Saturday, September 19, 2009

Hasan al-Basri on reflecting on the Qur'an

As we approach the end of Ramadan with many of us having tried to complete a recital of the Qur'an, the following quote from Imam al-Hasan al-Basri (d. 110/728) is a powerful reminder on deepening our relationship with the Qur'an:

"By Allah, reflecting on the Qur'an is NOT by memorizing its letters and neglecting its demarcations. A person will say 'I've read the Qur'an in its entirety' but no trace of it can be seen in his character nor deeds."
Wahba al-Zuhaili, Tafsir al-Wasit (Damascus: Dar al-Fikr, 1422/2001) 3:2203.

May Allah bless us in the remaining portion of this great month, forgive us, aid us in internalizing the Qur'an, increase us in love and likeness to our beloved Prophet who's character was the Qur'an (kana khuluquhu al-qur'an) and grant us qabul (acceptance) for the little that we did! Ameen!

May you all have a blessed Eid!


Friday, September 18, 2009


Allah is the Light of the heavens and earth. The likeness of His light is that of a niche in which is a Lamp. The Lamp is in a glass, the glass, is as it were a glittering star, lighted from a blessed tree, an olive, neither of the east, nor of the west, whose oil would almost grow forth, even if no fire touched it, light upon Light. Allah guides whom He wills to His light, and gave examples to the people; And Allah knows everything.

footnote no. 662 from the Majestic Qur'an:

This is the famous "Verse of Light" about which so much has been said and which Imam al-Ghazali made the object of an entire treatise entitled "The Niche of Lights." Light is that which is itself visible and makes other things visible. "Allah is the Light of the heavens and earth" since Light is that which brings things out of the darkness of non-existence into existence. But Light is also that which brings sentient beings out of the darkness of ignorance and disbelief into the light of faith and knowledge, so that the Qur'an as well as all other divine scriptures can be called light. This is the light of guidance, of His Attribute, the Guide.

"The likeness of His Light" is the light of the Qur'an; "is that of a niche," the niche is illuminated from the inside by the lamp, but is dark on the outside; "in which is a lamp," the lamp is the Qur'an; "the lamp is a glass," the glass is the heart of the believer; "the glass it as it were a glittering stars," the heart of the believer radiates with the light of faith and the Qu'an, which can be seen as the radiance on his face, acts, and speech. This lamp is "lighted from a blessed tree," the tree of revelation, since the tree was always the symbol of the connection between the heaven and earth, hence the tree of al-Hudaybiya under which the Prophet sat to receive the allegiance of his Companions. They each took his hand in turn, the connection between heaven and earth being stated on that occasion explicitly in the Qur'an which says, "the Hand of Allah was above their hands."

The blessed tree is an olive, which in material terms provides an oil that is full of benefits for mankind. "Neither of the east nor the west" since it belongs to the higher world from whence descends revelation, a world beyond the opposition of the pairs. This oil is luminous in itself, but becomes even more so when lighted by the fire of the Qur'an, which is the inward knowledge of Allah and His Attributes and acts. "Light upon Light."

One should take notice of the fact that Allah did not give the sun as an example for the knowledge of the Qur'an, but a lamp which can be extinguished. Nor did He give anything other than fragile glass as an example for the heart of the believer. Glass is easy to break. The precariousness of this situation is here rendered obvious and the fact that such a lamp has to be protected and strengthened is indicated by the next verse, which speaks of how to strengthen it by acts of devotion, detachment from worldly things, and keeping in mind that here shall be a Day of Judgement."


Do you not wish that Allah forgive you? And Allah is Forgiving, Compassionate.


"Did you think that We only created you in vain, and that to Us you would not be returned?"


"There was a party of My servants who said: 'Our Lord! We believed, therefore forgive us and have mercy on us, for you are the best of the merciful!'"

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Believers (Al-Mu'minun) 23:1-11

Successful indeed are the believers;

Who are humble in their prayers;

Who shun vain conversation;

Who pay the zakat.

Who guard their chastity,

Except from their wives and what their right hands possess, for then they are not to blame.

But whoever seeks what is beyond that, those are transgressors.

And those who keep their trusts and their pledge,

Who carefully keep their prayers,

These are the inheritors,

Who will inherit paradise, where they shall abide forever.


Have they not travelled in the land, and have they hearts to comprehend with, or ears to hear with? For it is not the eyes that become blind, but it is the hearts in the chest that become blind.

footnote 639:

The word for "heart" in Arabic (qalb), imports both the seat of intelligent faculties and understanding as well as the seat of emotions and faith.


And the hour will come. There is no doubt about it. And Allah will raise up those who are in the graves.


That is because Allah is the Truth, and He gives life to the dead, and He has power over all things.


"O Mankind! If you are in doubt concerning the Resurrection, [consider that] We created you of dust, then of semen, then of a clot of blood, then of a lump of flesh shaped and unshaped, so that We may make clear to you. And We keep in the wombs what We please to an appointed term, then We bring you forth as infants, then We cause you to grow up, that you may reach your prime. And among you some die [young] and some are sent back to the feeblest old age so that they know nothing after they had knowledge. You sometimes see the earth still. But where We pour down rain on it, it quivers, and swells, and grows of every pleasant pair."

footnote no. 635 from the Majestic Qur'an:

Those who have doubts in their minds about life after death have only to turn their attention, either to themselves or to the nature around. How wonderful is their own physical growth from lifeless mater to seed, fertilized ovum, fetus, child, youth, age, and death! How can they doubt that the author of all these astounding stages can also give them another kind of life after the end of this life? If they look at external nature, they see the earth dead and barren, and Allah's fertilizing showers bringing it to life, growth and beauty in various forms. The creator of this beauty can surely create yet another world. Furthermore, the stages of a man's physical growth from nothing until he completes the cycle of this life are described in words whose accuracy, beauty and comprehensiveness can only by fully understood by biologists. Parallel to the physical growth may be understood man's inner growth, also by stages and by Allah's creative artistry.

In this passage the mystery of our life is used to illustrate Allah's abundant mercy and favor, and His giving us a future life of even greater promise.

Monday, September 14, 2009


We have sent you but as a mercy to the worlds.


This, your community, is one community, and I am your Lord, so worship Me!


We have sent down to you a Book in which is your reminder. Will you not understand?

[I'm a little out of order - I mistakenly skipped over this verse I had marked to post.]


We said: "O fire! Be coolness and peace for Abraham!"


This is a blessed Reminder that We have sent down. Are you denying it?


Every soul shall taste death. And We test you with evil and with good as a trial. And to Us you shall be returned.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


And say: "My Lord, increase me in knowledge!"


Yet I am Forgiving to him who repents and believes [in Me] and does righteousness, then follows the right path.


Speak to him [Pharoah] with gentle words, that perhaps he may take warning, or fear [Allah].


He [Moses] said: "My Lord expand my breast for me,

Ease my task for me,

And remove the impediment from my tongue,

So that they may understand me."


We have not revealed to you [O Muhammad] the Qur'an to distress you.


On those who believe and work righteousness, the All-Merciful shall bestow love.


"But does not Man remember that We created him before when he was nothing?"


And the Book [of deeds] will be placed and you will see the sinners fearful of that which is [inscribed] in it. And they say: "Woe to us! What kind of a book is this that omits nothing small or great but all are noted down?" They will find all that they did placed before them, and your Lord will wrong no one.