Chapter 2 (Al-Baqarah) is the longest chapter in Quran with 286 verses. As far as our breakdown goes, there are sixteen sections along with a preamble (Vs 1-20) and the subject of this essay, the epilogue (Vs 284-286). Each of these sections act as component of a whole and are crucial, building upon each other to deliver the best understanding of the chapter’s subject which is the theory of human utopia.
With this in mind, the epilogue of Ch 2 acts as a closure to all these ideas. They are only three verses but they are long and powerful. Muslims have long memorised them along with Aya Al-Kursiy (2/255). For me, they act as a ‘soul bracket’ because Vs 284 and 286 have the word ‘nafs’ (soul). This brackets Vs 2/285 which should then be read a condition of the soul. Let us look at these verses in detail.
Vs 284 comes after the last of the calls to those who believe. After long passages dealing with various aspects of social life, believers are told in this verse to Allah belongs whatever is in the heavens and the earth, referring to the dominion of the soul which is mentioned next. Allah takes us into account by the condition of the soul. He provides us protection or punishes us based on this.
Vs 285 then follows up on this with the soul’s response to the message. It tells us that the messenger (referring to the messenger within the soul) who believes in what is descended to him and the believers in this fact follow suit. The most comprehensive outline follows – for their souls to attain the divine protection (mentioned in Vs 284), they are to believe with Allah, the angels, the writs, the messengers and not to make distinctions between them. Their philosophy is to listen and willingly obey. In doing so, they will be amazed at protection of their Lord, their final destination.
Vs 286 goes back to the subject of the soul. Allah does not burden the soul more than it can run with (showing the necessity of effort). It will attain what it earns and upon it will be what it earns as well (showing its centrality). At this point, the soul speak asking Allah not to seize them if they forget or err. They also ask Allah not to burden them unduly with what they are unable to. They seek His leave and protection as He is their ally and finally ask Him aid against those who reject this process of growth.
Why is this passage here? From its contents, it looks like this passage formulates what makes an ideal society – individuals who seek the evolution of the soul. These individuals constantly examine the contents of their soul as it is the barometer which measures the divine protection due to them. They are to engage with revelation and form a conviction with divine agencies and to look towards their final return. Finally, the architecture of the soul is discussed showing it is the beginning and end of this divine project.