Monday, December 6, 2010

Surah Al Baqarah Ayahs 104-105

During the time of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), some of the Bani Israel invented a new way to make fun of the Prophet. Ayah 104 reads, "O you who believe , do not say Ra'ina, but say Unzurna, and listen. And for the unbelievers there is a grievous punishment." They would address Rasul Allah (SAW) with "Ra'ina", which in Arabic means "be mindful of us", but in Hebrew, the same word is a curse. The Arabs and Muslims, not knowing the double intention of the Bani Israel, also began to address the Prophet with this word, much to the great glee of the Bani Israelis. Therefore, Allah (SWT) commands the Muslims to address the Prophet by using the word Unzurna, which has the same meaning of "be mindful to us", but with no double meaning. Also, this verse elucidates the point that being even indirectly disrespectful to the Prophet (SAW) constitutes infidelity. This also comes to show that we shouldn't blindly follow other people, as is becoming the norm of today through Westernization.

We continue on to verse number 105, "Those who disbelieve from among the people of the Book, or idolaters, do not like that any good should come to you from your Lord. But Allah chooses for His grace whom He wills. And Allah is the Lord of great bounty". The previous verse described how the Bani Israelis behaved towards the Prophet (SAW), whereas this verse describes their behavior towards Muslims in general. They claimed to be their well-wishers, but didn't mean it. This specific ayah refers to those disbelievers who have been given the Message, know it is the Truth, yet reject it. However, hatred for Muslims will not prevent them from Allah's blessings, as "Allah chooses for His grace whom He wills". We should always be grateful for all of the blessings Allah has bestowed upon us, not taking it for granted. His blessings are infinite and go beyond our imagination. The greatest of all blessings is guidance to the straight path, and we should constantly be making dua to not go astray.

May Allah (SWT) give us the tawfiq to realize His blessings and be ever-grateful, and to refrain from following other cultures when our religion itself is so complete and beautiful. Ameen.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Surah Al Baqarah Ayahs 102-103

Photo credit: Hossam Art of Design

Previously, we discussed the Bani Israel mentioned in Surah Al Baqarah and various examples were given about how they caused the displeasure of Allah. By reading this, we gain an understanding of how not to displease Allah, and how to try to gain His pleasure instead.

Every era has something that is special and specific to their time. So for example, in this era, it is science and technology, where the scientific achievements have been higher than any other time. Similarly, the Prophet (SAW) lived in a culture where poetry and language had a big influence on people, and so we can see that the Quran as well was written in a poetic style, to appeal to the people. The era of Hazrat Musa (AS) was of magic, so he was given the miracle of magic. In Hazrat Isa (AS)'s time medicine was very popular, so he was given the miracle of curing. In the next few verses, the time was of when black magic became popular and widely practiced, and this was during the time of Sulaiman (AS).

This issue begins with verse 102, "They followed what the Shayâtin (devils) gave out (falsely of the magic) in the lifetime of Sulaimân (Solomon). Sulaimân did not disbelieve, but the Shayâtin (devils) disbelieved, teaching men magic and such things that came down at Babylon to the two (angels,) Hârût and Mârût, but neither of these two angels taught anyone (such things) till they had said, "We are only for trial, so disbelieve not (by learning this magic from us)." And from these (angels) people learn that by which they cause separation between man and his wife, but they could not thus harm anyone except by Allâh's Leave. And they learn that which harms them and profits them not. And indeed they knew that the buyers of it (magic) would have no share in the Hereafter. And how bad indeed was that for which they sold their ownselves, if they but knew."

This verse could have been revealed because

i) The Jews thought that Sulaiman (AS) was associated with sorcery and magic. The Quran made sure to deny such a vile allegation against Sulaiman (AS).
ii) These verses condemn the Jews for indulging in black magic themselves
iii) The Jews knew very well that practicing black magic was not only a sin, but it also involved kufr. They also knew that activities of this sort will not benefit them in this world, unless Allah will the black magic to work. This is why the ayah states that they "knew" it, but also states, "if they but knew", because they did not act upon what they knew, making them no different form the ignorant.
iv) There was a time in which black magic was widely practiced, particularly in Babylon. Seeing its results, ignorant people began to confuse its effects with the miracles of the prophets. some began to think of magicians as holy people, and some began to learn black magic, thinking of it as a divine practice.

Magic had become a source of misguidance, and Allah sent two angels, Harut and Marut, to inform people about its true nature and its different forms, so that people could distinguish it from the miracles of the prophets. The angels informed the people what they should be careful about and avoid. They also told them that the information they are giving the people about magic should be used as a means to protect their taqwa, and not misused with an evil intent. However, although there were some people who were true to their promise and didn't use magic to harm others, there were others you fell into this evil.

There are many different kinds of magic. There's one which we are familiar with, where people do "tricks" based on their skills, such as pulling a rabbit out of an empty hat. These are done by quick movements and mechanisms which can be learnt. This is not the magic the Quran is referring to. Another type of magic is one where one of the five senses are casted a spell on. An example is during the time of Musa (AS), where Pharaoh's men had cast a spell on the eyes of people, and they saw something that wasn't there (snakes). This is similar to hypnosis. Another type is black magic, and this is done with the help of jinns and devils. This is when an individual steps into the world of jinns and uses their powers on mankind. Sometimes they have a chant that they repeat many times in a dark, impure place, and they eventually get these beings to come to their side. Impurity is something that attracts evil jinns. That is why when we enter the bathroom we are told to recite the dua, "O Allaah, I seek refuge with You from the male and female jinns". So the people who want to attract the evil jinns use chants, they worship others apart from Allah, which is kufr, and they use najas (impurities) such as blood. Combining these three things together, they call on the evil. After calling on the jinns, they interact with each other and then harm people. Fortunately, such practice is not common in this day and age.

Then there are miracles. Miracles of the prophets are called mu'jizat and miracles of saints are called karamaat. These are not to be confused with magic. All miracles are acts of Allah. The people who are able to perform miracles are connected to Allah, and we should be careful about not mixing up miracles with magic.

