What is the meaning of bayan, as in Surah Al-Rehman and how does it relate to man being taught the Qur’an? Does it refer to the quality of speech or does it have greater implications? All animals have modes of communication, i.e. speech.
To fully understand the correct implication and meaning of the referred verse, it is important to keep the context of Surah Al-Rahman in perspective.
Surah Al-Rahman and Surah Al-Qamar are two parts of a pair. Both these Surahs are in response to one of the demands of the rejecters of the Qur’an. When the Prophet (pbuh) warned the polytheists that if they persisted in rejecting the Prophet (pbuh), they would meet the same fate, which was met by those who had rejected the messengers of God before them, in return, the polytheists would demand that the Prophet (pbuh) should bring upon them the punishment, which he was warning them with. Both Surah Al-Qamar and Surah Al-Rahman are a response to this demand of the rejecters. In Surah Al-Qamar, the history of the messengers of God has been briefly presented to evidence the truthfulness and the gravity of the warning of the Prophet (pbuh), while in Surah Al-Rahman, the same point is evidenced by pointing toward some of the signs of God’s providence, mercy, justice, wisdom and omnipotence, spread around us, all of which necessitate God’s Judgment and the concept of reward (for the good) and punishment (for the evil).
Keeping the foregoing explanation in perspective, the starting of Surah Al-Rahman should now be easily comprehensible. The Surah begins with the words:
The Merciful has taught the Qur’an. He created man and taught him the ability of speech. (Al-Rahman 55:1 – 4)
These verses, in the stated context, imply that even though these rejecters persistently demand that they be subjected to the punishment, which the Prophet (pbuh) is warning them against, yet God – the Merciful – desires for them salvation rather than punishment. It is for this reason that rather than subjecting them to His severe punishment, He is teaching them through this Qur’an. He created man and gave him the ability of speech and communication. Thus, He wants His creation to save themselves by understanding and submitting to His truth, which He is communicating to them, rather than by forcing them into His submission or by hastily subjecting them to His severe punishment.
As should be clear from the given explanation, the referred verses do not refute the existence of the ability of communication in other creatures. It only highlights the fact that because God has bestowed upon man the ability to communicate, therefore, He has opted to communicate with them through this Qur’an, rather than hastening upon them the punishment, which they are demanding.
I hope this helps.
December 26, 2000