Category: Quran Gems (page 1 of 3)

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.

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.

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.

Teacher of a Teacher

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Musa is one of our greatest teachers. Allah SWT narrates his stories, and his words to us in the Quran more than any other prophet.

We learn in Surah Kahf, however, that even the the greatest of teachers are also students. Allah commands Musa AS to search for a man who will show him what he doesn’t know, a man who will teach him.

We can only imagine that the the status and knowledge of this man to whom Musa AS was sent to is immense. This great prophet of Allah, this leader of a nation, is told to trek across endless terrain just to find him.

Yet, when Allah SWT describes such an amazing and knowledge person, he does so by not only calling him a slave, but by calling him a slave from amongst slaves, the most humbling of monikers.

In this, we learn something profound. The more one increases in knowledge, the more humbled he should be. Knowledge increases one’s ranks, and the highest of ranks we may achieve before the Lord of the Worlds is slave.

Often times, in the present day, we think in opposite terms. As we come to understand more and more, we become fuller and fuller of ourselves, losing sight of the purpose of knowledge itself.

Knowledge is not a goal, rather a path. A path towards guidance. If we treat it as anything else it will consume and destroy us with self delusion. If such great men as Musa were humble before the Lord of the Worlds then it is certainly upon us to take that same attitude.

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.

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.

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.

 

 

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