Sacred text hook: Qur’an 2:30

When your Lord told the angels: “I am putting a successor [i.e. humankind] on earth,” they said, “How can You put someone there who will cause damage and bloodshed when we celebrate Your praise and proclaim Your holiness?” but He said, “I know things you do not.”
(Qur’an 2:30, Haleem trans.)

The Qur’an’s most typical appeal is not by narrative but by direct confrontation: “How can you ignore God when you were lifeless and He gave you life?” (2:28) “Do you not see that God created the heavens and the earth for a purpose?” (14:19) “On that Day, you will be asked about your pleasures” (102:8). At 2:30, however, the Qur’an tells a story of incalculable relevance to us in just one verse. It breaks off without revealing what we most want to know—how things will turn out so that everything we’ve suffered and done wrong will be part of a genuinely good whole. It doesn’t tell us what the result will be, it only says, or strongly implies, that it will be affirmable. It teases us by leaving the future and the deeper logic in the dark. Indeed, these things are beyond human knowledge. But how amazingly encouraging it is to be reminded that, even with a full supply of flawless angels, God evidently wants all our contributions too. The tingle of suspense in “I know things you do not” converts by chemical reaction into a spiritually charged “Here we go!”

—Steve Smith