Ismail Kamdar

Ismail Kamdar is the Founder of Islamic Self Help, author of over a dozen books, faculty manager of IOU, and a freelance writer.
Ismail Kamdar is the Founder of Islamic Self Help, author of over a dozen books, faculty manager of IOU, and a freelance writer.
Sūrah al-ʿĀdiyāt and Sūrah al-Qāriʿah

Sūrah al-ʿĀdiyāt and Sūrah al-Qāriʿah

These two Sūrahs continue the theme of warnings about the Last Day. The topic remains the same; mankind is warned that this life will end and we will have to answer to Allah for how we spent it. These Sūrahs should build in our hearts a fear of the Last Day and a sense of accountability for our lives. Anyone who reflects on these descriptions of the Last Day should emerge transformed and reformed.

Scholars differ regarding whether Sūrah al-ʿĀdiyāt is a late Makkan or early Madinan Sūrah. The majority of categorize it as Makkan. Its content leans both ways, the oath on war horses seems more in line with the Madinan theme of Jihād, while its focus on the Last Day is a Makkan theme. It is possible that it was revealed towards the end of the Makkan phase, as one of the last few warnings to the Quraysh about the Last Day, as well as a hint at the war that would soon occur between the two nations. Allah knows best.

Sūrah al-Qāriʿah is a Makkan Sūrah by consensus. Scholars differ over its number of verses, but agree that it was revealed during the Makkan Era. Its content is clearly Makkan in nature, focusing on short powerful imagery and warning about the Last Day. A unique focus of this Sūrah is on the concept of the weighing of the scales on the Last Day.

The Image of the War Horses

Sūrah al-ʿĀdiyāt begins with a detailed description of war horses and their galloping into the battlefield. Allah takes an oath on these horses, before mentioning the two main points of this Sūrah, the ingratitude and materialistic nature of mankind. There are many possible reasons why war horses are the focus of this oath.

It could be because the Arabs were familiar with war horses, their usage, their loyalty and their courage. So Allah draws a parable that they can understand. Horses are courageous and loyal to their masters. While the Quraysh were being cowardly, and ungrateful to their Creator. The detailed image of the war horse could be to draw this parable in the mind of the disbeliever, so that they may reflect.

An alternative interpretation is that this was a warning of things to come. The passive resistance era of early Islam was ending. Soon the migration would take place, Allah would reveal the permission to fight back, and the Jihād against Makkah would begin. This oath could have been a warning of things to come; if you do not prioritize the Afterlife then prepare for war in this life. This may have been the message to the Quraysh in these verses, and Allah knows best.

The Weaknesses of Man

This oath is followed by the core message of this Sūrah, mankind is ungrateful and materialistic. These two qualities cause humanity to reject the truth, ignore the Afterlife and indulge in this world. The Quraysh were ungrateful to Allah for all His Blessings upon them. This theme is raised again in later Sūrahs. They were also worried that they would lose their financial privileges if they embraced Islam.

These two qualities are found even among Muslims today. Complaining has become a hobby for many people, even when they live lives of privilege and luxury. People are always looking for the smallest thing to complain about, inventing all kinds of new grievances in the process. Ingratitude is linked to disbelief in Islam to such an extent that the Arabic word for both is actually the same; Kufr.

But ingratitude is not the only thing causing Muslims to stray. Materialism and Capitalism have made Muslims extremely greedy. In our greed, we have thrown out the Fiqh of Business, and embraced every prohibited transaction. Money has become the new god, and our craving for wealth never seems to end. In order to return to righteousness, we need to break away from these two negative emotions. Ingratitude needs to be replaced with gratitude, and materialism needs to be replaced with Zuhd (asceticism).

The Sūrah ends with a strong warning to those who are distracted by ingratitude and greed. This world will end, we will answer for how we lived our lives, and our Lord knows everything that we have done. There is no escaping the reality of the Afterlife. The wise believer spends their life in gratitude and worship, knowing well that this world will end and preparing for the Afterlife is the priority.

