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Is Ghusl Obligatory Upon The New Muslim? | Abdullah Hasan

Sh. Abdullah Hasan

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Q. When non-Muslims embrace Islam, is ghusl (bathing) obligatory upon them?

The process of becoming a Muslim is very straightforward and undemanding. Allah desires ease for people and does not want to place difficulty on them. If a person has firm yaqeen (conviction) and iman (belief) that Islam is the truth, it is sufficient for that person to declare the two testimonies of faith:

“I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except Allah, and that Muhammad is the final messenger of Allah.”

As soon as the person pronounces these words, believing in them to be true, he or she becomes a Muslim. This is known by necessity in Islam (al-ma’lum min addin bid dharurat) and is agreed upon by all Muslim scholars. The validity of the testimony of faith is not reliant on the individual thereafter performing ghusl (bathing).

Concerning the specific action of ghusl after declaring the testimony of faith, the fuqahaa (jurists) have expressed different opinions which will be discussed below.

There are two main hadiths (traditions) reported from the Prophet (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) pertaining to this issue.

  1. Abu Hurairah reported that Thumamah al-Hanafi was captured. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), passed by him and said, “What do you have to say for yourself, O Thumamah?” He said, “If you kill me, you would be killing a relative. If you give me a bounty (set me free), I would be thankful. If you want wealth (as a ransom), we can give you what you wish.” The companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) preferred the ransom and said, “What would we get if we killed him?” One time when the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) passed by him, he finally embraced Islam. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), untied him and told him to go to the garden of Abu Talhah and perform ghusl. He performed ghusl and prayed two rak’ah. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Indeed, your brother became a fine Muslim.”[1]
  2. On the authority of Qays b. `Asim he said that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) ordered him to perform ghusl using water mixed with the leaves of the lote tree when he embraced Islam.[2]

From these two hadiths (traditions) the fuqahaa (jurists) are divided into three main groups with regards to the ruling of performing ghusl (bathing) after embracing Islam:

A. Ghusl is obligatory – whether the person was a non-Muslim in their origin or relapsed faith and embraced Islam again.

This is the view of the Malikiyyah,[3] the Hanabilah,[4] Abu Thawr,[5] Ibn al-Mundhir,[6] and al-Khattabi.[7]

Ibn Qudama wrote: “If a non Muslim embraces Islam ghusl becomes obligatory upon him, whether he was a non-Muslim in origin or a murtad (the one who relapsed faith), or whether he bathed before or after embracing Islam, and whether – during the period of his non Muslim condition – that which necessitates ghusl was present or not.[8]

Thereafter he cited the hadith (tradition) of Qays b. `Asim in which the Prophet (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) ordered him to perform ghusl after embracing Islam.

An-Nawawi objected to relying on the above traditions to assert that ghusl is obligatory by explaining: “The reply as regards to these two hadiths (traditions) are from two perspectives:

Firstly, the hadiths (traditions) should be understood and interpreted to purport the istihbab (desirability – not obligation) of ghusl by reconciling the various evidence. This is supported by the fact that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) ordered Qays to bathe with water and (also) sidr (lote tree leaves) and we have agreed that using sidr (to bathe) is not an obligation.

Secondly, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) had knowledge that both of them were in a state of janabah (major ritual impurity) because they both had children, and so it was due to that reason he ordered them to perform ghusl, not because they (simply) embraced Islam.”[9]

B. Ghusl is not obligatory – whether he embraced Islam while in the state of janabah (major ritual impurity) or not.

This is the view of the Ahnaaf,[10] and the view of Abu Sai’d al-Istakhri,[11] a muhaqqiq (verifier) of the Shafi’i school of thought.

Ibn al-Humam wrote: “If he (non Muslim) embraces Islam while in the state of janabah (major ritual impurity) there is a disagreement: it is said that it is not obligatory because they are not obliged to fulfil the subsidiary matters of the religion (furu’), and after embracing Islam janabah is not present.”[12]

Al-Mawardi transmitted from Abi Sai’d al-Istakhri that it is not obligatory, which is the view of Abu Hanifah, due to the saying of Allah:

Say to those who have disbelieved [that] if they cease, what has previously occurred will be forgiven for them.’’[13]

And because the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) stated: “Islam cancels out what came before it (of sins).[14]” Furthermore, if ghusl were a condition for adopting Islam, there would have been numerous reported citations about it, owed by the great number of people who embraced Islam. Moreover, when the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was about to send Mu‘adh Ibn Jabal (may Allah be pleased with him) to Yemen, he ordered him to call the people of Yemen to testify that none is worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger. Had ghusl been obligatory, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) would have certainly mentioned that.

However, An-Nawawi disapproved of this justification by stating:

“This reasoning is not justified because there is no disagreement that wudhu  is obligatory upon him. Therefore there is no difference in him urinating then embracing Islam or being in the state of janabah then embracing Islam.

As for the verse and the hadith, their meaning is related to the forgiveness of sins; they (scholars) have agreed that if a dhimmi (non-Muslim living in Islamic state) has an unpaid debt or qisas (laws of retaliation are upon him), embracing Islam does not release him from paying them.

Furthermore, the obligation of ghusl is not made liable by that which necessitates ghusl during the period of disbelief; it is a required condition of the validity of salah (prayer) in Islam. His condition is the state of janabah and salah is not valid in that state. His embracing of Islam does not remove his situation of being in the state of janabah (major ritual impurity).

The answer to the query that they were not ordered to perform ghusl after embracing Islam is that this was something known to them, in the same manner that they were not ordered to perform wudhu because that too was known to them.”[15]

C. The ruling depends on whether the person embracing Islam is in the state of janabah or not.

This group of fuqaha (jurists) affirm that it is obligatory for him to perform ghusl after embracing Islam if he has done so while in the state of janabah. However, if he embraced Islam without being in that state it would be mustahabb (desirable) for him to perform ghusl.

