Category Archives: Essay

Worth of a Mosquito

Syed Sharfuddin

إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَسْتَحْيِي أَنْ يَضْرِبَ مَثَلًا مَا بَعُوضَةً فَمَا فَوْقَهَا ۚ فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا فَيَعْلَمُونَ أَنَّهُ الْحَقُّ مِنْ رَبِّهِمْ ۖ وَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا فَيَقُولُونَ مَاذَا أَرَادَ اللَّهُ بهذا مَثَلًا ۘ يُضِلُّ بِهِ كَثِيرًا وَيَهْدِي بِهِ كَثِيرًا ۚ وَمَا يُضِلُّ بِهِ إِلَّا الْفَاسِقِينَ

“Allah does not mind giving an example of a [small insect such as a] female mosquito or anything that is bigger than that [such as a bee, spider, dog or camel]. As for those who believe, they know that it is the Truth from their Lord. But as for those who disbelieve, they say, “What did Allah intend by this example?” He leads astray many thereby, and He guides many thereby; but He misleads only the evil doers.”[2:26].

There is a great lesson for the believers in this verse in which Allah mentions the female mosquito as an example to understand His divine message and supreme power. Mosquitos have been inhabiting human habitat for many centuries and will continue to do so because their growth is directly linked with the life of humans. The life span of a mosquito is 6 weeks. A female mosquito needs human blood to obtain nutrients, lipids, and proteins which are necessary for production of their eggs. In some species of mosquitos, human blood also enables female to produce more eggs. Mosquitos can smell humans from more than 30 feet through their ability to process exhaled carbon dioxide.

Man has battled long and hard to eradicate this small insect with pesticides, larvicides, pyrethroids. Scientists in etymological labs have experimented with biological and genetic tools to stop the growth of female mosquitos, and block the disease spread by their bites which produce malaria, dengue, and yellow fever. These diseases are deadly for humans, and their pathogens have an extraordinary ability to mutate and come back to kill humans in thousands. Malaria has killed more people in human history than any other disease. In some countries, its spread dropped but Malaria has never been fully controlled. Its elimination is not on the horizon yet. Different malaria species have adapted to local conditions to survive. Where people used nets, repellents, plastic films, sprays, scents and smokes in night-time, mosquitoes changed their habits and started biting humans and cattle in their carriages, pens and during the day.

The non-believers who wondered at the wisdom of Allah choosing the example of a mosquito to illustrate His divine power, manifested in the devastating killer ability of a small creature of the wild, today realise their helplessness in controlling this small insignificant insect, despite the advances made in pathology and genetic engineering. According to statistics there were 575,000 malaria deaths in 2019, which rose significantly to 620,000 in 2021. The This year, Latin America recorded 3 million cases of outbreak of dengue. Bangladesh had 120,000 cases. Several other water-borne and mosquito spread diseases such as chikungunya also registered an increase in many regions of the world.

Allah has given several examples in the Quran to make believers distinguish right from wrong and make an informed choice. In the story of Cane and Able, Allah gives the example of a crow to show how ignorant and helpless man can become when he rejects good advice and insists on pursuing his desire only to regret it afterwards (5:31). In the example of a fly (22:73), Allah has challenged man to create a fly which has, to start with, eyes that are made up of thousands of individual lenses which make it extremely hard to catch it. In the example of dog, Allah shows the two sides of man, loyalty, and obedience to the master such as the dog of the companions of the cave (18:18), as well as greed and avarice, such as the simile of a dog that pants with a lolling tongue whether you drive it away or leave it alone (7:176).    

Nothing in the divine scheme of things is irrelevant or insignificant as man foolishly thinks he knows everything after learning a fraction of the knowledge of how this universe works. Allah says in the Quran: “the disbelievers who deny being accountable to Allah and whose efforts in this world are misguided, think that they are doing good work, but their deeds will be nullified, and Allah will give them no weight”. Only those who are rightly guided by Allah are blessed to attain everlasting success and truly appreciate His signs and examples.

Similarities between Prophet Musa and Prophet Mohammad

Syed Sharfuddin

We have sent a messenger to you to be your witness, just as We sent a messenger to Pharaoh” [Al-Quran: Surah Al-Muzammil 73:15]

“I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brethren like thee (Moses), and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them what I command him.” [Torah, Old Testament, Chapter V, Deuteronomy 18:18].

In comparative religions there has been renewed interest in finding similarities and differences between Prophets Musa, may Allah exalt his mention, and Prophet Muhammad, may Allah shower His blessings and peace upon him. This is due to the commonalities in each prophet’s origin and life, and the fact that their ancestry traces back to Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, from whose progeny originate the three most popular religions in the world. Out of the two dozen prophets mentioned in the Quran, Prophet Musa is mentioned the most (136 times).

In studying the lives of great personalities, including divine prophets, it is natural to draw parallels between their qualities and achievements. For this reason, when Jewish and Christian scholars write about the founders of Abrahamic faiths, they tend to be partial in placing their own prophet on a higher intellectual pedestal in comparison with other prophets. Some Judeo-Christian scholars go the other extreme of denying the divine prophethood of Muhammad, peace be upon him, and rejecting Islam as an Abrahamic religion on the grounds that Mohammad’s lineage does not come from the progeny of Ibrahim’s younger son Ishaq and his son Yaqub. They pick out references from the Quran to claim that Muhammad’s God made mistakes and rectified these by cancelling certain verses of the holy Quran and replaced these with newer verses. They say Musa was a learned man, whereas Muhammad was unlettered, or that Musa spoke to God and Muhammad only spoke to Gabriel. They even interpret the prophesy of a later prophet coming after Musa in the Torah (Deuteronomy 18:18) as a reference to the coming of Isa, and not Muhammad. They deny the fact that despite being unlettered, Mohammad’s divine message was so eloquent, so convincing and so comprehensive that it was beyond any human’s capacity to talk without God putting these words in his mouth. Mohammad came from the line of Ismail, the elder brother of Ishaq, and therefore was like a brother to Musa. On the other hand, Isa’s lineage cannot be traced to Ishaq because of his holy fatherless birth. Prophet Isa was also not given a Sharia law by Allah as was given to Musa and Muhammad.

It is a double blessing that while the criticism of Muhammad by the deniers of Islam itself falls to ground in its detail, Muslims are forbidden by Allah to find fault with any of the prophets of Allah or draw any comparisons between them or assign them an order of merit. It is one of the fundamental articles of Muslim faith to believe that all prophets of Allah are equal in rank and there is no difference among them. Allah assigned all His messengers a clear mission and sent them to their assigned nations to guide them to the right path. Prophet Musa was sent to challenge the pagan beliefs of the people of Egypt and invite them to worship one God, and free the children of Yakub (Israel) from the bondage of the Pharaoh. Prophet Muhammad was sent to free the people of Arab Peninsula of their pagan practices and liberate them from their inhuman practices and decadent traditions. He succeeded in his mission by shaping a society that later ruled the world and brought enlightenment to the dark ages of human history. However, as Muhammad is the last and final prophet of Allah, his Sharia law is for all humanity till the end of time.

The similarities pointed out between Prophets Musa and Mohammad in this essay are by no means an attempt to establish a ranking of the two great prophets of Islam. It is aimed primarily to show how close these two messengers of Allah are in their mission and message, and how they are described in the Quran.

Both Prophet Musa and Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon them, came from the line of Ibrahim. Musa came from the line of prophets from Ibrahim’s younger son Ishaq and Mohammad came from the line of Ibrahim’s elder son Ismail.

Both Prophets were raised in noble households. While Musa grew up in the Egyptian palace of the Pharaoh, Muhammad grew up in the socially established family of Banu Hashim of Arabia, whose head was the well-respected chief, Abdul Muttalib, and after his death, his son Abu Talib. As children, both Prophets were raised by people who were not their birth parents. Both Prophets lived ordinary lives and for a short time worked as shepherds in their younger years. They got married like ordinary people, had children, were threatened with death for spreading their anti-establishment ideas but prevailed and died natural deaths. Both were forced to flee from their places of birth due to the actions of their community and migrated to new places where they established residence.

Both Prophets received prophethood from God after they had married and socially earned their reputation as honest and trustworthy people. It is noteworthy that the divine revelation came to each of them on a mountain. Musa went to the burning bush on Mount Sinai where he was spoken to by God, and Muhammad went to Mount Hira where he met Gabriel in a cave. Both were sent to ungrateful and unruly nations who disobeyed them after receiving guidance. Musa’s followers broke the rule of Sabbath and took to calf worship in his absence and were condemned to go into exile for 40 years. Muhammad’s followers embraced the very things they were warned against, such as greed for material life, tribal loyalties and taking infidels and polytheists as their friends and well-wishers. Despite being in impressively large numbers they remain ineffective and divided into sects and sub-sects.

In their latter years, both Prophets became religious and political heads of their communities. They were not kings like Prophets Dawood and Suleyman, but they were great political and social reformers. They established a new legal order for their communities and gave them a divine sharia law to follow. They established authority and participated in holy wars against the infidels. Both Prophets were very concerned about their Ummah and prayed to God to forgive their mistakes. It is believed that both Prophets will intercede with God on the day of judgement on behalf of their respective Ummah to forgive them and grant them paradise. 

Both Prophets have the unique distinction of being succeeded by the same Prophet, Isa, son of Maryam. Prophets Musa was followed by Prophet Isa in his first coming from his immaculate birth to the time he was raised to the heaven, and Prophet Muhammad will be followed by the second coming of Prophet Isa closer to the end of time when he will descend from the heaven on a dome of the Grand Mosque of Damascus to kill Dajjal. Both Prophets have been followed by false claimants of prophethood after their demise.

Both Prophets went through a journey of understanding the divine wisdom and appreciating that no divine messenger can claim to have all knowledge except what Allah reveals to him. This is illustrated in Surah Al-Kahaf (Chapter 18) wherein Prophet Muhammad is advised not to undertake to provide an answer to the ‘People of the Book’ on his own when asked about the details of the companions of the cave without invoking the help of Allah and saying Ayn Yasha Allah (18:23-24). Also in the same Surah, Prophet Musa learns that there are things in Allah’s kingdom the answers to which are known only to few selected persons but not him, and he requests Khizr to explain his three actions which Musa could not understood until he was told what they meant. (18:78).

Both Prophets were blamed by their enemies of having some deformity. Prophet Musa was a shy person and used to keep himself fully covered in clothes. Some disbelievers spread the rumor that Musa had some skin disease or hernia. Allah silenced them by causing Musa to be seen naked in perfect condition while he was searching for his clothes after taking a bath. Allah mentions this in the Quran as: “Be not like those who annoyed Musa, but Allah proved his innocence of that which they alleged, and he was honourable in Allah’s sight (69:1). In another Surah Allah says: “O believers, be not like those who abused Musa; then Allah cleared him of what they say, and he in the sight of Allah was distinguished.” (33:69). The infidels in Makkah also used to level accusations against Prophet Muhammad. They alleged that as a child Muhammad had a spiritual experience which was manifested as epilepsy and that he was possessed by a demon. Allah says in the holy Quran: “The disbelievers almost strike you down with their looks; when they hear the Quran they say, ‘he must be mad’ (68:51). In another place Allah says: “By the grace of your Lord, (O prophet) you are neither an oracle nor a madman” (52:29).

