Month: October 2015

Our Book, Our Fate

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Each of us has thought of that day. Each of us has wondered how the weight of eternal regret, the burden of inescapable sin, must feel, but none of us has endured it yet. Thankfully, Allah warns us of it in hopes that we’ll never have to.

One of these warnings comes in the form of a striking depiction of Judgement Day’s events, a description complete with grand imagery and powerful emotion.

In Surah Kahf, Allah describes the immaculate rows in which mankind will stand in, silently awaiting their judgments, their final destinations:

وَعُرِضُوا عَلَىٰ رَبِّكَ صَفًّا لَقَدْ جِئْتُمُونَا كَمَا خَلَقْنَاكُمْ أَوَّلَ مَرَّةٍ ۚ

They all will be brought before your Lord standing in rows and Allah will say: “Well! You see that you have returned to Us as We created you the first time…”


Allah announces that all of us have been returned to him just as he created us the first time. At this fateful moment, the suspense, the anxiety,  is enough to shatter hearts.

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Searching Father

Searching father

Yaqoub’s love for his son is one of the most touching aspects of the Quranic narrative. When he was separated from Yusuf, the tears of grief took his very sight away. After decades of sorrow and longing, his sons found Yusuf in Egypt. Yusuf sent them back with a shirt of his to cure his father’s blindness. Yaqoub detected the scent of his beloved son from miles away as the caravan approached:

وَلَمَّا فَصَلَتِ الْعِيرُ قَالَ أَبُوهُمْ إِنِّي لَأَجِدُ رِيحَ يُوسُفَ 

“And as soon as the caravan was on its way, their father said: “Indeed, I find the scent of Yusuf in the air...””

Yaqoub interestingly says: أَجِدُ, I find the scent of Yusuf, but who says that they find the smell of something? You’d expect him to say “I smell the scent,” or “I detect the scent,”  but word “find” is used here to represent a deeper emotional meaning.

The opposite of finding something is losing something, just as Yaqoub lost Yusuf. Moreover, to find something you must be searching for it.

The word أَجِدُ suggests that, after all those years, Yaqoub was still searching and longing for his son. He never gave up his hope in Allah, nor the love of his son. So when the caravan finally set out, he found the scent of Yusuf that he had been searching for, as opposed to smelling it. The subtle detail of Quranic word choice reveals such intricate beauty.


It was Ramadan of 2010, after my freshman year of college. After 18 years, I had come to the masjid, willingly, eagerly, without being told. I wanted to change. After many ups and downs in the past years and a spiritual awakening of sorts, I found myself ready to make this Ramadan different from the rest. The imam starts reciting. As we delve deeper and deeper into the Qur’an, I hear the sister beside me start to weep, her body starts shaking besides me. But Why? I didn’t get it. It was just taraweeh. It was just Qur’an, right? Little did I know in that moment, though, that her tears, her shaking, was a crumbling of her heart from the power of God’s words, which at the point I could not understand. But afters seeing her like that, night after night in Ramadan, a fiery passion began to grow. I wanted to break and crumble from the power of the Qur’an, too. I wanted to understand God’s words too. I wanted to be an active listener, an active receiver of His words, too. I wanted to learn and comprehend and transform every time I stood in salah, too.

And so the journey began there. It began with a passion, with a yearning, with a realization that I had spent 18 years of my life doing everything but seeking to learn the one thing that could be the means to my salvation in this world and the next. I found myself begging Allah to help me understand His words, because there was nothing I had heard that was more beautiful. There was nothing that I had read that was more beautiful than it. There was nothing that was more life changing than it.

Almost five years later, I am so humbled and grateful to Allah for opening the doors for me to study His book through Bayyinah Institute’s Dream Program. It truly is a gift that He has given and I pray I am able to appreciate every moment of it and make the most of it. The Qur’an in and of itself is a gift, it’s a huge blessing to us and any opportunity to read it or to study it- whether that be through a local halaqah group or tafseer circle or through programs like Bayyinah etc- it’s truly, truly a blessing and an honor. May Allah make us people of the Qur’an and allow any knowledge that we seek in regards to it, be a means of transformation and betterment of our own selves first and then allow it to transform our communities and societies at large, Ameen.

The Ultimate Friday

Blog CoverA running theme in Surah Kahf is the false belief that material good is the ultimate good. We know, however, that the immediate perception of what is good is quite different from the ultimate good.

