Tafsir

New eBook: Quran 30for30

New eBook: Quran 30for30

The Qur’an is brimming with lessons, stories, guidelines, and rulings for the believer. Every surah carefully placed, every section organized perfectly. So how are these Qur’anic chapters related to each other? What can we glean from the stories told within them?

Explore key lessons from each juz’ and learn about the significance of the Qur’an’s divine arrangement with this Qur’an 30for30 series companion book!

Tip: To enhance your Qur’an 30for30 Season 2 viewing experience, read the eBook chapter corresponding with each day’s juz’ before watching the episode!

What’s in the book

  • Brief summaries from Season 1 of Qur’an 30for30
  • Key themes and lessons from each juz’
  • Additional context from books of tafsir and author commentary

Get the ebook from the Yaqeen Institute website here.

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Surah al-Nisaa: A Thematic Tafsir

Surah al-Nisaa: A Thematic Tafsir

This article is an extract from the book Themes of the Quran, purchase the full ebook to learn more.

Many people assume from the name of this Surah that the theme is issues related to women. Because of this, they are confused to find many verses in it addressing topics like inheritance, dealing with the hypocrites and the people of the book as well as the dangers of Shirk.

Reality is that the theme of a Surah is not usually related to its name. The names were mostly given over time by scholars based on words unique or often repeated in that Surah, and so just like the theme of Surah Al-Baqarah is not cows, the theme of Surah An-Nisaa is not restricted to women. 

Themes of Surah al-Nisaa

This Surah is a Madinan Surah and again focuses on the themes of relevance to Madinan society, in this case the theme is society itself. The Surah addresses every aspect of the Muslim society including the following:

  1. Orphans (4:2-3, 6, 128)
  2. Marriage (4:3-4, 19-25, 32-35, 127-130)
  3. Inheritance (4:11-14, 176)
  4. Polygyny (4:3, 129)
  5. People of the Book (4:46-56, 153-174)
  6. Hypocrites (4:88-90, 142-146)
  7. Military operations (4:71-78)
  8. Peace and Justice (4:92-94, 135)
  9. Immigration from a bad society to a good one (4:97-100)

The Inheritance Question

Looking at the issue of inheritance, most of the laws of Islam are detailed in the Hadiths. Yet in this Surah, Allah details the laws of inheritance clearly and warns those who reject His Laws of the Hellfire. This is because many societal and family problems are caused due to fighting over inheritance. If Muslims submit to Allah’s judgment and accept the divisions He made, all these societal problems can be avoided.

These days, it is common to find many Muslims questioning the division of the inheritance in the Qur’an. This is a very arrogant attitude as it indicates that we think we know better than Allah. Allah has divided the inheritance based on the obligations he gave his servants. As the males of this ummah have more financial responsibility than the females, their portion of the inheritance is likewise proportionately more. This is in no way meant to indicate superiority, rather it is meant to indicate responsibility.

Family Law

This Surah lays heavy emphasis on family dynamics. It also lays a heavy emphasis on the importance of the man being the leader of the household and upholding that position responsibly. In modern times, this concept has been disputed and the results are failed marriages, high divorce rates,[1] the spread of Zina and general chaos in society.

For a society to function properly, families need to be stable and in line with the commands of Allah. The results of rejecting the family structure laid down by Allah can be seen in the abundant marital problems that surround us on a daily basis.

Related to this is the issue of polygyny. This Surah clearly allows a man to have a maximum of four wives on the condition that he is responsible and deals with them fairly. Modernists have tried to undermine and misinterpret this verse to bring Islam more in line with the norms of modern society. These modernists fail to realize that the culture they are trying to imitate is a culture revolving around unrestricted polygamy without responsibilities i.e. adultery and extra-marital affairs. 

History is proof that any society which practiced polygyny the way the Qur’an allows it has far less social problems. This practice simultaneously solves the social dilemma of the widows, divorcees and single righteous women who can’t find righteous husbands, as well as the issue of men being polygamous by nature. Society is better off when polygyny is practiced responsibly.

The Rights of Orphans

We also see in this Surah a special emphasis on caring for orphans. Orphans make up a large segment of any society and when societies neglect them, they end up turning to crime to support themselves and survive. Caring for orphans is a great deed and raising orphans as one’s own children gives them a second chance at succeeding in life and benefits the entire community.

