Sūrah al-Mulk

Observations on how the sūrah the Messenger ﷺ recited each night is organized in the Quran

Sūrah al-Mulk (The Dominion) is significant in that the Messenger ﷺ encouraged Muslims to recite it every night before going to sleep.

It has been observed that on a macro-level, the sūrah appears to display a ring composition. For brevity, the Arabic has been omitted. We highly recommend reading through the sūrah once (at least in translation) before proceeding. The relevant āyah numbers are shown in parenthesis.

Quick Overview

Section A begins with Allah ﷻ describing His power and might. He mentions His control over all dominion, His ability to create life, death, and the perfect skies above us. This is in contrast to humans (Section A’) who are weak in their abilities. Allah ﷻ can destroy us in an instant or cause us to die when He wants. Opposite of Allah ﷻ, Who is in complete control, humans can’t control something as simple as water if we were to lose possession of it.

Section B details Heaven and Hell and reminds us of our inevitable resurrection. Section B’ then quotes the arrogant disbelievers as they ask, “When is this promise, if you were being truthful?”.

Connecting back to Section A, Allah ﷻ has absolute power, and with it He created Heaven and Hell. Meanwhile, the weak human hears about these things and still has the audacity to ask, “When is it? When is the resurrection so I can see these ‘amazing’ things you describe?”

At the center lies Section C which details the immediate threats that Allah ﷻ may unleash on us before we’re even dead, let alone resurrected. To contrast this, Allah ﷻ reminds us of our mortality and relatively short lifespans (C’). With such threats only being held back by Allah’s control, the human is made to reflect on how soon they may die if Allah ﷻ wills it.

A Deeper Look

Now that we have a good overview, let us explore some of the deeper connections between the correlating sections.

Section A/A’

Allah ﷻ begins the sūrah by informing us that He “created death and life” which correlates to the ending wherein He commands the Messenger ﷺ to say, “whether Allah destroys me and those with me or shows us mercy.” Thus, “death” is connected to “destroys” and “life” with “mercy”.

After His creation of death and life, Allah ﷻ mentions two of His names, “the Authority” and “the Forgiving.” In A’, Allah commands the Messenger ﷺ to say, “Who will save the disbelievers from a painful punishment?” Who has the power to administer punishment? The Authority. And who can save them? The Forgiving. In other words, this may be a subtle hint to the disbelievers to accept the Authority and the Forgiving to avoid the impending punishment.

In A, Allah ﷻ says, “You will never see any imperfection in the creation of the Most Compassionate". Those who accept this premise end the sūrah saying, “He is the Most Compassionate—in Him alone we believe, and in Him alone we trust.”

Finally for this section, Allah ﷻ says, “You will see nothing out of proportion in the creation of the Most Compassionate. So, cast your eye again. Do you see any rifts?” Allah ﷻ twice uses the Arabic word, “taraā”, for “seeing” in this āyah. Then, in A’, Allah ﷻ says on two occasions, “Did you see…?” using a verb from the same Arabic root letters, “ra’aytum”. Allah ﷻ begins with telling us to look at the creation twice, and then concludes by twice asking us, “Did you see…?”

Section B/B’

Section B is the most elaborate description of the unseen and afterlife in this sūrah. It’s Allah’s promise of what is to come. In B’ the disbelievers ask, “When is this promise?”

In B, Allah ﷻ quotes the guardians of Hell asking the inhabitants of Hell, “Had no warner come to you?” And the disbelievers will reply, “Yes, a warner had come to us, but We had rejected [him].” In contrast, in B’, the Messenger ﷺ is told to say, “I am only a plain warner.”

In B, the regret of the disbelievers is quoted as, “If only we had listened and reasoned, we would not be among the residents of the Blaze!” In B’ we’re told that, “Then when they see the torment drawing near, the faces of the disbelievers will become gloomy.” They only needed to listen and think to avoid seeing the punishment.

Section C/C’

In C, Allah ﷻ asks if we are not afraid that He might “cause the earth to swallow you up.” In contrast, in C’, Allah ﷻ says that He “has multiplied you throughout the earth.”

If we go through the questions Allah ﷻ brings in C, we will find an interesting trend. First He asks two hypotheticals; “Do you feel secure that the One Who is in heaven will not cause the earth to swallow you up?” and “Do you feel secure that the One Who is in heaven will not unleash upon you a storm of stones?” As hypotheticals, these questions are asking us to listen closely to the warnings.

Next Allah ﷻ asks, “Have they not seen the birds above them, spreading and folding their wings?” This question encourages us to see the example.

The following questions ask, “Which army will come to your help instead of the Most Compassionate?” and “Who is it that will provide for you if He withholds His provision?” These are also hypothetical questions pointing towards our ability to listen to the examples.

And finally, Allah ﷻ concludes Section C with the question, “Who is guided: the one who crawls face-down or the one who walks upright on the Straight Path?” This visual example encourages us to use our sight.

In summary, Section C may be organized as follows:

One who heeds these warnings should be affected in their heart. Section C’ immediately follows this up with, “Say, ‘He is the One who has originated you, and made for you ears and eyes and hearts. How little you pay gratitude!’” In other words, “I already gave you all the faculties you needed to benefit from this reminder.”

وَاللَّهُ أَعلَمُ - And Allah knows best


Sources

Ali Khan, Nouman. “06. Al-Mulk - A Deeper Look” Bayyinah TV, https://www.bayyinahtv.com/video/3812