Revelation and its True Nature
By Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani
Since the Holy Quran was revealed to our beloved prophet Sayyiduna Muhammad al-Mustafa (upon him blessings and peace) by means of wahi (revelation), an understanding of some particulars about wahi is imperative at the very outset of delving into the study of the Quran and its exegesis.
The Need for Revelation
Every Muslim knows that Allah Almighty sent man into this world as a matter of testing him and that in return for his being obligated with certain duties the entire universe was placed at his service. For this reason, man, once he is in the world, must do two things:
Make the best use of this world and of things created in it. While using this world to his advantage, keep the injunctions of Allah Almighty in sight and do nothing that goes against His will and pleasure. For these two functions man needs knowledge. Therefore, unless he knows the reality of this world, the properties of different things, and the manner in which they can be put to use, he cannot use anything in this world to his advantage. Likewise, unless and until he knows the will of Allah Almighty as to what pleases Him and what displeases Him, it will be impossible for him to lead a life in line with the will of Allah Almighty.
Allah Almighty, along with the creation of man, created three things through which he could continue receiving knowledge of the above-mentioned matters of concern. These are:
1. The five senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch.
3. Revelation (wahi)
Consequently, man discovers many things through his senses, many others through reason, and the knowledge of things he cannot attain through these two sources are bestowed upon him through wahi.
The arrangement between these three sources of knowledge is such that each one has its limits and a particular sphere of activity beyond which it does not work. In natural sequence, the knowledge of things man collects through his senses cannot be deduced through bland reason. For instance, one knows by seeing a wall with one’s eyes that its color is white. But, should one close their eyes and try to discover the color of the wall on the sole strength of their reason, it would be impossible. Similarly, the knowledge of things that comes through reason cannot be discovered by senses alone. For instance, one cannot discover who made the wall by simply seeing it with one’s eyes or touching it with one’s hands. Reason is needed to arrive at that conclusion.
In short, reason gives no guidance as far as the five senses work efficiently, and when the five senses become helpless reason starts to function. But even the guidance given by reason is not unlimited. It too has its limits. There are things the knowledge of which can neither be acquired through senses nor through reason. For instance, to find out how that very wall can be used to please Allah Almighty and in what manner of its use will it displease Him, neither the senses nor reason can be of use here. In order to provide man the answer to such questions, the source that Allah Almighty prescribed is what is known as wahi (revelation). The method it follows is that Allah Almighty selects one of His servants, ordains him as His messenger, and then to him He reveals His Word. This Word is wahi.
It should thus be clear that wahi is the highest source of knowledge for man which offers him the answer to questions about life which cannot be solved by means of reason and the senses but which are nonetheless necessary to know. It should further be apparent that reason and perception alone are not sufficient to show man the way. It is rather all the more necessary, almost inevitable, that divine revelation be there for his guidance. Since wahi is needed where reason does not function, it is therefore not necessary that everything communicated through wahi be compulsively comprehended through reason.
On the contrary, as reason is of no help in ascertaining the color of some object since that is the job of the senses, so is the gracious transmission of knowledge of many religious beliefs the sole prerogative of wahi and not of reason. Furthermore, trusting reason alone for their comprehension is not sound or correct.
To begin with, it is totally senseless to discuss the issue of wahi with a person who, Allah forbid, does not accept the very existence of Allah. But, for a person who believes in the existence of Allah Almighty and has faith in His perfect power, it is not at all difficult to understand that wahi is a rational need, that it is possible, and that it is real. If one has faith in the fact that the universe has been created by an absolutely powerful entity and that He is the One who has sent man down here to accomplish some particular mission, how then is it possible to imagine that He, after once having created man, would leave him off in total darkness without explaining to him why he came into the world, what his duties were, where he was destined to go, and how he could realize the purpose of his life? How could a person, sound in intellect, send one of his servants on a trip with a designated mission without ever telling him the purpose of the trip while he is leaving, nor explaining it to him later on through some message? When a man of ordinary reason cannot do such a thing, how then can it be imagined with respect to the most Holy Lord of the Universe under Whose ultimate wisdom the system of all the worlds is functioning? After all, how is it possible that the Being that created such a mind-boggling system composed of the moon, the sun, the sky, the earth, the stars and the planets, would remain unable to institute some arrangement of communication with His servants through which human beings could be given guidance about the purpose of their lives? If one has iman, or faith, in the ultimate wisdom of Allah Almighty then admitting that He did not forsake His servants in darkness and ignorance will become all the more necessary. Surely, He has instituted some regular system for their guidance. This regular system of guidance is known as wahi (revelation) and risalah (prophethood).
It is thus crystal clear that wahi is not only a religious belief but also a rational need the rejection of which amounts to a rejection of the ultimate wisdom of Allah Almighty.
