Month: December 2015

Allah Provides.

In Surah Baqarah, Allah (swt) says at the end of Ayah 3: وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ

In a basic translation, we learn that Allah is teaching us that the muttaqeen, the people that have taqwa, have God-consciousness are those that spend out of what they have been given. But if you look a little deeper, the verb that describes the act of spending is actually at the very end, when normally it should be in the beginning and Allah providing is mentioned first, it’s emphasized first. This is abnormal sentence structure, but what exactly is the significance?

Allah (swt) is teaching us that the people of taqwa don’t just spend but they realize that everything comes from Allah; that what they are giving comes from Allah. There may be an individual that doesn’t want to give zakah or is very, very attached to their wealth or perhaps may be boasting about how much they give but this ayah is a reminder. Before Allah mentions us giving, He reminds us that He is the one that provides us with whatever we have, and from that, they spend. Even what you give, even that portion of zakah or sadaqa etc- it was never ours to begin with. It is all from Allah.

The Coverer

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We know that the creation around us from the green veins of a leaf to the stars that light the sky points to the divine. Allah has adorned our world with signs that hold subtle and profound messages for people of reflection and intellect.

Throughout his book he alludes, with varying explicitness, to these signs, one of the most frequent being the turning of night and day, the covering of light by darkness, and vice versa. These signs point to a creator, and often time symbolize his traits.

This ayah in Surah Zumar is a fitting example:

يُكَوِّرُ اللَّيْلَ عَلَى النَّهَارِ وَيُكَوِّرُ النَّهَارَ عَلَى اللَّيْلِ وَسَخَّرَ الشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ كُلٌّ يَجْرِي لِأَجَلٍ مُّسَمًّى أَلَا هُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْغَفَّارُ

He makes the night cover the day and makes the day cover the night, and He has made the sun and the moon subservient; each one runs on to an assigned term; now surely He is the Mighty, the great Forgiver.

Allah describes how he causes the day to cover the night and the night to cover the day as a sign of his glory. He adds to the mention of this sign by relating it directly to his relevant qualities, the mighty, and the forgiving.

The reason why his might is mentioned here is evident, but what about his forgiveness? Why would Allah mention that quality in specific relation to his control over the day and night?

The word غفار, which means forgiver, comes from the root غ ف ر, which means to cover. Just as Allah literally covers the night with the day, he also covers our sins.

When we see the night and the day gracefully passing over each other, we should remember Allah’s power to forgive, and it should serve as a persistent reminder to to never despair in his mercy.

The Steel Door.

Before I left my home town to start the Dream Program, I visited one of our community’s scholars to seek his advice before beginning this journey of seeking knowledge, of seeking to study the language of Allah’s Book. His advice was very interesting; he told me to remember three things, three pieces of advice:

1. Purify your intentions. Always, always remember that you are going for Allah, that’s it.

2. Don’t ever give up. Don’t ever give up. Don’t ever give up.

3. And remember that Shaitan is at the steel door.

I looked very puzzled when he said this last point of advice but he paused and then continued to explain. He said that the beginning of the journey to study Arabic is like trying to get in a house that has a steel door at the front but the rest of the house is made up of twigs. The beginning is the most difficult part of studying the language and at that steel door is where shaitan is sitting. You have to push past, you have to struggle through that door, and you have to never give up. Once you get through that steel door, once you get through the initial hurdle, and keep going, everything will start to click and make sense. The beginning is the most difficult part. But once you get past that hurdle, its just like the rest of the structure which is made of twigs. It’s just come together smoothly. At which point this happens, depends from individual to individual. That overcoming of the hurdle could come a month in, it could come six months in, or perhaps even at the end, eight or nine months in. But remember Shaitan is at that door trying his best to prevent you from getting through. You have to keep going, you have to keep pushing and working and never, ever, ever give up.

It will all slowly start to make sense, piece by piece, twig by twig. You just have to get through the steel door.

Otherworldly

otherworldlyThe Quran often uses words with heavy imagery to solidify the point that it’s making. In Surah Tahrim, Allah consoles the Messenger with regards to a breach of trust among his wives. He shared a secret with one of them and later discovered that they spread it. Allah strongly reprimands the Prophet’s spouses and warns them that if they do not act righteously that he will replace them with women who are purer and better in conduct.

