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Lesson 10 From Surah Al-Kahf

Shaykh Furhan Zubairi

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Alhamdulillah last week we were able to explore the meanings of verses 54-59. InshAllah tonight we’ll explore the meanings and lessons of verses 60-70. In this set of verses, Allah ﷻ relates a very unique and interesting story about Musa (as) and his encounter and journey with a man of God known as Khidr or Khadir. Interestingly this story is not told or hinted at anywhere else in the Qur’ān. Similarly this is the only account of Musa (as) in the Qur’ān that doesn’t also have some reference in the Biblical text. This is the third story mentioned in the Surah after the story of the people of the cave and the owner of the two gardens.

Now the Surah itself relates a few events from this story but doesn’t provide all the fine details. For example, it doesn’t mention exactly where this story took place. Nor does it tell us when exactly it took place. So we don’t know if it took place when Musa (as) was still in Egypt, or after he escaped from Fir’awn and his army or even later on. The Qur’ānic narrative also doesn’t mention the name of the individual who Musa (as) sent out to meet. It doesn’t mention who he was, where he was from and whether he was a prophet, scholar or an ascetic. Allah ﷻ simply describes him as “a servant from amongst Our servants”.

One of the reasons why all of these details are left out is because they’re not that important. They actually take away from the main purpose, objective and lessons of the story. We’re supposed to focus on what lessons, morals, and guidance we can derive from these incidents and not worry about the minute detail. However, a more detailed version of this story is found in a hadith recorded in both Sahih Bukhari and Muslim narrated by Ubay ibn Ka’b raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him).

Ubay ibn Ka’b raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said: Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was making a speech to the Children of Israel when he was asked which person had been endowed with the most knowledge. Meaning he was asked, “Who is the most knowledgeable person?” Since Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) wasn’t aware of anyone who was more knowledgeable than him he said, ‘I am’. Even though he was right, Allah ﷻ didn’t like his answer. The situation demanded that he say Allah knows best. Allah ﷻ has a unique way of teaching and training those close to Him. That is why Allah ﷻ gently reprimanded him for his answer and revealed to him that there is a servant of his at the meeting point of the two seas (the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea) who is more knowledgeable than him. This doesn’t mean that Khidr had a higher station than Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). What it means is that he had a special field of knowledge given to him that Musa didn’t have.

Musa had an intense desire to seek knowledge. So he asked Allah ﷻ, ‘How can I find him?’ Allah ﷻ told him to cook a fish, place it in a basket and head towards the meeting point of the two seas. The place where you lose fish is the place where you will find Khidr. So Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) set out with his servant/student Yusha’ ibn Nun, who in English is Joshua. This is where Allah ﷻ starts the story in the Quran.

Verse 60: And when Musa said to his servant, “I shall continue on till I reach the junction of the two seas, even if I journey for a long time.”

Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was instructed by Allah to travel to the meeting point or junction of the two seas and that is where he will find Khidr, the one who is more knowledgeable than him. So Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) in his determination said that he will continue traveling till he reaches this junction even if it takes him a long time. There’s a lot of discussion amongst the commentators regarding the exact location of the junction of the two seas. Some mention it’s referring to the point where the fresh water of rivers meets the salt water of the seas. Others mention that it’s the meeting point between the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. The actual geographical location is ultimately immaterial to the story; it doesn’t really matter. The narration mentions that they continued to travel until they reached a large rock where they decided to rest for a while. Both of them fell asleep. As they were sleeping, all of a sudden, the fish moved, fell out of the basket and into the ocean. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) stopped the flow of water around the fish forming a tunnel around it allowing it to swim.

Verse 61: Then when they reached the junction of the two, they forgot their fish, and it made its way to the sea, burrowing away.

Yushā’ witnessed this extraordinary event. He saw the fish make its way into the sea and burrow away. Meaning, a tunnel was formed around it allowing it to swim away. When Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) woke up he forgot to tell him and they continued on their journey. They traveled for another day and night. After traveling for another day and night Musa finally felt hungry.

Verse 62: Then when they had passed beyond, he said to his servant, “Bring us our meal. We have certainly met with weariness on this journey of ours.”