Cultural Controversies

The verses in this Surah tend to be controversial due to the changing social norms in the West, and the pressure put upon Muslims to adopt these changes. While there exist many cultural practices in Muslim communities that need to change, it is important to distinguish between those and fixed rules clearly established in the Qur’an.

Cultural issues like prohibiting women from praying in Masjids, banning women from driving, education and work, and the acceptance of spousal abuse need to change. These practices are not Islamic, and removing them is beneficial for the entire ummah.

On the other hand, the concepts of Hijab and polygyny, the role of the husband and wife in the family structure, and the division of the inheritance are clear commandments which form part of the foundation of our religion, and cannot be changed to suit people’s desires.

If one analyses these laws with an open mind, looking at the benefits of implementing them, instead of just looking at things from an ego-driven perspective, it is quite clear that the laws revealed by Allah are what is best for society.

I believe that any society that bases its principles on those covered in Surah An-Nisaa will become one of the best, most just and most stable communities on earth.        


[1] A common cause of divorce these days is the reversal of roles in the family structure. This reversal of roles causes a lot of animosity and over time it erodes the marriage and eats away at its foundations.

This article is an extract from the book Themes of the Quran, purchase the full ebook to learn more.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam, 0 comments
Reflections on Surah al-Wāqiʿah

Reflections on Surah al-Wāqiʿah

Surah al-Wāqiʿah is one of my favorite Surahs in the Quran. It is a beautiful poetic description of the Last Day and the final destinations of the various groups of humanity. This Surah is full of amazing lessons in theology and spirituality. I try to recite this Surah at least once a week and reflect on its meanings. I am always fascinated at how the Surah balances between creating a fear of Hellfire in our hearts while increasing our optimism that we can enter Paradise.

Background Information

Surah al-Wāqiʿah is a Makkan Surah, and this is clear from both its style and content. Its verses are short, powerful, and poetic. These are all indicative of the Makkan revelation. The content is purely focused on aspects of theology, namely the Last Day and the Afterlife. This is usually the theme of a Makkan Surah.

There are several narrations regarding the virtues of Surah al-Wāqiʿah. However, each of these narrations is of disputed authenticity, so scholars differ over its virtues. Nonetheless, it remains a powerful Surah that should be recited and reflected on often, regardless of whether we consider these narrations authentic or weak. The first narration is that the Prophet (peace be upon him) listed five Surahs that turned his hair gray, and included Surah al-Wāqiʿah in that list. (Ash-Shama’il Al-Muhammadiyah 41) The second narration is as follows.

“Whoever recites Surah al-Wāqiʿah every night, poverty will never affect him.”

Al-Tahrīr and al-Tanwīr, vol. 11, p. 279

Both of these narrations have disputed authenticity. Even among my own teachers, some regard them as weak while others regard them as authentic. I am inclined towards the opinion that they are Hasan, and Allah knows best.

A summary of its themes

Surah al-Wāqiʿah covers six core themes, all related to each other, in the following order:

  1. A description of the end of the world and commencement of the Last Day
  2. A description of the two types of people that will enter Paradise and the rewards that await them in Paradise
  3. A description of the punishment of Hellfire and what awaits the disbelievers in Hell.
  4. An explanation of the Power of Allah through various examples.
  5. An explanation of the status of the Quran.
  6. A description of death and how the soul leaves the body. (Al-Tahrīr and al-Tanwīr, vol. 11, p. 280)

The central theme of this Surah is theology, with a strong focus on eschatology. All six of these topics are fundamental aspects of Islamic theology, while four out of six are eschatological topics. Almost every core belief of Islam is described in detail in this Surah, making it a fundamental Surah for every believer to study and reflect on.

The Ones Who are Close to Allah

Surah al-Wāqiʿah, like Surah al-Rahmān, divides people into three groups; those who are close to God, the people of the right hand, and the people of the left hand. Two of these groups eventually enter Paradise, while the third is destined for eternal damnation. This division gives us hope of entering Paradise while making us wary of the paths to Hell.

The people of Paradise are divided into two types because not all believers are the same in their levels of piety. Yet Allah’s Infinite Mercy encompasses all believers, so even the biggest of sinners eventually enter Paradise, as long they truly believed. The divisions listed in this Surah are the close ones and the people of the right hand.

