A Prophecized Migration

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We tend to overlook the contextual beauty of the Quran. Taking into account when certain ayaat were revealed during the lifetime of the Prophet gives new life and depth to ayaat that we may have otherwise given little thought to.

A beautiful example of this phenomenon of historical context shedding light on a Surah is Surah Ankabut.

The first ayah of the Surah was revealed in the immediate aftermath of an incident that deeply wounded the morale of the budding Muslim community at the time.

One of the companions was brutally burned by coals that were set on his back for refusing to recant his belief in God. The gruesome pain of the incident left many Muslims shaken and wondering what God’s role was in all of the turbulence they were facing.

The first ayaat of Surah Ankabut came and a response to this uncertainty saying:

أَحَسِبَ النَّاسُ أَن يُتْرَكُوا أَن يَقُولُوا آمَنَّا وَهُمْ لَا يُفْتَنُونَ وَلَقَدْ فَتَنَّا الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ فَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ اللهُ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا وَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ الْكَاذِبِينَ

Do people think that they will be let go merely by saying: “We believe,” and that they will not be tested? For We indeed tested those who went before them and Allah will most certainly ascertain those who spoke the truth and those who lied.

The Surah starts off by addressing the reality of believers having their convictions tested and then begins narrating the stories of Nuh and Ibrahim with a specific focus on how God saved them from their respective peoples who had turned violently against them.

These narratives not only reinforce patience in the hearts of the believers by pointing to earlier bearers of the faith who soldiered onwards, but also produce hope for eventual deliverance by God.

Nuh was saved from flooding waters and Ibrahim, raging flames, two contrasting elements. This contrast highlights God’s ability to rescue the devout from any harm no matter what form it may take.

Lut, another prophet threatened and eventually expelled by his people, is mentioned right after these stories.

As he leaves the unbelieving city of his people he says:

إِنِّي مُهَاجِرٌ إِلَىٰ رَبِّي إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ

I am making Hijra to my Lord surely he is the Mighty the Wise.

This statement by Lut is the only one of its kind in the Quran making it even more fascinating that it’s found in a Surah that was revealed only weeks before the Muslims of Makkah made their own Hijra.

These tested believers were reciting the words of their prophetic ancestor right before they themselves would be commanded to make the same migration that he did, a migration of faith.

This historic parallel fortified their resolve and fostered a strength and willingness to make the perilous journey from Makkah to Madianah once its time had come.

After reminding the believers of the necessity of trials for those who believe, reassuring them with the stories of the deliverance of oppressed prophets before them, and inspiring them with the words of another believer before them who made Hijra, Allah places a particularly interesting verse towards the end of Surah Ankabut, a Makkan Surah.

Makkan Surahs, of course, are not known to discuss, or even mention the People of the Book such as the Jews and Christians yet the ayah,

وَلَا تُجَادِلُوا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ إِلَّا بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ إِلَّا الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا مِنْهُمْ

Argue not with the People of the Book except in the fairest manner, unless it be those of them that are utterly unjust.

is found within it right after the allusion to a coming Muslim migration.

This address solidifies and emphasizes the prophecy of a near at hand migration to a land where there would in fact be Jews and Christians, Madinah.

Imagining these prophetic ayaat being recited on the lips of the companions in the final weeks of the most severe torture in Makkah infuses them with not only more relevance, but also more meaning and power. A power we should all seek to appreciate and grasp as we recite the same ayaat 1400 years later.

A Month of Ease

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As Ramadan approaches, we’ll begin to hear the famous ayah about Ramadan more often in khutbahs, lectures, and discussions.

It begins like this:

شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِي أُنزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْآنُ هُدًى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَاتٍ مِّنَ الْهُدَىٰ وَالْفُرْقَانِ فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ الشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ …

“The month of Ramadan is that in which the Qur’an was sent down as a guidance to the people with Clear Signs of the true guidance and as the Criterion. So those of you who live to see that month should fast it…”

A lot of times, though, we don’t pay much attention to the rest of the ayah, which contains some beautiful and hidden treasures.