They had passed the meeting point of the two seas, which is where they decided to rest and where the fish escaped from the basket. So when he finally felt hungry he asked Yushā’ to take out the fish that they had prepared to eat. In the narration, the Prophet ﷺ says, “Musa didn’t feel any fatigue until he passed the place Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)informed him of. When Musa asked for food that is when Yusha’ remembered what had happened to the fish.

Verse 63: He said, “Did you see? When we took refuge at the rock, indeed I forgot the fish – and nothing made me forget to mention it except Shaytān – and it made its way to the sea in a wondrous manner!”

He told Musa (as) that while they were resting at the rock the fish miraculously came back to life and made its way into the ocean. And that he completely forgot to tell him and that Shaytān made him forget. When Musa (as) heard this he remarked,

Verse 64: He said, “That is what we were seeking!” So they turned back, retracing their steps.

He immediately realized that the place where the fish was lost to the sea was exactly the place where he would meet the servant of Allah more knowledgeable than him. So they turned back retracing their steps back to that rock.

Verse 65: There they found a servant from among Our servants who We had granted mercy from Us and whom We had taught knowledge from Our presence.

When they returned to that rock they found a man lying there covered in a white sheet. Musa (as) greeted him with Salam startling Khidr who replied, “Where is this salam coming from in this land? Who are you?” He replied, “Musa.” Khidr asked, “Musa Bani Israel?” He answered, “Yes.” The servant from among our servants is identified by all commentators as Khidr or Al-Khadir, which is translated as the Green One. It’s mentioned that wherever he prayed or stood everything around him would become green. There’s a huge discussion regarding his status as well; was he a prophet, a messenger or simply a righteous servant of Allah? What we do know with absolutely certainty is exactly what the Qur’ān tells us. He was a righteous servant who was granted unique divine mercy and was given a special type of knowledge from Allah ﷻ. Some of the commentators mention that “rahmah” is referring to the fact that he was a wali; a very devout and close servant of Allah. The knowledge from Allah is knowledge from the unseen that he taught to Khidr. It’s an understanding of the divine wisdom and reason behind the occurrence of certain events.

Verse 66: Musa said to him, “May I follow you so that you can teach me some of that which you have been taught of sound judgment?”

Musa (as) asked him with the utmost respect and humility to allow him to be his student. This form of questioning, this request is full of humility. Musa made himself a follower of Khidr, asked for permission and admitted his ignorance regarding the knowledge that Khidr had. Khidr responded to his request as Allah ﷻ tells us,

Verses 67-68: He said, “Truly you will not be able to bear patiently with me. And how can you be patient with that which you have no knowledge?

Khidr recognized that he would do things that Musa (as) would find to be illogical, irrational and even impermissible. Things that on the surface level seem to be horrible and despicable. So he explained to Musa (as) that he wouldn’t be able to be patient with him and his actions. He explained to Musa (as), “O Musa! I have knowledge from Allah that you don’t have that he taught me. And you have some knowledge from Allah that he taught, which I don’t have.”

  • يا موسى، إني على علم من علم الله، لا تعلمه، علمنيه، و أنت على علم من علم الله علمكه، لا أعلمه.

But Musa (as) is extremely eager to learn. He resolves to be patient and obedient while relying upon the will of Allah ﷻ. He says,

Verse 69: He said, “You will find me patient, if Allah wills, and I shall not disobey you in any matter.”

Meaning, don’t worry, you’ll find me to be patient, if Allah wills, and I won’t disobey you or challenge you in any matter. This convinced Khidr to allow Musa (as) to accompany him as his student but with certain conditions.

Verse 70: He said, “If you will follow me, then don’t question me about anything until I mention it to you.”

Meaning, he told Musa (as) that if you follow me then you’re not allowed to ask me about anything or challenge anything I do until I allow you to do so. Musa (as) accepted this condition and then they both set out together. Now up till this point in the story, there are several important lessons that we can learn and derive.

1) Intellectual humility – Our knowledge regarding a specific topic or subject, our understanding of a certain issue or our expertise in a certain field shouldn’t make us proud and arrogant. It shouldn’t make us think that we’re better than anyone else. Rather it should make us humble; it should create a sense of gratitude and humility. We should express gratitude to the One who gave us that knowledge and should recognize that there’s much more that we don’t know. And that’s the lesson that Allah ﷻ taught Musa (as). When he was asked who is the most knowledgeable individual, Musa (as) based on his own understanding and station as a Prophet assumed that he was. So Allah ﷻ gently reprimanded him for his answer and revealed to him that there is a servant of his at the meeting point of the two seas (the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea) who is more knowledgeable than him.

