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Seek Knowledge as Far as China… Really?

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Everyone loves a catchy phrase, especially one that sends us off to the Asian tiger, China. Considering that there isn’t really any knowledge to get for English-speaking folks, either Islamic or secular in nature, perhaps China isn’t the greatest destination? (Excuse the tongue-in-cheek comment)

If there is one so-claimed hadith (Prophetic saying) that has gotten extensive coinage, I have to say it is this one. And though the message of seeking knowledge is consistent with the Prophetic teachings, unfortunately this hadith is likely not Prophetic. It is also somewhat amusing that some of the leading opponents of hadith still love to quote this one… I would call this an ironic form of poetic justice, because it really says a lot about how much these opponents actually know about the sciences of hadith!

Kudos to Hood, who has provided us with this short summarized takhrij (verification) of this not-so-Prophetic-saying.

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MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Abu Reem is one of the founders of MuslimMatters, Inc. His identity is shaped by his religion (Islam), place of birth (Pakistan), and nationality (American). By education, he is a ChemE, topped off with an MBA from Wharton. He has been involved with Texas Dawah, Clear Lake Islamic Center and MSA. His interests include politics, cricket, and media interactions. Career-wise, Abu Reem is in management in the oil & gas industry (but one who still appreciates the "green revolution").



  1. Avatar


    March 11, 2007 at 9:34 PM

    I’m so disappointed!

    • Avatar


      March 26, 2015 at 7:52 AM

      What is wrong in leaving home ( Hijrat) for sake of knowledge. Knowledge is key to social, political, moral, ethical etc. Development of civilizations. Why MUSLIMS came to the USA?

    • Avatar


      March 9, 2016 at 2:42 PM

      you have to consider, in that time, China was great. they had the massive armada and vast trading network

  2. Avatar

    Ilm Seeker

    March 12, 2007 at 8:52 PM

    Mashallah, awesome blog! Keep it up inshallah.

    For those disappointed, follow up with a better, authentic hadith: Whoever travels in the path of knowledge, Allah will make it easy for them to walk the path to paradise.

  3. Avatar

    Ilm Seeker

    March 12, 2007 at 8:54 PM

    Some of the benefits and blessings of seeking knowledge can be found here, from a class by shaykh Yasir Qadhi:

  4. Avatar


    March 18, 2007 at 3:46 PM

    Some of the “heavy hitters” amongst classical Hadîth scholars have declared this Hadîth weak, but al-Mizzî who compiled Tahthîb al-Kamâl fî Asmâ’ ar-Rijâl, who is by far the “heaviest hitter” of the scholars of grading narrators has called for caution to be exercised with this Hadîth. He has stated, “Perhaps, its status is rectified to Hasan on account of its wide circulation, ” reasoning that an outright forgery wouldn’t have reached such wide circulation amongst the Muslims.

    Likewise, al-Munâwî cites al-Dhahabî’s Talkhîs wherein he claims that it has numerous weak chains, but some are sound. However, I looked in al-Dhahabî’s Talkhîs Kîtâb al-Mawdû`ât and found that the part cited by al-Munâwî was absent. The fact that a classical work cites another classical work and that citation is no longer extant in the copies we have today is an unfortunately common evidence of the scores of “redactions” that “editors” have exercised upon these books of knowledge.

    One must understand that a Hadîth being Da`îf is not enough to say definitively that it is “not Prophetic”. Imâm Ahmad’s school necessitates appealing to Da`îf narrations (under strict prerequisites) before the application of Qîyâs (deduction), and this was one of the defining differences in his approach to jurisprudence as opposed to the approach of his beloved and respected contemporary Imâm ash-Shâfi`î.

    It would be safer and more wise to say that this Hadîth is correct in its meaning, but many scholars have declared it weak and Allah knows best.

    • Avatar


      June 15, 2019 at 10:28 AM

      the additional statement of “going to china” is declared as maudu’ (fabricated) by Imam Ibn Hibban, Ibn al- Jauzi, al-Sakhawi and other scholars of hadith.

      [Al-Da’ifah, no. 416]

      Also Imam al-Bazzaar (d. 292), Ibn Hibbaan (d. 354), and Ibn Adi (d. 364), who lived during the classical era, have unauthenticated the Hadeeth

  5. ibnabeeomar


    March 19, 2007 at 1:20 AM

    from br. hood’s blog:

    The only one far greater than all of us mentioned on this page is our Beloved Messenger – May God shed his grace on him – and he is deserving of only the best being related about him and from him.

    After looking your comments at muslimmatters, and additionally that which was mentioned in the link provided by Ibn Ajibah, this is what is seeming to me:

    1- This addition of “seek knowledge as far as China” was as I mentioned above only narrated by “al-Hasan ibn Atiyyah from Abu Atikah Tarif ibn Salman from Anas from the Prophet…”.

    That said this particular chain of the hadith, which begins with “seeking knowledge is an obligation…” and ending with the reference to china is extremely weak, in fact as mentioned before several of the narrators were accused of fabrication.

    This type of narration cannot be supported by way of Isnad, even though its meanings could be substantiated through the generalities of the Quran and Sunnah. An example of this would be the hadith “My Lord taught me character and did so perfectly…” which is weak in isnad but is supported by the texts of the Quran and Sunnah. It is incorrect to narrate it as a direct statement of the Prophet, attributing it to him directly.

    So the first part of the hadith “seeking knowledge..” is supported in meaning by the numerous other narrations, while there is nothing of substance to support in any of the other narrations concerning china. which leads me to my nest point…

    2- Al-Mizzi’s statement was concerning the first part of the hadith, which is narrated from Anas from several different chains. This applying to the portion “talabu l-ilmi faraDatin ala kulli muslim…” seems most likely in that most (if not all) other authors that related al-Mizzi’s statement applied it to the narrations that begin with this phrase, yet do not contain the reference to China in the end (for ex. al-zarkashi and al-kattani apply his statement to this portion, not the china reference).

