Tafseer

The Themes of Surah al-Baqarah

This article is a compilation of various chapters from my book Themes of the Quran as well as some original content. The ebook is currently on sale here.

Introduction to Surah al-Baqarah

Surah al-Baqarah (Chapter of the cow) is the second Surah in the Quran, and the longest Surah in the Quran. It is also the most comprehensive Surah in the Quran. It covers almost every aspect of Islam, ranging from theology to stories of the prophets to nearly every chapter of Islamic Law. In many ways, it is a summary of the rest of the Quran. Nearly every topic touched upon in this Surah is explained in more detail in later Surahs and in various Hadiths.

Surah al-Baqarah also has a lot of virtues that have been authentically narrated in various hadiths. It contains the greatest verse in the Quran which is Ayat al-Kursi, (Sahih Muslim 810) and there are many virtues attached to the last two verses of this Surah. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever recites the last two verses of Surat al-Baqarah in the night, it is enough for him.” (Sahih al-Bukhari 4723, Sahih Muslim 807)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Satan flees from a home in which Surah al-Baqarah is recited.” (Sahih Muslim 780) So it also works as a form of protection against Jinn and devils. There are many other virtues narrated about this Surah and its various verses.

The First Theme: Importance of Obeying The Law

The bulk of the first Juz of the Quran is comprised of the first half of Surah Al-Baqarah. Surah Al-Baqarah is the longest Surah in the Qur’an. The core theme of this Surah are the Laws of Islam and the importance of obeying them.

This Surah was revealed in Madinah when the Islamic State was being formulated and the importance of the laws was crucial for the successful foundation of the state. If we wish to revive Islam today, the first step is to go back to treating the law of Allah as the priority in our lives.

Note that while most of the laws in this Surah are addressed to the believers, the very first commandment in the Qur’an is addressed to all of mankind, “Oh Mankind, worship your Lord,” (2:21) Tawheed (Islamic Monotheism) is the first and most emphasized command in the Qur’an. Every human needs to acknowledge Tawheed before anything else.

In order to emphasize the importance of obeying the laws, the first Juz of the Qur’an is full of stories of those who disobeyed the laws of Allah. The first story mentioned in the Qur’an is that of Adam and Shaytaan, and Shaytaan’s refusal to bow to Adam, which was the first act of disobedience against Allah.

The story of Adam and Shaytaan is repeated throughout the Qur’an due to its historical and moral significance. This story teaches us about the origins of mankind, the beginning of evil, the dangers of arrogance and the purpose of life. This story should be studied carefully and reflected upon to discover its many lessons.

The bulk of this Juz comprises of the stories of Bani Israel and how time after time in a variety of different ways, they violated the laws of Allah, as well as the consequences of them doing so. These stories are remarkably similar to the different ways in which many Muslims today violate the laws of Allah.

One story which stands out is the story that this Surah is named after. A murder had occurred among the Israelites and they asked Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) to assist them in identifying the murderer. Allah revealed that they should sacrifice a cow and Allah will reveal who the murderer is.

The people did not take this seriously and began to ask a multitude of questions, each of which restricted the type of cow they needed to slaughter. Eventually, after they had made the law too difficult upon themselves, they had to search for a very specific type of cow and only after slaughtering it, was the murderer made clear to them.

The lesson of this story is to avoid asking unnecessary questions that will make this religion stricter than it needs to be. Allah has purposely left certain things general, and kept silent on other things, as a Mercy to us.

Too many questions about minute issues lead to the establishment of laws that are too strict and not in keeping with the goal of the Shariah i.e. the removal of hardship. Nowadays, it is quite common to find Muslim communities stressing over such minute issues, making the laws of Islam unnecessarily stricter upon themselves than it needs to be. It will serve us well to reflect on the lesson from this story.

The Juz ends with a reminder to follow the example of Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) and his descendants who were amazing examples of submission and obedience to the laws of Allah. Prophet Ibrahim, Hajar, Ismail and the rest (peace be upon them all) obeyed Allah even in things which average people can’t understand. Whether it was the command to sacrifice his firstborn son, or the command to leave his wife and son in the desert of Makkah, Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) is one of the best examples of true submission (Islam) to the will of Allah.

