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Sūrat al-Baqarah (Part 8)
Part 8 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 7.
Section [A’] - The Struggle of the Believers Against the Disbelievers
In the last part of the sūrah, several important themes are brought to a close. These include the contrast between faith and disbelief, with a focus on the intense effort to free the Kaʿbah from those who reject faith. The section also emphasizes Allah's authority over all creation, including the ability to bring the dead back to life. It delves into the concept of the Day of Judgment, highlighting its significance. Additionally, the sūrah discusses regulations concerning financial transactions. Despite these seemingly unrelated topics, we will once again witness the intricate connections that tie them all together.
As a whole, the section has the following ring structure:
The central message assures the believers that, despite their small numbers and resources in comparison to the disbelieving Quraysh, Allah ﷻ is able to give them victory.
Inside the above ring structure are four observable symmetrical structures. The first captures āyāt 243-251:
Note how the centerpiece reinforces a message similar to the one in the larger ring.
The next ring is found in āyah 255, famously known as Āyat al-Kursi, (The Āyah of the Throne).
[A8.1/A8.1’] - Allah ﷻ begins with two of His names, al-Ḥayy (the Living) and al-Qayyūm (the Sustainer) and similarly ends with two of His names, al-’Alīy (the Exalted) and al-’Aẓīm (the Great).
[A8.2/A8.2’] – The next sections correspond to each other in that they both point to Allah’s lack of need to rest. Allah ﷻ tells us that He does not sleep, nor does He even fatigue. Both statements complement one another by covering all aspects of tiredness.
[A8.3/A8.3’] - Allah ﷻ then shifts to the topic of His control. He owns everything in the heavens and on the earth, but one might then ask about His control of things within these domains because ownership does not always necessitate control. The corresponding sentence then informs us that His control over the two aforementioned domains is as extensive as His ownership is absolute.
[A8.4/A8.4’] – These are linked through the shared reference to Allah ﷻ as the One who grants permission. We need His permission to intercede on behalf of others and for others to intercede for us. Likewise, we need His permission to access knowledge of any type.
[A8.5] - At the center Allah ﷻ tells us that He knows what is coming and what has already happened. This is quite fitting in the ring structure, as if to say, “what os coming is just as what has already occurred in this passage.”
Additionally, we find a symmetrical structure embedded within āyāt 261-274. The relationships have been presented directly in the graphic below:
Finally, there appears to be a mirror structure for āyāt 275-281. Again, the connections are explained in the following graphic:
Besides the symmetrical structures above, it has been observed that the entire section alternates between various themes and methods of narration.1 For example, the content of Section [A’] switches between the themes of spending and Allah’s power over life and death:
There is also the alternation between the themes of faith and action:
Finally, there is alternation between narrating a story and mandating laws or other forms of instruction:
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The above analysis concludes the study of Section [A’] - The Struggle of the Believers Against the Disbelievers.
And Allah ﷻ knows best
We will continue our study next week with a look at the overall picture!
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Nevin Reda El-Tehry, Textual Integrity and Coherence in the Qur’an: Repetition and Narrative Structure in Surat al-Baqara (PhD diss., University of Toronto, Toronto, 2010)