Many times, we read the Quran and find ourselves in an ocean, unaware of where the current is taking us. One of the most important things to understand when one approaches it, is that it is not written according to the mandates of human logic or order – but rather it is according to the Divine Will of the Creator.
Maulana Maududi once wrote two paragraphs which I read when I was a teenager, about ten years ago, which have stuck with me almost every time I open the Book of Allah (swt):
The reader also encounters abrupt transitions between one subject matter and another. Audience and speaker constantly change as the message is directed now to one and now to another group of people. There is no trace of familiar division into chapters and sections. Likewise, the treatment of different subjects is unique. If a historical subject is raised, the narrative does not follow the pattern familiar in historical accounts. In discussions of philosophical or metaphysical questions, we miss the familiar expressions and terminology of formal logic and philosophy. Cultural and political matters, or questions pertaining to man’s social and economic life, are discussed in a way very different from that usual in works of social sciences. Juristic principles and legal injunctions are elucidated, but quite differently from the manner of conventional works. When we come across an ethical instruction, we find its form differs entirely from anything to be found elsewhere in the literature of ethics.
The reader may find all this so foreign that his notion of what a book should be that he may become so confused as to feel that the Qur’an is a piece of disorganized, incoherent and unsystematic writing, comprising nothing but a disjointed conglomeration of comments of varying lengths put together arbitrarily. Hostile critics use this as a basis for their criticism, while those more favorably inclined resort to far-fetched explanations, or else conclude that the Qur’an consists of unrelated pieces, thus making it amenable to all kinds of interpretations, even interpretations quite opposed to the intent of God Who revealed the Book.
He then spends the rest of this brilliant small book, answering and explaining the wonder of this question and showing that these characteristics described above are a source of beauty and perfection of The Quran and demonstrate a coherence far beyond human capability: Introduction to the Study of the Quran
Anyone who has not read it, should make sure he/she does.
For our part today, we will explore one of these examples of the Quran swiftly changing subject, and witness the beauty that lies in its secrets. Let us look at Surah Qiyaamah:
Then did he become a leech-like clot; then did1 make and fashion (him) in due proportion.
Notice verses 16-19 which I have bolded. These verses are being addressed directly to the Prophet (saw). And when one looks at them, one finds that they have seemingly no relation whatsoever to the verses before or the verses after.
However, when we read the tafsir of the Surah, we realize that something amazing is happening here. Allah (swt) is describing to us the state of the Day of Judgment.
I do call to witness the Day of Standing. And I do call to witness the self-reproaching spirit. Does man think that We cannot assemble his bones? Nay, We are able to put together in perfect order the very tips of his fingers. (1-4)
Such Absolute Power. Such Quwwah! Allah is taking the Day as an object of Witness! Then, he establishes to the deniers of the Day that not only will he assemble the bones of human beings to resurrect them, he will reassemble the very tips of his fingers, the most unique outward part of the human body – so unique we use it in criminal and court cases. Allah has established to the universe His ability to gather that which is ungatherable, and assemble it, and cause it to stand (note the name of the Surah – Qiyaamah!) and be established.
As our Lord continues to tell us about this Day, He ceases in the middle and changes the subject:
Move not thy tongue concerning the (Qur’an) to make haste therewith. It is for Us to collect it and to recite it: But when We have recited it, follow thou its recital. Nay more, it is for Us to explain its meaning (and make it clear): (16-19)
We would ask, why these words to the Prophet here? Why during this image? For this, there is a fact about how the Prophet used to receive revelation. Why in the middle of an eloquent description of the despair of the rebel against God on the Day of Judgment, would He suddenly place a direct address to the Prophet concerning the revelation…and then..suddenly, switch back into talking about the Day of Judgement? This is an example of what Maulana Maududi wrote about when he said the Quran…SEEMS like it is not coherent.
In order to understand this, it is important to know a fact about how the Prophet would react to revelation. He would be so worried, so concerned, that he would forget a verse, a word, a vowel, that as the Angel Jibraaeel (Gabriel) would recite the latest revelation to him, he (saw) would repeat it immediately, word for word, trying to quickly memorize it. You know, when you are on the phone and the other person is giving you another phone number which you need to dial as soon as you hang up? You start to quickly recite it so that it stays in your memory long enough for you to dial. Such concern the Prophet (saw), that he would quickly, hastily begin his Hifdh of the verse as Jibraeel is giving him the revelation.
According to the tafsir, to comfort the Prophet (saw) about this – Allah (swt) is in effect telling him – Just as I can gather the billions of human beings, assemble them, and reconstruct the very tips of their fingers and order them to stand on the Day of Judgment – I shall take care of ensuring that this Quran is assembled, gathered, and made firm in your heart and that even its explanation is clear to you. So do not worry so much that you become stressed and repeat it like this. But listen to it as it is revealed unto you. I am powerful enough to gather all creation and humanity, and I can indeed gather the words of My book in your heart and establish it there for you. So do not be worried or afraid of losing it.
Then, the Surah continues on, picking up from where it left off, and finishing the picture of the Day of Qiyaamah. How beautiful the secrets of the Quran are. How Allah (swt) is calming, comforting, his beloved Messenger (saw) even in the midst of a picture that until the verse about faces of joy, is generally quite scary and should cause a believer to tremble out of fear and humility.
Imam Busiri said in his Burdah:
La haa ma’aanin ka mawj il bahri fi madadin
Wa fawqa jawharihi fil husni wa al qiyami
For it (the Quran) are meanings that are like the waves of the ocean, each one helping and supporting the next wave
Its meanings are far greater than the pearls of the ocean in their beauty and their greatness
And Allah knows best.
Tafhim ul Quran – Maulana Abul Ala Maududi
Ma’riful Quran – Mufti Muhammad Shafi
- Allah [↩]