Near the end of the ayah, after prescribing fasting on the believers, Allah says:

يُرِيدُ اللهُ بِكُمُ الْيُسْرَ وَلَا يُرِيدُ بِكُمُ الْعُسْرَ

This ayah is commonly translated as:

“God desires ease for you and does not desire hardship.”

This translation, however, ignores some details in the language. يُرِيدُ اللهُ لكُمُ الْيُسْرَ, with the word لكُمُ instead of بِكُمُ, would have literally translated as so.

However, the word بِكُمُ means “with” or “through,” as opposed to simply “for”.

So while the common translation may be valid, another beautiful meaning is contained in this notable choice of words.

“Allah desires through you ease,” can mean that Allah wants us, the believers, to be a source of ease and aid for humanity. He desires us to be a means of relief for those who are struggling. Another way to put it is that through us, he wants ease to be bestowed upon humanity.

Practically, this means that Muslims should always be looking for ways to benefit and lessen the burden on those around them, being a mercy in any way they can. This service takes self sacrifice, which is what fasting instills.

The discipline imparted into the believers by a regimented month of fasting is expected to bear the fruit of a community of believers willing to serve and help those around them, even if it may be at the cost of their own desires.

We ask Allah to make us a means of ease for others and to ease for us our path to him. Ameen.

A Bibliography of Studies in English on the Coherence and Structure of the Qur’an’s Suras

The topic of the Qur’an’s naẓm, “arrangement” or “composition,” has achieved significant interest in contemporary study of the scripture, giving rise to a number of extremely interesting and insightful studies of the coherence and structure of the Qur’anic suras.  Here I would like to provide a bibliography of such studies in English for interested readers and students of the Qur’an.  This post can be continually updated as further studies in this field are published.

First, however, I would like to give mention of two contemporary pioneering works outside of the English language.  First, Amin Ahsan Islahi has written a commentary of the entire Qur’an in Urdu focused on the study of coherence, titled Tadabbur-i Qur’ān (Pondering the Qur’an).  His commentary of suras 32-114 have been translated into English and may be found on http://www.tadabbur-i-quran.org/text-of-tadabbur-i-quran/.  For studies of this commentary in English, see Mustansir Mir, Coherence in the Qur’an (Indianapolis: American Trust Publications, 1986), as well as Neal Robinson, Discovering the Qur’an: A Contemporary Approach to a Veiled Text, 2nd ed. (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown UP, 2003), pp. 271-283.

Second, the formal structure of all of the Meccan suras, and especially the early Meccan suras, has been studied by Angelika Neuwirth, Studien Zur Komposition Der Mekkanischen Suren (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1981). Although this work has yet to be translated into English, her findings are refined by Robinson, Discovering the Qur’an: A Contemporary Approach to a Veiled Text), pp. 97-161.  Neuwirth’s structural or thematic divisions of the Meccan suras are also outlined in an appendix by Carl Ernst, How to Read the Qur’an: A New Guide, With Select Translations (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011), pp. 213-222.

What follows is a bibliography of coherence-based studies of particular suras in English.

MECCAN SURAS

Sura 1: The Opening (al-Fātiḥa)

  • Michel Cuypers, “Semitic Rhetoric as a Key to the Question of the Naẓm of the Qur’anic Text” Coherence in the Qur’an 13 no. 1 (2011): 13-15.
  • Raymond Farrin, Structure and Qur’anic Interpretation: A Study of Symmetry and Coherence in Islam’s Holy Text, Ashland, OR: White Cloud Press, 2014, 1-7.

Sura 12: Joseph (Yusuf)

  • Mustansir Mir, “The Qur’anic Story Of Joseph: Plot, Themes, And Characters,” Muslim World1 (1986): 1-3, points out the chiastic structure of the sura.
  • Michel Cuypers, “Semitic Rhetoric,” 15-19, offers a deeper and more refined analysis of the sura as a ring composition.

Sura 15: al-Ḥijr

  • Ernst, 111-120, underscores the structure of the sura and its anchors with earlier suras.

Sura 17: The Night Journey (al-Isrā’)

  • Robinson, Discovering the Qur’an, 188-195.

Sura 23: The Believers (al-Mu’minūn)

  • Neal Robinson, “The Structure and Interpretation of Sūrat al-Mu’minūn,” Journal of Qur’anic Studies 2, no. 1 (2000): 89-106.

