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Parables in the Quran: The Spider’s Web

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بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

I live in a hot, humid city where creepy crawlies of all sorts elude insecticides and abound. Routinely, I need to have discreet cobwebs removed from the corners of ceilings and from behind cupboards. The dextrous creators of these webs can rarely be seen prominently, but sometimes perchance they are spotted descending from their lofty abodes onto lower surfaces. To the naked eye, a spider appears to dangle in mid-air on its own, its thread almost invisible.

As I recently observed a spider slowly but surely descend downwards, I marveled at its dexterity of producing a silken thread from within its own body, which enables it to build a home for itself.

That was when the verse about the spider’s web in Surah Al-Ankaboot came to my mind:

مَثَلُ الَّذِينَ اتَّخَذُوا مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ أَوْلِيَاء كَمَثَلِ الْعَنكَبُوتِ اتَّخَذَتْ بَيْتًا وَإِنَّ أَوْهَنَ الْبُيُوتِ لَبَيْتُ الْعَنكَبُوتِ لَوْ كَانُوا يَعْلَمُونَ

The parable of those who take protectors other than Allah is that of the spider, who builds (to itself) a house; but truly the flimsiest of houses is the spider’s house;- if they but knew. ” [29:41]

The singular form of the Arabic word اَولِيآء (“auliyaa”) that is mentioned in this verse, is ولى (“wali”), which means “protector, helper, governor, king, ruler, or judge”.

Tafsir Ibn Kathir says about this verse: “This is how Allah described the idolators in their reverence of gods besides Him, hoping that they would help them and provide for them, and turning to them in times of difficulties. In this regard, they were like the house of a spider, which is so weak and frail, because by clinging to these gods they were like a person who holds on to a spider’s web, who does not gain any benefit from that. If they knew this, they would not take any protectors besides Allah.”

Tafsir Al Jalalayn: “The likeness of those who choose besides God [other] patrons, namely idols from whom they hope to profit, is as the likeness of the spider that makes a home for itself in which to shelter. And truly the frailest, the weakest, of homes is the home of the spider – for it neither protects it from heat nor cold – likewise, idols cannot benefit those who worship them – if they only knew this, they would not worship them.”

According to this verse, the action of taking any other besides Allah as a judge or helper is like a spider spinning a web for itself. How does a spider spin its web?

It starts by shooting forth a single thread with a sticky end that attaches itself to a sturdy support nearby, which it might happen to fall on. Notice the uncertain nature of the start of the process? The spider has no idea what the thread will attach itself to, or if it will at all. Ironically, it makes an abode for itself by starting with a single thread in this uncertain manner!

Once attached to a sturdy support, the spider goes along that fixed thread, dropping another thread downwards, which dangles in the air. It moves back along the dangling, second thread and from its middle, lowers itself downwards on to another support. When it lands on the latter, it uses it as the third point of support for its web. It continues thus to weave more threads fixed on other nearby supports until it establishes a web of non-sticky threads. It further moves radially around these base threads to form another network of threads within them.

Finally, when the web is ready, the spider leaves a sticky fluid over it to snag prey, leaving room for itself to move around (avoid) that fluid as it maneuvers its way around its new “home”, then proceeds to sit in its center.

For a very simple video describing the process of how a spider spins its web, along with a more detailed written description, please click here.

Here are a few thoughts that come to mind about this spider’s web:

  1. It has a very flimsy, weak foundation. Though it hangs off sturdy supports such as walls, tree branches, or pillars, it is not strong in and of itself.
  2. It is not clearly visible – a trait that increases the chances of snagging prey. Hence, it can get trampled upon, or rubbed against, by passing objects.
  3. It is made of extremely fine, weak, interwoven threads; not strong, solid raw material.
  4. It is two-dimensional in structure i.e. it is flat. It does not stand upon firm, hard ground. There are no roofs or walls offering security and cover from destructive climatic elements. Wind or rain can wash it away.
  5. The spider spins its own web (i.e. it doesn’t use any other materials) e.g. birds use sprigs or grass to build nests; ants use earth to construct anthills. The spider’s web, however, is a product of materials/secretions from within its own body.
  6. The spider sits in the middle of its web, somewhat in isolation. It waits for its prey to get stuck in it.

