is also a source of honor for those who were before me. But most of them know not the truth, and so they turn away from it.

أَمِ اتَّخَذُوا مِن دُونِهِ آلِهَةً ۖ قُلْ هَاتُوا بُرْهَانَكُمْ ۖ هَـٰذَا ذِكْرُ مَن مَّعِيَ وَذِكْرُ مَن قَبْلِي ۗ بَلْ أَكْثَرُهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ الْحَقَّ ۖ فَهُم مُّعْرِضُونَ

21:25. We never sent any messenger before you (Muhammad) without revealing to him: ‘There is no god but Me, so serve Me.’

وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا مِن قَبْلِكَ مِن رَّسُولٍ إِلَّا نُوحِي إِلَيْهِ أَنَّهُ لَا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا أَنَا فَاعْبُدُونِ

21:26. But they say: The Gracious One has taken to Himself a son. Holy is He. Those whom they so designate are only His honored servants.

وَقَالُوا اتَّخَذَ الرَّحْمَـٰنُ وَلَدًا ۗ سُبْحَانَهُ ۚ بَلْ عِبَادٌ مُّكْرَمُونَ

21:27. They utter not a word more than He
directs, and they only carry out His commands.

لَا يَسْبِقُونَهُ بِالْقَوْلِ وَهُم بِأَمْرِهِ يَعْمَلُونَ

21:28. He knows what lies ahead of them and what is left behind them, and they intercede not except only he whose intercession He permits and they tremble with fear of Him.

يَعْلَمُ مَا بَيْنَ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَمَا خَلْفَهُمْ وَلَا يَشْفَعُونَ إِلَّا لِمَنِ ارْتَضَىٰ وَهُم مِّنْ خَشْيَتِهِ مُشْفِقُونَ

21:29. Whosoever of them should say: I am a god beside Him, We would reward them with Hell: this is how We reward the wrongdoers.

وَمَن يَقُلْ مِنْهُمْ إِنِّي إِلَـٰهٌ مِّن دُونِهِ فَذَٰلِكَ نَجْزِيهِ جَهَنَّمَ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ نَجْزِي الظَّالِمِينَ

21:30. Do not the disbelievers realize that the heavens and the earth were a solid mass, then We split them asunder, and We made from water every living thing? Will they not then believe?

أَوَلَمْ يَرَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا أَنَّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ كَانَتَا رَتْقًا فَفَتَقْنَاهُمَا ۖ وَجَعَلْنَا مِنَ الْمَاءِ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ حَيٍّ ۖ أَفَلَا يُؤْمِنُونَ

21:31. We have placed in the earth firm mountains lest it roll beneath them; and We have made wide pathways therein that they may thereby journey from place to place.

وَجَعَلْنَا فِي الْأَرْضِ رَوَاسِيَ أَن تَمِيدَ بِهِمْ وَجَعَلْنَا فِيهَا فِجَاجًا سُبُلًا لَّعَلَّهُمْ يَهْتَدُونَ

21:32. We have made the heaven a guarded and protecting roof; yet they turn away from its Signs.

وَجَعَلْنَا السَّمَاءَ سَقْفًا مَّحْفُوظًا ۖ وَهُمْ عَنْ آيَاتِهَا مُعْرِضُونَ

21:33. He it is Who created the night and the day, and the sun and the moon each gliding freely in its orbit.

وَهُوَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ اللَّيْلَ وَالنَّهَارَ وَالشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ ۖ كُلٌّ فِي فَلَكٍ يَسْبَحُونَ

21:34. We have not granted everlasting life to any other human being before you Muhammad – if you die, will the others live for ever?

وَمَا جَعَلْنَا لِبَشَرٍ مِّن قَبْلِكَ الْخُلْدَ ۖ أَفَإِن مِّتَّ فَهُمُ الْخَالِدُونَ

21:35. Every soul is certain to taste death: We test you all through the bad and the good, and to Us you will all return.

كُلُّ نَفْسٍ ذَائِقَةُ الْمَوْتِ ۗ وَنَبْلُوكُم بِالشَّرِّ وَالْخَي فِتْنَةً ۖ وَإِلَيْنَا تُرْجَعُونَ

21:36. When the disbelievers see you they
make fun of you: ‘Is this the one who decries your gods?’ They reject with disdain any mention of the Gracious One.

وَإِذَا رَآكَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا إِن يَتَّخِذُونَكَ إِلَّا هُزُوًا أَهَـٰذَا الَّذِي يَذْكُرُ آلِهَتَكُمْ وَهُم بِذِكْرِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ هُمْ كَافِرُونَ

21:37. Man is hasty by nature. I will show you My signs soon, so do not ask Me to hasten them.

خُلِقَ الْإِنسَانُ مِنْ عَجَلٍ ۚ سَأُرِيكُمْ آيَاتِي فَلَا تَسْتَعْجِلُونِ

21:38. They say, ‘When will this promise be
fulfilled, if what you say is true?’

وَيَقُولُونَ مَتَىٰ هَـٰذَا الْوَعْدُ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ

21:39. If the disbelievers only knew, the
time will arrive when they will not be able to ward off the Fire from their faces or their backs, and they will get no help.

لَوْ يَعْلَمُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا حِينَ لَا يَكُفُّونَ عَن وُجُوهِهِمُ النَّارَ وَلَا عَن ظُهُورِهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يُنصَرُونَ

21:40. It will come upon them suddenly and stupefy them; they will be powerless to push it away; they will not be reprieved.

بَلْ تَأْتِيهِم بَغْتَةً فَتَبْهَتُهُمْ فَلَا يَسْتَطِيعُونَ رَدَّهَا وَلَا هُمْ يُنظَرُونَ

21:41. Messengers before you Muhammad were also ridiculed, but those who mocked them were overwhelmed in the end by the very thing they had mocked.

وَلَقَدِ اسْتُهْزِئَ بِرُسُلٍ مِّن قَبْلِكَ فَحَاقَ بِالَّذِينَ سَخِرُوا مِنْهُم مَّا كَانُوا بِهِ يَسْتَهْزِئُونَ

21:42. Ask them: Who can save you from the chastisement of the Gracious One by night and by day? In truth they turn away from being reminded of their Lord.

قُلْ مَن يَكْلَؤُكُم بِاللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ مِنَ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ ۗ بَلْ هُمْ عَن ذِكْرِ رَبِّهِم مُّعْرِضُونَ

21:43. Have they any gods who can save them from Our chastisement? They cannot even help themselves, nor can their devotees be befriended by any one against Us.

أَمْ لَهُمْ آلِهَةٌ تَمْنَعُهُم مِّن دُونِنَا

 ۚ لَا يَسْتَطِيعُونَ نَصْرَ أَنفُسِهِمْ وَلَا هُم مِّنَّا يُصْحَبُونَ

21:44. We have allowed these sinners and their forefathers to enjoy life for a long time. But do they not see how We are shrinking their borders? Is it they who will prevail?

بَلْ مَتَّعْنَا هَـٰؤُلَاءِ وَآبَاءَهُمْ حَتَّىٰ طَالَ عَلَيْهِمُ الْعُمُرُ ۗ أَفَلَا يَرَوْنَ أَنَّا نَأْتِي الْأَرْضَ نَنقُصُهَا مِنْ أَطْرَافِهَا ۚ أَفَهُمُ الْغَالِبُونَ

21:45. Tell them: ‘I warn you only according to divine revelation.’ The deaf will not hear the warning call.

قُلْ إِنَّمَا

أُنذِرُكُم بِالْوَحْيِ

 ۚ وَلَا يَسْمَعُ الصُّمُّ الدُّعَاءَ إِذَا مَا يُنذَرُونَ

21:46. But if even a breath of the chastisement of thy Lord were to touch them, they will surely cry out: Woe to us! We were indeed wrong-doers.

وَلَئِن مَّسَّتْهُمْ نَفْحَةٌ مِّنْ عَذَابِ رَبِّكَ لَيَقُولُنَّ يَا وَيْلَنَا إِنَّا كُنَّا ظَالِمِينَ

21:47. We will set up scales of justice for the Day of Resurrection so that no one can be wronged in the least, and if there should be even the weight of a mustard seed, We shall bring it out – We take excellent account.

وَنَضَعُ الْمَوَازِينَ الْقِسْطَ لِيَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ فَلَا تُظْلَمُ نَفْسٌ شَيْئًا ۖ وَإِن كَانَ مِثْقَالَ حَبَّةٍ مِّنْ خَرْدَلٍ أَتَيْنَا بِهَا ۗ وَكَفَىٰ بِنَا حَاسِبِينَ

21:48. We gave Moses and Aaron the Discrimination and a Light and a Reminder for the righteous,

وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَا مُوسَىٰ وَهَارُونَ الْفُرْقَانَ وَضِيَاءً وَذِكْرًا لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ

21:49. who fear their Lord in secret, and who dread the Hour of Judgment.

الَّذِينَ يَخْشَوْنَ رَبَّهُم بِالْغَيْبِ وَهُم مِّنَ السَّاعَةِ

مُشْفِقُونَ

21:50. This Quran too is a blessed message We have sent down – are you people going to deny it?

وَهَـٰذَا ذِكْرٌ مُّبَارَكٌ أَنزَلْنَاهُ ۚ أَفَأَنتُمْ لَهُ مُنكِرُونَ

21:51. We had bestowed upon Abraham his wisdom before this and We knew him well.

وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَا إِبْرَاهِيمَ رُشْدَهُ مِن قَبْلُ وَكُنَّا بِهِ عَالِمِينَ

21:52. He said to his father and his people: What are these images to which you are
so devoted?

إِذْ قَالَ لِأَبِيهِ وَقَوْمِهِ مَا هَـٰذِهِ التَّمَاثِيلُ الَّتِي أَنتُمْ لَهَا عَاكِفُونَ

21:53. They said: We saw our fathers worshiping them.

قَالُوا وَجَدْنَا آبَاءَنَا لَهَا عَابِدِينَ

21:54. He observed: Then you and your fathers have been in manifest error.

قَالَ لَقَدْ كُنتُمْ أَنتُمْ وَآبَاؤُكُمْ فِي ضَلَالٍ مُّبِينٍ

21:55. They asked, ‘Have you brought us the truth or are you just joking with us?’

قَالُوا أَجِئْتَنَا بِالْحَقِّ أَمْ أَنتَ مِنَ اللَّاعِبِينَ

21:56. He replied: The truth is that your Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth, Who created them, and I bear witness to that before you.

قَالَ بَل رَّبُّكُمْ رَبُّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ الَّذِي فَطَرَهُنَّ وَأَنَا عَلَىٰ ذَٰلِكُم مِّنَ الشَّاهِدِينَ

21:57. He thought to himself: By Allah, after you have gone away and turned your backs I will certainly devise a plan against your idols.

وَتَاللَّـهِ لَأَكِيدَنَّ أَصْنَامَكُم بَعْدَ أَن تُوَلُّوا مُدْبِرِينَ

21:58. He broke them all into pieces, but left the biggest one for them to return to.

فَجَعَلَهُمْ جُذَاذًا إِلَّا كَبِيرًا لَّهُمْ لَعَلَّهُمْ إِلَيْهِ يَرْجِعُونَ

21:59. They said, ‘Who has done this to our gods? How wicked he must be!’

قَالُوا مَن فَعَلَ هَـٰذَا بِآلِهَتِنَا إِنَّهُ لَمِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ

21:60. Some said, ‘We heard a youth named Abraham talking ill about them.’

قَالُوا سَمِعْنَا فَتًى يَذْكُرُهُمْ يُقَالُ لَهُ إِبْرَاهِيمُ

21:61. They said: Then bring him before the people that they may judge him.

قَالُوا فَأْتُوا بِهِ عَلَىٰ أَعْيُنِ النَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَشْهَدُونَ

21:62. They asked, ‘Was it you, Abraham, who did this to our gods?’

قَالُوا أَأَنتَ فَعَلْتَ هَـٰذَا بِآلِهَتِنَا يَا إِبْرَاهِيمُ

21:63. He said, ‘No, it was done by the biggest of them – this one. Ask them, if they can talk.’

قَالَ بَلْ فَعَلَهُ كَبِيرُهُمْ هَـٰذَا فَاسْأَلُوهُمْ إِن كَانُوا يَنطِقُونَ

21:64. For a short while they turned on each other and confessed: ‘Indeed you yourselves are in the wrong.’

فَرَجَعُوا إِلَىٰ أَنفُسِهِمْ فَقَالُوا إِنَّكُمْ أَنتُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ

21:65. But then they lapsed again and said,
‘You know very well these gods cannot speak.’

ثُمَّ نُكِسُوا عَلَىٰ رُءُوسِهِمْ لَقَدْ عَلِمْتَ مَا هَـٰؤُلَا يَنطِقُونَ

21:66. Abraham said, ‘How can you worship what can neither benefit nor harm you, instead of God?

قَالَ أَفَتَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّـهِ مَا لَا يَنفَعُكُمْ شَيْئًا وَلَا يَضُرُّكُمْ

21:67. Shame on you and on the things you worship instead of God. Can you not understand?’

