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Surah Hud Has Made Me Grow Old




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.

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.


Shaykh Ahsan Hanif, PhD, was born and raised in Birmingham, UK. He memorised the Qur’an at a young age and at the age of 17 received a scholarship to study at the Islamic University of Madinah, Saudi Arabia. As well as attaining an ijazah in the Qur’an and a diploma in Arabic, Shaykh Ahsan graduated from the Faculty of Shari’ah Studies in 2006. Upon his return to the UK he attained his PhD from the University of Birmingham. He is currently an imam at Green Lane Masjid, Birmingham as well as the head of the Qur’an & Hadith Studies Department for AlMaghrib Institute. He has spoken at Islamic conferences in various countries, published translations of Arabic works and is a presenter of IslamQA for Islam Channel.



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    August 28, 2017 at 11:48 AM

    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.

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    August 28, 2017 at 1:17 PM

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

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    August 28, 2017 at 5:40 PM

    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. Avatar


    March 29, 2018 at 11:28 PM

    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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    November 2, 2018 at 2:20 PM

    SubhanAllah! Loved all the reminders. Thank you for sharing your reflections with us.

    first and last comments made me sad though! Sister fnaf, I am a Pakistani living in Cincinnati and I make sure that I sit with those who are sitting alone in the mosque. Also not everyone from Pakistan is comfortable speaking English so that could be one reason? And I hope that someday you are able to share your concern with those Urdu speaking sisters. May be they did it unintentionally? Having said all this, I have to agree with you that no one should go through the struggles of trying to fit in! I hope and pray that your problems are solved! Ameen

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14 Short Life Lessons From Studying Aqidah

Lessons I learned Studying Theology (Aqidah) with a Local Islamic Scholar in Jordan

Hamzah Raza



I sit here in the Jordanian heat, with a kufi on and prayer beads in my hand. I watch as young kids play soccer with their kufis and kurtas on in the streets. They go on and on until the Adhan interrupts their game. I think of how different the kids back home in the United States are. Due to the rules for living in this quaint Jordanian neighborhood, the kids are not allowed to play video games, use social media, or watch television. This is the Kharabsheh neighborhood on the outskirts of Amman, Jordan.

I have spent the past two months living in this community. It is a community so similar to, yet so different from any community I have ever lived in. In many ways, it is just like any other community. People joke around with one another, invite people over for dinner, have jobs, go to the gym, and do other pervasive events of everyday life. But in many other respects, the community is different from most in the world today. Many of those living here are disciples (mureeds) in the Shadhili Sufi order. Sufism has faced a bad reputation in many parts of the world today. The stereotype is that Sufis are either not firm in their commitment to religious law (Sharia), or lax in their understanding of Islamic theology (aqidah). Far from the stereotype, I have never met any people in my life more committed to the Sharia. Nor have I ever met people so committed to staying true to Islamic orthodoxy. Just in seemingly mundanes conversations here in Kharabsheh, I find myself learning a plethora of life lessons, whether that be in regard to Islamic jurisprudence, the ontology of God, or the process of purifying one’s heart.

I have compiled a list of a few lessons I learned in studying an elementary aqidah (theology) text with a disciple of Shaykh Nuh, who is a scholar of theology and jurisprudence in himself. Without further adieu, here are some of the lessons I learned.

1) If you want to know the character of a man, ask his wife. People may think someone is great, but his wife will tell you how he actually is. One of the greatest proofs of the prophethood of the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is that he had 11 wives over his lifespan and they all died upon Imaan (faith).

2) Humans are never static. We are always incrementally changing. No one changes in anything overnight. People are either gradually getting better, or gradually getting worse. Every day, you should sure that you are always improving. Do not get worse. If you only pray your Fard(mandatory) prayers, start to pray Sunnah(recommended prayers). If you are already praying your Sunnah prayers, improve the quality of your prayer or pray nafl (optional prayers).

3) Hope in the Mercy of God, and fear of His Justice, are two wings that we need to balance. If one has too much hope, they will become complacent and think they can refuse to follow God’s rules, and do whatever they want, because God is Merciful. If one has too much fear, they will give up. They will inevitably sin (as all humans do), and lose all motivation to better themselves.

4) The believer has great hope in the Mercy of God, while also great fear in His Justice. It is an understanding of “If everyone were to enter Heaven except for one person, I would think that person is me. And if everyone were to enter Hell except for one person, I would think that person is me.”

5) Whether we do something good or bad, we turn to God. If we do something good, we thank God (i.e. say Alhamdulillah). If we do something wrong, we turn back to God(i.e. say Astagfirullah and/or make tawbah).

6) Everyone should have a healthy skepticism of their sincerity. Aisha (May God be pleased with her) said: “Only a hypocrite does not believe that they are a hypocrite.”

7) You are fighting a constant war of attrition with your carnal desires. Your soul (ruh) and lower self (nafs) battle it out until one party stops fighting. Either your soul gives up and lets your carnal desires overtake you, or your carnal desires cease to exist (i.e. when your physical body dies). Wage war on your carnal desires for as long as you live.

life lessons, aqidah

8) The sign of guidance is being self-aware, constantly reflecting and taking oneself to task. The evidence of this is repenting, and thinking well of others. If we find ourselves making excuses for our actions, refusing to repent for sins, or thinking badly of others, we need to change that.

9) The issue with religious people is that they are often tribalistic and exclusivist. The issue with secular people is that they often have no clear meaning in life, and are ignorant of what lies beyond our inevitable death. One should be able to cultivate this meaning without being tribalistic or arrogant towards others, who have not yet been given guidance.

10) There are philosophical questions regarding free will and determinism. But it is ultimately something that is best understood spiritually. An easy first step is to understand the actions of others as predetermined while understanding your response as acts of free will. This prevents one from getting too angry at what others do to them.

11) Always think the best of the beliefs of other Muslims. Do not be in a rush to condemn people as heretics or kuffar. Make excuses for people, and appreciate the wisdom and experiences behind those who may be seemingly strange in their understanding of things.

12) Oftentimes, people get obsessed with the problems of society and ignore the need to change themselves. We are not political quietists. But we recognize that if you want to turn society around, the first step is to turn yourself around.

13) Do not slam other individuals’ religious beliefs. It leads to arrogance and just makes them more defensive. If you are discussing theology with non-Muslims, be kind to them, even if pointing out flaws in their beliefs. People are more attracted to Islam through people of exemplary character than they are through charismatic debaters or academics that can tear them apart. As my teacher put it rather bluntly, “Don’t slam Christians on the Trinity. No one can actually explain it anyways.”

14) In the early period of Islam, worshipping God with perfection was the default. Then people strayed away and there was a need to coin this term called “Sufism.” All it means is to have Ihsan (perfection or beauty) in the way you worship God, and in the way you conduct each and every part of your life.

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Ten Things You Didn’t Know About The Kaaba- Video

Dr Muhammad Wajid Akhter




Every Muslim knows the Kaaba, but did you know the Kaaba has been reconstructed several times? The Kaaba that we see today is not exactly the same structure that was constructed by Prophets Ibrahim and Ismail, may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon them. From time to time, it has needed rebuilding after natural and man-made disasters.

Watch to learn ten things that most people may not know about the Ka’aba, based on the full article Ten Things You Didn’t Know About the Ka’aba.

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Eid Lameness Syndrome: Diagnosis, Treatment, Cure




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Host an open house

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

Expand your circle

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


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

Squeeze in

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

Outsource Eid Fun

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

Flock together

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

Give gifts

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

Get out of your comfort zone

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

Try, try, try again…

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

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

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