Verse 103 then ends off this topic with "And if they had believed and guarded themselves from evil and kept their duty to Allâh, far better would have been the reward from their Lord, if they but knew!"

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Surah Al Baqarah Ayahs 92-101

In the last post, we were on the topic of how the Bani Israel denied Muhammad (SAW) as the Messenger, even though it was clear to them about who it was.

Ayah 92 continues with the stories of the Bani Israel, "And indeed Mûsa (Moses) came to you with clear proofs, yet you worshipped the calf after he left, and you were Zâlimûn (polytheists and wrong-doers)". If we remember the story, the Bani Israel asked Musa (AS) to ask Allah to give them a Book which they can follow. When Musa (AS) had gone to do that, some of these people started worshiping a calf. Musa (AS) freed them from Pharaoh by the grace of Allah, and he had a magic staff that would turn into a snake or produce water. Allah had given him all these signs to prove to the people that he is a true Messenger. However, soon after he left to get the Torah, they started worshiping something apart from Allah (SWT).

Then we move on to the next example in ayah 93, "And (remember) when We took your covenant and We raised above you the Mount (saying), "Hold firmly to what We have given you and hear (Our Word). They said, "We have heard and disobeyed." And their hearts absorbed (the worship of) the calf because of their disbelief. Say: "Worst indeed is that which your faith enjoins on you if you are believers." When Musa (AS) brought them the Torah, the Bani Israel said that some of the rulings are too difficult, and so chose what to follow as they pleased. This is when the angels lifted Mt. Sinai over their heads to warn them. That is only when they submitted to the Book, although still not completely. Allah tells them to judge their faith by seeing the result of their iman. We, as well, should question ourselves about our iman if we don't see results like praying, reading the Quran etc.

The Bani Israel used to say that Paradise is exclusively for them, and not anyone else. Allah responds to this by saying, "Say to (them): "If the home of the Hereafter with Allâh is indeed for you specially and not for others, of mankind, then long for death if you are truthful." What is being said to them here is that if they are certain that Jannah is for them, then they should wish for death.

Ayah 95 continues, "But they will never long for it because of what their hands have sent before them (i.e. what they have done). And Allâh is All-Aware of the Zâlimûn (polytheists and wrong-doers)" The people knew that if they had wished for death, Allah would have finished them off right then and there. They knew that they were just making excuses to not believe in the Prophet (SAW), because they desired this world. This was their primary disease.

The next ayah claims, "And verily, you will find them (the Jews) the greediest of mankind for life and (even greedier) than those who ascribe partners to Allâh (and do not believe in Resurrection - Majus, pagans, and idolaters). Everyone of them wishes that he could be given a life of a thousand years. But the grant of such life will not save him even a little from (due) punishment. And Allâh is All-Seer of what they do." It is essential to not get completely involved in this world, and remember Allah (SWT) and the Hereafter, otherwise, there will be disconnection with Him.

Another thing the Bani Israel would protest against was the fact that Jibrael (AS) was given the duty of conveying Allah's message to the Prophet (SAW). Previously, all of the punishments they had to go through for being disobedient were via Jibrael (AS), and they said that they will not believe in the Quran because it will cause them more problems. They even went to the extent of saying that Mikael (AS) should have been chosen for this task, and he is the angel of rain and mercy. Allah (SWT) replies, "Say (O Muhammad Peace be upon him ): "Whoever is an enemy to Jibrael (Gabriel) (let him die in his fury), for indeed he has brought it (this Qur'ân) down to your heart by Allâh's Permission, confirming what came before it [i.e. the Taurât (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel)] and guidance and glad tidings for the believers." The Quran is not a punishment, it's a guidance for them.

"Whoever is an enemy to Allâh, His Angels, His Messengers, Jibrael (Gabriel) and Mikael (Michael), then verily, Allâh is an enemy to the disbelievers." The Bani Israel were trying to make excuses because of the love for this world. In the next ayah it says, "And indeed We have sent down to you manifest Ayât (these Verses of the Qur'ân which inform in detail about the news of the Jews and their secret intentions, etc.), and none disbelieve in them but Fâsiqûn (those who rebel against Allâh's Command)." This comes to show that only the sinners disbelieve, as it blinds people. The signs were clear, but they did not see it. Sin is a blinder in the deen. People become blinded in many ways. For example, a man takes bribes in order to raise his family, and doesn't see it as a sin. This is not permissible, and we shouldn't make excuses like these in our lives. When we see a mistake in our lives, we should be very quick to thank Allah (SWT) for opening our eyes to it, and that will cause our hearts to open up more and accept our mistakes as flaws.

Ayah 100 and 101 continue, "Is it not (the case) that every time they make a covenant, some party among them throw it aside? Nay! (the truth) is most of them believe not. And when there came to them a Messenger from Allâh (i.e. Muhammad Peace be upon him ) confirming what was with them, a party of those who were given the Scripture threw away the Book of Allâh behind their backs as if they did not know!" This is all due to the disease of attachment to this world. If our hearts long for the deen, then Allah will remove duniya from the heart and fill it with the deen. The heart is always filled with something, either deen or duniya. It's up to us what we choose to fill it with.

May Allah give us the tawfiq to distance ourselves from the love of this world, and use the world instead as a tool for getting closer to the deen.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Surah Al Baqarah Ayahs 87-91

The theme of learning what pleases Allah (SWT) and what displeases Him will continue in the next few ayahs, and we learn this through the stories of the Bani Israel.

Ayah 87 states, "And indeed, We gave Mûsa (Moses) the Book and followed him up with a succession of Messengers. And We gave 'Īsā (Jesus), the son of Maryam (Mary), clear signs and supported him with Rûh-ul-Qudus [Jibrael (Gabriel) A.S.]. Is it that whenever there came to you a Messenger with what you yourselves desired not, you grew arrogant? Some you disbelieved and some you killed."

