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Embracing the Winter Blues

Abu Ibrahim

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When the days shorten and the nights lengthen, we know all too well that winter is upon us.  For some people, they experience what is known as “Seasonal Affective Disorder”, more commonly known as the winter blues.  With symptoms ranging from sleeping too much, to having little energy, to feeling depressed, the winter blues seems to have a tendency of affecting people in areas of limited daylight hours such as the Northern USA, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

However, if we were to examine the season of snow from an Islamic perspective, we would quickly realize there is a great blessing in the time of winter.  Al-Ḥasan al-Baṣri is reported to have said, “How good winter is for the believer! Its night is long, so he prays in it; and its day is short, so he observes fasting in it.”

Indeed, some of our pious predecessors would look forward to winter for the purpose of the night prayer.  If you think about it, the last one-third of the night, the extra blessed time to perform the tahajjud prayer, is longer during the winter time.  Our pious predecessors would look forward to having these long nights to pray tahajjud and would cherish having a longer time to spend in their alāh and du‘ā’.

How does one make tahajjud?  I have to admit, I am not regular with my tahajjud.  In reality, my consistency is rather deplorable.  However, let me share with you one ‘trick’ I’ve started using this year.  I started drinking a lot of water before I go to sleep in the evenings.  Why?  Well, you see, my bladder is strong, alamdulillāh, and so when I need to use the bathroom, my bladder will wake me up in the middle of the night forcing me out of my comfortable bed.  So, if you make it to the bathroom, why not just make wuū’ and then pray two raka‘āt of tahajjud then?

Moreover, the time for fajr comes in later during the winter time.  So if you were to wake up in the winter time when you would normally wake up for fajr in the summer (say 5 am), then you would have some prime tahajjud time!  Consistency is the key, so make du‘ā’ that I too am able to achieve some consistency when it comes to the night prayer, inshā’Allāh.

Furthermore, the short days allow us to be able to keep extra nawāfil fasts without difficulty.  Indeed, when our day ends around 5 pm, we often times don’t even notice the thirst from our fasting!  So why not take it upon ourselves to do some extra fasting during these blessed days so we can reap in some of blessings of the winter time!  Why not start fasting the three white days of the lunar month every month?  Indeed, the fasts are easy yet virtuous and rewarding,inshā’Allāh!

Additionally, one can look forward to making wuū’ with the cold water of winter.  Why you would ask?  Well, it’s a great time to reflect upon the blessings of warm water and furthermore we can hope to reap in the extra reward of having to go through the ‘hardships’ of making wuū’ with the cold water.  Indeed, if something is difficult for us and we do it solely for Allāh, our reward is with Him, inshā’Allāh!  Furthermore, our delicate care in using cold water for making wuū’ keeps us closer to the Sunnah of not being extravagant in making wuū’ and wasting excess water!

In conclusion, there are many beautiful bounties that come with the beginning of the winter season.  Only a few simple blessings have been listed above, but, de facto, many more do exist.  For example, many of the women in the winter time are forced to cover their bodies as compared to the summer time when they are wearing clothes yet many of them are still naked.  Hence, winter times makes it easier for the Muslim man to lower his gaze too, inshā’Allāh.

So, as winter time approaches, let us embrace the cold and benefit ourselves from this beautiful season, inshā’Allāh!

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Yasmin

    January 19, 2012 at 12:06 PM

    Jazakallah khair for this very important and timely post. I had never thought about winter this way!

    • Avatar

      anon

      January 19, 2012 at 1:01 PM

      Yes, me too. Very beneficial article, mashallah.

    • Abu Ibrahim

      Abu Ibrahim

      January 19, 2012 at 5:59 PM

      JazakAllahkhair for your guys kind words, alhamdulillah

  2. Avatar

    Umm Sulaim

    January 19, 2012 at 1:35 PM

    I find if I wake up still very sleepy, I stumble to the bathroom with my vision blurred and stumble out, thankful I did not fall into the bowl!!! Haha!

    Sometimes my vision is so blurred I have to crawl for fear of losing consciousness; not a good time for standing, let alone praying.

