General information on the Holy Quran
All praise is for God, the Lord of the Worlds, may His Majesty be exalted, and peace and blessings be upon the Prophet Muhammad, his household, his Companions, and the righteous servants among the inhabitants of the heaven and earth.
The movement of returning to the Qur’ān, which began in the Muslim world around a century ago, is continuing with its ups and downs, and right and wrong aspects. As is known, the Qur’ān was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad over 23 years, 14 centuries ago, mostly on different occasions. This last “version” of the Divine Word, which was planted in the Last Prophet as a seed and, growing swiftly, “raised on its stem, sprouted its shoots (Qur’ān, 48: 29),” came to leaf, blossomed, and yielded fruit in all aspects of life. Almost one third of the world having lived a peaceful life under its calm, serene shade for many centuries, the Qur’ān was veiled by the neglect and unfaithfulness of its “friends” and the hostility of its “enemies.” However, after a few centuries of misery, Muslims all over the Muslim world felt the dire need of returning to the Qur’ān and found that this Word of God is as fresh as when it was first revealed, and “growing younger as time gets older.”
The very essence of their being deeply injured by the poison injected by materialistic trends, humans are in quest of an immediate cure. It is the Word of God which has this cure. However, it is in anticipation of “doctors” who will present it. The future of humanity is dependent on the efforts of these doctors to present this cure. If the Qur’ān had been fully and accurately understood and practiced effectively in life, the poisons produced in modern times would not have been able to find Muslim customers in considerable numbers, no matter if they had been presented in golden cups. However, unfortunately, in addition to these poisons being easily injected in many believing bodies, some so-called Muslim “doctors,” who should have defied them with the Qur’ān, have taken them as if they were an antidote. They even have gone so far as to identify the cure of the Qur’ān with them and, further, have ventured to test it in the tubes of the laboratories where the poisons are produced.
What Is the Qur’ān; How Can It Be Defined?
According to the majority of scholars, the word “Qur’ān” is an infinitive form of the verb QaRaA meaning reading or reciting. Therefore it literally means a thing recited by adding letters and words to one another.
The verb Qa-Ra-A has another infinitive form, qar’u, which means “to collect.” So, some are of the opinion that Qur’ān means “The Thing Which Collects.” It is narrated from ‘Abdullāh ibn ‘Abbās that the word Qur’ān in the verse, Surely it is for Us to collect it (in your heart) and enable you to recite it (by heart) (75: 17), means that it is being collected and established in the heart. For this reason, some assert that since the Qur’ān collects and contains in it the “fruit” of the previous Scriptures and the whole of knowledge, it is called the “Qur’ān”.
Some other scholars affirm that the word “qur’ān” was not derived from any word. It is the proper name given to the Book which God, may His Majesty be exalted, sent to His Last Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings. Imam Shāfi‘ī held this opinion (Abu’l-Baqā, 287; Rāghib al-Isfahānī, 402; as-Sālih [translated], 15–18).
The Qur’ān is the Word of God and, therefore, eternal, and it was not created. But as a book conveyed to the Prophet by the Archangel Gabriel, and composed of letters and words, recited, touched, and listened to, it is not eternal (Çetin, 30–32).
The general definition of the Qur’ān is as follows:
The Qur’ān is the miraculous Word of God which was revealed to Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, written down on sheets, and transmitted to the succeeding generations by numerous reliable channels, and whose recitation is an act of worship and obligatory in daily prayers. (Karaman, 63)
The Qur’ān describes some of its features as follows:
The month of Ramadān, in which the Qur’ān was sent down as guidance for people, and as clear signs of Guidance and the Criterion (between truth and falsehood). (2: 185)
And this Qur’ān is not such that it could possibly be fabricated by one in attribution to God, but it is a (Divine Book) confirming (the Divine origin of and the truths that are still contained by) the Revelations prior to it, and an explanation of the Essence of all Divine Books – wherein there is no doubt,8 from the Lord of the Worlds. (10: 37)
We send it down as a Qur’ān (discourse) in Arabic so that you may reflect (on both its meaning and wording) and understand. (12: 2)
This Qur’ān surely guides (in all matters) to that which is most just and right and gives the believers who do good, righteous deeds the glad tidings that for them, there is a great reward. (17: 9)
And indeed (by revealing it through human language), We have made the Qur’ān easy for remembrance (of God, and taking heed), then is there any that remembers and takes heed? (54: 17)
Most certainly it is a Qur’ān (recitation) most honorable, in a Book well-guarded. (56: 77–78)
The Qur’ān has other titles, each of which describes it in one of its aspects and, therefore, can be regarded as one of its attributes. Some of them are, the Book, the Criterion, the Remembrance, the Advice, the Light, the Guidance, the Healer, the Noble, the Mother of the Book, the Truth, the Admonishment, the Good Tiding, the Book Gradually Revealed, the Knowledge, and the Clear (Çetin, 32–36).
The Qur’ān aims to guide all people to truth and has four main purposes: demonstrating God’s existence and Unity; establishing Prophethood; proving and elucidating afterlife, with all its aspects and dimensions; and promulgating the worship of God and the essentials of justice. The verses of the Qur’ān mainly dwell on these purposes. There are, based on these main purposes, the principles of creed, rules to govern human life, detailed information on the Resurrection and afterlife, prescript for the worship of God, moral standards, direct or indirect information on some scientific facts, principles for the formation and decay of civilizations, outlines of the histories of many previous peoples, and so on. The Qur’ān is also a source of healing; its application in life provides a cure for almost all psychological and social illnesses. It is also a cosmology, epistemology, ontology, sociology, psychology, and law. It was revealed to regulate human life in the world. It is not limited to any time, place or people. It is for all times and for all peoples.
The Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, declares:
The Qur’ān is more lovable to God than the heavens and earth and those in them.
The superiority of the Qur’ān over all other words and speeches is like God’s superiority over His creatures.
The Qur’ān is a definite decree distinguishing between the truth and falsehood. It is not for pastime. Whoever rejects it because of his or her despotism, God breaks his or her neck . It contains the history of previous peoples, the tiding of those to come after you, and the judgment on the disagreements among you. Whoever searches for guidance in something other than it, God leads him or her astray. It is God’s strong rope. It is the wise instruction. It is the Straight Path. It is a book which desires cannot deviate and tongues cannot confuse, and which scholars are not fed up with, never worn-out by repetition, and has uncountable admirable aspects. It is such a book that they could not help but say: “We have indeed heard a wonderful Qur’ān, guiding to what is right in belief and action and so we have believed in it.” Whoever speaks based on it speaks truth; whoever judges by it judges justly and whoever calls to it calls to truth. (at-Tirmidhī, “Thawāb al-Qur’ān,” 14)
We close this topic with the definition of the Qur’ān by Bediüzzaman Said Nursi, an illustrious Muslim scholar who started an Islamic revival movement in Turkey during the first half of the twentieth century:
The Qur’ān is an eternal translation of the great book of the universe and the everlasting translator of the various “languages” in which Divine laws of the creation and operation of the universe are “inscribed;” the interpreter of the books of the visible, material world and the world of the Unseen; the discoverer of the immaterial treasuries of the Divine Names hidden on the earth and in the heavens; the key to the truths which lie beneath the lines of events; the tongue of the unseen world in the visible, material one; the treasury of the favors of the All-Merciful One and the eternal addresses of the All-Glorified One coming from the world of the Unseen beyond the veil of this visible world; the sun of the spiritual and intellectual world of Islam and its foundation and plan; the sacred map of the worlds of the Hereafter; the expounder, the lucid interpreter, articulate proof, and clear translator of the Divine Essence, Attributes, Names and acts; the educator and trainer of the world of humanity and the water and light of Islam, which is the true and greatest humanity; the true wisdom of humankind and their true guide leading them to happiness; and for human beings it is both a book of law, a book of prayer, a book of wisdom, a book of worship and servanthood to God, and a book of commands and invitation, a book of invocation, and a book of reflection, a holy book containing books for all the spiritual needs of mankind, and a heavenly book which, like a sacred library, contains numerous booklets from which all the saints and the eminently truthful, and all the purified and discerning scholars have derived their ways peculiar to each, and which illuminate each of these ways and answer the needs of all those with different tastes and temperaments who follow them.
Having come from the Supreme Throne of God, and originated in His Greatest Name, and issued forth from the most comprehensive rank of each Name, the Qur’ān is both the word of God as regards His being the Lord of the Worlds, and His decree in respect of His having the title of the Deity of all Creatures, and a discourse in the name of the Creator of all the heavens and earth, and a speech from the perspective of the absolute Divine Lordship, and an eternal sermon on behalf of the universal Sovereignty of the All-Glorified One, and a register of the favors of the All-Merciful One from the viewpoint of the All-Embracing Mercy, and a collection of messages, some of which begin with a cipher, and a holy book which, having descended from the surrounding circle of the Divine Greatest Name, looks over and surveys the circle surrounded by the Supreme Throne of God.
It is because of all these that the title of Word of God has been, and will always be, given to the Qur’ān most deservedly. After the Qur’ān come the Scriptures and Pages (or Scrolls) which were sent to some other prophets. As for the other countless divine words, some of them are conversations in the form of inspirations coming as the particular manifestations of a particular aspect of Divine Mercy, Sovereignty, and Lordship under a particular title with particular regard. The inspirations coming to angels, human beings and animals vary greatly with regard to their universality or particularity.
The Qur’ān is a heavenly book, which contains in brief the Scriptures revealed to the previous prophets in different ages, and the content of the treatises of all the saints with different temperaments, and the works of all the purified scholars, each following a way particular to himself; the six sides of which are bright and absolutely free of the darkness of doubts and whimsical thoughts; whose point of support is with certainty Divine Revelation and the Divine Eternal Word, whose aim is manifestly eternal happiness, and whose inside is manifestly pure guidance. And it is surrounded and supported: from above by the lights of faith, from below by proof and evidence, from the right by the submission of the heart and the conscience, and from the left by the admission of reason and other intellectual faculties. Its fruit is with absolute certainty the mercy of the Most Merciful One, and Paradise; and it has been accepted and promoted by angels and innumerable men and jinn through the centuries. (The Words 2, “the 25th Word,” 388–389 )
The Recording of the Qur’ān and Its Preservation
It is commonly accepted that during human history, God the Almighty sent 124,000 prophets. According to the Islamic definition, a Prophet is one who comes with important tidings, the “the tidings of the Religion,” which are based on faith in the existence and Unity of God and His angels, the mission or office of prophethood and prophets, Revelation and Divine Scriptures, the Resurrection and afterlife and Divine Destiny, including human free will. The “tidings” also include offering a life to be based on this belief and promises and warning with respect to accepting this belief and offering or not. It frequently happened during history that the religion was considerably corrupted, which caused a prophet to be chosen to revive and restore the religion and make some amendments in its rules, or make new laws concerning daily life. This prophet, who was usually given a Book, is called a Messenger, and his mission, Messengership. Five of the Messengers, namely Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, upon them be peace, are mentioned in a verse in Sūrat ash-Shūrā (42: 13) and accepted as the greatest of all Messengers.
The name of the religion which God the Almighty sent to all the Messengers during history is Islam. Just as the laws in the order and operation of the universe are the same and constant, then similarly, there is no difference between the first human being on the earth and all the human beings of today with respect to their being human with the same peculiarities, essential needs, and final destination awaiting them.So, too, it is natural that the religion should be one and the same based on the same essentials of faith, worship and morality. As this religion was corrupted or altered or contaminated with borrowings from false creeds, God sent different Messengers in different epochs of history. He sent Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, as the last of the Messengers, with the perfected and last form of the religion, and “undertook” the preservation of the Book: Indeed it is We, We Who send down the Reminder in parts, and it is indeed We Who are its Guardian (15: 9). After Moses, upon him be peace, the religion he communicated came to be called Judaism; after Jesus, upon him be peace, came Christianity; and Islam has remained as the name of the perfected, preserved form of the Divine Religion which the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, communicated.
In this world, God the Almighty acts behind natural or material causes. So He has created, and will create, causes or means to preserve the Qur’ān. One of these means, and one of the reasons why the Almighty allowed His previous Scriptures to be corrupted and “undertook” to preserve the Qur’ān, is that the Companions of the Prophet and the succeeding Muslim generations were devoted to their Book more than any other people being devoted to their own, and tried their utmost to preserve it without the least alteration. With the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, God perfected Islam in a way to be able to address all levels of knowledge of understanding which exist and to solve the problems of humankind which will appear until the Last Day. Therefore, there would be no need for another Prophet to revive or restore the religion and no further Book to be revealed. So, as the first step to preserving the Qur’ān, it was written down during the life of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, under his direct supervision. It is due to this that not one word of its text has been deleted, added or mutilated. There is not a single difference among the copies of the Qur’ān that have been circulating throughout the world during the 14 centuries of Islam.
In considering the fact that, unlike other Scriptures preceding it, the Qur’ān has been preserved in its original form or text, without a single alteration, addition or deletion, the following points are of considerable significance:
The Qur’ān was revealed in parts. God the Almighty undertook not only the preservation of the Qur’ān but also its due recitation and the arrangement of its parts as a Book. He revealed to His Messenger where each verse and chapter revealed would be placed:
Move not your tongue to hasten it (for safekeeping in your heart). Surely it is for Us to collect it (in your heart) and enable you to recite it (by heart). So when We recite it, follow its recitation; thereafter, it is for Us to explain it. (75: 16-19)
Absolutely Exalted is God, the Supreme Sovereign, the Absolute Truth and Ever-Constant. Do not show haste (O Messenger) with (the receiving and memorizing of any Revelation included in) the Qur’ān before it has been revealed to you in full, but say: “My Lord, increase me in knowledge.” (20: 114)
The Almighty emphasizes that no falsehood can approach the Qur’ān, and there will be nothing to cause doubt about its authenticity as the Book of God:
It is surely a glorious, unconquerable Book. Falsehood can never have access to it, whether from before it or from behind it (whether by arguments and attitudes based on philosophies to be invented or by attacks from the past based on earlier Scriptures; it is) the Book being sent down in parts from the One All-Wise, All-Praiseworthy (to Whom all praise and gratitude belong). (41: 41–42).
The Messenger of God, upon him be peace and blessings, once a year used to review with the Archangel Gabriel the portion of the Qur’ān that had been revealed until that year. In his last year, after the completion of the Qur’ān’s revelation, Gabriel came twice for this purpose. The Messenger concluded from this that his emigration to the other world was near. (Yıldırım, 43, 62–3)
From the very beginning of its revelation, the Prophet’s Companions, may God be pleased with them, paid the utmost attention to the Qur’ān, and tried their best to understand, memorize and learn it. This was, in fact, the order of the Qur’ān:
And so, when the Qur’ān is recited, give ear to it and listen in silence so that you may be shown mercy. (7: 204)
There were few who knew how to read and write in the starting period of the Qur’ān’s revelation. It was decreed after the Battle of Badr, which was the first encounter between the Muslims and the Makkan polytheists, that the prisoners of war would be emancipated on the condition that each should teach ten Muslims of Madīnah how to read and write. Those who learned to read and write first attempted to memorize the Qur’ān. They attempted to do so because the recitation of some portion out of the Qur’ān is obligatory in the prescribed prayers; because the Qur’ān was very original for them; and because it purified their minds of prejudices and wrong assertions, and their hearts of sins, and illuminated them; and because it built a society out of illuminated minds and purified hearts.
In order to understand the extent of the efforts the Companions exerted to memorize the Qur’ān and the number of those who memorized it, it suffices to mention that in the disaster of Bi’r al-Ma‘ūnah, which took place just a few years after the Emigration, 70 Companions who had memorized the Qur’ān were martyred. Another 70 or so memorizers of the Qur’ān were also martyred in other similar events and battles during the life of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings (as-Sālih, 55). When the Prophet died, there were several Companions who knew the Qur’ān by heart, such as ‘Ali ibn Abī Tālib, ‘Abdullāh ibn Mas‘ūd, ‘Abdullāh ibn ‘Abbās, ‘Abdullāh ibn ‘Amr, Hudayfah ibn al-Yamān, Sālim, Mu‘adh ibn Jabal, Abū’d-Dardā, Ubeyy ibn Ka‘b, as well as Ā’ishah and Umm Salamah, wives of the Prophet. When a person was converted into Islam or emigrated to Madīnah, the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, sent him to a Companion to teach him the Qur’ān. Since a humming sound was raised when the learners of the Qur’ān began reciting, the Prophet asked them to lower their voices not to confuse one another. (as-Sālih, 57 , reporting from az-Zarkānī)
The Qur’ān was revealed in parts mostly on certain occasions. Whenever a verse or chapter or a group of verses was revealed, it was memorized by many people, and God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, also had it written down. He instructed where it would be placed in the Qur’ān. (The Qur’ān was revealed within 23 years. However, it was called the Qur’ān since the beginning of its revelation.) Those whom the Messenger employed in the writing down of the Qur’ān were called the Scribes of the Revelation. Histories give the names of 40 or so among them. In addition to writing down the parts of the Qur’ān revealed, the Scribes copied them for themselves and preserved them. (as-Salih, 61, reporting from al-Burhān by az-Zarkashī.)
When the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, died, several Companions, such as ‘Ali ibn Abī Tālib, Mu‘adh ibn Jabal, Abū’d-Dardā, and Ubayy ibn Ka‘b, had already collected the portions of the Qur’ān as a complete book. ‘Ali had arranged them according to the revelation time of the chapters. (M.M. Pūye, 95–8, reporting from al-Itqān by as-Suyūtī, and also from at-Tabarānī and Ibn al-Asākīr.) Following the death of the Prophet, when around 700 memorizers of the Qur’ān were martyred in the Battle of Yamāmah, U‘mar ibn al-Khattāb applied to the Caliph Abū Bakr with the request that they should have an “official” version of the Qur’ān, since the memorizers of the Qur’ān were being martyred in the battles. Zayd ibn Thābit, one of the leading scholars and memorizers of the Qur’ān at that time, was chosen for the task. After a meticulous work, Zayd prepared the official collection, which was called the Mushaf. (Yıldırım, 62–66; as-Salih, 62–65).
The Almighty openly declares in Sūrat al-Qiyāmah: “Surely it is for Us to collect it (in your heart) and enable you to recite it (by heart).” (75: 17) All the verses and chapters of the Qur’ān were arranged and collected as a book by the instructions of the Prophet himself, upon him be peace and blessings, as guided by the Revelation. After the Battle of Yamāmah, an official version was brought about and many copies of this version were produced and sent out to all cities during the time of the Third Caliph ‘Uthmān, may God be pleased with him (Yıldırım, 66-70; as-Sālih, 65–73).
One of the foremost reasons for the Qur’ān coming down to us through many centuries without a single distortion or change is that it has been preserved in its own original language. No one in the Muslim world has ever thought to supersede it with any translation of it, with the result that it has been protected from being exposed to what the previous Scriptures were.
In conclusion, the authenticity and genuineness of the copy of the Qur’ān now in our hands, in the sense that it is in the very words which were uttered by God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, is so evident that no Muslim scholar of any standard has ever doubted its genuineness or the fact that each and every letter, word or sentence, verse or chapter was uttered by the Messenger, as part of the Qur’ān. In other words, the version we have in our hands is undoubtedly the Qur’ān as recited by the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings. (For further explanations, see sūrah 15, note 3.)
The Qur’ān’s Styles
The Qur’ān is a book conveyed by the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, as the Word of God and which testifies to his prophethood. It is also his greatest miracle, which challenges not only the Arabs of his time but all people to come until the Last Day to produce one like it, not just of the whole, but even of a single chapter of it. The Qur’ān is also unparalleled among the Divine Scriptures in being preserved and transmitted to the later generations without the slightest alteration. There is not a single difference among the copies of the Qur’ān which have been circulating in the world since its first revelation.
Although there is no problem of any theological value which the Qur’ān has not dealt with, and it surpasses all scriptural records of pre- or post-Islamic ages in the abundant variety of its contents, yet its method of approach, presentation and solution is exclusively unique in itself. Rather than dealing with any topic in the common, so-called systematic way used by any author of theology or by an apostolic writer, it expressly says that it has adopted a special manifold method of its own which may be called “tasrīfī.” That is, it displays various or changing topics, shifting from one subject to another, or reverting to the previous one and repeating deliberately and purposefully one and the same subject in a unique and peculiar rhythmic and recitative form, to facilitate the understanding, learning and remembering of it.
Look, how We set out the signs (of God’s Existence and Unity and other truths of faith) in diverse ways, so that it may be that they will penetrate the essence of matters and understand. (6: 65)
The Qur’ān exhibits the order of the universe. As almost all varieties of existing things present themselves side-by-side or mingled before our eyes, the Qur’ān displays varieties linked together with a rhythm of peculiar pitch. This is to show forth the signs of the Unity of God. Although itself openly expresses that this changing attitude will cause some opponents of it to put forth doubts about its Divine Authorship (6: 106), it gives the reason for this, so as to stir up the depth of human intellect to reflect on the unity in variety, and the harmony in diversity. As a matter of fact, the Holy Qur’ān deals in each chapter of particular rhythm with various topics in various ways. This variety adds only to its unique beauty and matchless eloquence. An attentive reciter, or an intelligent audience, of the Holy Qur’ān while passing through these varieties of rhythmical pitch, enjoys these to the extent that the Qur’ān itself declares:
God sends down in parts the best of the words as a Book fully consistent in itself, and whose statements corroborate, expound and refer to one another. The skins of those who stand in awe of their Lord tingle at (the hearing and understanding of) it. Then, their skins and their hearts come to rest in the Remembrance of God (the Qur’ān). This is God’s guidance, by which He guides whomever He wills. And whomever God leads astray, there is no guide for him. (39: 23)
In addition to this unique style of the Qur’ān, the arrangement of its verses and chapters does not follow a chronological order. You find some verses that were revealed together and put in the same place in the Qur’ān but are preceded and followed by other verses. Some chapters and verses are lengthy, while some others are very short. Although this arrangement is one of the aspects of the Qur’ān’s miraculousness, one of the most important reasons why many orientalists and their imitators in the Muslim world venture to criticize the Qur’ān on the pretext that there is not consistency among its verses, is this:
The Qur’ān exhibits the order of the universe. Just as there is both a whole-part and holistic-partial or universal-particular relation among the things or elements in the universe, the same relation is also true for the verses of the Qur’ān. That is, a body is a whole and the head, arms, legs and other organs are its parts. Any of these parts cannot wholly represent the body because whatever there is in the body is not to be wholly found in any of its parts. However, each part is a whole in itself. Similarly, humankind and every species in existence is holistic or universal. That is, each species is composed of members wherein each contains all of the features of the species, and therefore represents the species. Thus, a human being is an exact specimen of humankind in structure.
It is just like this that each of the Qur’ānic verses is a whole in itself and also has an independent existence. Most of them can be put in any place in the Qur’ān without harming either the composition or the meaning. In addition, there is an intrinsic relation among all the verses of the Qur’ān, and between a verse and all the others. In the words of Bediüzzaman Said Nursi: “The verses of the Qur’ān are like stars in a sky among which there are visible and invisible ropes and relationships. It is as if each of the verses of the Qur’ān has an eye which sees most of the verses, and a face which looks towards them, so that it extends to them the immaterial threads of a relationship to weave a fabric of miraculousness. A single sūrah can contain the whole ‘ocean’ of the Qur’ān, in which the whole of the universe is contained. A single verse can comprehend the treasury of that sūrah. It is as if most of the verses are each a small sūrah, and most of the sūrahs, each a little Qur’ān. And it is a commonly accepted fact that the whole of the Qur’ān is contained in Sūrat al-Fātihah, and Sūrat al-Fātihah in the Basmalah” (The Words, “the 25th Word,” 394).
There are verses in the Qur’ān which, at first glance, seem to be contradictory. However, there is not a single contradiction in the Qur’ān. As mentioned above, the “tasrīfī” arrangement of the verses may cause such an “apparent” contradiction. However, the Qur’ān is like an organism, all parts of which are interlinked with one another. Both because of this arrangement, and due to the whole-part and wholistic-partial relationship among the verses, in most cases, a correct understanding of a verse is dependent upon an understanding of the whole of the Qur’ān. This is another characteristic particular to the Qur’ān which is another aspect of its miraculousness and demonstrates its Divine Authorship. This characteristic is very important in the interpretation of the Qur’ān, since the Qur’ān is the written counterpart of the universe and humanity. According to Muslim sages, the Qur’ān, the universe, and humanity are three “copies” of the same book – the first being the “revealed” and written universe and humans, as the second and third, are each a “created Qur’ān”; this also teaches us how we can view humanity and the universe. Therefore, what a careless human being sees as a contradiction in the Qur’ān is, in reality, the contradiction in his or her viewpoint. One whose being has been unified with the Qur’ān will see no contradiction in it, as such a one has been freed from all contradictions. If one views the Qur’ān from the windows of one’s particular world, full of contradictions, he or she will absolutely see contradiction in it. This is why first a human being who attempts to approach the Qur’ān must be freed from all kinds of contradictions.
The Qur’ān was revealed in the language of Arabic. The Qur’ān’s language is its outer body. It should not be forgotten that religion does not solely consist of either a philosophy or a theology. It is a method of unifying all the dimensions of our being. Therefore, as pointed out above, the language of the Qur’ān is one of the essential, inseparable elements of the Qur’ān. It was revealed in Arabic, and not only because the Arabs of the time of its revelation could understand it. Rather, a universal religion must have a universal language. The Qur’ān views the world as the cradle of human brotherhood and sisterhood. It envisages uniting all races, colors, and beliefs as brothers andsisters, and as servants of One God. Its language is one of the basic factors that helps a human being not only to ponder over religious realities but also to unite all the dimensions of his or her being according to the divine standards. Translations of the Qur’ān cannot be recited in prescribed prayers, since any of its translations is not identical with it. Without Arabic, one can be a good Muslim but one can understand only a little of the Qur’ān.
