Sūrah an-Naṣr: Reflections on Conquest

Sūrah an-Naṣr: Reflections on Conquest

Sūrah an-Naṣr was revealed during the late Madinan phase by consensus. Scholars differ regarding the exact time it was revealed, but they agree that it was after the conquest of Makkah. The opening verse of Sūrah an-Naṣr mentions a conquest, and scholars agree that this is the conquest of Makkah. This was most likely the final short Sūrah to be revealed.

The theme of this Sūrah is the aftermath of the conquest of Makkah. There are essentially three main points to extract from this Sūrah. The first is the worldly results of the conquest. The second is the end of the prophet’s (peace be upon him) life on earth. The third is how to handle conquests and victories in a way that is pleasing to Allah.

The Conquest of Makkah

The conquest of Makkah is a truly miraculous event, and one of the proofs of prophethood. In just over two decades of preaching and war, the Prophet (peace be upon him) had conquered Makkah and removed idolatry from Arabia. He had accomplished in two decades a feat that most people would be unable to accomplish in several lifetimes. The fact that Allah assists him in his mission is one of the clearest proofs that Islam is the true religion.

The Arabs at that time also recognized this, including the leaders of Makkah. They all eventually converted to Islam, and after them, Islam spread across the world faster than any other religion in history. Within the Prophet’s lifetime, Arabia had become the land of Islam. In the time of the companions, it spread throughout Persia, Egypt, and Syria. Within a century, it reached the shores of Spain and India. Today, a quarter of the world is Muslim, and the religion continues to spread, despite the political weakness of the Muslims.

The first two verses of Sūrah an-Naṣr draws our attention to this phenomenon. When conquest and victory came to the Muslims, it was followed by thousands of people converting to Islam. Over time, these thousands became millions. Today, almost two billion people claim to be Muslim. The conquest of Makkah was a turning point in our history that marked both the rapid spread of Islam and the end of the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) mission on earth.

Mission Accomplished

When Sūrah an-Naṣr was revealed, some of the companions understood that it marked the end of the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) life on earth. They understood from this revelation that the Prophet (peace be upon him) had completed his mission, and would be leaving this earth soon. They were correct, as he passed away a few months or years after it was revealed.

This raises a question though in the mind of some readers; why was the Prophet (peace be upon him) so soon after conquering Makkah? Why wasn’t he given time to see the fruit of his efforts as Islam spread through Syria, Egypt, Persia, and other lands? The answer is multilayered. The first answer is that the Prophets (peace be upon them) are given a choice when they want to leave this earth, and the Prophet (peace be upon him) agreed to return to His Creator at that point in time.

Another reason may be that the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) mission was not to spread Islam throughout the world but to establish a community that would do so. With the conquest of Arabia, the Prophet (peace be upon him) had established the most pious and productive community in the world. He left this world knowing that the preservation and spread of his religion were in good hands.

A third possible reason may be to prevent doubt from entering people’s minds regarding the nature of his mission. The prophet (peace be upon him) was sent to call people to Islam. Once his mission was accomplished, he passed away. He did not stay on to enjoy the fruits of his efforts and indulge in the luxuries that the nation would soon inherit. By moving on so soon after fulfilling his mission, the integrity of his mission was preserved, and his enemies could not accuse him of faking prophethood for the sake of worldly conquest and power. Allah knows best.

Praise Allah and seek Forgiveness

The final verse of Sūrah an-Naṣr is very deep. In this verse, Allah commands the Prophet (peace be upon him) to glorify Allah and seek forgiveness. There are many layers of meaning in this powerful verse. The first meaning is that we should attribute all victory to Allah. Whenever we succeed at anything, we must praise Allah and seek forgiveness for our shortcomings. In this way, we remain humble and focused on the obedience of Allah.

A second meaning, which some of the companions understood, was the end of the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) life. They realized that Allah is asking him to increase in his remembrance and seeking forgiveness because death was near. This shows the deep intelligence that Allah had gifted the scholars among the companions with. It also teaches us a very important lesson; when we suspect that death is near, we too must increase in our worship of Allah and seeking forgiveness for our mistakes.

