Monday, April 20, 2015

The Qur'an Surah 36: Ya Sin

The following is from a work-in-progress called The Qur'an: a Book Report, in which I read each surah of the Qur'an and write about what I learn. 

This surah takes its title from the first two letters of the first verse: ya and sin.  Scholars disagree about the meaning of this title.  Tafsir al-Jalalayn has written, "Allah knows best what He means by these."  Which is another way of saying, "Who knows?"  Ya Sin is a very popular and important surah.  It is often called "The Heart of the Qur'an" because it sums up so concisely and beautifully the major themes of the Qur'an.  These themes are as follows...

Muhammad is God's messenger, sent to warn people about God's mercy and His wrath.  Many messengers (prophets) have been sent before.  Like Muhammad, they all experienced some rejection and haters.  People have a tendency to reject God's messengers.  Remember what happened to Jesus?  God is shown in nature, so people have no excuse for unbelief.  St. Paul made a similar argument in Romans 1:20: "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse."  A final resurrection and Day of Judgment is coming, in which people's ultimate destiny will be decided.  The prophet is no mere poet, and the Qur'an is more than poetry--it is a revelation from God.

Arabic calligraphy art using the text of Surah Ya Sin.

After reading "Ya Sin," I decided to look online for some videos of people reciting this popular surah.  I wanted to hear it recited/sung, because that is how we are meant to experience the Qur'an--not as silent words on a page, but as a human utterance.  I found a cool web site, where you can hear each verse recited in Arabic, along with both English text, Arabic text, and transliteration from Arabic to English.  Check it out HERE

What I immediately realize, listening to the recitation, is that the Qur'an invites a kind of meditative, emotional response that is simply not possible when reading an English translation.  There is also a kind of direct connection to history and Arabic culture that is undoubtedly meaningful to Muslims.  Listening to these recitations, I get a feeling I got when I went to a very old Eastern Orthodox liturgical church service.  Though I could not understand the literal meaning of the words, something deeper got communicated, like music.  In our fast-paced, modern lives, I think it's important to slow down, listen to something beautiful, and meditate--no matter what your beliefs.  Check out a nice recitation video HERE.

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