This theme is evident with the story of the garden found between Ayahs 32 and 44 where a man flaunts his superiority over his companion and claims God has favored him because of his wealth:

وَكَانَ لَهُ ثَمَرٌ فَقَالَ لِصَاحِبِهِ وَهُوَ يُحَاوِرُهُ أَنَا أَكْثَرُ مِنْكَ مَالًا وَأَعَزُّ نَفَرًا

“He had abundant produce, he said to his companion while conversing with him: “I am richer than you and and stronger in respect of men.””

It’s also explicitly discussed in the Ayahs that follow this story, where Allah describes how lasting good is better than chasing the material world:

الْمَالُ وَالْبَنُونَ زِينَةُ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا ۖ وَالْبَاقِيَاتُ الصَّالِحَاتُ خَيْرٌ عِنْدَ رَبِّكَ ثَوَابًا وَخَيْرٌ أَمَلًا

“Wealth and children are an adornment of this world’s life: but lasting good, the fruit whereof endures forever, is far better in your Lord’s sight, and a far better source of hope.”

This theme is also apparent when Dhul Khidr demonstrates to Musa that the ultimate good, which is sometimes imperceivable, is better than the good of the material world, whereas Dhul Khidr sinks a ship for the ultimate purpose of protecting its owners and so on.

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The Expander Expands

Tawasu (توسع) literally means to make something wide, or to extend it. In the context of Arabic grammar, it refers to leaving a sentence intentionally ambiguous or open so that its interpretation can encompass a broader meaning. The most famous dua known to Muslims is a perfect example of this concept:

هْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ

“Guide us the straight path”

In a context like this, you’d expect the word “to” to appear in the middle, but you’ll notice that it’s oddly omitted.  هْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ   literally means “guide us the straight path”, not “guide us to the straight path,” which would require the word إلى preceding it.

From his mercy, Allah purposely leaves this dua open-ended, making it broader and more inclusive. The dua isn’t only asking for guidance to the straight path, but guidance on it, once we get there. It’s comparable to a fill in the blank where multiple positive meanings apply.

Further, Allah SWT says in Surah Araf:

وَرَحْمَتِي وَسِعَتْ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ

“And my mercy extends over all things”

The word wasi’at (وَسِعَتْ) has the same root as the grammatical term Tawasu (توسع), both relating to the idea of expansiveness. In this case, Allah demonstrates the expansiveness of his mercy by making the dua expansive as well. It makes perfect sense that the scope of our duas is vast just as the mercy of the one we’re calling on is also vast.

Even more amazingly, this rhetorical broadening of Allah’s mercy is by itself an instantaneous reply to the dua for guidance found in the Ayah.

Cool Tears

فَرَدَدْنَاهُ إِلَىٰ أُمِّهِ كَيْ تَقَرَّ عَيْنُهَا وَلَا تَحْزَنَ

And thus We brought him (Musa) back to his mother, so that she might he comforted, and that she grieve no longer, and that she might know that God’s promise always comes true – even though most of them don’t know!


The phrase كَيْ تَقَرَّ عَيْنُهَا is generally translated as “so that she might be comforted,” but this oversimplification in translation overlooks the beauty of this description, which is also used in other places, such as a Dua in Surah Furqan:

وَالَّذِينَ يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَا هَبْ لَنَا مِنْ أَزْوَاجِنَا وَذُرِّيَّاتِنَا قُرَّةَ أَعْيُنٍ وَاجْعَلْنَا لِلْمُتَّقِينَ إِمَامًا

And those who pray: “O our Lord! Make our spouses and our offspring to be a joy to our eyes…”


In this case, the same expression, قُرَّةَ أَعْيُنٍ, is translated as a  joy to our eyes, as opposed to a comfort. So what does this intriguing expression actually mean? Taken literally, قُرَّةَ أَعْيُنٍ means coolness of the eye, but even that seems like a somewhat abnormal description in these contexts.

To understand the saying, we must look to the Arab culture of the time, which inevitably intertwines with the language. The Arabs split tears (yes, the wet things that come out of our eyes) into two categories. The first of those categories was tears of happiness and overwhelming joy. The tears that naturally well up when we’re reunited with people we care about or love deeply after long lengths of time. The second of those categories was tears that come of anguish, suffering, sadness, and pain. The tears of happiness were known as cool tears, whereas the tears of pain were known as hot, or warm tears.

