Moses Meets Allah for the First Time (surah Taha 20: 9-21) –
Nouman Ali Khan
Transcript of this lecture from LinguisticMiracle.com
Allah asks us;
وَهَلْ أَتَاكَ حَدِيثُ مُوسَىٰ
Wa Hal ataaka hadeethu Moosa? –
And have you heard the news of Moses?
Hadeeth – a new event (something you’ve never heard of before.)
Because you might have heard of Moses, but not in the details which Allah gives. So what you hear is as if you are hearing it in a new way you’ve never heard before.
إِذْ رَأَىٰ نَارًا فَقَالَ لِأَهْلِهِ امْكُثُوا إِنِّي آنَسْتُ نَارًا لَّعَلِّي آتِيكُم مِّنْهَا بِقَبَسٍ أَوْ أَجِدُ عَلَى النَّارِ هُدًى
Moses was travelling with his family in the dark desert. They needed light, and guidance for their journey.
So Moses sees a lit fire ontop of a mountain.
The word ‘Innee aanastu’ (Surely I, I see) emphasises that only Moses himself saw it, and he is convincing his family (that is why INNee [SURELY I] is used).
So this shows that his family did not see this fire. Allah purposelly made it that only he would see it, so that only he would go to the fire by himself.
He told his family that he would get a Qabas – spark from the fire, or Hudan – Guidance for their journey.
فَلَمَّا أَتَاهَا نُودِيَ يَا مُوسَىٰ
But when he reached the Mountain..
Lam-maa – this word emphasises on a ‘time gap’. To ‘Prolong’ something.
In this context, it shows that it took some time for Moses to reach the location of the fire, so he probably put in alot of effort to climb this mountain.
Moses is rushing because his family is in the dark desert, all alone. So he needs to get a quick flame and find guidance so they can get out of this difficulty they are facing.
Allah tells us ironically how Moses said he would search for Guidance (i.e. Directions in their journey) and how Allah chose to give Moses and his family Guidance from Allah Himself.
Suddenly, he heard a Voice call him out Loud! (Nidaa): Ya Musa! = Moses!
إِنِّي أَنَا رَبُّكَ فَاخْلَعْ نَعْلَيْكَ ۖ إِنَّكَ بِالْوَادِ الْمُقَدَّسِ طُوًى
“No doubt I am your Lord/Master, take your shoes off. You are in the Sacred Valley of Tuwa.”
So Moses climbed the mountain, he had come to a place where he had never been before, in the darkness of the desert in the dark night.
Imagine being on top of an unknown cliff, in the middle of the night, when nobody is there, and you here someone calling you by your name out Loud.
You would be in shock and wonder; who is this? How does this voice know my name?
Moses has heard a powerful voice, he hasn’t seen anything. But he hears and obeys the command of Allah straightaway.
وَأَنَا اخْتَرْتُكَ فَاسْتَمِعْ لِمَا يُوحَىٰ
And I have chosen you, so listen to what is revealed [to you].
iKhtartu Ka (from iKhtiyaar – khayr) = I chose/preferred you.
ANA I-Khtartu Ka = I, I chose/preferred you… (this double ‘I’ [1st person] emphasises that it is Especially Allah who chose/preferred you (Moses).
Allah is removing doubts of Moses who might be feeling that he came to this place mistakenly, or that someone else might be being spoken to. Allah is telling him that you (O Moses) have specially been chosen.
Moses was a baby and placed into a basket and grew up in the house of Pharoah, and then grew up and killed an oppressing man accidentally, then ran away and lived in exhile for 8 years, and walked in the dark desert with his family, and was finally destined to talk Allah on top of the holy valley of Tuwa.
In Arabic there are 3 different words for ‘choosing’ something.
Allah chose the word ‘iKthiyaar’ (iKhtaara [past tense] / yaKhtaaru [present tense] / iKhtiyaar [maSdar – tenseless.])
He could have used;
But He chose the word iKhtiyaar (from the word Khayr = Good) = to choose someone/thing for their Goodness.
The scholars explained why the word ‘Good’ was used. Because when Moses killed a man accidentally, he felt bad/repentant all the time. So Allah chose him, because Allah sees something good in you.
Fa aStami’ li maa yuW-haa –
So listen extremely carefully for what is Revealed/Inspired (wahy).
إِنَّنِي أَنَا اللَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا أَنَا فَاعْبُدْنِي وَأَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ لِذِكْرِي
InnaNee Ana Allah – Surely I, I (am) Allah
Laa illaaha il-laa Ana – (there is) no god except Me.
Fa’budNee – enslave (a’bud) yourself to me / worship me.
By being a slave, you have dedicated your whole life to obeying them.
Now imagine, when you meet some person who is extremely famous. You feel extremely excited. Now imagine if Allah Himself directly starts a conversation with you and calls you by name and says ‘Moses, I have chosen you because I find something good in you’.
You would be extremely excited and never forget this moment in your life.
This is exactly what Moses felt.
Wa aQima-as-Salaata li dhikree – and Uphold the Prayer for My Remembrance.
