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Sharia and Reform | Dr Hatem Al-Haj

Dr. Hatem El Haj M.D Ph.D



Many ‘conservative’ Muslims feel instantly uncomfortable when they hear someone talk about tajdeed (renewal) of the religion. Some of us do this out of fear of the unknown. This is partly because our Ummah suffers from a great deal of weakness and disunity, which fosters an environment of defensiveness and mistrust. However, our fears that stem from the call to tajdeed may not be all unjustifiable. After all, many of the callers to tajdeed of the deen are utterly unqualified for the job.

They dismiss much of the established Sunnah, and defy the definitive implications of the text of revelation with complete disregard for the cumulative tradition. They are quick to dismiss the great jurists of Islam, claiming that they were but a product of their culture and were blindfolded by their biases. It also seems to the ‘conservative’ Muslim that much of the proposed tajdeed is simply an act of unconditional surrender to the mainstream modern culture, making the Divine instruction subject to the influence of people’s relative and changing thoughts and social constructs. However, the problem that may result from our timidity to contribute to this discourse about tajdeed is that others may hijack its banner, and all the people who are frustrated with the condition of the Ummah and yearning for a change will be tempted to follow them.

The Messenger of Allah (saws) said: “Indeed, Allah sends for this Ummah, at the onset of every century, those who renew (literally: make tajdeed) of the religion for it.”[1] Therefore, the one who calls for tajdeed should not be denounced, since the first one to utter this term in this context was the Messenger of Allah (saws) himself. Rather, the discussion should revolve around the intended meaning of this tajdeed. Does it only mean ‘restoration’? If it does, why did the Prophet (saws) use it in the sense of ‘renewal’ instead, when there are Arabic words that specifically mean ‘restoration’? Also, ‘restoration’ sounds more suitable for a static structure, like a historic building that you want to bring back to its original beauty. Our deen is a living entity with one spirit, consistent objectives, and overarching maxims, but with a flexible legal framework that can appropriately engage with changing realities. ‘Renewal’ is thus the right word. But if it is about renewal, how can we ‘renew’ the religion? Does this mean we have the liberty to change the Divine instruction?

The default status in the religion is that it remains unchanging, and most of what is meant by ‘renewal’ is actually restoration done simply through reviving that which is original, and cleansing that which is unoriginal, such as the innovations and customs of people which conflict with the revelation. Aside from that, there is another type of renewal, and that is the ijtihâd-based renewal. This is what the scholars refer to by saying, “The change in rulings due to the change in times is not to be denounced.”[2] One example of this was when ‘Umar (ra) prevented al-mu’allafati quloobuhum[3] from receiving their share of zakât when he saw that Allah had empowered Islam and the Muslims during his blessed caliphate. In another instance, ‘Uthmân (ra) commanded during his caliphate that the stray camel be taken, sold, and its price kept for its owner. This was contrary to the original ruling, wherein taking stray camels is prohibited, but it was resorted to because of the moral deterioration that had occurred between the time of the Prophet (saws) and the time of the caliphate of ‘Uthmân (ra). Similarly, it was undisputed among the early Ḥanafi scholars that taking a wage for teaching Qur’an was unlawful; they later consented to allow Qur’an teachers to receive payment when volunteers became few in number – out of fear that knowledge of the Qur’an would be lost.

Did these greats change the legislated ruling? Never that, for the legislation of Allah is not subject to change. Allah, the Most High, says (what means): {They took their scholars and monks as lords besides Allah} (at-Tawbah 9:31), and the Messenger of Allah (saws) explained to ‘Adi ibn Ḥâtim (ra) that this occurred by following them in considering the unlawful as permissible and the permissible as unlawful.[4] Moreover, would this not be exactly what the Messenger of Allah (saws) prohibited when he said: “If anyone introduces into this matter of ours what is not from it, it will be rejected.”[5]?

Therefore, it is impossible that they changed the ḥukm (as it refers to the Divine khiṭâb or instruction), even if some of the scholars used that term, for they only meant the fatwa (religious edict) and not the actual ruling in Sharia. A single act can have two different fatwas because of the variant circumstances in different contextual scenarios.

To further clarify, let us take the example of receiving wages for teaching Qur’an. Its prohibition was a matter of agreement among the early Ḥanafi scholars, but then the practice was permitted by them later on. The question is, were the prohibition and permission with regard to the same thing? It appears that way, but upon taking a closer look, it becomes clear that we cannot equate between accepting a wage for teaching Qur’an at a time when many were enthusiastic about teaching it as an act of devotion (to Allah), and were supported financially from the state treasury, and a time when teachers were no longer sustained by the state treasury. In the latter situation, if they occupied themselves with teaching, their families would be lost, and if they occupied themselves with earning a livelihood, their students would be lost.

