Ramadan Mubarak! I hope wherever you are in the world, Ramadan has begun in a joyous beautiful way, and is a month full of gifts, Divine blessings, acceptance of your duas, and multiplication of your works. One of my goals this month is to insha’Allah go through Shaykh Abdul Nasir Jangda’s Tafsir of Surah Maryam from the Bayyinah Institute’s 2011 Qur’an Intensive. Below are notes from the first session. To watch the lesson (highly recommended!) you can find the video here. As always, all mistakes in notetaking are my own.
Day I – An Introduction to Surah Maryam
- There is a necessary introduction to any surah of the Qur’an. It’s important to discuss When was surah revealed? What were the circumstances of the surah? What is the overview of the surah? What is the primary point/objective of the surah?
- For Surah Maryam, the most important aspect is the time and circumstances of revelation, but there is also something very interesting about its eventual placement in the mushaf. This is surah 19 in the mushaf, and there are observations we can make about where it is placed and the surahs before it and after it.
- This surah was revealed immediately before the 1st migration to Abyssinia. Eastern Africa. To give you a brief synopsis of how that transpired, in the 4th year of Prophethood, Dawah went public. (Before that, dawah was through personal networks, private). And in the 4th year, instruction came from Allah, and permission came from Allah to take the message public. At soon as it went public, the message was met with opposition, cynicism, rejection and denial. That was the immediate response to the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, on the public platform.
- Muslims did not give up their faith and beliefs so Makkans resorted to violence and oppression in order to force people out of their belief system. Muslims were the lower class in the eyes of society at that time. When oppression happened, these people did not have powerful relatives, money to bargain their way out of trouble. They were fighting for their lives at that point in time.
- The Prophet peace and blessings be upon him, told people to go to Eastern Africa where there was a king who is very accommodating and generous and kind and noble. There were about 11 people who made the migration, 8 men, 3 women. When the leaders of Quraysh heard these people were leaving, they chased after them. A convoy was designated and they were sent after the Muslims to talk to the ruler and try and get these people back. Muslims had started to live peacefully in Abyssinia and more Muslims were on their way to join them.
- Quraysh came with lots of gifts for the king and for the ministers. The Quraysh eventually came to the king and said there are people who have run away and come here, these are convicted felons, bad people and now they are here. The king says, “I can’t just hand people over to you, need to investigate.” He calls them forward and questions them. They explain that they are simply in Abyssinia to seek refuge. The king refuses the request of the Quraysh and says cannot hand over these people.
- The reply of the Quraysh is that these people have left the religion of their forefathers and that they speak negatively about Christianity and Isa ibn Maryam. The king asks them about this, and they start to recite verses about Isa ibn Maryam, and the king stops them crying profusely, and says that these are the most beautiful words about Isa alayhis salaam he has ever heard. He sends the gifts of Quraysh back and tells the Muslims that they are not simply people in his land, but under his personal protection.
- This occurred sometime in the 5th or 6th year of Prophethood. Commentators of the Qur’an say Surah Maryam was probably revealed in the 4th year of Prophethood. Consensus about this.
- Scholars say that one of the objectives of the revelation of Surah Maryam was that it was revealed as a parting gift and as provision for the Muslims that were migrating to Abyssinia because they were migrating to the land of the Christians.
- And that tells us that the Qur’an is the ultimate provision for people in all situations and circumstances. SubhanAllah, not only is the Qur’an miraculous, but its revelation is miraculous and its time and situation of revelation is equally as miraculous. The surah, with this exact content and subject matter was revealed at the time when the Muslims were migrating to Christian lands to seek refuge and to be safe, and revealed at the perfect time, most opportune time it was revealed.
Objective of the Surah
There are a few noteworthy things that can be stated about the objectives of this Surah.
1st: Great consistency that is found in Surah Maryam. When you take a look at the Surah on the grander scheme of things, you can split the surah into 3 sections.