Describing these ideal women, Allah uses many poignant adjectives, of which is the word سَائِحَة, which roughly translates into one who is spiritual, or not interested/invested in the material world.

It comes from the root س ي ح ,which, when taken literally, means to flow, or to pass over, as a river flows over land. Interestingly, سياح, which also derives from this root, means traveler. This makes sense since a traveler only passes through places, and doesn’t stay long, just like the water of a flowing river.

So a سَائِحَة is someone, in this case a woman, whose heart is elsewhere and has no taste or passion for this material world, one who passes through it as a traveller, in accordance to the Hadith of the Prophet SAWS: “Be in this world as if you are a traveler.”

We ask Allah to prevent us from attaching to our temporary world, and to allow us to return home to Jannah safely after passing through the journey of this life.

Puzzle Pieces.

In Surah Taha, we learn extensively about Prophet Musa (as), how Allah spoke to him directly, how Musa (as) was given the mission to go back to the place that he ran away from, and the powerful du’a that he makes for Allah to facilitate this task, and this responsibility that has been given to him. What really captures me in Surah Taha is after these set of ayaat, in Ayahs 37-41, Allah reminds Musa (as) of all the different blessings that were conferred to him, teaching him that He has been there all along from the beginning.

Allah tells Musa (as) about his past, about how the soldiers were about to kill him, how Allah inspired Musa (as)’s mother to throw him in the river, how his sister ran after to watch him, how he ended in the Pharoh’s house but Allah returned and reunited him with his mother so her heart wouldn’t grieve and then he was tested in many ways, tested immensely from having to run away from his land, being homeless, without anything and then Allah says after mentioning all these things, Allah says: “…Then you came [here] at the decreed time, O Moses.”  [20:40]

Allah tells Musa (as) that you came here right on time. Everything was part of the plan. Allah was there all along, at every step, at every moment, Watching, Hearing, Present. All the puzzle pieces were slowly being put together and at that valley, where Allah is speaking to Musa (as), He reminds Musa (as), that you have came right on time. You are right where you are supposed to be. 

This ayah made me reflect- Over the years, as I’ve grown, I’ve realized that growing up isn’t as smooth sailing, isn’t as glamorous as my 8 year old self used to think. It’s tough, it’s responsibility, it’s a lot of questions, a lot of uncertainty, and difficult decisions and there are moments of just utter confusion and moments where you just feel like there is no way out, where the pieces just don’t seem to be fitting. But there is so much comfort in reflecting on these ayahs because after all the difficulties and struggles that Musa (as) has gone through, Allah reminds him that it was all part of the plan, it was all to mold him, for Him.

And just like that, we go through moments of extreme difficulty, of extreme uncertainty, of closed door after closed door but they are all part of the process. Your experiences, your struggles, your moments of happiness, your smiles and your tears are all unique- they are all part of the Plan and slowly but surely, the puzzles pieces start to connect and come together. And there is a beautiful tranquility and peace that lies in knowing that, when you live for Allah alone, He takes care of you in the best of ways, connects the puzzle pieces in the most beautiful of ways. And in every moment, He is there, forever Present, closer to us than our jugular vein. الحمد لله

Eagle’s Nest

Blog CoverThere is no injustice greater, no crime worse than ignoring the signs of Allah after being reminded of them. This crime demonstrates the height of ingratitude, and is akin to carelessly discarding a sincere gift from someone who loves you. In fact, it’s even worse. This gift, guidance from Allah, is essential to our well being, so ignoring it is not only ungrateful, but foolish.