The Qur’ān is the source of all knowledge in Islam, not only the religious and spiritual, but also social and scientific knowledge and good morals, law and philosophy.
Understanding the Qur’ān
The first step to understanding the Qur’ān is understanding its language. The language has the same meaning for a text as the bodily features have for a human being. The essential existence of a text lies in its meaning, as that of a human being in his or her spirit. The bodily features are the externalized form which the spirit of a human being has taken on, and therefore serve as a mirror in which to see into his or her character. It is like this that the language and styles of the Qur’ān are the form of its meaning and therefore cannot be separated from it.
The second step to understanding the Qur’ān is penetrating its meaning, which requires practicing it in daily life. Although its language constitutes its outer form and structure, and is therefore very important in penetrating its meaning, restriction to its language in understanding the Qur’ān means restriction to the form or formalism. One can penetrate the meaning of the Qur’ān, in which its essential existence lies, through his or her “heart,” which is the seat of his/her spirit. This requires that the heart should be purified by refraining from sins and evils, doing the necessary acts of worship, and living a pious life.
The Qur’ān is, in the words of the late Professor Haluk Nurbaki, a Turkish scientist, “like a rose which continuously grows petals in the womb of time.” As sciences develop and contribute to penetrate through its depths of meaning, the Qur’ān blooms more and more and grows younger and fresher. This is why, besides having sufficient knowledge of topics such as “abrogation of laws, laws and principles dependent on certain conditions and unconditional, general and particular rules, and the occasions on which the verses were revealed,” knowing the general principles of natural sciences is also of great importance. In addition, since it is the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, who received the Qur’ān and taught and practiced it first of all in daily life as an infallible authority, knowing his Sunnah, the way he practiced the Qur’ān, and the example he set in living Islam, is indispensable to understanding the Qur’ān.
The Qur’ān is not a book of sciences, nor a book of history, nor a book of morality, only. Nor is it a book in the sense that the word “book” signifies. It is a book to be practiced; it came to guide people to truth, to educate people both intellectually and spiritually, and to govern their life in both the individual and social realm. Therefore, it can be understood by practicing it in the daily life. This point can be better understood when we consider that the Qur’ān was not revealed on one occasion only; it was revealed on many diverse occasions during the 23 years of Muhammad’s prophethood. Separating the Qur’ān and our practical lives means reducing the Qur’ān to being only a book to be read. It does not unfold itself much to those who approach it as if it were only a book to “read.”
Another point to stress concerning the understanding of the Qur’ān is this:
The Qur’ān is a book of a moderate size and, at first glance, contains repetitions. However, it declares that there is nothing “wet or dry” that is not recorded in a “Manifest Book,” that is, in the Qur’ān itself (6: 59). As stated in a prophetic saying, it contains the history of previous peoples, the tidings of those to come after its revelation, and the solutions to the disagreements between people. It addresses all levels of understanding and knowledge in all places at all times, and satisfies them. Hundreds of interpreters who have written commentaries on it during the 14 centuries of Islam have derived different meanings from it, but none of them has ever claimed that he or she has been able to comprehend the whole of it. Thousands of jurists have inferred laws from it and based their juridical reasoning on it, but no one among them has ever asserted that he or she has been able to infer all the laws contained in it or understand all the reasons behind its injunctions and prohibitions. All the pure, exacting scholars who have been able to “marry” the mind and heart; all the revivers – the greatest, saintly scholars who have come at certain times to revive and restore Islam – have found their ways in it; all saints have derived from it their sources of inspiration and ways of purification; and all the paths of Sufism have depended on it. But like a source of water which increases as it flows, it has remained as if untouched.
It is due to its miraculous eloquence that the Qur’ān has such depth and richness of meaning. One of the elements on which the Qur’ān’s eloquence is based is its creative style, rich in the arts. It frequently speaks in parables and adopts a figurative, symbolic rhetoric using metaphors and similes. This is natural because it contains knowledge of all things and addresses all levels of understanding and knowledge.
Ignoring the symbolic and artistic style of the Qur’ān, in mere contentment with the outward meaning of its expressions, caused the appearance of a superficial, narrow-minded current called Zāhiriyah. Just the opposite this is another current called Bātiniyah (esotericism), which searches for the whole of truth in symbols in negligence of the outward meaning of the expressions. Both currents are harmful. The middle way is always preferable.
Is a Full, Exact Translation of the Qur’ān Possible?
The question “Is a full, exact translation of the Qur’ān possible?” has been the cause of hot debates in the Muslim world for almost a century. This is a question asked without due consideration. For, first of all, a language is not a set of molds made up of letters and words. As his or her style of speech or writing gives a human being away, the language of a nation is a mirror to that nation’s character, as molded by its culture, history, religion, and even the land where its people live. It is almost impossible for any word used in a language to have an exact counterpart in another language. For that word has different connotations and associations particular to each people using it and different impressions on each. For example, according to the majority of Muslim scholars, the word “qur’ān” is derived from the verb qirā‘ah, meaning reading or reciting, and it means recitation. Although “qur’ān” has been the proper name for the book sent to the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, even as a common noun in the infinitive form, it is not the exact counterpart of “reading” or “recitation” in English, or another word used for the same meaning in another language. A language, with all its words, is a living entity changing forms and undergoing adaptations during the history of the people using it.
Second, Arabic is a strictly grammatical language. The rules of its grammar are established. It is the richest language of the world in conjugation and derivation. For example, there are three different types of infinitive in Arabic, and, in addition, a verb has 35 different infinitive forms, each of which has different connotations and implications. Again, the tenses do not always have the same meaning and usage in every language. For instance, the Qur’ān describes the events of Judgment Day in the past tense, although Judgment Day will come in the future. Besides other reasons for this usage, the simple past tense in Arabic is also used to give the meaning that a future event will doubtlessly take place. Also, the present tense is not the same in Arabic and in English. Aside from such differences between any two languages, there are also differences in using the present perfect tense between British and American English. As another characteristic of language, while in Arabic nouns are classified into two genders (masculine and feminine), in English there are three forms of gender. And in English, nouns have two forms of number, singular and plural, while adjectives and verbs do not have plural forms. As for Arabic, it has three forms of number for nouns, adjectives and verbs: singular, dual, and plural. In addition, in Arabic, nouns have many plural forms, each of which has different implications.
The Qur’ān has another, important peculiarity which makes its exact translation into another language almost impossible.
The Qur’ān has made many of its words each into a concept. Besides the word “Qur’ān”, many other words such as Rabb (the Lord), ilāh (deity), malik (sovereign), kitāb (book), wahy (revelation), dīn (religion), millah (nation, way), sharī‘ah, ‘ibādah (worship, adoration), taqwā (piety and righteousness), ihsān (perfect goodness or excellence, doing something fully aware that God is seeing His servants), waliyy (friend, saint), nūr (light), nabiyy (prophet), rasūl (messenger), islām, īmān (faith, belief) and other words, with the addition that the words which gave rise to a branch of knowledge or science called the Sciences of the Qur’ān, such as muhkam (the established, the decisive), mutashābih (the parabolical, the allegorical), tafsīr (interpretation), ta’wīl (exegesis), nāsikh (the abrogator) and mansūkh (the abrogated) are each a concept which is impossible to render in another language without necessary explanations.
The reasons why the exact translation of the Qur’ān into another language is not possible are not limited to those mentioned here. That is why no rendering of the Qur’ān can be substituted for it nor recited in the prayers.
On This Study of Interpretation
So far, many studies have been made to be able to render the meaning of the Qur’ān in other languages. Each study surely is superior to others in many respects, yet in many others inferior to them. Nevertheless, it is also true that in many of those studies, in addition to many shortcomings, there may be mistakes of understanding.
We do not have any claim that this study, which is partly based on the interpretation of venerable Suat Yıldırım, the renowned professor of the Qur’ānic interpretation in Turkey, is superior to others. However, it differs from them in the following, important points:
As mentioned earlier, as almost every verse of the Qur’ān has an independent existence, it also has an intrinsic relation with every other verse and with the totality of the Qur’ān. Therefore, understanding and interpreting a verse requires having a complete knowledge and understanding of the Qur’ān as a whole and considering the totality of it. It should not be forgotten that the main interpreter of the Qur’ān is the Qur’ān itself; as verses interpret one another, the Qur’ān as a whole also interprets each of them. We have tried to strictly observe this unique feature of the Qur’ān.
Bediüzzaman Said Nursi frequently draws the attention to the depths of meaning which the wording of the Qur’ān has as one of the aspects of its being miraculous. For example, since in Arabic, the definite article “al” adds inclusiveness to the word, he interprets “al-hamdu – the praise” at the beginning of Sūrat al-Fātihah: “All praise and thanks that everyone has given to others since the beginning of human life on the earth for any reason on any occasion and will give until the Last Day, are for God.”
Also, from the characteristics of the words used and the word-order in the sentence, Out of what We have provided for them (of wealth, knowledge, power, etc.,, they spend (to provide sustenance for the needy, and in God’s cause purely for the good pleasure of God and without placing others under obligatio n.), that comes in the third verse of Sūrat al-Baqarah, the second sūrah, he infers the following rules or conditions of giving alms:
In order to make their alms-giving acceptable to God, believers must give out of their belongings such an amount that they themselves will not have to need to receive alms. Out of in the expression Out of what expresses this condition.
Believers must not transfer to the needy from another’s goods, but they must give out of their own belongings. The phrase, what We have provided for them points to this condition. The meaning is: “Believers give out of what We have provided for them (not out of what We have provided for others).”
Believers must not remind those to whom they have given something of the kindness they have done to them. We in We have provided indicates this condition, for it means: “It is We who have provided for you wealth out of which you give to the poor as sustenance. Therefore, by giving to a servant of Ours out of Our property, you cannot put them under obligation.”
Believers must not fear that they may become poor because they give others. The pronoun We in We have provided points to this. Since it is God Who provides for us and commands us to spend for others, He will not cause us to become poor because of giving to others.
Believers must give to those who will spend it for their livelihood. It is not acceptable to give to those who will dissipate it. The phrase, They spend (to provide sustenance for the needy), points to this condition.
Believers must spend for God’s sake. We have provided for them states this condition. It means: “Essentially, it is Our property out of which you spend, therefore you must spend in Our Name.”
The word what in Out of what signifies that whatever God provides for a person is included in the meaning of rizq (provision.) Therefore, one must spend not only out of one’s goods, but also out of whatever one has. Therefore a good word, an act of help, a piece of advice, and teaching are all included in the meaning of provision and spending as sustenance for others (İshârâtü’l-Îcâz, 40).
Together with all these conditions, the meaning of the expression, the original of which comprises three words, becomes: “Out of whatever We have provided for them of wealth, knowledge, power, etc., believing that it is We Who provide and therefore without feeling any fear that they may become poor because of giving and without putting those to whom they give under obligation, they spend both in God’s cause and to provide sustenance for the needy who are sensible enough not to dissipate what is given to them, such amount that they themselves will not have to need to receive alms.”
In this study of interpretation, we have tried to consider such depths of meaning to the extent that the scope of the study allows.
It is of considerable significance that the Qur’ān was revealed within 23 years on certain occasions. Therefore its due, correct understanding caused the birth of an important science called the Sciences of the Qur’ān, which includes a wide range of topics such as abrogation of a law or verse by others, generalization or particularization of the meaning because of certain occasions or conjuncture, and the occasions on which verses were revealed. If these points are not given due consideration in interpreting the Qur’ān, one with a superficial view can have the impression that there are contradictions in the Qur’ān. In order to prevent such an impression, we have tried to take these points into consideration. For example:
O you who believe! If you follow those who disbelieve (the hypocrites and Jews in Madīnah who spread negative propaganda concerning the events at Uhud), they will drive you back on your heels (into unbelief), and you will turn utter losers (in both this world and the next). (3:149)
This verse commands that the believers should not obey the unbelievers. However, like many commandments in the Qur’ān, this one has also relative aspects according to time and conditions. Besides, the verse must have a connection with the verses before and after it. To see this connection sometimes requires knowing the reason for its revelation.
After the Battle of Uhud the hypocrites and Jews began to propagate that had Muhammad been a true prophet, he would not have suffered the reverse at Uhud. They tried to persuade the Muslims to turn back into their former state of unbelief. The Muslims this verse addressed in Madīnah knew what specifically it was about. For this reason, in order to clarify the meaning and the direct purpose for the verse’s revelation, it requires having an interpretation with explanations. However, in doing this, we should never forget that with respect to its meaning and connotations and commandments it contains, a verse can in no way be restricted to the occasion on which it was revealed. “It does not prevent the commandment a verse contains from having a general, inclusive area of enforcement that is beyond what was revealed on a certain occasion” is a rule in both the Qur’ānic interpretation and Islamic Jurisprudence.
The structure and character of the words used in the Qur’ān are the source of diverse meanings. For example, the being that refused to prostrate before Adam was Iblīs, but it was “Satan” when it approached Adam to deceive him in the Garden. It is possible to deduce from this word what happened between its refusal to prostrate before Adam and its approaching to deceive him, and this should be shown in a study of interpretation. So the shortest meaning of the verse 2: 36 is as follows:
(Iblīs was inherently devoid of good, and defeated by his vainglory, disobeyed God’s command and was driven out from the Garden, becoming Satan despairing of God’s mercy and the accursed Satan. Tempting Adam and Eve to the forbidden tree despite Our pre-warning,) Satan caused them both to deflect therefrom and brought them out of the (happy) state in which they were; and We said, “Descend, all of you, (and henceforth you will live a life,) some of you being the enemies of the others. There will be for you on the the earth (where you have already been appointed as vicegerent) a habitation and provision until an appointed time.
Unfortunately, we have not been able make the whole of this study with such broadness.
· The explanatory words that we have had to put (usually in brackets) before or within the translations of the verses are not additions to, nor any sort of adaptations of, the meaning of the verses. They express the full normal meaning of the words, understood individually and in context. By “context,” we mean both the context of the passage or the sūrah or the Qur’ān as a whole, and also the historical context, the situation that is the background to the verses. Also, we should be aware that the Qur’ān is miraculous in its power of concision, of conveying much in few words. Sometimes this concision is achieved through the powerful compactness of the structures and syntax of Arabic, raised to inimitable perfection in the Qur’ān. A relatively uninflected language like English simply cannot reproduce the full meaning without explanations to convey the meaning that is carried in the words in Arabic by their inflection, position in the sentence, etc. Sometimes the concision of the Qur’ān is achieved through ellipsis, that is, through the omission of what is already known or easily knowable to one familiar with the language and the subject-matter (see the next point).
The occasions on which the verses were revealed require explanatory additions (as well as notes) because the historical context is not known to us in the way that it was known to the first addressees of the Qur’ān. However, it is important to clarify that, while the historical context is important for the meaning of the verses and, equally important for the links between them, it does not restrict their meaning. Everyone should respond to the Qur’ān as if its words and meanings were being revealed to them as the first addressees of the Revelation. Knowing the historical context of certain verses or passages, in fact, enhances the understanding of their present and permanent relevance, but it does not diminish or restrict it.
It is impossible to find a single ample word in the Qur’ān. While narrating the events, without getting into detail, it gives the main points and refers the detail to the mind. The listener or reader can supply what is missing from familiarity with the story and/or ordinary common sense. For example, in the verse 2: 35, the Divine command to Adam and Eve not to approach the (forbidden) tree is followed by Satan’s causing them to “stumble.” Several incidents happened between these two events. These should be given in a study of interpretation.
To cite another example:
Now after all that time, of the two (prisoners), the one who had been delivered remembered (what Joseph had asked him to remember) and he said: “I will inform you of its meaning, so send me forth!” “Joseph, O man of truth!…” (12: 45–46)
Between so send me forth and Joseph, O man of truth!, there are several events that the narrative omits: So send me forth to Joseph so that I may ask him about the dream’s interpretation. They sent him, so he left the king’s court to get to the prison. He arrived there and, on receiving permission from the prison guard to enter, did so. He came to Joseph and, after exchanging greetings with him, said: “Joseph, o man of truth!” By omitting these events, the Qur’ān narrates briefly and to the point without any loss of clarity. However, in this study we have tried to mention some such omitted events in brackets to make it easier for the reader to understand.
The Qur’ān’s verses interpret one another, so in order to understand the exact and complete meaning of a verse, we should consider the verses particularly related to it. For example, verse 2: 42, should be interpreted by taking into consideration verses 2: 71, 79, 140, 174, 179; 3: 167; 4: 13, 46; and 5: 106:
Do not confound the truth by mixing it with falsehood, and do not conceal the truth while you know (the meaning and outcome of what you do, and that what you strive to hide is true, and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God, the Messenger whose coming you have been anticipating).
In many of the Qur’ānic interpretations, interpreters are content with making a literal translation. For example, in this verse, they do not mention what it is that the Children of Israel know and conceal. However, we have tried to make the meaning as clear as possible either through annotations or putting explanations in brackets.
The tenses used, the passing from one tense to another, the nouns being definite or indefinite, the kinds of the clauses (noun or verb – a clause beginning with a verb is a verb clause), and the adressee being in the second or the third person (the person in absence) – all of these make important contributions to the meaning. For example, from verse 2: 30 downward, God addresses Adam directly, but in verse 2: 37, coming after the verse telling about his approaching the forbidden tree, He addresses him in the third person. This means that Adam got into a new relationship with his Lord. Also, the verb telaqqā used in the meaning of “receiving” connotes perceiving to be inspired. So the shades of meaning which all such features of the Arabic language contribute to the verses should be given in a study of Qur’ānic interpretation. Thus the shortest rendition of this verse is as follows:
(Aware of his lapse, and in the hope of retrieving his error, rather than attempting to find excuses for it,) Adam received from his Lord, (with Whom he got into a new way of relationship,) words (that he perceived to be inspired into him because of his remorse), and (asked for God’s forgiveness through them.) In return, He accepted His repentance. He is the One Who truly returns repentance with liberal forgiveness, the All-Compassionate.
Another important point:
The shortest meaning of verse 2: 27 provided by the character of the words is as follows:
(Those) who break God’s covenant (which is a rope of light woven of the threads of Divine Will, Wisdom and Favor, and responsible for the order in the universe, and able to establish peace, order and harmony in human life) after its solemn binding, and sever the bonds God commanded to be joined (among the relatives as a requirement of blood relationship, and among people as required by human social needs), and (in an attempt to spread their vices in the whole community, even in the whole world, like one who, having caught a contagious disease, desires to pass it to others) cause disorder and corruption on earth. Such are those who are the losers (in both this world and the next.)
The meanings given in brackets are not commentary; they are the meanings provided by the words used in the verse and their order, as well as the grammar rules and styles. For example, the original word translated as “break” is NeQaDa, which means raveling a thick, strong rope. This implies that God’s Covenant is a strong rope binding people together and humanity to God. The word mīthāq translated as binding corroborates this meaning. God’s Covenant is a rope of light woven of His Will, Wisdom, Knowledge, and Favoring, and which extends from eternity in the past to eternity in the future. Being responsible for the magnificent order in the universe and establishing the relationship among all creatures, one of its ends was given to the hand of humanity. The present environmental pollution and the state of things in the world are the result of breaking God’s Covenant. The verse uses God’s Covenant, which is a rope binding people together and humanity to God, together with the bonds (among people, including particularly among the relatives) to be joined.
In this study, we have preferred to give these meanings, sometimes in brackets and sometimes as notes.
While narrating the series of events or God’s blessings, the Qur’ān follows such a style that it provokes minds to ask questions, and the suceeding event or the blessing provides an answer to them. For example, while mentioning the blessings of Paradise in verse 2: 25, one who lives in a palace surrounded by trees among which rivers flow will not be saved from feeling lonely and needing a companion. The Qur’ān presents to the view pure spouses. If there is something to cloud such a blessing, it is death, and the Qur’ān removes this worry by immediately adding that life in Paradise is eternal. So, the meaning of this verse is as follows:
Give glad tidings to those who believe and do good, righteous deeds: for them are Gardens beneath (the palaces and through the trees of) which rivers flow. Every time they are provided with fruits (of different color, shape, taste, and smell and that are constantly renewed) therefrom, they say, “This is what we were provided with before.” For they are given to them in resemblance (to what was given to them both in the world, and just before in the Gardens, familiar in shape and color so that they may not be unattractive because unknown). Furthermore, for them are spouses eternally purified (of all kinds of worldly uncleanliness.) They will abide there (forever).
· As mentioned before, the verses of the Qur’ān intperpret each other and make references to one another through the same words and expressions. Besides, there are words and conceptions functioning as the frame of the Qur’ān’s meaning, such as Rabb (Lord), taqwā (piety and righteousness), ihsān (perfect goodness or excellence, doing something fully aware that God is seeing His servants), ‘ibādah (worship), Islām (submission to God), kufr (unbelief; concealing the truth willingly and rejecting it), and so on. Although these conceptions should be interpreted in their full meaning, we haven’t been able to do so, thinking that it would be too long for the readers to follow, making it difficult to concentrate on.
To sum up, the features of the Qur’ān’s style and aspects of its miraculousness caused paranthetical explanations in this study. They are all the meanings the verses contain, not our additions.
Another point to mention is that some of the precepts or practices in Islam – such as slavery, jihād (holy strife in the way of God), permission to war and women’s share in inheritance – have been made the subject of biased criticism by its enemies and of hot debate by both its friends and defenders. During this study, we have tried to clarify these points.
During the study, despite his failing health and numerous preoccupations, venerable Fethullah Gülen Hocaefendi never refrained from extending his encouragement, support, guidance, and corrections. Therefore, I am very grateful to him and other friends because of their generous help. I also thank Mr. Jamil Qureshi from Oxford, England, and Mrs. Zeynep Kandur for editing the English text.
It is on us to strive, and it is the Almighty Who will give success, if He wills. I close with a request for prayers from all believers for this humble servant for sincerity, purity of intention, conviction in the pillars of faith, and the grant of the approval and good pleasure of our Lord, our Creator.
On The Holy Qur’ān And Its Interpretation
The Qur’ān is God’s miraculous, matchless message that has been sent to all humanity via His last Messenger. With the Qur’an, God has shown humanity, one last time, a short-cut to His good pleasure. He has communicated to us about His Essence, Attributes, and Names. He has expressed in the most explicit way, leaving no room for any misunderstanding, His will to be known and recognized in the correct way, to be believed in and worshipped. Almighty God has put emphasis on the duties and responsibilities of believers, while enthusing hearts and agitating souls with His promise for punishment and reward. He has presented the Qur’ān as a sign for perfection and completion and as an orbit to rotate around for His good pleasure, while condescending to offer this gift to us as a compliment greater than any that has been or will ever be granted to anyone else.
The Qur’ān is the most radiant and enduring of the hundreds of miracles bestowed upon Prophet Muhammad, upon Him be the best of blessings and peace, by the Master of Creation. In addition to its wondrous discourse, articulation, and styles of expression, with its social discipline, legal rulings, principles of good morality, and education, its analysis of the whole creation, including especially humanity, with its many allusions and indications to the essentials of almost all the sciences, which are sometimes even presented as manifest expressions, and the alternative solutions it offers for many administrative, economic, and political problems, the Qur’ān is the ultimate source of reference for everyone and for all times. It is an untainted fountain with an infinite resource; it is a vast ocean which can never be dimmed by even the most complicated and filthy of eras.
With all my respect for its grandeur, I have to confess to my inability and insufficiency to elaborate on the depth of meaning and richness of expression and style of the Qur’ān. A considerable number of studies have been dedicated to the Qur’ān, and many more studies will be carried out on this topic. There is no doubt that all these studies have presented valuable content for any seeking person to grasp the gist of what the Qur’ān stands for and to believe in its message, and they mirror the order of Islam in its true essence. However, it would not be right for anyone to claim that they have come up with a perfect interpretation of the endless content of this expository atlas of humankind, the universe and the truth of Divinity. The Qur’ān can be interpreted only to the extent that a heavenly and Divine word can be interpreted by human perception. Thus, although it does not seem to be possible to spell out this huge atlas within the measures of an article, we cannot stay indifferent to or neglect studying the Qur’ān with the excuse that our interpretations are deficient or the power of our discourse is inadequate. Everyone has the right to study the Qur’ān; more than that, it is a duty upon those equipped with necessary, accurate knowledge. We should work harder to better understand the Qur’ān, while the learned should wield all their perceptiveness and sensations toward understanding it and conveying its message, allowing a wider audience to learn more from it. Indeed, the Qur’ān is the greatest gift to be understood and conveyed from the Mercy of God to the human mind. Understanding the Qur’ān is both a duty and an act of gratitude, whereas conveying its message to those hearts in need of its light is a prerequisite of respect and fidelity.
The Qur’ān is a miracle of eloquence honored with the merit of being the voice of all ages. It is the most luminous expression of the Divine Speech, around whose light the angels hover like moths. If we take into consideration its Source and purpose of revelation, its first representative(s) and the impact it leaves on hearts, then we must realize that it is not a book to put to one side. When the Qur’ān speaks, angels fall deep into a silent vigilance, spirit beings fall prostrate, and the jinn, enchanted with its voice, set out to the deserts to meet it.
The Qur’ān is the expression and explanation of God’s laws of creation or “nature,” and the strongest and immutable source of religious rules and pillars. The Qur’ān is the indisputable Book that includes the most reliable criteria for studying existence (the whole universe and humankind). Thus for all individual, familial, social, or ethical problems, we must seek wisdom and illumination from the Qur’ān; it cries out that its source is the all-encompassing Knowledge of the One Who knows everything, along with all causes and results. The Qur’ān has captivated everyone to whom its voice has reached – provided they were not prejudiced – with its holistic perspective, comprehensive discourse and style, the vastness of its content and meaning, its delicate expressions, its magical expounding in proportion to the different levels of knowledge and understanding, and its capacity to penetrate souls. Neither its friends nor its foes have been able to come up with something in a similar style or an utterance that is equal in grandiosity, the former motivated by imitation, the latter in fury to choke off its voice, despite their efforts for almost fourteen centuries. Even when they use the same material and concentrate on the same issues, their works have never been able to overcome artificiality, they have never been appreciated by masters of literary skills, and they have never evoked any lasting or effective influence.
