“As It Was Prescribed for Those Before You”

During Ramadan of 2021, the scholars of SeekersGuidance Arabiyya held daily lessons on various topics throughout the month. The lessons have been translated for the benefit of our English-speaking audience. Shaykh Faiz Iyad gave the fourth lesson.

In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful. All praise is due to Allah, Lord of all creation. May the best blessings and most perfect peace be upon our master, prophet, and intercessor Muhammad and all of his family and companions. Allah, You are perfect. We have no knowledge except for what You teach us. You are All-knowing and Wise. 

Dear respected brothers and sisters, I would like to congratulate you on the arrival of the blessed month of Ramadan. I ask Allah to allow us to make the most of it and benefit from it as it deserves to be benefited from. 

Dear brothers and sisters, the ayah in which Allah obligated us to fast is the ayah wherein He says, “O You who have believed, fasting was prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you so that you may attain Taqwa,” [2:183] as well as the ayah, “Whoever among you witnesses the month must then fast it.” [2:185]

The study of this ayah from an angle of fiqh is clear, and so other scholars may speak about it in that regard. But I have some notes on the particular part of the ayah in which Allah says, “fasting was prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you.” Allah obligates fasting for us just as he obligated it for those before us. But our fasting is not like theirs and not exactly equal to theirs. What is similar here is the very fact that it is mandatory, not in how or when the fasting is done. 

Fasting Is an Ancient Obligation

Of these notes that I wish to share first is the singularity of Allah’s religion in its roots, foundations, and objectives. Since fasting is an action that is beneficial to all humans at all times, Allah informs us that fasting is an ancient obligation. He mandated us to do it just as He mandated those before us. This is an indication of the singularity of Allah’s religion in its foundations and objectives, and there are many clear pieces of evidence of this very fact.

For example, when Allah says, “He has ordained for you the Way which He decreed for Noah, and what We have revealed to you and what We decreed for Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, to ‘Uphold the faith, and make no divisions in it.’” Imam al-Qurtubi, Allah have mercy on him, says in his tafsir on this ayah, “The meaning is that Allah ordained for the Prophet, blessings and peace upon him, what He had ordained for the prophets before him. That is because the religions of all the prophets were one in their foundations that were never different in their principles such as monotheism, prayer, zakah, fasting, and Hajj, as well as coming closer to Allah through good deeds, returning the heart and limbs to Him, as well as honesty and commitment to our covenant, and upholding trusts and ties of kinship. As well as the prohibition of unbelief, murder, adultery, and harming others in any way, and even transgressing against animals. As well as ridding us of anything unbefitting and improper.

This is all a part of Allah’s single religion, the unified way. It was never taught any differently by any prophet, even if the numbers varied. This is why Allah says, “Uphold the religion and do not disperse therein.” [42:13] Meaning to keep it standing firm at all times and continuously protected, firmly established without any disagreement or confusion therein. Some people fulfilled that command, while others broke it. Anything beyond that amy have differed in the religions according to what Allah decided was most beneficial and wise for each period of time.” 

Imam al-Bukhari named a chapter in his Sahih book, “The Chapter on All of the Prophets’ religions being One.” In it, he mentioned the statement of the Prophet, blessings and peace upon him, “The prophets are brothers, sons of different mothers. Their mothers are different, but their religion is the same.” The hadith means that the core of their religion was one, even though their laws and conducts differed. Just as Allah says, “For each we have made a law, and a way of life.” the Prophets all agreed on the religion that contained all of the basic principles of theology and action.

The Purification of Souls

The second note is that the purification of the souls can only be taken from the correct sources. Allah sent the messengers and revealed the scriptures, and ordained the divine laws to purify and refine the souls and rectify them. Fasting is one of the most important means of doing so. This is why Allah mandated it for us and the previous nations. And if we wish for the correct method of purifying our souls, we will find that it is a methodology that coincides with the fitra without any excessive strain or burden and no detachment from reality. Someone who follows it does not need to burden himself or find difficulty training and refining the soul, such as taking vows of silence or sitting in the sun, abandoning hygiene, going into seclusion away from people, or eating only one type of food, etc.

