When reading the translation of the Quran, I have found myself pausing at particular verses of the Quran and just thinking, “Wow! I can’t believe the Quran expresses this concept so well — this concept that is so precisely relevant to my life.” I’d like to share the 12 most profound verses of the Qur’an for me:
1. ON OVERCOMING TRIBALISM, by truly seeking to empathize and understand the Other
People, we created you all
from a single man and single woman,
and made you into races and tribes
so that you might come to know one another.
Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God
is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him.
(The Rooms 49:13)
2. ON CONFIRMATION BIAS, and seeking to create harmony with those who see differently than us
Do not revile those they invoke instead of God,
in case they revile God out of hostility and ignorance.
To each community, We make their own actions seem goodly,
but in the end they will return to their Lord,
and then He will make them understand all they did.
(The Cattle 6:108)
3. ON RESPONDING TO INJURY, and turning enemies to friends
Good and evil cannot be equal,
Repel evil with what is better;
then you will see that one who was once your enemy
has become your dearest friend.
(Detailed 41: 34)
4. ON THE APPEARANCE OF BEING RELIGIOUS, when not accompanied with sincerity and kindness
Woe unto those who pray —
But whose hearts from their prayer are remote —
those who want only to be seen and praised,
yet deny the small kindnesses.
(Charity 107: 4-7)
5. ON THE PURPOSE OF LIFE, or the remarkably coherent simulation we call life
He who has created death and life
so that He might put you to a test
and reveal which of you does best.
He alone is almighty, truly forgiving.
He who has created seven heavens
in full harmony with one another.
You will not see any flaw
in what the Lord of Mercy creates.
Look again! Can you see any flaw?
(The Dominion 67: 2-3)
6. ON JUSTICE, and the importance of erasing implicit and explicit biases
You who believe, be ever steadfast in upholding justice,
bearing witness to the truth for the sake of God,
even if it is against yourselves, your parents, or your kinsfolk.
Whether the person is rich or poor, God’s claim takes precedence.
Refrain from following your own desire, lest you swerve from justice.
if you distort or neglect justice, God is fully aware of what you do.
(The Women 4:135)
7. ON PRAYING TO GOD, and the relationship between effort and divine help
God does not change the condition of a people
unless they change their inner selves.
(The Thunder 13:11)
8. ON RELIGIOUS LABELS, versus what matters to God
The Jews say, “the Christians
have no valid ground for their beliefs,”
while the Christians say, “the Jews
have no valid ground for their beliefs”
— though they both quote the Scripture!
Those who have no knowledge
have [always] spoken the same…
In fact, any who surrenders his whole being to God
and is a doer of good
will have his reward with his Lord:
all such need have no fear, nor will they grieve.
(The Cow 2: 112, 113)
9. ON SUPERSTITION, and the place of reason
God did not institute that certain kinds of cattle
should be marked out by superstition
and set aside from the use of man.
Yet those who are bent on denying the truth
attribute their own lying inventions to God.
And most of them never use their reason.
(The Feast 5:103)
10. ON LOVE, and its miraculous nature
And among His signs is this:
He creates for you mates out of your own kind,
so that you might live with them in tranquility,
and He engenders love and tenderness between you.
There truly are signs in this for those who think!
(The Romans 30:21)
11. ON AMBIGUITIES IN SCRIPTURE, and their purpose
It is He who has sent this Scripture down to you,
some of its verses are definite in meaning —
these are the cornerstone of the Scripture —
and others are ambiguous.
The perverse at heart eagerly pursue the ambiguities
in their attempt to make trouble,
and to pin down a specific meaning of their own:
only God knows the true meaning.
Those firmly rooted in knowledge say,
“We believe in it: it is all from our Lord.”
Albeit none takes this to heart,
but those who are endowed with insight.
(The Family of Imran 3: 7)
12. ON HARDSHIP, and a reminder of the larger perspective
Do you think that you could enter Paradise
without first having suffered like those before you?
They were afflicted by misfortune and hardship,
and they were so shaken that even [their] messenger
and the believers with him cried, ‘When will God’s help arrive?’
Truly, God’s help is near.
(The Cow 2:214)
Note: The translations of verses in this post are taken from M. Asad, M. Pickthall and M. A. S. Abdel Haleem (with occasional modification of punctuation marks to make excerpts readable). The division of stanzas into lines is my own.