Thus, a particular scenario may call for a different set of rulings that suit it, and the mujtahid (the one who engages in ijtihâd) chooses from among them what is most suitable to it. Sometimes, the matter may fall between two rulings or two principles, in which case the judge attributes the matter to whichever of the two it seems closer. Closeness is determined either by technical deductions or through considering the ultimate objectives (maqâṣid) of Sharia, though it is preferred to give precedence to the ultimate objectives. This is obviously pertinent only to rulings which are affected by people’s customs and interests. Regarding this, Imam ash-Shâṭibi (may Allah bestow mercy upon him) said:

Rulings differing whenever customs differ is not really a difference in the Divine instruction itself, for the Sharia was revealed to be permanent and eternal. Hypothetically, were this world to remain without end, and the people remained liable [to uphold the Sharia] as well, the Sharia would not need any additions. In other words, whenever customs change, they would fall under another [different] principle of Sharia that would govern them…”[6]

In the example of taking wages for teaching the Qur’an, the first of the two principles was that there was no intention other than (the pleasure of) Allah in acts of devotion – and this supported the view of impermissibility in the first era; and the second was to preserve the Qur’an by teaching it to youngsters – and this supported the view of permissibility in the second era. The ijtihâd-based renewal considers the change of time and place, not because they are in themselves consequential to the rulings, but because they are vehicles of different circumstances that may be consequential to those rulings.

Some Practical Examples of Tajdeed

Sometimes we need to reexamine not only the rulings but the very terms we use, since the similarity of the name does not necessarily mean similarity of the named. For example, the prohibition of making a ṣoorah (translated as ‘picture’) of any being that can be said to have a soul: is this prohibition applicable to a photograph by virtue of the two things having a name in common in Arabic? Not likely. This still does not mean that they cannot share the same ruling. However, the prohibition of photographs (if one is so inclined) must be reached through analogy, and only if it meets the requirements.

Was war during the time of the Prophet like war is today? Lexically speaking, yes. However, we must ask ourselves if the one-on-one confrontation of thousands of individual soldiers sparring in a battlefield is like the mass and indiscriminate devastation that ensues from modern war. Should the difference be consequential? Should it make war an even remoter last resort? Did the early Muslims fight for humanity or against it? We are sure they fought and sacrificed their lives to achieve the cause of Divine justice and to liberate humanity from tyranny, to afford people the right to worship their Lord. If so, will the fact that most nations allow their subjects freedom of religion be consequential?

When the Prophet prohibited women from travelling alone, was travel then like travel now? Would a difference be consequential? It would, at least according to the scholars who rule as acceptable travelling with a safe company; they must have understood that there is some identifiable ‘illah (effective cause) for the prohibition. Sometimes, erudite scholars will even make the well-defined ḥikmah (wisdom/ultimate rationale) consequential to the rulings. Some may claim that, using the same rationale, we may also do away with hijab or the rules of proper conduct between the two sexes, since the human community has matured and it is safer for women to go out in whichever attire they please. This would be in defiance of the clear text and of the unchanging human nature as well. The Islamic rules of modesty were to protect women, men, and entire societies from an avalanche of evil that would result from failure to observe them. It must be also observed that the societies of the modern and ‘civilized’ humans of the twenty-first century, when compared to societies of earlier eras, are not experiencing lower rates of infidelity, family breakdown, rape, or psychological disorders related to sex. There is no level of education or cultural sophistication that has proved to be protective against any of these ills.

This religion has immense vitality, so there will never be a time where the mujtahideen fail at finding solutions for newly emerged challenges. All over the world, the change in living standards and conditions in the last two centuries has been immense. Some of these changes have had an enormous impact on family dynamics. In today’s world, if a woman had decided to stay at home for the interest of the family, and after forty years of marriage her husband divorces her, should he walk away with all of the family’s savings because it is ‘his’ money? Should she get half of it? What if this happened after only two years of marriage? Would that discourage many men from getting married? Is there a point of moderation between those two ends? The Sharia has in fact provided a solution, albeit controversial in this case, yet authentic and also supported by the apparent implication of the Qur’an, where Allah says (what means), {And for divorced women is a provision according to what is acceptable – a duty upon the righteous.} (al-Baqarah 2:241) This provision is called mut‘ah, which may be translated as ‘bereavement gift’ or alimony. If we employ this provision and make it sizeable and commensurate with the duration of marriage and the socioeconomic status of the family, we can have a legitimate solution for a new challenge.

Some people may argue that the same changes of our world should warrant a change to the laws of inheritance. This would not fall under tajdeed (renewal), but rather tabdeed (annihilation). This is a fixed law in the revelation. It is explicitly stated. It is not contingent upon the customs and interests of people. Women do not always take half of what men take. This is only true in certain cases. However, if you make the proportion of inheritance equal in all cases, you must also relieve the men from their responsibilities towards the women of their households and kin. While certain people (not necessarily Muslims) may find this to be acceptable during different times or eras, it defies the distribution of roles that Allah has designated based on innate differences between the sexes that are not subject to change. Such a suggestion would have been absurd to Westerners in the nineteenth century, and still is to many people throughout the world.

