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Studying the Qur’an and the Bible side by side, Sodom and Gomorrah

October 6, 2011

Genesis 18—Abraham Intercedes for the People of Sodom:

Bible & Qur'an

Bob explores the differences in characters between the God of the Bible, and that of the Qur'an.

After the two angels (here called “men”) depart toward Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham remained standing before the Lord. Why? Abraham is not waiting for God to speak; Abraham is about to step forward and boldly remind God that He has bound Himself to “do what is just.” God listens; the two of them, a mortal and the “Judge of All the Earth,” negotiate. The reader learns that mortals can boldly remind God that He has bound Himself to “do what is just.” God is magnified in Abraham’s eyes and heart because God is approachable when Abraham boldly reminds Him of his perfect judgments.

Not so in the Islamic version. In the Qur’an, Allah is unapproachable and tells Abraham to “desist from this” because “an irreversible punishment shall surely smite them.” Here the Bible account is contrasted to the one in the Qur’an:

Genesis 18:26-33 Surah 11:75-76
So the men turned from there, and went toward Sodom, while Abraham remained standing before the Lord. Then Abraham came near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of All the Earth do what is just? When fear had passed from (the mind of) Abraham and the glad tidings had reached him, he began to plead with us for Lot’s people. For Abraham was, without doubt, forbearing, compassionate, and given to look to Allah.
And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will forgive the whole place for their sake.” O Abraham, desist from this, the Commander of your Lord has come and an irreversible punishment shall surely smite them.”
Abraham answered, “Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five? And God said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” Again Abraham spoke to him, “Suppose forty are found there…”

Islam teaches that Allah’s justice and fairness are unknowable to mortals, because in Islam these virtues mean whatever Allah wants them to mean that is what makes him great. But this is not true; God and Abraham communicate because they both know what the fairness and justice mean. Abraham is saying, “I know what you are like, I know how you are righteous, and fair, and eager to forgive. So I want you to be true to your nature and let me make my case to you.”

Islam cannot conceive of such bold intercession. And so a great gap opens between the God who reveals Himself in the Bible and the deity portrayed in the Qur’an.

The gap widens: in the Bible, Jacob wrestles with God; in the Psalms David pours out his heart, but sets it in what he knows to be true:  Hear my prayer, O LORD; give ear to my pleas for mercy! In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness! Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you” (Psalm 143:1).

And remember Job’s bold approach: he to see God in court, and bring charges against Him: “O that I knew where I might find him! I would order my cause before him and fill my mouth with arguments” (Job 23:4).  These passages are not only absent from the Qur’an, they seem to be suppressed, as above, when Abraham is flat-out told to submit.

Abraham remained standing before the Lord, and he is not prostrate, nor is he waiting for God to speak. Abraham is about to negotiate. “Come on,” God seems to be saying to Abraham, “I am waiting for you to make your argument; speak, and I will confirm to you that I am fair and just and righteous and forgiving.”

Charles Spurgeon put it this way:

The best prayers I have ever heard in our prayer meetings have been those, which have been fullest of argument. Sometimes my soul has been fairly melted down where I have listened to the brethren who have come before God feeling the mercy to be really needed, and that they must have it, for they first pleaded with God to give it for this reason, and then for a second, and then for a third and then for a fourth and a fifth until they have awakened the fervency of the entire assembly. (Spurgeon’s “Effective Prayer,” p. 10)[1]

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 13, 2011 5:43 pm

    Excellent initiative! You might be interested in my book
    Sharing Mary, Bible and Qur’an side by side.
    Its available from Amazon. com
    Its not just about Mary, but covers all stories Bible and Qur’an have in common.

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