Dr. Lang is now a well-known lecturer as well as mathematician, speaking from the heart. Here he tells the story of how he was an atheist and read the Quran that a friend had given him. What happened is riveting, and will surprise you! Well-worth your time.
This surah’s title has been translated in English variously as “The Expansion,” Al-Sharh in Arabic (also I’ve seen written Al-Inshirah), which does mean something like “expansion” but more of a “spiritual/ soul” opening with a sense of “relief” than the English word. Al-Sharh gives the sense as if God were widening one’s inner “chambers” so one could “take a deep breath” again. We are all familiar with a kind of “tightness” in one’s chest from anxiety or discomfort from a difficult situation. It is the relief from that tightness which inshirah or sharh accomplishes. It was the first thing Prophet Musa (Moses) asked Allah for (TaHa 20:25) when Allah the Exalted gave him the mission to bring Allah’s message to the Pharaoh; the meaning implied was that inshirah would enable Musa to alleviate his anxieties so he could accomplish this task. It is a way of strengthening one’s resolve by Divine reassurance. Thus sharh is variously translated as “uplifted your heart,” “relieve the tightness in your chest,” “expand for thee thy breast,” and “comfort your chest,” among others. The title is variously translated Solace, Consolation, Relief, and The Expansion.
At first, the above color coding may seem to have a glaring mistake: shouldn’t the two repeated ayat 5 and 6 (“with hardship comes ease”) be the same color as they are essentially a pair?
Why are Muslim, so-called ”developing”, and other non-European/ US countries embroiled in poverty, chaos, dictatorships, lacking in having a voice in their own economies and governments? Why are even ordinary Americans struggling to live? This sweeping and powerful khutba speaks truth to power, puts into simple language and Quranic truths why this is happening and what to do about it. But first, knowing how the power-brokers deliberately destroy millions of lives empowers us to change.
In response to a question as to why Allah the Exalted challenged us to produce a surah like those in the Quran, giving the shortest surah 108 as an example of a simple surah anyone could write, I offer the following analysis of that surah showing a closer look at its inimitable presentation:
Surat Al-Kawthar Analysis
إِنَّا أَعْطَيْنَاكَ الْكَوْثَرَ
Indeed, We have granted you, [O Muhammad], al-Kawthar. (Al-Kawthar 108:1)
فَصَلِّ لِرَبِّكَ وَانْحَرْ
So pray to your Lord and sacrifice [to Him alone]. (108:2)
إِنَّ شَانِئَكَ هُوَ الْأَبْتَرُ
Indeed, your enemy is the one cut off. (108:3)
This surah consists of 3 ayat, but as we shall show, packs much power and meaning into its 11 words and 43 letters.
The sum of the digits of its number, 108, is 9, which is a significant number in itself and represents, in the “infinitive” form of a number, both giving and cutting off, the very dynamic theme of this surah. It also is represented by, in terms of months in the Hijri calendar, the 9th month of Ramadan, the number of repentance and returning to Allah. And returning to Allah can be represented as a circle, whose number is 360, the number of degrees in a circle, and of course this too is divisible by 9.
The Hajj pilgrimage is described in Surat Al-Baqara 2:196-203, as well as in Surat Al-Hajj (22:25-38) and elsewhere. This blog discussed it here in reference to animal sacrifice and the narrative of Prophet Abraham’s sacrifice; and here regarding the essential rites of equality, focusing on the current regime that exerts control over and provides services such as provisions for the Hajj.
This post takes a different view: an examination of the structure of 2:196-203 (as a modified ring composition) reveals two interesting things. First, that the central purpose of the Hajj is to achieve Allah’s forgiveness and acceptance. Second, as a “gathering” of people, its role as an enactment of the Day when Allah the Exalted gathers all people for Judgment is revealed. As such, the Hajj is like a “dress rehearsal”, except that the “dress” exemplifies equality which in turn reflects Allah’s impeccable balance and justice. It also teaches us the values of resistance/ enmity to Satanic influence, and patience as well as trust in Allah’s guidance. While reminding ourselves of Abraham’s sacrifice, we must literally sacrifice an animal whose meat is distributed to the needy. What we are really “sacrificing” here symbolically is our own self-interest, one could say “ego,” substituting an animal for our very selves or our future (as Ismail was to Abraham his future) in the Way of Allah.
