Deep TafsirsSoul Cleansers

Ensouling Language

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(I carry this book around in a plastic bag and I put that bag in another bag because greasy fingerprints and dented pages are a big no-no in my book.)

Anyway, as I was reading, I thought, how wonderful of Picasso to distill the secret of art into a single sentence: “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

Qur`ān breaks rules, sometimes. Sometimes its rhyme delays, its poetry breaks, its topics travel offbeat and romp on the fringes of mystery. While most writing rebels break rules for attention, Qur`ān does so with purpose. And what unfolds before us is quite revelatory. Let me show you: “We have certainly guided him upon the path, whether he be shākir (grateful) or kafūr (most disbelieving).” (al-`Insān)

إنا هدينٰه السبيل إما شاكراً وإما كفوراً ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀

Listen for the break in end-rhyme: Shākir. Kafūr. Both the mufassir and the poet will ask, why not use “shakūr” and “kafūr” to create a poetic parallel? After all, the Qur`ān is all for assonance. Something doesn’t settle. Scholars say that had Allah used the word “shakūr,” He would have held humans to an impossible standard. You see, “shakūr” is the hyperbolic version of “shākir.” It conjures images of the perfectly grateful, the perpetually thankful, a person who projects shukr both thoroughly and completely all day every day day and night no breaks. That is not the human. Our gratitude fritters when things “go wrong.” It slips into a susurrus when we wish we had more, or when what we expect to happen passes us, when fate unfolds despite our longings.

When we wish.
When we wish.
When we wish.

Allah recognizes this. So He breaks the poetic parallel, He skips the assonance and introduces a more humble version of the grateful human: the shākir. Because even if we were to enumerate a single niʿmah from Allah, a single gift, we would never be able to do it. The shākir tries… He tries.

[Inspired by Shaykh Nāṣir al-ʿUmar’s series, ليدبروا آياته]

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