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24 July, 2013
1434 Ramadan Mubarak 15: What the Qur Teaches: The Purpose of Qur’anic Revelations
What the Qur Teaches: The Purpose of Qur’anic Revelations
Author: Commentary by Sayyid Qutb
In the name of God, the Merciful, the Beneficent
Blessed is He who from on high bestowed upon His servant the standard to discern the true from the false, so that it might be a warning to all the worlds.
He to whom belongs the dominion over the heavens and the earth, and who begets no offspring, and has no partner in His dominion. It is He who has created all things and ordained them in due proportions.
(The Standard, Al-Furqan: 25: 1-2)
This opening gives a clear indication of the main theme of the surah, namely the revelation of the Qur’an by God, and addressing its message to all mankind in all generations, God’s absolute oneness that admits no partners or offspring, His sovereignty over the whole universe which He, in His wisdom, controls and conducts its affairs. Yet despite all this, the unbelievers continue to associate partners with Him and the fabricators persevere in their falsehood. Moreover, baseless arguments are put forward and arrogant statements are made.
“Blessed is He who from on high bestowed upon His servant the standard to discern the true from the false, so that it might be a warning to all the worlds.” The Arabic word translated here as “blessed” is a derivative of the word denoting blessing but adds a further dimension of increase and growth so as to signify continuous increase of praise and blessings of God. God is not mentioned in the verse by name. Rather, a relative noun is used, “He who from on high bestowed... the standard.” This is useful in highlighting His action of sending a message to mankind, because the essential argument of the surah is the truth of the message and the revelation of the Qur’an.
The Qur’an is named here “Al-Furqan”, which is also the name of the surah. The name indicates distinction and separation between true and false, divine guidance and erroneous beliefs. Furthermore, the Qur’an makes clear distinction between two different ways of life and two epochs in human life. It outlines a clear way of life as it is conceived in human conscience and in practice. This way of life is distinct from anything humanity has ever known. It ushers a new era for humanity so unlike anything it had ever witnessed. Thus it is a criterion in this broad sense, separating the stage of human childhood that has just ended from the stage of maturity about to begin. The age of physical miracles is thus ended to start that of rational miracles. Moreover, local and provisional messages come to an end with the revelation of the Qur’an, God’s final and universal message to all mankind: “so that it might be a warning to all the worlds.”
Special honor for God’s Messenger is shown at this point, describing him as “God’s servant”. The same description is given to him when the Prophet’s night journey is highlighted. “Limitless in His glory is He who transported His servant by night from the Sacred Mosque (in Makkah) to the Aqsa Mosque (in Jerusalem).” (17: 1) Also in the context of prayer and supplication, the Prophet is given the same description: “When His servant stood up praying Him...” (72: 19) Another instance of using this description is the opening of Surah 18 which also speaks of the revelation of the Qur’an: “All praise is due to God who has bestowed the Book from on high on His servant, and has ensured that it remains free of distortion.” (18: 1) Describing man as God’s servant in these contexts indicates the honorable status which makes such a position the highest to which any human being can aspire. It also serves as an implicit reminder that when man achieves his highest status, he is no more than a servant of God, while the position of majesty belongs to God alone, with absolutely no hint or suggestion of there being anyone who bears any resemblance to Him or is a partner with Him.
It was situations like the Prophet’s night journey to Jerusalem and from there to heaven, or direct supplication to God and speaking to Him, or receiving His directives and revelations that tempted some of the followers of some earlier messengers to weave legends speaking about a son of God or a relationship other than that of Godhead and servitude to Him. Hence, the Qur’an emphasizes the status of man’s servitude to God as the highest position to which a chosen human being can aspire.
The surah defines God’s purpose of the revelation of the Qur’an to His servant, “so that it might be a warning to all the world.” As a Makkan revelation, this Qur’anic statement is important as it proves the universal character of the Islamic message right from its early days. This is contrary to the claims made by some non-Muslim historians suggesting that the Islamic message had only local aspirations at the beginning, but became more ambitious and outward looking as it scored a number of military victories. The truth is that this message was addressed from the start to all mankind.
By its very nature, and the means it employed, it was clearly a universal message aiming to take all mankind into a new era, where a new code and style of life are implemented. It defined its universal nature when the Prophet was still in Makkah, facing determined and unrelenting opposition. It sought to achieve all this through the Qur’an, the criterion God revealed to His messenger to serve as a warning to all worlds.
“Blessed is He who from on high bestowed upon His servant the standard to discern the true from the false... He to whom belongs the dominion over the heavens and the earth, and who begets no offspring, and has no partner in His dominion. It is He who has created all things and ordained them in due proportions.”
Once more God is not mentioned here by name, but a relative pronoun is used instead to emphasize certain suitable attributes of His: “He to whom belongs the dominion over the heavens and the earth.” He has absolute dominion over the heavens and the earth: a dominion that signify ownership, control and ability to change and transform.
“Who begets no offspring.” Procreation is one of the natural laws God has set in operation to ensure their continuity, but God is Eternal and able to accomplish His purpose, whatever that may be.
He “has no partner in His dominion.” Everything in the heavens and the earth testifies to the unity of design, nature, law and control.
“It is He who has created all things and ordained them in due proportions.” He determined the size, shape, function, time and place of everything as well as all their interactions and harmonization.
The nature of the universe, its make up and constitution fill us with wonder. It makes nonsense of any suggestion that the universe came into being by chance. It demonstrates the meticulous and detailed proportioning of creation, which human knowledge can hardly manage to fathom even in one area of the vast universe. With every scientific progress made, more aspects of the harmony and balance in the universe and its natural laws are discovered. Consequently, we can better appreciate the meaning of this wonderful statement: “It is He who has created all things and ordained them in due proportions.”