Allah tells that even Moses – who has spoken to Allah directly – might forget Allah sometimes. And therefore Allah has commanded him to Uphold the prayers of the day, so that he remembers Allah.
إِنَّ السَّاعَةَ آتِيَةٌ أَكَادُ أُخْفِيهَا لِتُجْزَىٰ كُلُّ نَفْسٍ بِمَا تَسْعَىٰ
Indeed, the Hour is coming – I almost conceal it – so that every soul may be recompensed according to that for which it strives.
Judgment Day is coming, I’m almost (akaadu) keeping it hidden, so every person can be recompensed for what they ran towards.
Aatiyah – Coming [in Faa’il form = it is Actively doing it i.e. like someone is Running. I.e. Like Judgment Day is quickly Coming.]
So the 2nd reason why Allah commands him to pray is because;
Judgment Day is almost coming – so we need to do as much good in preparation for that Day.
Allah says that He has almost (akaadu) – kept Judgment Day hidden. So He has given some signs – which include the Prophecies of future events leading upto Judgment Day – which He has given to His Messengers’.
‘so every person can be rewarded for what they ran towards (ta-s’aa)’
This is amazing – because the word Sa’ee is the root word of ta-s’aa. It means; walking fast. And we have seen in this story that Moses walked fast towards the fire where Allah called him.
So Allah is telling us that He gives people the result of what they ran towards. And Moses ran for sincere Guidance, so Allah rewarded him with true Guidance from Himself.
فَلَا يَصُدَّنَّكَ عَنْهَا مَن لَّا يُؤْمِنُ بِهَا وَاتَّبَعَ هَوَاهُ فَتَرْدَىٰ
So don’t let the one who doesn’t believe in it (Judgment Day) but follows his own lusts divert you from it, lest you be be destroyed.
This conversation was really serious between Allah and Moses.
وَمَا تِلْكَ بِيَمِينِكَ يَا مُوسَىٰ
So what is in your right hand O Moses?
Allah knows that Moses has a stick in his right hand, but He is easing Moses down.
– when you say someone’s name at the Beginning of a sentence – it implies Toughness. (i.e. Moses! Take off your shoes!)
– when you say someone’s name at the End of a sentence – it implies Softness and care. (i.e. What is in your hand, Moses?)
Allah mentioned Moses with Toughness at the beginning to tell him the importance of what He mentioned (Allah is his Master, that he needs to pray to remember Allah, Judgment Day is coming etc.)
Moses is extremely afraid and in awe of what Allah is saying. he is extremely scared. So now that Moses has understood, Allah shows him kindness and support.
قَالَ هِيَ عَصَايَ أَتَوَكَّأُ عَلَيْهَا وَأَهُشُّ بِهَا عَلَىٰ غَنَمِي وَلِيَ فِيهَا مَآرِبُ أُخْرَىٰ
This is my Staff*, I lean on it sometimes, and I beat on bushes with it so my sheep can eat. And I’ve got other things I can do with it too.
(Cane is for weak people, *Staff [‘aSaa] is for respected and strong people.) (a big stick which represented a man’s respect and strength in the ancient days).
Moses for the first time would speak, and to Allah – who Moses would pray to throughout his life (i.e. when he ran away from Pharoah etc. [see the different examples in surah Qasas 28:21 etc])
So he had known Allah before, and now he would talk to Him directly was an unimaginable experience. So he wanted to talk to Him as much as possible.
So he said; ‘this is my Staff.’ and he told the things he does with it, even though Allah never asked him Why he has it. But his extreme love for Allah made him lengthen the conversation – to the extent that he even had to say; ‘and I have other benefits in it too’!
Now you can imagine Moses stretching his imagination as much as possible on what to say to Allah about one simple Staff stick! Just so that he could make the conversation longer with his Beloved. It also shows his nervousness when talking to Allah, that he says anything which comes to his mind.
قَالَ أَلْقِهَا يَا مُوسَىٰ
(Allah) said; Throw it, O Moses.
The name of Moses is mentioned at the end of sentence, showing that Allah is still being gentle with him.
فَأَلْقَاهَا فَإِذَا هِيَ حَيَّةٌ تَسْعَىٰ
So he threw it, then immediately it turned into a Python/snake, moving around quickly (ta-s’aa).
This shows us the speed at which;
1 – Moses followed Allah’s command – straightaway.
2 – Just when he threw the Staff/stick he knew so much – it suddenly transformed into a big moving snake.
Also imagine this Scene:
We see that Moses had just calmed down after experiencing the most shocking experience in his life.
Then Allah tells him to throw the Staff he has known for years. And when he has thrown – it has become a Massive Python Snake which is moving and ‘running’ around really quickly. Which suddenly again – makes him extremely fearful.
All that calm is again, gone. A snake is scary and horrific, and if it is big, and running around – in the dark of the night in the desert – you will be scared.
قَالَ خُذْهَا وَلَا تَخَفْ ۖ سَنُعِيدُهَا سِيرَتَهَا الْأُولَىٰ
Qaala – He [Allah] said
(Khudh haa) – Grab it!
(Wa laa taKhaf) – And don’t be afraid.
We will return it to its original state.
