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ĀYAT AL-KURSĪ & Why It Is Not A Chapter On Its Own

By August 9, 2015No Comments

The greatest verse of the Qur’ān is Āyat al-Kursī,[1] as mentioned in the authentic statement [2] of the Prophet ﷺ.

However, the question arises as to why it is not a chapter in its own right as many of the other passages of the Qur’ān which have added virtues? For example, Sūrah al-Ikhlāṣ is equal to a third of the Qur’ān and is a chapter in its own right. Sūrah al-Fātiḥah is described as the ‘Mother of the Qur’ān’ and is a chapter on its own. Likewise Sūrah al-Falaq and Sūrah al-Nās provide protection and are also individual chapters. This then raises the question as to why the greatest verse of the Qur’ān is not a chapter but a verse in the midst of the longest chapter.

The answer to this question, and Allah knows best, is that part of the greatness of this verse is the context in which it is mentioned, as the context and surrounding verses enhance and emphasise the meaning of this verse.

Let us look at the verses before and after Āyat al-Kursī and the issues they discuss.

Verse 254 before Āyat al-Kursī encourages charity.

The two verses after Āyat al-Kursī address the fact that there is no compulsion in Islam, and then about the light of Allah as opposed to the darkness of disbelief.

Allah then narrates three stories in three verses concerning two Prophets. Verse 258 is about Ibrāhīm (῾alayhis-salām) and his discourse with the tyrant king, Nimrūdh. Verse 259 is the story of ῾Uzayr (῾alayhis-salām) when he passed through Jerusalem after destruction had befallen it, and verse 260 is again about Ibrāhīm (῾alayhis-salām) when he asked Allah to show him how He brought the dead back to life.

Verse 261 then sets forth a parable again about charity.

At first glance there seems to be little connecting these topics beginning with charity, Āyat al-Kursī, no compulsion in the religion, three different stories and ending with charity again. Yet the Qur’ān is never random. Each verse has been placed in its appropriate context and surrounded by other topics which accentuate its beauty and powerful meanings.

In order to appreciate the connection between all of these topics as well as why Āyat al-Kursī is not a chapter on its own, we must first understand the meaning and message of Āyat al-Kursī. Put simply, Āyat al-Kursī speaks about Allah, His names, attributes, powers and abilities. The greatest verse of the Qur’ān is described as being precisely so due to it describing to us our Lord and Creator.

Āyat al-Kursī begin with the essence of tawḥīd; the oneness of Allah and therefore His right to be worshipped alone. It describes Allah as being Ever-Living, the Self Sufficient Sustainer of all else who is perfect in every way and free of all human defects and weaknesses such as sleep and drowsiness. He is the Master of the heavens and the earth, before Whom none can dare speak or intercede except by His permission. The One who possesses all knowledge, the Lord of the Kursī, the Most High, the Most Great.

Allah after describing Himself to us, emphasises His power and abilities by mentioning three short incidents to us. All three speak primarily about resurrection as this is the basis of faith alongside tawḥīd, as with it a person realises that all of their actions are being recorded and they will account for them. For this reason, the Prophet ﷺ would often say, “Whosoever believes in Allah and the Last Day then…”

In the first incident as mentioned in verse 258, Allah shows His absolute power in His ability to control the heavens and earth and all elements within it, from the sun and moon, to life and death. It is the story of the Prophet Ibrāhīm (῾alayhis-salām)  when he stood before the tyrant ruler, Nimrūdh, who wanted to debate Ibrāhīm (῾alayhis-salām) about the God he worshipped, “Have you not considered the one who argued with Abraham about his Lord because Allah has given him kingship? When Abraham said, ‘My Lord is the one who gives life and death,’ he said, ‘I give life and cause death.’” According to some scholars he displayed this by bringing forth two prisoners, one of whom he killed and the other he set free.[3] So Ibrāhīm (῾alayhis-salām) responded, “’Indeed, Allah brings up the sun from the east, so bring it up from the west.’ So the disbeliever was overwhelmed…”

Thus, as Allah mentions in Āyat al-Kursī, He is the All-Powerful Master of the heavens and earth, and thereby deserving of all worship alone.

Allah then touches upon another story again showing His ability to resurrect, this time in the story of the Prophet ῾Uzayr (῾alayhis-salām) who passed through Jerusalem after destruction had befallen it, as Allah describes, “Or as the one who passed by a township which had fallen into ruin.” It is said that the city had been razed to the ground and many of its inhabitants killed, and the rest exiled. ῾Uzayr (῾alayhis-salām) upon seeing the level of destruction remarked, “How will Allah bring this to life after its death? So Allah caused him to die for a hundred years, then He revived him.” During that time the city had been rebuilt and resettled, and ῾Uzayr’s (῾alayhis-salām) provisions at the time of sleeping had not changed despite the passage of a century, “And when it became clear to him, he said, ‘I know that Allah is over all things able.’”

The third story goes back to the Prophet Ibrāhīm who asked Allah, “My Lord, show me how You give life to the dead.’ Allah said, ‘Have you not believed?’ He said, ‘Yes, but only that my heart may be satisfied.’ Allah said, ‘Take four birds and commit them to yourself. Then put on each hill a portion of them; then call them – they will come to you in haste. And know that Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.”

Thus, all three verses are not just random stories, haphazardly placed here and there, but each accentuates and further highlights aspects of the power and might of Allah. Once you understand and contemplate Āyat al-Kursī and further supplement it by comprehending these three stories, you realise how clear and manifest the signs of Allah are. As such, you realise the majesty of Allah and His attributes, you yearn to seek His love and pleasure by doing that which He wants and sacrificing for Him.

One of the greatest examples of this sacrifice is charity and spending from that which you love as is mentioned in another verse, “You will never attain piety until you spend from that which you love.”[4] Therefore, the passage begins and ends with charity, “O you who have believed, spend from that which We have provided for you before there comes a Day in which there is no exchange and no friendship and no intercession. And the disbelievers – they are the wrongdoers.” Allah then says in verse 261, “The example of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah is like a seed which grows seven spikes; in each spike is a hundred grains. And Allah multiplies for whom He wills. And Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing.”

For this reason, Islam does not require anyone to be forced to enter into this beautiful religion. It is clear for all to see, which is why Allah says immediately after Āyat al-Kursī, “There shall be no compulsion in the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong.” “Allah is the ally of those who believe. He brings them out from perpetual darkness into the light. And those who disbelieve – their allies are the false deities. They take them out of the light into perpetual darkness. Those are the companions of the Fire; they will abide eternally therein.”

Therefore, the full scope of Āyat al-Kursī, its beauty and powerful meanings are better understood and seen when studied within the context of where it is placed. As such, the wisdom of Allah dictated that it should not be a chapter, but the greatest verse of the Qur’ān in the midst of the incredible and mind-blowing Sūrah al-Baqarah.

And Allah knows best.

[1] Baqarah, 2:255.

[2] Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim.

[3] Tafsīr Ibn Kathīr.

[4] Āl-῾Imrān, 3:92.

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