    Therefore this portion of the hadith is supported by the other narrations. This however has no bearing on the latter part about china. Hajj Gibril mentions this himself in the above link, although the manner in which he does so may be misleading to a non-specialist or someone not exposed to the science of takhrij.

    3- Hajj Gibril – May Allah guide him to what is best in this life and the next – states that his hadith is mashur, being a hadith with 5 to 9 narrators at each level of the chain.

    Upon cursory examination of the asa_ni_d containing the reference to china, there seems to be less than five at several levels of the chain back to anas, al-Bayhaqi says of this hadith that it is “shibhu mashur” (i.e. sort of) and therefore it is likely that the scholars who referred to this hadith as Mashur possibily meant the other meaning of mashur, i.e. that this is a popular hadith and is well known by the people. al-Sakhawi and al-’Ajluni including this in their books would support this, in that his book is an examination of hadith which are popular but may or may not be authentic.

    All in all the hadith seems to be extremely weak.

    And Allah knows best.

  6. Avatar

    Haitham Hamdan

    March 20, 2007 at 11:28 AM

    The scholarly rulings which were quoted in the original article should be sufficient to prove the weakness of this Hadeeth. Not only are we certain that the prophet PBUT did not say this statement, we are also certain that none of the Sahaba did either.

    Bother Philomantis’ reply is filled with inacurate information. For someone to think that Al-Mizzi is a “heavier hitter” than earlier scholars such as Ibn Adi, Al-Bazzaar and Ibn Hibbaan is a shame, to say the least.

    There are tens of authentic Hadeeths encouraging us to seek knowledge. There were books written to compile such Hadeeths. So we are in no need of such weak Hadeeth.

    Someone who is giving a speech on the importance of seeking knowledge could still mention this statement but without attributing it to the Prophet PBUH. He/she could say: It was said … or: a wise man once said …

    So, there is no reason to be disappointed!

    • Avatar


      February 2, 2015 at 7:59 AM

      The reason probably for the disappointment is that those who refer to this hadith make a point that knowledge other than shariyh is also to be sought contrary to those who discard this hadith and refuse to acknowledge that anything other than shariyah is knowledge at all.

  7. Amad


    March 20, 2007 at 3:10 PM

    jazakAllahkhair Sh. Haitham for stopping by and commenting on this.

    I’d like to introduce the Sheikh to those who don’t know him. He is the admin of the Multaqa-ahl-hadith, one of the most popular Islamic forums in Arabic on the net, with many students of knowledge and many transcripts (see this post). He is a Masters Student in at the American Islamic University (AIU).

  8. Avatar


    March 23, 2007 at 2:04 PM

    Haitham Hamdan, jazâkullâhû khayr(an) for your response, but I’m afraid you’ve resorted to a bit of “my daddy is bigger than your daddy”. To call my opinion that al-Mizzî is one of the “heaviest hitters” in grading Hadîth narrators “a shame” is in itself ad hominem in nature and just plain untenable. His work on Rijâl is sufficient testimony to this. Also, how can 4 paragraphs be “filled with inacurate (sic) information”? Certainly, its not too lengthy for you to cite examples, is it? Please elaborate, if we could be so honored to read from you on this.

    Finally, we are not “certain” that the Prophet (sallallâhû `alayhî wa sallam) did not say this and for you to make such a statement is not consistent with the modus operandi of Hadîth scholarship…unless you can quote a single Muhaddith of repute from the classical era of Islamic scholarship who said, “The Prophet (sallallâhû `alayhî wa sallam) did not say this for an absolute fact”.

    w-Allâhu a`lam. was-salâm

  9. Avatar

    ِAbu Bakr

    March 23, 2007 at 7:26 PM

    – ” اطلبوا العلم ولو بالصين ”
    قال ابن عراق : (قال ابن حبان : حديث باطل لا أصل له ) .
    وقال ابن الجوزي في الموضوعات: بعد أن رواه بسنده (هذا حديث لا يصح عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم…)

  10. Avatar


    March 23, 2007 at 7:56 PM

    لا يصح عن رسول الله (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) يعني أسانيدها ليست بصحيحة كما قيل عن كلّ أحاديث دون الأحاديث الصحيحة…والله تبارك وتعالى أعلم

  11. Avatar


    March 23, 2007 at 8:02 PM

    I also want to make even more clear regarding what I quoted in English from al-Mizzî. His comments regarding the Hadîth’s wide circulation being a testimony in its favor appears to be speculation on his part. This can be seen from the language he used:

    ربما يصل بمجموعها إلى الحسن

    The fact that he started his sentence with “rubbamâ” meaning “perhaps” is an indication that he was speculating. I didn’t want anyone glossing over the “Perhaps” in my previous translation as this is a very important part of it.

    w-Allâhû A`lam

  12. Avatar

    Haitham Hamdan

    March 24, 2007 at 6:06 PM

    Dear brother Philomantis,

    You said in #4: “al-Mizzî … is by far the heaviest hitter …”.

    But when you referenced this statement in #8, you said: “al-Mizzî is one of the heaviest hitters”.

    The difference between the two statements is clear. You can not be trusted in referencing your own quotations!

    I take great issue with your first statement, and still consider it shameful!

    Another contradiction is that you asked me to “quote a single Muhaddith of repute from the classical era of Islamic scholarship”.

    It is strange that someone like you says this. You believe that al-Mizzi, who lived nowhere near the classical era (d. 742), is “by far the heaviest hitter”!

    Heavier than al-Bazzaar (d. 292), Ibn Hibbaan (d. 354), and Ibn Adi (d. 364), who lived during the classical era, and all three unauthenticated the Hadeeth.

