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Quran and Sunnah

Al-Ghafur al-Wadud in Surah al-Burooj

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*This is an abridged version of notes for a khutbah that I made with help from Abu Bakr and Imam Nasir. Audio of the khutbah is at the end. 

Surah al-Burooj informs us of the famous story of The Boy and The King. Since most people are familiar with the story itself I won’t rehash it here, but you can refer to Tafsir Ibn Kathir to refresh your memory.

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One of the most pertinent lessons of that story is the persecution faced by Muslims for no other reason than believing in Allah (swt).

They had nothing against them, except that they believed in Allah, the All-Mighty, Worthy of all Praise! (Burooj:8) It is amazing that they would throw people in a ditch – innocent women and children – for no crime whatsoever except their belief. How evil does someone have to be to carry out something like this against someone who has not transgressed them in any way? It was literally a full-fledged massacre of the people.Eman entered their hearts and immediately revived their souls, similar to the magicians at the time of Fir’awn. This faith was immediately tested,Do men think that they will be left alone on saying, “We believe”, and that they will not be tested? (Ankaboot:2). These trials are like any other exam that we face. If you pass, you move up to the next level. If you fail, you stay and repeat it until you can pass. The people of the ditch faced the ultimate test, and they passed it by making the ultimate sacrifice. In the hereafter though, this sacrifice will seem minuscule for the rewards they will reap, and the disbelievers will have a punishment far more painful than anything they inflicted on the people of the ditch.It is a small price to pay, as the Prophet (saw) said,

“An unbeliever is brought forward on the Day of Judgment and he is given a quick dip into the fire, then he is asked: ‘Did you ever experience anything good or any luxury in your life?’ He will answer: ‘By Your greatness, my Lord, I never did.’ And the person who endured the most miserable life on earth is brought forward and he is given a quick taste of heaven. He is then asked: ‘Did you ever experience any misfortune or misery?’ He will answer: ‘By Your greatness, my Lord, I never did.'”

Their rank was raised by the sacrifice they made. All of us have goals for ourselves that we have set, usually in Ramadan. We want to memorize more Quran, attend the masjid more frequently, get out of interest, start wearing hijab… There are a million things we all have on our ‘list’ whether those things have been there for only one day, or one decade. The question we must ask ourselves though, is what is holding us back from making a sacrifice to improve our standing with Allah?

Look at it another way. The people of the ditch were persecuted, and similarly the Muslims in Mekkah were persecuted. We also see examples of this throughout history. The one that jumps to mind though, is Muslim Spain, when Muslims were forbidden from things like even taking a bath on Fridays. We see it today in China where Muslims are not being allowed to fast, women are being forced to take off their hijabs, and men are being forced to shave their beards.

With all that said, I feel that their test is in some ways easier than our test.

What?

If they fall short in implementing the deen, insha’Allah we pray that Allah (swt) gives them an excuse and forgives them for their sins. Many of us though, have no such excuse. They’re being forcibly prevented from things like going to the masjid, fasting, and wearing hijab. We have no such thing holding us back here. We have no excuse whatsoever for falling short. The biggest hardships many of us face on a day to day basis is not shortage of water, lack of food, or even being turned back from our masaajid. The biggest hardships we face are choosing which brand out of 30+ types of cereal are on the shelf, whether we want tap water, bottled water, filtered water, or water from the mountains of Fiji. Our biggest hardship when it comes to going to the Masjid is that it’s going to take 10 whole minutes to get there, or that they serve biryani instead of hummus at iftar, so you go to a different one.

In one frightening hadith, the Prophet (saw) said,

If you see Allah Azza wa Jall giving a servant from this dunya whatever he desires while he sins against Allah, then it is a lure from Allah.

A lure is literally like a trap. Think about going fishing, and putting a worm on the hook, and luring the fish out of the water. That is literally what is happening to us. Why? The Prophet (saw) explained by then reciting this ayah of Quran after saying that,

So, when they forgot (the warning) with which they had been reminded, We opened to them the gates of every (pleasant) thing, until in the midst of their enjoyment in that which they were given, all of a sudden, We took them to punishment, and lo! They were plunged into destruction with deep regrets and sorrows. (6:44)

It is up to us to make sacrifices for the deen and come closer to Allah (swt). In another hadith, the Prophet (saw) mentioned,

“Whoever gives up something for the sake of Allah, Allah will replace it for him with something better.”

