Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Divine throne: an examination of Ayatul Kursiyy 2:255

Allah! Nothing deserves worship except He, the Self-Subsisting, Eternal. Slumber does not overtake him, neither does sleep. To Him belongs what is in the Heavens and what is in the Earth. Who possesses abilities of intercession, except by His permission? He knows what is between them, and what is behind them. None grasp of his knowledge, except by his will. His throne encompasses the Heavens and the Earth, He does not tire in protecting them both, and He is the Most High, the Magnificent

The above text has become a favorite to Muslims. It adorns the walls of most Muslim homes, mosques, and sometimes even automobiles. Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) is said to have recited the text after every Salaah and it is popularly seen as an important text to recite when seeking the protection of Allah (in addition to the two final Surahs of the Qur’an).

How and why has this verse become so important to the readers of the Glorious Qur’an? It is known as the Verse of the Throne or Ayatul Kursiyy and is one of three texts which have a distinct manner of describing the reality of Allah (the other two texts being 24:35 and 112:1-4). This verse is important because it gives its readers criterion for ascertaining if something or someone is truly Divine. The Lord of the Universe does not have frailties or weaknesses of any sort. The Lord of the Universe is fully aware of His creation. He is knowledgeable of everything. Anything or anyone that does not possess the qualities that are mentioned in this verse must immediately recognize that he is not Divine.

Some of the traditional Commentators have taken from this verse an assumption that the Divine actually sits upon a chair or throne, much like the chairs we sit in. This assumption, although utterly contradicted by other texts in the Qur’an itself (112:4), is increasingly becoming popular today among the Muslims. Fairy tales have been created to support these type of ideas, to the extent that an uninformed observer would make the assumption that the Islamic conception of God is the same as the ideas surrounding the deities worshiped in Hinduism. That is dangerous! It is counter-productive to our efforts at spreading Islam. It is also harmful to our spiritual life to have a distorted understanding of the Divine Reality.

What is Kursiyy? It is a beautiful reference to the might, power and knowledge of Allah (S.W.T.). In the same way phrases such as The hand of Allah, the Face of Allah, etc. are clearly metaphors, pointing to the Divine abilities and power, Kursiyy here shows us the very foundation of Divine Rule. A throne or chair is a symbol of power and respect. Allah’s rule is not limited to the Qur’an, to the Masjid or to his worshipers. The relegation of the spiritual to the church/sacred place and banishment from public life, politics and business is a myth according to this verse.

“His Throne (‘Kursiyyuhu’) encompasses the Heavens and the Earth.” There are numerous commentators who have explained the Throne in the same manner as this article. One would need only to consult Tafseer books to see that. If that is not convincing evidence, let us turn to modern Arabic. The word for notebook is Kurrasah, coming from the same root word as Kursiyy. What is a notebook? It is a book which contains written facts or information. Just as we have books, magazines, and the like in our possession, Allah also has within himself the ultimate container of knowledge and facts.

None can have knowledge of all. Our lives are in a state of constant change; so we are to ask Allah for His guidance each time we perform the Salaah. The practices of Salaah, Fasting, and contemplation (Dhikr) are designed to give us the mental and spiritual capabilities to grasp some of Allah’s knowledge and guidance for our practical implementation in this world. Remember that Allah’s messenger, before receiving the Revelation, was in the habit of retreating to Mt. Hira, outside his home city of Makkah, for prayer, and it was in the midst of such activities that he received the beginning of Qur’anic revelation.

All believers have the capacity to receive the guidance of Allah with drive, sincerity, dedication and patience. This guidance is not restricted to simply choosing the appropriate business venture or marriage partner. We are talking about the guidance that will fill your heart and mind with faith in Allah alone, the guidance which gives you the sort of insight and wisdom that others recognize, even if they don’t understand fully. It is explained in another manner in the Qur’an: “Light upon Light, Allah guides to his light whom he wills…” (24:35)

This doesn’t require a title, or the permission of some authority, as Allah is in charge and the Ultimate Authority .Therefore, when we pray or read the Qur’an, let us not do so in a hurry. Make the extra effort to understand the guidance of Allah. The Divine Throne is also based upon justice and Allah has said that He does not let the efforts of His sincere servants be wasted (2:143). Do not heed the calls of those who don’t understand, but depend upon Allah, the strongest and most reliable guide.

Shamsuddin Waheed is an Imam, lecturer and Quranic Arabic instructor. He can be reached at Waheed79-at-yahoo-dot-com or visit his Website Islam in View

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