The Modes of Descent
This sacred sequence of wahi (revelation) and risalah (prophethood) came to an end with the last of the prophets, Muhammad al-Mustafa (upon him blessings and peace). Nevermore shall wahi descend upon any man nor is there any need for it. Wahi used to come to the Holy Prophet (Upon him blessings and peace) in several forms and modes. In a hadith from Sahih al-Bukhari, Sayyidah ‘A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) says that Sayyiduna Harith ibn Hisham (may Allah be pleased with him) once asked the Holy Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) as to how wahi came to him. The Holy Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) replied that “there are times when I hear something like the chiming of bells and this mode of wahi is the hardest on me. After that, when this chime-sequence ends, that which has been said by the sound seems to have been committed to my memory. And then there are times when the angel appears before me in the shape of a man.” (Sahih al-Bukhari 2:1)
As regards the likening of the sound of wahi to the sound of bells in the hadith cited above, Imam Muhi al-Din Ibn al-‘Arabi has provided two explanations. First, the sound of wahi is continuous like the sound of a bell which does not break off in between. Second, when a bell rings continuously it is generally difficult for the listener to determine the direction of its sound because its sound seems to be coming from all directions. And the Divine Word too carries with it the distinction that it has no one single direction. In fact, the sound gives the impression of being heard from all directions. A correct realization of this phenomenon is just not possible without auditory experience. However, for ease of comprehension the Holy Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) simply likened it to the sound of bells. (Fayd al-Bari 1:19,20)
With the descent of wahi in this mode, the Holy Prophet (Upon him blessings and peace) came under very heavy strain. Sayyidah ‘A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) says towards the end of this very hadith that she had seen the coming of wahi to him during days of extreme winter. When the progression of wahi ceased, his blessed forehead would have already become dripping wet with sweat despite the chilly weather. In yet another narration, Sayyidah ‘A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) relates: “When wahi came to him, his breath would seem to stop, his radiant face would change, turning pale like the branch of a date palm, the front teeth would shiver from cold, and he would perspire so much that its drops would roll down like pearls.” (al-Itqan1:46)
On occasions, so much intensity would be generated in this state of wahi that the animal he would be riding at that time would sit down, wilting under his weight. Once, when he was resting his blessed head on the lap of Sayyiduna Zayd ibn Thabit (may Allah be pleased with him), wahi began to descend. This released so much weight upon Sayyiduna Zayd’s thigh that it seemed like it would break. (Zad al-Ma‘ad 1:18,19)
There were times when a low-volume sound of the revelation could be perceived by others. Sayyiduna ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) says: “When wahi came to him, a sound somewhat similar to the buzzing of honey-bees could be heard close to his luminous face. (Tabwib Musnad Ahmad 20:212)
Under the second mode of wahi an angel would come to him in some human form and deliver Allah’s message. Generally, under such occasions Sayyiduna Jibra’il (upon him be peace) used to come to him in the form of Sayyiduna Dihyah al-Kalbi (may Allah be pleased with him). At other times, he would come in other forms. In any case, this mode of the revelation through Sayyiduna Jibra’il (upon him be peace) appearing in human form was the easiest on the Holy Prophet (upon him blessings and peace). (al-Itqan 1:46)
The third mode of the coming of wahi was when Sayyiduna Jibra’il (upon him be peace) would appear in his original form without having taken the shape of a man. This, however, only occurred thrice in his entire lifetime. The first instance was when the Holy Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) himself wished to see Jibra’il in his real form and shape. The second time, it was during the Mi‘raj (the Ascension to Heaven), and the third time it was at Ajyadd in Makkah during the very early days of prophethood. The first two occurrences stand proven authentically. The last incident, however, suffers from weak chains of authority and is therefore doubtful. (Fath al-Bari 1:18,19)
The fourth mode of revelation is distinguished by being a direct two-way conversation with Allah Almighty. This honor was bestowed upon the Holy Prophet only once, that is on the occasion of the Mi‘raj while awake. Additionally, once in a dream it is reported that the Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) engaged in a conversation with Allah Almighty.
Under the fifth mode of wahi, Sayyiduna Jibra’il (upon him blessings and peace) would, without appearing physically in any form, allow some words of the divine message to fall into his heart. This is technically known as nafh fi ’l-ruh, or blowing into the heart. (Fath al-Bari 1:18,19)
[Taken from the introduction to Mufti Muhammad Shafi‘ al-‘Uthmani’s Ma‘arif al-Qur’an.]
By Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani
Translated by Dr. Swaleh Siddiqui. Revised and Edited by Rafiq Abdur Rehman and Bilal Ali
The Noble Quran is Allah’s Divine Word. Hence it is secure in a Preserved Tablet about which the Quran states:
Rather, [this] Quran is a glorious Heavenly Recitation, [that you receive, O Prophet, and] in a [Heavenly] Tablet, [it is] well-preserved. (al-Buruj, 85:21-22)
From the Preserved Tablet the descension of the Quran took place in two stages. First, it was sent as a whole to Bayt al-‘Izzah (The House of Honor), the exalted house of worship located in the heavens. This exalted house, also known as Bayt al-Ma‘mur, is a heavenly house situated directly above the Ka‘bah and serves as a place of worship for angels. This first descension took place on Laylat al-Qadr (or the Night of Power).
The second descension of the Quran was a gradual revelation to the Noble Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) that reached its completion after twenty-three years. These two modalities of the Quranic revelations become clear through indications within the Holy Quran itself. Additionally, Imams Nasa’i, Bayhaqi, al-Hakim, Ibn Abi Shaybah, Tabarani, and others have reported several narrations from Sayyiduna ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) which affirm that the first descent of the Noble Quran was to the firmament of the world and took place all at one time while the Holy Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) was blessed with the second descension gradually. (al-Itqan 1:41)
Explaining the wisdom behind the first descension of the Noble Quran on the firmament facing the world, Imam Abu Shamah states that it aimed at demonstrating the exalted majesty of the Noble Quran and at the same time inform the angels that it was the last scripture meant to be sent down for the guidance of the people of this earth.
Imam Zarqani in his Manahil al-‘Irfan additionally points out that the purpose of the two separate descents was to affirm that the Book is free from any doubt about its Divinity and that apart from its preservation in the memory of the Holy Prophet (upon him blessings and peace), it is also preserved in two other places, namely the Preserved Tablet and Bayt al-‘Izzah. (Manahil al-‘Irfan 1:39)
It is generally agreed upon by the scholars that the second gradual descension upon the heart of the Holy Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) began when he was forty years of age. According to the widely-accepted view based on authentic reports, this descent commenced on the Night of Power. This was also the same date on which, eleven years later, the Battle of Badr would came to pass. However, nothing definite can be said about the exact date of Ramadan when this night fell. There are some reports which identify it to be the seventeenth Ramadan while others place it on the nineteenth, and still others indicate the night of the twenty- seventh. (Tafsir Ibn Jarir 10:7)
The First Verses to be Revealed
It is authentically reported that the first verses to be revealed to the Holy Prophet were the initial verses of Surat al-‘Alaq. According to Sahih al-Bukhari, Sayyidah ‘A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) narrates that the very first revelations came to the Holy Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) through true dreams. Thereafter began an inner urge to worship in seclusion and meditate.
