Monday, June 27, 2011

Surah At-Teen and What it Means to Us - Part III

Part 1 here. Part 2 here.

Lessons and Tips

Masjid Al Aqsa from
Allah started the surah by mentioning blessed objects and the most excellent characters. Then He emphatically stated that He created Man perfectly and with balance. But when Man strays He can reduce us to the scum of the earth. Those who will be saved are those who believe and act on that belief. So if you know all this why would you want to continue living in ignorance? At the end of the day Allah is the Best Judge of belief and good deeds and the one who lays down the law.

What are the lessons we can derive?

1. Look back at what Allah has highlighted are blessed. Firstly, figs and olives. Next time you’re at the supermarket pick these fruits up. You may not incorporate them fully into your diet but at least you would be eating beautiful and blessed fruits. Remember also the health benefits of these fruits and the importance of a healthy diet and healthy lifestyle. Cut down on food that is clearly bad for you.

Secondly, the next time you plan a holiday think about blessed and historical locations. No doubt Hajj and ‘Umrah should be on your list but allow yourself real holidays at places that have immense significance in your life. Think about places in the Arab world that are thousands of years old. Think about Jerusalem and Masjid Al ‘Aqsa. Jerusalem has over 2 million visitors a year of which a tiny tiny proportion are Muslims. Think of the blessings you will get for going there and the economy you can generate for Palestinians living in Jerusalem. Muslims get incensed over Israel’s occupation of Jerusalem yet we don’t even go there to stake our claim. And if you’re Malaysian and worried that you can’t go there, there are ways around this. Malaysians have been there and still go there. It’s just a matter of finding out.

Other destinations that you should consider are Egypt (Cairo has a mind boggling number of mosques each with its own history) and Syria.

At the end of the day London and Paris haven’t got anything on cities where your faith originated from, flourished and where the greatest Muslims lived and worked.

2. Study the lives of these great characters. For Prophet Nuh, Ibrahim, Isa and Musa (as) this might be difficult but there is a wealth of books out there on the greatest man who ever lived. From classical sources to non-Muslim biographies. I especially enjoyed Tariq Ramadan’s In the Footsteps of the Prophet: Lessons from the Life of Muhammad, which I think is easy to read and offers insights on how we can emulate his character. You can also watch the movie The Message.

3. Remember that you were created to be great. Allah told you that. Strive for excellence in everything that you do whether it is worship, school, work or your relationship with your peers. Remember also that ordinary people do extraordinary things with their lives. It never takes much time or money. Every great person started with something small. Get involved in your community and give back. Be great and show others that they were created to be great too. Get Inspired by Muhammad (saw) the greatest human being who lived. Join YMP's Soup Kitchen, Ruman Titian Kaseh English Programme or Abandoned Baby Awareness (ABBA). Find a cause that you believe in and volunteer.

4. You will falter because of your own actions. All of us will make mistakes and some of us will fall very very low. The fact that all human beings will inevitably sin is enough of a reason to guard our actions carefully and to immediately ask for forgiveness from Allah and change our ways. The danger is when we continue down a dangerous path and end up as the lowest of the low. It is much harder to stop and change for the better once it gets to that stage. But even if we are at that stage there is no sin greater than Allah’s Mercy.

5. We know that to achieve success in this life and in the hereafter we must have balance in our lives. We need balance between our worldy desires (otherwise we wouldn’t eat or sleep) and balance with our ibadah and covenent with Allah. As young people sometimes it is hard to keep up with our religious obligations in the face of our studies or our career. We know that when we are overwhelmed, stressed or upset it is because there is something in our life that is causing our balance to shift. We know that when our hearts are not in a good place spiritually it is because we have been neglecting Allah. We see how people who are so focussed on the dunia have such imbalance in their lives. Success and excellence can only come with balance. Getting to this balance and maintaining it are dependent on the submission of your heart and of your body. If we start to feel we are neglecting our prayers or not praying on time, or even just feeling disconnected from the deen we should stop, check ourselves, remind ourselves of the dangers of neglecting Allah (and going down a dangerous path) and ask ourselves what it is that we really want. Put things back into perspective.

As a practical tip guard your prayers. They are checkpoints during the day for you to take breaks and to remember Allah. Build up your ibadah from prayers.