    There are other problems in your posts with regards to: the contributions of Imam al-Mizzi, the relationship between Ilm al-Rijaal and the authentication of a Hadeeth, Imam Ahmad’s school … etc.

    I’m sorry to say that your thinking process is not yet scientific enough to be a good student of Hadeeth!

    Wallahu A’lam.

  13. Avatar


    March 26, 2007 at 1:09 PM

    Haitham, I find it very unfortunate that you find it necessary to behave this way, but it is, alas, of no surprise to me at all. If, in fact, I believe that al-Mizzî is the greatest scholar in the area of `Ilm ar-Rijâl this is hardly something “shameful”! You have not addressed a single point, but only said there are “problems” without citing a single one.

    If you want to discuss this matter like in a mature manner by addressing the evidences then I would enjoy such a discussion. Brother Hood has done this eloquently and thoroughly and it is a testimony to the fact that he is of another league altogether (وفقه الله).

    I make it a policy not to sully myself with pejorative laden disputation so I’ll have to leave discussion with you and wish you well. was-salâm

  14. Avatar


    March 27, 2007 at 9:26 AM

    Where is the Hadith?

  15. Avatar


    March 28, 2007 at 6:58 AM

    Jzak Allahu khair sidi philomantis for maintaining proper decorum!

  16. Avatar

    Abu h

    March 28, 2007 at 7:44 AM

    I think Brother haitham only say that brother philomontos’s statement about Mizzi is shameful in the sense of hadith literature, not attacking him personaly.

    And Brother haitham also provided some proofs, because Brother philomontis forgot the classical scholars, and used later scholars for his argument, in this sense.

    Also, what was arabic translation for what Brother abu bakr said?

  17. ibnabeeomar


    March 28, 2007 at 8:31 AM

    “what was arabic translation for what Brother abu bakr said?”

    to summarize:

    ibn hibbaan said the hadith is baatil, and ibn al-jawzi mentioned this hadith in al-mawdoo’at (ie book of fabricated hadiths) and said that this hadith is not authentically related from the prophet (saw)..

  18. Avatar

    ِAbu Bakr

    March 28, 2007 at 3:38 PM

    Al-Mizzi’s work is primarily a compilation of the statements of the earlier Imams of Rijal. These Imams, amongst whom are ibn ‘Adi, ibn Hibban, and many others such as al-Bukhari, Abu Hatim, and Abu Zur’ah did not merely compile the statements of scholars concerning the narrators to reach a conclusion as to his status. They compiled the narrations of each narrator and compared their narrations with the narrations of their peers to distinguish mistakes from correct narrations.

    To illustrate, Imam Yahya b. Ma’in gathered the hadiths of Hammad b. Salamah, one of the important classical narrators from 18 different routes. Upon being asked the reason for doing so, he said, “I found mistakes in the narrations of Hammad so I wanted to distinguish his mistakes from the mistakes of his students.”

    This is something very difficult for later scholars, if for no other reason, because they did not have access to the sheer volume of narrations that the earlier scholars did. This, by far, makes them the “heaviest hitters” in the field of Rijal.

  19. Avatar


    May 29, 2007 at 1:51 AM

    Wahhabis have it in their best interest to exclude China, since they want everyone to gain knowledge in Najd. Everything has to center around Saudi Arabia, otherwise it _must_ be a fake hadith! lol

  20. Avatar

    ibn abi 'Abdirrahman

    July 15, 2007 at 6:58 AM

    Brother Husam,

    your statement makes no sense at all. Many past and contemporary Salafi scholars are from ASh Shaam and not An Najd. Ibn Qayyim, Ibn Taimiyyah, Al Albaani and many more are all from Ash Shaam.

  21. Pingback: Authenticity of ‘Seek knowledge even as far as China’ « Islam in China

  22. Avatar


    November 6, 2007 at 6:26 PM

    Why is it that the best hadiths are always considered weak while the stupid ones which doesn’t make any sense considered authentic. hmm..

  23. Avatar

    Abu Bakr

    November 6, 2007 at 6:44 PM

    If it is an authentic hadith, then please tell us its isnad and which major works of hadith it is reported

  24. Avatar

    Ismail sini

    November 13, 2007 at 4:50 PM

    It was said that sahaba Saad ibn waqqas was buried in China.I guess someone will doubte this.Whether you can verify this,if you can find results in Shaykh Ibn Ibn Taimiyyah’s works,it would be highly appreciated.But if you really can find the results in the works of Al Albaani,maybe most chinese muslim would be doubtful.

  25. Avatar


    June 17, 2008 at 5:41 PM


    Maybe we should focus on the reason for the widespread of this narration (I won’t call it hadith) and learn something from it.

    It basically contained the essential ingredients of a viral campaign: to show off.

    So, Chinese Muslims use this narration to their advantage, and non-Chinese Muslims use it too to show off that Islam is inclusive.

    Also, China as a destination of knowledge and civilization is another good point to make this narration spread. Just like quoting, hey do you know our prophet (SAW) said, “Seek knowledge even in Harvard or Oxford.”

    So, brothers and sisters, as with many other discussions about religion or politics, try to be nice and save your opponent face.

    IMHO, most of the people who quote this narration don’t want to declare it as unauthentic, (maybe it’s not as much as asking a priest to say trinity is wrong, but more like retracting the thing they showed off for years)… suddenly they are no longer cool, suddenly their PR slogan is attacked… Again, I’m not talking about scholars, I’m talking about regular people who blindly copy/pasting their favorite opinion just because that fits their comfort zone.

    As for authenticity: Was the word “China” or “Seen” known to Arabs at the time of the Prophet (SAW)? Check some old maps and you will be surprised.

    May Allah reward all of you and gather us again in Jannah

    Your Chinese brother who of the opinion that we shouldn’t attribute this narration to the Prophet (SAW) when we have so much doubts

  26. Avatar


    June 18, 2008 at 12:04 AM

    It doesn’t even sound like a hadith of the prophet (saw).

