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Memorizing the Book of Allah: Interview with Ustadhah Kareema Czerepinski

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Bismillah

As a belated part-two to our Seeking Knowledge series, sister Mariam E. and I conducted an interview with Ustadhah Kareema Czerepinski on memorizing the Book of Allah as a follow-up to our advice on the proper methods of pursuing sacred knowledge. It is the perfect time for students to start or renew their memorization now that the summer break is upon us and Ramadan is right around the corner inshaAllah. We hope that these answers are beneficial to you and us. May Allah make us from the Companions of His Book and unite us with His righteous slaves in the highest gardens of Paradise. Ameen.

Ustadhah Kareema Czerepinski, author of the three part book series: Tajweed Rules of the Qur’an, memorized the Quran and went on to receive an ijaazah in the way of Hafs ‘an ‘Asim, by the way of Shatibiyyah, and another ijaazah by the way of Tayyibat Al-Nashr. She then continued and received an ijaazah in the ten qira’aat min tareeq Ash-Shaaitibiyyah and Ad-Durrah. She is in charge of the non-Arab division at Dar Al-Huda Qur’an school for ladies.

What is your advice for the one who has embarked on the journey to memorize the Quran?

“Exalted are You; we have no knowledge except what You have taught us. Indeed, it is You who is the Knowing, the Wise.”

Assalaam alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.  First of all, I thank you for the good supposition you have about me, pray that this is for the benefit of the Muslims, and ask Allah to guide me in my answers to that which is best and helpful to the Muslims who wish to learn and memorize the Words of Allah.

This question alone is one that books could be written on. I will try not to, but it is hard. The main three points of advice surround intention, schedule, and being tested.

Intention

Of course the first step is to make one’s intention solely for the pleasure of Allah and not for any earthly gain.  I say “of course” thinking that it is hardly possible for one to embark on this journey without pure intentions, as it is one that requires great amounts of time, patience, and perseverance, continual supplication to Allah for success, and deep from the gut determination. Then again, lately there has been a rise in Muslims forging documents, claiming to have a certificate they don’t, or a chain of transmission that they don’t, all to charge others great amounts of money for the chance to recite to them.  The stories get more and more amazing as the years go by and some Muslims lose track of the fact that Allah is always monitoring, watching our every move and knows what is in our hearts.  For that reason, I feel like it is still the number one thing to say, even though it is obvious.  The Muslim brothers or sisters who have embarked on or are going to embark on this journey need to be honest with themselves and clear up any kind of wiswas (whispers) that may occur in their intentions.

The student may want to research the sound ahaadeeth on the benefits of memorizing the Qur’an and the honor those who have memorized receive on the Day of Resurrection. One may put posters up in different  part of the house with some of the ahaadeeth, then change them every week or so, to help refresh the intentions and feel motivated.

Schedule

The next is to set up a reasonable schedule, one including daily memorization and review.  It is of the upmost importance that this schedule is neither too ambitious, so the student of memorization doesn’t get frustrated and give up, nor too easy so the student feels unchallenged and loses interest.  It is always best that the memorization and review are sequential and not random. This helps give the memorizer a clear picture of where he/she is and where he/she is going.

The best way for most is to be in an organized group with a set curriculum, time and days of class.  This helps keep motivation up, as no one likes to be behind the class, and also formulates bonds of brotherhood/sisterhood between the students for mutual cooperation and assistance.  There are some who do better on an individualized program, but with a group where each person recites what he/she has memorized to the teacher or individually has a set date for reciting his/her memorization to a teacher.  Still others have the patience, perseverance, and self motivation and control to do the memorization by their selves. On the whole, this form takes the most struggle as it is easy to get distracted and fall out of the daily routine when there is no appointed time to recite to a teacher and no group for extra motivation.

It is important to set apart a specific time of day to memorize and review, the time of day when there is the least amount of noise, and least amount of chance of being bothered or distracted. This time is set by the individual circumstances, but if possible right after fajr is what I would recommend.

Review/Testing

Don’t be in a hurry to finish memorizing and whiz through it without the memorization being firm.  The student should be able to close the mushaf (copy of the Quran) and recite what he/she memorized completely without a mistake, then that same section should be repeated during the day.  It is very important, no, imperative, that someone who is proficient in the Qur’an listens to what has been memorized and checks it.  It is also crucial to be tested on a whole juz’ when finished, and then on groups of ajzaa, such as 3, 5, or 10 at a time as the memorizer progresses through the stages of putting the Qur’an in their memory.

The review part of the daily section is just as important as the new memorization. One cannot call himself or herself a haafidh when in fact he/she memorized piece by piece and never put it together or reviewed intensely.

How does one face a period of laziness that might attack in the middle of this journey?

The student of the Qur’an needs to realize before they start that shaytaan is going to come to them and try to dissuade them from their noble goal.  The wiswas can be in the form of making one feel like it is never going to end, or seeing others having “fun” while the student is struggling forth, or any other sort of tool.  Knowing this should keep the student on guard and help recognize the cause of the laziness or feeling of wanting to stop.
The worst thing to do at this time is take a break from memorizing.  This will make returning to the memorization more difficult and usually one will feel like the task has become harder.  The best thing to do is make dua’, renew one’s intentions, change the hadeeth on the wall to a new one and read all the previously hung hadeeth. Reading other’s stories of struggle can also help.

What is the best way to schedule memorization around work, school, and/or other responsibilities? Or is it recommended to take time off and devote oneself completely for it,  for better results?

As previously mentioned, the student of memorization needs to find a quiet, consistent time where he/she can memorize and review.  Memorization should have first priority in the day, and insha’Allah there will be barakah in the remaining activities.