Allah is amazing in His speech!
When you tell someone to do something which seems scary, you tell them first; ‘Don’t be afraid, grab it’. But because Allah is our Master; 1 – He orders the command first, 2 – then tells us the wisdom of the command after. He expects obedience first.
‘We will return it to its original state.’ – now imagine Allah commanding you to pick up a big scary, moving Python serpent snake, and when you do grab it – everything will be fine.
Now we would think; Why doesn’t Allah just turn it into a stick and then i’ll pick it up.
But Allah wants us to have full trust in Him, even when everything in the world seems decieving – it is Allah’s promise which is undoubtedly true.
Allah taught Moses through this series of commands;
1 – Obey Allah (Pick up the Snake)
2 – Courage (being brave enough to do it.)
3 – Trust (in Allah that the snake will not bite him.)
Why are these skills important?
Because Moses will have to go to Pharoah; by: Obeying Allah, being Courageous and Brave in doing that (whilst he knows that the authorities/police are after him because they accuse him of murder), and having Trust in Allah’s promise of success and victory and safety.
This whole Training process is by one test: ‘Grab it! [the snake’ (Khudh haa!)]
Ayah 37 – Ayah 40:
Allah later on tells Moses that you should trust in Allah, because Allah saved you (O Moses) even when you were a baby, and your sister was following you when your mother placed you in the river Nile.
Then you were brought up in Egypt, then you punched a man and he died.
Then you ran away and came here, in this meeting, on this mountain.
[Ustadh Nouman said he would one day, inshaa’ Allah – discuss the entire discussion of Moses with Allah, (but now he does not have enough time to do so.)]
Comment on Stories of the Quran:
Apart from Surah Yusuf (12) [which is mentioned all at once in its entirety] – the rest of the stories of the Quran are discussed in separate parts throughout the Quran. I.e. The story of Moses is in many different surahs and told from many different Perspectives.
The same can be said about the stories of; Bani Isra’eel, Prophet Adam etc.
In response to the Critic of the Qur’an who might say that the stories in the Qur’an are disjointed and scattered, then we say;
Surahs’ are Placed/situated in the Qur’an;
So imagine, every surah is like a Thesis/course of discussion. It has a passage of a story/narrative from the life of another person (Prophet or otherwise).
This passage will combine with and support the Theme and message of the surah as a whole.
The Quran does not mention any unneeded detail. Rather – it mentions only that which is important and needed. I.e. Even in surah Yusuf, only 2 names are mentioned! Yusuf (Joseph) and Ya’qub (Jacob).
Even in the discussion of Prophet Yusuf’s lifestory, the purpose isn’t to merely to tell a story of Prophet Yusuf. Rather, it is a Parallel and lesson for the Life of Prophet Muhammad (sal Allahu alayhiwasalam).
Comparisons of the narrative of Prophet Yusuf and Prophet Muhammad;
1 – It is the Year of Grief (‘Aam al Huzn) for Prophet Muhammad, when this surah is revealed – just like the narrative of Prophet Yusuf is about him and his father (Ya’qub’s) grief/sadness.
– Yusuf’s brothers persecuted him.
– Prophet Muhammad’s brothers (the Quraysh) persecuted him.
– the brothers put Prophet Yusuf in a dark well and forced him to leave his home place.
– the brothers (Quraysh tribe) put Prophet Muhammad (saws) in a dark cave [because they forced him to leave his home place due to extreme torture.]
4 – Yusuf eventually reunites with his repentant brothers and establishes the Legacy of his father – Ya’qub.
Prophet Muhammad (saws) eventually comes back to Makkah and reunites with his repentant brothers and establishes the Legacy of his forefather – Ibraheem (Abraham.)
5 – Yusuf said to his brothers on this day of victory – ‘there is no blame on you this day’. (laa tathreeba alaykum al yawm?)
Prophet Muhammad (saws) said to his brothers after his victory; ‘I will say like Yusuf said to his brothers, there is no blame on you this day.’
In the beginning of surah Yusuf, Allah says:
Innaa anzalnaahu Qur’aanan ‘arabiyyan la’allakum ta’qiloon – We have revealed it an arabic Quran so you become people of intellect/understanding.(Yusuf 12:2)
Then Allah ends the surah with; Surely in their story is a lesson for those with a Clear mind (ulul albaab) (Yusuf 12:111)
Surah al Baqarah has many subjects from the Quran:
Near the end of the surah Allah mentions the story of Taloot and Jaaloot (David and Goliath).
Dawud/David is a young man who kills Jaaloot/Goliath, who is the Leader of an Army of Giants/big men who wear armour which covers everything except the eyes.
Yet Allah tells us how Dawud’s certainty in Allah’s promise – makes Dawud kill the Giant Jaloot (and due to this, Allah chose Dawud as a Messenger afterwards.)
The aayaat in surah al Baqarah before these aayaat on David vs Goliath are encouraging Muslims to be strong in belief because they are going to have an upcoming battle for the first time (Battle of Badr.)
