This surah is named Ra’d or Thunder because of its mention in verse 13: “And the thunder glorifies Him with His praise and likewise do the angels for awe of Him; and He sends the thunderbolts, and smites therewith whom He wills, yet they dispute concerning Allah, while He is severe in punishing.” (13:13)
According to Sir Zafrullah Khan, the first Foreign Minister of Pakistan and one time President of the United Nations General Assembly, in his book, Islam – Its Meaning for Modern Man, about the holy Quran:
It reasons from the physical and tangible to the spiritual and intangible. For instance: ‘Among His Signs is this; that thou seest the earth lying withered, but when We send down water on it, it stirs and swells with verdure. Surely He Who quickens the earth can quicken the dead. Verily, He has power over all things’ (41:40). Here, by quickening of the dead is meant the revival and rebirth of a people. As the dead earth is quickened by life-giving rain from heaven, a people that appears to be dead in all respects is revived and regenerated through spiritual water from the heavens, that is to say, through Divine revelation. This idea is expressed in the Quran in several places. Both resurrection and renaissance are explained with reference to the phenomenon of the dead earth being revived through life-giving rain (22:6⎯8).
The Quran repeatedly urges observation and reflection, the exercise of reason, and understanding (2:270). For instance: “In the creation of the heavens and the earth and in the alternation of the night and the day there are indeed Signs for men of understanding, who remember Allah while standing, sitting, and lying down, and ponder the creation of the heavens and the earth. This leads them to exclaim: ‘Our Lord, Thou hast not created all this without purpose; Holy art Thou’” (3:191—192).
In his quote the number of verses is off by one as he does count the first verse that is common in each surah بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ “In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful,” that others don’t.
The surah under discussion is a good example of tangible to intangible at least twice. In the very beginning we read:
Allah is He Who raised up the heavens without any pillars that you can see. Then He settled Himself on the Throne. And He pressed the sun and the moon into service: each pursues its course until an appointed term. He regulates it all. He clearly explains the Signs, that you may have a firm belief in the meeting with your Lord. (13:2)
Here, Allah is using gravity and our solar system as an argument for Afterlife. If this line of reasoning is not immediately apparent to you, please consider reading our commentary of Surah Waqi’ah.
Below is another beautiful metaphor from this surah, describing how Allah has set up rules of human interaction that whatever is beneficial to humanity is given permanence in earth.
He sends down water from the sky, so that valleys flow according to their measure, and the flood bears on its surface swelling foam. And from that which they heat in the fire, seeking to make ornaments or utensils, comes out a foam similar to it. Thus does Allah illustrate truth and falsehood. Now, as to the foam, it goes away as rubbish, but as to that which benefits men, it stays on the earth. Thus does Allah set forth parables. (13:17)
For additional examples for tangible to intangible please see: Surah Ghashiah – The Overwhelming Event, 10:25 & 32-36; 20:50-56; 26:19-30 and 27:60-67.
According to Seyyed Hossein Nasr, in the introduction to this surah:
The surah afﬁrms the Divine Source of what has been revealed to the Prophet, even though most people do not believe in it (v. 1) or doubt both the Resurrection (v. 5) and that the Prophet is a messenger from God (vv. 7, 43). It also draws attention to the many wonders of the natural world, all of which are entirely dependent upon God for their subsistence (vv. 2-4.); like the thunder mentioned in v. 13 (and from which the surah derives its name), they also partake in the gloriﬁcation of God (vv. 12-13, 15). Drawing on natural phenomena again, an important parable of water from the sky is provided in order to illustrate the stark difference between truth and falsehood (v. 17). Those who disbelieve, fail to heed God’s call, and work corruption upon the earth encounter calamities in this world (vv. 25, 31) and are promised Hell in the next (vv. 18, 25, 34.); those who believe and are righteous live tranquilly in this world (v. 28) and are promised Paradise in the next (vv. 18, 23-24., 29, 35).
The other important theme in this surah is peace of mind, “Those who believe, and whose hearts find comfort in the remembrance of Allah. Aye! it is in the remembrance of Allah that hearts can find comfort; Those who believe and do good works — happiness shall be theirs, and an excellent place of return.” (13:28-29)
This is the best prescription there is to achieve tranquility.
Secularism and Buddhism, at least in its present form, provide a good paradigm for minimizing our concerns and worries by stressing the ephemeral nature of our worldly experience and possessions, without the concept of God. There is a lot of good material being created for achieving peace of mind through meditation, largely based on Buddhism and modern psychology. Some suggested reading: 5 Mantras to Help You Become Calm and Confident.
This is all well and good and useful; here is some additional suggested reading: Doctor’s Orders: 20 Minutes Of Meditation Twice a Day – How about 10 minutes 5 Times a day? and Can You Chant from the Bible or the Quran to Bliss and Happiness?
The Quran also stresses the temporary and ephemeral nature of our contemporary world on scores of occasions, for example in this very surah as: “Allah enlarges His provision for whomsoever He pleases and straitens it for whomsoever He pleases. And they rejoice in the present life, while the present life is but a temporary enjoyment as compared with that which is to come.” (13:26)
But the Quran goes a step beyond Buddhism and modern study of psychology, by suggesting a friend of infinite knowledge and powers, God Almighty and a paradigm of eternal success and happiness in the Afterlife. As we learn the right thoughts and begin to act wisely in light of the teachings of Islam (103:1-3), we begin to feel fellowship with the All-Powerful God and anxieties and concerns begin to disappear in thin air over time.
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Founder of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community wrote:
How unfortunate, indeed, is the man who does not even know that he has a God with power over all things! Our paradise is in our God. Our highest delight is in our God for we have seen Him and have found every beauty in Him. This wealth is worth procuring though one may have to lay down one’s life to procure it. This ruby is worth purchasing though one may have to lose one’s self to acquire it. O ye, who are bereft, run to this fountain and it will satiate your thirst. It is the fountain of life that will save you. What shall I do, and by what drum shall I make the announcement that this is your God, so that people might hear? What remedy shall I apply to their ears so that they should listen? If you belong to Allah, rest assured that Allah will indeed belong to you …
Whilst you will sleep, He will keep watch over you; while you neglect your vigil against the enemy, He will keep an eye on him and disrupt his plans. Even now you have no idea what wondrous powers your God has. If you had known, then no day could have dawned on you for you to grieve over for lack of things of this world. A man who has a treasure in his possession, does he weep and cry over the loss of a penny, as though he were about to Perish? Had you been aware of this treasure that God would suffice for all your needs, what reason was there for you to be so wholly absorbed in things of this world?
To read the booklet with the above excerpt click here.
- Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation. http://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/practicing-mindfulness-an-introduction-to-meditation.html
- The Science of Mindfulness: A Research-Based Path to Well-Being
- 3. The booklet is available online: Our Teachings.