The Qur’ān has such a musical harmony and delicate correlations between the topics it deals with, be they interrelated or apparently unrelated with each other, that one is able to realize, with only the slightest effort of comprehensive thinking, that many apparently unrelated topics have points of junction. The mastership of discourse belongs to the Qur’ān, which no literary personality can challenge, and enables those of its audience who are unprejudiced and can judge with some reason to obtain some things from it, introducing them to deeper contemplation beyond their horizons of thought. Once they can judge fairly and let their souls delve into this heavenly waterfall of expression, all other speech-like voices will immediately turn into nothing but rumblings.
Above all, the Qur’ān has come from an all-encompassing Knowledge; it contains and explains the meaning and content of human and non-human existence, of humankind, nature, and all the worlds; it is both their language and interpreter of their purpose of creation. It speaks to multifarious dimensions of its audience all at the same time: while addressing the mind, it does not neglect to speak to the heart in its own language; when it calls out to the consciousness, it does not push emotions aside; while conversing with the faculties of reasoning and logic, it does not leave the soul without any favor. All faculties and senses, external and internal, benefit from the Qur’ān, which gives each its share without giving rise to any deprivation and contradiction. They all receive their share from this heavenly table, each to the extent of its capacity, and enjoy a most harmonious composition.
All Divine Scriptures, especially before human interpolations were mixed with the original texts, possessed the same holistic approach and all-embracing quality; nevertheless, the superiority and widest comprehension of the Qur’ān are evident in proportion to the profundity of the spirit of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. It is by no means possible to show any other heavenly or manmade book which excels it with its content and extensiveness. It is by no means an exaggeration to claim its uniqueness in dealing with humanity, the universe and Divinity in the most comprehensive, as well as the most exquisite fashion, while interpreting them in the best forms of synthesis and analysis in its own way.
All of the topics that the Qur’ān deals with are the most valuable treasures of the truths pertaining to Divinity and the realm of creation. Some of these truths are decisive or explicit in meaning and content, and others are concise, metaphorical, and allegorical, the explanation of which has been entrusted to the one who brought the Qur’ān, upon him be peace and blessings, and the scholars favored with inspiration. The Qur’ān never complicates any of the matters it presents or analyzes. It presents topics concerned with the essentials of faith, worship, and morality, and basic principles of individual and social life clearly and succinctly; while for matters requiring comprehensive thinking, reflection, and careful consideration, it demands deeper examination and scrutiny, and suggests turning to God, without approving of burdening oneself with grave matters that one cannot shoulder. Like a wondrous chandelier which continuously shines brighter, it is a means for brand new discoveries at diverse wavelengths, as hearts and minds go deeper in thought, thus offering Divine gifts of all kinds to our internal and external senses. With its blessings and inspirations augmenting in excess, light rain becoming BECOMES a deluge, and with its endless beauty and glittering lights, the Qur’ān offers banquets one within another to those who ponder and study it.
True understanding of existence and what lies beyond the sensed dimension of the cosmos, and also humankind with its spiritual depths, is possible only through the Qur’ān. Readers discover in its bright realm straight thinking and real sources of reflection, and are thereby saved from the vicious circles of deception and misjudgments based on probabilities. There is no other source of knowledge that is free of error, uncertainty or doubt other than this miraculous Speech from God, the All-Knowing of the Unseen. The Qur’ān explains and presents everything explicitly, plainly, and correctly. It enables us to understand that it is we who make errors in evaluating the issues, giving rise to contradictory judgments and filling in the gaps entrusted to reflection. Understanding and interpreting the Qur’ān correctly is not only a duty upon us, but also a requirement of our fidelity to it. The fulfillment of this duty and fidelity is closely related with the erudition of every capable and well-equipped individual and in their living in devotion to God. Such individuals dive into this vast ocean with utmost sincerity and commitment for the good pleasure of God, uncovering the truth so that it flourishes. They proceed toward this infinite horizon with caution, composure, and comprehensive thought, and without surrendering to their carnality. The Messenger, who brought the Qur’ān from God, is their first and greatest guide; they also follow the pious scholars among the earliest generations of Islam in the light of its expressions, which are decisive and explicit in meaning and content. They are less likely to err; their efforts to attain the pleasure of God are rewarded with special treatment. Their interpretations and explanations of the Qur’ān are each a hue and adornment of Qur’ānic uniqueness.
On the other hand, the Qur’ān cannot be explained as it deserves in consideration of its position and loftiness with rudimentary Arabic and the limited scope of dictionaries; such an attempt would also constitute manifest disrespect to this heavenly monument of speech. It should be rendered in other languages as is required. Anything concerning Qur’ānic expositions (tafsīr) should be very well-researched, and before it is launched, every tafsīr should be tested against the exalted Islamic sciences. What falls to us is not to bring the Divine Word down to our level of perception or expression in its immeasurable immensity and depth, excusing such an act as we have translated it for the benefit of everyone.
While it is a duty, an appreciation of, or an act of respect toward the Qur’ān for experts to make the Qur’ān known to everyone via exposition, interpretation, or a commentary, such an attempt would be paramount to insolence if one did not have a high command of Arabic grammar, the principles of rhetoric or eloquence, knowledge of the study of Qur’anic exposition (tafsīr), the methodology of hadīth studies (Traditions of Prophet) and Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh). The Qur’an cannot be translated as a novel is; and even the translation of a novel calls for an expertise in its own genre.
Forging the way toward a sound interpretation of the Qur’an, it would be better to discuss first what a “translation” is, and what tafsīr (exposition) and ta’wīl (commentary) mean.
Translation is the rendering of a text or statement in one language into another language, while preserving the meaning. An accurate translation would be to transfer the exact meaning of every word – if this is ever possible – while preserving the relationships between word combinations. On the other hand, a literal translation of the words only, or an exclusively semantic translation, would be a deficient translation.
To a certain extent, we can also talk about translation software; however, the current technology or even more advanced technology to come is not able to help very much in the translation of substantial literary works. Now consider the situation when the text is the Word of God, which addresses all times, conditions, and levels and, therefore, the exposition of which, with all its depths, is considerably dependent on time, inspiration, and circumstances. Some works of literature are said to be impossible to accurately render; then it is clear that there is no way that the Holy Qur’ān, with its immense profundity, could ever be expressed by an ordinary translation.
Many Muslim scholars, including Bediüzzaman Said Nursi, are of the opinion that it is impossible to translate the Qur’ān, due to the aforementioned and many other considerations. Some other scholars, on the other hand, approach the matter cautiously, but more moderately, provided that the prerequisites underscored above have been adhered to.
The late Hamdi Yazır, one of the greatest contemporary expounders of the Qur’ān, states that the translation must exactly correspond to the original text in terms of explicitness and indications; conciseness and comprehensiveness; generalizations and specifics; restrictedness or exclusiveness and inclusiveness; powerfulness, appropriateness, eloquence and style. Therefore, prose or poetry can be translated into another language which is as developed as the original language, with the condition that the translator is well-versed with the subtleties of both languages; however, such a translation is hardly possible for a book which addresses the mind and heart, the soul and all the senses together, with all its diverse literary delicacies, and its vigor and exuberance. And what happens if the book to be translated is a work of God that transcends all other books Divine or non-Divine with its dimensions beyond time and space, and speaks to all ages?!…
The Qur’ān is, in the words of Bediüzzaman Said Nursi, a Divine interpretation of the Book of Existence. It is the voice and breath of the laws of creation; the true interpreter of things and events that bear multifarious meanings; a candid expounder of this world and the world to come; the revealer of the treasure of the Divine Names hidden in the heavens and on the earth;the mysterious key to the mysteries beyond all things; the plain language of the beyond manifested in this world; the sun, the foundation, and the geometry of the spiritual world of Islam; the sacred map that explicitly lays out the worlds of the Hereafter with clearly drawn lines;the voice and clearest interpreter of the Divine Essence, Attributes, and Names; the most reliable teacher of all humanity; the air, the water, and the light of the Islamic world; the Word of the All-Exalted, All-Majestic Being, Who is the Creator and Lord of all worlds;and His decree and address.
This is not to say that the Qur’ān cannot be understood; on the contrary and most importantly of all, it was revealed to humanity to be understood and to be lived by. However, its phrases are so deep and have so many meanings, and its content is so multi-layered, that even if we could know and understand the meaning of every single word, and sense certain things from word combinations, we would still certainly miss many truths that are contained in styles, indications, suggestions, connotations, and purposes, that cannot be fully reflected in any translation.
I am of the opinion that every person who approaches the Qur’an with an open mind can perceive all of the above characteristics, and thus appreciate that its sublimity and transcendence cannot be confined to a simple translation. A translation might certainly have some value in proportion to the translator’s learning, knowledge, horizon of perception, and skills; however, it can never convey the Qur’ān in all its profundity. Therefore, no translation nor commentary or interpretation can ever be called the Qur’ān itself.
Tafsīr and Ta’wīl
We all have a need for the Qur’ān and thus are obliged to understand it, even if at different levels. In order to penetrate its essence and understand it according to what it really and essentially is, we must study it following a comprehensive exposition (tafsīr) that has been prepared in accordance with the methodology of the science of tafsīr by learned scholars. We should not narrow down its content, which is as extensive as all the worlds, to the levels of our inadequate learning, knowledge, and perception.
Tafsīr is an exposition which entails an effort to reflect the content of a text. A Qur’ānic tafsīr is an exposition of the Divine Word that takes into account the grammar, the principles of eloquence, and the explanations of God’s Messenger and the earliest Muslim generations (the Messenger’s Companions), as well as an exposition illuminated by the light of the mind and the rays of the heart. Most of the tafsīrs which have been prepared up to now can be said to comply with this. Any given tafsīr can be defined according to the dominance of any feature given above. For instance, if the tafsīr is based in various ways upon the commentaries and explanations of the Messenger of God, as well as on the opinions of the Companions who best understood the language of the time, then this is a “tafsīr based on Traditions or knowledge reported (from the Messenger and his Companions)” (at-tafsīr ar-riwāyah). A “tafsīr by expert knowledge” (at-tafsīr ad-dirāyah), on the other hand, is an exposition based on, in addition to reported knowledge, a direct or indirect study of linguistics, literature, and other relevant fields of science.
In earlier times, the Qur’ān was primarily expounded by recourse to the Qur’ān itself, with the Sunnah being the second source of its exposition. The explanations of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, were always the most reliable source from which the Companions benefited. Most of the Companions already had a good command of the language; therefore, they encountered few problems. Those issues which needed explanation were either referred to the Prophet or clarified by the Prophet himself without any need of another recourse.
In later times, large volumes that compiled such statements, explanations, and expositions were gathered, an effort which was initially started earlier by some Companions. A very rich heritage was left behind by the Tābi‘ūn (the generation of Muslims who came after the Companions) to the following centuries. Verifying scholars, such as Muhammad ibn Jarīr at-Tabarī, made great use of this heritage from the tenth century onwards. Alongside the explanations of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, the collections composed of the reports from the Companions and the next two generations have always constituted a reliable source for scholars.
Az-Zamakhsharī, a scholar of Mu‘tazilah and a master of the language, is considered to be one of the pioneers of the “tafsīr by expert knowledge” with his al-Kashshāf (“The Discoverer”). Fakhr u’d-Dīn ar-Rāzī’s Mafātīh al-Ghayb (“The Keys to the Unseen”) is one of the most powerful voices of the Sunnī tafsīr approach and trend, and is considered to be one of the greatest representatives of this tradition. Baydāwī’s Anwar at-Tanzīl wa Asrār at-Ta’wīl (“The Lights of the Revelation and the Mysteries in its Meaning”) is one of the significant links in the chain of tafsīr s; this is of particular significance as it contains answers to Zamakhsharī’s Mu‘tazilī thoughts and considerations.
Subsequent centuries witnessed a number of tafsīr studies within the framework of Sufism and jurisprudence. Ebu’l-Lays as-Samarkandī, Baghawī, İbn Kathīr, Jalālu’d-Dīn as-Suyūtī, Ebu’s-Suūd, Kemalpaşazade, İsmail Hakkı Bursevî, Ālūsī al-Baghdādī, Konyalı Vehbî and Allame Hamdi Yazır are some of the distinguished figures who have preserved this sacred tradition.
A majority of these figures and others have applied the utmost care to their expositions; they did whatever needed to be done with superhuman effort in order to accurately understand the Divine purposes in the Qur’ān. They carefully studied wordby-word how the Companions, who constituted the first row of its audience, understood and interpreted the Qur’ān; their studies were based on the essentials of the religion in their studies and approach to the Qur’ān, and they tested their personal opinions against the disciplines of Qur’ānic study and the authentic Sunnah. Thus, they discarded distorted crumbs of information which had been put forward by the enemies of the Qur’ān as commentary and explanations. Their effort was a marvelous feat by which we are better able to understand the will of God.
It is also worth noting at this point Hamdi Yazır’s thoughts on tafsīr: Tafsīr, he says, is opening something that is closed and revealing it; therefore, a Qur’ānic tafsīr is an effort to disclose the meanings of God’s Word in accordance with His will.
With its wording and meaning of immeasurable profundity, each word of which gives its share to everyone in every age, the Qur’ān is a unique, matchless Book. It addresses different ages, different nations, and people of different intellectual levels all at the same time. It is a book of wisdom that is easily understood by its readers, yet at the same time has veiled, difficult, terse, or concise, as well as metaphorical or allegorical aspects. The profundity and secretiveness of the first three aspects can be revealed through agreement among the scholars, whereas the fourth is entrusted to the interpretation and commentary of the verifying scholars well-versed in knowledge, who remain faithful to the essentials of the Qur’ān and Islam, and have the capacity to understand what is figurative or allegorical.
Although almost every individual who knows its language can grasp something from the Qur’ān, a true and comprehensive understanding of it can be achieved only by those experts of exposition and commentary who have attained the required and correct level of knowledge. These experts take into consideration the linguistic rules, and pay necessary attention to the methodology of tafsīr in understanding what is veiled, difficult, or abstruse. They exert endless efforts in reflection, contemplation, and meditation in order to be able to attain a correct understanding of the Divine purpose, what God really means. They resort to the explanations of God’s Messenger in order to expound the concise verses (mujmal), and explore the depths of reported knowledge with expert knowledge and vice versa. Throughout history, the genuine commentators and expounders have always followed this same path.
As for ta’wīl (commentary), it means referring a word, an attitude, or an action to or explaining it with one of its probable meanings. Some have defined ta’wīl as expounding words and actions to the contrary of what reason superficially judges; in other words, it is also possible to say that ta’wīl is expounding something read or seen or heard with other than what first comes to the mind and with a rational knowledge that is not instantly comprehended. Imam Abū Mansūr al-Māturidī makes the distinction that tafsīr is the exposition of the Qur’ān by the Companions, and ta’wīl is the commentaries and interpretations made by the tābi‘ūn and succeeding generations.
Ta’wīl comes from the root AWL and due to the fact that it implies the preference of one of the probable meanings, it would be wrong to propose meanings which are in no way related with the wording the Qur’ān as being either tafsīr or ta’wīl.
It is also essential that there be some sign that provides evidence for the meaning proposed, or a rational or transmitted proof that supports the idea put forward. It would be wrong to load different meanings on words or sentences on the grounds of “figurativeness” or “allusion,” without a sign or proof, while ignoring what the word or sentence apparently means. Such loading of different meanings has no real value in any case.
The end-result or product of ta’wīl is called a me‘āl (interpretation). We can define this as the preference of one of the meanings. A Qur’ānic interpretation is neither just a translation nor a tafsīr. An interpretation might include points or issues that are typically found in a tafsīr; however, it does not go beyond this framework.
From the first centuries of Islam, alongside many high- and low-quality translations, there have been, and will continue to be, many interpretations and tafsīrs. We applaud all sincere efforts dedicated to voice the spirit of the Qur’ān and to reveal the Divine purpose. We particularly applaud efforts which do not ignore the passage of time and the aspects of Qur’ānic content and meanings that address themselves to each part of time, the circumstances that prevail in every age and environment, the essential purposes of the Religious Law and efforts which adhere to them in accordance with the spirit of the Qur’ān and the authentic Sunnah, the thoughts enriched with the passage of time and through developments in human life, and new discoveries and attainments in sciences and human thought.
On this study of interpretation
Taking this opportunity, I would like to express my due appreciation for the services of Ali Ünal to the Qur’ān, and I hope that he will be able to produce many other good works.
I personally think of this fellow brother as one of those figures who can read our age well, who seeks solutions for the problems of our day, and who is imbued with love for the truth and a desire for learning. There are quite a few people today who study the Qur’ān and try to uncover the Divine purposes in the same way as the pioneers (the Companions) did. It is without a doubt that Ali Ünal is one of these. Above everything else, he is not a stranger to the Message of the Qur’ān, and I assuredly express my confidence in his overall approach to Islamic issues. He is an intellectual who confronts himself frequently and is filled with the courage to voice his beliefs confidently. His perseverance to attain the truth in religious matters, the importance he lays on consultation, his concern to avoid doing wrong, and his readiness to return from error are indications of his proximity to the Almighty Lord.
He has never claimed that his work is the best among the interpretations of the Qur’ān. As a matter of fact, no one should make such a claim. His efforts and services to the Qur’ān, as well as those of his predecessors and successors in the same way, are in proportion to their knowledge and sincerity, and to God’s favor and help.
In this work, he has paid careful attention to the disciplines of tafsīr methodology, like many other contemporary commentators, and he has answered the criticisms of those many hypocrites who harbor incessant animosity towards Islam and of the many furious aggressors. His answers are to the point and sometimes, having recourse to contemporary interpretations and commentaries, he has articulated important things in today’s language. He has always taken side with the Qur’ān with sincerity and unpretentiousness. While expressing his views, he is humblebut determined and persistent, resolved to attain the truth, but always open to correction.
In his interpretation, he has consulted a variety of Sunni-Shi‘īte sources, whether classical or contemporary. I see this not as a luxury, but as an endeavor to find a worthwhile inference or comment that could have been inspired by God Almighty. Motivated by the idea that, “Wisdom is the lost property of a believer; a believer should obtain it wherever he finds it, ” Ali Ünal has aimed to present, for the benefit of everyone, any truth which he has found to be in compliance with the essentials of Islam.
Together with the requirements mentioned for a good tafsīr, ta’wīl, and me‘āl (interpretation), God’s special help or favor is incomparably important in order to discover His purposes and what He means in His Speech. Without this favor, nothing can be truly discovered, comprehended, or voiced. In my humble opinion, Ali Ünal has made the utmost endeavor to correctly understand and render the Qur’ān comprehensible for us; he is filled with a desire and diligence to carry out the necessary research in order to answer any old or new objections and accusations made against Islam; and in the face of efforts made by a positivist group to reduce every truth to material experience and observation, his confidence and trust in God’s Word is exactly as it should be in a believer. Nevertheless, all these positive attitudes and features can earn their value only by Divine help and special favor, and we hope that everything written and expressed here has been realized through this help and favor.
A number of books have been written about Qur’ānic interpretation and commentary, while objections to the Qur’ān and some of its contents have been repeatedly addressed. Many more interpretations and commentaries will continue to be prepared in the future, too, just as many new objections will be answered, and this will perhaps continue until the end of time. How many new doubts will be manufactured about the Qur’ān? How many more times will minds be exposed to contamination? What new unthinkable plots will Satan, our eternal enemy, play on weak believers? What new scenarios, unheard of until today, will the devils of humankind and jinn put on the stage to tempt humanity? And how many more times will they induce suspicion with regards to our values and agitate people? Such animosity has always existed and will continue to exist. Thankfully, hundreds of people like Ali Ünal, with zeal to serve the Religion, will always stand to face them by exploring new depths of that Book of lofty truths and strive to interpret that Eternal Speech, which they hold in the greatest esteem. The mischievous organizations of Satan and his companions will always be challenged by the companions of the Qur’ān.
The interpretation in your hands can be perceived as a product of the aforementioned efforts. At certain points, the work goes beyond the limits of a restricted interpretation to include answers to doubts that have been put forward by some deniers, as well as by some orientalists and their ignorant imitators, and it presents satisfactory information to remove doubts in hearts with frequent references to the invincible power of the Qur’ān.
The fundamental elements of the Qur’ān are constantly emphasized in this work: the Unity of God (tawhīd), Prophethood (nubuwwah), Resurrection, and worship (together with justice) are discussed in keeping with the approach of Bediüzzaman Said Nursi. The essence of faith and the ways in which it flourishes are frequently brought to mind, together with topics concerning the spirit and meaning of worship.
The work presents to its reader much new material about faith, unbelief, and hypocrisy, as well as former and new representatives of these attitudes. Sūrah Baqarah (The Cow) is studied in the scope of a large tafsīr, delving into the history of the Children of Israel, and issues of war and peace. The truth of Jesus and Āl ‘Imrān (The Family of ‘Imrān), the rights of women, and issues concerning the lawful and forbidden are also broadly presented. Paradise, Hell, and the world in-between are told of together with instances of wisdom. The answers given to distorted thoughts are wise and based on accurate knowledge. It is clear that a serious effort has been made to discover the instances of wisdom in the narratives. Issues such as the Night Journey and Ascension of God’s Messenger, the Companions of the Cave, the companionship of Moses and al-Khadr, and the campaigns of Dhu’l-Qarnayn are all studied in detail and in a manner which is found in tafsīrs. The whole of the work gives the impression that Ali Ünal has tried to compress the content of the Qur’ānic tafsīrs and commentaries into a single volume of interpretation.
It is impossible to cite all the distinguished aspects of this work, but we will give some examples from the last chapters.
In Sūrat al-Mulk (The Sovereignty), the fourth verse is interpreted in the style of Bediüzzaman, and many things are whispered into our hearts that transcend the scope of an ordinary interpretation. It says: “Perfect artistry in creation despite abundance, perfect order despite absolute ease, perfect measure, proportion, and firmness despite incredible speed, perfect individualization despite world-wide distribution, the highest price and value despite the greatest economy, perfect distinction despite absolute integration and similarity – all point to the One, Single Creator and Lord, Who has absolute Will, Power, and Knowledge.”
Another example is from a footnote to the first verse of Sūrat al-Insān (Human): “Humankind is the fruit of the Tree of Creation and therefore contained in its seed. So the Tree of Creation has grown out of the seed of humankind. In other words, as a tree is the grown or developed form of its seed, humankind carries in its body and being the nature and all original elements of other beings. What meaning a seed bears with respect to a tree, humankind has with respect to the universe. Science should concentrate on this point while investigating how life began on earth and how humankind was originated.”
There are references to modern scientific discoveries, and we are given as much knowledge as can be found in a tafsīr. For instance, the 1993 report of the International Meteor Organization is referred to in connection with the fifth verse of Sūrat al-Mulk: “The Perseid meteor shower observed almost every year suggests that those meteors are shot for certain, important purposes, for they surprise the observers by showing great diversity. The observations made in, for example, 1993, demonstrate the fact that the structure of the shower is yet little understood.” Such verses are significant sources of knowledge, but it is always difficult to say exactly how we benefit from them.
Metaphorical or allegorical verses are interpreted within the Sunni approach and understanding, their exact nature, however, being referred to the Knowledge of God Almighty. For example, verse 16 in Sūrat al-Mulk is interpreted in this way: And yet, are you secure that He Who is above everything will not cause the earth to swallow you up then, when it is in a state of commotion?
In many cases, and distinct from similar studies of Qur’ānic interpretation, this work presents meanings beyond the words and phrases that are suggested by the context and the whole of the Qur’ān. Although this entails numerous explanations inside parentheses within the text, it is hoped that the meaning and content are thus better disclosed for the reader. Verse 18 in Sūrat al-Qalam is an example from among many: They made no allowance (in their oaths, being oblivious of the rights of the needy and oblivious of God’s will).
Sūrat al-Jinn (The Jinn) 72: 18 is interpreted: All places of worship (and all parts of the body with which one prostrates) are for God, and all worship is due to Him alone, so do not worship anyone along with God. The interpretation of Sūrat al- Muzzammil (The Enwrapped One) 73: 4 is: Or add to it (a little); and pray and recite the Qur’ān calmly and distinctly (with your mind and heart concentrated on it). There are many other examples, but may these few suffice for now.
The author sometimes quotes directly from great commentators of the past, preferring their way of understanding to his own. For example, in interpreting verse 17 in Sūrat a-Hāqqah (The Sure Reality), he provides noteworthy information transmitted by Hamdi Yazır from Ibn ‘Arabī and others, concerning the eight angels carrying the Throne of God Almighty.
The author stands firmly at various places where others might speculate and tries to prevent distorted understandings. For instance, for verse Noah 71: 17: And God has caused you to grow from earth like a plant, he footnotes the following explanation: “The verse alludes to the first origin of the father of humanity from the elements of the earth – soil, air, and water – and also the material origin of every human being, which are the same elements that are made into particular biological entities in the human body. As Hamdi Yazır points out, the word nabātan, which comes at the end of the verse as an adverbial complement to ‘grow,’ denotes the particular way of human creation and growth. So, it allows no room for any inclination toward the Darwinian Theory of Evolution.”
The work emphasizes the role of asbāb anl-nuzul (reasons for and occasions on the revelation of verses) in understanding the Qur’ān, but it never confines the interpretation to them. Thus it can approach many issues from a different, wider perspective without diverting from the rules of the methodology of tafsīr. For instance, this work suggests some other probable considerations in interpreting the initial verses of Sūrah Abasa (He Frowned).