There are many blessings mentioned in this one verse:

i) Musa (AS) was sent down, and so was the Torah. These are 2 blessings. The Bani Israel were oppressed by Pharaoh to the extreme, and Musa (AS) came and freed them. When they asked for a book for their guidance, the Torah was revealed to them.
ii) After Musa (AS), other Messengers came to revive the deen. This was a very special blessing because of the closeness these Messengers had with Allah (SWT)
We, for example, don't have new Messengers coming to us as Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was the Last Messenger. The Bani Israel were given multiple Messengers.
iii) Isa (AS) was also sent to the Bani Israel, but they rejected him.
iv) Angel Jibrael assisted Isa (AS).

The Bani Israel were given all of these blessings, yet their response was that a group of them denied the Messengers, and another group even killed them. The cause of this kind of behavior was a disease in their hearts- their "nafs" or desires. Humans, by nature, have desires. These drive our response to both deen and duniya. If a person allows his or her desires to be molded by the world, then their influence will be worldly. On the other hand, if a person molds his or her character according to the deen, then they will always be accepting what the religion preaches. This is a challenge that befalls every human being. The problem with the Bani Israel was that they were too caught up in the duniya. We should develop our desires according to the deen, and this would be done by constantly reminding each other about the fact that this life is temporary, and the next life is everlasting, and that is what we should be working for. This will make it very easy to submit to the deen. The Sahabas of the Prophet (SAW) were so strong in their faith that they would obey whatever he said immediately.

The next ayah, 88, continues, "And they say, "Our hearts are wrapped (i.e. do not hear or understand Allâh's Word)." Nay, Allâh has cursed them for their disbelief, so little is that which they believe". During the time of the Prophet (SAW), the Bani Israel would say that their hearts are sealed and protected with their own Iman. On the other hand, the most hardest of hearts would change completely and convert to Islam after a few minutes of interaction with the Prophet (SAW). The disbelievers would very easily convert, and the Bani Israel would proudly say that they are well protected from Islam. Here, Allah (SWT) corrects them; that they have been cursed because of their deep kufr.

Ayah 89, "And when there came to them (the Jews), a Book (this Qur'ân) from Allâh confirming what is with them [the Taurât (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel)], although aforetime they had invoked Allâh (for coming of Muhammad Peace be upon him ) in order to gain victory over those who disbelieved, then when there came to them that which they had recognised, they disbelieved in it. So let the Curse of Allâh be on the disbelievers." Here, Allah (SWT) highlights how the Quran only confirmed what the Torah, a Book they already had, said. It was not coming from a new source, it was the same God. On top of that, the Bani Israel used to pray for the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) to come in order to gain victory over the disbelievers. Yet, when their prayers came true and they recognized it, they didn't believe it. This is because the Prophet was an Arab, and did not come from their lineage. They wanted him to be from the Bani Israel.

The next ayah proceeds on to say, "Miserable is the price for which they have sold their souls, in that they deny (the revelation) which Allah has sent down, in insolent envy that Allah of His Grace should send it to any of His servants He pleases; thus have they drawn on themselves wrath upon wrath. and humiliating is the punishment of those who reject Faith." When the Bani Israel reject Prophet (SAW), they are actually rejecting the Will of Allah (SWT), and that's where the problem arises. We need to remember that we love and respect Prophet Muhammad (SAW) because Allah chose him. In a hadith, Hazrat Jaabir bin Sumrah (radi Allahu anhu) is reported to have said the following, "I saw the Prophet (sall Allaho alaihi wasallam) on a full moonlit night. The Prophet (sall Allaho alaihi wasallam) was wearing a reddish Jubbah, in other words it had reddish stripes on it. I looked at the Prophet (sall Allaho alaihi wasallam) and then I looked at the full moon. I found that the Prophet (sall Allaho alaihi wasallam) is more beautiful than the full moon." (Tirmizi). What we need to remember, though, is just as the moon reflects the light of the sun, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is actually the reflection of the light of Allah (SWT). So when we praise the Prophet (SAW) or follow him, we do it the way Allah has told us to, because Allah is the One who made the Prophet who he is. This is the mistake the Bani Israel made. They didn't accept the person that Allah (SWT) chose, merely because of race, and that is what cut them off from the mercy of Allah (SWT).

Ayah 91 goes, : And when it is said to them (the Jews), "Believe in what Allâh has sent down," they say, "We believe in what was sent down to us." And they disbelieve in that which came after it, while it is the truth confirming what is with them. Say (O Muhammad Peace be upon him to them): "Why then have you killed the Prophets of Allâh aforetime, if you indeed have been believers?" The Bani Israel insisted that they believe in Allah and in the wahy (revelations), but they said that they already received the wahy they were going to follow. (However, in the Torah it already states that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) will come, yet they deny him). The Prophet (SAW) is told to question them that if this is the case, then why did they kill the Prophets before, who came with the same message as is in their Book.

We will inshaAllah continue with the same theme in the next post. May Allah (SWT) give us the tawfiq to take lessons from these ayahs, so that we can learn what pleases our Creator, and stay away from what displeases Him. Ameen.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Surah Al Baqarah Ayahs 85-86

In the previous couple of ayahs, we had started discussing the disgrace that the Bani Israel tribes had to go through for accepting a part of their Scripture (the Torah), and rejecting other parts, according to their own desires. We as Muslims can very easily fall into this same category by accepting a part of the Quran and reject other parts due to our personal desires, and need to be very careful about this. This post will continue on with the narrative, starting with the story of the second tribe (named Bani Quraiza), who did not support the first tribe in their ways, but they had a different story altogether.

