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Reading the Qur’an in Ramadan

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readingquran.jpgIn the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful, Bestower of Mercy

“(It is) the month of Ramadan in which the Qur’an was revealed as a guidance for mankind, clear proofs giving guidance, and the Criterion (for distinguishing right and wrong). So whoever of you witnesses this month, let him fast it.” [2:185]

The month of Ramadan, the blessed month in which the Qur’an was revealed, is now upon us. To mark the significance of this momentous occasion – the revelation of the Qur’an – we fast during the day and pray at nights, particularly Laylat al-Qadr, the night the Qur’an was revealed, as Allah tells us:

“We sent it down on a Blessed Night: We have ever been sending warnings.” [44:3]

The reward for fasting and praying in this month is so great, that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم states, “Whoever fasted the month of Ramadan out of sincere faith and hoping for reward, then all his past sins will be forgiven, and whoever stood for the prayer on Laylat al-Qadr out of sincere faith and hoping for reward, then all his previous sins will be forgiven.” [Agreed Upon]

And he states, “Whoever prayed at night during it (Ramadan) out of sincere faith and hoping for reward, then all his previous sins will be forgiven.” [Agreed Upon]

These are three opportunities that we have been given to attain forgiveness for all our sins. The spiritual doctors of the heart are in agreement that fasting softens the heart, making it more receptive and humble to the recitation of the Qur’an. Perhaps this is the wisdom that links together fasting and night prayer, the two most distinctive acts of worship in this month.

It is important to note that our relationship with the Qur’an in this month should not be limited to just the nightly Tarawih prayers, we must devote ourselves to studying the Qur’an outside of prayer as well.

Ibn ‘Abbas narrates, saying, “The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) was the most generous person, and he would be at his most generous in Ramadan because Jibril would come to him every night and he would study the Qur’an with him. Truly, when Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) would meet Gabriel, he would be more generous than a fleeting wind.” [Agreed Upon]

Additionally, al-Bukhari reports from Fatima that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) told her in the last year of his life, “Jibril used to revise the Qur’an with me once every year, but this year he has revised it with me twice. I do not suspect but that my time has come. And you shall be the first of my household to join me.”

Our Relationship with the Qur’an

Unfortunately, the majority of us do not have any relationship with the Qur’an. Since we are in Ramadan, the blessed month of the Qur’an, and the devils have been chained up, now is the opportunity to change this sad state of affairs.

Given the state of most Muslims today, any discussion about the maximum recommended amount to read daily, in Ramadan or outside Ramadan, would be purely academic. I doubt any of us will attempt to read the Qur’an 60 times every Ramadan as Imam al-Shafi’i used to do or to spend the night reciting the entire Qur’an in a single rak’ah as Uthman b. Affan did (yes, it’s really authentic; in fact, Sa’id b. Jubayr and Imam Ahmad have done it as well). I won’t regale you with all the narrations about how much the Salaf used to recite the Qur’an during Ramadan, both inside prayer and outside it (for those interested, you can probably find them all over the internet already anyways).

To do as they did is something far beyond any of us given that most of us hardly read the Qur’an at all. However, as a side note, I would like to share this one account for all of us to ponder:

The Khalifah, Walid b. Abd al-Malik, used to complete the Qur’an every three days and he used to read it a full seventeen times during Ramadan. [See his biography in Siyar A’lam al-Nubala’]

Now, to the real issue, what should do to rectify our situation? For those who are already in the habit of reading the Qur’an every Ramadan, try and make sure to complete the entire Qur’an, if you have not been doing so in the past. Also, take this as an opportunity to get into the habit of reading the Qur’an daily even when Ramadan is over. If you have not been reading the Qur’an during Ramadan in the past, then decide how much time you can reasonably take out of your schedule to read Qur’an on a daily basis. Don’t push yourself to do too much, otherwise you’ll end up right back where you started: not reading the Qur’an at all. Also remember, “The most beloved deeds to Allah are those done regularly, even if they are small.” [Agreed Upon] Therefore, it’s very important that you make a Ramadan schedule that you can stick to.

Is There A Minimum One Should Read? What Do the Scholars Have to Say?

Well, some scholars – such as Imam Ahmad and Ishaq b. Rahuyah – have disliked for a person to not complete the Qur’an at least every 40 days, based on a hadith of `Abdullah b. `Amr in which the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) instructed him to recite the Qur’an in forty days. Another narration gives the minimum as once a month. However, this should not be taken as something obligatory, particularly for those who are not in the habit of reading Qur’an at all, or are not proficient in reciting the Qur’an, such as new Muslims. For them to attempt, all at once, to start reading the entire Qur’an once a month would probably become a barrier to them reading the Qur’an at all.

I asked Sh. Ghassan al-Barqawi about this issue, and he reccomended that, as a bare minimum, one should study ten verses a day. He based this on the narration of ibn Mas’ud that the Companions used to learn the Qur’an ten verses at a time.

How Should One Proceed?

