By Sheik Ja’far Muhibullah
In the name of Allah, the Exalted
Abundant blessings & salutations
Upon Muhammad, his Family
And the Believing Nation
Each chapter and verse of the Qur’ān is divinely placed in its particular order. As one reads the words of Allah from beginning to end, they partake of Godly wisdom that nourishes the soul. From the Opening (al-Fātiha) till the last verse there is something for Humankind (al-Nās) to learn. The only conditions are: (1) to read this heavenly book in the name of the Sustainer of souls who has created humanity (Q 96: 1); and (2) to read it carefully (Q 73: 4).
Provided we succeed in reading the Qur’ān as we should, Allah will bestow upon us wisdom as he promises. “God grants wisdom to whom He wills, and whoever is granted wisdom, indeed is given blessing in abundance. Yet none grasp this except people of reason” (Q 2: 269). This, in fact, is the purpose for which the Prophet Muhammad was sent. That is, to teach us the book and its wisdom so that we can purify our souls (Q 62: 2).
Perhaps one of the aspects of wisdom is to understand the reflexive nature of the Qur’ān. The idea, that the Qur’ān has a way of explaining itself, is a popular notion in some exegeses (tafsir). For example, the Qur’ānic verses 62: 2 and 3: 164 reflect the nature or method by which God’s promise, in verse 2: 269, will be fulfilled. In other cases, verses and chapters complement one another. Hence, (Q 73: 4) emphasizes the quality of reading that pleases Allah when He commands His servants to read (Q 96: 1). In this same vein, scholars have recognized that chapter 94 (al-Sharh) complements chapter 93 (al-Dhuha) and chapter 106 (Quraysh) complements chapter 105 (al-Fīl).
The thirtieth and final part of the Qur’ān, in a sense, complements the twenty-nine parts that precede it. All the major themes such as monotheism, prophethood, eschatology, the stories of the prophets, and so forth are recapped in these concluding chapters. The thirtieth part, however, does not serve as an end to Allah’s message and instructions for humanity. Accordingly, one must reopen the book after completing a single reading to ponder its wisdom once more. With each reading newfound knowledge is uncovered.
When adhering to the cyclic or repeated reading outlined above, we will discover how the first surah of the Quran, al-Fātiha (the Opening), complements the final surah, al-Nās (Humankind). In the following paragraph I will combine these two chapters into a single text, clearly marking the verses from al-Fātiha with [F] and al-Nās with [N]. I will also interweave brief comments (in italics) with the text to explain the reflexive nature of these two chapters and for a smoother reading.
Of course we must begin In the name of Allah the Beneficent, the Merciful [F/N]. All praise is due to God alone, the Sustainer of all the worlds [F]. Therefore, in prayer humankind must Say: “I seek refuge with the Sustainer of humankind” [N], the all-beneficent, the all-merciful [F]. He is the Master of the Day of Judgment [F], therefore the Master of humankind [N]. You alone do we worship, and from you alone do we ask help [F] since you are the God of humankind [N]. Show us the straight path! The path of those whom you have favored – not the (path) of those who earn your anger nor those who go astray [F]. Anticipating success, I seek refuge in you from the evil of the whispering, elusive tempter who whispers in the hearts of humankind amidst the jinn and men [N].
To clearly perceive the reflexive nature of these two chapters, one must first understand their shared focal points. They share three focal points: (1) Allah as the “Sustainer” (Rabb), (2) Allah as the “Master” (Mālik), and Allah as the divine being or “God” (Ilāh). It is worth noting that the Arabic word Ilāh (used for god or God) literally means “worshiped entity”; thus understood, verse three of al-Nās [N] (The God—the worshipped entity—of humankind) is complementary to verse five of al-Fātiha [F] (You alone do we worship, and from you alone do we ask help). Likewise, the following complementary relationships can also be outlined:
- Verse one of [N] complements verse two of [F].
- Verse two of [N] complements verse four of [F].
- Verses four, five, and six of [N] complements verses six and seven of [F].
Secondly, the grammatical structure of each chapter must be acknowledged. The overarching mood of al-Fātiha is one of an informative proposition. Hence, we are informed that Allah is the only sustainer of the worlds, the master of the Day of Judgment, and the only one we should worship and from whom to seek help. On the other hand, al-Nās is in the imperative mood; thus, exhorting us to act upon the knowledge and wisdom we have acquired. Therefore, if we truly desire to walk on God’s straight path (Sirāt al-mustaqīm) we must seek refuge in Him daily ‘from the evil of the whispering, elusive tempters.’
So ponder the words of God:
The Opening (al-Fātiha)
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful (1)
All praise is due to God alone, the Sustainer of all the worlds (2)
The all-beneficent, the all-merciful (3)
The Master of the Day of Judgment (4)
You alone do we worship, and from you alone do we ask help (5)
Show us the straight path (6)
The path of those whom you have favored – not the (path) of those who earn your anger nor those who go astray (7)
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
Say: I seek refuge with the Sustainer of mankind (1)
The Master of humankind (2)
The God of humanity (3)
From the evil of the whispering, elusive tempter (4)
Who whispers in the hearts of humankind (5)
Amidst the jinn and men (6)
(Q 96: 1)
Read in the name of your Sustainer who created.
(Q 73: 4)
…and recite the Qur’ān calmly and distinctly, with the mind attuned to its meaning.
(Q 62: 2)
He it is Who hath sent among the unlettered ones a messenger of their own, to recite unto them His revelations and to make them grow in purity, and to teach them the Scripture and wisdom, whereas before that they were indeed in manifest error.
(Q 3: 164)
Indeed, Allah bestowed a favor upon the believers by delegation amid them a messenger from among themselves, to convey His revelations unto them, and to cause them to grow in purity, and teach them the Scripture and wisdom; whereas before that they were indeed in manifest error.
This reflection was originally published in 2016.
Sheik Ja’far Muhibullah is the Resident ‘Alim of the Islamic Ahlul Bayt Association in Austin, Texas. He completed ten years of Islamic seminary training in America and Iran. He completed his MA in Religious Studies at Duke University in 2005. He spent three years at the University of Texas at Austin completing work towards a PhD in Arabic Studies. His interest is in classical Arabic, Persian, and Urdu literature and specifically in Arabic literature in medieval Sicily. Since 2005, he has owned and managed his own translating and interpreting service business. With over 14 years experience in translating, teaching, and public speaking. Shaykh Muhibullah has made significant contributions to the Arabic translations of key Islamic academic and literary works. He currently resides in Qom, Iran, where he is completing his PhD at Tehran University.