There was a battle during this time called "The Battle of the Ditch", in which all of the Arabs who were non-Muslims united together to extinguish Islam for once and for all. When the Prophet (SAW) heard about this, he gathered his Sahaba to consult with them the best way to preserve the flickering flame called Islam. A Sahabi named Salman al Farsi came up with the idea that in order to defend themselves, a big ditch can be made around the city of Medina, which will make it difficult for the enemies to cross over. The Muslims would then defend different areas of the ditch, and that would be their method of fighting back - being defensive rather than attacking, mainly. The enemies of Islam then came in a massive amount, but the trench had worked, even though it was a fierce battle outside of the trench. The Muslims were protected inside and they were along with the second Bani Israel tribe with who they had a covenant. However, the people from outside sent a message to the Bani Israel tribe inside, to attack the Muslims from inside Medina, which would be breaking the covenant. But betraying the Muslims in this way, the religion of Islam would be extinguished. The Muslims outside Medina were already barely surviving, so their plan was to get the Bani Quraiza tribe inside to declare war on the Muslims as well, and defeat them all, even though this tribe is actually supposed to be defending one part of the trench.

Initially, the leader of the tribe would not even listen to the message given by the leader of the enemies, saying that you are just a fitna to the community, and you have already ruined your own people. The leader of the outside tribe insisted that he just wants to talk, and eventually he said something that made the leader of the second tribe let him in - he said that you have food inside, but you don't want me to have any of it. Have you become so cheap as not to offer your guest any food? And this was like an insult to the tribal leader, and he let him in. So the outside leader now got the chance to convince the second tribe's leader to declare war on the Muslims, thereby bringing back pride on the Bani Israel. The tribal leader was now convinced. Word began to spread that this tribe will break the covenant that they made with the Prophet (SAW), and will fight against the Muslims, until it eventually reached Hazrat Umar (RA). Hazrat Umar went to the Prophet (SAW) and told him the news, and the Prophet was worried, and told him to confirm this, but not tell anyone else if it is true. When Hazrat Umar soon confirmed the news and told the Prophet (SAW), it forced the Prophet to call back a large quantity of troops who were outside Medina protecting the trench to come back to the city and patrol the city to protect them women and children they had left behind. Because of this, the kuffar were finally able to pass over the ditch, since Muslims were not defending it. The kuffar came with full-force to attack the weak defendants now. This was one of the most stressful days for the Prophet (SAW), and he was fighting for so long at the border that he had missed four prayers while in battle. The Sahaba had also missed their prayers, and complained to the Prophet about it, even though their life, deen and family were in jeopardy. Yet, they cared so much about their prayers. The Prophet (SAW) told them that he too has missed his prayers, and they should keep fighting. However, he cursed the enemies for making him miss his prayers. This is how much prayers were valued.

There was one man in this battle, who was from the kuffar's side. However, once in a battle before this, he was held captive by the Muslims, and was surprised at how much they took care of him and were gentle with him. This made him have a soft spot for Islam. During this battle, he came to the Prophet (SAW) and converted to Islam. He asked if he could then go to the two tribes pretending he was still a kafir, and deceiving them that way. The Prophet said that war is deception and you can do what you want to do. What this man did was he went to the leader of the second tribe in Medina, and said that the Quraysh are planning to leave the war, and this will leave you fighting alone with the Muslims. You should call 5 eminent people from their tribe to protect you. This way they will make sure that the kuffar don't leave the important men behind. Then he went to the kuffar and said that you don't know what's going on. The Bani Quraiza is planning to turn their back on you. They will ask you for some men, and then they will hand them to the Prophet (SAW), and he will forgive you and you can kill those men. The convert made it a point to tell them that when these people from Bani Quraiza come to ask for the men, it's a sign that they've turned their back on the kuffar. So the men should not be given. Having deceived both the kuffaar and the Bani Israel, this man then left.

As planned, the Bani Quraiza asked for the men, and the kuffar figured that it's true that they have turned their back on them. This led to a breaking of connection between the two tribes. Now that the first alliance was broken, the Prophet (SAW) did not have to worry about the inner aspect of Medina. Then Allah sent a severe cold weather and storm to the place which dispersed the enemies even more. The Sahaba were extremely exhausted after this battle, they were tested to the extreme limit. If we look at the ayahs about their state in the Quran during this time, it says that "their hearts were coming out of their throats". That is how bad the situation was.

When Prophet Muhammad (SAW) noticed that the kuffar and Quraish were leaving, he began to relax and put down his armor, indicating that the Sahabis can do the same. However, angel Jibrael (AS) came to him and asked why he put down the armor, because the angels who are fighting in this battle hadn't done so yet. Jibrael (AS) said that we need to get the Bani Quraiza, because they broke the covenant. Then Rasul Allah (SAW) made the announcement, "None of you shall pray Asr until you reach the Bani Quraiza". This is a famous hadith. The Muslims then went to the fortress of the Bani Quraiza, making a siege around it. This fortress was very protected and no one had ever broken it before. The tribe decided not to come out of their fortress and didn't fight. Instead, they stayed inside and thought they had enough food to last them, and meanwhile the Prophet (SAW) and his companions would give up and leave. The Prophet (SAW) stayed there for 25 days waiting for them. In the end, the Bani Quraiza decided that they would accept one of the companions to be the arbitrator and settle the dispute. The tribe chose Saad (RA) as their arbitrator, thinking that he would be easy on them because he was connected to the tribe of Aus, which used to be linked to Bani Quraiza before. They thought he would tell them to leave a part of their wealth like the Bani Nazir had to, and they could easily leave. Both the Prophet (SAW) and the tribe decided that Saad (RA) will make the final decision as to what happens to these people. In the end, he decided that the men's head be severed from their neck, and the women and children be held as captives, and this was what was done. This is the extreme disgrace this tribe had to go through because of breaking their trust like this and thinking that Allah (SWT) is not watching them when they made a decision to declare war on the Muslims. They had mocked the Scripture, and so they were humiliated. They are disgraced in this world and the next.

