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The Jewels of the Quran

Written by: by Abu Hamid al-Ghazali :: (View All Articles by: Abu Hamid al-Ghazali)

 

In the name of God, Most Gracious, Ever Merciful

 

Surely this Qur’ān guides you to the way which is most firm and right, and gives the believers who do good deeds the glad tidings that they shall have a great reward and warns that for those who do not believe in the Hereafter We have prepared a grievous chastisement. - Qur’ān 17:9-10

 

 

 


 

CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION 9

CONTENTS OF THE BOOK IN DETAIL 15

PART ONE

Chapter

1. The Qur’ān is like an ocean which covers various types of jewels and valuables            19

2. The aims of the Qur’ān and its valuables are of six kinds            21

3. An explanation of the six aims of the Qur’ān            23

4. Branching off of all sciences from the ten divisions of the Qur’ān, and an explanation of grades of sciences  34

5. Stemming off of the sciences of the ancients and the moderns from the Qur’ān 45

6. The meaning of the statement that the Qur’ān comprises red brimstone, greatest antidote, strongest musk, and all other valuables and jewels            49

7. Why the entities of the invisible world are explained in the Qur’ān by means of similitudes from the visible world            53

8. Comprehension of the connection between the invisible world and the visible world 56

9. The allegories of red brimstone, greatest antidote, strongest musk, aloe-wood, corundum, and pearls            59

10. The benefit of employing allegories in the Qur’ān            62

11. Variance in the excellence of Qur’ānic verses            64

12. Secrets of the Sara of the Opening, and how it comprises eight of the ten valuables of the Qur’ān            66

13. The Sura of Opening is the key to all doors of Paradise            73

14. Why the Verse of the Throne is considered the chief of the Qur’ānic verses            75

15. Why the value of the Sara of Sincerity is equal to that of a third part of the Qur’ān 79

16. Why the Sara of Ya Sin is the heart of the Qur’ān            81

17. Why the Verse of the Throne is regarded the chief of the Qur’ānic verses.

Why the Sura of Opening is the best of all suras 82

18. The condition of the gnostics            84

19. The reason for stringing the jewels and the pearls of the Qur’ān on two separate strings            87

PART TWO

Chapter 1. The jewels of the Qur’ān            89

Chapter 2. The pearls of the Qur’ān            156

CONCLUSION ON THE TWO CLASSES OF VERSES

Why the discussion of Qur’ānic verses has been confined to the classes of jewels and pearls 224

BIBLIOGRAPHY      225

The following will not be in the online version: (Ed.)

INDEX

General Index            230

Index of Qur’ānic suras and verses            240-244


 

INTRODUCTION

 

We reveal progressively of the Qur’ān that which is a spiritual healing and a mercy for the believers. - Qur’ān 17:82

 

The Qur’ān is the Holy Scripture of Islam revealed to the prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him!) through the angel of revelation, Gabriel. in approximately twenty-three years of his lifetime (610 A.D. - 632) in Mecca and Medina. Seven hundred million human beings who call themselves Muslims have accepted it as the Creator’s final message or revelation to mankind and jinn (infra, p. 46, n. 74), two intelligent species charged with religious and moral responsibilities. Muslims not only read and study the Qur’ān for drawing guidance in all aspects of their life, but also recite it for other purposes, such as the obtaining of reward from God and gaining the blessings which come from uttering the divine speech. Recitation for these purposes is made at different times and on various occasions, e.g. in the morning, at night, on completion of every ritual prayer, at the start of sermons, in ceremonies and in pious gatherings. Thus the Qur’ān is practically inseparable from the life of a Muslim. Many non-Muslims have also been interested in the Qur’ān and most of them have regarded it with reverance as the Holy Scripture of a great faith; the reasons for their interest in the Scripture of another religion, however, are obviously not identical with those of Muslims.

