we declare Your Perfection above and beyond all: we have no knowledge whatsoever except what You have taught us. No doubt it is You, and You alone that is all Knowledgeable and all Wise. (al-Baqarah, 32)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Pondering over the Quran in light of recent events

The Quran is a magnificent book, full of wisdom, lesson and guidance that is applicable in any era for those who truly seek them. This doesn't come from just reading the Quran casually as one would with any other book. In surah Sad, ayat no 29, Allah Azza wa Jall tells us a principle we should bear in mind about the Quran :

كِتَابٌ أَنْزَلْنَاهُ إِلَيْكَ مُبَارَكٌ لِيَدَّبَّرُوا آيَاتِهِ وَلِيَتَذَكَّرَ أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ
A blessed Book which We have revealed to you (O Muhammad) so that people may ponder over its ayaat, and so that those endowed with insight may take heed. (38: 29)

I was listening to a tafseer of Surah Az-Zalzalah and one of the ayat really struck me deeply. The surah informs us of a day when the Earth will be shaking violently. The day on which it will unleash of it's burdens and will speak of what the people did on its surface. This is of course describing a scene on the Day of Judgement. In ayat no 5, Allah Azza wa Jall explains to us what causes the Earth to act in such a way:

بِأَنَّ رَبَّكَ أَوْحَىٰ لَهَا

Look up most translations and you'll most probably find the ayat translated as "because your Lord inspires it". However, this would be a shallow translation of the ayat. Explaining why this translation isn't accurate will be something very grammatical and is just beyond the scope of this entry, but if you're interested, you'll find the answer in the lecture. Instead, I'll just state the more correct meaning which is given by Ibn Kathir (r.a).

Ibn Kathir says in his tafseer, "it is apparent that the implied meaning here is that He will permit it (the Earth)".

In this statement is a scary reality. You see, when somebody is given a permission, that means the person was just waiting for the moment when he's allowed to do what he wanted to do. In other words, we learn here that the Earth had wanted to shake violently all along. That it has been eagerly waiting for the moment that it will be able to bear witness to all the crimes that people had been committing on its surface, and that the only that is holding it back it the permission of Allah.

Why exactly does the Earth want to shake? This has been explained is surah Ar-Rum

ظَهَرَ الْفَسَادُ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِي النَّاسِ لِيُذِيقَهُمْ بَعْضَ الَّذِي عَمِلُوا لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ
Corruption manifest on land and sea because of that which men's hands have done, that He may make them taste a little bit of that which they have done, in order that they may return (30: 41)

And what do we hear often in the news lately? Natural disasters and corruption. Coincidence?


Friday, April 15, 2011

Amazing facts about the Quran - the book of balance

One of the the themes of the Quran is balance. Allah balances our motivation by telling us to aspire for Jannah, informing us a lot of its great features while at the same time warns us of Hellfire and what a terrible return it is.

This theme can be seen very well in the very first surah in the Quran, the Fatihah. In the Fatihah, we declare Allah as our Lord and we His slaves. We declare his Mercy but also acknowledge his authority. Finally, we ask Him for guidance, the path of which whom He had favoured and ask him to make us not among those who earn His wrath and those who are lost.

On this theme, there are some claims that through a corpus study, some related words are mentioned in the Quran in an equal amount. For instance, the word dunya (this world) and akhirah (the hereafter) is mentioned the exact same number of time throughout the Quran, and so does life and death, day and night, angels and devil, and so on.

Unfortunately, I don't have the resources nor the capacity to confirm any of these claims, so even I would say take the info with a grain of salt. Wallahua'lam - Allah knows best.

I can however, show something that is way more amazing. This occurs in the second surah of the Quran, surah Al-Baqarah, the longest surah in the entire Quran. In this surah, Allah honours us by inaugurating the Muslims as an ummah - a nation - in the beginning portion of ayat 143 of the surah :

وَكَذَٰلِكَ جَعَلْنَاكُمْ أُمَّةً وَسَطًا لِتَكُونُوا شُهَدَاءَ عَلَى النَّاسِ وَيَكُونَ الرَّسُولُ عَلَيْكُمْ شَهِيدًا
Thus have We made of you an Ummah justly balanced that ye might be witnesses over the nations and the Messenger a witness over yourselves (2: 143)

The word that Allah describes the Muslim ummah in this ayat is وَسَطًا which can be translated as middle, balanced, or just - a concept that is at the heart of the teaching of Islam. As I've mentioned earlier, Allah describes our ummah with this word in ayat number 143. Now check out how many ayaat there are in total in surah Al-Baqarah. 286 ayaat. Have you noticed it? Even the position where Allah describes our ummah as a justly balanced nation is perfect - right in the middle of the surah!


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Amazing facts about the Quran - the precision in arrangements

The Quran is a Book full of wisdom. And said wisdom doesn't only show in the contents but also through the way the speech is presented. This is one of the most amazing features of the Quran that is easily overlooked by simply reading it casually - the eloquence of the arrangements of words.