A third angle answers a very important question; why was the Prophet (peace be upon him) asked to seek forgiveness, even though he is sinless and guaranteed Paradise. A possible answer to this is so that he remains our perfect role model in these situations. If the Prophet (peace be upon him) is asked to seek forgiveness during times of victory, what about us sinners? It becomes even more important for us to follow in his footsteps and to do so too.

This Sūrah demonstrates the remarkable difference between Islam and other ways of life. When people conquer lands in the name of liberalism, democracy, or false religions, it is often followed by pretentious shows of power, vainglorious boasting, and indulgence in major sins. All of these are considered standard ways of celebrating victory. The believer, however, celebrates victory by thanking Allah, worshipping Allah, ascribing success to Allah, and seeking forgiveness from Allah. While victory boosts the ego of the tyrant, it humbles the soul of the true believer. This shows the stark difference between the priorities of Islam and man-made ideologies.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam
Sūrah al-Kawthar and Sūrah al-Kāfirūn

Sūrah al-Kawthar and Sūrah al-Kāfirūn

Sūrah al-Kawthar is considered one of the proofs of the inimitable nature of the Quran. It is three short powerful verses. Despite its brevity, the Quraysh were unable to produce something similar to it. This stands as historical evidence for the inimitable nature of the Quran. Had it been possible, the Quraysh would have produced a Sūrah like it. That would have been far easier than spending their entire lives at war with Islam.

Scholars differ regarding whether this is a Makkan or Madinan Sūrah. There is evidence to support both views and the issue remains unsettled. I am inclined to the opinion that it is Madinan, because of a narration in Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim that indicates it was revealed in Madinah. Allah knows best. Scholars, however, agree that it is comprised of three verses.

The theme of this Sūrah is the statues of the Prophet (peace be upon him) in this world and the next. The Sūrah was revealed because of the accusations by the enemies of Islam that the Prophet (peace be upon him) would have no legacy because he did not leave behind any male children. This is thoroughly refuted by this Sūrah and by history itself. The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not leave behind any male children, but he established a nation that continues to honor him and follow him today. This is a far greater legacy than anything his enemies could have produced.

Abundance and Gratitude

One of the lessons we can derive from this Sūrah is the importance of gratitude when tested with abundance. In this Sūrah, Allah tells the Prophet (peace be upon him) that He has granted him al-Kawthar. There are various interpretations of this word but a common one is an abundance in both worlds. The Prophet (peace be upon him) had his needs taken care of in this world so that he could focus on his mission, and he has the greatest Paradise in the next world.

In the next verse, Allah commands the Prophet (peace be upon him) to pray and sacrifice for Allah. This is understood to mean that the Prophet (peace be upon him) should express his gratitude to Allah through worship. There is a very powerful lesson in this. In this world, Allah will test some people with hardship and others with abundance. He may test some people with hardships at some point in their lives and abundance at other points in their lives. Allah knows best who needs which kind of test.

While most of us know that we need to handle the test of hardship with patience, we often forget that abundance is also a test. When tested with an abundance of anything, the way to pass this test is through gratitude, worship and using those blessings in a way that is pleasing to Allah. This lesson is repeated many times in the Quran, especially in the stories of David and Solomon. The focus in those stories is always on gratitude. The lesson is simple; when Allah blesses us, we must respond with gratitude through worship.

The final verse is a prediction that the person who started this slander will be forgotten about and cut off from history. This prediction came through as we do not know who this person is, nor does anyone care. There is a lesson in this for those who try to humiliate or insult the Prophet (peace be upon him). They too will be forgotten when it is all over.

The Virtues of Sūrah al-Kāfirūn

Sūrah al-Kāfirūn was revealed in Makkah during the early Makkan Phase. There is consensus about this because the reason for revelation has been preserved in an authentic narration. Sūrah al-Kāfirūn is a short Makkan Sūrah made up of six powerful verses. Its theme is the uncompromising message of Islam, and the refusal to mix that message with falsehood in any way.

