If my nafs is my battlefield, bismillah is my sword
"One example of such questioning [that combines a sense of awe with a sense of intimacy] occurs in the Surah of the Qāri’a. The Surah includes two mysterious words, qāri’a (a word that could mean smashing, obliterating, crushing, or calamity), and hāwiya (a word that means variously a mother who has lost her first-born child, desire, abyss, and falling. The Surah begins with three staccato references to the qāri’a. It then asks what can tell what the qāri’a is. However it does not define the qāri’a. Instead it speaks of the day in which the qāri’a occurs as a day in which mountains are like fluffed tufts of wool and human beings like scattered moths—an image evocative of the inversion of strong and weak that is characteristic of the early revelations.
The ending section of the Surah begins with a reference to the person whose mother is hāwiya. This reference has a range of connotations, including the loss experienced by the mother, the existential negation of the child whose mother has lost her child, and the more general sense of falling and abyss. Then the Qur’an asks what can tell us of the hāwiya. The next verse simply says “raging fire.” There is a crucial ambiguity in syntax here between the two verses. Is raging fire something that can give us a glipse of what hāwiya is? Or is the raging fire to be equated with the hāwiya? As explained below, the power of these images is heightened by the “sound figure” created around the Arabic expression hā. The sound hā can mean “her,” but it is a sound that occurs in interjections of sorrow and surprise. This sound is also the central sound figure in the Surah, culminating in its being part of the mysterious term hāwiya, a term that in some sense breaks apart under the stress of sound and meaning at this key moment in the text.”
سورة القارعة (Surah 101; Al-Qāri’a)
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
What is the qāri’a
What can tell you of the qāri’a
A day humankind are like moths scattered
And mountains are like fluffs of wool
Whoever’s scales weigh heavy
His is a life that is pleasing
Whoever’s scales weigh light
His mother is hāwiya
What can let you know what she is
— Approaching The Qur’an: The Early Revelations, Michael Sells.
So, while reading The Qur’an I picked up a few things to supplement the text to help me gain a better understanding of what I was reading. Part of what fascinates me the most about it is the almost impossibility of correctly translating almost the entire book, and why translation into English intrinsically fails it. The syntax and rhythm of the natural Arabic is so complex that parts of the meaning of verses can depend on how words sound when recited, and how multiple words sound when recited together. English writing and speech fails the poetic quality which it carries in Arabic, and The Qur’an itself was always meant to be something recited aloud, not necessarily written down and read. I’ve finished reading the entire thing, and studying it alongside these supplemental texts makes my brain tie up at what a “miracle” it is that it exists in the way it does, with all its seemingly impossible complexities, patterns, hidden meanings, meaning held in rhythm, in pronunciation, and in what is purposely omitted.
Listen to سورة القارعة (Surah Al-Qāri’a) recited in Arabic here