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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.

Words of Wisdom.

The year has officially begun here at Bayyinah and things are already in full swing, Alhamdulillah. On Day 2, Shaykh Abdul Nasir Jangda came to visit us at Bayyinah and gave us incredible words of advice from scholars of the past and from his own experiences.

“In regards to knowledge, Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an: “Allah will raise those who have believed among you and those who were given knowledge, by degrees.” [58:11] Being a student of knowledge is an incredible opportunity because knowledge, especially knowledge of the Qur’an is irreplaceable. It’s incredibly valuable because the Qur’an is the fixture. The opportunity to study the book of Allah is a blessed opportunity, it’s a gift. Do right by this gift by valuing it and giving it your all.

The scholars of the past would quote a set of advice frequently to students seeking sacred knowledge:

You will not acquire knowledge until you implement six things:

1. Be focused. Bring yourself totally and completely to the table. Make this your primary objective; seeking knowledge requires undivided attention. Bring focus.

2. Desire this more than anything else. This has to be #1.

3. Be committed and apply yourself.

4. See things through till the end. Finish what you started. Often times, in the course of seeking knowledge, different tests and trials will come, negative influences will arise, or half way, you may just want to give up. But Commit yourself, finish what you started.

5. Take the instruction of a teacher. No one has ever learned beneficial knowledge without the instruction of a teacher. Our scholars of the past always had a teacher, a mentor. It is absolutely critical in the pursuit of sacred knowledge.

6. Time is essential. Commit Time in the accordance to the benefit that you want and want to give to others. Sometimes we are always seeking a fast, quicker, better solution but when it comes to knowledge, there is no quick solution. In order to achieve something, you have to work hard. Because has anything worthwhile ever been achieved without putting some work in?

You are here for an objective. You are here to learn the book of Allah. Be focused. Based on your sincerity, Allah will bless you with even more opportunities. Based on your focus and ihsan, Allah will grant you more. Value the knowledge. Value your teachers. You are blessed to be here. You have been chosen.”

I saw vs. I see

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The Quran is incredibly precise in its choice of words. Contrary to average composition, it doesn’t randomly toss words around to convey only a general sense of the intended meaning. Rather, each word meaningfully conveys specific detail and suits its context perfectly.

The Quran’s references to the dreams of Ibrahim AS and Yusuf AS serve as prime examples of this specificity. Allah narrates Yusuf speaking to his father:

يَاأَبَتِإِنِّيرَأَيْتُأَحَدَعَشَرَكَوْكَبًاوَالشَّمْسَوَالْقَمَرَرَأَيْتُهُمْلِيسَاجِدِينَ

O my dear father! I saw in a dream eleven stars, as well as the sun and the moon prostrating to me

12:4

The choice of the past tense “saw” or “رَأَيْتُ” is appropriate here because Yusuf AS only had the dream once, and was simply telling his father about that one time.

Ibrahim AS speaks about his dream in a slightly different way when sharing it with his son, Ismael:

قَالَ يَا بُنَيَّ إِنِّي أَرَىٰ فِي الْمَنَامِ أَنِّي أَذْبَحُكَ فَانْظُرْ مَاذَا تَرَىٰ

O my dear son! I see in a dream that I should sacrifice you: consider, then, what you think of this

37:102

He says “أَرَىٰ” meaning that he “sees” in his dream, using the present tense. This subtle utilization of the present tense conveys the meaning of repetition, and persistence. When Ibrahim AS says he “sees” in his dream, it suggests that he’s had the dream multiple times, and that it has continuously haunted him to the point where it has actually become his current state of reality.

This usage lines up with what we know of Ibrahim AS’s story. He saw the dream to kill his son, and at first, the horror caused him to delay its realization. Because of this, Allah  continued to show him the dream over and over.

This continuous witnessing of the dream led him to eventually fulfill Allah’s command, and thus raised him to the status of a leader amongst all people.

We ask Allah to allow us to appreciate the beauty of his book and raise us by his obedience as he raised Ibrahim AS. Ameen.

Packing.

In the process of leaving my hometown and preparing to settle into Dallas for the Bayyinah Dream Program, the past month in a half has consisted of decluttering, boxes stacked up, bags piled into corners, stuffing this here and stuffing that there. I never thought packing and then unpacking could be so labor intensive not to mention picking up the pieces, saying goodbyes, leaving home was much more difficult than I expected. I have never been away from home for more than 30 days and this was definitely my first time experiencing what traveling and resettling felt like, though its relatively temporary.

