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Chapter 2, Verse 255: The Greatest Verse of the Quran (part 1 of 2)

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Description: Islam is a God-centered religion.  Nothing illustrates this reality better than the verse named ‘The Greatest’ by the Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him.  Read this article to find out more about this verse and its beautiful explanation of who is God.

  • By Imam Mufti (© 2015 IslamReligion.com)
  • Published on 06 Apr 2015
  • Last modified on 25 Jun 2019
  • Printed: 178
  • Viewed: 150908 (daily average: 74)
  • Rating: 5 out of 5
  • Rated by: 13
  • Emailed: 2
  • Commented on: 9

"Allah: there is no true God but Him.  The Ever-Living, the Eternal Master of all.  Neither drowsiness nor sleep overtakes Him.  His is all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth.   Who is there that can intercede with Him, except by His permission?  He knows all that lies open before them and all that lies hidden from them; whereas they cannot attain to anything of His knowledge save as He wills.  His Kursi extends over the heavens and the earth, and the preservation of both does not tire Him.  He is the Most High, the Most Great." (Quran 2:255)

Introduction: What is Verse of Kursi?

Chapter-2,-Verse-255-Part-1.jpgThe second chapter of the Muslim scripture, the Quran, is called Surah al-Baqarah, or ‘The Cow.’ It contains a beautiful and important verse that is the ‘greatest’ verse of their book.  Known in Arabic as Ayah al-Kursi, the verse speaks beautifully about God.  This verse is known for its profound meaning, rhythmic and sublime language, its inspiring and comforting message, and magnificent description of God’s powers and attributes.  The verse summarizes, in powerful words, the basic principles of the Islamic faith, citing those attributes of God that most aptly assert the meaning and significance of the basic Islamic principle of Tawhid: the oneness of God.

The verse has often won the admiration of non Muslims, "...  a magnificent description of the divine majesty and providence: but it must not be supposed the translation comes up to the dignity of the original" (Sale).  "One of the most admired passages in the Koran" (Lane).  "One of the grandest verses of the Qur’an" (Wherry).

Virtues & Benefits

The Quran, or Islamic scripture, is unique in the sense that all of it was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in Arabic and he praised some of its passages and attached special rewards in reciting them.  Prophet Muhammad said,

"Everything has its pinnacle and the pinnacle of the Quran is Surah al-Baqarah.  In it there is a verse which is the greatest in the Quran." (Tirmidhi)

When a believer truly believes in these attributes of God, it frees him from anxiety and fear of the unknown.  It also makes him strive to be pious and righteous as he knows that he will be answerable for his deeds on the Day of Judgment where nothing except his piety and faith can come to his rescue.  It makes him refute the claims of polytheists who believe in many deities and affirm other gods beside God.

Being the greatest verse of the Quran, Muslims are encouraged to recite it regularly.  The Prophet Muhammad said that if one reads this verse after every prayer, Muslims pray five times daily, then only a person’s life (that ends with death) will stop that person from entering Paradise.  The believer who recites it following an obligatory prayer is under the care and protection of God until the commencement of the next prayer[1].

Finally, the Prophet said that reciting Ayah al-Kursi will protect you, your children, and your house[2].

Explanation

This verse comprises of 10 phrases. Below is a brief explanation of each one of them:

"Allah: there is no true God but Him."

There is no God save Him.  There is none who deserves worship but Him.  None are to be worshipped instead of Him or along with Him.  This is our purpose in life and the reason God sent prophets and revealed scriptures.  And ultimately, it is this aspect about which we will be judged on the Day of Judgment.

God is One and none has the right to be worshiped but Him.  We should associate no partners with Him.  He Alone has the ultimate unconditional right to be worshipped.

This statement clearly and definitively distinguishes the Islamic concept of God from that of the Trinity, adopted and advanced by Christian church councils long after Jesus, and from the pagan beliefs of the ancient Egyptians who confused God with the sun and recognized the existence of lesser gods beside Him.

