Madinah was a place of firsts for us and provided clues to the trip to come. We got off the plane like tourists, giddy and exhausted. The giddiness dissipated as we stood in line to be processed by a series of clerks who were the first in the long line of alternately aggressive and apathetic bureaucratic employees we would encounter during our hajj journey. The chaos of getting onto a bus and checking in to the hotel was the first of many moments of chaos we would encounter. We got settled in our hotel room and immediately set off with two friends from Houston for the masjid an Nabawi.
Being in the masjid an Nabawi and visiting nearby mosques of historical significance would give us the first taste of the terrible pushing crowds we would experience. In that way it was beneficial to go to Madinah first – it prepared us as best we could be for the crowds to come in Mecca. My husband and friends made plans to get up after a few hours of sleep to pray tahajjud at the mosque, but I was tired and disoriented and opted for sleep instead.
December 31, 2005, ~3:15 a.m. Room 317, Hilton Madinah. I’ve been up for about an hour or so, taking my time and having a nice hot shower. Husband left to see the Rawdah ~1:30 a.m. but I thought I wanted to sleep more – as it turned out I wasn’t as tired as I thought, and got up shortly thereafter. The plan is for my friend and I to go to fajr together at the masjid an Nabawi and stay to see the Rawdah. After that we’ll meet our husbands back at the hotel and go on the tour of historic sites and such. Unfortunately the plan isn’t 100% clear to me, though, as far as what time my friend and I are meeting, and I will likely end up walking over to fajr alone. I’m kind of nervous about doing things alone.
So I’m looking out the window right now watching people steadily walking towards the Prophet’s masjid. Madinah is like a party town in total reverse – people are out at all hours of the night to pray, not to party.
I was totally jonesing for some coffee, even though I’m down to one cup in the morning and really do well without it. I was simply dreaming of sitting down with a hot cup of black bitter coffee when I started writing. I ordered a small Arabic coffee from room service and ended up with a carafe full of tea-colored cardamom-flavored hot beverage, which I’m hoping has caffeine in it…
I see so many people heading towards the masjid that I keep thinking it will run out of space – but then I remember it can hold a million people within the building and surrounding grounds. It’s enormous! And gorgeous. Subhanallah! Off I go.
Eid Lameness Syndrome: Diagnosis, Treatment, Cure
How many of you have gone to work on Eid because you felt there was no point in taking off? No Eid fun. Have you ever found Eid boring, no different from any other day?
If so, you may suffer from ELS (Eid Lameness Syndrome). Growing up, I did too.
My family would wake up, go to salah, go out to breakfast, come home, take a 4+ hour nap and then go out to dinner. I didn’t have friends to celebrate with and even if I did, I wouldn’t see them because we stuck to our own immediate family just as they did.
On the occasion that we went to a park or convention center, we would sort of have fun. Being with other people was certainly better than breakfast-nap-dinner in isolation, but calling that a memorable, satisfying, or genuinely fun Eid would be a stretch.
I don’t blame my parents for the ELS though. They came from a country where Eid celebration was the norm; everyone was celebrating with everyone and you didn’t have to exert any effort. When they moved to the US, where Muslims were a minority, it was uncharted territory. They did the best they could with the limited resources they had.
When I grew up, I did about the same too. When I hear friends or acquaintances tell me that they’re working, doing laundry or whatever other mundane things on Eid, I understand. Eid has been lame for so long that some people have given up trying to see it any other way. Why take personal time off to sit at home and do nothing?
I stuck to whatever my parents did for Eid because “Eid was a time for family.” In doing so, I was honoring their cultural ideas of honoring family, but not Eid. It wasn’t until I moved away that I decided to rebel and spend Eid with convert friends (versus family) who didn’t have Muslim families to celebrate with on Eid, rather than drive for hours to get home for another lame salah-breakfast-nap-dinner.
That was a game-changing Eid for me. It was the first non-lame Eid I ever had, not because we did anything extraordinary or amazing, but because we made the day special by doing things that we wouldn’t normally do on a weekday together. It was then that I made a determination to never have a lame Eid ever again InshaAllah.
I’m not the only one fighting ELS. Mosques and organizations are creating events for people to attend and enjoy together, and families are opting to spend Eid with other families. There is still much more than can be done, as converts, students, single people, couples without children and couples with very small children, are hard-hit by the isolation and sadness that ELS brings. Here are a few suggestions for helping treat ELS in your community:
Host an open house
Opening up your home to a large group of people is a monumental task that takes a lot of planning and strength. But it comes with a lot of baraka and reward. Imagine the smiling faces of people who would have had nowhere to go on Eid, but suddenly find themselves in your home being hosted. If you have a big home, hosting an open house is an opportunity to express your gratitude to Allah for blessing you with it.
