Five Qiblas

Syed Sharfuddin

Imam Fakhr al Din Al-Raazi, in his commentary of Surah Fatiha in Tafseer Al-Kabeer identifies five components of a few things both known and unknown to the faithful. These are: the five pillars of Islam, five senses, five obligatory prayers, five key components of Surah Fatiha, five types of self and five stages of Qibla. Of these, I found his account of the five Qiblas little known to most Muslims. According to Al-Raazi, these are: Bait al-Maqdas, Al-Kaaba, Bait al-Mamoor, Al-Arsh and Hadara Jalal Allah. Although Imam Raazi does not elaborate on them, it is important to recognise them as symbols of Allah which have inspired billions of Allah’s slaves to seek the Light (Noor) of their Creator both in this world and in the hereafter.

إِنَّ الصَّفَا وَالْمَرْوَةَ مِن شَعَآئِرِ اللّهِ فَمَنْ حَجَّ الْبَيْتَ أَوِ اعْتَمَرَ فَلاَ جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِ أَن يَطَّوَّفَ بِهِمَا وَمَن تَطَوَّعَ خَيْرًا فَإِنَّ اللّهَ شَاكِرٌ عَلِيمٌ
Translation: “Verily, (the mountains of) As-Safa and Al-Marwah (in Makkah) are the symbols of Allah. So it is not a sin on him who performs Hajj or Umrah of the House (the Kaaba) to make rounds between them (Tawaf). And whoever does good voluntarily, then verily, Allah rewards good deeds and knows everything.” [Surah Al Baqarah 2:158]

We know from our study of the Seerah of prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah Subhanuhu wa Taa’la be on him, that even before five time prayers were made obligatory for the believers, the direction of Qibla was Bait-al-Maqdas in Jerusalem which today comprises the area of the Sacred Mosque and the Dome of the Rock on the Muslim part of Temple Mount from where prophet Muhammad ascended the heavens in the night of Ascension.

سُبْحَانَ الَّذِي أَسْرَى بِعَبْدِهِ لَيْلاً مِّنَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ إِلَى الْمَسْجِدِ الأَقْصَى الَّذِي بَارَكْنَا حَوْلَهُ لِنُرِيَهُ مِنْ آيَاتِنَا إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ البَصِيرُ
Translation: “Exalted is He (Allah) who took His servant by night from Masjid al-Haram to Masjid al-Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of our signs. Indeed, He (Allah) is the Hearing, the Seeing.” [Surah Al-Isra 17:1]

However, about two years after prophet Muhammad moved to Madinah (623 AD) the Qibla was changed from Bait al-Maqdas to Al-Kaaba in Makkah.

قَدْ نَرَى تَقَلُّبَ وَجْهِكَ فِي السَّمَاء فَلَنُوَلِّيَنَّكَ قِبْلَةً تَرْضَاهَا فَوَلِّ وَجْهَكَ شَطْرَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ وَحَيْثُ مَا كُنتُمْ فَوَلُّواْ وُجُوِهَكُمْ شَطْرَهُ وَإِنَّ الَّذِينَ أُوْتُواْ الْكِتَابَ لَيَعْلَمُونَ أَنَّهُ الْحَقُّ مِن رَّبِّهِمْ وَمَا اللّهُ بِغَافِلٍ عَمَّا يَعْمَلُونَ
Translation: “Indeed, We (Allah) see you O Prophet turning your face towards heaven. Now We will make you turn towards a direction of prayer that will please you. So turn your face towards the Sacred Mosque in Makkah—wherever you are, turn your faces towards it. Those who were given the Scripture certainly know this to be the truth from their Lord. And Allah is never unaware of what they do.” [Surah Al-Baqarah 2;144]

The Kaaba in Makkah is a pre-Islamic structure which was for years a hallowed place of worship for the various tribes of Arabia. It succumbed to natural calamities like fire and flood and was destroyed and rebuilt several times in the past. However, throughout history, it remained Allah’s sacred house. A few years before the birth of prophet Muhammad who eventually de-idolised the Kaaba in the tenth year of Hijrah, an elephant army which came from Yemen under the command of a king named Abrahah Al-Ashram intending to destroy the Kaaba at Makkah was destroyed by a swarm of flying birds sent by Allah. [Surah Al-Fil 105 1 to 5].

In the historical accounts of the Kaaba it is said that the very first Qibla built by prophet Adam was located on the same foundations as its present day site in Makkah. The Kaaba was rebuilt by prophet Abraham and his son Ismail and remained a place of worship for all until prophet Noah when the flood overtook every dry piece of land on earth and the Kaaba was raised up to the heavens where it now exists as Bait al-Mamoor. A reference to Bait-al-Mamoor appears in the Quran very briefly in Surah Al-Tur.

وَالْبَيْتِ الْمَعْمُورِ
Translation: “And consider the long standing sacred House in the heavens”. [Surah Al-Tur 52:4]

In describing Bait al-Mamoor, a Hadith from Shahih Bokhari and Muslim informs readers that when prophet Mohammad was taken to the heavens by archangel Gabriel on the night of Ascension, he was shown Bait al-Mamoor. According to this Hadith, 70,000 angels perform prayers and circumbulation around this Sacred ouse and every night they are replaced by a new group of 70,000 angels who have never been to Bait al-Mamoor before. Commentators have added that Bait al-Mamoor is located directly on top of the Kaaba on the seventh heaven.

When the blowing of the Trumpet will cause the skies and earth to be rolled up like a scroll [21:104] يَوْمَ نَطْوِي السَّمَاء كَطَيِّ السِّجِلِّ لِلْكُتُبِ and every grave will throw up men and women who will come out with humiliated eyes to return to their Lord for judgement [54:7]
خُشَّعًا أَبْصَارُهُمْ يَخْرُجُونَ مِنَ الْأَجْدَاثِ كَأَنَّهُمْ جَرَادٌ مُّنتَشِرٌ everything on earth including Bait al-Maqdas in Jerusalem and Al-Kaaba in Makkah will be destroyed [كُلُّ مَنْ عَلَيْهَا فَانٍ [55:26.

The next Qibla after Bait al-Mamoor is Al-Arsh which is the Throne of Allah. It has existed even before the creation of the universe and will be the focal point of everyone’s attention on the Day of Judgement.

وَالْمَلَكُ عَلَى أَرْجَائِهَا وَيَحْمِلُ عَرْشَ رَبِّكَ فَوْقَهُمْ يَوْمَئِذٍ ثَمَانِيَةٌ
Translation: “The angels will be on all sides of it and, on that Day, eight of them will bear the Throne of your Lord above them.” [Surah Al-Haaqah 69:17]

وَتَرَى الْمَلَائِكَةَ حَافِّينَ مِنْ حَوْلِ الْعَرْشِ يُسَبِّحُونَ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّهِمْ وَقُضِيَ بَيْنَهُم بِالْحَقِّ وَقِيلَ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ
Translation: “You [Prophet] will see the angels surrounding the Throne, glorifying their Lord with praise. True judgement will have been passed between them, and it will be said, ‘Praise be to God, the Lord of the Worlds.” [Surah Al-Zumar 39:75]

It is learnt from Ahadith that on the Day of Judgement every soul present for accountability will be eager to come under the shadow of Al-Arsh which will be the most sought after place for receiving the mercy and blessing of Allah.

The fifth and final stage of Qibla is Hadara Jalal Allah (presence before the good and gracious Lord) which will be allowed to only those whom Allah will please. But they will be among the residents of Jannah. These lucky and successful people who will have everything available to them in paradise will still be hungry for a look of Allah, which will be the highest reward for them both spiritually for their hearts and minds and sensually for their eyes. The light (Noor) of Allah will be a source of their happiness and energy which will keep them fresh in paradise without fatigue or any weakness.

إِلَى رَبِّهَا نَاظِرَةٌ . وُجُوهٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ نَّاضِرَة
Translation: “On that Day some faces will glow bright with happiness, looking at their Lord.” [Surah Al-Qiyamah 75:22 and 23]

After the change of Qibla which took place during the life of prophet Muhammad, Muslims no longer face toward the Sacred Mosque in Jerusalem to offer prayers. However, it remains an important part of their religious experience which started from the prophethood of Muhammad until about 2 Hijra when the Kaaba in Makkah was made their Qibla. It is therefore important to remember that after the Trumpet has blown and the world has come to an end, the Qibla for the Muslims will not be the Kaaba but Bait-al-Mamoor or Al-Arsh itself, if in His infinite Wisdom and Plan Allah keeps it reserved only for the use of the angels. Allah knows best, for we are given only limited knowledge of the heaven and afterlife.

