He was taught by (Jibril) the one formidable in power
Master of strength, he (Jibril) rose up in an appearance most proportionate
While he (Jibril) was in the horizon the most high;
Then he drew near and lowered down
Till he was at an angle of two bows or even nearer
He then inspired unto His servant that which he inspired
[The Holy Qur’an, 53:5-10]
Qawsain is an Arabic word that literally means “two bows.” It is a way of expressing the distance between the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the Archangel Gabriel when they met on the momentous occasion of Muhammad’s night journey, as he was made to ascend through the seven heavens to receive the revelation of God’s greatest, ineffable inspiration.
The two bows used in the Qur’an are symbols that are rich in meaning. Before the advent of technology, the bow was the best method used for one to reach a target from a distance. Attaining one’s target precisely, however, depended not only on the balance of the archer, but also on his or her right thinking. The bow therefore symbolizes the tool that one uses to reach a goal and the duality of the bows symbolizes our two goals: success in this world and success in the hereafter.
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