"The Ever-Living, the Eternal Master of all."

While everything on this earth is mortal and temporary, God is eternal and ever living.  It is God who sustains everyone and everything.  The Living, i.e., the Eternal, who has no beginning and who will have no end.  In other words, this is His Attribute and not the quality of He being alive (in the sense in which we understand life).  All things worshipped besides God are neither ever-living, nor does creation depend on them.  Rather, they themselves depend upon God for their existence and sustenance.

God is self-subsisting who sustains all else.  He neither changes nor disappears.  Creation cannot exist without God holding it together.

This corrects the Jewish and Christian idea of God ‘resting’ on the seventh day after His great exertion in creating the universe, ‘and on the seventh day God ended his work which He had made.  And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it: because that in it He had rested from all His work which God created and made’ (Genesis 2: 2, 3)

"Neither slumber nor sleep overtakes Him."

No shortcoming, unawareness or ignorance ever touches God.  Rather, He is aware of, and controls what every soul earns, has perfect watch over everything, nothing escapes His knowledge, and no secret matter is secret from Him.  Among His perfect attributes, is the fact that He is never affected by slumber or sleep.  In fact, He started this phrase with slumber which is a lighter condition before mentioning sleep, which is a much deeper condition.  In other words, He is telling us that if mere slumber cannot overtake Him, why then should sleep!

Everything on the earth follows a cycle.  The sun rises and sets.  The tides ebb and flow.  The moon wanes and grows.  Living creatures are born and then they die.  But our Creator is nothing like the things we see around ourselves.  God is free of all imperfections, bodily needs and weaknesses.  Neither slumber nor sleep overtakes Him. 

"His is all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth."

To God belongs whatsoever is in them and between them.  He is the Most High, the Provider, the King, the Regulator.  All creations are subjects in His Kingdom, and He is able to do whatever He pleases with them. 

This concept gives a new definition of ownership as applied to individual human beings.  For, since God is the ultimate owner of all that exists, no one else can claim absolute ownership of anything in this world.  People are, therefore, mere custodians of what they possess, which is entrusted to them by God.  Accordingly, they are bound by the terms of that custodianship, as set out by God Almighty, the ultimate owner, in the divine code of living revealed to mankind.  Any violation of these terms leads to disqualification and censure of the trustee.



Footnotes:

[1] Nasai and others

[2] Saheeh Al-Bukhari and others

 

 

Chapter 2, Verse 255: The Greatest Verse of the Quran (part 2 of 2)

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Description: Islam is a God-centered religion. Nothing illustrates this reality better than the verse named ‘The Greatest’ by the Prophet Muhammad. Read this article to find out more about this verse and its beautiful explanation of who is God.

  • By Imam Mufti (© 2015 IslamReligion.com)
  • Published on 13 Apr 2015
  • Last modified on 25 Jun 2019
  • Printed: 98
  • Viewed: 20695 (daily average: 10)
  • Rating: 4.1 out of 5
  • Rated by: 8
  • Emailed: 1
  • Commented on: 0

"Who is there that can intercede with Him, except by His permission?"

Chapter-2,-Verse-255-Part-2.jpgNo one can intercede and be an advocate on behalf of someone without God’s permission and pleasure.  Allah has perfect control of everything.  Intercession is by God’s grace and mercy and reserved on the Day of Judgment only for those whom God allows to intercede, such as the prophets and righteous. As for those who worship false gods, they will have no right of intercession on that Day.

In contrast with the Islamic principle that salvation depends primarily on one's own faith and deeds, and intercession will only be allowed in favor of the deserving, who fell just short of the target but were right on the track, the two preceding great religions, Christianity and Judaism, have both relied heavily on unlimited and unrestricted intercession for salvation.

