The Dialogue between the Qur’an and the Psalms

The Qur’an identifies the Book of Psalms by the term Zabur three times. On the first two of these occasions, the Qur’an refers to the Zabur and also to Dawood, David (see Ayat 4:163; 17:55; 21:105). And within these three verses, or Ayat, the Psalms are emphasized in special, quiet ways.

Everyone who has read our Scriptures knows that there is much conversation between the texts. Themes and characters from the Hebrew Scriptures are discussed in new ways in the New Testament, and then they are considered in fresh and different ways yet again in the Qur’an.

We see this ongoing conversation present, quite obviously, on the literal level of the text. Every page of the New Testament is in overt dialogue with the Hebrew Scriptures. And every page of the Qur’an is in open communication with both the New Testament and the Hebrew Scriptures.

However, this dialogue between the Scriptures also has numerous other levels, levels that we have only begun to discover.

For example, the individual Surahs of the Qur’an have a direct parallel relationship with the Psalms of the same title number. Surah 1 shares literary features with Psalm 1, Surah 2 with Psalm 2, and so on, all the way to Surah 114 and Psalm 114.

This essay demonstrates and explores this connection between our Scriptures. It shall present the strong literary ties between 9 pairs of Surahs and Psalms of the same title number.


Surah 1 and Psalm 1

A clear and effective way to see the connections between the Surahs and the Psalms is simply to compare Surah 1 and Psalm 1.

Surah 1 and Psalm 1 are both short, yet have many shared words and themes, including:

-Both discuss the good path, and the unhelpful path.

-Both infer choices we are to make. Both guide us in making good choices.

-Both discuss the Day of Judgment.

-Both discuss negative types of behavior that are good to avoid.

-Both make interesting use of the word “and.”

And there is a more subtle, but powerful, connection:

-The Hebrew name of the Book of Psalms is Tehillim, which means, “The Praises”; and the second verse of Surah 1 of the Qur’an states “all praise is due to Allah”; meanwhile,

-The word “Qur’an” means “The Recitation,” and the verb in Psalm 1 that we humans are encouraged to practice, “higeh,” means to recite, murmur, repeat, ponder upon, and wrestle with.

-Therefore, the title of each Sacred Scripture, the “Quran” and the “Tehillim,” is mentioned, in translated form, in the first verses of the Other sacred text!

It is now abundantly clear that Surah 1 and Psalm 1 are connected with each other. Allah-God loves this sort of deep and meaningful wordplay and relationship between the sacred texts.

The Qur’an and the Psalms begin with each other, with a dialogue. (Psalm 1 blatantly begins in this way, in that it mentions the Torah, twice, in its first verses. So the Book of Psalms begins by recommending itself, and all Scriptures, to inter-textuality and dialogue.) This is tremendously important.

As this dialogue continues, it grows more subtle.

By the time that we arrive at the final Surah of the Qur’an, Surah 114, the connections between each Surah and Psalm, while remaining highly meaningful, will be much more understated.


Surah 22 and Psalm 22

Psalm 22 is the main Psalm of the Crucifixion of Jesus. While the New Testament’s deep discussion of Psalm 22 cannot be taken up here, important appearances of Psalm 22 in the New Testament are: Mt 27:46; Mk 15:34; Jn 19:23. Additionally, Luke 23:43 is reminiscent of the joyful conclusion of Psalm 22.

Also, when Jesus is mocked during the Crucifixion, there are further references to Psalm 22.

Surah 22 of the Qur’an has at least forty-five (45) allusions to Psalm 22. This is a conservative count, not including the very subtle connections between them. Here are a few demonstrations:

Verse 1: “O people! Guard against (the punishment from) your Lord; surely, the violence of the hour is a grievous thing.” Jesus, in John’s Gospel, speaks of the “hour” that he will go through at his Passion and Crucifixion. Indeed, Psalm 22 highlights exactly the difficulties and the violence of this event, as does this first Ayah of Surah 22.

The Qur’an’s next verse discusses pregnant and nursing women. Echoing this, the Psalmist of Psalm 22 says: “For you (God) drew me forth from the belly, and made me secure on the breasts of my mother. Upon you I was cast from the womb, from the belly of my mother you have been my God.” (Psalm 22:10-11) Surah 22 is entitled The Pilgrimage (Hajj); we see in the transfer of the infant Psalmist, this movement from the womb to God, a powerful repetition of the theme of life, development, and pilgrimage of Surah 22. In Psalm 22, the Psalmist is undergoing a difficult passage of this pilgrimage, as difficult as the shock and outrage that the infant feels when being born/delivered from the womb.