One this point, Bukhari and Muslim report from Anas bin Malik, Allah be pleased with him, who said, “Three men came to the houses of the wives of the Prophet, blessings and peace upon him, asking about the Prophet’s worship, blessings and peace upon him. And when they were told about it, it was as if they saw it to be little. They said, ‘Where are we compared to the Prophet, blessings and peace upon him? He has been forgiven for all of his past and future sins!’ One of them said, ‘As for me, I will pray all night.’ Another said, ‘I will fast every day without exception.’ The other said, “I will abstain from women and never marry.’ When the Prophet, blessings and peace upon him, came, he said, ‘Are you the ones who said this and that? By Allah, I am the most fearful from Allah of you all and the most cognizant of Him. Yet I fast some days and eat others, and I pray, and I sleep, and I marry women. Whoever is averse to my way has nothing to do with me.’ 

Ibn al-Qayyim says, ‘So whoever attempts to purify his soul with a practice that the Messengers did not bring forth is like an ill person who treats himself according to his own assessment. How does his knowledge compare to that of a doctor? The Messengers are the doctors of the hearts, and so there is no way to purify them or repair them except through them and at their hands and a complete surrender to them.”

The Lord of Mercy and Forgiveness

The third point: It is from Allah’s kindness and generosity that He mandated this obligation upon His servants. Why? Because this great act of worship that Allah made a mainstay of this natural religion and without which the structure of Islam does not stand contains immense rewards and benefits on the societal and individual levels. There may be some difficulty to this task, but these difficulties compared to the gifts and fruits that it leads to are not bad, but are actually pure goodness. They are a form of pure generosity from Allah to His servants. As He ordained this act of worship for them through which they attain levels they could never have otherwise reached. 

There is an important question: why was the verb “prescribed” used in the passive voice? Of course, in Allah’s book we know who the actor of the verb was, as it is Allah, and so we use a special term for the passive verbs out of etiquette with Allah. The answer is that there is a subtle and important meaning here: Those ayahs contain a form of hardship with which the believers are tasked, as they are prohibited from intercourse with their wives and the delights of food and drink throughout the day. And so a subtle rhetorical tool here is used to avoid attributing that hardship to Allah. He is the Lord of mercy and forgiveness.

Perhaps this is the secret behind the word “prescribed” being used in the passive voice in many of the religious laws that contain a level of difficulty, hardship, and commitment. One example is the verses of legal retribution for crimes, as Allah says, “retribution for those killed has been prescribed upon you.” [2:178] Similarly, in the ayah of writing wills, Allah says, “Writing a will is prescribed for you that when death comes to one of you if he leaves behind wealth for the parents and relatives.” [2:180]

As for the active voice of the verb “prescribe,” it comes in the context of mercy and reminds believers of their blessings. Allah says, for example, in the ayahs of fasting, “… then you may be intimate with [your wives], and seek out what Allah has prescribed for you.” [2:187[ As well as in the ayah, “Your Lord has prescribed for himself mercy.” [6:54] As well as the ayah, “Allah has prescribed: ‘My messengers and I shall prevail.” He also says, “Those are the ones in whose hearts He prescribed faith.” [58:22]

Guarding That Which Is Firm

The fourth point: Guarding that which is firm. In this time of ours, things that used to be agreed upon as true and known by everyone as part of the religion are now being revisited and refuted after those who deny and hate the religion worked to destroy both the meaning and practice fasting. You can see them calling on people to break their fasts by claiming that fasting hinders production and keeps the ummah in a worthless state. They only wish by this to destroy the religion and its sanctity. And so this portion of the ayah came to emphasize the fact that the realities of the religion and its firm points, including fasting, are invincible to doubts and skepticism and too firm to be affected by the accusations of the liars in every age. By the simply saying “prescribed,” there is an indication to the consistency of its obligation, and further so with the preposition “upon,” indicating a command from a superior to an inferior. This all means that fasting is a firm pillar in every faith. 

