This is a winning paper from the Heavenly Hues AlMaghrib course in Qabeelat Haadi.
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The Concept of Justice in Islam
A Comprehensive Study of the Related Ayaat in the Quran
by: Hebba Choudhry & Mubashir Hussain
Imagine waking up one morning to the sound of gunshots. A man has just been killed. You pass by a home where you hear some children crying, orphaned, and left alone to suffer because of the crimes of other people. On the other side of town, you witness a home that has just been robbed, its residents thrown out mercilessly. You walk past a quiet street and see a car that has been vandalized, its windows broken to shattered glass. Now, just for a moment, stop imagining, switch on the TV, and go watch the news. Chances are you will see all this happening right in front of your eyes, and even more, in our very real world!
Injustice is very widespread on this earth. There can be no peace without the firm establishment of justice. The more you see injustice, the more you realize the importance of establishing justice in the land. When mankind lacks guidance on how to live their lives, the entire structure of society is damaged. Allah (swt) has sent down the Quran as guidance for all of mankind, with all the rules and regulations we need to stay on the right track. Islam is a very complete way of life. Every rule that is good for humanity has been ordained in the Shariah of Allah (swt). Everything we need, in order to live successfully, can be found in the Quran. Amongst these very important divinely instructed laws is the law of establishing justice.
Allah says in the Quran:
“Allah commands justice, the doing of good, and liberality to kith and kin, and He forbids all shameful deeds, and injustice and rebellion: He instructs you, that you may receive admonition.” (Surah An-Nahl: 90)
In this study, we will Insha’Allah, explore the different ayaat of the Quran relating to the topic of justice, and how we can apply them in our daily lives.
What is Justice?
Before we begin, let’s look into the definition of justice. What is justice, and what do we understand from this term?
According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the word “Justice” can be defined in the following ways:
- The quality of being just; fairness.
- The principle of moral rightness; equity.
- Conformity to moral rightness in action or attitude; righteousness.
- The upholding of what is just, especially fair treatment and due reward in accordance with honor, standards, or law.
- Law, the administration and procedure of law.
- A Judge
- Conformity to truth, fact, or sound reason.
The Islamic definition of ‘justice’ comes under the same categories. Justice, as defined in the Quran, commands mankind to behave in a fair and just manner. Allah (swt) has commanded us to protect the rights of others, to be fair and just with people, to side with the one who is under oppression, to help and be fair with the needy and orphans, and to be just and not go beyond the boundaries set by Allah, even with our enemies. We are required to be fair and just in all circumstances, and in all situations. We must establish justice in society. This is the law of our Creator.
Allah (swt) says in the Quran:
“Verily, Allah commands that you should render back the trusts to those, to whom they are due; and that when you judge between men, you judge with justice. Verily, how excellent is the teaching which He (Allah) gives you! Truly, Allah is Ever All-Hearer, All Seer.” (Surah Nisa: 58)
Justice: The Law of Allah
Establishing justice is the law of Allah (swt). It is part of the balance which Allah has created. In Surah Ar-Rahman, Allah (swt) describes how He has created a balance of justice, and why:
” And the Heavens He has raised high, and He has set up the Balance (of justice). In order that you may not transgress (due) balance. So establish weight with justice, and fall not short in the balance.” (Surah Ar-Rahman: 7 – 9)
Upon examination of these ayaat, we can understand three different points.
1. Allah (swt) has created the balance of justice in this world. This is His Divine Law.
2. We are not permitted to transgress against the system of balance that Allah has created.
3. Allah (swt) has commanded us to establish weight with justice, and ordered us to refrain from falling short in keeping this balance.
Allah is Just
Amongst the Great Names and Attributes of Allah (swt) is Al-Hakam, which means, “The Judge”. Allah (swt) is the Most Just, and He judges the affairs of His beings with full justice. There are several ayaat in the Quran which describe the justice of Allah (swt). Among them are the following:
We understand from the above ayaat that Allah is just, and He does not do injustice to mankind. It is men who do injustice to themselves. Not only is Allah just and fair, but He (swt) is so just, that He will not even do the injustice to the weight of an atom. On top of that, Allah will only multiply our good deeds, and will reward us for that. SubhanAllah, how Merciful Allah is! He (swt) gives us ALL that we ask for, and there is no way we could possibly count all of our blessings. It is mankind, who is unjust, and ungrateful to the bounties of Allah.
Allah Has Commanded us to be Just and Fair
“Oh you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even though it be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, be he rich or poor, Allah is a better protector to both (than you). So follow not your lusts, lest you may avoid justice, and if you distort your witnesses or refuse to give it, verily, Allah is ever well acquainted with what you do.”