During this period, he would spend night after night in the Cave of Hira and remain in seclusion devoted to worship until one day Allah sent an angel to the cave and the first thing he said was, “Iqra’ (Read, or recite)!”
The Holy Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) replied: “I am unable to read/recite”. The subsequent events were described by the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, himself. He states, “The angel then embraced me so hard that I was in much difficulty. Then he let go of me and said again, ‘Read/Recite!’ I again replied, ‘I am unable to read/recite.’ The angel embraced me again even harder and then let go, saying, ‘Read/Recite!’ I again replied, ‘I am unable to read/recite.’ He embraced me a third time and then let go, reciting: “Read, [O Prophet,] in the name of your Lord who created! He has created man from a clinging clot. Read! For your Lord is the most Gracious [One], who has taught man what he has known not!” (Surat al-‘Alaq, 96:1-5)
These were the first verses to be revealed. Thereafter, a period of three years passed without any further revelation. This is known as the period of fatrat al-wahi (or pause from revelation). After three years, the same angel who had visited the Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) in the Cave of Hira’ appeared before him between the sky and the earth and read to him the verses of Surat al-Muddaththir. Thereafter, the process of wahi continued again.
The Makki and Madani Verses
You may have noticed that the titles of various chapters of the Quran denote them to be makki (or Meccan, Makkan, Makkiyyah) or madani (Medinan, Medinite, Madaniyyah). It is essential to understand the exact connotation of these terms. Most the Quranic commentators believe that a makki verse is that verse which was revealed before the Prophet’s arrival in Madinah after his migration from Makkah. Others purport that makki verses are those that were revealed in the city of Makkah and madani verses are those that were revealed in Madinah. Most of the commentators, however, maintain that this view is incorrect because there are several verses which were not revealed in Makkah but because they were revealed in before Hijrah are classified as makki. Hence the verses that were revealed at Mina, ‘Arafat, during the Mi‘raj (Ascension), and even during the migration from Makkah to Madinah are classified as makki verses. Similarly, there were many verses which were not revealed in Madinah yet are still labeled madani.
The Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) undertook several journeys after the migration in which he even travelled hundreds of miles away from Madinah, yet all the verses revealed on these journeys have been classified as madani, so much so that even the verses that were revealed in Makkah itself or in its surrounding areas during the Conquest of Makkah or the Treaty of Hudaybiyah are classified as madani. Hence the verse, “Surely, Allah commands you to fulfill trust obligations towards those entitled to them (4:58)”, is madani although it was revealed in Makkah. (al- Burhan 1:88, Manahil al-‘Irfan, 1:88)
Then there are some surahs which are either wholly makki or wholly madani. For instance, Surat al-Muddaththir is wholly makki and Surat Aal ‘Imran is entirely madani. It also so happens that some surahs as a whole are makkan but contain one or more madani verses. For example, Surat al-A‘raf is a makki surah but several verses within it are madani. Conversely, Surat al-Hajj is madani but four of its verses are makki.
It should thus be clear that the classification of a surah as makki or madani is based on the nature of the majority of its verses, although occasionally a surah is classified as makki because its initial verses were revealed before the Migration, although the subsequent verses were revealed afterwards. (Manahil al-‘Irfan 1:192)
Characteristics of Makki and Madani Verses
After a thorough analysis of both makki and madani surahs, the scholars of exegesis (tafsir) discovered a set of characteristics that aid in identifying whether a surah is makki or madani. Some of these attributes are universal while others only hold true most of the time. The universal rules are as follows:
1. Every surah in which the word كلّا (never) appears is makki. This word has been used 33 times in 15 different surahs, and all such occur in the second half of the Quran.
2. Every surah containing a verse of prostration (ayat sajdat al-tilawah) is makki. This rule only applies if one takes the Hanafi stance in regards to the verses of prostration, since according to them there is no verse of prostration in the madani Surat al-Hajj. According to Imam Shafi‘i, however, there is a verse of prostration in Surat al-Hajj and so this chapter of the Quran would thus be the exception to the rule.
3. Every surah, with the exception of Surat al-Baqarah, in which the story of Adam and Iblis finds mention is makki.
4. Every surah in which permission for jihad or a description of its injunctions is given is madani.
5. Every ayah in which there is mention of the hypocrites is madani. Note that the verses on the hypocrites in Surat al-‘Ankabut are madani although the surah as a whole is makki.
The following characteristics are general and apply to most cases, but with exceptions as well:
1. In makki surahs, generally the form of address used is يا أيها الناس (O people!), while in madani surahs it is يا أيها الذين آمنوا (O you who believe!).
2. Makki surah and ayahs are generally short and concise while madani verses and chapters are long and detailed.
3. Makki surahs generally deal topics such as affirmation of the oneness of Allah, prophethood, affirmation of the Hereafter, the panorama of the Resurrection, words of comfort for the Holy Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) and events relating to previous nations. The number of injunctions and laws in these surahs is significantly smaller in comparison to the madani surahs where family and social laws, injunctions of war, and expositions of limits (hudud) and duties appear frequently.
4. Makki surahs speak of confrontation with idolaters while madani surahs speak of confrontation with the People of the Book and hypocrites.
5. The style of makki surahs contains more rhetoric devices, as they contain many metaphors, similes, and allegories, along with the use of extensive vocabulary. Conversely, the style of the madani surahs is comparatively simple.