The Second Theme – The Laws of Islam

The second Juz of the Qur’an continues with Surah Al-Baqarah and as a result, the theme is closely linked to the theme of the first Juz. While the first Juz focused primarily on stories reminding us about the importance of obeying the laws of Allah, the second Juz details the laws of Islam.

This is perhaps the most Fiqh-laden Juz in the entire Qur’an and in it are verses related to all the key topics of Islamic Law starting with the importance of Salah and Patience (2:153) and includes discussion on:

  1. Instruction to eat only that which is Halal (2:168)
  2. Discussions surrounding the Qibla for Salah (2:142-145)
  3. Islamic Criminal Law and its importance (2:178-179)
  4. Laws related to fasting and the month of Ramadan (2:183-186)
  5. Laws of Jihad and warfare (2:190-195, 216-218)
  6. Laws related to Hajj and Umrah (2:196-200)
  7. People who we should spend charity on (2:215)
  8. Laws related to marriage, intimacy, breastfeeding, divorce and
    widowhood (2:221-242)

Each of these passages are worth of a detailed study. The section on patience is a very powerful one. Allah reminds us that He will definitely test us in this world with every possible type of test including fear, hunger, and loss of life and wealth. We need to be ready to face such tests, as they shape us into better people and force us to grow.

Allah reminds us as well that He is with those who are patient through these trials and such people will have a great reward in the Afterlife. This is the reward for patience (Sabr) which in Islam is not a passive quality. Sabr does not mean we sit back and absorb abuse. It means we patiently and constantly work towards solutions and higher goals, in spite of any setbacks and problems that come our way. This is how we obey the laws of Allah, with patience and consistency.

After listing all of the above laws which include all five pillars of Islam as well as most major areas of Fiqh, the Juz ends with yet another reminder of the importance of obeying the law.

When King Taloot (Saul) was appointed over Bani Israel, he faced a lot of rebelliousness from them and was left with a small group to fight the army of Goliath, but this army included Prophet David (peace be upon him) and were victorious despite their small numbers.

The lesson for us in this is that even if we are in the minority for obeying the Law of Allah, Allah can still grant us victory over His enemies, and we should never lose our steadfastness upon the truth, no matter how few in number we are.

“How often has a small group defeated a large army with the permission of Allah, and Allah is with those who are patient,” (2:249)

To continue learning the themes of the rest of the Quran, get the full ebook here. The ebook is currently on sale at half price for Ramadan, and comes with a bonus ebook. Access this full deal here.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam, 1 comment
Ramadan Tafseer Series

Ramadan Tafseer Series

This Ramadan I will be doing a LIVE Tafseer every morning after Fajr at 6 am (GMT +2). You can access the full series on my YouTube Channel. Above is the first episode in the series, focusing on verse 2 of Surah Al-Baqarah.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Inner Peace, 0 comments
A Thematic Tafseer of Surah Kahf

A Thematic Tafseer of Surah Kahf

A Thematic Tafseer of Surah Kahf

Surah Kahf begins by laying down the fundamental theme of the Surah. The opening verses praises Allah for revealing the Qur’an as a means of guidance for mankind, and a warning to those who persist in disbelief.

The Messenger (peace be upon him) is then told not to grief too much over those who persist in disbelief. As they are responsible for their own choices, and he has done his job to the best of his ability.

The core theme of Surah Kahf is then summarized in verses seven and eight. In which Allah say, “Definitely, I have made whatever on earth beautiful, to test which of them are best in their deeds.

Then I will make whatever is on it dry bare soil.” This is the essence of the message of Surah Kahf. The world was created to test us and everything in it is a test and will eventually come to an end. So do not be fooled by the beauty of this worldly life.

The Seven Sleepers

After mentioning this theme, Allah then goes directly into the first story. Which is told first in summary then in details. The purpose of this could have been to get the attention of the disbelievers of Makkah. So that they listen to the full detailed story and derive lessons from it.