  27. Avatar


    June 18, 2008 at 12:46 PM

    what is this have to do with chinese and non chinese muslims. It has only to do with the authenticity of this narration.

  28. Pingback: Islam in China » Blog Archive » Authenticity of China Hadith

  29. Avatar

    Dr. Imam Khan Makhtum

    May 26, 2010 at 6:11 AM


    Ancient China and India were respectively known to the Arabs as As-Sin and Al-Hind respectively, with whom they had trade connection both on land and sea-routes, mainly on silk-routes. There were sea-silk routes too.
    About the need to go to China even, to educate is a genuine hadith and it is much popular among the Arabs and Persians to abouth this hadith of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and they really believe it is shahi/genuine hadith. Look:

    Mohd. Sharif Khan, 1986, Islamic Education, New Delhi: Ashish Publishing House, page, 15- quoted the hadith on the authority/ reference of Ibn Adi (925 AD) and Abul Fazl Baihaqi that :

    “Obtain Knowlwdge even if in China”
    (Ibn Adi & Behaqi).

    It will be a great disservice if you, in lack of knowledge and research, try to discredit this hadith. Prophet (pbuh) only stressed on secular education, which is much essential to know the Holy Quran in letter and spirit. Some Anogo-American, and European authours try to discredit this hadith, thus trying to belittle the all round achievement of early Chinese education. We also find a hadith that “Heaven smells from the East (India?)”.

    Another Hadith: “Learn the language of the Turks, for they will have a long reign” (Muhammad al-Kashghari, 940 AD).
    (see the “Bulletin of the School of African and Oriental Studies”, University of London London, vol XLI, part
    1, 1986, page 69).

    see the Seljuk Turk who arose out of Abbasid Empire/Baghdad of the Turks in c. 1056 AD from whom the Ottoman Empire (1299-1924 AD) sprung up which ruled much of SE Europe, N. Africa, Arabia, ex-Ummayad and ex-Abbasid domains.

    Don’t be surprised by such Hadith. The Rashidi Khalifs ruled in 632-661 AD only, Ummayad in 661-750 only and Abbasid in 750-1258 AD only. Take the single example, Ottoman/Usman Empire that ruled for more than 600 years, when Musatafa Kamal Pasha abolished the Caliphate in 1924. Even today, Turkish role in Islamic Affairs is paramount. Its Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was recently conferred the Arab Nobel Prize for Service to Islam by king Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Even OIC General Secretary is Ecmeleddin Ishanoglu, a Turk. How true the latter Hadith is which the Prophet spelt out in his lifetime!!!!!

  30. Pingback: Where is Islam in Islamic Republic of Pakistan? - Page 27

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Lessons From Surah Maryam: 1

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Alhamdulillah, it’s a great blessing of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) that He has given us both the opportunity and ability to come here tonight to study and explore the meanings of His words in Surah Maryam. I’m truly grateful for this opportunity. May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) accept this effort from all of us and place it on our scale of good deeds.

Alhamdulillah, in our last series we were able to complete the tafsir of Surah Al-Kahf. InshAllah, in this next series, we’ll be exploring the meanings, lessons, and reminders of Surah Maryam. Tafsīr is an extremely noble and virtuous discipline. The reason why it’s so noble and virtuous is that it’s the study of the divine speech of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). As mentioned in a hadith the superiority of the speech of Allah over all other speech is like the superiority of Allah over all of His creation. There’s nothing more beneficial and virtuous than studying the Quran. And by doing so we’ll be counted amongst the best of people. As the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “the best amongst you are those who learn the Quran and teach it.”

All of us need to build a stronger relationship with the Quran. The Quran is full of wisdom and guidance in every single verse and word. It’s our responsibility to seek that guidance, understand it, contextualize it and more importantly act upon it. Tafsīr is such a unique science that it brings together all of the other Islamic sciences. While exploring a Surah a person comes across discussions regarding Arabic grammar and morphology, rhetoric, Ahādīth, fiqh, sīrah and all those studies that are known as the Islamic Sciences. One scholar described the Quran as an ocean that has no shore, بحر لا ساحل له. The more we study the Qur’ān the stronger our relationship with it will become. We’ll become more and more attached to it and will be drawn into its beauty and wonder. The deeper a person gets into tafsir and studying the more engaged and interested they become. They also recognize how little they truly know. It develops humility. That’s the nature of true knowledge. The more we learn the more we recognize we don’t know. May Allah ﷻ allow us all to be sincere and committed students of the Qur’ān.

Surah Maryam

Surah Maryam is the 19th surah in the Quran. It is a relatively long Makki surah made up of 98 verses. Some commentators mention that it’s the 44th Surah to be revealed, after Surah Al-Fatir and before Surah Taha. It has been given the name Maryam because Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mentions the story of Maryam (as) and her family and how she gave birth to Isa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) miraculously at the beginning of the Surah. Just like other Makkan surahs, it deals with the most fundamental aspects of our faith. It talks about the existence and oneness of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), prophethood, and resurrection and recompense.

The Surah is made up of a series of unique stories filled with guidance and lessons that are meant as reminders. One of the main themes of this Surah is mercy… It has been mentioned over 16 times in this Surah. We’ll find the words of grace, compassion and their synonyms frequently mentioned throughout the sūrah, together with Allah’s attributes of beneficence and mercy. We can say that one of the objectives of the Surah is to establish and affirm the attribute of mercy for Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). That’s why all of the stories mentioned also have to do with Allah’s mercy.

Another objective of the Surah is to remind us of our relationship with Allah ﷻ; the concept of Al-‘Ubūdiyyah. These are the two major themes or ideas of this Surah; the concept of Rahmah and the concept of ‘Ubūdiyyah (Mercy and Servitude).