I personally believe that the reader will benefit from this interpretation of the Qur’ān at least as much as she or he will from others. I pray that the endeavor dedicated to this work may become a means for Divine blessings and the seeking of forgiveness from God Almighty for our mistakes and misdeeds.
A Glossary Of Terms
(al-)Abad: Eternity in the future
(al-)Azal: Eternity in the past
(al-)‘Abd: The servant; the servant of God by creation; the servant of God who beliefs in and worships Him
(al-)‘Adhāb: Punishment. The Qur’ān uses seven different names for the places or types of punishment in the Hereafter: Jahannam (Hell), Nār (Fire), Sa‘īr (Blaze), Jahīm (Blazing Flame), Hutamah (Consuming Fire), Saqar (Scorching Fire), and Lazā (Raging Flame). Most probably, these are the levels or degrees of punishment, each prepared for those who deserve it and each having a gate.
(al-)Adhān: The call to the Prayer. It is as follows: Allāhu akbar (God is the All-Great: 4 times); Ashhadu an lā ilāha illa’llāh (I bear witness that there is no deity but God: twice); Ashhadu anna Muhammadan Rasūlu’llāh (I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God: twice); Hayya ‘alā’s-salāh (Come on, to the Prayer: twice), Hayya ‘alā’l-falāh (Come on, to salvation: twice); Allāhu akbar (God is the All-Great: twice); Lā ilāha illa’llāh (There is no deity but God: once).
(al-)‘Afw: Pardoning, granting remission; excusing
(al-)‘Ahd: Covenant; contract
‘Ahdu’llāh: God’s covenant. It is the promise that God has taken from His servants that they should believe in Him and worship Him alone. Besides this cardinal one, God has made different covenants with His Prophets and many peoples in different times.
Ahl al-Bayt: The household. As a term, it refers to the household of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, including Fātimah, his daughter, and her husband, ‘Ali, and their sons, Hasan and Husayn.
Ahl al-Kitāb: The People of the Book, that is any people who have been given a Divine Book. The Qur’ān tends to use this term particularly for the Jews and Christians. The term also includes the Sabeans and the Magians.
Ahl al-Kitāb wa’s-Sunnah: The People of the Book and the Sunnah. They are the Muslims who strive to follow exactly the teachings of the Qur’an and the way of the Prophet Muhammad upon him be peace and blessings, as reported by his Companions.
(al-)Ākhirah: The next one; afterlife, the Hereafter. This is the other world where conscious, responsible beings will be called to account for their beliefs and deeds in the world and recompensed for them.
(al-)Ahzāb: Parties, confederates. It is particularly used for the remnants of the ancient, destroyed peoples who lived in Arabia during the revelation of the Qur’ān, and for the confederate forces composed of different tribes that besieged Madīnah and fought the Muslims in the Battle of the Trench in 627 CE 5 a.h. AH.
(al-)Ākif: One who abides in devotion to God
(al-)Akhlāq: The science and principles of good conduct and morality. The most distinguishing characteristic of Islam and, when loyal to that characteristic, of the community of Muhammadupon him be peace and blessings, is that it is far from all kinds of extremism. Islam represents the middle way in all aspects of life. For example, it is neither spiritualism nor materialism, neither realism nor idealism, neither capitalism nor socialism, neither individualism nor statism, neither absolutism nor anarchism, neither this-worldly and hedonistic, nor purely other-worldly and monastic. As it is unique in its worldview and social, economic and political aspects, it is also unique in the moral education it gives to individuals. Islam aims to develop human beings from being potentially human to being truly human, thus perfecting them. It develops the human character in the best way. The parts of Wisdom which the Qur’ān enumerates in CHAPTER? verses 22–39, beginning and ending with the absolute prohibition of associating partners with God in any way in His Divinity and Lordship, are important in developing that character and raising members of a Muslim society.
(al-)‘Ālam (pl. ‘ālamūn): The world, worlds. The word comes from ‘alam, ‘alāmah, meaning something by which another thing is known. Thus, in this perspective, every individual thing or set of things, from the tiniest sub-atomic particles to the largest nebulae and galaxies, is a “world” and indicates God. The plural form (‘ālamūn) is particularly used for conscious beings, giving the sense that everything that is created is as if conscious, and signifying that its pointing to God’s Existence, Unity and Lordship is extremely clear for conscious beings.
(al-)Alaq: The clot clinging (to the wall of the female womb)
(al-)‘amal: An action, deed
(al-)‘amal as–sālih: Good, righteous deed
(al-)Amānah: The trust, that is any responsibility or all the duties which either God or society or an individual places in someone’s charge; the Supreme Trust which only humankind has undertaken, so in this sense, it refers to the human ego
(al-)Amīr: The leader; the commander
(al-)Amr: Command; authority; affair
Amr bi’l-Ma‘rūf: Enjoining and actively promoting what is good and right (in appropriate ways)
(al-)Ansār: The Helpers. It is particularly used for the Muslims of Madīnah who helped the emigrant Muslims of Makkah in the process of the latter’s settling down in Madīnah.
(al-)‘Aql: Reasoning and reflecting to make a conclusion and be able to distinguish between what is right and wrong, and between what is beneficial and harmful; in common terminology, it is the intellect which does this reasoning and reflection
(al-)‘Arāf: The Heights (between Paradise and Hell, upon which the believers who still have sins unpardoned will be retained to be forgiven so that they can enter Paradise)
(al-)‘Arsh: The throne; the Supreme Throne of God. As the Qur’ān addresses all levels of understanding through all ages, it tends to present certain abstract truths, like those pertaining to Divinity, with concrete expressions, and it uses metaphors and comparisons. It presents the Kursiyy (Seat; see 2: 255) as if it were a platform or seat, and the ‘Arsh as if it were a throne and God were the ruler of the universe seated on His throne, governing all creation. ‘Arsh is the composition of four of God’s Names: the First, the Last, the All-Outward, and the All-Inward. Also, deducing from Said Nursi’s description of water as the ‘arsh (throne) of mercy and earth, the throne of life, we can say that the ‘Arsh (Throne) implies God’s full control of and authority over the universe. Elements such as water and earth are things that conduct God’s decrees, or media by which the decrees are manifested and executed.
(al-)‘Asabiyyat (al-Jāhiliyyah): Tribal or racial attachment; racism. Islam eradicated all blood-, culture-, language-, and color-based discrimination, condemning it as an attitude arising from sheer ignorance and carnality.
Asbāb an-nuzūl: Occasions on which verses of the Qur’ān were revealed
Ashāb al-Kahf: The young people from the royal class of the Romans in Syria-Jordan region who gave up idol-worship and believed in God as the only Deity and Lord, and had to take shelter in a cave. They stayed in the cave in a death-like sleep for 300 years, and then woke up as a sign of resurrection.
Ashāb al-Uhdūd: A tyrannical people who dug ditches and burnt the believers alive in them.
‘Ashāb al-Yamīn (al-Maymanah): The people of the Right, the people of happiness and prosperity (who will be given their Records in their right hands in the Hereafter)
‘Ashāb ash-Shimāl (al-Mash’amah): The people of the Left, the people of wretchedness (who will be given their Records in their left hands in the Hereafter)
al-Ashhur al-Hurum: The months of Dhu’l-Qa‘dah, Dhu’l-Hijjah, Muharram and Rajab (the 11th, 12th, 1st, and 7th months of the lunar year) during which warfare, killing, and pillage are prohibited.
(al-)Asmā’ al-Husnā: The All-Beautiful Names (of God). These Names are either included in the Qur’ān or were taught by God’s Messenger, and God is and should be called by them.
(al-)Asmā’ wa’s–Sifāt: God’s Names and Attributes. Besides His Names, God has Attributes. Some Attributes are essential to His being God. They are Existence, Having No Beginning, Permanence, Oneness, Being Unlike the Created, and Self-Subsistence. God has another kind of Attributes, called the Positive Attributes, which describe God as what He is. They are Life, Knowledge, Will, Power, Hearing, Seeing, Speech, and Bringing into Existence. These Attributes are the origin of certain Names such as Giver of Life and the All-Reviver, the All-Knowing, the All-Willing, the All-Powerful, the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing, the All-Speaking, and the Creator, etc. Having such absolute, unrestricted Attributes and All-Beautiful Names means that their manifestation is “inevitable.” One Who exists in and of Himself, and Whose Existence is absolutely perfect, will manifest Himself, as “required” by His very “nature.” Thus, the universe is the collection of the manifestations of God’s Attributes and Names, and those manifestations are focused on humankind. God also has a third kind of Attributes which describe what God is not. They are almost endless. For example, God is not One Who begets or is begotten, nor One Who has any partners, nor One who has any need, etc.
(al-)‘Asr: Time; afternoon; the last part of time replete with important events
(al-)‘Awrah: Parts of the body that are not supposed to be exposed to others. For men, this is from the navel to the knee. For women, it is the entire body except the hands, feet, and face.
(al-)‘Āyah: A manifest sign; miracle; lesson to be taken from an event; each of the Qur’ān’s independent sentences between two points (verses)
Āyātun bayyināt: The signs or messages which are clear in meaning and content (as evidence of the truth)
(al-)Āyat al-Kursīyy: The verse of the Divine Seat of Dominion. It is verse 255 of Sūrat al-Baqarah, which makes God known through some of His Names and Attributes.
Ayyāmu’llāh: Days of God (momentous historical events such as the destruction of communities, turning-points in history, and eschatological events)
(al-)Baghy: Envious rivalry and insolence (which the Qur’ān stresses as being the cardinal reason for internal conflicts in a community)
(al-)Balā’: A trial, testing. Although it usually comes in the form of disaster, God tries people with both good and evil. When He tries with good, such as success, wealth, a high position, and physical beauty, it requires gratitude to God and attributing it to Him. When He tries with evil, such as a misfortune, illness or poverty, it requires patience without complaint. This, however, does not mean that one stricken by an evil should not try to escape from it. Being tried with evil may sometimes be the result of a sin. Therefore, it also requires repentance, seeking forgiveness, and reformation.
(al-)Baqā: Permanence, persistence
(al-)Barāah: Disavowal, proclamation of disavowal; ultimatum
(al-)Barzakh: A barrier (between the dead and the other world), the intermediate world of the grave (between this world and the next)
(al-)Basāir: “Lights” of discernment and insight
(al-)Bashīr: A bearer of glad tidings; a Messenger who bears glad tidings (of prosperity in return for faith and righteousness)
(al-)Basīrah: Discernment, insight, sagacity
(al-)Basmalah:The phrase, Bismi’llāhir-Rahmāni’r-Rahīm, meaning in (and with) the Name of God, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate
(al-)Ba‘th: Revival; sending a Messenger (to “revive” people); restoration of the dead to life; resurrection
(al-)Bātin: What is inward; the inward or internal dimension of something; the metaphysical dimension of existence
(al-)Bātil: What is false; falsehood; any system of belief, thought, or action that is based not on the Revelation, but on human desires and fancies, and that do not conform to, but instead contradict, God’s Religion and ways of acting in the universe
(al-)Bay‘ah – (al-)Bī‘ah: An allegiance sworn by the citizens etc., to their Imam (Muslim Ruler) to be obedient to him according to the Religion of Islam
Bay‘at ar-Ridwān: The oath and pledge taken by God’s Messenger from his Companions under a tree at al-Hudaybiyah in the year of 6 a.h.AH (628 c.e.CE), to fight the Quraysh in case of necessity
(al-)Bayān: Intelligent speech, as opposed to sounds which have no power of expression or meaning
Baytu’llāh: God’s House (the Ka‘bah)
(al-)Bayyinah: The Clear Proof
(al-)Bayyināt: All evidence of the truth; clear signs or documents of the truth; miracles
bi-ghayri’l-haqq: As a sinful act (or attitude) that can never be right or just; against all right
Bi’l-haqq: With the truth (embodying it, and with nothing false in it); all meaningfully, and for meaningful purposes, and on solid foundations of the truth
(al-)Bukhl: Niggardliness, meanness
(al-)Birr: Godliness, virtue; a high degree in faith and practice of Islam, especially having acquired the spiritual refinement that enables one to spend in God’s cause or to give others of what one loves
(al-)Burūj: The constellations, (which are the names of some fixed star-groups)
(ad-)Dābbah: Any living, moving creature
(ad-)Dābbat min al-Ard: A living creature which God will bring forth from the earth towards the end of time. It will speak to the disbelieving, criminal people, to make them understand that they have no certainty of faith in God’s signs and Revelations.
(ad-)Dahr: “Time”; processes of progress and decline
(ad-)Dajjāl: An impostor or impostors who will appear towards the end of time to mislead humanity; the Dajjāl who will appear in the Muslim world is generally called as-Sufyān.
(ad-)Dāl: One who has gone astray; the straying
(ad-)Dalāl(ah): Straying from the Straight Path. It refers to a broad range of straying from the Path – from the slightest lapse of a believer, to complete deviation from the Straight Path. As a term, it denotes returning to unbelief after belief, exchanging unbelief for belief (2: 108), associating partners with God either in His Essence, His Attributes or acts (4: 116), or rejecting faith in all or any of the pillars of faith.
(ad-)Dawlah: As a Qur’ānic term, it means fortune. The Qur’ān declares: “What God has bestowed on His Messenger as war-gains from the peoples of the townships: (one-fifth of) it belongs to God, and to the Messenger, and his near kinsfolk, and orphans, and the destitute, and the wayfarer (lacking means to sustain a journey), so that it should not become dawlatan (a fortune) circulating among the rich among you.” (CITATION REQUIRED)
(adh-)Dhanb: Sin in various degrees. Sin and pardoning have different types and degrees. These are disobeying religious commandments, and forgiveness thereof; disobeying God’s laws of creation and life, and forgiveness thereof; and disobeying the rules of good manners or courtesy (adab), and the forgiveness thereof. A fourth type, which is not a sin, involves not doing something as perfectly as possible, which is required by the love of and nearness to God. Some Prophets may have done this, but such acts cannot be considered sins according to our common definition of that word.
(adh-)Dhikr: Remembrance; recollection; mentioning; reminder; recitation of one or some of God’s Names. It is also used to refer to a Divine Book.
(ad-)Dīn: The collection of moral, spiritual, and worldly principles; a system and way of conduct; judging; rewarding and punishing; way; law; constitution; servanthood and obedience; and peace and order
(ad-)Du‘ā’: Prayer and supplication, having kinds and degrees. The first kind is the prayer of all organisms, plant, animal and human, through the natural disposition of their bodies and their functioning in line with their duties in creation. The second kind is that which is uttered by all organisms, plant, animal and human, in the tongue of vital needs. The third kind of prayer is that which is done by human beings. This falls into two categories. The first category is the active prayer. It means complying with the laws that God has set for life. For example, a farmer’s plowing the soil is knocking on the door of Divine providence. A patient’s going to the doctor’s is appealing to God for a cure. This kind of prayer is usually accepted. The second category is the verbal prayer that we do.
(ad-)Dunyā: The world. It has three aspects. Regarding its first aspect, the world is the realm where God’s Names are manifested and, therefore, whatever is there, and whatever takes place in it, is a mirror to God withHis Attributes and Names. The second aspect of the world is the tillage for the Hereafter. The building-blocks which make up one’s Paradise or Hell in the Hereafter are the seeds of one’s belief or unbelief, and the deeds that one sows here. The third aspect of the world is that which looks to our carnal desires, passions, lusts and ambitions. It is this aspect that the Qur’ān condemns, as these consist of games, pastimes, greed (hoarding things), and competing in having more goods; in short, this aspect is the source of all vice and evil.
(al-)Fahshā, (al-)Fāhishah (pl. al-fawāhīsh): Indecency; any whose abominable character is self-evident. In the Qur’an, all extra-marital sexual relationships, sodomy, nudity, and false accusations of unchastity are specifically reckoned as shameful deeds.
(al-)Falāh: Prosperity. It has many degrees and types according to the needs and aspirations of people and the degrees of their spiritual enlightenment. For example, some want to be saved from eternal punishment, while others desire Paradise. There are still some who aim at the higher ranks in Paradise, and others who aspire to obtain God’s good pleasure.
(al-)Faqīh: A person who is an expert on Islamic jurisprudence (Law); one who has correct and profound comprehension of Islam who can give an authoritative legal opinion or judgment regarding Islamic matters
(al-)Fard: Any obligatory religious act
(al-)Farā’id: Plural of al-fard. It is also used to mean the science of sharing inheritance.
Fard ‘Ayn: Any act which is obligatory on every Muslim who is mature, healthy, and sane
Fard Kifayah: A collective duty of the Muslim community, so that if some people carry it out, no Muslim is considered blameworthy, but if no one carries itout, all incur a collective guilt.
(al-)Fasād: Disorder and corruption – one which appears as a result of following a path other than God’s
(al-)Fāsiq: A transgressor of the bounds set by God; one who commits any of the major sins
(al-)Fatā: A youth, usually a chivalrous young man who has dedicated himself to God’s cause
(al-)Fath: The Victory which functions as a door to further victories
(al-)Fatwā: A legal verdict given on a religious basis
(al-)Fayy: Gains of war obtained without fighting
(al-)Fidyah: Compensation for a missed or wrongly practiced religious act of worship or order, usually in the form of money,foodstuff or offering (animal)
(al-)Fiqh: Correct and profound comprehension (of Islam); the science of Islamic Jurisprudence
(al-)Fisq: Transgression of the bounds set by God; committing any of the major sins
(al-)Fitnah: Disorder and corruption rooted in rebellion against God and recognizing no laws. It denotes associating partners with God and adopting that as a life-style, spreading unbelief and apostasy, committing major sins with willful, insolent abandon, open hostilities to Islam, destroying collective security or causing public disorder, and oppression; the term fitnah covers all of these.
(al-)Fitrah: The original Divine pattern or system governing the universe; the totality of the attributes God has given to a particular thing or being; the Divine Religion (Islam) as the translation of the Divine pattern or system
(al-)Fujūr: A shameless, sinful act
(al-)Furqān: The Criterion to distinguish between truth and falsehood, and the knowledge, insight, and power of judgment to put it into effect; an inner sense or faculty of insight, discernment, inspiration, and power of judgment to distinguish between right and wrong
(al-)Futuwwah: Youth and chivalry as a composite of virtues, such as energy, revolutionary vigor, heroism, generosity, munificence, modesty, chastity, trustworthiness, loyalty, mercifulness, knowledge, humility, and piety
(al-)Ghadab: Wrath. When used for God, it denotes punishment and condemnation.
(al-)Ghāfil: Heedless, unmindful
(al-)Ghaflah: Heedlessness, lack of awareness
(al-)Ghanīmah: Gains of war obtained through fighting
(al-)Ghayb: The (absolutely or relatively) Unseen or unsensed; beyond the reach of human perception
(al-)Ghurūr: Deception, delusion
(al-)Ghusl: The full ritual washing of the body with water alone to be pure for the prayer. To do Ghusl: (1) Wash your private parts; (2) Do wudū; (3) Wash your entire body from the top to bottom, and from right to left
Hablu’llāh: The rope of God, usually used to denote the Qur’ān or Islam
(al-)Hadd (pl. Hudūd): Any bound God set and ordered His creatures not to transgress. It is also used for the cardinal penalties Islam has laid down in return for cardinal offenses, such as killing, unlawful sexual relations, usurpation, theft, causing disorder and corruption in the society, and drinking intoxicants.
(al-)Hadīth: Communication, narration, word or saying. As a term, it denotes the record of whatever the Prophet (upon him be peace and blessings) said, did, or tacitly approved. According to some scholars, the word hadīth also covers reports about the sayings and deeds, etc., of the Companions of the Prophet, in addition to those of the Prophet himself. The whole body of Traditions is termed Hadīth, and the science which deals with it is called ‘Ilm al-Hadīth.
Hadīth qudsī: A saying of God narrated by His Messenger but not included in the Qur’ān
(al-)Hady: Cattle brought to the sacred precincts of Makkah to be sacrificed during the days of ‘Īd al-Adhā
(al-)Hajj: Major Pilgrimage which the Muslims do in Makkah during Dhu’l-Hijjah, the last month of the lunar year. It is one of the five pillars of Islam, a duty one must perform during one’s life-time if one has the financial resources for it. In addition to tawāf and sa‘y, there are a few more other requirements of the Hajj, including especially staying for some time in al-‘Arafāt (al-waqfah) from mid-day to sunset on 9th of Dhu’l-Hijjah.
(al-)Halāk: Destruction, ruin
(al-)Halāl: Religiously lawful
Hamalat al-‘Arsh: The eight beings (angels?) that bear God’s Throne (the greatest of beings who carry out God’s order in the universal order)
(al-)Hamd: All praise and gratitude that is due to and for God
(al-)Hanīf: One who has a sincere, sound faith in God and worships God with purity of intention
al-Haqq: The truth, what is ever-constant and true
(al-)Harām: Religiously forbidden or unlawful; sacred and inviolable; any sacred and inviolable thing
(al-)Hasanah: Good; reward
(al-)Hashr: Gathering together; the raising of the dead and gathering them on the Plain of the Supreme Gathering on Judgment Day
(al-)Hawā: The fanciful inclinations and lusts of the human carnal soul
(al-)Hayā’: Shame, bashfulness, and refraining from saying or doing anything improper or indecent; seeking to avoid displeasing God out of awe of Him
(al-)Hayāh: Life. Human life has five degrees: (1) Our life, which depends on certain conditions and the fulfillment of certain needs. (2) The life of al-Khadr and Ilyās (Elijah), which is free to some extent from the necessities of our life. (3) The life of the Prophets Jesus and Enoch, who live in heaven free of the necessities of human life in their “astral” bodies. (4) The life of martyrs, those who are killed in God’s cause, who do not feel the pangs of death and know themselves to be transferred into a better world where they enjoy the blessings of God. (5) The life of the dead, who are discharged from worldly duties with their spirits set free.
(al-)Hayāt ad-dunyā: The present, worldly life or the life of this world (see ad-dunyā)
(al-)Hidāyah: True or right guidance; following God’s Path in belief, thought, and action
(al-)Hijrah: Emigration; the emigration of God’s Messenger from Makkah to al-Madīnah in 622 c.eCE.
(al-)Hikmah: Wisdom. Knowledge of creation, life, right and wrong, and of the Divine system prevailing in the universe, so as to enable persuasive, convincing answers for such questions as, “Who am I? What is the purpose of my existence in this world? Who has sent me to this world and why? Where did I come from and where am I heading? What does death ask of me?” It also signifies the true nature of and purpose behind the things and events in the universe, including especially in human life. The Qur’ān is the source of knowledge in all these vital matters. The Sunnah of the Prophet,(upon him be peace and blessings,being the system or principles by which to understand and practice the Qur’ān in daily life, comes to mind first of all when speaking of the “Wisdom.”
(al-)Hubb (al-mahabbah): Love. God declares: Say (O Messenger): “If you indeed love God, then follow me, so that God will love you and forgive you your sins.” God is All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate (3: 31).
(Musālahat) Hudaybiyah: The Treaty of Hudaybiyah. Almost a year after the Battle of the Trench in 627 c.e., 5 a.h., the Messenger left for Makkah for a minor pilgrimage with his 1.400 and so Companions. However, the Quraysh did not let them do the pilgrimage. After negotiations, a treaty was signed at al-Hudaybiyah 12 miles away from Makkah.
(al-)Hukm (pl. al-ahkām): Authority; authority with knowledge and sound judgment; judgment; verdict; legal ordinance(s)
(al-)Husn: Good, beautiful
(al-)Hutamah: The Consuming Fire. One of the degrees or places of Divine Punishment in the Hereafter (see al-adhāb)
(al-)‘Ibādah: Worship, devotion; humble worshipping or devotion to God
Iblīs: The chief Satan; the jinn who persistently disobeyed God and was eternally rejected from His Mercy. It was allowed to try to tempt humans for wise purposes as God decreed for human earthly life
(al-)‘Iddah: The waiting period that a woman is required to observe for a new marriage after divorce or because of her husband’s death. It is three menstrual courses for divorced women, and four months and ten days for women who have lost their husbands.
(al-)Ifk: Slander, calumny; ungrounded accusation
(al-)Ihram: The special Pilgrimage attire and the state in which pilgrims are held for some time during which they must wear that attire and perform the prescribed rituals of the Pilgrimage and observe certain prohibitions such as abstention from all sex acts, the use of perfume, hunting or killing animals, cutting the beard or shaving the head, cutting the nails, plucking blades of grass, and cutting green trees
(al-)Ifsād: To cause or provoke disorder and corruption
(al-)Ihkām: Making firm and explicit in meaning
(al-)Ihsān: Highest level of obedience in worship; devotion to doing good and doing it as if seeing God or in the awareness of God’s seeing His servants; kindness, kind treatment
(al-)İjmā‘: Consensus of Muslim faqīhs (jurisprudents) on a ruling for a new issue
(al-)Ijtihād: Faqīh’s exerting the sum total of their capacity in order to deduce rulings or laws on new issues from the basic sources of law, namely the Qur’ān, Sunnah, and Ijmā‘
(al-)Ikhlās: Believing in God sincerely and without associating any partners with Him; purity of intention in faith and practicing the Religion only for God’s sake
(al-)Ikhtilāf: Differences of view and attitude; differences in intelligence, ability, ambition, and desire etc. in life and character; being at variance and in conflict with one another
(al-)Īlā’: The oath taken by a husband that he will not approach his wife for a certain period. If this continues for longer than four months, then it is considered a divorce. Reversing this vow requires atonement.
(al-)‘Ilm: Knowledge. (True) knowledge based on the Revelation. Knowledge is a product, like milk, that is the result of many processes in the mind, like the imagination, conceptualization, reasoning, inquiry, verification, judgment, adoption, conviction, and certainty. Islam accepts Revelation, intelligence (reason), sound sense, and scientific inquiry as being the means of knowledge.
