Month: April 2016

A Month of Ease


As Ramadan approaches, we’ll begin to hear the famous ayah about Ramadan more often in khutbahs, lectures, and discussions.

It begins like this:

شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِي أُنزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْآنُ هُدًى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَاتٍ مِّنَ الْهُدَىٰ وَالْفُرْقَانِ فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ الشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ …

“The month of Ramadan is that in which the Qur’an was sent down as a guidance to the people with Clear Signs of the true guidance and as the Criterion. So those of you who live to see that month should fast it…”

A lot of times, though, we don’t pay much attention to the rest of the ayah, which contains some beautiful and hidden treasures.

Near the end of the ayah, after prescribing fasting on the believers, Allah says:

يُرِيدُ اللهُ بِكُمُ الْيُسْرَ وَلَا يُرِيدُ بِكُمُ الْعُسْرَ

This ayah is commonly translated as:

“God desires ease for you and does not desire hardship.”

This translation, however, ignores some details in the language. يُرِيدُ اللهُ لكُمُ الْيُسْرَ, with the word لكُمُ instead of بِكُمُ, would have literally translated as so.

However, the word بِكُمُ means “with” or “through,” as opposed to simply “for”.

So while the common translation may be valid, another beautiful meaning is contained in this notable choice of words.

“Allah desires through you ease,” can mean that Allah wants us, the believers, to be a source of ease and aid for humanity. He desires us to be a means of relief for those who are struggling. Another way to put it is that through us, he wants ease to be bestowed upon humanity.

Practically, this means that Muslims should always be looking for ways to benefit and lessen the burden on those around them, being a mercy in any way they can. This service takes self sacrifice, which is what fasting instills.

The discipline imparted into the believers by a regimented month of fasting is expected to bear the fruit of a community of believers willing to serve and help those around them, even if it may be at the cost of their own desires.

We ask Allah to make us a means of ease for others and to ease for us our path to him. Ameen.

A Bibliography of Studies in English on the Coherence and Structure of the Qur’an’s Suras

The topic of the Qur’an’s naẓm, “arrangement” or “composition,” has achieved significant interest in contemporary study of the scripture, giving rise to a number of extremely interesting and insightful studies of the coherence and structure of the Qur’anic suras.  Here I would like to provide a bibliography of such studies in English for interested readers and students of the Qur’an.  This post can be continually updated as further studies in this field are published.

First, however, I would like to give mention of two contemporary pioneering works outside of the English language.  First, Amin Ahsan Islahi has written a commentary of the entire Qur’an in Urdu focused on the study of coherence, titled Tadabbur-i Qur’ān (Pondering the Qur’an).  His commentary of suras 32-114 have been translated into English and may be found on  For studies of this commentary in English, see Mustansir Mir, Coherence in the Qur’an (Indianapolis: American Trust Publications, 1986), as well as Neal Robinson, Discovering the Qur’an: A Contemporary Approach to a Veiled Text, 2nd ed. (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown UP, 2003), pp. 271-283.

Second, the formal structure of all of the Meccan suras, and especially the early Meccan suras, has been studied by Angelika Neuwirth, Studien Zur Komposition Der Mekkanischen Suren (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1981). Although this work has yet to be translated into English, her findings are refined by Robinson, Discovering the Qur’an: A Contemporary Approach to a Veiled Text), pp. 97-161.  Neuwirth’s structural or thematic divisions of the Meccan suras are also outlined in an appendix by Carl Ernst, How to Read the Qur’an: A New Guide, With Select Translations (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011), pp. 213-222.

What follows is a bibliography of coherence-based studies of particular suras in English.


Sura 1: The Opening (al-Fātiḥa)

  • Michel Cuypers, “Semitic Rhetoric as a Key to the Question of the Naẓm of the Qur’anic Text” Coherence in the Qur’an 13 no. 1 (2011): 13-15.
  • Raymond Farrin, Structure and Qur’anic Interpretation: A Study of Symmetry and Coherence in Islam’s Holy Text, Ashland, OR: White Cloud Press, 2014, 1-7.

Sura 12: Joseph (Yusuf)

  • Mustansir Mir, “The Qur’anic Story Of Joseph: Plot, Themes, And Characters,” Muslim World1 (1986): 1-3, points out the chiastic structure of the sura.
  • Michel Cuypers, “Semitic Rhetoric,” 15-19, offers a deeper and more refined analysis of the sura as a ring composition.

Sura 15: al-Ḥijr

  • Ernst, 111-120, underscores the structure of the sura and its anchors with earlier suras.

Sura 17: The Night Journey (al-Isrā’)

  • Robinson, Discovering the Qur’an, 188-195.

Sura 23: The Believers (al-Mu’minūn)

  • Neal Robinson, “The Structure and Interpretation of Sūrat al-Mu’minūn,” Journal of Qur’anic Studies 2, no. 1 (2000): 89-106.

Sura 51: The Scatterers (adh-Dhāriyāt)

  • Mir, Coherence in the Qur’an, 39-41, summarizes Hamid al-Din Farahi’s analysis of the sura.
  • Ernst, 78, outlines the structure and balance of the sura.

Sura 53: The Star (an-Najm)

  • Ernst, 98-104, provides some observations on the structure and balance of the sura.

Suras 54: The Moon (al-Qamar) and 55: The All-Merciful (ar-Raḥmān) (as a sura pair)

  • Farrin, Structure and Qur’anic Interpretation, 63-69.

Sura 55: The All-Merciful (ar-Raḥmān) – also 54 and 56

  • Muhammad Abdel Haleem, “Context and Internal Relationships: Keys to Qur’anic Exegesis” Approaches to the Qur’an, eds. G. R. Hawting and Abdul-Kader A. Shareef (London: Routledge, 1993), 71-98; also presented in Muhammad Abdel Haleem, Understanding the Qur’an: Themes and Styles, 3rd ed. (London: I.B. Taurus, 2011), 161-186.