It is hard to say whether it is better to take time off from studies and work to memorize or not.  Oftentimes with a tight schedule and well planned time control one can do more than freeing oneself completely to devote all one’s time to memorization.  For many, taking time off is not an option.  Others do better in a classroom situation with a set curriculum and complete devotion to memorization.

Any tips on the best way to memorize the Mutashabihaat verses? (i.e. those verses that are repeated, similar, etc.)

Memorizing them isn’t nearly as difficult as keeping them straight when reviewing.  Since memorizing is a slow build up, the first few mutashaabihaat are not too difficult to keep straight.  It is later when firming up memorization and reviewing that it can become difficult.  One tool is writing down the different  stories of the same content or groups of aayaat and comparing them.  As the same story comes up in different surahs, the memorizer can add the new aayaat to his/her comparative list and study them and review them all at the same time, finding the similarities and differences.  The stories of the Prophets is one area in which this is especially needed.

There are numerous books in Arabic which help with the mutashaabihaat and there are poems.  One specific poem which helped me personally was As-Sakhkhaawiyyah.  I didn’t memorize the whole poem, but learned some parts and read through it and that helped keep many things straight.  For example the lines outlining the places in the Qur’an which have  abadan after khaalideen feeha really helped.

Some Muslims just can keep them straight by themselves, though, masha’ Allah and don’t need mnemonic devices to keep them straight.

Many Muslims feel that learning tajweed is not necessary; can you shed some light on why it is a critical part of learning the Qur’an?

The Qur’an was revealed in the Arabic language and was recited by the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah upon him, and the Sahabah with tajweed.  Why would one want to recite it another way?  The Arabs at the time of revelation spoke with idhgaam, ikhfa’, etc, all the rules we now study to be able to read the Qur’an with tajweed.  There are parts of tajweed which were not in the normal Arab speech such as the lengthening of the sounds in the mudood, and this was then passed down in authentic chains of transmission to us and documented in the old books on tajweed.
There are parts of tajweed which are vital to know, since without applying them the actual letters can change in sound and a major mistake is made.  This is the basic tajweed knowledge that all Muslims should apply in their reading, whether they are memorizing the whole Qur’an, or just memorizing a few for their prayers.

What level of tajweed does one need to possess before embarking on the journey to memorize Quran?

This would depend on one’s ultimate goal. If one is memorizing with the intention of never teaching anyone else and just to get the honor and reward, then it would be enough to know the basic rules such as the laam saakinah, mudood, noon saakinah, makhraj, and meem saakinah.  I would caution however, that many times Muslims memorize, then later decide they want to teach or find themselves in a situation in which they are the only ones around who knows any amount of Qur’an, or change their mind and want an ijaazah, and then have to go back and learn everything in detail.  This can be quite difficult.

For most Muslims I would say that they should learn the above, plus all the rest of detailed tajweed because those who have memorized are usually called upon to teach and have a duty to help other Muslims.  One cannot teach properly without having a strong basis of knowledge themselves.  One can start memorizing at a slow level while learning the tajweed rules and being corrected on its application in recitation, and later after learning the required tajweed step up the memorization quantity.

Is it possible for one to perfect their tajweed and pronunciation without a teacher, perhaps through listening to recorded recitations only?

It is possible, but not very likely. The way the Qur’an has been taught from the early days of this nation and will continue to be taught is by oral transmission, being taught and listened to and corrected by a trained, mastered Qur’an teacher.  There are a few who are very good at imitating sounds and have the ear to pick up the small minute changes in sound heard from recordings and produce them with their own mouth, but this is not the average person, not even some, instead it is a rare case.  Again, it can happen, but the general rule for the vast majority is that it is extremely important that one is corrected by a trained teacher.

Is it required to memorize the last harakah of each ayah if one does not have a solid background in Arabic grammar?

One doesn’t need to have a solid background in Arabic grammar to memorize the last harakah of the aayah.  One needs to have a solid Arabic grammar background to explain the reason for the harakah.  When we memorize the Qur’an we should pay attention to the last harakah and try to memorize it with the rest of the aayah.  Many shuyookh giving ijazaah request the student of the ijaazah to join aayaat together particularly in the shorter surahs to make sure the student knows the vowel on the last letter of an aayah. Knowing the vowel on the last letter of the aayah becomes particularly important in learning and applying the different qira’aat.

Many people associate memorization with being young. Is it possible for someone to begin memorizing after the ‘golden years’ of memorization? And what is your advice for such a person?

Youth on the whole can memorize easier, but age should not stop anyone from memorizing.  Sometimes Muslims have a mental picture of those over 40 or 50 not being able to memorize, but there are many stories of Muslims memorizing the Qur’an later in life, some even starting in their 60’s and succeeding in completion.

With purity of intention, lots of dua’ asking Allah to make it simple, and determination, nothing is impossible with Allah’s help.

I know of a sister in her 30s with 5 children who memorized the whole Qur’an in 3 years and went on to get an ijaazah.  She had to sacrifice sleep and many other things we generally hold important, but she did it for Allah, and by His will, she accomplished her goal. My advice is to never give up.

What advice do you have for new Muslims and older Muslims who face difficulty with memorizing and pronunciation?

The same advice as above, do not give up.  Turn to Allah, don’t be afraid of the struggle and devote yourself to the Qur’an.  You do have to sacrifice, but the reward of Allah is great for all your efforts.  Some give up too easily, but be stubborn in your pursuit of reading the words of Allah correctly and keep trying.  Don’t make excuses for yourself and don’t let your ego get in your way.  The students who do the best on the whole are those who are eager to be corrected, do not complain, and are not afraid to make a mistake.

What are some habits that a student of the Qur’an should implement?