(al-)Imām: The leader in the prayer; the leader of the Muslims, especially in religious matters
(al-)Imām al-Mubīn: The Manifest Record; the Record in which the future lives of all things and beings, including all the principles governing those lives and all their deeds and the reasons or causes, are kept pre-recorded
(al-)Īmān: Certain belief, or faith (in whatever God wants to be believed in). Like unbelief, belief or faith is an acknowledgment and an act of confirmation by the heart. Faith does not consist in a simple acceptance or confession. Just as there are many stages or degrees in the growth of a tree from its seed until it is in its fully-grown, fruit-bearing state, and just as there are countless degrees and ranks in the manifestations of the sun from its manifestations of light and heat in all things on the earth up to its reflection on the moon and then back to itself, so too does faith have almost uncountable degrees and ranks, from a simple acknowledgment of reason and confirmation of the heart, up to degrees of penetration in all the parts and faculties of the body that control and the degrees that direct the entire life of a person – from the faith of a common person to that of the greatest of the Messengers.
(al-)Indhār: A warning
(al-)Infāq: Spending of whatever God provides (of wealth, knowledge, power, etc.) in God’s cause or to those in need purely for the good pleasure of God and without placing others under obligation
(al-)Injīl: The Divine Book which God gave to the Prophet Jesus(upon him be peace)
(al-)Insān (pl. an-nās): Human, humankind
(al-)Inshā’: Producing, bringing about, building
(al-)Inshirāh: The expansion of the breast so that one can fully understand God’s religion, feel exhilaration coming from knowledge of Him, and show patience with whatever one encounters in God’s way
(al-)Inzāl: A sending down of the Qur’ān or the Qur’ānic verses
Iqāamat as–Salāh: The offering of the Payer perfectly (in conformity with all its conditions)
(al-)Irādah: Willpower (by which a person can direct his or her thoughts and actions). Al-Irādah is also an Attribute of God, denoting His absolute Will. It has another meaning, which is decree, or command.
(al-)Irshād: Guiding to spiritual and intellectual excellence
‘Ishā’: The Night or Late Evening Prayer
(al-)Islāh: Setting things right; reformation; mending one’s way
(al-)Islām: The Divine Religion which God has appointed for humankind and revealed through all His Prophets. It was lastly and universally revealed through, and conveyed by, the Prophet Muhammad,upon him be peace and blessings.
(al-)Ism: Name; the word by which a thing or person is known
(al-)Isrā’: The (miraculous) Night Journey (which the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, made from Makkah to Masjid al-Aqsā,’ in Jerusalem)
(al-)Isrāf: Being wasteful of God-given faculties and committing excesses
: Ensuring that the drops of urine have ceased, and that one’s heart is content according to one’s general habit, either by walking, coughing, lying down, or any other method
(al-)Istidrāj: Leading to perdition by degrees
(al-)Istifā: Choosing and making pure and distinguished
(al-)Istighfār: Imploring God for forgiveness of one’s misdeeds or sins
(al-)Istihsān: Adoption of what is good and beneficial in legislation
(al-)Istinjā: Cleaning the private parts after urinating or passing stool, preferably using water
(al-)Istiqāmah: Straightforwardness (as avoiding all deviation and extremes, and as following in the footsteps of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings
(al-)Istisqā’: Invoking God for rain at a time of a drought
(al-)Istishāb: (Law) Maintaining without change what has already been approved
(al-)Istiwā: Literally: a plant or a tree rising firmly on its stem; a human being reaching his or her full man/womanhood and growing to maturity: God directing His Will (Power and Favor) to something
Istiwā alā’l-‘Arsh: God, or a sovereign, being established on the throne
Istiwā ila’s-samāi: God directing (His Knowledge, Will, Power, and Favor) towards heaven
(al-)‘Isyān: Disobeying, defiance, rebellion
(al-)I’thār: Altruism, preferring others to oneself, thinking of the needs and desires of others over one’s own; giving precedence to the common interests of the community over one’s own; devoting oneself to the lives of others in complete forgetfulness of all concerns of one’s own
(al-)Ithm: A blatant sin
(al-)I‘tidā: Exceeding the bounds (set by God); offending
al-I‘tikāf: Retreat in the mosques for the purpose of worship; especially the practice of spending some time in Ramadān in a mosque in devotion to God
(al-)Itmi‘nān: Being at rest; contentment; full conviction and satisfaction
(al-)Ittiqā: Keeping one’s duties to God and avoiding all kinds of sins in reverence for God and piety; attaining reverent piety toward God and His protection (against any kind of straying and its consequent punishment in this world and the Hereafter)
(al-)Jahālah: Ignorance; a lack of knowledge and behaving like one devoid of knowledge; an instance of being defeated to the evil-commanding carnal soul
Jahannam: Hell; the place where the disbelieving criminals will go in the Hereafter
(al-)Jāhiliyyah: Any doctrine or worldview and way of life based on rejection or disregard of heavenly guidance communicated to humankind through the Prophets and Messengers of God; the attitude of treating human life – either wholly or partly – as independent of the directives of God
(al-)Jamrah: One of the three stone-built pillars situated at Minā in Makkah, which represent Satan. The pilgrims throw pebbles at them during the three ‘Īd days, during the Pilgrimage
(al-)Janābah: The state of major ritual impurity caused by coitus, discharge of semen, menses, and post-childbirth bleeding. People who are in this state cannot pray, circumambulate the Ka‘bah (tawāf), enter a mosque or place of worship unless necessary, or touch the Qur’an or any of its verses, except with a clean cloth or something similar.
(al-)Jannah: Paradise; the heavenly realm of blessings where, in the Hereafter, God will admit those who believe and do good, righteous deeds
Jannatu’l-Ma’wā: The Heavenly Garden of Refuge and Dwelling
Jannāt ‘Adn: Heavenly Gardens of perpetual bliss
Jannatu’l-Khuld: The Heavenly Garden of Immortality
Jannātu’n-na‘īm: Heavenly Gardens of bounty and blessing
(al-)Jibt: Any false deity
(al-)Jihād: Striving, doing one’s utmost to achieve something; striving in God’s cause with one’s possessions and person
(al-)Jinn: A species of invisible, conscious, and responsible beings created from smokeless “fire,” penetrating through the body
(al-)Jizyah: The tax of protection and exemption from military service which non-Muslim citizens of a Muslim state are required to pay
The Jumu‘ah Congregational Prayer: The Friday Congregational Prayer enjoined on every free, adult, sane, and resident Muslim male. It is offered during the time of the Noon Prayer, and the normaN noon Prayer is not performed on Fridays.
(al-)Kabāir: The major sins. They are those which, in return for committing them, God or His Messenger threatens a severe punishment in the Hereafter, and for some of which there is (also) a prescribed punishment in this world.
(al-)Kafālah: The pledge given by somebody to a creditor to guarantee that the debtor will be present at a certain specific place to pay the debt or fine, or to undergo a punishment, etc.
(al-)Kaffārah: Atonement, expiation; the prescribed way of making amends for wrong actions, particularly missed obligatory actions
(al-)Kāfir (pl. al-Kuffār): An unbeliever; one who denies any of the things which must be believed in, although the truths of faith have been thoroughly and convincingly conveyed to him
(al-)Kalālah: One who dies leaving behind no lineal heirs
(al-)Kalām: Speech; an Attribute of God; any of God’s Words manifested as a Scripture
(al-)Kalimah: The word; any of God’s words. God has two kinds of words, one issuing from His Attribute of Speech, and the other from His Power. His words that issue from His Attribute of Speech are His Scriptures that He sent to some of His Messengers. His words that issue from His Attribute of Power are all of His works.
(al-)Kalimat al-Khabīthah: A corrupt word (is like a corrupt tree uprooted from upon the earth, having no constancy).
(al-)Kalimat at-Tayyibah: A good or pure word. A good word is like a good tree – its roots holding firm (in the ground) and its branches in heaven; it yields its fruit in every season due by its Lord’s leave.
(al-)Kasb: Earning; earning reward or punishment in return for one’s belief and doing
(al-)Kawthar: Unceasing, abundant good
(al-)Khabīth: The corrupt
(al-)Khalīfah: Vicegerent or one who exercises the authority delegated to him by his principal, and does so in the capacity of deputy and agent; one having the status or duty of khilāfah (see al-Khilāfah); caliph
(al-)Khalq: Creating; creation
(al-)Khamr: Anything that acts as an agent of intoxication
(al-)Khāshi‘: One humbled by one’s deep reverence and awe of God
(al-)Khayr: What is better; the property one has
(al-)Kharāj: Tax imposed on the revenue out of land taken from non-Muslim citizens of an Islamic state
Khātam al-Anbiyā’: A title of the Prophet Muhammad,(upon him be peace and blessings, related to the meaning of the seal (last) of the Prophets
(al-)Khāsir: A loser, one ruined in loss
(al-)Khawf: Fear; fear leading one to abstain not only from all that is forbidden, but also from those deeds from which it is advisable to refrain
(al-)Khilāfah: Succession; vicegerency; the status or duty of improving the earth on the basis of knowledge of things and the laws of creation (which we wrongly call the “laws of nature”), and ruling on the earth according to the dictates of God, thus establishing justice
(al-)Khuluq: Conduct; pattern of conduct; morality, good morals
(al-)Khums: Literally one-fifth. One-fifth of the gains of war or any buried treasure dug out, which must be paid to the state
(al-)Khushū‘: Humility; deep reverence and awe
(al-)Khutbah: Sermon; the sermon given during the Friday Congregational Prayer; a sermon given during the marriage ceremony
(al-)Kitāb: Book; any of the Divine Books given or revealed to some among the Messengers of God
(al-)Kitāb al-A‘māl: A record of one’s deeds in the world to be displayed in the Hereafter
(al-)Kitāb al-Mubīn: The Divine Book, particularly the Qur’an, clear in itself and clearly showing the truth; the Manifest Book in which the lives of all things and beings are recorded in detail
(al-)Kufr: Literally meaning concealing and covering, it denotes rejection of, and unbelief in, any of the pillars of faith and the established religious commandments
(al-)Kursī: The platform on which the ‘Arsh (the Throne) is set up (see al-‘Arsh); when used for God, it must signify His Knowledge, Will, Power, and Sovereignty.
(al-)La‘nah: Cursing; for God, it denotes rejection from His Mercy and the condemnation to punishment
(al-)Lawh al-Mahfūz: The Supreme Preserved Tablet (or Record) where the Divine principles that determine the archetypal “plan and program” of creation, and the future lives of all beings, including all their deeds, are kept recorded. In one respect, it is identical with the Imām al-Mubīn.
(al-)Lawh al-Mahw wa’l-Ithbāt: The Tablet of Effacement and Confirmation, or the metaphorical page of time, along which God manifests or hangs whatever He wills, and decrees for the beings and/or things and events, which are recorded on the Supreme Preserved Tablet
Laylat al-Qadr: The Night of Power and Destiny. Any of the last ten nights of the Month of Ramadān, during which the Divine Destiny identifies all the things and events to come into existence or happen in the new year, each with its particular nature, and entrusts to the Divine Power
(al-)Li‘ān: An oath which is taken by both the wife and the husband when he accuses his wife of committing illegal sexual intercourse (sūrah 24: 6–9)
(al-)Mā’: Water; rain; the seminal fluid; ether filling space
(al-)Mahr: The bridal-due. It signifies the amount of payment that is settled between the spouses at the time of marriage, and which the husband is required to make to his bride.
(al-)Mahram: The group of people who are unlawful for a woman to marry due to marital or blood and milk relationships
(al-)Makrūh: Disliked and disapproved of, but not prohibited by God
(al-)Mala’: A council; a board of ministers or leaders in a community
(al-)Malau’l-a‘lā: The heavenly high assembly (of angels)
(al-)Malak (pl: al-Malāikah): The spiritual beings of light endowed with great might, who absolutely obey God and carry out His commands. Angels have different kinds or species but are not differentiated as male or female. There is nothing to cause quarrels or disputes among them because they are innocent, their realm is vast, their nature is pure, and their stations are fixed. Each of the heavenly bodies is a place of worship for the angels.
(al-)Malakūt: The spiritual and transcendental dimension of existence; God’s absolute dominion of the creation where His Power operates without the medium of matter or material causes
(al-)Manāsik: All the rites of the Hajj
(al-)Mansūkh: Any command or verdict abrogated or canceled; a statement utterly canceled and removed or abrogated in regard with its meaning or the command it contains, or both
(al-)Maqām al-Mahmūd: The highest station or rank of being praised by God and the whole body of believers as particular to the Prophet Muhammad,upon him be peace and blessings,by virtue of which he will be honored with the permission to intercede on behalf of all people on the Plain of Supreme Gathering
(al-)Ma‘rifah: Knowledge of God; the appearance and development of knowledge of God in one’s conscience, or knowing God by one’s conscience or heart
(al-)Ma‘ruf: Any norm of behavior or practice generally accepted by a community and not opposed to the basic principles of Islam
Masālih al-mursalah: (aw) Taking what is suited to the public benefit and discarding what is harmful
Māshā’allāh: Whatever God wills (occurs); What excellent things God wills and does!
(al-)Mashī‘ah: Will. God’s absolute Will for the creation and direction of the universe and guidance of people
(al-)Masīh: The Christ – Jesus son of Mary
(al-)Masjid: The building where the Prayer is offered in congregation; the parts of human body with which one prostrates
(al-)Matā‘: Enjoyment of the worldly life
(al-)Mathal: Parable, comparison, example
(al-)Mawlā: Lord; emancipated slave; master; guardian; friend
(al-)Mihrāb: The Prayer niche of a mosque, in front of which the imam stands when leading the congregational prayers
(al-)Millah: The way of belief and life; life-style
(al-)Minnah: Favoring; favoring and putting under obligation
(al-)Mīqāt: The specific places where pilgrims or people intending to perform Hajj or ‘Umrah must declare their intention to do so and enter the state of ihrām
(al-)Mi‘rāj: The Ascension. The miraculous journeying of the Prophet Muhammad, (upon him be peace and blessings, through the realms of existence beyond the limit of forms
(al-)Miskīn (pl. al-masākīn): A destitute one in greater distress than the ordinary poor people, and yet whose sense of self-respect prevents him from begging and whose outward demeanor fails to give the impression that he is deserving of help
(al-)Mīthāq: A solemn binding
(al-)Mīzān: The balance, the equilibrium
(al-)Muadhdhin: The person who calls the adhān – who makes the call to the Prayer
(al-)Mubārak: Blessed; provided with blessings
(al-)Mubīn: Clear in itself and clearly showing (the truth)
(al-)Muhaddith: An Islamic scholar of Hadīth
(al-)Muhājir: One who emigrates to another land for God’s sake; a Companion of the Prophet who emigrated to al-Madīnah before the conquest of Makkah
(al-)Muhāsabah: Self-criticism or self-interrogation
(al-)Muhkam: Firm and valid; any of the verses of the Qur’ān that are explicit in meaning and content and consist the core of the Qur’ān and foundations of the Islamic belief and life. They also serve as principles to understand the whole of the Qur’ān (see al-mutashābih)
(al-)Munkar: Evil; anything disapproved of by God, as well as by common sense and public view
(al-)Mustakbir: An oppressive, arrogant one
(al-)Mutashābih: The allegorical, multi-faceted (verses of the Qur’ān). They are those which, having more than one meaning, contain relative truths which can be understood by considering the relevant verses and referring to the muhkam ones.
(al-)Muhsanāt: The chaste, free Muslim women
(al)Muhsin: One who tries to do well whatever he does and is devoted to doing good, aware that God sees
(al-)Mu‘jizah: Any extraordinary, supernatural achievement which God creates at the hand of a prophet
(al-)Mujrim: A (disbelieving) criminal lost in accumulating sin
(al-)Mukhlas: One endowed with sincerity and purity of intention in faith and practicing the Religion for God’s sake
(al-)Mukhlis: One sincere in faith in the Only One God and pure of intention in practicing the Religion only for God’s sake
(al-)Mujāhid: One who strives to be a good Muslim in God’s cause with his wealth and person
(al-)Mujtahid: One who exerts the sum total of his capacity in order to deduce rulings or laws on new issues from the basic sources of law, namely the Qur’ān, Sunnah, and Ijmā‘.
(al-)Mulk: Sovereignty; absolute ownership and dominion
(al-)Mu’min: The Believer. A person who has faith in whatever must be believed in and is a righteous and obedient servant of His
(al-)Munāfiq: One who is a believer outwardly or professes faith, while one is an unbeliever inwardly and in reality
: A servant of God who, sincere in quest of the truth, turns to Him in contrition
(al-)Muqarrab: One who is foremost in faith and practicing the Religion, and near-stationed to God
(al-)Murāqabah: (Self-)supervising and controlling, and living in the consciousness of being controlled (by God)
(al-)Murtad: An apostate; one who has become an unbeliever after having believed
(al-)Mursal: A Prophet sent or charged with calling to God’s Religion; an angel sent to the world with a special mission
(al-)Musallī: One who regularly does the prescribed Prayers
(al-)Mushaf: A copy of the Qur’ān
(al-)Mushrik: A polytheist: a person who commits Shirk (see Shirk) – who associates partners with God in His Divinity, Lordship, and Sovereignty, or in any of these
(al-)Muslih: One who sets things right; one who mends his ways
(al-)Muslim: One who believes in whatever is to be believed in and practices Islam in his daily life in submission to God; (law) one who professes faith and, as a citizen of a Muslim st ate, joins a Muslim congregation in the Prayer and pays the Zakāh
(al-)Musrif: One who, having wasted his God-given faculties, commits excesses; one given to wastefulness
(al-)Mustad‘af: One bereft of any means to find true guidance; one bereft of any means to carry out the required religious obligation, like emigrating in God’s cause
(al-)Mutraf: Self-indulgent; lost in the pursuit of pleasures without moral limit or consideration
(al-)Muttaqī: One trying to keep his duties to God, required by both the Religion and the Divine laws of life, and avoiding the forbidden things, in reverence for God and piety
(al-)Mudtarr: In strained circumstances
(an-)Nabiyy: A Prophet; one who receives Revelation from God and has the duty of communicating it to people. The last of the Prophets is the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings.b Basically, a Prophet who, (in addition to giving the glad tidings of prosperity in return for faith and righteousness –(see al-Bashīr, d warned of the evil consequences of all kinds of misguidance.
(an-)Nāfilah: Any optional or supererogatory good deed, which when done brings reward and when not done causes no sin
(an-)Nafl (al-anfāl): Any worldly reward coming as the result of services rendered in God’s cause; war-gains
(an-)Nafs: The self of a living being; the faculty (soul) which is the source or mechanism of the worldly life possessed by humankind and the jinn. Self-training, or the training of the soul, has been accepted as an extremely important element of the Divine Religion. This training, according to some schools in Islam, has ten stages, and according to others and some Qur’ānic allusions, seven stages. If the soul lives only a life of ease in the swamp of carnal appetites, it is “the evil-commanding, carnal soul” (an–nafs al-ammārah); if it falters time and again while following the way of the Religion to attain piety and righteousness, but each time that it falters it criticizes itself and turns to its Lord, then it is “the self-accusing soul” (an–nafs al-lawwāmah). The soul which always resists evil in devotion to God and is favored with certain Divine gifts in proportion to its purity is called “the soul receiving inspiration” (an–nafs al-mulhimah). When it reaches the point where it has a relation with its Lord in perfect devotion and sincerity so that its consciousness is at rest, then it is “the soul at rest” (an–nafs al-mutmainnah). If it has reached the station where it abandons all its choices and is a representative of Divine will, it is “the soul pleased with God” (an–nafs ar-rādiyah). When its greatest aim is acquiring God’s good pleasure and approval and it is always acting to this end in consideration of, “I am pleased with You, so be pleased with me,” then it is “the soul with which God is pleased” (an–nafs al-mardiyyah). Finally, the soul which has been perfectly purified of all sins and evil morals and has the capacity to be completely adorned with the full manifestations of Divine Qualities and Prophetic will-power and resolution is called “the soul perfected” or “the soul pure” (an–nafs az-zakiyyah or an–nafs as–sāfiyah).
(an-)Najāh: Delivery, being saved, salvation
Nahy ‘ani’l-munkar: Forbidding and trying to prevent evil (in appropriate ways)
(an-)Nār: Fire; the Fire – Hellfire
(an-)Naskh: Abrogation. Canceling a legal verdict or commandment, or removal of a statement
(an-)Nāsikh: A new legal verdict or command in place of an abrogated one; a new statement in place of another canceled or removed
(an-)Nasr: Help leading to victory
(an-)Nifāq: Hypocrisy; profession of faith while being an unbeliever at heart; underground and secret activities to undermine an Islamic order
(an-)Nikāh: Marriage according to God’s law; marriage contract
(an-)Ni‘mah: Favor and blessing; any favor or blessing of God, prominently His favor of guidance
(an-)Nisāb: The minimum amount of property liable to payment of the Zakāh or animal sacrifice, or Sadaqat al-fitr (payment made to the needy before the prayer of ‘Īd al-Fitr)
(an-)Nūr: Light. It is not exactly identical with the energy coming from the sun (diyā’) or another light-giving object. It is as if it is more substantial than the known light, and having precedence over light in the process of creation. The Qur’ān uses it in a spiritual sense in many of its verses.
(an-)Nusuk: All forms of devotion and worship
: A drop of seminal fluid
(an-)Nuzūl: The coming down of the Qur’ān from God
(al-)Qadar wa’l-Qadā: The Divine Destiny and Decree; the Divine Destiny and its enforcement
( al-)Qalb: The heart; the spiritual intellect; the center of all emotions and (intellectual and spiritual) faculties, such as perception, consciousness, sensation, reasoning, and willpower
Qālū balā: They said, “Yes!” – the event (mentioned in 33: 172) describing the human profession of God’s Lordship in spirit or conscience, or in a dimension of existence unknown to us with its exact nature
(al-)Qard al-Hasan: A goodly loan (to God), signifying any expenditure made in God’s cause or for the needy purely for God’s sake
(al-)Qasam: The oath which especially God swears by certain phenomena (in the Qur’ān)
(al-)Qawwām or qayyim: A protector and maintainer; one who is responsible for administering or supervising the affairs of either an individual or an organization, for protecting and safeguarding them and taking care of their needs
(al-)Qiblah: The direction to face for the Prayer. For Muslims, it is the direction of the Sacred Mosque of the Ka‘bah in Makkah.
(al-)Qisās: Inviolate values (especially in the sense of basic human rights), being of the same value and demanding retribution; a principle which gives rise to retaliation in law
(al-)Qitāl: Fighting, war, warfare
(al-)Qiyām: The standing position during the Prayer; “rising” to make an evaluation and adopt a new attitude or position; maintenance
(al-)Qiyāmah: The overall destruction of the world and subsequent resurrection and rebuilding of the world
(al-)Qunūt: Humble, devout obedience; supplication in the Prayer, particularly in the standing position just before the rukū‘ (bowing down) in the third rak‘ah (cycle) of the Witr Prayer, following the Late-Evening or Night Prayer
(al-)Qur’ān: The Qur’ān; the last Book of God which He revealed to the Prophet Muhammad,upon him be peace and blessings, as His last and universal Message to conscious, responsible beings
(al-)Qurūn al-‘Ūlā: The earliest generations and ages in human history until the Prophet Abraham or Moses, upon them both be peace
(al-)Qu’ūd: The sitting position during the Prayer
(ar-)Rabb: Lord, master; the Lord (God as the Creator, Provider, Trainer, Upbringer, and Director of all creatures)
(ar-)Rajā’: Expectation, waiting for what one wholeheartedly desires to be
(ar-)Rak‘ah: A unit or cycle of the Prayer
(ar-)Rahm: Mercy; womb; blood relations
(ar-)Rahmah: Mercy, compassion, grace
(ar-)Rajīm: Rejected (from God’s Mercy)
Ramadān: The 9th month of the (Islamic) lunar calendar which the Muslims spend fasting
(ar-)Rasūl: A Prophet given a Scripture and charged with conveying God’s Revelations
(ar-)Ridā: Resignation, willing submission to God’s treatments; being pleased with God and pleasing to Him
(ar-)Ridwān: God’s good pleasure ; God’s being pleased with someone
(ar-)Risālah: Messengership (see ar-Rasūl); the message (Divine Message)
(ar-)Rizq: Provision, anything which God provides
(ar-)Rubūbiyah: Lordship; God’s being the Lord of all creatures
(ar-)Rūh: The spirit; the center or source of conscious life which continues to live after a person dies; the Revelation; the spiritual, angelic being responsible for, or representing, all spirits
Rūhu’l-Quds: The Spirit of Holiness; the Spirit of extraordinary purity, cleanliness, and blessing
(ar-)Rushd: Integrity and maturity in thought and action, and right conduct and correct behavior
(as-)Sabīl: Road, path, way, a means to an end (fī sabīli’llāh: in God’s cause)
(as-)Sābiqūn: The foremost in faith and good deeds, and serving God’s cause
: The patient and steadfast
(as-)Sabr: Patience; steadfastness in carrying out the obligations and refraining from prohibitions, resisting the temptations to sin of the evil-commanding, carnal soul and Satan, enduring any disaster, and showing no haste in pursuing those of one’s hopes or plans that require a stretch of time to achieve
(as-)Sabt: The Sabbath; Saturday of every week, which the Children of Israel must consecrate for rest and worship
(as-)Sab‘u’l-Mathānī (Sab‘an mina’l-Mathānī): Another name for Sūrat al-Fātihah, meaning the Seven Doubly-Repeated Verses
(as-)Sadaqah: Anything given away in alms or done supererogatorily for the good pleasure of God
Sadaqat al-fitr: The obligatory payment made to the needy in Ramadān until the Prayer of ‘Īd al-Fitr
Sadd az-zarā‘ī: Blocking corruption and what is unlawful
(as-)Safīh: A foolish one, devoid of common sense and reasoning
(as-)Sahābī (pl. al-Ashāb): A Companion of the Prophet Muhammad,upon him be peace and blessings, who saw and heard him at least once and who died as a believer
(as-)Sajdah: Prostration; it signifies the utmost and most sincere submission
(as-)Sakīnah: Inner peace and reassurance, perfect calmness due to the Presence of God being made clear and apparent
(as-)Salāh: The Prayer; the cardinal form of worship Muslims do for the good pleasure of God
(as-)Salām: Peace, the wish of peace and security from all kinds of deviations and sufferings
Salāt al-Khawf: The Prayer of Fear; the Prescribed Prayer done in shortened form during a journey or when in a state of fear or insecurity, including times of war or disaster, such as fire and flood
Salāt al-Musāfir: The Prayer of Journey; the Prescribed Prayer done in shortened form during a journey
(as-)Sālih: Good and righteous, sound
(as-)Sawm: Fasting; total abstinence from food, liquid, and any sexual pleasure (either from sexual relations or self-satisfaction) from dawn to sunset, with the intention of worshipping God as His order
(as-)Sa‘y: Labor, working, striving; slight running or speedy walking between the hills of as–Safā and al-Marwah as a rite of Hajj and ‘Umrah
(ash-)Shafā‘ah: Intercession. Expecting God’s help or favor through an intermediary agent, either in the world or in the Hereafter. On Judgment Day, intercession is made on behalf of one and by one whom God permits
(ash-)Shahwah: Passion, passionate attachment, lust
(ash-)Shahādah: What is observable or sensed; witnessing and bearing witness; martyrdom
(ash-)Shāhid: Witness; one who observes and bears witness to; one who sees the hidden Divine truths and testifies to them with their lives; one who testifies for or against
(ash-)Shahīd: Witness; one who observes and bears witness to; martyr (one who sacrifices one’s life in God’s cause and thereby proves the truth of God’s way)
(ash-)Shākir: A thankful one
(ash-)Sharī‘ah: The way God has laid down for His creatures to follow in their daily lives; the practical aspect of the Religion of Islam; the body of all Islamic injunctions or laws, based on the Qur’ān and the Sunnah, and then further developed by jurists to apply Islamic concepts to daily life
(ash-)Sharī‘at at-Takwīniyyah: The body of God’s laws related to the lives of all creatures and the creation and operation of the universe
(ash-)Shaytān: The jinn who persistently disobeyed God and was eternally rejected from His Mercy. It was allowed to try to tempt human for wise purposes which God appointed for human earthly life. There are many similar shaytāns among the jinn and human beings who try to tempt others from God’s Straight Path.