- 1st section: talks about Zakariyya alayhis salaam and the miraculous conception and birth of his son Yahya. It was miraculous because Zakariyya alayhis salaam and his wife were at a very, very advanced age. There are numerous narrations that designate different ages for them. None of them are absolute. Some of them narrate they were in their 70s, 80s, past 100s. So they were such an advanced age. Nevertheless the Qur’an relates Zakariyya alayhis salaam as saying, that very, very old age has reached me.
- Through the emphasis, the (balagha) in the ayah, Zakariyya alayhis salaam is not saying he’s old, he’s saying he’s very very old. At the peak of old age. He’s saying, “I’m the oldest dude I know.” I’m very, very old is what he is saying. Not only is my wife old, but even when we were a younger couple, we couldn’t conceive children. Implicitly what we understand there is he is saying, we wanted children. We tried to have children. So two things working against us. Not only are super old, but even when we were younger, we couldn’t have children. We tried, we prayed, we made dua, we asked, but it didn’t happen. So the odds are all against this. But nevertheless, Allah blesses them with child. SO this is the first miraculous birth that we learn about, the birth of Yahya alayhis salaam. It goes on to talk about the birth of Isa ibn Maryam.
- The middle part of the Surah talks at length about Ibrahim alayhis salaam, and then mentions some other Prophets that come from the progeny of Ibrahim alayhis salaam. But the bulk is taken up by Ibrahim alayhis salaam.
- The end of the Surah is a very stark and stern message to the idolators of Makkah, the mushrik of Makkah. People who are committing shirk in Makkah. If you look, there’s a beautiful layout to the Surah in that it begins by addressing the Christians and finishes by addressing the mushrikun. But the consistency is found in the middle, the segway. What’s the connection? There’s a connection here. The Christian people, obviously the message of Isa is pertinent to them, the mushrikun, that address is specifically to them, but that which is consistent, that which is universal is Ibrahim alayhis salaam. The mushrikun of Makkah don’t believe in the entire system of divine guidance, but they still hold Ibrahim alayhis salam in high regard and still perceive him to be a man of great virtue. They still feel a sense of affilitation and affinity towards Ibrahim alayhis salam. So Alalh is not only seguing and connecting the message, but by means of this, the message becomes universal. So where this leads is that this message, and the man that this message is being revealed to, needs to be not just accepted by the Christians and the mushrikun, but needs to be universally accepted like the message of Ibrahim alayhis salaam. Very profound deliverance of the message.
- All throughout the Surah, every time the Surah mentions these Messengers and these Prophets of Allah, it is emphasizing that they advocated, they preached, that they taught tawhid, oneness of God. That they taught, preached and advocated, salah, zakat. Being good to one’s parents. So it talks about these basic core virtues. Universal values. So this is consistency that is being exemplified through this Surah, and in terms of that, its sending a very subtle message that this message that is being revealed, and this man that it is being revealed upon, his message is not something that is out of the norm. His message is not something that is radical, that goes against the grain so to speak, but his message is consistent with the message that has come throughout time, upon every Prophet, in the form of every scripture. So that consistency is being explained and exemplified through this Surah.
- Another very important objective of the Surah, a powerful message that is embedded in the Surah, is it is talking about the importance of passing deen to your own children. The concern of each Muslim is to pass the deen on to other people. To make sure the deen lives on. To make sure the deen carries on. The best way, the ultimate way, to achieve that is through one’s own children that raise a future generation multiplied forward with generations of people, men and women who will live this deen, exemplify this deen and carry it forward in its best manner, in its best way.
- Doing the tarbiyyah of one’s own children is the best way to ensure the carrying on of the message, the carrying of the deen. Secondly, taking care of one’s children is a universal concern. This Surah is letting us know that like we ensure for the protection, the financial wellbeing and the good manners, and good conduct, and the social status and education of our children, we should also invest, work hard to ensure the religious upbringing of our children. And invest in terms of the deen of our children. Very very important.
- And that’s what its emphasizing. Just as we feed them and shelter them and clothe them, we must make sure that we teach them to obey Allah and connect them to Allah and teaching them to build a connection to Allah. And not only is this the protection of the deen, this is the ultimate protection for our children.