Both Prophets were addressed by Allah differently to help them convey the divine message to their pagan nations. Allah spoke to Musa on the mountain by the burning bush and gave him ten commandments, but He did not reveal Himself to Musa. Allah did not speak to Muhammad directly and sent the holy spirit archangel Gabriel to to convey His divine message to him, but Allah called Muhammad to witness the eternal heavens on a night journey that was faster than the speed of light ((17:1). It is said in the Hadith that in that journey when Prophet Muhammad met Prophet Musa, he was advised by Musa to get the number of daily obligatory prayers reduced by Allah from fifty to five, as Musa was aware that his Ummah had failed to perform the obligatory prayers commanded to them by Allah. Prophet Muhammad was able to get the obligatory prayers reduced to five for his Ummah but with their reward being equal to that of fifty, as Allah’s word never changes. (Book of Hadith Tirmidhi 213). It is no coincidence that  that the verse describing the heavenly journey of Prophet Muhammad in the holy Quran is followed by a verse about Allah giving the Book to Prophet Musa to guide the children of Israel. 

It is said that Prophet Musa performed miracles which the holy Quran confirms but it is alleged that Prophet Mohammad did not perform any miracle. The context of this comparison is incorrect. In the time of Prophet Musa, magic was popular with the Egyptians and its practitioners were patronised by the Pharaoh. Therefore Musa was given the miracles to render their magic ineffective. In Prophet Muhammad’s time, magic was not as much in fashion as was the power of compassion and kindness in contrast to the harsh and violent nature of the Arabs to win over hearts and minds. Prophet Muhammad was given these qualities and was sent as a mercy to all the people, Muslims and non-Muslims (21:107). His compassion made him so effective that infidels used to stop their tribesmen from hearing Muhammad because they feared that Muhammad will influence them and make them embrace Islam. It was therefore not less than a miracle that in a short time of ten years, the entire Arabian peninsula accepted Islam and those who raised the arms to resist it were subdued. Prophet Muhammad’s return to Makkah without shedding a single drop of blood was also not less than a miracle. This was the same city from where he had migrated to Madinah in the dark hours of one night after learning that the tribal lords of Makkah had decided to kill him. Another living miracle of the Prophet is the holy Quran which Allah revealed to Prophet Mohammad. By Allah’s decree, the Quran’s original text has remained unchanged from the time of Prophet Muhammad till today and will remain so till the end of time (15:9). It is also simultaneously read and memorised by millions of Muslims, which is another miracle.

These two Prophets also have something in common about their followers. While the followers of Prophet Musa took his brother and Nabi Aron as their grand Rabbi, the Shia Muslims also took Prophet Muhammad’s companion and first cousin Ali, as their Imam and Mola.

Finally, both Prophet Musa and Prophet Muhammad were humans. In his early days Musa murdered a man unintentionally. He was mindful of his stammer. Muhammad was cautioned in the Quran for not paying attention to the blind man (80-1-10). He was also told that except for blood lineage no person could be taken as son by his adopted ‘father’. None of the prophets of Allah were exempt from human needs. They ate food and walked in markets. They engaged in conversations with their followers, answered the questions of non-believers, mediated the disputes of people and dispensed justice. Prophet Musa and Prophet Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of Allah be on them, were the messengers of Allah, but they were not partners or associates of Allah as the followers of Isa, son of Maryam, claim in the trinity of the father, son, and the holy ghost. May Allah save us from Shirk which is the highest form of oppression and an unpardonable sin.

Qualities of Man: A Combination of Goodness and Evil

Syed Sharfuddin

In the holy Quran Allah has described the character of man, both good and bad with clear examples. The picture of man that emerges from this description is one that is black and white, punctuated with goodness and ungratefulness, and worthy of being a true viceroy of God on earth or a vassal of devil. In this essay we will examine how Allah describes man with qualities that make him the worst of beings and qualities that make him the best of creatures.

Man is born with the negative quality of forgetting Allah’s bounties and favours quickly and becoming unjust and ungrateful (14:34). He has been given a life by Allah and will die and then will be raised and live permanently, but he is ungrateful (22:66). He rejoices in Allah’s blessings but if some harm comes to him on account of his own deeds, he becomes ungrateful (42:48). Man associates partners to Allah from His own creation; man is truly ungrateful (43:15).

When Allah gives a taste of prosperity to him after a touch of adversity, man says my ills are gone; he becomes totally proud and boastful (11:10). When Allah grants his favours to man, he turns away and acts arrogantly, but when touched with adversity, he loses all hope (17:83). Man never tires of wishing for good but when he is touched with evil, he becomes desperate and hopeless (41:49).

Man cries to Allah for help when he is in hardship but when Allah showers His blessings on him, he says I have attained this because of my knowledge, and this is what I deserve (41:50). He does not realise that this is no more than a test for him (39:49). Man is always in need; only Allah is free from need (35:15). When man is tested by Allah with generosity and blessing, he boasts that my Lord has deservedly honoured me, but when he is tested with adversity, he protests that my Lord has undeservedly humiliated me (89:15-16).

When man is in distress, he remembers God and seeks His mercy, but when he is brought to safety, he is ever ungrateful and forgetful of his Lord (17:67). Man is stubborn and denies the Truth (80:17). Man desires evil in a manner he ought to desire good; he is ever hasty (17:11; 21:37). It is the outcome of this haste that when Allah offered the Trust (Quran) to the heavens and the earth and mountains, they all declined to bear it but man assumed it. Allah says man is truly wrongful to himself and ignorant of the consequences (33:72). Man is created impatient and anxious (70:19). Man behaves miserly. Even if he had been given all the treasures of his Lord’s bounty, he would still hold them back and not spend these on others for fear of losing his wealth. He is ever grudging and stingy (17:100). Man is more contentious and argumentative of all beings (18:54).

Man amasses wealth and is forgetful when misfortune touches him. He becomes tight fisted when good fortune comes his way. In the love of wealth man is violent (100-6-8). Man exceeds all bounds and thinks he is self-sufficient (96:6-7). He does not want to be reminded how he was born from a drop of sperm, helpless and small, and yet he is boastful (16:4; 36:77; 75:37). He forgets his insignificant and dirty origin of biological birth and ignores how his provisions were made easy for him (80:18-32). Man is born ignorant and is nurtured and taught by his Lord. He denies the Day of Judgement and mockingly asks when it will come (75:5-6). He thinks he will be left without accountability and purpose (75:36). Man forbids others to worship God. He denies the Truth and turns away from it. He does not realise that God sees all he does. Man is the worst of creatures if he is a disbeliever of God’s divinity, and associates partners with Allah (98:6). Man is deep in loss just as the declining day is destined to end (103:2).

Let us now turn to the other side of human character which is filled with good and noble qualities.

The good men are kind and mindful their duties and responsibilities toward Allah and his creation. Their hearts are attached to mosques as they love to purify themselves (9:108). There are men who constantly remember Allah and establish prayer. Neither possessions nor trade take them far from Allah’s remembrance. They help the poor and fear the day when their hearts and eyes will be overturned as in death or on the Day of Judgement (24:36-7). They stick to the divine path and observe their Covenant with Allah (33:231). They support and defend Allah’s messengers who are rightly guided (36:20-21). They are well-wishers of the believers and give them good advice when they are in a state of fear (28:20).

It is interesting that the choice of suppressing man’s violent and unbridled nature or submitting to it rests with man himself. Allah has shown the right way to man and given him the choice to become either grateful or arrogant (76:30). These attributes are not permanently ingratiated in man’s personality, nor are these pre-destined. These can be subdued or sharpened by becoming recessive or dominant in man’s personality. It depends on man which attributes he wants to develop and which he wants to mute. By exercising his free will, man can become disgruntled, contentious, miserly, anxious, fretful, hopeless, angry, ungrateful, unbelieving, disobedient, violent and tyrant, or alternately, he can become obedient to his Lord, kind to other human beings, generous, compassionate, forgiving, thankful, and peace loving.

To make man’s task easy Allah has provided guidance in the Quran about how to avoid the bad attributes from taking control of his character and instead promote good and noble characteristics. For instance, the cure of anxiety is placed in the reading of the holy Quran (13:28). Performance of obligatory five times prayer keeps a believer away from lewdness and prohibitions (29:45). Feeding the hungry makes one humble and generous (69:34; 76:09; 89:18; 107:3). Astagfar removes poverty and brings peace (11:52). Pursuit of knowledge brings wisdom (96:3-5). Fasting promotes patience and forbearance. Doing good brings goodness and discards grief and fear (55:60; 2:112). Patience and forgiveness overcome the instinct to take revenge (42:43). Seeking Allah’s mercy prevents the heart from inciting toward evil (12:53).

Man decides his own ranking whether he wants to join the party of devil (58:19) or the party of Allah (58:22). As humans, it is up to us to decide for ourselves if we want to be the inheritors of paradise with higher aims and attainment, or a creature of earth with its mundane pleasures and absence of any substance.

Dajjal, the False Messiah

Syed Sharfuddin


In Islamic eschatology Dajjal is known as the false Messiah. Christians call him the anti-Christ. The Jews believe in the appearance of an evil king of the last generation preceding salvation. The followers of the three Abrahamic faiths also believe in the coming of the final hour and prior to that some form of tribulation and victory for their faith symbolised by the return of the ancient kingdom of Yehuda and rebuilding of the Temple of Solomon for the Jews, the second coming of Jesus for Christians and return of Mahdi and Prophet Isa, son of Maryam for Muslims. It is not unrealistic to think that at the time of the appearance of Dajjal, the true followers of the three faiths will be both his target and his main opponents.

Islamic View of Dajjal

There is no mention of Dajjal in the holy Quran but there are verses which scholars believe refer to Dajjal and the rebellion of man, for instance Surah Al-Anaam Verse 158 and Surah Al-Alaq verse 6. In the former verse Allah Subhanuhu wa Taala says that “when some of the signs of your Lord have appeared, no good will it do to a person to believe then if he had not believed before”. According to a Hidith of Tirmidhi, our Prophet, peace be upon him, said that when three signs have become apparent, it will not benefit someone who accepts Islam after the appearance of Dajjal, speaking of the beast of earth and sun rising from the place where it sets. The latter verse refers to the fact that “man exceeds all bounds”. Some scholars take this as the extreme which Dajjal will reach as a rebel human being.

There are over two hundred Ahadith about the coming of Dajjal toward the end of time. His powers and physical description are also mentioned in these Ahadith. According to these accounts, Dajjal will be the thirtieth false claimer of prophethood. His claim will gradually increase from being a ruler to a Messiah to a prophet and then God himself. What a ludicrous claim that a human who is trapped by biological constraints, who is imperfect in eyesight, who is unable to enter Makkah and Madinah and who needs supporters and cheerers to establish his rule, claims to be taking the place of a perfect and ever supreme God. The irony couldn’t be greater that Allah will choose to let him taste his humiliating death at the hands of the true Messiah and his true prophet (Isa).

Different Takes on Dajjal

Within the Islamic eschatological thought there is a wide range of views about Dajjal, whether he is a human being with extra-ordinary abilities of mind and body, or he is the symbol of a decadent era at a particular stage of human advancement. The literalists believe that Dajjal is physical in body and soul as a person. The allegorists say that Dajjal is a metaphor for the highly individualised spiritual and post-materialistic society that has now dawned upon us as a sign of the end of time. Some scholars equate Dajjal to Communist and neo-secularist ideology that promotes denial of faith and disbelief in God. According to this view, rejecting Dajjal represents a close relationship between the followers of Muhammad and Isa who have joined hands in serving God to defeat such ideologies. A contrasting view is that Dajjal represents Western civilisation which has discarded religion in favour of materialism and greed, and which employs advance technology, artificial intelligence, and economic sanctions to enslave dissenting people and nations.

