Ayat Al-Kursy is the 255th Ayat in the longest Surah (Al-Baqara, the Cow) and is also the only place that Kursy is mentioned in the Quran. Kursy is often translated as chair or throne; but it is more like a “tabouret”, a kind of stool, a pouf. It is also known as the greatest Ayat in the Quran. And for good reason, it is an Ayat that deals greatly with monotheism and is full of meaning. Let’s explore deeper.
Ayat Al-Kursy is often sectioned into ten parts :
(Intro) Allah, there is no god but He,
(part 1) the Ever-Living (Al-Hay), the Self-Subsisting (Al-Qayyum).
(part 2) Neither slumber (Sinatun) seizes Him, nor sleep (Nawm).
(part 3) To Him belongs all that is in the Heavens and all that is in the Earth.
(part 4) Who is there who might intercede with Him save with His leave?
(part 5) He knows what lies before them (Bayna Aydeehim) and what lies after them (Khalfahum).
(part 6) Whereas they cannot attain to anything of His knowledge save what He wills them to attain.
(part 7) His Dominion (Kursiyuhu) overspreads the Heavens and the Earth,
(part 8) and their upholding wearies Him not,
(part 9) and He is the All-High (Al-A’liy), the Supreme (Al-‘Adheem).
Intro: Allah brings forward the subject of the Ayat: Himself, Allah. Then, He poses the main idea of it: Monotheism, the oneness of Allah. And all that comes after encompasses this idea.
Part 1: He is the Ever-Living (Al-Hay), the Self-Subsisting (Al-Qayyum), the meaning of both are close but different in the manner that Ever-Living means Eternal, but Self-Subsisting implies that he does not need sustenance, He does not rely on anything nor anyone. Al-Qayyum is an attribute that means through which others exist. This dichotomy is unique to Allah; He is the only one who does not need anyone/thing and all life relies on him to exist and live.
Part 2: Sinatun and Nawm have subtle differences, but major ones at the same time. If I tell you to hold two bottles in your hands and stand all night; the bottles would most likely fall from your hands and break. It’s not like you fell unconscious on your face, it’s just that you dozed off a little: this does not happen to Allah. Another way of seeing this is when someone says he’s resting his eyes; he might daydream, but he’s not completely disconnected from reality; this does not happen to Allah. Or, the difference between listening and hearing. Listening is active hearing, paying attention with your ears and your mind. As for hearing, your senses are working, but they are not in sync with your cognition. It is like when you catch a kid in class looking out the window and ask him to repeat the last words the teacher said, every student can do that; but if you ask him what was the subject at hand, he is completely oblivious; this does not happen to Allah. In sum, If Allah would dare to slumber (praise be to Allah), chaos would ensue in the Heavens and Earth.
Part 3: He owns all that exists, He is the sole possessor of everyone and everything in Heavens and Earth.
Part 4: No one can intercede for anyone except with his permission. On the day of judgment, you can’t speak on behalf of anyone; not for your mother, son, brother… no one. Except if Allah wills. No believer, no prophet, no angel can intercede; it is only by the will of Allah that anything will happen.
Part 5: Basically, Allah knows what His creatures do, past, present, and future; what happened before and what will happen after; what is obvious and what is hidden. He knows all, forever.
Part 6: So no knowledge can be attained without his will; none given, none revealed or discovered, except with his authority. Allah has given scriptures and methods to man, He has revealed instinct to his creatures, He has allowed us to explore, discover and extrapolate through experience and intellect which has all been given to us. He decides what, when, to whom, how, and how much will be revealed of His knowledge.
Part 7: His Kursy (as we have explained before) also refers to His dominion, His dominance, His power, His kingdom, His sovereignty, His rule over all that exists in its vastness.
Part 8: It is of no burden, nor is it tiresome for Him to continuously be maintaining Heavens and Earth. We get bored or fed up of our duties; whether it be chores, school, work or even play; This does not happen to Allah.
Part 9: He is the All-High, the Supreme. The difference between both is close but distinct. It is like saying a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle is not a square; Al-‘Adheem is like that to Al-A’liy. Let’s use a sport comparative; I can say that so and so is the best player in the world, yet this does not mean that he cannot lose. Supreme (Al-‘Adheem), involves dominance; the Strongest who cannot be beaten.
Now, with the Ayat explained, where I want to stress my point is not only on the content but the style and structure of this verse. It is the obvious proof that no man is capable of such thought out structure spurred out of spontaneity that supports that much meaning. We have mentioned this before (chapters on Great Speech is Divine and The Human Contradiction), but here is an obvious example of how Allah combines structure and content that is unmatchable by anyone or anything.
There is a symmetry present throughout the Ayat once the subject of monotheism has been presented.
In parts 1 and 9, each contains two qualities/attributes of Allah, with the latter in both parts specifying a greater degree of might and dominance than the former.
In parts 2 and 8, they deal with rest; Glory to Allah, he does not rest. As to us, try going two days without sleep; pink elephants with purple polka dots will appear and gibberish will slur through your lips before falling face-first in your gargle of spit. Just out of general knowledge, the record for sleeplessness that was set about 50 years ago lasted 11 days (and nights). However, what comes after this period is incoherence and a long quiet replenishing slumber, exactly the opposite of what Allah has described; He does not get fatigued in preserving/maintaining Heavens and Earth.
In parts 3 and 7, entitlement is in play, two types to be precise: Maalik and Malik. These two words in Arabic are of the same root and resemble one another except in their differences. Maalik has to do with ownership (like in part 3), while Malik has to do with kingship (like in part 7). It is possible to own something without being king, just as one can be king without owning all in his domain. Yet, for Allah, He rules (Malik) all and all belong (Maalik) to Him.
In parts 4 and 6, it deals with will; does Allah allow something to happen or not. In the hereafter, it has to do with intercession; in life, it has to do with knowledge.
In part 5, Allah links the past with the future, the here with the hereafter, the ephemeral with the eternal, the known with the unknown. This 5th part is the mirror of the first half and the second half of the Ayat. An Ayat that has the theme that Allah has chosen for it: La Ilaha Illa Huwa (there is no god but He).
To imply this kind of organization that resembles a closed loop and is complimentary at the same time is mind-boggling. No one can come up with this in an oral manner instantaneously; not the greatest poet, nor the most avid linguist. And even for sake of argument, if it was humanly possible; to advance this and believe that it was done over and over again throughout the whole Quran is an insult to one’s intellect and moreover, to Allah the All-Mighty.
Oddly enough, just after this verse on monotheism, with all its grandeur and its meaning, comes the verse of “choice”. Allah gives us the right and responsibility of choosing our path despite clearly depicting true belief.
There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong. So whoever disbelieves in Taghut and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold with no break in it. And Allah is Hearing and Knowing.
Surah Al-Baqarah (2 – 256)
You can’t force a belief on someone; social conduct is one thing, but belief is specific to the heart. It is a choice. Nonetheless, belief gives you the strongest grasp.
And say, “The truth is from your Lord, so whoever wills – let him believe; and whoever wills – let him disbelieve.” Indeed, We have prepared for the wrongdoers a fire whose walls will surround them. And if they call for relief, they will be relieved with water like murky oil, which scalds [their] faces. Wretched is the drink, and evil is the resting place.
Surah Al-Kahf (18 – 29) Once the line of monotheism and disbelief are clear, it is up to oneself to decide.