ṣūrah 2:1-5

Reflections on the Qur’an: index page.

alif lām mīm

(2:1)               

                                                                         

  • Given a linear reading of the text, this first instance of the mysterious letters directly follows the last verse of al fātiḥah (i.e. 1:1-7).
  • This is not the place to summarise my work on the mysterious letters, but in order to gain initial purchase upon that work, imagine the word “is” between al fātiḥah and 2:1.

 

That is the Writ about which there is no doubt, a guidance to those of prudent fear:

(2:2)

 

  • The Arabic demonstrative pronoun that [dhālika] necessarily points backwards to what directly precedes it; what directly precedes it is alif lām mīm.
  • The only way for this to make full sense is if alif lām mīm is a symbol (indicating al fātiḥah) which is the only “Writ” about which “there is no doubt” at this point in the text.
  • Thus, al fātiḥah is what is indicated here as “a guidance to those of prudent fear”. This is precisely correct given that al fātiḥah forms a treaty or covenant between the Lord and the believers wherein, given that the believers commit to serve and seek help from God alone God Himself is required to provide guidance (see 1:5-7). 

 

Those who believe in the Unseen, and uphold the duty, and of what We have provided them they spend;

(2:3)

 

Those who believe in the Unseen

 

Oswald Spengler (Decline of the West, vol. 1 page 216) says:

 

[…]the one and only means of rendering this incomprehensible comprehensible must be a kind of metaphysics which regards everything whatsoever as having significance as a symbol.

 

This being the case, it is entirely appropriate that, having established the meaning of the first instance of the mysterious letters as symbolic of something else (al fātiḥah), mention is made of “the Unseen” [al ghaib]: i.e. of that which unseen but perceived by virtue of the symbols of that which is seen.

 

Paul provides a summary of this concept in the first chapter of his Epistle to the Romans where he writes:

 

20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

 

  • Thus, to recognise “the Unseen” is to acknowledge the eternal verities which are cognisable to man in terms of symbol.
  • Symbol was more accessible to Medieval man than to Moderns since we are bludgeoned into conformity by a secular religion which rests upon quantity and disregards quantity (cf. René Guénon, The Reign of Quantity & The Signs of the Times). However, symbol remains to us, albeit in degraded form, by means of subtext (i.e. understanding an exchange in terms other than those expressed by the actors), irony, and certain types of humour.
  • The point is that the ostensible thing (which is seen) is a signpost to the actual thing (which is not seen).

 

To revert to Spengler’s thought: we know that what is stated at 2:2 has significance because it tells us as much: (i.e. that it is the Writ about which there is no doubt). This identifies what precedes it (al fātiḥah as the underlying reality and alif lām mīm as the symbol which signposts that reality).

 

and uphold the Duty

 

The Arabic noun here is al ṣalāt. My value of duty for al ṣalāt is discussed at length in my broader work. However, for those who wish to put some meat on the bones of that value, I reproduce below the following from p. 147 of Introduction to Tantra Sastra by Sir John Woodroffe:

 

Dharma means that which is to be held fast or kept — law, usage, custom, religion, piety, right, equity, duty, good works, and morality. It is, in short, the eternal and immutable (sanātana) principles which hold together the universe in its parts and in its whole, whether organic or inorganic matter. “That which supports and holds together for well-being of the peoples (of the universe) is dharma.” “It was declared for well-being and bringeth well-being. It upholds and preserves. Because it supports and holds together, it is called Dharma. By Dharma are the people upheld.” It is, in short, not an artificial rule, but the principle of right living. The mark of dharma and of the good is ācāra (good conduct), from which dharma is born and fair fame is acquired here and hereafter. The sages embraced ācāra as the root of all tapas. Dharma is not only the principle of right living, but also its application. That course of meritorious action by which man fits himself for this world, heaven, and liberation. Dharma is also the result of good action — that is, the merit acquired thereby.

 

The word dharma acquires specific and technical meanings within particular sects, but the generalised definition above, in my view, correlates with the Qur’anic meaning of al ṣalāt and could in all cases where the ṣalāt and its root derivates occur in the Qur’an, replace it. Those who know the Qur’an well will readily appreciate how the definition above not only fits with the Qur’anic use of al ṣalāt but also that it dovetails with broader Qur’anic themes (charity, good works, faith in God, patience in adversity, etc.).

 

and of what We have provided them they spend 

 

  • How a man spends his money tells us who he is. Wealth does not change the music of a man’s soul; what it does is turn the volume up. 
  • Wealth makes the inferior soul arrogant and the superior soul grateful; understanding that everything one has comes from God spurs one to spend.
  • Material spending is but one form of charity; God has also given men talents, time, social advantages, intelligence, and so on. These can also be regarded as resources for charity.
  • To give charity well is not easy (consider 2:2644:38). One has to find the correct recipient and give in a way which does not rob that person of their dignity, and to remember that it was God who gave us what we have and that the occasion of giving is a blessing for us.

 

And those who believe in what was sent down to thee, and what was sent down before thee, and of the Hereafter they are certain:

  • God has given various dispensations and revelations, suitable for men at different times; this verse identifies those who believe in one or more of those while being certain of the life to come.
  • Deep conviction in the reality of both ultimate accountability and eternal rewards and punishments is the core criterion by which types of men may be identified. It marks the difference between the delusional (cf. modern insanity: entitlement and expectation of reward for no achievement), and the realistic (i.e. understanding that there is a direct correlation between what one does and what one gets — even if Righteous Judgment is withheld to a point which pertains to the Unseen, rather to the seen).

 

Those are upon guidance from their Lord; and it is they who are the successful.
(2:5)

 

The section above provides the definition for those identified at 2:5. The Qur’an contains a number of what I call Qur’anic definitions, and understanding of this feature forms a key part of my method. There are surely more such definitions than those I identify in my work; rather than to provide an exhaustive list, I wished to provide, rather, a demonstration of a method which would allow further work to be done.

 

FURTHER OBSERVATIONS

  • My full translation of the Qur’an which demonstrates a hermeneutic in keeping with key points above may be downloaded free here or accessed online here.
  • My full work on the mysterious letters of the Qur’an may be downloaded free here.
 
Ⓒ Sam Gerrans.
September 17, 2022.

VIDEO

The notes above form the basis for a YouTube presentation which can be found here.

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