The close ones refer to the prophets, righteous, martyrs, and truthful people. (Al-Tahrīr and al-Tanwīr, vol. 11, p. 290) It includes the pious of the previous nations i.e. the true followers of Jesus, Moses, and all previous prophets, as well as the pious of this nation. In this Surah, the righteous are described as, “many from the previous generations, but a few from later generations.” (Quran 56:14) One interpretation of this is that as we get closer to the end of time, there will be less pious people on earth.

The fact that the pious will be fewer in the end times should give us something to think about. Are we trying to be among those few? It is true that it is a lot more difficult to be righteous today than it was during the time of the early Muslims, but the rewards are also proportional to the level of difficulty. These verses should inspire us to try our best to make it into those few of the later generations.

Many of the Later Generations

The good news that follows in the next set of verses is that the people of the right hand will be “Many of the early generations and many of the later generations.’ (Quran 56:39-40) The people of the right hand refer to those people who receive their book of deeds in their right hands on the Last Day. This means that their good deeds outweigh their sins by enough to get them into Paradise.

This is a level below the righteous. The righteous most likely will not have any reckoning on the Last Day at all, and will likely enter Paradise without accounting. The average believer, however, will have their good deeds and sins weighed. Whichever is heavier will decide whether they go directly to Paradise or require purification through Hellfire first.

This Surah does not discuss the fate of believers who receive their book of deeds in their left hand. The people of the left hand mentioned in this Surah are the disbelievers. Due to it being a Makkan Surah, the focus is primarily on the different destinations of those who believe in this message and those who reject it.

The fact that the people of the right hand are described as many of the later generations should fill our hearts with hope. It means that many Muslims will enter Paradise without going to Hellfire first, despite their sins. This gives hope to the average Muslim, as we commit sins every single day. Knowing that if we keep trying to be righteous, working on our good deeds, and repenting for our sins, then maybe we too could be among the people of the right hand.

The Reality of Death

Death is a reality that we too often choose to ignore. Death is scary, permanent, and a transition into the unknown. When we die, our souls leave this universe and move into the Barzakh, the dimension of souls. Thinking about this can be a very sobering experience.

In Islam, reflecting over death is a necessary part of spiritual development. We are advised to frequently remember death and to prepare for it. Our wills should always be updated, our family prepared, and our deeds in order. This world is just a temporary resting place for our souls on its journey to the Afterlife. Knowing this, the believer lives a life of purpose, focused on making it into Paradise, and to perhaps one day become one of the ‘close ones’.

When it (the soul) reaches the throat, while you are present and watching. But we are closer to him than you, even though you cannot perceive that. If you believe that you will not be taken into account, then return it (the soul to the body) if you are truthful.

Quran 56:83-87

To learn more tafsīr of the Quran, check out my book Themes of the Quran, available at the links below.

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Available in PDF, Kindle and Paperback.

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Inner Peace, 0 comments
Sūrah al-Falaq and Sūrah an-Nās

Sūrah al-Falaq and Sūrah an-Nās

Known as the two protectors, Sūrah al-Falaq and Sūrah an-Nās complete the Quran as it began, with supplications that we recite on a daily basis. The Quran beings with the supplication for guidance i.e. Sūrah al-Fātiha, and it ends with two supplications for protections, Sūrah al-Falaq and Sūrah an-Nās.

Scholars differ on whether these Sūrahs were revealed in Makkah or Madinah. There is evidence both ways, but the style and prose of the Sūrahs are more in line with Makkan revelation. I am inclined towards the opinion that these two Sūrahs were revealed in Makkah, but their usage as daily supplications became common in Madinah. Allah knows best.

The themes of these two Sūrahs is very clear; they were revealed as protection supplications. It is recommended to recite these Sūrahs every morning and evening three times each for protection from all forms of evil. These Sūrahs list some of the names and attributes of Allah, calling on Him for protection, and list some of the things we seek protection from.

Protection from Worldly Calamities

Sūrah al-Falaq focuses on protection from worldly calamities. In this supplication, we ask Allah for protection from every evil thing that He created. We specifically ask Allah for protection from magic, jealousy, and the evil that occurs at night.

In this Sūrah, we learn that there exists in this world many forces of evil. Allah created these as a test for us. We are tested with many types of evil in this world. From tyrants to difficult relatives. From crime to jealous friends. Every human’s test is different. However, none of these things can harm us unless Allah wills it. Therefore, we take our precautions and seek Allah’s protection daily by reciting this Sūrah every morning and evening.