(ash-)Shi‘ār (pl. ash-sha‘āir): An emblem or public symbol. The call to the Prayer, Prayer in congregation, most particularly the congregational prayers of Jumu‘ah and the two ‘Īds, Hajj with its rituals, mosques, sacrifice, etc., are (as well as having their religious meaning for the individual and the community) among the public symbols that identify Islam and the Muslim community.
(ash)-Shirk: Associating partners with God in His Divinity, Lordship, and Sovereignty, or in any of these
(ash-)Shu‘r: Perception, awareness
(ash-)Shūrā: Consultation. It is among the most important requirements for reaching the right decision, and one of the essentials of Islamic constitution.
(ash-)Shukr: Thankfulness, gratitude, gratefulness
(as-)Siddīq: The sincere and truthful; loyal and faithful; following the Straight Path without deviation
Sidrat al-Muntahā: The Lote-tree of the furthest limit; the boundary between the realm of Divinity and the realm of creation
(as-)Sīrah: Conduct, personality; the personality and life story of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings
(as-)Sirāt: The path having ups and downs, wide in some of it parts and narrow in others, and difficult to walk on. The path over Hell which leads to Paradise, with ups and downs, one having walls on its sides, and doors and windows opening on the outside. If this Prophetic description is figurative, it means that we cannot know its real identity.
(as-)Sirāt al-Mustaqīm: The only Straight Path to God, which the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. demonstrated to humankind and the jinn, and was manifested by way of the Qur’an and Sunnah.
Subhānallāh: All-Glorified is God (in that He is absolutely exalted above having any defects, needs, and partners); I glorify God.
(as-)Suffah: A shaded place in al-Masjid an-Nabī in Madīnah where poor people used to take shelter during the Messenger’s time
Ashāb as–Suffah: About three or four hundred Companions who stayed in as–Suffah and spent most of their time in the company of the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings
(as-)Sulh: Reconciliion Reconciliation, peace
(as-)Suhuf (pl. of as–Sahīfah): Scrolls given to some Messengers
(as- )Sunnah: The way of God’s Messenger,upon him be peace and blessings. It is the record of every act, word, and confirmation of the Messenger. It is the second source of Islamic legislation (the Qur’ān being the first one). All scholars of religious sciences, and sometimes even natural scientists, use it to establish the principles of their disciplines and to solve difficulties. The Qur’ān and authentic prophetic Traditions enjoin Muslims to follow the Sunnah. In addition to being an independent source of legislation, it also defines what is stated in general terms in the Qur’ān by referring to particular instances, and it defines the general principle underlying statements in the Qur’ān that are in themselves specific and particular. Also, the Sunnah (like the Qur’ān which it embodies) is also concerned with moral guidance, so the Sunnah provides inspiration and the horizons for moral and spiritual instruction in all spheres of life, as well as providing the inspiration and horizons (limits) within which Islamic legislation may be affected.
Sunnah Prayers: They are the Prayers considered recommended in view of the fact that God’s Messenger.upon him be peace and blessings, either performed them often and/or made statements about their meritorious character and urged Muslims to do them
Sunnatu’llāh: God’s unchanging way and practice from the beginning of the universe. It has two aspects, one for the life of all creatures, the other for the guidance of humankind and jinn. History mirrors Sunnatu’llāh.
(as-)Sūr: The Trumpet which will be blown by the archangel Isrāfīl. We do not know the exact nature of the Trumpet and what is really meant by its being blown. It will be blown twice, and when it is blown the first time, the entire order of the universe will be disrupted; on its second blowing, all the dead will be raised in a completely fresh world and order.
(as-)Sūrah: An independent chapter of the Qur’ān
(at-)Tabarrī: Disowning, to be quit of; declaring to longer have any relation with
(at-)Tābiūn: Successors; the generation succeeding the Companions of the Prophet Muhammadupon him be peace and blessings
(at-)Tablīgh: Conveying a message to others as best as possible; conveying Islam or God’s Message to people to the extent that, left to their (carnal) souls or conscience, they can make a free choice between belief and unbelief
(at-)Tabshīr: Giving the good tidings of; making appealing
(The Campaign of) Tabuk: The military campaign which the Muslims, under the command of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, made to Tabuk, near the Jordan boundary of Arabia, in the 9th year Hijrah, in order to counter a Byzantine offensive. The Qur’ān relates it in Sūrah 9, especially from the perspective that it served as a decisive separation between faith and hypocrisy in al-Madīnah, and the believers proved their loyalty to God’s cause.
(at-)Tabyīn: Clarifying, making clear
(at-)Tadabbur: Pondering deeply
(at-)Tadarru‘: Humble turning (to God); humble devotion and supplication
(at-)Tadhakkur: Reflecting and being mindful
(at-)Tafaqquh: Discerning and understanding, penetrating the essence of a matter and grasping it
(at-)Tafakkur: Reflecting deeply and systematically
(at-)Tafriqah: Splitting into factions or parties
(at-)Tafsīl: Propounding in detail; spelling out distinctly, making clear, and putting in ordered sequence
(at-)Tafsīr: Expounding, usually referring to expounding studies of the Qur’ān
(at-)Tāghūt: The power or powers of evil who institute patterns of belief and rule in defiance of God
(at-)Tahārah: Purification, cleansing. Purity of soul or spiritual purification can be accomplished through sincere faith in and submission to God, and freedom from egotism and arrogance. Bodily purification occurs through tayammum, wudū’, and ghusl, according to conditions and types of contamination. Clothes and other things are usually purified by washing.
(at-)Tahajjud: A Sunnah Prayer done before dawn.
(at-)Tahmīd: Praising; praising God in that one knows and declares Him with the Attributes belonging and fitting for Him, and thanking Him
(at-)Tajallī al-Wāhidiyah: God’s manifestation of His Names on the whole of the universe or a species or on a whole; His universal manifestation with all of His Names related to the universe
(at-)Tajallī al-Ahadiyah: God’s particular manifestation on an individual thing or being with one or some of His Names
(at-)Takbīr: Saying Allahu Akbar (God is the All-Great); declaring God to be immeasurably and incomparably great
(at-)Takdhīb: A denial, a contradiction
(at-)Tanzīl: Sending down (the Qur’ān) in parts
(at-)Taqdīs: Declaring that God alone is All-Holy and to be worshipped as God and Lord. It also means calling God’s blessings upon saintly people, saying: “May God exalt His holiness.”
(at-)Taqwā: Reverent piety towards God; refraining from sins in reverence for God and piety and receiving His protection against deviations and His punishment
(at-)Tartīl: Reciting calmly and distinctly
(at-)Tasbīh: Glorifying God; proclaiming that God is absolutely free from any defect and doing anything meaningless and useless, and that He is absolutely above having any likes and partners, any sons or daughters, or bearing any resemblance with the created. The word of tasbīh is Subhāne’llāh.
(at-)Tashahhud: Giving testimony; a declaration of the Muslim faith during the sitting position in the prayer, saying: “I bear witness that there is no deity but God, and again I witness that Muhammad is His servant and Messenger.”
(at-)Taskhīr: Subjugation; subjugating to one’s will and putting under one’s service
[J14] at-)Tasrīf: Setting out the signs (of God’s Existence and Unity and other truths of faith) in diverse ways, from different perspectives
(at-)Tawāf: The rite of going round the Ka‘bah
(at-)Tawakkul: Reliance on, or putting one’s trust (in God)
(at-)Tawbah: Turning to God in repentance
(at-)Tawbat an-Nasūh: A sincere, reforming repentance. ‘Ali, the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law and the fourth Caliph, describes a sincere, reforming repentance as follows: “In order that your repentance can be a sincere, reforming, and valid one, you should (1) sincerely feel remorse for the sin you have committed, (2) fulfill all the obligatory religious duties and make up the missed ones, (3) return any right you have usurped to its owner, (4) beg the pardon of those you have offended, (5) resolve not to commit again the sin you have committed, and (6) make your carnal soul taste the difficulty of obedience to God as you have caused it to taste the pleasure of sinning.”
(at-)Tawhīd: God’s Oneness and Unity; believing in and declaring God’s Oneness and Unity; the belief and world-view Islam teaches. By saying God is One (Wāhid), we mean that He is the Single Divine Being, and that no one or thing is like or comparable to Him. By His Unity, or by saying that He is One of Absolute Unity, and the Unique One (Ahad), we mean that He is beyond all human conceptions and without partners (i.e., parents, sons, or daughters). Believing in God’s Oneness entails accepting Him as the sole Deity and Lord of humankind, and so the sole Object of Worship. That, in turn, means recognizing Him as having the exclusive authority to make things lawful or unlawful.
(at-)Tawhīd al-‘Ubūdiyah: Total devotion, submission and subjection to God, and declaring that none other than God deserves worship
(at-)Tawhīd al-Rubūbiyah: God’s being and affirming Him as the soleole Creator, Provider, Upbringer, Trainer, Sustainer, Nourisher, Lord and Master of all creatures
(at-)Tawhīd al-Ulūhiyah: Believing that there is no deity but God, and that only God has the sole and exclusive right to be worshipped
(at-)Ta’wīl: Referring a word, an attitude, or an action to, or explaining it with, one of its probable meanings; expounding something read or seen or heard with other than what first comes to mind and with a rational knowledge that is not instantly comprehended. Ta’wīl implies the preference for one of the probable meanings.
(at-)Tayammum: Purification for the Prayer using clean dust, earth or stone, when water for Ghusl or Wudū’ is either unavailable or would be detrimental to one’s health. It is done by striking the hands lightly on some clean earth and passing the palms over the face once, and striking the pure earth again with one’s palms and rubbing the right and left arms alternately from the fingertips to the elbows.
(at-)Tayyib: Pure and wholesome (in composition and religiously)
(at-)Tazkiyah: Purification (from false beliefs and doctrines, sins, and all kinds of filth)
(at-)Tilāwah: Studying the Qur’an in order to understand it in the way it should be understood; reciting the Qur’ān; reciting the Qur’ān and conveying its meaning and message to others
(at-)Tughyān: Rebellion, insubordination
(al-)‘Ubūdiyah: Servanthood; devoted servanthood to God
(al-)Ukhuwwah: Brotherhood and sisterhood
Ulu’l-absār: Those having the power of “seeing” and discerning
Ulu’l-albāb: People of discernment
UIu’l-amr: Those entrusted with directing Muslims in matters of common concern; those who are in charge or in authority, or who are leaders
(al-)Ulūhiyah: God’s being the Deity (of the whole creation)
(al-)Ummah: A community following the same way (of belief and lifestyle)
Ummat Muhammad: The community of Muhammad (upon him be peace and blessings); the whole body of the Muslims
Umm al-mu’minīn: The “Mother of the Believers.” A title given to each wives of the Prophet Muhammad,upon him be peace and blessings
(al-)Ummī: Unlettered, illiterate; following no Book revealed by God; (Prophet) one who neither reads nor writes (and has therefore remained preserved from any traces of the existing written culture, and is thus free from any intellectual and spiritual pollution)
(al-)’Umrah: The minor pilgrimage; an Islamic rite consisting of al-ihrām, and at–tawāf, and as–sa’y
(al-)‘Urf: A generally accepted and established social practice and norm of conduct, one which is not opposed to Islam
(al-)Wācib: What is incumbent or necessary
(al-)Wa‘d: A promise
(al-)Wa‘īd: A threat
(al-)Wahy: Divine Revelation; God’s conveying His Message to a Prophet in a special way. It occurs in three ways. One is that God suddenly puts the meaning in the Prophet’s heart and the Prophet knows that this meaning is from God. The second way or form is that God speaks to a Prophet from behind a veil. The third way is that God sends an angel to convey His Message to the Prophet.
(al-)Wajh: A face; a face as representing the person him/herself; good pleasure and approval
(al-)Wakīl: n authorized representative acting on behalf of someone; one chosen to direct the affairs of another
(al-)Walāyah: Guardianship; friendship; mastership; the relationship of mutual support between the Islamic state and its citizens, and between the citizens themselves; special nearness to God
[J15] al-)Waliyy (pl. al-awliyā’): Guardian; intimate friend; confidant; master; one enjoying special nearness to God
(al-)Wārith: An heir, inheritor
(al-)Wāsi: Guardian (of a child, an incompetent person); executor (of an estate or will)
(al-)Wasiyyah: Testament, will
(al-)Witr: Odd number; Witr rak‘ahs are odd numbers of rak’ahs such as 1, 3, 5, etc. – usually 1 or 3 – which are performed after the last Prayer at night
(al-)Wudū’: Ablution. It requires washing the face from the top of the forehead to the chin and as far as each ear, and the hands and arms up to the elbow; and wiping with wet hands a part of the head, and washing the feet up to and including the ankle. It has also some other acts that are Sunnah to perform.
(al-)Yahūd: The Jews. In Muslim history, the Jews are usually referred to as Yahūdī, meaning one who belongs to Yahūda –Judah in the Old Testament. Judah – Yehudah in Hebrew – is the name of one of the two kingdoms which emerged with the division of the Prophet Solomon’s kingdom after his death, upon him be peace, and takes this name from Judah, one of the sons of Prophet Jacob, upon him be peace. According to another opinion, Yahūdī means one who follows the Law established by Judah, an Israelite jurist who lived in the second century after Prophet Jesus, upon him be peace. The Jews themselves name their religion – Judaism – after Judah. The Qur’ān uses the term Yahūdī for the most rigid enemies of Muslims among the Children of Israel and those who regard and call themselves as Yahūdī among them.
(al-)Yaqīn: Certainty of faith; having no doubt about the truth of a matter and arriving at accurate, doubt-free knowledge. This knowledge can come from either Revelation, or study and verification. Yaqīn has three degrees: first, that which comes from knowledge (‘ilm al-yaqīn); second, that which depends on vision and observation (‘ayn al-yaqīn); and third, that which comes from direct experience (‘haqq al-yaqīn).
(al-)Yawm: Day. The Qur’ān uses the word “day” not only in the sense of our normal day, but also as time unit and period.
Yawm ad-Dīn: The Day of Judgment
Yawm al-Fasl: Another name for the Day of Judgment, meaning the Day of Judgment and Distinction (between people)
Yawm al-Jaza’: Another name for the Day of Judgment, meaning the Day of Recompense
Yawm al-Qiyāmah: The Day of Destruction of the World and Resurrection
(az-)Zakāh: The Prescribed Purifying Alms. It is among the five pillars of Islam, and refers to the mandatory amount that a Muslim must pay out of his property. A Muslim who has money beyond a certain quantity is to pay the Zakāh. It is to be used in eight categories for the welfare of the society, as mentioned in the Qur’ān.
Zakāt al-Fitr: See Sadaqat al-fitr.
(Az-)Zaqqūm: An extremely bitter and thorny tree that grows at the bottom of Hellfire and of which the people of Hell will eat
Zihār: A husband’s saying to his wife, “You are henceforth as my mother’s back to me,” meaning he seeks divorce. This was a custom among the pagan Arabs. When a husband said this to his wife, he meant that he would remove himself from conjugal relations with his wife. This was the equivalent of an irrevocable divorce, but a woman thus divorced could not marry again. Islam decisively prohibited and abolished this custom.
(az-)Zinā: Any sexual intercourse between a man and woman who are not husband and wife, thus denoting both “adultery” and “fornication” in English. The Qur’ān not only forbids any unlawful sexual intercourse, but also orders that all ways to it must be blocked.
(az-)Zuhd: Renouncing worldly pleasures and resisting carnal desires for God’s good pleasure
(az-)Zālim: A wrongdoer. One who does something not at the proper time and place, and/or in the wrong way, thus causing “darkness” and the wronging of his own self; having a very wide area of usage, the term includes everyone from one who does a small wrong, to another who commits the unforgivable sin of associating partners with God (or denying Him).
(az-)Zulm: Wrongdoing, or doing something not at the proper time and place, or in the wrong way, thus causing (spiritual) darkness and the wronging of one’s own self. Having a very wide area of usage, in the terminology of the Qur’ān, zulm includes a broad range of wrong actions from deviancy in a small matter to the unforgivable sin of associating partners with God (or denying Him).
A Glossary Of Names
(The Prophet) Muhammad (571 Makkah–632 al-Madīnah): God’s Last Prophet and Messenger , upon him be peace and blessings, with whom God’s Religion – al-Islām – was universally perfected and conveyed. Born in Makkah in 571, he was raised as a Messenger in 610. After 13 harsh years in Makkah, he emigrated to al-Madīnah. He was made the target of hostilities from hypocrites within al-Madīnah and pagan tribes from outside. He also had to encounter the Jewish tribes and the Byzantine Empire. Within a very short period, he carried his mission to a decisive victory and submitted his soul to God in 632.
‘Abdu’llāh ibn ‘Abbās (d., 687): A Companion of the Prophet (upon him be peace and blessings) who was the most outstanding scholar of Qur’ānic interpretation in his time and one of the leading jurists. He was very sagacious.
‘Abdu’llāh ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘Ās (d., 684): One of the great scholars among the Companions. He was noted for his devotion and learning, and he prepared one of the first collections of Hadīth.
‘Abdu’llāh ibn Jubayr (d., 625): A Companion of the Prophet , upon him be peace and blessings, who participated in the battles of Badr and Uhud. In the latter battle, in which he was martyred, he was the commander of the archers.
‘Abdu’llāh ibn Mas‘ūd (d., 653): One of the most learned Companions of the Prophet , upon him be peace and blessings,. He was noted especially for his nearness to the Prophet and juristic caliber.
‘Abdu’llāh ibn Ubayy ibn Salūl (d., 630): He was the head of the hypocrite block in al-Madīnah and the foremost in enmity towards the Prophet.
‘Abdu’llāh ibn ‘Umar (d., 692): A famous Companion and son of ‘Umar, the second Caliph, who was famous for his piety and for transmitting many Traditions from the Prophet , upon him be peace and blessings,.
‘Abdu’l-Qādir al-Jilānī (d. 1166): One of the most celebrated Sufi masters. A student of jurisprudence and Hadith, he became known as the “spiritual axis” of his age and the “the greatest succor.” He wrote Kitāb al-Ghunyah, Futūh al-Ghayb and Al-Fath ar-Rabbānī.
‘Abdu’r-Rahmān ibn ‘Awf (d., 652): One of the earliest converts to Islam and one of the ten whom the Prophet informed would be admitted to Paradise. He was a prosperous merchant who acquired great wealth, which he spent generously in God’s cause.
Abū Bakr (as–Siddīq) (573–634): One of the first four to embrace Islam and greatest and closest Companion of the Prophet Muhammad , upon him be peace and blessings,. As the first caliph after the Prophet, he has always been remembered for his attachment to the Prophet and his support of him, as well as for his truthfulness and simple life.
Abū’d-Dardā’, ‘Uwaymir ibn Mālik (d., 652): A distinguished Companion who contributed to the collection of the Qur’ān, and was known for his bravery as well as his piety and religious devotion.
Abū Dharr al-Ghifarī, Jundub ibn Junādah (d., 652): A prominent Companion and among the earliest converts to Islam. He was known for his piety, austerity, and straightforwardness.
Abū Hurayrah, Abdu’r-Rahmān (d., 679): A Companion of the Prophet , upon him be peace and blessings, who transmitted a very large number of Traditions.
Abū Lahab: Abū Lahab was one of the Prophet Muhammad’s uncles. The nickname “father of the flame,” was given to him while he was a child because of the rosy glow on his cheeks. He was one of the fiercest enemies of the Messenger and Islam. He died from great sorrow because of the defeat of the pagan Quraysh at the battle of Badr.
Abū Tālib, ‘Abd Manāf ibn ‘Abdu’l-Muttalib (d., 620): An uncle of the Prophet , upon him be peace and blessings, and the father of the fourth Caliph, ‘Ali. Even though he did not embrace Islam, he continued to provide protection for the Prophet against his enemies.
Abū Yazīd al-Bistāmī (d. 873): One of the most famous Sufi (Muslim spiritual masters) and saints
(The people of) Ād: An ancient people known throughout Arabia for their legendary prosperity. The region called al-Ahqāf, that is situated between Hijaz, Yemen, and Yamāmah, was their native land. The Prophet Hūd, upon him be peace, was sent to them, and since they persisted in associating partners with God and other forms of wrongdoing, they were destroyed with a sandstorm which lasted seven nights and eight days.
‘Adīy ibn Hātim (d., 687): A Companion who took a prominent part in the military expeditions against the apostates during the caliphate of Abū Bakr.
Ahl al-Bayt: The household. As a term, it refers to the household of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, including Fātimah, his daughter, her husband, ‘Ali, and their sons, Hasan and Husayn.
Ahl al-Kitāb: The People of the Book, that is, any people who have been given a Divine Book. The Qur’ān tends to use this term particularly for the Jews and Christians. The term also includes the Sabeans and the Magians.
Ahl al-Kitāb wa’s-Sunnah: The People of the Book and the Sunnah. They are the Muslims who strive to follow exactly the teachings of the Qur’ān and the way of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings,, as reported by his Companions.
Ahmad: Another name of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings,. The Prophet Jesus, upon him be peace, prophesied his coming with this name.
Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d., 855): The founder of one of the four Sunnī schools of law in Islam. He valiantly suffered persecution for the sake of his religious conviction. His Musnad is famous, containing about 40,000 Traditions that he collected.
‘Āisha bint Abī Bakr (? – 676): Daughter of Abu Bakr as-Siddīq(may God be pleased with him) and wife of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings,. She was one the foremost scholars among the Companions. She had numerous narrations from the Messenger.
(al-)Ālūsī, Mahmud ibn ‘Abdu’llāh al-Husaynī (d., 1854): One of the leading commentators of the Qur’ān, a jurist, and a Sufi. His commentary, Rūh al-Ma’ānī, is an encyclopedic work which continues to command considerable respect.
‘Ammār ibn Yāsir (d., 657): One of the early converts to Islam and the greatest of the Companions. He served the cause of Islam selflessly and lived a moderate life. He was appointed the governor of Kūfah by ‘Umar, the second Caliph.
Anas ibn Mālik (d., 712): A distinguished Companion who had the honour of serving the Prophet , upon him be peace and blessings, for many years. He was among the Companions who made numerous narrations from the Prophet.
Arafāt: The pilgrimage site, about 25 km east of Makkah, where the pilgrims have to stay from midday to sunset on the eve of ‘Īd al-Adhā (The Festive Day of Sacrifice)
‘Ali ibn Abī Tālib (606–661): One of the first four to embrace Islam and greatest companion of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings,, and his cousin and son-in-law, as well as the last of the four rightly-guided caliphs. He was renowned for his profound knowledge, deep spirituality, and great courage, for his sacrifices for God’s cause, and for his eloquence.
(al-)‘Arīm: The dam which the people of Sheba built and whose traces still exist in Yemen
Āsyā: The wife of the Pharaoh, who rejected the Prophet Moses and his ca ll. She is one of the four greatest women of all times, the other three being: Maryam (Mary), the mother of the Prophet Jesus, upon him be peace,; Khadījah, the first wife of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings,; and Fātimah, the daughter of the Prophet Muhammadmay God be pleased with them all.
al-Aykah: The region which was located in the present day ‘Aqabah. In ancient times, a pagan people lived there, and the Prophet Shu‘ayb was sent to them. However, they denied him and were ultimately destroyed with an “awful blast.”
(The Prophet) Ayyūb (Job): A Prophet of Islam who was renowned for his patience and constancy.
