Reflections on Surah Taha – Dr Hadia Mubarak

Dr Hadia Mubarak reflects on Surah Taha and how it can provide us with ease and comfort in these current times of difficulty and confusion.

At times of great distress, I find my heart naturally gravitating to Surat Taha, the twentieth chapter of the Quran. Its emotive energy is powerful, taking its reader through one of the most captivating sagas of prophetic history. It puts on display the spectrum of human emotion, beginning with fear, followed by hope, then a life of privilege and access, followed by one of exile, then a sense of complete vulnerability and destituteness to God, followed by blessing, stability and gratitude. 

One of the chapter’s many appeals to its readers is the realization of converse human experiences: betrayal and loyalty, cunning enmity and trusting affirmation (i.e. the magicians), fear and love, doubt and faith. Its verses capture a depth of love that outrivals the best of human love poetry. As a mother, the words “and we returned you to your mother so that her eyes may find coolness and she may not grieve” play on the strings of my heart like music. God identifies this act of divine grace – returning Moses (peace be upon him) to be nursed by his own biological mother – as a favor to Moses’ mother, an unnamed woman whose status is so high that God wants to console and comfort her grieving heart.

The narrative of Moses’ life, from his birth to the final exodus from Egypt, can be found in many junctures of the Quran. Musa (peace be upon him) is the most mentioned prophetic name in the Quran, appearing 136 times in thirty-three chapters of the Qur’an. Yet it is chapter 20, Surat Taha, that tell us a story of love: God’s divine and tender love for Moses (peace be upon him) and Moses’ loyal and yearning devotion to God.

God proclaims His love for Moses in a literary masterpiece that combines eloquence and etiquette. In the Quran (20:39), God declares, “I have cast my love over you so that you may be reared in My eyes” and in Quran (20:41), “I have fashioned/chosen you for Myself.”

Moses is eager to reciprocate God’s love, to be worthy of this divine favor. When the Israelites have neared Mount Sinai, Moses is overtaken by his longing to hear God and rushes to Mount Sinai, leaving behind the Israelites with his brother Aaron (Harun). At this point in the chapter, God asks, “Moses, what has made you come ahead of your people in such haste?” (20:83). The insertion of Moses’ name here reflects God’s gentle tenderness towards Moses. Moses responds, “They are treading in my footsteps. And I rushed to You, My Lord, to please You.” (20:84).

Muslim exegetes interpreted this verse as a sign of Moses’ longing (شوق) to meet God, his love so intense that he could not help but run to meet His lord. In his response to God, Moses reciprocates a high level of etiquette, addressing God directly as “my Lord” and affirming his devotion to God.

Finally, the Arabic-speaking reader might notice the double appearance of the term “أوحينا” (“We have inspired”) in this chapter, first in (20:38) and then in (20:77). It is in the juxtaposition of these two verses that the saga of Moses, his mother and the Israelites comes full circle. The first time this term is used, God inspires the mother of Moses to cast him in a basket in the Nile; she must muster the courage to do the unspeakable for the sake of saving her infant, who would inevitably be killed by Pharaoh’s men if left at home. The second time the term is used, God inspires Moses to flee with the Israelites and to strike a path in the Red Sea for them. Like his mother, Moses must muster the courage and faith that God will not let him down, that he and his people will not drown, that the waters of the Sea will transform into a sanctuary for them, just as the waters of the river became a sanctuary for Moses as an infant.

The juxtaposition of these two terms  (أوحينا), side by side, reveals a deep connection between the two stories. In the first instance of inspiration, the life of one soul is saved; in the second instance of inspiration, the souls of 620,000 people are saved, according to Muslim traditions. Yet the second rescue is dependent on the first. It is only through Moses that God chooses to release the Israelites from a life of slavery, turmoil and death. The Quran’s use of the phrase, “We inspired,” in these two distinct instances threads together one woman’s courage to rescue her infant son with one man’s courage to save an entire nation.


Dr. Hadia Mubarak is an assistant professor of religious studies at Guilford College. Previously, Mubarak taught at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Davidson College. Mubarak completed her Ph.D. in Islamic studies from Georgetown University, where she specialized in modern and classical Qurʾanic exegesis, Islamic feminism, and gender reform in the modern Muslim world.


 

Jewels of the Quran Playlist – Shaykh Ahmed Sa’ad Al – Azhari

Shaykh Ahmed Sa’ad Al-Azhari, explains and summarizes Imam Ghazali’s “Jewels of the Qur’an” (Jawaher al-Qur’an). Through it, he explains the different messages, themes and purposes of the Qur’an and shares keys of connecting to Allah through the Qur’an. This series was recorded in 2015.

