Pain, Pleasure and Prejudice

The Skimper, the Profligate and the Pious

What is there left to say? Only the conclusion: my conclusion after more than a dozen years of immersion into Islam’s core religious text and the life and times of the Prophet.

But before doing so, one last surah; a surah like so many others that made me wonder if I had understood anything or actually understood everything. It is a surah that is somewhat of a microcosm of the Koran:

• a sinner is singled out, actually two (83:1, 83:7);

• a reference to an Underworld (83:7), which may or may not be Hell about which He will not elaborate as He refuse to do thereby leaving the impression that He does not know as much as He is lettings on;

• the first mention of “a book of the profligate” (83:7) located somewhere in this Underworld which seems to be in response to a question from a member of an audience;

• the familiar reference to the Day of Judgement (83:11);

• another name for sinners who would deny the Day (83:12);

• a reference that what He is saying is not new (83:13), that they have heard it before;

• another, what seems to be a clarification (which includes the often repeated phrase “they shall roast in Hell”) about something He said before about the “profligate” (83:14-17) which again appears to be in response to a question from a member of an audience and;

• a reference to a “book of the pious” (83:18) located somewhere in a Higher World of which we know nothing (and which has allegedly been seen by a select few) which again appears to be in response to a question;

• another demonstration of His intimate knowledge of Paradise and of someof  the good things you will find there including wine for which you may compete (83:21-28);

• Allah rarely talks about Paradise without taking a swipe at the unbelievers (83:29-36);

• and so it goes…


83 Al-Mutaffifin

In the Name of Allah,

the Compassionate, the Merciful

83:1 Woe to the skimpers,

83:2 Who, when they measure for themselves from others exact full measure;

83:3 But when they measure or weigh for others actually skimp.

83:4 Do not those people think that they will be resuscitated,

83:5 On a Great Day?

83:6 A Day when mankind will stand before the Lord of the Worlds.

83:7 Not at all; the book of the profligate is locked up in the Underworld.

83:8 If only you knew what is the Underworld.

83:9 A book inscribed.

83:10 Woe betide, on that Day, those who denounce;

83:11 Those who deny the Day of Judgement.

83:12 Yet, only a sinful aggressor denies it.

83:13 When Our Signs are recited to him, he says: “Mere legends of the ancients.”

83:14 Not at all; their hearts are overwhelmed with what they were earning.

83:15 Not at all; surely on that Day they shall be screened off from their Lord.

83:16 Then, they shall roast in Hell.

83:17 Then it will be said to them: “This is what you used to deny.”

83:18 No indeed; the book of the pious is in the Higher World.

83:19 And if only you knew what is the Higher World;

83:20 A book inscribed,

83:21 Witnessed by those well-favoured.

83:22 The pious are indeed in Bliss;

83:23 Upon couches gazing around.

83:24 You will recognize in their faces the glow of bliss.

83:25 They are given to drink from a sealed wine;

83:26 Whose seal is musk. Over that, let the competitors compete;

83:27 And its mixture is from Tasnim (a spring in Paradise);

83:28 A spring from which the well-favoured drink.

83:29 The criminals used to laugh at the believers;

83:30 And if they pass by them they would wink at one another.

83:31 And if they go back to their families, they would go back jeering,

83:32 And if they see them, they would say: “These are indeed in error.”

83:33 Yet, they were not sent to watch over them.

83:34 But, today, the believers shall laugh at the unbelievers.

83:35 Upon couches, they gaze round.

83:36 Have the unbelievers been rewarded for what they used to do?

A layperson, after reading a surah like The Skimpers, which is not atypical of many surahs, might be forgiven for thinking that the Prophet was making it up as he went along.

So what is my conclusion? My conclusion is probably not unlike the first Greek of antiquity who scaled mount Olympus, only to discover that there were no gods living there.

Allah, in the Koran, tells us that Paradise is just above the clouds, held up by invisible pillars anchored on a flat earth; that meteorites are stones thrown by the angels to stop the jinn from flying up to Paradise and eavesdropping on Allah’s conversation, and so on and so forth.

Man's first flight above the clouds should have been a reason for reflection on the authenticity of such revelations, if not put an end to the nonsense.

Such a discussion actually happened during the 8th and 10th century when at least four consecutive Caliphs encouraged an Islamic school of philosophy call Mu’tazilism (or philosophy of rationalism). This is the period of Islam’s greatest contributions to mathematics and astronomy.

In the tenth century, Islamic orthodoxy (the orthodoxy that survives to this day in places like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan) re-asserted itself, and only a literal interpretation of the Koran and the sayings of the Prophet was permitted.

I hope that Islam will look to its past when discussions about the Koran and the Prophet were not only tolerated but encouraged. That is will do so as a means of taking a religion born of the Dark Ages into a brighter, urbane future; a future where believers will not commit mass murder in the name of Allah and His Messenger to gain access to a mythical Paradise; a future where Islam is more than a death cult for so many.