Continuing with our Ramadan project of the tafsir of Surah Maryam, here are my notes of Shaykh Abdul Nasir’s tafsir of Ayah 1-4. Today’s session was an amazing, amazing class with wonderful reminders about dua, and I’m so excited about learning more about the Surah insha’Allah this month. To watch the lecture in its totality, please see here.
Surah Maryam – Day 2.
- The last note I’ll make about the layout of the Surah, is that as Imam Qurtubi mentions in his tafsir, the first 3/4ths of the Surah talks about the need of people for children.
- In a very subtle way, the Surah tells us it is a human need and desire to want to have a child. Starting with Zakariyya and Maryam and Isa, it goes on with Ibrahim alayhis salaam and his contentious relationship with his father. It talks about Ismael making strong recommendations to his family members. Idris. It talks about that. It mentions Ishaq and Yaqub. This entire chain of father son, father son.
- So it emphasizes, it’s a very subtle reminder of the human need, the human desire for a child.
- And the last 4th of the surah, very harshly denies, refutes, the claim that Allah has a child.
- The first part talks about the fact that it’s human need to have a child, and this is almost an emotional weakness of the human being, and Allah being above and beyond any kind of weakness, it completely refutes this idea that Allah would have a child.
- This surah begins as do 29 other Surahs do in the Qur’an, and that is with the disjointed letters.
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.
Last year I started listening to a class from the 2012 Deen Intensive Rihla called Prohibitions of the Tongue. Recently, in preparation for Ramadan, and with the desire to improve my own speech, I’ve restarted my listening. Here are notes from Session 3. These are not complete notes, and all mistakes in notetaking are my own. (You can find my notes from the 1st lesson here, and from the second session here.)
- Yesterday we were looking at the journey, the Rihla of life, and the central purpose of the human being, which is to know their Lord, to know their Lord in this body that Allah has placed us in for this time. We’ve been placed in this cage, and the soul is in the cage, and we’ve been told to do certain things. And we were reminded by Prophets who came. There were also long periods of time for certain people where they were not sent Prophets.
- One of the distinctions of Bani Israel is that they were given Prophet after Prophet
- Line of the Jewish Prophets is Ishaq (Yaqub alayhis salaam). Prophet’s line is Ismaili line.
- No people that didn’t have Prophets. Every people has had Prophets. We don’t know their numbers. Weak hadiths that indicate 124,000, we see these numbers mentioned in the books, but in the end the ulama say Allahu Alam.
- The meaning of Islam is our relationship with our Lord which is submission to Allah. So we believe that islam abrogates what came before it.
3 type of people hear about Islam
- 1. Those who live among Muslims and see the true Islam. And these people the hujja is against them. If they die in that state of rejecting Islam the hujja is against them.
- 2. People who live near the lands of Islam. These people are in a precarious situation because they’re exposed to it and they could know, but less so then the people among the Muslims.
- 3. And finally the people in far distant lands who have never heard of Islam. Imam Ghazali said if the people near the lands of Islam have a distorted image of Islam, then they are not judged according to their rejection of the distortion, because what they are rejecting is not Islam, but a distorted image of Islam. But he likens them to people among us who hear about false prophets that came and told lies, and people said oh they are just liars. No Muslim is interested in hearing about these people because they are told since they were a child that he is a false prophet. And he (Imam Ghazali) said that this is also true of other people. Imam Ghazali is recognizing the sociological filters that people have. It’s very hard to penetrate, it’s quite rare for people to have a natural ability to penetrate beyond their historicity. And so he takes a very merciful view of that. Still, we believe that Islam abrogates. And that the true path and the last and final path is Islam.
- Previous dispensations -Islam recognizes truth in them and recognizes good people among them, which is important. So you don’t make blanket statements about other traditions because good people among them and people of righteousness among them, people that are attempting to live according to their truths. So you’ll find righteous Christians practicing charity and doing other things.