Review: The Divine Opening Explained by Shaykh Yahya Rhodus

Nurulain Wolhuter shares her excellent review of The Divine Opening: Surah al-Fatiha Explained, a course offered on SeekersGuidance by Shaykh Yahya Rhodus.

 

Shaykh Yahya Rhodus takes the seeker on an insightful journey into the meanings of Sura al Fatiha. He commences by exploring its many names. It is called Fatih al- Kitab because it is the opening chapter of the holy Qur’an. It is also called Umm al – Quran because it is the source of the Qur’an; and it is al – Assaas, containing the Qur’an’s foundational meanings. Its names reflect its limitless meanings as well as its merits, most notably that it is regarded as the best of the Qur’an.

Against this backdrop, Shaykh Yahya engages in an extensive exegesis of Sura al Fatiha, starting with the istiaatha – the seeking of refuge in Allah from the accursed devil. He says we seek refuge because we know we’re in need, and the more we realise our need, the more Allah will grant us sufficiency. Thereafter, the sura commences with the basmala, invoking all its blessings and enabling us to encloak ourselves with them. These blessings flow because the divine name is the greatest word of all, deserving of all perfection, and it is coupled with the attributes of al – Rahman, the universally merciful to all creatures, and al – Raheem, the specifically compassionate to the believer. Both are emphatic words derived from rahmah, meaning softness of heart, and compassion that necessitates showing goodness and grace to someone.

Turning to the ayat of al – Hamd, Shaykh Yahya explains that we praise Allah with the intention of glorifying and exalting Him, because He is the Lord of the Worlds. Integral to this praise is deep gratitude to Allah for all His blessings.

The next ayat repeats Allah’s divine attributes of al-Rahmaani Raheem, emphasising His mercy.

We then move from praise to a focus on Allah’s sovereignty and possession in the next ayat: Maaliki Yawmid Deen. The word maalik comes from either of two verbal nouns. The first one, Mulk, refers to the kingly traits of dominion, rule or sovereignty. The second one, Milk, refers to possession. So Allah is al – Mulk, the king, or al-Maalik, the owner. We are His Mamluk, subjects or property, and we connect with Him by doing His will. Our hearts should be in a state of reverential awe and fear at the mention of Yawmid Deen. It is the day of resurrection, the day of reprisals, the day where wrongs will be righted. And our Lord is king or master of it.

Thereafter, the sura moves to us, the servants of Allah: Iyyaaka na’budu – we worship You alone. We’re commanded to worship with the utmost humility and a deep sense of exaltation. Allah has placed worship before Istiaana (seeking help) because it is the appropriate etiquette to follow this order, and also because supplicating after worship is more amenable to a response.

Next, we ask Allah to guide us to the straight path (Ihdinas Siraatal Mustaqeem). Shaykh Yahya explains that al – Siraat is a path, a traverse, a way – the bridge over hell that all people will cross on their way to Paradise. It is thinner than a hair and sharper than a sword, and its length is 3,000 years. It is a straight path (al – Mustaqeem), involving outward compliance with the shari’a and inward submission. The way we adhere to the straight path in this world is the way we will cross the traverse in the next. This path is the path of those whom Allah has blessed (Siraatal latheena an’amta ‘alaihim), namely the prophets, the truthful, the martyrs and the righteous. There was a multitude in the beginning and there are only a few in the end times, but we can be people who move upwards in rank, if we have guidance and uprightness.

Finally, we ask to be spared the way of those who anger Allah or who have gone astray: ghayril maghdoobi ‘alaihim wa lad daalleen. It is said maghdoobi ‘alaihim are the Jews, or the disbelievers, or those who know what is right but don’t do it because of a blameworthy trait in their hearts. al – Daalleen are variously said to be the Christians, or the hypocrites, or those who go astray because they don’t know the truth.

Shaykh Yahya’s journey through the Mother of the Book gives us the opportunity to attain a deeper understanding of its meanings, and, concomitantly, a closer relationship with our Lord. May Allah grant us openings as we listen.


Click here to register for: The Divine Opening: Surah al-Fatiha Explained

Reflections on Isra’ (Night Journey) and Mi’raj (Ascension) – Habib Umar bin Hafiz

This article is sourced from Muwasala: Click here for the original post

Every created thing longed to have its portion of Allah’s Beloved (Peace be upon him). It was not until he (Peace be upon him) made his Mi’raj that the heavens got their portion of him.
— Al-Habib- Abdul Qadir Al Saggaf

Importance of Isra’ and Mi’raj

We are approaching the night on which the Islamic world traditionally celebrates the Isrā’ (Night Journey) and Mi`rāj (Ascension) of our Prophet, the Chosen One ﷺ. The Isrā’ and Mi`rāj was a great sign and an immense miracle which Allah gave to the Master of the people of the heavens and the earth, to demonstrate his superiority over mankind, jinn-kind, angels and the whole of creation. There are great lessons in the events that took place and a means of increasing in belief and certitude.
The scholars say that the best night in relation to the Ummah as a whole was the night on which the Prophet was born, whereas the best night in relation to the Prophet himself was the night of the Isrā’ and Mi`rāj.