February 22, 2018

Description of Woman (as a singular noun) in the Quran

Syed Sharfuddin

There are many words used in the holy Quran to describe women in different relationships and roles. These are both in singular nouns such as wife, woman and partner and in plural nouns such as aunts, sisters, mothers, daughters, married women, divorced women and women as close relatives and in general.

الْمُسْلِمَاتِ و وَالْمُؤْمِنَات الْقَانِتَات و وَالصَّادِقَاتِ وَالصَّابِرَاتِ وَالْخَاشِعَاتِ وَالْمُتَصَدِّقَاتِ وَالصَّائِمَاتِ وَالذَّاكِرَات أُمَّهَاتُ و النِّسَاء وَالْمُحْصَنَاتُ وَبَنَات وَالْمُطَلَّقَاتُ وَأَخَوَات و عَمَّات و وَخَالاَتُ وَبَنَاتُ الأَخِ وَبَنَاتُ الأُخْت وَأُمَّهَات اللاَّتِي أَرْضَعْنَكُمْ وَأَخَوَاتُ مِّنَ الرَّضَاعَةِ وَرَبَائِب وَ ازواجٌ ﻭ قَانِتَاتٍ وَ تَائِبَاتٍ وَ ثَيِّبَاتٍ وَعَابِدَاتٍ وَسَائِحَاتٍ وَأَبْكَارًا وَﺍﻟﻤﺮأة ﻭﺍﻟﺰﻭجة ﻭﺍﻟﺼﺎﺣﺒﺔ

The number of times these words are used in the Quran in different chapters exceed 100. For example, the word wives أَزْوَاجٌ is used forty-seven times, women in generalالنِّسَاء forty-three times, mothers أُمَّهَات ten times, sisters أَخَوَات four times and the remaining words two or less than two times. However, this essay focuses on Quran’s description of woman (ﺍﻟﻤﺮأة), wife (ﺍﻟﺰﻭجة) and partner (ﺍﻟﺼﺎﺣﺒﺔ) and explores the consistent pattern of their use in all verses of the holy Quran.

The only woman who is mentioned by name in the Quran is Mary, mother of Jesus. Her name is mentioned in the Quran in 31 verses. The other three women who are mentioned without names are the wife of Pharaoh and the wives of Noah and Lot.
ضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا لِّلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا اِمْرَأَةَ نُوحٍ وَاِمْرَأَةَ لُوطٍ كَانَتَا تَحْتَ عَبْدَيْنِ مِنْ عِبَادِنَا صَالِحَيْنِ فَخَانَتَاهُمَا فَلَمْ يُغْنِيَا عَنْهُمَا مِنَ اللَّهِ شَيْئًا وَقِيلَ ادْخُلَا النَّارَ مَعَ الدَّاخِلِينَ
Translation: “For those who are bent on denying the truth, God has propounded a parable in [the stories of] Noah’s wife and Lot’s wife: they were wedded to two of our righteous servants, and each one betrayed her husband; and neither of the two (husbands) will be of any avail to these two women when they are told (on Judgment Day), ‘Enter the fire with all those (other sinners) who enter it.’ [Surah At-Tahreem 66:10].

وَضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا لِّلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اِمْرَأَةَ فِرْعَوْنَ إِذْ قَالَتْ رَبِّ ابْنِ لِي عِندَكَ بَيْتًا فِي الْجَنَّةِ وَنَجِّنِي مِن فِرْعَوْنَ وَعَمَلِهِ وَنَجِّنِي مِنَ الْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ
Translation: “And Allah presents an example of those who believed: the wife of Pharaoh, when she said, “My Lord, build for me near You a house in Paradise and save me from Pharaoh and his deeds and save me from the wrongdoing people.” [Surah At-Tahreem 66:11].

وَمَرْيَمَ ابْنَتَ عِمْرَانَ الَّتِي أَحْصَنَتْ فَرْجَهَا فَنَفَخْنَا فِيهِ مِن رُّوحِنَا وَصَدَّقَتْ بِكَلِمَاتِ رَبِّهَا وَكُتُبِهِ وَكَانَتْ مِنَ الْقَانِتِينَ
Translation: “And Maryam (Mary) daughter of Imran, who safeguarded her chastity so We breathed in it of Our Spirit, and she sincerely (believed) in the Words of her Lord, and His Books; and she was one of the devout.” [Surah At-Tahreem 66:12]

The word woman is used in the Quran when a woman is single, i.e. not married, or she is married but has no children, or when her relationship with her husband is based on physical companionship but there is no spiritual or mental compatibility between them.

The word wife is used in the Quran for a married woman who is in physical relationship with her husband, as well as has full mental and spiritual compatibility with him, including sharing his faith.

The word partner is used in the Quran to describe a married woman who lived with her husband and children in the worldly life but on the Day of Judgement she will be alone, like her husband and anybody else. It is only after her account of deeds has been scrutinised and she has been admitted in Paradise, she will re-join her husband there, provided that he is also awarded Jannah. There she shall live with happily ever after.
هُمْ وَأَزْوَاجُهُمْ فِي ظِلَالٍ عَلَى الْأَرَائِكِ مُتَّكِؤُونَ
Translation: “They and their spouses will recline on couches happily” [Surah Yaseen 36:56]

The word partner is also used by Allah in negation to reinforce His oneness, without any partners.
بَدِيعُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ أَنَّى يَكُونُ لَهُ وَلَدٌ وَلَمْ تَكُن لَّهُ صَاحِبَةٌ وَخَلَقَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ وهُوَ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ
Translation: “He is the Originator of the heavens and the earth. How can He have children when He has no wife? He created all things and He is the All-Knower of everything.” [Surah Al-Anaam 6:101]

ﺍﻟﻤﺮأة Examples

In Surah Al Naml, Queen Sheba was called a woman when the Hudhud bird reported her whereabouts to prophet Solomon because she was not a believer, nor was she married.
إِنِّي وَجَدتُّ امْرَأَةً تَمْلِكُهُمْ وَأُوتِيَتْ مِن كُلِّ شَيْءٍ وَلَهَا عَرْشٌ عَظِيمٌ
Translation: “I found a woman ruling over them, and she has been given all things that could be possessed by any ruler of the earth, and she has a great throne.” [Surah Al-Naml 27:23]

Similarly, when Moses was looking for a place to stay when he left the Pharaoh country after he was caught in a fight and killed a man unintentionally, he met two women امْرَأتَيْنِ by a water hole. They were women of faith but they were unmarried. He married one of them later after meeting her father (prophet Shoaib) who mentored and trained Moses for ten years before he returned to Egypt.
وَلَمَّا وَرَدَ مَاء مَدْيَنَ وَجَدَ عَلَيْهِ أُمَّةً مِّنَ النَّاسِ يَسْقُونَ وَوَجَدَ مِن دُونِهِمُ امْرَأتَيْنِ تَذُودَانِ قَالَ مَا خَطْبُكُمَا قَالَتَا لَا نَسْقِي حَتَّى يُصْدِرَ الرِّعَاء وَأَبُونَا شَيْخٌ كَبِير
Translation: “And when he arrived at the water of Madyan (Midian) he found there a group of men watering (their flocks), and besides them he found two women who were keeping back (their flocks). He said: “What is the matter with you?” They said: “We cannot water (our flocks) until the shepherds take (their flocks). And our father is a very old man.” [Surah Al-Qasas 28:23]

[7:83; 11:81; 15:60; 27:57; 29:32; 29:33] ﺍﻣﺮﺃﺓ ﻟﻮﻁ [66:10] ﺍﻣﺮﺃﺓ ﻧﻮﺡ
Allah has used the word woman for the wives of prophets Noah and Lot because they were not faithful to their husbands and did not join their husbands in submission to Allah.

[28:9; 66:11] ﺍﻣﺮﺃﺓ ﻓﺮﻋﻮﻥ
In describing the wife of the Pharaoh, who was a faithful servant of Allah but her husband did not have faith in Allah (in fact Pharaoh claimed to be god), the Quran uses the word woman for her.

