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Category Archives: Tafseer

Asking the Right Questions

سَيَقُولُونَ ثَلَاثَةٌ رَّابِعُهُمْ كَلْبُهُمْ وَيَقُولُونَ خَمْسَةٌ سَادِسُهُمْ كَلْبُهُمْ رَجْمًا بِالْغَيْبِ ۖ وَيَقُولُونَ سَبْعَةٌ وَثَامِنُهُمْ كَلْبُهُمْ ۚ قُل رَّبِّي أَعْلَمُ بِعِدَّتِهِم مَّا يَعْلَمُهُمْ إِلَّا قَلِيلٌ ۗ فَلَا تُمَارِ فِيهِمْ إِلَّا مِرَاءً ظَاهِرًا وَلَا تَسْتَفْتِ فِيهِم مِّنْهُمْ أَحَدًا

They will say there were three, the fourth of them being their dog; and they will say there were five, the sixth of them being their dog – guessing at the unseen; and they will say there were seven, and the eighth of them was their dog. Say, [O Muhammad], “My Lord is most knowing of their number. None knows them except a few. So do not argue about them except with an obvious argument and do not inquire about them among [the speculators] from anyone.”  [18:22]


“No, but…” she said hand on hip, pointing a finger at us all.

Her face lit up. “What if he saw the Angel of death before he crashed into the tree? Because if he did, then I think maybe the fright he got when he saw the Angel caused him to swerve and then crash! I think that happened.” She said nodding her head agreeing with her own predictions.

I recently heard a sister say something close to this at my college regarding a famous celebrity who passed away in a car accident. The sister, to make things sound interesting I suppose, was speculating about when this man actually saw the Angel of death… was it before the car swerved or as it hit the tree?

This was something that shocked me. This is just one example, but there are so many other instances when things like this happen. When people begin to question and guess at the unseen when knowing the answer to their question has no benefit whatsoever either in this world or the next. People do this for amusement, debate, argument etc.

There is a type of questioning which will lead to beneficial answers and will increase one in knowledge, but on the other hand there is also another type of questioning, questioning of matters the knowledge of which only lies with Allah and will not bring us any benefit. With such things, the best thing to do is stay quiet, because as human beings, we’ve got to accept that we won’t always know everything.

“They will say there were three, the fourth of them being their dog; and they will say there were five, the sixth of them being their dog – guessing at the unseen…”

In this verse in Surah Kahf, Allah talks about a group of people, similar to the group we discussed earlier, who sit in gatherings, debating and guessing, in this situation, of the number of the companions of the cave. Yet, what does Allah command the Prophet (Salallahu Alayhi Wasallam) to tell them?

He says: “Say, [O Muhammad], “My Lord is most knowing of their number. None knows them except a few. So do not argue about them except with an obvious argument and do not inquire about them among [the speculators] from anyone.”

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala could have easily revealed to us the answer to this question. But He chose not to. In doing so he teaches us a lesson. In matters like these we should accept what we are told, not speculate about what we don’t know and leave it to Allah. Allah clearly informs them to not argue without evidence, for such things lead to speculation. We waste so much time arguing over matters we have no control over, that are unseen to us, that we forget the more important questions that will benefit us in this world and the next. Questions such as, How can I attain Khushu’ in my Salaah? How can I strengthen my relationship with Allah? Rather than other non-beneficial, guess-game type questions.

Or in this instance, rather than worrying about how many people there were in the cave perhaps we should concern ourselves with their characteristics, what did they do to deserve the honour of their story being preserved for eternity? How can we follow their footsteps towards pleasing Allah and attaining righteousness? What can we learn from them?

Excessive questioning was one of the traits of the Bani Israel. When Allah swt commanded them to slaughter a cow, they questioned Allah over and over again, to the point that in the end, they could almost not find the cow, because of their constant questioning of its description.

They said, “Call upon your Lord for us that He may make plain to us what it is!” He said, “He says, ‘Verily, it is a cow neither too old nor too young, but (it is) between the two conditions’, so do what you are commanded.” [ 2:68]

However, a point to remember, Islam is simple, realistic and easy. Even though there may be some questions that we shouldn’t ask, there are those that we should ask, and those are the questions that will bring benefit in this life and the next, inshaAllah.

The point here is not that questions are bad but rather that asking a question should be done with a purpose. Islam is the only religion which emphasizes and encourages thinking and questioning and reflecting as part of the learning process. How many times in the Qur’an does Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala ask us: “Do you not ponder?”, “Do you not reflect?”, “Do you not think?” May Allah swt guide us to ask the right questions, ameen.

Lessons from the Cave: Finding Success Through Conviction

There are many lessons we can derive from the story of the companions of the cave. The emphasis on steadfastness and holding tight to the truth is evident in this beautiful story. The companions of the cave fled from their palaces to retreat to a dark cave. Why? What was it that led them to leave the luxuries they were surrounded with, to leave their lofty positions, their palaces, and their superfluities, and instead migrate to a cave in the middle of an unfamiliar place?