To give a basic example of this, let's look at this ayat from surah An-Nur

يَوْمَ تَشْهَدُ عَلَيْهِمْ أَلْسِنَتُهُمْ وَأَيْدِيهِمْ وَأَرْجُلُهُمْ بِمَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ
On the day when their tongues and their hands and their feet testify against them as to what they used to do (24: 24)

This ayat is referring to a scene of the Day of Judgement. Notice how these words are sequenced here, "their tongue and their hands and their feet". This sequence tells us something. It tells us the order in which our own body parts will testify against us on that Day.

Why is the tongue the first to give the testimony? It's because it's the organ that whether we realise is or not, will commit the most crime. So the tongue will have to give the most testimony. The next one to commit the most crime will be the hands and finally, the feet which only lead the hands and tongue to where they are used.

Just in this sequence is a profound lesson for us to be aware of out tongue the most. SubhanAllah.

Here's something a bit more complex. We find in two surah where Allah Azza wa Jall says something very similar :

وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا أَوْلَادَكُمْ مِنْ إِمْلَاقٍ ۖ نَحْنُ نَرْزُقُكُمْ وَإِيَّاهُمْ
and do not kill your children because of poverty, We provide for you and them (6:151)

وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا أَوْلَادَكُمْ خَشْيَةَ إِمْلَاقٍ ۖ نَحْنُ نَرْزُقُهُمْ وَإِيَّاكُمْ
and do not kill your children due to fear of poverty, We provide for them and for you” (17:31)

It's easy to dismiss the small difference between "We provide for you and them" and "We provide them and you" and say they're the same thing said differently, but as I've mentioned in another post, the Quran is hyper sensitive even in its sentence structure.

In the first ayat, Allah Azza wa Jall says "do not kill you children BECAUSE OF poverty", indicating the family is already poor so the first thing they worry about is themselves. So He says "We provide for you" first and "them" i.e the children later.

In the second ayat, Allah Azza wa Jall says "do not kill your children DUE TO FEAR of poverty", indicating a family who fears of poverty after having children for fear of not having enough to provide for the children. This family is thinking about the children first, so He says "We provide for them (the children)" first and "you" later.

SubhanAllah! See how perfect the words are arranged? Again, I would like to say here as I've said in a previous post; It is impossible for such perfection in speech to be uttered verbally without some kind of draft. But that is exactly how this Quran was revealed. An evidence that this Quran is no speech of a man but the speech of the Lord Himself, revealed through the mouth the Messenger, Muhammad s.a.w.

The Quran is like a gold mine that is full of hidden gems of wisdom. There is just no end to how much wealth we can gain out of it. We only need to start putting effort into it.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Amazing facts about the Quran - Lost in Translation

In every surah that begins with the disjointed letter, the very next thing that will be mentioned is the Quran itself along with a certain feature of the Quran.

الم . ذَٰلِكَ الْكِتَابُ لَا رَيْبَ ۛ فِيهِ ۛ هُدًى لِلْمُتَّقِينَ
Alif Laam Miim. That is the book, there is no doubt in it. Guidance for the muttaqeen (2: 1-2)

يس . وَالْقُرْآنِ الْحَكِيمِ
Yaa Siin. By the Quran, full of wisdom (36: 1-2)

In surah Yuusuf, we find

الر ۚ تِلْكَ آيَاتُ الْكِتَابِ الْمُبِينِ . إِنَّا أَنْزَلْنَاهُ قُرْآنًا عَرَبِيًّا لَعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ
Alif Laam Raa. These are the ayaat of the book that make things clear. For sure, we have sent it down, an Arabic Quran so that you may understand. (12: 1-2)

In these ayaat, it is clear that the Arabic Language is an inseparable feature of the Quran. While it is possible to recapture some of the messages of the Quran in another language, the beauty of the Arabic Quran would be lost in translation.

There are many things that showcases the beauty of the Quran in Arabic, but here I would like to show one specific example that even a person who doesn't know much Arabic like me can appreciate. Allah Azza wa Jall says in surah Al-Muddathir :

وَرَبَّكَ فَكَبِّرْ
Declare the greatness only of your Lord (74: 3)

In the Quran, the letter وَ has as many as 21 functions. One of them, such as the one used in the ayaat above is to separate one sentence from another. Think of it as the full stop and capital letter in English.

So, the sentence which really carries meaning in this ayaat is رَبَّكَ فَكَبِّرْ
This is truly amazing, but you might not immediately notice anything. Now, let's try to spell out the sentence letter by letter.

رب ب ك ف ك ب ب ر

Notice something? The whole sentence is spelled the same even if spelled backwards. In English, this is called a pallindrome. Try writing 'Declare the greatness only of your Lord' that reads the same backwards and forwards in any other language. It's not possible.

Another such example can be found in surah Yaasiin, ayat no 40 in which Allah Azza wa Jall tells us : "It is not for the sun to overtake the moon, nor does the night outstrip the day. They each float in an orbit"

The fact that this is mentioned some 1400 years ago when men hadn't a clue about the sciences of the universe is amazing enough, but this isn't the topic of this article. Instead, let's examine the last sentence in the ayat

وَكُلٌّ فِي فَلَكٍ يَسْبَحُونَ
They each float in an orbit (34: 40)

يَسْبَحُونَ means 'float' and this sentence explains the fact that the sun and the moon both float in their own set orbit. Let's separate the letters of the phrase that comes before 'float'.