We can now analyze how taking protectors or helpers (اَولِيآء) besides Allah is akin to a spider spinning a home for itself. When I thought about this verse, I pondered on what the word ولى means. Does it mean that if I follow the verdicts or laws of those who do not rule according to the laws of Allah, or if I believe others besides Allah to be my helpers or protectors in difficulties and hopeless situations, I am like the web-weaving spider in my adherence to beliefs that are false?

Like the spider that attaches its threads to sturdy supports and spins a web for itself, I too, would be taking support from apparently stronger objects/things/deities to form a web of delusion inside my head, which would not harm anyone but me if and when it got destroyed because of its inherent weakness. Just as a spider-web’s gluey attachment to the objects to which its silk threads cling is frail and weak, the hopes I would have on any other people, gods, deities or objects for solving my problems or providing laws for me to live successfully by, would be extremely feeble, even though these deities, like a spider web, might give the impression of being secure, safe “abodes” to the “spiders” sitting in their midst.

Here I would like to point out that seeking the help or support of others to achieve an end is not at all blameworthy or wrong in itself, as long as a believer has the staunch aqeedah in his heart that the source of all benefit and loss is solely Allah. Allah helps, protects and provides for His slaves on earth by different means. There is nothing wrong with seeking those means, as long as one believes, beyond any doubt in their heart, that the source of both – the means and the end – is Allah – our only ولى.

The parable of the spider weaving a weak home for itself is like that of a sick person who believes that a certain doctor they went to, or a medical procedure they underwent, was the source of their cure from an illness, instead of believing staunchly in Allah being the sole source of that cure, with all else being just the means. Or, like the simile of a woman who believes that the source of her provision is her or her spouse’s business or job, which, if it were to be lost, or if her husband were to die, would curtail her provision or her life itself. Or like the justice-seeking, wronged person who believes that the verdicts and laws of any thinker, organization, or man-made socioeconomic and legal system is more suitable than that revealed in the Quran by Allah, or that which was ordained by His Messenger [صلى الله عليه وسلم].

Such fallacious delusions are analogous to a spider’s web-weaving, because such concocted beliefs and false ideas are “spun” by innate human desires, or by erroneous thoughts whispered into the hearts by Shaitan, making their bearers disastrously secure in the delusion that what they believe is actually reality, just like the spider believes that its frail, thread-based abode is sturdy and safe from danger, right up to the point when it is washed or swept away.

Just as the spider’s web is the weakest of abodes, so are all the idols that are worshipped, or considered sources of support, help, provision or justice by people, utterly weak and fallible.

اللهُ اعْلَمُ

Now please ponder on this verse in light of the scientific facts about the process of a spider’s web-weaving/abode-building, and share your thoughts with us.

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

26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Sabeen

    April 1, 2011 at 9:10 AM

    Jazakallah khair for your insight :)
    The spider’s web actually looks like a snare or a net that is used to catch animals. Before anyone else is caught in it the spider is the first one who falls prey to the delusion that it is a safe home and moves in voluntarily. Any ideology or cultural practice that we cling to that goes against the Quran and Sunnah is like the spider’s web. Frail and deceptive. Many times we try to leave those practices behind but they continue to stick to us just like the threads of the spider’s web stick to you if you come in contact with them.

  2. Avatar

    Abdur

    April 1, 2011 at 10:41 AM

    The modern day spider’s web is the fascist American empire.

  3. Avatar

    Mezba

    April 1, 2011 at 12:16 PM

    Jazaks for a good article.

    I have one question – in South Asian cultures often spiders are not harmed (because of the web they spun on the cave when Muhammad (s) and Abu Bakr (r) were hiding during the Hijra). Is there any Islamic basis (some actions of the Prophet) for this – that ordinary house spiders are not to be harmed?

    Also, I think in this case Allah is talking about protectors in the sense of worshiping someone besides Him or taking someone else as source of power etc. IMHO.

    • Avatar

      Abc

      February 20, 2012 at 4:10 PM

       the sources of this narrative that a web was weaved on the cave are not authentic. and as a matter of fact Islam abides its followers not to harm any species unless its harmful or attacking……. and respect every specie as a creation of ALLAH

  4. Avatar

    The Muslim Voice

    April 1, 2011 at 8:28 PM

    MashAllah! Very interesting article!!
    Check this picture out also about a spider web in Pakistan, very cool.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/01/spiderwebs-in-trees-pakistan-floods_n_843521.html

    • Avatar

      Sadaf Farooqi

      April 2, 2011 at 4:33 AM

      Subhan Allah! Amazing.
      Jazak Allahu khair for sharing this here.