In Surah Kahf Allah addresses the horrifying result of those who commit this crime:

وَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّنْ ذُكِّرَ بِآيَاتِ رَبِّهِ فَأَعْرَضَ عَنْهَا وَنَسِيَ مَا قَدَّمَتْ يَدَاهُ ۚ إِنَّا جَعَلْنَا عَلَىٰ قُلُوبِهِمْ أَكِنَّةً أَنْ يَفْقَهُوهُ وَفِي آذَانِهِمْ وَقْرًا ۖ وَإِنْ تَدْعُهُمْ إِلَى الْهُدَىٰ فَلَنْ يَهْتَدُوا إِذًا أَبَدًا

And who is more wrong than one who is reminded of the Signs of his Lord but turns away from them forgetting the deeds which his hands have sent forth? Verily We have set veils over their hearts lest they should understand this and over their ears a deafness. If you call them to guidance even then will they never accept it.

18:58

Since these people ignored guidance when it was given to them, Allah takes away their capacity to be guided in the future. Even if the Prophet SAWS himself, the best of callers, were to try and help them, they would never be guided.

The word أَكِنَّةً is used in the ayah to illustrate the inaccessibility of their hearts to guidance. Interestingly, أَكِنَّةً is also used to describe an eagle’s nest that is high up in the mountains beyond the reach of anyone, a place totally inaccessible. Imagining a heart that closed off should frighten any believer.

It is possible that these people might hear, or even understand guidance, but it will never truly penetrate their hearts, and they won’t be profoundly moved by it, deeming them spiritually decapacitated, paralyzed, and doomed.

Further, Allah says he places a وَقْرًا in their ears, which can be translate as a deafening object, but is more specifically used to describe the phenomenon of ears popping when climbing high. Continuing the imagery of a tall, unreachable mountain, the wording suggests that these people will hear things ,but won’t be able to comprehend or understand them clearly. They will stumble along lost, many times not even realizing it, as they assure themselves of their own righteousness.

What’s more is that the two senses, or faculties, which Allah blocks are the heart and the ears, both essential to guidance. The ear receives the speech of Allah, and the heart accepts and acts on it. With these senses blocked, these people are essentially left wandering blindly in a valley of wolves. Time is the only thing between them and eternal doom, and this is because when Allah graciously gave them guidance they recognized it, accepted it, but then justified turning away from it.

May Allah protect us. Ameen.

Love Letter.

Often times, studying Arabic, studying the language of the Qur’an seems like a daunting task. Many people will take a step, take a small course etc but may feel discouraged, lose motivation, wonder what is the point even? At the end of the day, there’s translations, right? Is studying Arabic still as important and relevant in our times? These are all valid questions that people ask themselves when starting their journey towards the Qur’an. The other day, Ustadh Adam shared with us a beautiful parable that was so motivating for all of us to remember the purpose of why we are on this journey to begin with.

He told us that if someone you really loved sent you a letter, wouldn’t you want to know what it says? Perhaps the first time or the second time you’d maybe try to get it translated or have someone read it to you but if this person you loved kept communicating with you, if the letters kept coming and coming, wouldn’t you yearn to read them to see what this person who is close to you, is saying?

In this way, Allah (swt), who is above and greater than any human comparison or analogy, He has sent us a letter. He has sent us a love letter that was written for you and I, directly to you and I, full of treasures, full of guidance, and mercy, and healing, and love and that is the Qur’an. Page after page, He has sent it down in a language that is so beautiful and eloquent, so wouldn’t we want to unlock and understand what our Beloved, subhana wa’tala has sent to us? It’s not a matter of have to, but rather above that it’s a matter of love. Our Creator, our Sustainer has sent us a 600+ page love letter and the one that yearns for it, travels for it, stays up nights struggling and crying for the sake of understanding it- is on the road towards achieving and receiving the pleasure and love of their Beloved.

May Allah make us people that strive towards understanding the language of His Book no matter how many bumps we face along the way, make us amongst those that recieve His pleasure and love through the process, and raise us amongst the Ahlul Qur’an!

Responsibility for Growth

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Arabic has a unique system of flexibility where root letters can be inserted into different patterns to convey varying aspects of meaning. For example, the root letters ن ز ل, when inserted into a specific pattern, generate the word نَزّلَ which means to send something down over time, but when used in a different patten, without the shadda, generate the word نَزَلَ, which means to send something all at once.

This nuance in meaning is conveyed by the differing patterns or “families” that these words are placed into. Each of these “families” is made up of set members, or forms, utilized for different purposes. For example, each family has a dedicated form for each past tense, present tense, and negation.

