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Lesson 8 From Surah Al-Kahf

Verse 50-53

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Alhamdulillah, it truly is a great blessing to be back after the last session. May Allah ﷻ accept this small effort of ours, place it on our scale of good deeds on the Day of Judgment and make it a means of us getting closer to the Qur’ān. As all of you know, by the grace of Allah ﷻ, I was given the opportunity to perform Hajj once again this year. I ask Allah ﷻ to accept the Hajj of all those who performed it this year and make them a blessing for the entire Ummah.

Hajj is simply amazing. It’s an experience that really can’t be captured in words. For those of you who haven’t gone yet, may Allah ﷻ give you the opportunity to go as soon as possible. Hajj is a huge source of blessing and virtue in a person’s life and perhaps the greatest act of worship and submission in Islam. As the Prophet ﷺ told us, “There’s no reward for an accepted/righteous hajj except for Paradise.”

In our last session, we covered the meanings of verses 45-49. InshAllah, tonight we’ll explore the meanings and lessons of verses 50-53. As a quick reminder, a quick refresher, the last set of verses gave us a very powerful and profound example of the reality of the life of this world. 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. And that the life to come, the life of the hereafter, is a life of eternity. The Qur’ān wants to change our perspective; it wants to change the way we view the material world. It wants us to recognize that the material is impermanent; whereas, belief and righteous deeds are permanent.

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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. Rather we should focus on what is everlasting; those things that will benefit us in this world and more importantly in the next. The passage ended with a brief description of some events that will take place on the Day of Judgment.

Now the Surah transitions into the story of Adam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and Shaytan’s refusal to prostrate to him. This particular story is mentioned in the Quran a number of times. For example, it’s mentioned in Surah Al-Baqarah, Surah Al-‘Araf, Surah Al-Hijr, and Surah Sād. However, each time it is mentioned for a different reason; for a different purpose. The story is mentioned very briefly here as an admonition to the wealthy and proud Makkans, reminding them that Satan’s refusal to prostrate before Adam (as) was based similarly on pride and a false sense of superiority. Allah ﷻ is highlighting the parallels between their attitudes towards Islam and the Muslims and the attitude of Satan.

Verse 50: “(Remember) when We said to the angels, “Prostrate before ’Adam.” So, they prostrated themselves, all of them but Iblīs (Satan). He was of the Jinn, so he rebelled against the command of his Lord. Will you then take him and his progeny as protectors apart from Me, though they are an enemy to you? How evil an exchange for the wrongdoers!

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is reminding us of the enmity of Shaytan, that just as he was an enemy to Adam he is also our enemy. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is telling His Messenger to remind people of when He subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) ordered all of the Angels to prostrate to Adam out of respect and honor. So all of the Angels immediately fell in prostration except for Iblīs, who was amongst the Jinn. He refused to prostrate before Adam because he was fooled by his own arrogance and pride.

Before his fall from grace, Iblīs was a devoted servant of Allah. He was so special that he was granted permission to attend the gatherings of the Angels. The main reason why Shaytan didn’t prostrate is arrogance, pride, and jealousy. He thought he was better than Adam because he was created from fire whereas Adam was created from clay. His pride, arrogance, and jealousy caused him to disobey Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Pride, arrogance, haughtiness, thinking we’re better than others is one of the most dangerous diseases of the heart.

The word for pride in Arabic is Kibr. Linguistically the word الكبر is derived from the root letters ك ب ر , which convey the meaning of growth, either in mass or age. When a person is arrogant or prideful they glorify themselves and think of themselves as someone great or important. An Arabic word that is synonymous to الكبر is التكبر.

As a spiritual disease scholars throughout history have tried to capture its reality through a number of definitions. First and foremost the Prophet ﷺ defined الكبر as, “denial of the truth and dislike for others.”

  • “الكبر بطر الحق، و غمط الناس.”
  • الزبيدي: حالة يتخصص بها الإنسان من إعجابه بنفسه، و أن يرى نفسه أكبر من غيره.

Al-Zubaidi defined it as, “A state or condition where a person thinks good of themselves (admires themselves) and they consider themselves to be better than others.”

  • الغزالي: استعظام النفس، و رؤية قدرها فوق قدر الغير.

Imām Ghazāli defines it as self-aggrandizement and thinking your better than others.

  • استعظام الإنسان نفسه، و استحسان ما فيه من الفضائل، و الإستهانة بالناس، و استصغارهم، و الترفع على من يجب التواضع له.

Al-Jāhidh: “When a person thinks highly of themselves (self-aggrandizement), considers their qualities to be good, belittles others, and behaves arrogantly with one whom they should be humble with.” Imām Al-Ghazāli says, “The reality of arrogance is that you see yourself as being superior to others in possessing attributes of perfection (list some). So there occurs in you haughtiness and a delightful sensation from this view and belief…”

Kibr is basically thinking that we’re better than others because of our knowledge, wealth, lineage, race, color, power, strength or language.