Sura 51: The Scatterers (adh-Dhāriyāt)

  • Mir, Coherence in the Qur’an, 39-41, summarizes Hamid al-Din Farahi’s analysis of the sura.
  • Ernst, 78, outlines the structure and balance of the sura.

Sura 53: The Star (an-Najm)

  • Ernst, 98-104, provides some observations on the structure and balance of the sura.

Suras 54: The Moon (al-Qamar) and 55: The All-Merciful (ar-Raḥmān) (as a sura pair)

  • Farrin, Structure and Qur’anic Interpretation, 63-69.

Sura 55: The All-Merciful (ar-Raḥmān) – also 54 and 56

  • Muhammad Abdel Haleem, “Context and Internal Relationships: Keys to Qur’anic Exegesis” Approaches to the Qur’an, eds. G. R. Hawting and Abdul-Kader A. Shareef (London: Routledge, 1993), 71-98; also presented in Muhammad Abdel Haleem, Understanding the Qur’an: Themes and Styles, 3rd ed. (London: I.B. Taurus, 2011), 161-186.

Sura 75: The Resurrection (al-Qiyama)

  • Neal Robinson, “The Qur’ān as the Word of God” in Heaven and Earth: Essex Essays in Theology and Ethics, ed. Andrew Linzey and Peter J. Wexler (Worthing: Churchman, 1986), 38-54.
  • Salwa M.S. El-Awa, Textual Relations in the Qur’ān: Relevance, Coherence, and Structure (Routledge: New York, 2006), 101-159.

Sura 78: The News (an-Naba’)

  • Robinson, Discovering the Qur’an, 167-176.

Sura 79: The Pullers (an-Nāzi‘āt)

  • Robinson, Discovering the Qur’an, 177-188.

Sura 101: The Crashing Blow (al-Qāri‘a)

  • Cuypers, “Semitic Rhetoric,” 7-9.

 

MEDINAN SURAS

Sura 2: The Cow (al-Baqara)

  • Mustansir Mir, “The Sūra as a Unity: A Twentieth Century Development in Qur’an Exegesis” in Approaches to the Qur’an, eds. G. R. Hawting and Abdul-Kader A. Shareef, eds. (London: Routledge, 1993), 211–24; reprinted in Colin Turner, ed., The Koran: Critical Concepts in Islamic Studies (4 vols. London: Routledge, 2004), vol. 4, 198–209.
  • Robinson, Discovering the Qur’an, 201-223.
  • H. Mathias Zahniser, “Major Transitions and Thematic Borders in Two Long Sūras: al-Baqara and al-Nisā’” in Literary Structures of Religious Meaning in the Qur’an, ed. Issa J. Boulatta (Richmond: Curzon, 2000), 26–55.
  • David E. Smith, “The Structure of al-Baqarah,” Muslim World 91 (2001): 121–36.
  • Raymond Farrin, “Surat al-Baqara: A Structural Analysis,” Muslim World1 (2010): 17-32.
  • Farrin, Structure and Qur’anic Interpretation, 9-21.
  • Nevin Rida El-Tehry, Textual Integrity and Coherence in the Qur’an: Repetition and Narrative Structure in Surat al-Baqara (PhD diss., University of Toronto, Toronto, 2010).

Sura 3: The House of ‘Imrān (Āl ‘Imrān)

  • Neal Robinson, “Surat Al ‘Imran and Those with the Greatest Claim to Abraham,” Coherence in the Qur’an 6, no. 2 (2004): 1-21.
  • Neal Robinson, “The Dynamics of Surah Āl ‘Imrān” Pak Tae-Shik, Saramui Jonggyo, Jonggyoui Saram (Seoul: Baobooks, 2008), 425-486.
  • Farrin, Structure and Qur’anic Interpretation, 24-32.
  • Bilal Gökkir, “Form and Structure of Sura Maryam—A Study from Unity of Sura Perspective,” Süleyman Demirel Üniversitesi İlahiyat Fakültesi Dergisi 16, no. 1 (2006): 1-16.