No matter how advanced we become as human beings, no matter how many discoveries we make and how many inventions we create, our knowledge is still limited; it’s nothing compared to the infinite knowledge of Allah ﷻ. As Allah ﷻ tells us in the Qur’ān, “Over every possessor of knowledge is one [more] knowing.” Similarly, in one of the narrations, Khidr tells Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), “My knowledge or your knowledge compared with the knowledge of Allah is nothing but the small amount of water the sparrow takes in its beak.” This is especially true for religious knowledge; the more we learn the more we should recognize that we don’t know. That’s why it’s important for us to not reject or disregard things that we don’t know or haven’t heard of. Just because we don’t know something, haven’t heard something or haven’t read something, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Also, learn how to say “I don’t know”. There’s a famous story of Imām Mālik …

2) The importance of seeking knowledge. Seeking knowledge is something that has to be done actively; it’s not a passive activity. knowledge isn’t something that’s going to come to us automatically. It’s something that requires us to put in work; it requires time, effort, wealth and sacrifice. And in order to seek knowledge, we’ll have to go through some difficulties. Seeking knowledge is a religious obligation upon us just like praying, fasting, paying zakah and performing Hajj. The Prophet ﷺ told us, “Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim.” All the commentators agree that this is referring to knowledge of Allah; knowledge of the Qur’ān and Sunnah. That knowledge that brings us closer to Allah ﷻ. That’s why there are so many narrations from the Prophet ﷺ that encourage us to seek knowledge. Interestingly, this is the only story in the Qur’ān that talks about seeking knowledge and in it the student is required to go and look for the teacher. On a side, not the amount of knowledge we learn regarding our religion at homes or at Sunday schools is not enough. We need to have a systemized way of learning the fundamentals of our faith and religion and teaching it to our children.

3) Respecting the people of knowledge. This is another very important lesson we learn from this particular part of the story. Musa (as) is a Prophet, he’s kalīm Allah, the one who spoke directly with Allah ﷻ, yet he still treated Khidr with the utmost honor and respect. Knowledge itself has a very special status in Islam and because of its status, those who seek it and possess it have also been granted a special status. As the Prophet ﷺ told us, “The scholars are the heirs of the Prophets.” Humility is an essential characteristic that we as students must have to truly benefit from our teachers. In the hadith of the Messenger of God ﷺ, when the angel Jibrīl 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) came to ask the Prophet ﷺ about Islam, Imān, and Iḥsān, he is described as having, “put his knees against the knees [of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)] and placed his hands on his thighs.”[2] When the Companions used to sit with the Messenger of God ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), they did not use to raise their heads up to him out of their reverence for him. It is reported on the authority of Anas raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), “If the Messenger of God ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) used to enter the mosque, none of us used to raise our heads except Abū Bakr and ʽUmar. They used to smile at him and he used to smile at them.”[3] It is also reported on the authority of ʽUbāda b. al-Ṣāmit that the Messenger of God ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said regarding respecting scholars and honoring them, “He is not from my community who does not venerate our elders, have mercy on our youth, and know the rights of our scholars.”[4]

Disrespect of scholars and people of knowledge is actually a problem within our communities and has been for some time. People of the past used to say that the flesh of scholars is poisonous and the way of Allah with those who insult them is well-known. So whoever insults the scholar of this ummah by his tongue Allah will afflict him in this world by death of the heart. There are many other beneficial lessons that we can derive from this story that we’ll talk about next session after we complete the story itself.

4) Studying is an act of worship but it’s not the goal in and of itself. The goal is to attain guidance.

 

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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    HIrra

    May 23, 2019 at 1:52 PM

    In general, standards of modesty call for a woman to cover her body, particularly her chest. The Quran calls for women to “draw their head-coverings over their chests” (24:30-31), and the Prophet Muhammad instructed that women should cover their bodies except for their face and hands. Most Muslims interpret this to require head coverings for women, although some Muslim women, especially those of more conservative branches of Islam, cover the entire body, including the face and/or hands, with a full body chador. You can Visit Divasty for Divasty Modest clothing.

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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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