In the Ihyā, Imām Al-Ghazāli writes very beautifully, “Arrogance/Pride is an extremely grave calamity. Through it, distinguished people are destroyed. Rarely are worshippers, ascetics, and scholars free from it, let alone normal people. How can it not be a grave calamity when the Prophet ﷺ said, “No one who has an atom’s weight of arrogance in his heart will enter Paradise.” It’s a barrier in front of Paradise because it separates between a person and all the characteristics of true believers. Those characteristics are the gates to paradise and arrogance closes all of those gates. Because a person who has arrogance is unable to love for the believer what they love for themselves. An arrogant person is compelled to have all the blameworthy traits to protect his pride. There isn’t a praiseworthy characteristic except that they’re unable to adopt it out of fear of losing their honor…”

He also writes, “Arrogance bars you from the entirety of praiseworthy manners, because the proud person is not capable of loving for people what he loves for himself. Nor is he capable of modesty, or leaving disdain, envy or anger. Likewise, he’s incapable of concealing rage, giving good counsel or leaving ostentation. On the whole, there does not remain any bad trait except that the arrogant person is compelled to perpetrate it, and there does not remain any good trait except that he is compelled to leave it.”

The most villainous and evil individuals throughout history were filled with arrogance and false pride: Satan, Fir’awn, the enemies of the Prophet ﷺ and every single tyrant throughout history. Perhaps that’s why there are so many verses of the Qur’ān and narrations from the Prophet ﷺ that condemn pride and arrogance. For example, the Prophet ﷺ said, “He who has in his heart the weight of a mustard seed of pride shall not enter Paradise.” A person (amongst his hearers) said: “Verily a person loves that his dress should be fine, and his shoes should be fine.” He (the Holy Prophet) remarked: “Verily, Allah is Graceful and He loves Grace. Pride is to disdain the truth (out of self-conceit) and have contempt for the people.” (Muslim)

  • عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ مَسْعُودٍ، عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏”‏ لاَ يَدْخُلُ الْجَنَّةَ مَنْ كَانَ فِي قَلْبِهِ مِثْقَالُ ذَرَّةٍ مِنْ كِبْرٍ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ رَجُلٌ إِنَّ الرَّجُلَ يُحِبُّ أَنْ يَكُونَ ثَوْبُهُ حَسَنًا وَنَعْلُهُ حَسَنَةً ‏.‏ قَالَ ‏”‏ إِنَّ اللَّهَ جَمِيلٌ يُحِبُّ الْجَمَالَ الْكِبْرُ بَطَرُ الْحَقِّ وَغَمْطُ النَّاسِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏

The Prophet ﷺ also said, “Whoever has humility Allah will elevate him, and whoever is arrogant Allah will lower him.” May Allah protect us from pride and arrogance and make us amongst the people of humility.

Again, Shaytān’s pride and arrogance led him to disobey the direct command of Allah ﷻ. “So he rebelled against the command of his Lord.” The verb used for rebelling here is فسق, which literally means to stray from the right course or to behave sinfully. In the context of Islam, it refers to open disobedience; leaving the obedience of Allah. That’s exactly what Iblīs did; he openly disobeyed the command of Allah ﷻ.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) then reprimands and scolds those people who choose to follow Shaytan by disbelieving and committing sins even though he is their sworn, open enemy. He reprimands them by asking them a rhetorical question. Oftentimes rhetorical questions are used to scold and reprimand individuals in order to make them realize their mistakes.

Allah ﷻ says,

“Will you then take him and his progeny as protectors apart from Me, though they are an enemy to you? How evil an exchange for the wrongdoers!”

This is also an expression of wonder and amazement; how in the world can you take Shaytān and his progeny as protectors apart from me? Meaning, how can you obey and follow Shaytān, while he’s an open and sworn enemy of humanity? His sole purpose and objective in life is to misguide as many people as possible and lead as many people as he can to eternal damnation. That’s the oath he took in front of Allah ﷻ. After refusing to prostrate before Adam (as) Iblīs asked Allah to give him some time; a little bit of a reprieve. Allah ﷻ tells us in Surah Al-‘Arāf, “He said, ‘Grant me respite until the Day they are resurrected.’ He said, ‘Truly you are among those granted respite.’ He said, ‘Because you have caused me to err, I shall surely lie in wait for them on Your straight path. Then I will come to them from in front of them and from behind them, and from their right and from their left. And you will not find most of them thankful.”

Shaytān is not our friend. Allah ﷻ makes this explicitly clear throughout the Qur’ān. Allah ﷻ tells us, “Truly Satan is your enemy so treat him as an enemy.”