Again, the suffering people in Ayah 22:2 are so stunned and bewildered by the punishment that they seem to be “intoxicated”; likewise, the ranting complaints of the Psalmist in Psalm 22 are of similar hyperbolic expanse, because of the great pain. Ayah 22.2 concludes, “the chastisement of Allah will be severe.”

Just as Psalm 22 alludes to the actual process of delivery at birth, a few Ayat later, at 22:5, there is another mention of “wombs,” and Allah will “Bring you forth as babies, then that you may attain your maturity, and . . . (eventually) die.” This again is echoing the processes of birth, life, and death of Psalm 22. There is much more hidden in this one verse, Ayah 22:5; recall that at the two-thirds mark of Psalm 22, there is a radical shift in perspective, as the Psalmist suddenly has been given insight, knowledge, and possibly a mystical experience—and the Psalmist spends the rest of the Psalm praising God in some of the most joyful verses of the Bible. Jesus, on the Cross, certainly recited this Psalm to its conclusion, celebrating the Resurrection that he had rock-solid faith in, even as he was dying in pain. Ayah 22:5 also speaks of the Resurrection, without mentioning Jesus by name. The end of this Ayah speaks of sterile land being transformed by rain; with the rain, the earth “stirs and swells and brings forth of every kind a beautiful herbage.” This too echoes the Resurrection experience at the end of Psalm 22. And the earth itself gives new birth.

In its own right, Psalm 22 concludes with future “unborn generations” of new people who will attest to these things themselves, in joy.

Again praising these true processes of life, Ayah 22:6 declares, “This is because Allah is the Truth and because he gives life to the dead and because he has power over all things.”

Although Psalm 22 begins with bitter suffering, it ends with radical joy and praise, without mentioning actual “Resurrection.” However, for Christians and Muslims, the notion of the Resurrection is clearly present in the Psalm’s final verses. Psalm 23, following Psalm 22, is often read at funerals, because it too speaks powerfully of the processes of life, of our ongoing pilgrimage, and also speaks of the Resurrection without mentioning that term. Ayah 22:7 says, “Allah shall raise up those who are in the graves,” and Ayah 22:9 mentions “the day of Resurrection.”

Again, echoing the good things promised by the approaching Psalm 23, with its restorative waters and meadows and feasts, Ayah 22:14 promises, “Surely Allah will cause those who believe and do good deeds to enter gardens beneath which rivers flow…”

In fact, Surah 22 has glimpses of the future joyful harmony of Córdoba and Andalusia, when Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived in peace. Ayah 22:17 mentions “Jews” and “Christians.” Forecasting the shared worship spaces of Córdoba, Ayah 22:40 speaks of “cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques in which Allah’s name is much remembered…”

Nor does this picture of harmony in civilization preclude the tough work of healing and repentance that all individual souls must undergo. We have discussed the exuberant “reversal” or “change” that occurs at the two-thirds point of Psalm 22. In a complex literary maneuver, Ayah 22.22 reverses this reversal! Sometimes the healing and purification last longer than one might choose (sic): “Whenever they desire to go forth from it, from grief, they shall be turned back into it, and taste the chastisement of burning.”

Following this verse, Ayah 22:23 sounds like Psalm 23 again: “Surely Allah will make those who believe and do good deeds enter gardens beneath which rivers flow; they shall be adorned therein with bracelets of gold and (with) pearls, and their garments therein shall be of silk.” This ongoing transformation, this Hajj, this pilgrimage, changes our own speech and capacities of communication: “And they are guided to goodly words, and they are guided into the path of the Praised One.” (Ayah 22:24) Human speech improves.

Ayah 22:35 mentions hearts that “tremble,” just as Psalm 22 speaks of the fear/awe of the Lord.

The Qur’an’s dialogue with the Psalms often employs hidden humor. Psalm 22 mentions that the Psalmist feels like a “worm.” Surah 22 transforms this into a way of speaking of the creative power of Allah, as the unbelievers’ false gods do not have the power to create a “fly.” (Ayah 22:73)

The humor itself has multiple purposes. For example, it shows the manifold ways in which Allah can transform suffering and shame into goodness and celebration. This is a good model for spiritual leaders, who can often assist in times of healing and transition by the discerning deployment of humor.

Ayat 22:58, 59, 61, 63 and 66 allude, in unique ways, to the transformation from the suffering of Psalm 22 to the gardens of Psalm 23.