أُفٍّ لَّكُمْ وَلِمَا تَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّـهِ ۖ أَفَلَا تَعْقِلُونَ

21:68. They said, ‘Burn him and avenge your gods, if you are going to do the right thing.’

قَالُوا حَرِّقُوهُ وَانصُرُوا آلِهَتَكُمْ إِن كُنتُمْ فَاعِلِينَ

21:69. When they cast him into the fire, We commanded it: Be cool and a means of safety for Abraham.

قُلْنَا يَا نَارُ كُونِي بَرْدًا وَسَلَامًا عَلَىٰ إِبْرَاهِيمَ

21:70. They planned to harm him, but We made them suffer the greatest loss.

وَأَرَادُوا بِهِ كَيْدًا فَجَعَلْنَاهُمُ الْأَخْسَرِينَ

21:71. We saved him and brought him and Lot in safety to the land which We blessed for all people.

وَنَجَّيْنَاهُ وَلُوطًا إِلَى الْأَرْضِ الَّتِي بَارَكْنَا فِيهَا لِلْعَالَمِينَ

21:72. We bestowed upon him Isaac, and a grandson Jacob, and We made all of them righteous.

 وَوَهَبْنَا لَهُ إِسْحَاقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ نَافِلَةً ۖ وَكُلًّا جَعَلْنَا صَالِحِينَ

21:73. We made all of them leaders, guiding others by Our command, and We inspired them to do good works, to keep up the prayer, and to give alms: they were Our true worshipers.

وَجَعَلْنَاهُمْ أَئِمَّةً يَهْدُونَ بِأَمْرِنَا وَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْهِمْ فِعْلَ الْخَيْرَاتِ وَإِقَامَ الصَّلَاةِ وَإِيتَاءَ الزَّكَاةِ ۖ وَكَانُوا لَنَا عَابِدِينَ

21:74. We gave Lot sound judgement and
knowledge and saved him from the community who practiced obscenities. They were indeed a wicked and rebellious people.

وَلُوطًا آتَيْنَاهُ حُكْمًا وَعِلْمًا وَنَجَّيْنَاهُ مِنَ الْقَرْيَةِ الَّتِي كَانَت تَّعْمَلُ الْخَبَائِثَ ۗ إِنَّهُمْ كَانُوا قَوْمَ سَوْءٍ فَاسِقِينَ

21:75. We admitted him to Our mercy; he was a righteous man.

وَأَدْخَلْنَاهُ فِي رَحْمَتِنَا ۖ إِنَّهُ مِنَ الصَّالِحِينَ

21:76. Call to mind, when before this Noah called on Us and We heard his prayer and delivered him and his family from a great distress,

وَنُوحًا إِذْ نَادَىٰ مِن قَبْلُ فَاسْتَجَبْنَا لَهُ فَنَجَّيْنَاهُ وَأَهْلَهُ مِنَ الْكَرْبِ الْعَظِيمِ

21:77. and We helped him against the people who rejected Our signs – they were
evil people, so We drowned them all.

وَنَصَرْنَاهُ مِنَ الْقَوْمِ الَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا ۚإِنَّهُمْ كَانُوا قَوْمَ سَوْءٍ فَأَغْرَقْنَاهُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ

21:78. And remember David and Solomon, when they gave judgement regarding the field into which sheep strayed by night and grazed. We witnessed their judgement.

وَدَاوُودَ وَسُلَيْمَانَ إِذْ يَحْكُمَانِ فِي الْحَرْثِ إِذْ نَفَشَتْ فِيهِ غَنَمُ الْقَوْمِ وَكُنَّا لِحُكْمِهِمْ شَاهِدِينَ

21:79. We gave Solomon the right understanding of the matter, and upon each We bestowed wisdom and knowledge.  We constrained to David’s service the people of the mountains who celebrated the praises of Allah, and also the birds. We had power to do all this.

فَفَهَّمْنَاهَا سُلَيْمَانَ ۚ وَكُلًّا آتَيْنَا حُكْمًا وَعِلْمًا ۚوَسَخَّرْنَا مَعَ دَاوُودَ الْجِبَالَ يُسَبِّحْنَ وَالطَّيْرَ ۚ وَكُنَّا فَاعِلِينَ

21:80. We taught him the fashioning of coats of mail for you, to protect you in battle. Will you then be grateful?

وَعَلَّمْنَاهُ صَنْعَةَ لَبُوسٍ لَّكُمْ لِتُحْصِنَكُم مِّن بَأْسِكُمْ ۖ فَهَلْ أَنتُمْ شَاكِرُونَ

21:81. We constrained to Solomon’s service the fierce wind, which blew at his bidding towards the land which We had blessed. We are fully conversant with all things.

وَلِسُلَيْمَانَ الرِّيحَ عَاصِفَةً تَجْرِي بِأَمْرِهِ إِلَى الْأَرْضِ الَّتِي بَارَكْنَا فِيهَا ۚ وَكُنَّا بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَالِمِينَ

21:82. We also subjected to him expert divers who dived for him and performed other tasks; and it was We who watched over them.

وَمِنَ الشَّيَاطِينِ مَن يَغُوصُونَ لَهُ وَيَعْمَلُونَ عَمَلًا دُونَ ذَٰلِكَ ۖ وَكُنَّا لَهُمْ حَافِظِينَ

21:83. Remember Job, when he cried to his Lord, ‘Suffering has truly afflicted me, but you are the Most Merciful of the merciful.’

 وَأَيُّوبَ إِذْ نَادَىٰ رَبَّهُ أَنِّي مَسَّنِيَ الضُّرُّ وَأَنتَ أَرْحَمُ الرَّاحِمِينَ

21:84. So We heard his prayer and removed the distress from which he suffered and bestowed upon him his family, and along with more like them, as a mercy from Us, and as a reminder for all who serve Us.

فَاسْتَجَبْنَا لَهُ فَكَشَفْنَا مَا بِهِ مِن ضُرٍّ

 ۖ وَآتَيْنَاهُ أَهْلَهُ وَمِثْلَهُم مَّعَهُمْ رَحْمَةً مِّنْ عِندِنَا وَذِكْرَىٰ لِلْعَابِدِينَ

21:85. And remember Ishmael, Idris and Dhu’lKifl. All of them were steadfast.

وَإِسْمَاعِيلَ وَإِدْرِيسَ وَذَا الْكِفْلِ ۖ كُلٌّ مِّنَ الصَّابِرِينَ

21:86. And We admitted them to Our mercy. Surely, they were of the righteous.

وَأَدْخَلْنَاهُمْ فِي رَحْمَتِنَا ۖ إِنَّهُم مِّنَ الصَّالِحِينَ

21:87. And remember the man with the whale, when he went off angrily, thinking We could not restrict him, but then he cried out in the deep darkness, ‘There is no God but You, glory be to You, I was wrong.’

وَذَا النُّونِ إِذ ذَّهَبَ مُغَاضِبًا فَظَنَّ أَن لَّن نَّقْدِرَ عَلَيْهِ فَنَادَىٰ فِي الظُّلُمَاتِ أَن لَّا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا أَنتَ سُبْحَانَكَ إِنِّي كُنتُ مِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ

21:88. So We heard his prayer and saved him from distress: this is how We save those who believe.

 فَاسْتَجَبْنَا لَهُ وَنَجَّيْنَاهُ مِنَ الْغَمِّ ۚ وَكَذَٰلِكَ نُنجِي الْمُؤْمِنِينَ

21:89.  Call to mind Zachariah also when he called on his Lord: Leave me not alone, Lord, You are the Best of heirs.

 وَزَكَرِيَّا إِذْ نَادَىٰ رَبَّهُ رَبِّ لَا تَذَرْنِي فَرْدًا وَأَنتَ خَيْرُ الْوَارِثِي

21:90. So We heard his prayer and bestowed upon him Yahya and cured his wife of barrenness. They used to hasten to do good and they called on Us in hope and in fear, and they humbled themselves before Us.

فَاسْتَجَبْنَا لَهُ وَوَهَبْنَا لَهُ يَحْيَىٰ وَأَصْلَحْنَا لَهُ زَوْجَهُ ۚ إِنَّهُمْ كَانُوا يُسَارِعُونَ فِي الْخَيْرَاتِ وَيَدْعُونَنَا رَغَبًا وَرَهَبًا ۖ وَكَانُوا لَنَا خَاشِعِينَ

21:91. Remember the one who safeguarded her chastity; so We blessed her with Our revelation and We made her and her son a sign for all people.

وَالَّتِي أَحْصَنَتْ فَرْجَهَا فَنَفَخْنَا فِيهَا مِن رُّوحِنَا وَجَعَلْنَاهَا وَابْنَهَا آيَةً لِّلْعَالَمِينَ

21:92 This is your Ummah or community, one Ummah and I am your Lord, so worship me alone.

إِنَّ هَـٰذِهِ أُمَّتُكُمْ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً وَأَنَا رَبُّكُمْ فَاعْبُدُونِ

21:93. They have torn their unity apart, but they will all return to Us.

وَتَقَطَّعُوا أَمْرَهُم بَيْنَهُمْ ۖ كُلٌّ إِلَيْنَا رَاجِعُونَ

21:94. If anyone does good deeds and is a believer, his efforts will not be ignored: We record them for him.

فَمَن يَعْمَلْ مِنَ الصَّالِحَاتِ وَهُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ فَلَا كُفْرَانَ لِسَعْيِهِ وَإِنَّا لَهُ كَاتِبُونَ

21:95. It is ordained for every township We have destroyed that its dwellers shall not return to this life.

وَحَرَامٌ عَلَىٰ قَرْيَةٍ أَهْلَكْنَاهَا أَنَّهُمْ لَا يَرْجِعُونَ

21:96. When the peoples of Gog and Magog are let loose and swarm swiftly from every highland.

حَتَّىٰ إِذَا فُتِحَتْ يَأْجُوجُ وَمَأْجُوجُ وَهُم مِّن كُلِّ حَدَبٍ يَنسِلُونَ

21:97. When the True Promise draws near, the disbelievers’ eyes will stare in terror, and they will say, ‘Woe to us! We were not aware of this at all. We were wrong.’

وَاقْتَرَبَ الْوَعْدُ الْحَقُّ فَإِذَا هِيَ شَاخِصَةٌ أَبْصَارُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا يَا وَيْلَنَا قَدْ كُنَّا فِي غَفْلَةٍ مِّنْ هَـٰذَا بَلْ كُنَّا ظَالِمِينَ

21:98. They will be told: Surely, you and that which you worship beside Allah, are destined to be the fuel of hell. You will also enter therein.

إِنَّكُمْ وَمَا تَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّـهِ حَصَبُ جَهَنَّمَ أَنتُمْ لَهَا وَارِدُونَ

21:99. If these had been gods, as you allege, they would not have come to it; but long will they abide therein.

لَوْ كَانَ هَـٰؤُلَاءِ آلِهَةً مَّا وَرَدُوهَا ۖ وَكُلٌّ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ

21:100. The disbelievers will be groaning piteously, but the idols will hear nothing.

لَهُمْ فِيهَا زَفِيرٌ وَهُمْ فِيهَا لَا يَسْمَعُونَ

21:101. But those for whom We have decreed Paradise will be kept far from Hell.

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ سَبَقَتْ لَهُم مِّنَّا الْحُسْنَىٰ أُولَـٰئِكَ عَنْهَا مُبْعَدُونَ

21:102. They will not hear a murmur from it – and endlessly they will enjoy everything their souls desire.

لَا يَسْمَعُونَ حَسِيسَهَا

 ۖ وَهُمْ فِي مَا اشْتَهَتْ أَنفُسُهُمْ خَالِدُونَ

21:103. The Great Terror will not grieve them, and the angels will greet them with: This is your day that you were promised.

لَا يَحْزُنُهُمُ الْفَزَعُ الْأَكْبَرُ وَتَتَلَقَّاهُمُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ هَـٰذَا يَوْمُكُمُ الَّذِي كُنتُمْ تُوعَدُونَ

21:104.  Be mindful of the day when We shall roll up the heavens like the rolling up of the scrolls by a scribe. As We began the first creation, so shall We repeat it. We have charged Ourself with it, and so shall We do.

يَوْمَ نَطْوِي السَّمَاءَ كَطَيِّ السِّجِلِّ لِلْكُتُبِ ۚ كَمَا بَدَأْنَا أَوَّلَ خَلْقٍ نُّعِيدُهُ ۚ وَعْدًا عَلَيْنَا ۚ إِنَّا كُنَّا فَاعِلِينَ

21:105. We wrote in the Psalms, as We did in earlier Scripture: ‘My righteous servants will inherit the earth.’

وَلَقَدْ كَتَبْنَا فِي الزَّبُورِ مِن بَعْدِ الذِّكْرِ أَنَّ الْأَرْضَ يَرِثُهَا عِبَادِيَ الصَّالِحُونَ

21:106. There truly is a message in this for the servants of God!

