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.
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.
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.
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.
Lessons From Surah Maryam: 1
Alhamdulillah, it’s a great blessing of Allah that He has given us both the opportunity and ability to come here tonight to study and explore the meanings of His words in Surah Maryam. I’m truly grateful for this opportunity. May Allah accept this effort from all of us and place it on our scale of good deeds.
Alhamdulillah, in our last series we were able to complete the tafsir of Surah Al-Kahf. InshAllah, in this next series, we’ll be exploring the meanings, lessons, and reminders of Surah Maryam. Tafsīr is an extremely noble and virtuous discipline. The reason why it’s so noble and virtuous is that it’s the study of the divine speech of Allah . As mentioned in a hadith the superiority of the speech of Allah over all other speech is like the superiority of Allah over all of His creation. There’s nothing more beneficial and virtuous than studying the Quran. And by doing so we’ll be counted amongst the best of people. As the Prophet said, “the best amongst you are those who learn the Quran and teach it.”
All of us need to build a stronger relationship with the Quran. The Quran is full of wisdom and guidance in every single verse and word. It’s our responsibility to seek that guidance, understand it, contextualize it and more importantly act upon it. Tafsīr is such a unique science that it brings together all of the other Islamic sciences. While exploring a Surah a person comes across discussions regarding Arabic grammar and morphology, rhetoric, Ahādīth, fiqh, sīrah and all those studies that are known as the Islamic Sciences. One scholar described the Quran as an ocean that has no shore, بحر لا ساحل له. The more we study the Qur’ān the stronger our relationship with it will become. We’ll become more and more attached to it and will be drawn into its beauty and wonder. The deeper a person gets into tafsir and studying the more engaged and interested they become. They also recognize how little they truly know. It develops humility. That’s the nature of true knowledge. The more we learn the more we recognize we don’t know. May Allah ﷻ allow us all to be sincere and committed students of the Qur’ān.
Surah Maryam is the 19th surah in the Quran. It is a relatively long Makki surah made up of 98 verses. Some commentators mention that it’s the 44th Surah to be revealed, after Surah Al-Fatir and before Surah Taha. It has been given the name Maryam because Allah mentions the story of Maryam (as) and her family and how she gave birth to Isa miraculously at the beginning of the Surah. Just like other Makkan surahs, it deals with the most fundamental aspects of our faith. It talks about the existence and oneness of Allah , prophethood, and resurrection and recompense.
The Surah is made up of a series of unique stories filled with guidance and lessons that are meant as reminders. One of the main themes of this Surah is mercy… It has been mentioned over 16 times in this Surah. We’ll find the words of grace, compassion and their synonyms frequently mentioned throughout the sūrah, together with Allah’s attributes of beneficence and mercy. We can say that one of the objectives of the Surah is to establish and affirm the attribute of mercy for Allah . That’s why all of the stories mentioned also have to do with Allah’s mercy.
Another objective of the Surah is to remind us of our relationship with Allah ﷻ; the concept of Al-‘Ubūdiyyah. These are the two major themes or ideas of this Surah; the concept of Rahmah and the concept of ‘Ubūdiyyah (Mercy and Servitude).
The Surah can be divided into 8 sections:
1) Verses 1-15: The surah starts with the story of Zakariyya (as) and how he was given the gift of a child at a very old age, which was something strange and out of the ordinary.
2) Verses 16-40: mention the story of Maryam and the miraculous birth of Isa without a father and how her community responded to her.
3) Verses 41-50: The surah then briefly mentions one part of the story of Ibrahim , specifically the conversation he had with his father regarding the worship of idols. The surah then briefly mentions a series of other Prophets.
4) Verses 51-58: Mention Musa and Haroon , Ismail and Idrees to show that the essence of the message of all Prophets was the same
5) Verses 59-65: compare and contrast the previous generations with the current ones in terms of belief and actions.
6) Verses 66-72: Allah addresses the Mushrikoon rejecting their false claims regarding life after death and judgment.
7) Verses 73-87: continue to address the Mushrikoon and warn them regarding their attitude towards belief in Allah and His messengers. They also mention the great difference between the resurrection of the believer and the resurrection of the non-believer.
8) Verses 88-98: contain a severe warning to those who claim that Allah has taken a child. They also express that Allah is pleased with the believers and mentions that one of the objectives of the Quran is to give glad tidings to the believers and to warn the non-believers.
