We believe that the most important verse of this surah is: “Indeed We have made the Qur’an easy to understand and to remember. But is there anyone who would receive admonition?” (54:17)
It is repeated a total of four times in this surah. But, many of us don’t find it easy and struggle with the understanding of the holy Quran. So what is the catch?
The foremost reason may be that we outsource our understanding to those whom we label with the title, “the scholars of Islam.” So, when we take their interpretations as ‘the word of God,’ this creates some fixed ideas in our thinking and we cannot easily resolve the apparent conflict in the understanding of different verses of the holy Quran. The Quran actually tells us, “Will they not think about this Quran? If it had been from anyone other than God, they would have found much inconsistency and contradiction in it.” (4:82)
We have a good news for you. If you have been successful in any human endeavor, a field of study, a business, a job or your life in general, then you are capable of understanding the holy Quran. It is not rocket science!
Trust your judgment and be honest to yourself as God will judge you on your abilities that He gave you. But, first try to grasp what is fundamental in the holy Quran and do not go after the allegorical. Let the fundamental define the allegorical and not vice versa. The Quran says:
He it is Who has sent down to you (Muhammad) the Book; in it there are verses that are fundamental or decisive in meaning — these are the corner stone of the Book — and there are others that are susceptible of different interpretations. But those in whose hearts is perversity pursue those that are susceptible of different interpretations, seeking discord and wrong interpretation of such ambiguous verses. And none knows their right interpretation except Allah and those who are firmly grounded in knowledge; they say, ‘We believe in it; the whole is from our Lord.’ — And none heed except those gifted with understanding. (3:7)
So, what is a fundamental teaching?
A fundamental teaching is what is substantiated not from one perspective but from multiple or all angles. It is something which does not leave the slightest doubt in your heart and mind. It is something that you can easily defend, no matter who the audience. It is something that you like to preach to your children and you don’t hide from anyone. It is something that is true whether you are on the receiving end or the opposite. It is true whether you are a leader or a follower. It is true whether you are among the ‘haves’ or the ‘have-nots.’ It is not what is preached by one scholar, one leader or one sect of Islam. It is true if it follows the Golden Rule.
It is a fundamental teaching if it fulfills all or a majority of the above conditions.
A fundamental Quranic teaching is one that is not mentioned once or twice in the scripture, rather dozens of times from different angles and perspectives.
Once you have a few fundamentals going for you, you will be able to understand more and more of the Quranic text. The Quran will be made easy for you. You will begin to resolve the apparent conflicts in the Quran. Because your understanding would be in keeping of the Divine understanding and rise above the vulnerability of human inconsistencies and contradictions.
So, let us start with a few fundamentals.
We believe the two fundamental beliefs in Islam, which it shares with Judaism and Christianity are belief in the Transcendent God and accountability in the life after death. The former is discussed at some length in the commentary of Surah Fatihah and the latter in the commentary of Surah Waqi’ah. These two set of beliefs are not highlighted just a couple of times in the Quran, rather they find a mention or allusion in almost every surah of the Quran.
As every religion claims that it is based on compassion and even agnostics and atheists promote humanism, for the sake of our global village we need to focus more on compassionate and just human interactions.
We believe that the two fundamental themes in the Quran for interaction in the human family are compassion and justice. The former is discussed in Surah Fatihah and the latter in one of the sections of Surah Nisa. It is said that the Golden rule is shared by each and every religion. We do see it in the teachings of the holy Quran also.
We believe that compassion and justice is not covered just a couple of times in the Quran, rather they find a mention or allusion in almost every surah of the Quran.
The holy Quran tells us repeatedly that arrogance, jealousy and insistence on old traditions (43:20-25) are the main causes of preventing a wholesome understanding of the scripture or Divine message.
Now a few words more specific to this surah, rather than the Quran in general. According to Seyyed Hossein Nasr in introduction to this surah:
The ﬁrst two verses of al-Qamar are understood by the Vast majority of commentators as a reference to a miracle performed by the Prophet. One evening he was addressing a group of disbelievers and Muslims on the plain of Mina, just outside of Makkah. The disbelievers had been disputing with the Prophet for several days, demanding a miracle as proof of his prophethood, and they began to do so again. The Prophet then raised his hand and pointed to the moon, whereupon it appeared to separate into two halves, one on either side of nearby Mt. Hira’. He then said, ‘Bear witness!’ (IK, T), and the line of separation disappeared. All were left speechless, but his opponents soon discounted it as an illusion produced by sorcery. According to one account, one of the disbelievers said, ‘Muhammad has merely bewitched us, but he cannot bewitch the entire world. Let us wait for travelers to come from faraway places and hear what reports they bring.’ Then, when some travelers arrived in Makkah a few days later, they conﬁrmed that they too had witnessed the splitting of the moon (IK).
We do believe in this miracle, but based on the modern astronomical knowledge think that it did not literally happen, as that would have led to catastrophic destruction on the planet earth, including Makkah and Madinah. So, we think it must have been some sort of optical phenomenon the details of which we don’t know, at least not at present.
The commentary of the rest of the surah to follow over time.