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Sūrat Maryam (Part 10)
Part 10 of observations on the structure, organization, and cohesion of Sūrat Maryam
Integrative Coherence of [A’]
Besides being a coherent whole, Section [A’] also contains many anchors that establish connections back to the previous sections.
For example, after stating that everyone will have to stand and witness Hellfire, Allah ﷻ says this is “an inevitability decreed (maqḍiyā).” When hearing this, the audience recalls the statement of the angel when he told Maryam that her pregnancy was “a matter [already] decreed (maqḍiyā).” This may suggest to the listener that, just as surely that Maryam got pregnant and gave birth, they will undoubtedly stand before Hellfire and witness their potential fate.
In Section [A’], Allah ﷻ says that He extends the lives and provisions of the disbelievers until they “see that which they were promised (yūʿadūna).” This recalls the promise (waʿd) of Allah ﷻ given in Section [B’] and the fulfillment of the promise (ṣādiqa al-waʿd) of Ismāʿīl in Section [C].
Here we also find the final mention of inheritance. Allah ﷻ says that He will inherit (narithu) all that man leaves behind when he dies, which is a callback to the inheritance Allah ﷻ said He would take at the end of Section [A], “No doubt We will inherit (narithu) the earth and all who are on it.”
Towards the end of the sūrah, Allah ﷻ says “There is no one in the heavens and earth (as-samāwāti wal-arḍi) but that he comes to the Most Merciful as a servant (ʿabdā).” This is very similar to what was said in Section [B’] when Allah ﷻ stated, “Lord of the heavens and the earth (as-samāwāti wal-arḍi) and whatever is between them - so worship Him (faʿbud-hu) and have patience for His worship (ʿibādati-hi).”
Finally, in the penultimate āyah of the sūrah, Allah ﷻ tells the Messenger ﷺ that He sent the Quran in their Arabic tongue to “give good news (litubashshira) thereby to the God-conscious.” This ties back to the miracle given to Zakariyyā when he was informed, “No doubt, We give you good news (nubashshiru-ka) of a boy named Yaḥyā.” This may be a way for us to understand the type of reaction we should have when hearing the Quran. The elation of an old man being surprised with a righteous son should be the type of emotion the God-conscious feel when they learn of the forgiveness, pardon, grace, mercy, reward, and Paradise from Allah ﷻ.
And with that we conclude our detailed dissection of the structure of Sūrat Maryam. Now we will look back at the macroscopic view of the sūrah and analyze the themes and motifs running through the entirety of it.
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Holistic Coherence of Sūrat Maryam
When we first began our observations of Sūrat Maryam, we proposed the following ring structure to the entire sūrah:
Now that we have an appreciation of the content within each section, we can better understand the connections between them.
[A/A’] - The sūrah begins with two stories of children being born with divine help. In each of those narratives there is a show of concern for the immediate future. Zakariyyā wants someone to inherit from him and carry on his legacy while Maryam wants to avoid any negative aspersions against her honor. The corresponding section shows a complete lack of concern for the far future, that is, the Afterlife. The disbelievers are quoted again and again as having disregard for their next life, which leads to a lack of urgency in this life as well.
The final section contains a passage that emphatically declares attributing a son to Allah ﷻ as a great blasphemy. This passage has the word, “son (walad)” repeated three times in quick succession. This usage of “son” may remind the audience of the only other usage of the word found outside of Section [A’], from the conclusion of Section [A], wherein Allah ﷻ appropriately states, “It is not appropriate for Allah to take any son (walad). He is perfect.”
Additionally, as already shown earlier, the parallels between the stories of Zakariyyā and Maryam are a subtle argument against the divinity of Christ. This supplements the clear-cut statements made in the concluding section.
[B/B’] - The story of Ibrāhīm and his father appears to be paired with the section outlining the path to salvation. Just as Ibrāhīm gave his father irrefutable arguments and rationale for accepting Islam, Section [B’] clearly demonstrates the options one has when confronted with the choice between guidance and misguidance. Put another way, Section [B] tells us why we should accept guidance and Section [B’] tells us the outcome of said choice (or lack thereof).
[C] - At the center of this sūrah is the section about our forefathers in monotheism. Of particular note is the repeated usage of “prophet (nabiyy)” that is used throughout this passage. By mentioning so many prophets together, each with their own unique and miraculous story, it helps to drive home the point that ʿĪsā is not a god. Recall that ʿĪsā described himself the same way when he introduced himself to the world as a “prophet (nabiyy).”
We will CONCLUDE our study of Sūrat Maryam next week :)