The Surah can be divided into 8 sections:

1) Verses 1-15: The surah starts with the story of Zakariyya (as) and how he was given the gift of a child at a very old age, which was something strange and out of the ordinary.

2) Verses 16-40: mention the story of Maryam and the miraculous birth of Isa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) without a father and how her community responded to her.

3) Verses 41-50: The surah then briefly mentions one part of the story of Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), specifically the conversation he had with his father regarding the worship of idols. The surah then briefly mentions a series of other Prophets.

4) Verses 51-58: Mention Musa and Haroon 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), Ismail 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and Idrees 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) to show that the essence of the message of all Prophets was the same

5) Verses 59-65: compare and contrast the previous generations with the current ones in terms of belief and actions.

6) Verses 66-72: Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) addresses the Mushrikoon rejecting their false claims regarding life after death and judgment.

7) Verses 73-87: continue to address the Mushrikoon and warn them regarding their attitude towards belief in Allah and His messengers. They also mention the great difference between the resurrection of the believer and the resurrection of the non-believer.

8) Verses 88-98: contain a severe warning to those who claim that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has taken a child. They also express that Allah is pleased with the believers and mentions that one of the objectives of the Quran is to give glad tidings to the believers and to warn the non-believers.


From various narrations, we learn that this surah was revealed near the end of the fourth year of Prophethood. This was an extremely difficult time for Muslims. The Quraysh were frustrated with their inability to stop the message of Islam from spreading so they became ruthless. They resorted to any method of torture that they could think of; beating, starving and harassing. When the persecution became so severe that it was difficult for the Muslims to bear it, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) gave permission to migrate to Abyssinia. “For in it dwells a king in whose presence no one is harmed.” 10 men and 4 women migrated in the 5th year of Prophethood secretly. After a few months, a larger group of 83 men and 18 women migrated as well. This migration added more fuel to the fire. It enraged the people of Quraysh.

Umm Salamah [rahna]narrated, “When we stopped to reside in the land of Abyssinia we lived alongside the best of neighbors An-Najashi. We practiced our religion safely, worshipped Allah without harm and didn’t hear anything we disliked. When news of our situation reached the Quraysh they started to plot against us…” They decided to send two delegates to persuade An-Najashi to send the Companions back by offering him and his ministers’ gifts. The plan was to go to each minister with gifts and turn them against the Muslims. So they went to each minister with gifts and said, “Verily, foolish youth from amongst us have come to the country of your king; they have abandoned the religion of their people and have not embraced your religion. Rather they have come with a new religion that neither of us knows. The noblemen of their people, from their fathers and uncles, have sent us to the king asking that he send them back. So when we speak to the king regarding their situation advise him to surrender them to us and to not speak to them…” The minister agreed.

Then they went to the king, offered him gifts and said the same thing… The ministers tried to convince him as well. An-Najashi became angry with them and said, “No, by Allah, I will not surrender them to these two and I don’t fear the plotting of a people who have become my neighbors, have settled down in my country, and have chosen me (to grant them refuge) over every other person. I will not do so until I summon them and speak to them. If they are as these two say I will give them up, but if they aren’t then I will protect them from these two and continue to be a good neighbor to them as long as they are good neighbors to me.”

al-Najāshī then summoned the Prophet’s ﷺ Companions. When his messenger informed the Prophet’s Companions that they were to appear before the king, they gathered together to discuss what they should do. One of them asked, “What will you say to the name (al-Najāshī) when you go to him?” They all agreed on what they would say to him, “By Allah, we will say what our Prophet ﷺ taught us and commanded us with, regardless of the consequences.” Meanwhile, al-Najāshī called for his priests, who gathered around him with their scrolls spread out before them. When the Muslims arrived al-Najāshī began by asking them, “What is this religion for which you have parted from your people? You have not entered into the fold of my religion, nor the religion of any person from these nations.”

Umm Salamah [rahna] narrated, “The Person among us who would speak to him was Jaʿfar ibn abī Ṭālib [rahnu] who then said, “O king, we were an ignorant people: we worshipped idols, we would eat from the flesh of dead animals, we would perform lewd acts, we would cut off family ties, and we would be bad neighbors; the strong among us would eat from the weak. We remained upon that state until Allah sent us a Messenger, whose lineage, truthfulness, trustworthiness, and chastity we already knew. He invited us to Allah – to believe in His oneness and to worship Him; to abandon all that we and our fathers worshipped besides Allah, in terms of stones and idols. He ﷺ commanded us to speak truthfully, to fulfill the trust, to join ties of family relations, to be good to our neighbors, and to refrain from forbidden deeds and from shedding blood. And he ﷺ forbade us from lewd acts, from uttering falsehood, from wrongfully eating the wealth of an orphan, from falsely accusing chaste women of wrongdoing. And he ﷺ ordered us to worship Allah alone and to not associate any partners with him in worship; and he ﷺ commanded us to pray, to give zakāh, and to fast.” He enumerated for al-Najāshī the teachings of Islam. He said, “And we believe him and have faith in him. We follow him in what he came with. And so we worship Allah alone, without associating any partners with Him in worship. We deem forbidden that which he has made forbidden for us, and we deem lawful that which he made permissible for us. Our people then transgressed against us and tortured us. The tried to force us to abandon our religion and to return from the worship of Allah to the worship of idols; they tried to make us deem lawful those abominable acts that we used to deem lawful. Then, when they subjugated us, wronged us, and treated us in an oppressive manner, standing between us and our religion, we came to your country, and we chose you over all other people. We desired to live alongside you, and we hoped that, with you, we would not be wronged, O king.” al-Najāshī said to Jaʿfar [rahnu], “Do you have any of that which he came with from Allah?” Jaʿfar [rahnu] said, “Yes”. “Then recite to me,” said al-Najāshī. Jaʿfar [rahnu] recited for him the beginning of Surah Maryam. By Allah, al-Najāshī began to cry, until his beard became wet with tears. And when his priests heard what Jaʿfar [rahnu] was reciting to them, they cried until their scrolls became wet. al-Najāshī then said, “By Allah, this and what Mūsa (as) came with come out of the same lantern. Then by Allah, I will never surrender them to you, and henceforward they will not be plotted against and tortured.”