The story is about seven young men who were the only believers in their city. Fearing persecution, they fled to a cave and asked Allah for assistance. Allah answers their dua by putting them to sleep for three centuries, and preserving their youth and health through this time in miraculous ways.

Upon awakening, the youth are discovered by the people of that century. They serve as a reminder of the reality of resurrection for them. The young men pass away in a way not mentioned in the Qur’an. The people dispute over what to do with their graves. Unfortunately, the prevailing opinion was to build a Masjid over their graves. This has been misunderstood by some Muslims as permission in the Qur’an to build Masjids over graves of righteous people.

Reality, however, is that the Qur’an does not justify the actions of these unknown people. There are many Hadiths that prohibit building Masjids over graves. So the actions of these unknown people cannot be taken as evidence in light of clear Hadith.

Lessons from this story

The next set of verses then highlight a few lessons from this story. Like the importance of saying Inshaa Allah when planning for the future. The importance of good company, the dangers of evil company and the importance of focusing only on beneficial knowledge are all lessons from this story.

It is rounded off with a reminder of the theme of the Surah. We will be accountable to Allah for our choices on the Last Day. The believers will be rewarded with Paradise while the disbelievers will face punishment in the Hellfire.

The Parable of the Farmer

The Surah then moves on to the second story about two men. One who was wealthy and the other was less fortunate. I am of the opinion that this story is a parable, and not necessarily a true story, and Allah knows best.

This is the only story in this Surah that begins with the words “Give them the parable of two men, whom We gave one of them two gardens.” This supports the opinion of it being a parable.

The story shows us that Allah blessed one man with abundant wealth and a successful farm. But he grew arrogant, felt entitled and was ungrateful to Allah for His blessings. His poorer friend reminded him to be grateful to Allah. He reminded him to seek His forgiveness before Allah takes his wealth away. But the warning went with recognition.

The man eventually lost all his wealth and property and was regretful for his attitude. He had failed the test of material success, which is a test we face almost on a daily basis in this Capitalistic society. The story ends with a reminder that this world is like water, which I have explained elsewhere. As well as a reminder that our wealth and children are merely a test for us, so they should not distract from the purpose of life.

Adam and Shaytaan

This story is followed by a series of verses reminding us about the Last Day. In between these is a reminder of the story of Adam and Shaytaan. A reminder that it is Shaytaan who wants us to fail the test of life. So never forget who your enemy is.

This set of verses ends with a reminder that every person and every nation has an appointed time, before which they need to repent. Once that appointed time comes, Allah’s punishment descends and it is too late to change.

Prophet Musa’s Adventure

This is followed by the third story. Which begins with Prophet Musa (peace be upon him) and his young servant Yusha (peace be upon him) embarking on a long journey to seek knowledge from a righteous stranger. We know from an authentic Hadith that this journey was initiated because Musa learned that there is a man who knows things which he does not know. So with great zeal for knowledge and humility, this leader of his nation set off to meet and learn from this stranger.

Musa treats his servant with utmost respect and serves as a role model for employers. After some setbacks, the two of them eventually encounter Al-Khidr, the mysterious Prophet who they wish to learn from.

Al-Khidr agrees to allow Musa to accompany him on the condition that he does not ask any questions until Al-Khidr is ready to explain his actions. This condition proves too difficult for Musa to fulfill as he witnesses strange and seemingly wrong actions on the part of Al-Khidr.

Al-Khidr damages a boat of some poor sailors who gave them a free ride. Then he kills a random young boy. Finally, he fixes a wall in a town full of impolite people without asking for anything in return.

Khidr’s Explanation

Musa is baffled by the actions of Al-Khidr and had to ask about the reasons behind them. Al-Khidr explained that everything he did was based on direct revelation from Allah. The poor sailors were about to have their boat usurped by a tyrant king. So Allah protected their boat by having it damaged.

The young boy was not random. Rather Allah knew he was going to grow up to be a tyrant and cause great grief to his righteous parents. So to protect them Allah took their child’s life at a young age. The wall hid a treasure which a righteous man left behind for his orphaned children.

