Alhamdulillah, last lesson we talked a little bit about the virtues, rewards, blessing, and importance of reading the Quran. We also went through a very brief introduction and summary of the Surah as well as some of the narrations regarding the unique virtues of reciting Surah Al-Kahf on Fridays. For example, we learned that reciting the first 10 or last 10 verses of Surah Al-Kahf will protect us from the trials of Dajjal. The Prophet ﷺ said, “Whoever memorizes the first ten verses of Surah Kahf will be protected from the Dajjal.” In another narration, it mentions the last 10 verses.
- عن أبي الدرداء أن نبي الله قال: من حفظ عشر آيات من أول سورة الكهف عُصِمَمِنَالدَّجَّالِ ِ. وفي رِوايةٍ : مِنْ آخِرِ سورةِ الكهفِ ِ.
Today we’ll actually get into the Surah itself. Allah ﷻ starts the Surah in a very beautiful, elegant and eloquent way by teaching us how to be grateful for the infinite blessings of Allah; and more specifically how to express gratitude for the Quran, one of Allah’s greatest gifts to humanity. The opening verses of the Surah deal with the concept of gratitude and give us a brief description of the Qur’ān.
Verses 1-3: (1)Praise be to God, Who sent down the Book unto His servant, and placed no crookedness therein, (2) upright, that he may warn of a great might coming from His Presence and give glad tidings unto the believers who perform righteous deeds that theirs shall be a beautiful reward, (3) wherein they shall remain forever,
The verse starts with the words al-hamdulillah, which is usually translated as “Praise belongs to Allah”, “All praise is due to Allah” or “All praise and thanks are due to Allah.” It is one of five surahs in the Quran that start with these words. The others are Al-Fātihah, Al-An’ām, Saba’, and Fātir.
The word al-Hamd is translated as praise; however, its meaning is much more comprehensive than simply praise. It denotes praising someone with goodness for what they have done consciously as a favor or because of some inherent quality.
- الشكرو الثناء بالجميل على الفعل الصادر بالاختيار من الله تعالى.
Hamd is praise along with acknowledgment of noteworthy qualities and actions done out of genuine love, veneration, reverence, gratitude, and appreciation. It includes extolling Allah ﷻ and giving thanks to Him for all of the favors and blessings He has given us in this world and for the reward that He will give us in the next.
The word hamd has sister terms in Arabic that are very close and similar in meaning such as madh and shukr. Madh is simple praise; when you praise someone or something for noteworthy qualities or actions. Shukr is gratitude; it’s always done as a response to a favor that someone has done for us. Through this lens the word hamd is much more comprehensive than both madh and shukr; madh is too wide in scope and shukr is too narrow
Allah ﷻ is constantly showering us with His blessings, favors and mercy. The reality is that Allah ﷻ has blessed us with an innumerable amount of gifts and blessings; they can’t be quantified. As Allah ﷻ Himself tell us in the Quran, “And if you were to count the blessings of Allah, you would not be able to quantify them. Truly mankind is unjust, ungrateful.” (14:34) Just take our bodies for example. In our eyes and our ability to see, our noses and ability to smell, our ears and ability to hear, our hands and feet and ability to feel, in every joint, every bone, every muscle, every organ, every vein, and every cell are countless blessings. Not only are we unable to count all of these blessings or even imagine them, but we’re also unable to thank Allah ﷻ for them.
So by starting with Alhamdulillah, Allah ﷻ is teaching us how to thank Him and express gratitude to Him.
The Prophet ﷺ said,
“When you say, ‘Praise be to God, Lord of the worlds,’ you will have thanked God and He will increase your bounty.”
- إذا قلت الحمد لله رب العالمين فقد شكرت الله، فزادك.
Similarly, the Prophet ﷺ when supplicating used to say,
“There is no way to enumerate the praise due to You; You are as You have praised Yourself.”
He’s also reminding us that all praise and thanks exclusively belong to Him ﷻ. That’s why the word “hamd” is definite. Even the “al” in the Arabic language carries meaning. One of the meanings it carries is that of istigrāq, or comprehensiveness. Literally every and all types of praise are for Allah. Whenever we praise anything in this world we are ultimately praising Allah because He is the Source of every single thing that exists. The world is made of millions of things that attract our attention and admiration, and if we move beyond what we see physically or materially, we will find in each and every single thing the manifestation of the greatness of Allah. All Praise is exclusively for Allah because He is the one that is showering us with blessings at every single moment of our lives.