Describing what happened after the aforementioned discussion between al-Najāshī and Jaʿfar [rahnu], Umm Salamah raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) said, “When both ʿAmr ibn al-ʿĀṣ and ʿAbdullah ibn abī Rabīʿah left the presence of al-Najāshī, ʿAmr [rahnu] said, “By Allah tomorrow I will present to him information about them with which I will pull up by the roots their very lives.” Abdullah ibn Rabīʿah who was more sympathetic of the two towards us said, “Don’t do so, for they have certain rights of family relations, even if they have opposed us.” ʿAmr said, “By Allah, I will inform him that they claim that ʿĪsā ibn Maryam is a slave.”

He went to the king on the following day and said, “O king, verily, they have strong words to say about ʿĪsa (as). Call them here and ask them what they say about him.” al-Najāshī sent for them in order to ask them about ʿĪsa. Nothing similar to this befell us before. The group of Muslims gathered together and said to one another, “What will you say about ʿĪsa when he asks you about him?” They said, “By Allah, we will say about him that which Allah says and that which our Prophet ﷺ came with, regardless of the outcome.” When they entered into his presence, he said to them, “What do you say about ʿĪsa ibn Maryam?” Jaʿfar raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) said, “We say about him that which our Prophet ﷺ came with – that he is the slave of Allah, His messenger, a spirit created by Him, and His word, which he bestowed on Maryam, the virgin, the baṭūl.”

al-Najāshī struck his hand on the ground and took from it a stick. He then said, “ʿĪsa ibn Maryam did not go beyond what you said even the distance of the stick.” When he said this, his ministers spoke out in anger, to which he responded, “What I said is true even if you speak out in anger, by Allah. (Turning to the Muslims, he said) Go, for you are safe in my land. Whoever curses you will be held responsible. And I would not love to have a reward of gold in return for me hurting a single man among you. (Speaking to his ministers he said) Return to these two (men) their gifts, since we have no need for them. For by Allah, Allah did not take from me bribe money when He returned to me my kingdom, so why should I take bribe money. The two left, defeated and humiliated; and returned to them were the things they came with. We then resided alongside al-Najāshī in a very good abode, with a very good neighbor.”

The response was simply amazing in its eloquence. A believer puts the needs of his soul before the needs of his body. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) starts the Surah by saying,

Verse 1: Kaf, Ha, Ya, ‘Ayn, Sad.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) starts Surah Maryam with a series of five letters. There are many different saying or explanations regarding these five letters. The most correct opinion is that these are from the broken letters. There are 29 different Surahs in the Quran that start with the broken letters. Only Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) alone knows the meanings of these letters. They are a secret from amongst the secrets of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), meaning that no one knows what they truly mean. Only Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) knows their meanings so they are from amongst the Mutashaabihat, those verses whose meanings are hidden.

However, we do find that some great Companions, as well as their students, sometimes gave meanings to these words. For example, it’s said that it is in acronym and each letter represents one of the names of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Kaf is for Al-Kafi or Al-Kareem, “haa” is for Al-Hadi, “yaa” is from Hakeem or Raheem, “’ayn” is from Al-‘Aleem or Al-‘Adheem, and “saad” is from Al-Saadiq. Others said that it is one of the names of Allah and it’s actually Al-Ism Al-‘Atham or that it’s a name of the Quran. However, these narrations can’t be used as proof or to assign definitive meanings. They offer possibilities, but no one truly knows what they mean.

Now the question should come to our mind that why would Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) start of a Surah with words that no one understands?

1) To grab the attention of the listeners.

2) To remind us that no matter how much we know there’s always something that we don’t know.

3) These letters are the letters of the Arabic language and the Quran was revealed at a time that was the peak of eloquence of the language and it was their identity. The Quran was revealed challenging them spiritually and intellectually. The Arabs never heard these letters being used in such a majestic way.

4) To prove the inimitable nature of the Quran.

Allah then starts the story of Zakariyya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). Zakariyya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was one of the Prophets sent to Bani Israel. He was the husband of Maryam’s paternal aunt. He was also one of the caretakers or custodians of Baitul Maqdis.

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Heart Soothers: Idrees Al Hashemi

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Lesson 13 From Surah Al -Kahf

Last verses of Surah Kahf

Surah Kahf
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Alhamdulillah last session we were able to cover the meanings of verses 83-98. InshAllah tonight we’ll explore the meanings of verses 99-110, which will bring us to the end of this noble and beautiful Surah. Just as a quick reminder, the last set of verses related the story of Dhul Qarnain, who was an upright and God-conscious ruler who ruled over the entire known world of his time. He was a righteous servant of Allah to whom Allah granted might, power and sovereignty over the world along with knowledge and wisdom. He was a special servant of God. We’re told about his journeys to the east, west, and north as well as his building of a huge wall to prevent Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj from escaping. This story highlighted the fitna and trial of might, power, leadership, and authority and showed us that the way to deal with it is through faith and sincerity. Dhul Qarnain was tested with a lot of wealth and power but it was unable to corrupt him because of his faith and sincerity. The Surah follows the story of Dhul Qarnain with a scene from the Day of Judgment.

Verse 99: And We shall leave them, on that day, to surge over one another like waves. And the trumpet shall be blown, and We shall gather them together.

