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Lessons From Surah Yusuf – Part 2: Trials and Temptation

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Part I | Part II | Part III

After the brothers of Yusuf [علیہ السلام] threw him into a well, the trial of both Prophet Yaqoub [علیہ السلام] and his would-be Prophet son commenced. What the young Yusuf must have felt as he clung to the walls of the well for his life, we can only imagine, as I am sure none of us have had our siblings do such a thing to us. However, Allah was fully in control of his affair, even though it looked like his brothers – the apparent “bad” guys – had gotten away with their ill-intentioned treachery. The incident of the well turned out to be good for Yusuf in the long term as Allah, the All-Knower had intended.

The lesson for us at this point is to remember that even if someone close to us intentionally harms us, and it looks like we are the losers and that they have gotten away with it, we should strive to remain patient. The hope that the undesirable event might turn out to be good for us in the long term, and trust in Allah, should see us through such a trial. More often than not, this is exactly what happens. We might have heard the adage: ‘what goes around comes around’. People who intentionally wrong others eventually suffer the “evil karma” of their deeds even in this world, and  sometimes, it so happens that the one they oppressed eventually has the upper hand or a more powerful position than them, a few years down the road.

Image courtesy: bbc.co.uk

photo courtesy: bbc.co.uk

Allah planned to save Yusuf’s life. He sent a caravan that way, which sent a water-drawer to dole out water from the well. Slavery being rampant at that time, the caravan-travelers were thrilled to find a young lad floundering in the well – because of the possibility of selling him off for a quick buck in the slave market.

وَجَاءتْ سَيَّارَةٌ فَأَرْسَلُواْ وَارِدَهُمْ فَأَدْلَى دَلْوَهُ قَالَ يَا بُشْرَى هَـذَا غُلاَمٌ وَأَسَرُّوهُ بِضَاعَةً وَاللّهُ عَلِيمٌ بِمَا يَعْمَلُونَ

Some travellers came that way and then dispatched their water-drawer who let his bucket down. He said, “Good news for me, I’ve found a boy!” They then hid him away among their goods. Allah knew very well what they were doing. [12:19]

Little did they know how precious Yusuf was! Would they have decided to sell him off had they known they had a future ruler in their possession; one who could foretell futuristic dream interpretations and judge between people with justice? No! Allah deliberately blinded them and made them oblivious to his as-yet-latent talents and knowledge, so that they would sell him for a few measly dirhams.

وَشَرَوْهُ بِثَمَنٍ بَخْسٍ دَرَاهِمَ مَعْدُودَةٍ وَكَانُواْ فِيهِ مِنَ الزَّاهِدِينَ

They sold him for a pittance, a few small coins, considering him to be of little worth. [12:20]

This was all part of Allah’s plan to dwell Yusuf in a well-off, respectable house in Egypt. This would not have been possible had he roamed around with the caravan as a slave or servant. His sale to a wealthy, well-established man in Egypt was Allah’s decree, because He planned for Yusuf to eventually rise in worldly ranks therein.

The lesson in this part of Yusuf’s life is that if people – family, schoolmates, friends or colleagues – undermine your talents, abilities, skills or knowledge where you live or work, do not let it lower your self-confidence or self-esteem. Imagine a young lad, a future Prophet to be appointed by Allah, a future ruler of the land, who had dreamt of the sun, moon and stars prostrating to him, standing dirty and bedraggled among other slaves, with shackles around their ankles, possibly herded inside cages like animals, on sale for a few dirhams to the elite upper crust of Egyptian society? How must he have felt to be separated from his family and to have become a vagabond this way?

However, whatever happened to him was a part of Allah’s plan, and did not in the least affect the good that he already possessed, or the further blessings that were to come his way a few years later. In this trial and hardship, he was actually being trained for his future role.

وَكَذَلِكَ مَكَّنِّا لِيُوسُفَ فِي الأَرْضِ وَلِنُعَلِّمَهُ مِن تَأْوِيلِ الأَحَادِيثِ وَاللّهُ غَالِبٌ عَلَى أَمْرِهِ وَلَـكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لاَ يَعْلَمُونَ

And thus We established Yusuf in the land, to teach him the true meaning of events. Allah was in control of His affair. However, most of mankind do not know. [12:21]

Allah wanted to teach him “Ta’weel al Ahadith” – how to get to the depth of matters, and all the adverse events that he went through were somehow a crash course in achieving that objective. We must also remember that those individuals who are born with silver spoons in their mouths, so to speak, or who have all luxuries of life, in addition to fame and fortune at a very young age, have to make an extra effort to learn life’s valuable lessons and the true worth of hard-earned money. They have a high chance of growing up to become “spoiled brats”, viz. pampered, unproductive adults, unless their guardians go the extra mile to train them in values of discipline, working to earn money, and giving in charity, despite having everything.