[3:40 and 51:29] ﻭﻛﺎﻧﺖ ﺍﻣﺮﺃﺗﻲ ﻋﺎﻗﺮﺍً
This is a reference in the Quran to the wife of prophet Zachariah when she was barren and Zachariah was worried that they will pass away without having any offspring. But when Allah granted the prayer of Zachariah and gave him the good tiding that he will get a son from his wife, her description was changed from woman to wife.
فَاسْتَجَبْنَا لَهُ وَوَهَبْنَا لَهُ يَحْيَى وَأَصْلَحْنَا لَهُ زَوْجَهُ إِنَّهُمْ كَانُوا يُسَارِعُونَ فِي الْخَيْرَاتِ وَيَدْعُونَنَا رَغَبًا وَرَهَبًا وَكَانُوا لَنَا خَاشِعِينَ
Translation: “And so We responded unto him, and bestowed upon him the gift of (Yahya) John, having made his wife fit to bear him a child:  and, verily, these three would vie with one another in doing good works, and would call unto Us in yearning and awe; and they were always humble before Us.” [Surah Al-Anbia 21:90]

Prophet Abraham did not have an offspring with his wife Sarah for a long time. In Surah Hud she is described as woman when she received the good news from Abraham’s guests that she will get a son, as well as a grandson.
وَامْرَأَتُهُ قَآئِمَةٌ فَضَحِكَتْ فَبَشَّرْنَاهَا بِإِسْحَقَ وَمِن وَرَاء إِسْحَقَ يَعْقُوبَ
Translation: “His wife was standing (nearby), and she laughed. Thus We gave her the good news about Issāc, and about Jacob after him”. [Surah Hud 11:71]

[امْرَأَةُ عِمْرَان [3:35
In Surah Al-Imran the mother of Mary is mentioned as woman when she prayed to the Lord for a son so that she could offer him in the service of God. However, we have not been given any information about her husband.
إِذْ قَالَتِ امْرَأَةُ عِمْرَانَ رَبِّ إِنِّي نَذَرْتُ لَكَ مَا فِي بَطْنِي مُحَرَّرًا فَتَقَبَّلْ مِنِّي إِنَّكَ أَنتَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ
Translation: “When the wife of Imran prayed: “My Lord! I promise to offer what is in my womb in your service. Accept it from me: verily, Thou alone are all-hearing and all-knowing!” [Surah Al-Imran 3:35]

[ 111: 4] ﺍﻣﺮﺃﺗﻪ ﺣﻤﺎﻟﺔ ﺍﻟﺤﻄﺐ
In Surah Masaad, Allah calls the wife of Abu Lahab as woman because she could did not bear a child from him.

Quran informs us that prophet Joseph was purchased by a nobleman of Egypt whose name or title was Al-Aziz. He brought young Joseph to his house to raise him as his foster son. Al-Aziz had no children from his wife Zulaykha. She was not faithful to her husband because she made sexual advances toward Joseph when he grew up. That’s why she is referred to in the Quran as woman instead of wife.
وَقَالَ الَّذِي اشْتَرَاهُ مِن مِّصْرَ لاِمْرَأَتِهِ أَكْرِمِي مَثْوَاهُ عَسَى أَن يَنفَعَنَا أَوْ نَتَّخِذَهُ وَلَدًا وَكَذَلِكَ مَكَّنِّا لِيُوسُفَ فِي الأَرْضِ وَلِنُعَلِّمَهُ مِن تَأْوِيلِ الأَحَادِيثِ وَاللّهُ غَالِبٌ عَلَى أَمْرِهِ وَلَـكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لاَ يَعْلَمُونَ
Translation: “And he who traded him, being of Egypt said to his wife, ‘give him an honourable lodging; it may be that he will profit us, or it may be that we take him as a son’. And thus, We (Allah) established Yusuf (Joseph) in the land, and that We (Allah) may teach him some of the interpretation of discourses. And Allah is Overcomer with His Command, but most people do not know. [Surah Yusuf 12:21]

وَقَالَ نِسْوَةٌ فِي الْمَدِينَةِ امْرَأَةُ الْعَزِيزِ تُرَاوِدُ فَتَاهَا عَن نَّفْسِهِ قَدْ شَغَفَهَا حُبًّا إِنَّا لَنَرَاهَا فِي ضَلاَلٍ مُّبِينٍ
Translation: And the lady, in whose house he (Joseph) lived, tried to seduce him. She locked the doors firmly and said, ‘Come to me!’ He replied, ‘Allah is my refuge! It is not right to betray my master, who has taken good care of me.’ Indeed, the wrongdoers never succeed. [Surah Yusuf 12:30]

قَالَ مَا خَطْبُكُنَّ إِذْ رَاوَدتُّنَّ يُوسُفَ عَن نَّفْسِهِ قُلْنَ حَاشَ لِلّهِ مَا عَلِمْنَا عَلَيْهِ مِن سُوءٍ قَالَتِ امْرَأَةُ الْعَزِيزِ الآنَ حَصْحَصَ الْحَقُّ أَنَاْ رَاوَدتُّهُ عَن نَّفْسِهِ وَإِنَّهُ لَمِنَ الصَّادِقِينَ
Translation: “He (Al-Aziz) said, ‘what was your case, O women, when you seduced Joseph?’ They said, ‘God forbid, we know of no evil in him.’ Al-Aziz’s woman said, ‘Now the truth has come to light. I did seduce him, and he is surely truthful.’ [Surah Yusuf 12:51]

ﺍﻟﺰﻭجة Examples

The word wife is used in the Quran for Eve because she had both a physical relationship, as well as mental and spiritual compatibility with Adam.
وَقُلْنَا يَا آدَمُ اسْكُنْ أَنتَ وَزَوْجُكَ الْجَنَّةَ وَكُلاَ مِنْهَا رَغَداً حَيْثُ شِئْتُمَا وَلاَ تَقْرَبَا هَـذِهِ الشَّجَرَةَ فَتَكُونَا مِنَ الْظَّالِمِينَ
Translation: “And We said: “O Adam, dwell you and your wife in this garden and eat freely thereof, both of you, whatever you may wish; but do not approach this one tree, lest you become wrongdoers. [Surah Al-Baqarah 2:35]

Wives of Prophet Muhammad
In addressing the wives of the prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, the Quran does not call them women but addresses them as wives because like Eve, they had both a physical relationship, as well mental and spiritual compatibility with prophet Muhammad.
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ قُل لِّأَزْوَاجِكَ وَبَنَاتِكَ وَنِسَاء الْمُؤْمِنِينَ يُدْنِينَ عَلَيْهِنَّ مِن جَلَابِيبِهِنَّ ذَلِكَ أَدْنَى أَن يُعْرَفْنَ فَلَا يُؤْذَيْنَ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ غَفُورًا رَّحِيمًا
Translation: “O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters, as well as all (other) believing women, that they should draw over themselves some of their outer garments (when in public): this will be more conducive to their being recognized (as decent women) and they will not be hurt. And Allah has been ever-forgiving and ever-merciful. [Surah Al-Ahzab 35:59]

It is interesting that Quran has addressed all the wives of the prophet although some of them did not bear any children from him. Applying the criterion of woman Allah used for the spouses of prophets Zachariah and Abraham, they should have been addressed as woman. But there are two reasons for that. One is that they have been described as a group and not singularly by names to make a distinction between a wife of the prophet who had children with him and a wife who did not have children with him. Secondly and more importantly, Allah has made a singular exception of declaring all of them mothers of all Muslims and they are spiritually their children.
النَّبِيُّ أَوْلَى بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ مِنْ أَنفُسِهِمْ وَأَزْوَاجُهُ أُمَّهَاتُهُمْ
Translation: “The Prophet has a higher claim on the believers than them and his wives are their mothers … [Surah Al-Ahzab 33:6]