Sura 4: Women (an-Nisā’)

  • Mustansir Mir, Coherence in the Qur’an (Indianapolis: American Trust Publications, 1986), 46-62, provides a summary and analysis of Islahi’s study of the structure and coherence of the sura.
  • A. H. Mathias Zahniser, “Major Transitions and Thematic Borders in Two Long Sūras: al-Baqara and al-Nisā” in Literary Structures of Religious Meaning in the Qur’an, ed. Issa J. Boulatta (Richmond: Curzon, 2000), 26–55.
  • A. H. Mathias Zahniser, “Sura as Guidance and Exhortation: The Composition of Surat al-Nisa” in Humanism, Culture, and Language in the Near East: Studies in Honor of Georg Krotkoff, ed. Asma Afsaruddin and A.H. Mathias Zahnisr (Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1997), 71-86.

Sura 5: The Dining Table (al-Mā‘ida)

  • Neal Robinson, “Hands Outstretched: Towards a Re-Reading of Surat al-Mā’ida” Coherence in the Qur’an 3, no. 1 (2001): 1-19.
  • Michel Cuypers, The Banquet: A Reading of the Fifth Sura of the Qur’an, trans. Patricia Kelly (Miami: Convivium Press, 2009); cf. Cuypers, “Semitic Rhetoric,” 9-13.

Sura 33: The Confederations (al-Aḥzāb)

  • El-Awa, Textual Relations in the Qur’ān, 45-100.

Sura 60: She Who is to Be Examined (al-Mumtaḥana)

  • Ernst, 163-166, analyzes the sura as a ring composition.

Suras 113: Daybreak (al-Falaq) and 114: Mankind (an-Nās) as a sura pair

  • Farrin, Structure and Qur’anic Interpretation, 22-24.

 

Interlingual Coherence of Idris

 

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There’s a really cool phenomenon in the Quran where Allah takes non Arab names and essentially translates them into Arabic in a manner that gives an idea of their original meaning.

The amazing thing is, the original meanings are in languages that were not even known to the Messenger at the time.

A fantastic example is the name Idris. Many Arabic linguists argue it has the root letters د ر س, which, in Arabic, alludes to study and dedication.

Idris is known in the Torah tradition as Enoch. The name Enoch, in Hebrew, means one who is well studied or dedicated.

Despite being in a completely different language, the Quran manages to convey the same meaning of the name from earlier scriptures, which, as Muslims, we believe at some point, all originated from the same source.

The congruency here is not at all coincidental, rather it is a sign. As Allah SWT says:

‎نَزَّلَ عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ مُصَدِّقًا لِّمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ وَأَنزَلَ التَّوْرَاةَ وَالْإِنجِيلَ

“He has revealed the Book to you with truth which confirms whatever there still remains of earlier revelations: for it is He who has revealed the Torah and the Gospel”

Souls Like Birds

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When we look to the sky we see birds soaring above our heads with grace. We tend to overlook the Allah’s signs within these magnificent creations, the same signs that he points us towards in the Quran.

In Surah Noor, Allah groups the worship that the birds do with our worship of him, striking an interesting parrallel by using the word من to refer to both creations at the same time, and كل to categorize to both groups as one in Ayah 41 of the Surah. He makes the same comparison even more explicitly in Surah Anaam Poiting to the birds and describing how they are grouped into communities just like humans:

“And there is no creature on the earth or bird that flies with its wings except that they are communities like you”

وما من دابة في الارض ولا طائر يطير بجناحيه الا امم امثالكم ما فرطنا في الكتاب من شيء ثم الى ربهم يحشرون

Of all creatures and creations, why does he specifically choose the bird to draw a similarity with?

To understand this, we must understand exactly who we are as humans from both a physical and spiritual perspective.

In the daytime, when we are awake and going about our lives, our souls reside within our bodies and upon the earth, but at night, as Allah also says in Surah Anaam, he takes our souls and they travel to the skies, in essence making us creatures of both the sky and the earth.

The spiritual element of us, the part that praises and worships God, our soul, comes from the sky, which makes it fitting for Allah to liken us with birds, creatures of the sky, when discussing how both creations worship and glorify god.

When Allah asks us to ponder the creation of the bird he is not only hilighitng the wonder of its physical creation, but also of its spiritual reality.