Then immediately the surah switches to; ‘How does a small group defeat a big group by the will of Allah?’ (surah al Baqarah)
Ufrigh ‘alayna sabran wa thabbit aQdaamanaa wa aNSurnaa ‘ala-al Qawmi al kaafireen – pour upon us patience and firmen our footsteps/feet, and support us over the disbelieving nation.
So when the Sahaba heard these aayaat – they realised Allah was giving them these aayaat as tips and advice – that you are going to soon face battle, so pray these for yourselves and I (Allah) will help you. Allah is so kind that He even tells us what and how to pray to Him, so that He will answer us!
This is how our relationship should be with the Qur’an.
Taken from LinguisticMiracle.com
Pearls from Surah Yusuf
I welcome you all to the first of a series of halaqat that we will have about the tafsir or the explanation of one of the most interesting, powerful, and moving surahs in the entire Qur’an, which is Surah Yusuf. This surah is a very, very unique surah in the Qur’an, and a one-of-a-type of surah.
Firstly, it is the only place in the Qur’an where the story of the Prophet Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) is mentioned. No other surah mentions the story of the Prophet Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam). If you compare this to, let’s say, the story of the Prophet Musa (‘alayhi salaam), the story of Prophet Musa is mentioned in over 25 different locations. The story of our father Adam (‘alayhi salaam) is mentioned in over half a dozen locations. The story of ‘Isa (‘alayhi salaam) is mentioned almost a dozen times. The story of the Prophet Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) only exists in this surah. In fact, even the name of the Prophet Yusuf occurs only once or twice in passing in Surah Al-An‘ām and Surah Ghaafir, but there is no story at all. The stories about what happened with the Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) only occur in this particular surah.
Secondly, it is the only surah in the Qur’an that has a unified story as its theme from the beginning to the end. The whole surah is nothing but a story. There is no other surah of length in the Qur’an – we are not talking about the small surahs at the end of Juz ‘Amma, but we are talking about any surah basically more than 10-15 ayahs – there is no surah in the whole Qur’an that is a unified story from the beginning to the end. This is something that we all know. Read Surah Al-Baqarah, Surah Ale-‘Imran, and Surah Yunus you will find the stories of lots of people in one paragraph or one page or sometimes even five pages, but there is no place in the whole Qur’an where an entire 15 pages is dedicated to one story. It is a chronological story from the beginning to the end. This is not just very rare but unique. There is no other place like it in the whole Qur’an.
Revelation of Surah Yusuf
We do not know the exact date of when this surah was revealed, but we know roughly that it was revealed around the tenth or eleventh year not of the hijrah but of the years of the daw’ah.
In other words, with the hijrah of course we begin the Madinan phase. Before the hijrah, what do we call it? Some scholars used the term ‘BH’ (before hijrah) just like the Christians have ‘AD’ and ‘BC’, Muslims have ‘AH’ and ‘BH’. So if you look at ‘BH’, 1 BH means one year before the hijrah and 2 BH means two years before the hijrah. Surah Yusuf is revealed around 2 or 3 BH, in other words right at the end of the Makkan era and the Makkan message.
The timing of revelation is very crucial. Surah Yusuf was revealed after the famous year called the Year of Sorrow / the Year or Regret / the Year of Difficulty (‘aam al-huzn). In that year, three things happened one after the other which were the most painful for the Prophet Muhammad (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam), and there was no time in the seerah where the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) was more demoralized than this period, which is why the scholars of seerah call this period ‘aam al-huzn, the Year of Grief. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) was feeling grief throughout that year.
What happened? What makes it worse is that these three things happened one after the other. The first of these three devastating things was the most personal and intimate, and that was the death of Khadijah (alayhi salaam). Khadijah (alayhi salaam) was his supporter and his moral source of strength. As they say, behind every great man there is a great woman, and this is exactly applying to the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) and Khadijah. She was his source of comfort and support. Whenever anything happened and even when the wahy came down and he was scared, he went running back to Khadijah (alayhi salaam) to be calmed down. “Zambilooni! Zambilooni! (Cover me up! Cover me up!)” Khadijah was his source of comfort and his source of support. When a man has that comfort and love inside the house, he is able to face a lot outside. When that is deprived of him, then the problems outside become more difficult to bear. The death of Khadijah (‘alayhi salaam) was something that was very difficult for him.
Within five or six weeks, a second death followed and that was the death of his uncle Abu Talib. Abu Talib was his support in society. Abu Talib sacrificed his own reputation and prestige in order to protect the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam). When the Quraysh came to bribe, threaten, and intimidate the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam), initially Abu Talib was scared and went to him (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) and told him to stop doing this. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “If they were to give me control of the sun and the moon, I would not give up what I am doing.” Abu Talib said, “Oh son of my brother, oh my nephew, do as you please, I am never going to come to you again to tell you not to do this.” He was a man of his word for ten years, and not once did he approach the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) after that. He never came and said ‘why did you do this?’ / ‘look what I have to face now.’ Not once. He was a man of his word.
Abu Talib did everything he could, so much so that when the Quraysh boycotted the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) and told him he must leave Makkah, Abu Talib went with the Muslims to live in the valleys outside of Makkah. Abu Talib was not a subject of that boycott because he was a pagan and a Qurayshi and a mushrik, but because he was a part of his nephew and loved him so much, he voluntarily went to live with the Muslims at the time of the boycott.