إِنَّ فِي هَـٰذَا لَبَلَاغًا لِّقَوْمٍ عَابِدِينَ

21:107. We have sent you Muhammad only as a mercy for all people.

وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلَّا رَحْمَةً لِّلْعَالَمِينَ

21:108. Say, ‘What is revealed to me is that your God is one God – will you submit to Him?’

قُلْ إِنَّمَا يُوحَىٰ إِلَيَّ أَنَّمَا إِلَـٰهُكُمْ إِلَـٰهٌ وَاحِدٌ ۖ فَهَلْ أَنتُم مُّسْلِمُونَ

21:109. I have warned you all alike and I know not whether that which you are promised is near or distant.

فَإِن تَوَلَّوْا فَقُلْ آذَنتُكُمْ عَلَىٰ سَوَاءٍ ۖ وَإِنْ أَدْرِي أَقَرِيبٌ أَم بَعِيدٌ مَّا تُوعَدُونَ

21:110. Allah surely knows that which you say openly and also knows that which you conceal.

إِنَّهُ يَعْلَمُ الْجَهْرَ مِنَ الْقَوْلِ وَيَعْلَمُ مَا تَكْتُمُونَ

21:111. Nor do I know whether that which you are promised is a trial for you, or is an enjoyment for a while.

وَإِنْ أَدْرِي لَعَلَّهُ فِتْنَةٌ لَّكُمْ وَمَتَاعٌ إِلَىٰ حِينٍ

21:112. Muhammad said, ‘My Lord, judge among us with the best justice.’ And, ‘Our Lord is the Lord of Mercy. We seek His assistance against what the disbelievers say.’

قَالَ رَبِّ احْكُم

بِالْحَقِّ

 ۗوَرَبُّنَا الرَّحْمَـٰنُ الْمُسْتَعَانُ عَلَىٰ مَا تَصِفُونَ

Commentary

Only a very limited commentary is offered here for now the rest to follow over time. We felt that a short introduction to this surah was very important to put prophethood in the perspective of interfaith tolerance, so we have done that as the first step.

21:1

The time of reckoning is drawing near for the people, yet they are heedless and turn away. (1)

The two most important teachings of the holy Quran that are paradigm setting for human life are Monotheism and accountability in the Afterlife. The surah starts with an allusion to the Afterlife.

21:30-33

Do not the disbelievers realize that the heavens and the earth were a solid mass, then We split them asunder, and We made from water every living thing? Will they not then believe? We have placed in the earth firm mountains lest it roll beneath them; and We have made wide pathways therein that they may thereby journey from place to place. We have made the heaven a guarded and protecting roof; yet they turn away from its Signs. He it is Who created the night and the day, and the sun and the moon each gliding freely in its orbit. (30-33)

These verses are perhaps one of the best examples of making a case for Deism and religion and science correlation from the holy Quran. Suggested reading:

Deism: Common between Islam, Christianity and Judaism

Cataloging 750 verses of the Holy Quran inspiring believers to study nature

21:92-94

This is your Ummah or community, one Ummah and I am your Lord, so worship me alone. They have torn their unity apart, but they will all return to Us. If anyone does good deeds and is a believer, his efforts will not be ignored: We record them for him. (92-94)

We believe that the key or the fundamental verse in this surah is the verse 92.  After describing different prophets, by name or indirectly, starting with the prophet Muhammad and including, Moses, Aaron, Abraham, Lot, Isaac, Jacob, Noah, David, Solomon, Ishmael, Idris, Dhul Kifl, Zakariah and Jesus, the Quran states in this verse: “This is your Ummah or community, one Ummah and I am your Lord, so worship me alone.” A very categorical and unambiguous message for universal brotherhood and interfaith tolerance. This message of universal brotherhood is then reinforced by verse 107, which says about the prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, “We did not send you but as mercy for all people.”

The verse 93 highlights that the believers of different prophets unnecessarily emphasize their differences and fail to see the common teachings between them.  This is especially true for the followers of the Abrahamic faiths that have been advised by the holy Quran to come together on the teaching of Monotheism:

Say, ‘O People of the Book! come to a word common between us and you — that we worship none but Allah, and that we associate no partner with Him, and that some of us take not others for Lords beside Allah.’ But if they turn away, then say, ‘Bear witness that we have submitted to God.’ (3:64)

The verse 94 emphasizes the teaching about the yardstick that God will use to judge us on the day of Judgment, “If anyone does good deeds and is a believer, his efforts will not be ignored: We record them for him,” also mentioned in  several other verses. Salvation cannot be monopolized as the Quran states:

Surely, the Believers, and the Jews, and the Christians and the Sabians — whichever party from among these truly believes in Allah and the Last Day and does good deeds — shall have their reward with their Lord, and no fear shall come upon them, nor shall they grieve. (Al Quran 2:62)

And:

Surely, those who have believed, and the Jews, and the Sabians, and the Christians — whoso believes in Allah and the Last Day and does good deeds, on them shall come no fear, nor shall they grieve. (Al Quran 5:69)

And:

As to those who believe, and the Jews, and the Sabians, and the Christians, and the Magians and the idolaters, verily, Allah will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection; surely Allah is Witness over all things. (Al Quran 22:17)

If we allow religious leaders or writers to act as argumentative lawyers, then any good lawyer, using legalistic jargon, can construct a myopic and narrow exclusive reality, to the exclusion of other sects or religions. We should be wise enough to look through such intolerant and myopic commentators of the holy Quran.

21:105-107

We wrote in the Psalms, as We did in earlier Scripture: ‘My righteous servants will inherit the earth.’ There truly is a message in this for the servants of God! We have sent you Muhammad only as a mercy for all people. (105-107)

These verses highlight again, the common theme in the teachings of all the prophets, universal nature of the prophethood of the holy prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, and universal brotherhood and sisterhood.

21:108

 Say, ‘What is revealed to me is that your God is one God – will you submit to Him?’ (108)

Almost every surah begins and ends with Monotheism.  Towards the end once again the central message of all the prophets in reemphasized in the following words: Say, ‘What is revealed to me is that your God is one God – will you submit to Him?’

21:109-112

I have warned you all alike and I know not whether that which you are promised is near or distant. Allah surely knows that which you say openly and also knows that which you conceal.  Nor do I know whether that which you are promised is a trial for you, or is an enjoyment for a while. Muhammad said, ‘My Lord, judge among us with the best justice.’ And, ‘Our Lord is the Lord of Mercy. We seek His assistance against what the disbelievers say.’ (109-112)

As the surah began with the mention of Afterlife, so it is concluding with that: “I have warned you all alike and I know not whether that which you are promised is near or distant.” (109)  In the very last verse of the surah the prophet emphasizes the attribute of divine mercy in the final judgment in the hereafter.

Eternal Damnation of the Non-Believers and the Merciful God of the Holy Quran?

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

In the feisty dialogue, in the above video between the most famous atheist, Prof. Richard Dawkins and Mehdi Hasan, the famous host of Al Jazeera English, around minute 19:45, the issue of child abuse in the Catholic Church and bringing up children in the tradition is discussed.

Dawkins tells a story of a woman in USA, who wrote to him that when she was seven years old, she was sexually abused by a priest in a car and around the same time a friend of hers, who was also seven and from a Protestant family died.  She was told that as she was a Protestant, she will be roasting in hell forever. The lady told Dawkins that of those two abuses, the physical sexual abuse was dirty and messy, but she grew out of it. But, the mental abuse of threat of hell fire, took years longer to grow out of. Mehdi Hasan then puts a poll to the audience about sexual abuse and intellectual abuse, with threat of eternal fire and the audience finds both these abuses to be horrible.

Now, the Muslim readers may find many of the beliefs of Christianity, like Trinity, Eucharist, Original Sin or vicarious atonement as wrong and could care less about the subtle differences between the Catholics and the Protestants! But, in this we may be able to also see the futility of many of our own inter-sectarian or theological debates.

The key issue here is how could a Merciful and Just God of Abrahamic faiths punish some, with eternal fire and condemnation, for some wrong beliefs or some finite wrong deeds?

I recently attended my 40th high school reunion in Boston, USA.   We were 96 students in our high school class of Cadet College Hasanabdal, Pakistan, from grade 8-12 (1973-1978). We were together for five formative years of our life in this private boarding school, and as a result formed very close bonds with each other.  Twenty seven of us are in USA now and 22 gathered for a weekend reunion on the last weekend of September, in a beach town near Boston, Gloucester.  Needless to say that we had wonderful time as some of us were meeting after 10-40 years.

Twenty of the 22 were Muslims of one color or the other, one was a self professed atheist and one a Christian.  We discussed and enjoyed a host of subjects, but there was no religious debate or tension.  Everyone bonded nicely with each other once again, across a span of decades.

Eight days after the reunion, our Christian classmate, whom I will call John, who is a psychiatrist in Canada, announced in our Whats-app group that his father passed away, at a ripe old age of more than 100, a day ago and he will be flying to Pakistan for the funeral.

All of us prayed for his father in our comments and wished him salvation and paradise and wished patience for his family. None of us seemed to be prescribing to the official position of the so called scholars of Islam, only a few of whom can see paradise for the Christians. We were perhaps drawing inspiration from our friendship and from our spirit of religious tolerance and our understanding of the Quranic verses highlighting that salvation cannot be monopolized:

Surely, the Believers, and the Jews, and the Christians and the Sabians — whichever party from among these truly believes in Allah and the Last Day and does good deeds — shall have their reward with their Lord, and no fear shall come upon them, nor shall they grieve. (Al Quran 2:62)

And:

Surely, those who have believed, and the Jews, and the Sabians, and the Christians — whoso believes in Allah and the Last Day and does good deeds, on them shall come no fear, nor shall they grieve. (Al Quran 5:69)

And:

As to those who believe, and the Jews, and the Sabians, and the Christians, and the Magians and the idolaters, verily, Allah will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection; surely Allah is Witness over all things. (Al Quran 22:17)

I was very happy and reassured that the whole of our Whats-app group did the right thing, in consoling John and giving him hope and optimism.  But, where does the myopic view of the orthodox Muslims come from, many of whom prescribe eternal fire for the non-Muslims?

Could it be they are misreading the holy Quran?

The root word used in reference to the eternal paradise or hell is خلد.  I searched in the website Tanzil.net as to how often this root word appears in the holy Quran, in different forms.  The result was that it appears 87 times in 86 different verses of the Quran.  I have empirically chosen to quote the six times that it appears in Surah Nisa, below:

These are the limits set by Allah; and whoso obeys Allah and His Messenger, He will make him enter Gardens through which streams flow; therein shall they abide forever; and that is a great triumph. (Al Quran 4:13)

And whoso disobeys Allah and His Messenger and transgresses His limits, He will make him enter into Fire; therein shall he abide for a very long time; and he shall have an humiliating punishment. (Al Quran 4:14)

And those who believe and do good works, We shall make them enter Gardens through which streams flow, to abide therein forever; therein shall they have pure spouses; and We shall admit them to a place of pleasant and plenteous shade. (Al Quran 4:57)

And whoso kills a believer intentionally, his reward shall be Hell wherein he shall abide for a very long time. And Allah will be wroth with him and will curse him and will prepare for him a great punishment. (Al Quran 4:93)

But as to those who believe and do good works, We will admit them into Gardens, beneath which streams flow, abiding therein forever. It is Allah’s unfailing promise; and who can be more truthful than Allah in word? (Al Quran 4:122)

Surely, those who have disbelieved and have acted unjustly, Allah is not going to forgive them, nor will He show them any way, except the way of Hell, wherein they shall abide for a long, long period. And that is easy for Allah. (Al Quran 4:168-169)

The same words خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا أَبَدًا in the verse 122 in reference to paradise, I have translated as forever and in 169 in reference to hell as a long, long period; borrowing the idea from a conventional translation.  I then decided to read the translations of these verses in a website that has almost 60 different English translations of the holy Quran.

The results were not encouraging!

When we read each verse of the holy Quran in isolation then it can have a very different meaning compared to what can be understood, when we read it in light of all the other verses of the Quran, highlighting Allah’s All-Embracing and Over-whelming mercy, compassion and justice.

Hell fire is only a metaphor.  Yes, it is only a metaphor and is not literally true and we don’t know the precise details of hell, and the Quran does not intend to demystify the Afterlife completely for us, just like we don’t know the precise details of paradise and God uses the metaphors of different fruits, non-intoxicating wine, rivers of milk and honey, to invite believers to righteousness.  Hell is a place for reformation and not meant to be a torture chamber and the purpose of this metaphor is to dissuade us from mischief. It is a stick, just like metaphors of paradise are a carrot, for our advancement.  In short, hell is Meant for Purification and is not Permanent. The spiritual paradigm of Afterlife is summarized for us but we can never conceptualize the details, just like a fetus is incapable of conceiving the life he or she meets, once delivered from the mother’s uterus.