Had the wall collapsed, the townsfolk would have usurped the wealth of the orphans so Allah protected their wealth by revealing to Al-Khidr to fix the wall.

This story is very deep and in it, we learn about the mysterious ways in which Allah works. Very often the seeming tragedies in our lives are actually Allah’s way of protecting us from greater harm. So we must trust His Wisdom and be patience during difficult times.

The Great Conqueror

This story is immediately followed by the story of Dhul Qarnayn. Who conquered the East and West and ruled with justice. He did this by letting the good people and the simple people live in peace. While punishing the criminals and imprisoning the evil Gog and Magog tribes. A good leader is merciful to his citizens while strict in dealing with the harmful elements of society. Dhul Qarnayn is an excellent example of this.

This story transients into a warning that Gog and Magog will be unleashed before the Last Day. Then they will be thrown into Hellfire.

Conclusion

The Surah ends as it began. By reminding us that those who fail the test of life will enter the Hellfire. Those who pass will be blessed with Paradise. And reminding us that it is only true faith and righteous deeds that can benefit us on that day.

This in summary is Surah Kahf. A weekly warning about the tests of life, with role models on how to deal with such tests. A reminder of the consequences of failing that test, and the rewards for passing it.

In the next chapter, we will reflect deeper on individual verses and stories from this Surah. We ask Allah to protect us from the trials of life and make us from those who are successful in both worlds.

For more thematic Tafseer, get your copy of Themes of the Quran today.

Themes of Surah Kahf

Click the image to purchase the ebook

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Inner Peace, 3 comments

Surah Yasin: 3 Powerful Lessons that will boost your faith

Surah Yasin

Surah Yasin

Surah Yasin: A Chapter About Faith

Known as the heart of the Quran to many, Surah Yasin is one of the most beloved Surahs in the Quran. All around the world, millions of Muslims memorize and recite this Surah.

Yet, how many of us have studied its Tafseer or reflected on its lessons?

Here is a brief summary of Surah Yasin taken from my book Themes Of The Quran:

This is a famous Makkan Surah, although most of the virtues attributed to it are based on weak or fabricated Hadiths. The theme of the Surah is Tawheed, but in this Surah there are three different methods used to show the Oneness of Allah. (Themes Of The Quran, P. 66)

It is a Surah about the Oneness of Allah, and we should reflect on that whenever we recite this Surah.

In this short article, I want to reflect on three powerful lessons I learned when studying Surah Yasin:

1. The Crowd isn’t always right

The main story in this Surah is about a city to which three prophets were sent. The Quran does not mention the names of the Prophets or the city. This information is not important, as Allah wants us to reflect on the lessons from this story instead.

In this story, the entire city rejects the prophets, except for one man. He believes and openly calls his people towards the truth. For his courage, he is killed by his people. Allah enters him into Paradise as a reward for his sacrifice.

The lesson here is clear: the truth isn’t always with the majority. And we must stand clearly for the truth, even if we are the only people doing so.

In this era, when so many Muslims are changing Islam to suit liberal values, we must stand firm on our principles even if nobody else is doing so.

2. We may only find success in the Afterlife

Many modern Self Help programs pitch the idea that you are the captain of your own fate. They claim that you can change your future and get whatever you want in this world. As Muslims, we must reject this idea.

Yes, we aim high, work hard and strive for noble goals. But we know that success comes from Allah. He is in charge of our faith. Allah controls our destiny, and all victory comes from Him.

In this story, the people rejected the prophets. Only one person believed the prophets. The people killed this man too. No amount of Self Help advice could change that. It was their destiny to face these challenges.

In return, they did not see much in terms of worldly victories. Instead, they attained Paradise which is the ultimate victory!

Sometimes we lose sight of what really matters. Paradise should be our real goal. As we continue to strive and work hard in this world, we should also be happy with whatever destiny Allah chooses for us. Knowing that our real success lies in the Afterlife.