Sura 75: The Resurrection (al-Qiyama)

  • Neal Robinson, “The Qur’ān as the Word of God” in Heaven and Earth: Essex Essays in Theology and Ethics, ed. Andrew Linzey and Peter J. Wexler (Worthing: Churchman, 1986), 38-54.
  • Salwa M.S. El-Awa, Textual Relations in the Qur’ān: Relevance, Coherence, and Structure (Routledge: New York, 2006), 101-159.

Sura 78: The News (an-Naba’)

  • Robinson, Discovering the Qur’an, 167-176.

Sura 79: The Pullers (an-Nāzi‘āt)

  • Robinson, Discovering the Qur’an, 177-188.

Sura 101: The Crashing Blow (al-Qāri‘a)

  • Cuypers, “Semitic Rhetoric,” 7-9.



Sura 2: The Cow (al-Baqara)

  • Mustansir Mir, “The Sūra as a Unity: A Twentieth Century Development in Qur’an Exegesis” in Approaches to the Qur’an, eds. G. R. Hawting and Abdul-Kader A. Shareef, eds. (London: Routledge, 1993), 211–24; reprinted in Colin Turner, ed., The Koran: Critical Concepts in Islamic Studies (4 vols. London: Routledge, 2004), vol. 4, 198–209.
  • Robinson, Discovering the Qur’an, 201-223.
  • H. Mathias Zahniser, “Major Transitions and Thematic Borders in Two Long Sūras: al-Baqara and al-Nisā’” in Literary Structures of Religious Meaning in the Qur’an, ed. Issa J. Boulatta (Richmond: Curzon, 2000), 26–55.
  • David E. Smith, “The Structure of al-Baqarah,” Muslim World 91 (2001): 121–36.
  • Raymond Farrin, “Surat al-Baqara: A Structural Analysis,” Muslim World1 (2010): 17-32.
  • Farrin, Structure and Qur’anic Interpretation, 9-21.
  • Nevin Rida 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).

Sura 3: The House of ‘Imrān (Āl ‘Imrān)

  • Neal Robinson, “Surat Al ‘Imran and Those with the Greatest Claim to Abraham,” Coherence in the Qur’an 6, no. 2 (2004): 1-21.
  • Neal Robinson, “The Dynamics of Surah Āl ‘Imrān” Pak Tae-Shik, Saramui Jonggyo, Jonggyoui Saram (Seoul: Baobooks, 2008), 425-486.
  • Farrin, Structure and Qur’anic Interpretation, 24-32.
  • Bilal Gökkir, “Form and Structure of Sura Maryam—A Study from Unity of Sura Perspective,” Süleyman Demirel Üniversitesi İlahiyat Fakültesi Dergisi 16, no. 1 (2006): 1-16.

Sura 4: Women (an-Nisā’)

  • Mustansir Mir, Coherence in the Qur’an (Indianapolis: American Trust Publications, 1986), 46-62, provides a summary and analysis of Islahi’s study of the structure and coherence of the sura.
  • A. H. Mathias Zahniser, “Major Transitions and Thematic Borders in Two Long Sūras: al-Baqara and al-Nisā” in Literary Structures of Religious Meaning in the Qur’an, ed. Issa J. Boulatta (Richmond: Curzon, 2000), 26–55.
  • A. H. Mathias Zahniser, “Sura as Guidance and Exhortation: The Composition of Surat al-Nisa” in Humanism, Culture, and Language in the Near East: Studies in Honor of Georg Krotkoff, ed. Asma Afsaruddin and A.H. Mathias Zahnisr (Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1997), 71-86.

Sura 5: The Dining Table (al-Mā‘ida)

  • Neal Robinson, “Hands Outstretched: Towards a Re-Reading of Surat al-Mā’ida” Coherence in the Qur’an 3, no. 1 (2001): 1-19.
  • Michel Cuypers, The Banquet: A Reading of the Fifth Sura of the Qur’an, trans. Patricia Kelly (Miami: Convivium Press, 2009); cf. Cuypers, “Semitic Rhetoric,” 9-13.

Sura 33: The Confederations (al-Aḥzāb)

  • El-Awa, Textual Relations in the Qur’ān, 45-100.

Sura 60: She Who is to Be Examined (al-Mumtaḥana)

  • Ernst, 163-166, analyzes the sura as a ring composition.

Suras 113: Daybreak (al-Falaq) and 114: Mankind (an-Nās) as a sura pair

  • Farrin, Structure and Qur’anic Interpretation, 22-24.


Interlingual Coherence of Idris



There’s a really cool phenomenon in the Quran where Allah takes non Arab names and essentially translates them into Arabic in a manner that gives an idea of their original meaning.

The amazing thing is, the original meanings are in languages that were not even known to the Messenger at the time.

A fantastic example is the name Idris. Many Arabic linguists argue it has the root letters د ر س, which, in Arabic, alludes to study and dedication.

Idris is known in the Torah tradition as Enoch. The name Enoch, in Hebrew, means one who is well studied or dedicated.

Despite being in a completely different language, the Quran manages to convey the same meaning of the name from earlier scriptures, which, as Muslims, we believe at some point, all originated from the same source.

The congruency here is not at all coincidental, rather it is a sign. As Allah SWT says:

‎نَزَّلَ عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ مُصَدِّقًا لِّمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ وَأَنزَلَ التَّوْرَاةَ وَالْإِنجِيلَ

“He has revealed the Book to you with truth which confirms whatever there still remains of earlier revelations: for it is He who has revealed the Torah and the Gospel”

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