On the other hand, facing extreme poverty and impoverished circumstances during childhood and adolescence mostly brings out a youth’s best talents and makes him or her strong, hard working, humble and productive. Such an individual rises up from rock bottom and experiences poverty and hunger firsthand on his way up. When they resort to honest hard work, relying on the talents that their Creator has gifted them with, they rise to the top, because Allah grants them success as compensation even in this world.

An example of one such “icon” of the current age, who grew up in poverty and suffered partial separation from her parent(s), is a famous African American talk-show host and media maven; today, she is one of the most influential women in the world. Forbes.com says about her:

“Born in rural Mississippi, she spent her early years living in poverty on her grandmother’s farm. Wanting a way out, she moved to Wisconsin to be with her mother, but was sexually molested by her male relatives. At age 14, she reportedly gave birth to a premature baby who died. Only after moving to Nashville to be with her father did her luck finally start to turn.”

Every “self-made” person viz. who was not born into royalty or a wealthy family but who is successful today in worldly terms, inevitably faced tough times at some point during their lives, and lived through moments of dejection in which they doubted their talents, skills and abilities.

Therefore, the point I am trying to make is, that having a difficult, impoverished and deprived childhood or adolescence sometimes teaches valuable lessons, and imparts “training for success” in life to a young individual. Such a person usually goes on to become self-sufficient, independent, humble, hardworking and a humanitarian as an adult, giving back from his resources to the under-privileged of society and actively reaching out to improve their lot.

The Aggressive Older Woman’s Call

When Aziz bought Yusuf, his heart was filled with care and love for the latter. He liked him so much, that he asked his wife to honor the boy and expressed his desire to eventually adopt him as their son.

وَقَالَ الَّذِي اشْتَرَاهُ مِن مِّصْرَ لاِمْرَأَتِهِ أَكْرِمِي مَثْوَاهُ عَسَى أَن يَنفَعَنَا أَوْ نَتَّخِذَهُ وَلَدًا

The Egyptian who had bought him told his wife, “Look after him with honour and respect. It’s possible he will be of use to us or perhaps we might adopt him as a son.” [12:21]

Actually, just as Pharaoh and his wife fell in love with a cute baby boy (Musa [علیہ السلام]) floating down a stream and took him in to raise as their son, Aziz’s affection for Yusuf, too, was again Allah’s Divine decree at work.

The lesson for us in this is that when Allah wants to dwell a person with honor and abundant provision in a comfortable place, he turns people’s hearts towards him, making them take them in with warmth and love. This happened with Prophet Musa [علیہ السلام] too, first when he was floating on a stream as a baby, and later when he fled Egypt and reached the watering place where two sisters were waiting. Their father, too, took him in as an employee under contract and immediately expressed his desire to make him his son-in-law in the future. Also, when Allah doesn’t will for a person to live in a certain environment (viz. the caravan that found Yusuf), he makes their hearts disinterested in him. Thus, he makes means for that person to move elsewhere. Such was what also happened to Prophet Musa [علیہ السلام], when he had to flee Egypt due to his having killed one of the Copts by mistake.

The fact that Aziz suggested to his wife that they eventually adopt Yusuf as their son, suggests one significant thing that becomes particularly relevant when we consider the events that would take place a few years down the road. It shows that there was a considerable age difference between Aziz’s wife and Yusuf. Perhaps she and Aziz were childless, or barren.

The word used to describe Yusuf when he was found from the well, is غلام (“ghulaam“), which, according to the rules of the Arabic language, is used for “a young boy whose moustache is growing forth” i.e. a boy ranging in age from 12 to 17. We can thus conclude that Aziz’s wife was, therefore, some years older than him at the time she and her husband purchased him.

He lived with his ‘owners’ or foster parents until he reached his adulthood, whence Allah blessed him with wisdom and knowledge. His physical beauty, too, reached its peak.