From various narrations, we learn that this surah was revealed near the end of the fourth year of Prophethood. This was an extremely difficult time for Muslims. The Quraysh were frustrated with their inability to stop the message of Islam from spreading so they became ruthless. They resorted to any method of torture that they could think of; beating, starving and harassing. When the persecution became so severe that it was difficult for the Muslims to bear it, the Prophet gave permission to migrate to Abyssinia. “For in it dwells a king in whose presence no one is harmed.” 10 men and 4 women migrated in the 5th year of Prophethood secretly. After a few months, a larger group of 83 men and 18 women migrated as well. This migration added more fuel to the fire. It enraged the people of Quraysh.
Umm Salamah [rahna]narrated, “When we stopped to reside in the land of Abyssinia we lived alongside the best of neighbors An-Najashi. We practiced our religion safely, worshipped Allah without harm and didn’t hear anything we disliked. When news of our situation reached the Quraysh they started to plot against us…” They decided to send two delegates to persuade An-Najashi to send the Companions back by offering him and his ministers’ gifts. The plan was to go to each minister with gifts and turn them against the Muslims. So they went to each minister with gifts and said, “Verily, foolish youth from amongst us have come to the country of your king; they have abandoned the religion of their people and have not embraced your religion. Rather they have come with a new religion that neither of us knows. The noblemen of their people, from their fathers and uncles, have sent us to the king asking that he send them back. So when we speak to the king regarding their situation advise him to surrender them to us and to not speak to them…” The minister agreed.
Then they went to the king, offered him gifts and said the same thing… The ministers tried to convince him as well. An-Najashi became angry with them and said, “No, by Allah, I will not surrender them to these two and I don’t fear the plotting of a people who have become my neighbors, have settled down in my country, and have chosen me (to grant them refuge) over every other person. I will not do so until I summon them and speak to them. If they are as these two say I will give them up, but if they aren’t then I will protect them from these two and continue to be a good neighbor to them as long as they are good neighbors to me.”
al-Najāshī then summoned the Prophet’s ﷺ Companions. When his messenger informed the Prophet’s Companions that they were to appear before the king, they gathered together to discuss what they should do. One of them asked, “What will you say to the name (al-Najāshī) when you go to him?” They all agreed on what they would say to him, “By Allah, we will say what our Prophet ﷺ taught us and commanded us with, regardless of the consequences.” Meanwhile, al-Najāshī called for his priests, who gathered around him with their scrolls spread out before them. When the Muslims arrived al-Najāshī began by asking them, “What is this religion for which you have parted from your people? You have not entered into the fold of my religion, nor the religion of any person from these nations.”
Umm Salamah [rahna] narrated, “The Person among us who would speak to him was Jaʿfar ibn abī Ṭālib [rahnu] who then said, “O king, we were an ignorant people: we worshipped idols, we would eat from the flesh of dead animals, we would perform lewd acts, we would cut off family ties, and we would be bad neighbors; the strong among us would eat from the weak. We remained upon that state until Allah sent us a Messenger, whose lineage, truthfulness, trustworthiness, and chastity we already knew. He invited us to Allah – to believe in His oneness and to worship Him; to abandon all that we and our fathers worshipped besides Allah, in terms of stones and idols. He ﷺ commanded us to speak truthfully, to fulfill the trust, to join ties of family relations, to be good to our neighbors, and to refrain from forbidden deeds and from shedding blood. And he ﷺ forbade us from lewd acts, from uttering falsehood, from wrongfully eating the wealth of an orphan, from falsely accusing chaste women of wrongdoing. And he ﷺ ordered us to worship Allah alone and to not associate any partners with him in worship; and he ﷺ commanded us to pray, to give zakāh, and to fast.” He enumerated for al-Najāshī the teachings of Islam. He said, “And we believe him and have faith in him. We follow him in what he came with. And so we worship Allah alone, without associating any partners with Him in worship. We deem forbidden that which he has made forbidden for us, and we deem lawful that which he made permissible for us. Our people then transgressed against us and tortured us. The tried to force us to abandon our religion and to return from the worship of Allah to the worship of idols; they tried to make us deem lawful those abominable acts that we used to deem lawful. Then, when they subjugated us, wronged us, and treated us in an oppressive manner, standing between us and our religion, we came to your country, and we chose you over all other people. We desired to live alongside you, and we hoped that, with you, we would not be wronged, O king.” al-Najāshī said to Jaʿfar [rahnu], “Do you have any of that which he came with from Allah?” Jaʿfar [rahnu] said, “Yes”. “Then recite to me,” said al-Najāshī. Jaʿfar [rahnu] recited for him the beginning of Surah Maryam. By Allah, al-Najāshī began to cry, until his beard became wet with tears. And when his priests heard what Jaʿfar [rahnu] was reciting to them, they cried until their scrolls became wet. al-Najāshī then said, “By Allah, this and what Mūsa (as) came with come out of the same lantern. Then by Allah, I will never surrender them to you, and henceforward they will not be plotted against and tortured.”
