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The Most Comprehensive Verse In The Quran: IOK Ramadan Reflections Series #14

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إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ یَأۡمُرُ بِٱلۡعَدۡلِ وَٱلۡإِحۡسَـٰنِ وَإِیتَاۤىِٕ ذِی ٱلۡقُرۡبَىٰ وَیَنۡهَىٰ عَنِ ٱلۡفَحۡشَاۤءِ وَٱلۡمُنكَرِ وَٱلۡبَغۡیِۚ یَعِظُكُمۡ لَعَلَّكُمۡ تَذَكَّرُونَ ۝٩٠

“Truly The One True God Allāh commands justice and proper attribution, excellence and fulfilling one’s duties, spending money and taking care of relatives. And He forbids immorality and zinā, what is unknown and wrong, and arrogance and oppression. He reminds, commands, and admonishes you so that you remember and realize.” [Surat al-Naḥl: 90]

This is an āyah that many of us hear towards the end of the khuṭbah on Fridays. It’s a general reminder and summary about the overarching principles of our faith. The great ṣaḥābī (companion of the Prophet Muḥammad ), and a servant of the Prophet Muḥammad , ʿAbd Allāh ibn Masʿūd (raḍiya Allāh ʿanhu – May Allāh be pleased with him) said that this āyah is the most comprehensive āyah in the entire Qurʾān.

Let’s walk through each part of this āyah:

إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ یَأۡمُرُ

Truly Allāh commands” This is clear emphasis and shows that it’s not just something Allāh has considered good in the past, but it is a universal that applies throughout lands and civilizations. These items to follow are things that Allāh commands humanity to do. He instructs us as humans, advises us, teaches us, order us, enjoins us to the following.

بِٱلۡعَدۡلِ

ʿAdl is often a word that refers to justice. Its core Arabic meaning implies putting something in its proper place – the opposite of ẓulm (oppression). When someone is treated properly, i.e., that person and their status was “put” in its proper place, then that’s ʿadl. When meat is given to a lion and grass is given to a cow (and not vice versa), then that is ʿadl. So just linguistically, we are told to be people who act with, maintain, and uphold justice.

A major part of us, as humans, being just, is to direct our worship, servitude, and devotion to its proper place. It’s not to ourselves, an idol, a philosophy, a company, or “nothing”, but it is to The One True God, Allāh. Our ultimate reason for everything should be our Creator, Allāh . If a human was to not declare that “there is nothing at all that is truly worthy of worship and servitude except The One True God, Allāh ” then that would be an injustice. That would be oppressing the right of Allāh. (Allāh is Divine, Perfect, and is not in need of us, so He’s not “negatively impacted” by those who reject Him.)

وَٱلۡإِحۡسَـٰنِ

Iḥsān refers to doing something properly, with excellence, in the most perfect manner one is able to do so. It is that we go above and beyond what we usually do, and strive and exert ourselves to do the absolute best we can do. Allāh mentions over and over in The Qurʾān that He loves the people who do iḥsān. The Prophet echoes his praises of iḥsān time and time again as well. The great ṣaḥābī (companion) and cousin of the Prophet , ʿAbd Allāh ibn ʿAbbās (raḍiya Allāh ʿanhu) explains iḥsān to be our dedication to fulfill the commands of Allāh, and to avoid what He has prohibited at all times and in all situations. When life is easy or hard, happy or sad, we remain dutiful to Allāh.

وَإِیتَاۤىِٕ ذِی ٱلۡقُرۡبَىٰ

spending money and taking care of relatives” – this is more straightforward, but it highlights how important this is. Allāh constantly reminds us to be people who give, spend money on others, and take care of those who need help. And He attaches extra rewards, blessings, and favors for those who do so in general, but also pay special attention to spending on their relatives. This could be by helping a sibling who is struggling financially. This could be by letting an uncle or aunt borrow a car. This could be by giving zakāh (our yearly charity that is an obligation) to our distant cousins who are suffering through poverty, war, or natural disasters. This could also be a simple invite to a family member to come over for a meal. But be people who spend, donate, and take care of others. And be people who have strong family bonds; filled with love, kindness, advice, and financial support.

وَیَنۡهَىٰ عَنِ ٱلۡفَحۡشَاۤءِ وَٱلۡمُنكَرِ وَٱلۡبَغۡیِۚ

And He forbids immorality and zinā, what is unknown and wrong, and arrogance and oppression.” The items that follow are things that Allāh has made ḥarām, impermissible. He has forbidden them, and they are not allowed for us to do. If we do them, we are liable and potentially deserving of punishment. These are also things that are bad for us and society – regardless of whether or not we can logically perceive why.

Faḥshāʾ can refer to extremely horrible and bad things, monstrosities, crimes, and abominations. More specifically, it refers to illicit and adult content, actions, and speech. ʿAbd Allāh ibn ʿAbbās (raḍiya Allāh ʿanhu) mentions that in this āyah, it refers specifically to zinā – which refers to both fornication (pre-martial sex) and adultery (sex outside of marriage by someone who is/was married). Working backwards, we must hold ourselves accountable to staying away from fornication and adultery. We shouldn’t violate the laws of God, destroy our marriages, have children out of wedlock, and be people with no shame and chastity. We should also strive to keep our tongues, jokes, and entertainment clean. We shouldn’t watch content, shows, movies that have adult content. As a rule of thumb, if you won’t watch something with your pre-teen children, then you yourself shouldn’t be watching it. (And exceptions can be made if there are documentaries about war that depict violence and bloodshed.) And in the most general manner, we should avoid anything that is considered a crime in the sight of our Lord and Master Allāh .

Munkar literally refers to something that is unknown, and as a result is bad. This falls in line with what we just mentioned – we should avoid anything that is considered bad in the sight of our Lord and Master Allāh .

Baghy literally means crossing boundaries, that is, to go beyond what is allowed and allotted. Words to capture that meaning would be oppression, and baghy can include arrogance. We should keep ourselves in check, and never harm and oppress others. We should keep ourselves humble, and remove arrogance, pride, ostentation, and a craving for public attention and approval from the world around us.

یَعِظُكُمۡ لَعَلَّكُمۡ تَذَكَّرُونَ

He reminds, commands, and admonishes you so that you remember and realize.” Allāh is literally giving us a mawʿiẓah – an admonition, a reminder, a call to action. He is ordering us and advising us to stick to everything that He’s just mentioned. And why did He do that? It is because we need reminders, reality checks, and at times “tough love” to fix ourselves and reorient ourselves in the right direction. As a result of this, we actually remember it, we recognize and internalize what was just said, we stay determined to act and live by it.

The great scholar of the third generation of Islam, Sufyān ibn ʿUyaynah (raḥimahu Allāh – May Allāh be kind and gentle with him) said in regards to this āyah: ʿAdl refers to one’s private and public actions being equal – as in they are both good and sound. As in, a person isn’t putting on a front of being pious in public, but is actually a terrible person in private, nor is a person secretly super devout in private, but is a jerk in public. He continues to say that Iḥsān refers to one’s private actions being better than their public actions. That a person is still a great person in public, but their piety and worship in private exceeds what people see in public. And the prohibitions of Faḥshāʾ and Munkar refer to one’s public actions and conduct being better than their private actions and thoughts. A person may be shy and bashful to themselves, but if they are in certain crowds, they may engage in inappropriate conversation or behavior.

May Allāh allow us all to live lives of justice, excellence, generosity, strong family bonds, and may He protect us from immorality, evil, and oppression. Āmīn.

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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