At times, we have conflicting scholarly positions. Some opinions may be indispensable in our times, even if they are counter to the majority position. When there is nothing definitive in the Quran and the Sunnah to prevent us from choosing to go with an opinion that provides a solution to a contemporary problem, we ought to. For example, in the past, the jurists differed regarding the methods by which a claim is established in the Islamic judiciary. Some limited it to whatever has been explicitly stated in, or extracted from, the revealed texts. Others widened the circle of evidences to include whatever reveals the truth and paves the way for justice. For this reason, basing rulings on qarâ’in (corroborative evidences) was a matter of debate among the jurists.

The difference today is that forensic science has evolved to such a degree that judicial systems throughout the world are extremely reliant on it. Law experts call this type of evidence ‘tangible proof,’ and despite it being considered a largely modern phenomenon, it still falls under corroborative evidences. The question is, where should the Islamic judiciary stand regarding forensic science? Should it benefit from it? Should this benefit be limited to guiding the criminal investigator and enlightening the judge with important details of the crime? Or should these evidences be used by the judge, whenever they qualify, even in the absence of the customary evidences known to Islamic jurisprudence such as the testimony of witnesses, admissions, oaths, and nukool (refusal to take an oath).

I believe that a reasoned incorporation of the tangible evidences in what counts as admissible proofs is completely warranted. This was the position of luminaries like Ibn al-Qayyim[7], Ibn Taymiyyah[8], and Ibn Farḥoon[9], and of the remaining Mâlikis, in addition to Ibn al-Ghars[10] of the Ḥanafis, and some Ḥanbalis[11]. The use of qarâ’in is emphatically not like redefining the admissible proofs or equating the testimony of women in financial matters to that of men. These actions would be in defiance of a clear text, while using corroborative evidences is not. There is reason to believe that there are specific differences between men and women that made the testimony of two women equal to that of one man in financial matters, while a woman’s testimony is of the same or higher value than a man’s in other areas, such as childbirth and breastfeeding.

Sometimes we create rigidity, and fear of ‘walking away’ from what we created. Neither the Prophet (saws) nor ‘Umar[12] (ra) decreed that the tarâweeḥ prayer should be done in congregation, or that it should be eight or twenty raka‘ât or that one juz’ ought to be completed every night. In fact, Imam Mâlik and Imam ash-Shâfi‘i consider it superior if tarâweeḥ prayers are done at home. Yet today, we adhere to a particular number of raka‘ât in tarâweeḥ and/or a specific length for its recitation, without this being binding on us. Now, with the time for ‘ishâ’ starting very late in North America and other extremely northern or extremely southern lands during the summer, and the many differences between the era of the Companions and our own, should we adhere to a particular format for the tarâweeḥ when none has been designated by Allah, His Messenger, or even any of the Companions? Should there be more time for reflection in the local language over the meanings of what is being recited? Should there be more time left for socialization and creating a bond between the ‘Ramadan only’ congregants and their local masjid? I believe all of this is warranted. On the other hand, if someone said that we should do away with the tarâweeḥ prayers in congregation, then he would be calling for the cessation of an agreed-upon practice that has been ongoing since the time of ‘Umar (ra). Once again, that is not in any way a form of tajdeed.[13]

Some people want, via tajdeed, to diminish the role of the Sharia in guiding humanity. We believe that beyond the domain of worship and family law, the Sharia already leaves enough room for human thought and creativity, and it only provides guidelines and milestones to prevent people from being victims of their own and others’ prejudices, biases, and excesses. We do believe, however, that this general guidance is much needed by humanity. We believe that the Sharia must contribute to the discourse on contemporary issues such as corporate ethics, bioethics, environmentalism, and so on. This is an important aspect of the tajdeed we seek.

In the attempts by Muslim countries to re-normalize Islam’s position in the public sphere, they will have to answer many questions. In fact, we have to develop a new fiqh that is conscious of the new world we live in: again, without departing from the objectives of the law or the constants of the revelation. The relationship between the ruler and the ruled must be re-evaluated. The consensus reported about the prohibition of rebellion against the oppressive ruler must be re-examined – at least, its modern implications.[14] If we were to accept it, we must ask whether it applies to a sectarian effort to topple a ruler or a popular uprising by the nation. Would it apply to populist revolutions, even if they were unarmed? What if it were supported by ahl ul-ḥall wal-‘aqd?[15] Is there an effective alternative to end the tyrannical regimes that have become a signature characteristic of the Muslim countries?

