Why accepting the ‘akhirat’ (end, whole, ultimate) is important for understanding the Quran
Here we get a serene but serious call to read the Quran holistically:
High above all is then God, the Sovereign, the Ultimate Truth! And, therefore, hasten not with the Quran before it has been revealed unto thee in full, but say, ‘O my Sustainer, increase me in knowledge.’ 20:114
This instruction to read the Scripture as an integral WHOLE reappears in the following verses:
Move not your tongue with it to hasten it; …
Then again, surely upon Us is to explain it.
Nay, but you love the instant (ajilat),
And you leave the END (akhirat). 75:16-21
Above we get two concepts: akhirat and ajilat. While the multiple-meaning word akhirat means whole, end, transcendent, ultimate, long-term, long-sight, permanent, eternal, bigger picture, whole picture etc – its opposite word ajilat means partial, immediate, instant, short-term, short-sight, fleeting, transitory, present, temporal etc.
Seeking the akhirat, instead of ajilat, is essential to understand the divine messages of the Scripture/s as well as of the Book of the Universe, a concept that is constantly repeated throughout the Quran.
Clearly, the END (akhirat) in the above and similar other contexts refers to the whole in general and the WHOLE of the Quran in particular.
This oft-repeated instruction to avoid haste while reading the Quran – often together with the instruction to acknowledge the End (WHOLE, ultimate, akhirat; 6:92, 6:112-115, 6:150, 16:20-25, 17:9-12, 17:18-19, 17:21, 17:45-46, 39:45, 53:25-27, 75:16-21) – emphasizes the importance of holistic study of the whole Scripture necessary to comprehend its consistent messages.
The END is better than the instant
Since the Truth, or the full truth, is an integral whole, made of interconnected and interdependent constituents – and not a disconnected mix of scattered fragments isolated from each other – so is the Quran. Obviously, for a truth-seeker ‘the End and the Whole’ must be more important than ‘the Instant and the Part’:
And certainly the END is higher in degree and greater in excellence. 17:21
They only know the outward of the immediate life: but of the END they are heedless. 30:7
And to God belongs the END and the Present. 53:25
And indeed the END is better for you than the Present. 93:4
That is why over and over again the Quran places emphasis on an all-inclusive methodology that aims for ‘the whole’ (al-akhirat, the End) of the Quran in order to understand it better.
See: 2:85, 4:82, 6:91-92, 6:112-113, 6:150, 16:20-25, 17:9-11, 17:19, 17:21, 17:45-46, 17:72, 17:106, 20:114, 21:37, 25:32, 30:7, 39:18-23, 39:45, 41:42, 53:25-27, 73:4, 75:16-21, 93:4. For example, carefully read:
Yea, every person of them desires that he may be given scrolls unfolded.
Nay, but they are not conscious of the END (whole, holistic). 74:52-53 (cf. 6:91-92)
Those ‘who do not acknowledge the End (akhirat, whole)’ will not understand the Quran
Thus, a rational approach that transcends the instant, and seeks the end, is essential for understanding the divine messages of the Scripture/s as well as of the Book of the Universe:
And for those who do not acknowledge the END (whole, holistic), We have reserved for them a suffering grievous.
And man calls to evil with his call to good, for man has been too hasty.
… And everything We have detailed completely. …
Whoever seeks that which hastens away, We hasten for Him what he wishes, then We appoint inferno for him, he burns therein, despised, rejected.
And whoever seeks the END and strives for it with striving, while acknowledging (the End), then their effort is appreciated. …
And certainly the END is higher in degree and greater in excellence. 17:10-12, 18-19, 21
The above generally highlights the importance of an all-inclusive vision in our life. Then this emphasis (17:10-21) becomes more specific in its following context (17:45-46), which refers to the study of the Quran itself. It reminds that readers who have a hasty, detached and partial approach instead of a holistic one, i.e. ‘who do not acknowledge the End’, will not understand the Quran:
And when you read the Quran, We place between you and those who do not acknowledge the END (whole, holistic) an invisible barrier.
We place shields over their minds to prevent them from understanding it, and deafness in their ears: and when you mention your Sustainer in the Quran alone, they turn their backs in aversion. 17:45-46
These misreaders are those who do not consider the Quran as an interconnected WHOLE (‘who do not acknowledge the End’) as they revere extrinsic sources like hadith and other human interpretations as divine authorities:
And this too is a Scripture which We have sent down … And those who acknowledge the END (whole, holistic), will acknowledge this, and they will guard their prayer (from idols). …
And thus We have appointed to every prophet an enemy – devils from humans and invisibles, inspiring one another with decorative speech, as delusion. Had thy Sustainer willed, they would not have done it. So disregard them and all they fabricate.