This process of packing and unpacking and resettling made me reflect on some very powerful advice that my shaykh told us once in a halaqah. He said that every single one of us are travelers, though sometimes in our homes, in our cities and in the familiar, we get very comfortable, we feel like we “permanently reside” and though in a sense it may be a fact, in the grand scheme of things, we are travelers, we are all on this journey through the dunya, through this life and we came from Him, and we are all on a journey trying to return back to Him, our Master, our Lord, the One who Created us, the One who sustains us, the Most Generous and the Most Merciful.

We are all travelers and even though majority of our life isn’t spent physically packing boxes and suitcases, in a sense we are always packing- we are packing our metaphorical suitcase as we pass through as travelers. In this suitcase, we can either put in things that will benefit us in our journey- good deeds, salah, du’a, seeking knowledge, trying to have ihsan in all our affairs, trying our best to live like the Prophet (sws), trying to pack our suitcase full of good that will bring us benefit in the Hereafter. Or, we can put in things in our suitcase that would be of no use, that simply take up empty weight to an extent where it even becomes a burden. It may hinder the travel and pose no benefit at all to us and those things are sins, the bad deeds. Whether we realize it or not, every day we are packing and traveling- either we are packing good deeds and getting closer to Allah, or we are packing sins, and perhaps potentially taking us away from Allah.

We are all travelers, trying and struggling to make it back Home. May Allah allow us to constantly fill our suitcases of life with good deeds and protect us from packing in sins and allow us to return back to Him in a state that He is pleased with. Ameen.

Week 1.

Today is Saturday and I still can’t believe that a week has already passed. We are slowly getting into the routine of always being on the go, slowly trying to pick up and establish habits of students of knowledge, trying. One of my personal goals when coming here was to start my day at Fajr and so far in the rush of mornings to get to class on time, it has been pretty successful. Our day starts at Fajr followed by some time for Qur’an and then scrambling around to eat breakfast, get lunch packed, grab all notebooks, and racing out the door as soon as possible to make sure that we are able to get good seats.

We start off the day with a little bit of review after which Ustadh Adam teaches us grammar till 11:00am. I am always humbled by his patience and dedication in making sure we understand the concepts. In just a week, we have heard so many stories from him about his own personal studies and the journey he took and subhanAllah it always amazes me how much our teachers have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice for the sake of Allah and His religion. May Allah accept from all of them and elevate them.

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Iblis vs. Jews & Christians

iblisa

In the middle of the Quran are two sisters, Kahf and Isra. These surahs have well documented similarities and complement each other amazingly.

Surah Isra is mainly directed at Bani Israel, the Jews. It begins by recalling part of their story, closes by doing the same, and is even known as Surah Bani Israel by some.

Sarah Kahf, on the other hand, is directed at the Christians. It begins by rejecting the idea that God has a son and continues by correcting the distorted Christian narrative of the people of the cave, filling it in with more accurate detail and making it relevant to those seeking guidance.

We find nuances in the ayahs of these surahs, which demonstrate how perfectly each is catered to its intended audience.

An example of this targeted nuance can be found near the middle of both surahs where Allah talks about the creation of Adam. In Surah Isra, directed at the Jews, we find the ayah:

“And remember when We said to the angles, “Prostrate to Adam,” and they prostrated, except for Iblis. He said, “Should I prostrate to one You created from clay?’”

17:61

And in Surah Kahf, which is directed towards the Christians, we find the ayah:

“And remember when We said to the angels, “Prostrate to Adam,” and they prostrated, except for Iblis. He was of the jinn and transgressed from the command of his Lord. Will you you take him and his descendants as friends and protectors other than Me while they are enemies to you? Wretched it is for the wrongdoers as an exchange.”

18:50

Both of these ayahs mention the same story, but the manner in which they do so is contextually correlated to their audiences.

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Jinn

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The Arabic Language utilizes an intricate root system to classify its vocabulary which enables it to express interrelated concepts with beautiful imagery.

We’ll take a look at the usage of the word “jinn” in the 50th ayah of Surah Kahf to get an idea of this.

وَإِذْ قُلْنَا لِلْمَلَائِكَةِ اسْجُدُوا لِآدَمَ فَسَجَدُوا إِلَّا إِبْلِيسَ كَانَ مِنَ الْجِنِّ فَفَسَقَ عَنْ أَمْرِ رَبِّهِ

And when we said to the angels: “Prostrate yourselves before Adam,” so they all prostrated themselves except Iblis, who was one of the Jinns and disobeyed the command of his Lord…

18:50

Allah says that Iblis was one of the “jinn,” which of course carries the standard definition that he was a creature created from fire who was given free will, but a closer look reveals even deeper meaning.

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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…”

18:48

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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