وَلَمَّا بَلَغَ أَشُدَّهُ آتَيْنَاهُ حُكْمًا وَعِلْمًا وَكَذَلِكَ نَجْزِي الْمُحْسِنِينَ

And then when he became a full-grown man, We gave him knowledge and right judgement too. That is how We reward all doers of good. [12:22]

It is difficult to ascertain the cause behind what happened next. But it so happened that the woman in whose house he spent his adolescent years, growing up and maturing, who undoubtedly held a more dominant, authoritative and stronger position than him in the housheold, tried to get him to commit adultery with her.

وَرَاوَدَتْهُ الَّتِي هُوَ فِي بَيْتِهَا عَن نَّفْسِهِ وَغَلَّقَتِ الأَبْوَابَ وَقَالَتْ هَيْتَ لَكَ قَالَ مَعَاذَ اللّهِ إِنَّهُ رَبِّي أَحْسَنَ مَثْوَايَ إِنَّهُ لاَ يُفْلِحُ الظَّالِمُونَ  
وَلَقَدْ هَمَّتْ بِهِ وَهَمَّ بِهَا لَوْلا أَن رَّأَى بُرْهَانَ رَبِّهِ كَذَلِكَ لِنَصْرِفَ عَنْهُ السُّوءَ وَالْفَحْشَاء إِنَّهُ مِنْ عِبَادِنَا الْمُخْلَصِينَ

وَاسُتَبَقَا الْبَابَ وَقَدَّتْ قَمِيصَهُ مِن دُبُرٍ وَأَلْفَيَا سَيِّدَهَا لَدَى الْبَابِ قَالَتْ مَا جَزَاء مَنْ أَرَادَ بِأَهْلِكَ سُوَءًا إِلاَّ أَن يُسْجَنَ أَوْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ

The woman whose house it was wanted to seduce him. She barred the doors and said, “Come over here!” He said, “Allah is my refuge! He is my Lord and has been good to me with where I live. Those who do wrong will surely not succeed.” She wanted him and he would have wanted her, had he not seen the clear proof of his Lord. That happened so We might avert from him all evil and lust. He was Our chosen servant.
They raced to the door. She tore his shirt at the back. They met her husband by the door. She said, “How should a man whose intention was to harm your family be punished for what he did except with prison or painful punishment?”
[12: 23-25]

Was it only lust that drove her to aggressively desire him? Was it her power and authority over him that made her so zealous in his pursuit that she tore his shirt even after he turned her down and tried to escape? Or was she just aggressive by nature, not accustomed to having her orders defied? Was it her being much older in age than him, and holding an influential status in Egyptian society?

Perhaps a little of all.

Yusuf lived in the house with her and the other domestic staff whilst her husband was away at work, and it is probable that his youth and handsomeness being at a pinnacle caught her gaze. We know that the gaze is the starting point of zina or adultery, if left unchecked. In addition, “khulwah” or being alone with a person of the opposite gender who is not a mahrum, also becomes an invitation for Satan to call the shots towards adultery.

Another point to consider is the polarization of their intrinsic nature that could have caused this. She was quite obviously lacking in piety – as not only did she try to seduce a man while being married to another (within the walls of the latter’s house), but also resorted to slander when caught red-handed. Yusuf, on the other hand, was pious and benign, obedient to Aziz and loyal to the house. Therefore, it is possible that his good character encouraged her to think that she could get away with anything as far as he was concerned. It is not uncommon for people to take advantage of someone’s piety, honesty, and good conduct; for example, the woman who threw trash over Prophet Muhammad [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم]; knowing that he’d never retaliate with an action at the same low level of evil probably gave her the guts to go on doing it.

Regardless of the motive behind her aggression, we should note the reason Yusuf gave for his refusal – he mentioned Allah and how well He had kept him in that house – and that committing this act would thus be a great wrong; a severe ingratitude of Allah’s blessings on Yusuf. Another interpretation of this statement made by Yusuf is that by saying, “He is my Lord”, he meant Aziz (his “master”, who bought him as a slave), viz. that Aziz had given him shelter in his house and kept him there very well, and sleeping with his wife behind his back would thus be the greatest wrong Yusuf could do to him in return. Either way, Yusuf’s lofty morals, alert conscience towards sin, and inner strength in face of temptation is apparent here.