Describing what happened after the aforementioned discussion between al-Najāshī and Jaʿfar [rahnu], Umm Salamah said, “When both ʿAmr ibn al-ʿĀṣ and ʿAbdullah ibn abī Rabīʿah left the presence of al-Najāshī, ʿAmr [rahnu] said, “By Allah tomorrow I will present to him information about them with which I will pull up by the roots their very lives.” Abdullah ibn Rabīʿah who was more sympathetic of the two towards us said, “Don’t do so, for they have certain rights of family relations, even if they have opposed us.” ʿAmr said, “By Allah, I will inform him that they claim that ʿĪsā ibn Maryam is a slave.”
He went to the king on the following day and said, “O king, verily, they have strong words to say about ʿĪsa (as). Call them here and ask them what they say about him.” al-Najāshī sent for them in order to ask them about ʿĪsa. Nothing similar to this befell us before. The group of Muslims gathered together and said to one another, “What will you say about ʿĪsa when he asks you about him?” They said, “By Allah, we will say about him that which Allah says and that which our Prophet ﷺ came with, regardless of the outcome.” When they entered into his presence, he said to them, “What do you say about ʿĪsa ibn Maryam?” Jaʿfar said, “We say about him that which our Prophet ﷺ came with – that he is the slave of Allah, His messenger, a spirit created by Him, and His word, which he bestowed on Maryam, the virgin, the baṭūl.”
al-Najāshī struck his hand on the ground and took from it a stick. He then said, “ʿĪsa ibn Maryam did not go beyond what you said even the distance of the stick.” When he said this, his ministers spoke out in anger, to which he responded, “What I said is true even if you speak out in anger, by Allah. (Turning to the Muslims, he said) Go, for you are safe in my land. Whoever curses you will be held responsible. And I would not love to have a reward of gold in return for me hurting a single man among you. (Speaking to his ministers he said) Return to these two (men) their gifts, since we have no need for them. For by Allah, Allah did not take from me bribe money when He returned to me my kingdom, so why should I take bribe money. The two left, defeated and humiliated; and returned to them were the things they came with. We then resided alongside al-Najāshī in a very good abode, with a very good neighbor.”
The response was simply amazing in its eloquence. A believer puts the needs of his soul before the needs of his body. Allah starts the Surah by saying,
Verse 1: Kaf, Ha, Ya, ‘Ayn, Sad.
Allah starts Surah Maryam with a series of five letters. There are many different saying or explanations regarding these five letters. The most correct opinion is that these are from the broken letters. There are 29 different Surahs in the Quran that start with the broken letters. Only Allah alone knows the meanings of these letters. They are a secret from amongst the secrets of Allah , meaning that no one knows what they truly mean. Only Allah knows their meanings so they are from amongst the Mutashaabihat, those verses whose meanings are hidden.
However, we do find that some great Companions, as well as their students, sometimes gave meanings to these words. For example, it’s said that it is in acronym and each letter represents one of the names of Allah . Kaf is for Al-Kafi or Al-Kareem, “haa” is for Al-Hadi, “yaa” is from Hakeem or Raheem, “’ayn” is from Al-‘Aleem or Al-‘Adheem, and “saad” is from Al-Saadiq. Others said that it is one of the names of Allah and it’s actually Al-Ism Al-‘Atham or that it’s a name of the Quran. However, these narrations can’t be used as proof or to assign definitive meanings. They offer possibilities, but no one truly knows what they mean.
Now the question should come to our mind that why would Allah start of a Surah with words that no one understands?
1) To grab the attention of the listeners.
2) To remind us that no matter how much we know there’s always something that we don’t know.
3) These letters are the letters of the Arabic language and the Quran was revealed at a time that was the peak of eloquence of the language and it was their identity. The Quran was revealed challenging them spiritually and intellectually. The Arabs never heard these letters being used in such a majestic way.