This difference in the style of makki and madani surahs owes its origin to a difference in environment, circumstances, and addressees. During the Makkan stage of Islam, Muslims deal primarily with the idolaters of Arabia as no Islamic state yet existed. Hence, during this period more emphasis was laid on the correction of faith and beliefs, reformation of morals, logical refutation of the idolaters, and the miraculous nature of the Holy Quran.
On the other hand, an Islamic state had been established in Madinah. People were coming into the fold of Islam in large numbers. Idolaters stood refuted already at an intellectual level, and the ideological confrontation was now wholly directed towards the People of the Book. Therefore, greater attention was laid on education in injunctions, laws, limits and duties, and on the refutation of the People of the Book. The style and mode of speech was adopted accordingly. (Manahil al-‘Irfan 198-232)
The Gradual Revelation of the Quran
It was mentioned earlier that the Noble Quran was not revealed to the Holy Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) suddenly or instantly at one time. Rather, it was revealed in piecemeal over the span of nearly twenty-three years. At times, Jibra’il (upon him be peace) came with a single verse or even a small portion of a verse. Then there were times when several verses would be revealed at once. The smallest portion of the Quran to be revealed was غير أولى الضرر (al-Nisa’, 4:94) which forms part of a longer verse. On the other hand, the whole of Surat al-An‘am was revealed at one time. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir 2:122)
Rather than being revealed all at once, why was the Quran revealed little by little? The polytheists of Arabia, accustomed to hearing long eulogies in one sitting, had themselves posed this question to the Holy Prophet (upon him blessings and peace). Allah Almighty took it upon Himself to answer the question in the following words:
Moreover, those who disbelieve have said: If only the Quran was sent down to him all at once, [then truly it would be from God]! Yet even so [is it revealed gradually], so that We may set firm your heart with it, [O Prophet]; thus have We recited it [to you] in a measured recital. And never do they bring forth for you any [false argument by way of example, but that We have brought forth for you the truth [of it] and [its] best exposition. (Surat al-Furqan, 25:32-33)
Imam Razi has presented several reasons for the gradual revelation of the Quran in his exegesis of the above verse. Below is a summary of his presentation of what he says:
1. The Holy Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) was unlettered (ummi). He could not read or write, hence if the entire Quran had been revealed at one time it would have been difficult to remember and document. On the other hand, Sayyiduna Musa (upon him be peace) was well-lettered and so the Torah was revealed to him as a complete scripture at one time.
2. If the entire Quran had been revealed all at once, immediate compliance of all its injunctions would have become obligatory and this would have contradicted the wisdom of gradualness that is of the objectives of the Shari‘ah.
3. The Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) was subject to torture on a daily basis. That Jibra’il (upon him be peace) came, again and again, with the words of the Noble Quran, made his stand against these tortures bearable and gave strength to his heart.
4. A large portion of the Quran is devoted to answers given to questions posed by the people, and other portions deal with the details of particular events. Therefore, the revelation of those verses was appropriate at the time when those questions were asked or when those events came to pass. This increased the insight of Muslims, and when the Quran unfolded that which was unseen, its truth became all the more manifest. (al-Tafsir al-Kabir 6:336)
Causes of Revelation
Verses of the Quran are of two types. The first type of verses comprises those that Allah Almighty sent down on His own and that were not caused by some particular event nor prompted by a question. The second type comprises those verses that were revealed in reference to some incident or enquiry. These events or enquiries are often termed the “background” or “causes” of these verses. In the terminology of the commentators, this background or causes are called the asbab al-nuzul (lit. causes of revelation) or the sha’n al-nuzul (lit. background of revelation). For instance, the following verse in Surat al-Baqarah:
Moreover, you shall not marry idolatrous women until they believe [in God alone]. For a believing bondwoman is most surely better than an idolatrous woman – even if she should please you. (Surat al-Baqarah, 2:221)
The verse was revealed in the wake of a particular event. During the Days of Ignorance, Sayyiduna Marthad ibn Abi Marthad al-Ghanawi (may Allah be pleased with him) had a relationship with a woman named ‘Anaq. After embracing Islam, he migrated to Madinah while ‘Anaq stayed behind in Makkah. After some time, Sayyiduna Marthad (may Allah be pleased with him) visited Makkah for some business. ‘Anaq came to him with an invitation to sin. Sayyiduna Marthad (may Allah be pleased with him) flatly refused, stating: “Islam has come between you and I.” However, he was willing to marry her if the Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) approved. Upon returning to Madinah, Marthad (may Allah be pleased with him) sought permission to marry the woman. Thereupon, this verse was revealed, and marriage to polytheistic women was thus prohibited. (Asbab al-Nuzul of Wahidi 38)
This event is the sha’n or sabab of revelation behind the verse mentioned above. The background of revelation is, therefore, very important in the exegesis of the Quran. There are many verses the meaning of which cannot be correctly understood unless the circumstances underlying their revelation are known.
[Taken from the introduction to Mufti Muhammad Shafi‘ al-‘Uthmani’s Ma‘arif al-Qur’an and Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani’s An Approach to the Quranic Sciences with language and content editing by Bilal Ali. Translation of Quranic verses has been taken from Ahmad Zaki Hammad’s The Gracious Quran]
The Bani Isra’il and the Muslim Ummah
[Lecture on the Occasion of Eid at Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama rendered by Hadhrat Maulana Muhammad Manzoor Nu’mani (rahimahullah)]
Translated by Maulana Zaheer Ishaq
My respected brothers and elders, on this occasion I want to make mention of something which I feel is of utmost importance. Therefore, listen attentively.
