Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Book of Signs

Click for photo creditSubhanallah.

Surah Yunus begins thus:

Alif. Laam. Raa. Tilka ayatu alkitabi alHakeem.

I don't know very much Arabic, but I know every word in this sentence above. It starts with three miracle letters, the meaning of which is with Allah alone, then it says what means "These are the ayaat of the wise book." Ayaat is one of those beautiful words associated with the Qur'an that I prefer to use, rather than its common faulty translations. All the translation I looked up for this ayah translated the word ayaat (which is, btw, the plural of ayah) to mean "verses."

The Qur'an is divided into 114 chapters called suwar-->the plural of surah, though I'll just say surahs from now on. Each surah is further divided into enumerated ayaat. In a poem, that might be called verses, but as the Qur'an is not poetry the word does not quite apply. Another mean of the word ayah (or plural ayaat) is a sign (signs.)

So would it not also be correct to translate the ayah as "These are the signs of the wise book?" I don't know--I'm NOT by any standard whatsoever qualified to translate the Qur'an. I just love that every single "verse" (poor translation of the Qur'an) is actually a "sign."

So the Qur'an is a book filled with signs. One after another, after another filling pages upon pages and preserved in the hearts and memories of the Muslims. I love that. Sometimes I mention to people that there was really a single ayah in the Qur'an that took me out of Christianity--it was the sign for me that pointed me towards Islam. The guidance. One ayah.

I tell people that ayah all the time (especially Christians) but it certainly doesn't have the same effect as it did for me. Not that it has to. But when I hear about Sahaba (Companions of the Prophet Muhammad saws) embracing Islam after hearing the Qur'an--even just a little bit of it--it doesn't shock me. Because the Qur'an is a book of guidance, is it not?
This is the Book (the Quran), whereof there is no doubt, a guidance to those who are Al-Muttaqun. 2:2
So the Qur'an is guidance.
We have indeed sent down (in this Quran) manifest Ayaat. And Allah guides whom He wills to a Straight Path. 24:46
And the Qur'an is signs. Muhsin Khan in his translation after the word "Ayaat" writes in parentheses: proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, lawful and unlawful things, and the set boundries of Islamic religion, etc. that make things clear showing the Right Path of Allah. So many meanings encompassed by the word Ayaat. So beautiful.

I mean to say, if I could summarize so far, that the Qur'an is a book of signs, and guidance from Allah.

I was reminded of this simple but amazing fact when listening to a conversion story a few days ago. (Part 1, Part 2) The brother explains how he was reading the Qur'an and stopped to ask Allah for a sign. Then he mentions that the next verse he read was directed at people, or describing the people who ask for signs. I couldn't find what verse specifically he was talking about (and I'm not the first to ask) but we know that the Qur'an mentions people who ask about signs, and it also mentions the signs obvious for anyone to see--but which are really only signs for the people of knowledge.

Sometimes people will desire to increase their faith, their iman, and the answer for that seems pretty clear--study the proofs, study the signs, study the Qur'an.


Shamsuddin Waheed said...


Sister, another fine post. The Prophet's son in law 'Ali Ibn Abi Taalib is reported to have said that the Qur'an has several layers, an outer as well as a deeper, inner conponent [Dhaahiran wa Baatinan].

One unique quality that I have noticed throughout my life in my study of it is that it has the ability to tell different people different things, that guidance, the Ayah you were talking about. The Ayah that the particular reader or audience requires. It never gets boring, is always intellectually stimulating, indeed, a book full of clear Ayaat!

Today I attended a workshop by Raqif Issa Beghum, who was essentially talking about leadership concepts, and during the lecture he spoke on the Qur'anic commands for men and women to not stare lustfully [in Soorah Noor]. Anyways, he said that modern science has found that whenever a man and a woman look at each other in the eye, a chemical reaction takes place in the back of the brain, one which triggers the urge to procreate [I cannot recall the exact language, but that was his point!]

The speaker went on to say that Allah is the one who created us, so he knows what he put inside of us. So, we would do well to abide as much as possible by what he tells us to do and not to do in the Qur'an.


sami said...


An other ayaah (miracle) is the use of "Tilka ayatu..", in arabic to indicate an object witch is near we say "hada" for masculine "hadihi" for feminine. but to indicate a far object we say "dalika " for masculine "tilka " feminine (witch is also used for plural form),

So in this case despite the fact it concerns ayat in the book (Quran , which is near) we say "Tilka" , way ?
I found a nice interpretation for this, it says that it's like we indicate a summit of a mountain, the book "Quran" is so High ,with a so noble content, and considering that we say "Tilka" as if "ayat" are so far (with so high value !!!).

Unfortunately, when translated into english, this meaning disappears, regarding the translation of "Tilka ayatu .." witch is "These are the ayaat ..".

WaLlaho a3lam,
PS: excuse my bad english,i hope my idea is clear,

Amy said...

As-salaamu alaykum! Thanks for the comments.

Br., Waheed, thanks for adding that. It is indeed very interesting.

Sami, you're right--maybe the better translation is "those" instead of "these." Thanks for poinging that out!