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Sūrat al-Baqarah (Part 2)
Part 2 of observations on the structure, organization, and cohesion of Sūrat al-Baqarah
This is a continuation of our series on Sūrat al-Baqarah. Please see last week’s post for Part 1.
[A4.1]/[A4.1’] – The creation of mankind as a vicegerent is linked to his status being recognized by the other creations.
[A4.2]/[A4.2’] – Both instances highlight Allah’s knowledge of things no one else is privy to.
[A4.3]/[A4.3’] – Adam learns the names of all things and then informs the angels of those names.
[A4.4] – The angels confess to their lack of knowledge and highlight Allah’s complete knowledge and wisdom.
[A5.1]/[A5.1’] – Satan’s disobedience and being labeled as a “disbeliever (kāfirīn)” is paired with those who “disbelieve (kafarū)” and are consequently thrown into the Fire.
[A5.2]/[A5.2’] – Allah ﷻ gives Adam and Eve guidance for their life in the Garden. Allah ﷻ then assures us that we can reattain His Garden if we follow His guidance in this life. Allah ﷻ also mentions that those who follow His path will have “no fear upon them and nor will they grieve,” which is the state of the inhabitants of the Garden previously mentioned.
[A5.3]/[A5.3’] – Both sections highlight mankind and Satan being told to “go down” to Earth because of their transgressions.
[A5.4] – The ring centers on Allah’s forgiveness. We may occasionally disobey Allah ﷻ, as was highlighted in the outer sections, but He will accept our repentance so long as we take accountability and commit to coming back to Him.
Interestingly, if these five smaller structures are placed into a sandwich structure1 there are many observations that can be made.
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[A1]/[A2] – Looking horizontally, the first two mirror structures form complementary opposites (“The believers” vs. “The disbelievers”). Take special notice of the messages that are highlighted by each of the mirror structures. The first mirror structure ([A1] - The believers) introduces the themes of guidance, faith, and righteous action, while the second mirror ([A2] - The disbelievers) is concerned with the opposite characteristics.
[A4]/[A5] – The final two ring structures also form complementary opposites (“Adam and the angels” vs. “Adam and Satan”). The centers of the two bottom rings highlight the themes of faith and righteous deeds respectively.
[A1]/[A4] – Looking vertically, we see the faithful believers being paired together (“The believers” and “Adam and the angels”).
[A2]/[A5] – Looking vertically again, we see the disobedient paired together (“The disbelievers” and “Adam and Satan”). The repentance of Adam highlights the difference between what makes one a disobedient believer rather than a disobedient disbeliever (like Satan).
[A3] - The ring in the center (Allah and creation, belief in the revelation, and resurrection), brings together the main themes of the surrounding sections, and the Quran in general: monotheism and creation, faith and disbelief in the revelation, and the afterlife. It outlines the contents, attitudes, and consequences of faith and disbelief. At its own center, and hence the central āyah of the entire section, it draws attention to the reward in store for those who have faith and perform righteous actions.
Finally, the entire section is bracketed by the same key terms and themes, forming what is known as an inclusio2 or envelope structure:
And Allah ﷻ knows best
We will continue our study next week with Section [B]!
I made up this name. It is, undoubtedly, an awful name. I bet there is a real name for this, but I have no clue what it is. X structure? Barnyard door structure? Someone, help me out here.
In other words, an inclusio is a fancy way of saying that the material at the beginning and end of a section match. So, just the outer-most parts of a ring or mirror structure.