Those of you who are briefly acquainted with the subject matter of Qur’an either by studying the translation or by participating in the gatherings of tafsir of the Qur’an will know that from time to time, mention is made of the Bani Israil. The Qur’an Majeed is not a book of history, neither is it a story book, but rather it is a book of guidance. Making mention of the incident of the Bani Israil so often is also for this very purpose.
Who were the Bani Israil? Understand it in this manner that they were the Muslims of that era, who not only believed in the Ambiya (alayhimus salaam), but were of their progeny as well. Hadhrat Ibrahim (alayhis salaam) had a son, Hadhrat Ishaq (alayhis salaam), and Hadhrat Ishaq (alayhis salaam) had a son, Hadhrat Yaqub (alayhis salaam) whose title was Isra’il. Yaqub (alayhis salaam)’s progeny are therefore called the Bani Isra’il (Children of Isra’il).
There were a people who believed in the Ambiya (alayhimus salaam). They believed in Ibrahim (alayhis salaam), Ishaq (alayhis salaam), Yaqub (alayhis salaam). During the time of Nabi ﷺ the Bani Isra’il were divided into two groups, those who did not believe in ‘Isa (alayhis salaam), but opposed him although they believed in the Prophets before him. The second group were those who believed in ‘Isa (alayhis salaam). When the Qur’an speaks of Bani Isra’il, reference is made to both these groups. In reality there were of one lineage. Understand their condition that they were like today’s Muslims. We know today’s Muslims accept the Qur’an as Allah’s book and Nabi ﷺ as the final Prophet. Similarly the Bani Isra’il used to believe in the divine book of their time, and in the Prophets of their time. However their condition deteriorated more or less like how we Muslims have deteriorated today.
This was their general condition – as is our general condition. It was not such that during the time of Nabi ﷺ, not even one person amongst them was not on the straight path. In many places in the Qur’an it has been mentioned clearly that amongst the People of the book – the Bani Israil also there were many pious and upright individuals also, as it appears in the Qur’an:
That is because amongst them are priests and monks, and they are not proud. And when they listen to what has been revealed to the Messenger (Nabi ﷺ) you see their eyes overflowing with tears because of the truth they have recognised. They say, “Our Lord! We believe, so write us down among the witnesses”. [Surah Maidah: 82-83]
In this ayah, mention has been made regarding the Christians of Ethiopia that amongst them there were such upright scholars and pious people in whom there was no pride. Furthermore, Allah Ta’ala mentions their condition that when they listen to the ayat of the Qur’an, they immediately recognize the truth and tears flow from their eyes and they supplicate to Allah Ta’ala saying: “O our Lord! We bring Iman, therefore count us amongst those who testify to the truth.”
Nevertheless, from amongst the People of the book – Bani Israil there were also such individuals who were pious, sincere and brought true Iman but as far as the general masses are concerned, there condition was just as I have mentioned.
In a Hadith, Nabi ﷺ mentioned:
The gist of this hadith is that before the advent of Nabi ﷺ, Allah Ta’ala looked at the entire creation from east to west, north to south, Arab to Non-Arab. Everyone’s lives were totally disliked by Allah Ta’ala, hence making them deserving of Allah’s anger except for the few individuals from the people of the book – Bani Isra’il who were good, upright people, whom Allah Ta’ala was pleased with.
At another juncture in the Qur’an, Allah Ta’ala says:
And (remember) when we took a covenant from the Bani Israil, (saying): Worship none but Allah (alone) and be dutiful and good to parents, and to relatives, and ro orphans and the poor, and speak good to people, and perform Salah and give Zakah. Then you turned away, except a few of you, while you showing aversion. [Surah Baqarah: 83]
In this ayah, Allah Ta’ala makes mention of those major commands which He commanded the Bani Israil with, such as Tawhid (the belief in the Oneness of Allah Ta’ala), to be kind to parents, relatives, orphans, to fulfil the rights of the needy. He also told them to talk kindly to all human kind without exception, to establish Salah (prayer) and to give Zakah.
As you may have already realized, these are the fundamental principles and teachings on which emphasis was placed in the teachings of every Nabi and divine book of Allah Ta’ala. The fundamental teachimgs of the Qur’an and the Shari’ah which Nabi ﷺ brought are the very same. The Bani Israil also received these basic teachings, but what happened thereafter?? Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala says:
Thereafter (after a few days) you turned away from these fundamental teachings except for a few individuals from amongst you. [Surah Baqarah: 83]
The Qur’an did not say that you, in general rejected and became renegades (to leave your religion and opt for another), but the Qur’an mentions that your general condition became such that you had no connection left with these teachings whilst you did not verbally falsify or reject. This was the condition of your general masses, though amongst you there were few individuals who were not involved in this general deterioration.
The Qur’an has also emphasised, along with these fundamental principles, that the Bani Israil should not kill one another unjustly, nor should they exile one another from their homes without a good reason. Thereafter the Qur’an clearly mentions that just as they turned away from the fundamental principles, they in exactly the same manner turned away from the other special commands from Allah Ta’ala. However, they practiced on a small portion of the special commands of Allah Ta’ala, in which they saw some personal or national benefit and overlooked the vast majority of Allah’s commands. The Qur’an has drawn a picture of this misconduct of theirs in the following words:
Has your condition become such that you obey some of Allah’s commands and reject others. [Surah Baqarah: 85]
In other words, you treat some commands of Allah Ta’ala as a Mu’min (believer) would treat them and with others you treat the commands as a Kafir (disbeliever) would treat them.
You and I should ponder deeply. Allah Ta’ala regards those commands which are practiced upon as ‘Iman’ (belief) and those commands which are not practiced as Kufr (disbelief). In other words, not practicing upon Allah’s commands is tantamount to Kufr (disbelief) even though a person verbally says he believes. From this we understand what the real Iman is upon in which Allah Ta’ala’s promises are based and what is that actually Kufr upon which Allah Ta’ala severe punishment are based in this world and the hereafter.