He was the only non-Muslim to live with the Muslims at the time of boycott. He voluntarily gave up his privileges and his house in Makkah and gave up everything and suffered along with the Muslims because he felt that this was injustice and that he had to do this as the uncle and protector of the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam). He did everything he could. As long as Abu Talib was alive, they could not do anything else to harm the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam). With his death, the persecution reached its max, which is why eventually the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) had to leave for Madinah because he could not live in Makkah anymore.
Khadijah was his internal support in the house. Abu Talib was his external support in society. The both of them died one after the other, and it was a very difficult time for the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam). To make matters worse, he suffered the single most depressing or difficult day of his whole life after the deaths of Khadijah and Abu Talib. As if there could be no low, there was one low after that, which was the incident of Ta’if.
Aisha (radhi Allahu ‘anha) said, “Oh Messenger of Allah, was there any day that was more difficult for you to bear than the Day of Uhud?” He (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Yes.” Aisha was too young to know anything about Makkah and did not remember Makkah. She knows Badr, Uhud, and Tabuk and the problems of Madinah and that the worst problem of Madinah was Uhud, so she asked, “Was there any day more difficult for you than Uhud?” Immediately without thinking, the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “The most difficult day for me was the day when I was rejected by the chieftains of Ta’if.” You all know the story, and we will talk about it in a lot of detail insha’Allah in the lectures we will start on the seerah. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) was humiliated and publicly scorned and the children of Ta’if stoned him. This day was the most difficult for him.
These three incidents occurred within six weeks of one other – within two months, as if things could not get any worse. At this point in time, Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) revealed Surah Yusuf. When we understand this frame of revelation, all of a sudden the significance of Surah Yusuf increases many times. Why? Surah Yusuf is meant to uplift his spirits (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) and console him and strengthen him at a time of such trials and tribulations. Surah Yusuf is the light that will lead him out of this depressing time and time of pain and anguish. This is hope for us when we are feeling down and suffering from problems of society. This is the surah that we can turn to for an uplifting moment and to find some solace and comfort, which is why Allah revealed it to our Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam).
Scholars also mention a number of incidents that also led to the revelation of this surah. Of these incidents is: as the persecution of the Muslims increased and the sahabah in Makkah were feeling more and more overwhelmed by all of the pressures, they came to the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) and said, “Oh Messenger of Allah, why don’t you tell us the stories of those before who also suffered?” When they wanted these stories, Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) revealed this surah. It was perfect timing – when the persecution reaches its maximum, and that is why the hijrah occurs two years after this surah because they could not live in Makkah anymore. An assassination squad was sent for the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) the night before the hijrah and surrounded his house. Allah miraculously saved him (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam). One of the direct causes of the revelation was that the sahabah wanted something to uplift their spirits as well.
Another direct cause of revelation: it is said that the Quraysh wanted to try to outwit the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) and show that he was not truly a prophet. They sent a delegation to the Yahud of Yathrib (the name of Madinah before it was Madinah), and they asked the Yahud, “Tell us a question that only a prophet would be able to answer. Give us a trick question that we can show once and for all that this man is not a prophet. Tell us a question that you know the answer to but nobody else knows.” Even though the Yahud were a different religion than the Quraysh, the Quraysh felt that the Yahud were superior because of their Book. The Quraysh did not have a holy book or scripture or revelation. The Yahud had a revelation, and the Quraysh felt a sense of inferiority that the Yahud were the people of the book and had knowledge that they did not and believed in prophets while they did not know any prophets from amongst them.
The Yahud said, “Ask him about the story of Yusuf and his brothers. Nobody knows this.” This is an interesting point that we will come to again. In Makkah, there were no Christians and Jews. In Makkah, there were only idol worshippers and pagans. There were no centers of Christianity and Judaism. There were one or two private / secret converts to Christianity like Waraqah ibn Nawfal and others, but they were not inviting others to it and not preaching Christianity. There were no libraries of Christian or Jewish theology. Nobody in Makkah knew these stories. The people in Makkah had not heard of Yusuf because he was not their ancestor. They were descendants from Isma’il and not of Ishaaq, and the tribes of Isra’il had nothing to do with the Makkans and people of Quraysh. They don’t know these stories. The Yahud knew this and said, “Ask him if he truly is a prophet to tell you what happened with Yusuf and his brothers because nobody knows this of your people. This is something we know.” The Yahud lived far away in Yathrib, so how would anybody in Makkah know this?
The Quraysh went to the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) and asked him, “Tell us the story of Yusuf and his brothers if you are truly a prophet.” Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) answered that question and revealed Surah Yusuf. In one of the last verses of the surah, Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) says, “This is of the ‘ilm al-ghayb that We sent down to you.” In Surah Yusuf, Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) is telling the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) that He is giving them ‘ilm al-ghayb and that he (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) and his people did not know the story until this surah came down to him.