The mistake of the two tribes was that they made a mockery of the Words of Allah, choosing what they wanted to and leaving what they desired. Even though their intention initially was a good one, to find the Prophet (SAW) and learn from him, but by making a mockery of the Shariah they called upon themselves this fate. We might think that we as Muslims don't do this, but there are so many examples of people accepting some ayahs of the Quran and rejecting others. For example, we all say that alcohol is haram. But in the same Book, Allah (SWT) prohibits the taking of interest, yet most of us do it. We just ignore this ayah completely sometimes, by buying things on a credit card that we can't afford, or sending our kids for an education which we can't afford. We think it's a necessity, even though the student could go to a community college and save up to go to the good school when he can afford it. Both alcohol and interest are said to be haram, but we choose to follow one and not the other. Sometimes Muslims even follow a part of one ayah and reject a part of the same ayah. There is an ayah that says, "They ask you (O' Muhammad [SAW]) about wine and gambling. Say, in these two things is a very big sin. There is some benefit in it, but the sin of these two is much bigger than the benefit," and so both of these things are impermissible. We all know that going to a casino or trying to play a lotto is haram, but we fail to realize that things like life insurance are a sort of gamble as well. We keep giving money, betting on our life, waiting for the "jackpot" if it's needed. There are some sorts of insurance that the Shariah and scholars give lenience to, like car insurance, because the government mandates a car to be insured. A car is a necessity, and the government requires one to have at least limited liability for a car, so it's allowed. We are not talking about full coverage here, but limited liability. The second exception is health insurance, because the system is so corrupt here that one can't survive without health insurance. Most people are not able to afford the bills of hospitals etc. Life insurance is out of the question, but car and health insurance are allowed because of the current situation. We should still make dua that Allah makes ways for us to get out of these situations, but until then, the scholars say there is room for leniency here.

In ayah 86, Allah (SWT) tells us about the main disease, "Those are they who have bought the life of this world at the price of the Hereafter. Their torment shall not be lightened nor shall they be helped." The symptoms of the disease were breaking the covenant, but the main cause of the disease was that they were ready to trade this world with the next. This is the main thing that needs to be cured in all Muslims. The life of the Hereafter is the permanent abode. We shouldn't get misguided in this life by worldly pleasures that are sinful, as they are all temporary pleasures. What remains after sinning for pleasure leaves an emptiness. The real enjoyment is in the Hereafter. Allah (SWT) only prohibits us to look at two things, looking at non-mahrams, and looking at the wealth of the kuffar. Because the world is amassing wealth, yet a Muslim is giving his wealth out to charity. We need to turn our attention to Allah (SWT) and the Everlasting life in order to cure ourselves from this disease.

May Allah (SWT) give us the tawfiq and wisdom to understand and follow the Quran completely, and may He give us the tawfiq to turn our focus to the Afterlife rather than being absorbed completely in this life. Ameen.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Surah Al Baqarah Ayahs 84-85

The Bani Israel are people who accepted Judaism, and in verses 84-85 we are continuing with their stories in order to learn what pleases and displeases Allah (SWT). We should strive to do that which brings us the mercy of Allah (SWT), and avoid those things that repel His mercy.

Verse 84 reads, "And (remember) when We took your covenant (saying): Shed not the blood of your (people), nor turn out your own people from their dwellings. Then, (this) you ratified and (to this) you bear witness." This is basically a covenant that the Bani Israel took with Allah, making a promise of three essential things.
i) Not to kill one another. When someone had decided to follow Musa (AS), they were not allowed to fight or kill one another.

ii) Not to force each other into exile.

iii) This is not mentioned specifically, but the third thing promised here is that if there were any prisoners of war from the tribe, the Bani Israel would take the responsibility of freeing that prisoner. So if another group of people captured people from the Bani Israel, the Bani Israel would have to take it upon themselves to free the person from their tribe.

There are different levels of acceptance of an agreement, ranging from doing something without wanting to do it, to doing something with full will-power. Here, the people of the Bani Israel went on to the extent of promising Allah about these things, and bear witnessing that they will fulfill their promise, portraying that they agreed whole-heartedly.

Verse 85, however, continues on to say that nonetheless, you yourselves (the Bani Israel) killed one another, drove your tribe members away from their homes, assisting your enemies against them in sin and transgression.
This means that the people who made the covenant, broke the promise themselves. The verse then goes on to state, "And if they come to you as captives, you ransom them, although their expulsion was forbidden to you. Then do you believe in a part of the Scripture and reject the rest?" The one promise that these people did fulfill, however, was to give ransom and free any of their tribe members if they were captured by other tribes. It is evident that they are therefore following only some parts of the Torah, and neglecting others. That is why Allah asks them if they only believe in some parts of the Scripture, rejecting whatever they feel like.

This ayah is also related to a case around the time of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Years before he was born, the Jews knew that a Prophet was about to come, because their Book had described him, and they also knew relatively in which area he would be, meaning around Madinah. The most righteous among the Bani Israel left their homes and moved toward Madinah, seeking the Prophet, and they had a very good intention. They were waiting for him in order to support him and follow him, hoping that the Prophet would bring back glory to them. There were two such righteous groups who moved to Madinah. These two groups started off by living harmoniously together as a family, but as time went on and they interacted more with the local Arabs of the area, the two groups started to have conflicts amongst one another.

There were two major groups of Arabs before the coming of the Prophet (SAW): Aus, and Khazraj. These two groups used to fight frequently with one another, and one of the reasons they wanted the Prophet (SAW) to come to Madinah was to unite the two groups, because they themselves were tired of fighting. When the Jews came into this city, they began to divide themselves as well, taking sides with these two groups. They had come with a positive intention, to follow the Messenger, and they were in it together. However, when they got into the environment of so much fitnah and fighting, they were also caught up in it. That's why it's important to stay in the right environment. So this ayah also refers to these people who fought amongst their own people.

So Allah questions them, about how they are mocking their religion, acting upon one portion of the book while ignoring others. The same ayah continues, "Then what is the recompense of those who do so among you, except disgrace in the life of this world, and on the Day of Resurrection they shall be consigned to the most grievous torment. And Allâh is not unaware of what you do." This highlights 2 things: (i) The basis of this ayah is the mockery of the Book of Allah. (ii) Allah (SWT) highlights the result of that sort of action. It explains how people will be disgraced in this life and the next, and that's exactly what happened with both of these tribes.

If we go into the history of the tribes during the time of the Prophet (SAW), then we can see how this happened. Both of the tribes were waiting for the Last Messenger of Allah in Madinah. They already believed in Allah, the wahy, and were seeking the final Messenger. When Rasul Allah (SAW) saw these qualities, he knew that they were one of the most likely people to enter Islam, making him more inclined towards them, and made a covenant with them, which was to assist the Muslims in the spread of the deen, and in return the Muslims will invite them to the deen, but they did not have to embrace Islam if they didn't want to. So initially, both tribes were protected under this covenant.

There is yet another story related to this one. There was another tribe, whose chief came to Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and said he was interested in Islam, but not totally convinced yet. He wanted the Prophet to send over some of his companions to his tribe to teach them about Islam. The Prophet hesitated at first, because the people of the tribe could kill his companions. But the chief assured him that their protection was guaranteed. What the Prophet didn't know was that this was a weak chief, who did not have that much power over his people. And sure enough, when Rasul Allah (SAW) sent around 40 of his companions to the tribe, almost all of them were slaughtered by the tribe on the way itself. The remaining 2 headed back, but one of the men killed 2 men from the tribe that slaughtered the companions. When the Prophet heard about this, he said that there must have been some misunderstanding, and the 2 men who were killed from the other tribe were actually innocent. Therefore, blood money should be sent to the family members. So he went to the wealthy tribe who was assisting them, and asked for them to help out. They did not agree immediately, but said let's discuss it over dinner, with the companions of the Prophet (SAW). When it was time for dinner, there was a strange scene, in which the Prophet entered with the Sahabis and sat down. Meanwhile, the people of the tribe whispered amongst themselves, and some of them at the back were leaving the room quietly. This raised doubt in the Prophet's mind. Then, angel Jibreel came to the Prophet and told him that they are planning to kill you, leave immediately. And without saying a word, the Messenger left. His companions found him in his house a while later, when they realized that he is not going to be returning for dinner, and asked him what happened. The Prophet said that this tribe had broken the covenant, and they should be told to leave Madinah within 10 days or the Muslims will fight them. The tribe decided to stay and fight, because they thought they were more powerful, and also the Muslim hypocrites said they would support them. However, when the battle started, the tribe had less people than the Muslims, because the hypocrites did not join them, and also, as the news spread of the battle, more and more Muslims were coming from all directions to help out. In the end, the tribe told the Prophet that they will prefer to leave. The Prophet said that we had given you the chance to leave earlier, but you did not listen. However, we will let you leave if you take only the wealth that will fit on your camels with you, but leave the rest. This tribe was extremely wealthy, and the people of Madinah were amazed to see them leaving with a large amount of jewels and expensive clothing, and yet there was so much left in Madinah. This wealth was distributed to the poor and to the travelers who came from Makkah to Madinah. And this is how the tribe was made to leave disgracefully.

Then there was the second tribe. They did not support the first tribe in all the planning, and so their covenant with the Muslims was protected. This is why the Prophet (SAW) treated them as equals, even though they did not accept Islam.

InshaAllah in the next post I will continue this topic about what happened with the second tribe. May Allah (SWT) give us the tawfiq to learn from these stories, and learn that He is the best of planners, not us. Ameen.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Surah Al Baqarah Ayahs 75-83

We have been discussing the historical stories of the Bani Israel over the past few verses, which have been captured in the Quran as revelations. From these narrations we learnt things that we can do to please Allah, and things that we should avoid that displease Allah. We will continue to go along this same theme.

Verse 75 reads, "Do you (faithful believers) desire that they will believe in your religion inspite of the fact that a party of them (Jewish rabbis) used to hear the Word of Allâh [the Torah], then they used to change it knowingly after they understood it?" In this verse, Allah (SWT) narrates a very important trait of the Prophet (SAW), that is, that he (SAW) had a deep desire that every person he came in contact with be guided with the gift of Islam. For each of us, we have so many different aspirations. Our efforts are divided. However, Rasul Allah (SAW) only had one hope and desire, and that was that every person be guided to the Straight Path. It was a very unified focus. Allah (SWT) therefore addresses him and asks about his desire to bring everyone to the right path. In fact, in Surah Al-Kahf, Allah (SWT) narrates how the Prophet (SAW) was on the verge of self-destruction by worrying about people being guided to this deen. This is how deeply it affected him.

However, in this ayah, the whole community of the Prophet (SAW) is addressed here as well, exemplifying that they all had the same desire. These days, we see people worrying about certain groups of people only. Some worry about only Muslims, and how they should be guided, other worry about People of the Books, meaning Christians and Jews, yet others worry about Atheists, since these are people who don't believe in God. Here, it is shown that regardless of the group of people, Rasul Allah (SAW) and his people tried to guide the people of the Bani Israel (Jews), even though they were so openly against him. Allah (SWT) narrates so many stories of how the Bani Israel have went astray, yet Muhammad (SAW) and his people do not give up on them.

So here, the Bani Israel are described as those who were given the Book of Allah, yet they changed the words, knowingly. Because of this, they were not moved by the powerful words of the Messenger. Even the kuffaar, who did not believe in Allah, converted to Islam, yet, the Bani Israel could not. This is because they were altering the message of Allah (SWT), which is an extremely dangerous thing to do. These people were scholars of the Bani Israel, and they would either interpret the verse wrongly, or even change the words of Allah to fit their own desires, and did what they themselves thought was good for the community. The common people also went astray by picking out what they wanted to follow from the book, and leaving what they found difficult to do. We should avoid these characteristics. This is what closed the doors of their guidance. Also, this is a mistake that the forefathers of the Bani Israel made, and not the current Jews of Rasul Allah's time. Yet, blame is being put on them because they are blindly following the wrongdoings of their forefathers. This is why a scholar has two duties. First, he should verify what earlier scholars have said by going back to the Quran and Hadith, and second, he should pass on this message.

