To Drown In The Speech Of Allah
By ‘ibn Mustafa
Imagine the distant lover receiving a letter from his beloved, what will be more dear to him than this? There is nothing within it which he will not cherish – longing for words that never end. Now, imagine if this letter allowed him a way out of his misery in order to seek the face of his beloved. How dear will this letter be to him now? How will he long for those few words to be spread volume upon volume?
Take this as an analogy, these words are a miniscule representation of the Qur’an – an actual comparison to which, is impossible to fathom by the human intellect. The beloved is a reference to Allah, and He has sent down His actual Speech to us in the form of revelation in order for us to seek and attain ultimate eternal ecstasy in His company. Why so is it that we do not take heed of this? Why so that we do not act upon it’s instructions? Why so that the study of His Speech does not deserve the time it deserves, and even dictates?
They say that Majnun was banished from the land due to his obsessive love for Laila, and he would walk around the city, kissing its walls. When asked to explain his erratic behaviour, he replied that it was not the walls that he was kissing, but what was contained within those walls. If only we felt the same way for the Qur’an!
I am only a mere slave, and my knowledge is miniscule. However, the message of the Qur’an is for all of humanity – and it possesses the power to soften the hardest of hearts. I write this reflection merely as a way in demonstrating my love for the Qur’an that has grown through a few basic studies on it over the last couple of years – with the hope that I can inspire at least another soul to feel the ecstasy that I feel when I am lost within its message.
We often make excuses as to how we may not be ready, but the truth is – I can barely grasp the Arabic language, and yet this has nothing to do with the impact it has on me. Often, I am lost in a deep spiritual state of reflection and fear of Allah upon hearing His words being explained that it is as though not a single thing in the universe – no matter how big or small – has any importance at all in that particular moment. Often, I am blown away by His words. Often, I feel numb. Often, I feel like I am listening to the most beautiful thing I had ever heard in my life – and this feeling is often replicated!
The feeling I feel is one very similar to a concept that Imam ibn Qayyim (RH), and later Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindhi (RH) had theorised. This concept of ‘Wahdat ash-Shuhood’ is where one feels so spiritually attached in oneness to Allah, that it is as though he witnesses all that Allah wants him to witness – therefore resulting in him behaving and acting in the way that he knows Allah would want him to. Of course, as a sinner – my feelings often fade away, and the spiritual state theorised is one acquired by the awliya of Allah and not a person like myself. The point being that it is the only thing I have read that seemingly describes in words the feelings that I feel and that I cannot express through my own lack of eloquence.
The first step for mankind is to reflect upon what they have in front of their eyes, of which they take no heed. Words cannot express the magnitude of what we are ignoring – quite literally! Human words are linguistic structures that are developed and created, but the Qur’an is the actual and literal Speech of Allah as He wanted us to understand it – and this is often something which even the strongest of believers do not ponder over anymore. Although we may see a physical manuscript before us with its elaborate aesthetics, and the swirls of the Arabic language as they chase each other in strokes, or hear the beautiful melodic sound from the chords of a learned orator – all of these created constructs somehow – and miraculously – capture within it, Allah’s real uncreated Voice.
How this ‘transformation’ happened from something that is ‘uncreated’ to something that is‘created’ is resided to the Knowledge of the Speaker Himself, although many have tried to ‘theorise’ this over the years. This supposedly ‘incongruous’ notion of a created vs. uncreated text was even the source of some of the greatest ideological battles in the first few centuries of Islamic thought. Many a time groups have emerged challenging this notion of the Qur’an as being uncreated, and many a time our scholars have vehemently defended it – often through torture as seen in the famous persecution of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (RH) during the Mihna. If our scholars sacrificed so much for it, why then are we not taking heed? Why then do we long for a short commentary? Why then do we concentrate on delaying, shortening, or even abandoning its recital – let alone reflecting upon it?
After realising what it really is, our next step should be in how we approach the Qur’an and changing our attitudes towards it. If one realises that this is the Speech of Allah – then this would automatically necessitate for it to receive our utmost care and attention, and yet it does not. We must realise that Allah has revealed this to us so we can use it to ‘learn’, and for it to be our ‘guidebook’ to attaining Jannah. Naturally, this means that we should approach its study in full submission – knowing that we should fully believe and reflect upon all of its words and meanings.
