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Lesson 6 From Surah Al-Kahf

Shaykh Furhan Zubairi



Alhamdulillah last session, we were able to discuss the meanings of verses 27-31. InshAllah tonight we’ll be exploring the meanings of verses 32-44. Just as a quick reminder in the last set of verses the Surah dealt with some issues of general guidance. We were reminded:

1) to remain constant and steadfast in reciting and following the Quran

2) to keep the company of those who recite and study the Quran even if they may be poor

3) That the truth is only from Allah

4) describes the punishment of the non-believers 4) describes the reward of the believers.

The next set of verses, verses 32-44, discuss the story of two people, a rich man who was fooled by his wealth and a poor man who was honored for his conviction and belief, and the conversation they had with one another. In this set of verses, Allah ﷻ has given us an example of a rich non-believer who was fooled by his wealth, and a poor believer who was guided through his belief. Through this example Allah ﷻ shows us that wealth isn’t the true source of pride or honor; rather belief and obedience of Allah brings pride, honor, and respect. The first man thinks he’s extremely powerful because of the wealth he has and that causes him to forget about the Supreme Power who controls everything in a person’s life. The other is a believer who values his faith. He always remembers Allah realizing that the blessings he has are a gift from him. He recognizes the importance of praising Allah and gratitude.

Now, who exactly were these two men? There are two different reports. One mentions that they were two brothers from the people of Makkah from the tribe of Banu Makhzūm. According to Ibn ‘Abbas raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) they were two brothers from Bani Israel; one was a believer, the other a non-believer. They inherited 8,000 dinars from their father that they split in half. The non-believer bought land, gardens and invested his wealth. The believer spent his money on charity. The story goes that the nonbelieving brother purchased some land for a 1,000 dirhams so the believing brother said, “O Allah so and so purchased land for a 1,000 and I’m purchasing land from you in Paradise for a 1,000.” So he gave a 1,000 in charity.

The second brother built a house, 3) marriage 4) servants and possessions… then the believing brother was afflicted with severe need and poverty.

Verses 32-33: “Give them an example (the parable) of two men. We gave one of them two gardens of grapevines, and surrounded both of them with date palms, and placed crops between them. Both the gardens brought forth their fruit and suppressed nothing from it, and We caused a stream to flow through them.”

Allah ﷻ is telling his Prophet ﷺ to give this example, this parable, of two men to the rich and powerful of Makkah and those similar to them who refused to accept his message. The example starts by describing the wealth of the non-believer. He was given two gardens filled with grape vines. Both of these gardens were surrounded by date palms. In between these gardens were farms. There were also streams flowing through these gardens. This land was extremely fertile so the gardens, farms and date palms produced a lot of produce. Not only did he own this beautiful land and these amazing gardens and farms, but he was also given a lot of other wealth.

Verse 34: And he had [abundant] fruit (wealth) So, he said to his companion while conversing with him, “I am greater than you in wealth and stronger in manpower.””

“And he had wealth.” Gold and silver. All of this wealth, all of these material goods caused him to become arrogant, filled with pride. He was fooled and deceived by his wealth, just as we see so many rich people fooled by their wealth. Full of arrogance and pride he told his brother that I’m more well off than you and I have more servants, workers, and children than you. Basically, he was showing off (look at my crib, look at my car, look at my clothes). His arrogance, pride and wealth blinded him to such an extent that he became extremely ungrateful and heedless. So much so that he denied that this world would come to an end and he denied the Day of Judgment.

Verses 35-36: And he entered his garden while he was doing wrong to himself. He said, “I do not think that this will ever perish, and I do not think that the Hour (Day of Judgment) has to come. And even if I am sent back to my Lord, I will surely find a better place than this to resort to.”

Allah ﷻ is actually describing the scene to us to make it more real and relatable. This man entered his garden while conversing with his brother. He was talking about his wealth and material possessions and looking down upon and belittling his brother. He’s described as “wronging himself” because of his disbelief, arrogance, and denial of resurrection. He primarily wronged himself through his ingratitude; his pride and refusal to acknowledge that his provision, wealth, properties, gardens and children are a gift from Allah. The abundance of his material possessions fooled, tricked and deceived him into believing that they will never perish. “I don’t think that any of this will perish.” All of these things that I have, these gardens, crops, gold, and silver will last forever. He became heedless or neglectful of the impermanence of all created things and his own mortality. “I don’t believe that there is a Day of Judgment.”