Ayat interspersed throughout this passage remind us of taqwa (both “mindfulness” and “God-fearing”) as what we need most in the Hajj and on Judgment Day. In that sense, it is a pilgrimage of the mind and heart, too.
In order to show how Allah the Exalted raised up the status of Mary/ Maryam the mother of Jesus/ ‘Eissa and why this is significant, it’s imperative to know the characteristics of true prophets. This is because after examining these characteristics and comparing them with Mary’s life as narrated in the Quran, it is clear that she meets all the qualifications of a prophet; all that prevented her from being called a prophet was her gender which in the society of her time could not assume a traditional leadership role or earn the degree of respect required for that role. Both her story and that of the prophets contain fascinating and revealing details often disregarded or not given much study.
Surah 109, Al-Kafiroon, is not a straightforward ring composition, but rather takes a form one could describe as “circuitous” that makes a clear point about its subject matter: kafiroon, usually translated as “disbelievers,” but the word “deniers” expresses 3 important Quranic truths regarding denial as closer in meaning to the root word kufr, even in English sounding like its origin “to cover up”: 1) it upholds the Quranic message that Truth is undeniably real, not a “point of view” or “opinion,” the word “belief” in modern English usage implying the adoption by a group of people of some notion that could be true or false, often circumventing rationality; 2) “denial” implies both rejection of monotheism (Allah as sole Creator/ Supreme Power), and/or ingratitude/ arrogance, both being kinds of denial expressed in the Quran; and 3) “denial” as a kind of “religion” or spiritual path describes the sort of debunking, focus on worldly values, and mockery that makes its adherents unresponsive to and unmoved by Divine wisdom, as expressed in this Surah.
Indeed, within the heavens and earth are signs for the believers.Surah Al-Jathiya 45:3
Before the modern era, “evidence” was usually thought of as something outstanding that showed us a truth, like guideposts. The flights of birds, the way ships float on water, the huge variety of colors and characteristics of plants and animals, all these and more are mentioned in the Quran as “signs,” often “signs for those who reason.” These signs provide evidence of Allah’s relationship with all life, indeed with all creation, and in turn, of the complex interrelationships within creation itself. Such signs are dismissed in today’s dominant culture of empiricism as vague or lacking the rigor of scientific proof; but science by definition avoids the “unscientific” search for meaning as that which gives direction and value to life.
In this PDF download, the Quran’s architecture and its relationship to the Zodiac as a celestial view of the sky as seen from earth and its use for timekeeping is discussed.
(Source: Raymond K. Farrin, “Surat Al-Baqarah – a Structural Analysis”) Surat Al-Baqarah 2:255
This ring composition of Ayat Al-Kursi pictured above has been disseminated on the website Islam21 and elsewhere, but here I examine it more closely to show how it clarifies and deepens one’s understanding of the Quran as a whole, and our relationship as human beings to Allah the Exalted in particular. The article cited above focuses on this and other ring compositions found in the Quran as examples of the Quran’s miraculous nature without further discussion of its content. As you can see in the illustration above, color-coded lines connect the sections that “match” in similarity of content, with the fifth section, in white, in the center or “fulcrum” showing the “balance scale”-like feature of central sections of ring compositions where a balance of opposites or “poles” is often expressed, in this case between before and after.
It’s important to point out, however, that the Arabic expression translated “before” is actually “between their hands”, making it “before them” in the sense of free will or choice between divergent or opposing options.
The story of Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim in Arabic) being commanded by God to sacrifice his son, whose slaughter was Divinely replaced by a sacrificial animal, is one of the most famous narratives in Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, found in the Quran, the Bible, and the Torah. Although the basic tale is the same, there are major discrepancies between the narratives, which alter what message one takes away from it.