Expand your circle
Eid is about commUNITY. Many people spend Eid alone when potential hosts stick to their own race/class/social status. Invite and welcome others to spend Eid with you in whatever capacity you can.
You can enlist the help of close friends and family to help so it’s not all on you. Delegate food, setup, and clean-up across your family and social network so that no one person will be burdened by the effort InshaAllah.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a big house, you’ll find out how much barakah your home has by how many people are able to fit in it. I’ve been to iftars in teeny tiny apartments where there’s little space but lots of love. If you manage to squeeze in even two or three extra guests, you’ve saved two or three people from ELS for that year.
Outsource Eid Fun
If you have the financial means or know enough friends who can pool together, rent a house. Some housing share sites have homes that can be rented specifically for events, giving you the space to consolidate many, smaller efforts into one larger, more streamlined party.
It can be a challenge to find Eid buddies to spend the day with. Try looking for people in similar circumstances as you. I’m a single woman and have hosted a ladies game night for the last few Eids where both married and single women attend. If you are a couple with young kids, find a few families with children of similar age groups. If you’re a student, start collecting classmates. Don’t wait for other people to invite you, make a list in advance and get working to fend off ELS together.
The Prophet ﷺ said: تَهَادُوا تَحَابُّوا “Give gifts to increase love for each other”. One of my siblings started a tradition of getting a gift for each person in the family. If that’s too much, pick one friend or family member and give them a gift. If you can’t afford gifts, give something that doesn’t require much money like a card or just your time. You never know how much a card with kind, caring words can brighten a person’s Eid.
Get out of your comfort zone
If you have ELS, chances are there is someone else out there who has it too. The only way to find out if someone is sad and alone on Eid is by admitting that we are first, and asking if they are too.
Try, try, try again…
Maybe you’ve taken off work only to find that going would have been less of a waste of time. Maybe you tried giving gifts and it didn’t go well. Maybe you threw an open house and are still cleaning up/dealing with the aftermath until now. It’s understandable to want to quit and say never again, to relent and accept that you have ELS and always will but please, keep trying. The Ummah needs to believe that Eid can and should be fun and special for everyone.
While it is hard to be vulnerable and we may be afraid of rejection or judgment, the risk is worth it. As a survivor and recoverer of ELS, I know how hard it can be and also how rewarding it is to be free of it. May Allah bless us all with the best Eids and to make the most of the blessed days before and after, Ameen.
The Etiquettes of Sacrifice for Eid al Adha
A Simple Request for Eid al-Adha | Sr Julie Mair
Eid al-Adha will soon be upon us, alhamdulillah. It is a blessed time, a time for celebration, a time to share with family and loved ones—but it can also be a time of immense cruelty if the slaughter is not done properly and mercifully.
Allah Ta’ala tells us in the Qur’an that the Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu alaihi was sallam, was sent as a rahmatan lil ‘alameena – a mercy to the worlds (Surah al-Anbiya, 21:107). Much has been reported on the Prophet’s kind treatment of animals, and some hadith specifically mention animals to be slaughtered:
Anyone who shows mercy, even to an animal meant for slaughtering, will be shown mercy by Allah on the Day of Rising. (Al-Adab Al-Mufrad)
Verily Allah has enjoined goodness to everything; so when you kill, kill in a good way and when you slaughter, slaughter in a good way. So every one of you should sharpen his knife, and let the slaughtered animal die comfortably. (Sahih Muslim)
Etiquettes of the slaughter are often unknown or overlooked, such as: hiding the knife from the animal; slaughtering out of the sight of other animals waiting to be slaughtered; killing in a comfortable way; and avoiding unnecessary suffering.
Tying an animal’s legs together and leaving it to moan in the hot sun clearly results in unnecessary suffering, but this happens. Hanging animals together from hooks by their feet and killing them one-by-one results in unnecessary suffering, but this happens. Even less egregious actions such as dragging an animal or otherwise handling it roughly results in unnecessary suffering. It is incumbent on anyone who is going to slaughter an animal to learn the Islamic requirements and etiquettes of slaughtering so that it is done properly and mercifully.
The Prophet warned us, “Someone who does not show mercy will not be shown mercy.” (Al-Adab Al-Mufrad)
So please, before this Eid al-Adha, educate yourself on the proper and merciful way to slaughter. If you are going to a farm or other facility, make sure that it will be done correctly. Educate those who do not know. Enjoin the good and forbid the wrong.*
Whoever guides someone to goodness will have a reward like the one who did it.
Eid al-Adha will soon be upon us, alhamdulillah.