The reason why he is described as wronging himself is that he should have been thanking Allah ﷻ for all of these blessings, instead, he was ungrateful. He denied that a Creator even existed. He thought that all of these material blessings were a sign that if there was a Lord or Creator he must be extremely liked by him. If he weren’t then the Creator would not have given him so many things. That having wealth and power was a sign of being honored and having a high station in the sight of Allah. So if there were a day of judgment or a hereafter then he would be given more there than he was given here in the world. “And even if I am sent back to my Lord, I will surely find a better place than this to resort to.” His brother, recognizing the ignorance, shallowness, and ridiculousness of his argument, answered him saying,

Verses 37-38: His companion said to him as he conversed with him, “Do you deny the One who created you from dust, then from a drop (of semen), then fashioned you as a man? But He is Allah, my Lord, and I ascribe no one as a partner to Him.

This is a very beautiful response given by the less well to do brother. He responds to him asking him in astonishment and amazement, “Do you really deny the One who created you from dust, then a drop and then fashioned you as a man?” This question is meant as a maw’idha, a reminder or a heart softener; something that’s supposed to move the heart of his brother. How in the world can you deny the existence of the One who is the source of all your wealth, the One who gave you these amazing blessings, the One who brought you into existence? He declares his firm belief and commitment to Allah. “But He is Allah, my Lord, and I ascribe no one as a partner to Him.” He continues advising and counseling his brother reminding him how his attitude should be towards all of these blessings. The attitude of faith, submission, recognition, and obedience.

Verses 39-41: When you entered your garden, why did you not say, ‘[This is] as Allah wills. There is no strength save in Allah.’ If you see that I am less than you in wealth and children, (40) it may be that my Lord will give me something better than your garden, and unleash against it a reckoning from the sky, so that it becomes a flattened plain. (41) Or its water may sink deep so that you cannot seek after it.

He’s telling his brother that instead of being full of pride, boastful, conceited and arrogant he should’ve been grateful, thankful and appreciative to Allah ﷻ. He should’ve thanked and praised Allah ﷻ by saying, “As Allah wills, there is no strength except with Allah.” This is an expression of gratitude and humility. By saying this he would’ve shown thanks to Allah for his wealth, children and properties and at the same time would be recognizing that all of it is from Allah. These are two very important phrases that we as Muslims are encouraged to learn and say often. Anytime we see something that we like or think is beautiful and amazing we should say, “As Allah wills, there is no strength except with Allah.” This is a very common phrase in our everyday speech and it indicates a recognition that nothing happens outside of the will of Allah ﷻ.

“There is no strength except with Allah” is also a common phrase that we use, which acknowledges that we can’t achieve or do anything without the help of Allah. It’s also used when we feel helpless in the face of some difficulty or hardship. It’s also considered to be a treasure from the treasures of Paradise. Abu Musa raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said to him, “Shall I not direct you to a treasure from the treasures of Paradise? It’s to say there is no power or strength except with Allah.” Ibn Kathīr mentions that this verse is the source of our practice and custom of saying “As Allah wills” whenever we are pleased with something. Anas raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said, “Whoever sees something they like should say, “As Allah wills, there is no strength except with Allah.” Then nothing will harm it.

After counseling and explaining to his brother what the right attitude should be towards wealth and material possessions, he responds to his boasts and claims. “If you see that I am less than you in wealth and children, (40) it may be that my Lord will give me something better than your garden.” He tells him that if you consider me to be less well off than you in this world in terms of wealth and children, then I hope that my situation will be different in the hereafter because of my faith. He believes that Allah ﷻ will reward him with something much better than the garden of his brother in the life to come because of his faith and humility. He then warns him of the transient and temporary nature of the life of this world. That one day you could have all of these amazing and wonderful things and the next day it could be gone. “And unleash against it a reckoning from the sky, so that it becomes a flattened plain. (41) Or its water may sink deep so that you cannot seek after it.” It’s possible that some sort of calamity, torrential rains, a storm or any other natural disaster can come from the sky and completely destroy the gardens leaving it without any growth or vegetation. The land will become a “flattened plain” barren and dead. Or it’s possible that the water from the springs will sink deep into the earth and you won’t be able to access it leaving your gardens to slowly wither and die.

Syed Qutb while commenting on these verses writes, “This is an example of how faith makes a believer very powerful. He does not care for wealth, might, or arrogance. He states the truth clearly, without hesitation or cowardice. There is no room for bending the truth in order to please anyone, be that a friend or someone mighty. A believer feels that he is far higher than all power and wealth. What God has for him is far superior to any riches or pleasures this life may bring. God’s grace is all that he seeks, and His grace is plentiful and always available. On the other hand, God’s punishment is severe and could befall the arrogant at any time.”

