Analysis of the Qur’an

Structure of the Qur’an

For those who are not familiar with the structuring of the Qur’an it is the principle religious text in Islam and it is divided into 114 Suras, which can be thought of in similarity to chapters. Every Sura ranges in length from one another and is composed of verses or ayah’s.

Primary Contention

One of the primary questions we wanted to answer in analyzing the Qur’an was if religious texts relate to the morals that were important during the time that they were written. Initially we began this project in mining for words such as health, wellness, and disease. Given the translation we are using we began using words that are synonymous for the aforementioned. Thus, through our secondary text mining of the instances that words such as “sickness”, “heal”, and “sick” were found we could deduce more so through close readings of the context that words in alignment to health were being used.

In our mining we developed some primary understandings of how health, wellness, and disease was being discussed within the text. The words that we used for text mining can be found down below:

  • “Sickness”
  • “Heart”
  • “Illness”
  • “Sick”
  • “Disease”
  • “Leprosy”
  • “Blindness”
  • “Coughing” 
  • “Heal”
  • “Kidney”

As seen below, we were able to do a more in-depth analysis that conveyed to us that the morality or disposition of a person was connected to a person’s religious piety through a metaphor of the state of their wellbeing.

A chart that shows the many different meanings of “sickness” in the Qur’an

Our understanding of sickness or one’s level of wellness/health as testaments to the strength of an individuals faith or a punishment for their lack thereof. IslamReligion.com states that, “When illness or injury strikes the reasons may not be apparent, or perhaps even be beyond our understanding.  However, God wants only good for humankind.  We can therefore be sure that there is great wisdom behind the affliction and that it presents us with the opportunity to develop a closer relationship with God” (Stacey, 2009). The site dedicated to The Religion of Islam goes onto clarify, “Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, informed us that we will be tested, according to our level of faith and that the very least good that will come from these tests will be purification from sins.  He said, a man will be tested according to the level of his religious commitment, and the trials will keep affecting a slave of God until he is left walking on the face of the earth with no burden of sin whatsoever” (Ibid). In the first sura of the Qur’an it exemplifies this connection of morality and faith in stating: “In their hearts is a sickness and God has increased their sickness and there awaits them a painful chastisement for that they have cried lies” (Qur’an). Throughout the Qur’an there are frequent uses of sickness as a manifestation of an individuals religious fervency as can be seen below.

"sickness" visualization
Fig. 1: visual frequency of “sickness” in the text (made in Voyant)

Upon do close readings at the intervals of when sickness is mentioned we  see commonly  that it is a manifestation of religious lacking. For example in the following “those in whose heart is sickness them it has increased in abomination added to their abomination and they have died while they were unbelievers” (Qur’an). This reading states that to be a non-believer and to not have the revelations of God in one’s heart can lead to literal death. This is supported throughout the text as lack of religious piety 

First, we would like to provide a visualization wherein “heart” has been mined for in the text.

Fig 2: visualization of "heart" in the text (Palladio)
Fig 2: visualization of “heart” in the text (made in Voyant)

Secondly, in mining for heart in the text we noted that sickness is almost always mentioned in the verse suggesting that an ailment of the heart is a manifestation of “sickness” or straying from the revelations of God further supporting the implications of our data. Upon do close readings at the intervals of when sickness is mentioned we  see commonly  that it is a manifestation of religious lacking. For example in the following “those in whose heart is sickness them it has increased in abomination added to their abomination and they have died while they were unbelievers” (Qur’an). This reading states that to be a non-believer and to not have the revelations of God in one’s heart can lead to literal death. This is supported throughout the text as lack of religious piety. 

In Islam there is the overall belief and statement that God created a cure for every ailment to humankind and there are two approaches: a fatalist and active approach to medicinal treatment (Khalil, 2018). Some would suggest that total belief and prayer will heal someone of their ailments. The latter approach is that with faith and an active role in one’s own healthcare with the resources provided by God one could be cured. Yet, through the same interview with Dr. Khalil of the MSU Muslim Studies Program he reiterated that one’s health in the Qur’an was often times internalized as a test of one’s faith in God or as a punishment for a lack of belief in God. Dr. Khalil provided the parallel of the plagues on the Egyptians. The plagues, which included physical harm to the wellbeing of the Egyptians is also represented in the Qur’an and exemplifies illness as a form of punishment.

Next, we would like to discuss how health, wellness, and disease designates that individuals who are physically or mentally ill are not held to the same religious obligations as individuals who are. For example, the Qur’an states quickly in Sura 2 verse 196 in reference to religious pilgrimages:

“Fulfil the Pilgrimage and the Visitation unto God; but if you are prevented, then such offering as may be feasible. And shave not your heads, till the offering reaches its place of sacrifice. If any of you is sick, or injured in his head, then redemption by fast, or freewill offering, or ritual sacrifice. When you are secure, then whosoever enjoys the Visitation until the Pilgrimage, let his offering be such as may be feasible; or if he finds none, then a fast of three days in the Pilgrimage, and of seven when you return, that is ten completely; that is for him whose family are not present at the Holy Mosque. And fear God, and know that God is terrible in retribution.”

Sura 48 verse 17 goes onto note that “there is no fault in the blind, and there is no fault in the lame, and there is no fault in the sick.” This is reiterated prior in Sura 9 verse 91 where it explains that, “There is no fault in the weak and the sick and those who find nothing to expend, if they are true to good“.

As evident through these three examples true followers of the faith who are not in good states of health are not faulted in the Qur’an for their inability to perform religious tasks or obligations.

Lastly, when it comes to physically healing someone in the Qur’an our understanding is that because the Qur’an is the direct word or recitation of God’s words to the Prophet then reciting the Qur’an in prayer does cause one’s healing. In Sura 9 verse 14 it states that God will, “bring healing to the breast of a people who believe”.

The means by which health, wellness, and disease is conceived in this translation of the Quran posits that sickness can be a metaphor for lack of religious piety, a testament to one’s faith, a punishment for someone’s lack thereof, and that peoples who are not in a state of good health are not held to the same religious obligations.