The Qur’ān is purely divine but its understanding is completely human - a statement often made by Muslim scholars of recognized authority. The understanding of the Qur’ān concerns not only the meaning and significance of its verses, but also several broad problems related to it as a whole. Scholars sometimes differ in understanding some aspects of the Qua an. Non-Muslims differ from Muslims primarily in apprehending certain fundamental issues concerning the Scripture, e.g. its authority, its source, and the nature of its appeal to human beings - whether this appeal is universal or limited to some particular sections of humanity - and they differ mainly because their religious beliefs and ideological convictions are different. Among the Muslim scholars themselves differences have also occurred in respect of the meaning and import of several categories of verses and also in respect of apprehending certain basic Qur’ānic problems, such as the eternity or created nature of the Qur’ān, and the methods of understanding it. Thus the Sunnites, the Shi’ites, the Mu’tazilites, the Ash’arites, the Literalists, the Sufis, the Philosophers, and the Modernists are not always found to be in agreement on Qur’ānic interpretation and in their views on some Qur’ānic problems of importance. The reasons why they differ among themselves in understanding the Scripture are rooted in their disagreement on other matters.

One of the leading Muslim thinkers who adheres mainly to the Sunnites, the Ash’arites and the Sufis and who is strongly opposed to the Shi’ite the Mu’tazilites, the Literalists and part of the theories of his contemporary philosophers, is Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (d. 505 A.H./1111 A.D.). He has sometimes been acclaimed in both East and West as the greatest religious authority of Islam after the prophet Muhammad, and he is by no means unworthy of this dignity. Muslims have given him the title of the Proof of Islam (hujjat al-Islam) and the Ornament of Religion (zayn ad-din). His accomplishments have spread over many diverse branches of learning including Islamic jurisprudence, theology, logic, metaphysics, ethics, sufism, and Qur’ānic studies. At an advanced age, when he had already composed numerous works on many of these Islamic intellectual disciplines and when he had already completed traversing the guff path and thus had already ascended to the highest peak of intellectual and spiritual achievement, he expressed his own understanding of the Qur’ān through the composition of a work, Jawahir al- Qur’ān, which, in the following chapters, has been translated into English under the title The Jewels of the Qur’ān. This book is the source for much of what we know concerning al-Ghazali s own views on our religious Scripture. It is of course not a commentary on the Qur’ān in the general usage of the term, although it does comment upon certain important Qur’ānic suras and verses in various connections. It presents us with al-Ghazali’s own understanding of some basic problems concerning the Qur’ān - problems which are of equal interest to both Muslim and non-Muslim students of the Scripture. Throughout the book there is an emphasis - a strong emphasis - upon employing what the author considers to be the correct method of apprehending the Holy Book, i.e. upon penetrating into the depth of the inner, hidden meanings of the Qur’ānic verses, without merely being content with their outward meanings, like a diver’s diving down to the depths of a fathomless ocean in order to bring out the hidden pearls and treasures. A very clear-cut and complete, but brief, theory concerning the aims (maqasid) of the Qur’ān is given in this book - a theory which is recognized as important and is often quoted by as-Suyuti (d, 911 A.H.) and other later scholars of the Qur’ān. Inseparably connected with this theory is another, in which al-Ghazali demonstrates that all diverse branches of Islamic learning have stemmed from the Qur’ān; this is a demonstration of the view usually held by Muslims that the Holy Scripture constitutes the sole source of all forms of Islamic knowledge. In this book there is also an effort to demonstrate the truth of the statements of the prophet Muhammad on the excellence of some Qur’ānic suras and verses over others - e.g. his statements: The Sura of Ya Sin is the heart of the Qur’ān, the Throne Verse is the chief of all Qur’ānic verses, the Sura of Sincerity equals the merit of one-third of the entire Qur’ān, the Opening Sura is the key to all the doors of Paradise, and so on. The second part of the book presents us with all ‘jewel’ verses and all ‘pearl’ verses verses which are concerned with the two most important of the six principal aims of the Scripture. The separation of these verses from all the other verses which concern the remaining aims of the Qur’ān is unprecedented in the history of Qur’ānic literature and must be regarded as a significant contribution to Qur’ānic studies. These are the main problems discussed in this book. In connection with them other minor but important problems have also been dealt with, one of them being the relationship between the world of perception and the world of the unseen; this relationship is reminiscent of Plato’s well known theory of forms - a reason why students of al-Ghazali sometimes tend to think of Plato’s influence upon him.