The first part of this verse is referring to Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj and the second part refers to resurrection, when the Angel Isrāfīl will blow into the horn bringing all creation back to life. On that day, is referring to the day near the end of times when Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj will break through the barrier and surge down the mountains like waves upon humanity destroying everything in their way. As Allah ﷻ tells us in Surah Al-Anbiya, “Until when [the dam of] Gog and Magog has been opened and they, from every elevation, descend…” They will wreak havoc for a period of time known to Allah until they will be destroyed.

As we’ve covered before there will be two instances when the trumpet will be sounded. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has appointed the Angel Isrāfīl to blow into the trumpet. This will happen twice. The first time every single thing will be destroyed. The second time every single thing will be brought back to life. This is how the day of Resurrection will start. The sūr, which is a trumpet or a horn, will be blown and all of mankind will rise from their graves and come towards the plain of judgment. That’s what Allah ﷻ is mentioning here in this verse, “And the trumpet shall be blown, and We shall gather them together.”

The Surah then describes a scene from the day of Judgment that’s specific to the non-believers. Those who received the message and consciously chose to reject it and rebel against God and His messengers.

Verse 100-101: And We shall present Hell, on that Day, as an array before the non-believers, those whose eyes were veiled from the remembrance of Me, and could not hear.

Meaning on the Day of Judgment Allah ﷻ will show the non-believers Hell Fire, exposing it to them so that they can see it with their own eyes. They will see it with their own eyes and hear its raging and frightening sounds even before entering it. Allah then describes the non-believers with 3 characteristics, which are essentially three reasons why they will be punished in the hereafter:

1) “Those whose eyes were veiled from the remembrance of Me, and could not hear.” They weren’t able to understand the truth when it was presented to them because they were spiritually blind and deaf. They were blind to the signs of Allah’s existence and power all around them spread throughout the universe, so they never thought or reflected over them. On top of that, they weren’t able to understand what was being recited to them. Meaning, they consciously chose to ignore the message and turn away from it. Here Allah is contrasting their condition in the hereafter to their condition in the life of this world. In this world, they chose to turn away from belief in the fire and in the hereafter, they won’t have the option to turn away. The veil over their eyes will be removed and they will see the consequences of their choice.

2) The second is that they worshipped others besides Allah.

Verse 102: Do those who disbelieve reckon that they may take My servants as protectors apart from Me? Truly We have prepared Hell as a welcome for the disbelievers!

Allah is scolding them and showing them their mistake. Did they really think or believe that they could take created beings or inanimate objects as protectors apart from Me? Did they really believe that worshipping idols, angels or people would benefit them or help them in any way? There’s no help or protection except with Allah, who deserves to be worshipped alone without any partners. As Allah ﷻ says in Surah Maryam, “No! Those “gods” will deny their worship of them and will be against them opponents [on the Day of Judgment].” Allah then tells us that their punishment is Jahannam, which has been prepared as a resting place for them. “Truly We have prepared Hell as a welcome for the disbelievers!”

3) The third quality that the non-believers are described with is that they are fools for thinking that their actions in this world will be of any benefit to them in the Hereafter.

Verse 103-104: Say, “Shall We inform you who are the greatest losers in respect to their deeds? Those whose efforts go astray in the life of this world, while they think that they are virtuous in their works.

In this verse, Allah ﷻ is addressing the Prophet ﷺ directly and he’s telling him to pose this question to the non-believers. “Shall We inform you who are the greatest losers in respect to their deeds?” Do you want to know who the greatest and biggest losers are with respect to their deeds? They are the ones who did good deeds and put in effort, but all of it went to waste. Those individuals who were misguided in the life of this world so their actions were guided by their wants, desires, and pleasures. Their actions were misplaced and not guided by faith in Allah. The reason why all of their efforts will go to waste is their disbelief or absence of faith. As Allah says,

Verse 105-106: They are those who disbelieve in the signs of their Lord, and in the meeting with Him. So their deeds have gone to waste, and on the Day of Resurrection, We shall assign them no weight. That is their recompense, the Jahannam, for having disbelieved and for having taken My signs and My messengers in mockery.

The greatest losers with respect to their deeds are those who reject the signs of Allah in this world. Those who refuse to accept the oneness, might, power and magnificence of Allah, those who refuse to believe in life after death and accountability. Their deeds will go to waste and on the Day of Judgment, they won’t have any weight. We know from multiple verses and narrations that our deeds are going to be weighed on the Day of Judgment. And on the Day of Judgment, it’s not about the number of deeds but the quality. That’s why on the Day of Judgment our deeds won’t be counted but they will be weighed. It could be that the weight of one action or deed is more than a thousand other deeds.

Those actions that are devoid of faith and sincerity will have no weight whatsoever. As Allah ﷻ says in Surah Al-Furqān, “And We will regard what they have done of deeds and make them as dust dispersed.” Their recompense is the fire of Jahannam, and that is the ultimate justice and fairness. They get punishment as recompense because of their rejection and disbelief and mockery of Allah’s signs and His messengers. Allah ﷻ then contrasts the punishment of the non-believers with the reward of the believers in Paradise.

Verse 107-108: Those who believe and perform righteous deeds, theirs shall be the Gardens of Paradise as a welcome. Abiding therein forever, they don’t seek any change from it.

Just as Hell is a “welcome” for the non-believers, Paradise is a true “welcome” for the believers. Meaning, those who believe in the existence and oneness of Allah, believe in the Prophet ﷺ and life after death and that faith expresses itself through their actions, their reward will be Gardens of Paradise. Again we see this formula being mentioned, faith + righteous deeds. This is the simple formula to achieve success in this world and the next. Our faith has to be real and practical; it has to translate into action. If we do so then our reward will be Jannah al-Firdaws, which is the highest and most virtuous level of Paradise. The Prophet ﷺ said, “When you ask Allah for Paradise ask Him for Al-Firdaws. It is the highest level of Paradise, the middle of Paradise and the rivers of Paradise flow from it.”

