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IOK Ramadan Reflections Series: #7


IOK Ramadan Reflections Series Night 7: Surah an An’aam

Transcript: Today, we’re going to talk about some of the most beautiful verses in the Quran. Verses that truly capture the heart. They are none other than the story of Ibrahim [AS] in Surah al An’aam. In these verses Allah shows us how Ibrahim engaged his people between tawhid and polytheism. Allah begins these verses by saying “And [mention, O Muhammad], when Abraham said to his father Azar, “Do you take idols as deities? Indeed, I see you and your people to be in manifest error” (6:74). Ibrahim [AS] is the blessed man who had reached the highest status of being the Khalil (close friend) to Allah; only surpassed by the Prophet [s]. In these verses, Allah sheds light on what caused Ibrahim [AS] to excel in his iman. Allah, begins by showing us how Ibrahim stood for a message, the message that none is worthy of worship except Allah. He stood for it by preaching it. He was so certain about it to the extent that he stood up to his father (in a polite manner). He went against his customs and cultures while understanding the consequences of going against the theological positions of his people. 

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Allah then says “And thus did We show Abraham the realm of the heavens and the earth that he would be among the certain [in faith]” (6:75). This verse is what truly brings happiness to a person’s heart and connects a person to Allah. Allah says, because Ibrahim [AS] lived and preached  tawhid with certitude, Allah [SWT] showed him the kingdom of the heavens and the earth. Allah did this to provide further certitude to Ibrahim [AS]. Much can be said about this verse and its word choices. Allah uses the present tense of the word “show” which indicates the meaning of change and reoccurrence. Instead of saying “like that we showed,” past tense, Allah puts it in the present tense to indicate that not only has Allah shown Ibrahim the theological expression of the heavens and the earth but also is continuing to show him different ways to view the universe; different ways to see the universe. All of this for the purpose of connecting Ibrahim [AS] to Allah [SWT]. 

In contrast, when Allah talks about the certitude of Ibrahim [AS] which is meant to enrich him with certitude, He uses the noun form of “certain.” It is as though Allah is saying “so that we allow Ibrahim [AS] to enter a state of permanent certitude which will never falter or wane.” To better appreciate this, it is not uncommon for the iman of a Muslim to fluctuate between feeling strong and feeling weak. Ibrahim [AS], however, enjoyed iman which was consistently strong.

It is not the goal of this reflection to focus on what Allah [SWT] showed him but rather, why Allah [SWT] showed him the treasures of the heavens and earth. I have already mentioned that one reason is because Ibrahim [AS] believed in tawhid and stood up for it. But as we go through these verses Allah [SWT] keeps repeating one particular word: “love.” When Ibrahim looks at the stars he says “I do not love that which goes away” (6:76). A few verses later, Allah [SWT] points to another key word “fear” stating “And how should I fear what you associate while you do not fear that you have associated with Allah that for which He has not sent down to you any authority” (6:81)? I don’t have time to explain in detail the meaning of each verse, but I believe that the reason why Allah [SWT] showed Ibrahim the theological expressions of the heavens and the earth is because he fully grasped love and fear of Allah while understanding how to employ both in his relationship with Allah.

Dear brothers and sisters, ponder upon this. Why do we do what we do? Why do we go to school? Why do we spend so much studying to acquire a degree? Why do we eat and drink? Why do we eat certain foods and refuse to eat certain foods? Why do we go to sleep and wake up? Why is it that some people wake up but don’t want to get up? What explains all of what we do is “love.” The human loves him/herself and as a result we are constantly trying to please the self by providing it with pleasure. This is basic human behavior; when we love someone, we express that love by providing the person with what brings them pleasure. If you love your parents, spouse, children, we tend to want to please them. We do that by providing them with that which brings them pleasure. But there is nothing more that a person loves than themselves. 