Surah 23 and Psalm 23

The previous section discussed how Surah 22 and Psalm 22 address developments and processes, which are connected with pilgrimage and Hajj. These journeys of growth and transformation often have difficult episodes that lead to better states of being and higher orders of awareness.

Early in Surah 23 this entire developmental process is rehearsed in verse 23:14, “then we made the seed a clot, then we made the clot a lump of flesh, then we made (in) the lump of flesh bones, then we clothed the bones with flesh, then we caused it to grow into another creation, so blessed be Allah, the best of creators.” In addition to its resonances with Psalms 22 and 23, this Ayah has connections to Ezekiel and Paul.

A single reading of Surah 23 reveals at least twenty-five clear echoes from, and allusions to, Psalm 23, the famous shepherd psalm. Ayah 23:1 says, “Successful indeed are the believers.” This is an obvious parallel to the sense of “arrival” or “success” that is found in parts of Psalm 23. Ayah 23:2 continues examining the process of those “Who are humble in their prayers,” showing that the “successful” nature of the first Ayah is attributable entirely to Allah-God. And the term “prayers” reminds us of “psalms.” Humility, already highlighted by the Qur’an, will increase even more in importance at the conclusion of the Qur’an.

Part of Psalm 23 is the re-appropriation, or actual first appropriation, of the Garden, of the fullness of Creation. Ayah 12 reminds us of this: “And certainly we created humanity out of an extract of clay.” The next Ayah discusses “resting place,” which also reminds us of Psalm 23.

Ayah 23:19 brings us deeper into this garden paradise: “Then we cause to grow thereby gardens of palm trees and grapes for you; you have in them many fruits and from them do you eat.” Although we cannot explore it here, the next verse moves from palm tree to olive tree in what is perhaps a ‘softening’ or intentionally ‘gentle’ interpretation of the Torah: “And a tree that grows out of Mount Sinai which produces oil and a condiment for those who eat.” (Ayah 23:20) We also see in this Ayah the olive oil and the banquet of Psalm 23. The feast continues in Ayat 23:33 and 23:51.

The overflowing cup of Psalm 23 becomes an overflowing valley in Ayah 23:27. The “valley,” of course, is another feature of Psalm 23. (Valleys that have suffered also become joyfully watered in Psalm 84, as a result of pilgrimage.)

The “paths of righteousness” of Psalm 23 are mentioned in Ayah 23:49, which has another allusion to the Torah: “And certainly we gave Musa (Moses) the Book that they may follow a right direction.”

Immediately following this, Ayah 23:50 sweetly brings Mary and Jesus into the paradise of Psalm 23. In doing this, the Qur’an unites two New Testament people in a setting within a Psalm of the Hebrew Scriptures: “And we made the son of Marium and his mother a sign, and we gave them a shelter on a lofty ground having meadows and springs.”


Surah 78 and Psalm 78

Psalm 78:23-24 speaks of the doors of heaven being opened, and food raining down upon the Israelites in the desert. Recall that Jacob, in Genesis 28, called the Ladder that he had seen in the vision the “gate of heaven.”

Similar to Psalm 78, there is an opening of heaven in Surah 78: “And the heaven shall be opened so that it shall be all openings.” (Ayah 78:19) There are many other verses in the Qur’an that speak of heavenly doors being opened and good things being bestowed upon humanity.

There are other connections between this Surah and Psalm. Also, this opening of the heavens is related to the Mystical Psalm Structures, discussed in a forthcoming essay. See also John 1:51.


Surah 82 and Psalm 82

Once in a course at the GTU in Berkeley, the esteemed Professor Donn Morgan (of CDSP) asked the class a question: “What do you think that John Dominic Crosson says is the most important Psalm?”

Unbeknownst to the class, Professor Morgan had obtained the newly published Soundings in the Theology of Psalms, in which Crosson, one of the most famous Biblical scholars of today, is discussed by J. Clinton McCann Jr. At this time, I was doing my initial research on the Psalms, and so when this question was asked, I thought of key Psalms I was working with.

When the class had made various guesses at the answer, Professor Morgan surprised us: “Psalm 82.” I probably made a look of incomprehension, but then, the more I reflected on it, it started to make good sense.

Crosson goes even further, saying that Psalm 82 is the most important Scripture in the entire Bible.

Psalm 82 excoriates bad leaders.

Psalm 82 rehearses how leaders have been given their place and their power by God. Unfortunately, bad leaders knowingly choose to abuse this power over the lives of other human beings. For this, God will give them a most severe demotion, and a tumultuous death, says Psalm 82.