Trials and Tribulations

Prior to this night the Prophet had displayed great patience in the face of hardship and it is one of Allah’s wisdoms that He bestows His gifts accompanied with hardships.
Allah says: They encountered suffering and adversity and were shaken such that the Messenger and those of faith who were with him said: “When will Allah’s assistance come?” Truly Allah’s assistance is always near.[1]
At the end of his life, the Messenger of Allah said that the worst treatment that he received from the disbelievers was his violent rejection at the hands of the people of al-Ṭā’if. Most of the scholars of the Sīrah say that that the Isrā’ and Mi`rāj took place shortly after this, a year prior to the Hijrah on the 27th night of the month of Rajab.[2]

Preparation & Journey

The Prophet ﷺ saw some of the events of the Isrā’ and Mi`rāj in his dreams as a preparation for them before the events actually occurred. Some people claim that all the events of the Isrā’ and Mi`rāj took place in a dream state but this is not the case: the Prophet experienced them with his body and soul. Had the Isrā’ been merely something the Prophet experienced in his dream, the disbelievers of Quraysh would not have had difficulty accepting it. They would not have asked: “How can you have travelled to Jerusalem last night and be with us in Makkah this morning?”
Allāh says: Transcendent is the One Who caused His slave to travel by night from al-Masjid al-Ḥarām to al-Masjid al-Aqṣā.[3] Allāh tends to express His transcendence before mentioning a great affair which is beyond what people are accustomed to.
When Allāh wished to speak to Sayyidunā Mūsā, He told him to wait thirty days and then a further ten days: We appointed for Mūsā thirty nights and we completed (the period) with ten more.[4]
Allāh, however, did not tell His Beloved to wait. Rather His order came suddenly, without any warning. The Prophet’s chest was split open and his heart was washed and filled with knowledge and forbearance. The Burāq was then brought to him. Allāh could have caused him to travel without the Burāq, but it was a means of honouring and ennobling him. Jibrīl said to the Burāq after some initial obstinacy: “Are you not ashamed, O Burāq? By Allāh, no one more noble in the sight of Allāh has ever ridden you!”
The Prophet stopped in a number of places on the Isrā’ to emphasise the importance of visiting the places in which Allah bestowed His bounties upon His pious slaves. He was ordered to seek to draw close to Allah by praying near the tree where Allah spoke to Mūsā, by praying at Mount Ṭūr, where Allah gave revelation to Mūsā, and at Bayt Laḥm, where Īsā was born.
The whole earth was made a place of prayer and prostration for the Prophet so what was the significance of him praying in those places if it was not seeking blessings (tabarruk) and spiritual assistance from them? It is also narrated in Saḥīḥ Muslim that he visited the grave of Mūsā and witnessed him praying in his grave. He said to his Companions: “If I was there I would have showed you his grave.” He was thus teaching his Ummah the importance of knowing the location of the graves of the Prophets and thus the importance of visiting them.
While on his journey, someone called him on his right side but he did not respond. Jibrīl informed him that this was the caller of the Jews, and had he responded, his Ummah would have followed the way of the Jews. Then someone called him on his left side and once again he did not respond. Jibrīl informed him that this was the caller of the Christians, and had he responded, his Ummah would have followed the way of the Christians. Thus, in spite of all the efforts of the Christians to convert people to Christianity, the Ummah remains in Allāh’s care and protection due to the steadfastness of the Prophet ﷺ.
He was called a third time, and once again he did not respond. Jibrīl informed him that it was the dunyā or the material world calling him, and had he responded, his Ummah would have chosen this life over the next. The dunyā then appeared to him in the form of an old woman. Jibrīl informed him that all that remained of the life of this world before the Day of Judgement is like the time this old woman had left to live. We witness all the wars and struggles that take place and in reality this life is like an old woman on the verge of death and ahead of us is the next life! May Allāh give us the best of endings! Due to the Prophet’s refusal to respond to the callings of the dunyā, there remain to this day people who know its worthlessness.