The Qur’an gives us enough rational proof to notify us of its authenticity, and yet mankind seeks to delve into extravagant matters – whilst refusing to attest to the Qur’anic message when it doesn’t not conform to their idea of morality – a morality that is socially conditioned and one that differs from country to country, and changes over different time periods. Allah’s Speech however is timeless. If mankind was capable of intellectualising ultimate knowledge – the Qur’an would not have been revealed, and Plato and Aristotle would have been the greatest of believers.
Let us not approach the Qur’an with arrogance. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW) could not read, and yet his first command through revelation was to ‘read’. We should really be fighting amongst ourselves on who can memorise it the most, who can study it the most, and as a minimum – who can recite it the most. Our lips and tongues should be moist in the constant recital of the Qur’an, and subsequently the remembrance of Allah. I must admit, I myself am the greatest hypocrite in this regard.
Not only does the Qur’an not receive the attention that it deserves – even when it does, it suffers from the very same unnecessary peripheral issues that plague Muslim discourse in virtually every other matter. We have a tendency for sensationalism, and therefore the greatest points of conversation that we take from the books of tafseer are what we all like to argue about – things about which only Allah holds true and ultimate knowledge. By doing this, we forgo talking about all of the teachings and advice that are contained within it. Instead of using the Qur’an as our ‘rope’ to join us together, we are divided over what certain words and terms mean, and therefore completely miss out on what the Qur’an is there for. I’m not saying that certain issues like these should not be discussed – in fact, history seems to suggest that it may have been a necessity, but regardless, these contentious points should never boil down into the public forum, and the fact that I, as a layperson have this opinion attests to me being correct.
“And hold fast to the Rope (Qur’an) of Allah, and be not divided amongst yourselves” (Qur’an, 3:103).
Are we really willing to reduce the Qur’an to peripheral polemical discourse – whether or not it is needed? The sahaabah (RA) in their majority would be too scared to even conduct tafseer of the Qur’an – leaving it to those amongst them who were deemed proficient in it, out of the fear of using their rationale in explaining away the words of Allah. These were the best of people who lived and breathed with the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), and this was their attitude, and yet we decide to be arrogant. We should be petrified at the thought of being divided over the Qur’an, and in abandoning it. We should take note of what the Prophet (SAW) said about this. This was a man who lived a life of extreme hardship only for the sake of humanity to follow, and the time will come when even he will eventually make a complaint against us. And what is this complaint that he will make against his ummah that he loves so much? He will finally complain to Allah, “My Lord, my people have abandoned this Qur’an” (Qur’an, 25:30).
From my own basic study of the Qur’an so far, there are so many things that have absolutely amazed me. Decades of orientalist and/or neo-secularist assumptions on what religious texts are meant to consist of, have filtered into public opinion, and this combined with a decrease in moral ethics have further added to this sentiment. However, despite the notion of the ‘angry’ God of the Old Testament that is fixated into the minds of people, what struck me mostly when studying the Qur’an holistically is the extreme love that Allah has for mankind that continuously shines through and through. In fact, when all of the Qur’an is reflected upon holistically, one would feel nothing but shame at his lack of love for Allah, despite his continuous bounties and apparent ‘pleading’ (for lack of a better word) for His slaves to attain eternal happiness in His company.
The problem however, as with any other text, is the method of understanding that is used by both Islamophobes and the intellectually-challenged alike. No text is understood in a vacuum, and if someone is pathetic enough to think that he can literally open the book and take a word in its apparent sense out of context, more often than not he will end up with a pathetic answer. The ayahs regarding warfare are a perfect example of this. As a complete way of life, Islam gives us guidelines for everything including the cases for a just war and like with any other text, it has to be understood in its full context. To quote these texts by themselves completely contradicts the message in other parts of the Qur’an, and similarly to deny these texts also completely contradicts the message in other parts of the Qur’an. If one really did not understand any part of the Qur’an, the non-arrogant seeker would genuinely seek the knowledge of those who are trained and competent in its hermeneutics.