When a married couple have a strained relationship, the Quran uses the word woman for wife because there is no compatibility between her and her husband. Allah permits a compromise in such situations so that each of them give up some of their rights voluntarily to prevent a wife’s ill treatment or neglect by her husband.
وَإِنِ امْرَأَةٌ خَافَتْ مِن بَعْلِهَا نُشُوزًا أَوْ إِعْرَاضًا فَلاَ جُنَاْحَ عَلَيْهِمَا أَن يُصْلِحَا بَيْنَهُمَا صُلْحًا وَالصُّلْحُ خَيْرٌ وَأُحْضِرَتِ الأَنفُسُ الشُّحَّ وَإِن تُحْسِنُواْ وَتَتَّقُواْ فَإِنَّ اللّهَ كَانَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرًا
Translation: “If a woman fears ill treatment or aversion from her husband, then, there is no sin on them in entering into a compromise between them. Compromise is better. Avarice is made to be present in human souls. If you do good and fear Allah, then, Allah is fully aware of what you do.” [Surah An-Nisa 4:128]

‏ﺍﻟﺼﺎﺣﺒﺔ Examples

The word partner is used in the Quran for wives where both physical contact and compatibility of mind and faith are absent between husband and wife. This will be the case with husbands and their wives on the most difficult Day of Judgement when every soul will be worried about its own self and forget all kinships of spouse, parents and children. Allah says about that Day
‏[Surah Abasa 80: 34 to 36]( ﻳﻮﻡ ﻳﻔﺮ ﺍﻟﻤﺮﺀ ﻣﻦ ﺃﺧﻴﻪ ﻭﺃﻣﻪ ﺃﺑﻴﻪ ﻭﺻﺎﺣﺒﺘﻪ ﻭﺑﻨﻴﻪ ‏)

Also in Surah, Al-Maarij the wife of a married person is described as partner on the Day of Judgement:

يُبَصَّرُونَهُمْ يَوَدُّ الْمُجْرِمُ لَوْ يَفْتَدِي مِنْ عَذَابِ يَوْمِئِذٍ بِبَنِيهِ وَصَاحِبَتِهِ وَأَخِيهِ
Translation: “though they may be in one another’s sight: for, everyone who was lost in sin will on Judgement Day will desire to ransom himself from his suffering by offering his own children and his partner and brother [Surah Al-Maarij 70: 11 to 12]

Allah has no Partner
When Allah describes His own oneness He uses the negation of a partner similar to the attestation ‘there is no god but Allah’, for He has no partner or companion, whether in divine thought or in divine relationship with anyone in anyway.
بَدِيعُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ أَنَّى يَكُونُ لَهُ وَلَدٌ وَلَمْ تَكُن لَّهُ صَاحِبَةٌ وَخَلَقَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ وهُوَ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ
Translation: “he Originator of the heavens and the earth! How could it be that He should have a child without there ever having been a mate for Him – since it is He who has created everything, and He alone knows everything?” [Surah Al-Anaam 6:101]

The above criteria is visible throughout the Quran which was revealed over a period of 23 years. In that long period, to maintain one standard criteria to describe a woman as a woman, wife and partner in so many examples and parables in the Quran can only be the word of God and not of any human being. Verily, Allah’s holy book the Quran is a miracle which no human being can put together even if the whole mankind and jinn-kind get together to write one
(قُل لَّئِنِ اجْتَمَعَتِ الْإِنسُ وَالْجِنُّ عَلَىٰ أَن يَأْتُوا بِمِثْلِ هَٰذَا الْقُرْآنِ لَا يَأْتُونَ بِمِثْلِهِ وَلَوْ كَانَ بَعْضُهُمْ لِبَعْضٍ ظَهِيرا)
Translation: Say: “If all mankind and all invisible beings would come together with a view to producing the like of this Quran, they could not produce its like even though they were to exert all their strength in aiding one another.” [Surah Al-Isra 17:88]

May Allah make us among those whose Dua is accepted. Ameen.
وَالَّذِينَ يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَا هَبْ لَنَا مِنْ أَزْوَاجِنَا وَذُرِّيَّاتِنَا قُرَّةَ أَعْيُنٍ وَاجْعَلْنَا لِلْمُتَّقِينَ إِمَامًا
Translation: “And who say (in their prayer) our Lord make our spouses and our offspring a joy to our eyes, and cause us to be foremost among those who are conscious of you.” [Surah Al-Furqan 25:74]

16 February 2018

The Power of Bismillah

Syed Sharfuddin

Imam Razi writes in Tafseer Kabeer (Vol 1, page 173) that invocation of the name of Allah بِسْمِ اللّهِ الرَّحْمـَنِ الرَّحِيمِ is extremely powerful and effective when done with full conviction. He points out the two specific places where Bismillah (literally meaning ‘in the name of Allah’) is mentioned in the holy Quran to show how the difficult missions of the prophets who recited Bismillah faithfully were made easy for them to accomplish successfully.

When prophet Noah was commanded by Allah to build an Ark he was ridiculed by the non-believers of his nation who were all well-to-do persons. They said Noah we find no one with you except the weak and the downtrodden.

فَقَالَ الْمَلأُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ مِن قِوْمِهِ مَا نَرَاكَ إِلاَّ بَشَرًا مِّثْلَنَا وَمَا نَرَاكَ اتَّبَعَكَ إِلاَّ الَّذِينَ هُمْ أَرَاذِلُنَا بَادِيَ الرَّأْيِ وَمَا نَرَى لَكُمْ عَلَيْنَا مِن فَضْلٍ بَلْ نَظُنُّكُمْ كَاذِبِينَ
Translation. “The eminent among those who disbelieved from his people said, ” We do not see you but as a man like ourselves, and we do not see you followed except by those who are the lowest of us (and) at first suggestion. And we do not see any merit in you over us ; rather, we think you are liars.” [Surah Hud 11:27]

And when the great deluge began to surround them, Noah did not know where to sail because he had never been on the seas. But he followed Allah’s command and boarded the Arc invoking His name and he and all his companions were saved by Allah.

وَقَالَ ارْكَبُواْ فِيهَا بِسْمِ اللّهِ مَجْرَاهَا وَمُرْسَاهَا إِنَّ رَبِّي لَغَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
Translation: “Noah said (to his followers), Board the Ark. In the name of God, it shall sail and anchor. My God is most forgiving and merciful”. [Surah Hud 11:41].

After he landed on Mount Judi, Noah lived long to preach Allah’s message to the people. He lived for 950 years.

When Prophet Solomon was conveyed intelligence by his bird hoopoe that there was a kingdom ruled by a Queen who worshipped the sun, Prophet Solomon was obliged to invite her to embrace Islam together with her followers, for his mission as a prophet was to end idol worship and spread the message of one true God, Allah. He wrote her a letter which began in the name of God.

إِنَّهُ مِن سُلَيْمَانَ وَإِنَّهُ بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ
“Verily, it is from Sulaiman (Solomon) and verily, it (reads): In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.” [Surah An-Naml 27:30]

Imam Razi says that by relating his letter to “the name of God, prophet Solomon invoked the help of the most powerful king, Allah on his side. The result was that he attained his mission without a battle which Queen Sheba’s advisers were prepared to fight. Allah not only made Solomon a great king but also gave him power over Jinn and taught him the languages of animals, birds and insects. He also lived long to spread the message of God far and wide.

In Surah Al-Kahf we are also advised in the verse relating to the faithful dwellers of the cave that we should always seek guidance of Allah in our affairs.

إِذْ أَوَى الْفِتْيَةُ إِلَى الْكَهْفِ فَقَالُوا رَبَّنَا آتِنَا مِن لَّدُنكَ رَحْمَةً وَهَيِّئْ لَنَا مِنْ أَمْرِنَا رَشَدًا
Translation: “When the young men took refuge in the Cave and said, “Our Lord, bless us with mercy from Your own and provide us with guidance in our matters.” [Surah Al-Kahf 18:10]

And what a best way it is to directly invoke the name of Allah at the start of everything we do in our lives to be successful and happy.

14 February 2018

Moses and the Herb

Prophet Moses was born with stammer. But when on Mount Sinai he was commanded by Allah to go to the Pharaoh of his time and invite him to embrace Islam, Moses prayed to Allah to remove his stammer so that he could convey the divine message without any difficulty. Allah asked Moses to eat a certain herb which he did and his stammer ended. “…and remove the impediment from my tongue [20:27].