The fifth point: when all share a difficulty, its burden is lightened. There is consolation in knowing that we are following those before us. Allah charged us with a certain level of difficulty in fasting, especially in the summer when the heat is intense and the days are long. This is a way of saying, “rejoice, for fasting didn’t start with you, as it is an ancient act of worship.” There is no doubt that when a person is told that others share a certain difficulty with him, it will become easier. This is why the poet al-Khansa’ said in her eulogy for her brother Sakhr, “The rising of the sun reminds me of Sakhr, and I remember him at every sunset. Were it not for the crowds around me crying for their lost brothers, I would have killed myself.”

Let the Competitors Compete

The sixth point: Motivation to compete in good deeds. This reminder is an encouragement for this ummah and a means of sparking their motivations to complete this act of worship and clarifying that fasting is not a difficult task that only they were tasked with. They are not distinct from those before them. Islam raises its children for each one of them to have high aspirations, never settling for less. We are meant to always strive for the perfect outcomes, feeling as though we are in the heat of competition, preparing well, and striving for success. Allah, for example, says, “then, for that, let the competitors compete.” [83:26] Allah also said about His righteous servants that they pray: “make us leaders for the pious!” [25:74] asking to be leaders whose good example is followed.

That is the end of my reflections, from the beautiful meaning of this ayah, especially that portion of it: “As it was prescribed for those before you.” 

I ask Allah to accept from you and from us and to grant us benefit from our fasting and this blessed month. He is All-Hearing, Near, and Ever-responding. All praise is for Allah, Lord of all creation.

Nine On Demand Courses for Ramadan

We are blessed to reach one more Ramadan. Allah grant that we make the best use of our time. Allah willing, these On-Demand courses will help us focus and benefit from this month of the Qur’an.

Each course contains a downloadable lesson set which you can listen to at your convenience.

1. Why Muslims Fast: The Higher Aims of Fasting Explained

The fast: mere hunger and thirst, or a means of growing spiritually and getting closer to Allah. How can we transform ourselves from being the former into the latter? In this course, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani explains the great potential latent within one’s fasting, and gives clear, and practical advice to changing one’s fast from being passive hunger and thirst into an active spiritual refinement of one’s soul. Students will learn how to benefit from fasting in general, and more specifically from the month of Ramadan.

2. Renewal by the Book: Daily Qur’an Tafsir Based on Imam Ghazali’s Ihya

In this series, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani and other scholars and teachers will be looking at points of reflection from key verses in the Qur’an. The series follows the thematic order of Imam Ghazali’s Ihya Ulum al-Din (Renewing the Religious Sciences). The aim is to connect the key verses of guidance from the Book of Allah with the blueprint of renewal, the Ihya so that we experience renewal by The Book.

3. Renewing Religion: Overview of Ghazali’s Ihya

This overview of Imam Ghazali’s great work, Ihya Ulum al-Din (Renewing the Religious Sciences) will serve as a blueprint for how the believer can bring their religion to life. It will aim to help the believer to not just practice the outer form of the religion properly, but to also to bring its spirit to life and practice it with excellence.

Lessons by: Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Shaykh Riad Saloojee, Shaykh Walead Mosaad, Ustadh Amjad Tarsin

4. 30 Sacred Acts to Transform the Heart

Our scholars in residence explore 30 simple deeds that could have a far-reaching spiritual impact on our lives – and the lives of others. Whether it’s forgiving someone who’s wronged us or sharing a meal with a neighbor, these powerful lessons will remind us of the great gift the Prophet ﷺ‎ gave us: the best of character. The scholars also remind us to make the intention to put each teaching, each sacred act, into practice.