  5. Avatar

    YouHaveToWatchThis

    April 2, 2011 at 12:06 AM

  6. Avatar

    Safia K R

    April 2, 2011 at 6:50 AM

    Asa,

    Informative article and good video!
    Related to the spider, I recently found out that the story of Rasulullah (SAW) and Abu Bakr Siddique (RA) being saved by a spider in the cave they took refuge in after leaving Makkah is not confirmed by tafasir. This is a story that we have been taught and have passed on to our children. Can you kindly reconfirm of its authenticity or otherwise?

    JKK

    • Avatar

      anon

      April 2, 2011 at 9:59 AM

      The narration is weak, you can see the below link which mentions the issues. Also you aren’t supposed to kill any bugs generally unless they produce some kind of harm so if it’s a bigger spider that might bite you could kill it, but I don’t think you are supposed to kill small ones that don’t pose any issue. Wallahu ‘Alam.

      http://www.islamweb.net/emainpage/index.php?page=showfatwa&Option=FatwaId&Id=91800

  7. Avatar

    sifat

    April 2, 2011 at 7:48 AM

    Jazak Allahu khair for sharing such an insightful and relevant to my life information!
    May Allah help me to apply from what i learned here.

  8. Avatar

    Sister

    April 2, 2011 at 7:57 AM

    Jazakumallahu khairaan for a good article.

  9. Avatar

    UmmNafai

    April 2, 2011 at 10:38 PM

    Jazakillah khair for the insightful post. Its amazing how each time you reflect on something in the Quran it is as though you have understood it the first time.
    The word ‘awliyaa’ really struck me as well after the way you explained it. Throughout life we depend on so many things / people – and think that if we have them, all the problems in our lives will be solved. But every now and then Allah shows us the weakness of all these ‘awliyaa’ and makes us realize that the only being worthy of being relied on, prayed to, sought help from is Allah – no one else, not your money, your husband, your resume, your gold card – nothing at all!

    Everything of this world can disappoint you, but your Lord will never disappoint you.
    وَلَمْ أَكُن بِدُعَائِكَ رَبِّ شَقِيًّا

    • Avatar

      Sadaf Farooqi

      April 3, 2011 at 2:35 AM

      Yes, true.
      Hardships in life definitely reveal to the person (who believes and can therefore “see” Allah’s signs) going through them, that it is only Allah who is truly yours. Each and every other living being or tangible thing/asset is temporary and unreliable.
      Jazakillahu khair for sharing your thoughts.

  10. Avatar

    ummMaryam

    April 3, 2011 at 1:29 PM

    salamu ‘alaikum,

    can the ayah you are reflecting upon also be used in reference to those who are not idol worshippers but (in present times) taking bayah to imams’/shuyookh as part of a tariqa or mystical order? there’s a lot of weight given to such practices in many circles today

  11. Avatar

    Meena

    April 4, 2011 at 2:48 AM

    Jzk for writing this!! When I came across the aya a month or so ago, I was really confused and didn’t understand how a spider’s web was weak. In grade school/as a kid, I was always taught that spider webs are incredibly strong, so there was a disconnect for me when I what I had believed in as a solid scientific fact since childhood was being directly opposed in the Qur’an. This tafseer/reflection on the aya has truly helped me understand and come to terms with what I learned in school and the example being used in the Qur’an. You explained it in the most perfect and clear way. It totally makes sense and now I realize that the “strength” of a spider’s web that we talked about in our science lessons is what adds to its weakness as discussed in this aya.

    Jzk!!! :)

  12. Avatar

    midatlantic

    April 6, 2011 at 8:05 AM

    MashaAllah, so deep. Lovely article sister Sadaf!

  13. Pingback: Spider web cocooned trees in #Sindh #Pakistan – Protecting #PKFloods areas from #Malaria « From the Pulpit …

  14. Pingback: From The Pulpit | Spider web cocooned trees in Sindh Pakistan after Floods | MuslimMatters.org

  15. Avatar

    Quran

    May 3, 2011 at 7:37 AM

    Great article with useful sharing video….thanks for sharing such a insightful information.