In his old age, the stammer retuned and Moses started to have difficulty speaking. He remembered the herb so he ate that herb but instead of getting cured, his stammer became worse. Moses prayed to God and said the herb did not work for him. God replied: “you were cured by this herb the first time you ate it because you did it for Me; but when you ate it for yourself your stammer got worse because the herb is nothing but poison.” Iman Fakhr al-Din Razi says even a poison becomes a cure when Allah’s name is taken on it and when it is done not for personal benefit but for Allah.

From Fakhr al-Din Razi, Tafseer Kabeer (Arabic), Volume 1, Page 173.

Rahman and Raheem

Syed Sharfuddin

In his voluminous commentary on Surah Fateha in Tafseer al-Kabeer, also known as Mafatih-al-Ghayb (Arabic), Volume 1 (pages 235-236), Imam Muhammad Fakhr al-Din Razi explains the attributes of Allah, Rahman and Raheem through three parables. He says Rahman means Allah gives provisions in ways man cannot even imagine. Raheem means Allah gives provisions in ways man can imagine but cannot do it himself. Allah says in the holy Quran in Surah At-Talaq (Chapter 65 Verse 3):

وَيَرْزُقْهُ مِنْ حَيْثُ لَا يَحْتَسِبُ وَمَن يَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ فَهُوَ حَسْبُهُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ بَالِغُ أَمْرِهِ قَدْ جَعَلَ اللَّهُ لِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدْرًا
Translation: “(Allah) provides him (with what he needs) from where he does not even imagine. And whoever places his trust in Allah, He is sufficient for him. Surely Allah always attains His purpose and indeed Allah has set a measure for everything”. [65-3]

The three parables are as follows:

First Parable. Ibrahim-Ibn-Adham narrated that he was a guest at a place where people were having food. Suddenly a crow came and took away a piece of bread. Ibrahim-Ibn-Adham followed the flight of the crow. At a short distance the crow dropped the piece of bread. Ibrahim-Ibn-Adham was able to reach this place soon. When he reached there he saw that the piece of bread had fallen on the face of a man who had no hands and he was so weak he could hardly walk. Allah had provided food to this man through a crow. SubhanAllah.

Second Parable. Zinnoon narrated that he was in his house when he decided to go out and see how God’s plans worked. So he went to the bank of the river which was close to his place. There he saw a scorpion and decided to follow it. The scorpion turned toward the river. Soon, Zinnoon saw a tortoise coming toward the scorpion. As soon as the tortoise reached the bank of the river, the scorpion jumped and sat on top of the tortoise. The tortoise began to cross the river. Zinnoon caught a boat and also crossed the river. When the tortoise reached the other side of the river, the scorpion came down and started to move inside the valley. Zinnoon followed the scorpion. After walking a short distance, Zinnoon saw a youth sleeping under a tree right in the path of the scorpion. Then he saw a snake who was taking aim at the youth. Before Zinnoon could do anything, he saw the scorpion attacked the snake and killed it. Zinnoon asked forgiveness of Allah for his desire to see how God’s plans worked, for he had seen how God sent a scorpion all the way form the other side of the river to save the life of a young man from a poisonous snake-bite. SubhanAllah.

Some later narrators of this parable such as Dr Taqi Usmani have added that due to the commotion caused by the fight between the snake and the scorpion the youth woke up and got scared at seeing a live scorpion so close to him. He picked up a stone and wanted to crush the scorpion. At this point Zinnoon shouted and told the man to stop. He said the scorpion was his well-wisher and had actually saved his life by killing a poisonous snake instead of causing him any harm. Dr Usmani draws the moral of the story that sometimes what man thinks is bad for him is actually good for him, and vice-versa. Allah says in Surah Al-Isra [17:11] “man (often) asks for things that are bad as if he were praying for something that is good, for man is prone to be hasty (in his judgment).”

Third Parable: Imam Razi narrated that the hatchlings of a crow when they come out of their shells are red and without any feathers, like a piece of fresh meat. But the parent crows who love meat never touch them with ill intention. In fact, the parent crows’ love, generosity and care are so overpowering that they fly far away to find a protein-rich diet for their chicks and they continue to feed them until they are strong, grow feathers on their flesh and are able to fly to find their own food. Who puts off their natural killer instinct in their heart and replaces it with warmth and love for their babies? It is Allah who does that because he provides for food for his creation in ways you cannot imagine. SubhanAllah.

It can be added here that the manner in which a mother cuckoo bird whose diet is mostly protein-lacking fruits, lays her eggs in the nest of other birds so that her chicks get protein-rich diet by their foster parents is even more surprising considering that this is an instinct of the bird which no one has taught her except Allah. SubhanAllah.

Imam Razi says, Allah’s mercy is vast. It encompasses everything from living beings to inanimate objects and everything He has created in the universe. He provides those who obey Him, and also to those who do not acknowledge Him, for He is both Rahman, the most merciful, and Raheem, the most beneficent.

Imam Razi was born in Iran in 1149 (AD) and passed away at the age of 60 in 1209 AD. He spent most of his life in Herat, Afghanistan.

14 February 2018

Nine Regrets

🔴 Syed Sharfuddin

The Holy Quran describes certain regrets which people will express on the Day of Judgement when they will stand before their Lord in humility and admission of their transgressions. These regrets represent the essence of Islam in three elements: belief and obedience to one God, following in the footsteps of His apostle and doing good deeds.

Anyone who makes these three elements the focus of his faith is guaranteed success. He will see this with his own eyes on the Day of Judgement.

May Allah give us the understanding to do good deeds in this life so that on the Day of Judgement we are not standing before our Lord regretting and wishing if we could only be sent again to the world to make amends for our faults, for there is only one life and one death on earth and it is not going to be repeated again.

“ياليتني – كنت معهم فأفوز فوزاً عظيما”
I wish I had been with them (the faithful people) to achieve great success
(سورة النساء 4:73)

“يا ليتنا – نرد ولا نكذب بايات ربنا ونكون من المومنين”
We wish we had not rejected nor falsified the signs of our Creator and had been His faithful servants
(6:27 سورة الأنعام)

“يا ليتني – لم أشرك بربي احداً”
I wish I had not taken someone as a partner to Allah
(18:سورة الكهف 42)

“ياليتني – اتخذت مع الرسول سبيلا”
I wish I had followed in the footsteps of the Apostle
(سورة الفرقان 25:27)

“ياليتني – لم أتخذ فلاناً خليلا”
I wish I had not taken someone other than Allah as my Saviour
(25:سورة الفرقان 28)

“ياليتني – كنت ترابا”
I wish I could return to dust
(78:سورۃ نبإِ 30)

“ياليتنا – أطعنا الله وأطعناالرسولا”
We wish we had obeyed Allah and His Apostle
(سورة الأحزاب 33:66)

“ياليتني – لم أوت كتابيه”
I wish I had not been given the account of my deeds
(سورة الحاقة 69:25)

“ياليتني – قدمت لحياتي”
I wish I had prepared for my next life
(89:سورة الفجر 24)

Does Allah Guide or Misguide?

Syed Sharfuddin

Yesterday I posted on WhatsApp a famous Arabic phrase which is repeated every week in Friday sermons and on other occasions. The post said: “Man yahdillahu fala mudhillalahu, wa man yudhlillahu fala hadiyalahu. Translation: “Whoever is guided by Allah cannot be led astray by anyone; and whoever is left astray by Allah, no one can guide him”. This phrase can be traced to Chapter 18 Verse 17 of the Holy Quran which reads:
ذَلِكَ مِنْ آيَاتِ اللَّهِ مَن يَهْدِ اللَّهُ فَهُوَ الْمُهْتَد وَمَن يُضْلِلْ فَلَن تَجِدَ لَهُ وَلِيًّا مُّرْشِدًا
Translation: “…That’s from the signs of Allah. He whom Allah guides is the [rightly] guided, but he whom Allah leaves astray – never will you find for him a protecting guide.” [18:17].

After seeing my post, a friend wrote back to me saying: “If Allah is Rahman (Most Merciful) and Raheem (Most Beneficent) who has sent 124,000 prophets for the guidance of mankind, why should he misguide someone and send him to hell? Is this not a contradiction?”

The question is undoubtedly very telling, especially if you consider that Allah has created man in the best of stature [95:4]. It then throws you back thinking yes why God who loves His servants so much and is always prepared to shower His mercy on them and forgive their sins is saying: “We will reduce (man) to the lowest of the low in Hell” [95:5]. A knock out question, you would say!