The Scales of Justice

Sūrah al-Qāriʿah begins with a powerful image of the end of the world. Loud noises, crumbling mountains and people scattered like moths. This image is meant to create awe and fear of the Last Day in the hearts of the believers. The image builds a picture of mass panic among humanity on that day.

After building up this image and drawing the attention of the listener through it, Allah then informs us of the central theme of this Sūrah. On that day, our deeds will be weighed on a scale. Whoever’s good deeds outweigh their bad deeds will have a happy life in eternal bliss. But whoever finds their scale of good deeds light may find himself in the abyss of Hell.

Although the Sūrah ends on a point of fear and dread, there is much hope we can gain from this concept. The weighing of the scales is not done equally. While every sin will equal to one sin on the scale, a good deed is multiplied between ten and seven hundred times on the scale. Some good deeds like pure monotheism, fasting and patience will be even heavier on that day.

Knowing this, how does a person end up with a light scale on that day? The answer lies in the previous and following Sūrahs, both of which highlight the materialistic nature on man. People are so caught up in chasing this world that they fail to build up even a small record of good deeds. When Allah has made the weighing of the scales tilted in our favor, who can we blame besides ourselves if we end up with a light scale on that day?  

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam, 2 comments
Sūrah az-Zilzāl: Every Deed Counts

Sūrah az-Zilzāl: Every Deed Counts

This is the first of four short Sūrahs focused on reminding us about the Last Day. These four Sūrahs are grouped together because of their common theme. Each Sūrah is very brief (eight to eleven verses), poetic and powerful. The focus in each Sūrah is one a different image of the Last Day. This Sūrah focuses on the image of the earth shaking and speaking, and spilling its secrets.

Scholars differ over the name of this Sūrah. It is commonly referred to either as Sūrah az-Zilzāl or Sūrah az-Zalzalah. Both of these names reference the earthquake mentioned in the first verse of the Sūrah. Scholars also differ on whether this is a Makkan or Madinan Sūrah. The content seems Makkan, but some scholars believe it was an early Madinan Sūrah revealed soon after the migration. Allah knows best.

The theme of the Sūrah is the end of the world, the gathering of the Last Day, and the judgment of our deeds. This is a common theme in the short Sūrahs of the Quran and of Makkan revelation in general. The Sūrah is short, precise and powerful in its reminder about the Last Day. The goal is to remind us that the Day of Judgment is coming, so let us prepare for it.

The World Will End

The end of the world is a reality. This world was not created to last forever. It is a temporary abode to test us. One day, this earth will shake and shatter and come to an end. Then every creature will be resurrected for Judgment. It is on that Day of Judgment that our final destination will be decided.

The wise believer is the one who lives their life preparing for that day. Nobody knows when the Day of Judgment will occur. Nobody knows when their own life will end. Some people live in this world for ninety years, while others leave this world at a very young age. This uncertainty should keep us focused on what matters most; preparing for the Last Day.

The reason why so many Sūrahs revolve around the concept of the Last Day is because it is the most important day in our lives. It is the one day that every human is guaranteed to experience, and our entire Afterlife depends on the results of that day. It is foolish to live one’s life in a way as if that day will never come. This Sūrah is a firm reminder to prepare for that day.

Everything Will Be a Witness

One of the scarier aspects of the Last Day is the fact that everything will be a witness to our deeds. In this Sūrah, Allah informs us that on that day, the earth will speak and testify to the actions committed on it. There will be no secrets on the Last Day, no deeds that can remain hidden, except what Allah chooses to keep hidden.

The earth is not the only creature that will bear witness on that day. Other verses of the Quran inform us that even our own limbs will testify against us. These verses should make us think twice about committing sins. Sometimes we feel bold to commit a sin when it seems like nobody is watching. But Allah is always watching, and He has surrounded us with witnesses.

When a person sins with their eyes and hands in a quiet empty room, then the room, the eyes and the hands all become witnesses against him. There is no such thing as a sin that goes unwitnessed. Not only do these things witness and testify against us, but so do the angels who record our deeds. There is no escape from Allah, and no deed that is not witness by a creation of Allah. So let the sinner beware.