3. Allah’s Signs Are All Around Us

The bulk of Surah Yasin focuses on the signs of Allah in this universe. We live in an era of Atheism and Agnosticism. Part of the reason for this is that we have surrounded ourselves with man-made inventions and forget to reflect on the miraculous creations of Allah that surround us.

Take some time out of your busy life to spend time in nature. Soak in the beauty of Allah’s Creations all around us. Gaze at the stars and study the universe. The more you reflect, the stronger your faith in Allah will grow.

The proof of the design exists in the beautiful design of everything around us. We just have to stop to look and we will see it everywhere!

You can learn more Tafseer with our exclusive eBook:

Buy Now

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Inner Peace, 0 comments

The Test of the Beauty of this world

The Test of the Beauty of this world

There are many places in the Qur’an in which Allah uses the word beauty to describe this world, and it truly is beautiful. There are many types of beauty in this world, including pure beauty, deceptive beauty and tempting beauty. In this section, we will look at the different ways in which beauty is a test.

Pure beauty refers to the Halal and beneficial things of this world like Halal wealth, children, a beautiful spouse, a beautiful home or nature in general. These are things which Allah created and made beautiful for the believers to enjoy. The test in these cases is to thank Allah for these gifts and not allow them to distract us from obeying Him.

Regarding this, Allah warns us:

Say: If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your kindred, the wealth that you have gained, the commerce in which you fear a decline, and the dwellings in which you delight, are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger, and striving hard in His Cause , then wait until Allah brings about His Decision (torment). And Allah does not guide a rebellious people.[1]

All of the things listed in this verse are Halal and good things. Yet, loving any of them more than Allah and His Messenger is problematic as it corrupts our intentions and goals, and it diverts us from the purpose of life. In this way, the good things in our life are a test.

Deceptive beauty refers to the evils of this world that are disguised as beautiful. The modern marketing industry is famous for this. It packages all forms of sin as good and beautiful and this leads many people down the wrong path towards self-harm and destruction. The test here is to recognize the evil hidden underneath the layers of beautiful wrapping and to avoid it as much as possible. Do not fall for the devil’s deception, as it will lead you down a part to darkness.

Allah warns us about this and says:

And I have appointed for them companions (from among the devils) who made their past and future sins seem attractive.[2]

The beautified deception

The worldly life has been beautified for those who disbelieve, and they mock the believers. But those who believe will rise above them on the Day of Resurrection, and Allah provides for whom He wills without restrictions.[3]

Tempting beauty are things of this world which are indeed beautiful, but their beauty might be so overpowering that people are willing to violate the laws of Allah to have it. The two most common scenarios are women and wealth. Men are tempted to have beautiful women, and many do not have the confidence to do it the right way by marrying them and treating them equally, so they go down the path of evil to get what they want.

Likewise, people desire wealth and many don’t have the patience and trust in Allah to earn it the Halal way, so they take Haram shortcuts like dealing with Riba[4]; and they end up with cursed wealth devoid of any blessings.

Yes, this world is beautiful but in this is a test for mankind. We are to enjoy the pure beauty of this world moderately, and to be patient with the prohibited. This patience will lead to even greater and more beautiful things in Paradise.

Allah says about this:

For mankind, (Allah has) beautified a strong love and desire for women, children, heaps of gold and silver, fine branded horses[5], cattle and tilled land. That is the enjoyment of the worldly life, but Allah has with Him the best return.

Say: Shall I inform you of something better than that? For those who fear Allah will be gardens in the presence of their Lord, beneath which rivers flow. They will dwell therein forever, and have purified spouses and Allah’s pleasure. And Allah is All-Seeing over His Servants.[6]

Extract from Best Of Creation: An Islamic Guide to Self-Confidence. Purchase the full eBook here.

test

[1] Surah At-Tawba 9:24

[2] Surah Al-Fussilat 41:25

[3] Surah Al-Baqarah 2:212

[4] Interest-based transactions

[5] In modern terms, this would include expensive cars, instead of horses, and stock and businesses in place of farms and cattle

[6] Surah Aal-Imraan 3:14-15

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Books, Self Confidence, 0 comments