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Yasir Qadhi | Ramadan Reminder: Sūrat’l-Mā’idah

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Link to all Ramadan 2011 posts

Lecture by Yasir Qadhi | Transcribed by Sameera

This lecture is brought to you by the Memphis Islamic Center (MIC). For more information about MIC, please visit www.memphisislamiccenter.org

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Today we are reciting Sūrat’l-Mā’idah, which is the last of the big sūrahs to be revealed.  The large sūrahs of the Qur’ān are the first nine up until Sūrah Tawbah.  Of these sūrahs, Sūrat’l-Mā’idah is the last to be revealed, so much so that one of the final verses to be revealed, which we are going to comment on, occurs in Sūrat’l-Mā’idah.

Sūrat’l-Mā’idah is called Sūrat’l-Mā’idah from the story of the last supper.  The Christians have a version, and we have our version in the Qur’ān.  Sūrat’l-Mā’idah finishes with it.  It is the request of the disciples of Jesus Christ when they asked Jesus Christ, “O Jesus Christ, why don’t you ask your Lord to send down a supper for us?  We will all have a festival, and it will be a sign from God to us.”  This is where the name Mā’idah comes on, which is on the last page of the sūrah.

Sūrat’l-Mā’idah has also been called Surat’l-Mīthāq (the Sūrah of Covenants) and Surat’l- ‘Ahd.  These are names given by Ibn ʿAbbās, ‘Ā’ishah, and Ibn Mas‘ūd.  Most of the names of sūrahs come from the ṣaḥābah; therefore, you will differences in the earliest books of tafsīr about the names of the sūrahs, and by and large one name has stuck, and so in our time we know it as Sūrat’l-Mā’idah.

This shows us that the names of the sūrahs are just a label.  The scholars and classical ‘ulemā’ and ṣaḥābah attached them to recognize the sūrahs. The Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) only named a handful of sūrahs, and the rest were named by the ṣaḥābah.

‘Ahd and mīthāq mean the promise or covenant.  The reason why Ibn ʿAbbās called it the Sūrah of Covenants or the Sūrah of Promises is that this sūrah has the most number of covenants (‘ahd) that Allāh has taken with mankind.  The sūrah begins with:  “O you who believe, fulfill your covenants or treaties.”  The sūrah has over 20 covenants.  “When Allāh took the mīthāq …”

The treaties mentioned include the commandments Allāh gives to mankind.  One of the famous scholars of the past said regarding the first verse of “O you who believe, fulfill your covenants…” that there are three types of covenants.  A covenant is a strict promise or treaty.

  1. The first type of covenant is between Allāh and mankind.  When Allāh is saying “fulfill your treaties,” the number one promise is to Allāh.  What is our promise to Allāh?  Our Shari‘ah, obligation, ‘ibādāt, rituals, and how to be a good Muslim.  This is the first.
  2. The second type of covenant is between the Muslim ummah and other nations.  If you as a community have a treaty with other people – Muslim or non-Muslim – you must fulfill those covenants as a nation and ummah.
  3. The third type of covenant is the individual treaties or business contracts that we write between ourselves.  If have a business contract and write a treaty, “O you who believe, fulfill your covenants.”  Even our marriages are a type of covenant and mīthāq.  Even interacting in society comes under “O you who believe, fulfill your covenants…”

The āyah I want to shed some light on in my short khātirah is the very famous āyah that all of us are familiar with, which is the third āyah of Sūrat’l-Mā’idah and a common āyah we hear all the time.  Allāh says, “Today those who have rejected Islam (the kuffār) have given up hope of harming your religion.”

When was this sūrah revealed?  Some scholars say that this portion of the verse was revealed on the day of the conquest of Makkah.  “Today the disbelievers have given up hope of ever harming your religion (i.e. victory is yours).”

The next phrase “al-yawm akmaltu lakum dīnakum” was revealed two years later on the famous Ḥajj that the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) did on the day of ‘Arafah when the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was delivering his sermon in front of the largest number of ṣaḥābah ever.  One hundred thousand people had gathered there.

Some scholars say that the first phrase came down at the conquest of Makkah, and the second phrase came down two years later in the Ḥajj.  Other scholars say the whole phrase came down at the Ḥajj.

What does this second phrase “al-yawm akmaltu lakum dīnakum…” mean?  “Today I have completed your religion for you, and I have perfected my blessings upon you, and I have chosen / am pleased with Islam as your way of life.”  These verses are significant for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) says “al-yawm akmaltu lakum dīnakum.  (Today your dīn has been made kāmil).”  This has so many benefits for us.  It shows us that our religion is not in need of change and is not in need of updating.  Why do we have change and different versions?  Because each previous version had some flaws, errors, and issues with it, so we keep on updating, tinkering, and changing.  Allāh is saying your religion is kāmil, and something that is kāmil and complete and perfect is not in need of being updated and changed.  This shows us that our Shari‘ah is a perfect Shari‘ah as it is.