Lessons by: Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Shaykh Muhammad Adeyinka Mendes, Shaykh Walead Mosaad, Shaykh Yahya Rhodus, Imam Amin Muhammad, Ustadh Amjad Tarsin, Dr. Ingrid Mattson

5. Giving Life to Sura al-Kahf – Shaykh Walead Mosaad

In this seminar, Shaykh Walead Mosaad explains this key Sura of the Qur’an – a Sura the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, urged us to recite every Friday. In eight videos Shaykh Walead explains the key lessons of Sura Kahf; the four great stories in it and the four great tests they represent – the tests of faith, wealth, knowledge, and power.

6. Ramadan Explained: Virtues and Fiqh of Fasting (Hanafi) – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

This preparation course teaches the fiqh of Ramadan and fasting, according to the Hanafi school.

This essential four-part course is designed to

    1. Remind you that Ramadan is a true blessing from Allah Most High.
    2. Teach you the proper way to approach this blessing.
    3. Motivate you to make the most of this blessed month.
    4. Ensure that you understand and implement all key aspects of Ramadan, including the Prophetic sunnas according to the Hanafi school.

7. Ramadan Explained: Virtues and Fiqh of Fasting (Shafi‘i) – Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan

This preparation course teaches the fiqh of Ramadan and fasting according to the Shafi‘i school.

This essential four-part course is designed to:

    1. Remind you that Ramadan is a true blessing from Allah Most High.
    2. Teach you the proper way to approach this blessing.
    3. Motivate you to make the most of this blessed month.
    4. Ensure that you understand and implement all the key aspects of Ramadan, including the Prophetic sunnas according to the Shafi‘i school.

8. The Tafsir of Sura al-Hujurat with Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Religion revolves around respect and reverence. Sura Hujurat summarizes the keys to true religion by outlining the right adab with Allah, His Messenger (peace be upon him), and with Allah’s creation. In just 18 verses, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani gives believers a clear roadmap on how to walk the Straight Path with excellence in conduct and attitude.

9. Keys to the Qur’an: Ghazali’s Manners of Qur’an Recital with Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

In this lesson set Shaykh Faraz Rabbani will guide students through Imam al Ghazali’s work on the adab of the Qur’an and aims to inspire the student to bring the book of Allah into their life fully.


Support SeekersGuidance as it reaches over 10,000 students each term through its completely free online courses. Make a donation, today. Every contribution counts, even if small: Donate Here.

Does Verse 9:5 Abrogate Other Verses That Encourage Patience?

Question: Assalamu ‘alaykum, is verse 16:126 abrogated by sura 9:5? Is the narration regarding Ibn Abbas’ opinion sahih? Can we forgive the non-believer for any wrongdoing whether Muslims are the in majority or minority?


Wa ‘alaykum assalam wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh.

I pray you are well.

No, verse 16:126 is not abrogated by 9:5. They have very different contexts. The verse in Sura al-Tawba refers to specific tribes of the Arab pagans who treacherously broke their treaties with the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace), so a declaration of war was made. The ruling was specific to that scenario. [Alusi, Ruh al-Ma’ani]

I could not find a narration from Ibn ‘Abbas stating this in the tafsir works I consulted. There are a number of differences of opinion regarding this verse, just not what you mentioned.

Yes, it is permissible to forgive non-Muslims, especially in personal dealings. As for political matters, there are rulings which pertain to the ruler of the Muslims, but that is a longer discussion for another context.

Please refer to this answer for more details.
May Allah grant you the best of both worlds.
[Shaykh] Abdul-Rahim

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat began his studies in Arabic Grammar and Morphology in 2005. After graduating with a degree in English and History he moved to Damascus in 2007 where, for 18 months, he studied with many erudite scholars. In late 2008 he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continued his studies for the next six years in Sacred Law (fiqh), legal theory (Usul al-fiqh), theology, hadith methodology, hadith commentary, and Logic. He was also given licenses of mastery in the science of Quranic recital and he was able to study an extensive curriculum of Quranic sciences, tafsir, Arabic grammar, and Arabic eloquence.

Can I Teach Tafsir Without an Ijaza?

Question: Can I teach Tafsir without an ijaza?


Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

Dear questioner,

Thank you for your important question.