Every little deed counts

The Sūrah ends with a reminder that on that day every small deed we ever did will count, either for us or against us. Even a good deed the size of an atom can make the biggest difference on our scale. Likewise, minor sins the size of atoms can also weigh heavy on the scale if they were committed often. These verses serve as a warning against minor sins, and an encouragement to small acts of kindness.

We tend to look at minor sins as insignificant. Yet these can count against us on the Last Day, if they are accumulated without good deeds to balance the scales. Reality is that it is impossible to live a life without any minor sins. Allah created humans weak and part of that weakness is that committing minor sins is inevitable. Minor sins like looking at the opposite gender with lust, using vulgar language, lying and hurting people’s feelings are committed daily without even realizing it. This is part of human weakness.

To balance this, He created many means of forgiveness for minor sins. Praying five times a day, giving charity, fasting the month of Ramadan, Hajj, Umrah and seeking forgiveness all wipe away minor sins. With so many opportunities to have our minor sins wiped away, it will only be our own fault if we come on the Last Day with our minor sins piled up. This verse should make us think twice about committing minor sins, or at the least, remind us to seek forgiveness whenever we fall into minor sins.

It is equally important not to undermine any good deed. There is no such thing as a good deed that is too small. Nobody knows which good deed could earn them Paradise or serve as a means of forgiveness for their sins. There are many popular stories of people who were forgiven for their sins due to small good deeds.

Whether it was feeding a thirsty dog or giving a date in charity, every good deed done with sincerity counts. This should encourage us to do every good deed we can possibly do because we do not know which good deed will weigh heaviest on our scale on the Last Day.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam, 1 comment
Sūrah al-Bayyinah: The Evidence

Sūrah al-Bayyinah: The Evidence

The scholars differ over when Sūrah al-Bayyinah was revealed. Some classify it as a Madinan Sūrah, while others classify it as Makkan. I am of the opinion that this is a Madinan Sūrah, because it directly addresses the issue of the Ahl al-Kitāb and their response to the revelation. This is a theme of Madinan revelation as there weren’t many Ahl al-Kitāb living in Makkah.

The scholars also differ over the name of this Sūrah. There are at least six names recorded for this Sūrah including Sūrah Lam Yakunil, Sūrah Ahl al-Kitāb, and Sūrah al-Barīya. Each of these names is taken from different words in the Sūrah, as is the standard practice for naming a Sūrah. The names of Sūrahs were not revealed, for most of them. The companions and later scholars simply named Sūrahs after words that are unique or important to them. This is why scholars often differ over the names of many Sūrah.

The theme of Sūrah al-Bayyinah is the reaction of the Ahl al-Kitāb (People of the Book, Jews and Christians) and the pagans to the proofs of Islam. In this Sūrah, Allah informs us that these groups split up upon hearing the message and seeing the evidences. A group became believers, whom Allah calls the best of creation in this Sūrah. While others rejected the message and disbelieved, so Allah called them the worst of creation. Allah ends the Sūrah with a promise of punishment for the disbelievers and reward in Paradise for the believers.

The Clear Proofs

At the beginning of the Sūrah, Allah mentioned that these groups differed and many of them disbelieved after they received the Bayyinah (clear proofs) of Islam. Allah did not just send down revelation claiming that Islam is the truth. The revelation came with clear evidence that it is from Allah. It is this evidence that separates Islam from false religion.

The clear evidences of Islam mentioned in this Sūrah are two; the Messenger and the Quran. The life of the Prophet (peace be upon him) is itself a proof of the truthfulness of his message for any sincere seeker of the truth. When someone studies his life, his teachings, his character, his sacrifices, and the impact of his message, then it becomes clear that he was indeed a true messenger from Allah. Therefore, the message he brought is the truth from Allah.