To better read and understand the holy Quran, I have joined a group of scholars / students to write a contemporary commentary of the holy Quran, focusing on its message of compassion and justice, rather than an obsession with literalism or orthodoxy. For links please see below:

In this commentary we have collected a group of articles, to outline the best way to read and understand the holy text. The Quran is to be read, with an open mind, as an insightful poetry or prose and not as a legal document, to be used for intellectual wrangling and forcing of the ideas on others. Here is the collection under the heading, Scope and Style of the Quran from the Table of Contents:

With love, peace and prayers until the next time!

quran
The Muslim Times has the best collection of articles about the holy Quran

I was an Isis sex slave. I tell my story because it is the best weapon I have

Nadia Murad
Nadia Murad: ‘Deciding to be honest was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made, and also the most important.’ The Muslim Times has the best collection of articles for the commentary of the holy Quran for our modern times

Source: The Guardian

By 

Nobel peace prize winner Nadia Murad describes her extraordinary journey from suffering at the hands of Islamic State to human rights campaigner

The slave market opened at night. We could hear the commotion downstairs where militants were registering and organising, and when the first man entered the room, all the girls started screaming. It was like the scene of an explosion. We moaned as though wounded, doubling over and vomiting on the floor, but none of it stopped the militants. They paced around the room, staring at us, while we screamed and begged. They gravitated toward the most beautiful girls first, asking, “How old are you?” and examining their hair and mouths. “They are virgins, right?” they asked a guard, who nodded and said, “Of course!” like a shopkeeper taking pride in his product. Now the militants touched us anywhere they wanted, running their hands over our breasts and our legs, as if we were animals.

It was chaos while the militants paced the room, scanning girls and asking questions in Arabic or the Turkmen language.

“Calm down!” militants kept shouting at us. “Be quiet!” But their orders only made us scream louder. If it was inevitable that a militant would take me, I wouldn’t make it easy for him. I howled and screamed, slapping away hands that reached out to grope me. Other girls were doing the same, curling their bodies into balls on the floor or throwing themselves across their sisters and friends to try to protect them.

While I lay there, another militant stopped in front of us. He was a high-ranking militant named Salwan who had come with another girl, another young Yazidi from Hardan, who he planned to drop off at the house while he shopped for her replacement. “Stand up,” he said. When I didn’t, he kicked me. “You! The girl with the pink jacket! I said, stand up!”

His eyes were sunk deep into the flesh of his wide face, which seemed to be nearly entirely covered in hair. He didn’t look like a man – he looked like a monster.

Attacking Sinjar [in northern Iraq] and taking girls to use as sex slaves wasn’t a spontaneous decision made on the battlefield by a greedy soldier. Islamic State planned it all: how they would come into our homes, what made a girl more or less valuable, which militants deserved a sabaya [sex slave] as incentive and which should pay. They even discussed sabaya in their glossy propaganda magazine, Dabiq, in an attempt to draw new recruits. But Isis is not as original as its members think it is. Rape has been used throughout history as a weapon of war. I never thought I would have something in common with women in Rwanda – before all this, I didn’t know that a country called Rwanda existed – and now I am linked to them in the worst possible way, as a victim of a war crime that is so hard to talk about that no one in the world was prosecuted for committing it until just 16 years before Isis came to Sinjar.

On the lower floor, a militant was registering the transactions in a book, writing down our names and the names of the militants who took us. I thought about being taken by Salwan, how strong he looked and how easily he could crush me with his bare hands. No matter what he did, and no matter how much I resisted, I would never be able to fight him off. He smelled of rotten eggs and cologne.

I was looking at the floor, at the feet and ankles of the militants and girls who walked by me. In the crowd, I saw a pair of men’s sandals and ankles that were skinny, almost womanly, and before I could think about what I was doing, I flung myself toward those feet. I started begging. “Please, take me with you,” I said. “Do whatever you want, I just can’t go with this giant.” I don’t know why the thin guy agreed, but taking one look at me, he turned to Salwan and said, “She’s mine.” Salwan didn’t argue. The skinny man was a judge in Mosul, and no one disobeyed him. I followed the thin man to the desk. “What’s your name?” he asked me. He spoke in a soft but unkind voice. “Nadia,” I said, and he turned to the registrar. The man seemed to recognise the militant right away and began recording our information. He said our names as he wrote them down – “Nadia, Hajji Salman” – and when he spoke the name of my captor, I thought I heard his voice waver a bit, as if he were scared, and I wondered if I had made a huge mistake.

Nadia Murad eventually escaped her Isis captors. She was smuggled out of Iraq and in early 2015 went as a refugee to Germany. Later that year she began to campaign to raise awareness of human trafficking.

In November 2015, a year and three months after Isis came to [my home town] Kocho, I left Germany for Switzerland to speak to a UN forum on minority issues. It was the first time I would tell my story in front of a large audience. I wanted to talk about everything – the children who died of dehydration fleeing Isis, the families still stranded on the mountain, the thousands of women and children who remained in captivity, and what my brothers saw at the site of the massacre. I was only one of hundreds of thousands of Yazidi victims. My community was scattered, living as refugees inside and outside of Iraq, and Kocho was still occupied by Isis. There was so much the world needed to hear about what was happening to Yazidis.

I wanted to tell them that so much more needed to be done. We needed to establish a safe zone for religious minorities in Iraq; to prosecute Isis – from the leaders down to the citizens who had supported their atrocities – for genocide and crimes against humanity; and to liberate all of Sinjar. I would have to tell the audience about Hajji Salman and the times he raped me and all the abuse I witnessed. Deciding to be honest was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made, and also the most important.

Read further

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Can the Quran be Unjust? Can the Fundamentalists Kill Anyone Who Cheats Them?

Hijab: Quran is to be Understood in the Context of Time – Every One Knows It But Does Not Say It

‘Islamic Law’: A Myopic Reading of the Quran

The Holy Quran and the Seventh Century Arabian Metaphors

The Quran Only Means What Our Wisdom and Intentions Dictate

God Is Living, So Why Does Religion Treat God As Dead?

A New Commentary of the Holy Quran Emphasizing Compassion, Justice and Human Rights Launched

Caliph Umar Farooq versus Emperor Heraclius: Who gave us our Religious Freedoms?

Epigraph:

There should be no compulsion in  religion. Surely, right has become distinct from wrong; so whosoever refuses to  be led by those who transgress, and believes in Allah, has surely grasped a  strong handle which knows no breaking. And Allah is All-Hearing,  All-Knowing.  (Al Quran 2:256)

Umar Farooq found the Temple Mount to be a garbage dump for Jerusalem in the 7th century and personally cleaned and restored it!
Umar Farooq found the Temple Mount to be a garbage dump for Jerusalem in the 7th century and personally cleaned and restored it!

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

At the time of advent of Islam there were two Empires, the Roman and the Persian.  The Persian Empire did not survive very long.

So, it may be reasonable to ask, which of the two surviving Empires, the Roman Empire and the nascent Muslim Empire, did the most to give us our vision of the religious freedoms, in the seventh century.

Umar Farooq (born 579 CE – died 6 November 644 CE), a close companion of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, led the rapidly evolving Muslim Empire from 634-644 CE.

Heraclius (Latin: Flavius Heraclius Augustus, 575 – February 11, 641) was Byzantine (Roman) Emperor from 610 to 641 CE.

Heraclius and Umar Farooq were contemporaries and each stood for his respective cultures and Empires.

By studying the two, we can track the history of religious freedom in organized human thought during the seventh century.

In this short article I want to show that Islam is a religion of peace and that revelation has contributed in a big way to human knowledge and history.

When the Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, claimed Monotheism in the polytheistic society of Mecca they turned against him and he and his followers had to face persecution for 13 long years. He migrated to Medina but the Meccans did not leave him alone there and attacked Medina, it was in these circumstances that the following verses were revealed:

Permission to fight is given to those against whom war is made, because they have been wronged — and Allah indeed has power to help them — Those who have been driven out from their homes unjustly only because they said, ‘Our Lord is Allah’ — And if Allah did not repel some men by means of others, there would surely have been pulled down cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques. (Al Quran 22:39-40)

By mentioning Churches and Synagogues before Mosques, the revelation was laying the foundation of genuine religious freedom for the whole of humanity.  These verses were revealed around 624 CE and these teachings through the practices of Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, in Arabia laid foundation of freedoms that were put into action by Umar Farooq, may Allah be pleased with him, in Jerusalem in 638 CE, when he took control of Jerusalem, after a relatively bloodless siege by the Muslim army.

Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia: Painting or Fresco of mother Mary and Jesus in the Most Prominent part of the Cathedral, which is now a Museum

I visited Spain with my family during the spring vacation of 2011 CE and went to the central mosque of Cordoba, which was a mosque at least for three centuries, but, it is now a Cathedral. In the year 1492, which is also famous for Columbus having discovered America, not a single Muslim was left alive in Spain, either converted on the point of sword, banished or killed.

Mosque_of_Cordoba
Mosque of Cordoba in Spain

In 2012, we visited Turkey and were very happy to see Hagia Sophia, which is a former Cathedral, later a mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul. From the date of its dedication in 360 CE until 1453 CE, it served as the Greek Patriarchal cathedral of Constantinople. The building was a mosque from 1453 until 1931, after Constantinople fell to the Ottoman.

This is what groups did to the places of worship of others, the so called enemies, in medieval ages!

Image (1) Church-of-the-Holy-Sepulchre1-e1328093833394.jpg for post 167722
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher

But, now I want to share something more dramatic with you. I want you to come with me and visit the holy land of Jerusalem. If you have been to Jerusalem you would have visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, one of the Holiest places in Christianity. The site is venerated as where Jesus was put on cross, and is said also to contain the place where Jesus was buried. It did not suffer the fate of the Mosque of Cordoba or the Hagia Sophia, because of the generosity, wisdom and religious tolerance of one man Umar, who was the second Caliph of Islam and a very close associate of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him. Jerusalem was under Muslim rule from 638 until the creation of Israel in 1948, except for a period of 80 years between the First and the Third Crusade.

After a brief and bloodless siege, initiated after the offensives by the Byzantines colonies, Muslims seized control of Jerusalem from the Byzantines in February 638. Caliph Umar Farooq accepted the city’s surrender from Patriarch Sophronius in person. Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, was shown the great Church of the Holy Sepulcher and offered a place to pray in it, but he refused. He knew that if he prayed in the church, it would set a precedent that would lead to the building’s transformation into a mosque. He wanted the Christians to have their freedom of religion and their worship places. Therefore, he instead prayed on the steps outside, where Umar Mosque was built centuries later, allowing the church to remain a Christian holy place.

It would take Europe several centuries to catch up with the ideal set by Umar regarding religious tolerance, based on the revelation of the Quran and the actions of the Prophet Muhammad. In the 8th century Charlemagne, Charles the Great was converting Scandinavians on the point of sword to Christianity and during the First Crusade, in the eleventh century each and every Muslim was killed in Jerusalem, according to the Christian sources, some 70,000 Muslims were killed including 10,000 in the Mosque of Umar itself.

Unlike Umar, how the  Emperor Heraclius saw his role in Christendom and how  he converted Jews to Christianity by force, is outlined here from the  pen of Tom Holland, the author of Rubicon:  The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic, which won the  Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History and was shortlisted for the Samuel  Johnson Prize.  He writes in his other book, In the shadow of the Sword: The Battle for Global Empire and  the End of the Ancient World:

Clearly, then, urgent as it was to restore to the redeemed provincials the  long-atrophied habits of obedience to Roman rule, more urgent still was the need  to reassure them that the victory won by Heraclius had indeed been a victory won  by God. This was why, in his negotiations with Shahrbaraz, no more urgent demand  had been pressed by the emperor than the return from its ignominious  captivity of the True Cross. On 21 March 630, stripped of all his imperial  regalia and walking humbly on foot, as Christ Himself had done on his way to  Golgotha, Heraclius entered Jerusalem bearing with him the precious relic. Men  reported that the manner of his arrival had been the result of advice given  him by an angel, who had personally instructed him to take off his diadem, and  to dismount from his horse. A supreme honour for Heraclius to receive: orders  direct from the heavens to imitate the last journey of his Saviour.

The restoration of the True Cross to Jerusalem was the  profoundest demonstration imaginable of the great victory that had been  won in the cause of Christ. It also served as a ringing statement of  Heraclius’ intent: never again would he permit the Christian empire to  be pushed by its enemies to the edge of oblivion. On his approach to  Jerusalem, he had made a point of stopping off in Tiberias, where he had been  hosted by a wealthy Jew notorious, under the Persian occu­pation, for  his persecution of the city’s churches. Asked by Heraclius why he had so  mistreated the local Christians, the Jew had answered disingenuously, ‘Why,  because they are the enemies of my faith.” Heraclius, grim-faced, had advised  his host to accept baptism on the spot – which the Jew had prudently done. Two  years later, this order was repeated on a far more universal scale. From  Africa to distant Gaul, leaders across the Christian world received news of a  startling imperial decision: all Jews and Samaritans were to be brought  com­pulsorily to baptism. Heraclius, conscious of how close he had come to  defeat, and of the debt he owed to Christ, was not prepared to take any  second chances. From now on, the Roman Empire would be undilutedly, and  therefore impregnably, Christian.[1]

While Heraclius was baptizing all Jews by force in 632 CE,  Umar Farooq in 638 CE was restoring complete religious freedom to not  only all the Jews in Jerusalem, but, also the Christians.  Would it be a  big stretch to say that Umar Farooq gave the modern world our positive  vision of religious freedom, for every one?