  16. Avatar

    Mal

    February 24, 2013 at 3:41 PM

    Have you ever felt that you are living in a matrix? Have you felt that you woke to a dark truth of what the reality really is? How things really are? And people around you sometime they seem like they are ostriches with their heads buried in the sand. Well, with the complete annotations of government lies and corporate media propaganda, it is easy to understand why most people live in blissful ignorance. This whole reminds me of the favourite story in philosophy that completely brings a parallel to today’s world. Plato’s fictional dialogue, the allegory of the cave and it goes like this.
    Imagine a dark cave where prisoners have lived their entire existence facing nothing but a blank wall; the prisoners are chained to be completely un mobile behind the prisoners is a walkway that separates them from a giant burning fire. The fire cast shadows on the wall and objects and people that pass in the walkway. The prisoners cannot see the walkway that the people carrying these objects. All they can see are the shadows, these shadows that they see are all that make up a prisoners reality. All their culture and knowledge is entirely based on what the shadows do.
    In the same way as we preoccupy our lives with mindless entertainment waiting for hours in traffic, sitting in cubicle staring at a computer screen doing something we lowed and stuffing our face with garbage and we do all this believing that there is no alternative. Life is nothing more than that. One day someone from the real world, the one who normally cast these shadows under the wall decides to enter the cave and free a prisoner. He unshackles him and tells him to come outside the cave. When the prisoner complies, he is first blinded by the sun and then horrified by the realisation that his entire reality was nothing more than an illusion. So Plato then poses a question? a question that is a personal challenge and innate within us all. After getting a glimpse of an ugly truth and scaring reality, would you choose to go back to the blissful ignorance? Would you be scared of the personal responsibility that will inevitably come with the truth? Or would you pursue it no matter how horrifying it may be?
    Reality is such that accepting the fact that this government kills its own people, it sacrifices us to advance the agenda of global control, military dominance, corporate profit, those are the realities that so many people choose to be blinded from, dark truth like operation North woods, government plan drafting and stage an attack to kill Americans to pre-empt a Cuban invasion in 60’s , JFK assassination, 911, or the fact that what the government tells us the safety isn’t really is. How about the fact that the corporatism rapes the earth, simply for profit without care for the sake of humanity or precious environment. And the establishment pushes the religious and political dogma onto us to stifle the collective conscientiousness from growing, one that may phase them out. But ultimately, finding the truth is up to you. The decision you have to make and nothing else will ever be more important than the decision, so do you shackle down the mind and subscribe the old school paradigms or you liberate yourself by acknowledging the reality. Sure, the world will lose its innocence but would you rather know the truth. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLCwOeBQvK4)
    SPIDER WEB = WE ARE CONSTRUCTING OUR PRISON EVERY DAY- ONE EYED DAJJAL MATRIX= INFO BLUEPRINT= HACK= ENSLAVEMENT OF HUMANITY
    Excerpts from widely famous Movie ‘Matrix’
    BLUE PILL OR RED PILL? CHOICE IS YOURS? THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE..!
    You have a look of a Man who accepts what he sees, because he is expecting to wake up.. You are here into this world because you know something. What you know, you cannot explain but you feel it. You felt it in your entire life that there is something wrong in this world, you don’t know what it is but it is there; you can feel it like a splinter in your mind driving you mad.
    Matrix is all around us. It is here now, it is everywhere. It is the world that has been pulled over from your eyes to blind you from the truth. What truth?
    THAT YOU ARE A SLAVE NEO; LIKE EVERYONE ELSE YOU WERE BORN INTO A BONDAGE; BORN INTO A PRISON THAT YOU CANNOT SMELL OR TASTE OR TOUCH. A PRISON FOR YOUR MIND. UNFORTUNATELY NO ONE CAN BE TOLD WHAT THE MATRIX IS; YOU HAVE TO SEE IT FOR YOURSELF.
    Unfortunately, in today’s world, you cannot advance yourself within the career of Money and Power unless you
    1. are ruthless in your pursuit of Money and Power.
    2. do, what those who have the Power and Money do.
    Banks want me to wear my seat belt. Banks don’t see me as human life. They see me a unit of energy translated into Fractional Reserve lending. I am not a person any more. I am a credit rating. I found that I am living in an underground economy. I discovered that I am on no rent-list. I am not on any food list. I am not on this list and that list. Banks want to figure out what I am worth in Human. In order to establish a world system of slave labour, they have monopolised the energy in world that is produced through movement of goods, services, raw materials and human activity. They have measured me, what I do in life and will do in life in dollars. Through dollars they decide my fate. I have to draw a line here mate and have to say. Enough…!
    We the scientists are the cookies of data, we can cook the information in any way you want, we than provide you with unique recipes of knowledge. Whether that knowledge food is junk or real is not our problem but we certainly can guaranty that it would be a food of one sort or the other that will keep you going for some time until you start getting digestions problems or you belly starts coming out, then you will turn back to us bringing more data, which we then cook again using new tools and techniques. By the time you discover problems that we invented for you, we had already invented the next set of problematic solutions for you. We live on your problems and you live on our solutions. Long live science.