(Surah Nisa: 135)
In the above ayah, Allah has commanded in explicit words the importance of standing up for justice. Before Islam, the Arabs were living in a state of ignorance. Their loyalty was to themselves, their families, their own tribes, even when their own were committing great injustices. Allah then sent down this verse, commanding the Muslims to be just, even if it goes against themselves, their parents, their kith and kin, and whether they be rich or poor.
Naturally, it is very easy for human beings to wish for justice against others who have done injustice upon them, or to a third party. The heart is prone to inclining towards that which is just. This natural inclination, however, changes when we are the ones at fault. Let’s take a look at the following scenario.
Suppose your neighbor’s house has been robbed. Their doors have been broken, windows shattered, and belongings taken away. Their lives are left in ruins. Naturally, your heart will incline towards bringing the burglar to justice. The victims would definitely want the thief to be punished. Now, let’s say that thief is you. Would you still want justice to be served? As the criminal, you would do your utmost to get away with the crime. Now that your own self is at stake, you no longer incline towards justice. So what if the thief is your father? What if the thief is your brother? Most likely, you would still incline towards saving your family by concealing their crime, and helping them get away with it. Yet, if the culprit is NOT yourself or your family, you would want justice to be served, for the exact same crime! Why the double standards? These double standards are the result of our lusts and desires, which often lead to injustice.
To perfect the concept of justice, Allah (swt) orders us to stand firmly for that which is true, even in situations where our hearts will incline towards that which is unjust. Regardless of who is at fault, we MUST stand for that which is right. Even if we ourselves are the ones at fault, we do not have the right to escape punishment. We cannot conceal the wrongdoings of our family. Allah knows our natural inclinations, and thus firmly commanded us to refrain from following our heart’s desires, lest we avoid justice.
The Wisdom Behind this Command
In Surah Ma’idah, verse 8, Allah explains the wisdom behind the command to establish justice in society.
“Oh you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah, as just witnesses, and let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just: that is nearer to piety: and fear Allah. Verily, Allah is well-acquainted with what you do.” (Al-Ma’idah: 8)
We understand from the above verse that Allah (swt) has commanded us to be just, because that is closer to piety. Although the ayah here points out that justice is ‘nearer’ to Taqwa, there is not any other course of action to take. According to Tafsir Ibn Kathir, ‘nearer’, in this verse, means ‘is’. So why is Allah equating justice to Taqwa? Let’s put things into perspective.
Taqwa, in its general meaning, is God-consciousness, or a state of submission. A person who has full taqwa can never stray away from being just. We know that Allah is watching us at all times. We know that Allah is well acquainted with what we do. This fear of Allah’s displeasure and anger would prevent a person from being unjust in situations where serving justice becomes necessary. We know that Allah wants us to stay within the walls of justice, even when dealing with ourselves, with our family, with the rich or poor, even with an enemy. Only a person with full taqwa could practice complete justice like that.
Justice in Action
When Allah commanded us to be just, He (swt) did not just leave us there to sit and wonder about ‘how’ we can practice justice. Throughout the Quran, Allah has given us numerous guidelines on how to act justly in various situations. Here are a few examples.
Allah (swt) says in Surah Al-Hujraat, verse 9:
“And if two parties among the Believers fall to fighting, then make peace between them both: but if one of them transgresses beyond bounds against the other, then fight you (all) against the one that transgresses until it complies with the Command of Allah. Then if it complies, then make reconciliation between them with justice, and be fair: for Allah loves those who are fair (and just).” (Al-Hujraat: 9)
This ayah gives us the answers to four important points:
What to do when two believers are fighting?
- First, try to make peace between them.
What if that doesn’t work?
- Then fight against the one who is transgressing.
What to do if the transgressor straightens out?
- Then if the one who was transgressing complies with the Command of Allah, once again, try to make reconciliation between them with justice.
- Because Allah loves those who are fair and just.
Allah says in Surah Al-An’am, verse 152:
“And come not near to the orphan’s property, except to improve it, until he (or she) attains the age of full strength; and give full measure and full weight with justice. We burden not any person, but that which he can bear. And whenever you give your word (i.e. judge between men or give evidence), say the truth, even if a near relative is concerned, and fulfill the Covenant of Allah. This He commands you, that you may remember.” (Surah Al-An’am: 152)
This ayah gives us the answers to three main points.
What to do with an orphan’s wealth?
- Nothing. Stay away from it. Don’t come near it.
- If you must do something, do so only to improve it in a way that it will benefit the orphan.