It was when he took this stand towards his oppressor that Allah turned away from him evil and adultery by making him see a “burhaan” – “clear proof”. Tafsir Ibn Kathir explains what this clear proof, or evidence, could have been:

As for the evidence that Yusuf saw at that moment, there are conflicting opinions to what it was. Ibn Jarir At-Tabari said, “The correct opinion is that we should say that he saw an ayah from among Allah’s ayaat that repelled the thought that crossed his mind. This ‘evidence’ might have been the image of Yaqoub, or the image of an angel, or a divine statement that forbade him from doing that evil sin, etc. There are no clear proofs to support any of these statements in specific, so it should be left vague, as Allah left it.”

The lesson for us in this event is that we cannot place the blame for being weak in the face of temptation on anyone except ourselves. We cannot say, “Allah knows how difficult it is for me not to give in, with such temptation around me. He will not call me to account for such a trial.” Yusuf was young and unmarried; trapped inside a locked room with a woman calling him to herself – a woman dominant to him in social standing. Yet, not only did he openly refuse her, but ran when she persisted. It was when he refused outright that Allah’s help came to him, and he saw a clear proof that prevented him from wanting her too. Allah’s help comes when we take the first step to remove the temptation and avert it from ourselves.

Despite being caught by Aziz at the door, and being slandered by his wife; Yusuf spoke the truth in face of his oppressor:

قَالَ هِيَ رَاوَدَتْنِي عَن نَّفْسِي وَشَهِدَ شَاهِدٌ مِّنْ أَهْلِهَا إِن كَانَ قَمِيصُهُ قُدَّ مِن قُبُلٍ فَصَدَقَتْ وَهُوَ مِنَ الكَاذِبِينَ وَإِنْ كَانَ قَمِيصُهُ قُدَّ مِن دُبُرٍ فَكَذَبَتْ وَهُوَ مِن الصَّادِقِينَ

He said, “It was she who tried to seduce me.” A witness from the household then declared, “If his shirt is torn in front, she speaks the truth and he has clearly told a shameless lie. If his shirt is torn at the back, then she has lied and he has clearly told the simple truth.” [12:26-27]

Thus, Yusuf’s innocence was publicly proven. Someone from among the household’s witnesses spoke up in his favor, turning everyone’s attention to his shirt’s torn part as the proof. Aziz believed his version of the event, and told him to turn away from the deeds of his wife.

فَلَمَّا رَأَى قَمِيصَهُ قُدَّ مِن دُبُرٍ قَالَ إِنَّهُ مِن كَيْدِكُنَّ إِنَّ كَيْدَكُنَّ عَظِيمٌ
يُوسُفُ أَعْرِضْ عَنْ هَـذَا وَاسْتَغْفِرِي لِذَنبِكِ إِنَّكِ كُنتِ مِنَ الْخَاطِئِينَ

He saw the shirt torn at the back and said, “The source of this is women’s deviousness. Without a doubt your guile is very great. Yusuf, ignore all this, and you, my wife, should ask forgiveness for your evil act. There is no doubt that you are in the wrong.” [12: 28-29]

Aziz’s good character again comes to light. He had always been good to Yusuf, and now he pardons his wife, telling her to repent for her deed, after her advances towards his slave had been publicly proved to him! It takes a man of great strength and character to let such an incident go and not see red. As the events that occurred thereafter prove, Yusuf continued to live in the house even after this, and the incident was most likely hushed up or covered.

However, Aziz’s wife was far from thwarted. When the local grapevine caught wind of this incident, the gossiping women mocked her pursuit of her slave-boy (since her guilt had been publicly proven by the shirt torn from the back). Incensed, she devised a plot to prove to them why she pursued Yusuf, and convened a “dinner party” for them, where she ordered Yusuf to enter upon them. (So much for letting the whole thing go as her husband had said!) Notice how Yusuf complied – obviously he was still upholding the high virtuous conduct that was in his nature.

This conduct should be a beacon for young Muslim men nowadays. The first thing a guy usually does when a member of the opposite sex expresses her interest in him, is to boast of his “conquest” to his circle at his school/college/office. The more exploitative of such men go ahead and ‘have a good time’ with the lady in question, even if they are not interested in her. As for Yusuf, not only did he forgive Aziz’s wife and overlook what she did to him (seduction plus slandering his chastity), but also continued to obey her as mistress of the house thereafter. This is what really “being a man” is! Forgiving women who are outright liars and slanderers, upholding virtuous behavior no matter what, and going on as if nothing ever happened.