4) To prove the inimitable nature of the Quran.
Allah then starts the story of Zakariyya . Zakariyya was one of the Prophets sent to Bani Israel. He was the husband of Maryam’s paternal aunt. He was also one of the caretakers or custodians of Baitul Maqdis.
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Lesson 13 From Surah Al -Kahf
Last verses of Surah Kahf
Alhamdulillah last session we were able to cover the meanings of verses 83-98. InshAllah tonight we’ll explore the meanings of verses 99-110, which will bring us to the end of this noble and beautiful Surah. Just as a quick reminder, the last set of verses related the story of Dhul Qarnain, who was an upright and God-conscious ruler who ruled over the entire known world of his time. He was a righteous servant of Allah to whom Allah granted might, power and sovereignty over the world along with knowledge and wisdom. He was a special servant of God. We’re told about his journeys to the east, west, and north as well as his building of a huge wall to prevent Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj from escaping. This story highlighted the fitna and trial of might, power, leadership, and authority and showed us that the way to deal with it is through faith and sincerity. Dhul Qarnain was tested with a lot of wealth and power but it was unable to corrupt him because of his faith and sincerity. The Surah follows the story of Dhul Qarnain with a scene from the Day of Judgment.
Verse 99: And We shall leave them, on that day, to surge over one another like waves. And the trumpet shall be blown, and We shall gather them together.
The first part of this verse is referring to Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj and the second part refers to resurrection, when the Angel Isrāfīl will blow into the horn bringing all creation back to life. On that day, is referring to the day near the end of times when Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj will break through the barrier and surge down the mountains like waves upon humanity destroying everything in their way. As Allah ﷻ tells us in Surah Al-Anbiya, “Until when [the dam of] Gog and Magog has been opened and they, from every elevation, descend…” They will wreak havoc for a period of time known to Allah until they will be destroyed.
As we’ve covered before there will be two instances when the trumpet will be sounded. Allah has appointed the Angel Isrāfīl to blow into the trumpet. This will happen twice. The first time every single thing will be destroyed. The second time every single thing will be brought back to life. This is how the day of Resurrection will start. The sūr, which is a trumpet or a horn, will be blown and all of mankind will rise from their graves and come towards the plain of judgment. That’s what Allah ﷻ is mentioning here in this verse, “And the trumpet shall be blown, and We shall gather them together.”
The Surah then describes a scene from the day of Judgment that’s specific to the non-believers. Those who received the message and consciously chose to reject it and rebel against God and His messengers.
Verse 100-101: And We shall present Hell, on that Day, as an array before the non-believers, those whose eyes were veiled from the remembrance of Me, and could not hear.
Meaning on the Day of Judgment Allah ﷻ will show the non-believers Hell Fire, exposing it to them so that they can see it with their own eyes. They will see it with their own eyes and hear its raging and frightening sounds even before entering it. Allah then describes the non-believers with 3 characteristics, which are essentially three reasons why they will be punished in the hereafter:
1) “Those whose eyes were veiled from the remembrance of Me, and could not hear.” They weren’t able to understand the truth when it was presented to them because they were spiritually blind and deaf. They were blind to the signs of Allah’s existence and power all around them spread throughout the universe, so they never thought or reflected over them. On top of that, they weren’t able to understand what was being recited to them. Meaning, they consciously chose to ignore the message and turn away from it. Here Allah is contrasting their condition in the hereafter to their condition in the life of this world. In this world, they chose to turn away from belief in the fire and in the hereafter, they won’t have the option to turn away. The veil over their eyes will be removed and they will see the consequences of their choice.
2) The second is that they worshipped others besides Allah.
Verse 102: Do those who disbelieve reckon that they may take My servants as protectors apart from Me? Truly We have prepared Hell as a welcome for the disbelievers!
Allah is scolding them and showing them their mistake. Did they really think or believe that they could take created beings or inanimate objects as protectors apart from Me? Did they really believe that worshipping idols, angels or people would benefit them or help them in any way? There’s no help or protection except with Allah, who deserves to be worshipped alone without any partners. As Allah ﷻ says in Surah Maryam, “No! Those “gods” will deny their worship of them and will be against them opponents [on the Day of Judgment].” Allah then tells us that their punishment is Jahannam, which has been prepared as a resting place for them. “Truly We have prepared Hell as a welcome for the disbelievers!”
3) The third quality that the non-believers are described with is that they are fools for thinking that their actions in this world will be of any benefit to them in the Hereafter.