The Qur’an informs the Bani Israil of the severe punishment of this behaviour of theirs. Allah Azza Wa Jal says:
Then what is the recompense of those who do among you, except disgrace in the life of this world and on the day of resurrection they shall be condemned to the most grievous torment. And Allah Ta’ala is not unaware of what you do. [Surah Baqarah:85]
That nation whose condition is such that majority of its followers practice on some commands of Allah Ta’ala and breaks most commands, what can its end result be except that in this world it will be afflicted with perpetual disgrace. Thereafter, their matter will not be completed but rather on the Day of Resurrection they will face an extremely severe punishment.
Now I wish to tell you that after mentioning the condition of Bani Israil and being informed of their history, in reality a mirror has been placed in front of us and as if we have been told that keep on assessing your condition in this mirror and understand well that before you there was a nation who like you were the Muslims of their era and believed in the Ambiya (alayhimus salaam). For a few days they thread on the correct path and Allah’s mercies and blessings enshrouded them.
However, gradually their condition became such that the majority practically turned away from most of the commands of Allah Ta’ala. As a result according to the law of Allah Ta’ala all mercies and blessings were snatched away and disgrace and humiliation took their place.
Therefore understand this well that the day your general condition becomes like the Bani Israil, your end result will be exactly the same as theirs. What was the Bani Israil’s end result? At other junctures in the Qur’an much more details are mentioned. At one place Allah Ta’ala says:
So, when the promise came of the first of the two, we sent against you slaves of Ours given to terrible warfare. They entered the very innermost part of your homes. And it was a promise fulfilled.
In this Ayah, Allah Ta’ala clearly states that when the Bani Israil violated the commandments of Allah Ta’ala and chose the path of evil and corruption, we placed over them some of our powerful slaves. Who were these powerful slaves? They were not some pious, Allah fearing people but rather the worst of the disbelievers and arrogant people. However sometimes when a person wants to punish and diagrace someone, then the bhangis (scavengers) are called to beat him up, in order to disgrace him.
The Qur’an tells us that when the Bani Israil, who were the children of the Ambiya (alayhimus salaam) broke the commands of Allah Ta’ala and started living according to their desires and passions, Allah placed such disbelievers over them, who were oppressive, unjust, hard hearted and merciless. What did these unjust disbelievers do to the Bani Israil? The Qur’an tells us that city after city, village after village and town after town was completely and totally destroyed. They looted houses, set fire to them, killed, murdered and butchered people. Not only that but it is also recorded in the history of the Bani Israil that the oppressors took the copies of the book of Allah (Taurat) and burnt it in front of their eyes. So besides losing wealth and property, their Deen and spirituality was also destroyed.
My respected elders and brothers! Just as was mentioned, you and I need to assess ourselves in front of this mirror of the Bani Israil and take stock of our lives. By means of the final book, the Qur’an and the final Prophet, Nabi ﷺ, those guidlines and commands which we have been given are the very same guidline and commands which the previous nations used to receive by means of every Nabi, among which the very first is Tauhid. What is Tauhid? Tauhid is not only reciting the kalimah with our tongues. Tauhid is actually a reality; a condition and conviction of the heart. Conviction that Allah Ta’ala, who is alone and has no partners, is the only deity and owner of everything and to worship him alone, to have hope only in Him and to fear only Him. To have firm belief that in this entire system of the universe, only Allah’s commands makes everything happen and nothing happens without His command. Death is only in his hands. Life is only in His hands. Sickness is only in His hands. Honour and disgrace is also only in His hands. Hence worship and submission is only for Him and Du’a is to be made only unto him. To submit only to Him and to love only Him. This is Tauhid. To deviate even a little from this cannot be rolerated by Allah Ta’ala. In fact, to turn our attention even for one moment away from Allah to some other being will never be tolerated by Allah. Let alone thinking that some pious living saint or some saint who has left this world can help in any way, whether it will be in that barakah (blessings) will be received through him in my business, or a court case would be won, or I will receive children. So I swear by Allah Azza Wa Jal, this is clear and open shirk (ascribing partners) with Allah Ta’ala.
After Tauhid the most emphasised commands of Allah are Salah and Zakah. Those people who know and understand the tone and language of the Qur’an and know the status these actions hold which Rasulullah explained to the Sahabah (radhiyallahu anhum) and which they understood, they will know that without Salah and Zakah a person cannot be a true believer. With whatever amount of sincerity and importance a Muslim will practice on these two commands, accordingly the light of Iman will enter his hearts and effect of Islam will enter his actions. Regarding Salah, understand this also that just to perform Salah and only read it is insufficient. Rather it is also necessary that the effort should be made to perform the best Salah. The inner and outer aspects of our Salah should gain some similarity with the Salah of Nabi. We should find out from the Ulama in our towns how Nabi ﷺ performed Salah, how his ruku, sajdah, qirat was etc. What was the condition of his heart, on what should we contemplate whilst recting Surah Fatihah or whilst reciting tasbeeh in ruku’ or sajdah?
My dear brothers and elders! To make this effort concerning Salah is Fard (compulsory) upon us. If whilst endeavouring to perform Salah correctly and perfectly we pass away then whatever deficiency remains in our Salah, Allah Ta’ala will forgive us. If there is no effort at all to correct and perfect our Salah then we will have to suffer a great loss.
Concerning Zakah, Nabi ﷺ took an oath and said that Zakah will never ever decrease a person’s wealth. Now, on the one hand is the word of Rasulullah ﷺ and on the other hand is Shaytan’s evil whispering to us that if you give Zakah you will be losing so much wealth. Now let us think for ourselves; do we have more conviction in the words of Rasulullah ﷺ or in our greatest enemy Shaytan’s lies and deception.