Similarly, Surah 82 is about the Day of Judgment, and about the cleaving apart of the heavens that will occur on that day. Additionally, on that day, the souls of all people shall be clearly seen. The deeds that they have done on earth will be entirely visible.

Surah 82 mentions beings who guide humanity, similar to the leaders of Psalm 82: “And yet truly over you there are guardians.” (82:10) Who are these guardians? Unlike Psalm 82, these “keepers” seem to be higher than humans, possibly angels. The Study Quran reports, “Guardians refers to angels who preserve the record of all the deeds of human beings . . . most maintain that each individual has two angels solely responsible for recording the deeds that he or she performs in this life.” (TSQ, pp. 1485-1486) Actually, Psalm 82 calls societal leaders “elohim,” which can mean “human potentates,” or “angels,” or even “gods.” They lose this position, however, by their bad leadership, and they will “die like mortals.”

A few Ayat later in the Qur’an, the punishments of the wicked are discussed, but a new word is used to describe this wayward group: they are called “profligate,” or “libertines,” which makes a subtle echoing back to the spoiled leaders of Psalm 82.

This analysis has considered falls from power and lost opportunities to truly construct good things in society. Of course, all is not lost. We shall return to these themes, in transformed and vibrant ways, soon.


Surah 84 and Psalm 84

Psalm 84 is a central Psalm of the Psalter. It is integral to many of the Psalm Structures, which space does not permit us to discuss here.

Likewise, Surah 84 speaks of the “hard striving” of life, and how life itself is like a pilgrimage.

Psalm 84 says of the pilgrims, “They advance from strength to strength (yelku mechayil el chayil), each will appear before God.”

Surah 84 says of humanity, “Oh Humanity! Surely you must strive (to attain) to your Lord, a hard striving until you meet Him.”

And Surah 84 is keenly aware of the internal transformations that the pilgrims progress through: “That you shall most certainly enter stage after stage.” This expands the Psalm’s journey “from strength to strength.”

Already, so soon after the dramatic errors of Psalm 82 and Surah 82, God is reassuring all people that it is always possible to turn back to Allah, and to receive mercy, and to grow in love.


Surah 88 and Psalm 88

The call and response between our Scriptures is often both deep and lively.

For example, Psalm 88 is the most despairing of the Psalms, and, on the literal surface level, is the only Psalm that expresses no hope. God is sought, but nowhere to be found. The Psalm ends in a shocking discussion of loneliness and abandonment. The Hebrew is intentionally murky, and the Psalm concludes by saying something like: “My only acquaintance has disappeared into the darkness.”

Friendly faces flood Surah 88 (see Ayah 88:8). Indeed, this Surah has a beautiful, tranquil list of many of the wonders that await us in Paradise.

The Psalmist of Psalm 88 is hurt and alone, asking demanding questions of God.

By way of contrast, Surah 88 implores us to ask Allah about the wonders of this physical creation, and of the cosmos.

Just as the distress and anguish of Psalm 22 is followed by its joyous conclusion, and a serenity which continues into Psalm 23, so too here we see a more mature and advanced development: the sheer hopelessness of Psalm 88 is followed, and answered, in the Qur’an, by lists of good things that Allah provides for us in Surah 88.


Surah 112 and Psalm 112

Are humans similar to God? If so, how? Can we grow more like God in our life?

Something remarkable happens in Psalms 111 and 112: The Divine attributes of God that are presented in Psalm 111 become human attributes of the virtuous person in Psalm 112.

Psalm 111 describes God as “gracious and compassionate,” chanun ve-rachum. This sounds like the Basmalah, “In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful,” that begins 113 of the 114 Surahs of the Qur’an. But in the next Psalm, 112, these attributes are attributed to the ‘just’ person, who is also “gracious and compassionate,” chanun ve-rachum.

Surah 112 makes a profound reply to this development in the Psalms. Just two Surahs before the end of the Qur’an, Surah 112 is short, having only 4 verses:

1) Say: “He, God, is One,

2)  God, the Eternally Sufficient unto Himself.

3)  He begets not; nor was He begotten.

4)  And none is like unto Him.”

In the light of this Surah’s connection with Psalms 111 and 112, is the Qur’an making a mild rebuttal to the great development that occurs within this pair of Psalms? Nothing is like Allah. We cannot become like God. It is impossible. We shall forever be kept at a very great distance from God, in that we can never become “too much like” the Divine.