The Messenger of Allāh ﷺled the Prophets in prayer in al-Masjid al-Aqṣā. Jibrīl informed him that the soul of every prophet sent by Allāh from the time of Ādam to the time of Īsā was brought to pray behind him so that they would come to know the station of their master, Muḥammad. He was the imām who led all the prophets and angels in prayer. Why do we not make him our imām?
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The Ascent to Heaven

The Prophet then ascended from heaven to heaven. The angels in the heavens had been informed that he would come and it was their opportunity to be honoured by meeting him just as his Companions had that honour on the earth. The people of the earth threw stones at him and insulted him but the people of the heavens gave him the warmest of welcomes. In the Prophet’s meeting with his father Ādam and the other Prophets in the various heavens there is a lesson. In spite of the Prophet’s superiority over them, he was still ordered to greet them. There was no-one less in need of anyone else than him but he met them and displayed great etiquette and manifested his slave-hood to his Lord.
Among the things he witnessed was people who turned down freshly cooked meat and chose to eat putrid rotting meat. He was told that this was like those who leave that which is lawful and choose that which is unlawful. He saw people’s heads being smashed with rocks. As soon as their heads were smashed they would be restored and then smashed again and so on. He was told these were the people who were too lazy to pray the obligatory prayer.
He ascended to al-Bayt al-Ma`mūr, which resembles the Ka`bah above the seventh heaven. It lies directly above the Ka`bah, and every day 70,000 angels enter it. The Prophet entered it and prayed in it, along with the spirits of some of the elect of Allah. Then he came to al-Sidrat al-Muntahā, a tree whose size and beauty is indescribable. Were one of its leaves to fall it would cover the heavens and the earth. This is the end point of the knowledge of creation.
It was here that Jibrīl stopped. He said that if he went any further, he would burn but he told the Prophet to continue his journey alone.

The Divine Meeting

He duly ascended to the Throne of Allah and fell into prostration. Mūsā had been ordered to remove his sandals when Allah spoke to him, but the Beloved was not ordered to do so. Allah then ordered him to raise his head and he addressed Allah: “Greetings, blessings and the best of prayers to Allah.”
Allah responded: “Peace be upon you, O Prophet, and the mercy and blessings of Allah.”
At this point, when Allah was manifesting Himself to him, the Prophet wished to remember the pious members of his Ummah and the previous nations. He said: “Peace be upon us and upon Allah’s pious slaves.”
The angels of the heavens then cried out: “We testify that there is no deity other than Allah and that Muhammad is His slave and messenger.”
When Allāh spoke to him, He said: “I have taken you as My beloved and I have expanded your heart and raised high the esteem in which you are held so that whenever I am mentioned you are mentioned with Me. I made your nation the best of nations and I made them the last and the first on the Day of Judgement. I made you the first prophet to be created and the last to be sent.” Allāh thus spoke gently to His Beloved and reminded him of His blessings upon him. He said things to Him which only He knows.

The Blessed Gift

AllahHe made fifty prayers compulsory on his nation. This was eventually reduced to five with the reward of fifty. Are those who are unable to perform the five not ashamed of their Lord? What would they have done if it was fifty prayers that they had to perform? Allāh made five prayers compulsory upon His slaves, in which there is the opportunity to converse with Allāh and draw close to Him. “The closest the slave is to his Lord is when he is in prostration.”
The Prophet was blessed with the vision of his Lord, a blessing which no-one else will receive until they enter Paradise. The vision cannot be understood in a conventional way since Allah is transcendent and cannot be limited to a place or direction. Some Muslims deny that the vision of Allah is possible and we agree with them that the vision of Allah in a conventional sense is impossible. However, we understand the vision of Allah to be something far greater than that, a pure manifestation of Allah’s light, which is indescribable.
Sayyidunā Mūsā was keen to receive some of the light that was on the face of the Prophet ﷺ who himself had just seen his Lord. Mūsā had asked to see Allah while on the earth but his request was not granted. He thus took as much light as he could from the Prophet’s face. The Prophet ﷺ informed us that there will come a time when the Muslims will seek victory through people who had seen him, and later through people who have seen people who have seen him.[5] This shows us that secrets are transmitted through the vision of people’s faces.
The Messenger of Allah ﷺremained firm while witnessing all the things that he witnessed: His vision did not stray, nor did it go wrong[6]; His heart did not lie about what it saw, for truly did he see, of the signs of his Lord, the greatest.[7]
All of this took place in a few instants. So little time had elapsed that the place where he had been sleeping was still warm. All of these are amazing examples of divine power. We are so accustomed to the pattern of cause and effect and the laws of creation that we tend to forget the presence of divine power in everything. In reality the things which we regard to be normal are miraculous – our sitting and standing, our eating and drinking.
Allah says: Do you see the water which you drink? Did you bring it down from the clouds or did We?[8]
May Allah bestow prayers upon the one who made this awesome journey and may He resurrect us with him. Make us among those who are truthful in their following of him. Do not deprive us of the vision of him in this life, the Barzakh and the next life. Allow us to see the face of the one who You allowed to see Your countenance so that we are ready to see Your countenance in the abode of Your pleasure.