In the Quran, the son in question is Ismael (Ismail in the Quran, Ishmael in the Bible, this being a spelling that reflects both), the first-born son, not Isaac as in the Bible. And he was specified as an adult willing participant, not a child, eliminating the issue of “the binding of Isaac”. Ismael is not named in the relatively short narrative, but the story begins with Abraham’s prayer for a righteous son (Quran 37:109), then Allah’s response in the form of a “forbearing” son (37:101) who would be his first, and only son at the time of the “test”. Then, when that son reached the “age of exertion,” meaning maturity, Abraham tells him of a dream in which he saw himself ritually slaughtering him, asking what he thought. Ismael replied that this was Allah’s command to slaughter him, and he, the father, should definitely do what Allah ordered, and for the son’s part, he (Ismael) was willing and able.
Surat Al-Nasr 110
إِذَا جَاءَ نَصْرُ اللَّهِ وَالْفَتْحُ
وَرَأَيْتَ النَّاسَ يَدْخُلُونَ فِي دِينِ اللَّهِ أَفْوَاجًا
فَسَبِّحْ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّكَ وَاسْتَغْفِرْهُ إِنَّهُ كَانَ تَوَّابًا
110:1 When the victory of Allah and the conquest comes
110:2 And you see the people entering into the Way of Allah in multitudes
110:3 You shall glorify with praise to your Lord, and seek His forgiveness; for He is the Redeemer.
This at first glance seems like a very clear and easy-to-understand surah that needs minimal explanation, perhaps only a little historical context. And indeed it can be easily understood. But with the Quran, there is always more…
أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ يُسَبِّحُ لَهُ مَن فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَالطَّيْرُ صَافَّاتٍ ۖ كُلٌّ قَدْ عَلِمَ صَلَاتَهُ وَتَسْبِيحَهُ ۗ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ بِمَا يَفْعَلُونَ
Do you not see that Allah is exalted by whomever is within the heavens and the earth and the birds with wings spread? Each has known his salat prayer and his exaltation (of Allah), and Allah is Knowing of what they do.Surat Al-Nur (Light) 24:41
The healing and restorative power of nature is well-documented, and it is essentially free and without side effects. Nature therapy, also called ecotherapy, is the well-documented treatment of many health disorders by immersion in or interaction with “nature”, which refers to any part of creation, especially living things, even when represented in videos, pictures, sounds, or scents from pleasing natural sources. Another article is one of many discussing how such therapy works or can be applied, the how often confused with the why, which is rarely addressed. When children ask “why is the sky blue,” the answer nowadays is usually a scientific explanation of the how. But the child’s probing why may ask a different question: for what purpose or meaning is the sky blue? So in that spirit we ask here the question why is nature such a healing force not so much to know how it works as a mechanism, but what is the root cause and the purpose/ intention of this phenomenon.
The Kaaba, the holiest site in Islam, is that tiny black cube—can you spot the not?—dwarfed by the imposing 2-billion-dollar clock tower built as a commercial complex, making the holiness of the Kaaba, which was built by the prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) eons ago, seem rather paltry in capitalistic terms. This monstrosity was built at a cost that could have fed—forget about the rest of the world—those non-royal Saudi citizens who have neither sufficient food nor appropriate shelter, estimated at about 20% of the Saudi population.
Surah 111 Al-Masad, less commonly called Surat Lahab (flame) directly precedes Surat Al-Ikhlas (Sincerity) #112, one of the most important surahs in the Quran, one could say its very “heart.” Since I have seen “connections” between adjacent surahs, I wondered how two so vastly different surahs could be connected. To find the answer, I examined the surah using ring composition, as the illustration shows, supplementing this analysis with other Quranic verses, as well as examining the number of words and letters in this surah, and found some striking results.
Above is an image of the spiral Quranic architecture discussed on this site, where each surah is shown by number in its chamber. Due to size consideration, there’s insufficient room for the surah names; however the first 12 surahs are named, and on the outer edge of the circle are the Hijri calendar names as well as the names of the zodiac constellations.
