Three Levels of Summaries in Quran

by Farouk A. Peru, Wednesday, September 11, 2013, 05:32 (1438 days ago)

Salaam folks!

Here are some thoughts on summary chapters in Quran. Comments and criticisms welcome:

Far from being unstructured texts (as even academic texts on Quran claim), Quran is perfectly structured in my perception. This perfect structure is not for aesthetic value either although it is beautiful in its own right. Rather, this structure greatly aids our digestion of the message.

This essay postulates that there are three levels of summaries in Quran [beginning at Chapter 57 (Al-Hadeed)]. These levels feed into each other and strengthen each other’s points. A question one might ask at first is – Why start at this particular place, Ch 57 ? When does exposition end and summary begin? For me, it ends with Ch 56 (Al-Waqiah). Why? Because Ch 56 is almost entirely about the final period. Secondly, its length (96 Vs) which no chapter henceforth repeats. Thirdly, the last three ajza (sing. ‘juz’ or parts of Quran, numbering 30 altogether) all start with at the same place as the chapters themselves (except Ch 57 which is one chapter off) Coincidentally, it also at almost the halfway mark of Quran (56 out of 113 chapters). Of course, there are no coincidences in Quran!

If we accept this hypothesis – that there are three levels of summaries in Quran – let us first get to know these three levels:

1. Chapter 57 (Al-Hadeed) to Chapter 66 (At-Tahrim)

2. Chapter 67 (Al-Mulk) to Chapter 77 (Al-Mursalat)

3. Chapter 78 (An-Naba) to Chapter 114 (An-Naas)

Level 1 consists of very instructive chapters. Most of them begin with ‘tasbeeh’, being in harmony with the universe in working for Allah. They also have a number of calls to those who believed (alladhina aamanoo), another indicator of instructive suras. Here are my brief summaries of each chapter:
Ch 57 – Metaphysical facts (about Allah), obeying Allah and the messenger, Quranic personalities.
Ch 58 – Oppression, Allah declaring victory for the messengers.
Ch 59 – Economic management of Allah and the messenger’s system. metaphysical facts (again about Allah)
Ch 60 – Response to extreme oppressors, *ibrahim* and his people as beautiful examples
Ch 61 – *musa* and *isa* and their links to the system
Ch 62 – the activation of the system (tawraat) and the period of gathering
Ch 63 – the people with less faith in the system.
Ch 64 – emphasis on obedience to Allah and the messenger
Ch 65 – the nabi’s organisation of the believers
Ch 66 – the nabi’s management of believer’s conflicts, the development of believers.

Although these summaries are very embryonic (they will be elaborated further in our Introduction to Quran soon), you can see a thematic similarity in this first level. They are very much centred on the project to bring peace and justice, the organisation of the believers under the nabi and rasool personalities.

What about levels 2 and 3? They have a marked change of tone. There is an increase in the numbers of the words ‘insaan’ (weaker aspects of man) and nafs (soul). There are more rarely used or unique words like:
a. muzammil (73/1)
b. mudaththir (74/1)
c. saqar (74/26)
d. 3abasa (80/1)

They are also very short and densely packed with various subjects such as revelation, doing good, momentous periods etc. Towards the end, they are very formulaic, meaning they are something you remember easily so you can remind yourself. They are not introducing new topics but the reformulation of earlier ideas.

If we accept this hypothesis – that there are three levels of summaries in Quran – then the next question is: how should this benefit our reading? I believe we should take advantage of this arrangement in order to enhance our reading. Let the reformulation of ideas affect you reading and enhance your perception of meaning. Perhaps even memorise these short chapters so you may remind yourself throughout your day?


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