[1] Al-Baqarah, 2:214
[2] In the Islamic calendar the night precedes the day, so what is meant is the night before the 27th day
[3] Al-Isrā’ 17:1
[4] Al-A`rāf, 7:142
[5] Narrated by al-Bukhāri
[6] Al-Najm, 53:17-18
[7] Al-Najm, 53:11
[8] Al-Wāqi`ah, 56:68

Qur’an and the Arabic Language – Shaykh Ali Hani

As part of our Helpers program, Ahmad Ariffin interviewed Shaykh Ali Hani on seeking knowledge, the sciences of the Qur’an and the Arabic language, and their importance in today’s world.

 

Shaykh Ali Hani is a leading scholar of Arabic and Tafsir from Jordan. He has dedicated his life to Quran from a young age. He has memorized the Holy Qur’an and studied the Ten Canonical Recitations and studied Tafsir .He is also one of the experts in the Arabic language of our time. He graduated from the University of Jordan specializing in Tafsir from the Faculty of Islamic Principles. Under his tutelage, many of his students became scholars of the language and are now teaching it around the globe.

His Teachers

He studied from many scholars but there are few of them have a lasting effect on him. He memorized the Qur’an under the guidance of Shaykh. Abu Ayman and completed the memorization in two years. One of the things that Shaykh Abu Ayman taught him is that knowledge is fear.It means the more knowledge you gained the more fearful of you towards Allah Most high.

He also completed the reading of the Qur’an by the way of Imam Hafs under the tutelage of Shaykh Abu Yasir and he mastered the Seven Canonical Recitations under the guidance of Shaykh Mahmood al-Uraydhi.

At the University of Jordan, Shaykh Ali studied with Shaykh Fadl Abbas. After he completed his degree he traveled to Yemen at the city of Sana. He studied the Arabic language and its brances with Shaykh Qasim Bahr. A story that Shaykh Ali shared on Shaykh Qasim was that Shaykh Qasim would reject when a student gave him money and instead the Shaykh would give the students money for their daily usage and that Shaykh Qasim was a very humble man.

Shaykh Ali then made his way to tarim and learned from the scholars in Rubat Tarim. He also receive guidance from other scholars such as Shaykh Abu Bakar Belfaqih, Shaykh Abdullah al-Mehdhor, Shaykh Muhammad Amin al-Shinqiti and many more.

The Importance of studying Qur’anic Tafsir and the Arabic language

In the modern world that we are living in, Tafsir and Arabic language are very important for Muslims to know. With the uprising of the orientalist movement and atheism, more people are joining them and supporting them. We, as Muslims, ought to seek refuge from the movements and the way to seek refuge is by learning. To learn the Islamic sciences we need to learn the Arabic language as it is the key to understanding the sciences and their texts. Language is the bridge between our mind and the author’s mind particularly when you are reading the classic texts. Without language you would not be able to fully derive what the authors want for you. The most important reason why you need to study Arabic is that the Qur’an is in Arabic. Without knowing Arabic, you would not be able to fully indulge in the beauty of the Qur’an and you would not comprehend the inimitabililty of the Holy Qur’an. Although we have the translated version of the Qur’an in different languages, the true beauty of the Quran is in its pure language which is the Arabic language.

As for studying Tafsir, its importance comes into play when you want to further understand the Quran and the context of why it was sent down and to whom and the deeper meaning of the Ayat. Tafsir is also important to rebut the claims of those who tries to demean the great status of the Holy Qur’an and Islam. By learning Tafsir we are also learning the Qur’an. Also, the Prophet Muhammad, blessings and peace be upon him, said in one of the narrations: “The best among you are those who learn the Qur‘an and teach it.”

Shaykh Ali’s Advice for  Seekers of Knowledge

  1. To follow the footsteps of the past scholars in seeking sacred knowledge which is to read the basics of that branch of Islamic science and and to be expert in it before reading more advanced books.
  2. To teach what you know as this will help your memory and will make it stronger.
  3. To buy books for references as buying books is considered half of the knowledge itself.
  4. To be humble always with your teachers and to accompany them as often as possible as this will invite blessing and divine openings.
  5. To read both classical and contemporary texts and never abandon one of them.
  6. To put great importance in seeking scholars who has chains of narrations in his path of seeking.