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Shawwal: What to Do On Eid Night, Eid Day, and During the Month

Mufti Taqi Usmani

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Beginning of the Ashur-ul-Hajj

Shawwal is the first of the three months named as “Ashhur al-Hajj” (i.e. the months of Hajj). Although the major acts of Hajj are normally performed in the first ten days of Zulhijjah, yet the whole period starting from the first of Shawwal up to the 10th of Zulhijjah is held to be the period of Hajj because some acts of Hajj can be performed any time during this period. For example, the Tawaf-ul-qudum, followed by the Sai’ of Hajj cannot be performed before Shawwal, while it can be performed any day after the beginning of Shawwal. Similarly, an ‘Umrah performed before Shawwal cannot be treated as the ‘Umrah of Tamattu: while the ‘Umrah performed in Shawwal can be affiliated to the Hajj, making it a Hajj of Tamattu: Moreover, ihram of Hajj should not be started before Shawwal, because it makruh. For these reasons these three months have been named as the ‘months of Hajj’ and the month of Shawwal has the distinction of being the first of these.

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Eid-ul-fitr

The second meritorious aspect of Shawwal is that it has been chosen by Allah Almighty for the celebration of “Eid-ul-fitr “, one of the only two annual festivals recognized by the Shari’ah. This happy day is designed by the Shari’ah as a sign of gratefulness by the Muslims on the accomplishment of Ramadan, and as an immediate reward by Allah for those who spent the month of Ramadan in fasting and performing other forms of ‘ibadah.

Instead of commemorating an event from the past, the Shari’ah has prescribed the first of Shawwal as an annual festival for the Muslims at an occasion when they themselves accomplish a great ‘ibadah. This approach reminds the Muslims that they should not rely only on the accomplishments of their ancestors, rather, they should themselves perform meritorious acts to please their Creator.

In prescribing the ways to celebrate the happy day, Islam has adopted another unique approach. The festivals of other religions or nations normally comprise of some acts of rejoicing and enjoyment. The whole happy day is normally spent in dancing, singing and playing.

In contrast, Islam has prescribed a simple yet graceful way to observe the happy day. First of all, it is mandatory on all the well-off Muslims to start their day by paying “Sadaqat-ul-fitr” to the poor of their society, so that they, too, may enjoy the day along with others, and may not be worried for earning their livelihood at least on that day of happiness.

After paying the “Sadaqat-ul-fitr”, the Muslims are required to proceed to an open place where they can offer the Eid prayer collectively. In this way, they are supposed to present themselves before their Creator and offer tworak’ats of this special type of Salah, which makes them receive blessings from Allah and start their celebration by these divine blessings.

After the Salah also, they are supposed to rejoice the day in a responsible manner, without violating the limits prescribed for them and never indulging in the acts prohibited by Allah.

Keeping this point in view, we will now discuss specific rules prescribed for observing the day of Eid-ul-fitr.

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The Night Preceding ‘ Eid-ul-Fitr ‘

It had been the practice of the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, that he would not sleep in the night preceding the day of Eid-ul-fitr. This night has been named in a Hadith as the Night of Reward (Lailatul Jaiza). Almighty bestows his rewards on those who have spent the month of Ramadan abiding by the dictates of Shari’ah, and all their prayers in this night are accepted. Therefore, it is desirable to perform nafl prayers in this night. The Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, is reported to have said:

Whoever stands up (in worship) in the nights preceding the two Eids expecting rewards from his Lord, his heart will not die when the other hearts will die. (Ibn Majah)

To benefit from this opportunity, one should perform as much worship in this night as he can, and should pray for all his needs and desires.

Editor’s Note: It has come to our attention that this hadith has been classified as extremely weak by some hadith scholars. Please check with your local scholarship about the importance of this night.

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Before Going to Eid Prayer

The following acts are prescribed as Sunnah at the beginning of the day of  Eid-ul-Fitr before proceeding to the Eid prayer:

1. To wake up early in the morning.

2. To clean one’s teeth with a Miswaak or a brush.

3. To take a bath.

4. To put on one’s best available clothes.

5. To wear perfume.

6. To eat a sweet food, preferably dates, before the Eid prayer.

7. To recite the following Takbir in the low voice while going to the Eid prayer:

Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar La Ilaha Ila Allah Wa Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar Wa Lillahi Alhamd

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Sadaqat-ul-fitr

Sadaqat-ul-fitr is an obligation for every Muslim, male or female, who owns 613.35 grams of silver or its equivalent, either in the form of money, ornaments, stock-in-trade, or in the form of some goods or commodities beyond one’s normal needs. Every person who owns such an amount has to pay Sadaqat-ul-fitr, not only on behalf of himself but also on behalf of his minor children. The prescribed amount of Sadaqat-ul-fitr is 1.75 Kilograms of wheat or its value in money. This amount is prescribed for paying Sadaqat-ul-fitr for one person only. If a person has some minor children, the same amount has to be paid on behalf of each one of them separately. The following points must be remembered concerning the payment of Sadaqat-ul-fitr.