It is narrated that some of the leaders of the Quraysh offered the Prophet (peace be upon him) a compromise. They offered to worship Allah for one year, and in exchange, the Muslims should worship the idols for a year. This offer shows that they clearly did not understand the purpose of the message of Islam and its uncompromising stance on monotheism. Sūrah al-Kāfirūn was revealed as a response to their ridiculous offer.

There are various virtues narrated about this Sūrah. It was the habit of the Prophet (peace be upon him) to recite this Sūrah in the two units of prayer before Fajr, as well as in the Witr prayer. (Ibn Majah 5:1202, 5:1226) The many narrations about the Prophet (peace be upon him) reciting it indicates that it is a Sūrah he often recited in many Salahs. We can establish from this that it is recommended to recite this Sūrah in these prayers, and Allah knows best.

It is also narrated that this Sūrah is equal to a quarter of the Quran in value, but scholars differ over the authenticity of this narration. If it is true then it could mean that reciting it earns the reader the reward of reciting a quarter of the Quran. It could also mean that the message of this Sūrah summarizes the message of a quarter of the Quran. Allah knows best.

The Uncompromising Message

This short Sūrah teaches us never to compromise on the purity of our religion. We should never water down or change any of the fundamentals of our religion to please the disbelievers. This is clear in the wording of the Sūrah and its response to the Quraysh. We do not worship the idols that they worshipped, and they did not worship Allah properly the way we do. They have their religion and we have ours.

This message is very relevant to our times. Although nobody is really trying to push Muslims back into idol-worship today, there is a strong movement to get Muslims to compromise their religion and follow their desires. Liberalism revolves around the worship of one’s desires and pursuit of unbridled lust. The message of Islam gets in the way of their animalistic goals. Because of this, there is a strong push for Muslims to water down their religion, creating a fake liberal Islam in the process.

As believers, we need to take a clear stance on this. They have their way of life and we have ours. We will not compromise the fundamental beliefs and morals of our religion to please people. The pleasure of Allah is our priority and it matters more than anything else. This message does not negate the importance of Fiqh evolving and changing from time to time and place to place. That is a necessary part of our religion, and is done according to Fiqh principles, not the desires of disbelievers.

The focus here is on our beliefs and morals. These do not change, and we must remain firm and uncompromising on these no matter how much society pressurizes us to change. At the end of the day, we do not worship the desires that they worship, and they do not worship Allah whom we worship. They have their liberal way of life, and we have our pure true way of life.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam
Sūrah al-Māʿūn: Small Deeds

Sūrah al-Māʿūn: Small Deeds

Scholars differ over whether this is a Makkan or Madinan Sūrah. The majority classify it as Makkan and a few as Madinan. Some scholars argue that the first half was revealed in Makkah, while the second half was revealed in Madinah. I am inclined towards the third opinion, even though it is a minority opinion.

The reason for this is because the first half of the Sūrah clearly seems to address the Quraysh. But the second half talks about people who are lazy in the prayers and pray for show. These are the hypocrites, and they did not exist during the Makkan Era. Hypocrites only propped up during the Madinan Phase. The fact that half of Sūrah al-Māʿūn addresses the pagans of Makkah, while the other half addresses the hypocrites supports the view that it is half-Makkan and half-Madinan. Allah knows best.

The theme of Sūrah al-Māʿūn is that small acts of kindness and caring for others form fundamental parts of our religion. The religion is not restricted to theology or ritual acts of prayer. Both of these are crucial and essential. But it is also important for the believer to develop a sense of mercy for the creation, and to dedicate a part of his life to taking care of those who are less fortunate.

The Rejecters of the Religion

Allah begins the Sūrah by asking whether we had seen those who rejected the religion. This is referring to the pagans of Makkah, or the hypocrites of Madinah, according to different interpretations. Either way, Allah is drawing our attention to some of the qualities of the rejecters of the truth.