Think about what it is that prevents us from increasing in our worship, following more of the sunnah, and leaving off what is haram – and then contemplate on getting something better whether in this life or the next. One example that comes to my mind is an ‘Uncle’ that my family knew when I was younger. This particular uncle used to have a haram business which sold alcohol, cigarettes, etc. He made tawbah for this, got rid of the stores, and opened up a small halal meat store instead. Eventually, Allah (swt) put so much barakah in his business, that he went from leasing the space for his store, to actually owning the entire shopping strip and renting out space to other businesses. Almost everyone knows of a story like this, or similar to it.

In Surah al-Burooj itself though, we see most of the ayaat actually directed at those who burned the believers. The ayaat are stern in warning, talking about the severe punishment of Allah, how the punishment will be repeated, that they will have a burning punishment in the Fire (with extra emphasis because of how they burned the believers in this life), how Allah (swt) will do with them as He wills, and reminders of the stories Fir’awn and Thamud.

In the midst of all these ayaat of punishment and anger though, we find one simple ayah towards the middle,

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He is Al-Ghafur, Al-Wadud.

The first question that arises is why is this put smack dab in the middle of all these verses of punishment?

The second question requires a little bit of background. Al-Ghafur is mentioned in the Quran 97 times. Al-Wadud is mentioned in the Quran twice. And while we see many ‘paired Names’ mentioned multiple times (e.g. As-Samee’ Al-Baseer), this particular pairing happens in the Qur’an only once – i.e. right here. So why is this the only place in the Qur’an that Allah (swt) mentions these two specific Names together?

Regarding the first question, some have said that it shows that in spite of the heinousness of their crime, the door to repentance is still open. This comes from the fact that in one of the ayaat, Allah (swt) says,

Verily, those who put into trial the believing men and believing women (by torturing them and burning them), and then do not turn in repentance, (to Allah), will have the torment of Hell, and they will have the punishment of the burning Fire (Burooj:10).

Answering the second question will require some detail.

Al-Ghafur means the One who frequently forvies sins. He is full of forgiveness no matter how great the sin may be. In this context, we can say that Allah (swt) has forgiven the people burned in the ditch. He has pardoned them.

Al-Wadud is both the One who loves, and the One who is loved.

Allah (swt) forgives people for different reasons. Some may be forgiven due to their shukr, and some maybe out of forebearance (hilm). In this case though, Allah (swt) forgave them because He loved them. ‘Al-Wadud’ shows that He is the One attached to those believers who chose Him over everything else. It is a relationship that is close and noble. He will forgive their sins and grant them sadaaqah – the highest station that a human can reach after being a prophet (i.e. being a Siddeeq) – because they attained the love that He has for His close and beloved slaves.

If Allah (swt) had simply mentioned that He was Al-Ghafur, it would have been sufficient to convey the message. It would mean they were forgiven, and this alone is a high honor, and is something we pray to achieve. They received maghfirah for ransoming their own selves. However, by adding Al-Wadud to this, He is saying that not only has He forgiven them, but He accepted their sacrifice, and on top of that He loves them as well – an even higher honor.

For those interested, the audio of the khutbah is below. Please keep in mind that it was delivered in the middle of Ramadan right after Hurricane Ike hit.

[audio:http://muslimmatters.org/audio/Khutbah-Surah%20al-Burooj%20(9-19-08).mp3]

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Omar Usman is a founding member of MuslimMatters and Qalam Institute. He teaches Islamic seminars across the US including Khateeb Workshop and Fiqh of Social Media. He has served in varying administrative capacities for multiple national and local Islamic organizations. You can follow his work at ibnabeeomar.com.

19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. sincethestorm

    November 3, 2008 at 1:36 AM

    I think anyone who does something wrong can truly appreciate the pairing of Al-Ghafur Al- Wadud. When you do something wrong , deep down you regret it alot. All you want is forgiveness but its truly amazing that Allah SWT forgives, forgets, and loves you….and on top of this He grants you more blessings. Subhan-Allah All praise is truly due to Allah SWT.

  2. abu abdAllah, the Houstonian

    November 3, 2008 at 8:33 AM

    bismillah. may Allah protect us from being tested in our faith, may He strengthen us in the tests He has Decreed, may He Forgive us for our sins and excesses, may He make firm our feet on His Straight Path, and may He grant us from His Mercy, His Forbearance, and from His Love stations in Jannat al Firdaus. ameen.

  3. argentyne

    November 3, 2008 at 10:22 AM

    Ameen to Abu abdAllah’s comment. Jazakallah for posting this.

  4. AmatulWadood

    November 3, 2008 at 10:58 AM

    Ameen to the duaa. Jazakum Allahu khayran for sharing this beautiful analysis. It is amazing when you reflect, how every single word in the Qur’an is there for a reason, and how even the Names of Allah azza wa jal have been paired with divine wisdom.

  5. IbnAbbas

    November 3, 2008 at 1:20 PM

    Jazakallah Khair for this.

    I have been checking MM for many days and I felt there was something missing. I just realised that it was the lack of islamic article on the blog. Alhamdulillah, its finally there…. !! and hope to see more such types inshAllah.

  6. AsimG

    November 3, 2008 at 1:31 PM

    This is what Muslim Matters should be about!

    We should have the scholarly stuff (that goes beyond my head) and then simple easy to read articles like this that can benefit the masses i.e me.

    “McCain this” and “Islamphobia” that gets really annoying.
    None of that will help me get closer to Allah (swt).
    Articles like this do.

    Insha’Allah we can see more stuff like this!

  7. Anonymous

    November 3, 2008 at 1:34 PM

    Bismillah,

    With all due respect, I really don’t think its fair to trivialize the trials and tests facing the Muslims here as just 10 minutes to the masjid for Biryani or humus. That’s a bit…dismissive. There are some SERIOUS spiritual issues. I have personally gotten to the point where I doubted Islam all together. Its literally a daily struggle for me. One of my best friends is going through the same thing. Sometimes, I wish our tests were lack of food and war over doubting the existence of Allah.

    May Allah keep all of the Muslims strong upon the Sunnah and forgive all Muslims, past and present.

    • Gibran Mahmud

      May 20, 2011 at 12:46 AM

      I agree with you. My God I can’t think of a trial like that. But the greater the trial the greater the reward so may Allah multiply our reward, grant us the highest rank in Jannah, the greatest reward of what we know and don’t know, make us smong those with whom He is most pleased with and of those whom He loves the most.

  8. Urooj

    November 3, 2008 at 2:42 PM

    MASHA ALLAAH VERY INSPIRING KHUTBAH.

  9. AsimG

    November 3, 2008 at 7:52 PM

    The amount of comments speaks volumes to what many on Muslimmatters want: drama.

    That is until MM caters to their desires and posts a bajillion political articles, which then causes people to overdose and hate on MM.

    Oh well. Politics, sufism/kalam, music, zabiha meat and islamic financing here we come!

  10. Abeedah

    November 3, 2008 at 8:22 PM

    I forgot to say jazakAllahu for the well-written reflection.

  11. AmatulWadood

    November 4, 2008 at 12:13 AM

    brother Asim, I completely agree! Actually I find it quite interesting. (maybe it’s my social work background….)

    At the same time, I think posts of this nature don’t really get many comments in general (even on other super awesome blogs).

    There’s a saying in Arabic which basically means: silence is deemed as approval. So inshaAllah it’s a good thing :) people read it and benefit from it, not needing to comment on how there is a different opinion, or how X candidate is better, or how voting for either candidate is actually haraam, how that group is outside of the folds of Islam, and how music is…you get the point :)

    Allahu a’lam.

  12. AmatulWadood

    November 4, 2008 at 12:17 AM

    Also, I wouldn’t call it “drama”, I don’t think that word gives the right connotation, but rather interest (and sometimes controversial) pieces. We do need these issues to be brought up in our communities, but at the same time, I think a blog of this mashaAllah caliber should have some regular variety to pick from :D Jazakum Allahu khayran MM!

  13. just another muslim

    November 4, 2008 at 6:24 PM

    Anonymous:

    I want to give you a small example from my own personal experience that opened my eyes and allowed me view Islam as a religion through with a very practical perspective.

    Taking salaat as an example. No doubt you must have heard the same thing I heard growing up “praying is very easy, it barely takes a few minutes, its not at all hard to pray 5 times a day, so why dont we?” Back when I was younger and living in pakistan, I was taught a stricter method of praying, one which made even sunnah, wajib (required) (for example, duhr is 12 rakat: 4 rakats sunnah 4 rakaats fard, 2 rakaats sunnah, 2 rakaats nafl, so for me to pray my complete duhr, I have to pray 12 rakats). I told my self “that is a lot! I have neither the time nor the effort to do that everyday” but I tried, yet despite my efforts, I didn’t maintain my 5 daily prayers. Later on in my life I heard something different, “just pray your fard”, so now duhr for me became a mere 4 rakats and I said “awesome, this I can keep up with everyday”. So I picked it up, and held on to it fairly long, but try as I might I couldn’t keep it going and like many, I was on again/off again. Then came one summer that I went on a trip for a few weeks, which made “duhr 2 rakats since I’m in safr mode, and I can combine duhr and asar either times”. I thought “InshaAllah this is it! I can keep my 5 prayers daily for sure”, so I tried to pray my 5 shortened prayers everyday, but again I found myself being inconsitent just as before.

