CHAPTER XI / A Higher Level than Faith

A Higher Level than Faith

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The fourth purpose of the surah is tackled in one verse only, verse 284.

In the verse preceding this, the section giving detailed legislation was concluded at the point determined for it by God.

It included all legislation He has wished to include in this surah.

Thus, the second part of the religious truth, which is the practical part, was completed.

The solid foundation of its first part, i.e. faith itself, has already been laid down, beginning with verse 122.

This means that the surah has by now completed its discussion of the fundamentals of faith and Islamic legislation.

Is there anything left in the structure of religion apart from these pillars?

Yes indeed. What is left is its highest summit and most perfect adornment.

When we have discussed faith and the religion of Islam, what remains is to bring it all to perfection, or to use the Islamic term, iḥsān.

This quality was explained by God’s Messenger, (peace be upon him).

He defines it as watching God in all our affairs, feeling that He is seeing us in public and private,

and being prepared for the event when He will put us to account even for what we entertain in our hearts and for our innermost thoughts.

This is far from easy. Its full achievement is beyond every Muslim, indeed beyond every believer.

Among the God-fearing only the elite of the elite come near it.

Perhaps because of its rarity in practice and its great value, God describes this inimitable jewel in this single verse which serves as the crown for the whole surah:

“Whether you make known what is in your minds or conceal it, God will bring you to account for it.”

(2: 284.)

Now we come to the conclusion of the surah, summed up in the two final verses, (2: 285286).

Having discussed the pillars of religion and explained all its constituent elements: faith, submission or Islam, and perfection, what is left is to finish the discussion and declare it closed.

Let us consider now how this is done.

Remember the five opening verses and consider how that opening corresponds to the present conclusion.

In fact, the opening and the conclusion tie up together to form a perfect siege demarcating the boundaries of the surah and making of it a single structure, perfectly raised and with clear boundaries.

This is indeed the linguistic meaning of the term surah, which is used in Arabic only to refer to the units of the Qur’an.

The term is derived from a root that signifies something with a fence or a solid line separating it from others.

The opening of the surah constituted a generous promise to those who believe in it and who implement its orders.

These are certain to be properly guided and are certain to prosper. Our expectations are now raised to try to find out the response to this promise.

We need to know whether anyone has believed in it and followed its guidance.

If so, we also expect to learn about the reward of those who have listened to its message and followed it.

This is, indeed, the conclusion of the surah. It is composed of...

1) an announcement of the success of its message:

“The Messenger believes in what has been revealed to him by his Lord, and so do the believers… And they say, ‘We hear and we obey.’”

(2: 285).

2) A fulfilment of its promise to every soul that has done its best in following its guidance:

“To its credit shall be whatever good it does and against it whatever evil it does.”

(2: 286)

3) Leaving the door of hope wide open for those who follow guidance. They raise their hands in an earnest prayer:

“Our Lord, do not take us to task if we forget or lapse into error. Our Lord, do not lay on us a burden such as that which You laid on those before us. Our Lord, do not burden us with what we do not have the strength to bear. Pardon us, forgive us our sins, and have mercy on us. You alone are our Lord Supreme: grant us, then, victory over the unbelievers.”

(2: 286.)

Thus the surah concludes. Do we discern its unity despite its length?

Do we realise how its lines converge to complete its picture? Indeed, its bricks are firmly put in place without any sealant to join them together.

Its dome is raised without any pillars to support it. Its head, body and limbs are joined together to give the most perfect living shape.

Every atom is perfectly placed in its cell, every cell in its organ, every organ in its system and every system in its body:

each one declares that it takes its assigned position in accordance with a well defined plan, charted by the One who purifies souls, enlightens minds and guides spirits.

If this surah was arranged after its revelation had been completed, grouping its parts together in this way would have been a miracle.

What can we say when we realise that every passage of it,

like every passage in every other surah, was placed in its position right at the time of its revelation.

In fact, a position was reserved for every subsequent passage, awaiting its revelation.

It is, indeed, a true fact that the passages that had not yet been revealed were assigned their final positions long before their revelation.

What is more is that alone among the surahs revealed in separate passages,

the actual position of each passage in this surah was defined nine years before its revelation commenced.

That was the length of time it took for all its parts to be revealed.

The Qur’an is miraculous not only in its powerful style, method of education and its true prophesies, but also in its legislation which is appropriate for all generations.

Indeed, it is even more miraculous with all the scientific facts it mentions relating to the human soul and the universe.

However, the arrangement of its verses in the way we have seen is the miracle that transcends all miracles.