But then the qualities He uses to describe them are not the ones people generally expect. He does not describe them as those who lie against God or don’t pray. These descriptions can be found elsewhere in the Quran. These verses draw our attention to another quality of the disbelievers; apathy towards the poor.

Allah describes these rejecters as people who mistreat orphans and discourage feeding the poor. These points drive home the fact that Islam is a social religion. Our religion focuses not only on our relationship with the Creator but also on our relationship with each other. The believers are one brotherhood and they feel for each other.

Caring for the creation of Allah, and the children of Adam drives a believer to make feeding the poor and caring for orphans a fundamental part of his life. The rejecter, on the other hand, doesn’t care about anyone besides himself. This isn’t true for every disbeliever, as there are exceptions to every rule, but it is a general quality described in these verses. Those who actively deny Allah His Rights will easily deny the Creation their rights as well.

Praying For Show

The next set of verses draws our attention to the importance of intention and quality in our ritual acts of worship. Allah condemns those who pray for show and those who pray lazily. When we pray, we are not doing Allah a favor. We are fulfilling our purpose in life and enriching our own souls.

Salah is the single most important act of worship in Islam. It solidifies our faith, strengthens our relationship with Allah, protects us from immorality, and serves as a means of forgiveness for our daily minor sins. Without Salah, we can easily go astray. This is why abandoning the Salah is directly linked to disbelief in various narrations.

Due to its central importance in Islam, Salah cannot be treated lightly or done in a haphazard manner. It is an act of conversation with the Creator. Therefore, it deserves our purest intention, full attention, and best effort. Praying for show and praying lazily are qualities of the hypocrites. So the believer should strive to avoid these qualities always.

The Small Deeds

The Sūrah ends with a reminder that the hypocrites overlook small deeds. This means that they regard small acts of kindness as insignificant and do not bother doing them. They may even mock a believer who takes out time to do the smaller good deeds.

We see this in our society when believers are mocked for taking time to remember God at work, eating with their rights hands, or even washing properly after using the bathroom. Despite these being obvious acts of piety, modern society scoffs at these concepts as insignificant and a waste of time. The obsession with wealth and fame makes them question the purpose and benefit of these acts of worship.

For the believer, however, there is no such thing as a small deed. Every act of kindness and every little ritual we do assists us in fulfilling our purpose in life. Allah blesses the smaller deeds and grants them lasting effects, high rewards, and often uses them as a reason to forgive His servants for their sins. Knowing this, the believer never neglects the smaller deeds. They are a crucial part of our religion. Together with the bigger deeds, they form part of the perfect comprehensive way of life; Islam.

To learn more Tafsir of the Quran, check out my ebook Themes of the Quran, currently on sale at half price here.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam
Sūrah al-Fīl and Sūrah Quraysh

Sūrah al-Fīl and Sūrah Quraysh

These two Sūrahs share a common theme; Allah’s blessings and favors on the Quraysh. Due to this common theme, it is clear that these are Makkan Sūrahs revealed early in Islam to remind the pagans of Makkah about Allah’s favors upon them. Allah had blessed the people of Makkah with both worldly and spiritual favors, yet they rejected his messenger.

Allah revealed these two short powerful Sūrahs to remind the Quraysh of his blessing. Sūrah al-Fīl focuses on spiritual blessings, while Sūrah Quraysh focuses on worldly blessings. The themes of these Sūrahs slow together so well, that Ubay bin Kab considered them as one Sūrah. However, later scholars arrived at a consensus that they are two separate Sūrahs.

Sūrah al-Fīl is a Makkan Sūrah by consensus and has five verses. It was revealed very early in Islamic History with some historians placing it as the nineteenth Sūrah to be revealed. Sūrah Quraysh is Makkan according to the majority view, although a minority of scholars claimed it was Madinan. The content is clearly Makkan and it clearly addresses the Quraysh. Therefore, we will view it as Makkan Sūrah. Its verses are divided into four or five verses according to the different schools of recitation.