No wonder, if we put Umar and Heraclius side by side and analyze what they represent, we realize that we owe our religious freedoms, in our great country of USA, historically speaking, to the revelation of the Quran: “And if Allah did not repel some men by means of others, there would surely have been pulled down cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques.” (Al Quran 22:40)

This verse from the chapter Al Hajj of the Holy Quran, is perhaps the shining foundation of our religious freedom in our Global Village, with its varied religions, creeds and ideologies.

Reference:

1. Tom  Holland.  In the shadow of the Sword: The Battle for Global Empire and  the End of the Ancient World.  Little Brown, 2012.  Page 295-296.

Editor’s note: The square minaret of the Mosque of Umar  next to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, very powerfully established Islamic belief in  freedom of religion and puts to rest, the accusation, for all periods to come  that Islam was spread with sword. Islam was actually the pioneer of religious  freedoms as I have demonstrated in many of my articles and posts. For the  Muslims the political struggle was always divorced from the freedom of  religion.

umar-mosque-and-the-church-of-holy-sepulcher
Square minaret of the Umar-mosque and the Church of Holy Sepulcher in the fore-ground

 

Is God Alive or Dead: A Metaphor for the Scriptures from the US Constitution?

Collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

Growing share of Americans say Supreme Court should base its rulings on what Constitution means today

Source: Pew Research Center

A majority of Americans (55%) now say the U.S. Supreme Court should base its rulings on what the Constitution “means in current times,” while 41% say rulings should be based on what it “meant as originally written,” according to a recent Pew Research Center report on American democratic values.

This represents a shift in public opinion, which was divided on this question for more than a decade. When Pew Research Center last asked the question in October 2016, 46% said the high court should base its rulings on what the document means in current times, while an identical share (46%) said rulings should be based on what it meant when originally written.

Nearly eight-in-ten Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (78%) now say rulings should be based on the Constitution’s meaning in current times, higher than at any previous point on record and up 9 percentage points from 2016 (69%). Just three-in-ten Republicans and Republican leaners now say the same, an 11-point increase from 2016 but little changed from GOP views in the years prior.

About three-quarters of conservative Republicans (77%) continue to say the Supreme Court should base its rulings on the Constitution’s original meaning rather than its meaning in current times (21%). But moderate and liberal Republicans are more divided: 50% favor an interpretation based on the Constitution’s original meaning, compared with 46% who say the court should base its rulings on a current interpretation.

Ideological differences are less pronounced among Democrats. Liberal Democrats (88%) overwhelmingly say the Supreme Court should base its rulings on the Constitution’s meaning in current times, as do a majority (70%) of conservative and moderate Democrats.

Read further

Suggested reading

The struggle as noted in regards to the US constitution, is what we see in constant debates between the conservative and the progressive believers as well, in their reading of their scriptures, be they Muslims, the Christians or the Jews.

God Is Living, So Why Does Religion Treat God As Dead?

The Holy Quran and the Seventh Century Arabian Metaphors

Islamism — the Political Islam: The Challenge for the 21st Century

Do Muslims Prefer Camels Over Modern Cars?

Kripkean Dogmatism: The Best Metaphor to Understand Religious and Political Debates

Wind Patterns and the Holy Quran

Wind patterns
The Muslim Times has the best collection of articles about the holy Quran and religion and science

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

Please read the following essay in light of some of the verses of the Holy Quran on the topic of winds. This essay is borrowed from Wiki-source and I have added a few pictures to it.

The Holy Quran states:

Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and in the alternation of night and day, and in the ships which sail in the sea with that which profits men, and in the water which Allah sends down from the sky and quickens therewith the earth after its death and scatters therein all kinds of beasts, and in the change of the winds, and the clouds pressed into service between the heaven and the earth — are indeed Signs for the people who understand. (Al Quran 2:165)

Dost thou not see that the ships sail on the sea by the favour of Allah, that He may show you of His Signs? Therein surely are Signs for everyone who is patient and grateful. (Al Quran 31:32)

And in the alternation of night and day, and the provision that Allah sends down from the sky, whereby He quickens the earth after its death, and in the change of the winds, are Signs for a people who try to understand. (Al Quran 45:6)

Hast thou not seen that Allah has subjected to you whatever is in the earth, and the ships that sail through the sea by His command? And He withholds the rain from falling on the earth save by His leave. Surely, Allah is Compassionate and Merciful to men. (Al Quran 22:66)

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So, Allah says, more than once, “In the change of the winds, and the clouds pressed into service between the heaven and the earth — are indeed Signs for the people who understand.” These verses may help us better understand this article and vice versa! May Allah Guide us in our pursuit of knowledge and proper understanding of metaphysics and how science and religion relate with each other.

In this image, the tracks of all tropical cyclones between 1985 and 2005 have been overlayed on an image of Earth. Even with only 20 years of data, you can see the patterns of how hurricanes move across the world’s oceans. The track lines in the image are made up of dots representing the position of each hurricane at 6 hour intervals. Each dot is color coded to correspond to the strength of the storm on the Saffir-Simpson Scale, as shown in the legend in the bottom right corner of the image. Consider how the data shown in this and the image below are related.
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wind patterns on a globe
This illustration from NASA describes the patterns of wind movement on the global scale. The sun heats the air over the equator more than at the poles. This differential heating causes warmer, less dense air near the equator to rise, and cells of convection develop. These are called Hadley cells. At the surface, the cells generate winds. On the image, the large arrows show the directions of surface wind flow in the different zones. Red and blue indicate the relative temperatures of the winds. You can see that global winds point towards the equator in the tropics and towards the poles between 30 and 60 degrees latitude. Use your mental visualization skills to imagine how these surface winds would look on a flat map of the world.

An essay on the winds and the currents of the ocean (1856)

By William Ferrel

Introduction. – The earth is surrounded on all sides by an exceedingly rare and elastic body, called the atmosphere, extending with a diminishing density to an unknown distance into space, but pressing upon the earth with a force equal to that of a homogenous atmosphere five and a half miles high. It is also partially surrounded by the ocean, which is of a very variable depth, and known to be, in many places, more than four miles. If the specific gravity of the atmosphere and of the ocean were everywhere the same, all the forces of gravity and of pressure which act upon any part of them, would be in exact equilibrium, and they would forever remain at rest. But as some parts of the earth are much warmer than others, and air and water expand and become rare as their temperature is increased, their specific gravities are not the same in all parts of the earth, and hence the equilibrium is destroyed, and a system of winds and currents is produced. It is proposed in this essay to inquire into the effects which are produced, both in the atmosphere and in the ocean, by this disturbance of equilibrium, and by means of a new force which has never been taken into account in any theory of winds and currents, to endeavor to account for certain phenomena in their motions, which have been a puzzle to meteorology and hydrology. As there are some uncertain data connected with the subject, such as the amount of the disturbing force, the effects of continents, friction, etc, which render a complete solution of the problem impractible, we shall aim at giving a popular explanation of observed phenomena rather than a complete solution of the problem; yet we shall give the result of some calculations, based upon known date, or at least upon very reasonable hypothesis, which will show that the causes which we have given are adequate to the effects which are attributed to them. We shall divide the subject into two parts, and treat, first, of the winds, and secondly, of the currents of the ocean.

The motions of the atmosphere. – From about the parallel of 28° on each side of the equator the winds on the ocean, where they are not influenced by any local causes, blow steadily towards the equator, having also a western motion, producing what are called the north-east and south-east trades. At the meeting of these currents near the equator there is a calm called the equatorial calm-belt, or the doldrums, where the air rises up and flows in the upper regions towards the poles, until it arrives near the 28°, where it is met by an upper current flowing from the poles. The meeting of these upper currents produces an accumulation of atmosphere from under which the air flows out in both directions on account of the increased pressure; a strong and steady current, as we have seen, towards the equator, and another not so strong and somewhat variable over the middle latitudes, towards the poles, having at the same time an eastern motion, and producing what are called the passage-winds. As this current flows at the surface towards the poles, it gradually rises up and returns in the upper regions towards the equator, meeting the upper current from the equator near the tropics as has been stated.

Such are the general motions of the atmosphere, as laid down by Lieutenant Maury, and as represented in his diagram of the winds.[1] But there are numerous observations which have been made in very high latitudes both in the north and the south, which show that the currents flowing over the middle latitude towards the poles, do not extend to the poles, but that the atmosphere above a certain latitude, has a tendency to flow from the poles, producing another meeting of the air at the surface near the polar circles similar to the one at the equator, except that the currents are comparatively feeble and consequently the belt of meeting not so well defined, and that here also air rises up and flows each way in the upper regions towards the equator and the poles. “Sir J. Ross has shown that there is a large prevalence of north winds over the southern ones in the middle of North America as low down as latitude 70° and longitude 91°58′ west, not merely in winter, but in every month in the year. The northern winds were not only more than double as frequent as the southern, but more than double as strong; and he also found southern winds largely to predominate in latitude 77° south.”[2] If then there were no continents, or other local causes of disturbance, the motions of the atmosphere would be as represented in the following diagram, in which the direction of the wind is represented by the arrows, and the external part of which represents the motion of the air in the plane of the meridan. This system, however, is found to prevail on the ocean only, and is very much interfered with in other parts on account of local causes of disturbance, especially in the northern hemisphere, where the uniformity of the earth’s surface is most interrupted by land.

The pressure of the atmosphere – The atmospere everywhere presses upon the surface of the earth with a force equal to the pressure of a column of mercury of nearly thirty inches in height. This pressure, however, is not the same in all parts of the earth, but varies in different latitudes as well as from an inch lower at the equator, and seems to stand the lowest about the polar circle, where a very remarkable depression has been observed in many places. “It is a singular fact,” says Mrs. Somervill, (page 268) “discovered by our navigators, that the mean height of the barometer is an inch lower throughout the Antarctic ocean at Cape Horn, than it is at the Cape of Good Hope, or at Valparaiso.” A similar depression has likewise been observed near the sea of Okhotsk in eastern Siberia. It also appears from the tables of the South Sea Exploring Expedition, by Captain Wilkes, that the barometer stands lowest near the polar circle, where it stands at a mean of about twentynine inches, and higher both north and south of it. After examining various authorities and all the circumstances connected with this subject, Professor Espy comes to the conclusion, that “there are three belts where the barometer stands below the mean, with almost constant rain and snow – one near the equator, one near the arctic circle, and one near the antarctic circle, and also that there are, certainly two belts in the outer borders of the trade-winds, where the barometer stands above the mean, and almost certainly two regions more – one around the north pole and the other around the south pole – where the barometer stands above the mean.” It also appears for a great many observations made at different places on the Atlantic, at the level of the ocean, that the barometer stands more than half an inch lower at the arctic circle, than it does at the outer limit of the trade winds, and that there is also a considerable depression at the equator. [3]

The forces concerned in producing the motions of the atmosphere. – There are four principal forces which must be taken into account in a correct theory of the winds. The first arises from a greater specific gravity of the atmosphere in some places than others, on account of a difference of temperature and of the dew-point; for, when it becomes heated or charged with vapor in any place to a greater degree than at others, it becomes specifically lighter, and hence, the equilibrium is destroyed. There is a flowing together, then, of the heavier air on all sides, which displaces the lighter air, and causes it to rise up and flow out in a contrary direction. This is the primum mobile of the winds, and all the other forces concerned are dependent on it for their efficiency. A second force arises from the tendency which the atmosphere has, when, from any cause, it has risen above the general level, to flow to places of a lower level. These two preceding forces generally produce counter-currents. Again, when, from any cause, a particle of air has been put in motion toward the north or south, the combination of this motion with the rotatory motion of the earth produces a third force, which causes a deflection of the motion to the east when the motion is to the north, and a deflection to the west when it is toward the south. This is the same as one of the forces contained in La Place’s general equations of the tides, the analytical expression of which is 2 n u r sin.l cos. l; l being the latitude; n, the motion of the earth at the equator; u, the velocity of the particle north or south; and r, the radius of the earth. The fourth and last force arises from the combination of a relative east or west motion of the atmosphere with the rotatory motion of the earth. In consequence of the atmosphere’s revolving on a common axis with that of the earth, each particle is impressed with a centrifugal force, which, being resolved into a vertical and a horizontal force, the latter causes it to assume a spheroidal form conforming to the figure of the earth. But, if the rotatory motion of any part of the atmosphere is greater than that of the surface of the earth, or, in other words, if any part of the atmosphere has a relative eastern motion with regard to the earth’s surface, this force is increased, and if it has a relative western motion, it is diminished, and this difference gives rise to a disturbing force which prevents the atmosphere being in a state of equilibrium, with a figure conforming to that of the earth’s surface, but causes an accumulation of the atmosphere at certain latitudes and a depression at others, and the consequent difference in the pressure of the atmosphere at these latitudes very materially influences its motions. This force is also expressed by one of the terms of La Place’s equations, the analytical expression of which is 2 n v r sin.l; v being the relative eastern or western velocity of the atmosphere.