As for the sense of “manhood” and “honor” that the world today associates with Muslim men, it usually involves an axe or a knife that is used to hack up or slaughter a “philandering” wife, daughter or sister, without possessing any proof of her supposed “infidelity” – a far, far cry from pardoning her even after her guilt is proven! We can contrast the lessons the Quran gives us about morailty to the present-day conduct of supposedly “modern and educated” Muslim men towards their women. If they or their sons take girlfriends, it’s because “men will be men”, but if an unproven report of any of “their women” being involved with a man reaches them, they rush to get their axe or rifle for the hot pursuit and barbaric murder to restore their “honor”! Our Prophet Muhammad [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] turned away and ignored the woman who came to him with an open confession of having committed zina, requesting to have herself stoned for the act. He kept turning away from her until her persistence made it clear that she would not relent in her request!

When Yusuf entered upon the party of gathered city women, being the benign server that he was, not suspecting the true intention behind his being sent in their midst, they were flabbergasted at his beauty.

فَلَمَّا رَأَيْنَهُ أَكْبَرْنَهُ وَقَطَّعْنَ أَيْدِيَهُنَّ وَقُلْنَ حَاشَ لِلّهِ مَا هَـذَا بَشَرًا إِنْ هَـذَا إِلاَّ مَلَكٌ كَرِيمٌ
When they saw him, they were amazed by him and cut their hands. They said, “Allah preserve us! This is no man. What can this be but a noble angel here!” [12:31]

Aziz’s wife then made her grand entrance with a gloating, “I-told-you-so” declaration:

قَالَتْ فَذَلِكُنَّ الَّذِي لُمْتُنَّنِي فِيهِ وَلَقَدْ رَاوَدتُّهُ عَن نَّفْسِهِ فَاسَتَعْصَمَ وَلَئِن لَّمْ يَفْعَلْ مَا آمُرُهُ لَيُسْجَنَنَّ وَلَيَكُونًا مِّنَ الصَّاغِرِينَ

She said, “You see! It’s him you blamed me for. I tried seducing him but he refused. If he does not do what I order him, he will be put in prison and brought low.” [12:32]

Yusuf suddenly realized that she was still in his pursuit, now armed with a vengeance to get back at him for having rejected her advances, and through the dinner party, she was taking the women in her social circle into her confidence as accomplices in her scheme for his entrapment. He realized their power over him (his status in society still being that of a slave) and that Aziz might be unable to save him from them this time. He hence did what only a morally strong person and a sincere slave of Allah can do – he opted for the prison cell:

قَالَ رَبِّ السِّجْنُ أَحَبُّ إِلَيَّ مِمَّا يَدْعُونَنِي إِلَيْهِ وَإِلاَّ تَصْرِفْ عَنِّي كَيْدَهُنَّ أَصْبُ إِلَيْهِنَّ وَأَكُن مِّنَ الْجَاهِلِينَ

فَاسْتَجَابَ لَهُ رَبُّهُ فَصَرَفَ عَنْهُ كَيْدَهُنَّ إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ

He said, “My Lord, the prison is preferable to me than what they call on me to do. Unless You turn their guile away from me, it may well be that I will fall for them and so become a man of ignorance.” His Lord replied to him and turned away from him their guile and deviousness. He is the One Who Hears, the One Who Knows. [12:33-34]

Allah again responds to Yusuf’s sincere plea, and notice how He calls Yusuf’s going to prison as “turning (the women’s) guile and deviousness away from him”.  In this, there is a great lesson for us: that sometimes, adverse events are a blessing in disguise – Allah saves us from major trials and sins by making us endure unfavorable circumstances, such as living in a threadbare condition. We should try to be happy with Allah’s decree, with the faith that what He decrees is better for us, even if we are not sure how it is better. Older people usually reflect on their past lives and acknowledge how certain bad events were better for them in the long term, although when they were living through them, they were mostly complaining because their wisdom and insight was not enough to make them see the big picture.

The second is that, in order to save our faith from corruption and our selves from falling into sin, we should be willing to relinquish comfortable environments to go to places that might be adverse for living, but better for safeguarding our Deen and chastity.

