Observations on the structure, coherence and organization of Sūrah al-Mursalāt in the Quran
Thus far we have observed many instances of ring composition in the Quran, but have not yet explored other types of structuring. This week we turn our attention to another ancient literature structure; Parallelism.
As a reminder, parallelism occurs when the themes of a passage repeat themselves in the same order as they originally appeared (ABC/A’B’C’). To demonstrate this, we’ll be looking at the parallel composition of Sūrah al-Mursalāt (Those Sent Forth).
For brevity, the Arabic has been omitted so we highly encourage you to read the translation before proceeding. Here is a summarized view of the surah with the relevant ayah numbers in parenthesis:
Together, both passages detail the absolute control of Allah ﷻ. In A, Allah ﷻ swears an oath by His control of the of the winds as a demonstration of His power in this life. The same winds that can provide a cool breeze and spread rain clouds can be used to destroy a nation if Allah ﷻ so wills.
In A’, Allah ﷻ describes His control on the Day of Judgment. No one shall speak without His permission and the only plan to be executed on that Day is His plan. The two passages are also linked through their usage of two words that share the same root letters for the word, “excuse”. In A, Allah ﷻ says that after one is confronted with revelation, there will be no more excuses (ʿudhran). And in A’, Allah ﷻ tells us that no one will be permitted to offer excuses (yaʿtadhirūn) on the Day of Judgment.
Section B is unique in that all but one ayah occurs in 3rd person. The warnings offered are general and not directed to any particular person. Allah ﷻ describes the upheaval that will occur on the Day of Judgment and even when He mentions the destruction of the “former generations,” the warning remains general as He says, “This is how We deal with the criminals.”
In compliment to this, B’ describes those who were intelligent enough to take heed of the warning despite it not being directly addressed to them. They will enjoy all Paradise has to offer because, “this is how We reward those who do good”
Finally, the first half (C) ends with Allah ﷻ directly threatening the wrong-doers (2nd person) in a series of rhetorical questions whose conclusion describes the disbelievers as being told to, “Proceed into that Fire which you used to deny! Proceed into the shade of smoke which rises in three columns, providing neither coolness nor shelter from the flames.”
C’ ends on a similar note with the disbelievers being sarcastically told to “eat and enjoy yourselves for a little; surely you are criminals.” They refused to “bow down,” to Allah ﷻ in this life so the entire surah sternly concludes as Allah ﷻ says of them, “So what message after this [Quran] would they believe in?”
واللَّهُ أَعلَم - And Allah knows best
Personal reflections and research