Allah ﷻ then tells us one of the infinite reasons why we praise Him. “Who sent down the Book unto His servant, and placed no crookedness therein, (2) upright,” “His servant” is referring to the Messenger of Allah, our master and beloved, Muhammad ﷺ. The title “servant” is the highest spiritual station we can reach as human beings. When attributed to the Prophet ﷺ it’s an honorific title. al-Kitāb, literally the Book, is one of the titles of the Quran. It can mean that which is read as well as that which is written. One of the reasons why it has been called Al-Kitāb is because the Qur’ān is preserved both orally and through writing.
Here Allah ﷻ is reminding us of one of the greatest gifts given to humanity; the Quran.
He reminds as that He is the one who has revealed the Book to Muhammad ﷺ, which is one of the greatest blessing given to mankind. It is one of the greatest blessings because it took mankind from darkness to light. It guides us to the path of eternal salvation. It teaches us how to be successful in the life of this world.
Allah ﷻ then describes the Quran with two descriptions. The first is, “and placed no crookedness therein…” There’s absolutely no crookedness in the Quran. Meaning that the Quran isn’t confusing or difficult to understand. There are no contradictions in it in terms of words or meanings. It is free from all kinds of excess and deficiencies. The Quran is balanced and harmonious. When something is crooked it’s difficult to follow. The Quran is straight and easy to follow. As Allah ﷻ tells us in Surah al-Qamar, “And indeed We have made the Quran easy to remember; so is there any who remembers?” The reason for mentioning this here is to refute the false claims of the people of Makkah that the Qur’ān is poetry, magic, ancient tales or a human composition.
The second is “upright.” Meaning, the Quran is straightforward, perfect in words and meaning, guiding towards the straight path. The Quran can’t be corrupted; it can’t be altered or changed in any way shape or form. It is under the divine protection of Allah ﷻ. As Allah ﷻ tells us in Surah Fussilat, “Falsehood comes not upon it from before it or from behind it; a revelation from the All-Wise, Praised.” (41:42) The word “Qayyim” or upright is used elsewhere in the Quran to describe Islam itself. But here it’s being used to describe the Quran, which emphasizes that there’s no crookedness in it. The word “Qayyim” can also mean a guard or custodian. So the meaning would then be that the Quran is a custodian of all previously revealed scriptures, confirming what’s in them and a witness to their truth. It can also mean that the Quran takes care of the needs of humanity highlighting those things that are beneficial and preventing those things that are harmful.
Allah ﷻ then tells us about two main reasons or objectives behind the revelation of the Quran. “… That he may warn of a great might coming from His Presence and give glad tidings unto the believers who perform righteous deeds that theirs shall be a beautiful reward. One of the objectives of revelation is to warn the disbelievers and give glad tidings to the believers.
1) To warn those who disbelieve in the book about a severe punishment from Allah both in this world and the next. 2) To give good news to the believers, those who believe in the Quran, and have affirmed their faith with good deeds, that for them is a good reward, which is Paradise. They will live in Paradise forever.
Warning and giving glad tidings was the responsibility of every single Prophet and Messenger that was sent to humanity. To warn humanity about the dangers and consequences of disbelief and to give humanity the glad tidings of forgiveness, grace, mercy, reward and paradise for those who believe. Allah ﷻ tells us, “Mankind was one community; then Allah sent the prophets as bearers of glad tidings and as warners.” Allah ﷻ tells us about the Prophet ﷺ, “O Prophet! Truly We have sent you as a witness, as a bearer of glad tidings and as a warner, as one who calls unto God by His leave and as a luminous lamp.” (33:45)
Allah ﷻ then makes the warning specific to a certain group of disbelievers, those who said that Allah ﷻ has a child.
Verses 4-5: (4) and that He may warn those who say, “God has taken a child.” (5) They have no knowledge thereof, nor do their forefathers. A monstrous word it is that issues from their mouths. They speak naught but a lie.
This verse is referring to 3 specific groups of people 1) Mushrikoon 2) Christians 3) Jews. The Mushrikūn of Makkah believed that angels were the daughters of Allah ﷻ. The Christians claimed that ‘Isa (as) was the son of God and some Jews claimed that ‘Uzair was the son of God. The reason why Allah specified these three groups is to show that this is the worst type of disbelief. It is considered to be one of the worst types of disbelief because there is no evidence for it whatsoever; it’s based off pure ignorance. “They have no knowledge thereof, nor do their forefathers.” Basically, they’re blindly following the religion, customs and traditions of their forefathers without questioning them whatsoever. They’re not using their minds and thinking on their own.