One should only teach Tafsir if one’s teachers have told one to do so. I advise you to take this course with Sh. Abdul Rahim Reasat

You can ask him about the specifics of what you can teach and to whom.

Generally speaking, in order to teach tafsir, one has to have been trained in reading the books of tafsir, besides having a good background in fiqh, theology, usul al-fiqh, hadith, ulum al-Quran, and being strong in Arabic language (grammar, morphology and rhetoric).

I pray this helps.

[Ustadh] Farid Dingle

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadh Farid Dingle has completed extensive years of study in the sciences of the Arabic language and the various Islamic Sciences. During his studies, he also earned a CIFE Certificate in Islamic Finance. Over the years he has developed a masterful ability to craft lessons that help non-Arabic speakers gain a deep understanding of the language. He currently teaches courses in the Arabic Language.

Is Verse 8:61 Abrogated?

Question: In Quran 8:61, the verse calls for peace to be established. But in Quran 9:29, it says that only jizya is acceptable. So is 8:61 abrogated? What did Ibn Abbas say about 8:61?


Wa ‘alaykum assalam wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh

I pray you are well.

Abrogation in the Qur’an

The concept of abrogation has been overemphasized historically. Not many verses were abrogated. Less than twenty according to Imam Suyuti. Others held this number to be too high. Please refer to our ‘Ulum al Qur’an course for more information.

Most of the time there are other ways to reconcile the meanings of seemingly conflicting verses. This is the case for the verses you mentioned.

Qur’an, 8:61 Is Not Abrogated

There is a position that states this verse is abrogated. It is narrated by Ibn ‘Abbas, Mujahid, and Qatada. However, according to many scholars, it is not abrogated. Tabari, Ibn Kathir, Zamakhshari, Alusi, and others held this position. Tabari held that it referred to Bani Qurayza, based on the contextual factors.

The others said that it refers to people from whom accepting jizya was permissible. The Muslim ruler has a choice in certain situations to make treaties or not. The details are in the books of fiqh.

For the pagan Arabs, however, Jizya was not an option. This is due to the case against them being so strong – owing to their recognition of the miracle of the Qur’an and the truthfulness of the Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace). They had also shown time and time again that they would be treacherous in the case of any treaty being made (Ruh al Ma’ani, Alusi, al-Tafsir al Wasit, Tantawi).

Insha’Allah, we’ll cover this point in detail in our complete Qur’an tafsir. I pray that helps.
May Allah grant you the best of both worlds.

[Shaykh] Abdul-Rahim


Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat began his studies in Arabic Grammar and Morphology in 2005. After graduating with a degree in English and History he moved to Damascus in 2007 where, for 18 months, he studied with many erudite scholars. In late 2008 he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continued his studies for the next six years in Sacred Law (fiqh), legal theory (Usul al-fiqh), theology, hadith methodology, hadith commentary, and Logic. He was also given licenses of mastery in the science of Quranic recital and he was able to study an extensive curriculum of Quranic sciences, tafsir, Arabic grammar, and Arabic eloquence.

Reading the Qur’an Without Tafsir

Question: Can one read the Qur’an without using a tafsir? Is it necessary to use a tafsir? Do you have a recommended tafsir to use as a layman?


Assalamu alaykum,

Thank you for your question. It is utterly key that Muslims read the Qur’an and understand its meaning. Otherwise, how can it be the guidance that can be applied in word, deed, and state? You should start off with reading a translation and then move on to a tafsir from there.


You can try reading one of the translations by the following translators. I recommend the first, as it was the first one I ever read:

  • Abdullah Yusuf Ali- this includes some commentary
  • Marmaduke Pickthall
  • Saheeh International
  • Muhammad Asad
  • Maulana Muhammad Ali
  • Arthur Arberry


Once you have read a full translation/interpretation, I recommend the Seekersguidance tafsir podcasts:

You should also consider the full tafsir of Mawlana Mawdudi which you can access from the following link, or get a hard copy of multiple volumes:

Reading without tafsir

There is much baraka in reading the Qur’an without the tafsir as well, and I recommend that Muslims, old and young, read some of the Qur’an every day, even if they don’t have time to read the meaning. However, one must never be satisfied with only reading Arabic; it must be accompanied by some effort of understanding it. Either start with the above tips or sign up to learn Arabic.