By indirectly comparing us with birds Allah reminds us that a part of us, our souls, belongs in the heavens. Like the bird, we are part sky and part earth so to speak.

In the Ayah after this Allah immediatley says:

“And to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and to Allah is the destination”

 ولله ملك السماوات والارض والى الله المصير

No matter if we are in the sky or on the earth, no matter how high we or the birds ascend, no matter where we travel, we will always be within his kingdom. There is not a moment of time, nor a foot of space, that is outside the kingdom of Allah, and it for this very reason that we should be constantly remembering and glorifying our lord, just as the birds do.

If we do so, then we may hope that our souls are returned home, to a higher place, Jannah.

Family.

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A few weeks ago before we started class for the day, one of our teachers had asked us to take a few minutes and reflect back to before we came to the program- where we were, how we left, why were we coming here, leaving our families and homes behind and coming to an unfamiliar place, what was our thought process like? I rewinded back 5 months and vividly remembered the day I had packed my car up the brim, swallowed back tears, and left heavy hearted- excited, anxious, overwhelmed with gratitude, a bit afraid of the upcoming responsibility- so many thoughts running through my head. I had never left home for more than 30 days and leaving home, leaving my family, my community, all the bonds and memories that were made- I wondered if I could find the same comfort, the same feeling of family and love in a new place.

I remember the first few weeks being full of introductions and reserved conversations as a room full of strangers, who came from all across the country, slowly started to get to know one another. A few weeks passed and then a couple more. Day in and day out, we pushed through beginning nahw,  trying to squeeze as much as we could into our brains. More weeks passed with lots of late nights, tears shed on each other shoulders, studying till we were loopy, laughing until we couldn’t breathe, and we made it to Sarf. We went to sleep whispering sarf charts to ourselves, shared our sarf nightmares with each other, sarfed in the car rides, woke up sarfing some days and realized we had officially gone over the edge, stayed on campus way too late before the Sarf final, cried our way through it, and thanked Allah once we made it through.

Five in a half months later, we’re finally in Advanced Nahw and one thing that strikes me the most at this point is that I don’t know when it happened or how it happened, but at some point in this journey, the people that I am sharing this journey with became my family. I walk in now some days and I look at the sisters around me and I can’t help but wonder how such a strong bond can form in such a short amount of time. Relationships sometimes take years to develop and grow and strengthen but within such a short amount of time, my classmates and teachers became like a part of me. Their moments of happiness became mine just like their pain became my pain too. We’ve pushed each other through the lows, been cheerleaders for each other through the days where our brain just couldn’t take anymore, and celebrated the little successes, and cried together and held each others hands through the tough times.

For the past several weeks, one of my classmates had to return home and has been in and out of the hospital because of a severe illness and we could all feel a part of the pain. She was hurting and our hearts hurt for her too. (Please keep her in your duas, may Allah grant her a complete healing and elevate her through this difficulty). Some of our classmates have lost loved ones in the past months, some of them have been battling emotional battles, some have started new journeys in life and just like a family, we feel together. But why? How?

It’s the power of Allah, of His Book, of sacred knowledge. We all came here with one purpose, we came for Allah. 6 days a week, we sit together trying and struggling to get closer to His Book, trying to change ourselves, yearning for Allah’s pleasure with whatever little we are able to do and that unified goal- it connects hearts on such a deep level. It’s a transcendent type of love…a love fueled by Allah, for Allah. Looking around at the people I’m surrounded by here, I’m constantly inspired by their dedication, their sacrifices, their work ethic and character and so so grateful that Allah wrote them as part of my provision in this world.

Along with the Arabic, it’s the relationships built in this environment, founded and fueled by a common goal that really makes this experience unlike anything else. It’s the random gems, the experiences that my classmates have shared, their stories of resilience and overcoming, the wisdom shared by our teachers  that have helped me grow in ways that I could’ve never imagined before coming to the program. It’s a family away from family. And I can never thank Allah enough for each and every one of them.

Shining Lamp

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In the Quran we find the messenger SAWS described as سراج منير, a shining lamp. What’s interesting is that the only other context this phrase is found is when Allah uses it to describe the sun.

