The second surah opens with a description what the Book is and who it is written for:
This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allah (2:2)
Divine Revelation is privileged in its status of certainty. All signs in the world point to God, but the Kitab points perfectly to this property of the world and is thus guidance (meta-ayat). But a precondition of entry into this fact is God consciousness: otherwise the book will effectively not be opened.
Who believe in the unseen, establish prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them (2:3)
These conditions are related, co-dependent modes of being in the world:
- Belief in the unseen is not merely faith in or acceptance of different abstract realms beyond our own. It is a comprehension that the unseen grounds that which we see. The Arabic for “belief” derives from the root (A-M-N) that has the additional connotation of trust and entrustment (Amina, Prophecy’s mother) and security. To believe in the unseen is not a dogma or article of faith but, rather, a comprehended, experienced certainty that grounds everything we do and say in life (all love affairs must be grounded in complete trust/belief in the lover, otherwise we are just fooling ourselves).
- Establishment here has the additional connotation (from the Arabic root Q-W-M) of standing, uprightness, firmness. Once we have comprehended the unseen, submission is the means by which we can navigate this awareness — without submission, awareness of the unseen can lead us to dangerous territories.
- And finally, to “spend” here is to spend the wealth that is given through submission. Wealth, in whatever form we perceive it, is ultimately a Divine provision of Love. Divine Love is Wisdom. So Wealth is Wisdom. Submission is a bi-directional relationship: in submitting in love, we are grounded by the Love that comes down to us in the form of Wisdom, Knowing, Certainty. This Love is Wisdom that we are then commanded to spend in charity. Charity is creativity, it is bestowal of the Love we have received to the Others. Through this action of bestowal, of giving, we know ourselves, we are able to journey (without giving we do not travel) — and as the Love is a provision that is ultimately borrowed, God Loves to be known by these actions.
The book is for those who have belief in the unseen, and within that space of belief, establish prayer in submission and who employ the Wisdom/Love felt/provided through that establishment to creatively bestow on the Others. The book is for those who follow a trajectory of Belief, Submission and Transmission.
Note 2: Those who disbelieve.
The surah contains a number of warnings relating those who disbelieve. These warnings concern an important aspect of the human known as the nafs — this is the aspect of selfhood that is capable of disbelief. The Qur’an reminds us, though, that the higher parts of the human soul are not subject to the same warnings.
Each warning considers a different aspect of disbelief and the punishments related therein can cause us to be fearful and anxious in either a good way or a bad way. The “good” way consists of a level of sadness in Love for those aspects of the human selfhood (our own or others) that are state of disbelief — and a physical fear of the purging, because the purging of the nafs is a physical and literal punishment. The “bad” way consists of cultivating a level of fear that creates an image of God as an angry policing figure: we must trust — as we have noted, belief is trust — in God’s infinite Mercy/Love.
Allah has set a seal upon their hearts and upon their hearing, and over their vision is a veil. And for them is a great punishment. (2:7)
The “sealing” of the qalb is the characterisation of their nature. The soul consists of (at least) four aspects: the nafs, the qalb, the ruh and the sirr. Each of these aspects occupies a projection within the four rivers of knowledge (water, milk, wine and hone). The nafs is our ordinary conception of the self-as-ego: the roles we play in society, family, culture, history (father, accountant, consumer, etc), the self that is determined and situated according to the values of whatever system we find ourselves living within. The qalb is the higher aspect of selfhood, the projection of the soul that exists within the Angelic realms, that is still “you”, but divorced from the day-to-day situation of the nafs. The ruh is higher still, the physical, Real “you”, the soul as breath of God.
A believer is someone who manages to keep their nafs healthy and has the conduits of the self open between the higher projections of themselves. A conduit exists from the ruh to qalb to the nafs, from the breath to self-as-heart to the self-as-head, so to speak. The un-Sealed self-as-heart, the qalbic aspect of our being is self-reflection, it is an Angelic “looking down” upon our situation in day-to-day life, with comprehension that the self-as-head is merely playing out a role in a play where each word in the script — each ayat — is nothing more nor less than an acting direction on behalf of the Great Director, given always in Love for the players.
When the qalb is not sealed, there is a conduit from divine Breath to heart to nafs … and this realisation is activated, so the nafs finds itself in a miraculous space. When the qalb is sealed, this self-as-heart is unable to provide this witnessing to the self-as-head, which carries on in life assuming there is nothing outside its role in the play, forgetting that it is an actor playing a role in a play.
All human evil, all suffering, all psychoses and cruelty — come from a situation where the nafs shuts off conduits and this position.
It leads to a fascist relationship (either as subject or ruler) to a particular system of life or world view (a relationship in which valuation is privileged in place of Belief, Submission, Transmission).
It you are worried about how an Infinitely Merciful God will cast all into the hellfire of eternity for nafs problems, this verse explains. Their higher-selfhood, their self-as-ruh, their True selfhood, their innocent soul is protected: it is sealed from themselves. It is the lower, sealed qalb and nafs that is subject to the greater punishment.
In this sense, there is Mercy to those who do not believe, because they are equipped with “trapped” qalbs/hearts that do affirm Truth in Submission. It is just that “they” have no conduit to their own hearts and, by the very nature of Judgement-as-Fire, “they” (their heads, rather than hearts) are burnt away.