You probably mean study habits, but more important is improving themselves as Muslims and making that a habit.  Pray tahajjud, fast extra fasts, make sure you implement the aayaat of Qur’an in your life and are a shining example of those of the Qur’an.
Stay away from sin, repent for all your sins and stop anything that is not suitable for “ahl al-Qur’an.” (the people of the Qur’an)

Do not waste time, it is a precious commodity for the student of the Qur’an, so use it wisely and use it for the sake of Allah. This is something I can’t say enough.  Many Muslims have lofty goals, but lose their precious time searching the Internet for different recordings of recitation from multiple shuyookh, looking up details of the qira’aat and other advanced details of tajweed when they themselves are relatively beginners or have not progressed far in their memorization.   Focus on the task at hand, and listen to one of the masters of tajweed such as Sheikh Al-Husary or Sheikh Abdullah Basfar.

What should be the goal(s) of a student who has completed their memorization and what should they do after this?

This is really up to the student for most aspects, but the goal that should be shared by all after memorizing the Qur’an is to firm up the memorization and have a very strong review program to keep themself a hafidh. Once the memorization is complete it is not the end, it is just the beginning.

If the student of the Qur’an would like to achieve an ijaazah of the Qur’an after memorizing and firming up the memorization, they should approach a sheikh or sheikhah with an ijaazah and be evaluated by them.  If the student has not memorized the Jazariyyah poem, and wished to get an ijaazah in the Qur’an, he/she should memorize the Jazariyyah and study its meaning.   After the evaluation, the sheikh or sheikhah might give them points to work on, or start an ijaazah with them.

After an ijaazah in one riwaayah or qiraa’ah, the student can then pursue knowledge of the 10 qiraa’aat.  There is much to learn and each step is more beautiful than the previous one.

In your opinion, what is the best method of reviewing the Book of Allah, so as not to lose it by Allah’s will?

The scholars say, “[Review] five, you won’t forget” (خمس لا تنسى), meaning if you review five ajzaa’ per day, you will not forget.  This is a very true statement.  If one cannot keep up reviewing 5 per day all the time, they should try to do this strong program of review for at least six months after completing memorization.  After that the student who cannot keep up with five ajzaa’ per day can decrease the amount to 2 or 3 a day, or the very minum, one juz’ per day; any less than this will not keep the memorization strong.

How much repetition is required for one to completely solidify the hifdh? What has worked for you/your students?

It is hard to quantify and varies from individual to individual.  Suffice it to be said that it requires a lot of repetition, and for six months the review should be quite intense with five ‘ajzaa per day reviewed, if at all possible.
The school I studied at has special classes for tathbeet (firming up memorization).  As a class we went through the Qur’an six times, the number of students in the class, and each day recited three ajzaa’ to the teacher as a class, but we didn’t know which section we were going to be asked to recite as individuals.  We were required to recite at a quick pace, trying to keep our tajweed up as much as possible, so the memorization needed to be quite firm. The teacher would keep track of which sections we had recited to her and at the end of the year, each of us had recited the whole Qur’an to her, but in pieces.  This was and is a very good program and I thank Allah for giving me the opportunity to be in this class.

Please recommend a Tafseer suitable for beginners. Which tafseer did you benefit from the most?

The translations into English of the meaning of the Qur’an give only a general idea of the aayaat, and it is quite important that a deeper understanding of the Qur’an and the background for a surah or aayah be known, as well as any explanation given by the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah upon him, and the Sahaabah.  Ibn Kathir is a great tafseer and al-hamdu lillah it has been translated into English.  May Allah reward those who did this with a great reward and make it of the deeds which continue accumulating for them after their deaths.

How important do you think it is to study tafseer along with memorization? Does it aid in memorizing?

It is extremely important and yes it aids greatly in memorization, especially if word by word meaning is given to the students as they memorize.  There needs to be study of vocabulary words along with the memorization and tests given on the vocabulary words.

How can we instill love for the Qur’an in our children and youth?

By showing them how much we love it and by employing the Qu’ran in our life in every aspect. Teaching them that Qur’an is first is something they will carry with them to adulthood.  I heard a lecture once recommending that parents always start their children with Qur’an homework, then any other deen related subjects, then the other science, math and literature subjects.  This will show the children the importance of Qur’an.

There is no doubt that one who carries the Book of Allah must also carry beautiful conduct and character. Can you please shed light on some of the most important characteristics of Ahl-al-Quran?

There are so many, as “ahl Al-Qur’an” should be examples of the best in character and conduct.  We should aim to have our manners as [what is in] the Qur’an as Aisha may Allah be pleased with her, described the Prophet peace and blessings of Allah upon him.  Even though we are far from his example, we should try our utmost.

I think the one encompassing characteristic is that of Taqwaa.  If one has taqwaa, everything else will be correct, insha’ Allah.

The following are what came to my mind, and are under the category of taqwaa:

First and foremost, those who are “carriers” of the Qur’an should have truthfulness and honesty.  It cannot be that ahl al-Qur’an tell lies or are dishonest.

Another very important characteristic is standing up for the truth and not wronging anyone or allowing someone to be wronged.

The inside of Ahl Al-Qur’an should be like their outward appearance, meaning there should be no hypocrisy.
Patience is also a very important characteristic which those who are carriers of the Qur’an should have.

May Allah grant us the best of manners and characteristics, may He purify our intentions in all that we do, may Allah make us of “ahl al-Qur’an,” and give us the honors promised those who have memorized the Qur’an on the Day of Resurrection. I seek Allah’s forgiveness and repent to Him alone.