Throughout the Qur’ān Allah ﷻ encourages us to use our intellect to recognize the truth. Blindly following one’s parents and grandparents in terms of religious practices has been looked down upon. In addition to that to ascribe a child to Allah ﷻ is blasphemous; it’s a huge claim to make without any proof. “A monstrous word it is that issues from their mouths. They speak naught but a lie.” To say something like that is a big deal; it carries a lot of weight and sin. It’s literally a monstrosity that’s coming out of their mouths and it’s an absolute lie that has no reality to it whatsoever. This concept of God having a child has been categorically rejected in several places throughout the Qur’ān.
The Surah now turns to console and comfort the Prophet ﷺ telling him not to worry and be so sad about the continual disbelief of his people. This is an extremely beautiful aspect of the Qur’ān. The Lord of the worlds consoles and comforts the last and final Messenger through revelation. The Prophet ﷺ had extreme concern and care for his people; he wanted every single person to achieve eternal salvation. The Makkan period of Prophethood was full of difficulty and hardships. The Prophet ﷺ was mocked, ridiculed, harassed and abused both verbally and physically. His Companions faced verbal and physical persecution. These difficulties definitely had an effect on the psyche, moral and emotions of both the Prophet and His companions. The Prophet ﷺ would feel concern, grief, sorrow and sadness at the fact that his own people are rejecting him and his message. Throughout Makkan revelation we find Allah ﷻ consoling, comforting and reassuring the Prophet ﷺ; reminding him to be strong, patient and steadfast. Not to worry about the reaction of his people and to place his trust fully in Allah ﷻ.
Verse 6: Perhaps you would destroy yourself with grief for their sake, should they believe not in this account.
Allah ﷻ is comforting and consoling the Prophet ﷺ; don’t be so sad, distraught and depressed. Don’t grieve out of sorrow for them if they refuse to accept the message. Your responsibility is to simply convey the message. They are then responsible for their own decisions. If they accept the truth then they will be benefitting themselves and if they reject it then they will only be harming themselves.
The Surah Kahf then reminds the readers and listeners about the reality of the life of this world. Allah ﷻ informs us about the mortal, fleeting nature of this world. That this world is a place of tests and trials; it is not permanent.
Verses 7-8: (7) Surely We made whatsoever is on the earth an adornment for it, that We may try them as to which of them is most virtuous indeed. (8) And surely We shall make whatsoever is upon it a barren plain.
In this verse in Surah Kahf, Allah ﷻ is telling us that every single thing on this Earth is a type of adornment or beautification; it’s meant to attract us. That’s the purpose of adornment and beautification; to attract and draw a person’s attention towards it. The adornment of this world is a huge distraction for us as human beings from our true purpose in life. The dunya, material wealth and possessions, enjoyment and pleasure are a test for us as human beings. Allah is testing us to show those who are the most virtuous in terms of deeds.
The idea of the dunya as a distraction and test is something that has been explained throughout the Qur’ān. In several places, Allah ﷻ reminds us to not be fooled and deceived by the pleasures and enjoyments of this world. Similarly, the Prophet ﷺ told us,
- «إِنَّ الدُّنْيَا حُلْوَةٌ خَضِرَةٌ، وَإِنَّ اللهَ مُسْتَخْلِفُكُمْ فِيهَا فَنَاظِرٌ مَاذَا تَعْمَلُونَ، فَاتَّقُوا الدُّنْيَا، وَاتَّقُوا النِّسَاءَ، فَإِنَّ أَوَّلَ فِتْنَةِ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ كَانَتْ فِي النِّسَاء»
“This world is sweet and green, and Allah makes you generations succeeding one another, so He is watching what you will do. Beware of (the beguilements of) this world and beware of women, for the first affliction that Children of Israel suffered from was that of women.” Allah ﷻ ends the verse by reminding us that this world is temporary and will eventually come to an end.
“And surely We shall make whatsoever is upon it a barren plain.
The Spirituality Of 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). 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.
 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
Lessons From Surah Maryam: 1
Alhamdulillah, it’s a great blessing of Allah 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 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 . 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 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 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 mentions the story of Maryam (as) and her family and how she gave birth to Isa 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 , 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 . 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 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 , 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 , Ismail and Idrees 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 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 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 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 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 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 starts the Surah by saying,
Verse 1: Kaf, Ha, Ya, ‘Ayn, Sad.
Allah 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 alone knows the meanings of these letters. They are a secret from amongst the secrets of Allah , meaning that no one knows what they truly mean. Only Allah 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 . 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 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 . Zakariyya 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.