Huroof Al-Muqatta’at (Broken Letters)
This surah begins with the letters alif-laam-ra. We all know that there are a number of surahs in the Qur’an that begin with letters. Alif-laam-meem, ha-meem, ‘ayn-seen-qaaf, noon, qaaf, kaf-ha-ya–‘ayn-saad, ta-ha, ya-seen. These letters are called huroof al-muqatta’at (broken letters) by the scholars of tafsir. They are called the broken letters because they do not form words. Ha-meem is not a word. Alif-laam-meem is not a word. Scholars of tafsir call them huroof al-muqatta’at – broken letters put together.
Scholars have wondered about the meaning of the huroof al-muqatta’at since the very beginning of time. Since the time of the tabi’un and taba tabi’un, they began wondering what these letters mean. There are over fifteen opinions about what these letters represent. Some of these opinions include that these letters represent the Names of Allah (subhanahu wata’ala), so alif is for Allah, laam is for Al-Lateef, meem is for Al-Muhaymin. They have different opinions, but this does not seem to have a strong basis.
One opinion is that we will never know what these huroof al-muqatta’at mean. This is a valid opinion in so far as that we will never know for sure and only Allah knows for sure, but we can try to think and come forth with some type of opinion because why did Allah reveal these letters? There must be a wisdom. We can try to think of wisdoms of why Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) revealed these letters at the beginning of these surahs.
One thing that we notice which is very interesting is that almost all the time in the Qur’an when Allah begins a surah with these letters, the very next phrase has something to do with the Qur’an. Think about all of the surahs you know. Ya-sin. Wa’l-Qur’an al-hakeem. Kaf-ha-ya–‘ayn-saad. Dhikru rahmati rabbika… “This is what I am telling you in the Book.” Alif-laam-meem. Dhaalika kitabu la rayba feehi… Alif-laam-ra. Tilka aayaatu’l-kitabi’l-mubeen. Ha-meem. Wa’l-kitabil-mubeen.
There are some exceptions where it is not the second verse but it is the third or fourth verse. Every single time Allah mentions huroof al-muqatta’at within the first few verses, something to do with the Qur’an is mentioned. Therefore, it would make sense that these huroof al-muqatta’at have something to do with this magnificent Qur’an. Every time, the Qur’an is praised after the huroof al-muqatta’at. It is logical to make some connection.
What is this connection? Scholars have tried to think about this and have compiled all of these huroof al-muqatta’at. The huroof al-muqatta’at number exactly 14 letters. How many letters are in the Arabic alphabet? 28. There are 28 letters in the Arabic alphabet, and 14 is exactly half of 28, so some scholars have read in some type of symbolic meaning that Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) is showing us that the Qur’an is composed of our letters and the language that we speak, and yet, mankind cannot produce something similar to it. It is as if Allah is taunting the rejecters of the Qur’an by showing them that these are their words and letters, so produce a surah / ten surahs / a Qur’an similar to it if they are able to it.
There are five verses of challenge (ayaat at-tahaddi) in the Qur’an. In one of these verses, Allah says, “…bring the whole Qur’an.” In another verse, Allah says, “…bring ten surahs.” In another verse, Allah says, “…bring something.” In two verses, Allah says, “…bring one surah if you can.” In these verses of challenge, it is as if there is a linkage with the huroof al-muqatta’at and these verses of challenge. It is as if Allah is saying ‘here is half of the alphabet, bring the other half and bring something similar to the Qur’an.’
One of the wisdoms that scholars have tried to derive from the huroof al-muqatta’at is to show the miraculous nature of the Qur’an. The Qur’an is composed of words that we speak, language that we know, and letters that we write, yet mankind is not able to produce something similar to this. Allah knows best. We will never know for sure the meaning of the huroof al-muqatta’at, but it does appear that there is some relationship with the beauty and the majesty and the miraculous nature of the Qur’an.
“…these are the verses of the clear / lucid Book.”
Tilka is an Arabic word which means ‘this/these.’ There is a difference between tilka and haadhihi, which both mean ‘this/these.’ Haadhihi is used for something close. Tilka is used for something far away.
Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) is talking about the Qur’an with the far away word. He (subhanahu wata’ala) does this not only here but also in Surah Al-Baqarah: “Alif-laam-meem. Dhaalika kitab la rayba feeh.” Kitab is masculine, so the word dhaalik is used. Aayaat is feminine, so the word tilka is used. Feminine and masculine aside, there is a difference between haadha / haadhihi versus tilka / dhaalika. We would say “haadha kitab” for a book here, but to point to something far away, you say tilka (over there, far away).
Allah ‘azza wa jall talks about the Qur’an in the pronoun that refers to something far away. Why does Allah mention the far away pronoun when the Qur’an is in our hands? To show the status of the Qur’an is exalted and to show that the Qur’an is worthy of being something majestic. Even if you have it, we should thank Allah that we have it, but its status is a high and noble status. Allah says, “Tilka aayaatu’l-kitabi’l-mubeen.”