Amatullah is a student of the Qur'an and its language. She completed the 2007 Ta'leem program at Al-Huda Institute in Canada and studied Qur'an, Tajwid (science of recitation) and Arabic in Cairo. Through her writings, she hopes to share the practical guidance taught to us by Allah and His Messenger and how to make spirituality an active part of our lives. She has a Bachelors in Social Work and will be completing the Masters program in 2014 inshaAllah. Her experience includes working with immigrant seniors, refugee settlement and accessibility for people with disabilities.

24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Yaqeen needed

    June 21, 2010 at 12:16 AM

    My Best post award winner.

    The humility and humbleness from learning through the traditional method is evident. When questioned about her opinion, she answers saying the scholars say- this is humility and adab gained from sound traditional Islamic training. Something much needed today

  2. Avatar

    AnonyMouse

    June 21, 2010 at 12:25 AM

    Masha’Allah… I used to use book 1 of the series when I first started learning Tajweed! Is the sister here in Egypt?

    • Avatar

      Fajr Breeze - Yuxx

      June 21, 2010 at 1:48 AM

      Baraka-Llâhu fik, very interesting interview !

    • Avatar

      Amatullah

      June 21, 2010 at 3:40 AM

      no, she lives in Jeddah.

      • Avatar

        Yasmin

        December 19, 2016 at 3:20 PM

        Assalamualaykum
        I recently moved to Jeddah and I am looking for Dar-ul-huda here. Do you know the current information about ustadha kareema? I will be greatfull if you could give some information about it.

  3. Yahya Ibrahim

    Yahya Ibrahim

    June 21, 2010 at 7:05 AM

    Bismillah,

    Subhan Allah, great benefit in this post for all masha Allah.

    I remember when I began my memorization… Every tuesday and Sunday my brother Yasser and I would meet Sh. Djabir (rahimahullah). He was a great teacher and always encouraged us to keep at it.

    With anything in life, hard work and pure intention result in success.

    Currently I do 2 juz a day while driving to and then from work. I also found teaching to be one of the best tools to help retain what you know…little it may be.

    O Allah make the Quran a proof for us and not against us

    yahya

  4. Avatar

    Mariam E.

    June 21, 2010 at 8:56 AM

    Asalamu Alikum

    May Allah reward Ustadhah Kareema immensely for taking the time to do this interview and share with us such valuable knowledge and advice. May He protect her and grant her success in all her efforts.

  5. Avatar

    Tehseen Iftikhar

    June 21, 2010 at 9:52 AM

    May Allah bless and reward Ustadhah Kareema the best for sharing with us such valuable advice. May He protect and grant her the best in this world and the next ameen. Jazakillahukhairan sister Amatullah for this interview, may Allah make it beneficial for many of us ameen

  6. Avatar

    anonymous

    June 21, 2010 at 11:53 AM

    ASA. JAK.

    When reading this:

    What advice do you have for new Muslims and older Muslims who face difficulty with memorizing and pronunciation?

    The same advice as above, do not give up. Turn to Allah, don’t be afraid of the struggle and devote yourself to the Qur’an. You do have to sacrifice, but the reward of Allah is great for all your efforts. Some give up too easily, but be stubborn in your pursuit of reading the words of Allah correctly and keep trying. Don’t make excuses for yourself and don’t let your ego get in your way. The students who do the best on the whole are those who are eager to be corrected, do not complain, and are not afraid to make a mistake.

    I was reminded of a program by DR. WAYNE DYER: EXCUSES BEGONE! | Preview
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inT40nOggUs

    Excuses Begone Products:
    http://www.drwaynedyer.com/products/

    Baraaka Allahu feekum.
    ASA.

  7. Avatar

    Me

    June 21, 2010 at 1:52 PM

    Assalaamu alaikum,

    MashaAllah, the best advice I heard/read regarding memorization of the Quran. May Allah reward Ustadhah Kareema and grant her the best in this life and in the Hereafter. May Allah make us all of Ahl alQuran.

  8. Avatar

    ummousama

    June 21, 2010 at 8:23 PM

    Assalamu alaikum,

    Jazak Allahu khairan. My question is now: Am I really ready to be part of Ahlu-l-Quran?

  9. Avatar

    Ify Okoye

    June 21, 2010 at 9:12 PM

    Masha’Allah tabarakAllah. It’s amazing how much we can accomplish by the grace of Allah. Among the best advice I’ve heard is a gem from Shaykh Yaser Birjas to abandon the sinful life, both the major and the minor.

    In addition, to seize every free moment and opportunity to recite and review, consistency, take advantage of the barakah-filled post-fajr time, dua, and emptying your mind and heart of distractions and useless information that will neither benefit you in the dunya or the akhira.

  10. Avatar

    Bin Muhsin

    June 22, 2010 at 8:40 AM

    Mashallah! I feel like the Huffaz are in dire need of a reminder. Unfortunately many huffaz are stellar Muslims all the way up till they complete the memorization of the Quran. After khat-mul-quran everything goes downhill and Shaitan seems to be able to ensnare our Huffaz in things which they never would have gone near initially.

    Even though this article touched on some really relevant and critical points, I would love to see an article that solely addresses this issue.

  11. Pingback: Advice for the Student of Qur’an — Dream in Arabic

  12. Avatar

    anonymous

    June 23, 2010 at 8:27 AM

    ASA. Another thought that came to mind after further contemplation is that we should customize our studies to match our individual learning styles:

    Learning and Teaching Styles
    In Foreign and Second Language Education
    http://www4.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/Papers/FLAnnals.pdf

    More on Learning Styles:
    http://www4.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/Learning_Styles.html

    What is your learning style?:
    http://www.engr.ncsu.edu/learningstyles/ilsweb.html

    JAK
    ASA

  13. Pingback: Memorising the Book of Allah: Interview with Ustadhah Kareema Czerepinski

  14. Avatar

    zainab

    June 23, 2010 at 7:49 PM

    M.A .Very Beneficial “May Allah exalt our Dear Ustadhah Kareema” for sharing this advice . Ameen.