إِذْ أَوَى الْفِتْيَةُ إِلَى الْكَهْفِ فَقَالُوا رَبَّنَا آتِنَا مِن لَّدُنكَ رَحْمَةً وَهَيِّئْ لَنَا مِنْ أَمْرِنَا رَشَدًا

Allah says: [Mention] when the youths retreated to the cave and said, “Our Lord, grant us from Yourself mercy and prepare for us from our affair right guidance.” [18:10]

These were youth, young men, and sons of prestigious Kings, whose hearts Allah were guided and filled with Imaan. Their love for Allah, and their fear of associating partners with Allah and disobeying him caused them to leave their homes which were filled with polytheism and disbelief. For them, living in a cave with pure monotheism was better than living in a land of polytheism. Their Du’aa to Allah as they left their lavish dwellings was one which was deeply heart-felt, their soft hearts were filled with fear – fear of going astray, and their only call to Allah was, “Our Lord, grant us from Yourself mercy and prepare for us from our affair right guidance.”

Their hearts weren’t harboring any doubts about what might happen to them as they journeyed to the cave. They weren’t worried about how they would eat, where they would live but rather they placed their trust in Allah. Hoping that their Lord would guide them to the right place, that He would take care of them and shower His mercy upon them for fleeing from falsehood. For these particular youth, Tawheed was their most prized possession: their most valuable gift, and they wouldn’t trade it for any of the luxuries they ever had. They knew that their words and actions could not change their fathers and the people around them, who were drowning in Shirk, and so isolation was their only option. They would never compromise on their religion.

Oh youth, listen with a heart full of conviction, and listen in heed. These men were youth who valued their religion more than they valued the gold and the palaces they were brought up in. Mud and soil as a pillow was more beloved to them than soft-to-touch cushions lined with diamonds and gems. Allah doesn’t narrate to us stories without purpose; rather they are there to reminder us. Their sincere conviction became the reason their story has been preserved.

وَذَكِّرْ فَإِنَّ الذِّكْرَىٰ تَنفَعُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ

Allah says: “And remind, for indeed, the reminder benefits the believers” [51:55]

نَحْنُ نَقُصُّ عَلَيْكَ أَحْسَنَ الْقَصَصِ بِمَا أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْكَ هَٰذَا الْقُرْآنَ وَإِن كُنتَ مِن قَبْلِهِ لَمِنَ الْغَافِلِينَ

He also says: “We relate to you, [O Muhammad], the best of stories in what We have revealed to you of this Qur’an although you were, before it, among the unaware.” [12:3]

Oh youth of Islam, serve your religion from a young age, you have all the energy of youth on your side, right now. It is you who will carry Islam forward, and who will be the leaders of the future generation. Just like the companions of the cave, don’t compromise your religion for anything or anyone. You may not be the sons of Kings as they were, but for you it is lot easier than it was for them, to detach your hearts from falsehood, from the glitter of this world. Lastly, remember Allah grants believers steadfastness at the time of need, so flee to Him and He will bestow His mercy on you.

Just as the companions of the cave found eternal success through their conviction in Allah, you too can harness the power of conviction. Just put your faith and trust in Allah and constantly seek His guidance and keep moving forward towards your goals. May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala guide us all to the best of success, ameen.

 

Light Upon Light – The Angels See Stars on the Earth

نُّورٌ عَلَىٰ نُورٍ

Light upon light…” [24:35]

When we gaze at the night sky we see stars shining brightly each one glistening, so beautiful to the eye.

Scholars have said that in the heavens are angels who look down at the earth, and find huge, bright stars, (كوكب) scattered in different places. What are these stars they see? These stars are the people on the earth who have the most beautiful light, the light of emaan glowing in their hearts.

And we know this because of the awe – inspiring ayah in the Qur’an, where Allah says:

اللَّهُ نُورُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۚ مَثَلُ نُورِهِ كَمِشْكَاةٍ فِيهَا مِصْبَاحٌ ۖ الْمِصْبَاحُ فِي زُجَاجَةٍ ۖ الزُّجَاجَةُ كَأَنَّهَا كَوْكَبٌ دُرِّيٌّ يُوقَدُ مِن شَجَرَةٍ مُّبَارَكَةٍ زَيْتُونَةٍ لَّا شَرْقِيَّةٍ وَلَا غَرْبِيَّةٍ يَكَادُ زَيْتُهَا يُضِيءُ وَلَوْ لَمْ تَمْسَسْهُ نَارٌ ۚ نُّورٌ عَلَىٰ نُورٍ ۗ يَهْدِي اللَّهُ لِنُورِهِ مَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَيَضْرِبُ اللَّهُ الْأَمْثَالَ لِلنَّاسِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ

“Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The example of His light is like a niche within which is a lamp, the lamp is within glass, the glass *as if it were a pearly [white] star lit from [the oil of] a blessed olive tree*, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil would almost glow even if untouched by fire. Light upon light. Allah guides to His light whom He wills. And Allah presents examples for the people, and Allah is Knowing of all things.” [24:35]

So how can we understand this parable? Imagine, your body is a house. Your rib cage is a niche. Within the niche is a lamp – your heart, within your heart is your soul – the pearl white star which is lit by the Qur’an; the most blessed gift sent down to mankind.