- So really the Muslim shouldn’t look with contempt at other people outside our faith. Islam is looking at people with the eye of mercy. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him did not look at people with contempt.
- So whatever reason, there are long periods when Prophets don’t come. One of them is the time between the Prophet Isa and the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon them both. There are no Prophets between these Prophets.
- Hunafa- people who naturally inclines to the truth. Abu Dharr al-Ghifari was someone like that. He used to do sajda. Which is why when he heard about the Prophet,peace and blessings be upon him, he went immediately. He had amazing iman. He was a highwayman, but there was decorum, adab with the raiding. They only took so much, they left the women alone, and it rarely led to bloodshed. They knew bloodshed was dangerous because it leads to war.
- The Quraysh were amazed when they saw his piety because he was a Ghifari. When he came to Makkah, the Quraysh started beating him because he went straight the Kaaba and declared his shahadah. When Abu Bakr came he said “this is a Ghifari”, and they all stopped because they didn’t want to mess with his tribe. Very tough man. Amazing man. The Prophet peace and blessings be upon him loved him. He is an example of someone who had a fitra belief.
- I would argue that if you read Surah Baqarah, from beginning to end, can find the entire message of the Qur’an in Surah Baqarah. Surah Baqarah is a restoration of this Abrahamic way. This fitra way. Its calling to this milah of Ibrahim that is free of the sectarianism, divisions, of all the deviations of previous traditions that have lost their way. It is time to come back. To get rid of the decorum that has clouded your mind, and get back to a simple prayer. To get back to this simple fitra way. And this is what Islam is calling humanity back to. It’s a stripped down way. It’s what you take on the lifeboat when the lifeboat is sinking.
- As long as have water and Qibla, have nothing to worry about. I have had the blessing of living with bedouins, and one of the things the bedouin teach you is how little you need, because everything the bedouin needs is in a little box. Everything they own. And they live very well. They smile. Some of them have permanent smiles. Not worried about 401K or stock markets, because all they need is their tent, and don’t even need that, because if they don’t have it, will make it out of tree branches etc.
- So the fitra way is this way that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, came to restore. It’s the way of the original people. Fatir is the originator. Fitra is your original nature. And your original nature is to be happy, it’s not to be sad, the baseline of children is actually happy, they get sad when things happen, they get hurt, they get hungry, but there’s always a reason for their sadness. They’re not endogenously sad. Which is what the state of many modern people are. They’re sad but they don’t really know why they are sad. The baseline state for humans is to be happy. The baseline state for humans is to be honest. Which is why when you have a conversation with someone, they’ll believe you. Children are often embarrassingly honest. They haven’t yet learnt there is decorum, comportment in the world.
- Fitra nature is also to be curious. Curiosity is part of fitra. You want to find out.
- Fitra nature is to know and understand. All human beings have a desire to know.
- And so all of these truths that have been restored with Islam, are a restoration of these ancient truths. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, because he knew that his way was for the last people, he gave us many warnings about things.
- He knew for instance, about diversions and about the nature of lahw. Like in the past, if you wanted to have lahw, you had to create your own diversions. Like unless you were wealthy, if you wanted to listen to music, you had to make your own music. Couldn’t just play music or turn on a machine. If you wanted to be entertained, had to go to a play outdoors. Could just turn on the TV, or download a film. So the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him warned us about too much diversions, and this is very important. And about the means of lahw – what the Turks call, “white people’s inventions”.
- So the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him, knew that these means of entertainment would come and people would get lost in them, and so he warned his religion. And so that’s why we have a creative tension. You’ll never have something that has a power of diversion in Islam, but you’ll have a creative tension in Islam. Music is a good example. There are ulama who permit music and there are ulama who prohibit music and then there are people who make very clear caveats about what’s permitted and what’s not permitted. But the fact that we have a creative tension means that it prevents Muslims from completely falling into something that is inherently profoundly dangerous. So Islam is never blanket. It’s always to create a beautiful balance and tension so that Muslims never go completely astray. They can deviate, but the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, put all these checks and balances in his religion. Which is why you can find hadiths which seem completely contradictory, but they’re actually not, they’re to create these dynamic tensions so Muslims will always maintain this balance so they don’t go completely overboard on either side. Because you can become too strict, and there is no recreation, no relaxation.