ك ل ف ي ف ل ك

See how the letters 'orbit' around the letter ي - in a sentence that gives the imagery of objects floating in an orbit. How amazing is that!


These are but small examples of what is missing from a translation of the Quran. As was mentioned earlier in the ayaat from surah Yusuf, Allah Himself says that He sent down an Arabic Quran so that WE may understand. So to get the full breadth of understanding and appreciation of this book, we really owe it to ourselves to learn the language of the Quran.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Amazing facts about the Quran - the usage of 'those who believe' & 'believers'

Alhamdulillah, after studying the Quran for some time, I've picked up a few amazing facts about the Quran that I was never even aware of before. I'd like to share a few of them which are easy enough to understand that even a dummy like me could feel relatively confident to write about.

InshaAllah, this will be the first of a series of posts on this topic. I pray that Allah give me the ability to express my thoughts clearly and give us the proper understanding of His book. And with that, allow me to begin my post properly.

* * * * * *

In the Quran, you will find Muslims being addressed in two ways

الَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا (those who believe)
and الْمُؤْمِنُونَ (believers)

If one were to read it casually, it is entirely possible to think that the two are merely two different ways to say the exact same thing. After all, it is common knowledge for an author to use this technique to avoid the text from sounding repetitive. Even we do this all the time just in our assignments.

However, this isn't the case for the Quran. The Quran is hyper sensitive about it's choice of words, sentence structure, and in some cases, even how the words are spelled in each ayaat. With this rule in mind, you'll need to realise that where the Quran is concerned, even though you'd think they mean they same but 'those who believe' and 'believers' aren't interchangeable terms.

So what is the difference between الَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا and الْمُؤْمِنُونَ
With 'those who believe', imaan (belief), is used as a verb while with 'believers', imaan is used as a noun. In the Arabic language, a verb is associated with time - a similar concept to the English tenses - whereas a noun is timeless. In other words, you can say that a verb isn't stable in that it changes with time while a noun is something that is concrete and unchanging.

This means that 'those who believe' are people like you and me whose imaan fluctuates all the time Therefore, you will sometimes find some negative commentaries directed towards 'those who believe' in some ayaat. For example :

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا لِمَ تَقُولُونَ مَا لَا تَفْعَلُونَ
O you who believe! Why do you say what you do not do (61:2)

The 'believers' on the other hand are the hire echelons of Muslims such as the sahabah whose imaan has matured and became firm. Read through the entire Quran and you will never find anything bad said towards this group. You will find only good things mentioned about the believers. For example in the following ayaat:

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ.الَّذِينَ هُمْ فِي صَلَاتِهِمْ خَاشِعُونَ
Most certainly the believers have already attained success. Those whom in their prayer khushuu' (23: 1-2)

These are only two of the many ayaat where these terms are used. Interestingly, you will find a remarkable consistency throughout the entire Quran with how the two terms are used. Such a consistent style of speech would be an amazing feat even in this day and age where an author can use the computer to make drafts to check and recheck the text for consistency and even the best authors today have editors to help them in this process.

But the Quran wasn't originally revealed as a book. It was revealed in the form of speech without any drafts or editors and was only much later compiled verbatim as a written text. Not to mention that the Quran took almost 23 year to be fully completed. Think about it, most of us can't even be consistent in our speech with what we said in a period of a week, much less in 23 years.

This perfection of the Quran, it's attention to the minutest of details and to remain ever consistent is one example of an evidence to solidify the fact that the Quran can't be the word of a man.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

If I had only known you sooner...

I was brought up reciting the Quran since my early years. I can still remember how I loathed that moment when my Quran teacher would come to my house at 6, because that was the time that cartoons would air on TV (namely, Garfield). The Quran to me then was just words to be recited.

And then years later, I went to an Islamic school. I was taught some tafsir of the Quran (among other Islamic knowledge). Then, everything was about memorisation. I memorised a lot and have also forgotten a lot. The Quran to me then was just another subject that I needed to pass.

Then I went to college. I had so much time to do so much things but very, very little was spent on the Quran. Occasionally, seemingly out of whim, I would read its translation (which at the time I thought was tafsir) and then put it back where it was. The Quran to me then was just another book in the locker.

It wasn't until years later that I started to get really acquainted with the Quran. I started to listen to lectures about it, memorised it and read various tafasir books. The Quran to me now, is becoming the dearest thing to me. It lifts me when I'm down, guides me when I'm lost and gives me counsel whenever I'm in need. It shows me how to live my life.

Alhamdullilah - All thanks and praises be to Allah for guiding me to His path. Were it not for His mercy, I would have deviated from Him for sure.

Looking back now, I can't help but to feel regret that I hadn't developed this relationship with the Quran earlier in my life. Alas, what's past is past. However, I will try my best to impart the appreciation of the Quran that I've developed to the future generations so that they will not share the same regret I feel.

This is a responsibility that every muslim carries.


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