Verse 103-104: Say, “Shall We inform you who are the greatest losers in respect to their deeds? Those whose efforts go astray in the life of this world, while they think that they are virtuous in their works.
In this verse, Allah ﷻ is addressing the Prophet ﷺ directly and he’s telling him to pose this question to the non-believers. “Shall We inform you who are the greatest losers in respect to their deeds?” Do you want to know who the greatest and biggest losers are with respect to their deeds? They are the ones who did good deeds and put in effort, but all of it went to waste. Those individuals who were misguided in the life of this world so their actions were guided by their wants, desires, and pleasures. Their actions were misplaced and not guided by faith in Allah. The reason why all of their efforts will go to waste is their disbelief or absence of faith. As Allah says,
Verse 105-106: They are those who disbelieve in the signs of their Lord, and in the meeting with Him. So their deeds have gone to waste, and on the Day of Resurrection, We shall assign them no weight. That is their recompense, the Jahannam, for having disbelieved and for having taken My signs and My messengers in mockery.
The greatest losers with respect to their deeds are those who reject the signs of Allah in this world. Those who refuse to accept the oneness, might, power and magnificence of Allah, those who refuse to believe in life after death and accountability. Their deeds will go to waste and on the Day of Judgment, they won’t have any weight. We know from multiple verses and narrations that our deeds are going to be weighed on the Day of Judgment. And on the Day of Judgment, it’s not about the number of deeds but the quality. That’s why on the Day of Judgment our deeds won’t be counted but they will be weighed. It could be that the weight of one action or deed is more than a thousand other deeds.
Those actions that are devoid of faith and sincerity will have no weight whatsoever. As Allah ﷻ says in Surah Al-Furqān, “And We will regard what they have done of deeds and make them as dust dispersed.” Their recompense is the fire of Jahannam, and that is the ultimate justice and fairness. They get punishment as recompense because of their rejection and disbelief and mockery of Allah’s signs and His messengers. Allah ﷻ then contrasts the punishment of the non-believers with the reward of the believers in Paradise.
Verse 107-108: Those who believe and perform righteous deeds, theirs shall be the Gardens of Paradise as a welcome. Abiding therein forever, they don’t seek any change from it.
Just as Hell is a “welcome” for the non-believers, Paradise is a true “welcome” for the believers. Meaning, those who believe in the existence and oneness of Allah, believe in the Prophet ﷺ and life after death and that faith expresses itself through their actions, their reward will be Gardens of Paradise. Again we see this formula being mentioned, faith + righteous deeds. This is the simple formula to achieve success in this world and the next. Our faith has to be real and practical; it has to translate into action. If we do so then our reward will be Jannah al-Firdaws, which is the highest and most virtuous level of Paradise. The Prophet ﷺ said, “When you ask Allah for Paradise ask Him for Al-Firdaws. It is the highest level of Paradise, the middle of Paradise and the rivers of Paradise flow from it.”
- إذا سألتم الله الجنة، فاسألوه الفردوس، فإنه أعلى الجنة، و أوسط الجنة، و منها تفجر أنهار الدنة.
In another narration, the Prophet ﷺ said, “In Paradise, there are a hundred levels, what is between every two levels is like what is between the heavens and the earth. Al-Firdaws is its highest level, and from it the four rivers of Paradise are made to flow forth. So when you ask Allah, ask Him for Al-Firdaws.”
- “ فِي الْجَنَّةِ مِائَةُ دَرَجَةٍ مَا بَيْنَ كُلِّ دَرَجَتَيْنِ كَمَا بَيْنَ السَّمَاءِ وَالأَرْضِ وَالْفِرْدَوْسُ أَعْلاَهَا دَرَجَةً وَمِنْهَا تُفَجَّرُ أَنْهَارُ الْجَنَّةِ الأَرْبَعَةُ وَمِنْ فَوْقِهَا يَكُونُ الْعَرْشُ فَإِذَا سَأَلْتُمُ اللَّهَ فَسَلُوهُ الْفِرْدَوْسَ ” .
They will be in Paradise for all of eternity, enjoying all of its pleasures and not wanting or desiring anything other than it. Allah (swt) then tells us about the extent and vastness of His knowledge. That his knowledge is infinite. This is also a description of the greatness and status of the Qur’ān.
Verse 109: Say, “If the ocean were ink for the words of my Lord, the ocean would be exhausted before the words of my Lord were exhausted, even if We brought the like thereof to replenish it.”