  • إذا سألتم الله الجنة، فاسألوه الفردوس، فإنه أعلى الجنة، و أوسط الجنة، و منها تفجر أنهار الدنة.

In another narration, the Prophet ﷺ said, “In Paradise, there are a hundred levels, what is between every two levels is like what is between the heavens and the earth. Al-Firdaws is its highest level, and from it the four rivers of Paradise are made to flow forth. So when you ask Allah, ask Him for Al-Firdaws.”

  • “‏ فِي الْجَنَّةِ مِائَةُ دَرَجَةٍ مَا بَيْنَ كُلِّ دَرَجَتَيْنِ كَمَا بَيْنَ السَّمَاءِ وَالأَرْضِ وَالْفِرْدَوْسُ أَعْلاَهَا دَرَجَةً وَمِنْهَا تُفَجَّرُ أَنْهَارُ الْجَنَّةِ الأَرْبَعَةُ وَمِنْ فَوْقِهَا يَكُونُ الْعَرْشُ فَإِذَا سَأَلْتُمُ اللَّهَ فَسَلُوهُ الْفِرْدَوْسَ ‏”‏ ‏.

They will be in Paradise for all of eternity, enjoying all of its pleasures and not wanting or desiring anything other than it. Allah (swt) then tells us about the extent and vastness of His knowledge. That his knowledge is infinite. This is also a description of the greatness and status of the Qur’ān.

Verse 109: Say, “If the ocean were ink for the words of my Lord, the ocean would be exhausted before the words of my Lord were exhausted, even if We brought the like thereof to replenish it.”

“The words of my Lord” may be a reference to Allah’s infinite knowledge or wisdom or the meanings of the Qur’ān. Meaning that if the oceans were turned into ink and the words of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) were to be written with this ink, then the ink would run out and the words of Allah (swt) would still be left, even if more ink were to be brought. This is an example to make us understand the vastness of Allah’s knowledge, wisdom, and secrets. This example is being given to make us as human beings recognize the infinite nature of Allah’s knowledge as compared to or finite and limited knowledge.

The ocean is the largest and richest creation known to us as human beings. It takes up more than 70% of the surface of the Earth. And we use ink to document and record our knowledge, which we think is vast and amazing. So Allah gives this example of the ocean as ink being used to write and record His words. The entire ocean is used up and then it’s replenished but the words of Allah are still being written. This example is trying to help us comprehend the difference between the infinite and the finite. “And if all the trees on earth were pens, and if the sea and seven more added to it were ink, the words of Allah would not be exhausted. Truly Allah is Mighty, Wise.” This example should allow us to recognize the greatness and magnificence of Allah ﷻ as well as humble us as human beings as well.

We as human beings should never be deceived or fooled by our own intellect and abilities. No matter how much we learn and how advanced we become scientifically and technologically, it’s nothing compared to the infinite knowledge and wisdom of Allah ﷻ. Our knowledge compared to the knowledge of Allah is like a drop of water compared to all the oceans. Allah ﷻ then ends the noble Surah by reminding the Prophet (saw) about humility and us about the path of true salvation.

Verse 110: Say, “I am only a human being like you. It has been revealed to me that your God is one God. So whosoever hopes for the meeting with his Lord, let him perform righteous deeds and make no one a partner with his Lord in worship.

Allah ﷻ is speaking directly to the Prophet ﷺ. He’s telling him to tell his nation, his community, that he is a human being just like them. He’s not an Angel nor is he divine in any way. He eats, drinks, walks, talks and sleeps just like them. The only difference is that he ﷺ receives revelation from above from the Most High. It has been revealed to him that there is only one God, alone without any partners. So whoever believes in the meeting with their Lord, meaning they believe in the last day, resurrection, accountability and judgment. They know that the life of this world is temporary and finite and that the life of the hereafter is eternal and infinite, should “perform righteous deeds and make no one a partner with his Lord in worship.”

Righteous deeds include fulfilling all of our obligations, obeying the commands of Allah and staying away from His prohibitions. It includes all voluntary acts of worship such as praying, fasting, reading Quran, making dua, dhikr and charity. It includes being kind to our parents, spouses, children, relatives, neighbors, and co-workers. It even includes smiling at someone. There are multiple paths of righteousness in Islam.

We’re then reminded to not associate partners with Allah in our worship; to not commit shirk. There are two types of shirk: al-shirk al-akbar and al-shirk al-asghar. Al-Shirk Al-Akbar is associating partners with Allah; it’s an act of disbelief. Al-Shirk Al-Asghar refers to ostentation and showing off or not having sincerity in acts of worship. The Prophet ﷺ referred to ostentation as “the lesser idolatry.” The Prophet ﷺ said, “I do not fear that you will worship the sun, the stars and the moon, but I fear your worshipping other than Allah through ostentation.” The Prophet ﷺ said, “What I fear most for my community is doing things for other than the sake of Allah.” Ibn al-‘Arabi quotes his shaykh, “Let not the hours of your dear life pass away confronting contemporaries and socializing with friends. Watch out! Allah concluded His statement on the following verse…”

Alhamdulillah that brings us to then end of this noble and beautiful Surah. A Surah that has a special and unique status because the Prophet ﷺ encouraged us to recite it specifically on Fridays. Through four stories the Surah focuses on four different types of trials we’re going to face in this world and how to respond to them.

1) The story of the people of the cave represents the trial of faith. And we’re taught that one of the best ways to deal with it is through good company; surrounding ourselves with people of faith and righteousness.

2) The story of the owner of the two gardens is representative of the trial of wealth. And we’re taught the most powerful way to deal with it is by recognizing the reality of the life of this world.

3) The story of Musa (as) with Khidr is representative of the trial of knowledge and the way to deal with it is through seeking knowledge and humility.

4) The last story, the story of Dhul Qarnain is representative of the trial of power. The solution is sincerity and righte

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