  15. Avatar

    anonymous

    June 24, 2010 at 1:39 PM

    SubhanAllah. I just saw this very inspiring news story of a young man in America who is hafidh-ul-Qur’an, masha’Allah:

    Love for religion and basketball can co exist.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgpaxtL1tlc

    What are our excuses that are holding us back?

    JAK

  16. Avatar

    Noraini

    June 25, 2010 at 3:57 PM

    Assalamualaikum warahmatu Allah,
    May Allah reward Ustadhah Kareema graetly for her valuable advice,amen. Her achievement and commitment in serving the Book of Allah are truly inspiring, mashaallah Allah tabarakaallah.

  17. Avatar

    muslimah

    December 29, 2012 at 5:54 AM

    JazakAllah khairan wa barak Allah feekum!Please please!kindly make dua for me and my friend,we are trying are best to hifdh Qura’n,pray to Allah that He let us complete thjs journey and accept that from us!May Allah make all of us the companions of Qur’an in this world and the Next…sis Amatullah i really love all of ur articles…May Allah bless you abundantly and grant you andur family Jannat-ul-Firdous,May He let us meet in Jannah insha Allah!love you for the sake of Allah alone!

  18. Avatar

    Muhammad Amin Tily

    October 28, 2014 at 7:12 AM

    Jazaakillaahu Khairan for this article and especially for all the books! May Allaah reward you immensely for all your efforts!

  19. Avatar

    Umm Safiyyah

    March 27, 2017 at 5:15 PM

    Assalamu Alaikkum, I would like to know whether Ustadha Kareema conducts online Quraan classes. Please let me know.

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#Islam

Lesson 13 From Surah Al -Kahf

Last verses of Surah Kahf

Shaykh Furhan Zubairi

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Surah Kahf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Qur’an Contemplations: Openings of Timeless Truths | Sh Abu Aaliyah Surkheel

Shaykh Abu Aaliyah Surkheel

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From the outset, the Qur’an establishes a link between worshipping Allah and knowing Him. The first half of the ‘Opening Chapter’ of the Qur’an, Surat al-Fatihah, states:

.‎الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ. الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ. مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ. إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ

All praise be to Allah, Lord of the worlds. The All-Merciful, the Compassionate. Master of the Day of Judgement. You alone we worship, and Your help alone do we seek. [Q.1:1-4]

The first three verses teach us who Allah is, so that hearts may love, hope, fear and be in awe of Him. Only then does Allah ask us to declare our singular devotion and worship of Him. It is as if the Qur’an is saying: ‘You can’t worship or adore whom you don’t know.’

Thus in the first verse, Allah describes Himself as rabb – ‘Lord’. In the Quranic language, rabb is Master, Protector, Caretaker, Provider. And just as water descends from above as blessings and rises again to the skies as steam or vapour, so to the sending down of divine blessings and gifts; they are transformed into declarations of loving thanks and praise that ascend to the Lord of the Worlds. Reflecting on Allah’s care and kindness to us, as rabb; as Lord, then, nurtures an abiding sense of love for Allah in our hearts.

Allah then reveals that He, by His very nature, is al-rahman – the All-Merciful, and by dint of His divine act is al-rahim – the Compassionate. It has been said that al-rahman is like the blue sky: serene, vast and full of light; a canopy of protective care over us and over all things. The divine name, al-rahim is like warm rays, so to speak, touching, bathing and invigorating lives, places and events with this life-giving mercy. Those who flee from this joyous warmth, and opt to cover themselves from the light, choose to live in conditions of icy darkness. Knowing Allah is al-rahman, al-rahim, invites optimism; it instils hope (raja’) in Allah’s impulse to forgive, pardon, pity, overlook and, ultimately, to accept what little we offer Him as needy, fragile and imperfect creatures.

The Prophet ﷺ and his Companions once saw a woman frantically searching for a person among the warn-out and wounded. She then found a babe, her baby. She picked it up, huddled it to her chest and gave it to feed. On seeing this, the Prophet asked if such a woman could ever throw her baby into a fire or harms way? They all resoundingly replied, no; she could never do that; her maternal instincts of mercy would never permit it! The Prophet ﷺ went on to tell them:

 لَلَّهُ أَرْحَمُ بِعِبَادِهِ مِنْ هَذِهِ بِوَلَدِهَا – ‘Allah is more merciful to His creation than that mother is to her child.’ [Al-Bukhari, no.5653]

The final name of Allah that we encounter in this surah is: Malik – Master, King, Owner of all. It is Allah as Master, as King of Judgement Day, who stands at the end of every path. All things come finally to Him to be judged, recompensed and given their final place for the beliefs that defined who they are, the deeds that defined what they stood for and the sins that stand in their way. To know Allah as Malik, therefore, is to be wary, as well as apprehensive. It is a reason for hearts to be filled with a certain sense of fear (khawf) as well as trepidation concerning the final reckoning and one’s ultimate fate.

The Prophet ﷺ once visited a young boy on his death bed and asked him how he was. The boy replied: ‘O Messenger of Allah, I am between hoping in Allah and fearing for my sins.’ To which the Prophet ﷺ said:

‎لاَ يَجْتَمِعَانِ فِي قَلْبِ عَبْدٍ فِي مِثْلِ هَذَا الْمَوْطِنِ إِلاَّ أَعْطَاهُ اللَّهُ مَا يَرْجُو وَآمَنَهُ مِمَّا يَخَافُ

‘The like of these two qualities never unite in the heart of a servant except that Allah grants him what he hopes for and protects him from what he fears.” [Al-Tirmidhi, no.983]

Only after being made aware of these four names of Allah which, in turn, instil in hearts a sense of love, fear and hope in Allah, are we led to stating: You alone do we worship, and Your help alone do we seek. In other words, the order to worship comes after the hearts having come to know Allah – the object of their loving worship, reverence and adoration.