This light does not rise and does not set, it does not extinguish, or disappear then reappear, rather it emanates continuously.

This is the example of the heart of a believer.

May Allah grant us all this light upon light and fill our hearts with imaan so we are like shining stars to the angels looking down from above, ameen.

The Dog in the Cave: A Lesson in Friendship

وَكَلْبُهُمْ بَـسِطٌ ذِرَاعَيْهِ بِالوَصِيدِ

“…and their dog stretching forth his two forelegs at the entrance [of the Cave or in the space near to the entrance of the Cave (as a guard at the gate)]…” [18:18]

The people of the cave were pious individuals upon pure tawheed (monotheism), who sought refuge from the corrupt society they lived in.  Allah decided that a dog – which is usually seen as an unclean and impure animal, should guard the entrance of the cave as to protect the men who were residing in it. This dog enjoyed the same blessing of preservation that these youth did in that cave. He got the same fame and status they did. This dog has the great fortune of being mentioned in the Qur’an! What does this teach us? This teaches us that the company we keep is very important.  A dog is thought to be a lowly animal but he was known to be good because the people with him were good. He was honoured through his company.

If your friends are good and pious, then people will assume you are too.

The Prophet ﷺ said: “A person is on the religion of his companions. Therefore let every one of you carefully consider the company he keeps.” [Tirmidhi]

Be wary of the company that you keep. Make sure you surround yourself with good friends because it is human nature that we are influenced and shaped by those around us. This is a very important lesson to consider if you are trying to grow and change yourself for the better, first look at and change your company. Keep the company of people who will remind you of Allah and help you come closer to Him.

May Allah subahanhu wa ta’ala bless us with righteous friends, ameen.

How to Attain Allah’s Love

قُلْ إِن كُنتُمْ تُحِبُّونَ اللَّهَ فَاتَّبِعُونِي يُحْبِبْكُمُ اللَّهُ وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ذُنُوبَكُمْ ۗ وَاللَّهُ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

“Say, [O Muhammad], ‘If you should love Allah , then follow me, [so] Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.'” [3:31]

A simple method for attaining the love of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) and attaining forgiveness: follow the prophet Muhammad (sullulahu alaihi wa salam).

This ayah is a test for us, a litmus test of faith and love of Allah. Allah (swt) is asking us to PROVE our love for Him! And, SubhanAllah, the proof of our love for our Rabb (Lord) lies in following His Messenger. And, even more amazing is the reward that Allah has promised for following His Messenger: Allah’s Love! What can be a greater reward than this?

This ayah clearly shows the great status of the prophet (saw) and the great status of his sunnah. It is a clear proof against those who reject the sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (saw).

Allah (swt) immediately after this says,

قُلْ أَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَالرَّسُولَ ۖ فَإِن تَوَلَّوْا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ الْكَافِرِينَ

“Say, ‘Obey Allah and the Messenger.’ But if they turn away – then indeed, Allah does not like the disbelievers. “ [3:32]

Allah (swt) emphasizes the message from the previous ayah with a direct command: Obey Allah and obey the Messenger. It is not enough to merely obey Allah, because obedience in Allah entails the obedience of the Messenger. Allah (swt) directly links His obedience with obedience to the Messenger (saw) inextricably. What an honour for the Prophet (saw) and what a clear sign for us to follow his Sunnah.

And, in case more emphasis of this was needed, this ayah also indicates that defiance and turning away from the obedience of Allah or His Messenger (saw) is kufr/disbelief. Thus, we cannot claim to love Allah and to be true believers unless we follow the prophet (saw) and obey him. Belief in Allah and belief in the prophet (saw) go hand in hand. That is why even our declaration of faith includes witnessing the prophethood of Muhammad (saw).

لا إِلّهَ إلاَ اللهُ مُحَمَدُ رَّسُول الله

There is no diety worthy of worship except Allah, Muhammad is His Messenger.

Notice the absence of a “و” or the word “and” between the two statements. The absence of the word “and” from this statement serves the purpose of conjoining the two statements. Again, emphasizing their inextricable nature.

May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala guide us in following our beloved prophet (saw) and giving him the proper reverence that he deserves. Ameen.

Action Item: Choose at least one sunnah that you haven’t been practising and incorporate it into your daily schedule with the intention of following the Prophet sullulahu alaihi wa salam. Eg. Saying bismillah before everything you do.