When we look at these Ayaat with this understanding, they hold much more emotional value. Yes, the coolness of the eyes of Musa’s mother alludes to comfort and gladness, but it also describes how that happiness expressed and exerted itself. It describes her tears of joy as she held her son after he’d been cast into a river and taken into the palace of the Pharaoh.

In the second example, this phrase of cool tears illustrates tranquility and thankful joy. It describes tears that come from suddenly realizing how beautiful something is, in this case the blessing of a righteous family. Perhaps walking into a room and witnessing your young son or daughter praying on their own, or appreciating the care and efforts of your spouse. This Arabic background adds a whole new layer of expression and emotion to these Ayaat, and allows us to connect with them in our own hearts.

We ask Allah to keep our tears cool, our smiles wide, and our hearts open. Ameen.

Mountains as Mirages

In Arabic, the word سراب (sarab) means mirage, whereas the word شراب (sharab), which looks almost identical, means drink. The similarity in how these words look is no coincidence; it’s actually part of the meaning. When you see a mirage, it looks just like water, a drink.

Allah uses this word, سراب, and its metaphorical value to describe the state of the mountains on the Day of Judgement.

وَسُيِّرَتِ الْجِبَالُ فَكَانَتْ سَرَابًا

And the mountains are made to vanish as if they had been a mirage


We percieve mountains as massive, unshakable structures, but Allah causes them to weightlessly float through the sky. In the same way, we often consider ourselves as established and secure, but what sense does that make, when objects so much more powerful than us will become like mirages?

Venus Fly Trap

Sometimes we get caught up in this world. We run towards finish lines that keep moving further away. Entranced by the false glamor of the world, we lose sight of our true direction, our eternal destination.

We’re anxious about our futures, but we limit those concerns to this worldly life, to the dinner, meeting, or vacation that’s coming up. We procrastinate our spiritual development until “tomorrow,” forgetting that one day there will be no tomorrow.

Allah SWT addresses this misdirected mindset in the 45th verse of Surah Kahf using a powerful metaphor:

وَاضْرِبْ لَهُمْ مَثَلَ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا كَمَاءٍ أَنْزَلْنَاهُ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ فَاخْتَلَطَ بِهِ نَبَاتُ الْأَرْضِ فَأَصْبَحَ هَشِيمًا تَذْرُوهُ الرِّيَاحُ

“And strike to them the example of the life of this world as some water which We send down from the sky, and the vegetation of the earth mingles with it and then it becomes dry remnants, scattered by the winds…”

In this Ayah, Allah SWT reduces the importance of the world that we’re furiously scurrying about to pursue, by breaking it into two belittling stages.

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Shaytan vs. Iblis

In the Quran, Allah uses the names Shaytan and Iblis precisely and consistently for specific contextual reasons.

Shaytan, which comes form the Hebrew word “sattan,” meaning adversary, is used whenever Allah SWT is describing the devil’s enmity and animosity towards humanity. For example:

إِنَّ الشَّيْطَانَ لِلْإِنْسَانِ عَدُوٌّ مُبِينٌ

Indeed Shaytan is a clear enemy to man


Iblis, on the other hand, comes from the Greek word “diablos,” which comes from the root “diaballo,” which means to throw someone or to make someone fall.

We find the word Iblis 11 times in the Quran. 10 of those instances relate to his arrogant exchange with Allah in Paradise which leads to him being thrown out of it, and falling out of the mercy of Allah. Here’s an example of Iblis being used in this context:

وَإِذْ قُلْنَا لِلْمَلَائِكَةِ اسْجُدُوا لِآدَمَ فَسَجَدُوا إِلَّا إِبْلِيسَ أَبَىٰ وَاسْتَكْبَرَ

And when We told the angels: “Prostrate yourselves before Adam!” – they all prostrated themselves, except Iblis, who refused and was arrogant…


However, the 11th usage of the word Iblis doesn’t appear to be consistent with the placement of the name in the other 10 ayaat, until, that is, you read the context.

فَكُبْكِبُوا فِيهَا هُمْ وَالْغَاوُونَ وَجُنُودُ إِبْلِيسَ أَجْمَعُونَ

Then they will be thrown into the Fire, they and those who misled them, and the armies of Iblis all together.


This usage aligns perfectly with the Greek root of Iblis, which means to throw someone.

Of all the places where the Devil is mentioned in the Quran, he’s called by a name that originates from a Greek word that means “to throw,” only in the verses that discuss him being thrown out of paradise, and in the single verse that talks about him being thrown into hell. Coincidence?

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