(The Battle of) Badr: The first decisive encounter between the Muslims of Madīnah and the pagan tribe of the Quraysh of Makkah, in 624 ce (2 AH). The Muslims won the battle, which proved to be the turning point for Muslims, and one of the greatest victories in Muslim history, perhaps even the greatest.
Bakkah: Another, rarely used name for Makkah.
Banū Isrāīl: The Children of Israel–the Children of the Prophet Jacob , upon him be peace,. The Qur’ān uses this term as an honorific title. By referring to the Jews as the children of a Prophet (Isrāīl, the Prophet Jacob, a pure servant of God), the Qur’ān means that they are expected to believe in the Prophet Muhammad , upon him be peace and blessings, as well, and so fulfill their covenant with God. This usage also establishes an important principle of good manners, especially in calling people to the Straight Path, that one should address people with the titles they like to be addressed with.
Banū Kaynuqa‘, Banū Nadīr, and Banū Quraydah: The three Jewish tribes of Madīnah. When God’s Messenger emigrated to Madīnah, he concluded an agreement with all of them, but none of them remained faithful to their agreement, as they favored and supported the Makkan polytheists and the hypocrites in Madīnah against the Muslims. In the end, all of them had to leave Madīnah.
(al)-Bayhaqī, Abu Bakr Ahmad ibn al-Husayn (d., 1066): An erudite scholar of Hadīth and a prominent scholar of the Shafi‘ī school of law, andthe author of some well-known books, such as as-Sunan al-Kubrā (“A Compendium of The Prophet’s Traditions”), Dalā’il an-Nubuwah (“The Proofs of the Prophethood of Muhammad”), and Shu‘ab al-Īmān (“The Aspects of Faith”).
(al-)Bayt al-Ma‘mūr: A House in heaven whose nature we do not know and where the angels pray.
(al-)Bayt al-Maqdis (Masjid al-Aqsā): The famous masjid (mosque) in al-Quds (Jerusalem). It was the first qiblah during the Messenger’s time. Then God ordered turning towards the Ka‘bah in Makkah instead. Al-Bayt al-Maqdis is the third in virtue or degree among the places of worship in the world, the first being the Masjid al-Harām in Makkah, and the second being Masjid an-Nabiyy in Madīnah
Bediüzzaman Said Nursi (1877-1960): One of the greatest Muslim thinkers and scholars of the 20th century. He wrote about the truths and essentials of the Islamic faith, the meaning and importance of worship, morality, and the meaning of existence, and he was very original in his approach. Sözler (“The Words”), Mektubat (“The Letters”), Lem’alar (“The Gleams”), and Şualar (“The Rays”) are among his most famous works.
Bilāl ibn Rabāh al-Habashī (d., 641): He embraced Islam he was a “black” slave in the house of one of the fiercest enemies of Islam in Makkah. He suffered great persecutions. He was a mu’adhdhin (caller to Prayer) of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings,.
(al)-Bukhārī, Muhammad ibn Isma’īl (d., 870). The most famous traditionist of Islam, whose work is one of the six most authentic collections of Hadīth, generally considered to be the soundest book after the Book of God.
(al-)Busīri, Muhammad ibn Sa‘id (1211–1295): An Egyptian saintly scholar, calligrapher and poet. He has poems in which he expressed his deep love for the Messenger and his Companions. Al-Qasīda al-Burdah is the most famous of these.
(ad-)-Dārimī, ‘Abdu’llāh ibn ‘Abdu’r-Rahmān (d., 869): One of the outstanding scholars of Hadīth whose Musnad is highly regarded.
(The Prophet) Dawūd (David): A Messenger of God. He was a Caliph of the Israelite state, and the Zabūr (Psalms) were given to him.
Dhu’l-Kifl: As generally accepted, he is the Israelite Prophet Ezekiel , upon him be peace,. He was among the Children of Israel driven out of Jerusalem to Babylon. He lived and performed his mission to callpeople to God in the land of the Chaldeans, by the river Chebar, roughly between 594–572 bc.
Dhu’l-Qarnayn: A beloved servant of God who made great conquests in His name. It is not certain whether he was a Prophet or not.
Dhu’n-Nūn: The Companion of the Fish. This is a title of the Prophet Yūnus (Jonah), upon him be peace,.
Fātimah (614?–632): Daughter of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, from Khadījah, and wife of ‘Ali ibn Abī Tālib. She is one of the four greatest women of all times, and the Prophet’s progeny have descended from her.
Fir‘awn (the Pharaoh): The title of the kings of the Coptic Egyptians; the king to whom and whose people the Prophets Moses and Aaron (upon them be peace) were sent, and who rejected them. He was finally drowned in the sea with his army.
(al-)Firdaws: The highest level of Paradise
(1941–): A well-known scholar, intellectual, writer, and poet from modern Turkey. He has published more than forty books, many of which are among the best-sellers in Turkey. He is also known for his activities in the field of education and for his endeavors to promote tolerance and dialogue among the civilizations and followers of different religions.
(al-)Hākim al-Nayshaburi, Muhammad ibn ‘Abdu’llāh ibn Hamdawayh (d., 1014): Known both for having memorized a very large number of Traditions and for enriching the field of Hadīth by his works, especially by al-Mustadrak ‘alā’s–Sahīhayn (“An Addition to the Two Most Authentic Books of Hadīth” – al-Bukhārī and Muslim), containing the Traditions which are as authentic as those found in al-Bukhārī and Muslim but not found in them.
Hamzah ibn ‘Abdu’l-Muttalib (d., 625): An uncle of the Prophet , upon him be peace and blessings,, and one of the leaders of the Quraysh, who embraced Islam before Hijrah and became a major source of strength for it. He fought valiantly in the Battle of Badr and was martyred in the Battle of Uhud, and he is regarded as one of the greatest heroes of Islam.
(al-)Hasan al-Basrī (d., 728): One of the most distinguished scholars of the Tābiūn (the generation succeeding the Companions). In addition to his profound knowledge, he was also known for his piety and righteousness.
Hijāz: The region along the western seaboard of Arabia, in which Makkah, Madīnah, Jiddah, and Tā’if are situated.
Hirā’: The cave in Jabal an-Nūr (the Mount Nūr) where the first Revelation came to God’s Messenger in 610 CE.
Hārūt & Mārūt: The two angels sent by God to the Children of Israel during their exile in Babylon, who taught them something about the occult sciences so that they could be protected against sorcery and similar evils.
Hārūn (Aaron): The brother of the Prophet Moses , upon him be peace, whom God chose as a Messenger and sent as his helper to the Pharaoh.
Hawwā: Eve, the wife of Prophet Adam , upon him be peace,
(al-)Hijr: The north-west of Arabia where the people of Thamūd lived in ancient times. The Prophet Sālih , upon him be peace, was sent to them. Their main city was Madā’in Sālih, situated along the route of the famous Hijāz railway. Some remnants of this city can still be found today.
Hubal: The chief idol of the pagan people of Makkah when the Messenger began his mission. It was an image of a man, and it was said to have been originally brought to Arabia from Syria.
(The Prophet) Hūd: The Messenger sent to the people of Ād
Hudhayfah ibn al-Yamān (d., 656): A Companion of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, who played an important role in the early Islamic conquests. The Prophet entrusted many secrets to him.
(The Battle of) Hunayn: The battle that took place after the conquest of Makkah between the Muslims and the tribes of Hawāzīn and Thaqīf. The Muslims won the battle and soon afterwards, the conquered tribes became Muslims.
Ibn al-‘Arabī, Abū Bakr ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Abdu’llāh (d., 1148): One of the important commentators of the Qur’ān and Mālikī jurisprudents, as well as the author of Ahkâm al-Qur’ân (“Judgments of the Qur’ān”).
Ibn Kathīr, Isma’īl ibn ‘Umar (d., 1373): A famous traditionist, historian and jurist, and the author of one of the best-known commentaries on the Qur’an, titled Tafsīru’l-Qur’āni’l-Azīm.
Ibn Mājah, Ebū ‘Abdu’llāh Muhammad ibn Yezid el-Kazvinī (d., 273): The compiler of the one of the six most authentic books of Hadīth. He was also well-versed in Qur’ānic sciences and commentary.
Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyah, Muhammad ibn Abī Bakr (d., 1350): A famous, all-round scholar and a disciple of Ibn Taymiyah who is also considered to be among the best representatives of his school of thought.
Ibn Sinā, Abū ‘Ali (Avicenna) (980–1037): One of the foremost philosophers, mathematicians, and physicians of the golden age of Islamic tradition. In the west, he is also known as the “Prince of Physicians” for his famous medical text al-Qānūn “The Canon.” In Latin translations, his works influenced many Christian philosophers, most notably .
(The Prophet) Ibrāhīm (Abraham): One of the five greatest Messengers of God. God sent him to Chaldeans, who lived in modern day Iraq, around 2100 BC. The Prophet Abraham , upon him be peace, later settled in Palestine. He made travels to Makkah, then an uninhabited valley, and settled his wife, Hagar, and his son, Ishmael, there. He built the Ka‘bah with Ishmael, whom God also chose as a Messenger.
(The Prophet) Ilyās: The Prophet Elijah , upon him be peace, whom God sent to the Children of Israel during the reign of King Ahab in Israel, who was notorious for his injustices. He struggled against deviances in belief, immoralities, and injustices.
Imam Abū Hanīfah, Nu‘mān ibn Thābit (d. 768): Founded the Hanafī School of Law and one of the greatest Muslim scholars of jurisprudence and deducer of new laws from the Qur’ān and Sunnah. He also was well-versed in theology.
Imam Abu’l-Hasan al-Ash‘arī, ‘Ali ibn Ismā‘īl (d., 330): Born in al-Basra and died in al-Baghdād. One of the most prominent scholars of Ahl al-Sunnah wa’l-Jamā‘ah. Besides theology, he was also well-versed in Islamic jurisprudence and Qur’ānic commentary. Among his famous books are Kitāb al-Fusūl (“A Book of Explanation and Distinction”), Kitāb an-Nawādīr (“A Book of Rarities”), and Kitāb al-Īmān (“A Book of Faith”).
Imam al-Ghazzālī, Abū Hamīd Muhammad (d. 1111): A major theologian, jurist, and sage who was considered a reviver (of the religious sciences and Islam’s purity and vitality) during his time. Known in Europe as Algazel, he was the architect of Islam’s later development. He left behind many books, the most famous being Ihyā’ al-‘Ulūm ad-Dīn (“Reviving the Religious Sciences”).
Imam (al-)Māturidī, Abū Mansūr Muhammad ibn Muhammad (d., 853): One of the most outstanding scholars of Ahl al-Sunnah wa’l-Jamā‘ah. Besides al-Kalām (Theology), he was also well-versed in Qur’ānic commentary. Among his well-known books are Kitāb at-Tawhīd (“A Book of Faith in God’s Oneness”), ar-Risālah fi’l-‘Aqāid (“An Epistle of Islamic Creed”), and Ta’wīlāt al-Qur’ān (“An Interpretatiton of the Qur’ān”).
Imam Nasāī, Abū ‘Abdu’r-Rahmān Ahmad ibn Shu‘ayb (d., 915). The compiler of one of the six most authentic books of Hadīth. He made long travels and was taught by several scholars. Besides his compilation of Hadīth, he also wrote Musnad ‘Ali (“A Book of the Traditions Narrated by ‘Ali”), Musnad Mālik (A Book of the Traditions Narrated by Mâlik), and Du‘āfā wa’l-Matrūkīn (“The Weak and Rejected Ones among the Narrators of Hadīth”).
Imam ash-Shafi‘ī, Muhammad ibn Idrīs (d. 820): Founded the Shafi‘ī School of Law. He was well-versed in Islamic jurisprudence, Hadith language, and poetry. He wrote Al-Umm (“The Foundation”), ar-Risālah (“A Book of Methodology”), and Ahkām al-Qur’ān (“Judgments of the Qur’ān”).
Imam Rabbānī, Ahmad Fārūq al-Sarhandī (d. 1624): Accepted by many as the “reviver of the second millennium,” especially in Islamic spirituality. Born in Sarhand (India) and well-versed in Islamic sciences, he removed many corrupt elements from Sufism. He also taught Shah Alamgir or Awrangzeb (d. 1707), who had a committee of scholars prepare the most comprehensive compendium of Hanafī Law.
(al-)Injīl: The Divine Book revealed to the Prophet Jesus, upon him be peace,.
Iram: The Capital city of the ancient people of ‘Ād in Yemen. It was famous for its many-columned (i.e. monumental) buildings.
(The Prophet) ‘Īsā: Jesus son of Mary, upon him be peace,.
(The Prophet) Ishāq: The Prophet Isaac, son of the Prophet Abraham, upon them both be peace.
(The Prophet) Ismā‘īl: The Prophet Ishmael, the older son of the Prophet Abraham, upon them both be peace
Isrāīl: Israel – a title of the Prophet Jacob, upon him be peace, meaning a pure servant of God. The Qur’ān usually refers to the Jews as the Children Isrāil (Israel).
(al-)Jabriyyah: The school (of fatalists), which denies human free will.
Ja‘far as–Sādiq ibn Muhammad al-Bāqir (d., 765): The great grand-son of Imam Husayn, son of ‘Ali, the fourth Caliph. He was a distinguished scholar in religious sciences who was also known for his piety and righteousness. The Twelve-Imam Shi‘ītes (“Twelvers”) regard him as their sixth imam.
(al-)Jāmī‘, Nūru’d-Dīn ‘Abdu’r-Rahmān ibn Ahmad (1414–1492): Commonly recognized as the last great classical poet of Persia, and a saint; he composed numerous lyrics, as well as many works in prose. His Salaman and Absal is an allegory of profane and sacred love. Some of his other works include Haft Awrang, Tuhfat al-Ahrār, Laylā wu Majnūn, Fātihat ash-Shabāb, Lawāa’ih, and ar-Durrah al-Fākhirah.
(al-)Jassās, Abū Bakr Ahmad ibn ‘Ali ar-Rāzī (d., 980): An eminent jurist of the Hanafi school of law in his time. He is celebrated for his Qur’ānic commentary, Ahkām al-Qur’ān, which is an erudite commentary on the Qur’ān from a legal perspective.
Jibrīl: The Archangel Gabriel, who brings the Revelation to a Messenger. It is described in the Qur’an as a spirit of holiness, and as a noble, honored messenger, mighty, having a high, secured position with the Lord of the Supreme Throne, obeyed by other angels, and trustworthy.
(al-)Jīlī ,‘Abdu’l-Karīm ibn Ibrāhīm (1365–1417?): The writer of the famous book, al-Insān al-Kāmil (“The Universal Man”). He was from Baghdād, and in his Sufi teachings, he generally followed Muhyi’d-Dīn ibn al-‘Arabī.
Junayd al-Baghdādī (d. 910): One of the most famous early Sufis. He enjoyed great respect and was known as “The prince of the knowers of God.”
al-Jurjani Sayyid Sharif (d., 1413): One of the leading theologians of the 15th century. He visited Istanbul in 1374, and upon his return, in 1377, he was given a teaching appointment in Shiraz. Sharh al-Mawaqif is his most famous work.
(al-)Ka‘bah: The cubic stone building in Makkah visited by the Muslims performing the Pilgrimage; it is the first-ever building, at least the first building for Divine worship to have been built in the world.
Khabbāb ibn al-Arat (d., 657): A Companion and one of the early converts to Islam who was mercilessly persecuted by the opponents of Islam in Makkah.
Khadījah bint Kuwaylid, Umm al-mu’minīn (d., 620): The first wife of God’s Messenger(upon him be peace and blessings, and the first of the Mothers of Believers. The Messenger married her when he was 25 years old and she was 40. He lived with her almost 25 years. She is one of the four greatest women of all times (for the others see Āsyā). She gave birth to several sons and daughters, including Kāsim, Fātimah, Zaynab, Umm Kulthum, and Ruqayyah.
(al-)Khadr: Khadr is he with whom the Qur’an recounts (18: 60-82) the Prophet Moses , upon him be peace, made a journey to learn something of the spiritual realm of existence and the nature of God’s acts in it. It is controversial whether he was a Prophet or merely a saint with a special mission. It is believed that he enjoys the degree of life where one feels no need for the necessities of normal human life.
Khaybar: A famous town north of Madīnah; it was conquered by the Muslims under the command of the Messenger in 629 CE. (7 AH).
(al-)Lāt: It was one of the four chief idols of the pagan Quraysh tribe in pre-Islamic Makkah and of the Thaqīf tribe in at-Tā’if, and among the most famous idols in pre-Islamic Arabia.
(al-)Layth ibn Sa‘d (d., 791): A famous scholar of Hadīth and Fiqh, as well as a foremost jurist of Egypt in his time.
(The people of) Lūt (Lot): The people who lived in the region lying to the southeast of the Dead Sea, who were notorious for sexual deviations (homosexuality), which they adopted as a general way of life. The Prophet Lot, upon him be peace, was sent to them, but they rejected him and his call. They were utterly destroyed together with their cities – Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboim, and Zo’ar – where they lived.
(al-)Majūs: Fire worshippers, Magians.
(al-)Madīnah: The blessed city where the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, emigrated, and the first city-state of the Muslims.
Madyan (Midian): The territory which lay to the north-west of the Hijāz and to the south of Palestine on the coast of the Red Sea and the Gulf of ‘Aqabah. Initially, their people were Muslims, but later they contaminated their pure faith with polytheism, and their economic life with corruption and dishonesty. They rejected the Prophet Shu‘ayb , upon him be peace, and his call, and consequently, they were destroyed.
Makkah: The holy city in Arabia where the Ka‘bah is situated. The Prophet Ishmael, upon him be peace, and his descendants launched the building of Makkah, and the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings,, began his mission there.
Mālik ibn Anas (d., 795): A famous second-century traditionist and jurist of al-Madīnah, and the founder of one of the four Sunni schools of law in Islam. His al-Muwatta’, a collection of Traditions as well as legal opinions of the jurists of al-Madīnah, is one of the earliest extant works of Hadīth and Fiqh.
(al-)Manāt: One of the four chief idols in pre-Islamic Hijāz .
Maqām Ibrāhīm: The Station of Abraham – (the place of) the stone on which the Prophet Abraham, upon him be peace, reportedly stood while building the Ka‘bah, and before which it is a necessary act of the Hajj to offer a Prayer of two rak‘ahs after every seven circumambulations around the Ka‘bah.
(al-)Marwah: One of the two hills, the other being as–Safā,’ near the Ka‘bah, between which the pilgrims perform the rite of Sa‘y (speedy walking)
Maryam: Virgin Mary – the blessed mother of the Prophet Jesus, upon him be peace,; she is one of the four greatest women of all times.
(al-)Mash‘ar al-Harām: The site just near al-Muzdalifah. In al-Muzdalifah, the pilgrims stay for some time and pray to God at dawn on the first of the ‘Īd days of Sacrifice.
(al-)Masīh: The Christ – Jesus son of Mary.
al-Masjid al-Aqsā: See al-Bayt al-Maqdis.
(al-)Masjid al-Harām: The Grand Masjid in Makkah which surrounds the Ka‘bah.
(al-)Masjid an-Nabiyy: The Mosque of the Prophet in al-Madīnah which was built just following the Messenger’s emigration to al-Madīnah.
Minā: A place five miles to al-‘Arafāt to Makkah, where the pilgrims offer their sacrifices and stay during the first three days of ‘Īd al-Adhā.
Mu‘ādh ibn Jabal (d., 639): A Companion known for his knowledge of Law; he was among those who undertook the collection of the Qur’ān and was appointed by the Prophet , upon him be peace and blessings, as a judge in Yemen.
Muhammad Bahāu’d-Dīn Shah an-Naqshband (d. 1389): One of the most prominent Islamic spiritual masters and founder of the Sufi Naqshbandiyyah order. Among his books are Risālat al-Wāridah, al-Awrād al-Bahā’iyyah, Hayātnāmah, and Tanbīh al-Ghāfilīn.
Muhammed Lutfi Efendi (1868–1956): One of the Sufi masters who lived in Erzurum. He has a Divan containing many beautiful, lyrical poems.
Muhyi’d-Dīn ibn al-‘Arabī (1165-1240): One of the greatest and most famous Sufi masters. His doctrine of the Transcendental Unity of Existence, which most have mistaken for monism and pantheism, made him the target of unending polemics. He wrote many books, the most famous of which are Fusūs al-Hikam and al-Futuhāt al-Mkakiyyah.
(The Prophet) Mūsā (Moses): One of the five greatest Messengers of God, who was sent to the Children of Israel and given the Torah to guide them and bring them out of Egypt.
Muslim ibn al-Hajjāj an-Nisaburī (d., 875): One of the greatest scholars of Hadīth, whose work is one of the six most authentic collections of Hadīth and ranks second in importance only to that of al-Bukharī.
al-Mu‘tazilah: The school of the Muslim “rationalists” which accorded creative effect to human will and agency, concluding that it is human beings who create their actions.
(al-)Muzdalifah: A site between al-‘Arafāt and Minā where the pilgrims, while returning from al-‘Arafāt, have to stop and stay for the whole night or some part of the night, between the 9th and 10th of the month of Dhul-Hijjah and to perform the Evening and Late Evening Prayers together.
(an-)Nasārā: Those who call themselves the followers of Jesus; the Christians.
(The Prophet) Nūh (Noah): One of the five greatest Messengers, and the second father of humankind; the Prophet of the Flood.
Qārūn: Korah. A wealthy man from the Children of Israel who rebelled against God and collaborated with the Pharaoh, so that God made him and all his wealth be swallowed by the earth.
(al-)Quraysh: The Makkan, most esteemed Arab tribe to which God’s Messenger belonged.
(d., 1273): One of the most distinguished commentators of the Qur’ān. His al-Jāmi’ li Ahkām al-Qur’ān (“A Compendium of the Judgments of the Qur’ān) is not only one of the best commentaries on the legal verses of the Qur’ān but also one of the best tafsīr works.
Rabī‘ah al-‘Adawiyyah (717–801): Born in Basra. As a child, after the death of her parents, she was sold into slavery. After years of service to her slavemaster, Rabī‘ah began to serve only the Beloved with her actions and thoughts. Since she was no longer useful to the slave-owner, Rabī‘ah was then set free to continue her devotion to the Beloved.
(d., 1210): One of the most famous commentators of the Qur’ān and the most outstanding scholars of his time who was well-versed in both religious and rational sciences. Mafātīh al-Ghayb is the name of his monumental commentary on the Qur’ān.
(ar-)Rūmī, Jalālu’d-Dīn (1207–1273): One of the most renowned figures of Islamic Sufism. He was the founder of the Mawlawī Order of the whirling dervishes, and famous for his Mathnawī, an epic of religious life in six volumes. For Western readers, ar-Rūmī is a powerful voice among the poets of Sufism.
(as-)Sābiūn: A people of the Book who lived in Iraq and deviated into worshipping heavenly bodies over the course of time.
(d., 670): One of the ten who were promised Paradise while alive, and one of the heroes of early Islam who took part in many battles during the life of the Prophet , upon him be peace and blessings, as the commander of the Muslim armies in the Qadisiyah wars leading to the conquest of Iran.
Sa‘d ibn Mu‘ādh (d. 627): A Madīnan Companion and one of the leaders of the Aws tribe. He fought valiantly in many battles and was martyred in the Battle of Khandaq (or Trench).
Sa‘dī ash-Shirazī (1215?–1292): The greatest didactic poet of Persia, author of the Gulistān (“Rose-Garden”) and the Bustān (“Orchard”), who also wrote many fine odes and lyrics.
(as-)Safā: One of the two hills, the other being al-Marwah near the Ka‘bah, between which the pilgrims perform the rite of Sa‘y (speedy walking).
(d., 713): A foremost scholar and jurist of the generation succeeding the Companions. One of the seven recognized jurists of al-Madīnah, he was known for his knowledge of Hadīth and Fiqh, as well as for his piety and devotion.
(The Prophet) Sālih: The Prophet , upon him be peace, who was sent to the tribe of Thamūd, who lived in al-Hijr, the north-west of Arabia (see al-Hijr).
(ash-)Shāfi‘ī, Muhammad ibn Idrīs (d., 820): The founder of the Shāfi‘ī school of Islam, and the first to write about the methodology of Islamic law. He has also a Diwān, a collection of poems.
Shams at-Tabrizī: In Konya, Rūmī became a religious teacher and then a Sufi at the age of 39, when he met Shamsu’d-Dīn at-Tabrizī. A-Tabrizī was to have a profound influence upon ar-Rūmī and to vivify, like a veritable sun, the growth of his latent spiritual and literary genius.
(ash)-Shaybānī, Muhammad ibn al-Hasan (d., 804): A famous Iraqī jurist and disciple of Abū Hanīfah. His Siyar al-Kabīr is first book ever written about international law and relations. He is reckoned to be one of the founders of the Hanafī school of law.
(The Prophet) Shu‘ayb: A Prophet , upon him be peace, who was sent to the peoples of Madyan (Midian) and al-Aykah, but they rejected him, so God destroyed them.
(The Prophet) Sulaymān (Solomon): Son of the Prophet David , upon him be peace, and one of the Prophets sent to the Children of Israel, and their first king; the most powerful of the kings who have ever lived. He was a very humble servant of God despite his great power. In addition to many miracles and miraculous achievements, he was distinguished by his ability, by leave of God, to subjugate jinn and satans to his command and employ them in diverse tasks.
(as-)Suyūtī, Jalālu’d-Dīn (1446–1506): A great scholar well-versed in HaHadīth, jurisprudence, and history. He was also a Sufi and interpreter of the Qur’ān. He authored works in virtually all Islamic sciences.