    For those of us not used to the cold, harmattan (cold, dry and dusty season) makes us reluctant to get up, even when fully awake.

    I prefer the cold to the heat though.

    Umm Sulaim

  3. Avatar

    Zamzam

    January 19, 2012 at 1:53 PM

    Every moment of life is an opportunity to worship Allah.
    The hotness of summer is a time to remember hellfire and ask Allah to protect us from it, and guide us to be obedient to Him.
    The coldness of winter is a time to reflect on this aya, Allah says interpretation of meaning, (They will be reclining therein on raised couches. They will find there neither (heat of) the sun nor bitter cold.) [76:13]
    The falling leaves of the fall is a view that reminds us that our life is short, so that we should do our best to spend it doing what pleases Allah.
    The beautiful flowers of the spring reminds us that as the gloomy days and nights of the fall come to an end, the afflictions of this life will come to an end and we will enjoy their fruits in Paradise if we endured them patiently for the sake of Allah.
    The point is that we should do our best to be obedient slaves to Allah all times after depending on Him and seeking His help.

  4. Avatar

    June

    January 19, 2012 at 2:45 PM

    Jazaka allah kheir! This is a great reminder! I’ve never let winter get me down too much but I still have at times succumbed to a bit of depression of over-sleepiness. This article has really helped me to perk up and see even more blessings and joy in this season, masha Allah!

  5. Hena Zuberi

    Hena Zuberi

    January 19, 2012 at 3:04 PM

    Perfect reminder- your posts are a welcome dose of inspiration on MM.
    JazakAllah khayr Brother. We take so much for granted, the seasons the nights and days, because we forget our purpose. Keep us in your duas.

    • Abu Ibrahim

      Abu Ibrahim

      January 19, 2012 at 5:57 PM

      JazakAllahkhair Sister Hena, I’m quite excited to be a new member of the MM team and I thank you guys for your warm welcome!

  6. Avatar

    Leo Imanov

    January 19, 2012 at 3:37 PM

    in winter alhamdu li-lLah, i gain the strength for the shaum in summer time which will be extra long this year, i thank Allah for the chance to pray tahajud late in the “morning” just before fajr pray to be carried out. and direct go to work no need to sleep again the opposite to summer time. wake up.. sleep again and wake up to work.

  7. Avatar

    ummMaryam

    January 19, 2012 at 10:55 PM

    salamu ‘alaikum,

    jazakallah khair. yes, i have always liked how the winter forces sisters wearing tight clothes to cover up :) the coats are a barakah in the layers they add to hide the shapes they should have the haya to hide all year long.

    may Allah help the sisters of this ummah to wear proper hijab ameen.

  8. Avatar

    Olivia

    January 23, 2012 at 6:20 PM

    i’m blue because i dont get any winter in california! why do so many people hate on winter? it’s one of my favorite times of year.

    • Avatar

      anon

      January 23, 2012 at 7:53 PM

      I live in the UK where it is winter half the year, and that’s why I hate it. :( I can definitely feel the effects of seasonal affective disorder.

    • Avatar

      Abumariam

      January 24, 2012 at 3:59 AM

      You should move to Norway here we have long dark winter days and nights, maybe you’ll see why people dislike winter :-)

      • Avatar

        anon

        January 24, 2012 at 2:09 PM

        In the uk we have daylight savings all winter, and so what little daytime there is, is dreary. But thankfully the clocks go back in March, so Alhamdulillah, everything is as Allah wills.

  9. Avatar

    depressed.

    December 10, 2013 at 9:21 AM

    i wish you’d give a bit more time/space in your article to the blues. sometimes they are so bad you cannot even read a sentence about tahajjud wihtout feeling like you hate yourself, let alone have the energy to pray it….
    i think more attention has to be given to the reality of depression … take us to healing slowly, don’t just jump up with a medicine that we are actually unable to even reach at this time..
    maybe you could start by presscribing something easier – like dua – take us there step by step. it’s more honoring of where we are at and our sad reality.

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#Society

Eid Lameness Syndrome: Diagnosis, Treatment, Cure

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How many of you have gone to work on Eid because you felt there was no point in taking off? No Eid fun. Have you ever found Eid boring, no different from any other day?