Therefore respected friends, inform those ulama’ who are close to you regarding your financial condition and ask them whether Zakah is fard (obligatory) on you or not.
Besides Tauhid, Salah and Zakah, there are many other actions which Allah Ta’ala has commanded us to fulfil such as fasting, pilgrimage etc and there are many qualities which Allah Ta’ala has made incumbent upon us to inculcate into our lives such as honesty, self-sacrifice, kindness, advising politely etc. Similarly, there are many evil actions and qualities which we have been commanded to refrain from. To have concern and to make effort to save oneself from these evil actions and qualities is also necessary. In fact at times these become priority. Due to these evil actions and evil qualities, such rust and dirt become comes on the heart of a person that due to it whatever a good actions a person does, it does not have an effect on his heart and soul.
When one does plating of an old utensil, firstly one cleans off the dirt and rust, otherwise the plating will not remain intact. That is why I mentioned that to make an effort to abstain from those actions due to which rust comes on the heart is sometimes even more important.
Before me there are thousands of youth sitting. I appeal to you, O Youth! O reciters of the kalimah of Muhammad ﷺ! The root of all evils in today’s times is the cinema, T.V and V.C.R. Every form of sin is promoted on it and every evil stems from it. For Allah’s sake, make a resolution to specially shun these evils. I say again, O my beloved youth! I appeal to you, take pity on yourselves, today is a blessed day (day of ‘Id). Today, in fact now, make a pact with yourself that you will not even go near these most terrible forms of evil and filth which not only destroys our wealth but also destroys our health and worse than that destroys our spirituality and our Deen.
Believe me, I take an oath and say that when you go towards the T.V., V.C.R or cinema, Allah Ta’ala becomes angry with you, Angels curse you, Nabi’s ﷺ pure soul becomes restless when he receives news about it, that my ummati (my follower) who takes my name, where is he going to!?
Listen to this also my beloved youth! Whatever sins you have committed, have total regret and ask Allah Ta’ala sincerily to forgive you but do not lose hope. Allah Ta’ala is most Merciful, Most Forgiving. Allah Ta’ala’s Mercy overpowers His anger. Never mind forgiving years of sin, a person may be an idolator and disbeliever all his life, yet Allah Ta’ala forgives him also if he sincerily repents. When a servant of Allah Ta’ala commits a sin and asks Allah Ta’ala to forgive him, Allah Ta’ala forgives him. If he repeatedly commits sins and repeatedly asks Allah Ta’ala sincerely to forgive him, Allah Ta’ala forgives him. Allah doesn’t say: “O my slave! You have disobeyed me for too long, now I will not forgive you”. Allah continues forgiving as long as we continue asking sincerely for forgiveness, and not only does Allah forgive but He loves the one who seeks repentance.
Allamah Ibnul Qayyim has given a beautiful example to illustrate this. After explaining Allah Azza Wa Jal’s quality of Mercy and His Compassion and His Kindness with his slaves, he mentioned an incident of a person who was totally deviated, doing all sorts of evil. He once passed a street where a mother had opened the door and kicked her child out of the house. When the child was out of the house, the mother closed the door from inside. The child, crying and sobbing, carried on walking quite far. Then after reaching a certain point, stopped and thought to himself, where do I go from here, who will care for me, who will look after me lile my mother? With these thoughts in mind, with a broken heart, he returned to his own house. The door was closed. He placed his head on the doorstep and laid down till he fell asleep. The mother came, opened the door, and seeing her beloved child asleep in this condition, took pity on him. Her motherly love overpowered her and she started crying. She picked him up and hugged him, carressed him, kissed him and told him: “O son! You have seen now, who is there for you besides me? You hurt me when you chose to lead a life of evil and disobedience. You angered me against my nature. Now listen! You are mine and I am yours. Whatever I have in my possession is only for you.”
My brothers! This eye opening incident which Allamah Ibnul Qayyim has mentioned is not only a lesson for that one person but it is a great lesson for me, you and all the sinners living in the world. The amount of love and compassion a mother has in her bosom for her children, I swear by Allah Ta’ala, Allah has more love and mercy for His bondsmen than that mother.
Therefore I say, don’t become despondent of Allah’s Mercy. Repent to Allah for all the sins we have committed, show regret, but don’t lose hope of receiving Allah’s mercy. Return towards Allah, lower your head at His doorstep and cry over your sins like how a baby cries. Then see how Allah’s doors of mercy open upon us, then see how Allah enshrouds us in His compassion, how He gives us courage and expands our hearts, how He guides us, how He shows us the correct path, in fact He holds our hands and takes us, how Allah delivers us from a life of total disobedience and negligence to salvation.
My respected elders and friends! We should learn a lesson from from the incidents of the Bani Israil which Allah Ta’ala has mentioned to us in the Qur’an Majeed. As long as the Bani Israil fulfilled the commandments of Allah, He kept them with prosperity, peace, tranquility, happiness and honour and he made them examples for others, but when the majority started breaking most of the divine commands, Allah put a merciless and oppressive enemy to rule over them who appallingly disgraced them.
Now, we should reflect upon our condition in this mirror. Is our condition not exactly the same!? Isn’t there corruption? Isn’t our wealth being usurped and looted? Aren’t our homes, shops, Masajids being set alight? This is all a punishment from Allah Ta’ala, because our majority and in general the Ummah is violating most of the commands of Allah Ta’ala. Allah did not have any relationship with the Bani Israil who were the progeny of the Ambiya (alayhimus salaam) nor has Allah Ta’ala any relationship with us – the Ummah of the seal of all Prophets, Nabi ﷺ. What really matters to Allah Ta’ala is our actions and ways and that obedience and worship of ours which is in accordance to the way shown to us by Nabi ﷺ. Is it not true that most of our brothers have violated and disobeyed most of the commands of Allah Ta’ala. If it is true and definitely it is true, then ponder, what should we do to rectify our present condition?