    If all modern development, education, healthcare, etc. is conspiracy, a spider’s web or matrix, an optical illusion designed to establish demographic dictatorship globally through piecewise means. Divide and rule had always been a tried and tested methodology in tiered societies. Therefore, they structured the world globally in countries and continents. While constantly centralising power they invented discrete laws in an attempt to hold loosely connected pieces together. They found the environment profoundly conducive as people were already dispersed in their religions, cultures, races and breeds and above all thinking. Thus, pea size intellect of the tiny few found opportunity in cultural, racial and religious diversity. Increasingly however, they hard wired themselves to imagine patterns across those differences which gave them an illusion of control. Through suppressing knowledge of ‘self’ and reinforcing the divides in a human intellect, they were able to control human masses to some extent. Interestingly enough, they couldn’t get their heads around to divide human consciousness which operates via hearts. What we have to do is that expose to people that there is a possibility of changing it. And showing people where their power actually is. This existing systems, structures and hierarchies are all satanic, there are based on a trusting everything except Allah. The knowledge of time is telling us that the tide is turning now. Rapid mass awakening is happening all around the world as we speak. Regardless of being dispersed or integrated, we don’t even need to think anything since our hearts will rebel automatically against existing systems, structures and hierarchies. Not quite surprisingly, emotions (such as love, honesty, justice, empathy and truthfulness) have already begun cutting the flesh of ‘too big to fail systems’ to bones. Human beings are going to weave themselves together in a fabric of collective human consciousness. Eventually, it will lead to the emergence of a brand new world in a formation never imagined before. A world where public blessings and public prays will attend; a world where glories will be motives and not the ends.
    Last but not the least,
    Allah has never put true knowledge (Hidait, understanding) on whole sale; it is a privilege for those special ones, who deserve it.

  17. Avatar

    Mal

    February 24, 2013 at 4:04 PM

    Ultimately to cooperate, but not to compromise.
    Interesting! Not to compromise is an oxymoron to cooperate.

  18. Avatar

    Clarence

    August 12, 2015 at 10:31 AM

    I think people mistake obsession with imagery or hewn objects or collections of them to be a misnomer. Often these things are collected simply for mystical purposes. Is an idol still an idol if it is never worshipped, but merely owned….. still these things can gain sentience. I am all for empowering allah, unless it harms the user.

  19. Avatar

    David

    February 6, 2016 at 3:14 PM

    Interesting read. I have heard that a spider’s silk is the strongest material known to man, strong than steel if equal in mass. How might this be interpreted in light of the above?

    Jizak Allahu Kheer.

  20. Pingback: The Quran Drugs - The Advanced Ape

  21. Avatar

    zsk123

    March 30, 2016 at 8:34 PM

    yah i believe u

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Lessons From Surah Maryam: 1

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Alhamdulillah, it’s a great blessing of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) that He has given us both the opportunity and ability to come here tonight to study and explore the meanings of His words in Surah Maryam. I’m truly grateful for this opportunity. May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) accept this effort from all of us and place it on our scale of good deeds.

Alhamdulillah, in our last series we were able to complete the tafsir of Surah Al-Kahf. InshAllah, in this next series, we’ll be exploring the meanings, lessons, and reminders of Surah Maryam. Tafsīr is an extremely noble and virtuous discipline. The reason why it’s so noble and virtuous is that it’s the study of the divine speech of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). As mentioned in a hadith the superiority of the speech of Allah over all other speech is like the superiority of Allah over all of His creation. There’s nothing more beneficial and virtuous than studying the Quran. And by doing so we’ll be counted amongst the best of people. As the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “the best amongst you are those who learn the Quran and teach it.”