If so, you may suffer from ELS (Eid Lameness Syndrome). Growing up, I did too.

My family would wake up, go to salah, go out to breakfast, come home, take a 4+ hour nap and then go out to dinner. I didn’t have friends to celebrate with and even if I did, I wouldn’t see them because we stuck to our own immediate family just as they did.

On the occasion that we went to a park or convention center, we would sort of have fun. Being with other people was certainly better than breakfast-nap-dinner in isolation, but calling that a memorable, satisfying, or genuinely fun Eid would be a stretch.

I don’t blame my parents for the ELS though. They came from a country where Eid celebration was the norm; everyone was celebrating with everyone and you didn’t have to exert any effort. When they moved to the US, where Muslims were a minority, it was uncharted territory. They did the best they could with the limited resources they had.

When I grew up, I did about the same too. When I hear friends or acquaintances tell me that they’re working, doing laundry or whatever other mundane things on Eid, I understand.  Eid has been lame for so long that some people have given up trying to see it any other way. Why take personal time off to sit at home and do nothing?

I stuck to whatever my parents did for Eid because “Eid was a time for family.” In doing so, I was honoring their cultural ideas of honoring family, but not Eid. It wasn’t until I moved away that I decided to rebel and spend Eid with convert friends (versus family) who didn’t have Muslim families to celebrate with on Eid, rather than drive for hours to get home for another lame salah-breakfast-nap-dinner.

That was a game-changing Eid for me. It was the first non-lame Eid I ever had, not because we did anything extraordinary or amazing, but because we made the day special by doing things that we wouldn’t normally do on a weekday together. It was then that I made a determination to never have a lame Eid ever again InshaAllah.

I’m not the only one fighting ELS. Mosques and organizations are creating events for people to attend and enjoy together, and families are opting to spend Eid with other families. There is still much more than can be done, as converts, students, single people, couples without children and couples with very small children, are hard-hit by the isolation and sadness that ELS brings. Here are a few suggestions for helping treat ELS in your community:

Host an open house

Opening up your home to a large group of people is a monumental task that takes a lot of planning and strength. But it comes with a lot of baraka and reward. Imagine the smiling faces of people who would have had nowhere to go on Eid, but suddenly find themselves in your home being hosted. If you have a big home, hosting an open house is an opportunity to express your gratitude to Allah for blessing you with it.

Expand your circle

Eid is about commUNITY. Many people spend Eid alone when potential hosts stick to their own race/class/social status. Invite and welcome others to spend Eid with you in whatever capacity you can.

Delegate

You can enlist the help of close friends and family to help so it’s not all on you. Delegate food, setup, and clean-up across your family and social network so that no one person will be burdened by the effort InshaAllah.

Squeeze in

Don’t worry if you don’t have a big house, you’ll find out how much barakah your home has by how many people are able to fit in it. I’ve been to iftars in teeny tiny apartments where there’s little space but lots of love. If you manage to squeeze in even two or three extra guests, you’ve saved two or three people from ELS for that year.

Outsource Eid Fun

If you have the financial means or know enough friends who can pool together, rent a house. Some housing share sites have homes that can be rented specifically for events, giving you the space to consolidate many, smaller efforts into one larger, more streamlined party.

Flock together

It can be a challenge to find Eid buddies to spend the day with. Try looking for people in similar circumstances as you. I’m a single woman and have hosted a ladies game night for the last few Eids where both married and single women attend.  If you are a couple with young kids, find a few families with children of similar age groups. If you’re a student, start collecting classmates. Don’t wait for other people to invite you, make a list in advance and get working to fend off ELS together.

Give gifts

The Prophet ﷺ said: تَهَادُوا تَحَابُّوا‏ “Give gifts to increase love for each other”. One of my siblings started a tradition of getting a gift for each person in the family. If that’s too much, pick one friend or family member and give them a gift. If you can’t afford gifts, give something that doesn’t require much money like a card or just your time. You never know how much a card with kind, caring words can brighten a person’s Eid.

Get out of your comfort zone

If you have ELS, chances are there is someone else out there who has it too. The only way to find out if someone is sad and alone on Eid is by admitting that we are first, and asking if they are too.

