Welcome Friends: Ahlan wa sahlan!
The ‘Tanzil’ website (click top-image) is wonderful, and I just heard that some of you are using its AUDIO, listening to the Arabic and trying to read with the recital after familiarizing yourselves with the meanings (from Yusuf Ali, Muhammad Asad, AND the Comments on this page). WAY TO GO!
In yesterday’s reading we came upon ‘Aayatul Kursi- آية الكرسي -The Verse of Dominion/Knowledge’ a powerful verse, oft-repeated by us in times of need. Its concepts indeed help us put matters into perspective: Our problems diminish when we think of God and All we know about Him (which is minimal compared to Who He Is), and then realize that His Knowledge encompasses everything (HQ6:80; 20:98; 40:7), not just us and our problems. We may be but a tiny part of the heavens and the earth He upholds, yet each one of us IS most important to Him.
1. “God is (ولي) the Protector of/God is Near unto those who have faith…” (Y. Ali, M.Asad respectively). This is one of those verses that elicit feelings of either anticipation or dread, depending on who the listeners are, and what deeds they have done. Similar verses are HQ 47:6-11, which end with the statement:
“This, because God is the Protector of all who have attained to faith, whereas they who deny the truth have no protector. (11)
Do listen to Chapter 47 at the Tanzil website (click top image) and notice the distinct cadence to it. It is called ‘the Sura of Muhammad.’
Some of you will notice that, as translation for ‘wali’ (ولي) in chapter 47, Muhammad Asad uses the word ‘protector,’ although he had earlier used ‘Near unto’ in 2:257!
2. Verses 258, 260 take us back to Prophet Abraham, peace upon him. More and more, as we read the Qur’an, we begin to understand the unique relationship this messenger had with God. We also realize that the Qur’an always highlights one of Abraham’s most important virtues: his critical thinking!
The king (who was proud of his own power), began by arguing with Abraham, but was soon dumb-struck by Abraham’s challenge (verse 258). In verse 260, God asks Abraham, ‘Haven’t you attained faith?’ Abraham says that he has indeed, but needs to set his mind at rest (Qalb). Read Muhammad Asad’s comments, 256 and 257. Both Yusuf Ali and Muhammad Asad understand this verse as referring to Abraham’s instant ‘taming’ of 4 birds, whereas others say that the birds flew back to him after he killed and dismembered them, and put them apart in pieces. No matter; the Qur’an often refrains from giving details (it does not mention killing the birds or cutting them up) but narrates a story for us to learn a lesson.
3. Prophet Abraham, peace upon him was a Thinker! Some people are surprised to see the Qur’an show such high regard for reasoning and thinking, perhaps because they consider Faith and Reason diametrically opposed. These two could indeed be opposed when one’s faith is blind, or if one is forced to submit to something or someone... but not here. The Qur’an tells us again and again that faith is a degree of awareness. We must NEVER be blinded, nor must we ever allow ourselves to be led. Indeed, that would be Coercion, and there is no coercion in ‘Deen’ (accountability; matters of Faith), as in verse 256.
Faith which survives trial, is Faith arrived at by Reason, and then sustained by both Reason and Spiritual discovery and growth. That is why the Qur’an constantly addresses the former and seeks to enhance the latter. Faith and Reason go hand in hand.
4. The story in Verse 259 illustrates God’s Power in bringing the dead back to life. Read Muhammad Asad’s note 253. Yusuf Ali calls it the story of Ezekiel, note 304.
5. The next three verses (261-263) discuss the returns and the virtues of spending one’s wealth in the cause of God. The returns are shown to us in a way we readily understand; in planting one grain and seeing it multiply seven-hundred times; and God tops that for us, manifold. (Y. Ali specifies it being a grain of corn, which is inaccurate.)
6. HOWEVER: True virtue is in spending and then making sure we refrain from reminders of our ‘generosity,’ or from following an act of ‘benevolence’ with a hurtful act. Kindness and forgiveness are far more virtuous than any act of generosity on its own.
7. The last verse compares empty acts (done for public recognition by people who do not believe in God) and the returns of such acts- as a barren rock which holds little soil that one might think would benefit from the rain, but actually gets washed away by it… and the parable continues in tomorrow’s reading.
Tomorrow’s reading is from verse 265-274.