- When the orphans attain the age of full strength, give them their wealth in full measure and in full weight with justice.
How should you give your word?
- When you judge between men or give evidence, say the truth! Say the truth even when a relative is concerned.
- We must fulfill the Covenant of Allah (swt). This is His Command.
Allah says in Surah Al-Ma’idah, verse 45:
“And We ordained therein for them: Life for a life, eye for an eye, nose for a nose, ear for an ear, tooth for a tooth, and wounds equal for equal. But if anyone remits the retaliation by way of charity, it shall be for him, an expiation. And whosoever does not judge by that which Allah has revealed, such are the wrong-doers.” (Surah Al-Ma’idah: 45)
We find the answers to several questions regarding the implication of justice, in this ayah.
What should be done in the case of intentional murder?
- Death penalty. Allah says: “A life for a life…”
What should be done if someone hurts you?
- Hurt them, just as they hurt you. No more than that.
Is it a MUST to retaliate?
- No, you do not have to retaliate, although you have the full right to do so. Allah says, “But if anyone remits the retaliation by way of charity, it shall be for him, an expiation.” If someone commits an injustice towards you, and you forgive them for the sake of Allah, and remit retaliation, Allah will forgive your sins in return for that noble deed.
What if someone wishes to retaliate in a way other than that which Allah revealed?
- We cannot base our judgment on anything other than what Allah has revealed. We cannot go beyond our limits when retaliating. Allah says, “And whosoever does not judge by that which Allah has revealed, such are the wrong-doers.” We must judge and retaliate in the way Allah has revealed. Any person who goes against Allah’s guidelines falls into the category of wrongdoers.
These were just some examples of ayaat where Allah (swt) tells us ‘how’ to implement justice in different scenarios of life. The Quran goes into extensive detail in explaining the implementation of justice in many other issues, such as divorce, inheritance, theft, and so on. For the sake of brevity of the paper, we hope that these three examples will be sufficient.
How to Judge Between People?
In Surah S’ad, verses 20 – 26, Allah (swt) tells us the story of Daawud (as), and when Allah tested him to see how he would judge between two people. We can take good lesson from this story.
Allah (swt) says:
“We made his (Daawud’s) kingdom strong, and gave him wisdom, and sound judgment in speech and decision.” (Surah S’ad: 20)
“Has the story of the disputants reached you? When they climbed over the wall of the private chamber.” (Surah S’ad: 21)
“When they entered in upon Daawud, he was terrified of them. They said, “Fear not. (We are) two disputants, one of whom has wronged the other. Therefore, judge between us with truth, and treat us not with injustice, and guide us to the Right Way.” (Surah S’ad: 22)
“Verily, this my brother has ninety-nine ewes, while I have (only) one ewe, and he says: “Hand it over to me, and he overpowered me in speech.” (Surah S’ad: 23)
“Daawud said, (immediately without listening to the opponent): “He has wronged you in demanding your ewe in addition to his ewes. And verily, many partners oppress one another, except those who believe and do righteous good deeds, and they are few.” And Daawud realized that We have tried him, and he sought forgiveness from his Lord, and he fell down in prostration, and turned (to Allah) in repentance.” (Surah S’ad: 24)
“So We forgave him for that, and verily, for him is a near access to Us, and a good place of (final) return (Paradise).” (Surah S’ad: 25)
“Oh Daawud! Verily, We have placed you a successor on the earth; so judge you between men in truth (and justice), and follow not your desire – for it will mislead you from the path of Allah. Verily, those who wander astray from the path of Allah (shall) have a severe torment, because they forgot the Day of Reckoning.” (Surah S’ad: 26)
We learn from these ayaat the importance of hearing both sides of the story before passing any judgment between two people. Sometimes, the truth is not spoken by one party, and the one who is judging can get misled without hearing the voice of other side. Allah (swt) tested Daawud (as) by sending him two disputants. When Daawud (as) heard the story from one side, he passed his judgment, without realizing that he should have heard what the other person had to say first. He then realized his mistake and turned to Allah in repentance. In order to pass a fair judgment, one must listen to both parties, evaluate the situation, and then, come to a conclusion. This is a fundamental crux for judging between two or more people or groups. If we just turn our head around and see, we will find numerous examples at an individual and societal level and also at national and inter-national level where this fundamental principle is violated.
People who Strive to Establish Justice
We live in a world where there are people who commit crimes and create chaos in society. There are people who commit thefts. There are people who vandalize cities. There are people who torment others. There are people who are not fair and just when it comes to their dealings with people. Often times, they get away with their wrongdoings. When so much wrong exists, sometimes, seeing the good in society can become difficult. We find ourselves wondering, “There were just Prophets and Messengers sent by Allah in the past. Are there not any just people today?” By the Mercy of Allah (swt), there are always some people out there in this world who have the taqwa of Allah (swt), and will judge between people with justice.