Try, try, try again…

Maybe you’ve taken off work only to find that going would have been less of a waste of time. Maybe you tried giving gifts and it didn’t go well. Maybe you threw an open house and are still cleaning up/dealing with the aftermath until now. It’s understandable to want to quit and say never again, to relent and accept that you have ELS and always will but please, keep trying. The Ummah needs to believe that Eid can and should be fun and special for everyone.

While it is hard to be vulnerable and we may be afraid of rejection or judgment, the risk is worth it. As a survivor and recoverer of ELS, I know how hard it can be and also how rewarding it is to be free of it. May Allah bless us all with the best Eids and to make the most of the blessed days before and after, Ameen.

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The Etiquettes of Sacrifice for Eid al Adha

Imam Mikaeel Smith

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As Eid al-Adha approaches, the staff at MuslimMatters thought it would be beneficial to include some reminders about this blessed Sunnah. For your convenience, we have links to pdfs of the following articles by Imam Mikaeel Smith and Sr Julie Mair if you would like to print them for yourself or to distribute in your community. -Hena Zuberi, Editor in Chief

A Simple Request for Eid al-Adha | Sr Julie Mair

Eid al-Adha will soon be upon us, alhamdulillah. It is a blessed time, a time for celebration, a time to share with family and loved ones—but it can also be a time of immense cruelty if the slaughter is not done properly and mercifully. 

Allah Ta’ala tells us in the Qur’an that the Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu alaihi was sallam, was sent as a rahmatan lil ‘alameena – a mercy to the worlds (Surah al-Anbiya, 21:107). Much has been reported on the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) kind treatment of animals, and some hadith specifically mention animals to be slaughtered:

Anyone who shows mercy, even to an animal meant for slaughtering, will be shown mercy by Allah on the Day of Rising. (Al-Adab Al-Mufrad)

Verily Allah has enjoined goodness to everything; so when you kill, kill in a good way and when you slaughter, slaughter in a good way. So every one of you should sharpen his knife, and let the slaughtered animal die comfortably. (Sahih Muslim) 

Etiquettes of the slaughter are often unknown or overlooked, such as: hiding the knife from the animal; slaughtering out of the sight of other animals waiting to be slaughtered; killing in a comfortable way; and avoiding unnecessary suffering. 

Tying an animal’s legs together and leaving it to moan in the hot sun clearly results in unnecessary suffering, but this happens. Hanging animals together from hooks by their feet and killing them one-by-one results in unnecessary suffering, but this happens. Even less egregious actions such as dragging an animal or otherwise handling it roughly results in unnecessary suffering. It is incumbent on anyone who is going to slaughter an animal to learn the Islamic requirements and etiquettes of slaughtering so that it is done properly and mercifully.

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) warned us, “Someone who does not show mercy will not be shown mercy.” (Al-Adab Al-Mufrad)

So please, before this Eid al-Adha, educate yourself on the proper and merciful way to slaughter. If you are going to a farm or other facility, make sure that it will be done correctly. Educate those who do not know. Enjoin the good and forbid the wrong.*

Whoever guides someone to goodness will have a reward like the one who did it. 

(Sahih Muslim)

Eid al-Adha will soon be upon us, alhamdulillah. 

To download this article and share in your community, click A Simple Request for Eid

Perfection in all things | Sh Mikaeel Smith

Imam Mikaeel Smith

There are certain narrations of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) that are a source of great inspiration and which force one to discover a higher purpose and the deepest of meanings and lessons in the most trivial actions. These narrations, when continually contemplated upon and kept at the forefront of one’s mind, can create a very profound sense of mindfulness and presence throughout one’s day to day affairs. Throughout our day to day life we have to do a number of seemingly mundane actions for our personal well-being and the well-being of those around us. But there is a single narration that teaches us that there is no such thing as a trivial action or a mundane affair for the believer. Everything has a purpose. The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) once said, 

عن أبي يعلى شداد بن أوسٍ رضي الله عنه، عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال: ((إن الله كتب الإحسان على كل شيءٍ، فإذا قتلتم فأحسنوا القِتْلة، وإذا ذبحتم فأحسنوا الذِّبْحة، ولْيُحِدَّ أحدُكم شفرته، ولْيُرِحْ ذبيحته))؛ رواه مسلم.