All of us need to build a stronger relationship with the Quran. The Quran is full of wisdom and guidance in every single verse and word. It’s our responsibility to seek that guidance, understand it, contextualize it and more importantly act upon it. Tafsīr is such a unique science that it brings together all of the other Islamic sciences. While exploring a Surah a person comes across discussions regarding Arabic grammar and morphology, rhetoric, Ahādīth, fiqh, sīrah and all those studies that are known as the Islamic Sciences. One scholar described the Quran as an ocean that has no shore, بحر لا ساحل له. The more we study the Qur’ān the stronger our relationship with it will become. We’ll become more and more attached to it and will be drawn into its beauty and wonder. The deeper a person gets into tafsir and studying the more engaged and interested they become. They also recognize how little they truly know. It develops humility. That’s the nature of true knowledge. The more we learn the more we recognize we don’t know. May Allah ﷻ allow us all to be sincere and committed students of the Qur’ān.

Surah Maryam

Surah Maryam is the 19th surah in the Quran. It is a relatively long Makki surah made up of 98 verses. Some commentators mention that it’s the 44th Surah to be revealed, after Surah Al-Fatir and before Surah Taha. It has been given the name Maryam because Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mentions the story of Maryam (as) and her family and how she gave birth to Isa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) miraculously at the beginning of the Surah. Just like other Makkan surahs, it deals with the most fundamental aspects of our faith. It talks about the existence and oneness of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), prophethood, and resurrection and recompense.

The Surah is made up of a series of unique stories filled with guidance and lessons that are meant as reminders. One of the main themes of this Surah is mercy… It has been mentioned over 16 times in this Surah. We’ll find the words of grace, compassion and their synonyms frequently mentioned throughout the sūrah, together with Allah’s attributes of beneficence and mercy. We can say that one of the objectives of the Surah is to establish and affirm the attribute of mercy for Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). That’s why all of the stories mentioned also have to do with Allah’s mercy.

Another objective of the Surah is to remind us of our relationship with Allah ﷻ; the concept of Al-‘Ubūdiyyah. These are the two major themes or ideas of this Surah; the concept of Rahmah and the concept of ‘Ubūdiyyah (Mercy and Servitude).

The Surah can be divided into 8 sections:

1) Verses 1-15: The surah starts with the story of Zakariyya (as) and how he was given the gift of a child at a very old age, which was something strange and out of the ordinary.

2) Verses 16-40: mention the story of Maryam and the miraculous birth of Isa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) without a father and how her community responded to her.

3) Verses 41-50: The surah then briefly mentions one part of the story of Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), specifically the conversation he had with his father regarding the worship of idols. The surah then briefly mentions a series of other Prophets.

4) Verses 51-58: Mention Musa and Haroon 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), Ismail 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and Idrees 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) to show that the essence of the message of all Prophets was the same

5) Verses 59-65: compare and contrast the previous generations with the current ones in terms of belief and actions.

6) Verses 66-72: Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) addresses the Mushrikoon rejecting their false claims regarding life after death and judgment.

7) Verses 73-87: continue to address the Mushrikoon and warn them regarding their attitude towards belief in Allah and His messengers. They also mention the great difference between the resurrection of the believer and the resurrection of the non-believer.

8) Verses 88-98: contain a severe warning to those who claim that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has taken a child. They also express that Allah is pleased with the believers and mentions that one of the objectives of the Quran is to give glad tidings to the believers and to warn the non-believers.

Story

From various narrations, we learn that this surah was revealed near the end of the fourth year of Prophethood. This was an extremely difficult time for Muslims. The Quraysh were frustrated with their inability to stop the message of Islam from spreading so they became ruthless. They resorted to any method of torture that they could think of; beating, starving and harassing. When the persecution became so severe that it was difficult for the Muslims to bear it, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) gave permission to migrate to Abyssinia. “For in it dwells a king in whose presence no one is harmed.” 10 men and 4 women migrated in the 5th year of Prophethood secretly. After a few months, a larger group of 83 men and 18 women migrated as well. This migration added more fuel to the fire. It enraged the people of Quraysh.

