36 Ya Sin: Poems based on the Qur’an with Exegesis

“Seed Sharer” painting by Mark Henson

Abdel Haleem translation: http://www.kaskas.com/home/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Quran-Abdel-Haleem-Translation-1.pdf

The Surah begins with an oath on the Qur’an prefacing it with “the wise,” to emphasize that all wisdom comes from Allah through His Word. Typically, the oath gives an indication of the primary theme or is the key which unlocks the door of deeper understanding to the remainder of the Surah. The revelation is meant to warn a generation whose previous generation had not received a warning from a messenger so that the knowledge of the One True God and the Judgement Day will be carried forward like a torch of life giving light. When the torch is extinguished, then Allah sends another messenger so that all of humanity will have exposure to the truth, for Allah is all Beneficent, all Merciful. The ongoing revelation of His Word is like a calm still lake when a stone is thrown into it and waves are seen extending outwards from the center until the waves eventually recede. As the waves are receding another stone of revelation is thrown in via the raising up of a new messenger which continues until the fullness of time when all will be brought to fruition. Allah’s message always bears fruit for those who have ears to hear, and eyes to see. One stone’s fall creates many waves in the same way a new revelation multiplies in manifold ways.

The disbelievers are so set in their unbelief that no matter how the message is delivered, or what warnings are given, they will not believe. In fact, it is as if, “We had placed [iron] collars around their necks, right up to their chins so that their heads are forced up and set barriers before and behind them, blocking their vision…” (v. 8). They are not prevented by any external barriers from seeing the truth, but only by the internal resistance to the truth that does not fit well into their existing schemas. Also, they frequently ask for proof, asking why Allah does not send a spiritual being instead of a mere mortal. It is the believers who “hold the Merciful One in awe, though they cannot see Him” (v.11) who will receive Allah’s reward of everlasting life. It is the seeing with faith, and without the need for extensive demands for proof which is the blessing.

An example is given of two messengers who were sent to a town who were rejected so then a third was sent. The disbelievers rebuffed the messengers by stating they are just men, and not sovereign beings so they must be lying, or an evil omen. A man from the farthest part of the city came running and exhorted the people by telling them, “Why should I not worship the One who created me? It is to Him that you will be returned. How could I take besides Him any other gods, whose intercession will not help me and who would not be able to save me if the Lord of Mercy wished to harm me? Then I would be clearly in the wrong. I believe in your Lord, so listen to me” (vs. 22–25). The man is told to enter the Garden, and then one blast is delivered to the town to destroy it. Many generations had been destroyed before them, which should serve as a warning to future generations. Through Allah’s Mercy, three messengers were sent, as well as a believer, so Allah gave them every opportunity to repent of their sin and be saved, but they still refused. This was the pattern of the past, and is will be the consequence in our future if humanity doesn’t listen to its messenger. Each individual community was warned, and then destroyed allowing the righteous to escape. This time it is not a specific community that will be destroyed with the pious being saved, but the entire world since teachings and warnings from a single messenger can go around the world in a matter of seconds. For those who have eyes to see, and ears to hear, you will understand what I am saying to you.

As is usual in the Qur’an, signs are given as proof of God by presenting the complexity and balance of creation that reveals that the random chaos of chance is not possible due to the intricacy of His Creation. The earth was lifeless, and Allah gave it life to provide food for humans and animals. Springs of water were provided to give moisture for the plants so that humans could eat of its fruits. Allah created things in pairs, so that His creation is constantly producing in an ever giving flow of life exemplified by the expanding multiplicity of the One. Furthermore, paradise is always described as gardens with springs, flowing rivers, and abundant fruits which is a metaphor for the works of the Spirit. He creates physical life to abundantly provide for those on earth, and likewise the mirror of the physical is a symbol in the Spiritual realm in which it becomes clear that all abundance is Allah’s provision for the benefit of humankind. However, physical vegetation dies and withers away, and streams flowing over the earth can dry up, but the spiritual world is always flourishing; its waters of wisdom of knowledge never dry up. The Sun and the Moon are each ordained by Allah manifested in perfect balance for the purpose of the expression of life, without which that balance all life on earth would cease. Additionally, the Surah mentions that the “seed” of humanity was carried in the Ark, and if it had been Allah’s will he could have drowned all of humankind and started over, but as is the pattern found in every Book, a remnant is always saved. A seed of life, readied for a new beginning and a new chance to bring full flourishing on the earth with its inherent possibility of a people who will fully submit to Allah to establish the kingdom of heaven on earth. A world where the physical is the setting for the manifestation of the spiritual, and where the light of the spiritual transforms the world of matter.

