by Ahmad Mubarak
All of the Quran is important and special. The first juz’ being the magnum opus of a dialogue between humanity and God, always had a special place in my heart and no doubt the heart of every believer. It sets the tone for the celestial journey the reader takes upon entering into the realm of the divine. The word “Quran” itself comes from the trilateral root ق ر ى meaning “to gather or bring something together.” Indeed, the believers are brought together for the recitation and teaching of this glorious book.
The first juz’ comprises two surahs: al-Fatihah and al-Baqarah. al-Fatihah (The Opening), a short but powerful surah, has the distinction of being revealed twice and is considered both a Makkan and Madinan surah. The seven oft-repeated verses have a plethora of names, among them, fatihatul-kitab (Opening of the Book).
The great scholar and gnostic, Shaykhul-Islam Ibrahim Niasse (d. 1975 ) wrote, “It is also called by many names, the multitude of names is evidence to the nobleness of the one bearing those names. Among those names is: fatihatul-kitab, it is a verbal noun just as afiya (well-being).” It is also called Ummul-Kitab (Mother of the Book) and al-Kanz (the Treasure) because the Prophet ﷺ said, “It was revealed to me as a treasure under the Arsh (the Throne of Allah), it is also called Suratul-Salah because salat is not permissible without it.” Imam Suyuti (d.1505 C.E) says that there are some 25 names for the surah while Imam Qurtubi (d.1273) puts the number at 12.
The first five verses of Surah al-Baqarah are magnificently arranged and always left me in awe after completing the Quran in Taraweeh prayers returning to these five verses which declare, That (which you just heard) is the book in which there is no room for doubt; it contains guidance for those who fear. Those who believe in the unseen, and establish prayer, and spend in Our cause from the provisions We provide. And those who believe in that which has been revealed onto you (O Beloved Prophet), and that which has been revealed before you, and are certain about the hereafter. They alone are the ones upon guidance from their God; and they alone are the ones to attain success.
It always makes the prayer and casual reading more intimate to think of God making such a personal affirmation about the life of a believer in this abode and the hereafter. The rest of the juz’ recounts man’s cosmic origins and true purpose in life.
Adam’s descent to earth was not a curse, but a divine order and fulfillment of purpose. Adam was made Allah’s deputy or khalifah on earth. The root of khalifah is khilaf, which means to dispute. The dispute is with what came before meaning the jinn and so this is one of the reasons why the angels questioned Allah about the purpose of creating human beings. They had seen the bloodshed that the jinn caused and observed their composition from fire. Man was created from the top layer of earth’s dirt and so man had an earthly inclination that the angels were leery of.
But Allah gave Adam intimate knowledge, which He didn’t give to the angels. Imam Jalal ul-Din Mahali says in regards to the verse “Surely I know what you do not” (v. 32): “Allah created Adam from the topsoil and all colors and mixed with it water until it became sticky and breathed His spirit into him and he (Adam) became an animate creature after being an inanimate object.” So man has a rabbani or spiritual nature that will eventually help him overcome his mundane nature.
Verse 49, which deals with how Pharaoh murdered the sons of the Children of Israel and allowed the women to live, mirrors the oppression and very tactics that the modern Pharaoh of the United States has implemented on Black Americans so-called citizens, via the justice system and mass incarceration, and outright assassination of our leaders via COINTELPRO programs. But just as the Children of Israel had to separate from their oppressor, Blacks and other marginalized groups have to at least make a spiritual, and cultural hijra from the house of this Pharaoh.
This juz’ has so many jewels that everyone will take away something slightly different, but it always stands out as being one of the most personal and spiritually connected sections of the Holy Quran. May Allah enlighten all of our reflections of His divine words during this month, and may we carry them throughout the year. Ramadan Mubarak!
Ahmad Mubarak is the co-author with Imam Dawud Walid of the new book Centering Black Narrative: Muslim Nobles Among the Early Pious Muslims.