This Sūrah also indicates that a lot of evil happens at night. That is the time when people commit their biggest crimes or their best deeds. While one segment of humanity is involved in fornication, murder, or stealing late at night, there exists another group who spend the late portion of the night worshipping their Creator. We ask Allah to make us from the second group.

The Sūrah ends with a reminder that magic and jealousy are real sources of evil in this world. These days there is a lot of skepticism regarding the nature of magic and the evil eye. Muslims influenced by atheistic ideas deny the reality of these things because they cannot see them. This is a very problematic approach.

One of the fundamental principles of our religion is the belief in the unseen. This unseen world includes the world of the Jinn, which plays a role in dark magic and the evil eye. We don’t have to understand these concepts to believe in them. The fact that many humans throughout history, and even today, have experienced this phenomenon is evidence of their reality. Our job is simply to seek Allah’s protection from them and to never be a source of these evils for others.

Spiritual Protection

While Sūrah al-Falaq focuses on protection from worldly dangers, Sūrah an-Nās focuses on protection from the spiritual threat of misguidance. In this Sūrah, we are taught to ask Allah, the only true Lord, King, and God of humanity, for protection from the whispers of the devils. We are then reminded that these devils exist among both the jinn and humanity.

This Sūrah teaches us that it is important to ask Allah for protection from the devil and misguidance. Our guidance is dependent on Allah, and it is only His protection that keeps us safe from the devil. There is a profound point to be made about the placement of this Sūrah.

The Quran begins with a supplication for guidance and ends with a supplication for protection from misguidance. And everything in between teaches us that guidance and warns against those types of misguidance. In this way, the Quran completes a circle of protection. We are taught to ask Allah for guidance daily, but also to seek his protection from the whispers of the devil daily.

This Sūrah is also a reminder that not all devils are Jinn. There exists among humanity a segment that calls to the gates of Hell. These are people to openly promote evil and call others towards it. Whether it is the callers to sexual deviation or the callers to Atheism and Hedonism. These types of people are classified as devils as they do the work of the devils. With this Sūrah, we ask Allah for protection, not just from the whisperings of the jinn but from the influence of evil humans as well.

These are two of the most important Sūrahs in the Quran. Every Muslim should memorize these Sūrahs very early and establish a habit of reciting them multiple times a day, especially in the morning and evening. Doing so will help to protect us from every type of evil, both physical and spiritual.  

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Sūrah al-Ikhlāṣ: Islamic Monotheism

Sūrah al-Ikhlāṣ: Islamic Monotheism

Sūrah al-Ikhlāṣ is one of the most powerful short Sūrahs in the Quran. Also known as Sūrah at-Tawḥīd, it is a summary of the core tenets of monotheism. In an authentic narration, it is referred to as one-third of the Quran. The message of the Quran focuses on three primary components of theology; monotheism, revelation, and the Afterlife. One-third of this message is summarized in Sūrah al-Ikhlāṣ.

Sūrah al-Ikhlāṣ is a Makkan Sūrah according to the majority of scholars. Its theme is purely Makkan in that it focuses on the essential attributes of Allah and clarification of pure monotheism. The scholars differ on whether it has four or five verses, with some schools of recitation counting “He does not beget” and “Nor was He begotten” as two separate verses. Allah knows best.

Virtues of Sūrah al-Ikhlāṣ

It is reported on the authority of Abū Hurairah that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “Get together, for I am going to recite one-third of the Qur’an before you.” And those who could get together gathered there. Then the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) came out and recited: “Say: He, Allah, is One.” He then entered (his house). Some of us said to the others, “Perhaps there has been some news from the heaven on account of which he has gone inside (the house).” The Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) again came out and said, “I told you that I was going to recite one-third of the Quran; keep in mind, this (Sūrah al-Ikhlāṣ) is equivalent to one-third of the Qur’an.” (Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 6:316)

Abū Saʿīd al-Khudrī narrated that a man heard another man reciting “Say He is Allah, the One.” repeatedly. The next morning he came to Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) and informed him about it as if he thought that it was not enough to recite. On that Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “By Him in Whose Hand my life is, this Sūrah is equal to one-third of the Qur’an!” (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 66: 35)

Pure Monotheism

The core message of this Sūrah is the Islamic understanding of monotheism. Islam is unique in its clear and uncompromising stance on the Oneness of God. Although the majority of religions, and the majority of humans, believe in One Creator, they have several major mistakes in their understanding of that Creator. The beauty of this Sūrah is that it clears up every one of those misconceptions with its four powerful verses.

