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Lesson 7 From Surah Al-Kahf

Shaykh Furhan Zubairi



Alhamdulillah last session, we were able to explore and discuss the meanings of verses 32-44. InshAllah, tonight we will be covering the meanings and lessons of verses 45-59. Verses 45-46 give us an example of the temporary nature of this world. Verses 47-49 describe some of the events that will take place on the Day of Judgment. Verses 50-53 discuss the story of Adam and Shaytān. Verses 54-59 discuss a number of topics related to Faith and the Quran.

Verse 45: Give them the parable (example) of the life of this world: It is like water We send down from the sky. Then it mixes with the vegetation of the earth. Then it becomes chaff, scattered by the winds. And Allah is capable of all things.

In these verses, Allah ﷻ gives us an example of the reality of the life of this world and its temporary and fleeting nature to show us its true value. Allah ﷻ wants us to recognize the true value of this life especially in comparison to the life to come. We’re reminded in a very brief yet powerful way that the life of this world is temporary and fleeting; that it will very quickly come to an end. This example highlights and emphasizes the main moral from the story of the man with two gardens that we covered last week.

Allah ﷻ tells the Prophet ﷺ to give his community an example of the life of this world. Tell them “It is like water We send down from the sky. Then it mixes with the vegetation of the earth. Then it becomes chaff, scattered by the winds.” The fleeting nature of this world is similar to plants and vegetation after they have been watered. Allah ﷻ sends down rain from the sky that causes the earth to turn green; it mixes with the vegetation of the earth giving it life, color, and vibrancy. We’re shown a very brief scene of life; the rain causes all these plants to grow. “Then it becomes chaff, scattered by the winds.” Chaff is lifeless matter; something that has no real value that is just scattered and blown away by the wind. That’s exactly how the life of this world is. At one moment it’s vibrant and alive and at the next moment, it will be gone. It doesn’t last. It has an expiration date. The world is just like a field of green crops, a beautiful, lush green garden. Something that brings enjoyment, pleasure, and benefit. But none of these things lasts forever. The crops, the plants, trees, and flowers slowly dry and start to turn yellow. Then it becomes straws like and crumbles. It goes from being something beautiful, useful and pleasing to being something that just blows away in the wind. Allah ﷻ is telling us that’s exactly how the world is. These are all the things we work for and invest in throughout our lives. We run after them, but in the end what happens? All of it ceases to exist. It no longer matters.

The only thing that actually remains is the consequences of our faith. Allah ends the verse by reminding us, “And Allah is capable of all things.” Meaning He has the power to create and the power to bring things to an end. This example of the life of the world has been given in the Quran in a number of different places. For instance, in Surah Yunus, and in Surah Al-Hadīd.

Allah then further clarifies this point by telling us what has true, everlasting value. He does so by contrasting it to what we value most in this world; wealth and children. The contrast between the two is very sharp and is meant to be hard hitting.

Verse 46: “Wealth and children are the adornment of the life of this world, and the everlasting good deeds are of far greater merit in your Lord’s sight and a far better source of hope.”

Wealth and children are two of the most important things that we value in this life; as a matter of fact, they’re probably the most important things in our lives. If we truly think about it the vast majority of our time, energy, resources and thoughts are spent on earning money and taking care of our children. We’re constantly worried about our jobs, salaries, savings, expenses, the mortgage, and the car payment. We’re continuously thinking about our children’s education; what school they’ll go to and what profession they’ll choose. So Allah ﷻ is reminding us that “wealth and children are the adornment of the life of this world”.

The word “zīnah” means beauty, adornment and decoration. Wealth and children have been made attractive and beautiful for us; they capture our attention. Allah ﷻ tells us something similar in Surah Aali ‘Imran, “Made to seem fair unto mankind is the love of passions, among them women, children, hoarded heaps of gold and silver, horses of mark, cattle and tillage. Those are the enjoyments of the life of this world. And Allah, with Him, is the beautiful return.” (3:14) It’s important to note that this isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. Islam doesn’t prevent us from enjoying these things. As a matter of fact, they have been praised elsewhere in the Qur’ān and Hadīth. But it does teach us the correct guidelines and ways in which to enjoy them. They should never take us away or prevent us from fulfilling our true purpose in life. And we’re reminded that just like anything else in this world they too will one day cease to exist. So we shouldn’t be fooled, deceived and tricked by them as well.

