Monday, July 17, 2017

Study notes : Soorah Al Hijr [Qur'an 15:10-30]

[ Note: The following are some reflections on texts from the fifteenth Soorah of the Qur'an. We have examined the first ten verses, available at The English translation has not been given, unless otherwise stated, allowing the reader to look up the translation of their choice.]


وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا مِن قَبْلِكَ فِي شِيَعِ الأَوَّلِينَ

As stated in our previous article, just as God's message has been ever consistent, the response of the leadership of rejection [A-immah al Kufr] has, likewise, been consistent. Ever demanding of what amounts to little more than magic tricks, diminishing the real import of the Divine imperative.

[15: 11-15]

وَمَا يَأْتِيهِم مِّن رَّسُولٍ إِلاَّ كَانُواْ بِهِ يَسْتَهْزِؤُونَ
كَذَلِكَ نَسْلُكُهُ فِي قُلُوبِ الْمُجْرِمِينَ
لاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِهِ وَقَدْ خَلَتْ سُنَّةُ الأَوَّلِينَ
وَلَوْ فَتَحْنَا عَلَيْهِم بَابًا مِّنَ السَّمَاء فَظَلُّواْ فِيهِ يَعْرُجُونَ
لَقَالُواْ إِنَّمَا سُكِّرَتْ أَبْصَارُنَا بَلْ نَحْنُ قَوْمٌ مَّسْحُورُونَ

If one were to read other places within the Qur'an or even the Christian Bible ( Matthew 16:1, Luke 11:16], this basic pattern is the same.

Notice here in verse 12 that the "hearts of the criminals" is said to have been corrupted, so that they cannot and will not change. This assertion has been given repeatedly in the Qur'an [see 2: 7-17 for a clear series of examples]. It is important to remember that "Mujrimeen" [Criminals] and Kaafireen [Rejectors] are terms referring to the same reality. In other words, these are synonymous expressions, and are referring to the A-immah al Kufr. They reject the signs of Allah with all sorts of excuses.


وَلَقَدْ جَعَلْنَا فِي السَّمَاء بُرُوجًا وَزَيَّنَّاهَا لِلنَّاظِرِينَ
وَحَفِظْنَاهَا مِن كُلِّ شَيْطَانٍ رَّجِيمٍ

إِلاَّ مَنِ اسْتَرَقَ السَّمْعَ فَأَتْبَعَهُ شِهَابٌ مُّبِينٌ
There are similar passages in the Qur'an. One example reads: " The Adorned Sky, adorned with heavenly bodies [Kawaakib]...rebellious devils  being unable to get a full hearing of Al Mala' Al A'laa ( high assembly), chased away by a burning flame." ( Q 37:6-10).

It is popularly imagined that these verses are referring to Shayateen being chased away from the gathering of angels in an heavenly assembly by a comet.

Looking at context, and after many years of pondering upon these set of Ayaat, this writer is of the view that the text is not talking about the sky, but rather, about the Qur'an itself!

In other words, criminally minded folks, be they with a "Muslim" name or a "Non Muslim" name, with wrong-headed interpretations of the Qur'an eventually gets discovered, and any success they have will be short lived.

It does not matter if those engaged in wrongful or deliberate misrepresentations are from the Khawaarij( ft.1) of old or their modern day manifestations in the form of ISIS, or if they are from the Right-wing bigots posting video commentary, they eventually become discovered and their misrepresentation will not hold long term traction.

It is interesting to note here that The Prophet Muhammad Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam is reported to have said "My Ummah will not agree upon that which is misguidance". [Tirmidhee]

In other words, while elements of deviance and disagreement will always be in the Muslim community, as with any community, the core principles and teachings are all agreed upon. For Muslims, that agreement is manifested in things from the same prayer, same scripture, same pillars, and so forth.

If the vast majority are saying, for example, that the sex slavery reportedly practiced by ISIS is incorrect, and that terrorism is contrary to religious ethics, that should be an evidence that it is the vast majority got it right!


وَالأَرْضَ مَدَدْنَاهَا وَأَلْقَيْنَا فِيهَا رَوَاسِيَ وَأَنبَتْنَا فِيهَا مِن كُلِّ شَيْءٍ مَّوْزُونٍ

وَجَعَلْنَا لَكُمْ فِيهَا مَعَايِشَ وَمَن لَّسْتُمْ لَهُ بِرَازِقِينَ

The Qur'an is from the one who has made the Earth, and provides for all. Allah's provision reaches all things. We invite a reader to go to a zoo, or to a community garden, and have the custodians explain the processes of farming and gardening, the reader will reach the conclusion that God provides for all.

Revelation is often connected to the natural world.

"The Merciful [God], Teacher of the Qur'an, He created humanity, He taught man articulate expression. The Sun and The Moon operate on a course predetermined." [Q 55:1-5]

"Read! In the name of your Lord who created, created man from a clot, Read, and your Lord is the Most Generous, Who teaches by means of the Pen, teaches man what he did not know." [Q 96:1-5]


وَإِن مِّن شَيْءٍ إِلاَّ عِندَنَا خَزَائِنُهُ وَمَا نُنَزِّلُهُ إِلاَّ بِقَدَرٍ مَّعْلُومٍ
وَأَرْسَلْنَا الرِّيَاحَ لَوَاقِحَ فَأَنزَلْنَا مِنَ السَّمَاء مَاء فَأَسْقَيْنَاكُمُوهُ وَمَا أَنتُمْ لَهُ 
وَإنَّا لَنَحْنُ نُحْيِي وَنُمِيتُ وَنَحْنُ الْوَارِثُونَ
وَلَقَدْ عَلِمْنَا الْمُسْتَقْدِمِينَ مِنكُمْ وَلَقَدْ عَلِمْنَا الْمُسْتَأْخِرِينَ 

The source of the Qur'an, as well as for provison of all, is God, The All-Knowing.

The Qur'an functions as a clarifier [See Q 27:76 for example] and does so particularly on issues relating to God concept [see Q 2:255, 24:35, and 112:1-4], contrasting to the views of some religions, which depict God in language suggesting 'resting' [Genesis 2:2] or that God is the knower of headlines, not small details [ such as in the Hindu sect Brahman Kumaris]


وَإِنَّ رَبَّكَ هُوَ يَحْشُرُهُمْ إِنَّهُ حَكِيمٌ عَلِيمٌ

An obvious reference to the day of Judgement. It is important to note here that this is a fundamental Islamic teaching. If one denies that there will be a time in which one is held accountable before Allah, that person has a defective understanding of the faith.


وَلَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الإِنسَانَ مِن صَلْصَالٍ مِّنْ حَمَإٍ مَّسْنُونٍ
وَالْجَآنَّ خَلَقْنَاهُ مِن قَبْلُ مِن نَّارِ السَّمُومِ

The Nation of Islam [NOI] uses these verses, as well as some other texts [although they tend to use Biblical allusions more] to support a racist interpretation.

Their belief system includes a story that Whites were created by an evil Black Scientist named Yacub. In essence, according to them, Whites are actually Non Human!(Ft.2)

"And Indeed, We [Allah] have created humanity from Salsaal, from Hamaa-in Masnoon."

Salsaal: "Dried clay that emits a sound when struck". The Qur'an translator and commentator Muhammad Asad takes this to mean "an allusion to articulate well as the brittleness of his existence." [The Message of the Qur'an, 1980, Gibraltar]

Hamaa: "dark or black clay". This is found in Tafseer Al Jalalayn(ft.3]  as well as other Tafaseer.

Masnoon: "Shaped into human form, hollowed out"(ft.4)

Here, we have some matter-of-fact descriptions of human creation. Other verses highlight other items, such as blood and water.

These verses should not be read in a racial or racist way! Indeed, the Qur'an (Q 30:22) says that the different colors and languages exist by God's will, as evidence of his power and artistry, and Q 49:13, the most famous Quranic passage on issues involving race and tribe, says that his making people as different groupings allow for learning!

In other words, the interaction between the different human societies or sub-societies benefit all involved. Be it in food, music, clothing, any field.

It is also important to share the observation that those who seek racial division and advocate hatred based on color, language and the like, are people who have been influenced by devilish influences. It is the view and experience of this writer that such voices are power seeking, power hungry, irrational beings at their core, not in need of hatred, but of spiritual reformation.

Verse 27 tells us briefly about the creation of the Jinn, in contrast to that of humankind. It is imagined that Jinn are equal to Genies, made famous by legends and of course Disney movies. It is impossible to verify one way or the other most of those tales, so it is important to stick as much as possible to what is contained in the Qur'an and authentic Sunnah.

"Jinn" basically means "hidden". It is a life form or force whose reality we cannot fully grasp. It's nature is fiery, in contrast to the "pottery type" of nature humans have!

وَإِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلاَئِكَةِ إِنِّي خَالِقٌ بَشَرًا مِّن صَلْصَالٍ مِّنْ حَمَإٍ مَّسْنُونٍ
فَإِذَا سَوَّيْتُهُ وَنَفَخْتُ فِيهِ مِن رُّوحِي فَقَعُواْ لَهُ سَاجِدِينَ
فَسَجَدَ الْمَلآئِكَةُ كُلُّهُمْ أَجْمَعُونَ

Iblees is made from the fire, he is a Jinn creature. He saw himself as superior to Adam, which is why he refuses to prostrate to Adam even though ordered by God to do so [15:30].

Iblees is not an angel, he was in angelic company, but he was a Jinn. Verse 29 tells us Allah breathed into Adam "My spirit", a referece to the breath of life.

Iblees-in a sense- is the first racist. The Quranic narrative is so strong, and here, looking at vv.26-27 before, it seems an even stronger evidence is being provided to show that those playing racial or nationalistic politics are actually playing from Satan's own playbook!

It is important not to fall into those traps. The Prophet said that among the signs of the nearing of Judgement day, one would find "Knowledge in low estimation, and an abundance of ignorance." (Yaqillul 'ilmu wa yaktharul Jahl].

The "Ignorance" spoken of in the Qur'an and Ahadeeth has many aspects. A good way to begin to understand what the texts speak of is to consider the age that preceded the Prophet's emergence on the Arabian peninsula. Idolatry and tribal wars, but also racism and tribalism [which Muslims call traditionally 'Asabiyyah].

The presence of the Prophet -upon whom be peace and blessings- as well as the Quranic revelation-did much to remove those diseases from the hearts of the Arabians of that time. "Muslims" should not have those issues anymore, but unfortunately we do!

Racism of all types exists, and is manifested in varying ways. Sometimes it is those proclaiming to be victims of racism that are, in fact, the biggest promoters of it!

If such folks claim an allegience to Islam, it is important for them to look inward rather than always playing the victim card. It is important to have one's faith and confidence in Allah and in Allah's words, above the calls of others. Islam is a faith that requires not only outward submission, but internal conformity to the Divine Imperatives!


[1] The Kharijies were an early extremist trend which emerged in Southern Iraq, roughly the same location ISIS as a movement came from. They were famous for their views that they alone possessed religious truth, and launched a bloody campaign for power. One of their members even killed the Prophet's own cousin, 'Ali ibn Abi Taalib, while the latter was praying in a Kufa, Iraq  Mosque [661 CE].

[2] It is possible that Elijah Muhammad [who records the Yacub account in his Message to the Blackman] meant for the account to be a dramatized social commentary, nonetheless, it has become a doctrinal teaching that still finds expression in today's NOI led by Minister Louis Farrakhan.

While it seems to this writer that Farrakhan has tried to distance himself from that rhetoric of the past, nonetheless commentaries on it still appears from time to time, composed by such persons as the late Tynetta Muhammad and Jabril Muhammad,  in his weekly publication, The Final Call. 

[3] Tafseer Al Jalalayn is a brief classical commentary, by two scholars carrying the same first name {Jalaluddin Al Mahalli in 1459 and his student Jalaluddin As Suyooti, his student, completing it is 1505}. The edition we have consulted is 2007, Damasus, Darul Kalam At-Teeb.

[4] Tafseer wa Bayaanu Kalimaat Al Qur'an, by the famed Egyptian scholar, Shaikh Hasanayn Muhammad Makhlouf (d. 1990]. The edition consulted is 2006, Amman, Daar Usaama.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Study notes: Brief thoughts on Quranic texts [Soorah Al Hijr 15:1-10]

Note: Below is a summary of some thoughts generated upon study of verses from the Qur'an's fifteenth chapter, known as Soorah Al Hijr. The Arabic text is given below, and we have not included translation, except where noted within the article. This encourages the English language reader-if necessary- to read the translation of their choice for themselves. This article is not intended to be an authoritative Tafseer [commentary or explanation], but rather, an example of Tafheem [attempt at understanding] and Tadabbur, pondering upon the Quranic text. This also functions as an edited version  of our 7/2/17  presentation at our weekly Quranic discussion in the Mosque.


الَرَ تِلْكَ آيَاتُ الْكِتَابِ وَقُرْآنٍ مُّبِينٍ

As in many Soowar, we find rather odd letter combinations starting out the verse. Anyone acquainted with the Qur'an and the traditional Tafseer literature will know that there has been many theories expressed as to what these letter combinations [known as Al Muqata'aat] mean, as well as explanations that have been given in unorthodox writings [such as Rashad Khalifa's view that they are actually letters with numerical value [in the Abjad system], with a code that points to the world ending in the year 2280! (ft.1)

The more authoritative Tafaseer will usually have the expression "God knows best the meaning" in connection with Al Muqata'aat. It is the view of this writer that the meaning is actually rather simple and summarized as follows: [1] With only the exception of Soorah Maryam [19:1], the letter combinations [or "initals" if you wish] always precede a mention of something regading the Qur'an itself, and here is no different. "Alif-Laam, Raa, These are the signs of the Scripture, and a reading that is perfectly clear [Qur'aanin Mubeen]" . (2) Therefore, the Muqata'aat are Attention getters, taking our attention to that which follows it, in this case, to the value of the Qur'an itself!

This is not a new speculation, Ibn Katheer in his commentary [Tafseer Al Qur'aan Al 'Adheem] mentions this was an explanation advanced by some scholars in his own time [he died in 1373 CE]. While it is true that he does not appear to endorse this view, the fact that he encountered it does tell us that this is not a novel opinion! In our own times, organiztions of importance are better known by their initials, it is the initials in their name which generate the most and quickest attention. FBI, rather than "Federal Bureau of Investigation", CIA, rather than "Central Intelligence Agency" and so forth.


رُّبَمَا يَوَدُّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ لَوْ كَانُواْ مُسْلِمِينَ
ذَرْهُمْ يَأْكُلُواْ وَيَتَمَتَّعُواْ وَيُلْهِهِمُ الأَمَلُ فَسَوْفَ يَعْلَمُونَ
وَمَا أَهْلَكْنَا مِن قَرْيَةٍ إِلاَّ وَلَهَا كِتَابٌ مَّعْلُومٌ

As in many places within this scripture, the term Kuffar [or here Alladheena Kafaroo] does not speak to each and every single Non Muslim, but rather, to what the Qur'an calls "elites" [Al Mala'a] or "The leadership of Kufr" [A-immat al Kufr] [Q 9:12].

The winds of change always, atleast eventually, change in the favor of truth and justice. "Probably, those who reject wish they had been submissive, so let them consume ( Ya'kulu) and enjoy.."

The mission of the Prophets, with almost no exception, is always filled with persecution, slander, killlings, etc, in its initial stages. The Prophets are victims of all the above terrible things, but the tides change over time, in favor of the Prophets.

The term "Known decree" [Kitaabin Ma'loom] shows that when Allah does, in fact, punish a social order, He [Jalla wa 'Alaaa] does so because their crimes are so well known and established that their guilt is beyond doubt.


مَّا تَسْبِقُ مِنْ أُمَّةٍ أَجَلَهَا وَمَا يَسْتَأْخِرُونَ

The Qur'an almost always looks at the big picture. No power can remain longer than God has permitted. This is something shown repeatedly in the Qur'an, and should be an axiomatic truth to a person familiar with the Quranic texts. It is worth noting that the term Ummah, used here, is also used in the Qur'an elsewhere as referring to a single person [as opposed to an entire group. The example of Abraham is in Q 16:120] and even to a time period ( Q 12:45).(FT,2)


وَقَالُواْ يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِي نُزِّلَ عَلَيْهِ الذِّكْرُ إِنَّكَ لَمَجْنُونٌ
لَّوْ مَا تَأْتِينَا بِالْمَلائِكَةِ إِن كُنتَ مِنَ الصَّادِقِينَ
مَا نُنَزِّلُ الْمَلائِكَةَ إِلاَّ بِالحَقِّ وَمَا كَانُواْ إِذًا مُّنظَرِينَ
إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّكْرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ

The Leaders of Rejection//Tyranny [A-Immat al Kufr] are always demanding magic tricks from the Prophets and Messengers of Allah.

The most important issue to remember in this discussion is that the mission and the message of the Prophets are not limited to "religion", but rather, they have social and political implications, Asking for magic tricks is simply a demeaning of the Divine message.

15:8 teaches us that if-in fact- angels would come down, they would not come for the whims of the rejectors, rather, they would come as God's agents of punishment.

15:9 is perhaps the most famous verse in this Soorah. "Indeed, it is We [i.e. Allah] who has sent the Reminder [Adh-Dhikr], and it is We [i.e. Allah] who guard it". It is the most famous ayah in this chapter because it speaks on the status of the Qur'an, and Muslims always quote it to show the textual preservation of the Qur'an.

The context [in particular with verse 6, which also has the word Adh-dhikr] seems to suggest an even deeper meaning, and that is that God's Message has been ever-consistent. The manifestation of God's message may have had differing emphasis depending on time, place and audience, nonethelss it has been consistent in overall point and overall philosophy.

Thus, universally, people of faith find muder to be repulsive, theft to be a criminal act, and have the same overall attitudes on issues relating to social and political order.(ft.3)

This goes along with other Quranic verses, such as "There is no change in the words of Allah" ( Q 6:34).


وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا مِن قَبْلِكَ فِي شِيَعِ الأَوَّلِينَ

The thoughts expressed in connection with verse 9 above provides a basis for which to understand this verse, as well as vv 11-15. Just as God's message has been consistent, the response of the leadership of Rejection has, likewise, been consistent. It has consisted of ridicule, slander, and eventually violence at some levels. Yet, God protects His overall message, and has especially done so with the Last of the Scriptures, given to the Last of the Prophets, the Universal Messenger, Muhammad ibn 'Abdullah, Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam.


(1) Rashad Khalifa (1935-1990), an Egyptian Biochemist, advanced an idea that the entire Quranic corpus was all based on multiples of the number 19, thus, in his view, proving the Divine origin of the Qur'an. However, the text on which he derives his notion (Q 74:30) clearly speaks of Hell, and not the Qur'an. Moreover, it uses feminine pronoun ['Alayhaa] whereas "Qur'an" and words relating to it are masculine pronoun. Khalifa eventually declared himself as a Messenger of God [even signing his letters with the Farsi  term Rasool-e Khuda]. His views on the letter combinations in the Qur'an are to be found in his translation Quran: The Final Testament [1989, Tuscon, Arizona, Islamic Productions, pp613-625].

(2) Shaikh Akram Nadwi explains that the term in Q 12:45, ad-dakara, should be tadhakkara, but here has been changed in addakara because it has the meaning "to make effort to remember". In this case, Joseph's cell-mate, released, took a long time to recall his promise to Joseph to tell the ruler of his status. For more information, see Qur'an 12:42-46.

(3) As an example to prove this assertion, see the Qur'an 17:23-39. The basic moral code of life is given in those verses, a code that-broadly speaking- can be agreed upon by followers of every religion.