The Sūrah begins by clarifying that there is only One God, Allah. This clarifies the misconception in many religions that there are one major god and several minor gods. The belief in a pantheon of gods was very common in several ancient religions and still exists in some parts of the world today. This verse makes it very clear that there is only One God.

The second verse clarifies that God is as-Ṣamad. The name as-Ṣamad is difficult to translate into English. An explanation is more suitable here than a translation. The name as-Ṣamad means that Allah does not need anything and everything is in need of Him. It indicates that He is All-Knowing, All-Seeing, All-Hearing, All-Powerful, and Ever-Living. It is a comprehensive name that covers many of the other names of Allah.

The mention of this name in this verse serves several purposes. It clarifies that Allah has the most beautiful names and attributes. It demonstrates the perfect power and might of Allah. And it clears up the misunderstanding that Allah needs our worship, or that we don’t need Him. The first verse clears up the doubts of those who believe in several gods. The second verse clears up the doubts of those who believe God has any weaknesses or is in need of assistance. Several religions portray images of their gods as weak and in need. Islam teaches us that Allah is As-Ṣamad. He needs nothing while we all need Him.

The third verse clarifies that Allah is unique in the sense that He has no descendants or ascendants. He is eternal, has always existed, and will always exist. Several religions preach the idea of a family of gods. Even today, there are many people who believe in concepts like someone being the son of God or the mother of God. These concepts are false beliefs that have no basis in revelation. The true God is eternal, He is not the descendant of anyone, nor does He have any children.

The final verse covers the fourth and final principles of Islamic monotheism; there is nothing like Him. This is a complete rejection of anthropomorphism. This may be the most unique aspect of the Islamic understanding of God. Almost every other religion worships an image of God. That image is often human, or a mixture of human and animal. Muslims reject all such images.

God is beyond our imagination, and nothing we think about could be God. He is unique in every possible way, and therefore it is prohibited to even try to imagine Him. This unique aspect of Islamic monotheism has, over the centuries, causes millions of people to convert to Islam. It makes far more sense to worship a God that is beyond human imagination than to worship an image that people made up.

Theological Controversies

The message of these verses is very clear. There is only One God. All of Creation depends on Him. He is eternal without ascendants or descendants, and there is nothing like Him. Despite having such a clear and uncompromising declaration of monotheism in the Quran, Muslims across the globe have developed different interpretations of that final principle; there is nothing like Him.

During the first two centuries of Islam, Muslims tended to avoid discussion on this issue and were united in keeping monotheism simple and pure. Once Greek philosophy was introduced into the Muslim world in the third century, Muslims began to overthink these concepts and split up into several schools of thought. Despite these schools of thought all co-existing peacefully throughout most of Islamic history, these differences have become causes of tension and chaos in our times.

Some zealous Muslims have raised these issues again, and in their zealousness they have declared every understanding of this issue deviant, besides their own. Such extremes can be found in every school of thought regarding the names and attributes of Allah. Their arguing and bickering over these interpretations have distracted the Muslim nation from our priorities and caused unnecessary disunity among Muslims.

Furthermore, these different schools of theology have caused doubt to enter the minds of some young Muslims. They wonder why Muslims differ regarding how to interpret the attributes of God, and how such a difference of opinion can exist on such a fundamental issue. This issue requires a much deeper discussion, and cannot be clarified in a few short paragraphs. I hope to discuss it in more detail at a later point if Allah wills it.

For now, I simply want to remind Muslims that our unity is essential. The differences of opinion that exist among Sunnī Muslims on the names and attributes of Allah are a secondary issue. All Sunnī Muslims believe in the four principles laid down in this Sūrah. All Sunnī Muslims agree upon the five pillars of Islam and the six pillars of faith. Our differences in these issues are simply a matter of interpretation. But Allah is infinitely Merciful and Just. So let us trust Allah’s Mercy and not divide the Muslim nation over secondary issues.

The Quran is very clear regarding the concept of monotheism. Sūrah al-Ikhlāṣ summarizes this concept perfectly. If Muslims just stick to what is mentioned in this Sūrah, we can keep our monotheism simple and pure. But unnecessary questioning and argumentation over the nature of God’s attributes only lead to problems and disunity. The nature of God’s attributes is a matter that is beyond human comprehension. So it is best that we avoid overthinking this issue, and focus instead on worshipping Allah.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam, 0 comments