The beauty of Quran is that it answers any question that arises in the mind of a believer in regard to Allah’s attributes. So with this firm belief that I should be able to find the answer to this question in the Quran, I came across this verse which perfectly explains how one ends up earning the wrath of God instead of receiving His mercy and kindness. In Surah Al-Zukhruf [Chapter 43] Allah says:
وَمَن يَعْشُ عَن ذِكْرِ الرَّحْمَنِ نُقَيِّضْ لَهُ شَيْطَانًا فَهُوَ لَهُ قَرِينٌ
وَإِنَّهُمْ لَيَصُدُّونَهُمْ عَنِ السَّبِيلِ وَيَحْسَبُونَ أَنَّهُم مُّهْتَدُون
حَتَّى إِذَا جَاءنَا قَالَ يَا لَيْتَ بَيْنِي وَبَيْنَكَ بُعْدَ الْمَشْرِقَيْنِ فَبِئْسَ الْقَرِينُ
Translation: “And whoever forgets the remembrance of the Most Merciful, We appoint for him a devil to become his companion. And indeed, the devil averts (him) from (guidance) while (he thinks that he is rightly) guided; until, when (he) comes to Allah (on Judgement Day), he says (to the devil who was his companion in life), ‘Oh, I wish there was between me and you (as much as) distance as is between the east and west – how wretched a companion (he is).” [43:37].

Those persons who refuse to acknowledge the existence of God or obey His commandments, Allah assigns a devil to each one of them as a companion in life. The job of their companion is to misguide them until they meet their final end (death). That appointment, one might say is kind of Allah leading someone astray whom no one can bring to the right path except Allah. There are many instances in Islamic history when the enemies of Islam who were clearly on the wrong path embraced Islam and became strong supporters and practitioners of their newly embraced faith because of Allah’s guidance. This guidance cannot be predicted nor acquired. It comes with one’s own change of heart and decision, and of course with Allah’s help to support their resolve.

A misguided person can be both a non-Muslim or a Muslim if he is a hypocrite or a fasiq, i.e. someone who says he is a Muslim but his deeds are quite the opposite of what a Muslim is commanded to do. A misguided person follows his desires (28:50); he loves doing what he wills and is proud of his bad deeds because Allah makes these attractive in his eyes (35:8); he does not fear Allah (39:23); he refuses to see the Truth because he trusts only his limited knowledge based on what his mind, eyes, ears and heart dictate (45:23); and, he is incapable of seeing the signs of Allah and in fact he questions these when he comes across them but can’t understand them (74:31).

With this explanation, the argument of pre-destination takes a tumble and we go back to the basic premise that the final outcome of our life is essentially a matter of one’s choice.

You choose your path and you are facilitated by Allah in your endeavour. If you ask for success in this world you get success in this world [2:200]. If you want success in the hereafter, you earn greater reward in the hereafter [16:122]. But the best are those who say:
وِمِنْهُم مَّن يَقُولُ رَبَّنَا آتِنَا فِي الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً وَفِي الآخِرَةِ حَسَنَةً وَقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ
Translation: “Our Lord! Give us in this world that which is good and in the Hereafter that which is good, and save us from the torment of the Fire!” [2:201].

May Allah always keep us included among His guided servants. Ameen.

Strange are the Ways of God

By Syed Sharfuddin

A Sheikh was commenting on the parable of Moses and Al-Khidr in Surah Kahf (Chapter 18 ‘the Cave’ in the Quran) which is well known to Muslims. He said the key lesson of this parable is that man cannot fathom the plan of Allah because it is beyond the reach of human logic and reason. This is very important to remember because man is born impatient and keeps moaning about small things and asks questions which in his opinion don’t make sense. In a way it is a good thing because it enables man to keep moving toward the frontier of knowledge the ultimate end of which is God Himself. But while he can be inquisitive he should not be disappointed if he doesn’t get the answer when he wants it. This is what happened to Moses. He kept asking “why” when he did not understand the apparently illogical actions of Al-Khidr. But what seemed illogical to Moses was perfectly logical in the larger scheme of things with the benefit of hindsight.

Then the Sheikh narrated a story to explain the strange ways of God which we can neither understand nor explain if we rely only on our human faculties.

The Sheikh said that God once asked the angel of death, Ezrail: “You have been taking away the souls of my servants on my orders and this is your job. Was there any time when you felt sorry for bringing death to my servants?” Ezrail replied: “Yes my Lord. On two occasions I felt sorry. The first time was when a ship was drowning and some people had escaped on rafts to save their lives. One of these persons included a pregnant mother. She had waited for a child for a long time and had become pregnant after much prayers and offerings. Because of the physical effort she made to save her life she was very exhausted and gave birth to a son on the raft. It was at that time you made me take the life of that mother, while her son was left alive on the raft all alone with no one to look after him and care for him in the dark blue sea.”

Ezrail said the second time he felt sorry for someone was when a king who claimed to be god decided to build a huge and beautiful paradise on his earth. He told his people to worship him because he could make them live in his ‘paradise’ as the reward for worshipping him. He diverted all the gold and silver and rubies and riches in preparing a magnificent garden with hanging vines, running streams of cold water and beautiful fountains. His workers built floors with emeralds and pearls and brought musk and amber from all over the world to decorate his ‘paradise’. When the royal garden was ready to be inaugurated by the king, he placed his one foot inside his garden and was lifting his other foot to enter it, you ordered me to take away his breath. I felt sorry for this king who could not even get a glance of what he had prepared in claiming to be god.”

God informed Ezrail that the helpless child on the sea and the man who claimed to be god were the same person. His name was Shaddad, son of Aad who lived in the area around present day Oman and Hadhramut. His ‘paradise’ perished with the lost city of Iram of the Pillars in the Arabian sands. Subhan Allah. Allah knows best.

The Sheikh was in his elements; so narrated another story to make this point. He said there were two men called Moses. They were born to two different Hebrew mothers whose fathers had died before their birth during the time when the Pharaoh had ordered genocide of all Hebrew infants because his high priest had told him that a child born to Hebrew mother will end his kingdom. One infant Moses was raised in the Palace of the Pharaoh who claimed to be god. The other infant Moses was raised by none other than the most honoured angel Gabriel on a secluded mountain. The Moses raised by the denier of Allah grew up to become a prophet. The Moses guarded by an angel grew up to be the man who made a golden calf and told the followers of prophet Moses this was their god. His name was Sameree. Strange are the ways of Allah, only He knows.

The Sheikh concluded by saying since we do not know Allah’s divine plan it is advisable to be always contented with His decisions. For “If Allah should decide to touch anyone with adversity, there is no one who can remove it except Him; and if He intends for you any good, there is no one who can prevent it. He causes His bounty to reach whom He wills of His servants. And He is the forgiving, the merciful.” [Surah Younus – 10:107]

In_Sha_Allah, If Allah Wills

By Syed Sharfuddin

In_Sha_Allah or if Allah wills is the most commonly used phrase in the daily Muslim discourse. In some Muslim communities it is spoken seriously with the intention of seeking Allah’s intervention in getting something done as is commanded in the holy Quran: “And never say anything such as indeed I will do that tomorrow except [when adding] if Allah wills. And remember your Lord when you forget [it] and say, perhaps my Lord will guide me to what is nearer than this to right conduct.” [18:23:24]. However, many times In_Sha_Allah is spoken without understanding its meaning and ironically on some occasions it is spoken as a substitute to saying no, meaning I don’t want to do it but if God wants it done I am happy with that. To understand it fully, let us turn to the holy Quran itself where this commandment is given.

There are important lessons to be learnt from the parables of prophets mentioned in the holy Quran. One of these lessons is the importance of making dua to Allah to seek his help, whether for one’s own self or for others.

Dua is the solemn act of reproaching Allah for the fulfilment of a genuine need or desire. We read in the story of prophet Abraham that he had two wives but he still prayed to Allah for a pious child: “Lord grant me a child from among the righteous” [37:100] and he was blessed with a son, Ismail. Prophet Zachariah also prayed to Allah for an heir when his wife got silver in her hair: “O Lord, grant me from yourself a progeny that is pure; you are the granter of prayers” [3:38]. “O Lord, do not leave me alone; you are the best of inheritors.” [21:89].

In both these examples the underlying message is that no matter how great the effort or resources, Allah’s blessing is still required to get your wish granted.

