Observations on how Surah al-Burooj is organized in the Quran
Surah al-Burooj (The Celestial Fortresses), was revealed in the Meccan period in the context of the violent persecution of the Messenger’s followers.
Below is a literal translation of the surah, with a few notes added in parenthesis to clarify the meaning when necessary. The surah appears to be in a ring composition with the entire surah forming a single ring. Click on the image to zoom in.
Allah ﷻ begins by swearing by the heaven which possesses celestial fortresses. He then ends the surah by mentioning the lawḥ al-maḥfooẓ, which is known as the “Guarded Tablet”. The Guarded Tablet is with Allah ﷻ and records everything which will occur from the beginning of creation to the end of time. In other words, the surah begins by mentioning celestial (i.e. heavenly) fortresses (which are used for guarding), and ends with a Guarded Tablet which resides in the heavens.
Allah ﷻ swears by the “Promised Day”, which is referring to the Day of Judgment; a Day promised to occur throughout the Quran. The corresponding ayah (B’) then mentions the very Quran it’s promised in.
Finally Allah ﷻ swears by “the witness and the witnessed”, an oath which assures the believers - and warns the disbelievers - that their plight has been witnessed. This is illustrated by the correlating ayah (C’) wherein Allah ﷻ says that He is encompassing the disbelievers from behind. In other words, while the disbeliever is a witness to his own crimes, Allah ﷻ is in turn witnessing him, whether they realize it or not. The witness has become the witnessed.
The Companions of the Trench refers to a group of people in history who dug a trench to burn the believing people alive in. Allah ﷻ curses them (D) and then says that they were in denial (D’). Of what? That they’ll be held accountable for their crimes, as every wrongdoer in history is wont to do.
First Allah ﷻ tells us the news of the disbelievers’ deeds. Then He asks later on (E’) if the news of another group of disbelievers has reached us.
Allah ﷻ links this group of ayaat through the shared usage of a verb. First Allah ﷻ says that the disbelievers are a witness to what they’ve done (يَفعَلُونَ, yaf’aloona) and later compares it to His own doing (فَعَّالٌ, fa’aal). In the case of the “doing” of Allah ﷻ, the Arabic is in the hyperbolized form to demonstrate that the actions of the disbelievers cannot be compared to what Allah ﷻ is capable of doing.
These ayaat are connected through their descriptions of Allah ﷻ. Allah ﷻ describes Himself as “the Almighty, the Praiseworthy (الحَمِيد, al-Ḥameed)” (G) and later describes Himself as “the Forgiving, the Loving, the Possessor of the Majestic Throne (المَجِيد, al-Majeed). (G’) Notice the similarities in how the two sections end phonetically as well.
Allah ﷻ mentions His amazing creations of the heavens and the earth (H) and later tells us that He is the “Originator” of such greatness, as well as being the “Repeater” of such feats if He pleases.
The theme of “being a witness (شَهِيد, shaheed)” repeats itself in this section, with Allah ﷻ warning those who thing think they can get away with their actions that His grip is “severe (شَدِيد, shadeed).” Again, notice the phonetic link between the two ayaat.
Finally, the center of the surah emphasizes Allah’s justice as it will be fully realized in the afterlife with the destiny of the disbelievers (J) being contrasted with that of the believers (J’).
وَاللَّهُ أَعلَمُ - And Allah knows best
This analysis is summarized from Robinson, Discovering the Qur’an, 312, n. 11, with some slight modifications
Ali Khan, Nouman and Sharif Randhawa. Divine Speech: Exploring the Quran as Literature. Bayyinah Institute, 2016.