So that the minds of those who do not acknowledge the END (whole, holistic) may incline thereto, and may take pleasure therein, and may gain what they are gaining. 6:92, 112-113
In other words, they are those who do not accept God’s Oneness without associating with idols of the secondary authorities and therefore lack the holistic approach that aims for ‘the whole’ (‘the End’) of the Book (Scripture or Universe):
When God Alone is mentioned, the minds of those who do not acknowledge the END (whole, holistic) are filled with aversion; and when others are mentioned beside Him, they rejoice! 39:45
Please note how the verse below asks to challenge the sectarians, who, instead of reading the Quran as a whole (‘who do not acknowledge the End’), refer to various hadith and other sources as witnesses of God’s extra prohibitions, because they adore human idols as associates in divinity and divine legislation (‘they make equals with their Sustainer’; cf. 14:27-30):
Say: “Bring your witnesses who bear witness that (through His associate/s, 6:19) God has forbidden this.” If they bear witness, then do not bear witness with them, nor follow the desires of those who have given the lie to Our messages, and those who do not acknowledge the END (whole, holistic); and they make equals with their Sustainer! 6:150 (cf. context: 6:19, 6:106).
Holistic study of all scriptures as ‘one Book of God’
The Quran calls to regard all inspired texts/ messages/ scriptures of all religions, while considering them as integral parts of ‘one Book of God’ (‘al-kitab’, e.g. 2:113, 2:136, 3:19, 3:100, 3:119, 6:91-92, 6:154-157, 10:37, 21:7, 23:68, 39:18; cf. 10:94 ,18:27):
Those who listen to the whole Word, and then follow the best of it. These are the ones whom God has guided, and these are the ones possessed of minds. 39:18
Here the Quran praises those people as intelligent who respectfully study all scriptures and then critically evaluate them to take the best out of everything (cf. 39:55).
One can observe how ‘the whole Word’ in this context includes ‘all the sacred books of mankind’ (2:136, 2:285, 3:84, 4:164, 6:91-92, 23:68, 35:24, 40:78; cf. 10:94). Examples are: Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagabadgita, I Ching, Taotejing, Zhuangzi, Analects, Zend-Avesta, Tripitaka, Torah, Gospel, Quran, and so forth (cf. Do they not study the whole Word, or has what come to them not come to their forefathers of old? 23:68; cf. 10:94, 21:4, 51:8).
So, while thus acknowledging the unity of all revelations, the Quran asserts that it is essentially a continuation/confirmation of the same messages of the previous scriptures. Therefore, people who learn wisdom from the Books of the ancients by accepting them all as an integral whole (cf. ‘who acknowledge the End’), also better understand and appreciate the Quran as a divine writ:
And they never value God as He should be valued when they say: “God has never sent down anything to any human.” Say: “Who then has sent down the Scripture which Moses had come with, a light and guidance for the people? You treat it just as scrolls of paper; you show some of it and conceal much.” …
And this too is a Scripture which We have sent down, blessed, confirming what is before it, that you may warn the Mother of cities and all around it (42:7). And those who acknowledge the END (whole, holistic), will acknowledge this, and they will guard their prayer (from idols). 6:91-92
And whoever is blind/confused in this (Quran), then he is blind/confused in the END (whole, holistic, the whole word, all scriptures), and more astray from the path. 17:72
‘Blindness’ means lack of holistic vision
The word ‘blind’ in the Quran almost invariably refers to ‘spiritual/intellectual blindness’ (5:71, 5:110, 6:50, 6:104, 7:64, 10:43, 11:24, 11:28, 12:84, 13:16, 13:19, 22:46, 25:73, 27:4, 27:66, 35:19, 41:17, 41:44).
This mental sightlessness is defined as the lack of holistic vision, i.e. a state of mind that takes no notice of the bigger picture (akhirat; end, whole, transcendent):
As for those who do not acknowledge the END (whole, holistic), We have made their work appear pleasing to them, so they walk around blind. …
Nay, is arrested their knowledge about the END (whole, holistic). Nay, they are in doubt about it; nay, they are blind thereunto. 27:4, 66
Conclusion and further thoughts
Keeping the whole in mind is essential for understanding the divine messages not only of the Scripture but also of the Book of the Universe.
That is why the Quran constantly lays such great importance on the holistic vision that encompasses the whole. It is the emphasis on considering every single part within its correlations and within the grand context of the totality of the Book – both the Scripture and the Universe – up to its completion, up to the End; which, as a divine masterpiece, must have within itself serious wisdom, purpose and meaning.
No wonder the acknowledgement of the whole (akhirat, End, HOLISTIC) is described, together with the acknowledgement of God, as the basis of all morality and ethics and hence as the fundamental tenet of Islam, which, accompanied with good work, is declared as sufficient for human ‘salvation’ (2:8, 2:62, 2:111-112, 2:126, 3:113-115, 5:69, 95:6).