What about the caliphate we reminisce about? Is it a central, federal, or confederal government? What is the plausibility of that? Could the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) serve that purpose, if it took gradual steps towards becoming more like the European Union, allowing willing Muslim and non-Muslim states to join – if they wish to? Denying Muslim countries the right to seek some form of unity and denouncing the very concept of the caliphate is simply succumbing to outside pressure. This is not a genuine tajdeed in the interest of Islam and the Muslims. On the other hand, expecting a return of an Abbasid-style caliphate is a form of rigidity that is bound to impede any progress towards Muslim unity.

The presence of large Muslim minorities in non-Muslim lands is not a recent phenomenon. However, the concepts of nation-states and secular governments are relatively new. There is a pressing need to normalize – and harmonize – the relationship between those minorities and their respective countries. This effort is a major part of the needed ijtihâd-based tajdeed. We need an authentic and realistic formula to reconcile between their religious allegiance and national belonging. Muslims in non-Muslim countries must not be seen as a Trojan horse or potential traitors by their compatriots, and they should not be that.

Finally, this ijtihâd-based renewal, which does not apply to ritual acts of worship or constants of our Sharia like the kaffârât (expiations), can only be exercised by the most distinguished mujtahid scholars of each era. If the matter is left to those who have not reached this degree of ijtihâd, the religion would fall into peril and be subject to distortion, and the enormity committed by non-scholars who engage in this is beyond needing to be mentioned. This involves the greatest calamity: forging lies about Allah – the Mighty and Majestic – and speaking about Him without knowledge. Allah (st) said (what means): {And do not pursue that of which you have no knowledge. Indeed, the hearing, the sight and the heart – about all those [one] will be questioned.} (al-Isrâ’ 17:36)

Therefore, what is required is the reunion between theory and practice, in light of the ijtihâd that preserves the constants but accommodates the changing variables. This is what existed during the days of the rightly-guided caliphate, and it is what enabled the Ummah to accommodate the Persian, Roman, Nabataean, Kurdish, Coptic, Berber, and other cultures which led to a civilizational, developmental, and cultural birth that has never been matched in the history of this world. All of that occurred without the religion itself being tainted with any distortion. But when this vigilant ijtihâd vanished, and that was specifically around the middle of the Abbasid era, the gap between theory and practice began widening until Muslim society became divided into groups: people of extravagance that have no care for religion; Sufis who mostly fled the trials of life by escaping into spirituality and monasticism – and some to mysticism – in search of what would satisfy their souls’ longing for truth; withdrawn scholars who were fixated upon serving the texts and literature; and masses that became lost when their leaders lost their compass. Correspondingly, there remained a scarcity of God-fearing scholars, committed to the spirit and letter of the deen, to purifying the interior (actions of the heart) and upholding the law, true beacons of light that – by Allah’s bounty – no era in the life of this Ummah may be void of. They are those who remained fighting to revive the true teachings of Islam that have been subverted by heedlessness and corrupted customs, and make these teachings guide the life of the Ummah once again.

I hope that some of the examples mentioned above clarify, to some extent, what I mean by tajdeed. Some readers may justifiably ask what my role is in this effort. It is understandable that ijtihâd-based tajdeed is the lot of the mujtahideen. However, the public can always engage in the restorative tajdeed. It is also the public that will establish foundations and institutions to foster ijtihâd-based tajdeed. If we are still struggling to build masjids, when might we have endowments that could support independent and authentic research institutes?

Let the revival begin by individual repentance, purification of the hearts and intentions, learning the religion from its pristine sources, commitment to righteousness and correctness, and finally, a discerning ijtihâd that allows the Sharia to continue its role in showing humanity a balanced and holistic path to success in this world and the one to come.

[1] Collected by Abu Dâwood and al-Ḥâkim, who authenticated it on the authority of Abu Hurayrah. Sunan Abi Dâwood, verified by Muhammad Muhyid-Deen ‘Abdil-Hameed. Dâr al-Fikr, 4/109.

[2] Majallat al-Ahkaam al-‘Adliyyah, Article 39. This was also stipulated in different wordings by some of the most erudite scholars of Uṣool, such as Ibn al-Qayyim, ash-Shâṭibi, ash-Shawkâni, and others.

[3] Al-mu’allafati quloobuhum (at-Tawbah 9:60) are new or non-Muslims whose hearts the Muslims hope to win over.

[4] Sunan al-Bayhaqi al-Kubrâ (10/116) in the chapter on [The Manners of the Judge, and What the Judge Rules By], Mecca: Dâr al-Bâz, 1414H.

[5] Ṣaḥeeḥ al-Bukhâri (2/959) in the chapter on [Treaties: Agreeing Upon Unfair Terms Nulls the Treaty], Beirut: Dâr Ibn Katheer wal-Yamâmah, (3rd ed., 1407H) – and Ṣaḥeeḥ Muslim (3/1343) in the chapter on [Verdicts: Nulling False Rulings and Rejecting Innovations], Beirut: Dâr Ihyâ’ at-Turâth al-‘Arabi.