Arabic has a specific rhetorical device for emphasis which is based on this concept of members and families. This device pairs the past tense form with the idea form of a word in order to add intensity. The idea form of a word is a noun which conveys the concept of performing an action and isn’t bound by a tense like a verb. For example, the word “sprinting” conveys the idea of running or moving fast.

“I scolded him a scolding” is an example of this device which pairs the idea of scolding, with the past tense, scolded. Although it may sound awkward in English, it produces emphatic meaning in Arabic.

This device can only be used, however, when both the past tense and idea version of the word originate from the same family. Referring back to the earlier example, the family which contains the past tense form, نَزّلَ, necessitates that the idea form be ًتَنزيل. Each past tense form from a specific family must be used with a corresponding idea form from the same family.

The Qur’an, however, intentionally breaks this rule in order to convey beautiful and profound meaning. In Surah Nuh Allah says:

وَاللَّهُ أَنْبَتَكُمْ مِنَ الْأَرْضِ نَبَاتًا

Allah has caused you to grow as a growth from the earth

71:17

This ayah is an example of the rhetorical tool we described. Looking at a rough English translation we can extrapolate that this ayah refers to Allah’s role in initiating and nurturing human growth, given that he causes all things. Interestingly, however, the past tense, َانبَت, and the idea version, نَبَاتً, are from different families, a contradiction to the grammatical rule we mentioned mandating that their families must match. In this case, the reader would expect اَنبَت to be paired with َاِنبَات. Why isn’t that the case here?

As we stated earlier, differing pattens or families that root letters are placed in to implicate subtleties in meaning. In this case, the past tense, اَنبَت, suggests someone actually growing something or causing it to grow. This correlates with Allah’s control and power over our organ systems, his provision of our sustenance, and his maintenance of an environment that allows us to physically grow.

The idea version of this verb here, نَبَاتً ,however, follows a pattern or family which implicates unprovoked or autonomous growth.

So what does this abnormal pairing of families indicate? What is the purpose behind it?

Here, the pairing of the two forms indicates a dual responsibility for human growth. Allah causes us to physically grow and provides us with the opportunities to grow spiritually through guidance. On the other hand, we are responsible for fostering our personal growth by making our best efforts in character development, and by appreciating, accepting, and putting to use the guidance that Allah grants us.

Through the unconventional pairing of these patterns, Allah underscores our personal responsibility in the own growth process. Someone could be given the best environment, but still turn out as a disappointment because of  failure on their end, and that’s why, نَبَاتً, individual growth, is crucial alongside the guided growth of Allah, اِنبَات.

We ask Allah to allow us to fulfill our responsibility for personal growth and development and to continue to nourish us with his love and guidance. Ameen.

 

 

Nothing like Him.

Today in class, we learned about the third category of words in the Arabic language- the Huroof, which are letters that don’t make sense unless there is something that comes after it. Specifically, we discussed the huroof of jarr which simply are a set of letters and words that force the word after to make a particular sound, it forces them into a particular status (most basic explanation). Ustadh Adam told us that even though some of them just seem like letters, they are actually used very commonly in the Qur’an and can have a profound meaning. One letter can change the meaning of a sentence, just one letter can add so much depth and meaning in the Qur’an, subhanAllah. That’s just how profound and precise the Qur’an is.

One such example that we discussed is in Surah Ash-Shura, Ayah 11 where Allah says: لَيْسَ كَمِثْلِهِ شَيْءٌ – a rough translation: there is nothing like Him. If we look a little closer at at كَمِثْلِهِ, it’s a little bit interesting because the ك is one of those special huroof and it means “like”. Then the word مثل also means “like”. That ك doesn’t seem to be exactly necessary but Allah has placed that there for a reason and just with that one letter, there is so much depth that is added. Allah is telling us that there is nothing even like the like of Him. The  ك creates distance between Allah and everything else that is in creation; There is absolutely nothing like Allah. And not just like Allah, but nothing even that could be compared to comparison of Him. He is Above, He is Greater, above any imperfection or human comparison.

And all that depth is added just by Allah placing that single letter there. SubhanAllah.

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