    Like many, I went through my phases growing up as a muslim trying to justify and explain what Allah has commanded, and I eventually learned one thing: practicing Islam completely will only be easy if Allah chooses to make it easy for you. It will be hard if Allah wants, logic has absolutely nothing to do with it. It is all a matter of having barakat in everything you do. For all those muslims out there who “understand how fasting cleans your digestive system, or how making sajdah statically discharges your body and electrically grounds you, or how waking up for fajr helps discipline you, while mountains act as pegs that hold tectonic plates together just like the Quran explains it”, not many of them consistently maintain these important tasks because ultimately, none of this knowledge itself benefits you or help you become a better muslim; the sahabas where the best of us as people and practitioners of Islam, and they never cared about such things.

    You talk about the hardship in practicing and following what you believe, and I can relate, I have been there. But ultimately Allah has ordained this to be your test, so no matter how easy it may be; it will be hard for you. You won’t find your solutions questioning seeking answers in books. Solution inshaAllah comes by seeking Allah’s blessings. Contrary to what many think, many things in Islam are beyond our comprehension and our logic. (Take for instance sadaqah and ribbah/intrest: our logic tells us when we donate, our income is diminishing, but if we open a savings account, our wealth is increasing, yet islam teaches us the opposite.) Stop rationalizing Allah’s commandments and questioning your lord. From where you and I stand, it is absolutely pointless. Instead, use your mind to find ways to seek barakah through actions that hold them, i.e tthose He mentions. Trying to explain to myself how easy it is to pray 5 times a day never made it easy. Focusing on “Why” never does. Instead anonymous, focus on “How can I”, and have faith everything will work out fine (and actually better than!)

    For those you wondering, my “How to” strategy turned out to be remarkably simple: I keep a log on me, in which I track my 5 daily prayers, I have found given my personality type keeping track helps me to visualize and prioritize my tasks making it easier for me to accomplish. This way I track prayers I miss make them up later. I started so long ago I can’t even remember, and I know inshaAllah what I do is accepted by Allah since I have experience first hand how “salaat restrains me from fah’sha and munkar”!)

    Though I use prayer as a specific example anonymous, you will be surprised how much blessing you can bring to your life when you actually stop questioning Allah and instead put your effort to observe his commands. It affects all aspects of your life, and helps you you truly grasp the concept of “barakah” a phenomenon which science and logic will never explain.

  14. A Nightingale

    November 4, 2008 at 8:25 PM

    Masha’Allah this was a wonderful article. I always lenjoying reading that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is ready and willing to *lovingly forgive* me (and the rest of the ummah, insha’Allah.)

    I do think that the ease of being a Muslim in America is something that is taken for granted by a lot of us. But I also don’t doubt that maintaining our imaan is still a real struggle for a lot of people. We may have the liberty to grow beards, wear hijab, go for prayer, buy food in grocery stores, and take it back to our warm houses to share a meal with our families. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t tested in other ways. Shaytan attacks everyone and makes things difficult for all of us. And with that in mind, I think Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is Just and will judge each Muslim (whether obviously trialed, or not) in a way that fits each of us best.

    So for the Muslims over seas in war-torn countries, they will be judged on their actions based on their surroundings, and what Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala knows they could have managed. And for the Muslims in America living comfortably, we will be judged based on what Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala knows we could have managed.

    Again, wonderful article. And I agree, it’s a tragedy less people leave comments on post that aren’t “hot topics”.

  15. ibnabeeomar

    November 4, 2008 at 11:02 PM

    i agree we shouldn’t trivialize the tests that we face here, and i realize now how what i said could be taken in that context. the point that would be better to make, is that whatever difficulties we face, we should be thankful for the ease that we have, and also realize that as difficult as it is – it could still be even worse.

  16. Yus from the Nati

    November 4, 2008 at 11:52 PM

    WOW! jAk for the explanation! I’ve been wondering about the connection for awhile!!!

  17. daisy

    November 5, 2008 at 1:00 AM

    asalamualaikum warahmatullah wabarakatuh,

    that really opened my eyes. i’m glad you posted it and that i read it. alhumdulillah.

  18. anonysis

    November 6, 2008 at 8:04 PM

    Mashallah beautiful article. The alGhafur alWadud part is so profound and beautiful baarakallahu feekum

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