The Quran is also a clear evidence that Islam is the truth. There is nothing like the Quran in existence. It is a miracle in many different ways, and entire books have been written explaining the miraculous nature of the Quran. The Quran is a miracle linguistically, poetically, historically, scientifically, and in its inimitable nature. Any sincere seeker of the truth who studies the Quran will realize that it is indeed a miraculous message from the Creator and will submit to its message.

The Worst of Creation

Because the revelation came with such clear proofs, those who disbelieved after seeing the evidences are condemned in the strongest of terms. For the people of the book who did not receive the message of Islam, they may still have an excuse for following the older scriptures. But once it is clear to an individual that Islam is the truth, then there is no excuse for rejecting it.

Despite knowing that Islam is the truth, many of the people of the book still rejected it. They recognized that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was a true prophet and his message was from Allah. However, either due to arrogance or blind following, they still chose to reject him. These people were condemned in the worst of terms. Allah called them the worst of creation.

The reason that disbelievers are considered the worst of creation is because they are the only creation that does not serve the purpose they were created for. Every other creation in existence serves its purpose. It does what Allah expects it to do, except the disbeliever. The disbeliever has abandoned the purpose of life and chosen to serve false gods. Without a purpose, the disbeliever chooses the worst of paths, the path to Hellfire. This makes him the worst of creation.

It is important that we do not take these verses as permission to mistreat people. This Sūrah deals with theology, not character. The categorization of people into the best of creation and worst of creation relates to their status in the Afterlife, not how we treat them. In this world, kindness and gentle preaching is needed from us as we do not know whom Allah will guide in the future.

The Best of Creation

The Sūrah ends with a reminder that those who choose to believe in Islam and follow its message are the Best of Creation. The reason is because while the majority of creation fulfills its purpose without free will, the believer chooses to fulfill his purpose through free will. This elevates the practicing believer to a station higher than that of the angels.

Allah ends the Sūrah with a promise of Paradise for those who choose Islam. Islam is not a cultural heritage that someone inherits from their parents. Islam is an active choice to submit to the Creator and follow His Laws. Every believer must consciously choose to submit to Allah and follow His Law. This elevates a person’s status from that of a Muslim to a Muʾmin. There are various levels of faith in Islam. The lowest level is Islam i.e. to identify as a Muslim. Higher than that is for true faith to enter the heart. This is called Imān. The highest level is Iḥsān (perfection) which is defined as to worship Allah as if you can see Him, knowing that He sees you.

For the believer, life is a spiritual journey. In this journey, we go through various stages on our path to Paradise. The goal is to leave this earth in as high a stage as possible. While being Muslim is enough to save a person from eternal damnation, there exist special rewards and levels in Paradise for those who strive for Iḥsān. This should motivate us to be our best and continuously work on improving our spiritual state. So that we too can be among those whom Allah is pleased with them, and they are pleased with Him.  

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam, 2 comments
Sūrah al-Qadr: The Blessed Night

Sūrah al-Qadr: The Blessed Night

The remaining Sūrahs of the Quran are very brief yet packed with meaning. Sūrah al-Qadr is one such Sūrah. The scholars differ regarding whether it is a Makkan or Madinan Sūrah, with the majority leaning towards Makkan due to its size and theological theme. This Sūrah contains only five verses, but in these five verses are many layers of meaning and many important lessons.

The theme of Sūrah al-Qadr is obvious. It is about the blessed night of al-Qadr. Allah has gifted this nation with one night near the end of Ramadan in which worship has more value than eighty three years. This is an amazing gift that every believer should enjoy and benefit from. In these five short verses, five major virtues of the night of al-Qadr are listed.

The Revelation of the Quran

The first blessing mentioned is that it is the night on which the Quran was revealed. The Quran was revealed to the Prophet (peace be upon him) gradually over twenty three years. Because of this, scholars have differed over what is meant by the Quran being revealed on the night of al-Qadr.

The first opinion is that the first revelation (verses 1-5 of Sūrah al-ʿAlaq) were revealed on this night. This opinion makes the position of this Sūrah immediately after Sūrah al-ʿAlaq make sense. The second opinion is that the Quran was revealed to the lowest Heaven from the Preserved Tablet in its entirety on its night. Some scholars have reconciled these two opinions and said it could refer to both, as these two events do not contradict each other. Allah knows best.