The Sufis take Dajjal as an embodiment of the evil Nafs which must be resisted by the ‘Mahdi’ of one’s goodness and killed by the ‘Isa’ of one’s Rüh. According to them, the light of the day would not be physically long as a year on day one, a month on day two or a week on day three but it will seem so due to the dark clouds of ignorance surrounding people. In the Sufi interpretation a blind eye stands for inner imperfection. A person can be blind to evil, deceit, desire, and anger despite having two eyes.

Some Muslims believe that Dajjal has an ontological existence and is waiting for permission from Allah to reveal himself. In the Hadith of Fatima Bint Qays Al-Fihriyya quoted by Imam Muslim, Tamim Dari informed the Prophet about his shipwreck and how he landed on an island with thirty other shipmates where they saw a man whose neck and hands were tied, and he had iron shackles on his feet and ankles. After asking Tamim Dari a few questions, this well-built curly haired man told Tamim Dari that he was Dajjal, and that he would soon be permitted to leave the island and travel in the land far and wide. The Prophet reportedly said to Tamim Dari that he liked his account as it corroborated with his own description of Dajjal to the companions.

Generally, Muslims believe that Dajjal will appear before the end of time, but he is not yet born, because since he is human, he must go through the normal cycle of birth, physical development, and death in a time span of about hundred 100 years which is now the norm for human life.

A small body of Muslims believe that the Ahadith about Dajjal are weak and are not confirmed by the Quran. While believing in the other signs of end of time mentioned in the holy Quran and Ahadith about Yajuj Majuj (Gog and Magog) and the appearance of the creature of the earth, they do not take Dajjal either literally or allegorically. They believe that the fable of Dajjal has entered Islam from Christianity and is now a part of Islamic eschatology.

Belief of Majority Muslims

The authoritative sources of the Islamic tradition state that belief in the physical appearance of Dajjal as a person in body and flesh is an integral part of the Islamic faith. Imam Abu Hanifa belongs to this group of scholars. According to him the emergence of Dajjal is true and a reality. This is also the belief of other scholars in the Ahl Sunnah and Shia Athna Ashari schools of Islamic theology. Even the Kharijites and Motazilites accepted the emergence of Dajjal as a reality. There are, however, small differences among these schools of thought about the description of Dajjal and whether it is the Mahdi or Isa who will kill Dajjal.

Dajjal’s Features

Dajjal will come from a generation of deviant Jews who would have forsaken their faith for political power and wealth. He will come from the East, somewhere between Khorasan, Damascus and Iraq. He will be a young man of medium built strong body, with a wide forehead, a large round head, and broad upper cheeks. He will have lots of hair on his corpus. His skin will be fair or reddish. The hair on his head will be thick and twisted like that of an Abyssinian. He will have a sharp nose like the beak of a bird. He will be pigeon toed in both feet and blinded in the right eye. This eye will be green like glass. The other eye will be neither bulging not sunken from its socket but will move like a floating grape.

It is interesting that in the medieval Christian literature the anti-Christ is also described in similar terms to depict his evil nature. “His knees will be unbending, he will be crippled in his eyes, with wide eyebrows, crooked fingered, with a pointed head, gracious, boastful, wise, sweet in laughter, visionary, clever, sober, gentle, mild, worker of signs, bringing close to him the souls of the corrupt, bringing forth bread from stones, making the blind to see, the lame to walk, and he will make mountains move from place to place”. [Daniel Apocalypses].

When Dajjal will sleep his eye will be closed like other creatures but his heart will remain awake. His reach will be so great that the distance between his two steps will be forty yards. He will walk the earth with a speed like a cloud driven by wind. He will appear at distant places in a very short time. He will be without an offspring.

Followers of Dajjal

In the beginning Dajjal will rise with the claim of reviving the faith and bringing reformation, but as soon as he will recruit his followers, which will include several thousand Jews, as well as Turks, Bedouins, and people from the marginal groups, including a large number of women, he will claim that he is a prophet. He wouldn’t stop at this but eventually he will claim to be God. In the Christian literature, he is named anti-Christ because by claiming to be Jesus, he will automatically claim to be God. Dajjal’s appearance will be the supreme test of the Muslims. They will be confused and divided.

Time of Dajjal’s Appearance

Dajjal will appear at a time when people will be secular and materialistic and would have forsaken religion from their lives. The weather will be hostile and there will be uncertainty and anxiety everywhere. Three years prior to the appearance of Dajjal, there will be severe drought, famine, and poverty. The hot sun will dry up rivers and will evaporate lakes resulting in shortage of fresh water and disturbance in the growth of vegetation and harvesting of crops. People will be prepared to do anything to get fresh water, greenery and vegetation they need to survive. Dajjal will exploit these conditions to his advantage.

Prosperity will return to the earth for Dajjal’s followers after his appearance. Flocks of cattle grazing in fields will come back in the evening with their humps taller, their udders fuller and flanks fatter than they have ever been. We are all too familiar with genetically modified crops of wheat, barley, maze and rice. There are bumper harvests of bigger and better fruits and industrially patented lab grown meats that have revolutionised human food chain. The portions of our poultry and meat purchases are getting bigger and better and we have no shortage of fruits, honey, eggs, milk and dairy products despite the earth’s population increasing every day. Dajjal’s followers will have access to these foods in abundance.

Dajjal will invite people to his false religion and reward them with luxuries if they follow him. He will bring misery and penury to those who reject him. It will be nearly impossible to survive by rejecting his call and remaining steadfast on the teachings of the holy Quran and the tradition of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. People will join Dajjal’s forces with such speed that a man will be a Muslim in the morning but by sunset, he would have fallen prey to the material and physical temptations of Dajjal.

Dajjal’s Powers

Dajjal’s powers will be such that have never been wielded by man, Shaitan or a Jinn before. Dajjal will also use the help of devils to advance his influence. But these powers will be based on deception. His goods will be unreal, and his promises will be false. He won’t perform prophetic miracles; instead, he will present his deceitful tricks as miracles. He will carry two rivers, one of blazing fire and the other of white water with him. His fire will be water and his water will be fire.

Dajjal will exhibit heaven and hell to people and invite them to choose between the two. Those who will be overcome by his awe and majesty will obviously choose to enter his heaven but upon entering there, they will find themselves in an inferno contrary to what was told to them. Those who reject Dajjal will be sent by him to his hell but upon entering there, they will discover that they are in a cool place just like the experience of Prophet Ibrahim when he was thrown in the fire pit by Nimrud for rejecting idol worship. It is not difficult to imagine that Dajjal will have the power to carry hell and heaven with him. Today, with the help of hologram technology and artificial intelligence (AI), an IT expert can virtually display a lush green garden on a barren mountain and if a person is asked to walk through it virtually without any moving pad under his feet, he may end up banging his head against a rock.

Dajjal will have power to gather actual rain clouds and cause the earth to be watered and produce vegetation in places where he would want the rain to fall. He will take control of agricultural stocks and streams of drinking water. He will accumulate rivers of water and mountains of bread. He will have full control on where they are expended. Any tribe or nation that challenges his claim of being God will be subjected to sanctions.

Allah Taala will give Dajjal the extraordinary power to raise the dead parents of a person from their graves and make them appear and talk to him. Dajjal will address those people who resist him and say: “If I resurrect your dead parents, will you confess in my deity?” They will answer in the affirmative. Then the devils serving Dajjal will appear in the form of their parents who will talk to them in their language. As a result, many people will abandon their faith and believe that Dajjal is God.

Dajjal will be a liar and a high-class magician, armed by modern technology of holograms, voice and face recognition technology, 5G plus videography, optical character recognition and language and translation software and live animation. Employing these technologies, it would not be impossible for him to do things we have never imagined. Dajjal will use this knowhow to convince people into accepting that he is God, but he will be a false god because Allah is perfect and Dajjal is imperfect having only one functional eye. Dajjal will carry this blemish with him as a sign to those who know his reality that he is so helpless that he cannot give himself two functional eyes. The believers know that in this life, no one can see Allah. They will therefore reject his false claim that he is God. The true believers will also be able to clearly read the inscription K F R standing for Kafir on his forehead. Non-believers will be unable to see this inscription on his forehead.

Dajjal will be given the knowledge by Allah to know where the treasures of the earth are hidden. During his reign, these minerals and treasures will burst open like bees coming out from their hives. Besides food security, much of the international politics centres around the ownership and possession of strategic minerals which are the key drivers of economic growth and domination of power in the world. These treasures comprise rare and precious materials and minerals which are essential for the supply chains of industrialised countries. The earth consists of one-third land and two-third oceans. Humans have still not mapped the entire breadth and width of land for strategic minerals and metals. They have only begun to scratch the surface of oceans to reach under-sea wealth and resources. Dajjal will be given the knowledge to identify the hidden resources buried under hostile oceans. He will have the ability to excavate and exploit these resources. How many believers will be able to resist the temptation of benefiting from Dajjal’s call and tribulation, is hard to tell. For this reason, Dajjals’ appearance will be the greatest test this Ummah will ever face in the existence of this world.

Dajjal will not have the knowledge of the unknown, but he will use reason backed by his tricks and coercive means to influence people. He will be able to travel far and wide, but he will not be able to enter Makkah and Madinah. Those who will live in Makkah and Madinah will be safe from his influence. It is also said that Dajjal will not be able to enter the Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

The Reign of Dajjal

Dajjal’s reign will last a total of one year, two months and a fortnight compressed in forty days. According to Ahadith, the first day of his rule will be like a year, the second day like a month, the third day like a week and the remaining 37 days like normal days. There have been many explanations for this timescale. Some scholars say these are literal days of such length; others say these are metaphorical references.

Dajjal’s Power is Challenged

The speed of Dajjal’s influence will be faster than the winds and his spell will spread far and wide like a storm. He will conquer every corner of the world with his charisma and sorcery. He will spread hatred against Islam. The deviant Jews will support Dajjal against the Muslims. After conquering the Arabian peninsula, Dajjal would want to enter Makkah, but he will not be able to do so because Allah’s angels will be guarding the holy city. Dajjal will be humiliated and will aim to enter Madina instead, but he will not be successful there also because Allah’s angels will be guarding the gates of Madina.

It is believed that when this will happen, there will be three earthquakes in Madina, which will frighten the munafiqeen (people who say they are Muslims but in reality they are non-Muslims) and fasiqeen (people who say are Muslims but they practice everything that is forbidden by Islam) to flee the city. Outside Madina, they will fall into Dajjal’s hands and join his forces.

At last a youth will challenge Dajjal and confront him for a debate, but when he would be called to meet Dajjal, his guards would want to kill him. Dajjal’s security will stop them saying that the youth could not be killed without the permission of Dajjal.

Thereafter this young person will be brought before Dajjal. The young man will say: “I have recognised that you are none other than the cursed Dajjal.” He will further say: “Our Prophet Mohammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, informed us about your coming”. As soon as Dajjal hears this, he will order this youth to be killed. Dajjal’s guards will immediately cut the young man into two pieces.

Dajjal will say to those present on the occasion: “Now, if I bring this man back to life, will you be convinced of my divinity?” His followers will reply: “we have already come to believe in you as God. But if you bring this man back to life, it will further increase our faith in you.” This description is reminiscent of the talks Pharoah used to have in his palace and reminds us of the dialogue he had with a nobleman in his court, which is narrated in the Quran

Using his magic, Dajjal will join the two pieces of the dead body of the young man together, whereby he will come back to life. The martyred man will stand up and say: “Now I am even more convinced that you are the cursed Dajjal.” This will make Dajjal angry and he would want to kill the young man again. But now his power will be taken away. He will be embarrassed. In fury, he will throw the youth in his hell but the fire will become cool and will not burn the young man, just as the fire of Nimrud became cool and could not burn Ibrahim.