- There is a sahih hadith of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him going to a wedding, and asking Sayyida Aisha, do they have entertainment? Because the Ansar like entertainment. And then he told them to have entertainment. But it’s not something he wanted all the time because he knew the danger of it. You can become so entertained you can forget the purpose of your existence. Of why you’re here.
- So these are really important aspects of our religion that the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him, saw because he understood the time he was living in and Allah showed him and revealed many things about the end of time that would become clear as time passed.
- Prophet said I didn’t see any good except I indicated it to you, and I didn’t see any evil except I warned you about it.
- In each time and place, it becomes incumbent for group of Muslims to learn the religion, preserve the religion and teach the religion and pass it on.
The Taleef Collective is a space in Fremont, California that offers the space, content and companionship necessary for a healthy understanding, embrace and realization of Islam. I’ve been following their Video Reflections for a while now, and each one offers food for thought, reflection, and discussion with others. Earlier this week, I discovered the multimedia section on their website and heard a beautiful lecture on modesty that was both full of important reminders, and made me even more excited for “Taleef Live!” a project to make Taleef’s weekly, monthly and quarterly programs accessible worldwide through Live-Streaming. To help make this project a reality, please see here, and give generously.
On Modesty – Ustadh Usama Canon
Two things become incumbent on you when you learn something.
1) Incumbent that you implement it. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said. “Whoever acts according to what they know, Allah will give them knowledge of that which they did not know.” And he, peace and blessings be upon him, sought refuge from Allah from knowledge that did not benefit. So if you learn something and do not implement, that is knowledge that will not be of any benefit.
2) Incumbent to teach other people. Disseminate and share with other people.
- Modesty: that’s a thesis topic, not a seminar.
- Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said that every religion has a defining quality, and the defining quality of my way is haya (modesty). So if something is the defining quality, what does it deserve in terms of time and what does it deserve in terms of reflection?
- The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, is the pinnacle of altruism. He, peace and blessings be upon him, is the paragon of selflessness.
- He peace and blessings be upon him, is the imam of the people of mercy.
- He is the foremost of the people who have modesty.
- The thing with the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, is that any one of his attributes is enough for you to annihilate yourself trying to understand.
- So when you look at all of his attributes put together, and how they complement each other, it’s like any which way you turn, you’re like, Ya Rasullah! Look at this man. Look at his character. Sallallahu alayhi wasalaam.
- Main question we should be asking ourselves is when we say that we are following this man, how much work do we have to do?
- It’s an ongoing process, and it’s a lifelong journey. It’s not that you go to jummah, hear the khutba, and come out as sunna-man, or sunna sister.
- We don’t just become humble, we don’t just become sensitive, we don’t just become modest. It’s a process. Because any of the attributes of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, would take a lifetime to gain the least bit of. So when we’re trying to implement all of them, how much work do we have to do?
- We have a lot of work to do. Sayyiduna Musa, alayhis salaam, just heard about the virtues of the Prophet’s, peace and blessings be upon him, community and was ready to forego his prophecy to be of his ummah, peace and blessings be upon him. Musa alayhis salaam. He keeps asking Allah, “who is that?”, and finally he said, make me of his community!
- May Allah make us more grateful. We have no reason to be cynical, Wallahi. We have no reason to be pessimistic except for our own shortcomings, wallahi. Alhamdullilah, Allah sent this light giving lamp amongst us, sallahu alayhi wasalaam.