The Qur’an here is emphasizing a basic doctrine of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: There is an insurmountable difference between Creator and creation. Despite having created creation, the Creator is infinitely far above and beyond creation. With all the material and matter of creation, for example, we could never build a bridge to the Creator, so far is God beyond us.

Yet we can begin to act like some of God’s own traits. And the Qur’an shows this just as the Psalms and the New Testament show this.

We can begin to learn how to love, and how to be compassionate, merciful, forgiving.

The Qur’an seems to say that there are some divine traits that humans can learn, and some that are reserved for Allah alone. (Islamic theologies state this too.)

Please permit a brief historical digression: If we read the Qur’an from beginning to end, we are reading it in the canonical order of the text. This order, however, is different than the temporal, chronological order in which the text was received over a period of about 23 years by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The shorter Surahs near the end of the Qur’an are actually among the earlier parts of the Qur’an that were given to the Prophet in Mecca. The longer Surahs at the beginning of the Qur’an were given to the Prophet later, in Medina.

Some scholars state that Surah 9 is actually the penultimate Surah that was given to the Prophet, the next-to-last Surah he received. Only Surah 5, The Table Spread, was given after Surah 9. Then the transmission of the Qur’an to the Prophet was complete.

Surah 9 has a remarkable and poignant development. Ayah 9:117 describes Allah as “Kind and Merciful.” Near the end of the Surah, at Ayah 9:128, the Qur’an assigns to the Prophet these same attributes: the Prophet is “kind and merciful.”

The Qur’an says that the Prophet has become like Allah in mercy.

After the 23-year period of the transmission of the Qur’an, the Prophet died. To have been commanded by Allah to record in the Qur’an that he, the Prophet Muhammad, had grown in the divine quality of mercy, must have given him a powerful, if humbling, joy in the remaining time before his death. Some authorities say that Ayat 9:128-129 were the very last verses of the Qur’an to be received by the Prophet. (TSQ, p. 541)

We see here a multi-leveled dialogue between the Psalms and the Qur’an. Surah 112 seems to squarely oppose the transfer of attributes from God to humanity. Yet the very final verses (in chronological order) of the Qur’an that were given to the Prophet seem to validate the process of Psalms 111-112.


Surah 114 and Psalm 114

Surah 114 and Psalm 150 conclude their respective books.

Psalm 150 points to what the heavenly celebration will be like: dancing, music, joy, and loud celebration in the presence of God.

Similarly, Psalm 114, the numerical parallel to Surah 114, has emphatic action, as nature goes into convulsions at the sight of the Exodus event.

In contrast to both Psalms 114 and 150, Surah 114 is quiet and introspective. It considers how we make internal decisions, within our mind and heart.

As Surah 1 and Psalm 1 are connected with each other, so are Surah 114 and Psalm 114 connected with each other—but in a very different set of ways.

Surah 1 and Psalm 1 share a raft of vocabulary terms. And this establishes a precedent, as it happens in the first unit of both Scriptures.

Yet with Surah 114 and Psalm 114, there are not many shared words. Instead, there is a connection of call-and-answer, and a progression, and an exquisite dance between the two texts.

Psalm 114 is dramatic, and the scene of action is very exterior. It happens in the wilderness, at the Red Sea and by the desert mountains and at the Jordan River. The Psalm celebrates the Exodus.

In response to the Exodus, nature herself 1) dances like young sheep and rams in the springtime, and 2) is amazed at the sight of the Exodus. Mountains jump up and down. The Red Sea and the Jordan River are severed, their currents reversed.

Why do the land and the water, these two elements, act strangely?

It is because of the new connection between God and human beings. This connection of the people and God is the birth of the Hebrew people, as they pass through the Red Sea. This passing through the Red Sea is a birth. Broken water. Red. A birth. A new connection between God and Humanity is the birth of a new Humanity. Mother Earth, and her waters, sense this and respond appropriately with the throes of birth.

Surah 114 was given to us perhaps a millennium after Psalm 114, after much human evolution had occurred in the light of earlier Scriptures.

Its title is “Humanity”:

1) Say: “I seek refuge in the Lord of humans,

2) The King of humans,

3) The God of humans,

4) From the evil of the whisperings of the slinking (Shaitan/Satan),

5) Who whispers into the hearts of humans,

6) From among the jinn and humans.”

This utterly profound Surah is a sign of tremendous human evolution.

Whereas Psalm 114 had nature terrified and leaping before God’s theophany, and features long external human journeys, Surah 114 speaks volumes of an immense internal awareness within the Human Person.