Umm Salamah [rahna]narrated, “When we stopped to reside in the land of Abyssinia we lived alongside the best of neighbors An-Najashi. We practiced our religion safely, worshipped Allah without harm and didn’t hear anything we disliked. When news of our situation reached the Quraysh they started to plot against us…” They decided to send two delegates to persuade An-Najashi to send the Companions back by offering him and his ministers’ gifts. The plan was to go to each minister with gifts and turn them against the Muslims. So they went to each minister with gifts and said, “Verily, foolish youth from amongst us have come to the country of your king; they have abandoned the religion of their people and have not embraced your religion. Rather they have come with a new religion that neither of us knows. The noblemen of their people, from their fathers and uncles, have sent us to the king asking that he send them back. So when we speak to the king regarding their situation advise him to surrender them to us and to not speak to them…” The minister agreed.

Then they went to the king, offered him gifts and said the same thing… The ministers tried to convince him as well. An-Najashi became angry with them and said, “No, by Allah, I will not surrender them to these two and I don’t fear the plotting of a people who have become my neighbors, have settled down in my country, and have chosen me (to grant them refuge) over every other person. I will not do so until I summon them and speak to them. If they are as these two say I will give them up, but if they aren’t then I will protect them from these two and continue to be a good neighbor to them as long as they are good neighbors to me.”

al-Najāshī then summoned the Prophet’s ﷺ Companions. When his messenger informed the Prophet’s Companions that they were to appear before the king, they gathered together to discuss what they should do. One of them asked, “What will you say to the name (al-Najāshī) when you go to him?” They all agreed on what they would say to him, “By Allah, we will say what our Prophet ﷺ taught us and commanded us with, regardless of the consequences.” Meanwhile, al-Najāshī called for his priests, who gathered around him with their scrolls spread out before them. When the Muslims arrived al-Najāshī began by asking them, “What is this religion for which you have parted from your people? You have not entered into the fold of my religion, nor the religion of any person from these nations.”

Umm Salamah [rahna] narrated, “The Person among us who would speak to him was Jaʿfar ibn abī Ṭālib [rahnu] who then said, “O king, we were an ignorant people: we worshipped idols, we would eat from the flesh of dead animals, we would perform lewd acts, we would cut off family ties, and we would be bad neighbors; the strong among us would eat from the weak. We remained upon that state until Allah sent us a Messenger, whose lineage, truthfulness, trustworthiness, and chastity we already knew. He invited us to Allah – to believe in His oneness and to worship Him; to abandon all that we and our fathers worshipped besides Allah, in terms of stones and idols. He ﷺ commanded us to speak truthfully, to fulfill the trust, to join ties of family relations, to be good to our neighbors, and to refrain from forbidden deeds and from shedding blood. And he ﷺ forbade us from lewd acts, from uttering falsehood, from wrongfully eating the wealth of an orphan, from falsely accusing chaste women of wrongdoing. And he ﷺ ordered us to worship Allah alone and to not associate any partners with him in worship; and he ﷺ commanded us to pray, to give zakāh, and to fast.” He enumerated for al-Najāshī the teachings of Islam. He said, “And we believe him and have faith in him. We follow him in what he came with. And so we worship Allah alone, without associating any partners with Him in worship. We deem forbidden that which he has made forbidden for us, and we deem lawful that which he made permissible for us. Our people then transgressed against us and tortured us. The tried to force us to abandon our religion and to return from the worship of Allah to the worship of idols; they tried to make us deem lawful those abominable acts that we used to deem lawful. Then, when they subjugated us, wronged us, and treated us in an oppressive manner, standing between us and our religion, we came to your country, and we chose you over all other people. We desired to live alongside you, and we hoped that, with you, we would not be wronged, O king.” al-Najāshī said to Jaʿfar [rahnu], “Do you have any of that which he came with from Allah?” Jaʿfar [rahnu] said, “Yes”. “Then recite to me,” said al-Najāshī. Jaʿfar [rahnu] recited for him the beginning of Surah Maryam. By Allah, al-Najāshī began to cry, until his beard became wet with tears. And when his priests heard what Jaʿfar [rahnu] was reciting to them, they cried until their scrolls became wet. al-Najāshī then said, “By Allah, this and what Mūsa (as) came with come out of the same lantern. Then by Allah, I will never surrender them to you, and henceforward they will not be plotted against and tortured.”