In our day and age, none of us is going to stand up and openly say that we will change the words of the Quran. However, this can be done on different levels. For example, many of us know Islamic rulings but purposely avoid them in order to follow our own opinions. We make excuses based on our own knowledge. This is especially the case if someone has been disobeying Allah (SWT) for a large portion of his life, then suddenly turns to Islam. He still does not have the proper knowledge, and gives his opinion rather than what is said in the Quran. We must learn to be balanced in both our deen and duniya in order to have the correct approach. Even if someone is too focused on deen and ignores the worldly life entirely, it is problematic because he will not know how to approach people, and his stance on religion will be impractical, therefore pushing people away from the deen. The other extreme is those people who are focused on the worldly life, which gives them a high status, making them believe that they have some sort of authority to comment on the deen. They don't have enough knowledge of the deen because of lack of training in Islam. We should try to equalize the amount of secular knowledge we have with Islamic knowledge, in order to balance things out.

Verse 76 proceeds by talking about those in the Bani Israel who were hypocritical, and said to the Muslims that they believed, yet when amongst themselves they would disbelieve in the Messenger (SAW). Apart from this, there was a small group of the Bani Israel which sincerely did accept the Prophet (SAW), but this group was only a small handful. The group of people who were trying to fool the Muslims into believing that they were Muslims as well did so because they saw the Muslims were gaining power and there was business, political and social gain. These hypocrites would go to the people of Bani Israel who outwardly disbelieved, and those who openly rejected Islam questioned the hypocrites about why they told the Muslims what is in their Torah. In the original Torah, it gave a description of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), and how he would come in the future. The hypocrites would go to the Muslims and tell them that we believe in Islam because of these verses in the Torah. The people who openly disbelieved asked the hypocrites why they gave the Muslims this information, because now the Muslims can argue with the Bani Israel and tell them that the Torah itself says they should believe in Muhammad (SAW).

They thought they were discussing these things secretly, but Allah claims in ayah 77, "Know they (Jews) not that Allâh knows what they conceal and what they reveal?"

Verse 78 continues, "And there are among them (Jews) illiterate people, who know not the Book, but they trust upon false desires and they but guess." This refers back to the people who are not learned in religion, yet voice out their opinions on this matter. We think that we are all literate, but there is a degree of illiteracy within us because we don't know how to read or understand the Quran properly, and we will not be fully literate until we fully understand the Quran. Then the blame goes back to the scholars who changed the words of Allah in the Torah, "Then woe to those who write the Book with their own hands and then say, "This is from Allâh," to purchase with it a little price! Woe to them for what their hands have written and woe to them for that they earn thereby."

In verse 80, Allah (SWT) gives an example of one of the things the Bani Israel made up in the Torah due to their own desires, "And they (Jews) say, "The Fire (i.e. Hell-fire on the Day of Resurrection) shall not touch us but for a few numbered days." Say (O Muhammad Peace be upon him to them): "Have you taken a covenant from Allâh, so that Allâh will not break His Covenant? Or is it that you say of Allâh what you know not?" The Bani Israel were in a deep misunderstanding about this point. Every prophet has said that if you believe in Allah and His Messengers, yet you sin in this world more than doing good deeds, then you will be put into the Hellfire for a numbered days, then eventually to Heaven. However, what these people failed to understand was that all of the prophets are to be followed, and after Musa (AS)'s shariah/law, people will have to follow Muhammad (SAW)'s shariah. This had been revealed to them in the Torah earlier, but they chose to ignore it. The second point is that they themselves altered the deen of Musa (AS).

Alah (SWT) makes it clear in the next two ayahs that those who do evil and are surrounded by sin will dwell in the Hellfire, and those who believed in the Oneness of Allah and do righteous deeds are the dwellers of Paradise.

The next ayah then fits into the context of this situation, "And (remember) when We made a covenant with the Children of Israel, (saying): Worship none save Allah (only), and be good to parents and to kindred and to orphans and the needy, and speak kindly to mankind; and establish worship and pay the poor-due. Then, after that, you slid back, save a few of you, being averse." Allah (SWT) tells the Bani Israel not to make excuses that they are following the deen of Musa (AS), because they are not following the covenant. They fail to see that the same things Musa (AS) called his people to, Muhammad (SAW) is also telling his people to do.

An important point mentioned in this covenant is that we should speak kindly and gently to others. Unfortunately, we are lacking in this aspect at times. In a hadith the Prophet (SAW) said, "One should say good, or he should stay quiet". This is a very short hadith but summarizes it all. This is so emphasized in Islam, that when Allah (SWT) sent Musa (AS) to Pharaoh to guide him, he was told to do his preaching in a soft-spoken manner. Such an eminent enemy of Allah (SWT) is also being spoken gently to. So, even in the case of speaking to non-Muslims, we have been commanded to do so softly.

May Allah (SWT) give us the tawfiq to live by the Quran in a proper manner rather than by following our own desires.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Surah Al Baqarah Ayahs 65-74

The story of the Bani Israel continues, where Allah narrates various stories in the history of the Bani Israel about how they disobeyed Allah and His Messengers. These stories are for us to learn how to please Allah (SWT) and learn what angers Him. The stories are not to look down upon the group of people who have been discussed here. An example is then given of how the Bani Israel turned away from Allah in a different situation:

Ayah 65: "And you had already known about those who transgressed among you concerning the sabbath, and We said to them, "Be apes, despised."