“The words of my Lord” may be a reference to Allah’s infinite knowledge or wisdom or the meanings of the Qur’ān. Meaning that if the oceans were turned into ink and the words of Allah were to be written with this ink, then the ink would run out and the words of Allah (swt) would still be left, even if more ink were to be brought. This is an example to make us understand the vastness of Allah’s knowledge, wisdom, and secrets. This example is being given to make us as human beings recognize the infinite nature of Allah’s knowledge as compared to or finite and limited knowledge.
The ocean is the largest and richest creation known to us as human beings. It takes up more than 70% of the surface of the Earth. And we use ink to document and record our knowledge, which we think is vast and amazing. So Allah gives this example of the ocean as ink being used to write and record His words. The entire ocean is used up and then it’s replenished but the words of Allah are still being written. This example is trying to help us comprehend the difference between the infinite and the finite. “And if all the trees on earth were pens, and if the sea and seven more added to it were ink, the words of Allah would not be exhausted. Truly Allah is Mighty, Wise.” This example should allow us to recognize the greatness and magnificence of Allah ﷻ as well as humble us as human beings as well.
We as human beings should never be deceived or fooled by our own intellect and abilities. No matter how much we learn and how advanced we become scientifically and technologically, it’s nothing compared to the infinite knowledge and wisdom of Allah ﷻ. Our knowledge compared to the knowledge of Allah is like a drop of water compared to all the oceans. Allah ﷻ then ends the noble Surah by reminding the Prophet (saw) about humility and us about the path of true salvation.
Verse 110: Say, “I am only a human being like you. It has been revealed to me that your God is one God. So whosoever hopes for the meeting with his Lord, let him perform righteous deeds and make no one a partner with his Lord in worship.
Allah ﷻ is speaking directly to the Prophet ﷺ. He’s telling him to tell his nation, his community, that he is a human being just like them. He’s not an Angel nor is he divine in any way. He eats, drinks, walks, talks and sleeps just like them. The only difference is that he ﷺ receives revelation from above from the Most High. It has been revealed to him that there is only one God, alone without any partners. So whoever believes in the meeting with their Lord, meaning they believe in the last day, resurrection, accountability and judgment. They know that the life of this world is temporary and finite and that the life of the hereafter is eternal and infinite, should “perform righteous deeds and make no one a partner with his Lord in worship.”
Righteous deeds include fulfilling all of our obligations, obeying the commands of Allah and staying away from His prohibitions. It includes all voluntary acts of worship such as praying, fasting, reading Quran, making dua, dhikr and charity. It includes being kind to our parents, spouses, children, relatives, neighbors, and co-workers. It even includes smiling at someone. There are multiple paths of righteousness in Islam.
We’re then reminded to not associate partners with Allah in our worship; to not commit shirk. There are two types of shirk: al-shirk al-akbar and al-shirk al-asghar. Al-Shirk Al-Akbar is associating partners with Allah; it’s an act of disbelief. Al-Shirk Al-Asghar refers to ostentation and showing off or not having sincerity in acts of worship. The Prophet ﷺ referred to ostentation as “the lesser idolatry.” The Prophet ﷺ said, “I do not fear that you will worship the sun, the stars and the moon, but I fear your worshipping other than Allah through ostentation.” The Prophet ﷺ said, “What I fear most for my community is doing things for other than the sake of Allah.” Ibn al-‘Arabi quotes his shaykh, “Let not the hours of your dear life pass away confronting contemporaries and socializing with friends. Watch out! Allah concluded His statement on the following verse…”
Alhamdulillah that brings us to then end of this noble and beautiful Surah. A Surah that has a special and unique status because the Prophet ﷺ encouraged us to recite it specifically on Fridays. Through four stories the Surah focuses on four different types of trials we’re going to face in this world and how to respond to them.
1) The story of the people of the cave represents the trial of faith. And we’re taught that one of the best ways to deal with it is through good company; surrounding ourselves with people of faith and righteousness.
2) The story of the owner of the two gardens is representative of the trial of wealth. And we’re taught the most powerful way to deal with it is by recognizing the reality of the life of this world.
3) The story of Musa (as) with Khidr is representative of the trial of knowledge and the way to deal with it is through seeking knowledge and humility.
4) The last story, the story of Dhul Qarnain is representative of the trial of power. The solution is sincerity and righte
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