This verse reminds us of the powerful link between the Quran and Ramadan. In the very beginning of the Quran (2:185) Allah informs us that He revealed the Quran in Ramadan. And now at the very end of the Quran, He reminds us of the same. The Quran both begins and ends, in a way, with reminders that the Quran was revealed in Ramadan.

This should inspire us to devote more time to the Quran in Ramadan. We should work on nurturing a strong relationship with the Quran throughout the year, but in Ramadan especially we should spend even more time reciting it, reflecting on it and studying it.

Better than a thousand months

The second virtue mentioned in this Sūrah is that the night of al-Qadr is better than a thousand months. This virtue is also mentioned in several narrations from the Prophet (peace be upon him).

Anas ibn Mālik reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said when the month of Ramadan began, “Verily, this month has presented itself to you. There is a night within it that is better than a thousand months. Whoever is deprived of it has been deprived of all good. None is deprived of its good but that he is truly deprived.”

Sunan Ibn Mājah 1644

In this narration, the Prophet (peace be upon him) warns that anyone who does not benefit from this night is deprived of all good. This means that any person who knows that such a night exists, yet makes no effort to worship Allah on these nights has deficiency in his faith or understanding of Islam. No true believer will let such an opportunity pass to earn the reward of more than a thousand months of worship.

The Presence of the Angels

The next virtue mentioned in this Sūrah is the presence of the angels. Allah informs us that the angels descend on this night to our realm, including the angel Jibrīl (Gabriel). This makes it a very important night because the angel Jibrīl usually only descends to bring revelation or when there is an important event. The descent of the angels, and the singling out of Jibrīl among them, should make us realize that even the angels consider this a blessed and important night.

Knowing that the angels descend on this night should cause us to increase in our dua on the night of al-Qadr. The angels ask Allah to answer our duas, so when we make dua during these nights, there is even stronger chance that it will be answered. Dua is one of the acts of worship that is very strongly associated with this night. This is why ʿĀʾisha (RA) asked the Prophet (peace be upon him) what dua she should make on this night.

ʿĀʾisha reported; I said, “O Messenger of Allah, if I know which night is the Night of Decree, what should I say during it?” The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “Say: O Allah, you are pardoning and generous. You love to forgive, so forgive me.”

Sunan al-Tirmidhī 3513

The Destiny of man is decreed on this night

There are several opinions regarding why it is called the night of al-Qadr. The strongest, in my opinion, is because it is the night in which the Qadr of man for the next year is decreed to the angels. The concept of Qadr (destiny) is a deep theological issue with many layers. I will only discuss here the aspects of it related to the night of al-Qadr.

Qadr is generally divided into two categories. The first is the infinite knowledge of Allah i.e. Allah knows everything that will ever happen, and nothing can happen except what He knows and wills. The second is the Qadr that is revealed to the angels. Every year on the night of al-Qadr Allah reveals to the angels the Qadr for that year i.e. who will die, who will be born, who will face calamities, etc.

This second type of Qadr is the one that is decreed on this night. It is also the type that can be changed through dua.

Salmān reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “Nothing repels the divine decree but supplication, and nothing increases life span but righteousness.”

Sunan al-Tirmidhī 2139

This gives us further motivation to make dua during the night of al-Qadr. It is the night when the angels receive their instructions for the following year. So we should spend it asking Allah to make that decree favorable to us.

The Night of Peace

The final virtue listed is that it is a night of peace. There is peace until the rising of the dawn. This means that the believers experience a surreal sense of peace on the night of al-Qadr. This is also considered one of the signs to seek for the night of al-Qadr. If someone spends the last ten nights of Ramadan in worship and experiences an overwhelming sense of peace on one of those nights, then he could consider that night to be the night of al-Qadr.