The Story of the Elephant

Sūrah al-Fīl is a very brief reminder about the incident of the elephant that took place in Makkah during the year in which the Prophet (peace be upon him) was born. The events that took place that year were still fresh in the minds of the Quraysh and therefore did not need to be explained in detail in the Quran. As a general rule, stories that were well known to the Quraysh are briefly mentioned in the Quran, while stories they were unfamiliar with are discussed in more detail.

That year, an army from Yemen marched upon Makkah intent on destroying the Kabah. This army included war elephants, and the Arabs were incapable of fighting such an army. Instead, they fled to the mountains and asked Allah for help. Allah assisted them in a miraculous manner by destroying the army with birds that pelted them with stones.

The Quraysh had witnessed this clear miracle just a few decades before the advent of Islam. Many of the people who witnessed this event were still alive. This was a clear evidence that Allah is the only true God, Makkah is sacred, and Allah had protected them and their homes and wealth from destruction. Despite witnessing such a clear miracle, the elders of Makkah disbelieved in Islam and rebelled against it. This brief Sūrah was revealed to remind them about this event, so that they may reflect and reconsider their stance towards Islam.

Wealth and Safety

The event of the elephant was not the only blessing Allah had given the Quraysh. He had blessed them with wealth, safety, and honor. Makkah was the hub of religious and economic activity in Arabia. This brought great prestige and wealth to the Quraysh. People from all over Arabic flocked to Makkah for the pilgrimage, and the bi-annual trade routes during summer and winter were always profitable.

Allah reminds the Quraysh of these favors in these short verses, then calls on them to worship Him alone. He reminds them that He granted them safety from hunger and fear. Hunger and fear are the two main causes of chaos and anarchy in society. When people are starving or afraid for their lives, they take to desperate means to protect themselves.

Allah had protected the Quraysh from all of this. All He asked for in return was that they worship him alone and obey His Messenger. Those who did so became the best generation of Muslims. Those who rejected became among the worst of ungrateful disbelievers.

Reflecting on Blessings

Although these verses primarily address the Quraysh, the message of the Quran is eternal. Hence, there are lessons in these verses for all of us. If we take the time to reflect on our own lives, we will find that Allah has blessed us with similar bounties.

In worldly affairs, many of us are blessed with safety from hunger and fear. Many Muslims are also blessed with profitable businesses and abundance of wealth. The blessings that Allah has given us go beyond these. More important than any of these worldly blessings are the spiritual favors Allah has given us.

Allah has blessed us and made us followers of the final prophet (peace be upon him). He has made us a balanced nation, with the potential of being the best of nations if we follow the religion. He has protected His Revelation for us, given us the best role model in the Prophet (peace be upon him), and granted us a perfect way of life.

In return, out of gratitude to Allah, we must dedicate our lives to His Worship. The best way to express gratitude to Allah is to obey Him and worship Him. When we do so, we are fulfilling our purpose in life, and securing our Hereafter. So worship the Lord of This House, the One Who protected you from hunger and Who protected you from fear.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam
Sūrah al-Humaza: The Slanderer

Sūrah al-Humaza: The Slanderer

There is consensus among the scholars that Sūrah al-Humaza is a Makkan Sūrah, and contains nine verses. The content is clearly Makkan, as it deals with a specific event from early Islamic history. Some historians state that this was the thirty-second Sūrah to be revealed.

As an early Makkan Sūrah, Sūrah al-Humaza is short and powerful. It focuses on some of the arrogant leaders of the Quraysh and their evil qualities. The core focus is on their qualities of slandering and backbiting. These two sins were used as tools of propaganda against Islam during those early days. In fact, they are still used as tools of propaganda against Islam today.

The Arrogant Leaders

The elite of the Quraysh included several arrogant and wealthy individuals. These men regarded themselves as better than everybody else, and scoffed at the believers for not being as wealthy or as powerful as them. The elite would gather in their meeting place and backbite about the believers. They would invent all kinds of propaganda and slander to spread about the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his followers.