This parallel description is no coincidence, and in fact holds within it a powerful metaphor.

The indirect comparison of the prophet to the sun, which is the source of light, aptly represents the role of the messenger in relation to his nation.

The mention of سراج منير, with reference to the sun, is proceeded by a description of the moon which reflects the original light of the sun.

The messenger brings divine light and guidance, and it is the responsibility of his nation, the moon, to reflect this guidance in their lives.

Whereas the sun knows no phases and gleams with perpetual perfection, the moon has phases, ups and downs, where it becomes weaker and stronger, yet it never loses its connection and reliance on the sun.

Our Ummah will pass through rough times, but it should always look to the light and guidance of our messenger for a way out, for hope.

Struggling with Spirituality.

Often times in life, we associate spirituality with certain milestones. “I’ll become more religious when [x,y,z] happens.” “I’ll work on my relationship with Allah when I graduate or get married or get so and so job, etc.” We start to think that somehow in some form, certain moments or events could magically perfect our relationship with Allah- quick fix and done- but in reality, there is really no magic pill, no permanent bandaid, no solution that doesn’t require consistent effort.

Coming to Bayyinah, coming to spend 9 months day in and day out spending time with the book of Allah- I was ignorant and felt as if spirituality would be the least of my worries. I was going to be learning the Qur’an after all, it was going to be the perfect solution, the magic pill to get closer to Allah but I soon realized how wrong I was. One of my biggest struggles coming here, ironically, was trying to maintain my personal relationship with Allah. And it feels so vulnerable to even admit that. To be a student of the Qur’an and to feel distant from Allah- how could that even be a thing? Why?

Slowly, I started to realize what the root cause to this dilemma was. I was getting so caught up in the routine of things that my personal time, my “me” time with Allah was gradually disappearing. Amongst the rush of waking up, getting to class, staying on top of homework and vocabulary and reading and exams, I was living in such a mechanical way, going from one thing to the next on my to do list to the point that even salah was becoming mechanical. As much time as we were spending trying to study the language of the Qur’an, I wasn’t spending nearly enough time actually reflecting and personally connecting with the Qur’an. And thus, even though we were spending 8 hours a day in class plus another couple of hours studying outside of class- I felt so distant, so painfully distant.

Over the weeks, I’ve come to realize that just being here is not enough to better my relationship with Allah. No amount of drills or homework or grammatical analysis can replace taking time to sit down with the Qur’an and think, reflect, and really try to personally connect with what Allah is telling me. No amount of “studying” could really replace the nearness to Allah that came with sujood, with just sitting and talking to Allah, with just savoring solitude and peace in those moments where it was just me and my Master. Nothing can replace that.

All of the learning and studying and memorizing helps- they are all tools but at the end of the day, the information has to result in application- and that application happens in the quiet moments. That application happens on the heart first before anything else. That application happens on the quality of my salah, the willingness of my heart to call out and speak to Allah, and on my character.  It doesn’t matter whether I am here studying the Qur’an, it doesn’t matter if someone has spend decades studying Islam, it doesn’t matter what you do or where you are in your journey- every single person has to consistently work on their heart. Every single person has to take care of their personal relationship with Allah, no matter what is going on around them.

Sometimes as we go through the motions in life, pushing ourselves to our limits, trying our best to do right by our responsibilities and commitments, we can get so caught up in them that we forget that the spiritual state of our hearts is also a responsibility. It’s also something that we have to take care of, if not one of the most important things to take care of because it keeps us going, it keeps us pushing forward. Amongst all the hustle and bustle- even 5 or 10 minutes of sitting in solitude after salah or just some time alone with the Qur’an, away from everything else, can be the perfect fuel. With some introspection- you can gradually realize what are the things that do and do not get you closer to Allah because there are some key things that are consistent across the board but there are some things can be very unique from individual to individual. Look deeply, create a list , and slowly develop consistent habits that work into your own schedule that can help you inch forward, closer and closer to Allah.

May Allah make us people that constantly remember Him no matter what is going on around us. May Allah grant life to our hearts and purify them and keep them striving for Him alone and make us people that consistently work towards cultivating our faith and make us people that He is pleased with. Ameen.