1. Sadaqat-ul-fitr is obligated on each adult male or female separately, and the relevant adult person himself is responsible to pay it. The husband is not required to pay Sadaqat-ul-fitr on behalf of his wife nor is the wife supposed to pay it on behalf of her husband. Similarly, a father is not bound to pay Sadaqat-ul-fitr on behalf of his adult children or vice-versa. However, if the head of the family, by his own free will, wishes to paySadaqat-ul-fitr for each one of the members of his family, he should seek their authorization for that purpose. In this case the Sadaqat-ul-fitr paid by him will be valid on their behalf. If he did not pay theSadaqat-ul-fitr on behalf of any of the members of his family, he will not be responsible for it. Rather, it is the duty of every adult member of the family to discharge his own obligation or to request the head of the family to pay it on his or her behalf.

2. It is a Sunnah that the Sadaqat-ul-fitr is paid before performing the Eid prayer. It can also be paid before the Eid day, but it is not advisable to delay it up to the performance of’ Eid prayer. However, if a person has failed to pay on its proper time, he should pay it as soon as possible, whereby the obligation will stand discharged.

3. The Sadaqat-ul-fitr is not necessary on behalf of a child who was born after the break of dawn in the Eid day, nor is it necessary to pay Sadaqat-ul-fitr on behalf of a person who dies before the dawn of the Eid day.

4. Sadaqat-ul-fitr should be paid only to a person who is entitled to receive Zakah.

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The Eid Prayer

The second obligation on Eid day is to perform the Eid prayer. Some rules in this respect are mentioned hereunder:

1. The Eid prayer is Wajib (obligatory) on every male Muslim.

2. The Eid prayer can be performed any time between the Ishraq and Zawal.

3. It is preferable that the Eid prayer is performed at an open field and not in a mosque. However, if, it is difficult for any reason to perform it in an open field, it can also be performed in a big mosque.

4. It is not advisable to hold the Eid prayer in every mosque, rather it is preferable that the people from several small mosques get together to either perform it in an open field or, in its absence, in a big mosque which can accommodate a large number of people.

5. No Nafl Salah can be performed before the Eid prayer, neither in one’s home, nor at the place of’ Eid prayer. Similarly, Nafl prayer cannot be performed after the Eid prayer at the same place. However, it can be performed after one comes back to his home.

6. The Eid prayer has neither Adhan nor Iqamah.

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How to Perform Eid Prayer

The Eid Prayer has two rak’ah to perform in the normal way, with the only addition of six takbirs, three of them in the beginning of the first rak’ah, and three of them just before ruku’ in the second rak’ah. The detailed way of performing the Eid prayer is as follows:

The Imam will begin the prayer without Adhan or Iqamah. He will begin the prayer by reciting takbir of Tahrimah (Allahu Akbar). You should raise your hands up to the ears, and reciting the takbir, you give a little pause during which you should recite Thana’ (Subhanak Allahumma…….)· After the completion of Thana’ the Imam will recitetakbir (Allahu Akbar) three times, and after reciting each Takbir (Allahu Akbar) in a low voice, you should bring your hands down and leave them earthwards. But, after the third takbir, you should set them at the level of your navel as you do in the normal prayer.

After these three takbirs the Imam will recite the Holy Qur’an, which you should listen quietly. The rest of the rak’ah will be performed in the normal way.

After rising for the second rak’ah, the Imam will begin the recitations from the Qur’an during which you should remain calm and quiet. When the Imam finishes his recitation, he will recite three takbirs once again, but this time it will be before bowing down for ruku’. At each takbir you should raise your hands up to the ears, and after saying“Allahu Akbar’ bring them down and leave them earthwards. After these three takbirs have been called and completed, the Imam will say another takbir for bowing down into the ruku’ position. At this takbir you need not raise your hands. You just bow down for your ruku’ saying, ‘Allahu Akbar’. The rest of the Salah will be performed in its usual way.