The leading conspirators, regarding whom this Sūrah was revealed were Walīd b. al-Mughīrah and Umayyah b. Khalaf. Walīd and Umayyah were wealthy businessmen who didn’t need to work every day. They had amassed a lot of wealth, because of which they had a lot of time on their hands. So while the average Makkan was out earning their wages, these men sat around conspiring against Islam.

They invented various slanders that spread throughout Makkah. They called the Prophet (peace be upon him) a magician and mad man. They accused him of seeking power and leadership. They accused the believers of breaking family ties. They warned against the messenger and his message.

The irony of destiny is that not only did they fail to stop the spread of Islam, but their own offspring eventually converted to Islam. Umayyah’s son Ṣafwān was one of the late converts to Islam after the conquest of Makkah. Walīd’s son Walīd was one of the early converts to Islam in the Madinan Era. But the greatest of these conversions was Walīd’s other son Khālid. Although Khālid converted to Islam a lot later than his brother, he become one of the most important companions and a key figure in Islamic military history.

The petty efforts of the Quraysh to stop the spread of Islam through slander and backbiting eventually backfired. These individuals were lost to history, while their own offspring became leading figures in the spread of Islam across the globe. Today there are many figures trying to stop the spread of Islam through slander and propaganda. Perhaps their own offspring will also become leading callers to Islam.

The Sins of the Tongue

Slander and backbiting are not small sins. These are among the most dangerous deeds of the tongue. Slander means to invent lies about people and spread it. Backbiting means to spread unsavory information about others, even if it is true. Islam has prohibited both of these acts as they are the cause of great evil and harm in society.

Whenever someone wishes to undermine another, they often choose one of two routes; either they dig up dirt on the individual and spread it, or they invent a rumor about the individual and spread it. The reason why these are often the first strategies adopted is because they are very effective in ruining people’s lives.

How many innocent people have had their careers and reputations ruined by the spread of slander? And how many struggling sinners have been embarrassed and humiliated by having their sins exposed? There is no benefit in speaking about the faults of others, except when it is necessary to warn others against their harm or oppression. In most cases, slander and backbiting are simply the tools of malicious people, who intend nothing but harm to the other.

The Quran and Hadīth are full of warnings against slander and backbiting. These are listed as among the most dangerous of sins because of the impact they have on society. A single rumor could ruin a person’s life and no amount of seeking forgiveness would be able to undo the harm caused to the other. This is why it is crucial to hold our tongues and avoid spreading any information that is harmful.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “The Muslim is one from whose tongue and hand Muslims are safe.”

Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 10

The Prophet (peace be upon him) also said, “Blessed is one who controls his tongue, whose house is spacious, and who weeps for his sins.”

al-Muʿjam al-Awsaṭ 2398

The believer is very careful about anything they say about others. The believer refrains from idle speech, talking bad about others, and spreading gossip. His tongue is constantly remembering Allah, preaching truth, and spreading beneficial knowledge. There is no room in the heart or on the tongue of the believer for the filth of slander.

A Severe Warning

The bulk of this Sūrah is a warning to these pagans, and anyone who follows in their footsteps, about the Hellfire. Allah warns of a severe crushing punishment in the Afterlife for those who dedicated their lives to slandering the messenger and his message. Columns of fire will engulf such an individual and surround him from every side, crushing him over and over again for all eternity.

Rejecting the message of Islam is already an unforgiveable sin, if someone dies upon it. To go further and to slander the religion and spread lies about it is an even greater evil. The people who dedicate their lives to spreading lies against Allah can expect no mercy in the Afterlife. They gave up that right when they took up the work of the devil and dedicated their lives to propaganda and slander.

These verse may have been revealed about the leaders of the Quraysh, but they apply to every individual who slanders Islam until the end of time. Slandering an innocent person is a major sin. To slander Islam and its messenger is among the greatest acts of disbelief. So Woe to every slanderer and backbiter!

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam