When are We to Understand?
by Muhammad Alshareef
Should they make him a king or should they kill him? The mushrikeen of Makkah did not know what to make of this phenomenon sweeping their ranks, dividing – as they claimed – between a man and his son, between a man and his wife. It had to end.
Abu Al-Waleed Utbah ibn al-Mugheerah said, "Let me finish this once and for all." He found RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam sitting near the Ka'bah and approached. He said, "O Muhammad."
RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam turned to Al-Waleed, acknowledged him, and listened attentively. Al-Waleed began, "Why do you persist in this message you are calling to? Is it riches you desire? If so, we shall make you the richest amongst us. Is it women you desire? If so, we shall marry you to the fairest of our women. Do you find illness in your mind? If so, we shall afford you with the best of doctors."
When Al-Waleed had exhausted the offers, RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam asked him politely, "Have you completed what you wanted to say?"
Al-Waleed said, “Yes."
Then, in the sweetest of recitation, RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam began reciting from the beginning of Surah Fussilat:
Haa-Meem / A revelation from [Allah] the Merciful, the Mercy-Giving / A book whose verses have been spelled out – a Qur'an in Arabic for people who know / [Sent as] Good news and warning, but most of them turn away, so they hear not / And they say, "Our hearts are under covering (screened) from that to which you invite us; and in our ears is deafness, and between us and you is a screen, so work (on your way), verily we are working [on our way].
Abu Al-Waleed's eyes widened as he listened to the recitation of he whom the Qur'an was revealed to. RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam continued to recite until he came to the verse:
But if they turn away, then say, "I warn you of a destructive, awful torment, such as the destructive awful torment of [the tribes of] Aad and Thamud.”
Al-Waleed leapt forward and covered the mouth of RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam for fear that the saa'iqah (destructive awful torment) would befall them right then and there.
Now come back to the 21st century. You turn on your computer and a signal flashes on your screen: You have 1 message waiting. Is it your friend? Has that online order been shipped? You can't wait to find out. Or is that 'annoying' mailing list that sends out a verse-a-day that many delete without looking twice?
Dear brothers and sisters, there is an unread message waiting for us. It is Al-Qur'an al-Kareem, the Noble Recitation. And its author is our Creator!
Let us randomly ask Muslim communities around the world the following question: Why did Allah reveal the Qur'an? Many a community will respond without hesitation, "The Qur'an was revealed to bless us." But is that the correct response?
The Qur'an is blessed and blessed is he who recites it. However, listen carefully to the following verse, for we shall find out that this blessedness is not the reason the Qur'an was revealed. Allah ta’ala says:
[This is] a blessed book which We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], that they might reflect upon its verses and that those of understanding would be reminded (As-Saad 38/29). Barakah is a characteristic of the Qur'an, not the purpose of revelation. The purpose of revelation is so that "its verses will be contemplated and acted upon!"
The misconception that the place of Qur'an in our lives is one of barakah and barakah alone, has many manifestations. We find many Muslim families bent on the desire to have their children read the Qur'an in Arabic once, yes ONCE, in their lifetime. We find communities that print their Qur'ans in 30 separate parts so that they can recite it when someone dies; this is a well known fact. Or, when they some wealthy person dies, they donate $100,000 of their inheritance (money that belongs to their children) to print a million copies of pocketsize Surah Yaa-Seen (not Surah Maa'idah or any other surah, just Surah Yaa-Seen) so that they can get the 'barakah' of people who read for 'barakah'. Nay, we've misunderstood the role of the Qur'an in our lives and the message is still waiting to be read. This is our topic for today: When are we to understand Allah's message? Do you know which language the Qur'an would have been revealed if the majority of speakers were taken into account? No, not English. It would have been a Mandarin Chinese Qur'an! But the Qur'anic language is not open to the whims of humans. Nay, Allah ta'ala chose a pure and blessed Arabic. It is we who must strive to understand it:
A book whereof the verses are explained in detail - a Qur'an in Arabic for people who know (Fussilat 41/3). The Qur'an is truth in its purest form. Falsehood cannot touch it. Allah ta'ala says:
Falsehood cannot approach it from in front, nor from behind. It is a revelation from One Wise and Praised (Fussilat 41/42).
The Qur'an is the siraat al-mustaqeem, the straight path which we ask for every day in salah:
Guide us to the straight path (Al-Fatihah 1/6).
All we have to do is turn the very next page, and we'll discover the straight path. Allah ta'ala begins speaking about this book wherein there is no doubt, and then characterizes it:
A guide [what we were asking for] for the God-Fearing (Al Baqarah 2/2).
Ali radi Allahu anhu said, "As-siraat al-mustaqeem, the straight path, is the Qur'an!"
The Qur'an is the rope of Allah that we are ordered to hold fast to:
And hold firmly to the rope of Allah, and be not divided (A’le-Imran 3/103).
Ibn Abbas said: "Hold firmly to the rope of Allah, for verily the rope of Allah is the Qur'an" (Ibn Katheer).
The Qur'an is the best speech:
Allah has sent down the best of statements, a book, its parts resembling each other in goodness and truth, oft-repeated (Az-Zumar 39/23).