Allah says in Surah Al-A’raf, verse 181:
“And of those whom We have created, there is a community who guides (others) with the truth, and establishes justice therewith.” (Al-A’raf: 181)
Let’s take a brief tangent here. We now know that there will always be a community who guides others to the truth, and establishes justice with Allah’s guidance. A question might arise from this. What do we do when those people are not in authority? In today’s world, rulers strive for power and fame, and it may be impossible to find a ruler who establishes the law of justice based on the guidelines of our Creator. What do we do in this situation? The answer is in Surah Al-Asr.
“Verily Man is in loss. Except those who have Faith, and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of Truth, and of Patience and Constancy.” (Al-Asr: 3 – 4)
These ayaat tell us that mankind is lost. Only those who have true faith in Allah, do righteous deeds, and join together in the mutual teaching of truth, and of patience have saved themselves from this loss. The wisdom behind having a Khalifah in Islam to rule us is that we always have an authority that will stand for the truth, and rule people with justice in accordance to Allah’s Commands. Unfortunately, we do not have a Khalifah in this day and age. Often times, there are situations that need to be dealt with justly on a higher level, and our leaders are not willing to take that step. When we ourselves are not capable of taking the lead of establishing justice at an upper level, what can we do? We should always stick to the truth, and have patience. We must do our part in trying to bring about a change, but until that change comes, we must be patient. Patience is the key to success.
The Ultimate Justice
As we discussed earlier, there are times when people do wrong in this world and get away with it. Sometimes, criminals commit crimes, and no one brings them to account. There are times when wrongdoers commit their evil deeds in the darkness of night, and no one witnesses their crime, other than their Creator. As Allah Himself created the balance of justice as His law in this world, Allah will not allow any injustice to happen, without bringing that person to account. Those matters which are not resolved in this world, Allah (swt) will deal with them in the hereafter…on the Day of Judgment. Every one of us was created by Allah, and every one of us will return to Him for final judgment.
Allah says in the Quran:
“And We shall set up Balance of justice on the Day of Resurrection, then none will be dealt with unjustly in anything. And if there be the weight of a mustard seed, We will bring it. And Sufficient are We to take account.” (Al-Anbiya: 47)
Here, Allah (swt) tells us that He will set up a balance of justice on the Day of Resurrection. On that day, no one will be dealt with unjustly. If there is a matter that will be as small as the weight of a mustard seed, Allah (swt) in His Manifest Wisdom will take account of it. Allah will be our Judge.
Allah (swt) has prepared a great reward for those who lived their lives in righteousness, worshipping Him, and obeying His Commands, and doing good deeds:
“And whoever does righteous deeds, male or female, and is a (true) believer, such will enter Paradise, and not the least injustice, even to the size of a ‘Naqira’ [speck on the back of a date stone], will be done to them.” (An-Nisa: 124)
On the other hand, those who did wrong in this world will be punished severely on that day:
“And the Book (one’s Record) will be placed (in the right hand for a believer in the Oneness of Allah, and in the left hand for a disbeliever in the Oneness of Allah), and you will see the ‘Mujrimun’ (criminals, polytheists, sinners), fearful of that which is (recorded) therein. They will say: “Woe to us! What sort of Book is this that leaves neither a small thing nor a big thing, but has recorded it with numbers!” And they will find all that they did placed before them, and your Lord treats no one with injustice.” (Al-Kahf: 49)
Remember that the greatest injustice in the sight of Allah is shirk. There is no forgiveness for those who live their lives committing shirk and die in that state. For such people, the punishment after judgment will be very severe.
“Behold, Luqman said to his son by way of instruction: “O my son! Join not in worship (others) with Allah. For false worship is indeed the greatest injustice.” (Surah Luqman: 13)
When Allah is the Judge, who can dare try to get away with their crimes and evil doings? They will never be able to do that. Truly Allah is the Best and Most Wise of all Judges.
“Is not Allah the wisest of Judges?” (Surah At-Tin: 8)
And Allah knows Best.
We ask Allah to make us amongst those who always stand firmly on the truth, for justice. We ask Allah to forgive us for our mistakes, and make us amongst the successful ones, on that day when He(swt) will bring us all to account, and every soul will be dealt with in complete justice, and rewarded with only that which they earned with their own hands.
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.
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Lesson 13 From Surah Al -Kahf
Last verses of Surah Kahf
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 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 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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