An example of a prophet praying not for himself but for his people is Prophet Jesus. He prayed for food for his followers: “O Allah our Lord, send us a table spread with food from heaven to be a festival for the first of us and the last of us and a sign from you; (our Lord), provide for us. Verily, you are the best of providers” [5:114]. Prophet Abraham also prayed for the welfare and safety of his progeny who settled in Makkah: “Our Lord, I have settled some of my descendants in an uncultivated valley near your sacred House; our Lord, that they may establish prayer. So make hearts among the people inclined toward them and provide for them from the fruits that they might be grateful.” [14:37]. We see that Allah has fulfilled the dua of both these prophets.

The ancient House of Allah in what used to be a barren valley surrounded by bare mountains is today the most peaceful and sought-after place for Muslim pilgrims, and all kinds of fruits and provisions are found in Makkah. Likewise, Allah has given wealth and abundance of food to the followers of Jesus as a result of his dua for his followers.

Dua is also important for coming out of trouble or recovery from illness. Prophet Job called out to Allah for help after his illness had become unbearable before he found a cure. “And (mention) Job, when he called to his Lord “indeed, adversity has touched me, and you are the most merciful of the merciful.” [21:83). Prophet Jonah would have remained in the belly of the whale had he not sought forgiveness for his escape. “And (remember Jonah), when he went off in anger, and imagined that we shall not punish him” (i.e. in the form of the calamities which had befallen him in the journey). “But he cried through the darkness (saying): ‘there is no god worthy of worship besides you, glorious Allah. Surely I was among the wrongdoers’.” [21:87].

There are also examples of dua being suspended or delayed for acceptance. Prophet Noah was told his dua to save his son in the flood could not be accepted [11:45-46]. Prophet Abraham’s dua for salvation of his father was declined [9:114]. Prophet Solomon’s dua for getting an able successor was not accepted despite him having more than 100 wives (in Hebrew literature it is mentioned Solomon had 141 wives and concubines). But his dua for a being the most powerful king with no parallel in history was accepted. “And we certainly tried Solomon and placed on his throne a body; then he returned. ‘He said, My Lord, forgive me and grant me a kingdom such as will not belong to anyone after me. Indeed, you are the best giver’.” [38:34-5].

The parables of prophets show that dua is the key to getting your wishes granted or getting your needs fulfilled. But whether your dua is granted, withheld, declined or converted into a credit to be used on the day of judgement for upgrading your status in Paradise, is known only to Allah. Man cannot definitely say: if I ask Allah for something, I shall get it. That is the meaning of In_Sha_Allah, if Allah wills.

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23 January 2018

The Friday Sermon: Language, Style and Contents

By Syed Sharfuddin

The Friday salat (prayer) is obligatory on all Muslims. There is a full surah (chapter) in the Holy Quran on the Friday prayer (Surah Jumma). However, in the Shia school there is difference of opinion whether Friday prayer is obligatory, especially if the call to prayer is made by a representative of an unjust ruler who is known to be a violator of God’s commandments. Nevertheless, those who regard it as obligatory attend Friday prayers. Some Shia scholars have allowed offering Friday prayers led by a Sunni imam if there is no Shia centre or mosque close to their residence or place of work. Timings for the Friday salat differ depending upon the schedule of prayers observed in each country by each school of thought, but it cannot be offered before the sun has crossed the midday point (noon).

Friday prayer cannot be performed individually. It is offered at a mosque or Islamic centre which organises Friday prayers in a large gathering.

The Friday salat consists of two rakat prayers preceded by a khutba (sermon). The khutba is delivered in the Arabic language and has a set structure, which has been followed by imams all over the world for centuries. However, within the set structure there is space for discussing a particular theme chosen by the imam. Muslims who attend Friday prayers regularly know that the Friday sermon can be both original and repetitive in content at the same time.

In some countries where religious authority is exercised by the state, the department of Islamic affairs approves Friday khutbas in advance of delivery. In other countries the imam is free to choose the theme and requires no prior clearance from the state authorities about the contents of his sermon. However, all khutbas become an official record of the mosque where these are delivered. Some internet savvy mosques webcast their khutbas through live streaming; other mosques upload the audio/video of the khutba on their website. At the Faisal Mosque in Islamabad the Friday khutba is also printed on paper and distributed to the faithful to take home after prayers. In small mosques in villages the khutba is delivered by the imam without any written text and once delivered, there is no record of the khutba to refer to it subsequently. This has to do more with the lack of sophistication and scarcity of resources than any established custom or rule.

In many non-Arabic speaking countries, while adhering to the Arabic text, many imams speak to the congregation in the local language to explain the khutba they have selected for the day. In some countries where Arabic is not the mother language of the people, the imams combine their sermon in the local languages in such a way that the integrity of the original khutba in Arabic is retained. In some other mosques imams deliver a small talk on the theme of the khutba in the local language after the first adhan (call to prayer) and thereafter, they deliver a short full khutba in Arabic (in two parts) after the second adhan, followed by the Friday salat.

In countries where people are at work on Friday and have little time available for Friday service, the khutba is kept very short (only in summary form) to fulfil the requirement of the Friday prayer. But in countries where Friday is a holiday or where allowance is given for Friday prayers during a working day, the Friday khutba takes between 15 to 30 minutes, preceded by Friday salat which takes another 15 minutes to complete.

The greatest advantage of sticking to a set format of the khutba in Arabic is its universality. On a Friday, all the mosques in the world deliver the sermon in the same style and structure with which Muslims are familiar. So whether you are a Saudi Muslim offering Friday prayer in the United States or a British Muslim reading the Friday prayer in a mosque in Nigeria, you will not come across any major variations in the khutba to cause confusion about the theme and the message. This universality of approach coincides well with the concept of one faith and one Ummah, irrespective of the different schools of thought and jurisprudence, no matter where a Muslim comes from and what is his/her preferred ethnic, linguistic or national identity.

Muslims whose first language is not Arabic sometimes think they miss out on a large part of the khutba because they can’t understand it. However, when one looks at the anatomy of the khutba, less than one third of it is about a new topic, and the remaining two third is about the verses of the holy Quran, sayings of prophet Muhammad sallalaho alaihe wasallam (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) and supplications recited in daily prayers. A practicing Muslim who prays five times a day and attends 52 Friday khutbas in a year cannot complain he does not understand what is being said in a khutba delivered in Arabic. For the remaining one third material which is new in a khutba, most imams are increasingly making an effort to explain the topic of discussion in the native language of the audience in their talk prior to delivering the khutba, or they add the translation to the main body of the khutba, as required.

The Friday sermon is delivered by the imam standing up and often holding a wooden staff. For better visibility, the imam walks up to a member (a raised platform). In mosques which are designed after Ottoman architecture, the member is quite distinguished as it is sometimes six feet high and has eight to ten steps.

The khutba consists of two Sections. Each Section has three parts – the start, the middle and the end. The first Section contains glorification and sanctification of Allah, salutations on prophet Muhammad sallalaho alaihe wasallam, some Quranic verses and sayings of the prophet on the chosen theme of the khutba and supplications seeking Allah’s forgiveness. The second Section includes salutations to prophet Muhammad sallalaho alaihe wasallam, his family and companions, supplications for the ummah’s salvation, safety and security, and a couple of warnings and advice from the imam about Islamic manners and finally asking them to stand up to offer the Friday prayer.

Each of the two Sections of the khutba is interspersed by a short break of a couple of minutes during which time the imam sits down and silently recites a brief dua. The congregation also recites a quiet dua (any dua seeking Allah’s forgiveness) during this break.

The following is an explanation of the composition and content of the Friday khutba in Arabic.

Section 1. Part 1: Start

The khutba starts with the praise of the great and glorious Allah and a brief account of His blessings. It also includes salutation to His prophet Muhammad, sallalaho alaihe wasallam.

Translation: All praise is due to Allah. We praise Him. We seek help from Him. We ask for his forgiveness and protection. We trust Him alone and we seek refuge in Him against the evils and mischief of our self, as well as from the consequences of our bad deeds.

Translation: Whosoever is guided by Allah on the right path, no one can misguide him; and whosoever has been left astray by Allah, no one can guide such person to the right path.