“Indeed Allah has ordained perfection and excellence in every matter. When you fight, do so with excellence. When you slaughter an animal do so with excellence. Sharpen your knife because this will make it easier for the animal.” (Muslims #1955)

Everything in life is a chance to strive for perfection and thereby fulfill one’s duty to his or her creator and sustainer. While this narration inspires people of all fields to be the best at what they do, the Prophet ‎ﷺ‎‬‎ mentions two specific examples where excellence should be sought. One is in war and situations of conflict and the other is the ritual sacrifice which takes place at the time of the pilgrimage. It should be noted that perfection just like beauty is highly subjective. Therefore as Muslims, we look to the sunnah or way of Muhammad to define perfection for every affair. 

The sacred month of the pilgrimage is getting close and so we are approaching the time to remember and imitate the sacrifice of Ibrāhīm (AS). We imitate him because he is the quintessential example of submission. By imitating his unparalleled level of submission we become pupils to this great teacher. Imitation is the first step for every student. Secondly, we must understand that imitation is the highest form of flattery. 

It is not the meat or blood of this sacrifice which Allah desires from us — rather obedience. That being said we should learn how to do this sacrifice is the best way. 

My personal opinion as an American Muslim who desires to see Islam as an intrinsic aspect of American religious life, I strongly encourage Muslims in America to personal do their sacrifice themselves instead of sending money for their sacrifice to be done overseas. I am completely aware that there are brothers and sisters who need meat more than ourselves. But this train of thought completely misses the objective of this great act of imitation. If a person wants to help poor Muslims around the world one should do so. But not at the expense of teaching their own family the significance of this day. By outsourcing your ibadah we lose the spiritual impact and meaning. We essentially deprive our children and family of participating in the primary act of worship on this great day. Now let us look at some of the religiously recommended actions that one should observe when doing the sacrifice. Striving for excellence in all things, as Muslims, means first and foremost setting one’s moral compass to the “Prophetic North” by reviewing the Prophetic teachings surrounding this great worship.

Below I have listed a few of the etiquette of this sacrifice:

Internal Aspect

  1. One should internally remember the significance of this sacrifice and what it represents. Study the life of Abraham 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and internalize how he was able to overcome his own moral judgments when he was commanded to sacrifice his own son. 

Pre-Sacrifice Aspects

  1. One must use a very sharp knife. This is done so that there are no complications and delays in the process of slaughter. 
  2. The sharpening of the knife should be done away from the field of vision of the animals.
  3. The animal should be given water before the sacrifice. 
  4. The animal should be gently brought to the place where it will be slaughtered.
  5. The animal should be slaughtered out of the field of vision of the other animals. 
  6. The animal should be gently placed on its left side.
  7. The one doing the slaughter should face the Qiblah.

During the Sacrifice

  1. The slaughter must be as quick as possible.
  1. Before the slaughter one should say, “Allah is the Greatest” thrice followed by the statement, “In the name of Allah”. 
  2. The two major arteries should be cut along with the windpipe. 

Post Sacrifice

  1. It is recommended that the first thing that one eats after the Eid prayer is meat from the sacrifice. 

It is important to keep in mind that the things mentioned above are not mandatory aspects. This means that is someone was to leave out one of these things the sacrifice would still be legally valid, while at the same time lacking the level of perfection that we as Muslims should strive for. 

Through this sacrifice, we are reminded of our pursuit of excellence for the sake of our Creator in all that we do. We perfect our skills, trades, and academic pursuits and all that we do for our love of our creator. Whether one is studying for an exam, or striving to be an athlete, excellence for the sake of Allah is our goal. 

To download this article and share in your community, click Perfection in all things

*More Resources:

http://halalcertification.ie/islamic-method-of-slaughtering/

https://kalamullah.com/Books/The%20Islamic%20Laws%20of%20Animal%20Slaughter.pdf

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Lessons From Surah Maryam: 1

Shaykh Furhan Zubairi

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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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