Since the hunger and thirst brought on by fasting softens the heart and makes it more receptive, this is an excellent time to try and read and contemplate the Qur’an. For that reason, I would highly reccomend not merely reading the Qur’an, but studying it. It was the Sunnah of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) to study the Qur’an nightly with Jibril. It was this sort of thoughtful study of the Qur’an that had an impact on the quality of the Prophet’s (صلى الله عليه وسلم) deeds. He was already the most generous of all human beings, yet study of the Qur’an in this month increased him in generosity.

Study Tools

For those who know Arabic, I would highly reccomend that as they read the Qur’an, they refer to a short Tafsir. In particular, I would reccomend one of the following:

Zubdat al-Tafsir, Sh. Muhammad Sulayman al-Ashqar
Taysir al-Karim al-Rahman, by Sh. al-Sa’di
Al-Tafsir al-Muyassar, a committee of scholars

You should make it an eventual goal to finish the Tafsir entirely, preferably highlighting or marking all the important points you come across for quick reference in the future. The idea is to be able to be able to read the Qur’an such that the explanations offered in the Tafsir become ingrained in your mind. This will make your Qur’an reading easier, more enjoyable, and more thought provoking. It is also an excellent foundation for any future Qur’an study.

For the English only crowd, it is important to read the Qur’an along with a translation, as Allah tells us:

“It is a Book that We have sent down to you blessed, so that they may contemplate its verses and so that people of understanding may take heed.”
[38:29]

It is good to recite the Qur’an, even if you do not understand it, but the ultimate purpose of its revelation was for us to imbibe its teachings and incorporate them in our lives.

It is important to pick a good translation that suits you. Personally, I like Pickthall. Sahih International and Muhsin Khan’s translation are also good. I should note, that while I am a big fan of Pickthall’s translation, his style of language may seem a bit archaic and therefore be unsuitable for some readers. In any case, it is probably a good idea to have two translations to refer to in case the meaning is not clear in one translation.

There is another translation out which is relatively new and quite distinctive written by M A S Abdel Haleem and published by Oxford University Press. This translation has been written in very clear and extremely simple English that makes it easy and pleasurable to read. The downside is that he has given “creative” interpretations of some verses to make it more “suitable” to the Western mindset. For that reason, I am hesitant to recommend it. If one uses this translation, he should definitely cross check it with a more reliable translation such as Pickthall, etc.

Maulana Mawdudi’s introductions to the surahs are also a useful tool and can be found here:

http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/quran/maududi/index.html

They give you a good overview and background information for each surah before you begin.

Another useful resource, at least for research purposes, is the Summarized Tafsir ibn Kathir, available from Dar-us-Salam in ten volumes or accessible from here:

http://tafsir.com/

Unfortunately, there is no good, clear, short commentary on the Qur’an in the English language that I can reccomened.

Finally, as a closing advice, do not lose heart. Keep the following hadith in the back of your mind:

“Recite the Qur’an, for on the Day of Resurrection, it shall come as an intercessor for its companion.” [Muslim]

26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Joyhamza

    September 6, 2008 at 2:17 AM

    Salaam ‘Alaikum,

    I have a facebook group where I am translating the Zubdah al-Tafseer. Some mistakes can be there though due to my lack of expertise on both English and Arabic. Nonetheless I guess you may join it if you do not possess the tafaaseer mentioned in the article.

    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=15701776250

  2. Avatar

    AbdulSattar

    September 6, 2008 at 4:00 AM

    Assalamu Alaikum,

    Maududi’s entire tafsir online in an easy to use format: http://www.englishtafsir.com

    ws
    AS

  3. Avatar

    Ibrahim

    September 6, 2008 at 7:37 AM

    JazakAllahu khairan for this beneficial article. Since you mentioned him by name who’s Sh. Ghassan al-Barqawi? Just curious…

  4. Avatar

    Abu Bakr

    September 6, 2008 at 10:31 AM

    He is the Imam in my local masjid in the community where I have lived most of my life. He’s a student of Sh. Umar al-Ashqar and an MBA:

    http://www.ilmquest.org/c-134-ghassan-barqawi.aspx

  5. Avatar

    Abu AbdAllah

    September 6, 2008 at 10:49 AM

    Jazak Allah khayr Abu Bakr. :) May Allah accept from you, and may He increase you and our shuyukh in ‘ilm and barakat, and may He forgive all of us our sins and excesses.

  6. Avatar

    Abu AbdAllah

    September 6, 2008 at 10:54 AM

    Oh, and my vote for favorite English translation/tafsir is Sahih International. The direct nature of the translation from the Arabic lets a person who reads closely get a feeling for each word of the ayat.

    Abu Bakr, have you heard any news about the translation to English of other tafsirs than the ones you mentioned?

  7. ibnabeeomar

    ibnabeeomar

    September 6, 2008 at 10:56 AM

    i love the abdel haleem translation. i dont think ive opened up saheeh international since i got it :)

  8. Avatar

    Abu AbdAllah

    September 6, 2008 at 11:18 AM

    my softcover copy, mashaAllah, was so worn out after its first Ramadan that I had to reinforce the binding and cover with kraft-tape. so while taping i added a permanent ribbon-bookmark upgrade.