Dajjal’s Last Days

Moving on to what Dajjal will do after he consolidates his power, it is said that he will turn to Syria, but before he will reach Damascus, Imam Mahdi will have arrived there. When Imam Mahdi arrives in Damascus, he will start preparing for war, but the odds of victory will be against the Imam. Dajjal would control both political and military power and people will be on his side. But Imam Mahdi and his followers will be sure of Allah’s support and help. The Imam will call all Muslims to offer prayers at the Umayyad Mosque. In addition to organising the Muslims against Dajjal, he will make Damascus the centre of his activity. One day Imam Mahdi will go to the Umayyad Mosque to offer prayers. He will then meet Prophet Jesus, son of Maryam, who would descent from heaven on the eastern minaret of the Grand Mosque of Damascus with the Will of Allah to help Imam Mahdi defeat Dajjal.

After offering the evening prayers, people will go out to confront Dajjal. Upon seeing Prophet Isa, Dajjal will start dissolving like salt in water. Prophet Isa will catch up with Dajjal at the Gate of Ludd and will kill him. Seeing Dajjal’s humiliating death, his supporters will try to disperse behind trees and stones but they will be unsuccessful to hide and will be eliminated at the hands of Isa’s army.

Then Jesus will validate Islam, break the cross, meaning he will reaffirm that he is a prophet of Allah and not son of God; he will kill the swine, meaning he will restore the Sharia of Prophet Muhammad; and he will announce the end of war, meaning that peace will prevail and result in such an abundance of wealth that no one will be poor to accept alms. The people will become pious and there will be no evil until Jesus lives his time on earth.

Following the death of Dajjal, Yajuj and Majuj will emerge as Allah describes in the Quran, “swoop down from every mount [21:96] and consume all sweet water. A series of events will then take place in succession over a short period as described in detail in the Book of Tribulations in Sunan Ibn Majah before the last hour. These are: three solar eclipses, a great smoke bellowing, the foretold sunrise from the west, a creature of the earth speaking, a fire driving people to huddle together and the two trumpets blown one after the other to end the world.

Non-Muslim Perceptions about Dajjal

Non-Muslim scholars of Islam maintain that the belief in the coming of Dajjal has been imported into Islamic texts from the Jewish and Christian traditions. These ideas were brought by the Jewish and Christian converts in the early Islamic period and became part of Islamic eschatology. According to these non-Muslim scholars, the long time it took for the canonical books of Hadith to be compiled and agreed upon (about eight centuries) provided sufficient time for these ideas to get consolidated in Islamic thought about the signs of the last hour which is foretold in the Quran together with some other signs (Yajuj and Majuj and the speaking creature of the earth). A great deal of material about Dajjal was later excised by the later schools of puritanical Muslim scholars on the grounds that it was taken from Talmudic texts and other Jewish accounts and formed part of those Ahadith which were considered to be weak or unacceptable by the majority of scholars of Hadith.

Another view is that during the Prophet’s time, a Jewish man by the name of Al-Siyyed claimed to be a Jewish prophet. The Prophet therefore wanted his followers to beware of the false Messiah after his death.

While belief in the last hour and resurrection is a fundamental part of the Islamic faith, believing in all the signs of the last hour or interpreting these as literal texts or metaphor does not change the context in which it is discussed, namely that there will be an end of life on this earth in this world and the beginning of an everlasting life on another earth in another world. It also makes no difference if Dajjal is a Jewish or Christian thought borrowed by Islam. There are many fundamental principles and traditions in Islam, which came from other Abrahamic faiths such as prohibiting idol worship, abstaining from eating swine, fasting, giving charity, fulfilling the Covenant, establishing justice, pursuit of peace, and doing good deeds for the pleasure of Allah. There are more stories of Israeli prophets in the Quran than episodes related to the life of Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him.

The coming of Dajjal will unite the true believers among the true  Jews, Christians and Muslims and expose those who are deceivers and not the followers of the same great monotheistic faith that Prophet Ibrahim and the long line of prophets from his progeny until the last and final Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, preached and practiced to guide humanity on the right path.

It is reported in the Hadith that a Muslim who recites Surah Al-Kahf (Chapter 18) on Fridays will be safe from the tricks of Dajjal if his appearance occurs in his lifetime. It is also said that the first and last ten verses of Surah Al-Kahf should be memorised by Muslims as a handy tool against Dajjal’s tribulations. Since Dajjal’s arrival is unknown, worshippers regularly seek protection from Allah from the mischief of Dajjal in their daily prayers, should he appear in their lifetime.

Several resources were used in compiling this essay. Allah knows best.

Suggested Reading:

The Legend of al Dajjal Antichrist: The Personification of Evil in the Islamic Tradition.pdf
 Dajjal and Messiah by Abukhadeejah pdf
Dajjal .pdf
Dajjal: The Greatest Calamity pdf

Dajjaal: -Knowing the false Messaiah by Abu-Az-Zubayr-Harrison.pdf
Dajjal and the Return of Jesus, Kalamullah pdf

Explaining Dajjal’s Time on Earth

Syed Sharfuddin

In the Islamic eschatology it is believed that Dajjal’s rule of extraordinary tribulations and tests for the believers which will take place as a clear sign of the end of time with last forty days before he is killed by prophet Isa with the support of the Mahdi. But these forty days will comprise a total of one year, two months and a fortnight. According to the narration of Nawas bin Sama’an mentioned in in Shahi Muslim and Abu Dawood (4321) and Shahi Jamie (4166) and commented by Al-Nawawi in Shahi Muslim (18/65-66), the first day of his rule will be like a year, the second day like a month, the third day like a week and the remaining 37 days like normal days. There have been many explanations for this time scale. Some scholars say these are literal forty days, while others say these are metaphorical references. This essay explores some of these explanations. Allah knows best.

One explanation of this account is that Dajjal means deceiver. He is not one personality but a regime of kufr and disbelief spanning four periods; the first period comprises a time span lasting a thousand earthly years (equal to one heavenly day); the second period lasting about 82 and quarter years (equal to one heavenly month); the third period lasting about nineteen and quarter years (equal to one heavenly week) and the rest of the days like the usual earthy days. During this period Dajjal would want people to copy his liberal and atheistic lifestyle. In this time span, the idea of separation of church and state would firmly take root even in Muslim societies.

Another explanation suggests that it is not really the heavenly days but the speed of time that is meant by this timeline. Globalisation and the Internet have changed they way we use time. In the not too distant past, the days it used to take to travel to another country to go for Hajj or attend a business meeting are now reduced to hours as people can simply do a virtual conference on the Internet for business consultations. Emails and online messages are now delivered globally in seconds. The speed of time will be become even faster with new technologies and devices at our disposal. However, the cognisance of the fast pace of time will be short lived due to the law of diminishing returns. We will get used to the speed of time without realising how long it took to accomplish the same task in the past. So the awareness of what could be done in one day, which used to take one year in the past would gradually diminish to a month and then a week and then a day to become the new normal. Humans first walked from one place to another which took them a year; then they learnt to ride on mules and horses which took them a month; then they built roads to travel by bus or train which took them a week to complete their journey; then they started flying planes which take only a day. Thus, travel by aeroplanes in a day became the new normal. This is how the forty days of Dajjal are explained according to this interpretation.

A third explanation is that the description of Dajjal’s rule lasting forty days with abnormal variations in the duration of the first three days is literal. According to this explanation it is possible that a major cosmic event caused by man’s interference with space and environment, (littering earth’s outer space with satellites, sending space missions to moon and other planets), or a huge heavenly body crashing against the surface of the earth, or a nuclear explosion going wrong on earth, would cause the earth to bounce on its obit resulting in its rotation to slow down from twenty-fours hours to a full year, but then settle down with two smaller bounces affecting the second day’s rotation to be as long as a month and the third day’s rotation to be as long as a week and then returning to its normal rotation speed of twenty-four hours as every other day. The impact of such changes will obviously result in reduced sunshine on one half of the earth, loss of vegetation, shortage of drinking water and changes in the weather which will severely affect the earth which are all associated with the reports of coming of Dajjal. With extraordinary powers at his disposal, Dajjal will make use of these abnormal times on earth to strengthen his rule over the nations of the world. The reference to his donkey with stretched ears, as his mode of transportation could be a supersonic airborne rocket transport, which would be capable of taking him to any place around the globe within minutes, if not seconds.

The third explanation to me seems to be more realistic because science would find a justification for such an extraordinary cosmic event when it happens. In the Ahadith (No 4075 to 4081) in the Book of Tribulations in Sunan Ibn Majah, it is said that Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, said when such a long day comes, the believers should pray their five times prayers according to the calculations of their daily time. It means that the event will be real and not allegorical.

Whatever the real meaning of the Hadith, there are two important points that need elaboration. The first point is that we live in a time when we can instantaneously see, hear and speak to someone on the other side of the world in a different time zone without leaving our homes. According to an account of Dajjal’s power, day and night shall disappear before his power as he will be able to know what is going on in all parts of the world. This means living in a post-satellite age, with 5G communications technology becoming part and parcel of our lives as is water, gas and electricity and increased reliance on automation for mode of transport and other applications. With so much already within our grasp, we are very close to the time of the appearance of Dajjal.

Was Prophet Yusuf a King or a Governor

Syed Sharfuddin

There is a verse in Surah Yusuf (Chapter 12) in the holy Quran in which prophet Yusuf Alaihey Salam (AS) recounts the blessings of Allah on him and asks to be re-joined with his forefathers who were among the righteous persons for whom Allah has promised a great reward:

۞ رَبِّ قَدۡ ءَاتَیۡتَنِی مِنَ ٱلۡمُلۡكِ وَعَلَّمۡتَنِی مِن تَأۡوِیلِ ٱلۡأَحَادِیثِۚ فَاطِرَ ٱلسَّمَـٰوَ ٰ⁠تِ وَٱلۡأَرۡضِ أَنتَ وَلِیِّۦ فِی ٱلدُّنۡیَا وَٱلۡـَٔاخِرَةِۖ تَوَفَّنِی مُسۡلِمࣰا وَأَلۡحِقۡنِی بِٱلصَّـٰلِحِینَ﴿ ١٠١ ﴾

Translation: “My Lord! You have given me authority; You have taught me something about the interpretation of dreams; Creator of the heavens and the earth, You are my protector in this world and in the hereafter. Let me die in true devotion to You. Join me with the righteous.” [12:101].

In other English translations of this verse, the first part containing the word Mulk is also translated as: “Lord You have given me [something] of sovereignty” (Sahih International); “Lord Thou hast given me [something] of sovereignty” (Pickthall); “Lord! Thou hast indeed bestowed on me some power” (Yusuf Ali); “Lord Thou hast given me of the kingdom” (Shakir); “Lord, You have given me the kingdom” (Muhammad Sarwar); “Lord You have indeed bestowed on me of the sovereignty” (Mohsin Khan); “Lord, Thou hast given me to rule” (Arberry), “Lord, You gave me rule: (Ahsan Al Bayan); “Lord You bestowed on me authority”. (Tafheem al Quran); “Lord You have bestowed dominion upon me (Zafar Ishak Ansari); and “Lord, You gave me a kingdom” (Tayasar Al Rahman Le Bayan Al Quran).