A full explanation of the calendar design and meaning is above in a downloadable PDF. It shows the exact match between the Quran’s size of 114 Surahs and arrangement here as 9.5 “years” (12-month/ chamber “cycles”) with Noah’s time as prophet of “a thousand years minus fifty years” or 950 years, making this symbolic “calendar” architecture of the Quran an “ark” protecting those who “embark” the Quran’s ark by reading it from the cataclysm of the Day when time as we know it, and therefore the universe as we know it, ceases to exist, that is, the Day of Resurrection or Judgment Day.
Timekeeping is all about changing quite literally “what is between our hands,” the Quran’s expression for the “present”, by increasing its size from a “moment” to “the present day” as it were, and beyond. And the Quran uses this meaning of time in its text and message, so it makes sense that its very architecture would also be a calendar, showing us how to spend our lifetime’s limited term wisely, leading to success outside that lifetime, when this world of time ceases to be.The Quran’s Architecture as a Calendar, by S. Karami
The name Al-Samad is mentioned only once in the entire Quran, in Surat Al-Ikhlas (Sincerity) 112. Below is the link to a beautiful and very thorough explanation of its meaning, significance, roots in the Arabic language, application in our lives, and more, including an answer to the question “why is this name mentioned only once in the Quran?” To which I would also add: its placement in the Quran is also expressive of its meaning, right in the center or “heart” of the Quran. (Article below by Sheikh Mohammad Elshinawy on the Yaqeen Institute website.)
When I try to explain to other Muslims that the name Al-Rahman in Arabic is better translated as the Almighty as explained here in another post, most recoil from the idea, as if I am suggesting the removal of compassion from Allah’s primary attributes, even from the most important first aya of the Quran, the Basmalah. Most, if not all, major Islamic sites and organizations translate the name Al-Rahman as some variation of mercy such as The Most Merciful, The Compassionate, The Beneficent, and The Mercy-giver. This last name always struck me as the closest to the truth, although in a deeper sense, Al-Rahman is essentially a name, not simply an attribute. They say the name derives from the root word rahma, which means “mercy,” or possibly rahim, which means “womb.” But which came first, Al-Rahman, The Creator, or the “womb” which is part of creation?
What is the connection between the Quran and the chambered nautilus shell? The shape fits the gradually descending size of the Quranic surahs, which, unlike chapters in most human-authored books, are each separate self-contained “enclosures” of text — the word “surah” means “enclosure”—, each containing words found only in that surah and nowhere else, yet adjacent surahs are connected by small shared references, all of this being similar to the chambers of the nautilus shell.
For the living nautilus, a cephalopod or “head-foot”, it provides both protection and a system of propulsion capable of “neutral buoyancy,” the same property that keeps the human brain, our “head-foot,” safe from gravity which would otherwise have pulled the brain’s delicate tissue against the skull, damaging our uvery-much-essential neurons. Herein lies a metaphor on many levels.
The downloadable PDF below gives more details of the amazing connections between the Quran and this ancient creature’s shell, long noted for its beauty and inspiring sacred geometry. Beyond that are Quranic and scientific connections which ultimately make this shape the perfect way to present the Quran as a whole, giving us a way to envision and interpret its multiple depths of meaning.
Also, this link gives a discussion among mathematics and science professors/ scholars on whether or not the chambered nautilus shell is an example of a golden spiral. To which the answer is not precise, but then, life is more complicated than it is precise.
The name Al-Khidr is given (not in the Quran but in other texts such as hadiths – it being useful to have a name in discussing this Quranic narrative) to the knowledgeable man whom Prophet Moosa (Moses) met under unusual circumstances, hoping to gain more knowledge from him. This is narrated in Surah Al-Kahf (the Cave) 18:60-82 starting with the arduous journey Moses and his servant undertook to reach such a man, who taught Moses that Allah gives knowledge to people according to their need to know and purpose in life.
The above Islamic creed consists of 4 words written using 3 letters, as described here in another post, translated in the caption. Tawheed, the bedrock of Islam, means faith in the immutable truth that Allah is categorically, indivisibly One, one could say “monotheism”. It is also the First Commandment, common to all monotheistic religions; but sometimes one can be deceived into breaking it, so it’s important to take a deeper look.