May Allah allow us to grasp the meanings of the Qur’an at all its levels, and allow us to attain illumination by it and the success of the ummah.

Shazia Ahmad


Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadha Shazia Ahmad lived in Damascus, Syria for two years where she studied aqidah, fiqh, tajweed, tafseer, and Arabic. She then attended the University of Texas at Austin, where she completed her Masters’s in Arabic. Afterward, she moved to Amman, Jordan where she studied fiqh, Arabic, and other sciences. She recently moved back to Mississauga, Canada, where she lives with her family.

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

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.



Shaykh Ibrahim Osi-Efa on Sura Luqman–Luqman’s Advice to His Son

Sura Luqman emphasizes tarbiya, or spiritual growth, and is named after a great sage. In this series, Shaykh Ibrahim Osi-Efa explores the meanings of this chapter.

In this segment, Shayh Ibrahim gives commentary on the following verses, which cover Luqman’s advice to his son.

And remember, when Luqman said to his son while he was exhorting him, “O my son, do not associate [anything] with Allah. Indeed, association [with him] is great injustice.” (31:13)

The theme of exhortation, of wa’dh, is common in the Qur’an. It is defined as to censure someone, or to instil fear into their heart, to being about a state of tenderness of the heart. Therefore, it is not fear for fear’s sake, but fear for a good cause. Oftentimes, people’s hearts can become hard, and feeling some wa’dh helps reverse this.

And We have enjoined upon man [care] for his parents. His mother carried him, [increasing her] in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning is in two years. Be grateful to Me and to your parents; to Me is the [final] destination.

With a few exceptions, obedience to parents is extremely emphasised. Abusing parents is considered to be an enormity according to many Hadith.

In Sahih Bukhari, we find story of Juraij, a righteous man from the time of Banu Israel, who was worshipping in solitude when his mother called to him. Immersed in his prayer, he did not respond. Due to that, he was blamed by a prostitute for her pregnancy. The people smashed his sanctuary, until the baby, miraculously exonerated him.

 [And Luqman said], “O my son, indeed if wrong should be the weight of a mustard seed and should be within a rock or [anywhere] in the heavens or in the earth, Allah will bring it forth. Indeed, Allah is Subtle and Acquainted. (31:14)

Here, Luqman’s son asks him about small sins. Luqman replies that even the smallest sin is still wrong, and Allah knows everything.

Listen to the rest of Shaykh Ibrahim’s tafsir to find out the rest of Luqman’s counsels.

With gratitude to Greensville Trust.

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The Honoured Guests of Ibrahim–Shaykh Abdul Rahim Reasat

In this article, Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat explores the theme of Karam, or honouring. He uses the example of Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, who is mentioned in the Qur’an as honouring his guests.

What is Karam?

Karam. A very rich and nuanced word of the Arabic language. Qurʾanic philologists, after deep analysis, tell us that its true meaning lies somewhere near ‘for something to be precious, valued, honoured, refined, esteemed and noble’. Meanings such as generosity, and being forgiving – which are common usages for karam in Arabic – are derivative, and not the root meaning itself.

Allah has informed us in the Qurʿan that ‘[By Allah] We have permanently honoured the children of Adam’ (17:70); that is to say, He has elevated the rank of humanity from amongst His creation. This is through various means, such as intelligence, articulate and eloquent speech, religion, morality, responsibility, knowledge, and the ability to traverse all the terrains of the planet – to name a few. The verb in the verse above (kar-ram-nā) indicates that this is something engrained within us, and permanent. It is from the karam of Allah, and so we may feel some of what it is like to have this quality, and to manifest it onto others.

The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) commanded us, ‘Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him honour (yukrim) his guest’ (Bukhari). The initial part of this statement is a beautiful usage of the rhetorical device employed to spark within a believer a desire to implement the instructions given after it, almost as though he has cause to prove that he believes in Allah and the Last Day.

Coming from the context of Arab generosity where bedouins would light bonfires at night to invite the desert travellers to their hospitality, this hadith took this beautiful trait of the Arabs and combined it with the qualities faith promotes and nourishes within a believer. In short, to make one’s guest feel precious, valued, honoured and noble is something desired in Islam and a mark of nobility itself. It also has far-reaching effects on one’s relationships, friendships, and society as a whole.

In order to see how it is done let us look at one of the most noble and generous men ever to walk the earth, and see how he was with his guests.

The Example of Ibrahim

‘Has the important account (ḥadith) of the honoured guests of Ibrahim come to you? [It was] when they entered his [house] and greeted him. He replied with a better greeting saying ‘[You are] a people completely unknown [to us]’ (51:24-25).

The verses start with an address to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant peace) asking if this particular story had been recounted to him. This serves to draw one’s attention to the story mentioned, and to prepare the listener for the wisdom and guidance it will impart.

Part of this wisdom is for one to spend on worthy causes knowing that one’s provision lies in the generous hand of Allah, which, incidentally, is one of the themes of Sura al-Dhariyat.

The event is referred to as a ‘ḥadith’, which means an event so significant that it should be regarded with due importance and made a frequent topic of conversation. This was, of course, the event when the people of the Prophet Lut were punished – may Allah protect us from His wrath.

The angels sent to them were first told to visit Ibrahim and give him the good news of the birth of his second son, Isḥaq. Allah referred to them as the honoured guests of Ibrahim. Exegetes have differed on the nature of this honouring: were they described as being honoured simply because all angels are honoured by Allah, or was it through the hospitality of Ibrahim? Both interpretations are possible in this situation. Their role as angelic messengers meant that they were honoured by Allah- yet, unaware of them being angels, Ibrahim honoured them to the best of His capacity too.

The verse then states that they entered his home without asking permission. This indicates that his great generosity and immaculate hospitality were known of far and wide, and that guests knew that they were free to enter without asking for permission. This fact alone speaks volumes about the generosity of Ibrahim.

Once inside they greeted him with the familiar greeting of Islam, which he, in turn, replied to. The grammatical state used to express their cordial greeting is weaker than the one used to express his greeting, which shows that he responded to their greeting with warmer and more welcoming words. In short, his reputation of being an impeccable host was immediately apparent.

Without delay, he started to make conversation with them, lest they feel like they were unwanted or intruding. Their being unknown to him was not a cause of frustration, or him not wanting to serve them with the best he had. Rather, he saw them as people sent to him by Allah as a means for him to draw closer to Allah through hospitality. He was not yet aware that they were angels.

‘Immediately, he quickly and quietly slipped away to his household, and soon brought a plump [roasted] calf’ (51:26)

Next, after making them comfortable, he slipped away. The word ‘rāgha’ in the verse implies that he was quick in departing, and that it was imperceptible and unceremonious. From this we can infer that he did not want to keep his guests waiting. Travelling is tiring, so feeding one’s guests immediately is a sign on good hospitality.

We can also see that he did not ask them whether they wanted anything to eat or drink. Many people would simply refuse due to their modesty, despite actually desiring some food. Ibrahim did not place them in this situation, nor did he give them a choice between foods; because many people would either refuse or simply choose what would be the least taxing on the host, even if they desired otherwise.

We then see that he went to his household – his wife, and their servants, if they had any. This indicates that the role of hospitality was a shared one, and each of them saw they great opportunity to please Allah the guests had brought with them.

To add to this, exegetes have mentioned that the particles mentioned in the verse indicate quick succession, which means that they hurried to honour their guests, and that it is almost as if the food was half prepared waiting for some guests to pass by. This is tremendous reflection of his generosity and reliance on Allah in matters of provision.