This is the relied upon view in both the Hanafi[16] and the Shafi’i[17] schools of thought.

Ibn al-Humam explained: “Ghusl that is recommended (mustahabb) is the ghusl of a non-Muslim embracing Islam without being in the state of janabah.

If he (non-Muslim) embraces Islam while in the state of janabah (major ritual impurity) there is a disagreement: it is said that it is not obligatory because they are not obliged to fulfil the subsidiary matters of the religion (furu’), and after embracing Islam janabah is not present.

However, the correct view is that it is obligatory because the sifat (properties) of janabah remain after embracing Islam. Therefore, since he is not able to perform that which is obligatory except when it (state of janabah) is removed, performing ghusl becomes obligatory.[18]

An-Nawawi elaborates: “If a non Muslim becomes sexually defiled (janabah) then – before ghusl – he embraces Islam, ghusl becomes obligatory upon him. This is opined by al-Shafi’i which the majority of the school has agreed upon.

And if he embraced Islam without being in the state of janabah, it is desirable for him to bathe, it is not obligatory upon him to bathe without any disagreement amongst us (the Shafi’is). This is the same ruling for a non-Muslim in origin, a murtad (one who relapses faith), a dhimmi (non-Muslim living in Islamic state), and a harbi (non-Muslim combatant).”[19]

The position I personally advocate is the opinion propounded by the Hanafi (in the sound view) and the Shafi’i schools; that if a non-Muslim embraces Islam without being in the state of janabah, it is recommended for him to bathe, though not obligatory. However, if he embraced Islam in the sexually defiled state (janabah) it is obligatory for him to bathe.

This is closest to the general purport of the texts and the maqsad (purpose) of ease and facilitation which the Shar’iah has come to establish. We should not place too much burden upon the new Muslim to bathe as it is not a requirement as clarified above.

Allah knows best.

[1] Musnad Ahmad

[2] Musnad Ahmad, Sunan Abî Dâwûd, Sunan al-Tirmidhi.

[3] Sharh al-Kabir, Hashiyat Dasuqi, 1/130-131

[4] Al-Mughni. 1/174

[5] Ibid, 1/275

[6] Ibid

[7] Al-majmu’, 2/175, Ma’alim al-Sunan, 1/96

[8] Al-Mughbi, 1/275-276, Ma’alim al-Sunan, 1/96

[9] Al-majmu’, 2/175

[10] Fathu al-Qadeer, 1/64

[11] Al-Hawi, 1/265, al-Majmu’, 2/173

[12] Fathu al-Qadeer, 1/64

[13] Anfal:38

[14] Muslim

[15] Al-Majmu’, 2/174

[16] Fathu al-Qadeer, 1/64

[17] Al-Majmu’, 2/173-174

[18] Fathu al-Qadeer, 1/64

[19] Al-Majmu’, 2/173-174

Sh. Abdullah Hasan graduated with an Imam Diploma, BA and Ijaza Aliyah in Islamic Studies [Theology & Islamic Law, taught completely in Arabic] from a European Islamic seminary. He holds a diploma in Arabic from Zarqa Private University (Jordan), studied at the faculty of fiqh wa usuluhu (Jurisprudence and its principles) at the same university while receiving training in various disciplines privately with some of the leading Scholars of Jordan and the Middle East. He studied Chaplaincy at the Markfield Institute of Higher Education (MIHE). He is a Licensed Islamic Professional Counsellor (LIPC), specialising in youth and marriage therapy. In addition, he is a specialist in Zakat and Islamic philanthropic studies. He served, as an Imam, several Muslim communities in the UK. Sh. Abdullah Hasan has enormous interest and passion in the field of community and people development. He has over 10 years of management, leadership and training experience within the third sector. He is the founder of British Imams and Scholars Contributions & Achievement Awards (BISCA), which is a national platform to celebrate, support & nurture positive leadership within the community. The Founder of British Institutes, Mosques & Association Awards (BIMA), which is national platform celebrating the achievements of mosques and Islamic institutions. He also founded Imams Against Domestic Abuse (IADA), an international coalition of leaders to end domestic abuse, and is a member of the National Council of Imams & Rabbis, UK.,

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. WAJiD

    WAJiD

    February 13, 2017 at 4:53 PM

    Asalaam alaikum,

    JazakAllah khairun for this article. While some may think it relatively esoteric, I think it is important that MM is a website that caters to the full spectrum of Muslims and their needs. It is rare to find many instances where multiple viewpoints are presented in such an unbiased manner.

    • Sh. Abdullah Hasan

      Sh. Abdullah Hasan

      February 19, 2017 at 8:27 PM

      AA, @Wajid, thank you for your comments. I very much agree with you.

      @Iman, it is the agreement of all scholars that ghusl is obligatory upon women once their menses stops.

  2. Avatar

    Iman

    February 18, 2017 at 3:39 PM

    Assalaam aleikum,
    What about a woman, who has had menses, but not at the time of embracing Islam, and reciting the Shahada? I am sure a lot of my fellow sisters need an answer to this.
    Jazakallah khairan

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The Spirituality Of Gratitude

Shaykh Tarik Ata

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Gratitude

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

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

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

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

Surah Maryam

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

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

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

The Surah can be divided into 8 sections:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verse 1: Kaf, Ha, Ya, ‘Ayn, Sad.

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

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

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

1) To grab the attention of the listeners.

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

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

4) To prove the inimitable nature of the Quran.

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

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Heart Soothers: Idrees Al Hashemi

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