Rather we should focus on what is everlasting; those things that will benefit us in this world and more importantly in the next. “And the everlasting good deeds are of far greater merit in your Lord’s sight, and a far better source of hope.” “The everlasting good deeds” includes every single good deed we can think of; whether they’re big or small. This includes all acts of worship such as praying, fasting, giving charity, supplication, and dhikr. It includes being kind to our families, our parents, children, relatives, friends, and neighbors. All of these things “are of far greater merit in your Lord’s sight, and a far better source of hope.” Ibn ‘Abbas raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) mention that the “everlasting good deeds” are the five daily prayers. He also said they are to say SubhanAllah, Alhamdulillah, la ilaha illa Allah and Allahu Akbar. ‘Uthman (ra) said they are to say la ilaha illah Allah, SubhanAllah, Alhamdulillah, Allahu Akbar, and la hawla wa la quwwata illa billah. Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri narrates that the Prophet (saw) said, “Increase the everlasting virtues.” It was said, “What are they O Messenger of Allah?” He said, “Al-Takbeer, al-tahleel, al-tasbeeh, al-tahmeed and la hawla wa la quwwata illa billah.” Abu Darda raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) narrates that the Prophet (saw) said, “SubhanAllah, Alhamdulillah, la ilaha illa Allah, Allahu Akbar and la hawla wa la quwwata illa billah, they are the everlasting good deeds. They shed sins like a tree sheds its leaves and they are from the treasures of Paradise.” ‘Ali raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) said, “Wealth and children are the harvest of the world, and righteous deeds are the harvest of the hereafter. And Allah has gathered both for some people.”

  • المال و البنون حرث الدنيا، و العمل الصالح حرث الآخرة، و قد جمعهما الله لأقوام.

All of these things are more valuable than any material possession. And the rationale behind it is simple and straightforward.

The Surah now transitions into a brief description of some of the events that will take place on the Day of Judgment; that Day when we’ll see the real value of the everlasting deeds.

Verses 47-48: On the Day We will set the mountains in motion, and you will see the earth an open plain. And We will gather them, and leave not one of them behind. They will be arrayed before your Lord in ranks. “Indeed you have come to Us as We created you the first time. Nay, but you claimed that We would never appoint a time for you.”

In these two verses, Allah informs us about four of the scary and frightening things that will take place on that Day. 1) “On the Day We will set the mountains in motion…” Meaning, imagine that day when We will uproot the mountains from their places and pulverize them into fine particles of dust as if they had never existed before. This will be an extraordinary sight; something that will strike terror and fear into the hearts of those who will see it. Mountains are the strongest and largest naturally occurring physical structures that we can see. They’re symbols of strength and stability. But on that day they will be turned into fine particles of dust.

2) “and you will see the earth an open plain.” Meaning, we will see the Earth fully exposed. Nothing will be on it; it will be completely empty. There will be no place for anyone to hide. It will be one big, flat surface without any hills, valleys or mountains.

3) “And We will gather them, and leave not one of them behind.” Every single human being from the beginning of time till the end of time, big and small, young and old, believers and non-believers will be gathered and held accountable for what they did in this world. Allah ﷻ tells us something very similar in Surah Al-Wāqi’ah. Say, “Indeed the former and the later peoples are to be gathered together for the appointment of a known Day.” Allah ﷻ also says in Surah Hūd, “That is a Day for which the people will be collected, and that is a Day [which will be] witnessed.”

4) They will be arrayed before your Lord in ranks. “Indeed you have come to Us as We created you the first time. Nay, but you claimed that We would never appoint a time for you.” All of mankind will be brought in front of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)at once in lines. The commentators mentioned that people will be lined up in rows just as they are for prayer. Each row is occupied by a particular religious community. And then it will be said to them, “Indeed you have come to Us as We created you the first time. Nay, but you claimed that We would never appoint a time for you.” Meaning, just as Allah created humanity and brought them into existence from nothing, Allah will bring them back to life on the Day of Judgment. They will come before Allah ﷻ in the same state that they were created; barefoot, naked and alone without any belongings Just as Allah ﷻ says in Surah Al-An’ām, “Now you have come to Us alone, just as We created you the first time, and you have left behind that which We had bestowed upon you.” Similarly, Aisha raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said, “The people will be assembled on the Day of Resurrection barefoot, naked and uncircumcised.” I said, “O Messenger of Allah! Will the men and the women be together on that Day; looking at one another?” Upon this the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “O Aisha, the matter will be too serious for them to look at one another.”

