Good morning, everyone! Today I wanted to share with you a little something on my personal relationship with God’s book: the Qur’an.
There are plenty of resources, lectures, tafsirs, etc. on the holy Qur’an, but I have found that in my journey I didn’t really start to develop a love for it and a real relationship with it until I found my own personal story with God’s words.
During my first Ramadan in 2014, I was blessed to have a gift subscription to Bayyinah TV, run by Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan. He does something special every year during the month of Ramadan, and this year’s program was the tafsir (explanation) of Surah al-Rahman. I wasn’t very familiar with the surah, but when the friend who had gifted me the subscription asked if I wanted to memorize the surah with her while going through the video series, I said “of course!”
I think that is part of the reason al-Rahman has become my favourite surah.I didn’t actually get all of the way through memorizing it, but whenever I hear it recited now it brings me back to the blessed feeling of that first Ramadan.
The other reason that I love this surah, of course, is the content. So today, I wanted to share a couple of my favourite tafsir points that make this surah really special to me.
The Title/First Ayah
There are two things I love here: First, the linguistic meaning of “al-Rahman.” Rahma is often translated as “mercy,” but in English the word mercy also has the connotation of sparing someone from a punishment, as in “I was boing to give you a speeding ticket for $500 but I am going to be merciful and make it $50.”
Rahma, however, does not have this same connotation, and in fact does not have anything to do with punishment. Rahma is associated with compassion, ease, softness, and love. And God being “al-Rahman” means that He has all of these things to the fullest possible extent, even to the level of excessiveness. He has excessive love and compassion like only He can have, like nothing we can even imagine, towards His creation, us.
Secondly, I love that this beautiful name makes up the first ayah all by itself. The first two ayat make a grammatically complete sentence (if you don’t know the surah take a second to go read it link!), but the name “al-Rahman” is separated out as an ayah on its own.
It is almost as if God is telling you to stop and think, reflect really well on His beautiful name and all that it implies for your life, before you even go on to read the rest of the sentence.
The Qur’an as an Act of Love
From the first few ayat we also learn that the Qur’an itself is an act of utmost love and rahma from the Creator.
The Most Merciful
Taught the Qur’an,
[And] Taught him eloquence.
The sun and the moon [move] by precise calculation,
And the stars and trees prostrate.
Qur’an 55:1-6, Sahih International Translation
Often in the Qur’an, God mentions that he created mankind, and then taught him guidance. In this surah, it is completely the opposite. God mentions his name, “al-Rahman,” and goes straight on to say that He “taught the Qur’an.”
We often think that this book, with all of these rules and to-dos, is a restriction on us, but if we really read this ayah we can see that that is not the case at all. God is the Most Merciful, as mentioned previously He has unfathomable love for us. Naturally this means that He only wants what He (the All-Knowing) knows to be best for us. Which is why He went down a whole book to let us know how to live a life that will not only make us more happy in the long run in this world, but also earn us His pleasure as well.
This surah most likely comes from the late Meccan period, which means that at the time that this surah was revealed, the Prophet (pbuh) had been trying to preach to the stubborn tribe of Quraish for over ten years, to no avail.
Taking this into account, the constant repetition of the verse “so which of the favours of your Lord will you deny?” takes on a whole new dimension of meaning.
Often when you are talking to someone stubborn, who refuses to see your point of view, you have to repeat your argument once, twice, many times for them to even take notice of what your point is to begin with, and that is what this surah is doing with the Quraish.
Not only is God enumerating all of the different ways He has showed His immense love and mercy for us, but He is constantly reminding us of one thing: We cannot deny His favour whether that is in the form of the air we breath or the guidance He taught us, He has showered us with so much good.
This is also a reminder for the Muslims themselves. They say you need to repeat something seven times to make it stick in your brain, and this surah does just that. Every time we recite it we are constantly reminded of all that we should be grateful for.
Besides the actual content of this verse, the repetition also gives the surah a very beautiful rhythm, making it beautiful to listen to and easy to learn and recite. This rhythm was one of the very first things that drew me to this surah, and made me excited to start learning more about it.
I hop you all enjoyed this personal little glimpse into a surah that really speaks to me. I would love to hear from you in the comments; what is your relationship like with the Qur’an, and how can you make it better? Which is your favourite surah, and what is the story behind it?
Note: All tafsir and linguistic notes are from Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan’s various khutbas (the main one I watched was one a subscription-only site, so unfortunately it is not free to access).
Wishing you all peace, love and mercy from Al-Rahman.