“Indeed, those who inject deviation into Our verses are not concealed from Us. So, is he who is cast into the Fire better or he who comes secure on the Day of Resurrection? Do whatever you will; indeed, He is Seeing of what you do” (Qur’an, 41:40).
A fair approach would be to open the Qur’an in a manner that is completely objective, and with the sincere intention of seeking the truth. If this is done, both the Muslim and the non-Muslim will find the answers to all of his questions. In fact, as far as I am concerned, Surah Al-Fatihah in itself is sufficient for all of life’s question that I personally would ever have needed answering. For example:
1) Alhamdulilllahi (All Praise is due to Allah).
This tells me that a God exists, and because all praise is due to Him – it necessitates for Him to have no partners. To add to this, it also means that He has given me so much already that I am not aware of, in order to justify the praise that is due upon Him.
2) Rabbil ‘alameen (Lord of the worlds).
This now tells me what my relationship to this God is. He is my Lord, and therefore I have no reason but to know that I must be subservient to Him. In fact, He is not just my Lord – but the Lord of all the worlds, and this shows me the magnitude of His Power and Kingdomship. This tells me that He created everything and therefore existed before everything ever existed, thus, being its first cause – therefore, highlighting to me exactly what my level of submission should be. It should be a submission of absolute servitude and humility.
3) Ar-Rahman Ar-Raheem (The Entirely Merciful, The Especially Merciful).
Despite being deserving of my absolute submission and humility, this ayah tells me that this God is in fact One that is looking out for my own interests – His types of bestowed Mercy are mentioned twice! I understand from this, that my lifetime of obedience will therefore not be to no avail, but that His Mercy will necessitate for Him to reward me.
4) Maaliki yawm id-deen (Sovereign of the Day of Recompense).
This ayah now confirms that there will be a reward, and in fact tells me that a whole Day will be set aside for people to be judged between those who were subservient to Him, and those who were not.
5) Iyyaka na’budu wa iyyaka nasta’een (It is You we worship, and You we ask for help).
But how do I serve Him? This ayah now gives me the answer to this – through worship. And not only that, but through constant remembrance of Him daily through ‘asking’ Him for help. This tells me that I should always be mindful of Him in everything that I do.
6) Ihdinas siraat al-mustaqeem (Guide us to the straight path – ),
An example of how to ‘ask’ Him is now given in this ayah. This ayah also tells me that there is only one path to His Reward – and not multiple paths to the same reward. It also tells me that this path is ‘straight’ and therefore does not require any adjustments based on my own logic, or changes in social norms regardless of time and place.
7) Siraat al-lathina an’amta ‘alayhim (The path of those whom you have bestowed favour)
This now tells me that those who followed this straight path will have been bestowed a favour by God. This tells me that His Favours are not just after the ‘Day of Recompense’ – but also, before it too. It also reminds me that I should never cease to keep asking for His help.
Ghair il-maghdoobi ‘alayhim wa la-dwaaleen (Not of those who have evoked (Your) Anger or of those who are astray).
This not only informs me, but it also warns me that If I am not obedient to Him, there will be consequences. Just as He rewards the good through His Mercy, here He rewards the disobedient with His Anger. I can only imagine what the Anger of the ‘Lord of all the worlds’ can be –something which I should do all I can to avoid, so that I do not end up in the same destination as the two groups of people mentioned.
The Qur’an is a guidebook that provides not just moral and ethical guidelines, but also provides a framework for life in general – one that is timeless in nature. To address this, Allah often uses ‘harsh’ words and examples in order to highlight the dangers of abandoning or declining belief in Him – this is merely attesting to the reality of what is in store for those who disbelieve. One may wish to seek only these verses in order to build themselves a ‘negative’ mental image of Allah, but a holistic reading of the Qur’an will say otherwise. One will realise that these warnings are merely a different ‘style’ of addressing that Allah employs in order to try and reach to a different type of mindset – as all people are different. To add to this, His Wrath is always shown in contrast to His Bounties – something that is available for all to achieve. Further to this, His warnings are always backed by proofs of why one should not disbelieve in Him. All of these ‘harsh’ verses in fact do nothing but attest to the care and love that Allah has for mankind, and how much He desires for them to seek His Face. He is very clear that His Bounty is literally there for the taking, all we need to do is go towards it.
