`As-salāmu ʿalaykum readers,
It has been exactly one year, so I am putting an end to Qur`ān Imprints.
The Twitter, the Tumblr, the QI-esque photos and tafsīr tweets, the quasi-raconteur storytelling all compacted in 140 characters or less-—all of these suited a myopic vision at the time. That is, to test the craft of writing on Islam.
While composing this piece on Prophet `Ibrāhim’s legacy, it occured to me that I have dabbled far too long in social media platforms, and much less in the journalistic reportage in which I am trained [confessions of an ex-journalist]. It’s time I launch Project Writing 2.0: an online and print publication to kindle this local Muslim community into consciousness. The idea is immature and inchoate, I admit, and my list of potential writers is unpromising. But with time, I pray this project morphs from the bare bones of an “idea” into something tangible. I pray this “idea” comes to life. A request for duʿās, everyone. For success, for `ikhlāṣ [sincerity] and for doors of opportunity.
I ask Allah to forgive me where my pen has strayed, and all praise is due to Him for the benefit this site has brought.
Bārak Allāhu feekum,
Sūrat az-Zumar | “…and they have not recognized the true power of Allāh, while the earth, collectively, will be beneath His grip on the Day of Judgment. And the heavens will be folded in His right hand. Glory be to He…”
وما قدروا الله حق قدره والأرض جميعا قبضته يوم القيامة والسموات مطويات بيمينه
We see today that a person encloses a small ball in the hollow of his hand with ease; or another person folding up a handkerchief in his hand, effortlessly. On the Day of Judgment, mankind will come across a strange spectacle. They will see the heavens and the earth, in their massive glory, no larger than a ball or a handkerchief in Allāh’s hand.
ʿAbdullāh bin ʿAmr bin al-ʿĀṣ shares a memory from seerah: he was in the company of our Prophet, when suddenly he ﷺ began reciting Qur`ān. They were words of previous prophets, `Ibrāhīm and ʿĪsa [عليهما السلام], complaining to Allāh ﷻ of their people:
My Lord, indeed they have led astray many among the people. So whoever follows me, then he is of me; and whoever disobeys me, indeed, You are [yet] Forgiving and Merciful. [`Ibrāhīm, 36]
رَبِّ إِنَّهُنَّ أَضْلَلْنَ كَثِيرًا مِنَ النَّاسِ فَمَنْ تَبِعَنِي فَإِنَّهُ مِنِّي
If You should punish them, indeed they are Your servants; but if You forgive them, indeed it is You who is the Exalted in Might, the Wise. [al-Mā`idah, 18]
إِنْ تُعَذِّبْهُمْ فَإِنَّهُمْ عِبَادُكَ وَإِنْ تَغْفِرْ لَهُمْ فَإِنَّكَ أَنْتَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ
Reciting these verses elicited fear and grief from our Prophet ﷺ. What of his own `Ummah: the pagans of Makkah, his ṣaḥāba, the tābiʿīn after them, and all of mankind until the end of time. Distress marked on his noble face, and our Prophet raised his hands, weeping and crying out, “`Ummati, `Ummati, `Ummati!”
فرفع يديه وقال اللهم أمتي أمتي وبكى فقال الله عز وجل يا جبريل اذهب إلى محمد وربك أعلم فسله ما يبكيك فأتاه جبريل عليه السلام فسأله فأخبره رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم بما قال وهو أعلم فقال الله يا جبريل اذهب إلى محمد فقل إنا سنرضيك في أمتك ولا نسوءك
Allah watched this scene unfold, so he sent Jibreel [عليه السلام]. “Go to him, comfort him with these words: Indeed, O Muḥammad, We will please you with your `Ummah, and We will not trouble you.” And nothing pleases him ﷺ more than the guidance [هداية] of mankind.
That in mind, ʿulamā posed a question: What is the most hopeful verse in Qur`ān for `Ummat el-`Ijāba [ie. Muslims responding to his ﷺ call]? The opinions are two-—the first is a declaration of Allāh’s forgiveness to the apostates of Makkah; the second is a divine promise for the forgiveness of his followers:
قل ياعبادي الذين أسرفوا على أنفسهم لا تقنطوا من رحمة الله إن الله يغفر الذنوب جميعا
First: “O My servants who have transgressed their souls, do not despair in the mercy of Allah, indeed He forgives all sins…” [az-Zumar]
ولسوف يعطيك ربك فترضى
Second: “And your Lord will give you [O Muhammad] so that you are pleased.” [aḍ-Duḥā]
Most ʿUlamā say that in sūrat aḍ-Duḥā lies the most hopeful verse. It carries a promise for his ﷺ happiness, and ours. For what did our Prophet want more than anything? Not a return to his Makkan homeland; not revenge against his assassins and slanderers; not authority over Arabia, nor the luxuries of Rome and Persia… He wanted only his `Ummah’s guidance. So Allah promised, “We will please you with your `Ummah,” and His forgiveness will encompass all those who followed his ﷺ path.
Learn Arabic just as you learn to memorize the Qur`ān.
تعلموا العربية كما تتعلمون حفظ القرآن”
Be more vigilant in uprooting destructive flaws-—how? The sunnah way. By ascribing all bad things in your life to sin. “And whatever good befalls you is from Allāh; and whatever evil befalls you is from [the corruption of] your own selves.” [an-Nisā`, 4:79]
ما أصابكم من حسنة فمن الله • وما أصابكم من سيئة فمن نفسك
`Imām Qutādah commented on this: عقوبة لك يا ابن آدم بذنبك “Your calamities are a punishment for you, oh son of `Ādam, for your own sins.” The word sayyi`ah, evil, is freighted with meaning, suggesting that the nature of these calamities is two-fold: the “evil” manifests as both restrictions in material comforts, or a spiritual restrictions. Recall the grey year [عام الرماد] in ʿUmar’s khilāfah, when a severe drought plagued the Muslims in Syria. ʿUmar bin al-Khattāb paced the streets of Damascus, reciting the verses, “Make istighfār to your Lord, indeed He is most forgiving. He will send the skies toward you, and extend for you wealth and offspring, and make for you gardens, and He will make for you rivers in abundance.”
أستغفروا ربكم إنه كان غفارا • يرسل السماء عليكم مدرارا • ويمددكم بأموال وبنين ويجعل لكن جنات ويجعل لكم أنهارا
This story bursts forth with many lessons-—on the consequences of sin, on repentance and the fruits of good it produces. When a drought struck Syria, notice ʿUmar’s initial reaction: he did not orchestrate environmentalist campaigns [though he did hold community lessons on conservative cooking], nor did he assemble Syria’s top meteorologists to scrutinize weather charts and rain patterns; he sniffed the case to its core and uncovered a people of disobedience. So he urged them to abandon sins and turn to Allāh in repentance, for he knew that Allāh’s pleasure waters the soils of all good: provision and prosperity.
…but know that the greatest calamity to befall a Muslim is his inability or neglect in serving Allāh ﷻ: harboring an aversion to Qur`ān. Laziness in ṣalāh. Behaving with unabashed anger toward our parents. Eyes, ears and limbs addicted to the lude and shameful… All of these are symptoms of a spiritually distant, hardened heart.
A man from the ṣāliḥīn complained to al-Ḥasan al-Baṣri of his inability to awake for qiyām ul-layl, the night prayer. al-Ḥasan al-Baṣri replied: “How do you collect sins throughout the day, them expect Allāh to invite you into His private company at night?”
Hence, our trials-—be they the emptiness in our diseased hearts or restrictions in dunya-—become the soaps and sponges with which Allāh purifies us. Because “if we aren’t directed to Allāh, Allāh will find every way possible to redirect us back to Him…”
This morning, between coffee sips and news conversation, my father imparted a beautiful wisdom [in Palestinian dialect]: كل شئ في وقته بيجيب خي “All things occurring in their appointed time bring only good.” One sentence, breathing an unshakable conviction in Qadar. And I scrambled to find a pen and paper to scribble it down. I carry it like any one of you would carry a precious gem or a fine gold watch. The lessons therein are innumerate.
The sentence also inspired a revisit to my Judeo-Christian scripture notes, specifically, a quote attributed to Prophet ʿĪsa [عليه السلام]: “Father, if you are willing, let this cup [of suffering] pass from me; however, not my will, but Yours be done.” [Book of Luke 22:42]
This passage, though unconfirmed in its authenticity, hews perfectly to the underlying themes of sūrat at-Talāq, and they are tawakkul, reliance in Allah, and firm belief in Qadar, His decree. “…whoever relies upon Allāh, then He is sufficient for him. Indeed, Allāh will accomplish His purpose. Allah has already set for everything an appointed time.”
ومن يتوكل على الله فهو حسبه • إن الله بالغ أمره • قد جعل الله لكل شئ قدرا
Allāh’s decree [قدر] enters our path uninvited. It struts its stuff in many moods and guises-—the good, the bad and the ugly-—but only the trusters in Allāh will embrace it. They will not hasten the decree of Allāh, nor will His decree bewilder them. All things are appointed for their due time.
فلا يستعجل المتوكل الإجابة، فالله بالغ أمره في وقته الذي قدر
What does “embracing [قدر] Allāh’s decree” look like? Take a cue from our Prophet’s companion, ʿUrwa ibn az-Zubair [رضى الله عنه]. He was a man who greeted calamities with smiles. While he was having his leg amputated, ʿUrwa received news that his son died in a serious accident. In the face of two losses-—a limb and a loved one-—our ṣaḥābi resisted tears, resisted grief, resisted all frustration with Allāh’s decree. Instead: “Oh Allah,” he said, “if You took, then you also gave. And if You inflicted with hardship, then You have pardoned [sins] also.”