[6] Al-Muwâfaqât by ash-Shâtibi. Verified by ‘Abdullâh Drâz, Beirut: Dâr al-Ma‘rifah, 2/217.

[7] See his books I‘lâm al-Muwaqqi‘een and aṭ-Ṭuruq al-Ḥukmiyyah.

[8] See the two previous books, in addition to al-Inṣâf (10/233) by al-Mirdâwi, al-Furoo‘ (6/85) by Ibn Mufliḥ, and as-Siyâsah ash-Shar‘iyyah (p. 136) by Ibn Taymiyyah.

[9] See his book Tabṣirat al-Ḥukkâm fee Uṣool al-Aqḍiyah wa Manâhij al-Aḥkâm: the second section, regarding the types of evidences.

[10] See Hâshiyat Ibn ‘Âbideen, 5/354.

[11] These are mentioned in order of the strength of their support for the use of qarâ’in and the scope of its use in their ijtihâd.

[12] ‘Umar (ra) found the Companions praying in the masjid in small groups, so he simply brought them together and had Ubayy lead them in prayer. Many of the ṣaḥâbah continued to pray at home. Some of them, including Ibn ‘Umar, considered it inferior if done at the masjid in congregation.

[13] An even more absurd suggestion we have heard is to make the tarâweeḥ start before ‘ishâ’.

[14] The first one to report it was Ibn Mujâhid al-Baṣri (d. 370 AH). It was contested by many scholars. Ibn Mujahid (raḥimahullah) was a resident of Basra, a city deeply traumatized two centuries earlier by the defeat of Ibn al-Ash’ath, which cost it the lives of many of its eminent scholars in their fight against the Umayyads. One may ask if there is a basis in the Revelation that made them agree on this edict in the fourth century AH. If there is, how could it have been missed by all of the previous generations of the righteous predecessors and suddenly become so clear to them? If this agreement was based on reasoning related to public interest, which is most likely, then as Shaykh Shaltoot points out, such is the only consensus that may be abrogated by another upon the change of circumstances.

[15] Literally, ‘the people of authority.’ They are the elites, somewhat equivalent to today’s ‘representatives of the people,’ or the ‘senate.’ Traditionally, they were the princes, scholars, tribal chiefs, leaders of the army and various professions.


Dr. Hatem Al-Haj has a PhD in Comparative Fiqh from al-Jinan University. He is a pediatrician, former Dean of the College of Islamic Studies at Mishkah University, and a member of the permanent Fatwa Committee of the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA).



  1. Avatar

    Muhammad Siddique

    August 8, 2016 at 1:10 PM

    An absurd article cloaked in pseudo-scholarship. Any reputable Muslim scholar knows that the reality has to conform to Islam and not Islam to the reality. All those early people like the Arabs, Persians, Romans, Africans, People of the Sub-Continent, upon accepting Islam, became part of the Islamic culture. Even the non-Muslims residing in the Muslim lands during those times identified themselves as the citizens of the Islamic State, their culture was Islam, their religion whatever it may be. This “scholar” needs to look up the definition of culture, Parsons offers a good definition, but any good sociology textbook might do. I am most disappointed with Muslim Matters for publishing this rubbish non-sense on their site. When majority of the Muslims the world over are calling for Shariah in the Muslim lands and unity based on the Islamic ruling system, the Khilafah,(and are dying and being oppressed in record number doing that), this author has the nerve to suggest EU like union. Has he been sleeping through the Brexit? And the ensuing EU crisis? He finds the return to the Rightly Guided Khilafahs constraining when Rasul Allah (saaw) has categorically told the Muslims to emulate them.

    • Avatar

      BA MT

      August 8, 2016 at 4:22 PM

      You know, you can get your point across without being so insulting. That’s what a true person of knowledge would have done, but clearly you are not so I don’t blame you.

      You are wrong about the allegation of conformity of others to the Islamic Culture. And the term “Islamic Culture” is a loaded term that even you – the one who’s arguing for it – can’t define. So your whole argument is moot.


      • Avatar

        Mohammad Siddique

        August 13, 2016 at 8:39 AM

        Culture is a binding knot that holds a people together and is transmitted from one generation to the next. Talcott Parson gets into further details of norms, customs, beliefs and so on. Islamic Culture emanates from an idea about life and a method to implement that idea in life, i.e., the Islamic ideology. I was not insulting but was harsh in my comment because I found the article insulting. It is couched in a language that may make it sound sophisticated or “intellectual” but end of the day there is nothing here.