This also shows us that when Allāh says, “Today I have made your religion kāmil,” that before this time, it was being built up to make it until today.  The Shari‘ah was gradually revealed and was not revealed instantaneously but built up.  When this verse came down, it was the final revelation that had Shari‘ah in it.  There were other revelations after this.  The Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) lived for three months after this verse came down.  “Idha jā’ naṣrullāhi wa’l-fatḥ” came down in those three months.  Also, the last verse of the Qur’ān to be revealed in Sūrat’l-Baqarahwattaqu yawman turja‘ūna fīhi ilallāh” also came down.  Ibn ʿAbbās said that no ḥarām or ḥalāl came down after Mā’idah.  The Shari‘ah is complete.  Allāh is saying, “Today I have perfected,” which means that before today it was being perfected.  This is something we clearly find.

A small point in Sūrat’l-Mā’idah compared to Sūrat’l-Nisā’.  In Sūrat’l-Nisā’, Allāh says, “O you who believe, don’t come and pray when you are drunk.”  From this verse, we understand that you can get drunk outside of the prayer timings, and this is what the ṣaḥābah understood.  In Sūrat’l-Mā’idah, Allāh says, “Khamr and gambling and…are evil abominations; avoid them completely.”  Notice the difference.  In Sūrat’l-Nisā’, there is some leeway, but in Sūrat’l-Mā’idah, it is end of story.

A third point we derive from this verse is that Allāh is saying that the Shari‘ah is kāmil and “wa raḍītu lakumu’l-islāma dīna.”  It is a phrase we hear since we are kids:  Islam is not just a religion but a way of life (dīn).  This is a phrase that originates from the Qur’ān.  This is something that we need to be very, very clear about.  Our religion is not just how to pray and how to fast.  Our religion is not just how to say “Allāhu akbar” and how to make wuḍū’ and how to give charity to the poor.  Our religion teaches us how to live our lives, how to marry and divorce, how to write our inheritance, how to live in this world in the masjid and outside the masjid.  This is something we have to be very clear and unashamed about.  Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) says in the Qur’ān, “Did mankind think that he would be left without any laws?  Did mankind think that We would create you and then let you go without telling you how to live your life?”

People make fun of our religion and say that our religion tells us what to do outside the mosque, and we say of course it does.  What type of religion is there except that it is a way of life from our Lord and our Creator?  Isn’t the One who created you most knowledgeable to tell you what to do?  Therefore, we have no shame and are not embarrassed to say that our Shari‘ah is an entire way of life.  This is exactly what Allāh is saying.  “al-yawm akmaltu lakum dīnakum wa raḍītu lakumu’l-islāma dīna.”

Another point is that if our Shari‘ah is complete and if today it has been perfected and if there are no more prophets after the Prophet Muḥammad (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), then it means that this shall forever remain protected until the Day of Judgment.  Allāh says, “Today I have perfected your religion,” so we know that when this verse came down, it was perfected.  What was the reason why Allāh sent previous prophets?  Because the message of the earlier prophets was distorted.  Every prophet came to remind the people of the message of the previous prophets.  We know that we have no more prophets after the Prophet Muḥammad (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam).  So from this verse “al-yawm akmaltu lakum dīnakum,” we can derive a beautiful fact:  our religion shall remain uncorrupted and totally preserved, pristine, pure and in its original form.  Our books, scripture, and revelation shall remain protected until the Day of Judgment because Allāh said He has perfected it and He said it is what He ahs chosen for us, and we know that there is not going to be another prophet.

From this, we derive that the Qur’ān and the Sunnah and every single knowledge we require of our religion shall remain protected.  A lot of people say, for example, how do we know that hadith has been preserved?  Ḥadīth is so complicated and confusing, so how do we know?  Even from this verse we derive that ḥadīth will be preserved because Allāh is saying, “Today your religion is kāmil,” and we don’t have a religion without the Sunnah of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam).

Because our religion is kāmil and is going to remain kāmil until the Day of Judgment, this means that whatever is a part of this dīn shall remain protected until the Day of Judgment.  This also means that Muslim always takes his guidance from the Shari‘ah of Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla).

wa raḍītu lakumu’l-islāma dīna.”  Dīn here, which is a correct translation, is not just religion.  Dīn means a methodology and how you live your live.  In the same sūrah, Allāh says, “To all of you We have given a Shari‘ah and a way of living.”  This is the Qur’ān.  We have no problems and are unabashedly and unashamedly saying that we have a Shari‘ah that we are going to abide by, even if people make fun of it or read in threats that don’t exist.  We will say that our Shari‘ah teaches us how to be good people on earth and this is the purpose of the Shari‘ah.