يا رب فلإن كنت أخذت فقد أعطيت ولئن كنت قد ابتليت فقد عافيت
May all goodness unfold before you. And I am certain it will, when the time is right. So alḥamdulillāh in all circumstances.
Sūrat `Āli ʿImrān, 134 | Allah sends His praise to: ❝…those who swallow anger, and forgive others, and Allāh loves the excellent.❞
والكاظمين الغيظ والعافين عن الناس
True excellence, it says, is in the sincere and hearty love to forgive. Take a leaf from the life of `Imām an-Nawawi. Being a Shāfiʿī scholar, `Imām an-Nawawi subscribed to the opinion that it is ḥarām for person to take something from someone [assuming it’s a gift] unless he received a verbal invitation first.
An-Nawawi had risen for qiyām ul-layl once night, when suddenly a thief broke into his home and stole his new shoes. After finishing his ṣalāh, an-Nawawi ran after the thief, shouting, “Consider my shoes a gift, just say you accept!” The justice system lay in his favor, yet an-Nawawi’s only concern was warding punishment and sin from the very criminal to exploit him.
We summon the spirits of these giants [in their stories, philosophies and teachings] to redefine and refine our own moral standards. And we are confronted with the question: When justice stands in our favor, how often do we reroute toward the path of forgiveness?
Let’s face it, guys. Our mistreatment of Muslim reverts has shoved many of them to the brink of apostasy.
From day one of their shahāda, we pounce on them with expectations: “Toss out your shorts and tanks, don the ḥijāb; skip past the alcohol and pork dishes; quit that ḥarām job; your marriage to that pagan-kāfir? Just no. Get a divorce lawyer on the phone.”
But there are larger issues lurking in the background. Isolation, doubts and confusion shake their base, daily. Wounds from friend [ex-friend?] and family mockery are still fresh. Their hearts need work. Advise them beautifully, yes, but bear in mind the fragility of a revert’s heart. And know that any puritanical campaign to “change” them overnight is a harbinger for disaster.
Allow Qur‘ān to speak: The desert Arabs say, “We believe!” Tell them [O Muḥammad], “You haven’t believed yet. Instead they should say, ‘We have accepted Islam,’ for faith has not yet settled in your hearts.’” [Sūrat al-Ḥujurāt, 49:14]
قالت الأعراب آمنا • قل لم تؤمنوا ولكن قولوا أسلمنا ولما يدخل الإيمان في قلوبكم
Put this verse under a microscope and examine its innermost workings; note the tone, the language, the context of revelation. Each word testifies to the spiritual fragility of new reverts: [ولما يدخل الإيمان في قلوبكم] …do not proclaim yourselves as “believers” until “`imān permeates your hearts.” Allāh revealed this verse for the bedouin Arabs of Bani `Asad bin Khuzaymah. They embraced Islam, then quickly ascribed themselves to the station of `imān. So Allāh reprimands this group of new reverts; He “puts them in check,” so to speak, for feigning firmness. For submission [إسلام] and conviction [إيمان] occupy separate space on the spectrum of faith; we acquire them in stages.
So what is `imān? It is conviction-—a solidified belief in the unseen, acquired with trial, struggle and time. It is when the foundational creed of lā `ilāha `illā Allāh navigates our every action; when lā `ilāha `illā Allāh becomes something we are willing to die for. An honorable station, no? Even the born-Muslims are dangling far and loose from this station; what, then, of a new revert?
Brief tips for engaging this population [and newly practicing Muslims]: keep our stream of advice to them thin and gradual. That is, don’t throw fatwa darts at them, but stir them with a kind word. This also means avoiding the kind of language that suits cogs in machines rather than senient beings. And in initiating deen-talk, fuse all dialogue with Prophet stories and descriptions of the hereafter; they will adopt sharīʿah naturally. Take a leaf from seerah.
A tābiʿi from ʿIrāq asked ʿĀ`ishah [رضى الله عنها] on the first chapters in Qur`ān revealed, to which she said: “Know that the first thing revealed was a sūrah from al-Mufassal, mentioning heaven and hell. Later […] the verses regarding legal and illegal things were revealed. But if the first thing to be revealed was ‘Do not drink alcohol,’ people would have said, ‘We will never leave alcoholic drinks,’ and if there had been revealed, ‘Do not commit illegal sexual intercourse,’ they would have said, ‘We will never give up illegal sexual intercourse.’”
Now shift your lens to the reign of khalīfah ʿUmar ibn ʿAbdulʿazīz. When he witnessed his own Muslim people straying from their obligations, his son addressed him: “O father, the Muslims are falling short of the law; why haven’t you enforced all of sharīʿah in your courts?” His father, the khalīfah, replied, “O son, if I were to hold the people upon the truth all at once [i.e. Islamic rulings], they would abandon the truth all at once.”
يابنى لو حملت الناس على الحق جملة واحدة تركوه جملة واحدة
Gradualism. And Allāh knows best.
*For more on al-Ḥujurāt and the Arab bedouins, refer to Tafsīr Ibn Kathīr, vol. 4.