        • Avatar


          May 27, 2019 at 12:57 AM

          Salam, have you ever met Sheikh Hatem? Have you sat with him and discussed shariah? Have you studied at the same level as him? If not, then kindly do not refer to his writings as “pseudo-scholarship”. I have met him (he lives in my state), and talked to him about issues, and know and recognize his genuine scholarship.

    • Avatar


      August 8, 2016 at 8:57 PM

      It’s very evident that you have completely missed the point of the article. The author is not suggesting that we completely change Islam to ‘conform’ to anything. To the contrary, he repeatedly speaks against changing the constants in our deen. Additionally, if you had read this article with an open mind and at the same time understood the role of the Khilafa then you would have had no problem in entertaining this concept of a union like entity.

      Please enlighten yourself by knowing that Dr. Hatem is not the first and last scholar to suggest such an understanding.

      • Avatar

        Mohammad Siddique

        August 13, 2016 at 8:21 AM

        One of these constants is the ruling system in Islam, namely Khilafah. It is one of the greatest obligations of Islam. The “union like entity” is an innovation and does not come from Islam. OIC was a Western idea, most likely the British because they used their agent, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, to establish it and thereby tried to control Muslim voices calling for Shariah and justice and OIC has only diverted Muslim energies to fruitless endeavors, an organization led by despots and dictators and the worst among the Muslim Ummah. Understanding the reality of Muslims today requires deep thought in light of the Quran, Sunnah, Ijmah as Sahabah, our history and the knowledge of the many plots by our enemies against Islam and the Muslim Ummah. Khilafah is the only option that allows the Muslims the world over and the weak, ill treated, oppressed and the Non-Muslims a hope not constrained by limits of human reason and abilities because this ruling system comes from The Creator of all, Allah (swt).

    • Avatar

      Abu Abbaad

      August 9, 2016 at 11:54 AM

      “Therefore, what is required is the reunion between theory and practice, in light of the ijtihâd that preserves the constants but accommodates the changing variables. This is what existed during the days of the rightly-guided caliphate, and it is what enabled the Ummah to accommodate the Persian, Roman, Nabataean, Kurdish, Coptic, Berber, and other cultures which led to a civilizational, developmental, and cultural birth that has never been matched in the history of this world. All of that occurred without the religion itself being tainted with any distortion.”

      • Avatar

        Mohammad Siddique

        August 13, 2016 at 7:45 AM

        What are the constants and variables in Islam? Is Islam some mathematics or science course? Islam is a complete way of life. It has systems that govern life: political system, economic system, social and cultural systems. The role of the human mind is to understand the revelation (Quran and Sunnah) by confining the mind totally to it. Islam does not allow the human mind to wander in the implementation and aims of Shariah. In sciences and administration, the human intellect can be imaginative. Furthermore, Islam has a unique culture (a binding knot), that is transmitted from one generation to the next. Rasul Allah (saaw) has said, “Islam dominates and nothing dominates Islam.” Islam does not accommodate other cultures, it aims to conquer peoples hearts and minds, and the conquered become part of the Islamic culture. No ideology in the world can risk accommodating other cultures because by its very nature, ideology is comprehensive and seeks expansion and domination, otherwise it will wither and die. The civilizations you have mentioned like the Persians, the Romans, were conquered by the Muslims, and upon accepting the Islamic ideology, they became part of the Islamic culture that emanates from the Quran and Sunnah.

  2. Avatar

    Altaf Ghori

    August 8, 2016 at 11:14 PM

    I agree with you a 100% Dr. Hatem. Nicely written article that totally makes sense!!!!

  3. Avatar


    August 9, 2016 at 1:33 PM

    An excellent article and thought provoking article. May Allah bless and preserve Sheikh Hatem.

  4. Avatar


    August 9, 2016 at 2:19 PM

    As Salamu Alaikum,

    I think it’s very useful in this case to know a little bit about the author of this article. I hate to say it, but some MM articles are written by authors without much Islamic knowledge and scholarship. This is not the case here….

    (Info below from his website):

    Short Bio
    Dr. Hatem al Haj
    Degrees Islamic
    PhD in Comparative Fiqh from al-Jinan University, Tripoli, Lebanon, Grade: summa cum laude
    (excellent). Master’s Degree in Islamic law (Sharee’a) from the American Open University, Grade: summa
    cum laude (excellent).