The writing in the first part of the book is mostly allegorical; this is needed in order to facilitate the exposition of the lofty and magnificent nature of the Qur’ān. The truth underlying the major allegories employed is explained, and sometimes separate sections are devoted to this task; yet allegories are to be found here and there unexplained, demanding the reader’s own effort to grasp their underlying meaning and significance. The treatment of the book is serious, deep, penetrating and, above all, so logical that one chapter follows another automatically and smoothly. This logical arrangement of material is in complete agreement with al-Ghazali’s usual method of composition.

Since this English version of the book is the translation of the Arabic original it seems necessary to mention the methods employed in making this translation. It is not a strictly literal rendering of the original; rather it is the presentation of the meaning of the original in easy, modern English; in presenting this meaning, however, efforts are made to be very close to the original. Sometimes materials are added in the text for clarification of the meaning, and these are put between square brackets. Where an expression of the original is likely to affect the flow of reading, such an expression is put between round brackets. All footnotes are added by the translator, sometimes to clarify difficult concepts, phrases and words, and sometimes to provide the reader with more relevant information. In the numbering of the Qur’ānic verses appearing in this book the official Egyptian edition of the Qur’ān is consistently followed. The terms Qur’ān and sura are occasionally abbreviated as Q. and S. respectively.

In respect of the translation of more than fifteen hundred Qur’ānic verses which appear in this book, the reader will notice a sharp deviation from the archaic English of earlier Biblical translations. This style influenced many English translations of the Qur’ān which are, as a result, clumsy, obscure or incomprehensible, especially to the general reader, despite the Qur’ān’s repeated claim to be a clear, easy book of guidance. This disadvantage of the older Biblical style of translation was also pointed out by A. J. Arberry more than two decades ago; he himself retained what he considered to be “a minimal obedience to tradition” (The Holy Koran: An Introduction With Selections, London, 1953, p. 31). In the last twenty-four years Islam expanded greatly, especially in Africa, Europe, Canada and the United States of America, but many new converts have been heard to express their weariness at the Biblical style of Qur’ān-translation and their desire for translations in regular, modern, free-flowing English, which would not only be scholarly but also interesting and enjoyable. Such a translation of more than fifteen hundred Qur’ānic verses has been attempted in this book. The reader will also notice that the present translation has tried to retain the emphasis which Qur’ānic verses contain very often through various linguistic subtleties. This emphasis aims at eliciting positive response on the part of the. hearer, and forms one of the special characteristics of the Scripture of Islam. Most of the Qur’ān translators have neglected this emphasis. In respects other than this and the style, the present translation sometimes agrees with the existing ones to which it is indebted. It is hoped that this small book of al-Ghazali will be of great help to the English speaking reader in his understanding of the Qur’ān.

The first part of this English version of the book was prepared in Edinburgh in June, 1973 on completion of my doctoral studies in the ethics of al-Ghazali under the supervision of Professor W. Montgomery Watt. I should like to record my thanks to Mrs. Phyllis Graham for carefully going through the manuscript of that part and to Dr. Roger Card of the National University of Malaysia for reading the manuscript of the entire book and making some valuable suggestions. My thanks are also due to Mr. Syed Zulflida, Mr. Peter Mooney, Mr. Lee Gray and Mr. Moxie Craus of the National University of Malaysia for editing the manuscript and for reading the proofs.

 

M. Abul Quasem

Kuala Lumpur, Dhu l-Hijja 1397 November 1977

 


 

CONTENTS OF THE BOOK IN DETAIL

 

In the name of God, Most Gracious, Ever Merciful

 

All types of perfect praise belong to God alone, the Lord of all the worlds. May His blessings be on His prophet Muhammad, on all [members of] his family, and on all his companions)

This section concerns the content of the book we have named the Jewels of the Qur’ān .

Know (may God guide you to the right path!) that we have arranged this book in three parts: One on introductory matters, one on aims, and one on the matters connected with the aims.

The first part which is on introductory matters comprises nineteen chapters:

1. The Qur’ān is [like] an ocean which covers many types of jewels and valuables.

2. The limiting of the aims of the Qur’ān and its valuables to six divisions of which three are important principles and three follow them and complete them.