The translations of the Arabic word “Mulk” as rule, kingdom, dominion, sovereignty, power, and authority have raised a query whether prophet Yusuf (AS) was a king or a viceroy who exercised authority in the name of the king of Egypt. Perhaps this query also considers verse 72 of Surah Yusuf in which the official responsible for the royal inventory declares that the cup of the king is missing and announces a reward for whoever finds it.

قَالُوا۟ نَفۡقِدُ صُوَاعَ ٱلۡمَلِكِ وَلِمَن جَاۤءَ بِهِۦ حِمۡلُ بَعِیرࣲ وَأَنَا۠ بِهِۦ زَعِیمࣱ﴿ ٧٢ ﴾

Translation: They replied, ‘The king’s drinking-cup is missing,’ and, ‘Whoever returns it will get a camel-load [of grain],’ and, ‘I give you my word.’ (12:72).

But as we will see in the succeeding paragraphs there is no clear evidence that Yusuf (AS) was the king of Egypt.

Answering this query does not change fact that this is only an academic point and is not fundamental to the many lessons of Surah Yusuf which are discussed elsewhere in another essay.

When we compare verse 101 with other verses in the holy Quran where the word Mulk is mentioned, we can see that in verse 12:101 the addition of the word Min before Mulk slightly changes the meaning, making it “Lord, you gave me a part of the kingdom”.

رَبِّ قَدْ آتَيْتَنِي مِنَ الْمُلْكِ

In another verse (4:53) Allah ridicules the followers of earlier scriptures who rejected Quran and went astray. Allah asks: “Do they have any share of Allah’s kingdom? If they had, they would not give away even as much as the groove of the seed of the date”. (4:53).

أَمۡ لَهُمۡ نَصِیبࣱ مِّنَ ٱلۡمُلۡكِ فَإِذࣰا لَّا یُؤۡتُونَ ٱلنَّاسَ نَقِیرًا﴿ ٥٣ ﴾

In the above verse, the addition of Min before Mulk means a part of the kingdom but not the whole kingdom. Now compare this verse to the verses where Allah has mentioned Mulk without the prefix Min.

وَقَالَ لَهُمۡ نَبِیُّهُمۡ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ قَدۡ بَعَثَ لَكُمۡ طَالُوتَ مَلِكࣰاۚ قَالُوۤا۟ أَنَّىٰ یَكُونُ لَهُ ٱلۡمُلۡكُ عَلَیۡنَا وَنَحۡنُ أَحَقُّ بِٱلۡمُلۡكِ مِنۡهُ وَلَمۡ یُؤۡتَ سَعَةࣰ مِّنَ ٱلۡمَالِۚ قَالَ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ ٱصۡطَفَىٰهُ عَلَیۡكُمۡ وَزَادَهُۥ بَسۡطَةࣰ فِی ٱلۡعِلۡمِ وَٱلۡجِسۡمِۖ وَٱللَّهُ یُؤۡتِی مُلۡكَهُۥ مَن یَشَاۤءُۚ وَٱللَّهُ وَ ٰ⁠سِعٌ عَلِیمࣱ﴿ ٢٤٧ ﴾

Translation: “Their prophet said to them, ‘Allah has now appointed Talut to be your king,’ but they said, ‘How can he be king over us when we have a greater right to rule than he? He does not even have great wealth.’ He said, ‘Allah has chosen him over you, and has given him great knowledge and stature. Allah grants His authority to whoever He pleases: Allah is magnanimous, all knowing.” (Al-Baqarah, Ayah 247)

Now see another verse:

فَهَزَمُوهُم بِإِذۡنِ ٱللَّهِ وَقَتَلَ دَاوُۥدُ جَالُوتَ وَءَاتَىٰهُ ٱللَّهُ ٱلۡمُلۡكَ وَٱلۡحِكۡمَةَ وَعَلَّمَهُۥ مِمَّا یَشَاۤءُۗ وَلَوۡلَا دَفۡعُ ٱللَّهِ ٱلنَّاسَ بَعۡضَهُم بِبَعۡضࣲ لَّفَسَدَتِ ٱلۡأَرۡضُ وَلَـٰكِنَّ ٱللَّهَ ذُو فَضۡلٍ عَلَى ٱلۡعَـٰلَمِینَ﴿ ٢٥١ ﴾

Translation: “And so with Allah’s permission they defeated them. Dawood killed Jalut and Allah gave him sovereignty and wisdom and taught him what He pleased. If Allah did not drive some {people} back by means of others, the earth would be completely corrupt, but Allah is bountiful to all.” (Al-Baqarah, Ayah 251)

This point can be understood better by going back to Talmudic accounts of prophet Yusuf (AS) as the prophet of Bani Israel. He preceded prophet Musa (AS) by about 400 years. During his time the king of Egypt belonged to the dynasty of Hyksos. It is also said that Yusuf (AS) came at the time of the 18th dynasty of Pharaohs, namely Amenophis III or Amenophis IV. According to some commentators, the king who permitted prophet Yusuf (AS) to exercise authority in his name was Rayyan.

According to another account Yusuf (AS) became a confidante of the king of Egypt after interpreting his dream and was appointed a viceroy or governor of Canaan. It is also said that because of his wisdom and integrity he became the de-facto ruler of Egypt just we see today’ Crown Prince MBS exercising authority on behalf of the king in Saudi Arabia. It is also possible that prophet Yusuf (AS) became ruler of Egypt for a short period after the death of the king when he recited this dua (12:101) asking Allah to give him a blissful death like that of his father Yakub, grandfather Ishaq and great grandfather Ibrahim after attaining the best of knowledge, height of power and perfection of character.

It is reported that prophet Yusuf (AS) died before his other older brothers. His death is also interesting because when he died, people in every province in Egypt wanted to bury him in their province for barakah. They finally agreed to bury him in the Nile so that the waters of Nile carrying his remains could bless all of Egypt. Allah preserved the sarcophagus of Yusuf (AS) for 400 years until Musa (AS) found it in the Nile and took it with him to Jerusalem at the exodus to be buried close to the grave of Ibrahim (AS).

In Surah Al-Kahaf (18) when the blessed wise man Khizr answers prophet Musa’s three questions, he says that he damaged the barge of the old woman because the king was pursuing it to acquire it for his inventory (Ayah 79). Although the word used in the verse is king, it does not mean that the king of that country was himself chasing the boat of an old subject in his kingdom; instead, it were his officials who were acting in his authority.

A strong evidence to support the interpretation that Yusuf (AS) was not king, but a governor comes from Surah Yusuf itself. When Yusuf (AS) planned to have his blood brother Benyamin stay with him, he could not do so under Egyptian law (12:76). He had to devise a plan to implicate Benyamin on some charge. Had Yusuf (AS) been king himself, he would have simply ordered the guards to detain Benyamin as in those days the word of the king was law. But the fact that Yusuf (AS) followed the law of the land shows that he did not have sovereign authority. He was not a follower of the religion of his king nor was he himself a king to change the law.

A spider’s home is the weakest of all homes

Syed Sharfuddin

Spiders belong to a species of insects who live both in the wild and with humans in their homes and workplaces. What makes them distinct from other eight-legged creepy crawlies is their silky geometrical webs which have fascinated us for generations, as something extraordinary and awe inspiring. Few insects resemble spiders in their weave and workmanship.

Spiders’ webs are by themselves a strange phenomenon. Though they look very similar, no two webs are exactly alike. There are about 130 known different types of spiders’ webs. Spiders’ webs come in different shapes and sizes. There are spiral orb webs, funnel type webs, the most popularly known cobwebs, mesh webs, sheet webs, and webs with extend thread lines to trap insects. Spiders’ webs are very strong, having a tensile strength of up to 1.75 gigapascals (GPa) or about 178 kilograms per square millimeter in cross-section. Spiders’ webs are made of secretions from their tiny silk glands located under their abdomen. Male and female spiders have different silk glands that produce about three to four different types of silky fiber.

A spider’s silk fiber is highly elastic up to 300% and is capable of withstanding massive impact from a flying object such as a honeybee. Spiders’ webs have unique engineering properties of strength and flexibility in comparison with other fibers, including Kevlar, the toughest man-made polymer. A spider’s web is five times stronger than steel of the same diameter. A strand of spider silk weighing 0.45 kilogram can be stretched to circle the entire globe without requiring a knot. A spider’s silk is rich in vitamin K and can be used as a bandage on wounds.

A spider’s web is finer than human hair. It is sticky in the central part of the web where the prey is caught but its spokes are not sticky. Spiders’ webs lose their stickiness after a couple of days due to air pollution. To save energy and proteins, a spider eats its own web before making a new one in a different or same place. That’s why most of the time spiders don’t just sit idle, they are busy weaving webs. Spiders’ webs have caught the imagination of chemists for years as they continue to discover new properties of spiders’ webs and apply it in manufacturing artificial fibers.

A spider’s web is its home. It lives inside its home building it, destroying it and rebuilding it again and again.

One might wonder with such fascinating information about a spider’s web, why Allah has called a spider’s web the weakest of homes in the holy Quan.

مَثَلُ ٱلَّذِینَ ٱتَّخَذُوا۟ مِن دُونِ ٱللَّهِ أَوۡلِیَاۤءَ كَمَثَلِ ٱلۡعَنكَبُوتِ ٱتَّخَذَتۡ بَیۡتࣰاۖ وَإِنَّ أَوۡهَنَ ٱلۡبُیُوتِ لَبَیۡتُ ٱلۡعَنكَبُوتِۚ لَوۡ كَانُوا۟ یَعۡلَمُونَ

Translation: Those who take protectors other than Allah can be compared to spiders building themselves houses; the spider’s is the frailest of all houses- if only they could understand.” [Surah Al-Ankabut -29, Ayah 41].

Let us look at the spider’s web from another perspective. A spider spends lots of time and energy to make a home, but the final product of its hard work is a flimsy structure with no entrance, no exit, no shelter, and no depth. The spider is not at fault for building such a home, but it is at fault in taking this weak structure as its home.

As a spider is not a strong creature, its home is also not a fortress. In its home, a spider cannot protect itself from heat, cold, rain, pests, and predators. It cannot withstand a snow or wind storm. Just as the home of a spider is weak in comparison with other homes, idol worship is a weak religion in comparison with monotheism.

A spider’s home has no foundation, no walls and no roof and it cannot hold items inside it. Likewise, the infidel has no roof over him. He has no foundation or structure to stand on. He only relies on observation and delusion, not on facts and knowledge.

A spider does not have a fixed home. It keeps shifting and changing places. So is the idol worshipper who keeps wandering and changing his goalposts.

It is also an empty house in which there is nothing except design and deception. The irony cannot be greater because the spider builds its home on mountains, caves, and stone works (all symbols of strength) and yet it does not know that the home it builds with the proverbial sweat and blood is not safe. When a spider needs its home most for protection against predators, it is not sufficient to even hide it from their sight. What a beautiful example it is to show how the idol worshippers tie their barges of hope on the altars of false gods when the latter are themselves totally helpless and unable to protect themselves, let alone their followers.

A spider’s web is found mostly in corners of walls and other places. So is the path of the unbeliever and idol worshipper. Such a person relies on secrecy and hypocrisy compared to a Muslim whose religion is a transparent path and it cuts no corners.

A spider’s web represents greed, deception, and materialism. It is built with the intention to trap other insects and take their lives. The religion of an idol worshipper is also built on deception and takes him to destruction. A Muslim on the other hand builds his faith on honesty, truth, pursuit of knowledge and serving humanity.