Hadley’s theory This theory, which is the commonly received theory of the trade-winds, and with which the reader is no doubt familiar, is based upon the first three forces only given above, no account being taken of the fourth. But as it may be seen from the analytical expressions of the last two forces given above, that the latter is greater than the former, and the east and west motion of the atmosphere depends upon the former, we have reason to suppose that the latter also may have a considerable effect, and that it should be taken into account in a correct theory of the winds. Accordingly we see that although Hadley’s theory furnishes an explanation of the trade-winds, yet it does not account for many other remarkable phenomena in the motions of the atmosphere, but even requires motions to satisfy it entirely at variance with them. According to this theory, there should be a current on the surface of the earth from the pole to the equator in a kind of loxodromic spiral, and a similar counter-current in the upper regions from the equator towards the poles. The barometer also should stand highest at the poles where the air is coldest and most dense, and gradually fall as it is brought nearer the equator. But both of these, as we have shown, are contrary to observation. The position also of the exterior limits of the trade-winds near the parallels of 28°, the flowing of the atmosphere in the upper regions from both sides towards these parallels, and a low barometer near the polar circles, cannot be explained by this theory, and have not been satisfactorily explained by meteorologists. It is true Professor Espy says the highness of the barometer near the parallels of 28° is owing to the flowing over of the atmosphere which rises up at the equator; but this overflow of atmosphere could have no tendency to accumulate at these parallels, since it evidently would flow on gradually towards the poles to supply the draught caused by the flow towards the equator, as this theory requires. He also assigns as a cause of the low barometer about Cape Horn and the antarctic circle, the abundant rains which prevail there and the consequent disengagement of caloric, which rarefies the atmosphere there. But, if the belt of calms and rains near the equator is caused by the barometer standing lower there then at the outer limit of the trade-winds, which causes a flow of atmosphere there at the surface, and, if rains generally in any region, according to Professor Espy’s own theory of clouds and rains, is caused by a low barometer there, and a consequent flowing in from all sides and a rising up of the atmosphere, then the lowness of the barometer in those regions must be the cause of the rains, and not the rain the cause of the lowness of the barometer, as will appear for other reasons.

We shall now undertake to show, that all these phenomena, and others connected with storms, which have never been accounted for by any theory, may be satisfactorily accounted for by taking into account the fourth force given above.

Why the outer limits of the trade-winds are near the parallels of 28°. – If from any cause the atmosphere receives a motion either towards or from the poles, the action of the third force above, causes a deflection of it towards the east, as it moves towards the poles, and towards the west as it moves towards the equator; and as the prime moving cause of the principal currents of the atmosphere has a tendency to cause it to flow towards and from the poles, the general result is, that towards the poles the atmosphere has a motion towards the east, but near the equator towards the west. But from the principle of the preservation of areas, the sum of the products of all the particles of the atmosphere, multiplied into their velocities and their distances from the axis of revolution, cannot be changed be the action of a central force, or by the mutual action of the particles upon each other; hence the sum of the products of each particle into its distance from the axis, and into its relative eastern velocity, must be equal to the sum of similar products, taken with regards to the particles having a relative western motion. But, as the portion of the atmosphere having a relative eastern motion, is nearer the axis than that which has a relative western motion, and as the part having a western motion, inasmuch as it is further from the axis, must be somewhat less than the part comprised between these parallels, in order to make the products equal, unless the relative velocity of the part having an easterly motion is very much greater. Hence, the dividing lines between the portions of the atmosphere having a relative east and west motion, must be within these parallels; and, as the outer limits of the trade-winds depend upon those lines, they must also fall within these parallels; and they are accordingly found to be about the parallels of 28°.

The cause of high barometer about the parallels of 28°, and the low barometer at the polar circles. – The greater pressure of the atmosphere at the parallels of 28° than at the equator and the polar circles can only be caused by an accumulation of atmosphere there. This accumulation results, necessarily, from the action of the new force which we have introduced into the theory of the winds. For, as we have seen, all the atmosphere between the parallels of 28° and the poles has, and, according to theory, must have, a general eastern motion; and this gives such a value to the analytical expression of the fourth force, enumerated above, as to cause the atmosphere to recede from the poles toward the equator. But the western motion of the atmosphere between the parallels of 28° gives that expression a negative value there; and, hence, this force causes the atmosphere to recede from the equator, also. This force then, has a tendency to cause the atmosphere in the upper regions to recede from both the poles and the equator, and to accumulate about the parallels of 28°, and, as it may seem by merely inspecting the expression of this force given above, that for the same value of v, or motion of the atmosphere east or west, this force is much greater toward the poles than it is near the equator, it causes a considerable depression of the atmosphere at the poles, and only a slight one at the equator, as represented in the diagram. The amount of this elevation and depression is not indicated entirely by the barometer, for the height of the barometer depends upon both the height of the atmosphere and its density. Therefore, as the atmosphere is much denser at the polar circles than at the parallels of 28°, on account of its being much colder, the accumulation of atmosphere at these parallels and its depression towards the poles, must be considerable to cause the barometer to stand higher at these parallels than the polar circles.

We shall now give the results of some calculations, based upon a reasonable hypothesis, which show that this new force introduced is entirely adequate to produce an accumulation of atmosphere at the parallels of 28°, and a depression of it at the poles to such an amount, that the difference in the height of the barometer at the parallels of 28°, and a depression of it at the polar circles, may correspond with observations. As friction is a very important element in calculations of the motion of the atmosphere, and its effect cannot be determined, it would be impossible to calculate the motion of the atmosphere from the forces which act upon it, if they were even accurately known. We will therefore assume certain motions of the atmosphere, which are known not to vary much from observation, upon which we will base our calculations. If we assume that the east and west motions of the atmosphere may be represented by the expression 2sin 3/2 p cos. 3/2 p v, p being the polar distance of the place, it would make these motions vanish at the poles and at the parallels of 30°, and we have reason to think, would pretty well represent the motions of the atmosphere east and west at all latitudes except near the equator, where it would make it a little too great. Upon this assumption it may be shown by calculations, the results of which only can be given here, that if v, or the maximum east or west motion of the atmosphere, were only ten miles per hour, it would cause a heaping up of the atmosphere near the parallels of 28° which would make the barometer, if the atmosphere were everywhere of the same density, stand two inches higer here than at the poles. The same hypothesis would also make the depression at the equator only one-ninth that at the poles. If we now suppose that the greater specific gravity alone of the atmosphere at the poles, is sufficient to cause the barometer to stand one inch higher there than at the equator, which would only require a difference of temperature of about 16°, it would still leave a difference in the height of the barometer between the poles and the equator about equal to the observed difference in the southern hemisphere. It would also add a little to the depression of the baromter at the equator, which would make it a little more than one-ninth of that at the poles, and consequently make it correspond with observation. We think therefore it is evident that the observed difference in the height of the barometer in difference latitudes, is owing to the joint effect of a gradual increase of specific gravity from the equator to the poles, and of a heaping up of the atmosphere near the parallels of 28°, caused by the action of this new force that we have taken into account.

Explanation of the passage-winds and calm-belts at the limits of the trade-winds. – As the pressure of the atmosphere, on account of its accumulation there, is greatest about the parallel of 28°, this pressure has a tendency to cause it to rush out from beneath both, towards the poles and the equator. If the motions of the atmosphere were as great at the surface of the earth as in the upper regions, the force which causes a heaping up of the atmosphere about the parallels of 28°, would be as great below as in the upper regions, and would prevent the flowing out of the air below towards the poles. But, on account of friction, the eastern motion of the atmosphere cannot be so great at the surface of the Earth as above, and consequently the accumulation of atmopshere mentioned above, is caused principally by the upper currents, and the pressure wich causes it to flow out below towards the poles, where the barometer, as we have seen, stands much lower, is greater than the force below which causes the accumulation of atmosphere. The lateral pressure then of the atmosphere, and its horizontal motion which has a tendency to cause it to flow at the surface of the Earth, from the poles towards the equator; and secondly, the heaping up of the atmosphere at the outer limits of the trade-winds, which causes it to rush out below, both towards the equator and the poles; thirdly the action of the force depending upon the east or west motion of the atmposphere, wich we have seen, must be greater above than at the surface of the Earth. Between the parallels of 28° and the equator, the first two forces combine against the latter, which is small near the equator, and produce a strong and steady current at the surface of the Earth towards the equator, which, being combined with the rotatory motion of the Earth, gives rise to the tradewinds. Beyond these parallels, the first and third forces are opposed to the second, but it may be seen from the analytical expression of this second force, obtained from our preceding assumption, and which cannot be given here, that this force is very great in the middle latitudes, and consequently it prevails over the two, causing a current towards the poles, which combined with the rotatory motion of the Earth, produces the southwest winds in the northern hemisphere, and northwest winds in the southern hemisphere, called passage-winds. This force has its maximum about the parallels of 48°, and above these decreases rapidly, so that at the polar circles the other two forces begin to prevail over it, and cause a current from the poles. The forces then acting upon the atmosphere at the surface of the earth, causes it to flow in opposite directions, from the parallels of 28° and the poles, and to flow together near the equator and the polar circles. Hence, there is a rising up of the atmosphere at the latter places, and a flowing thence in the upper regions to the former places, where it descends, and thus a system of current is produced as represented by the arrows in the external part of the diagram, which represents a meridional vertical section of the atmosphere. It was shown that about the parallel of 28°, the atmosphere can have no motion east or west, and it has now been shown that these are the parallels also of greatest pressure, whence the currents flow both towards the equator and the poles, consequently there must necessarily be here calm-belts, such as are well-known from observation to exist.

We think now, it is manifest, that the introduction of our new force into the theory of the winds, exactly accounts for all the principal motions of the atmosphere, and clears up the difficulties which have heretofore puzzled meteorologists.

Maury’s theory of the crossing of the winds. In order to account for the motions of the winds and other phenomena, Lieutenant Maury advances the theory that there is a crossing of the winds or currents at the calm-belts of the equator and the parallels of 28°; that the currents flowing at the surface towards the equator, cross there, each becoming the upper current in the other hemisphere after it crosses the calm-belt at the equator, and then flowing towards the poles until it meets the upper current flowing toward the equator about the parallel of 28°, where there is supposed to be another crossing, each current then becoming again the surface current, and flowing in the same direction as before.[4] He also makes, by his arrangement, the rains in each temperate zone depend upon the vapor received by the winds in their passage to the equator as a trade-wind in the opposite hemisphere. We think there is no necessity for resorting to such an argument to account for the phenomena of the winds, but that they all are satisfactorily accounted for, as above, by tracing out the effects of well known forces without resorting to the mysterious agents of magnetism and electricity. Besides, there is no known principle by which two currents can interpenetrate and cross each other without mingling together, and, especially, is there none by which a current saturated with vapor can pass through a dry current and each one after afterwards retain its distinctive character of a moist or dry current, which this theory requires.

The fact that Ehrenberg has discovered South American infusoria in the blood-rains and “sea-dust” of the Cape Verde Islands and other places, does not prove the crossing of the winds; for, according to the explanation of the winds given above, there are two curents flowing into each calm-belt, and also two flowing out in opposite directions, as it were from a common reservoir, and, consequently, whatever is carried into these belts from either side down flow out again in each direction; and so infusoria in one hemisphere can easily pass to the other without a distinct crossing of the currents. And it even the moist current of the torrid zone could pass though the dry ones to the temperate zones, they could not produce rain there; for Professor Espy has conclusively shown that no descending current, however saturated with moisture, can ever produce rain. [5]

Explanation of the winds at the peak of Tenerife. – We have stated that the greatest atmospheric pressure is about the parallels of 28°, but these cannot be accurately the parallels of the greatest accumulation, for this pressure depends both upon the height of the atmosphere and its density, and, as the density increases gradually with the latitude, there must be an increase of pressure beyond the parallel of greatest accumulation, until the decrease of pressure from the one cause equals the increase from the other. But, as the calm-belts in the upper regions must be where the currents meet, and consequently where there is the greatest accumulation of atmosphere, it follows that the calm-belts are not exactly at the same parallels at the surface of the Earth as in the upper regions, but that they incline above toward the equator, as represented in the diagram. And this explains the peculiarity in the winds at the Peak of Tenerife. This peak stands near the outer limits of the trade-winds, and, as this limit moves north an south with the seasons, the northeast and southwest winds are found to prevail at the base alternatively. But at the top of the peak the southwest winds always prevail, because, when the calm-belt is furthest north, it still leaves the top of the peak north of it, where the southwest winds prevail, where the northwest trades are blowing below. When this belt occupies its most southern position, it leaves both at the top and the bottom of the peak north of it, and, consequently, the southwest wind blows both at the top and the bottom. In the fall, as the calm-belt moves south, more of the peak gradually becomes north of the calm-belt, and hence the southwest winds, which always prevail at the top, should gradually descend lower on the peak until they reach the base, which is exactly in accordance with observation.

