Books islam

Qur’an 37: The Ranged Ones

Readings

Entrance antiphon:

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son,
Hebrews 11:17

A reading, from the Testament of Solomon:

And when they were gone I ordered Ornias to be brought forward, and said to him: “Tell me how you know this;” and he answered: “We demons ascend into the firmament of heaven, and fly about among the stars. And we hear the sentences which go forth upon the souls of men, and forthwith we come, and whether by force of influence, or by fire, or by sword, or by some accident, we veil our act of destruction; and if a man does not die by some untimely disaster or by violence, then we demons transform ourselves in such a way as to appear to men and be worshipped in our human nature.”

I therefore, having heard this, glorified the Lord God, and again I questioned the demon, saying: “Tell me how ye can ascend into heaven, being demons, and amidst the stars and holy angels intermingle.” And he answered: “Just as things are fulfilled in heaven, so also on earth (are fulfilled) the types of all of them. For there are principalities, authorities, world-rulers, and we demons fly about in the air; and we hear the voices of the heavenly beings, and survey all the powers. And as having no ground (basis) on which to alight and rest, we lose strength and fall off like leaves from trees. And men seeing us imagine that the stars are falling from heaven. But it is not really so, O king; but we fall because of our weakness, and because we have nowhere anything to lay hold of; and so we fall down like lightnings in the depth of night and suddenly. And we set cities in flames and fire the fields. For the stars have firm foundations in the heavens like the sun and the moon
Testament of Solomon 113-114

A Psalm, form the Hymns of Paradise

The man who abstained, with understanding, from wine
will the vines of Paradise
rush out to meet, all the more joyfully,
as each one stretches out and proffers him its clusters;
or if any has lived
a life of virginity,
him too they welcome into their bosom,
for the solitary such as he
has never lain in any bosom
nor upon any marriage bed.
St. Ephraim the Syrian, Hymns of Paradise, 7:18

A reading, from the Revelation to St. John:

And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.
Revelations 21:6-8

Alleluiah, Alleluiah

Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works, James 2:21-22

Alleluiah, Alleluiah

A reading, from the Holy Gospel According to Matthew:

Then one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and He healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw. And all the multitudes were amazed and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”

Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, “This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.”

But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house. 30 He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.
Matthew 12:22-30

Communion Antiphon:

For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying—a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
1 Timonthy 2:5-7

A Qur’anic Homily

The thirty-seventh chapter of the Qur’an, “The Ranged Ones,” contrasts the Ranged ones with the arraigned. That is those who live in the places and patterns commanded by God, and those who are in rebellion against Him. Turn away from all sorts of worship of demons and repent. There is still time. And to those who love Him, God will grant the pleasures of Paradise.

Who are the arraigned?

The Qur’anic author contrasts two groups, the aligned and the accused. For these terms, the translator of my edition of the Qur’an chooses the puns “the ranged” and “the arraigned”:

The Ranged evoke the Host of Heaven, the Army of the Lord:

By the ranged in ranks, by the ones who drive vigorously, by the ones who recite the reminder: indeed your God is certainly One, the Lord of the heavens and the earth, and whatever is between them, the Lord of the easts.
Qur’an 37:1-5

while the Arraigned are the fate one wants to avoid, those who have shirked their work, and will die not just in this life, but at the second death as well:

He will say, ’By God, you had almost ruined me! Had it not been for my Lord’s blessing, I too would have been among the arraigned! Is it that we will not die, aside from our earlier death, and that we will not be punished?

This is indeed a mighty triumph! Let all workers work for the like of this!
Qur’an 37:56-61

The ranged – those aligned with and working for God know the Truth, know the place where they belong, and glorify God:

Clear is God of whatever they allege – except God’s exclusive servants.

Indeed, you and what you worship cannot mislead about Him, except someone who is bound for Hell.

There is none among us but has a known place. We are indeed the ranged ones. Indeed, we celebrate God’s glory.
Qur’an 37:159-166

While the arraigned – those who will face accusation and judgment by God – are the idolators, those who have abandoned the words of the messengers of God:

Elijah was indeed one of the apostles. When he said to his people, “Will you not be Godwary? Do you invoke Ba’al and abandon the best of creators, God your Lord and Lord of all your forefathers?” they impugned him. So they will indeed be arraigned. Except God’s exclusive servants. We left for him a good name in posterity. Peace be to Elijah! Thus indeed do We reward the virtuous. He is indeed one of Our faithful servants.
Qur’an 37:123-132

The Prophets

We know who the ranged ones are from history. The apostles, the messengers, the prophets of God, who did the work they were commanded – aligned with God and working in His fields. The Ranged Ones include gentiles like Noah:

Certainly Noah called out to Us and how well did We respond! We delivered him and his family from their great distress, and made his descendants the survivors, and left for him a good name among posterity: “Peace to Noah, throughout the nations!” Thus do We reward the virtuous. He is indeed one of Our faithful servants. Then We drowned the rest.
Qur’an 37:75-82

Abraham, who through his submission of faith in works, had the unbearable burden of work replaced by a Ransom from God:

My Lord! Give me, one of the righteous. So We gave him the good news of a forebearing son.