  9. Avatar

    Dawud Israel

    September 6, 2008 at 2:57 PM

    Don’t forget the ayahs of sujud !!

  10. Avatar

    Abu Bakr

    September 6, 2008 at 5:31 PM

    Sometime next year, in sha Allah, Dar us Salam should be releasing a Tafsir called al-Tafsir al-Manhaji

    It was written by a group of five scholars, all PhDs in Tafsir, under the supervision of Sh. Umar al-Ashqar. It is a basic but well written Tafsir, somewhat comparable to Aysar al-Tafasir by Abu Bakr al-Jaza’iri in terms of layout. The main difference is that it is divided into Lessons and designed to be a set of school textbooks. Every lesson starts with vocabulary and ends with Lessons and Reflections, followed by Q/A and sometimes activity questions to test the students’ understanding.

    If you are looking for a translation that helps you to really follow word for word, I suggest you invest in Muhammad Mohar Ali’s 3 vol. A Word for Word Meaning of the Qur’an.

    Sahih International is also due to undergo significant revision this coming year for the release of a new, revised edition. This edition will in sha Allah try to avoid being overly literal at the expense of readability and smoothness.

  11. Avatar

    Karim Baz

    September 6, 2008 at 6:11 PM

    @Abu Bakr

    al-Tafsir al-Manhaji sounds awesome. It would be great to have a legit, authentic Tafsir that could be used in schools. Any idea if it written in English? or if it’s not, will it be translated into English for use in Islamic schools here?

  12. Avatar

    Abu Bakr

    September 6, 2008 at 6:53 PM

    It is already available in Arabic. Dar us Salam will be publishing it in English in sha Allah.

  13. Avatar

    Ibrahim

    September 6, 2008 at 11:13 PM

    JAK for the info, bro Abu Bakr about Sh. al-Barqawi. It’s interesting how in small places unknown scholars with sound education are available. Is he originally from Jordan? One day I might go down to Mobile (is he still there?) just to meet him.

  14. Avatar

    Ibn Masood

    September 7, 2008 at 1:11 AM

    Saheeh International = BESTEST

    Allahu Alam

  15. Avatar

    SaqibSaab

    September 7, 2008 at 7:09 AM

    I would highly reccomend not merely reading the Qur’an, but studying it. It was the Sunnah of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) to study the Qur’an nightly with Jibril. It was this sort of thoughtful study of the Qur’an that had an impact on the quality of the Prophet’s (صلى الله عليه وسلم) deeds

    I really liked this part in particular. Something we need to pick up on in our times of “dude, I gotta check my mail again before I sleep!” How about the same concern for checking the Book of Allah! JazakAllah khair.

  16. Pingback: Open Thread 9-7-08: MM Ramadan Recap | MuslimMatters.org

  17. Avatar

    Muslim Girl

    August 15, 2010 at 3:36 PM

    Jazak’Allah khair for this – especially the links. I plan to use them starting today. And ten verses (or more if I can manage) a day in intensive study sounds good, insha’Allah.

    May Allah (SWT) give us the tawfeeq to be able to study the quran and implement it in our daily lives in accordance to the sunnah of the Rasool (SAW).

  18. Pingback: End of Ramadan – The Last Ten Days of Fasting and Worship « Kashifiat's Blog

  19. Pingback: Preparing for Ramadan « projectimanboost

  20. Pingback: » Ramadan 2012 – Day 6 A Minor Memoir

  21. Pingback: Memorize the Quran, Get a Free Slave Girl in ISIS Competition | ArchitectGuy

  22. Avatar

    Abdul Mujeeb

    July 4, 2015 at 8:35 AM

    ,Thanks for the guidance

  23. Avatar

    Abdul Mujeeb

    July 4, 2015 at 8:37 AM

    Thanks for the explanation

  24. Avatar

    momnah

    May 19, 2016 at 5:22 PM

    nice subhanallah

  25. Avatar

    Mohannad Hakeem

    June 9, 2016 at 7:20 AM

    JAK brother for discussing this issue.
    I am trying to write a 5 min macro-level summary of each surah / Taraweeh dose and share it with my congregation… You may check my blog for the most recent content;
    I’ve reached Surah Aal Imran, please make duaa for me so I can be consistent for the remaining parts of Ramadan :)
    http://www.wordwatts.com/

  26. Avatar

    nasreen

    June 18, 2016 at 7:32 PM

    I have a question, I intend to complete the Quran entirely in ramadan. I read sura Kahf yesterday as part of friday reading, but today I am now on sura Kahf, I always read the meaning in the same time. Now my question is, do I have to repeat sura Kahf again today?
    JAk.

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Lessons From Surah Maryam: 1

Shaykh Furhan Zubairi

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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.

Story

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

Shaykh Furhan Zubairi

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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 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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