An ayah is a verse. This shows us that Allah has Himself divided the Qur’an into ayat. Where does this division come from? From Allah (subhanahu wata’ala). What about into surahs? Allah (subhanahu wata’ala says, “…when a surah comes down…” Allah mentions the word surah and the word ayah. Many other scriptures including the New Testament have man-made divisions. For us, the Qur’an is from Allah, and even the divisions within the Qur’an (meaning surah and ayah) are from Allah. An ayah also means a sign / indication / miracle. A verse is a sign, and a verse is a miracle. Allah uses the term that is loaded with meaning. What does ayah mean? Allah calls the miracles of creation ayah. Allah says that in your creation there is an ayah, and in the sun and the moon there is an ayah. Allah calls the verses of the Qur’an an ayah. It is not a coincidence, and Allah knows what He is saying, and no one is more eloquent than Allah. The meaning here is that every verse of the Qur’an has a message for you and an indication and a miracle.
Mubeen is a description of the book. Allah calls the Qur’an many different names, but there are two names that are the most common: kitab and Qur’an. Kitab and Qur’an both occur around 75 times to describe our Book. Kitab and Qur’an are complementary to each other and put together tell us what this book is. Kitab means something that is written down, and Qur’an means something that is recited. The Qur’an is something that is written down and recited simultaneously. No other book from Allah has been preserved to this level. The Qur’an has been written down by the commandment of Allah, and it has also been recited by Allah, Jibreel, and the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) and is recited to this day, which is of the miracles of the Qur’an that no other book has. All of the other books were written down by men and scribes and people after the times of the prophets. As for us, the Kitab and the Qur’an are complementary.
Al-mubeen can have two meanings. The first meaning is the Book itself is a clear Book. Allah says in the beginning of Surah Al-Baqarah: “dhaalika kitab la rayba feeh.” There is no doubt / no ambiguity in it. The Book is clear. What does it mean that the Book is clear? It means that anybody who approaches the Qur’an will be able to get some message from it and find some level of benefit from it. What this means is that the Qur’an is a Book that is meant to be contemplated by every single Muslim. It is not something that only the elite have access to and is not something that only the scholars should read. Even the basic, average Muslim can benefit from the Qur’an. There is no doubt that the average Muslim can only benefit a certain level, and the more they grow in knowledge, the more they can benefit. This is a common misconception that alhamdulillah is getting more and more minimal these days, but once upon a time, it was very common to hear: “Oh, anybody can interpret the Qur’an. I can open up the Qur’an and interpret it.” No – interpretation requires knowledge, but simple hidayah can be obtained immediately and even from a translation. Anyone can read the Qur’an for personal benefit and personal guidance. There are levels of meaning. Qul huwAllahu ahad. Alhamdulillahi rabb’l-’alameen. You understand these, but if you want to go deep and dissect why Allah said hamd and not shukr, then you need ‘ilm. The average Muslim can benefit from the Qur’an, so the Qur’an is mubeen.
Another meaning of Allah calling the kitab mubeen is that this Book is a clear message from Allah, and you do not have any doubt where it is from. Mubeen doesn’t refer to the language but to the origin and the source of the Book. The Book has a clear-cut source, and everybody knows where this Book is from. There is no ambiguity in this Book. This may surprise you, but to this day, nobody knows who wrote the New Testament, and no one knows the biographies of these people. They were not the actual disciples of Christ but were anonymous people living in the second or third generation after Jesus Christ. To this day, nobody knows who wrote the Old Testament; it is completely shrouded in mystery. The Orthodox Jews believe that Musa wrote it, but no other group believes this because the Old Testament mentions the death of Musa and who buried Musa. People don’t know who wrote it.
Allah is saying that this is a mubeen Book – you know the origin, you know the source, and everything is clear about it. There is no question mark. I cannot stress for you – O Muslims – that we take this for granted as if it is something that is no big deal. There is no other religious scripture on the face of this earth that is as unambiguous and as clear and demarcated from Al-Fatihah to Al-Nas in the origin of language as the Qur’an.
There is such a massive confusion about the Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, and Jewish scriptures. In many religions, you do not even know what the scripture is. In almost all religions, the language is not the language spoken by the prophets. The original New Testament was written in Greek, and ‘Isa (alayhi salaam) spoke Aramaic and not Greek. I am trying to stress to you that we take these things for granted. Our Qur’an has no versions. To this day, the Orthodox Christians, Protestants, and Catholics have different Bibles. They are completely different books and different additions and subtractions and different versions. You can belong to any sect of Islam and differ in theology, but the Qur’an is exactly the same from Al-Fatihah to An-Nas, word for word, letter for letter, harakah for harakah – you can purchase a Qur’an in India, here, or Timbuktu or the hand-written manuscripts. Alhamdulillah this is such a blessing from Allah that we take for granted that our holy Book is clear. All of this proves that as Allah says in a previous surah in the Qur’an: “We have revealed this scripture and will protect it.”
Another way to understand this is that Allah is saying this surah in particular is something that is clear. You need nothing else besides this surah. This indicates the importance of this surah. To emphasize this point, Allah says in the second verse: Read more …
The story of Ka’b ibn Malik
Lessons learned from the story of Ka’b ibn Malik – A 7 part series on MuslimMatters.org
Lessons in Staying Behind – Part 1: “I Wish I had Done So
It is the 9th year after Hijrah. Madinah, the place that witnessed the occurrence of this story, sits under the glaring sun. The season is an extremely hot one, when the palms are about to bear their fruits, and the shade is in abundance.