Side Tangent:  As you all know, in our times there is a huge brouhaha being created about the Shari‘ah and they say, “These Moslems are coming with their Shari‘ah wanting to overtake America.”  SubḥānAllāh, firstly this is completely ridiculous and nobody is saying this.  Secondly, a part of our Shari‘ah says “O you who believe, fulfill your treaties.”  Our Shari‘ah tells us that when we have a treaty with any nation, country, or state, then we must fulfill that treaty as long as it does not instruct us to do kufr or shirk.  A part of being a citizen in this land is to uphold the laws of this land.  This is a part of the treaty that we have living here.  For those of us who have sworn the oath or for those of us who were born here, this is the treaty that we have.

Once I was teaching to a group of people who were worried about the Shari‘ah threat, and I said, “If you ban the Shari‘ah, you will ban our loyalty to this constitution.”  It is our Shari‘ah that tells us to be upholding of our covenants.  A part of the covenant that we have is to be loyal citizens.  The irony here is that they are worried that the Shari‘ah is going to be a threat to them, and wallāhi, the Shari‘ah is the greatest source of stability not just to them but to us in our daily lives and for us as American citizens.  It is the Shari‘ah that tells us to be law-abiding and fulfill the treaties and covenants that we have.  As I said, the scholars said the second type of ‘aqd is that which the Muslims have even with the non-Muslims.

The final point I will mention about this very deep and profound verse is that Allāh says “al-yawm akmaltu lakum dīnakum wa atmamtu ‘alaykum ni‘mati (Today, I have perfected your religion, and I have completed My Favors upon you.”  The two are separate blessings.  The perfection of the religion is different than the completion of the favors.  What is the completion of the favors?  When this verse came down, the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) had effectively conquered all of Arabia.  There was no persecution in the lands, and there were no Muslims being tortured, and there was no threat to any Muslim in the entire Arabian Peninsula.  Compare that to twenty years earlier when Islam began.  Compare that to the stories of Bilāl and Ammār and Yāsir and Sumiyyah.  Compare that to the Muslims not being able to pray in Makkah.  Compare that to the treaty of Hudhaybiyah and to the battle of Uhud.  Now Allāh is saying that all of that is the past.  You now have ‘izzah, peace, security, and rule the land.

Notice that this is a separate and distinct blessing from completing the religion because the ruling of the land and the power can come and go.  Sometimes in the course of our history the Muslims had the upper hand and sometimes they had the lower hand, but that blessing is independent of the other blessing which is your religion being perfect.  Political power comes and goes, and ruling in the land comes and goes.  Our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) had it at that time; however, 50 and 100 years later, wars happened.  That perfection will not remain until the Day of Judgment.

al-yawm akmaltu lakum dīnakum wa atmamtu ‘alaykum ni‘mati wa raḍītu lakumu’l-islāma dīna.”  That shall remain until the Day of Judgment and will not change even if power comes and goes and even if the ummah has periods of ‘izzah and periods of ẓulm.  What will never go is that this religion will be preserved, and the people of this religion will always have their religion to practice.

As the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “There will always be a group of my ummah – the truth will be clear upon them.”  This group might have power or might not have power, but the truth of the Qur’ān and the truth of Islam will always be open and never be corrupted until the very day the Dajjal comes out.  This is the beauty of this ayah.

We conclude by pointing out that once a Jew came to ‘Umar ibn Al-Khaṭṭāb and said, “There is an āyah in your holy book, and if this āyah had been revealed in the Tawrah, we would have taken that day as a holy day and a day of celebration.”  ‘Umar said, “What āyah is that?”  The Jew said, “It is this āyahal-yawm akmaltu lakum dīnakum wa atmamtu ‘alaykum ni‘mati wa raḍītu lakumu’l-islāma dīna.  This verse makes us jealous, and if we had it, we would have taken that day as a day of joyous celebration.”  ‘Umar ibn Al-Khaṭṭāb said, “Wallāhi, I know exactly when that verse came down and when it was revealed and the situation and circumstance.  Our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was giving the khuṭbah in the Farewell Ḥajj on the day of ‘Arafah, and that was when this verse came down.”  This means that it is already a day of celebration for us, and we don’t need to take an extra day because it is in the days of Ḥajj.

So, O Muslims, we should think about this verse, rejoice, and thank Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) that He has given us the manifest truth and clear ḥaqq and that He has chosen for us Islam as a way of life.

May Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) cause us to live as Muslims and to die as Muslims and to be resurrected as Muslims.  Amīn.

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Sh. Dr. Yasir Qadhi is someone that believes that one's life should be judged by more than just academic degrees and scholastic accomplishments. Friends and foe alike acknowledge that one of his main weaknesses is ice-cream, which he seems to enjoy with a rather sinister passion. The highlight of his day is twirling his little girl (a.k.a. "my little princess") round and round in the air and watching her squeal with joy. A few tid-bits from his mundane life: Sh. Yasir has a Bachelors in Hadith and a Masters in Theology from Islamic University of Madinah, and a PhD in Islamic Studies from Yale University. He is an instructor and Dean of Academic Affairs at AlMaghrib, and the Resident Scholar of the Memphis Islamic Center.

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  1. Pingback: Studying Qur’an: Tips and Resources | Accessing the Quran via Bayyinah Access

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