The third lesson for us is that we have to take the proactive step first, and ask Allah to help us in protecting ourselves from the evil of people; only then does Allah’s help come. We cannot be weak and lazy in our actions, and then claim that, “Why does Allah not guide me?” Yusuf could have given in to the plot of the women, in order to go on living in Aziz’s comfortable and well-provided-for residence. However, he ‘took the high road ‘to avoid disobeying Allah. Apparently, he lost out – he didn’t lie, he didn’t succumb to his mistress’ advances, and he didn’t seek to take revenge on her. He forgave her, and thus she got the chance to try to trap him again. He was thus thrown into prison for no crime, except his “ihsan” – lofty moral conduct. Being the good guy, he “lost”. However, this “loss” was only short-term, as we will find out later.

I thought about the Companions of the Cave – Ashaab Al Kahf – as I reflected upon Yusuf’s plea to Allah. They too, were young men who withdrew willingly into a cave to save themselves from the vices rampant in their society. Prophet Muhammad [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] too, withdrew into the cave of Hira to ponder on the purpose of life, when the ignorance and polytheism in Arabian society turned him off. It seems then, that withdrawing into a cave, prison, or secluded spot to save themselves from the evil of people, has been the way of many of our pious predecessors, as a means to protect themselves from corruption.

In the next post about Surah Yusuf, we will try to garner more lessons for ourselves as we see Yusuf’s life finally take a turn for the better, insha’Allah.

Sadaf Farooqi is a postgraduate in Computer Science who has done the Taleem Al-Quran Course from Al-Huda International, Institute of Islamic Education for Women, in Karachi, Pakistan.11 years on, she is now a homeschooling parent of three children, a blogger, published author and freelance writer. She has written articles regularly for Hiba Magazine, SISTERS Magazine and Saudi Gazette.Sadaf shares her life experiences and insights on her award-winning blog, Sadaf's Space, and intermittently teaches subjects such as Fiqh of Zakah, Aqeedah, Arabic Grammar, and Science of Hadith part-time at a local branch of Al-Huda. She has recently become a published author of a book titled 'Traversing the Highs and Lows of Muslim Marriage'.For most part, her Jihad bil Qalam involves juggling work around persistent power breakdowns and preventing six chubby little hands from her computer! Even though it may not seem so, most of her time is spent not in doing all this, but in what she loves most - reading.

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    mirza shahbaaz

    February 1, 2010 at 6:34 AM

    jazakumullah khayr,

    subahan Allaah. much needed reminder.

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    Sammy

    February 1, 2010 at 1:01 PM

    What a beautifully done post!!! The analysis is thorough (I had never asked some of the questions you did while reading these verses) and I was reminded continuously of the piety and extreme humbleness of Prophets and all those He has favored. MashaALLAH, I’m going to come here often now! :)

    Secondly, the part where you talked about the “polarization of the intrisic nature of humans” in creating situations… I face it on a regular basis and there are times I feel like 1) I’m being taken advantage of, and 2) I can never come up with an intelligent/ decent way to counter people’s cleverness. I don’t want to stoop to making taunts or getting angry, I just want to take the “high road” and get my point across. Any suggestions? Right now I just stay silent on the subject and show my displeasure with my body language a bit but I don’t think it does much except let people get away and not “learn”.

    • Avatar

      Sadaf Farooqi

      February 2, 2010 at 11:59 PM

      I think staying silent is itself a “high road”. It is difficult not to retort when someone gets under your skin. The thing is, people will do or say what they want, and sometimes they get a kick out of watching someone squirm, or get irritated. This happens a lot to someone whom they know is intrinsically good at heart.
      One of the best abilities, that is acquired over time, is to mentally “free” yourself from getting affected by people’s words. For example, if you know someone who says some things as a habit, and these things bother you or offend you. Since it is their habit, try to train your mind to not pay attention much when they are doing it. All the time, pray to Allah that He makes you totally insensitive to their offensive talk. With time, it can be done – just hammer three things into mind when you train yourself: (1) I cannot change someone; they will only change if Allah guides them, (2) I will not allow them to make me stoop to their level. (3) I will be patient and remain polite, for Allah’s sake.
      Eventually, Allah will make you desensitized to their habits, and you will stop getting affected by what they say. That point is amazing to reach!

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        Javeria

        September 26, 2016 at 2:20 AM

        Alhamdullilah!! Well said. There is this brother-in-law (husband’s younger brother) of mine who is so envious of us and doesn’t leave a chance to abuse his brother and me. He wants my husband to retaliate as my husband is very short tempered and goes about telling everyone that my husband is the one who abuses him. We have lost our peace of mind because he keeps talking rot about us in front of us and behind too. My husband’s parents keep telling us to just bear with him as his nature is such.

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        Hussain Mohamud

        September 29, 2016 at 3:09 AM

        Nice and kind Sadaf, I will add three more points to the ones you have raised. 1- You should know that such people with the nasty habits have a much larger problem which they are attempting to disguise. 2- You should know every time they read bad things about you, they are in fact transferring your sins into themselves. 3- Every time you practice your patience by disregarding their assault, you will deservingly receive the pleasures of Allah.

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    lychee

    February 1, 2010 at 4:11 PM

    Have always loved this surah, so much to learn from it!
    I like the examples you give of every day life and how the perfect morals from this story should apply to us..

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    someone

    February 1, 2010 at 7:47 PM

    Inshaallah keep them comming

  6. Pingback: Lessons From Surah Yusuf – Part 1: Sibling Rivalry | MuslimMatters.org

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      Mariya

      August 30, 2015 at 7:07 PM

      Assalaamu ‘alaykoum, dear sister, I just want to point out something that I learned a while ago. According to what I read, the Hadith about the old lady throwing trash on the Prophet ‘alayhi assalaatu wassalaam is actually fabricated. I just wanted to let you know so that in shaa ALLAH people will not share that particular hadith. Jazaaki ALLAHOU Khayran by the way for the brilliant explanations! I learned so much Alhamdulillah!

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    muslimfitforlife

    February 1, 2010 at 9:19 PM

    jazaka Allahu khair for the thorough post. Nice read masha Allah.

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    ummahmed

    February 2, 2010 at 8:56 AM

    Mashaallah..Jazakillahu khairaa..So much to learn from surah Yusuf…Sabr.Sabr .Sabr..Excellent points sister to ponder, implement .

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    Sadaf

    February 2, 2010 at 10:42 AM

    Yes indeed! Jazakum Allahu khairan for your positive comments, everyone.

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    mohammedali

    February 2, 2010 at 12:49 PM

    lessons from Sura Yusuf was very educational may Allah guide us all

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    muhajjirah

    February 2, 2010 at 1:18 PM

    asalaam alaikum warahmat Allah- an excellent read mashaAllah. may Allah reward you.

    i understood your point made about Oprah:

    Therefore, the point I am trying to make is, that having a difficult, impoverished and deprived childhood or adolescence sometimes teaches valuable lessons, and imparts ”training for success” in life to a young individual. Such a person usually goes on to become self-sufficient, independent, humble, hardworking and a humanitarian as an adult, giving back from his resources to the under-privileged of society and actively reaching out to improve their lot. ,

    But…

    it is Allah Who facilitates all the good that one has in this life, and sometimes Allah does this for guidance and sometimes Allah facilitates good ‘things’ without any guidance at all due to one’s insincerity and zero desires to appreciate who is the Owner and Distributer of all Good..the Most Generous. Allah guides whom He Wills and refrains guidance from whom He Wills. As many times there are people who seriously become ‘self-sufficiency’ this self-sufficiency can also foster something very ugly- rather than humility, it can be a direct cause of arrogance. The story of the two gardeners in Surat al-Kahf come to mind, and although I do not know the heart of Oprah- there are many ‘Oprah like people’ who replicate the character of the gardener who credited all his hard works and efforts to his own low self foolingly believing that even if all the good were to perish from him, that he would find better in a questionable Hereafter. Oprah-like people..meaning many who share success stories of this donia who do not have the guidance of Allah in their hearts run at the same risk. But the believers, by reflecting on the path of Prophet Yusef, alayhee salat wasalam..and his story is enough to realize that humanitarian efforts made by people th ‘come backs’ is most meaningful when eman is the foundation for their elevation in this world, not when one’s popularity soars through the eyes of masses who awe and ooh of their success.

    Your beautiful article proves that you are with me on this issue, but I chose to elaborate on this lest someone should look up to Oprah or the like who acheives success holding intentions that might not be aimed at pleasing Allah.