Surah 114 asks us to repeat its words, and to make these words our words. (The Psalms do this too.) When we say these words in ourselves, our interior selves become more holy, aware, and evolved. When we say these words in ourselves, we become more aware of the internal geography of our own soul.

And what we see is awesome.

Our relationship with Allah has become so full that it must be described, initially, with three statements of who God is for us: Allah is “the Lord of humans, the King of humans, [and] the God of humans.”

We have grown to the point where we have to think of our relationship with Allah in multiple ways. Indeed, our comprehension has become more complex.

With that, there is greater responsibility that we must exercise over our thinking. We must take greater care for our mental life, our mental activity.

As more complex and evolved human beings, we are potentially vulnerable to sneaky whispers from the slinking/ withdrawing Satan. With our more developed mental antennae, we can pick up smaller “transmissions” from Satan. Satan attacks our hearts, the place of love. Satan wants to divide us, and to separate us from each other. The more we humans evolve, the more we transform into people of love. If Satan is able to stop our loving each other, than he can stop our growth, our evolution.

Love opens us up to evolutionary growth in more spectrums of reality. But we must show discernment as we enter an awareness of these realms: We are now aware of whispers that come to us from both “jinn” and “men.” This positive growth is leading us to be intelligent and reflective as we become aware that we are receiving communications from a wider spectrum of reality.

We must carefully observe and govern our expanding mental life. We must be humble, and stay close to God. This is how the Qur’an concludes.

Psalm 114 showed the Israelites being led by the hand on a big journey in wild places. Mountains leapt, seas parted. The Israelites oscillated greatly, often wanting to return to the fleshpots that they had previously known. They radically bounced between fear and anger/pride.

By way of contrast, the final Surah of the Qur’an is teaching us about our evolving life of mind and soul.

See the progression?

We might, however, find seeds, kernels, of this tremendous growth hiding, latent, in Psalm 114. This Psalm ends with a verse about God, “Who turns the rock into a pond of water, the flint into a flowing fountain of water.” Initially, this might seem like simple powerful external imagery of God’s awesome power, with which he has been awing the Israelites and teaching them introductory lessons about their lives, their selves, and their relationship with God.

Yet we might also recall Ezekiel’s discussion of rocky hearts, and the Pharaoh’s hardened heart, and we might discern the beginning hints of something different. The Exodus journey, led by God, is softening the hearts of the Israelites, and transforming their hearts into hearts of love. During the Exodus, for example, the Israelites had to become better at community. Part of this is their growing ability to make better choices; To discern, and to make calm, just judgments.

Rocky hearts become springs of love.

The parallel relationship with the Qur’an helps us to draw out this truth from the Psalms of the Hebrew Scriptures! Likewise, the dramatic exterior action of Psalm 114 helps us to better see and to be awed by the huge quiet interior developments that are now happening in Humanity in Surah 114! Our Scriptures walk forward, hand in hand.

There is much more: Now that the dialogue between Psalm 114 and Surah 114 has developed our sense of the dimension, the spectrum, of time, and of evolution, and of our receiving God’s own powers and gifts—what if Surah 114 is reminding us that if our evolution continues, we shall be given tremendous powers by God, the ability to move mountains and to dialogue deeply with nature? Recall the above discussion of Surahs 112 and 9, with their nuanced discussion of our capacity of receiving God’s powers.

Again, Surah 114 discusses choices instrumental to our human evolution.

And this Surah discusses cosmic forces that arrive to us, forces that are calmly appearing, or rudely interjected, into our thoughts. These visiting thoughts may be for good or for ill. The growing human person must learn to read these thoughts, and to discern from whence they arrive. The growing human person must learn discernment.

The simple act of the decision, of spiritual/ mental volition, occurring in the quiet privacy of our own mind, is revealed to be more powerful and far more advanced than the leaping up and down of mountains, as wonderful as that might be.

Surah 114 is evolutionary, and very aware of our human need to grasp the cosmic ramifications of each and every one of our decisions.

They go together. If we make good decisions, and become a loving unified humanity, then the cosmos has no limits for us; in fact, the cosmos, created by Allah-God, will lovingly respond to a humanity that has grown in love.

Our Scriptures, united in dialogue, help us on this journey.

[A downloadable version of this essay is available at ]


Nasr, Seyyed Hossein, editor-in-chief. The Study Quran. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2015.

Jacobson, Rolf A., ed. Soundings in the Theology of Psalms. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2011.

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