By: Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
Delivered at Ahlul Bait (a.s) Islamic Centre, Ottery, Cape Town
The “Bismillah” is considered to be the first verse of the Surah and is unique to this Surah. Of the 114 Surahs in the Quran, 113 Surahs begin with “Bismillah” and each “Bismillah” is considered to be the unique “Bismillah” of that Surah, though in appearance their words seem the same.
It means “In the Name of Allah, Most Beneficent, Most Merciful.” By reading this verse one is saying that “I seek assistance through the Name of Allah”, or “I start a matter with the Name of Allah” as the Name “Allah” includes all the Attributes of Beauty and Majesty of Allah. Of the many names of Allah which refer to His various attributes like “Raheem”, “Qadir”, “Basir”, etc. the Name “Allah” includes all of these Names and Attributes.
Allah uses “Most Beneficent, Most Merciful”, which is commonly referred to as the Attribute of Mercy or Compassion to introduce Himself at the start of virtually every Surah of the Quran. The Attributes “Most Beneficent, Most Merciful” are Attributes which overrides all other Attributes of Allah and it is thus these Attributes which are used to most appropriately introduce Him at the start of a Surah instead of any of His other Attributes.
Furthermore, “Bismillah” is basically the “title” of the Quran which means that message of the whole Quran is a message of “Mercy” of Allah and a manifestation (tajalli) of His Mercy.
“Rahman” is the inclusive Mercy which includes everything and everyone, whether you believe in Allah or not. “Raheem” is the exclusive Mercy which is reserved for the Believers from which they will benefit on the Day of Judgement.
“Bismillah” is a summary of the whole Quran as the Quran is a manifestation to the 2 “Rahmas” referred to in this verse.
PHILOSOPHY OF HURUFUL MUQATTI’AT
Certain surahs begin with these “code” letters referred to as Huruful Muqatti’at for which nobody knows their real meaning. They are simple letters as if to start a Surah by saying “A.B.C”
There are 3 types of Huruful Muqatti’at in the Quran as follows:
1. Sometimes they are part of the verse of beginning of the Surah as it is in the case of Surah Yusuf.
2. Sometimes it is a full, independent verse like verse 1 of Surah Baqarah which says “Alief Laam Meem”.
3. Sometimes it consists of the first 2 verses of a Surah like Verses 1 and 2 of Surah Ash-Shuraa which says “Haa Meem”, “Ain Seen Qaf”
Allamah Tabatabai says that the use of “simple alphabetic letters” like the Huruful Muqatti’at demonstrates that the Quran, though being a compound of simple letters that everyone knows, at the same time is an absolute miracle which you cannot compete with. Thus in most cases after these Huruful Muqatti’at are mentioned, the Quran is mentioned.
Thus verse 1 of Surah Yusuf says “Alief Laam Raa, these are the verses of the clear book” (referring to the Quran).
A human being, though being familiar with the whole simple Arabic alphabet, is not capable of producing anything like the Quran.
SECRET MEANINGS HIDDEN IN HURUFUL MUQATTI’AT
Though everyone has a disclaimer that nobody will truly know the meaning of these huruful muqatti’at, many ulama throughout history have suggested possible hidden meanings of these letters.
One such interesting observation is that there are 14 individual Arabic letters used in these huruful muqatti’at and these 14 letters can be arranged to give you a sentence which states “Siraatu Aliyin Haqun, Numsiquhu” i.e “Path of Ali is True, we hold fast onto it.”
THOSE ARE THE VERSES OF THE CLEAR BOOK
The use of the words “those” are the verses of a clear book in verse 1 of the Surah instead of “these are the verses” indicates something that is very far.
It often occurs that if one wants to express the elevated status of something, then you speak about it as being something very far. It may be physically close to us, but its meaning is very high and thus appears far from us.
The book is considered to be “clear” or “manifest” as in the example of light, it shows itself and also enlightens others as well. The Quran explains itself and enlightens others who reads it.
SENDING DOWN OF QURAN
Verse 2 of the Surah starts by saying “Indeed we have sent it down…”
Ayatullah Jawadi Amuli explains that “nuzul” or “sending down” of Quran is “tajalli” and not “tajaafi”. For something to come down, it can come down in two ways. The first example would be like rain which comes down after being vapour in the clouds, upon coming down, the rain loses its connection to the original cloud that it came from. This is called “tajaafi.”
But in the case of Quran, even though “sending down” did occur, it has not lost its connection to its source being “Lawhin Mahfuz” or “Ladaynaa” and is thus connected to its source like hanging at the end of a long rope. This is “tajalli” and the “nuzul” of Quran is of this type. Thus unlike rain whose “position” moved from being in the cloud to being on earth, the Quran remains in its position at its source while being on earth at the same time.
The “Fact” of the Quran is protected in the “Lawhin Mahfuz” while its “manifestation” is with us in the form of a book.
Imam Ali (a.s) thus says “Allah manifested Himself in His Book without us seeing Him.”
The Quran is extremely Elevated and needs to be sent down to our level for us to benefit from it and thus the “nuzul” occurred.