The surah concludes by teaching us to give voice to the universal hope, by asking to be guided to the path of Allah’s people and to help steer clear of the paths of misguidance and perdition:

‎اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ. صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ. غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلاَ الضَّالِّينَ

Guide us to the Straight Path; the path of those whom You have favoured; not of those who incur wrath, nor of those who are astray. [Q.1:5-7]

Ameen!

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Lesson 12 From Surah Al-Kahf

Tafsir of Verses 83-98

Shaykh Furhan Zubairi

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Alhamdulillah last session we were able to explore the meanings of verses 71-82. InshAllah tonight we’ll cover the meanings and lessons of verses 83-98. Just as a quick reminder the last passage of the Surah dealt with a very unique and interesting episode from the life of Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him); the story of his encounter and journey with a man of God known as Khidr or Khadir. There are a number of very beneficial and practical lessons that we can learn from this particular story. That’s why it’s important for us to recite it, reflect over it and try to relate it to our daily lives.

In this next set of verses, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tells us the story of Dhul Qarnain, a just and righteous king 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 narrative is the answer to the third question that the Quraysh asked the Prophet ﷺ after consulting with the Jews of Madinah. If you remember at the beginning of the Surah we talked about the sabab al-nuzūl or the circumstances and background in which the Surah was revealed.

Ibn ‘Abbas raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) narrated that the Quraysh sent two men, Al-Nadr ibn Al-Hartih and ‘Uqbah ibn abi Mu’ayt, to the Jewish scholars of Madinah. The Quraysh told these two men to ask the Jews about Muhammad (saw), his characteristics and to inform them about some of his teachings because they knew more about Prophets since they were people of the book. So they arrived in Madinah and told the Rabbis about Muhammad (saw), about his characteristics, his message and his teachings. They said ask him three questions; if he answers them correctly then he is a prophet and a messenger. If he doesn’t answer them then he is a fake.

  • سلوه عن ثلاث، فإن أخبركم بهن فهو نبي و إن لم يفعل فالرجل متقول

Ask him about the young men who left their city in the distant past and what happened to them, because this is a unique event. Ask him about the person who traveled the East and the West and what happened to him. Ask him about the spirit and what it is.

So they came back and posed these three questions to the Prophet ﷺ. The Prophet ﷺ told them that he would reply to them the next day expecting Allah ﷻ to send down revelation, but he forgot to say inshAllah. Allah ﷻ didn’t send down any revelation for the next fifteen days (one narration says 3) and the Quraysh began to assume that he didn’t know the answers and that his claims to prophethood were false. After 15 days Allah ﷻ revealed the entire Surah and reminded the Prophet ﷺ to always say InshAllah.

This is the fourth story mentioned in the Surah after the story of the people of the cave, the owner of the two gardens and the story of Musa (as) and Khidr. Allah ﷻ introduces the story by saying,

Verse 83: They ask you about Dhul-Qarnain. Say, “I shall now recite to you an account of him.”

Meaning the Quraysh asked you about Dhul Qarnain after consulting with the Jews of Madinah so tell them you will now recite some of his story to them that will answer their question.

Who was Dhul Qarnain?

The Quran doesn’t tell us the exact identity of Dhul Qarnain, why he was given that name, and what time period he lived in or the exact location of his travels and rule. All these details are extra and unnecessary and immaterial; no aspect of our belief or action depends on knowing these details. However, the commentators do get into discussions regarding these details in an attempt to present historical facts. So we’ll go through a brief discussion about who he was and his time period.

Some historical narratives mention that there were four people who ruled over the entire known world of their respective times, 2 believers and 2 non-believers. Throughout history, there have been a few people who were given the name Dhul Qarnain and interestingly they all had the title Alexander as well. Some people held the opinion that the Dhul Qarnain mentioned in the Quran is the famous Alexander the Great, the Greek who had Aristotle as his teacher. Although he fits the description of having ruled the East and the West he can’t be the Dhul Qarnain mentioned in the Quran because he was a non-believer. This is the conclusion of ibn Kathīr.

According to ibn Kathīr, Dhul Qarnain lived during the time period of Ibrahim (as) and he also mentions that Khidr was his minister. Other researchers are of the opinion that the Dhul Qarnain mentioned in the Quran is the ancient Persian king Cyrus the Great. In modern times this theory has been given more weight because of supporting evidence. As for the name Dhul Qarnain, it literally means “the person with two horns”. The name is due to his having reached the two ‘Horns’ of the Sun, east and west, where it rises and where it sets” during his journey. The following is what the Quran tells us about him.

Verse 84: Surely, We gave him power on earth and gave him means to (have) everything (he needs).

Meaning, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) gave him all the material instruments and resources, knowledge, insight, and experience needed to be an effective ruler. Allah gave him everything he needed to maintain just rule, establish peace and extend his area of influence.

Verse 85-86: So he followed a course until when he reached the point of sunset, he found it setting into a murky spring, and found a people near it. We said, “O Dhul-Qarnain, either punish them or treat them well.”

He traveled towards the West until he reached where the sun sets, to the extreme west beyond which there was only an Ocean, which was most likely the Atlantic. There he found the sun setting into dark, muddy spring, meaning that it looked as if the sun were setting into the Sea. Depending on our own geographic location the sun seems to set into different places within the horizon. For example, from our perspective sometimes it looks like the sun is setting into the ocean, or behind a mountain or into the sand.