Describing what happened after the aforementioned discussion between al-Najāshī and Jaʿfar [rahnu], Umm Salamah raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) said, “When both ʿAmr ibn al-ʿĀṣ and ʿAbdullah ibn abī Rabīʿah left the presence of al-Najāshī, ʿAmr [rahnu] said, “By Allah tomorrow I will present to him information about them with which I will pull up by the roots their very lives.” Abdullah ibn Rabīʿah who was more sympathetic of the two towards us said, “Don’t do so, for they have certain rights of family relations, even if they have opposed us.” ʿAmr said, “By Allah, I will inform him that they claim that ʿĪsā ibn Maryam is a slave.”

He went to the king on the following day and said, “O king, verily, they have strong words to say about ʿĪsa (as). Call them here and ask them what they say about him.” al-Najāshī sent for them in order to ask them about ʿĪsa. Nothing similar to this befell us before. The group of Muslims gathered together and said to one another, “What will you say about ʿĪsa when he asks you about him?” They said, “By Allah, we will say about him that which Allah says and that which our Prophet ﷺ came with, regardless of the outcome.” When they entered into his presence, he said to them, “What do you say about ʿĪsa ibn Maryam?” Jaʿfar raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) said, “We say about him that which our Prophet ﷺ came with – that he is the slave of Allah, His messenger, a spirit created by Him, and His word, which he bestowed on Maryam, the virgin, the baṭūl.”

al-Najāshī struck his hand on the ground and took from it a stick. He then said, “ʿĪsa ibn Maryam did not go beyond what you said even the distance of the stick.” When he said this, his ministers spoke out in anger, to which he responded, “What I said is true even if you speak out in anger, by Allah. (Turning to the Muslims, he said) Go, for you are safe in my land. Whoever curses you will be held responsible. And I would not love to have a reward of gold in return for me hurting a single man among you. (Speaking to his ministers he said) Return to these two (men) their gifts, since we have no need for them. For by Allah, Allah did not take from me bribe money when He returned to me my kingdom, so why should I take bribe money. The two left, defeated and humiliated; and returned to them were the things they came with. We then resided alongside al-Najāshī in a very good abode, with a very good neighbor.”

The response was simply amazing in its eloquence. A believer puts the needs of his soul before the needs of his body. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) starts the Surah by saying,

Verse 1: Kaf, Ha, Ya, ‘Ayn, Sad.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) starts Surah Maryam with a series of five letters. There are many different saying or explanations regarding these five letters. The most correct opinion is that these are from the broken letters. There are 29 different Surahs in the Quran that start with the broken letters. Only Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) alone knows the meanings of these letters. They are a secret from amongst the secrets of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), meaning that no one knows what they truly mean. Only Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) knows their meanings so they are from amongst the Mutashaabihat, those verses whose meanings are hidden.

However, we do find that some great Companions, as well as their students, sometimes gave meanings to these words. For example, it’s said that it is in acronym and each letter represents one of the names of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Kaf is for Al-Kafi or Al-Kareem, “haa” is for Al-Hadi, “yaa” is from Hakeem or Raheem, “’ayn” is from Al-‘Aleem or Al-‘Adheem, and “saad” is from Al-Saadiq. Others said that it is one of the names of Allah and it’s actually Al-Ism Al-‘Atham or that it’s a name of the Quran. However, these narrations can’t be used as proof or to assign definitive meanings. They offer possibilities, but no one truly knows what they mean.

Now the question should come to our mind that why would Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) start of a Surah with words that no one understands?

1) To grab the attention of the listeners.

2) To remind us that no matter how much we know there’s always something that we don’t know.

3) These letters are the letters of the Arabic language and the Quran was revealed at a time that was the peak of eloquence of the language and it was their identity. The Quran was revealed challenging them spiritually and intellectually. The Arabs never heard these letters being used in such a majestic way.

4) To prove the inimitable nature of the Quran.

Allah then starts the story of Zakariyya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). Zakariyya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was one of the Prophets sent to Bani Israel. He was the husband of Maryam’s paternal aunt. He was also one of the caretakers or custodians of Baitul Maqdis.

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Heart Soothers: Idrees Al Hashemi

Quran
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Lesson 13 From Surah Al -Kahf

Last verses of Surah Kahf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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