The effect of continents – If the surface of the earth were all covered by the sea, uninterrupted by continents, the tradewinds and passage-winds, and also the calm-belts, would extend, without any interruption, entirely round the earth. But continents, and especially high mountain ranges, seem to have a very material effect in changing this regular system of winds. Thus the high table-lands and mountain ranges in Mexico and the western part of the United states, seem to turn the westward current of the trade-winds on the Caribbean sea and the Gulf of Mexico northward over the parallel of the calm-belt into the Unites States, where it arrives at the latitudes where the atmosphere has a general tendency to flow eastward, and thus a kind of aerial gulf-stream is produced. This is evident not only from observations on the general directions of the winds in the Guld of Mexico and the United States, but also from the observed routes of storms, which must be governed very much by the general movements of the part of the atmosphere in which they occur. Instead of the regular trade-winds from the northeast in the Caribbean sea, the prevailing cours of the lower current, is from a point south of east instead of north of east. [6] It is also found from observations at Barbedoes that, while the eastern winds are most prevalent, the southeast winds greatly predominate over the northeast ones. Of a great many hurricanes, also, which had their origin in the Atlantic, east of the Caribbean sea, and whose routes have been determined, by Mr. Redfield, nearly all moved in a direction north of west, until they arrived at the longitude of Florida or the Gulf of Mexico, where they curved around towards the north, and after passing the parallel of the calm-belt, towards the northeast, in the direction of Newfoundland and the northern part of the Atlantic. And this is exactly the route we would suppose the westward currents of the lower part of the atmosphere, interrupted by the high mountain ranges of Mexico, would take. But on the west coast of North America, the eastward current of the northern part of the Pacific, impinging against the range of the Rocky mountains, is turned down towards the equator, and hence the prevailing direction of the wind on the Pacific, west of Mexico, is from the northwest. The eastern coast of Africa also seems to have a similar effect upon the westward current of air in the Indian ocean; for the hurricanes which orginate in that ocean, on approaching that coast, are turned southward and finally towards the southeast into the southern ocean. The typhoons, also, of the China sea seem to be influenced in a similar manner by the eastern part of Asia. These changes of the general direction of the wind which prevail on the open ocean must be caused by the continents.

Hurricanes and storms. – Hurricanes are generally supposed to be produced by the meeting of adverse currents, which produce gyratory motions of the atmosphere at the place of meeting. That they may receive their origin and first impulse in this way, we think is very probable; but that violent hurricanes, extending over a circular area nearly one thousand miles in diameter, and continuing for ten days, and proceeding with increasing violence from the torrid zone to high northern latitudes, depends upon any primitive impuls alone, we think is very improbable. For if even any part of the atmosphere should receive such an impulse as to pruduce a most violent hurricane, friction would soon destroy all motion and bring the atmosphere to rest. Besides, no gradually accelerated motion can depend upon a primitive impulse alone, even where there is no friction. Hurricanes then, and all ordinary storms, must begin and gradually increase in violence by the action of some constantly acting force, and when this force subsides, friction brings the atmospher to a state of rest. This force may be furnished by the condensation of vapor ascending in the upward current in the middle of the hurricane, in accordance with Professor Espy’s theory of storms and rains. According to this theory, all storms are produced by an ascending current of warmer atmosphere above by means of the caloric given out of the vapor which is condensed as it ascends to colder regions above. Therefore, as long as this ascending current can be supplied with air saturated with vapor this continual rarefaction must take place, and also the ascent of the air from all sides to supply its place. If, then, all the lower stratum of atmosphere over a large district were saturated with vapor, without some disturbing cause, it might remain undisturbed; but if from any cause an ascending current is produced, either by local rarefaction of air my means of heat, or by the meeting of two adverse currents, which produces a gyratory motion and consequent rarefaction in the middle on account of the pressures being taken away by the centrifugal force, as soon as the air below, saturated with vapor, ascends to the colder regions above, the vapor is condensed and the caloric given out continues to rarefy it so long as the ascending column is supplied with moist air, and consequently the surrounding colder air presses in below from all sides, and thus a hurricane of more or less violence is produced and kept up for ten or twelve days, moving with the general direction of the motion of the atmosphere where it occurs. The violence then of the hurricane, and also its duration, depends upon the quality of vapor supplied by the currents flowing in below. Hence, it is, that the tropical hurricanes which originate in the Atlantic, east of the Caribbean sea, do not abate their violence until they reach a high northern latitude where the atmosphere is cold and dry.

The cause of the gyratory motions of hurricanes. – It has been established by Redfield, Reid, Piddington, and others, that all hurricanes and ordinary storms have a gyroatory motion around a center, and that these gyrations in the northern hemisphere, ar from right to left against the hands of a watch, but in the southern hemisphere from left to right with the hands of a watch. There are some however, amongst whom is Professor Espy, who deny the gyratory character of storm entirely, and contend that there is only a rushing of the air from all sides below towards a centre, without any gyration. We think this gyratory character of storms has been too well established to admit of any doubt. No one, however, has ever given any satisfactory reason why these gyrations in the one hemisphere are always sinistrorsal and in the other dectrorsal. It is true, Mr Redfield [7] endeavors to account for the sinistrorsal gyrations of the hurricanes and storms which proceed from the Gulf of Mexico towards Newfoundland, by means of the pecularities of the aerial currents in the region of the Gulf and the adjacent coast of the Pacific. But if there are the same kind of gyrations over the whole hemisphere, it is evident that the cause which produces them must be as extended as the hemisphere itself. It has also been suggested that this tendency to a distinct kind of gyration in each hemisphere, may be owing to the magnetism of the air. [8]

We shall now undertake to show that there cannot be a rushing of air from all sides towards a center, on any part of the earth except at the equator, without producing a gyration, and that the tendency to a distinct kind of gyration in each hemisphere, is owing, neither to any pecularities of the winds or aerial currents, nor to the mysterious agent of magnetism, bu that it results, as a necessary consequence, form the action, upon the atmosphere, of the four forces which we have taken into consideration in the first part of this essay.

It has been shown that when a particle of air receives a motion toward the poles it is deflected toward the east, as in the passage-winds, but when it revieves a motion toward the south, there is a force which also turns it toward the west, as in the tradewinds. It has likewise been shown that when the air has a relative motion east, it has a tendency, on account of the greater centrifugal force, to move also towards the south, but that when it has a relative motion west, it has a tendency, on account of the diminished centrifugal force, to move also towards the north. If, then, we suppose that the air at M, N, O and P on the diagram (page 8), has a tendency, on account of rarefaction or for any other reason, to flow towards c, from what has been stated, the air at M would not move equally towards c, but would be deflected northward a little towards m. In like manner the air at N when there is any force which tends to make the surrounding air flow towards a center, the resultants of all the forces which act upon it must cause it to receive a gyratory motion, and that this motion in the northern hemisphere must be sinistrorsal, but in the southern hemisphere the contrary.

It may be observed here that these gyrations are not cucular but spiral, gradually approaching the center; for the forces which tend to produce these gyrations depend for their efficacy upon a motion from all sides towards the center. First, the force of which we have already treated tends to give the atmosphere a gyratory motion, as soon as it begins to converge towards a center; and secondly, these gyrations, however slight, being once produced, the centripetal force, which causes the air to flow towards the center, accelerates these gyrations as they approach the center, upon the principle by means of a string, are rapidly accelerated as the string becomes shorter. Hence if the first of these forces be only sufficient to produce a very slight gyration, the latter or centripetal force may cause very rapid gyrations near the center. And it is only upon this principle that the rapid motion of the air in a hurricane can be produced, and any theory which does not take this principle into account is defective. This centripetal force is caused by the superior pressure of the denser atmosphere on the borders of the hurricane or storm, and consequently prevails only in the lower part of the atmosphere. In the upper regions it has a tendency to recede from the center for two reasons; first, on account of the gyratory motion wich it has received below in appraoching the center, which it still, in some measure, retains after ascending to the regions above, where the surrounding pressure does not prevail, and consequently the centrifugal force resulting from the gyrations, causes it to recede from the center; secondly, because the ascending current causes an accumulation of atmosphere above the general level, which gives it a tendency also to flow out in all directions form the center. These motions however, are not distinctly towards and from the center, but in spirals, so that the currents below may be at right angles with the currents above; and hence it is that in our ordinary storms attended with rain, the clouds in the lower part of the atmosphere frequently move in a direction at right angles with the direction of those above.

It has been stated that the gyrations below approach the center in a spiral, but this approach must be slow towards the center; for, at a certain distance from the center, the gyrations becoms so rapid that the centrifugal force nearly equals the centripetal, produced by the external pressure of the atmosphere, and then the further appoach towards the center in a great measure ceases,and consequently the force which produces the gyrations. Hence, at a certain distance from the center the hurricane has the greatest violence, and within this circumference, friction in a great measure destroys the gyrations, so that the middle of our most violent hurrianes is a calm. The extent of this calm is a circle, varying generally from five to thirty miles in diameter.

If we examine the analytical expressions of the forces which produce these gyrations, we will see that at the equator they have no value, and hence no hurricane can have its origin exactly on the equator. Accordingly, of all the hurricanes which have originated within the tropics, none have been traced back to the equator, but always to some region from 10° to 20° from it.

The reason why the hurricanes which originate east of the Caribbean sea pass northward to the east of the United States, may be owing to the direction of the wind here and on the Caribbean sea, which generally blows north of west, as has been observed in the former part of this essay. If the general direction of the trade-winds prevailed here, they would be carried on towards the equator, as those without doubt are which originate at other places in the same latitude.

We come now ot the second part of our subject, the currents of the ocean.

The general motions of the ocean. – Inasmuch as the atmosphere and the ocean are both fluids somewhat similarly situated, except that there is a similarity of their general motions. This is known from observation to be the case, except that the continents interfere more with the motion of the ocean than with those of the atmosphere. The general motion of the ocean in the torrid zone, where it is not interrupted by continents, is toward the west with an average velocity of about ten miles in twenty-four hours. Towards the poles the motion, in general, is towards the east, which is a necessary consequence of the preservation of areas; for if one part have a western motion, another part must have an eastern one, as was shown with regard to the atmosphere. If, then, there were no continents, there would be a general flowing of all the tropical parts of the ocean westward, and of the remaining parts toward the east. But when the tropical or equatorial current impinges agains the eastern sides of the continents as in the Atlantic, a part is turned along the eastern side towards each pole. Likewise, when the eastern flow towards the poles, strikes against the western sides of a continent, it is deflected towards the equator. Hence the northern parts of both the Atlantic and Pacific, have a tendency to a vortical motion, their tropical parts moving westward, and then turning northward on the eastern sides of the continents and joining the eastern flow, and south again towards the equator on the western sides of the continents. And it is evident from observation, that the southern parts of these oceans, and also the Indian ocean, have a tendency, in some measure, to the same kind of motions, except that the continents do not extend so far south, and consequently only a part of the eastern flow is turned towards the equator, the rest flowing on and producing the general eastern motion of the waters observed in the southern ocean.

The forces which produce the motions of the ocean – The primum mobile of the motions of the ocean, as of the atmosphere, depends principally upon the difference of temperature between the equatorial and polar regions. The temperature of the ocean, on the surface at the equator, is about 80°, and it has a temperature above the mean temperature of the earth, which is 39°.5, to the depth of 7200 feet. Towards the poles it is below the freezing point, and continues below the mean temperature at the parallel of 70°, to the depth of 4500 feet.* As water expands about 0.000455 of its bulk for every degree of increasing tempeature, and sea-water contracts down to the temperature of 28°, calculations based upon these data, supposing the temperature to increase or decrease in proportion to the depth, make the specific gravity of the part at the equator, so much less than that at the poles, that it would have to rise about ten feet above the general level of the equator to be in equilibrium at the bottom of the sea, with the part at the poles. But then the equilibrium at the surface would be destroyed, and the waters would flow there towards the poles, where the superior pressure at the bottom over that of the equator, would cause a current to flow back at the bottom of the sea, towards the equator. Hence, if this cause of disturbance existed alone, ther would be a current at the bottom of the sea from the poles to the equator, moved by a force equal to the pressure of a stratum of water of about five feet, and one at the surface from the equator towards the poles, moved by an equal force. But this motion, combined with the rotatory motion of the earth, gives rise to other forces, just as in the case of the atmosphere, which greatly modify these motions, as will be shown hereafter.

The preceding are the principle forces concerned in giving motion ot the waters ofthe ocean. Lieutenant Maury, however, lays little stress upon these, and seems to think that the principle agencies concerned in these motions, arise from evaporation, the saltness of the ocean, galvanism, &c.* But we think it may be shown that these agencies can have no perceptible effect.