At this location, there was also a nation of disbelievers. So Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) told him through Ilham (inspiration) that he has a choice. He can either punish them for their disbelief or he could deal with them kindly, invite them to the truth and teach them. Then reward those who believe and punish those who choose to disbelieve. He chose to invite them to belief first and then reward the believers and punish the non-believers.

Verse 87-88: He said, “As for him who does wrong, we shall punish him, then he will be sent back to his Lord, and He will punish him with severe punishment. As for the one who believes and acts righteously, he will have the best (life) as reward, and we shall speak to him politely in our directions.”

This is an expression of his justice; Dhul Qarnain was a just ruler who ruled according to the dictates of faith, belief, and righteousness. Those who were presented with the truth, Islam, and then chose to consciously reject it would be punished in this world and then Allah will punish them in the next. And as for those who accept Islam, who affirm faith in Allah, His prophets and the last day and do righteous deeds will be rewarded. When those who do well in the community, pursuing a fair line of action in all their pursuits, receive a good reward for their actions, and when the unjust and oppressors receive a fair punishment and humiliation, then the whole community is motivated to follow the line of goodness. But when matters go wrong, and the unjust, oppressor and corrupt people are the ones who enjoy favor with the ruler, while those who are good and fair are persecuted, then the ruler’s power becomes no more than a tool of corruption and misery for the whole community. Nothing remains fair. The whole society sinks into chaos. He established peace and justice and this location and then decided to travel towards the East.

Verse 89-90: Thereafter, he followed a course until when he reached the point of sunrise; he found it rising over a people for whom We did not make any shelter against it.

Then he travelled towards the East and there he found a group of people who were not used to the ways of advanced people. They didn’t have homes or shelter or clothes to protect against the sun. These people were also non-believers so he dealt with them in the same way as he dealt with the previous people. He employed the same policy of fairness and justice and building a society on faith.

Verse 91: Thus it was, and Our knowledge fully comprehends whatever (wealth and equipment) he had with him.

Ibn Kathīr writes that the early commentators Mujahid and As-Suddi said, “This means that Allah knew everything about him and his army, and nothing was hidden from Him, even though they came from so many different nations and lands. For, ﴿لاَ يَخْفَى عَلَيْهِ شَىْءٌ فِي الاٌّرْضِ وَلاَ فِى السَّمَآءِ﴾ truly nothing is hidden from Allah in the Earth and in the heaven. After establishing justice and peace he decided to move north.

Verse 92-93: Thereafter he followed a course until he reached between the two mountains, he found by them a people who were almost unable to understand anything said.

Then he traveled towards the North until he reached a point between two mountains. There he found a nation of people who were barely able to understand what he was saying because of their foreign language. They said to him through a translator or through some other means.

Verse 94: They said, “O Dhul-Qarnain, the (tribes of) Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj (Gog and Magog) are mischief-makers on the earth. So, should we assign a payment for you on condition that you make a barrier between us and them?”

These people recognized that Dhul Qarnain was a fair and just ruler so they asked him for help against the menace of Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj. Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj is the name of a tribe of people. There’s a lot of speculation regarding who exactly they are and what area or region they’re from, but nothing can be said with certainty. They complained to Dhul Qarnain saying that they spread mischief and corruption in our lands by killing and destruction. If we pay you some money will you build a barrier between them and us to prevent them from reaching our town?

Verse 95: He said, “What my Lord has (already) given in my control is better (for me than the payment you are offering to me), so help me (only) with strength, and I shall make a barrier between you and them.

Basically, he told them that he doesn’t need their money, but he will need their help. Meaning, Allah ﷻ had given him such great wealth and power that he had no need of what they could offer him. He would provide this service simply for the sake of righteousness and doing good.

Verse 96: Bring me big pieces of iron.” (They proceeded accordingly) until when he leveled (the gap) between the two cliffs, he said, “Blow.” (They complied) until when he made it (like) fire, he said, “Bring me molten copper, and I will pour it upon this.”

So they brought pieces of iron and filled the space between the two mountains with it. Then they made this iron really hot and poured molten copper over it making a huge metal structure.

Verse 97: So they (Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj) were not able to climb it, nor were they able to make a hole in it.

They weren’t able to climb it because of its height nor were they able to make a hole in it because of its depth and strength. After building this giant barrier Dhul Qarnain said,

Verse 98: He said, “This is a mercy from my Lord. Then, when the promise of my Lord will come, He will make it leveled to the ground. The promise of my Lord is true.”

Meaning his ability to build such a strong and impenetrable barrier was a mercy from Allah ﷻ; it had nothing to do with his own strength or ability. The “promise of my Lord” is referring to the onset of the events that will lead to the Hour; the Day of Judgment. This includes the trials of Dajjāl and the return of ‘Isa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). One of these events will be that the barrier will crumble to dust and Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj will wreak havoc across the Earth. And once their barrier is opened and they’re let loose they will descend from every elevation, attacking humanity from every single corner and angle. They will come rushing down the mountains in huge groups like waves crashing down upon the people while destroying and killing everything in sight.

There are many sings of the Day of Judgment mentioned in the Quran and Ahādīth of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Some of them are minor and some of them are major. Some of them will happen further away from the Day of Judgment and others will happen very close to the Day of Judgment. For example, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) being appointed the last and final Messenger is one of the signs that the Day of Judgment is near. As the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) told us, “I and the Last Hour have been sent like this and (he while doing it) joined the forefinger with the middle finger.”

  • عَنْ أَنَسٍ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ “‏ بُعِثْتُ أَنَا وَالسَّاعَةُ كَهَاتَيْنِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ وَضَمَّ السَّبَّابَةَ وَالْوُسْطَى ‏.