Allah ﷻ ends the verse by highlighting how ridiculous it is for someone to follow Shaytān and his helpers. “How evil an exchange for the wrongdoers!”

The exchange is referring to taking Shaytān and his helpers and protectors and guardians beside Allah ﷻ. Meaning, instead of obeying Allah ﷻ they disobey Him by following the path of Shaytān.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) then explicitly states that Shaytan and all these false deities that people have associated with Him have no power or authority whatsoever. They’re completely helpless themselves.

Verse 51: I did not make them witness to the creation of the heavens and the earth, nor to their own creation. And I take not those who lead astray as a support.

According to some commentators in this verse, Allah ﷻ is referring to those beings or objects that people associate as partners with Allah ﷻ. Allah ﷻ is making it absolutely clear that these false deities, the Satans, didn’t witness the creation of the heavens and the earth. Meaning they weren’t partners with Allah in creation, so it’s illogical for them to be partners with Allah in being worshipped. Similarly, Allah ﷻ didn’t make them witness their own creation; meaning they are creatures themselves that don’t deserve to be worshipped.

While explaining this verse Ibn Kathīr writes, “Allah says: `These whom you take as helpers instead of Me are creatures just like you. They do not possess anything and did not witness the creation of heaven and earth, because they did not exist at that time.’ Allah says, `I am the One Who independently and exclusively creates and controls all things, and I have no partner, associate or advisor in that.” Essentially this verse is highlighting the concept of tawhīd while at the same time highlighting the absurdity of the belief of the polytheists.

Allah ends the verse by declaring that He wouldn’t take them as helpers.

“Sublime and great is God. He is in no need of anyone in the universe. He is the Almighty who has the power to accomplish whatever He wills.”

The phraseology here is intentional. It brings to the fore the myths of the unbelievers only to shoot them down. Those who seek protection from Satan and make him a partner to God only do so because they imagine that Satan has a great wealth of knowledge and overpowering might, when in fact Satan is a seducer who leads people astray. God does not like deviation or those who lead other people astray. Had He, for argument’s sake, sought helpers, He would not have taken them from among the seducers who lead people into error and deviation. This is the meaning the verse and its ending aim to emphasize.”

The Surah then paints another scene from the Day of Judgment, highlighting the consequence that awaits those who associated partners with Allah.

Verse 52: On the Day when He says, “Call those who you claimed as My partners,” they will call upon them, but they will not respond to them, and We will place a gulf between them.

In this verse, Allah is telling Muhammad ﷺ to tell the non-believers that on the Day of Judgment Allah will scold and reprimand them and tell them to call their deities whom they associated with Allah so that they can save them from the difficulties of that day and the punishment. This is one of several verses in the Quran that highlights that on the Day of Judgment Allah will challenge those who associate partners with Him to call upon them for help and intercession. On that day those partners will abandon them, dissociate from them and will be unable to help them in any way. This will be said to them as a reprimand and rebuke in order to scold them and make them feel a greater sense of regret and remorse. The “gulf” between them may refer to a place of destruction or a valley of Hell into which those who ascribed partners to Allah will be cast.

Allah then tells us of the consequences of their disbelief and shirk.

Verse 53: The Guilty will see the Fire and know they will fall into it, but they will find no means of escape from it.

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Shaykh Furhan Zubairi was born in 1983 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Shortly thereafter, he moved and spent most of his youth in Southern California, graduating from high school in Irvine in 2001. He began his pursuit of Islamic knowledge and spirituality at the Institute of Knowledge (IOK) in 1998, where he started the memorization of the Qur’an and studied the primary books in the Islamic Sciences and Arabic language. After starting college, he took a break and went to Karachi, Pakistan, for 9 months to complete the memorization of the Qur’an at Jami’ah Binoria. He returned home and completed his B.S. in Biological Sciences from the University of California, Irvine in 2005. He then traveled to Egypt to further his studies of the Arabic language. Thereafter, his pursuit of Islamic knowledge led him back to Pakistan, where he completed a formal ‘Alamiyyah degree (Masters in Arabic and Islamic Studies) at the famous Jami’ah Dar Al-’Ulum in Karachi. He has obtained numerous ijazat (traditional licenses) in the six canonical books of hadith, as well as the Muwata of Imam Malik and Imam Muhammad, and has also received certification in the field of Islamic Finance. Shaykh Furhan Zubairi serves as the Dean of the Full-Time and Part-Time Seminary Programs at the Institute of Knowledge in Diamond Bar, CA. He also serves as IOK University Chaplain for students at UCI and Community Chaplain for the local and extended SoCal Community, and he regularly delivers sermons and lectures at various Islamic Centers and events in Southern California. Learn more about Institute of Knowledge at www.instituteofknowledge.com.

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