Along with these arguments, Allah often uses the concept of historical stories from the past in order to give both context to ideas, as well as in highlighting examples of what we should strive to be like. However, what I see in these examples is merely Allah using storytelling as just another mechanism to try and attract the minds of people. As mentioned earlier, different people are attracted by different things, and therefore Allah has provoked the minds of all types of people – so as to ‘not leave any stone unturned’.
Its linguistic nuances, its deep meanings, its logical arguments, its oaths and commands, its modes of addressing, its process of revelation through the seamless weaving together of multiple ayahs from multiple surahs over multiple years – all add to its timeless beauty. In fact, one thing that I have noticed is that the more repetitive the message of the Qur’an becomes, the more beautiful it sounds aesthetically – as though it should always command my attention.
I have purposely not included the mention of scientific miracles of the Qur’an – as that is not what the intention of revelation is. The Qur’an does not ask for science to prove its truth, and therefore when science does conform to it – it should not be surprising to us. In fact, by looking for ‘scientific miracles’ may even lead to misreadings which were not even implied, and even be a cause for ridicule by those who are experts in the field. Yes, there are many things that are scientifically proven today that the Qur’an mentions miraculously over 1,400 years ago – but its message is the intention for its revelation, and not these matters. Its lessons on how to conduct our lives should be what we derive when studying it.
The Qur’an teaches us that life is simple – yet, we make it unnecessarily hard on ourselves. It teaches us a life that is ultimately simple if we just do as He commands us to – all it requires is for us to fully submit to Him for this short duration of life in this dunya. When we reflect on the message of the Qur’an – we see how unnecessary the little polemical issues are that we focus on so much. We should realise that we are all from the People of the Sunnah, and we should always go back to the Qur’an as our ‘rope’ – and realise that these issues will ultimately count for little in comparison to everything else in the end. The Qur’an makes it clear over and over again that the ultimate winner will not be the one who sits and theorises all day, but the one who is ‘morally right’ in the way he conducts himself. This is explained as those who guard and maintain both their obligations and duties to Allah; upholding prayer, charity, fasting, pilgrimage, looking after the needy, the orphans, the widows, and striving in the path of Allah where it is legitimately required to do so.
Allah tells us – “..Indeed, it is an Honourable Book” (Qur’an, 41:41), so let us all make an intention that we shall give it the attention that it deserves, and try our best to come closer to it, and try to implement it into our lives for the better. In fact, answer this question by Allah – “..We have certainly made the Qur’an easy for remembrance, so is there any who will remember?” (Qur’an, 54:17).
If we do not take heed, it is to no loss to anyone but ourselves. If we do not take heed, others will. In the early period of prophethood, the Prophet (SAW) would often be distraught that the disbelievers would not take heed of his message, but in reality without him realising – jinns who happened to be flying past had accepted his message (as highlighted in Surah no. 72, Al-Jinn). This is the power of the Qur’an to those who open their minds objectively – so will we be like those jinns who want to learn, or the disbelievers who wish to not take heed?
We look to Allah when we are in need, but not when our lives are going well? Just remember that Allah is the only One who will be there when even our loved ones are not. As Ibrahim (AS) said about Allah when the natural elements would disappear by day and night, “..I do not love those who go away” (Qur’an, 6:76) – keeping this ayah in mind will always remind you of your place in the universe and you duty in this dunya. In fact, it is one of my favourite excerpts from the Qur’an, and something that I often repeat to myself whenever I feel down, or when things are not going well. It reminds me that Allah is always there for me no matter what, and He will never leave me.
With this, I will end with one simple and profound ayah, “..Whoever fears Allah, He brings forth a way out for him, and provides him (with what he needs) from where he does not even imagine. And whoever places his trust in Allah, He is sufficient for him..” (Qur’an, 65:2-3).
I ask that you pray to Allah for my forgiveness, and make du’a for me that He allows me to understand and act upon His Speech in the best way possible. I pray that we are not a part of the complaint of our Prophet Muhammad (SAW), so that we can all join in unison as we attain the pleasure of seeing Allah, inshaAllah!