But the leader of this city has plans far more meritorious than reclining beneath the shade. He is setting out on a military expedition headed for Tabuk, a city north of Madinah, over 600 km away. The journey was one of extreme heat, thirst and lengthy distances over hot sands. The true believers prepare themselves to go out with their leader (sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam), except for around 80 men, who remain engulfed by the darkness of hypocrisy. They preferred to stay beneath the shade and care for their ripening dates over responding to the call of Allah and His Messenger.
Besides them, there were three who stayed behind, but were among the sincere and true believers: Hilal ibn Umayyah, Mirarah ibn Alrabee’ and the narrator of the story behind the subject of our discussion; Ka’b ibn Malik (radhiAllahu anhum). Through his eloquent narration, one can almost feel his emotions of regret, truthfulness, pain, sorrow and at last, extreme joy. He says as narrated by his son, Abdullah:
I did not remain behind Allah’s Apostle in any Ghazwa (battle) that he fought except the Battle of Tabuk, and I failed to take part in the Battle of Badr, but Allah did not admonish anyone who had not participated in it, for in fact, Allah’s Apostle had gone out in search of the caravan of Quraish till Allah made them (i.e. the Muslims) and their enemy meet without any appointment. I witnessed the night of Al-’Aqaba (pledge) with Allah’s Apostle when we pledged for Islam, and I would not exchange it for the battle of Badr although the battle of Badr is more popular amongst the people than it (i.e. Al-’Aqaba pledge). As for my news (in this battle of Tabuk), I had never been stronger or wealthier than I was when I remained behind the Prophet in that battle.
By Allah, never had I two she-camels before, but I had then at the time of this battle. Whenever Allah’s Apostle wanted to make a Ghazwa, he used to hide his intention by apparently referring to different battle till it was the time of that Ghazwa (of Tabuk) which Allah’s Apostle fought in severe heat, facing, a long journey, desert, and the great number of enemy. So the Prophet announced to the Muslims clearly (their destination) so that they might get prepared for their battle. So he informed them clearly of the destination he was going to. Allah’s Apostle was accompanied by a large number of Muslims who could not be listed in a book namely, a register.” Ka’b added, “Any man who intended to be absent would think that the matter would remain hidden unless Allah revealed it through Divine Revelation.
He then describes that his situation at the time was not one that permitted excuses to stay behind and not be with the Muslims for this battle, for he even had 2 camels, instead of one. In addition, he emphasizes his point by stating that the Prophet (sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam) was very clear on his mission, and was not vague, contrary to the case of other expeditions where being unclear was used as a military tactic.
It is clear that Ka’b (radhiAllahu anhu) tells his story only to pass on the great lessons he acquired from this incident that profoundly affected his life forever. Likewise, if a mistake in our life led to a lesson-filled experience, we may share it with others with intentions of desiring good for them and hope that they will not fall victims to the same error.
So if Ka’b (radhiAllahu anhu) faced no obstacles in terms of health and provisions, what then held him back for proceeding with the army?
Let’s reflect for a moment on our own lives and consider our situation when we have the necessary means to do something and a will to do it, yet we are not doing it. There is usually one reason; we have put it ‘on-hold’. When there is no other excuse in our path, procrastination becomes a leading factor that pulls us away from superior goals and hinders productivity. Nothing held Ka’b (radhiAllahu anhu) from joining the Muslims at the time but this deceptive force. He continues, saying:
So Allah’s Apostle fought that battle at the time when the fruits had ripened and the shade looked pleasant. Allah’s Apostle and his companions prepared for the battle and I started to go out in order to get myself ready along with them, but I returned without doing anything. I would say to myself, ‘I can do that.’ So I kept on delaying it every now and then till the people got ready and Allah’s Apostle and the Muslims along with him departed, and I had not prepared anything for my departure, and I said, I will prepare myself (for departure) one or two days after him, and then join them.’ In the morning following their departure, I went out to get myself ready but returned having done nothing. Then again in the next morning, I went out to get ready but returned without doing anything.
Such was the case with me till they hurried away and the battle was missed (by me). Even then I intended to depart to take them over. I wish I had done so! But it was not in my luck (qadar). So, after the departure of Allah’s Apostle, whenever I went out and walked amongst the people (i.e, the remaining persons), it grieved me that I could see none around me, but one accused of hypocrisy or one of those weak men whom Allah had excused.
Indeed, ‘I wish I had done so!’; a line of regret, familiar to our ears, our tongues and sometimes hidden away in our hearts. Its bitterness is more tasted so when it is related to the matters of the Hereafter.
Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) says,
And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord and a garden as wide as the heavens and earth, prepared for the righteous. (Aal-‘Imran 3:133).
The best example in hastening to do good is that of our Prophet (sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam).
Uqbah bin Al-Harith (radhiAllahu anhu) narrates: “Once I performed the ‘Asr prayer in Al-Madinah behind the Prophet (sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam)……. Read more …