Just as a spider’s home is unable to protect itself from cold, heat, rain, pests and calamity, an idol worshipper takes his gods who cannot benefit nor harm him and can do no good nor evil. He is simply deluding himself. An idol worshipper is like a person who is walking in a desert and imagining a mirage, but when he reaches that place, he finds no water and realises that it was a mere illusion.

Those who take guardians other than Allah are also imagining that their idols will make them successful in this world and the hereafter, but they are like a traveler who is pursuing a mirage in vain. Such a person is also as weak and helpless as a spider who obtains no benefit from his home. If the spider knew the reality of its home, it would probably not build it.

In building its home, a spider builds a prison for itself and its prey. This is likened to the condition of an idol worshipper who follows the devil in chains and shackles. Such a person is bound to go astray and remain deprived of the mercy and blessings of Allah.

The larger the web of a spider, the greater are the chances for its destruction in a storm. It is likened to the actions of an idol worshipper. The more he indulges in his polytheistic beliefs, the greater are the chances of his never returning to the correct path.

The house of a spider stands for a broken household and a decadent way of life. In many species, spiders eat their web before replacing it with a new one. Female spiders also eat their male after mating. Femle spiders are also disloyal to their male as they can have many sexual partners before fertilising themselves with the sperm of one male spider sack. In some species of spiders, a male spider mutilates the epigynum of its mating partner by self-castration to prevent her from mating with other males. This is a relationship of deceit and destruction, quite unlike a family life one expects to see inside the impressive webs spiders build for themselves.

All creatures go out of their homes to look for food, but spider is one insect that uses its home to trap other insects to eat. Home is a place for peace and safety but for the spider, its home is a trap to kill and eat its prey.

The Quraish of Makkah used to say that Muhammad’s God uses examples of small insects such as a fly or a spider and they used to laugh at it. Allah uses these examples according to His wisdom to make us understand His message. In this verse, Allah is comparing the faith of the believer with that of the idol worshipper whose ignorance is like the very insect he considers insignificant and laughable. Just as the web of the spider is unable to save it in calamity, the polytheism of the idol worshipper is unable to save him from hellfire in the hereafter. Allah has used the imagery of animals and insects such as bee, ant, fly, mosquito, cow, camel, donkey and dog in the holy Quran to elucidate His message. The spider is a part of these illustrations.

The spider is associated with the Hijrah in a positive light. It wove a web on the mouth of the cave where Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, rested with his companion Abu Bakar Siddiq on his way to Madinah while the idolators of Makkah were chasing him with the evil intention to kill him. The point to note here is that it is not the spider (and a pigeon) that made prophet Muhammad undetected by his enemies, but it was Allah who saved His prophet in the same way as he saved the companions of the cave by His will, using a dog as a medium (Surah Al-Kahf). In this instance Allah used a spider and a pigeon to protect His prophet. These animals were only a medium, they were not his saviours.

It is narrated on the authority of Ali AS who said: “purify your homes from the web of the spider, for leaving it in the homes inherits poverty”. Some commentators have said that Shaitan takes the form of spider to enter homes and therefore spiders should be killed. However, majority of commentators do not agree with this. Spiders of creatures of Allah and we should not take that extreme step to remove them like we remove other pests from our homes, but we must be aware that its’ web is a symbol of weakness and decay and should be regularly removed from inside homes.

What man calls one of the great wonders of the animal kingdom, Allah likens it to the great temples and decorated altars of the idol worshippers which are nothing but the weakest and unsuccessful links to reach Allah. Without divine knowledge, one is unaware of this reality.

Syed Sharfuddin

The words Nabi and Rasul have been used in the holy Quran interchangeably (2:213-214). In essence, they both mean the same thing, i.e., a Nabi or Rasul is a pious person chosen by Allah to receive divine guidance and commandments by Allah’s Will and convey these to his people during his lifetime. Only the style of doing so makes them either a Nabi or a Rasul; otherwise, their mission is the same and there is no difference among them. Since time is a continuum and people are born and die, and are succeeded by other people, the chain of Allah’s selected persons as Nabi and Rasul continued in different eras from the first prophet Adam to the last prophet Muhammad, sallallaho alaihe wasallam (S). The reason why this chain ended with Muhammad (S) while people have continued to be born and die and are still being succeeded by coming generations is an interesting question and that is what we will try to answer in this essay and explore what difference there is, if any, in the mission of a Nabi and a Rasul.

Nabi is translated in English as prophet and Rasul as messenger. Peyghambar is also used for Rasul in some translations. However, the two words are used to coney the same meaning. A Rasul can be an agnel or a human being (22:75), but the holy Quran makes a clear distinction between an angel Rasul(11:69) and a human Rasul (7:35). A Nabi can be a person chosen by Allah, or a person whom people call a nabi for his closeness of Allah such as saint or wali who has attained god consciousness. But this nabi cannot claim to be Nabi Allah publicly. He keeps his God consciousness only to himself. We will discuss this mystical concept later in the essay. Both Nabi Allah and Rasul Allah are people who have been tasked by Allah with the divine mission of informing people about the purpose of creation, acceptance of the one and only Creator and the dos and don’ts in the journey of man from his temporal existence to a permanent world.

In the holy Quran, there are certain characteristics that are associated with Rasul but not with Nabi, but there are also characteristics that are common to both Nabi and Rasul. There are also exceptions, and a generalisation cannot be made to distinguish a Nabi from a Rasul. This is because Allah has provided only limited information to humans about His prophets through the Quran and earlier Scriptures (40:78). The information available to Muslims from the Talmudic literature about the prophets of Bani Israel cannot be entirely relied upon because some of its accounts either conflict with or are unverifiable from the Islamic texts (Quran and Hadith).

In the holy Quran, Rasul is used for two meanings. The first meaning refers to angels, including archangel Jibril, who acted as a medium of communication between Allah and His chosen persons most of whom were prophets. For example, angels came to visit Prophets Ibrahim and Lüt and informed them about the disaster that had been prepared by Allah for the oppressors. Angels also visited human beings who were not Nabi such as Maryam, daughter of Imran and mother of Isa, who was given the news of a son without a father at the Will of Allah. After completing their mission as bearers of the divine message, the angel Rasuls returned to their abode and did not live with humans in this world to see its implementation.

The second meaning of Rasul refers to Allah’s chosen human beings who came from the fraternity of Nabis. These Rasuls were from their people. They had parents, spouses and children (13:38). Allah chose them to receive the divine book (Kitab) and command (Hukm). They were tasked to inform their people about His omniscience and omnipotence and to embrace goodness and peace. Those who accepted the divine message were named Muslims. Those who rejected their Rasuls became Kaafir (from Kufr meaning rejector or denier of the divine message).

In Surah A’le-Imran verses 79-81, Allah mentions that He took a covenant from his Nabis that they will confirm and support a Rasul who came after them with a book and command from Allah to reinforce the divine message for the guidance of idol worshippers, disbelievers and transgressors. Taking this covenant was important because Allah selected Rasuls from the college of Nabis and their support and acceptance of the Rasuls of their time was Allah’s grand design to provide guidance to as many people as were present in their times.

It is for this reason that there could be more than one Nabi or Rasul in the same time span in history. Prophet Ibrahim and prophet Lüt were contemporaries but were assigned different peoples. Prophet Musa visited Khizr who some scholars believe was also a Nabi. Prophet Musa was a Rasul and a Nabi (19:51) while his brother Haroon was only a Nabi (19:53). Prophet Ibrahim was a Nabi (19:41) and a Rasul (9:70; 87:19). His eldest son Ismail was a Rasul and a Nabi (19:54) and his younger son Ishaq was a Nabi (37:112).

Sometimes Allah sent more than one Rasul to a locality to reinforce their mission of warning the unbelievers against their corrupt and antisocial practices. In surah Yaseen there is a reference to a place believed to be ancient Anatolia where Allah sent three Rasuls but still the people rejected the divine message and were destroyed for their transgression and arrogance (36:29). The names of the Rasuls mentioned in the Quran whose nations were destroyed for repeatedly refusing the divine message are Nuh, Lüt, Hüd, Saleh, Shuaib and Musa.

According to the holy Quran four Rasuls including Prophet Muhammad (S) were given a divine book and a sharia law for their people. They were Ibrahim, Daüd, Musa and Mohammad (S). The message of all divine scriptures was the same; acceptance of the sole and supreme Creator of the universal order (that there is no god but Allah) and the importance for humans to do good deeds (aml al-saleh) in this mortal world (belief in resurrection) to be successful in the permanent life of the hereafter (Jannat Adn and hüm feeha khalidün).

Human beings have three quintessential weaknesses. The first is the fear of the supreme being where all power rests; the second is the desire for possession of material things; and the third is the attainment of permanence when the second desire is fulfilled. The Divine Message addressed these three concerns of people from Prophets Adam to Muhammad (S). The divine message brought to the people by their prophets informed them that the supreme being who controlled everything including life and death was no one except Allah; that the faithful would enter Paradise as a reward for their obedience to Allah and His Rasul, and for the good deeds performed in this world which meant keeping peace and serving humanity; and finally in Paradise they would live forever and would never be expelled again. These were the very fears addressed by Shaitan when he tempted Adam and Hawa to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree (7:40).

Not all Nabis were Rasuls, such as Ishaq (37:112), Yakub (19:51), Yahya (3:39), Idrees (19:56), Haroon (19:53), Yüsha or Shamweel (2:247) and Yusuf (40:34). They preached the word of Allah to their contacts by adhering to their current or predecessor Rasul’s sharia law and divine book. Nabis did not publicise their message, or went viral, to use the broadcast terminology.

From this a general principle can be derived that while a Rasul received a new sharia law and a divine book from Allah for going public, a Nabi was only assigned the task of guiding his close circle about the sharia law and the divine book of his fellow or predecessor Rasul. Two notable exceptions in this general principle are Ismail and Isa, whom Allah calls a Nabi and a Rasul in the Quran, but we are not told if Ismail who lived in Makkah away from his father Ibrahim was given a different sharia law and a divine book for his people. Allah knows best.

Another difference is that a Rasul is a Nabi before he becomes a Rasul. In the parables of prophets narrated in the many chapters of the Quran, we learn that some Nabis were appointed Rasuls at a certain time in their life. But once they became Rasul they remained so for the rest of their lives. Some Rasuls lived very long (972 years for Shees and 950 years for Nüh).

Some Rasuls lived a short life (30 years for Isa before his ascension to heaven and 40 years for Uzair). Prophet Musa completed a period of ten years as a trainee Nabi under prophet Shoaib before Allah appointed him Rasul and ordered him to go to the Pharaoh and declare that there was no god except Allah and that Musa was Allah’s Rasul (20:47). Prophets Ibrahim and Muhammad (S) were also given their responsibilities as Rasul after they had completed a certain time establishing themselves as truthful and trustworthy men in their community. When Prophet Isa addressed the bewildered crowd from his cradle, he told them he was a servant of Allah and a Nabi (19:30) but later when he addressed Bani Israel, he told them he was a Rasul who was sent to verify the divine scripture given by Allah to Prophet Musa (61:6). Allah also testifies in the Quran that Isa was a Rasul (3:171).

Rasuls were given miracles from Allah to convince their people that the divine message they brought was not their creation but the word of God. These miracles sometimes changed people’s mind to accept the divine message after rejecting it initially such as the magicians in Pharaoh’s court who refused to follow the orders of the king after seeing the miracles of Musa (7:121).

But there were also people who refused to change their pagan faith and called these miracles nothing more than a trick. People who demanded miracles from their Rasuls and got them and yet did not believe in the divine message and continued oppression and disobedience were destroyed (16:113). Surah Al-Shua’ra mentions several nations that disobeyed their Rasuls and were removed(23:44). People who accepted the divine message after seeing miracles were blessed with provisions and a peaceful and contented life of the hereafter (4:69).

A Rasul or Nabi could not do anything from his own will without receiving the divine instructions. In Surah Al-Kahf we learn that Prophet Muhammad (S) had to wait for divine revelation about the details of the people of cave which the Jews of Medina had asked to test him if he was a prophet, because he had not said ‘Ay Yasha Allah’ when he undertook to answer their questions (18:23).

A Rasul or Nabi could not leave his community without Allah’s permission. In Surah Yunus and other Surahs in the Quran we learn about the repentance of Prophet Yunus who left his community in Northern Iraq fearing that they will be destroyed by Allah for rejecting the divine message but instead he was reprimanded for abandoning them. In the boat which he took to flee, he was thrown in the ocean and swallowed by a whale and would not have left its belly had he not repented and was forgiven by Allah (37:144).

A Rasul or Nabi did not have the power to save his son from a calamity or seek forgiveness for his father if Allah decided that he was not to be saved for his Kufr (Nuh’s son (11:46) and Ibrahim’s father (9:114).

The number of Nabis Allah sent in this world since Prophet Adam far exceeds the number of Rasuls appointed by Allah to guide humanity. According to Hadith, Allah sent 124 thousand Nabis in this world but the number of Rasuls sent by Allah is only 313. The Quran mentions the names of 25 Nabis, 16 among them were Rasuls. As a fundamental article of their faith, Muslims are required to believe in Allah, His angels, His divine books and His Rasuls. They are also required to believe that all Rasuls are equal and there is no difference among them (2:285).

Unlike a Rasul, a Nabi does not go out and seek his public acceptance by acclaim, nor does he seek to change the law of his nation if it is not compatible with the sharia law of the last Rasul. Prophet Yusuf was a Nabi but he did not challenge the faith of the king of Egypt who consulted him about his dreams. A Nabi guides people in low ley but he does not convey God’s exact words to them, which is a function assigned only to a Rasul, the messenger of Allah.

To further illustrate the difference between a Nabi and Rasul, it could be said that Nabuwat is by birth while Risalat is by appointment. A Nabi who was born with God consciousness could be chosen by Allah to be sent as Rasul to a specific nation and preach to them the divine message till his death. A Nabi was a soft preacher who did not actively defend himself against aggression, but a Rasul was an active preacher who had the divine permission to resist oppression and unlawful authority in self-defence. Prophet Muhammad (S) migrated from his city when there was a threat to his life, but he also participated in some battles (Ghazwa) when the enemies of Muslims attacked Medina or breached peace agreements.

When a Nabi preached to his people and they did not listen to him, he did not admonish them nor sought Allah’s punishment for them. Many unbelieving nations executed their Nabis (5:70) or forced them to go into exile because they were not prepared to give up their idol worship and corrupt living. Some of the known Nabis in this category included Nabi Isaiah, Zachariah Yahya, Zulkifl, Danial and Uzair.

Allah sent Rasuls in every community and nation with His divine message (16:36) and until such time they rejected the message and persisted with oppression and mischief, Allah did not destroy them (20:208). Nabis and Rasuls were local to their community and spoke the native language (13:4 and 14:4), but they also travelled when commanded by Allah. Prophets Ibrahim and Yakub travelled away from their native towns. Prophet Muhammad (S) migrated to Medina where he spent the rest of his life even after the conquest of Makkah.

When Allah declared Prophet Muhammad (S) as a blessing for all worlds (21:107) and confirmed that He had completed the religion of Islam (5:3), the door of prophethood whether Nabi or Rasul closed after Muhammad (S). There will be no new Rasul nor Nabi after Muhammad (S) until the end of time. This is one of the great mercies of Allah on the Muslims. Imagine if the door of Nabuwat had not been closed after Prophet Muhammad (S), Muslims would have divided into hundreds of groups with each group claiming a different Nabi as a guide in their time and abandoning the divine book and sharia law of Prophet Muhammad (S). But this would not happen because Allah has undertaken to protect the Quran (15:9)

In the late 12th century, the Andalusian sufi scholar Ibn Al Arabi claimed that it was possible for a Muslim saint (wali) to attain spiritual evolution and reach the state of prophetic consciousness. This led later sufi scholars to interpret Ibn Al Arabi’s mystical philosophy as continuation of the institution of Nabi while agreeing that the holy Quran and the sharia law given by prophet Muhammad (S) was final and that there would be no divine book or Rasul after him. These interpretations have caused a storm of controversy about the finality of prophethood. People ignore that Ibn Al Arabi’s prophetic consciousness does not refer to Rasul and Nabi as we understand from the Quran, but it refers to the state of a Muslim saint or wali who achieves prophetic consciousness though his personal spiritual development.

So even if we acknowledge that a wali can be called a nabi in Ibn Al Arabi’s mystical sense, that nabi is not at liberty to share his prophetic consciousness with others in a public manner as a Rasul would have shared the revelations of Allah with his people, nor is this nabi allowed to start a community of his own to follow his sayings and his interpretation of the holy Quran. In this mystical explanation, there is room for hundreds of spiritually advanced nabis to coexist in the world quietly at any given time, without contradicting the fact that the door of Nabuwat and Risalat is closed permanently till the end of time.

A Nabi does not assert and ask the Ummah to acknowledge his Nabuwat. He continues to glorify Allah and peach the divine message without the need to make a community of his own and bind them to follow his interpretation of the holy Quran. Anyone who makes a claim to Nabuwat after Prophet Muhammad (S) will be strongly rejected by the Ummah and fail to seek endorsement of his false claim.

On the day of Judgement Allah will call each nation by the name of its religious leader, whether a Rasool or god, whom that nation followed, such as the nation of Musa, nation of Isa, followers of Uza, followers of Nasr etc. And in each nation people will be either given a clear chit of salvation in their right hand or given a charge sheet in their left hand which will determine their final abode (17:71). On Judgement Day, may Allah call us with the Ummah of Mohammad (S) and give the parchment of our deeds in our right hand which is the ultimate success of our total being (64:9). Ameen.

Legend: The first two numbers in parenthesis ( ) refer to Surah number and the numbers that follow the colon sign : refer to Ayah number in the Quran.

By Syed Sharfuddin

The ideology of Tablighi Jamaat (TJ), the largest Islamic revivalist movement of our times is best described by Sadruddin Ansari’s introduction of the six points of Maulana Muhammad Ilyas Khandahlawi, the founder of TJ as follows:

We all know that this world is mortal. Everyone who is born here is destined to die one day, and everything that flourishes here is to meet its decay sooner or later. We are therefore bound to believe that this is not our permanent and perpetual abode; we can never succeed in living here forever. No one so far could do so and no one shall ever do so. Should we take this world as an external and everlasting home we should not be more than a fool…We are here on a journey and our original and real destination is yet to come. We are born here only to decorate our eternal home. We cannot be called wise if we prefer this mortal existence to the eternal one. It is a fact and we must bear it in mind permanently that our sole duty is to strive for the betterment of our real home. [From Six Points of Tablighi by Sadruddin Ansari, 1967].

The Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) is the world’s most popular Islamic dawah (preaching) movement without an international headquarter or secretariat. Since its inception in 1926 in the Haryana region of Mewat in British India, TJ has remained faithful to its motto of being a puritan religious movement staying non-political, non-denominational and non-governmental in its dawah activities. Despite an impressive coordination network at the district, provincial and national levels in many countries, mainly in countries where the South Asian Muslim population lives as a majority, or is classified as an official minority faith community, TJ has no formal office holders or subscription paying members. Its preaching tours are carried out informally through a vast network of Deobandi mosques which open their doors to worshippers who are willing to share their mobile phone numbers with each other and take time out, including outside homestays of various duration, for visiting other municipalities and towns to talk about the fundamentals of Islam and the Sunnah of Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, encourage people to join in congregational worship, learn about the various forms of zikr other than the Sufi tradition, and develop an understanding of how to perform and multiply good deeds.

Muslims who attend regular five time prayers at mosques are familiar with the ritual of a worshipper standing up after the end of a congregational Salat and requesting his fellow worshippers to stay behind after the sunnah prayers to listen to a short talk on making Islam work better in their everyday life. This short talk, not exceeding a few minutes consists of six points of dawah. These points were devised by the founder of TJ as the best way of achieving Islamic living and a means of attaining salvation. The six points, known to every volunteer of TJ like the back of his hand, are explained below:

1. Eiman or Article of Faith.
Reciting the First Kalema, having with full conviction about the oneness of Allah and following the tradition of the Prophet and his companions. It comprises a firm belief in Allah, the Angels, Divine Scriptures, His Prophets, both who have been named or mentioned in the Holy Quran and the other Divine Scriptures, as well as those not named or mentioned in the Holy Quran and other Divine Scriptures, and the Day of Judgement.

2. Salaat or Obligatory Congregational Prayer.
The correct way of performing Salaat according to the Quran and Sunnah. Guarding the observance of Salat times and achieving regularity in prayers. Keeping the heart and mind focused on the Creator during the performance of Salat. Learning about the various types of Salat and the difference between sunnah prayers and Nafil prayers. Understanding the correct protocols of salaat and the order and sequence of reciting Suras in the Salat. Pre-requisites of Wudu or ablution. Keeping body and soul clean and pure. Awareness of other obligatory worship such as Fasting, Alms giving and Hajj.

3. Glorification of Allah and Zikr.
There are different forms of Zikr which include reciting the Third and the Fourth Kalema; sending Durood or blessings on Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him; and making Astaghfar or repentance. Zikr is done for the love of Allah. Zikr is also Ilm, the knowledge of doing what is enjoined and staying away from what is forbidden. The highest form of Zikr is reading the holy Quran with its correct pronunciation, intonations, and punctuations and understanding its meaning verse by verse, knowing the context of revelation of the verses of the Quran and reading their tafseer and annotated commentary. Zikr also includes, reciting Duas from the Quran and from the Hadith of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. Learning Seerah of Prophet Muhammad and his life events for broadening knowledge of Islam and observing good Islamic practice.

4. Ikram-e-Muslim (Reverence of the Faithful)
This consists of Adab or respect; Akhlaq or good manners; knowing and fulfilling the rights and obligations of one Muslim toward another Muslim; and maintaining or restoring friendly ties within and outside one’s family, tribe, community, country, and humanity. A Muslim should not bear any envy or grudge against another Muslim and should always be ready to help another Muslim in need or distress.

5. Ikhlas-e-Niyyat or sincerity of intention.
All good deeds are done to please Allah and not for any worldly recognition or material benefit. Carrying out self-audit of one’s actions and activities as a Muslim. Observing good manners and being generous and forgiving toward others. Seeking the pleasure of Allah through continuous monitoring and renewal of good intention and good deeds.

6. Tafrigh-e-Waqt for Dawat-e-Tabligh.
Taking time out from one’s busy life to invite others to follow the path of Islam both by word of mouth and by setting good example from one’s best behaviour and honest dealings in the society. Taking the word of God and knowledge of Islam to other Muslims who need this information and invitation, and to display Islam to non-Muslims who have an interest in knowing and learning about Islam.

There is also a 7th point, but it is not as much a part of the Taaleem as the other prescribed six points. This point is Tark-e-La-Maani or abandoning useless pursuits which do not benefit a Muslim in securing his salvation in the hereafter. TJ does not promote monastic or hermit living by giving up on the material side of life, but it places on emphasis on worshipping Allah and living according to the life of the Prophet.

TJ does not proselyte on converting non-Muslims to Islam but focuses on the illiterate Muslim masses who are born into Muslim households but have no knowledge of the fundamentals of Islam, nor are practicing Muslims. Because TJ works with the ordinary and mostly illiterate Muslims, it shuns reasoning, scientific enquiry, and media publicity in conveying its message to the Muslims in plain terms by using the medium of teachings of the holy Quran and Shahih Hadith and Seerah of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. Just as every guild has its own lexicon, the Tablighi brothers also use expressions or terms that have a specific meaning in the context of their dawah work. These are explained as follows:

Ameer. Elected leader of a dawah party.

Bayan. It is a concise and motivating short talk given by a member of the dawah party at the end of an obligatory prayer inviting the members of the congregation to join the work of TJ and gain salvation.

Chilla. Refers to 40 days cycle of dawah activity.

Gasht. A walking tour that includes a dawah party knocking at the doors of Muslims in selected neighbourhoods in a target area to invite them to say the obligatory five times Salat in the mosque and learn about Islam.

Ijtima. Periodical or annual gathering of the volunteers and participants of TJ which takes place on different dates in each country at the local and national levels.

Ikraam. Hospitality extended by the locals to a dawah party during its tour. TJ, however, makes it a point that every member of the party uses his own income for food and travel expenses.

Jamaat. A dawah party comprising at least ten persons. It also refers to a large gathering of volunteers gathered for a special event of TJ.

Karguzari. It refers to the outcome of a certain activity carried out by a dawah party.

Markaz. Is the centre of TJ in specific geographical regions where the Movement’s elders take decisions about the composition and deployment of dawah parties.

Mashwara. As is indicated by the name, it refers to consultation among the people who form a dawah party at a given time and place, usually in a TJ hosting mosque.

Mehnat. This refers to the effort made in spreading the dawah to other Nawaqif Muslims. Mehnat refers to both time and money spent by the volunteers in a dawah party to achieve their numbers target.

Nawaqif. It is a term that refers to an illiterate and non-regular or non-practicing Muslim. The focus of TJ is on these people.

Six Points. These are the essential talking points which are at the heart of TJ’s mission.

Shab-e-Jumma. A gathering of TJ volunteers every Thursday after the Maghreb prayer at a designated mosque in each city. At such gatherings about 5 to 20 percent of participants are new volunteers.

Tabligh. The act of preaching and inviting another Muslim towards reformation. TJ does not pay any honorarium or renumeration to the volunteers for their dawah work. TJ also does not fundraise nor solicits donations for its dawah activities.

Tablighi Nisab. TJ’s prescribed books and chapters that form part of the Dawa party’s readings and talks.

Taleem: It refers to the public reading of an excerpt or Fazeel from the recommended books of TJ. These books are: Fazail-e-Amaal, Fazael-e-Sadaqat, Hayat-e-Sahaba and Tablighi Nisab.

Tanzeem. The coordination mechanism in which the dawah work carried out by the local mosques is coordinated at the Markaz where certain central mosques have the responsibility of setting the goals and oversight of smaller mosques to ensure that the deployment of dawah parties is broad-based and covers all parts of the region and country.

Tashkeel. It is the process and setting up a party of people to do dawah for a certain number of days. These gatherings can be for just one evening; a 3- day tour of local mosques; a 4- month tour in different mosques outside the locality, or 3-month international dawah tour to a specific country or city.

The members of TJ are predominantly the followers of Deobandi reformist school of thought, but they do not prevent participation by anyone who claims to be a Muslim and is interested in learning about Islam. TJ volunteers are mainly males representing all age groups and professions. In the Indian Subcontinent, TJ volunteers use Urdu, Bengali or Hindi language as means of general communication but in other linguistic regions they use the services of a local translator to reach the masses. Outside the Subcontinent, TJ volunteers speak Bahasa in Indonesia, Swahili in East Africa, English in Europe, and North America and French and Arabic in other Francophone and Arabophobe countries.

TJ has a simple structure which starts from a network of small mosques to larger area mosques where TJ Markaz is located. The dawah parties formed in each small mosque chooses its own Ameer (leader), a Speaker for Taleem (more like a party spokesperson), a Guide who knows the area locally and a Chef who takes the lead in cooking the preaching party’s food for the dawah party. All these people come from within the locally constituted party and are not paid for their services.

The preaching tour of a dawah party is organised for several fixed days and is largely adhered to the following format.

Sehroza or 3-day tour conducted per month in an area outside of the Jamaat’s locality.
Chilla or 40 day per year tour which involves a longer period of withdrawal from one’s own social environment to focus on the Deen. This could involve travel to a distant location from one’s own area, and a possible deployment in other parts of the country.
• A once in a lifetime ‘grand Chilla which consists of 3 consecutive Chillas (equating to 120 days) usually in another country.
Year-long tour. It is for the most devote volunteers and usually consists of tavelling by foot, from mosque to mosque in each country calling other Muslims to join the work of the Jamaat.

The main objective of the preaching tours is not just to invite other Muslims to the path of Allah but also to develop God-consciousness in every volunteer of the Jamaat. TJ does not have an elaborate international Secretariat, but it does have a loose structure in each country which focuses on the formation and deployment of Dawah parties and coordinates with the regional and national Markaz to avoid duplication and overlap. Some of the prominent National Centres of TJ are Nizamuddin in India, Raiwind in Pakistan, Tungi in Bangladesh, and Dewsbury in the UK. TJ’s Ameer are elected by the Movement’s elders who have hitherto been descendants or close associates of the founder of the TJ.

To appeal to the understanding of the masses, TJ has deliberately kept its teaching syllabus simple. The Jamaat does not load its teachings with the study of  Ilmul Kalam, or Islamic jurisprudence, or commentary of the holy Quran (Tafseer), or research on the authority of the narrators of Hadith. At the very outset, Maulana Ilyas declared that Islam being a comprehensive religion, TJ could not do all the work itself. He decided to hold on firmly to the instruction and teaching of the Aqeeda and Salat and made these two the fundamental pillars of the teaching syllabus of the Movement. He hoped that by doing so, TJ will act as a catalyst to connect the illiterate public, after it has been made familiar with the fundamentals of the Deen, with the Ulema and reformers of Islam, who have the concern for the Deen, but who are unable to connect with the illiterate masses and disabuse them of un-Islamic practices, superstitions, and wrong notions of Islam. By keeping its message simple, TJ has been able to win more followers than any other denomination or sect in Islam. Once they have tasted the true essence of the faith, they go on to acquire the rest of the things that Islam expects them to learn by sitting in the company of learned scholars.  

TJ achieves uniformity by limiting its own references to the dawah books approved by its grand council of elders who advise the Ameer of TJ in the main Markaz at their periodic meetings. TJ books comprise selected sayings of the Prophet Muhammad on all aspects of life. TJ does not engage in dissemination of printed religious material nor undertakes social media campaigns. It gives emphasis to face to face or personal contact, in keeping with the original Islamic tradition of oral teaching. While this is a reinforcing agent, it ironically prevents the followers of the TJ from benefiting from a huge and ever growing knowledge bank of ancient and modern resources on Islam in Arabic and other languages.

TJ is facing new challenge from its global growth with new ideas and mediums of communication replacing the old established ways. Its new and emerging leadership at the National Marakiz in the Indian Subcontinent and the UK may soon need to reinvent the Movement that is prepared to revise and update its Tablighi Nisab, uses formal electronic, print, and social media to propagate TJ’s main message of dawah, and accommodates logic, scientific enquiry, and technology to satisfy the curious Muslim.

Further reading:

EPRA International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research (IJMR) – Peer Reviewed Journal Volume: 7| Issue: 9| September 2021|| Journal DOI: 10.36713/epra2013 || SJIF Impact Factor 2021: 8.047 || ISI Value: 1.188.

The Contentious Politics of Socio-Political Engagement: The Transformation of the Tablighi Jamaat in London: Submitted by Zacharias Peter Pieri to the University of Exeter as a thesis for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Ethno-Political Studies, May 2012.

Syed Sharfuddin

The philosophical debate about destiny and choice has enchanted many people, including the believers. There is a view that if the outcome of every action is already predetermined and is in the knowledge of the Creator, then where is the freedom of choice for human being to act on his own and be responsible for it. The counter view is that the Creator knows in advance about the actions of human beings during their lifetime on earth but He gives them the freedom to choose the path they want to take to reach that pre-determined end. Allah promises in the Quran that the responsibility of providing livelihood (Rizq) rests with Him and he does provide His creation with what He has reserved for them until their appointed time on earth. Therefore, Allah knows what and how much one would earn at any given moment, day, week, month or year until the last breath. The following story illustrates this point more clearly. It is narrated that a saint was once travelling on his horse when the time for afternoon payers approached. The saint kept travelling until he saw the minaret and stopped upon approaching the mosque for prayer. He had arrived late at the mosque. The prayer was over and there was no one in the mosque. There was also no ledge or tree nearby to tie the horse. The saint did not want to leave the horse on its own because it would have meandered to look for grass and gone astray. While the saint was thinking how to secure his horse, he saw a man passing by. The saint requested the man to look after his horse while he offered his prayer. The man accepted the request and the saint entered the mosque to offer prayer. When the saint finished the prayer and came out, he saw his horse standing by the door of the mosque but the man was nowhere to be seen. The saint wondered what happed to the man. After some wait when the saint decided to mount the horse, he discovered that the saddle on the horseback was gone. It was apparent that the man had stolen the saddle and run away. The saint could not travel on the horseback without his saddle because there was still a considerable way to cover before he reached his destination. He regretted that he did not tell the man that he wanted to offer him 10 Dinars as his compensation for looking after his horse. He had planned to give the man this money after he had finished his prayer and was ready to leave.

So, the saint mounted on the horseback and proceeded slowly. He meet a few travellers along the way and found out that a couple of miles away there was a bazar. Hoping to buy a saddle for his horse, the saint slowly rode  to the bazar. There he found the same man whom he had entrusted the horse. The man was selling the stolen saddle. As there were many buyers the man forgot that his new customer was the same man whose saddle he had stolen a few hours before in the day. The saint asked the man the price of the saddle. The man said. “It is a bargain in 10 Dinars”. The saint gave him 10 Dinars and got the saddle. He belted the saddle on his horse and went riding away to his destination.

Look at the outcome of this man’s action. He was pre-destined to receive 10 Dinars from the saint the moment he saw him in front of the mosque. Allah had written that man’s Rizq and made it possible for the man to find the saint on that day. But Allah left the choice of how the man got his 10 Dinars from the saint. Had the man waited for the saint to finish his prayer he would have received 10 Dinars from the saint because the saint had already decided to compensate the man him for looking after his horse. But the man instead chose to steal the saddle and decided to sell it in the bazar for 10 Dinars. The man made the effort to walk to the bazar and waited for a buyer. The man also incurred a sin for stealing the saddle. And after doing all this, he only got the Rizq that was written for him.

Pre-destination and  freedom of choice are relative terms. In the broad scheme of things, man is only a three dimensional being. His free choice is nothing more than deciding whether he relies on his faith or on his mind. At the end, the result is only what is his destiny, whichever way he chooses to reach it.