Surah Hud Has Made Me Grow Old

We read the Quran, study it when we can, and memorise portions of it, but how does it impact us? In this piece, we see how Surah Hud affected the Prophet [saw] and the deep relationship he felt with the Quran.

The title of this article comes from a adith.It is a Prophetic narration which amazed me the first time I came across it, and continues to do so every time I reread it. It is in some ways at the essence of an issue I am deeply passionate about; Quranic contemplation. It epitomises for us the way we should be relating to the Qur’an and the nature of our connection to the Speech of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

It also raises a number of difficult questions we need to ask ourselves. What effect does the Qur’an actually have upon us? Do we really spend enough time with the Qur’an? How do we gain that greater relationship with the Book of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)? We read the Quran, study it when we can and memorise portions of it, but how does it impact us? These are questions I often ask myself.

When I analyse my relationship (and what others tell me they too experience) with the Quran and compare it to the connection our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) had with the Quran, I see a wide and deep gulf. There are few narrations which show how deeply the Quran transformed the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) than the one upon which this article is based. It was not just a change or improvement in character and spirituality, but also a physical transformation.

In this adīth, narrated by Abu Juḥayfah, Ibn ‘Abbās and others,[1] Abu Bakr raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) came to the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) one day, and remarked how he looked older. Specifically, the Arabic wording refers to ‘shayb’ which is when one’s hair turns grey and white. This itself is an interesting insight into how closely the Companions paid attention to the minutest detail of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Not only did they notice his actions and memorise his sayings, but they also paid attention to the subtlest of changes. What makes this particular observation more remarkable, is that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) didn’t have more than twenty white hairs in his beard and head by the time of his death.[2] Yet still those extra couple of white hairs did not go unnoticed.

The other interesting point here is how this remark from Abu Bakr raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) is somewhat commonplace. We often say similar things to members of our family and friends, especially when we haven’t seen someone for a length of time. We banter that a friend looks older, their hair has thinned, they’ve put weight on or lost it. Usually in response, that friend will give us a reason as to why they look older or different. Perhaps, they’re stressed at work, they have health issues or maybe their spouse and/or kids have put a strain on them.

However, this was not the response of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Let’s be honest, he had plenty of stressful issues going on. He was a husband, father, friend, imam, leader and military general, all rolled into one. He would have to prepare the Friday sermon, lead the prayers, deal with people’s issues and disputes. He would then return home and support his family, play with his grandchildren and joke with his daughters. He would visit the elderly and ill, spend time with his friends and feed the poor. He would then deal with the threat of Quraysh and others, train his army and deal with the political issues of his time, and much more besides.

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Yet none of the above were used as reasons for his growing old. Instead, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) replied to Abu Bakr raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), “It is Sūrah Hūd and her sisters [i.e. similar chapters] which have me grow old.” In another narration, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) named all the chapters and said, “It is Sūrahs Hūd,[3] Wāqi’ah,[4] Mursalāt,[5] Naba’[6] and Takwīr[7] which have made me grow old.”

I am tempted to end this article here. To leave everyone with this narration, simply to ponder over it and all that it entails. However, I do want to add a few points. Firstly, it shows the level of connection the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) had with the Qur’an. When he read chapters like those mentioned above, which focus on issues of punishment of past nations, the Day of Judgement and Hellfire, he would internalise the verses and imagine himself there.

Secondly, our relationship with the Qur’an cannot just be surface. It can’t be limited to a single inspiring lecture or some amazing recitation. It requires us to imbed the message of the Qur’an within our hearts and imprint its lessons within our bodies. This in turn, requires hard work, dedication and perseverance.

Thirdly, with each passing generation we seem to become slightly more distanced from the Qur’an. The essential need for our children and youngsters to have a solid connection with the Qur’an in all its different forms is so important and vital for the future of our communities. It is our collective responsibility to attempt this.

Finally, unless our mindset changes, we are at risk of having the Qur’an as a Book we respect, honour and love, but that we do not understand. Its lessons, words and verses will remain a mystery to us, its pearls and gems rarely unearthed and its benefits seldom attained. I want to conclude this article with another adīth to show how the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) connection with Sūrah Hūd was not a one-off but a developed relationship.

‘Ā’ishah narrated that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) would become perturbed when he would see clouds and strong winds. She remarked how the people would see these as signs of coming rain and would rejoice, but he would look upset. He said, “O ‘Ā’ishah, How can I be sure it is not punishment? Nations were punished with fierce winds and others saw punishment but thought they were rain clouds.”[8] The nation he refers to as seeing rain clouds were the nation of Hūd 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). Thus, the story of Hūd is internalised to the level it changes the behaviour of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says, “And when they saw it as a cloud approaching their valleys, they said, ‘This is a cloud bringing us rain!’ Rather, it is that for which you were impatient; a wind, within it a painful punishment. Destroying everything by command of its Lord. And they became so that nothing was seen except their dwellings.”[9]

[1] Collected by al-Tirmidhī and others.

[2] For example, see the narration of Anas in al-Bukhārī.

[3] Chapter 11.

[4] Chapter 56.

[5] Chapter 77.

[6] Chapter 78.

[7] Chapter 81.

[8] Al-Bukhārī.

[9] 46:24-25.

 

4 / View Comments

4 responses to “Surah Hud Has Made Me Grow Old”

  1. Amir says:

    Regarding this post, with major depression, unfortunately, I have a severe negative connection with the Quran. Even though I’ve memorized a lot of it from when I was connected to it, when I remember Allah, the depression increases. So while the Quran has made the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم grow old in a positive way, the stress from trying to recite Quran and pray has taken the life out of me and too made me grow old and unable to worship Allah and work and live.

  2. kuen says:

    very timely and important article.Most of us don’t understand what it means to be attached to Quran .

  3. broAhmed says:

    Thank you and jazaakAllaahu khayraa for this reflection.

    One thing this makes me think of: we seem to place a lot of emphasis on our children memorizing the Book of Allaah, but far less on understanding it. I can see the value in memorization when young as it’s often easier to do, but I’d like to see the same emphasis placed on teaching children the Arabic language (whether it take place in sync with memorization or after completion of memorizing the Qur’aan).

    Then again, look who’s talking. I need to learn Arabic myself!

  4. fnaf says:

    Mash’Allah! This story hit home for me! As an African American Muslim, I have personally experienced racism and culturism in muslim communities, in particular where the majority of people are from abroad. Ramadan was hard. The sisters all sat together chatting in Urdu, just ignoring me..I felt very uncomfortable and I attend this masjid regularly. I have come to the conclusion that we African American Muslims need to form our own identity and stop trying to fit in!

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