Saturday, 5 January 2013

Surah ar-Rahman - A Literary Appreciation [Ayat 1-3]

Surah ar-Rahman is one of the most recognised and known surahs from the Qur’an because of it’s oft-repeated question ‘Which of the favours of your Lord will you deny?’

This surah can be broken down into 5 parts in which it covers the following:
1.  The greatness of the Qur’an
2. A list of Allah’s favours
3. The consequences for the ungrateful (Judgement Day and Hellfire)
4. Jannah – The deluxe package
5. Jannah – The platinum package

This entire sequencing of surah ar-Rahman is then re-taught in reverse order in the following surah – surah Waaqi’ah. Upon reflection, this is Allah’s method of teaching. This is how Allah teaches us how to teach. Revision of these key components is re-taught straight away as we as humans are bound to forget.

We believe the Qur’an is the best form of communication. Why is Allah repeating this phrase over and over again? ‘Which of the favours of your Lord will you deny?’
 Effective communication has 3 key components:
  1. You need content – you need to have something meaningful to say.
  2. Style – it’s how you say it
  3. Knowing your audience
This surah deals with the absolutely stubborn that repetition is the best form of communication here. The curriculum being that of the Qur’an was taught to Muhammad pbuh who then taught it to Quraysh over a period of 10 years in which the underlying message was to worship and believe in one God. Now the key element here was the Prophet pbuh’s teaching quality of patience and perseverance with the Quraysh, in which through endless surahs with different styles of teaching of the same message, the students still did not get the lesson!

The surah begins with the mention of Allah's attribute and title of the surah, ar-rahman. This is often translated as 'mercy.' However, the connotations of mercy usually imply sparing someone, thus used in a negative context. For example, a punishment was coming to you and you were spared or you begged for mercy. However, as we know in the Arabic language, all words have root words and in this case the root word of ar-rahman is 'rahim' referred to as the womb of a mother. The baby is enveloped around care and protection in the womb of its mother. The mother takes the pain of the baby so he/she does not feel a thing because the mother's feeling of love for her unborn baby motivates her. In the same way, Allah being ar-Rahman has enveloped us in his mercy, the love he has for his creation. The ayat itself is a call for reflection; how is Allah taking care of me with his love at this moment?

Whenever you recite an ayat of the Qur'an, change it into a dua or prayer. Think of the blessings Allah has given you. Of all the things, his greatest act of kindness is that he taught the Qur'an as this is the ayat that follows Allah's attribute of ar-Rahman. You are truly missing out on Allah's greatest gift to humanity if you don't study the Qur'an.

The Qur'an is the perfect curriculum but Muhammad [pbuh] had to be there to deliver that curriculum. You are never going to get more prestige than being taught by Allah swt. Allah is in fact the one who taught the Qur'an. We have a love-based relationship with Allah. In the second ayat, what Allah teaches is addressed but not who he teaches as the invitation is open to all. You should see the Qur'an as your journey to develop a relationship with Allah and develop a love for Allah swt. The Qur'an is best consumed with quality and not quantity. Memorise, memorise, memorise - at least we know we died trying as the Qur'an lies inside our hearts. The actual meaning of the Qur'an as it appears in the infinitive [masdar] form of recitation means to read or recite excessively. The Qur'an defines the word reading itself.

  You haven't properly started reading anything until you've read the Qur'an. 

In the 3rd ayat of surah ar-Rahman, Allah mentions creating us, the insaan, humans. First he taught us the Qur'an, then he created us second. The manual comes before the product and the gift of guidance as in the Qur'an is way more than Allah creating us.

[This post was a write up of my notes from Nouman Ali Khan's Tafseer of Surah ar-Rahman]

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