When he was old enough to assist in his endeavor, he said “My son! I see in dreams that I am sacrificing you. See what you think.” He said, “Father! Do whatever you have been comanded. If God wishes, you will find me to be patient.”

So when they had both surrendered and he laid him down on his temple, We called out to him, “O Abraham! You have indeed fulfilled your vision! Thus indeed do We reward the virtuous! This was indeed a manifest test.”

Then We ransomed him with a great sacrifice and left for him a good name in posterity. “Peace be to Abraham!” Thus do We reward the virtuous.”

He is indeed one of Our faithful servants.

We gave him the good news of Isaac, a prophet, one of the righteous. And We blessed him and Isaac. Among their descendants are virtuous, and who manifestly wrong themselves.
Qur’an 37:100-113

Moses:

Certainly We favored Moses and Aaron and delivered them and their people from their great distress and We helped them, so they became the victors. We gave them the illuminating scripture and guided them to the straight path and left them a good name in posterity. Peace be to Moses and Aaron!

Thus indeed do We reward the virtuous. They are indeed among Our faithful servants.
Qur’an 37:114-122

And, importantly, Jonah is among the Ranged Ones. Jonah, the blameworthy, who fled from the Lord, is justified. Not because of his works like Noah, or even because of living with God like Abraham, but because of the repentance of his sin:

Jonah was indeed one of the apostles. When he absconded toward the laden ship, he crew lots with them and was the one to be refuted. Then the fish swallowed him while he was blameworthy. Had he not been one of those who celebrate God’s glory, he would have surely remained in its belly till the day they will be resurrected. Then We cast him on a bare shore, and he was sick. So We made a gourd plant grow above him. We sent him to a hundred thousand or more, and they believed. So We provided for them for a while.
Qur’an 37:139-148

The Demons

The opposite of the Ranged are the accused, the accusers themselves, demons. Contrary to their lies, they are powerless before God and cannot spy on Him or the already Deifieid:

We have indeed adorned the lowest heaven with the finery of the stars and to guard from every froward devil. They do not eavesdrop on the Supernatural Elite – they are shot at from every side, to drive them away, and there is a perpetual punishment for them – except any who snatches a snatch, whereat a piercing flame pursues him.
Qur’an 37:6-10

The demons who insist they are children of angels are liars. Demons lie. Do not attempt miracles by calling on demons, either directly or indirectly (because you assume angelic miracles are the coerced work of demons):

Ask them, are daughters to be for your Lord while sons are to be for them? Did We create the angels females while they were present? Be aware that it is out of their mendacity that they say, “God has begotten,” and they will indeed speak a falsehood. Has He preferred daughters to sons? What is the matter with you? How do you judge? Will you not then take admonition? Do you have a manifest authority? Then produce your scripture, should you be truthful.

And they have set up a kinship between Him and the jinn, while the jinn certainly know that they will be presented.
Qur’an 37:149-158

The Hopeful and the Hopeless

The Last Day awaits us all, and the Last Judgment, the shared fate of all creation. Even those who delight in pride now will be faced with the ultimate humility at the end:

Indeed, you wonder, while they engage in ridicule, and when admonished do not take admonition, and when they see a sign they make it an object of ridicule, and say,

“This is nothing but plain magic! What! When we are dead and become dust and bones, shall we be indeed resurrected? And our forefathers too?!”

Say, “Yes! And you will be utterly humble.”
Qur’an 37:12-18

Meanwhile, those who save the right things for the right order will delight in all this right-ness – all this righteousness – in Paradise. As the Catholic Doctor of the Church St. Ephrem the Syrian wrote, the Psalms themselves will be like delightful virgins for the saints:

You will indeed taste the painful punishment and you will be requited only for what you used to do – except God’s exclusive servants. For such there is a known provision – fruits – and they will be held in honor in the gardens of bliss, on couches, racing one another, served around with a cup from a clear fountain, snow-white, delicious to the drinkers, wherein there will be neither headache nor will it cause them stupefaction, and with them will be maidens, of restrained glances with big eyes, as if they were hidden ostrich eggs.
Qur’an 37:38-49

Conclusion

As with many chapters in the Qur’an, the author concludes with a call of repentance and a doxology. The ranged and the arraigned, the Holy Ones and the Hell-bound, will not be treated the same on the Last Day.

Indeed, they used to say, “Had we possess a reminder from our predecessors, we would have surely been God’s exclusive servants.” But they denied it. Soon they will know.

Certainly Our decree has gone beforehand in favor of Our servants, the apostles, that they will indeed receive help, and indeed Our hosts will be the victors. So leave them alone for a while, and watch them; soon they will see.

Do they seek to hasten Our punishment? But when it descends in their courtyard it will be a dismal dawn for those who have been warned. So leave them alone for a while, and watch: soon they will see!
Qur’an 37:167-179

Worship God, and not demons, for He is the Lord of all:

Clear is your Lord, the Lord of Might, of whatever they allege. Peace be to the apostles! All praise belongs to God, Lord of all the worlds.
Qur’an 37:180-182

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