6. InshaAllah none of us are ignorant enough to deny the truth but we cannot say we are completely free of ignorance. Allah created us as intellectual and rational beings. We were elevated above all of creation and we were given free will. Our morality and our submission to Allah is based on free will. Where then do our good deeds stand when we do them because our parents do them and not because we accept, understand and make the conscious choice to obey our Lord? I pray Allah accepts all our deeds and pardons our sins, but let’s take responsibility for the things we do. Make an effort to learn our deen, to increase our knowledge of Qur’an and hadith so we will then know as best as possible every basis for everything that we you do. Don’t just be a follower, equip yourself with knowledge.

7. Allah is the wisest and He is al’Alim, the Knower of all. He lays down the rules for us and because we acknowledge that His wisdom encompasses all things we acknowledge that He is the one we should be following. Next time you feel conflict about doing something or you’re not sure what to do, stop and ask yourself what does Allah want of you, what will will increase your rank with Him and what will decrease your rank with Him. At the end of the day only your rank with Allah matters, not you rank with your boss or your rank with your friends. Also, because Allah alone is the judge, don't judge others. Give people the benefit of the doubt.

8. The Qur’an has many layers. As children we start with learning alif, baa, taa..., and then we string letters together until we are able to read the words of Allah. Following our literacy we proceed to memorise. Some of us stop here and some of us go further. We pick up a translation of the Qur’an and read it in a language we can understand. But this is only the literal translation. We still don’t know the background of the verses we are reading, its relation to the life of Muhammad (saw), what the hadith say about these verses and so on. So we go a step further and read some tafseer. And even in tafseer there are so many different layers, so many nuances with the language. We find out why was “I” used and not “We”, we find meanings that are found in between two words. The possibilities are endless subhanAllah. All from this book. But it’s not just any book. Remember that this is the speech of Allah.

Who was one of the greatest poets/playwrights? William Shakespeare. His works are so loved they are so often quoted and his plays are re-imagined in modern day stories. Line by line he has hidden meanings, double meanings, inside jokes. I studied Shakespeare for 5 years and one surah of the Qur’an was better than everything I’ve read. But that was because I made an attempt to study that surah. Not just memorise it and know its translated meaning. I read the tafseer and thought about it in the light of the majesty of the language it was written in. See this video for a glimpse into just how precious and mesmerising the language of Qur’an is. 
“Had We sent down this Qur’an on a mountain, you would surely have seen it humbling itself and rent asunder by the fear of Allah. Such are the parables which We put forward to mankind that they may reflect” [The Gathering, verse 21]
Mountains would crumble and your heart doesn’t? Of course it won’t if you don’t make an effort to let it.

So make an attempt to learn some tafseer. It doesn’t take much to gain a basic understanding of surahs. and the Bayyinah Institute are excellent places to start. Start with surahs you read every day in your prayers so your prayers then take on a deeper meaning.

InshaAllah I have managed to convey to you the beauty of this surah. Believe me there are so many things I have left out. You can get the full tafseers from and the Bayyinah Institute (Audio: part 1 and part 2transcript). I urge you to do that so what you’ve read sticks in your head.

In addition try to memorise the meaning of this verse. One of the ways I do it is to get a general overview of the meaning of the surah, pick keywords in each verse and memorise the Arabic word and the English meaning. For example the first few verses are easy. Just remember fig, olive and Mount Sinai. Then you can memorise balad (city-Makkah), khalaq (created), taqweem (upright), and etc. That way when you recite the surah you can recall the specific translations and hopefully the general meaning along the way. Through that inshaAllah you’ll be able to feel the greatness in your creation and all those lessons that we mentioned above.

Finally explore what this surah means to you. We are commanded to ponder and reflect on the words of Allah.
“Do they not then think deeply in the Qur’an or are their hearts locked up (from understanding it)?” [The Women, Verse 82]
Reflect on how this surah relates to you and your life. When it comes to the part of Allah rejecting human beings, think about how you could be amongst the lowest of the low. When it comes to the part about his Mercy and how to get His Mercy, use that as motivation to change your life. Think about that when you recite the surah in your prayers and relate it to your ruku' and sujud where you praise Allah and when you are closest to Allah and when it's one of the best times to make you du'a.

I pray that all of us gain a better understanding of the Qur’an and are able to relate to it in way that it will change our hearts. All good in this article has come from Allah and any mistakes are my own. If I have made any mistakes please let me know.

JazakAllah khair for your time and effort in reading this.




Anonymous said...

Beautifully written. So much knowledge and guidance in this post. Jazakllah

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