    Board Certification in Pediatrics by the American Board of Pediatrics.
    M.B., CH.B. (Equivalent to MD) Graduated with Honors from Alexandria University Medical School, Alexandria, Egypt
    Currently, Dean of the College of Islamic Studies (English) – Mishkah University.
    Currently, Attending Pediatrician (Part-time).
    Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America (AMJA), Member of the Permanent Fatwa Committee
    The Building Blocks of Islam, President of the BOT.
    North American Imam Federation (NAIF), Member
    American Academy of Pediatrics, Fellow

  5. Avatar


    August 10, 2016 at 7:37 PM

    salaam alaykom

    ma-sha-Allah. a very nice article and informative.

    first I am surprised, as to the rhetoric used in the article….I did not truly know to what extent one could talk about such things…..I’m talking from my memory bank now, as I read the article a couple of days ago now! secondly it is truly humbling to read, as even though Allah’s knowledge compared to ours as humans is like an ocean and ours being a drop from the beak…etc. and also remembering the trees and the 7?! oceans +, but as to why it humbled me, and perhaps it is not right to say, as to make my self look even more foolish, but let me just say…majority went right over my head…..Subhan al-Aleem. and has made me ponder many things, so jezak Allah kul khair.

    may I ask a question?….there must be a body of ulema in the world, but as we are so divided and sorry for saying so, but back to question if I may, to what extent to they have an influence when they gather? and with the above mentioned and perhaps I do not understand many things…etc, but what do they discuss?…and are they our great ones working behind the shadows, like satan and his allies doing the same too?..with the latters being the opposite of the great ones obviously…..

    with that said, with out any disrespect to any scholar or aalim these days, and may be it is just me but we the average day muslims can not get access to the hiers of the prophets!… truly not a good place, I’m sure it is aware?…..’ask the sheik’ days in institutions and masajid would be a great thing to see? any kind of easier access to be made available! (i.e. allotted times)..even though that is not any solution but I am glad to put something forward, but I suppose satans now know…..!!! no matter what la yaseebna ila ma katib lina Allah……

    peace unto you

  6. Avatar


    August 10, 2016 at 7:42 PM

    sorry I meant by the rhetoric about current day events and politics……

    is there any where one could direct one to find out where one can find what is politically correct to say and what is not?..because sorry wrong place but I hate homosexuality and paedophilia and whether that is a crime as long as it is not a sin to say I do not like the actions of them- I really do not care! and just to add if I may- hate the sin but not the sinner…..

  7. Avatar


    October 22, 2016 at 2:21 AM

    Excellent Article. .Very Well Written!!!

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The Spirituality Of Gratitude

Shaykh Tarik Ata




The Quran tells the reader of the importance of gratitude in two ways. First, worship, which is the essence of the relationship between man and the Creator, is conditional to gratitude “and be grateful to Allah if it is [indeed] Him that you worship” (2:172). The verse suggests that in order for an individual to truly worship Allah then they must express gratitude to Allah and that an ungrateful individual cannot be a worshiper of Allah. The second verse states the following “And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me” (2:152). The Arabic word used, translated here as ‘deny,’ is kufr which linguistically means to cover up. The word was adopted by the Quran to refer to someone who rejects Allah after learning of Him. Both the linguistic and Quranic definitions are possibly meant in this verse and both arrive at the same conclusion. That is, the absence of gratitude is an indicator of one’s rejection of Allah; the question is how and why?

What Does Shukr Mean?

Understanding a Quranic concept begins with understanding the word chosen by the Quran. The word shukr is used throughout the Quran and is commonly translated as gratitude. From a purely linguistic definition, shukr is “the effect food has on the body of an animal” (Ibn Qayyim v. 2 p. 200). What is meant here is that when an animal eats food it becomes heavier which has a clear and visible effect on the animal. Therefore, shukr is the manifestation of a blessing or blessings on the entirety of a person. From here, spiritualists understood the goal of shukr and added an extra element to the definition and that is the acknowledgment that those blessings are from Allah. Thus, the definition of shukr as an Islamic spiritual concept is “the manifestation of Allah’s blessings verbally through praise and acknowledgment; emotionally on the heart through witnessing the blessings and loving Allah; and physically through submission and servitude” (Ibid).

Based on this definition, the goal of shukr can be broken into five categories. First, gratitude that brings about the submission of the individual to his benefactor. In order for an act to be worthy of gratitude, the beneficiary must conclude that the benefactor’s action was done for the sake of the beneficiary – thus making the benefactor benevolent. In other words, the benefactor is not benefiting in the least (Emmons et al 2004 p. 62). When the individual recognizes his benefactor, Allah, as being completely independent of the individual and perfect in of himself, one concludes that the actions of the benefactor are purely in the best interest of the beneficiary resulting in the building of trust in Allah. The Quran utilizes this point multiple times explicitly stating that Allah has nothing to gain from the creations servitude nor does he lose anything from because of their disobedience (Q 2:255, 4:133, 35:15, 47:38). Through shukr, a person’s spirituality increases by recognizing Allah’s perfection and their own imperfection thus building the feeling of need for Allah and trust in him (Emmons et al 2002 p. 463).