It can also be inferred that the host should serve what is easily available to him, whether it is a meal, some nuts, or a cup of tea. Guests in Ibrahim’s scenario were travellers through the desert; all the food a traveller had was what he could carry with him, so being someone’s guest was an opportunity to have a good meal which may not present itself again soon. Therefore, you do not have to serve a three course meal every time the neighbour comes over to pick up a parcel she had missed in the post.

Serving what is easily available also means that one does not have to sneak out of the back door for a secret trip to the supermarket to get some food for the guest. What is available is sufficient, and the host’s company is more important.

After a short space of time he took a plump roasted calf to the guests. Cows were the best food they could provide for a guest, as well as being very expensive. A fully grown cow can provide a lot of meat which can be eaten, shared or preserved. Yet, he chose to slaughter a calf.

A calf would have been quicker to cook, and its meat would have been more tender, but there would not have been much excess meat. Ibrahim’s prioritising of his guests in choosing the best and tastiest food, quick service, and selflessness here is nothing short of admirable.

‘He then placed it very close to them, and said, ‘Will you not eat?’ (51:27)

Ibrahim served his guests himself, and this is not a flaw; rather, it is the height of nobility for a man to serve his guests himself. This is a practice I noticed amongst the scholars and the righteous in the middle-east. For a man of distinction to place food in your plate – despite his rank and virtues – is an honour to say the least.

Not only that, Ibrahim gently requested them to eat. It was not a command. It was nothing but a warm and gentle word of encouragement to eat, posed in the form of a question.

Many guests feel shy, and it may not be easy for them start eating of their own accord. This gentle reminder once again shows that Ibrahim did everything he could to honour his guests, who, as far as he knew until this point, were normal people, beneath him in rank.

The food was also placed very close to them in order to prevent them from being too shy to eat anything served, and to have everything within easy reach. The guests of Ibrahim really were honoured.

We ask Allah – who, more than any, deserves to be described with the meanings of the word karam – to bestow His karam on us, and the believers, in this life and the next. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace), upon receiving the opening verses of Sura al-Muʾminun, asked for this when he said,

اللَّهُمَّ زِدْنَا وَلَا تَنْقُصْنَا، وَأَكْرِمْنَا وَلَا تُهِنَّا، وَأَعْطِنَا وَلَا تَحْرِمْنَا، وَآثِرْنَا وَلَا تُؤْثِرْ عَلَيْنَا، وَأرْضِنَا وَارْضَ عَنَّا

‘O Allah, give us an increase, and not a decrease; honour us and do not abase us; give us and do not debar us; prefer us and do not prefer [others] to us; and please us and be pleased with us’ (Tirmidhi).

Shaykh Abdul Rahim Reasat began his studies in Arabic Grammar and Morphology in 2005. He moved to Damascus in 2007 to study and sit at the feet of some of the most erudite scholars of our time, such as Shaykh Adnan Darwish, Shaykh Abdurrahman Arjan, Shaykh Hussain Darwish and Shaykh Muhammad Darwish.
In late 2008 he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continued his studies in Fiqh, Usul al Fiqh, Theology, Hadith Methodology and Commentary, Shama’il, and Logic with teachers such as Dr Ashraf Muneeb, Dr Salah Abu’l Hajj, Dr Hamza al-Bakri, Shaykh Ahmad Hasanat, Dr Mansur Abu Zina amongst others. He was also given two licences of mastery in the science of Qur’anic recital by Shakh Samir Jabr and Shaykh Yahya Qandil.

His true passion, however, arose in the presence of Shaykh Ali Hani, considered by many to be one of the foremost tafsir scholars of our time who provided him with the keys to the vast knowledge of the Quran. With Shaykh Ali, he was able to study an extensive curriculum of Qur’anic Sciences, Tafsir, Arabic Grammar, and Rhetoric.

When he finally left Jordan for the UK in 2014, Shaykh Ali gave him his distinct blessing and still recommends students in the UK to seek out Shaykh Abdul Rahim for Quranic studies. Since his return he has trained as a therapist and has helped a number of people overcome emotional and psychosomatic issues. He is a keen promoter of emotional and mental health.

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