Translation: We bear witness that there is no god but Allah. He is alone and has no partner. We bear witness that Muhammad sallalaho alaihe wasallam is His servant and apostle. O servants of Allah, may Allah be merciful to you.

Translation: Of all the books, the Book of Allah is the best; and of all the apostles of Allah, Muhammad sallalaho alaihe wasallam is the best apostle. Of all the deeds, the good deeds are recommended and bad deeds are forbidden. What is forbidden leads one astray. He who has been led astray is lost in darkness. And the darkness of sins leads to Hellfire.

Section 1. Part 2: Middle
The imam now comes to the main theme of the Friday khutba which varies in length and the topical events and issues facing the Muslim community, especially the youth in each country.

Translation: After this, I seek protection of Allah from Shaitan, the accursed, and begin in the name of Allah, the beneficent and most merciful.

The imam recites a minimum of two verses from the Holy Quran on any chosen theme of the Friday khutba from a wide variety of topics discussed in the Holy Quran. The verses can also be about paying zakat, fasting, hajj, and Muslims’ obligations and duties toward Allah and human beings. Usually, there is no commentary on these verses, as khutba is meant to be concise and not too lengthy. However, some imams choose to speak for about 10 to 15 minutes on the chosen theme as this is the only part of khutba which is different from the other text at the beginning and end of each of its two Sections.

After reciting the relevant verses from the holy Quran, the imam recites at least two hadith (sayings of the prophet) from the authentic collection of ahadith relevant to the theme. The long chain of narrators of hadith is usually excised from the khutba to save time.

Some imams narrate key elements of being a good Muslim in the theme by combining a number of Quranic commandments. For example, they will say:

Translation: O Muslims, fear Allah and speak the truth. He will make your deeds good and forgive your sins. Whosoever obeys Allah and His apostle has attained great success.

Translation: O Muslims, fear Allah as is His right to be feared and do not die except when you are in a state of faith as a Muslim.

Translation: O mankind, fear Allah; He has created you from one single soul and thereafter created your spouses and many men and women. Fear Allah because you will be questioned about your dealings with your kin and near ones. Verily, Allah keeps a watch over you.

Translation: O Muslims, stay away from sin; whoever disobeys Allah and His apostle is led astray from the straight path.

Translation: O Muslims, be truthful because truth leads to salvation whereas falsehood leads to destruction and death.

Translation: O Muslims, bestow favours on others, for Allah loves people who are generous.

Translation: O Muslims, remember whosoever keeps company with conceit and looks down upon others, will be sent to Hellfire.

Section 1. Part 3: End
Translation: May Allah bless us and you from the recitation of the holy Quran and enlighten us and you from His signs and the wise commandments in His scripture. I seek forgiveness from Allah for me and for you and for all the Muslims; so seek His forgiveness. He is most forgiving, the merciful.

Dua Break
The imam sits down for a minute to recite a silent dua at the conclusion of the first Section. The audience also follow the imam and quietly recite a short dua, or keep silent.

Section 2. Part 1: Start

In this Section, after the opening phrases glorifying Allah and His apostle Muhammad sallalaho alaihe wasallam the imam sends salutations on the prophet, his family and companions.

Translation: All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of all worlds. May the greetings and peace be upon His messenger, Muhammad, sallalaho alaihe wasallam, and upon his family and upon all his companions.

Translation: Allah and His angels send salutations on the prophet sallalaho alaihe wasallam. “O you who believe, send salutations and blessings upon the prophet sallalaho alaihe wasallam” (this is a verse from the holy Quran 33:56). O Allah, send Your worthy blessings upon Muhammad sallalaho alaihe wasallam, who is your servant and apostle and also send your worthy blessings upon the faithful men and women.

Translation: O Allah, send your greetings upon Muhammad, sallallaho alaihe wasallam, and upon his spouses and his family just as you sent your greetings upon Abraham and his family. O Allah, bless Muhammad and his family, just as you blessed Abraham and his family.

Translation: We also send countess blessings on the companions of Muhammad sallalaho alaihe wasallam, particularly the most kind and truthful Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him; the most staunch of them in the affairs of Allah, Omar, son of Khattab who was truthful, upright and just, may Allah be pleased with him; the most modest Uthman, son of Affan, who was perfect in faith, may Allah be pleased with him; and the just and victorious lion of Allah, Ali, son of Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him; and the spiritually distinguished martyrs Hasan and Hussain, sons of Ali, leaders of the youth of Jannah, may Allah be pleased with them; and on their pious and honoured mother Fatima, leader of the pious women in Jannah; may Allah be pleased with her; and on the two noble uncles of the prophet, Hamza and Abbas may Allah be pleased with them; and on the six other worthy companions of the prophet upon whom Allah has bestowed the glad tidings of eternal bliss, may Allah be pleased with them; and on the custodian of the trusts of the ummah, Abu Obaidah ibn Jarrah, and on all other associates and disciples of the prophet Muhammad sallallaho alaihe wasallam.

Translation: The prophet said: fear Allah; fear Allah in the matter of my companions. The best era is the era of my generation and that of my companions. Do not make my companions targets of censure after me. Whosoever loves them, it is because of my love that he loves them and whosoever hates them, it is because of my hatred that he has hatred toward them. Whosoever has hurt them has hurt me, and whosoever has hurt me, has hurt Allah.

Section 2. Part 2: Middle
In this part, the imam makes supplications seeking forgiveness, blessings of Allah and safety and security of all Muslims. These are standard duas which are usually recited at the end of obligatory prayers and religious gatherings. The audience joins the imam with refrains of Ameen repeated at the end of each dua.

Section 2. Part 3: End
In the end of the khutba, the imam delivers the final remarks reminding the congregation about respecting lawful authority, doing good deeds, refraining from major sins and remembering Allah in their lives.

Translation: Slaves of Allah, may Allah have mercy on you. A Muslim ruler is the shadow of God on earth; whoever supports the ruler, Allah will support him.

Translation: Verily, Allah commands you to act with justice, to confer benefits upon each other and to do good to others as one does to one’s close relations. And Allah forbids shameful deeds which pertain to your own selves, and injustice which affects others, and He prohibits revolt against lawful authority.

Translation: Remember Allah, who is supreme in glory and He will remember you; and be thankful to Him, and He will increase you in bounty; and seek His forgiveness, He will forgive you and make for you a way out of your issues.

Translation: Verily, the greatest virtue is the remembrance of Allah, the most superior, elevated, glorious, faultless, magnificent and greatest.

Translation: Stand for prayers.

End of khutba

Post Script
May Allah accept our good deeds and save us from raising unnecessary debates about completely doing away with the Arabic khutba and replacing it with speeches in the native languages of the worshippers which, if done, will lose the organised structure of the khutba read out in millions of mosques in different countries over centuries. There is sufficient room in the present structure of the khutba to add original themes depending upon the needs of Muslim society in our times as long as there are supporting verses from the holy Quran and sayings of the prophet to back up those themes. There is also flexibility in Section 2 of the khutba in regard to detailed or abridged salutations, such as the advice for supporting lawful authority. Even if some of these phrases are omitted, these do not take away the real essence of the khutba. There is also no issue if the local translation of the theme is added in Section 1 of the khutba without doing away with the original Arabic text; or by giving a short talk on the theme of the khutba prior to formally reading out the khutba after the second adhan. However, some imams recite the Friday khutba with such a speed and poor pronunciation that the audience is put off completely for the assassination of such a beautiful language and the message it contains for the believers. These imams need to be more careful and do justice to their duty. So with all the flexibility already there in the prevalent Arabic model, there is no weight in the argument to remove it with local texts. Remember the wise saying: ‘Don’t fix it if it ain’t broken’. Jazakum Allah.

The Arabic terms used in this essay are: khutba or khutbas for plural (sermon); salat (congregational prayer); rakat or rakats for plural (a unit of the prayer which is made up of one of 2, 3 or 4 rakats); imam (the minister of religion who conducts the prayer service) member (a small raised stage); dua or duas for plural (supplication); ummah (global Muslim community); sallalaho alaihe wasallam (salutation, meaning peace and blessings of Allah be on His servant and apostle Muhammad); surah (chapter of the holy Quran); adhan (call to prayer); hadith or ahadith for plural (sayings of prophet Muhammad; Jumma (Friday); Shaitan (devil); adhan (call to prayer); jazakum Allah (May God reward you).