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Perfection in all things | Sh Mikaeel Smith
There are certain narrations of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) that are a source of great inspiration and which force one to discover a higher purpose and the deepest of meanings and lessons in the most trivial actions. These narrations, when continually contemplated upon and kept at the forefront of one’s mind, can create a very profound sense of mindfulness and presence throughout one’s day to day affairs. Throughout our day to day life we have to do a number of seemingly mundane actions for our personal well-being and the well-being of those around us. But there is a single narration that teaches us that there is no such thing as a trivial action or a mundane affair for the believer. Everything has a purpose. The Prophet Muhammad once said,
عن أبي يعلى شداد بن أوسٍ رضي الله عنه، عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال: ((إن الله كتب الإحسان على كل شيءٍ، فإذا قتلتم فأحسنوا القِتْلة، وإذا ذبحتم فأحسنوا الذِّبْحة، ولْيُحِدَّ أحدُكم شفرته، ولْيُرِحْ ذبيحته))؛ رواه مسلم.
“Indeed Allah has ordained perfection and excellence in every matter. When you fight, do so with excellence. When you slaughter an animal do so with excellence. Sharpen your knife because this will make it easier for the animal.” (Muslims #1955)
Everything in life is a chance to strive for perfection and thereby fulfill one’s duty to his or her creator and sustainer. While this narration inspires people of all fields to be the best at what they do, the Prophet ﷺ mentions two specific examples where excellence should be sought. One is in war and situations of conflict and the other is the ritual sacrifice which takes place at the time of the pilgrimage. It should be noted that perfection just like beauty is highly subjective. Therefore as Muslims, we look to the sunnah or way of Muhammad to define perfection for every affair.
The sacred month of the pilgrimage is getting close and so we are approaching the time to remember and imitate the sacrifice of Ibrāhīm (AS). We imitate him because he is the quintessential example of submission. By imitating his unparalleled level of submission we become pupils to this great teacher. Imitation is the first step for every student. Secondly, we must understand that imitation is the highest form of flattery.
It is not the meat or blood of this sacrifice which Allah desires from us — rather obedience. That being said we should learn how to do this sacrifice is the best way.
My personal opinion as an American Muslim who desires to see Islam as an intrinsic aspect of American religious life, I strongly encourage Muslims in America to personal do their sacrifice themselves instead of sending money for their sacrifice to be done overseas. I am completely aware that there are brothers and sisters who need meat more than ourselves. But this train of thought completely misses the objective of this great act of imitation. If a person wants to help poor Muslims around the world one should do so. But not at the expense of teaching their own family the significance of this day. By outsourcing your ibadah we lose the spiritual impact and meaning. We essentially deprive our children and family of participating in the primary act of worship on this great day. Now let us look at some of the religiously recommended actions that one should observe when doing the sacrifice. Striving for excellence in all things, as Muslims, means first and foremost setting one’s moral compass to the “Prophetic North” by reviewing the Prophetic teachings surrounding this great worship.
Below I have listed a few of the etiquette of this sacrifice:
- One should internally remember the significance of this sacrifice and what it represents. Study the life of Abraham and internalize how he was able to overcome his own moral judgments when he was commanded to sacrifice his own son.
- One must use a very sharp knife. This is done so that there are no complications and delays in the process of slaughter.
- The sharpening of the knife should be done away from the field of vision of the animals.
- The animal should be given water before the sacrifice.
- The animal should be gently brought to the place where it will be slaughtered.
- The animal should be slaughtered out of the field of vision of the other animals.
- The animal should be gently placed on its left side.
- The one doing the slaughter should face the Qiblah.
During the Sacrifice
- The slaughter must be as quick as possible.
- Before the slaughter one should say, “Allah is the Greatest” thrice followed by the statement, “In the name of Allah”.
- The two major arteries should be cut along with the windpipe.
- It is recommended that the first thing that one eats after the Eid prayer is meat from the sacrifice.
It is important to keep in mind that the things mentioned above are not mandatory aspects. This means that is someone was to leave out one of these things the sacrifice would still be legally valid, while at the same time lacking the level of perfection that we as Muslims should strive for.
Through this sacrifice, we are reminded of our pursuit of excellence for the sake of our Creator in all that we do. We perfect our skills, trades, and academic pursuits and all that we do for our love of our creator. Whether one is studying for an exam, or striving to be an athlete, excellence for the sake of Allah is our goal.
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Lessons From Surah Maryam: 1
Alhamdulillah, it’s a great blessing of Allah 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 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 . 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 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 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 mentions the story of Maryam (as) and her family and how she gave birth to Isa 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 , 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 . 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 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 , 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 , Ismail and Idrees 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 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 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 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 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 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 starts the Surah by saying,
Verse 1: Kaf, Ha, Ya, ‘Ayn, Sad.
Allah 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 alone knows the meanings of these letters. They are a secret from amongst the secrets of Allah , meaning that no one knows what they truly mean. Only Allah 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 . 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 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 . Zakariyya 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.