- See this in the dua of Zakariyya alayhis salaam “Make him a child that is pleasing to You.” Emphasizing the spiritual aspect of his child.
- We see again, Isa alayhis salam finding tarbiyyah at the hands of his mother, who is an amazing, unbelievable woman. She isn’t just the vessel for this, she is chosen on the basis of her purity.
- Why are the sons of Ibrahim so amazing? Because their father was so absolutely amazing.
- It talks about Yaqub, who is the son of Ishaq. Again, amazing father, amazing grandfather, what do you expect but an amazing son and grandson?
- If we feel our children and youth are suffering in their deen, need to understand that we are failing as parents. This surah is extremely relevant today.
The layout of the surah
- 1-15: Talk about Zakariyya and the miraculous birth of Yahya his son. And then it talks about the ultimately miraculous birth of Isa alayhis salaam to Maryam.
- It then talks about in the next ten, eleven ayat and absolves Maryam of any blame, any slander that was pointed towards her. Because there was a segment of the population that slandered Maryam at that time. So it talks about her purity and her righteousness and her virtue. So not only does it reprimands one group of people who slandered Maryam, but also reprimands another group of people who took the miraculous birth of Isa alayhis salaam too far. And then the next few ayahs conclude that first argument by talking about the Day of Judgment. Because in either case of people, it says, here is the message. The Day of Judgment is coming, and you will be accountable.
- The next 9-10 ayahs talk about Ibrahim alayhis salaam and his interaction with his father and him pleading with his father and presenting the truth to his father.
- This is a very extreme situation. A Prophet of Allah whose father is an idolator. But how he manages and navigates that situation, there are a lot of lessons in it for us.
- The next couple of ayahs before transitioning into the direct address and rebuke to the people of Makkah, the mushikun of Makkah, are telling the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, in a couple of ayat to be patient. And to stay steady, to be patient. To stay the course and that things are going to work themselves out. To not rush, to not be too drastically impacted by the circumstances. And that no matter how difficult the situation might become, there is reprieve right around the corner.
- The next few ayat are very, very direct and very harsh address to the people of Makkah and the people who are refuting, denying and rejecting belief in the entire message. And finally the surah concludes with again consoling the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him and then also consoles the believers. Not only a consolation to the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, but to the believers in general.
- Ends with emphasizing that the Qur’an is the ultimate means to deliver the message to people, whatever stage of dawah you are at.
- After historical significance of the Surah, the core of the Surah, the layout of the Surah, what can we appreciate about the placement of the surah in the mushaf?
- We look first of all at the Surah before Surah Maryam and that’s Surah Kahf. One thing about Surah Kahf is that it talks about primarily 4 key incidents. It talks about a number of miraculous incidents and events that defy logic and reason. And then it goes right into Surah Maryam to talk about the most miraculous event that has happened on the face of the earth, the birth of Prophet Isa alayhis salam. Goes right from one miracle to another miracle.
- 2nd to last ayah of Surah Kahf: “Say: “if the ocean was ink, for the kalimat of my Lord and Master..”
- Kalimat refers to either praises or words of glorification or even blessings. Kalimat is any word that captures, illustrates the greatness of Allah.
- (Ayah continues) “all that ink would run out before the words of my Lord would run out, even if we added another ocean like it, for its aid.” (includes all the oceans in the world) Doesn’t mean an ocean.
- When Surah Maryam begins, the key discussion is Maryam and the birth of Isa alayhis salaam. And we know in Surah Ali Imran, that in that passage when it talks about Isa alayhis salaam, it refers to Isa alayhis salaam as a kalimah. A sign, a blessing from Allah, a sign of the greatness of Allah. It refers to Isa as a kalimah of Allah.
- In the beginning ayah here, it gives Zakariyya the title of abd. If you look back at Surah Kahf it says “Praise be to Allah who sent to His abd the Kitab.
- Surah before that, starts out with the same word abd.
- Consistent theme throughout. Each time the word abd precedes discussion of an amazing miracle.