The Real Goal.

Every day at Bayyinah, between our group sessions, we break to pray Dhuhr and then resume back with the rest of the periods of the day. A few weeks ago, as we were lining up for Dhuhr prayer, taking off our shoes by the shelves, one of our Ustadhas commented on how the shoes were lined up so neatly and she said something that really struck me. She said- “Your knowledge is showing its effects on you.” It took me a second to understand what she meant but then I realized that even though it was just a neat row of shoes, on a bigger scale, it was a reflection of character, which is something our teachers had been stressing since Day 1.

We were all here to learn the book of Allah. Day in and day out, week after week, we unfold and go through another concept, another set of homeworks and quizzes and exams, another piece of the puzzle that is put in place as we strive to understand the Qur’an but at the end of the day, all of this is to make us better people, to make us more pleasing to Allah. The more we learn, the greater the responsibility becomes, and the higher the standard of character is. Our teachers often remind us how knowledge can either be a witness for us or against us and sacred knowledge isn’t just information. Rather, It’s transformation. It’s meant to better our relationship with Allah first and foremost, but also better our interactions with people, our parents, and loved ones. It’s meant to humble us and make us more compassionate, merciful, and ethical people in all aspects of life even down to the way we line up our shoes before we pray, subhanAllah.

This thought always lingers in the back on mind as we go through the program and becomes heaviest every time I go back home for break, back to my family and community. Between the span of each break, how has that knowledge improved me? With each time I return home again, am I a kinder individual? Am I more willing to help? Am I able to stay calmer when provoked? Am I am able to better manage my anger? Am I better to my parents, more willing to serve them? Is the transformation happening? The questions are endless. And there’s always more work to be done. Always.

May Allah allow knowledge to constantly transform us for the better and make us people who constantly strive to embody the Qur’an and the life of the Prophet (sws) in our attitudes, character, and interactions, Ameen.

Inspirations from a Dictionary.

This week at Bayyinah, we’ve delved into an ocean of information by learning how to use multiple Arabic dictionaries and how to access them in a quick, efficient way. Now, we don’t just have to just rely on our weekly vocabulary list- we can now search up words and do research on our own and the feeling is incredible. As the program continues and we start to open up more and more resources, I am just floored at what an endless ocean this study is and how much effort has gone behind compiling such works.

As we were going through the different dictionaries on the database, Ustadh Adam would give us a brief background of the people behind the compilation of such incredible works. The story that struck me the most was that of Edward William Lane who compiled the Arabic-English Lexicon, also known as Lane’s Lexicon. Lane’s Lexicon is an amazing resource because it not only provides definitions but examples of how certain words were used in classical Arabic, some expressions, names of Allah, and even examples from the Qur’an. It is so, so detailed and so thorough- it made me wonder what kind of dedication it must have taken to research and compile such a work. Ustadh Adam then told us a little bit about William Lane and said that when Lane was working on this dictionary, he would just lock himself in his room amongst all his resources, surrounded by many books and would never come out of his room. His dedication to this work was so much so that his servant would even slip food through the door and that’s how he would eat.

Hearing this account made me appreciate Lane’s work so much more but above that, I was really inspired by his passion and dedication- that an individual can love something and be so driven by a cause to put so much time, sweat, and effort into it is just absolutely remarkable and made me reflect on my own journey here. There are points where I can notice the exhaustion taking a toll, where the fuel seems to be running out and motivation seems to be dwindling but just hearing such stories of dedication and effort fills the tank a little bit more each time. I have to remember why I’m here. I have to retrace my steps. Anyone on the journey towards a goal at some point will have to refuel, recheck intentions, reset themselves- what am I working towards? Why am I doing what I am doing? Why did I start this endeavor to begin with?

If I really am passionate about the book of Allah, if I really believe in the power of the Qur’an to transform lives, if I really believe that this Book is the solution to my problems and for all of humanity, then I have to pour my heart and soul and energy and effort to this cause, just like Lane did in his Lexicon when he really, truly believed in what he was doing. May Allah make us people of work ethic, or dedication, and resilience and allow us to pour our heart and energy for His sake to serve Him and above all, accept our efforts and allow them to grow beyond expectations. Ameen.

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