dispatches to and from

nathan f. elmore

Dispatches to and from faith, culture, and things in between

Ramadan Renderings/Day 29

I am a Christian pastor who works as a collegiate minister with the Virginia Baptists at Virginia Commonwealth University. One of my areas of vocational interest and spiritual work is Christian-Muslim relations, including text-centered dialogues or conversations. During Ramadan 2011, I read through the entire Qur'an, in English, via Tarif Khalidi's 2008 translation (Penguin Books). What follows is a personal, meditative rendering of the Qur'an portion of the day. This rendering is devotional in nature, not scholarly. And it comes in the form of textual observations, spiritual reflections, theological questions or poetic responses.

 

In a mosque in Granada, in Andalusia, Spain [Photo by Anas Tolba via Flickr]

 

Day 29 || Reading: Qur'an 67:1 - 77:50

 

Rendering from Qur'an 71:1-28

http://quran.com/71/1-28

 

Sura 71 (entitled Noah) has judgment and salvation written all over it -- twin themes in the Biblical prophetic tradition as well. The chapter is as foreboding as it is hopeful.

In particular, the imagery of verses 2 through 4 stands out. Seemingly it's an exhortation to worship and fear God [so that]..."He will forgive you your sins and defer you to a stated term" (Khalidi's translation). "When God's term arrives it cannot be deferred." A stark finality that is beyond escape.

In other Qur'anic verses this idea of God's term -- a span of time referencing the coming reckoning or judgment -- gets compared to a baby in utero. God has set for any child a stated term when he or she will come out into the world.

The image, then, is stirring: God's Day -- Judgment Day -- is in utero. Whether we like it or not. Whether we believe it or not. Whether we live like it or not.

As in Noah's day, so too in ours: "They place their fingers in their ears" when it comes time to think about the time when God's term will be fulfilled.

What does it mean to be ready and hopeful for that arrival?

 

Wells Cathedral in Somerset, England [Photo by Cornell University Library via Flickr]