The disbelievers are told to “beware of what lies before and behind you, so that you may be given mercy,” (v. 45) and that they constantly ignore the “signs” which reveal the mercy of the resurrection of the Lord, and the destruction of disbelievers in the past. It is the darkness into the light, is it not? The disbelievers mock the believer’s willingness to give to the poor, by telling them to just let Allah feed them — they must “be deeply misguided” (v. 47) They ask, “When will this promise be fulfilled…” (v. 48), but are warned of “a single blast” which will destroy them as they are arguing. No one knows the timing of the last day on earth, so the disbelievers are wasting precious time defending their unbelief. The disbelievers are admonished to use their reason to obtain understanding, and to not worship Satan who is their enemy. “This is the straight path” (v. 62). The Qur’an frequently mentions the use of reason, and uses a metaphor for what will happen to those who don’t use the reason they were blessed with by Allah to understand the truth and acknowledge it, “Does he not realize that God sees all? No! If he does not stop, We shall drag him by his forehead — his lying, sinful forehead” (95:14–16). The prefrontal cortex for the brain lies behind the forehead which contributes to decision making which primarily utilizes reasoning. So, to drag a sinner by the forehead is signifying that the refusal to use reasoning is a refusal to use the very thing that Allah gave us for guidance.

On the Day of Judgement the disbelievers mouths will be sealed, so that their hands and feet can bear witness to their ongoing sin. Their mouths will be sealed because deception goes along with every sin. Sin is covered up by lying so the sinner can continue to sin, and this doesn’t just hold true for the disbeliever, but for the believer who has fallen into sin. The cloak of deception carries with it the threat of death and destruction, for it also hides the truth from the soul.

Verse 68 is dropped into this section without any prior reference or transition point, “If We extend anyone’s life, We reverse his development. Do they not use their reason?” This seems to be part of a conversation between Muhammad and Gabriel — so one must make inferences to obtain understanding of the ayat. It appears as if there was a discussion about everlasting life and the disbelievers may have asked the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) why the need for a resurrection when Allah could just make everyone live forever. “Do they not use their reason?” According to the nature of matter, all that is physical which lives, must also die. It is the spiritual realm which is eternal, but that which is physical ages and is mortal. So, if Allah were to extend their lives, they would be brought back to the stage of toddler dependency due to the aging of their brains and bodies.

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was accused many times of simply being a poet, and that the Qur’an is just a book of poetry because of the beautiful nature of its words, but this still belies the fact that Muhammad was illiterate so could not have written poetry. This is to be a witness that the words of the Qur’an are revelation from Allah. Other signs are mentioned as well; Allah created livestock to provide for humans, made humans from a drop of fluid (semen), produces fire to come from green trees, so which one of your gods can create as Allah can?

The creative power is with Allah alone, with the determination of His Will and Power.

Poem

The duality of purpose
arises in pairs
which must come together
as one to produce many.

Seeds floating on water
while evil sank beneath the waves,
casting life on new shores
so that righteousness could grow — 
for when the weeds overtake the wheat,
the tares are separated from the chaff
in the fullness of its time.

The command to “Be”
sounding like a million thunders
reverberating throughout the universe
in a multiplicity of being,
and when He commands, “It is finished”
the trumpet will sound
in front and behind
and all will rise up
to the Mighty Holy One.

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Sheryl Martin

It is suffering that shoots streams of creativity out of my heart, and the brokenness of life that explodes my heart into its soul.