Gratitude in Knowing That Allah Loves Us

The second category is love for the benefactor. Similar to the previous category, by identifying the motive of the benefactor one can better appreciate their favors. “Gratitude is fundamentally a moral affect with empathy at its foundation: In order to acknowledge the cost of the gift, the recipient must identity with the psychological state of the one who has provided it” (Emmons 2002 p. 461).[1] That is, by recognizing Allah’s perfection one concludes that his blessings are entirely in the best interest of the beneficiary despite not bringing any return to Him. Thus, the Quran utilizes this concept repeatedly and to list a few, the Quran reminds the human reader that he created the human species directly with his two hands (38:75), he created them in the best physical and mental form (95:4), gave him nobility (17:70), commanded the angels to prostrate to him out of reverence (38:72-3), made him unique by giving him knowledge and language (2:31), exiled Satan who refused to revere him (7:13), allowed him into Paradise (7:19), forgave his mistake (2:37), designated angels to protect each individual (13:11) and supplicate Allah to forgive the believers (40:7-9), created an entire world that caters to his needs (2:29), among plenty of other blessings which express Allah’s love, care, and compassion of the human.

The remaining three categories revolve around the individual acting upon their gratitude by acknowledging them, praising Allah for them and using them in a manner acceptable to Allah. In order for gratitude to play a role in spirituality the blessings one enjoys must be utilized in a manner that connects them with Allah. Initially, one must acknowledge that all blessings are from him thus establishing a connection between the self and Allah. This is then elevated to where the individual views these blessings as more than inanimate objects but entities that serve a purpose. By doing this one begins to see and appreciate the wisdoms behind these created entities enlightening the individual to the Creators abilities and qualities. Finally, after recognizing the general and specific wisdoms behind each creation, one feels a greater sense of purpose, responsibility, and loyalty. That is, engaging the previous five categories establishes love for the benefactor (Ibn Qayyim v. 2 p. 203). Observing the care and compassion of the benefactor for his creation establishes the feeling of loyalty towards the one who has cared for us as well as responsibility since He created everything with purpose.

Blessings Even in Hardship

One may interject by referring to the many individuals and societies that are plagued with hardships and do not have blessings to appreciate. No doubt this is a reality and the Quran address this indirectly. Upon analysis, one finds that the blessings which the Quran references and encourages the reader to appreciate are not wealth or health; rather, it is the sun, the moon, trees, and the natural world in general. Perhaps the reason for this is what shukr seeks to drive us towards. There are two things all these objects have in common (1) they are gifts given by Allah to all humans and all individuals enjoy them and (2) humans are dependent upon them. Everyone has access to the sun, no one can take it away, and we are critically dependent upon it. When the Quran draws our attention to these blessings, the reader should begin to appreciate the natural world at a different level and Surah an Nahl does precisely that. This chapter was likely revealed during the time of hijrah (immigration); a time when the companions lost everything – their homes, wealth, and tribes. The chapter works to counsel them by teaching them that the true blessings a person enjoys is all around them and no matter how much was taken from them, no one can take away the greater blessings of Allah.

In sum, these verses bring light to the crucial role shukr plays in faith. It serves as a means to better know Allah which can be achieved through a series of phases. First, the individual must search for the blessings which then leads to a shift in perspective from focusing on the wants to focusing on what is available. This leads to greater appreciation and recognition of the positives in one’s life allowing the person more optimism. Second, the person must link those blessings to the benefactor – Allah – which reveals many elements of who He is and His concern for His creation. Once this is internalized in the person’s hearts, its benefits begin to manifest itself on the person’s heart, mind, and body; it manifests itself in the form of love for Allah and submission to him. Shukr ultimately reveals the extent of Allah’s love and concern for the individual which therein strengthens the trust and love of the individual for Allah and ultimately their submission to Him.

Allah knows best.

Emmons, Robert A., and Charles M. Shelton. “Gratitude and the science of positive psychology.” Handbook of positive psychology 18 (2002): 459-471.

Emmons, Robert A., and Michael E. McCullough, eds. The psychology of gratitude. Oxford University Press, 2004.

Jawziyyah, Ibn Qayyim. madārij al-sālikīn bayn manāzil iyyāka naʿbud wa iyyāka nastaʿīn مدارج السالكين بين منازل إياك نعبد وإياك نستعين [The Levels of Spirituality between the Dynamics of “It is You Alone we Worship and it is You Alone we Seek Help From]. Cario: Hadith Publications, 2005.

[1] Islamically speaking, it is not befitting to claim that Allah has a psyche or that he can be analyzed psychologically.

Download a longer version of this article here: The Sprituality of Gratitude

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Lessons From Surah Maryam: 1

Shaykh Furhan Zubairi



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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verse 1: Kaf, Ha, Ya, ‘Ayn, Sad.

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

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

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

1) To grab the attention of the listeners.

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

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

4) To prove the inimitable nature of the Quran.

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

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Heart Soothers: Idrees Al Hashemi





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