First, Lieutenant Maury supposes excessive evaporation to take place within the tropics and this vapor to be carried away and precipitated in extra-tropical regions, and infers that this would have, at least, a very sensible effect in producing the currents of the ocean. He puts the amount of evaporation of a stratum of one-half of an inch per day. Now if a stratum of water one-half of an inch in thickness is evaporated in twenty-four hours in one place and precipitated in another, it produces a difference of level of one inch between the two places, and the currents which it produces must be such as are sufficient to restore this level in the same space of time. Now we may judge how exceedingly small a current this would produce when we consider that there is a rise of about two feet in the open ocean at one place and a fall of the same amount at another every six hours, caused by the tides, and yet the flowing of the water from the one place to the other place to produce this rise at one place, and fall at the other, it is well known does not produce any sensible currents in the open sea. Again, this matter can be easily reproduced by calculation. If a stratum of water, one-half of an inch in thickness were taken up by evaporation from the torrid zone, and none of it precipitated there but all conveyed to the temperate and polar zones, it may be demonstrated upon the supposition that the ocean is four miles in depth, that the flow of water towards the equator to restore the equilibrium in the same time would not amount to a velocity of one foot per hour.

We think it may be likewise shown by calculations based upon reasonable hypothesis, if not entirely upon well-known data, that the salts of the sea also can have but little influence in producing currents. Lieutenant Maury makes a similar hypothesis in treating of the influence of the salt of the ocean, which he does in treating of the influence of evaporation, and supposes that the excess of salt left in the torrid zone by the excess of evaporation there, and the great precipitation in the temperate and polar regions produces such a difference in the specific gravity as to destroy the equilibrium of the sea, and to have a very sensible influence in producing current, and especially the Gulf-stream.

With regard to the latter, he supposes that the water of the Gulf of Mexico has a much greater specific gravity than the water in the Atlantic, on account of the great evaporation to which it has been exposed in its passage from the coast of Africa across the Atlantic ocean and through the Caribbean sea, and that, consequently, it is forced out into the Atlantic by its greater pressure. Now, suppose it takes the water a year, which is about the actual time, to pass from the coast of Africa tothe Gulf of Mexico; in this time, according to the hypothesis, there is evaporated a stratum of water fifteen feet in depth, and, as the salt contained in this stratum cannot be evaporated, it remains in the part left, and increases it saltness. But sea-water contains only about three per cent of saline matter, and consequently the amount of salt contained in this stratum of fifteen feet only increases the weight of the rest to an amount equal to the weight of a stratum of water about six inches deep. Hence, it only gives the water of the Gulf a tendency to flow out into the Atlantic with a force equal to the force with which a homogenous fluid would flow out with its surface six inches above the general level of the Atlantic. This is much less than the opposing force arising from the great specific gravity of the water in the northern part of the Atlantic on account of its lower temperature, as we have shown by calculations. The same reasoning may be applied to any other part of the ocean; for, if the salt of the ocean has any influence in producing currents, it must be to produce an undercurrent from the torrid zone, where evaporation is supposed to be in excess, toward the poles, and consequently, a counter-current at the surface from the poles toward the equator. But, upon any reasonable hypothesis, the water at the surface cannot lose by evaporation in passing from the poles to the equator, a stratum of water of such a depth, that the amount of salt contained in it can increase the specific gravity at the equator as much as the lower temperature increases it toward the poles; hence, if the salt of the sea has any sensible influence, it is only in opposition to a greater influence, and, consequently, it has a tendency to diminish, rather than increase, the currents of the ocean. We think it, therefore, manifest that neither evaporation nor the salts of the sea can have much influence in producing currents, even upon Lieutenants Maury’s hypothesis, that evaprotation is greatly in excess of precipitation in the torrid zone. But is this a true hypothesis? Although there is a great evaporation in the torrid zone, there is also great precipitation; for, with few exception, more rain falls at the equator than in any other part of the earth, and it is only the amount of evaporation over precipitation that should be taken into account, which we have reason to think is very small, and, if professor Espy’s theory is correct, it can not be anything; for, according to this theory, no vapor can pass from the torrid to the temperate zones and produce rain, since the current bearing it there would be a descending current, and consequently could not produce it.

The ocean not level. – As it has been shown in the case of the atmosphere, that the resultant of the forces causes an accumulation about the parallels of 28°, so as the motions of the ocean are somewhat similar, and it is acted upon by the same forces, it may be shown that there must be a slight accumulation about those parallels in the ocean also. Whatever may be the causes of the motion of the ocean, we know that in the torrid zone it has a small western motion, and in the other parts a slight motion towards the east. The great equatorial current of the Atlantic moves about ten miles in twenty-four hours, but if we suppose that the average motion of the water in the torrid zone is five miles only per day, and that the mximum velocity of the water eastward in the extra-tropical regions is the same, using the same hypothesis we did with regard to the atmosphere, the forces which result from these motions must cause an accumulation of more than forty feet about the parallel of 28°, above the level of the sea at the poles, and about five feet above the level of the equator. This however, would be the amount of accumulation to produce an equilibrium of the forces at the surface, but as this accumulation would then produce greater pressure there upon the bottom than towards the poles and at the equator, it would produce, as in the case of the atmosphere, a flowing out from beneath this accumulation towards the poles and the equator, and settling down of the surface above, below the state of equilibrium, sufficient to cause a counter-current at the surface from the poles and the equator to supply the currents below. The accumulation there would be only about one-half that stated above, and there would be a flowing of water at the surface from both sides towards the parallel of 28°, and below a current in both directions from these parallels, similare to the motions in the atmosphere.

That the water of the ocean has such a motion as has been stated, appears from observations of its motions and other circumstances. Says Lieutenant Maury, “There seems to be a larger flow of polar water into the Atlantic than of waters from it, and I cannot account for the preservation of the equilibrium of this ocean by any other hypothesis than that which calls in the aid of undercurrents.” It is well-known that in Baffin’s bay there is a strong surface-current running south, and a strong counter-current beneath running north. Another evidence of this general tendency of the waters, is, that icebergs, in both hemispheres, are drifted from the poles towards the equator, and in the south Atlantic and Pacific oceans,there are large collections of drift and sea-weed about the parallels of 28°, so thickly matted that vessels are retarded in passing through them.[9]

These collections can only be formed by the flowing of the water at the surface from both sides to these parallels. It has been supposed that these collections are owing to the slight vortical motion of these oceans, it being supposed that any floating substances on the surface would have a tendency to collect at the vortex. This, however, would not be the case, for on account of friction at the bottom, the surface would have a greater vortical motion than the bottom, and consequently the water would be driven very slowly at the surface by the centrifugal force towards the sides, where it would cause a slight elevation and increase of pressure, which would cause the water to return towards the vortex at the bottom and not at the top; and hence floating substances at the surface could have no tendency to collect at the vortex.

We have corroborated these deductions from theory by numerous experiments made with a vessel of water with light substances on the surface. When the vessel is first receiving a vortical motion, the substances collect in the middle; for, as it is the vessel which gives motion to the water by means of the friction, the vessel, and consequently the bottom of the water, has then a greater motion than the top; and hence the reverse of what is stated above takes place; but, if the vessel is now stopped, and the water within allowed to continue its motion, the vortical motion at the bottom is retarded faster than at the top, and soon has a slower motion there, when the light substances on the surface are seen to recede from the vortex towards the sides, and if there are any light substances on the bottom they collect in the centre, all of which proves, that the water recedes from the middle at the surface, and returns to it at the bottom, and exactly agrees with the deductions from theory. These collections of sea-weed, then, cannot be caused by the vortical motions of the ocean, but must be the result of a general tendency of the surface water, to flow from both the equator and the poles towards these parallels; and, as it is prevented from collecting on these parallels near either side, on account of the slight vortical motion of the ocean, it collects only in the middle.

Explanation of the Gulf-stream – We come now to the Gulf-stream, which has been a puzzle to philosophers ever since it was discovered. Many explanations have been given, and all known forces which can have any influence, have been brought in to account for this wonderful phenomenon. The most usual explanation is, that it is the escaping of the waters which have been forced into the Caribbean sea and the Gulf of Mexico by the trade-winds, which have been supposed to raise their surface above the general level, and thus afford a head as it were for the stream. This, without doubt, has a very considerable effect, but it has not generally been deemed adequate alone to account for the phenomenon, nor does it, in connection with all other known influences, afford a satisfactory explanation. “What is the cause of the Gulf-stream.” says Lieutenant Maury, “has always puzzled philosophers. Modern investigations are beginning to throw some light upon the subject, though still all is not yet clear.”

We shall now endeavor to show that the additional force which we have taken into account in explaining both the winds and the currents of the ocean, and which seems to have been overlooked heretofore, will at least throw much additional light upon the subject, if not afford a complete explanation. We have shown that this force, which results form the eastward flow of the water in extra-tropical regions, and from the western motion within the tropics, has a tendency to drive the water from the poles towards the equator, and also slightly from the equator towards the poles, and to produce an accumulation of at least twenty feet on the parallel of 28° above the level at the poles, upon the supposition that the maximum of this east and west flow is only five miles per day. But if, from any cause, the force which results from this eastward flow should be cut off at any place, the water would flow northward at that place with a force equal to that which would result from a head on the parallels of 28°, at least twenty feet above the level towards the poles. Now, it may be seen from the configuration of the coast of the United States, that this force is actually cut off along that coast; for this force depends upon the eastward flow of the water there, which it cannot have, inasmuch as it must flow in both ways along the coast to fill up the vacuum which such a motion would produce. As the Gulf of Mexico, therefore, and the adjacent parts of the Atlantic, lie in the parallel of greatest accumulation, the water must flow from these parts along the coast with a force equal to that stated above. In addition to this, the momentum of the water flowing westward in the torrid zone, with a motion depending upon the prime moving course, due to a difference of specific gravity between the poles and the equator, in connection with the rotatory motion of the earth, and being independent of the effect of the trade-winds, must force the water in the Caribbean sea and the Gulf of Mexico considerably above the general level and add to the preceeding force. When we consider that the motion of the water which produces tides on our coasts, is in general imperceptible in the open ocean, and yet, on account of the sloping bottom of the ocean, which causes a smaller volume of water to receive the momentum of a larger one, it causes considerable rise of the water along the coast, we have reason to think that the general tendency of water westward in the torrid zone may keep the water in the Gulf considerably above the general level, since its water and that in the Caribbean sea, if the bottom of the ocean be sloping, must in great measure receive the momentum of the whole body of the water moving westward in the adjacent part of the Atlantic. The eastern tendency of the water in the northen part of the north Atlantic, due to the prime moving force mentioned above and independent of the winds which prevail there, causes the surface of the ocean in the latitude of Newfoundland to be somewhat depressed below the general level next to the coast, which also adds to the force of the Gulf-stream. All these forces, taken in connection withthe influence of the trade-windst, to which this phenomenon has been mainy attributed, we think, furnish a complete and satisfactory explanation of that great wonder and mystery of the ocean, the Gulf-stream.

The Greenland and other currents. – The general eastward motion of the waters of the ocean in the northern part of the Atlantic, and consequent depression next the coast of North America, also furnish an explanation of the cold current of water flowing between the Gulf-stream and the coast of the United States, called the Greenland current. On account of the rotatory motion of the earth, the water of the Gulf-stream in flowing northward, tends to the east, and for the same reason the water flowing from Greenland and Baffin’s bay to supply the eastern flow, tends towards the west, and consequently flows in between the Gulf-stream and the coast of the United States.

There must be a motion of the waters somewhat similar to that of the Gulf-stream and the Greenland current, wherever the great equatorial current impinges against a continent, and the eastward flow towards the poles is cut off. Hence, on the eastern coast of South America, there is a warm Brazilian current towards Cape Horn, and on the eastern coast of Africa, the Mozambique current which at the Cape of Good Hope is called the Agulhas current. Also, on the eastern coast of Asia, there is the warm China current, flowing towards the north, similar to the Gulf-stream, and the cold Asiatic current, insinuating itself between it and the coast, like the Greenland current.

On the western side of the continents a motion somewhat the reverse of this must take place. Hence, instead of a warm stream flowing towards the north, there is a cold current flowing towards the equator. On the west of Portugal, and the northern part of Africa, there is a flow of colder water towards the equator, both to join the great equatorial current flowing across the Atlantic. On the west coast of South America, is Humboldt’s current, 8° or 10° colder than the rest of the ocean in the same latitude, both tending towards the equator to there join the great western current across the Pacific, and to fill up, as it were, the vacuum which this current has a tendency to leave about the equator, on the western coast of America.

NASHVILLE, October 4, 1856.

  1. Physical Geography of the sea, page 70.
  2. Professor Espy’s Third Report on Meterology, § 101.
  3. See Kaenitz’ Meteorology. by C. Walker, page 277.
  4. See “Physical geography of the Sea” § 106.
  5. Third report on Meteorology §§ 68, 69.
  6. See W. C. Redfield Esq. on three several hurricanes, etc., in Silliman’s Journal, second series, vol. I., page 13.
  7. Silliman’s Journal, second series, Vol II., page 325.
  8. Maury’s Physical Geography of the Sea § 224.
  9. Humbold’s Cosmos, Vol. 2 page 278
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