Hudhaifah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) narrated that once the Companions were sitting together in the middle of a discussion and the Prophet (saw) came and asked what they were talking about. They said they were talking about the Day of Resurrection. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Indeed the Hour will not come until you see 10 signs before it.” He mentioned the smoke, Dajjal, the beast, the rising of the sun from the west, the return of ‘Isa ibn Maryam (as), Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj and three land-slides (sink holes); one in the East, one in the West and one in the Arabian Peninsula, at the end of which fire would burn forth from Yemen, and would drive people to the place of their assembly.”

Two of the greatest trials, greatest fitnahs, this Ummah will face before the Day of Resurrection is the fitnah of Dajjal and the attack of Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj. Both of these are major signs of the Day of Judgment and will happen very close to each other. There’s a very lengthy hadīth recorded in Sahīh Muslim narrated by Al-Nawwās ibn Sam‘ān raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) that gives the details of these two specific trials, meaning the trial of Dajjal and Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj. Basically, the narration tells us about the details of the fitnah of Dajjal; his description, how long he will stay and how exactly he’s going to test us. He will stay in this world for a period of forty days; but the first day will be equivalent to one year, the second day to one month and the rest of the days will be normal. He will move extremely swiftly across the Earth spreading his mischief and asking people to believe in him. He will continue to misguide and test people until ‘Isa (as) is sent back to this world. ‘Isa (as) will search for him until he catches up with him at the eastern gate of Ludd, located in Palestine, where he will kill him.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will then reveal to him, “I have brought forth from amongst My creatures people against whom none will be able to fight. Take My servants safely to mount (Tūr).” Then Allah will send Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj, as Allah says: “And they, from every elevation, will descend.”

Another narration from Abu Sa’eed Al-Khudri raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) describes what they will do when they descend upon the people. They will be seen coming down from the mountains like waves of people overwhelming humanity, killing and destroying everything in sight. ‘Isa (as) along with his companions will take refuge on Mount Tūr and the other Muslims will retreat to their own cities and strongholds. They (Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj) will drink all the water of the land until some of them will pass a river and drink it dry, then those who come after them will pass by that place and will say, “There used to be water here once.” Then there will be no one left except those who are in their strongholds and cities. Then one of them will say, “We have defeated the people of the earth; now the people of heaven are left.” One of them will shake his spear and hurl it into the sky, and it will come back stained with blood, as a test and a trial for them.

The narration of Al-Nawwās tells us that while this is happening, ‘Isa (as) and his companions will turn to Allah asking him to remove their distress. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will answer their prayer and send an epidemic that will completely wipe Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj out. Allah will send some sort of insect that will attack their necks, and in the morning they will all perish as one. Then `Isa and his companions will come down and they will not find a single spot on earth that is free from their putrefaction and stench. Then `Isa and his companions will again beseech Allah, and He will send birds with necks like those of Bactrian camels, and they will carry them and throw them wherever Allah wills. Then Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will send rain continuously for forty days to cleanse and purify the earth. The earth will be washed clean until it looks like a mirror. Then it will be said to the earth: bring forth your fruit and restore your blessing. On that day a group of people will be able to eat from one pomegranate and seek shade under its skin, and everything will be blessed. A camel will give so much milk that it will be sufficient for a whole group of people, and a cow will give so much milk that it will be sufficient for a whole clan, and a sheep will be sufficient for an entire household. (This period of extraordinary peace, protection, and blessings will last for forty years) At that time Allah will send a pleasant wind which will reach beneath their armpits and will take the soul of every Muslim — or every believer — and there will be left only the most evil of people who will commit fornication like mules, and then the Hour will come upon them.”

From other narrations, we learn that Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj have already made a hole in their wall. Zainab bint Jahash raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) narrated that once the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) woke up from sleep saying, “There is no being worthy of worship except Allah; there is a destruction in store for Arabia because of turmoil which is at hand, the barrier of Gog and Magog has opened so much. And Sufyan made a sign of ten with the help of his hand (in order to indicate the width of the gap) and I said: Allah’s Messenger, would we perish in spite of the fact that there would be good people amongst us? Thereupon he said: Of course, but only when the evil predominates.”

  • عَنْ زَيْنَبَ بِنْتِ جَحْشٍ، أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم اسْتَيْقَظَ مِنْ نَوْمِهِ وَهُوَ يَقُولُ ‏”‏ لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ اللَّهُ وَيْلٌ لِلْعَرَبِ مِنْ شَرٍّ قَدِ اقْتَرَبَ فُتِحَ الْيَوْمَ مِنْ رَدْمِ يَأْجُوجَ وَمَأْجُوجَ مِثْلُ هَذِهِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ وَعَقَدَ سُفْيَانُ بِيَدِهِ عَشَرَةً ‏.‏ قُلْتُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ أَنَهْلِكُ وَفِينَا الصَّالِحُونَ قَالَ ‏”‏ نَعَمْ إِذَا كَثُرَ الْخَبَثُ ‏”‏ ‏.

In a narration recorded in Tirmidhi Abu Hurairah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (saw) said: Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj continue digging through the wall built by Dhul Qarnain. Every day the dig so much that they reach the farthest part of the iron wall. They’re so close that light from the other side is almost visible. But at that point, they stop digging and decide that they will complete the task the following day. However, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) makes the wall just as thick and strong as it was before so when they come back they have to start all over again. This cycle of digging and re-building will continue as long as Allah wills. Then one day when it has been decreed for them to be released they will dig all the way to the end and say, “If Allah wills we will cross it tomorrow. So when they return the next day they will find the wall just as they left it and break through wreaking havoc on the Earth.

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