    InshaAllah Im sharing your words with my own kids because this is one of the best articles Ive read on our beloved Prophet Yusef alayhee salaam.
    JazakAllah kheir dear sister..

    muhajjirah

    • Avatar

      Sadaf Farooqi

      February 3, 2010 at 12:04 AM

      Yes, the important difference that you have highlighted, between the success attained after harship whilst having faith and Allah’s Divine guidance in one’s heart, and the success that one attributes to one’s own abilities (without any basis of faith), is very relevant to the lessons we can glean from Surah Yusuf.
      Jazaki Allahu khair for your input, muhajjirah! I am glad you elaborated on this key issue.

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    tabassum

    February 2, 2010 at 1:36 PM

    really loved reading it, so many lessons to learn from hazrat yusuf’s life. Jazakallah

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    muslimsis

    February 2, 2010 at 4:37 PM

    Assalamulikum

    i’m just a beginner arabic student and i made some observations when reading this surah. i really enjoy analyzing the arabic in the quran. if anyone knows answers to these, it would be great

    1. When prophet yusuf alaihisalaam narrates the dream رأيت is used, but when the prisoners and the king narrate the dream they use a different tense أرى and أراني , does anyone know the reasoning behind this?

    2. Also when the king wants the dream to be interpreted تعبرون is used, but the chiefs reply using تأويل . what is the difference between these 2 words?

    3. why is و قال نسوة used, why isnt قالت used for the women?
    jazakAllahkhair

    • Avatar

      Sadaf Farooqi

      February 3, 2010 at 12:09 AM

      Me thinks you are one of the students I meet on Tuesdays, eh? Haha! Come on, give me your name’s initials at least. ;)

      Your questions are excellent! Jazakillahu khair for asking them here and making other readers ponder on the thought-provoking grammatical intricacies in the Quran as well. I will try to answer them, insha’Allah. I need to consult the lexicon for the word-meanings first.

      • Avatar

        muslimsis

        February 3, 2010 at 2:59 AM

        hehe no sis, im all the way in australia!
        great article jazakAllahkhair
        walaikumassalam

  14. Avatar

    Anisa

    February 9, 2010 at 11:16 AM

    Asalaamu Alaaikum

    Loved it, I couldn’t stop reading, masha’Allah. Just like the Surah whenever I read it I don’t stop until I finish.

    JazaakAllah khair, looking forward to more parts. insha’Allah

  15. Avatar

    Yousuf Wasey

    February 15, 2010 at 12:34 AM

    Assalamu Alaikum

    I really loved reading it. One can learn so many lessons from this story. This story tells us that we must always be patient and trust to Allah.

  16. Pingback: Lessons From Surah Yusuf – Part 3: Da’wah Behind Bars | MuslimMatters.org

  17. Avatar

    zarina ahsan quadeer

    February 22, 2010 at 12:58 PM

    Jazakallah!
    Beautiful lessons drawn! a few observations…………………!

    1. How true, we have to take the first step!
    brings to mind the beautiful Hadees, when we take one step towards Allah S.W.T. Allah S.W. Tallah Takes Ten Steps Towards us. The first step to resist evil and temptation has to come from us, for, in that lies our azmaish. That is Allah Tallah’s ‘Khanoon-e-Qudrat. Most of us do like to say, well, if Allah Tallah Willed…………or sometimes, if Allah Tallah Gives me Hidayah, I’ll start namaz, at such times, we need to remember this ‘Khanoon-e-Qudrat’.

    2. No doubt Aziz’s good character comes to light as does the fact of the extent of moral degradation in Society at the time of the event.

    3. Yes, withdrawing to save one’s Faith or moving away in order to be able to practise it in the manner that pleases our Rabbul Alameen! requires Hijrah.
    Our Holy Prophet S.W.S phuh said the best Hijrah is moving away from our sins. The first step would be recognizing, acknowledging and finally moving away or doing Hijrah from them.

    4. The ability to free oneself from being affected by people, from their hurtful comments or their body language can also come from ardent dua to Allah S.W.T to make us ‘bae niyaz’………….!
    The key words of the situation as you have pointed out are no doubt ‘Sabr’ and ‘politeness’, as well as making dua for the person’s guidance.
    Jazakallah again for the indepth lessons drawn!

  18. Avatar

    Mohammed Homam

    October 28, 2010 at 2:00 PM

    May Allah show us the right path. Ameen!!

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Lessons From Surah Maryam: 1

Shaykh Furhan Zubairi

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Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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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Lesson 13 From Surah Al -Kahf

Last verses of Surah Kahf

Shaykh Furhan Zubairi

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Surah Kahf
Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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