Surah Ya'sin - The Heart of the Qur'an - Asim Khan

Light, as we know it, not only touches the surface of a leaf, but seeps beneath it to affect the entire plant through photosynthesis. This then nourishes the leaf, invigorating it and filling it with life. A plant will shrivel and harden without water. The tremor caused by water droplets hitting the hard, barren earth stimulates the emergence of lush green vegetation, and fruit, sweet in its essence and beneficial to humanity.

He who brings about such vibrant life from barren earth is the One who gives life to dead, hardened hearts. His words are the Qur’ān, sent down from the heavens, upon fertile hearts that tremble in its reception and are guided by its shining light. Amazingly, this very similitude comparing the Qur’an to fertile lush rain and its impact on dry barren earth is used often in the Qur’ān itself:

Do you not see that Allāh sends down water from the sky and threads it through the earth to emerge as springs and then by it brings forth crops of varying colours, which then wither, and you see them turning yellow and then He makes them into broken stubble? There is a reminder in that for people of intelligence. (64:8)


According to commentators of the Qur’ān, such as Imam al-Qurtubi, this is a similitude which Allāh puts forward of the Qur’ān and the hearts of people on this earth. This means that He sends down the Qur’ān from the sky and threads it through the hearts of the believers”. Just like leaves are made to tremble by water droplets hitting them, so too does the Qur’ān make the hearts of believers tremble in reverence.

The Qur’ān says:

It is Allāh Who has sent down the best message—a Book of perfect consistency and repeated lessons—which causes the skin and hearts of those who fear their Lord to tremble. (39:23)

In fact, the word for tremble in Arabic (taqsha’ir) refers to quivering that results in the hairs on the back of the neck to stand up, also known as ‘goosebumps’. The imagery depicts those listening to the Qur'an as humbled and moved. Verses such as these illustrate just how distant the Muslim world has become from the great Qur’ān. Its purpose is far beyond being simply a Holy Book that is recalled now and again, quoted in gatherings, calligraphed on the walls of mosques, or recited at funerals. It is a guiding light, one that is totally indispensable to our very existence. It is the beacon to our success in this life and the next. According to Western historians, the Qur’ān “transformed a number of heterogeneous desert tribes of the Arabian peninsula into a nation of heroes” it “attracts, astounds, and in the end enforces our reverence… Its style, in accordance with its contents and aim, is stern, grand – ever and always, truly sublime.”  and to Allāh belongs all praise.

Those  who  incorporate  the  Qur’ān  fully  into  their  lives,  enjoining what it instructs,  leaving what it prohibits, and absorbing its guidance, illuminating by it their journey to the hereafter are those closest to Allāh.

The Messenger of Allāh said, “Allāh has a special group of people among mankind.” People began to ask: “O Messenger of Allāh, who are they?” He said: ‘It is the people of the Qur’ān, they are His special people and those who are closest to Him.” 

The Beginning of Something Special

This book shines a light on one remarkable Surah in the Qur’ān; a Surah that is dear to the hearts of countless Muslims across the globe, Surah Yāsīn, Chapter 36. It aims to not only convey the meaning of the entire chapter, as related in classical Tafsīr literature (commentaries) using an easy to understand language, but to go further and share spiritual and intellectual lessons, linguistic gems, and diagrammatic overviews of the themes found hidden within the Surah. The underlying aim of this being to demonstrate how relevant and pertinent the Qur’ān is to our living complete and prosperous lives.

This combined approach of Tafsīr  &  Tadabbur (i.e. meaning and reflection) will, by the permission of Allāh, help develop in the reader a deeper admiration of the Qur’ān, a structured understanding of some of the literal and implied messages flowing from its statements, and an understanding of how to study it further.

Though Surat Yā-Sīn is a chapter often recited, memorized, and held in special regard by Muslims the world-over, how many are aware of its meaning, appreciative of its message, and have derived spiritual and intellectual guidance from it? For instance, were you aware that it tells a complete story of the ‘People of the Town’?

We ask Allāh the Most High to purify our intentions and to allow us to receive the light of the Qur’ān in a way that illuminates our hearts, guides us to His pleasure, and alleviates through it all befallen trials and tribulations.


Overview of Yāsīn

The Qur'ān’s structure can be described simply, there are 114 chapters, and the number of verses in each chapter varies. Historically speaking, the Qur'ān was the first literary composition to be designated into the āyāt and suwar (plural of Surah) structure, no piece of Arabic literature had been subdivided in this way.

Interestingly the word Surah, though translated as ‘chapter’, does not actually mean chapter. Ibn Kathīr (d.774H) writes, “The scholars have differed over the linguistic meaning of the word Surah; some say it is from the root word that signifies elevation… so it is as if the reciter of the Qur’ān rises from one level to another, or that the content is elevated due to its high status.... it is also possible that Surah signifies the collection of various verses, just as the walls of a city (sūr) bring together and enclose its inhabitants.”  The Arabs of old would call an unscalable wall that encircles a city the sūr because it contains and protects the people of the city. Similarly, each Qur’ānic chapter confines a particular Divine message. Thus, some of the later scholars mentioned that each and every Surah of the Qur’ān represents a unique message. The question then arises: what is the message of this Surah, Surah Yasīn?



Ibn ‘Āshūr eloquently summarised the message of Yāsīn by saying, “and, therefore, the chapter revolves around establishing the core principles of the religion (ummahāt usūl al-dīn) in the most compelling and complete way”.  One may ask what these core principles are. He explains, ‘the miraculous inimitability of the Qu’ran, as seen in the disjointed letters (al- hurūf al-muqatta’a), the oath of Allāh by it, and by Him describing it as a wise Qur’ān, indicating that it holds the pinnacle of wisdom, all serves the purpose of validating the message of the Prophet Muhammad  and the supremacy of the religion that he came with…”. In a stroke of genius, he then connected it to the well-known hadīth in which the Prophet  said, “Everything has a heart, and the heart of the Qur’ān is Yāsīn”  by saying, “(The Surah) combines the signs in people’s surroundings and within their own selves in an amazing and masterful way. No wonder it is called ‘the heart of the Qur’ān ’, because the entire Qur’ān stems from its themes and (it is as if) its streams are gushing towards its aorta (and into the rest of the Qur’ān)”. 

To conclude, the central message of Surah Yāsīn is to establish the veracity of the Prophet’s message and prove to skeptics that resurrection is a reality that no one can escape. A closer look at the diagrammatic overview reveals the thematic breakdown through which the Surah communicates that message.

Excerpt is from The Heart of the Qur'an by Asim Khan

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