The surah then tells us that the warning of his brother actually came true. Allah sent down some type of punishment, a storm or something else, that completely destroyed all of his wealth and belongings.

Verse 42: And his fruit was encompassed. So he began to wring his hands on account of what he had spent on it while it lay in waste upon its trellises saying, “Would that I had not ascribed anyone as partner to my Lord!”

“And his fruit was encompassed…” Meaning his wealth, property and gardens were encompassed by ruin; they were completely destroyed. Allah describes it as “it lay in waste upon its trellises”. And when he saw his possessions destroyed before his eyes and how he wasn’t able to do anything about it, he realized his faults. He started showing remorse, sorrow, and sadness. He began to wring his hands as a sign of remorse, sorrow, and regret. He now realizes that what his brother said was true and he is repentant for having associated partners with Allah ﷻ. “Would that I had not ascribed anyone as partner to my Lord!”

The Surah concludes this story or example by declaring in all clarity that all protection comes from Allah: all power belongs to Him; all support comes from Him; His Reward is the best reward; what He stores for us is best and everlasting

Verses 43-44: And he had no party to help him except for Allah; nor could he help himself. (44) There, protection belongs to Allah, the Real. He is best in reward and best in requital.

Despite his claims of power and strength at this time of loss and destruction, he finds himself absolutely helpless. There’s no group, party or children to help him except for Allah. He couldn’t even help himself. And it’s at that specific moment that he realizes that all protection comes from Allah; all might, power, authority, support and decision making belong to Him alone. “There, protection belongs to Allah, the Real.” Allah alone is the Walī, the Protector and He is the Truth. “He is best in reward and best in requital.”

This story is a clear reminder of the difference between true belief and disbelief. A true believer is concerned about the life to come and the disbeliever is consumed with this life. This story is a powerful reminder of the reality of the life of this world. Through this story, we’re reminded that the life of this world is temporary. That you and I, we’re, not going to be here forever. We’re made to realize that this world is temporary and fleeting. That it will eventually come to an end. And that the life to come, the life of the hereafter, is a life of eternity.

This is a message that is echoed and emphasized in several places throughout the Qur’ān. “O my people, this worldly life is only [temporary] enjoyment, and indeed, the Hereafter – that is the home of [permanent] settlement.” (40:39) “Say, The enjoyment of this world is little, and the Hereafter is better for he who fears Allah.” (4:77) “But you prefer the worldly life, while the Hereafter is better and more enduring.” (87:16-17) The Qur’ān constantly reminds us not to be fooled, tricked and deceived by the life of this world. “And what is the life of this world except the enjoyment of delusion?” (3:185) “O mankind, indeed the promise of Allah is truth, so let not the worldly life delude you and be not deceived about Allah by the Deceiver.” (35:5)

One of the most consuming and powerful diseases of the heart is love of the world. The Prophet ﷺ told us, “Love of the world is the origin of every sin.” The Prophet ﷺ also told us, “The life of the world is sweet and green. Allah makes you generations succeeding one another so that He may try you in respect of your actions. So beware of the beguilements of the world and those of women. The first trial of Banu Israel was through women.”

  • ‏ إن الدنيا حلوة خضرة، وإن الله مستخلفكم فيها فينظر كيف تعملون، فاتقوا الدنيا واتقوا النساء؛ فإن أول فتنة بني إسرائيل كانت في النساء‏”‏ ‏(‏‏(‏رواه مسلم‏)‏‏)‏‏.‏


Shaykh Furhan Zubairi serves as the Director of Religious Education at the Institute of Knowledge in Diamond Bar, CA. He regularly delivers khutbahs and lectures at various Islamic Centers and events in southern California.

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The Spirituality Of Gratitude

Shaykh Tarik Ata




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

What Does Shukr Mean?

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

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

Gratitude in Knowing That Allah Loves Us

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

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

Blessings Even in Hardship

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

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

Allah knows best.

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

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

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

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

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

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Lessons From Surah Maryam: 1

Shaykh Furhan Zubairi



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

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

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

Surah Maryam

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

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

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

The Surah can be divided into 8 sections:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verse 1: Kaf, Ha, Ya, ‘Ayn, Sad.

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

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

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

1) To grab the attention of the listeners.

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

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

4) To prove the inimitable nature of the Quran.

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

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