The denial of love and intercession in the Hereafter concerns the unbelievers. The sentiments of love between the believers will survive. Accordingly, they will intercede for each other with Allah's leave. "They cannot intercede except for him with whom He is pleased with." (Quran 21:28) 

The Prophet, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, said:

"The people will come to me and I will proceed to seek my Lord’s permission. I will be granted leave. When I see Him, I will fall prostrate. He will allow me to remain in that state so long as He will. Then it will be said: 'Muhammad, raise your head and ask, you will be heard! Intercede and your intercession will be granted.' Then I will praise my Lord with words that He will reveal to me then. Thereafter I shall begin to intercede; but a limit will be set (about what kind of people it is for whom I could intercede). Consequently, I shall take them out of the Fire and usher them into Paradise".

"He knows all that lies open before them and all that lies hidden from them;"

God's knowledge is absolute, and is not conditioned by space or time.

He knows the state of His creation. He knows what was, what is, and what will be. He knows what is hidden and what is manifest. He knows what his creatures achieved and what they lost. He knows what they did in the past and what they will do in the future. He knows what they hide and what they show. Nothing escapes His knowledge. Nothing confounds Him. His knowledge is limitless, while the creation’s is limited.  As God says elsewhere in the Quran: "He knows what is before them and behind them, but they cannot compass it in knowledge." (Quran 21:110)

God is aware of all our deeds and actions and controls what every soul earns. He has perfect watch over everything. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and the earth indicates that all creatures come under divine sovereignty.

Fate and destiny are in God’s control and He knows what happens to His creatures in this world, and what will happen to them in the Hereafter. God has perfect knowledge of all creation and its past, present and future.

"whereas they cannot attain to anything of His knowledge save as He wills."

All knowledge is from God and we can never learn anything except that which He wills.

God has blessed human beings with the gift of knowledge, but no matter how much human knowledge progresses, it will remain a drop in an ocean compared to divine knowledge. Human beings fall short of fully knowing themselves, how can they imagine to grasp the knowledge of the world of the Unseen? None of the creation knows anything of the Unseen, except for prophets who were given some knowledge of it.

"His Kursi extends over the heavens and the earth,"

Like divine knowledge encompasses all creation, the Kursi – the footstool of God – encompasses the whole universe. That’s is the greatness of God.

The Kursi is nothing in comparison to the Throne, except like an iron ring tossed into a spacious plain of earth (Ibn Hibban). So if the Kursi is like this, then what about the Throne of God, Most Glorified and Exalted!

Therefore, all of the creation in relationship to God is very small and nothing in comparison to Him. If only one thing from God’s creation, the Kursi, is bigger than the heavens and the earth, but still smaller than the Throne, then God, the Mighty and Majestic, is greater than everything.

"and the preservation of both does not tire Him."

Nothing weakens Him.  Much or little, easy or difficult, more or less, great or humble – Allah preserves all and it does not tire Him in the least.

He feels no weariness in guarding and preserving the heavens and the earth and this indicates that God cannot be compared to anything mortal. It does not burden or cause Him fatigue to protect the heavens and earth and all that is in between them. Rather, this is an easy matter for Him. 

The phrase, "the preservation of both does not tire Him," is an expression of God’s omnipotence, depicting in simple but powerful terms how easy it is for God to sustain and preserve the heavens and the earth.

"He is the Most High, the Most Great."

He is at the peak of height and peak of greatness beyond human imagination as befits His Majesty. 

God is the Most High; nothing is above Him, and nothing resembles Him. God is the Possessor of majesty and holiness, perfection and glory, beauty and grandeur. Nothing is greater than Him for God is the Supreme, the Great.

No matter how powerful or great a human being may grow, he can never rise above being a servant of God. Once this fact is firmly established in man’s mind, it will enhance his status as subordinate to God and restrain his pride and transgression. He will truly fear God and appreciate His majesty and power, and will seek to be more humble towards God and less haughty in dealing with his fellow human beings.

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