This reality tells us something about our actions. All that we do goes back to wanting to please the self or someone else because we love them. Love, is the explanation of everything. When we love something we do it. When we despise something, which is the opposite of love, we refrain from it or attempt to stop it. Therefore, when a people love other people, they are welcoming to them. But if they despise a people, they are unwelcoming to them. We love ourselves and therefore we try to eat the food and drink drinks that are pleasing to us. We sleep because we love ourselves and therefore feel the need to take care of ourselves. Allah is pointing to love to show us why Ibrahim [AS] was given insight into the heavens and the earth as well as how the love came about. 

We really need to ask the question of how Ibrahim [AS] came to love Allah because another fact is that it is extremely difficult to “unlove” the self. (One cannot reach high levels of love for Allah until they unlove the self). Fortunately, the Quran can assist us in this noble endeavor. When you look at the Quran, from the beginning to the end, commands, theology, stories; all of these have the goal of shifting our love from the self and created entities to Allah [SWT]. Allah constantly shows us why we should love Him, His ihsan (excellence), what He has given us, spoiled us, given us, provided us, wants paradise for us, etc. Allah also helps us to dislike that which is harmful. All of this develops a mindset which is meant to affect and reshape the heart from loving the self and the creation to loving Allah [SWT]. The Prophet [s] says, “the highest level of iman is loving for the sake of Allah and dislike for the sake of Allah.” This means that when we look at the creation, judge our actions, make decisions, it is done through the lens of “does Allah love this or not.” If Allah loves it then we do it but if Allah dislikes or despise something then we don’t. How about the mubah (permissible) acts? Of course, doing something mubah doesn’t constitute sin, but the fact that Allah is neutral towards it and we have other opportunities to do that which Allah likes, then it is better to leave mubah actions and to use the time to pursue that which is pleasing to Allah. The Prophet [s] also says “whoever loves because of Allah, dislikes because of Allah, gives because of Allah, and withholds because of Allah, such a person has perfected their iman.” Why? Because iman is about love of Allah. Scholars have defined ‘ibadah (worship) as expressing love for Allah with the utmost reverence for Allah. Ibrahim perfected this because all he did, all his decisions, everything he refrained from doing, went back to this point: What does Allah love, what does Allah dislike?

To practice this, the next time you have a meal in front of you which you are about to eat, ask yourself the question: does Allah love that I am eating this meal? If it is a plate of pork, Allah doesn’t love it and therefore I must put it aside. If it’s halal food, such as chicken or beef, Allah is neutral towards whether we choose to eat chicken or beef, however, Allah is not neutral towards our bodies. Islam commands us to take care of our body and consuming food is a necessary part of doing that.

When we begin to view the world from this frame the reward is as Allah [SWT] mentions: He shows us and continues to nourish our hearts and minds with the treasures and secrets of the universe in a manner that transforms into a constant reminder of the one we love. What is Paradise except a place where we are constantly with that which we love. It therefore is capable of constantly nourishing our hearts with pleasure. If you want this then Allah is telling you that Allah can transform the way we view the universe to become a constant reminder of Allah, showing us who Allah is, and showing us His names and attributes. This is the reward of excellence and the only proper reward for excellence is excellence. And there is no greater reward from Allah than to shape a person’s heart to see Allah’s names and attributes in the world and always feel near to Allah. This is the legacy of Ibrahim [AS] which is reachable by us. We reach it by understanding and living tawhid. The highest form of tawhid is to love and dislike for the sake of Allah. But this requires sacrificing some time to learn about what Allah loves and dislikes and exercise our minds to incorporate this mindset in our day to day lives.

Tonight’s Ramadan Reflections Series talk was brought to you by the IOK Seminary Faculty. Catch up on previous videos or catch the next videos on the IOK Ramadan Reflections Series page.


Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

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.

IOK Seminary Faculty train highly motivated and dedicated Muslim men and women in classical Islam and contemporary scholarship, giving them the tools to grow as individuals, effectively serve those around them, and preserve the Islamic tradition in the West.

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