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Khutbah: The Address of  Eid-ul-fitr

In this Salah, Khutbah is a Sunnah and is delivered after the Salah, unlike the Salah of Jumu’ah where it is Fard and is delivered before the Salah. However, listening to the Khutbah of  Eid Salah is wajib or necessary and must be heard in perfect peace and silence.

It is a sunnah that the Imam begins the first Khutba by reciting takbirs ‘Allahu Akbar’ nine times and the second Khutbah with reciting it seven times.

Note: The way of Eid prayer described above is according to the Hanafi school of Muslim jurists. Some other jurists, like Imam Shafi’i, have some other ways to perform it. They recite Takbir twelve times before beginning the recitations from the Holy Qur’an in both rak’ah. This way is also permissible. If the Imam, being of the Shafi’i school, follows this way, you can also follow him. Both ways are based on the practice of the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam.

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Six Fasts in the Month of Shawwal

It is commendable to keep six fasts in the month of Shawwal. The Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, has said:

Whoever completes fasts of Ramadan then adds to them the fast of six days in the month of Shawwal, it will carry the thawab of fasting for the whole year. (Sahih Muslim)

This hadith had described the great thawab of six fasts of this month. Therefore, the Muslims should take this opportunity of acquiring such an enormous reward from Allah. It is more preferable to start these fasts from the 2nd of Shawwal and keep fasting up to the 7th of it. However, if, they are kept in other days, it is hoped that the requirement of the above hadith may also be fulfilled.

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This was written by Mufti Taqi Usmani and was originally posted at Al Balagh  

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Avatar

    abou bakarr-kargbo

    August 7, 2013 at 11:12 AM

    thanks very much god bless us all.

  2. Avatar

    juliherman

    August 7, 2013 at 12:58 PM

    assalamualaikum,

    I was just reading in my inbox this morning, an article written by Sr Asma Bint Shameem on Mistakes Related to Eid, and so when I was reading this article, something caught my eye as I’m not familiar with this practice at all, so if someone qualified could clarify …

    here is part of Sr Asma’s article with regards to worshipping on the eve of Eid:

    Some people think that it is prescribed to spend the night of Eid in worship.
    They even call it “Laylatul Jazaa'” claiming that this is the night that their efforts will be ‘paid off’ by Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta’ala.
    However, there is NO SAHEEH HADEETH legislating such a practice; not in Bukhaari, Muslim or any of the other authentic hadeeth books.
    Rather this practice is based on a WEAK hadeeth which says, “Whoever stays up on the night of Eid, his heart will not die on the day when hearts die.” This hadeeth is NOT saheeh as classified by Shaykh al-Albaani. (Silsilat al-Ahaadeeth al-Da’eefah wa’l-Mawdoo’ah by Sheikh al-Albaani)
    Ibn Taymiyah said: “The ahaadeeth in which the nights before the two Eids are mentioned are falsely attributed to the Prophet (sal Allaahu Alaiyhi wa sallam).”
    So do NOT single out the night of Eid for Ibaadah, as this is a kind of bid’ah that is NOT proven from the Prophet (sal Allaahu Alaiyhi wa sallam) or his Sahaabah. If it was a good thing to do, the Prophet (sal Allaahu Alaiyhi wa sallam).” or his sahaabah would have done it and we would have evidence for it.

    However, if you wake up every day for Qiyaam or Tahajjud and it is part of you NORMAL nightly routine to pray and worship at this time, then it is okay to do so.

    But to pick out this night thinking there is extra reward and special status to worship this night is not correct.

    Jazakum Allah khair.

    • Avatar

      Cool_Guy141

      August 11, 2013 at 8:45 AM

      Walaikum assalam warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu,

      The writer of the aforementioned article on this page is a renowned scholar. There must be a good reason for him to mention the hadith even if it does not meet the standards of Bukhari and Muslim.

      We can take this hadith from the Prophet (PBUH) as one that is stressing us to continue to do any good that we were doing in Ramadan and not waste time in prohibited acts (this is what I heard from a local scholar from my community).