A part of the Jewish tradition is Sabbath, in which they are not allowed to work or do business. At the time of Dawud (AS), the way they would work is they would catch fish. However, they had a feeling that the best day to catch fish was Saturday. This is since they weren't supposed to work, and do their religious duties instead, they felt it must be a good day to fish. They then began to play tricks. What they would do is put a net in the water and the fish would get caught in it that day, and on Sunday they would pull the net out. By doing this they thought they were bypassing the Shariah. During this time, a conflict arose between two groups of the Bani Israel. One group was righteous, and said that what they are doing is wrong and against the Shariah. Sabbath is not supposed to be a working day. The group that came up with the idea, however, said that they are not going against the Shariah. They are only catching the fish on Saturday, and then taking it on Sunday, so that should be permissible. The righteous people then moved out of the city and isolated those going astray, because they knew that Allah's punishment would come upon those who are disobedient to Allah. One day what happened was that one day the righteous group who had moved out from the city did not hear any noise coming from the city, and went back to see what was going on. They then saw that their relatives had been turned into apes. The facial features allowed the people to recognize who the apes were, yet they could do nothing about it. Within 3 days, all of the apes had died, and that is how the city was destroyed. So here Allah (SWT) highlights that if it wasn't for Allah's mercy, the Bani Israel in Musa (AS)'s time would have become losers, like this group of people discussed in this ayah.

In the next ayah, the Quran continues, "And We made it a deterrent punishment for those who were present and those who succeeded [them] and a lesson for those who fear Allah ." This incident has been made an example for the people at that time, and all the people who came after them until the Day of Judgement, since this story is preserved in the Quran until that day.

Ayah 67 reads, "And [recall] when Moses said to his people, "Indeed, Allah commands you to slaughter a cow." They said, "Do you take us in ridicule?" He said, "I seek refuge in Allah from being among the ignorant." This story is important because the whole surah (Baqarah), is named after this story. the background of this story is that among the Bani Israel, one day there was a murder. No one knew who the murderer was. There are two possible reasons for the murder, in two narrations:
i) A man came to a girl's father, and asked for her hand in marriage. The father said no, so the man killed him .
ii) There was a nephew who had a rich uncle who could not have children. This nephew killed the uncle, and put the dead body on the doorstep of another person. The next morning, people saw the dead body and thought that the man whose doorstep the body is on had killed the uncle. He said that he didn't, and a big fight erupted between the Bani Israel. The elders of the community said that there is no need to fight, since they have Musa (AS) with them, and so he should be asked.

When Musa (AS) was narrated this story, he made dua to Allah (SWT), and Allah commanded them to sacrifice a cow. The Bani Israel asked Musa (AS) if he was joking, not believing what he said. Musa (AS) replied that he seeks refuge from the ignorant people. What Allah has said cannot be a joke. What they were supposed to do was kill the animal, take a part of it and hit the dead man, and it would be revealed to them who the murderer was.

However, the Bani Israel continued asking questions. In ayah 68 it says, "They said, "Call upon your Lord to make clear to us what it is." [Moses] said, "[ Allah ] says, 'It is a cow which is neither old nor virgin, but median between that,' so do what you are commanded."

In the initial command, Allah had told them to sacrifice a cow, and were they to kill any cow, it would have been accepted from them. The way they told Musa (AS) to make dua is they said "Call upon
your Lord". Allah is everybody's Lord. Allah then responds that the cow is neither too old or too young, but in the middle, so do what you were told to do.

They again continue asking questions, "They said, "Call upon your Lord to show us what is her color." He said, "He says, 'It is a yellow cow, bright in color - pleasing to the observers.' "They said, "Call upon your Lord to make clear to us what it is. Indeed, [all] cows look alike to us. And indeed we, if Allah wills, will be guided." In one hadīth [it is reported]: 'Had they not uttered inshā'a Llāh, it would never have been made clear to them.

"He said, "He says, 'It is a cow neither trained to plow the earth nor to irrigate the field, one free from fault with no spot upon her.' " They said, "Now you have come with the truth." So they slaughtered her, but they could hardly do it." In a hadith, it is very clear that had they killed any cow, it would have been accepted from them. By creating all this questioning, they actually created problems for themselves. When they finally found the right cow, then it belonged to an individual who didn't want to give it. He finally said that the only way he will give his cow is if they return the cow's skin full of gold in its place. So that is what the Bani Israel had to go through, all because they did not know the a'daab of asking questions. It's always good to question, but with sincerity. These people were not being sincere, they were making fun of the Shariah. The Sahaba were very careful about what it meant by sincere questioning. In fact, it comes in a narration that they only asked 12-14 question in total to the Prophet (SAW). When an outside person used to come, they would love it, since people would ask questions and they could hear the answers. The 12-14 questions that were asked by the Sahabas were so important, that the answers were narrated by Allah. In the Quran, examples of both extremes have been narrated; those who ask useful questions, and those who ask questions for no purpose.

The next part of the story continues, "And [recall] when you slew a man and disputed over it, but Allah was to bring out that which you were concealing". This is the first part of the cow story. Since Allah has put this part of the story in the second part, the story of the cow is emphasized more. The story of the cow is separate from this story. The Quran continues, "So, We said, "Strike the slain man with part of it." Thus does Allah bring the dead to life, and He shows you His signs that you might reason." When the cow was killed, the people hit a part of it on the dead man, who pointed to his nephew and said that he killed him, and then died again. This point shows that Allah can bring a dead person back to life, and this is what will happen to us on the Day of Judgement.

Ayah 74: "Then your hearts became hardened after that, being like stones or even harder. For indeed, there are stones from which rivers burst forth, and there are some of them that split open and water comes out, and there are some of them that fall down for fear of Allah . And Allah is not unaware of what you do." This ayah highlights that the heart can have many different states. Sometimes hearts can become as hard as rocks. Some hearts are alive, others are dead. The people whose hearts are alive enjoy the Quran, hadith, the dhikr of Allah. Those people whose hearts are dead are the people who just don't care, and their heart is sealed. This ayah speaks of the diseases of the heart. The heart can be seen from a health point of view, and a spiritual point of view. Here, the spiritual aspect is being discussed. Like the body which is functioned to do different things, the heart also has different functions. Naturally, the heart likes to do dhikr, pray, be in the company of the pious etc. When we find that our heart is not doing what it's supposed to do, we should know it's a problem and try to rectify it.

May Allah (SWT) give us the tawfiq to learn from these various narrations, and protect us from disobeying his ayaat and earning His wrath.