Ibn ʿAbbās reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said regarding the Night of Decree, “It is a calm night, neither hot nor cold, and the sun arises on it red and feeble.”

Ṣaḥīḥ Ibn Khuzaymah 2049

The wisdom behind not knowing

The above five virtues are the ones listed in this Sūrah. The Sūrah, however, does not tell us when the night of al-Qadr is. In fact, Allah has purposely kept that knowledge secret from the believers, leaving only a few clue and signs. There are several opinions regarding when the night of al-Qadr is. My opinion is that it occurs during the last ten nights of Ramadan and changes every year, and Allah knows best.

One of the possible reasons for keeping this a secret is so that we worship Allah more. If people knew exactly which night was al-Qadr, the majority of Muslims would engage in extra worship on that night only and feel it sufficient for the rest of the year. This could lead to laziness and laxity in worshipping Allah.

Since we do not know which night it is, Muslims across the globe spend all ten nights during the last ten nights of Ramadan engaged in extra acts of worship. Had they known the night, many would only have done one-tenth of that worship during Ramadan. Allah knows us best, and knowing our weaknesses, He kept this night a secret so that we can be blessed by worshipping Him more.

Another possible wisdom is so that nobody feels secure that they got the night of al-Qadr. For many people, such a feeling of security would make them lazy to worship Allah on other nights. Praise be to Allah, who reveals and withholds what He wills, He is Al-Ḥakīm (All-Wise), Al- ʿAlīm (All-Knowing).

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam, 4 comments
Sūrah al-ʿAlaq: The First Revelation

Sūrah al-ʿAlaq: The First Revelation

The first five verses of Sūrah al-ʿAlaq were the very first verses of the Quran to be revealed. The remainder of the Sūrah was revealed a few months or years later during the Makkan era. The scholars differ on exactly when the remaining verses were revealed but the story of its revelation makes it very clear that these are Makkan verses. As a result, this Sūrah is a Makkan Sūrah by consensus. It consists of 19 verses, the first five of which were the first revelation.

Reasons for Revelation

The reason for revelation of both sets of verses are clearly narrated in authentic hadiths. Regarding the first five verses, Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī includes a lengthy narration about its revelation. The narration is as follows.

ʿĀʾisha, the mother of the faithful believers, narrates; the commencement of the Divine Inspiration to Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) was in the form of good dreams which came true like bright daylight, and then the love of seclusion was bestowed upon him. He used to go in seclusion in the cave of Hīra where he used to worship (Allah alone) continuously for many days before his desire to see his family.

He used to take with him the journey food for the stay and then come back to (his wife) Khadīja to take his food likewise again till suddenly the Truth descended upon him while he was in the cave of Hīra. The angel came to him and asked him to read. The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied, “I do not know how to read.”

The Prophet (peace be upon him) added, “The angel caught me (forcefully) and pressed me so hard that I could not bear it anymore. He then released me and again asked me to read and I replied, ‘I do not know how to read.’ Thereupon he caught me again and pressed me a second time till I could not bear it anymore. He then released me and again asked me to read but again I replied, ‘I do not know how to read (or what shall I read)?’

Thereupon he caught me for the third time and pressed me, and then released me and said, ‘Read in the name of your Lord, Who has created (all that exists), created man from a clot. Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous.” (96:1, 96:2, 96:3)

Then Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) returned with the Inspiration and with his heart beating severely. Then he went to Khadīja bint al-Khuwaylid and said, “Cover me! Cover me!” They covered him till his fear was over and after that, he told her everything that had happened and said, “I fear that something may happen to me.”

Khadīja replied, “Never! By Allah, Allah will never disgrace you. You keep good relations with your kith and kin, help the poor and the destitute, serve your guests generously, and assist the deserving calamity-afflicted ones.”

Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 1:3

Regarding the second set of verses, the following has been narrated as its reason for revelation.

Abū Huraira reported that Abū Jahl asked (people) whether Muhammad placed his face (on the ground) in their presence. It was said to him: Yes. He said: By Lāt and ʿUzza. If I were to see him do that, I would trample his neck, or I would smear his face with dust.

