In the interest of conserving space on this blog post, I have included a link to the Arabic text, English translation, and English transliteration for listeners to follow along with the audio.
During the second week of our course, we studied styles of Qur’anic recitation throughout different countries, cultures, as well as the origins of the revelation and compilation of the Qur’an. We also studied the the power of the aesthetic allure of the Qur’an, how its beauty has endured over times, and how it has been preserved in the minds of Muslims for over 1400 years.
For this blog, I recited surah An-Najm, The Star (chapter 53). The chapter gets its name from the fact that Allah opens up by swearing by the star. The chapter has three main sections. During the first section, Allah addresses the people of Makkah, admonishing them for their doubt in the validity of the Qur’anic message, as well as their claims that Muhammad has made up the verses and spoke out of delusion. Allah explicitly states “And he (i.e. Muhammad) does not speak out of (his own) desire. It is but revelation revealed (to him). It is taught to him by one (angel) mighty in power” (verses 3-5), and so forth.
In the second section, Allah affirms his absolute sovereignty and knowledge over the entirety of the universe, far above the idols fashioned by those who have strayed from the universal message of submission, sent to previous nations.
Doubtful of this seemingly new message from God, the people of Quraysh (Muhammad’s tribe) initially turned away from the message. In the third section, Allah reiterates that His message has been sent to mankind before, through the scriptures of Musa (Moses), Ibrahim (Abraham). Previous nations may have been given different commandments, but they are all inspired by the same source: islam, submission to the One God.
After presenting these various themes, Allah concludes by warning mankind of the impending Hour, which no one can avert, the Day when all souls will return to Him and stand before Him to be judged in the afterlife. The concluding verse “So fall in prostration and worship (Allah)” (verse 62) is one of 15 verses of prostration throughout the Qur’an. Upon recitation of such a verse, the reciter of the Qur’an immediately falls into prostration and makes a special dua (supplication), provided their current condition allows.
According to a hadith recorded by Al-Bukhari and narrated by Hadrat Abdullah Ibn Al-Mas’ud, this surah was the first that the prophet Muhammad recited publicly, in front the Ka’bah, for all present to hear. Upon reciting the final verse of prostration, the entire assembly present, both believers and non-believers, fell in prostration, including the chiefs of the Quraysh who had previously discredited his message. Utterly captivated by the beauty and power of the recitation, none were immune to the power of the Qur’anic words. This story is just one of many stories that exemplify the mysterious power of the aesthetics of the Qur’an, the likes of which the Arabs had never encountered before. After Muhammad’s death, the recitation was passed on for generations, and remains the most well-preserved text in human memory on the planet.
That being said, our primary responsibility as Muslims, far more important than rote memorization is the proper application of its message in order to live lives of peace, empathy, and service, and this task requires good intentions, proper guidance, and consistent humility.
And Allah knows best.