      I am a layman, and from a layman’s perspective, I am quoting Mufti Taqi Usmani here again:

      “…this night has been named in a Hadith as the Night of Reward (Lailatul Jaiza). Almighty bestows his rewards on those who have spent the month of Ramadan abiding by the dictates of Shari’ah, and all their prayers in this night are accepted. Therefore, it is desirable to perform nafl prayers in this night. The Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, is reported to have said:

      Whoever stands up (in worship) in the nights preceding the two Eids expecting rewards from his Lord, his heart will not die when the other hearts will die. (Ibn Majah)”

      The keywords in Mufti Taqi Usmani’s quotes are that it is “desirable” to perform nafl prayers. Hence, this may be a reflection of his understanding of the authenticity of hadith.

      Finally, in my opinion, Mufti Taqi’s message and Ibn Taymiyyah’s opinion are not necessarily mutually exclusive. According to your research, if it is a normal nightly routine for a person to perform tahajjud then he may continue to worship on the nights before the two Eids. However note that only such a person is highly likely to perform worship during this night. In other words, it will be difficult to find a person that singles out this night of worship. For example, Prophet Muhammad (salAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) and many sahabah used to do tahajjud prayers at night anyways, and did not single out this night for worship.

      And Allah knows best.

    • Avatar

      Tariq Ahmed

      July 15, 2015 at 7:32 PM

      Jazakumullahu khayran for your comment. Alhamdolillah I have made ‘itikaaf many times in masajid where shuyukh have been present such as Shaykh Waleed Basyouni. Never, not even one time, has anyone ever recommended that the musalleen go he and engage in worship. Never has anyone recommended to make qiyaam in that night nor any other ibaadat. And these are shuyukh who always use opportunities to encourage the sunnah.

      So I can only say that there might be a different opinion on the authenticity of the hadith, but the opinion expressed in the article is not widespread, at least not in the cities I have lived in in Texas, California, New York, or in the DC area.

  3. Avatar

    Anam

    August 17, 2013 at 4:41 AM

    Aoa,

    Does the following Ahadith apply to women as well? Because women cant complete fast during the month of ramazan owing to the mensus periods they have:

    Whoever completes fasts of Ramadan then adds to them the fast of six days in the month of Shawwal, it will carry the thawab of fasting for the whole year. (Sahih Muslim)

    • Avatar

      Cool_Guy141

      July 26, 2015 at 1:43 PM

      Walaikum assalam warahmatullahi,
      One opinion is that the woman should always fast the missed Ramadan fasts first because they are fard, and then the 6 Shawwal fasts after even if the 6 Shawwal fasts go over to the month of Dhul-Qidah. InshaAllah, she is excused due to a natural phenomenon and her intention was to get the reward of all the missed fasts as well as Shawwal fasts. But she should not let month of Shawwal itself go by without an excuse (i.e. purposely skipping days that could have been used to fast). Detailed info is at http://islamqa.info/en/40389 with complete explanation insha’Allah.

      I heard from Sheikh ‘Alaa El-Sayed also that if a woman thinks she has many obligatory qada fasts of Ramadan to complete, such that the month of Shawwal will be over, then she can first do her 6 Shawwal fasts first and then do the qada Ramadan fasts afterwards. But if she knows that she can complete the obligatory fasts first and then not miss on Shawwal fasts, then she must perform her obligatory fasts first because they are fard whereas Shawwal fasts are sunnah.

      And Allah knows best!

  4. Avatar

    Ghazala

    July 15, 2015 at 10:41 PM

    The Hadeeth about the virtue of praying Qiyaam on the night before Eid in detail :
    http://islamqa.info/en/12504

  5. Avatar

    Sara

    July 16, 2015 at 8:07 AM

    assalamualaikum,

    What is Zawal? Thank you.

    • Avatar

      Cool_Guy141

      July 26, 2015 at 1:32 PM

      Walaikum assalam warahmatullahi,

      Zawal is the solar noon. Take the time of sunrise and time of sunset, and divide it in half. So if sunrise is at 7am and sunset is at 7pm, Zawal is around 1pm.

      Zawal is immediately before Zuhur time. It’s basically when the sun has reached its zenith (when shadow of any object is at its shortest length).

      And Allah knows best!

  6. Avatar

    Haji Abdul Kareem Nandasena

    July 16, 2015 at 7:31 PM

    EID MUBARAK.!
    Haji Abdul Kareem Nandasena.
    Sri Lanka.

  7. Avatar

    Zia-e-Taiba

    July 22, 2016 at 10:39 PM

  8. Avatar

    Nasir Memon

    July 25, 2016 at 1:04 AM

    It is very nice to see the information related to Six Fasts of Shawwal.

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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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