He came to Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) as he was engaged in prayer and thought of trampling his neck (and the people say) that he came near him but turned upon his heels and tried to repulse something with his hands. It was said to him: What is the matter with you?

He said: There is between me and him a ditch of fire and terror and wings. Thereupon Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: If he were to come near me the angels would have torn him to pieces.

Then Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, revealed these verses; “In fact, man oversteps all bounds, because he looks upon himself as self-sufficient. Surely to your Lord is the return. Have you seen him who forbids a servant when he prays? Do you see if he is on the right way, or enjoins the observance of piety?

Do you see if he [Abū Jahl] disbelieves and turns away? Does he not know that Allah sees? Nay, if he desists not, We will seize him by the forelock, a lying, sinful forelock. Then let him summon his council. We will summon the guards of Hell. Nay! Obey not thou him, but kneel down, and come near.” (96:6-19).

Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 52:41

These two narrations give us a clear picture of the events surrounding the revelation of this Sūrah.

The Call to Knowledge

The first revelation to the Prophet (peace be upon him) called on him and his followers to recite in the name of the Lord. There are two commands included in this verse, the first is to recite the Quran, and the second is to begin our recitation with the Basmala.

The first revelation was a call to recite, study, ponder over and reflect on the Quran. Doing so should lead to increase in faith and practice of Islam. A major problem in our times is that the majority of people have abandoned reciting the Quran with understanding. This has created a barrier between us and piety. The way back begins going back to the Quran.

Allah then reminds us of some of His Favors. He created us in a miraculous way, and gifted us with language and the ability to learn. These two skills, complex languages and the ability to study, are unique to the human race. They are two of the qualities that make humans the best of creation, and give us an advantage over other creatures.

In reminding us of these favors, Allah is calling us to use them in ways that are beneficial. Reading, writing, talking, and learning should all lead a person closer to Allah. A believer should immerse himself in books and classes that increase his faith and piety. The foundation of our faith is knowledge, and it begins with the Quran. These verses remain a reminder to all of us to never stop reciting the Quran and reflecting over its meanings.

The Arrogance of Abū Jahl

The remainder of the Surah was revealed regarding Abū Jahl and his arrogant attitude towards Islam. Abū Jahl had seen clear signs that Islam is the truth, yet openly rejected it and opposed it all his life. He dedicated his life to fighting the truth, despite seen obvious proof that it was the truth.

In these verses, Allah condemns Abū Jahl for his arrogance and lies, for trying to prevent people from worshipping their Creator, and for thinking that he is self-sufficient. Many of the early revelations condemned self-sufficiency due to its prevalence among the elite of the Quraysh.

The leaders of the Quraysh were wealthy and powerful people. They attributed all of their success to their own intellects and skills. They denied that Allah had anything to do with it, and that He is the true provider. In their delusion, they grew arrogant and began to look down upon the poor. This mindset was one of the primary reasons why they rejected Islam. They couldn’t stomach the idea of a religion that attributed sustenance to God, and treated the wealth and the poor as equal.

Modern Capitalistic societies suffer from this same delusion. Many billionaires boast about being self-made. They attribute all their success to themselves, and remove God from the equation altogether. They look down upon the poor as lazy and unworthy of wealth. In doing so, they repeat the mistakes of Abū Jahl and risk following in his footsteps.

Islam calls on us to maintain humility in all situations. A believer works hard and does his best. But the believer also knows that all sustenance is from Allah. So he is grateful to Allah, content and generous. He does not look down upon people due to their poverty or circumstances. He knows that the only criterion for superiority is piety and only Allah knows who is truly pious.

This Sūrah offers us a duel message of the right and wrong way. The way of reciting the Quran, studying, and seeking authentic knowledge leads to Paradise. The qualities of Abū Jahl lead to the Hellfire. It is the duty of every person to choose their path in life, “So prostrate and come close (to your Lord).” (96:19)

To learn more Tafsir of the Quran, check out my ebook Themes of the Quran, available here.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam, 1 comment