Whatever happens in the world, ponder, can it happen without the command of Allah? Can anything happen in this world because of somebody’s control, somebody’s power or someone’s intention besides Allah’s? Thereafter ponder over the fact that if Allah Ta’ala decides something, is there anyone who can change that decision? No! Never!
Nobody can change the decision made by Allah Ta’ala, nor can anyone even challenge it. May Allah bestow us with true Iman upon this reality that whatever happens to individuals or nations only happens by the decision of Allah, Allah’s treatment neither with individuals nor with nations is without a system. Any nation who obeys the commands of Allah Ta’ala and follows the way of life which is beloved to Allah Ta’ala will be deserving of Allah’s excellent treatment in this world and in the hereafter.
Therefore friends! Today, during this blessed day, make this decision, make this promise to Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala, that Insha Allah, I will inculcate every command of Allah in my life and I will make a concerted effort to revive and establish every command of Allah in the entire Ummah.
I do not want to go into intricacies. The basic commands which were given to the Bani Israil are the foundation of that way of life which is pleasing to Allah. Tauhid, Salah, Zakah, kindness to parents, relatives, orphans and the needy and speaking kindly and being kind to all humankind, these are the basic commands which, if practised upon, the temperment of practicing on the whole of Deen will be inculcated. Therefore make a firm intention to fulfill these commands and make an effort and give sacrifice to establish the entire Deen in the entire ummah using this umumi (general) effort.
Alhamdulillah, we are in a time when this umumi (general) effort is taking place in the entire world. If it is done in the correct way, according to the proper principles, keeping in mind the importance of Du’a, then Insha Allah, by means of this effort once again, the direction of the minds, hearts and temperament of this Ummah will be rectified and the inclination to discard Allah’s commands will be terminated. Then Allah Ta’ala will make the decisions of good conditions prevailing and then whatever effort will be made, its results will turn out positive and effective.
My brothers! What I intended to say, Allah Ta’ala made me say. May Allah make me, you and all the Muslims to practice, so that on the day of Qiyamah, I am not taken to task due to the sin of not practicing on what I preach and so that you do not become from amongst those who who will be taken to task for listening to the talks of Deen, yet not changing our lives.
Now, let us from our hearts, turn our attention to Allah Ta’ala, and make Du’a with this firm conviction that Allah is All-Seeing and Omnipresent. Allah Ta’ala countless angels are present. The Masjid’s atmosphere is filled with these angels. We would be able to see them if we possessed ‘real eyes’. Now in the presence of these angels, make them bear witness that we are making a pact we Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala.
O Allah! We are Your slaves, present in front of You. We bear witness with our hearts and tongues that there is none worthy of worship besides You, everything is only in Your hands and we bear witness that Muhammad ﷺ is your true Nabi. We have accepted his Deen. We believe in You and in Your Nabi. O Allah! Enlighten our hearts with the Nur (light) of Iman. Do not deprieve anyone of us. O Allah! Grant all those present here the reality of Imaan, these elders, these youth, these beloved ones, these brothers. Bless each one of us with perfect Imaan. O Allah! We confess that our lives until now, most of it has passed in disobeying your commandments. From head to toe, outwardly and inwardly, our entire bodies were used in disobeying your commands. O Allah! We are seeking forgiveness, forgive us, we are repenting, accept our repentance.
On this auspicious day, in this auspicious gathering we all make a firm intention to shun sin and not to disobey You anymore. O Allah! Accept our intentions, and make it firm and sincere. Shaytan and our carnal desires and the ones who drive us to sin. Help us against these two enemies. Without Your help we cannot overpower the. O Allah! Make Deen prevalent. Whoever is involved in the efforts of Deen in whichever way, they are concerned about Deen, O Allah!, accept their efforts and concern. O Allah! Help them and enable them to work in the correct way, protect them from all types of trails, and protect them from Shaytan and their carnal desires.
O Allah! Take pity on us, make a decision of mercy to descend upon us, nobody can alter Your decision. Save us from the Firs of Jahannum and merely out of Your kindness grant us Jannah (Paradise). O Allah! Protect us from negligence. Make us not unmindful of our Aakhirah, Jannah, Jahannam (hell), the grave, the day of resurrection. Have mercy upon us during every stage of the Hereafter.
O Allah! Do not deal with us according to what we deserve according to our evil actions. O Allah! Deal with us according to Your kindness and Mercy.
By Bint e Aisha
Concluding Ramadan with Istighfar (Seeking Forgiveness)
Hafiz Ibn Rajab (rahimahullah) said:
Istighfar (seeking forgiveness) is the conclusion of all good actions, thus salah, hajj, standing in salah at night (qiyam al-layl) are all concluded with it.
Gatherings are also concluded with it. If they are gatherings of knowledge, it serves as a seal for them, and if they are futile gatherings, it serves as a compensation.
Likewise, the fasts of Ramadan should be concluded with Istighfar.
Umar Ibn Abd al-Azeez (rahimahullah) sent a message to different cities, ordering the people to end Ramadan with Istighfar and charity, i.e., sadaqat al-fitr, because sadaqat al-fitr is a purification for the fasting person from vain and obscene talk.
Furthermore, Istighfar repairs the damage caused to the fast through vain and obscene talk.
This is why some of the previous scholars said sadaqat al-fitr for the one fasting is like sajdat al-sahw for salah."
Lataa'if al-Ma'arif (pg. 383)
May Allah Ta'ala forgive all our shortcomings during the month of Ramadan and accept all our good actions, through His grace and mercy. Aameen.