Last year I started listening to a class from the 2012 Deen Intensive Rihla called Prohibitions of the Tongue. Recently, in preparation for Ramadan, and with the desire to improve my own speech, I’ve restarted my listening. Here are notes from Session 2. These are not complete notes, and all mistakes in notetaking are my own. (You can find my notes from the 1st lesson here.)
Prohibitions of the Tongue
- Whether people like it or not, they are on a journey. It has a beginning, and it has a middle and it has an end. We’re in the middle stage right now. The worldly life is actually the middle in terms of its stages. There are going to be further stages after we die.
- All of the souls were in a state of witnessing when Allah asked us “Am I not your Lord?”
- And then Allah put the ruh into this vessel that we now embody. This is like the bird in the cage. So we’re in this cage and this cage is made of flesh and blood. So this is the mulk. But the ruh that resides in this place, is only a prisoner. It’s going to move on, it will leave this cage behind. It’s like when you open a cage and a bird flies out and leaves the cage doesn’t look back. If you open a cage for a bird, it won’t look back. It just flies out and it’s gone.
- Allah is the Iluminator of the heavens and earth. All of this came from light. There was a point where all of these was a point of light.
- All of the vast spaces out there, are also in you. Imam Ali said in his Diwan: You think that you yourself are some insignificant thing, and in you are all of the cosmos. You think you are some insignificant thing, but in you all the worlds reside.
- The difference between modern people and ancient people, is the ancient people knew the diversion was a diversion. There was no purpose in it. All of them knew this. The moderns are unique in their belief that the primary reason for us to be here is simply to entertain ourselves. To be diverted. To listen to music. To watch films. That this is it. We just entertain ourselves until we leave and another group comes and they do the same thing and it just goes on until it ends with a cosmic collision or something. This is the belief.
- The ancients all knew that there was a purpose for the human being. That you had a reason for existence. And that your reason was not by chance, it was by purpose. That you were created with purpose. That there is a telos for the human being.
On Saturday, the 2nd day of the ISNA Canada Convention, Shaykh Ahmed Saad al-Azhari gave a lecture that was the highlight of the convention for me. The lecture was about contentment, and was a reminder that in this abode, we should strive to have good character and behaviour towards everyone out of our love for God and not because we expect recognition from others. It was also a reminder to be grateful for gifts and blessings for the duration we are gifted them instead of resentful or sad when we no longer have them. Throughout our lives, our hearts and hopes should be attached to God and to His Beloved, peace and blessings be upon him.
Finally, Shaykh Ahmed Saad reminded us to not have overly specific expectations, and to allow ourselves to surrender to God’s Plan. The qadr of Allah is inescapable, and the path to contentment is to understand that as much as we try to bring about the things we want, we need to understand that our lives operate within the walls of Allah’s qadr. The lecture made me think of times when I’ve felt stressed out (when I was new to Toronto as a graduate student for instance), and assumed that everything would be easy, and unfold in a specific way, and how I became a more serene, tranquil person when I accepted the presence of challenges and had high expectations of God, but wasn’t overly prescriptive of what life should look like. This lecture was a reminder of that same point, and so much more. Notes below.
On the 2nd day of the ISNA Canada Convention, we were blessed with a wonderful lecture by Ustadh Amjad Tarsin that was a reminder to be people of gentleness who are embodiments of mercy on earth, and who understand that honouring the connection between ourselves and the rest of creation is an integral part of our faith, not simply a ‘good thing to do.” Ustadh Amjad reminded us that our faith is one of mercy, and when we learn something that contradicts mercy, we need to re-evaluate our understanding of what we’re learning. He also told us beautiful stories of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and brought joy to our hearts by sharing how all of creation loves the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. This is more than just “community service” he told us, “All of creation deserves our respect and reverence because everything worships and praises its Lord.”
Finally, Ustadh Amjad ended his talk by giving us practical ways to become stewards of the earth, and his reminder to eat halal, good, wholesome, pure food is the one that resonated most with me. Ustadh Amjad’s lecture gave us practical ways to do this in our daily life. Notes from the lecture are below.