Man’s covenant with God

Man has a contract with God. It is repeated 10 trillion times a year, yet rarely understood.

Traditionalists either choose to be silent about – or, more likely, are simply ignorant of – the fact that al fātiḥah is a contract which mirrors to a striking extent the conventions of the ancient Hittite suzerainty treaty.

Such treaties, under which vassals and lords came to terms, fell into the following sections: preamble where both the contract owner and vassal are identified, (here: 1:1, and 1:5), prologue which listed deeds done by the suzerain for the vassal (here: God’s universal credentials at 1:2-4), stipulations (terms to be upheld for the life of the treaty by the vassal and the lord (here: 1:5 and 1:6-7), provision for regular public (here: sūrah al fātiḥah is read multiple times daily by longstanding convention and given its position at the head of the Qur’anic text is a natural prelude to reading any of the rest of it), and divine witness to the treaty (which in this context is implicit). Finally, blessings on those who upheld the treaty and curses upon those who failed to do so (here: 2:2-5 and 2:6-21) were evoked after the contract proper.

The opening statement of al baqarah (2:2) reads: That is al kitābu lā rayba fīhi. By use of this demonstrative pronoun the text identifies that which precedes (al fātiḥah) as al kitābu lā rayba fīhi.

The Qur’an states at 10:37 that the Qur’an itself serves two purposes: to confirm what is within its scope, and to give a detailed exposition of al kitābu lā rayba fīhi.

Since the meaning of kitāb in the collocation al kitābu lā rayba fīhi relates to treaty or covenant – both acceptable senses of kitāb – I have rendered this phrase in all three instances: the covenant about which there is no doubt.

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