Reflection on Juz’ 21 by Fatimah Jackson

This reflection was originally published in Ramadan 2020. To read reflections from the 2021 series click here.

By Fatimah Jackson

This brief synopsis constitutes my reflections on Juz’ 21 (29:46–33:30) of the Qur’an. The context of my commentary is important to reveal: I have been watching the Turkish historical drama “Ertugrul Resurrection,” which drew my thoughts to the meaning of resurrection in Juz’ 21.

The juz’ begins with the invocation to take the high road with the Jews and the Christians in arguments about religion and other matters of faith. As Muslims, we are advised to stay focused on the reality of Islam, its foundation in faith and origins with the Almighty. The surahs in this juz’ emphasize the continuity and refinement of the Islamic message from previous revelations.

Along with this theme, Juz’ 21 expounds on the natural world and extols us to calmly face the naturalness of this life. The wind and the water are indicators of the Resurrection. The main theme of Resurrection is accountability — humans do not wish to be accountable for their actions. In Surah al-Sajdah we are reminded that those who think that there will be no Resurrection are wrong; and throughout the juz’, Allah elucidates at several points that the polytheists will be humiliated and low on the Day of Judgement while the people of Faith will be rewarded. Islam makes us responsible for all that we have done (or not done) in this life. This is a major evolutionary break with contemporary Christianity where accountability rests on the actions of Prophet Isa (AS). The recognition of our own personal accountability with Allah and His personal devotion to us, should be a source of solace for the Believers in Islam. Throughout Juz’ 21, the unity of Allah is proclaimed, and several references to the natural world are interwoven as signs affirming His omnipotence and universality.

From Surah al-Ankubut, Juz’ 21 goes on to discuss al-Rum, foretelling the defeat of the Romans. In the face of their technological superiority, the Muslim community is commanded to adhere to Tawhid, pray 5 times daily, uphold the ties of kinship and disavow interest (riba). In this way, while their worldly prowess can be alluring, Allah advises that sticking to the straight religion is the best response to the Romans. Allah has distinguished Truth from falsehood, so we must keep in mind that creation, provision, life and death are all under the control of Allah. Allah’s reality is the true reality, even in the face of sin and evil. In this part of Juz’ 21, Muslims are commanded to follow the straight path of Islam before the Resurrection is upon us.

In Surah Luqman, the Believers in Islam are advised to be moderate in walking. Walking is fundamental to our species; our bipedal anatomy is optimized for walking. Biomedical research has revealed that regular walking helps us to reset our metabolism and accelerate the return from physiological abnormalities.

Allah also discusses the different stages of humanity, particularly in Surahs Luqman and Sajdah (31–32). These stages refer to the changes over time (evolution) as well as the changes within the lifespan of an individual. Indeed, the different stages of humanity are part of the unfolding of the natural world and should be seen as one of the signs of our Creator, Allah.

In Surah Luqman, the Believers in Islam are advised to be moderate in walking. Walking is fundamental to our species; our bipedal anatomy is optimized for walking. Biomedical research has revealed that regular walking helps us to reset our metabolism and accelerate the return from physiological abnormalities. Walking in moderation is a command with multiple layers of implication. The key is moderation, which we are commanded to in all aspects of our lives as Muslims. Luqman’s advice to his son was a two-fold message of consistency and moderation: (1) worship only Allah; and (2) do not associate anything with Him.

As Muslims, we are assured throughout Juz’ 21 that might and power only rests with Allah, the one who has ultimate control over all Creation, full knowledge, complete capability and is the owner of everything. We have unimpeded access to Allah by following the directives of Islam. Through this access, we are to develop a personal relationship with Allah since He has a personal relationship with us. That is why shirk (associating partners with Allah) is such a deadly, unforgivable sin. Those who commit shirk betray (Khattar kafur) Allah’s investment in us.

The final chapter of Juz’ 21 is Al-Ahzab (the Confederates). Here, Muslims are commanded to defy the disbelievers and hypocrites by following the revelation of Allah and continuing to put our trust in Allah alone. This section also gives practical parameters for the Believers addressing questions of adoptive and blood relations and unity emerges as a theme in this chapter: unity of the prophets through their mutual support and cooperation in a shared message and even unity of the enemy against the Believers. The juz’ concludes with the reminder that this life is just a test and trial. And, rather than assimilate with the disbelievers and acclimate to their beliefs, we must trust in Allah for an excellent outcome.

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Photograph of Fatimah Jackson

Fatimah Jackson is a professor of biology and the director of the W. Montague Cobb Research Laboratory at Howard University, She is the recipient of the 2020 Charles R. Darwin Lifetime Achievement Award. Dr. Jackson is the first woman of African descent to receive this prestigious award from the American Association of Physical Anthropologists. She received her Ph.D., M.A., and B.A. from Cornell University. Her research on the study of African human genetics, human–plant coevolution, particularly the influence of phytochemicals on human metabolic effects and evolutionary processes, and in population biological substructures in peoples of African descent.

Dr. Jackson has taught at several universities including Cornell University, University of California – Berkeley, and University of Maryland – College Park (where she is Distinguished Scholar-Teacher and Professor Emerita). She has been a Visiting Scholar at the University of Georgia and University of Khartoum in Sudan, and she was a Senior Fulbright Fellow in Egypt.

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