This works at all levels: from individual to group. The nafs of an individual is itself a multiplicity of soul fragments (our nafs is an ummah of generations past and future, in and of itself), so some may be aligned and in a state of alignment to the heart, while others may not be, and will be subject to burning.
But likewise, a group of individuals can be seen in the same way. Currently, from a social/group/caliphate perspective, in this day and age, the qalb has been sealed and we do, collectively, occupy a misprison of pathological nafs. It is sometimes said that the doors of Prophecy are closed after the final revelation: the age of miracles has passed. It is impossible to implement Islam completely and totally within a large inter-subjective framework, because of the sealing: we are collectively separate from our hearts and cannot — do not — love each other effectively. We only have to look around us to see this.
That’s just at one scale, of course: at local, ad hoc levels there are ways around this and establishing (or reconnecting) the conduits to the upper selves in interaction with each other. (We have called this a movement from Medina to infinitesmal Fadaks.)
In their hearts is disease, so Allah has increased their disease; and for them is a painful punishment because they [habitually] used to lie. (2:10)
There are a number of instances in which we might misread God’s actions as perversely contrary. This is not the case, astagfirullah.
The paradox of the disease of the heart is that it stems from Allah’s “increase”. The Face of God is experienced everywhere we turn according to two principles: withdrawal (contraction, absence) and bestowal (increasing, expansion, presence). Both are modes of Love: to withdraw is to provide an Absence that drives desire and enables ayat to point and indicate in Love (via ties of kinship).
On the other hand, Allah increases always in the mode of Love, always in bestowal of Love. But this bestowal, this charity of provision is inevitably something that is squandered by its recipients.
“Allah increases” and so there is “disease” by virtue of the squandering (squandering is the disease itself). This can occur in any number of situations, the most important of which is squandering the increasing provision granted us by this very verse itself!
Note 3: Generations
O mankind, worship your Lord, who created you and those before you, that you may become righteous (2:21)
The predecessors, generations past, figure in a variety of ways in the Book. In reading the ayat relating them to us, it is important to remember that what is meant is not merely previous historical generations, but, rather, soul fragmentation/restoration in bifurcating lines from the original soul of Adam (whose creation is described within this juz).
Note 4: Muhammed and Adam
The Muhammedean waveform preceeds the Adamic body (and the restitution of that body follows the Muhammedean sealing, in the return of the Christ according to our hadeeth). The process of emanation from Servanthood (the Muhammedean waveform) to the generation of the primordial human is related in verses (2:23-39).
The Muhammedean slave/messaging waveform is what gives rise to the surah of life, of perception, of reality. There is nothing “outside” of this, so to speak, apart from the Witness whose surplus of Love has led to this impossible perturbation. It is a waveform from earth to sky and sky to earth. It is a bidirectional perturbation: rain falls down from the outer sphere of the perturbation, forming the water of the nafs upon the earth of human creation, from which fruits spring (speech-act maps of wine and honey) reaching back upwards, by the Bestowal of Rain, to an “escape” or “transcendence” in mirror Bestowal of of Messaging.
[He] who made for you the earth a bed [spread out] and the sky a ceiling and sent down from the sky, rain and brought forth thereby fruits as provision for you. So do not attribute to Allah equals while you know [that there is nothing similar to Him]. And if you are in doubt about what We have sent down upon Our Servant [Muhammad], then produce a surah the like thereof and call upon your witnesses other than Allah , if you should be truthful. (2:22-23)
What is “sent down” upon the Slave from the Bestowal of the Sky is rain and what derives from this is fruit, in the Slave’s speech, upon the Differentiated (Absence-driven) geography of the Earth.
There is no Witness beside Allah (in the sense of a valuative gaze) outside of this process of Creation, because the Creation is the Witnessing of Allah, it is the rain and fruition, the messaging being sent down and the slavery affirmed upward.
This process is pre-Adamic, in the sense that the entire fabric of Creation is nothing more than sending down upon the Slave.
The process of Adamic formation is then described. From the generation of the earth (the differentiated plane of immanence), then derives the seven heavens. These seven heavens can be related to in a number of ways — including as the planes of the Mi’raj — but fundamentally constitute a regulating map of human body that is the body itself. (2:29) And by virtue of their regulation, the primordial Adam then “succeeds in authority”, the unbroken body/soul.
This original body is such that it has knowledge of all the names: it recognizes within the Earth-Sky axis of Creation (from earthly things to angelic entities) all ayat as pure illumination, a combinatorial configuration of his own transgressive/transcendent seven heavenly regulators, grounded as they are upon the immanent earth. All truth is consequently manifest as truth upon Adam’s primordial body.
He said, “O Adam, inform them of their names.” And when he had informed them of their names, He said, “Did I not tell you that I know the unseen of the heavens and the earth? And I know what you reveal and what you have concealed.” (2:33)
The angels do not know all the names because they are modelling systems, their wings both revealing and concealing the light, as their feathers are structural language games, forming shadow silhouettes when held up above us in the sky.
But the fall of Adam and repentance means we, as his descendants, then follow with the name’s knowing now an obscured possibility inherent in our relationship to the signs (obscuring this possibility is the definition of enmity in (2:36)), and with us being in need of the angel’s wings, the means and guidance by which we might negotiate a path back to that primordial state. (2:38-39) Once guidance prostrated to us, and now we follow guidance back.
Note 5: The Children of Israel
See here for what we have said about some of the remaining verses of this juz.