  • “‏ يُحْشَرُ النَّاسُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ حُفَاةً عُرَاةً غُرْلاً ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قُلْتُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ النِّسَاءُ وَالرِّجَالُ جَمِيعًا يَنْظُرُ بَعْضُهُمْ إِلَى بَعْضٍ قَالَ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏”‏ يَا عَائِشَةُ الأَمْرُ أَشَدُّ مِنْ أَنْ يَنْظُرَ بَعْضُهُمْ إِلَى بَعْضٍ ‏”‏ ‏.‏

In order for them to feel the severity of the day and to create a greater sense of remorse, regret and sorrow it will then be said to them, “Nay, but you claimed that We would never appoint a time for you.” Meaning, you believed that this would never happen; that you would never be resurrected and never meet Allah and now here you are.

The Surah then continues to describe the scene on that day.

Verse 49: And the book will be set down. Then you will see the guilty fearful of what is in it. And they will say, “Oh woe unto us! What a book this is! It leaves out nothing, small or great, save that it has taken it into account.” And they find present therein whatsoever they did. And your Lord wrongs no one.

The “book” in this verse is referring to the book of deeds; the register in which all our deeds, good and bad, big and small, are recorded. This book of deeds serves as a comprehensive witness and record of whatever we say or do in the life of this world. This is the book we’ll receive on the Day of Judgment. Some will receive it in their right hands and others will receive it in their left hands. We ask Allah to make us amongst those who receive it in their right!

When the mujrimūn, the criminals, receive their books they will be extremely fearful of what is in it. They know that their book of deeds is full of sin and disobedience and that there’s no way for them to hide it. They realize that it is a comprehensive and accurate record and they fear the consequences. They feel this severe sense of fear, regret, remorse, embarrassment, helplessness, hopelessness and sorrow. So they will say, “Oh woe to us!” May we be cursed! May we be destroyed because of our negligence, disobedience, and sins. This is the cry of one who is worried, fearing the worst after he has been caught red-handed, unable to evade the results or find any justification. This is because he recognizes the accuracy of the record which puts before his eyes all that he has done. In their frustration, they will say, “What a book this is! It leaves out nothing, small or great, save that it has taken it into account.” This is an expression of absolute amazement and extreme shock. What a book! It hasn’t left our anything, bog or small, good or bad, significant or insignificant, except that it has been recorded in it. They fear both punishment from Allah ﷻ and disgrace in the eyes of other people. “And they find present therein whatsoever they did.” Big or small, good or bad.

Allah ﷻ tells us this elsewhere in the Qur’ān as well. “The Day every soul will find what it has done of good present [before it] and what it has done of evil, it will wish that between itself and that [evil] was a great distance. And Allah warns you of Himself, and Allah is Kind to [His] servants.” “Man will be informed that Day of what he sent ahead and kept back.”

All of this is done from the absolute justice of Allah ﷺ. “And your Lord wrongs no one.” Absolute justice and equality will be established on the Day of Resurrection. No individual will be wronged whatsoever and everyone will receive their rights in full. He will judge between His creatures for all of their deeds, and He will not treat any of His creatures with injustice. He will overlook and forgive and have mercy, and He will punish whomever He wills by His power, wisdom, and justice. He will fill Hell with the disbelievers and those who have been disobedient. Then He will rescue the disobedient, and leave the disbelievers there for eternity. He is the Judge Who never wrongs or oppresses. Allah says: “Surely, Allah wrongs not even of the weight of a speck of dust, but if there is any good, He doubles it…”

  • ﴿إِنَّ اللَّهَ لاَ يَظْلِمُ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ وَإِن تَكُ حَسَنَةً يُضَـعِفْهَا﴾

“And We place the scales of justice for the Day of Resurrection, so no soul will be treated unjustly at all. And if there is [even] the weight of a mustard seed, We will bring it forth. And sufficient are We as Accountant.”

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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