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Lesson 8 From Surah Al-Kahf

Verse 50-53

Shaykh Furhan Zubairi

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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.

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.

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

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Gratitude

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

What Does Shukr Mean?

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

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

Gratitude in Knowing That Allah Loves Us

The second category is love for the benefactor. Similar to the previous category, by identifying the motive of the benefactor one can better appreciate their favors. “Gratitude is fundamentally a moral affect with empathy at its foundation: In order to acknowledge the cost of the gift, the recipient must identity with the psychological state of the one who has provided it” (Emmons 2002 p. 461).[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

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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.

Story

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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Heart Soothers: Idrees Al Hashemi

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