3. The explanation of these six divisions one by one. They branch off so that they become ten.

4. The process by which all sciences branch off from these ten divisions. The sciences of the Qur’ān are divided into the science of the outer shell and the science of the inner jewels. An explanation of the grades of sciences.

5. How the sciences of the ancients and the moderns branch off from the Qur’ān./[1]

6. The meaning of the statement that the Qur’ān comprises red brimstone, the greatest antidote, the strongest musk, and all other valuables and pearls. This can only be known by one who knows the relationship between the visible world and the invisible world.

7-The reasons why the entities of the invisible world are illustrated in the Qur’ān by means of similitudes derived from the visible world.

8. The comprehension of the connection existing between the visible world and the invisible world.

9. Analysis of the allegories underlying red brimstone, the greatest antidote, the strongest musk, aloe-wood, corundums, pearls, and so on.

10. The benefit of employing these allegories.

11. How some verses of the Qur’ān excel others when the whole of it is the speech of God (may He be exalted!).

12. The secrets of the Sura of Opening (al-Fatiha) (Sura 1.) and how it comprises eight of the ten types of the valuables of the Qur’ān. The description of part of the meaning of “Most Gracious, Ever Merciful” in relation to the nature of animals.

13. That the eight doors of Paradise are opened through the Sura of Opening (al-Fatiha) (Sura 1.)  and that it is the key to all of them.

14. Why the Verse of the Throne (Ayat al-Kursi) (Qur’ān 2:255)  is regarded as the chief of Qur’ānic verses, and why it is nobler than the verses, “God bears witness” (Qur’ān 3:18) , “Proclaim: He is God, the Single” (Qur’ān 112:1) , the

beginning of the Sura of Irons (awl al-Hadid) (Qur’ān 57:1-6) , the end of the Sura of the Gathering (a’khir al-Hashr) (Qur’ān 59:22-24) and all other verses.

15. An investigation into the reason why the [value of the] Sura of Sincerity (Surat al-Ikhlas) (Sura 112) is equal to [the value of] a third part of the Qur’ān.

16. Why the Sura of Ya Sin  (Sura 36 ) is regarded as the heart of the Qur’ān.

17. Why the Prophet (may God bless him and greet him!) specified the Sura of Opening (al-fatiah, Sura 1) as the best sura of the Qur’ān and the Verse of the Throne (ayat al-kursi ) as the chief of the Qur’ānic verses, and why this was better than its opposite.

18. The condition of the gnostics (al-’arifun). In this world they are as if in ‘a Paradise the breadth of which is greater than the heavens and the earth’; (Qur’ān 3:133) ‘the clusters of the fruits of their’ present ‘Paradise are near to gather’ (Qur’ān 69:23) and ‘are unfailing and unforbidden’. (Qur’ān 56:32-33)

19. The secret reason for stringing the jewels of the Qur’ān on one string and its pearls on another.

These are the nineteen chapters [which constitute the first part of the book].

The second part deals with the aims, and comprises the pith of the Qur’ānic verses which are of two kinds. The first consists of the jewels which are the verses revealed especially concerning the essence of God (to Him belong glory and power), His attributes and works. This is the cognitive part (al-qism al-’ilmi)./ The second consists of the pearls which are verses on the description of the straight path (as-Sirat al-mustaqim) and verses which urge man to follow it. This is the practical part (al-qism al-’amali).

A chapter explaining the reason why the Qur’ānic verses have been confined to this sum total.[2]

 


 

 

 

[PART ONE - INTRODUCTORY
MATTERS]

[This part deals with several important problems about the Qur’ān. It comprises nineteen chapters-some of which-concern- - ‘ problems about the Qur’ān as a whole, while others treat problems related to some of its specific parts. These chapters are arranged by al-Ghazali so logically and systematically that one chapter leads the reader to another automatically and smoothly. ]

 

 


 

[1] This oblique sign is used throughout this book in order to indicate the termination of a page of the Arabic original

[2] At this place thirty-four lines of the original Arabic text have not been translated because they describe the contents, not of The Jewels of the Qur’ān, but of another work of al-Ghazali, The Book of the Forty on the Principles of Religion (Kitab al-Arba’in fi Usual ad-Din).

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