7-Juxtaposition of Heaven and Earth in The Quran

Juxtaposition is a literary device wherein the author places a person, concept, place, idea or theme parallel to another. The purpose of juxtaposing two directly or indirectly related entities close together in literature is to highlight the contrast between the two and compare them.

Literary-devices.com

This is exactly how the Quran introduces two opposing concepts to the reader. By comparing and contrasting two different themes it highlights the differences between them. For example, the juxtaposition of heaven and earth, light and darkness, sun and moon, jinn and ins, east and west, life and death. These themes are often mentioned together emphasizing their opposing natures. In this post I will focus on the words/ ideas of the heaven (Al-Samaa) and the earth (Al-Ardh) and how they are opposite to one another.

The Heaven السماء

All Arabic words have an origin, a concept they are derived from, called the root word. For Al-Samaa (the heaven) the root is سمو (seen-meem-waw). http://corpus.quran.com/qurandictionary.

The following definitions of this root are taken from Lane’s Arabic English Lexicon (page 1433):

  • سمو – to become high, lofty, raised, upraised, uplifted, exalted, or elevated. To raise a thing/form etc. from afar so that it can be clearly distinguished.
  • سماوة – the form or figure seen from a distance, such as the highest most elevated of anything and the aspect thereof.
  • اسم – the name of a thing, a sign that can be uttered or written conveying knowledge of a thing, denoting distinction, making it known, fame, renown, in relation to good not to evil.
  • سماء – the highest or uppermost part of anything. For example: it also refers to the upper part of a sandal’s sole (the part the foot rests on – opposite of the ارض of the sandal that touches the ground (note the opposing meanings- ارض is the root word for earth)

The words we see today in the Quran, heaven/sky, are derived from this root because it is the uppermost part the eyes can see. However, The Quran is not literal, it conveys eternal concepts and ideas. The root definition, not the current definition of the word, is the underlying key. It remains constant while the Arabic language continues to evolve over time. The root word for the Samaa signifies a thing which reigns in superiority and nobility above all else, and is clearly notable from a distant. A key passage that explains the Samaa as an abstract idea, and not a literal heaven or sky, is found in Surah Rehman verses 7-10.

55:7-10 And the Samaa (السماء) He raised and laid the balance. That you not transgress in the balance. And establish the weight with justice and do not make deficient the balance. And the Ardh (الارض) he laid out for the creatures (الا نام)

These verses point towards the very crux of the Quran: The concept of justice.

It is justice that is found in the Samaa, السماء, exalted and raised in status. It is the quality, characteristic that can be seen from afar due to it’s excellence. In other words; just behavior or treatment, equity, egalitarianism, uprightness, virtue, trustworthiness, honor, honesty, morality, integrity, ethics, principle, and open-mindedness. These are the characteristics of the Samaa, السماء .

It is important to understand the root for the word raised, رفع (ra-fa-Aa). It means to raise, or elevate in status, degree, or excellence, thus recognized and distinguished from afar, not a physical raising (see also verses 40:15, 43:32, 6:83, 12:76, LL pg 1121).

  • 40:15: (He is) the Exalted (رفع) above all degrees…
  • 43:32: …and we have raised (رفع) some of them in ranks above others…
  • 6:83: …We raise (رفع) by degrees whom We will…
  • 12:76: …We raise (رفع) in degrees whom We will…

As shown, in the Quran, رفع , is a raising in degree, status, exaltation, not a physical raising. Click here to read why a word must retain the same meaning throughout the Quran.

Furthermore, the particle في (fa-ya), which is translated as ‘in’, relates to a receptacle; it denotes inclusion, or in-being, either in relation to place or relation to time. (ie; inside, surrounded by) (LL pg 2466). As per the definition it is not a simple “in”. It is something that is inside and completely surrounded, or engulfed by another thing. A simple example being a letter inside a sealed envelope. The letter is completely surrounded by the envelope. In the case of this verse, and throughout the Quranic text, it is in relation to a concept inside another concept. Justice is the abstract idea inside the abstract idea of Al-Samaa, that which is upraised and noble. An idea is defined as; a thought or a suggestion to a possible course of action, a concept, a mental perception, an aim or a purpose. The Quran is not speaking of a literal heaven or sky, it is directing the reader through the abstract world of ideas.

Thus, keeping the definition of fi في in mind, verse 55:8 would read something like this: That you do not transgress inside the balance. It is not a literal balance. This brings “you” inside and surrounded by justice. You must be cautious and conscious not to tip the balance towards injustice. This is what it means to be inside the balance, a conviction found in the Samaa which is above all and is exalted in status.

The Earth الارض

As for the earth (Ardh, ارض), it is an idea which is juxtaposed, in contrast, to the idea of the Samaa.

55:7-10 And the Samaa (السماء) He raised and laid the balance. That you not transgress in the balance. And establish the weight with justice and do not make deficient the balance. And the Ardh (الارض) he laid out for the creatures (الا نام)

Who are these “creatures”? This is important to understand since the earth, Al Ardh, was laid out for them, the Anaam (الا نام). The root listed for this word in The Quran Corpus is انم , and in Lanes Lexicon, page 118, it is described; as everyone subject to sleep, as if derived from النوم, meaning sleep. This directs us to the root for النوم (sleep) which is نوم and is found in Lane’s Lexicon, page 3040; to be benumbed, torpified (stupefy, apathetic, sleepy, sluggish in functioning or acting, and numb).

In other words: The characteristics of those of the earth, Al Ardh, are those who are numb, sleepy, stupefied, apathetic, sluggish to act and function/think, those who are going through life in a sleepy state, sleep-walking. When one is asleep they are incapable of conscious decision making or applying logic and rationale to their actions/beliefs. They are not pondering, thinking, contemplating, as the Quran directs the reader to over 1600 times, click here.

Comparing the Samaa (heaven) with the Ardh (earth): In order to adhere to justice you must apply the core principles of reason, logic, rationale and be conscious and cautious in your decision making. This is in stark contrast to those who lack these core principles because they are in a state of sleep, unconsciousness, and mental sedation.

The ultimate goal is to ascend to the heights of the Samaa, the honored rank where justice is guarded and preserved. Where the just cause is above all else, and the balance is maintained and weighed in equity.

و

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