I want you to try and picture ancient Makkah right now. Picture what kind of things you would see. I picture the city getting darker as the sun sets; there are no streetlights. I see a small marketplace; Arabs selling dates, honey, meats, bread. I do not hear the sound of clocks ticking or distant cars; I hear pigeons squawking, donkeys whining, and Arabs chatting. I do not feel the softness of cotton and acrylic that I wear now; my skin is very harsh, deeply tanned. I recline on hard mud floors, and sleep under the moon. In that condition, a man is claiming that he is the Prophet of Allah. As-saadiq, al-ameen – the truthful one, the trustworthy Muhammad.
Imagine yourself in this state; you've believed in him and you go to hear the guidance of the Qur'an, to hear the recitation from he whom the Qur'an was revealed to. I ask you dear brothers and sisters, how deeply would you listen to the message in such a state? What has happened to us that we do not want to hear Allah's message with such passion. During Ramadan, we have good brothers who lead the Salat-ul-Taraweeh. They recite the Qur'an and make the du'a and once in a while, tears overtake the words they recite. One of the brothers once came up to me with his eyes misty, and a sheet of paper and pen in his hands. He said, "Muhammad, I want you to translate for me everything the Imam is saying in his dua."
Caught off guard, I shrugged and said, “You want me to translate the whole thing here in the hallway?"
He replied, "Yes, because we're Muslim too. If it makes the Imam cry, it would make us cry too ... if we only knew what it meant!"
As he spoke, tears overtook him. The words locked in my mind, "If only we knew what it meant."
Allah ta'ala says in the Qur'an:
And the Messenger has said, "O my Lord, indeed my people have taken this Qur'an as a thing [abandoned]" (Al-Furqan 25/30).
How is the Qur'an abandoned?
1. The Qur'an is abandoned in our lives when we do not believe in it anymore. When we prefer listening and watching 135 channels by satellite, but if the Qur'an were to accidentally play, we would not listen to it or perhaps rush to shut it off (of course after one complete Ayah - can't be disrespectful now can we).
2. The Qur'an is abandoned when a person does not care to learn Allah's message in the Qur’an.
3. The Qur'an is abandoned when we leave its laws and instead turn to the laws of the British and the Italian to dictate justice to us.
This will be the Prophet's charge, what are we doing to create an alibi?
"My heart is hard as a rock. I do not feel any spirituality." This is a statement we hear over and over again in our communities. Dear brothers and sisters, I am going to shock you now with a verse of Qur'an. It's going to tell us the reason why our hearts have become like this:
Has the time not come for those who have believed that their hearts humble to the remembrance of Allah and what has come down of the truth? And let them not be like those who were given the Scripture before, and a long period passed over them, so their hearts hardened; and many of them are defiantly disobedient (Al-Hadeed 57/16). Notice, that it is an admonishment from Allah that our hearts are not humbling to the Qur'an. Dear brothers and sisters, Allah is telling us that it is OUR FAULT when we do not feel that spirituality. How much time has passed since we last contemplated the Qur'an? 20 years? 50 years? When are we to understand?
Ibn Katheer comments: “In this verse, Allah is forbidding us from imitating those that were charged with carrying Allah's books before us, the Jews and the Christians. The time they spent away from the books went on and on until they changed the books – put it behind their backs, and turned to their priests and monks whom their worshipped instead of Allah. It was then that their hearts rusted away.”
As a poet once said:
Al-Qur'an, the key to happiness' door.
Al-Qur'an, the only rope of salvation.
Don't leave it or abandon it.
Allah will forget you if you forget Him.
If any of us are planning to watch TV all summer long, let me tell you TV guide's best bet: It's called the OFF button! Our time is too valuable for that. How can we waste our time when we know for a fact that when we get up to pray the 2 rakaat of Jumah, more then 85% of the congregation will not know what the verses mean?
Language is such a blessed thing; indeed the variations of our tongues is one of the signs of Allah ta'ala. Humans took this divine gift and created languages for those that cannot vocalize a single vowel – sign language. We devised a language of dots and dashes – Morse code. Yet, if we look at the most illiterate countries of the world, we will find most of them to be Muslim majority countries; all this in disregard to the fact that the first word revealed to us by Allah was "Read".
"To move the world, we must first move ourselves." ‘Uqbah ibn Aamir radi Allahu anhu recalls, “RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam once came to us while we were sitting on the Suffah and asked, ‘Would any of you like to go to the market of But-haan or Aqeeq (two market places that sold camels near Madinah) and fetch from there two she-camels of the finest breed without committing any sin or severing a tie of kinship?’ We replied, ‘Every one of us would love to do so.’ RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam then said, ‘Going to the masjid and reciting or teaching two aayaat of the Qur'an is more precious than two she-camels; three aayaat are most precious than three she-camels. And that similarly reciting or teaching of four aayaat is better than four she-camels and an equal number of camels” (Ahmad, Muslim and Abu Dawood).
Here in the United States, Allah ta'ala has blessed our communities with many professionals and educated people. With all our wealth, conveniences, and intelligence, we have no excuse but to excel in our drive to learn Islam and learn it properly.