(at-)Tabarānī, Sulaymān ibn Ahmad ibn Ayyūb (d., 971): Specialized in Hadīth. His works cover the fields of Hadīth, Tafsīr and Kalām (Theology). His Mu‘jam al-Kabīr (“The Great Encyclopedia of Hadīth”), Mu‘jam al-Awsat (“The Medium Encyclopedia of Hadīth”), and Mu‘jam as–Saghīr (“The Small Encyclopedia of Hadīth”) are well-known.
(at-)Tabarī, Muhammad ibn Jarīr (d., 923): A distinguished historian, jurist and Qur’ān commentator. His major extant works include his commentary Jāmi‘u’l-Bayān fī Tafsīr al-Qur’ān (“A Comprehensive Collection of Words in Expounding the Qur’ān”), and Tārīkh al-Umam wa’l-Muluk (“The History of Nations and Rulers”).
at-Taftazānī, Sa‘du’d-Dīn (d., 1390): A famous scholar of logic, rhetoric, grammar, theology, and jurisprudence of Samarqand during the rule of Timur. His Sharh al-‘Aqāid an-Nasafiyyah (“An Exposition of the Book of Creed by an-Nasafī”) is among the basic works of the Muslim theology.
Talhah ibn ‘Ubaydu’llāh (d., 656): One of the ten Companions whom the Prophet declared to be among the People of Paradise. He was among the earliest converts to Islam, and was noted for his bravery and generosity.
Tālūt: King Saul. He led his army against the army of Jālūt (Goliath).
(at-)Tawrāh: The Divine Book (of law) given to the Prophet Moses , upon him be peace, by God; the Torah.
(The people of) Thamūd: An ancient Arab people who lived in al-Hijr, in the north-west of Arabia. Their main city, Madā’in Sālih, was situated along the route of the famous Hijāz railway. The Prophet Sālih , upon him be peace, came to them with God’s Message but they, like many other ancient peoples, rejected him and his Message and persisted in wrongdoing. Finally God destroyed them.
(ath-)Thawrī, Sufyān ibn Sa‘īd ibn Masrūq (d., 778): Considered an authority in different branches of Islamic learning, especially Hadīth, his works include al-Jāmi’ al-Kabīr and al-Jâmi‘ as–Saghīr, both of which are inc luded in Hadīth.
(at-)Tirmidhī, Muhammad ibn ‘Īsā (d., 892): A famous traditionist whose collection of Traditions, Kitāb as-Sunan (“The Book of the Prophetic Traditions”), is considered one of the six most authentic collections of Hadīth.
(at-)Tūr: A mountain, Mount Sinai, on which the Prophet Moses , upon him be peace, received the revelation of the Torah from God.
(The Battle of) Uhud: The battle which took place between the Muslims and the pagan Quraysh of Makkah at the foot of Mount Uhud, three miles from the Prophet’s Mosque in al-Madīnah in the 3rd year of Hijrah.
‘Umar ibn al-Khattāb al-Fārūq (582–644): One of the ten Companions to whom Paradise was promised while they were still in the world. Famous for his keen insight into the spirit of Islam and his legendary justice and very simple life as caliph, he succeeded Abū Bakr as-Siddīq to the caliphate.
Umm Salamah, Hind bint Suhayl, Umm al-mu’minīn (d., 681): One of the wives of the Prophet, who reported several hundred Traditions from him.
Usāmah ibn Zayd ibn Hārithah (d., 674): One of the young Companions much loved by God’s Messenger. Son of Zayd, the only Companion mentioned in the Qur’ān by name, and an emancipated slave of the Messenger , upon him be peace and blessings,. The Messenger entrusted the command of the army he collected just before his death to be dispatched against the Byzantines to Usāmah while he was still at a very young age.
‘Uthmān ibn ‘Affān adh-Dhu’n-Nūrayn (576–656): One of the Companions who embraced Islam first of all and among the ten whom the Messenger informed would enter Paradise. Since the Messenger gave him two of His daughters in marriage (the second one after the first died), he has been called Dhu’n-Nūrayn (the possessor of two lights). He was especially renowned for his generosity and modesty. He succeeded ‘Umar to the caliphate.
Uways al-Qarani (d., 656): One of the outstanding figures of the generation succeeding the Companions. Some regard him as the greatest Muslim saint of the first Islamic century.
(al-)Uzzā: One of the four chief idols worshipped in al-Hijāz before Islam.
(The Prophet) Yahyā (John the Baptist): Son of the Prophet Zachariah , upon him be peace, – a Messenger of God highly praised in the Qur’ān for his devotions, chastity, sound judgment, profound knowledge, piety, righteousness, and dutifulness to his parents, who was killed by the Jews.
Yahyā ibn Mu‘ādh (d., 871): A great Sufi and a disciple of Ibn Karrām, he left his native town of Rayy and lived for a time in Balkh, afterwards proceeding to Nishapur, where he died. A certain number of poems are attributed to him.
Ya‘jūj wa Ma‘jūj: Gog and Magog; wild tribes that have invaded the civilized world many times and are expected to appear for the last time just before the final destruction of the world.
(The Prophet) Ya‘qūb (Jacob): a Messenger of God, son of the Prophet Isaac and grandson of the Prophet Abraham, upon them both be peace. He was also known as Israel. His twelve sons each became head of his own tribe, and collectively, these were known as the twelve tribes of Israel.
Yathrib: One of the names of al-Madīnah before Islam.
(The Prophet) Yūsuf (Joseph): Son of the Prophet Jacob, a Messenger of God who was envied by his brothers and sold to the Egyptian court as a slave. Then he became a minister in the court and was deputed to the king.
(The Prophet) Yūnus (Jonah): A Messenger of God who was sent to Nineveh (on the left bank of the Tigris, opposite the city of Mosul, in Iraq) to preach against their wickedness and call them to the worship of God. The people of Nineveh at first rejected him, and he left the city, whereupon he was swallowed by a fish in the sea. God saved him from the belly of the sea and returned him to his people, who had embraced God’s Religion after seeing God’s punishment coming.
(Az-)Zabūr: The Book given to the Prophet David, upon him be peace,.
(The Prophet) Zakariyā (Zachariah): A Messenger of God who appeared to the Children of Israel just before the advent of the Prophet Jesus , upon him be peace,, and who was killed by the Jews.
Yahūdī: Jew. The term describes one who belongs to Yahūda – Judah in the Old Testament. Judah – Yehudah in Hebrew – is the name of one of the two kingdoms which emerged with the division of Prophet Solomon’s kingdom after his death, and takes its name from Judah, one of the sons of Prophet Jacob , upon him be peace,. According to another opinion, Yahūdī means one who follows the Law established by Judah, an Israelite jurist who lived in the second century after Jesus. The Jews themselves name their religion – Judaism – after Judah.
Zaynab bint Jahsh, Umm al-mu’minīn (d., 641) One of the Messenger’s wives. The Messenger first married her to Zayd ibn Hārithah, but the marriage broke up, whereupon the Messenger married her. She was renowned for her generosity.
(az-)Zubayr ibn al-‘Awwām (d., 656): Among the heroes of the earliest period of Islam; one of the most prominent Companions, and one of those ten to whom the Prophet gave the good news of Paradise.
A Glossary of God’s Names
Allāh: Translated as God, Allāh is the proper Name of the Divine Being Who creates and administers His creatures, individually and as a whole, Who provides, brings up, sustains, protects, guides each and all, Who causes to perish and revives each and all, Who rewards or punishes, etc. All His Attributes are Attributes of absolute perfection, and He is absolutely free from any and all defects. He is Unique and Single, having no like or resemblance and nothing is comparable to Him. He is absolutely beyond any human conception: “Eyes comprehend Him not, but He comprehends all eyes (6: 103).” God is the Unique, Single Being with the exclusive right to be worshipped and to be made the sole aim of life. He is loved in and of Himself. Everything is dependent on Him and subsists through Him. Every truth has its source in Him. Knowledge of God (in the sense of the Arabic ‘ılm) is impossible in respect of His Being or Essence (Dhāt). Because there is none like or comparable unto Him, it is therefore impossible to grasp or comprehend His Essence. However, we can recognize God or have some knowledge of Him (in the sense of the Arabic ma‘rifah) through His works, acts, Names, Attributes and Essential Qualities (shu‘ūn). Awareness of His works (what we see in the world, His creation) leads us to become aware of His acts, and that awareness leads us to His Names and Attributes which, in turn, lead us to His Essential Qualities, and thence to an awareness of the One Who has these Qualities.
(Al-)‘Adl: The All-Just
(Al-)‘Afuww: The All-Pardoning (Who overlooks the faults of His servants); The One Who grants remission; The One Who excuses much.
(Al-)Ahad: The Unique One of Absolute Oneness (Who is beyond all kinds of human conceptions of Him and absolutely free from having any partners, likes, parents, sons or daughters; One Who manifests His certain particular Names on an individual thing or being to give that thing or being their unique individuality)
Ahkamu’l-Hākimīn: The Best of judges (and the Most Powerful of sovereigns)
Ahlu’l-maghfirah: The Lord of forgiveness
Ahlu’t-taqwā: The Lord of righteousness and piety
Ahsanu’l-Khāliqīn: The Creator Who creates everything in the best and most appropriate form and has the ultimate rank of creativity
(Al-)Ākhir: The Last (Whom there is none that will outlive)
(Al-)‘Alīm: The All-Knowing
Ālimu’l-ghaybi wa’shshahādah: The Knower of the unseen (all that lies beyond sense-perception) and the witnessed (the sensed realm)
(Al-)‘Aliyy: The All-Exalted
(Al-)Amān: The One in Whom Refuge Is Sought
(Al-)‘Atūf: The All-Affectionate
(Al-)Awwal: The First (Whom there is none that precedes)
(Al-)‘Azīz: The All-Glorious with irresistible might (Whom none can prevent from doing what He wills)
Badī‘u’s-samāwāti wa’l-ard: The Originator of the heavens and the earth with nothing preceding Him to imitate
(Al-)Bāith: The One Who restores life to the dead
(Al-)Bāqī: The All-Permanent
(Al-)Bārī: The All-Holy Creator (Who is absolutely free from having any partners and Who makes every being perfect and different from others)
(Al-)Barr: The All-Benign
(Al-)Bāsit: The All-Expanding
(Al-)Basīr: The All-Seeing
(Al-)Bātin: The All-Inward (Who encompasses the whole existence from within in His Knowledge, and there is none that is more penetrating than Him)
(Al-)Burhān: The All-Proving and Demonstrating
(Ad-)Dārr: The Creator of evil and harm
(Ad-)Dayyān: The Supreme Ruler and All-Requiting (of good and evil)
Dhu’l-‘Arsh: The Owner (Lord) of the Supreme Throne
Dhu’l-Fadl: The One (or Lord) of grace and bounty
Dhu’l-Jalāl wa’l-ikrām: The One of Majesty and Grace
Dhu’l-Ma‘ārij: The One Having Stairs of Ascent
Dhu’l-Quwwah: The Lord of all might
Dhu’t–Tawl: The One limitless in His bounty
Fāliqu’l-habb wa’n-nawā: The splitting of the grain and the fruit-stone (so that they germinate by His command)
Fāliqu’l-isbāh: The Splitting of the dawn (from the darkness of night)
(Al-)Fard: The All-Independent, Single One (free from having any equals or likes in His Essence and Attributes)
(Al-)Fātir: The All–Originating (with a unique individuality)
Fātiru’s-samāwāti wa’l-ard: The Originator of the heavens and the earth (each with particular features)
(Al-)Fattāh: The One Who judges between people with truth and separates them
(Al-)Ghafūr: The All-Forgiving
Ghālibun alā emrihī: The One Who always prevails in whatever is His Will
(Al-)Ghaniyy: The All-Wealthy and Self-Sufficient
(Al-)Jabbār: The All-Compelling of supreme majesty (Who subdues wrong and restores right)
(Al-)Habīb: The All-Loving and Loved
(Al-)Hādī: The All-Guiding
(Al-)Hafiyy: The All-Gracious
(Al-)Hafīz: The All-Preserving and Keeper of records
(Al-)Hakam: The All–Judging (Who settles the matters between people)
(Al-)Hakīm: The All-Wise (in Whose every act and decree there are many instances of wisdom)
(Al-)Halīm: The All-Clement (showing no haste to punish the errors of His servants)
(Al-)Hamīd: The All-Praiseworthy (as the Lord Who creates, provides, and rears)
(Al-)Hannān: The All-Kind and Caring
(Al-)Haqq: The Ultimate Truth and Ever-Constant
(Al-)Hasīb: The All-Sufficing as One Who reckons and settles the accounts (of His servants)
(Al-)Hayy: The All-Living
(Al-)Jalīl: The All-Majestic
(Al-)Jāmi‘: The One Having All Excellences in the Infinite Degree; the All-Gathering
(Al-)Jamīl: The All-Gracious and All-Beautiful
(Al-)Jawād: The All-Generous
(Al-)Kabīr: The All-Great
(Al-)Kāfī: The All-Sufficing
(Al-)Karīm: The All-Munificent
(Al-)Khabīr: The All-Aware
(Al-)Khāliq: The Creator (Who determines measure for everything and brings it into existence out of nothing)
(Al-)Khallāq: The Supreme Creator
Khayru’l-fāsilīn: The Best Judge between truth and falsehood
Khayru’l-Hākimīn: The Best of judges
Khayru’r-Rāziqīn: The One Who is the Best to be sought as provider with the ultimate rank of providing
(Al-)Latīf: The All-Subtle (penetrating into the most minute dimensions of all things)
(Al-)Mahmūd: The All-Praised
(Al-)Majīd: The All-Sublime
(Al-)Malik: The Sovereign
(Al-)Māni‘: The All-Preventing and Withdrawing
Māliku’l-mulk: The absolute Master of all dominion
Mālik-i Yawm ad-Dīn: The absolute Master of the Day of Judgment
(Al-)Mannān: The All-Bounteous and Favoring
(Al-)Ma‘rūf: The One Known (with His works); the All-Recognized
(Al-)Matīn: The All-Forceful
(Al-Mu‘āfī: The Giver of Health
(Al-)Mu‘akhkhir: The One Who leaves behind
(Al-)Mubdī: The All-Initiating
(Al-)Mubīn: The One Whom nothing is hidden and Who makes all truth manifest
(Al-)Mughnī: The All-Enriching
(Al-)Muhaymin: The All-Watchful Guardian
(Al-)Muhīt: The All-Encompassing
(Al-)Muhsī: The All-Counting and Recording
(Al-Muhsin: The All-Benevolent
(Al-)Muhyī: The One Who revives, Who gives life to the dead
(Al-)Mu‘īd: The All-Returning and Restoring
(Al-)Mu‘īn: The All-Helping and Supplying
(Al-)Mu‘izz: The All-Exalting and Honoring
(Al-)Mujīb: The All-Answering (of prayers) and Meeting (of needs)
(Al-)Mu’min: The Supreme Author of safety and security Who bestows faith and removes all doubt
(Al-)Mumīt: The One Causing to Die; the All-Dealer of death
(Al-)Mundhir: The All-Informing and Warning
(Al-)Muntaqim: The Ever-Able to requite
(Al-)Muqaddim: The One Who causes to advance , Who moves things forward
(Al-)Muqaddir: The All-Determining
(Al-)Muqīt: The All-Aiding and Sustaining
(Al-)Muqsit: The All-Dealing of justice
(Al-)Muqtadir: The All-Omnipotent
(Al-)Murīd: The All-Willing
(Al-)Mūsī: The All-Expanding (of the universe and sustenance for His creatures)
(Al-)Musawwir: The All-Fashioning
(Al-)Musta‘ān: The One Whose Help Is Ever Sought
(Al-)Muta‘āl: The All-Transcending
(Al-)Mutakabbir: The One Who has exclusive right to all greatness
(Al-)Mudhill: The All-Abasing
(Al-)Mu‘tī: The All-Granting
(An-)Nāfi‘: The All-Favoring and Giver of benefits
(An-)Nasīr: The All-Helping and Giver of Victory
(An-)Nūr: The All-Light (see 24: 35 and the accompanying note)
(Al-)Qāim: The All-Observing and Controlling
(Al-)Qābid: The All-Constricting
(Al-)Qadīr: The All-Powerful
(Al-)Qāhir: The All-Omnipotent (Who has full sway over all that exists)
(Al-)Qahhār: The All-Overwhelming (with absolute sway over all that exists)
(Al-)Qarīb: The All-Near
(Al-)Qawiyy: The All-Strong
(Al-)Qayyūm: The Self-Subsisting (by Whom all subsist)
(Al-)Quddūs: the All-Holy and All-Pure (Who is absolutely free of any defect and keeps the universe clean)
(Ar-)Rabb: The Lord (God as the Creator, Provider, Trainer, Upbringer, and Director of all creatures)
Rabbu’l-‘ālamīn: The Lord of the worlds
(Ar-)Rāfi‘: The All-Exalting
Rafī‘u’d-derejāt: The All-Exalted above all degrees
(Ar-)Rahīm: The All-Compassionate (Who has particular compassion for each of His creatures in their maintenance, and for His believing servants, especially in the other world)
(Ar-)Rahmān: The All-Merciful (Who has mercy on the whole existence and provides for them without making a distinction between believers and unbelievers)
(Ar-)Raqīb: The All-Watchful
(Ar-)Rashīd: The All-Guide to what is correct
(Ar-)Raūf: The All-Pitying
(Ar-)Razzāq: The All-Providing
(As-)Sabūr: The All-Patient (Whom no haste induces to rush into an action)
Sādiqu’l-wa‘d: The All-True to His promise
(As-)Salām: The Supreme Author of peace and salvation
(As-)Samad: The Eternally-Besought-of-All (Himself being needy of nothing)
(As-)Samī‘: The All-Hearing
(as-)Sāni‘: The Maker
(As-)Sattār: The All-Veiling (of His servants’ shortcomings and sins)
Sarī‘u’l-Hisāb: The One Who is Most Swift in reckoning
Shadīdu’l-‘iqāb: The One Who is Most Severein in reckoning
(Ash-)Shāfī: The All-Healing
(Ash-)Shāhīd: The All-Witnessing
(Ash-)Shakūr: The All-Responsive (to the gratitude of His creatures)
(As-)Subhān: The All-Glorified
(As-)Sultān: The Absolute, Eternal Authority
(At-)Tawwāb: The One Who accepts repentance and returns it with liberal forgiveness and additional reward
(Al-)Wācid: The Ever-Present and All-Finding
(Al-)Wadūd: The All-Tender and Excusing; The All-Loving and All-Beloved
(Al-)Wahhāb: The All-Bestowing
(Al-)Wāhid: The One (having no partners and equals; One Who manifests all His Names upon the whole of the universe, or a species, or on a whole)
(Al-)Wakīl: The One to rely on and to Whom affairs should be entrusted
(al-)Wālī: The All-Governing
(Al-)Waliyy: The Guardian, the Protecting Friend (to rely on)
(Al-)Wārith: The One Who survives all beings and inherits them
(Al-)Wāsi‘: The All-Embracing (in His Mercy)
(Az-)Zāhir:The All-Outward (Who encompasses the whole of existence from the outside, and there is none that encompasses Him)
THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD IN THE BIBLE
All the previous Prophets predicted the coming of Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. We can still find indications of this in the Torah, the Psalms and the Gospels. Here are some examples:
· The Lord said unto me (Moses): I will raise them up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in his mouth; and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” (Deuteronomy, 18: 17–19).
It is clear from these verses that what is meant by “a Prophet like you among their brethren,” is a Prophet who will come from the line of Ishmael, peace be upon him, since Ishmael is the brother of Isaac, peace be upon him, who is the forefather of Moses’ people, the Children of Israel. The only Prophet who came from the line of Ishmael after Moses, peace be upon him, and resembled him in many ways, for example, in the bringing of a new law and fighting with his enemies, is the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. Also, the verse of the Bible, “Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew faceto face,” (Deuteronomy, 34: 10) clearly states that no Prophet like Moses ever did appear among the Israelites. The Qur’ān (73: 15) points to the same fact: Surely We have sent to you (O people) a Messenger, a witness against you, just as We sent a Messenger to the Pharaoh (73: 15).
The sentence, “I will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak to them all that I command him,” in the verses from Deuteronomy quoted above, means that the promised Prophet will be unlettered and speak whatever is revealed to him. God restates the same in the Qur’ān (53: 3–4): He does not speak on his own, out of his own desire; that (which he conveys to you) is but a Revelation that is revealed to him.
· The Lord came from Sinai, and dawned on them from Seir; He shone forth from Mount Paran. (Deuteromony, 33: 2)
This refers to the Prophethood of Moses, Jesus and Muhammad respectively, upon them be peace. Sinai is the place where the Prophet Moses, peace be upon him, spoke to God and received the Torah. Seir, a place in Palestine, is where the Prophet Jesus, peace be upon him, received Divine Revelation. As for Paran, it is mentioned in the Torah (Genesis, 21: 19–21) as the area in the desert where Hagar was left by her husband Abraham, upon him be peace, to live with her son, Ishmael, upon the order of God. The well of Zamzam appeared in it. As is stated explicitly in the Qur’ān (14: 35–37), Abraham left Hagar and Ishmael, peace be upon him, in the valley of Makkah, which was then an uninhabited place within the mountain ranges of Paran.
· The verse in Deuteronomy continues:
And he came with ten thousands of saints; from His right hand came a fiery law for them.
This verse refers to the promised Prophet, Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, who would have numerous Companions of the highest degree of sainthood. The law is his Sharī‘ah, and its being depicted as fiery alludes to the fact that the promised Prophet would be allowed to fight against his enemies.
· Surely God said to Abraham: “Hagar will certainly bear children. There will appear from her sons one whose hand will be above all, and the hands of all others will be opened to him in reverence.”
Although it does not exist word-for-word in the present versions of the Bible, it is recorded by ‘Ali al-Qārī in his Sharh ash-Shifā, 1: 743. However, we read in the Bible the following verses:
Yet I will also make a nation of the son of the bondwoman, because he is your seed (Genesis, 21: 13). (Hagar,) arise, lift up the lad and hold him with your hand; for I will make him a great nation (21: 18).
These verses explicitly refer to the descendants of Ishmael, peace be upon him. They were made into a great nation only after the Prophethood of Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings.
· Again, the present versions of the Bible record that the son which God ordered Abraham to sacrifice was Isaac, peace be upon him (Genesis, 22: 2). However, as discussed and proven in Sūrah 37, note: 13, based on the Bible itself, this son was actually Ishmael, peace be upon him, the elder brother of Isaac. So, the following verses, wherein Genesis records God speaking to Abraham, peace be upon him, after he submitte d to the test of sacrificing his son, must be referring also to the descendants and community of Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, and so corroborates the quotations above from ‘Ali al-Qārī and Genesis:
….because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son– blessing I will bless you, and multiplying, I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gates of their enemies. In your seed, all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice (Genesis, 22: 16-18)
He will not cry out, nor raise his voice, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed he will not break, and smoking flax he will not quench: he will bring forth justice for truth. He will not fail nor be discouraged, till he has established justice in the earth: and the coastlands will wait for his law. (Isaiah, 42: 1-4)
Although these verses in Isaiah are taken by Christians to be “prophecies” of the Jesus of the Gospels, the predictions they contain refer to the Prophet Muhammad and Islam. For Jesus did not bring a law, nor did he claim to establish Christianity on earth, nor did he set justice on the earth so that the coastlands should wait for his law. In law, he followed the Old Testament, with the exception that he made a few things unlawful in the Old Testament newly lawful by God’s order. And it is the Gospels which report from Jesus, peace be upon him, that he was not sent but “unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew, 15: 24). He also clearly told his twelve disciples, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew, 10: 5-6). In addition, these verses have great resemblance with the following verse which ‘Abdullāh ibn ‘Amr ibn al- ‘Ās, who made extensive studies of earlier Divine books, ‘Abdullah ibn Salām, who was the first to embrace Islam from amongst the famous Jewish scholars, and the renowned scholar Ka‘b ibn al-Akhbār, from amongst the foremost scholars of the Israelites, said they had seen in the Torah:
O Prophet, certainly We have sent you as a witness, a bearer of glad tidings, a warner and a protection for the unlettered. You are My servant; I have named you “the Reliant on God,” who is not harsh nor stern, and not clamorous in the marketplaces; who does not repel evil with evil, but instead pardons and forgives. God will certainly not take away his life until He straightens a crooked nation by means of him (by causing them) to proclaim, “There is no deity but God.” (al-Bukhārī, “Buyū‘,” 50; Ibn Hanbal, 2: 174)
Therefore, I say to you, the Kingdom of God will be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomsoever it falls, it will grind him to powder. (Matthew, 21: 42–4)
The “chief cornerstone” mentioned in the verses cannot be the Prophet Jesus, peace be upon him, for the verses refer to the crushing victories that the followers of the “chief cornerstone” will win against their enemies. No people were ever broken to pieces or crushed because they resisted Christianity. Christianity gained ground against the Roman Empire only after it had made significant compromises with Roman rites and ways of life. The Western dominion over the world came after scientific thought’s triumph over the medieval Christian view of nature, and was realized in the form of colonialism. By contrast, Islam ruled almost half of the “Old World” for many centuries as a religion in its original purity, and its enemies were many times defeated before it. It is, again, Islam which is on the rise as both a pure, authentic religion and as a way of life, and which is the hope of salvation for humanity. More than that, the Prophet Jesus himself alludes to this fact by stating explicitly that the kingdom of God will be taken away from the people to whom he was sent and given to a people who will produce its fruit.
Second, in a telling detail recorded in a hadīth in al-Bukhari and Muslim, the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, describes himself as the “cornerstone” completing the building of Prophethood.
· Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (Paraklit) will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send him to you. And when he has come, he will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: (John, 16: 7–8)
In these verses, the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, is originally referred to as the Paraklit. According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, Paraklit derives from the word parakletos, meaning “intercessor, advocate, pleader.” However Abidin Pasha, a nineteenth-century scholar from Yanya, Greece, who knew Greek very well and whose works on Greek literature were highly praised by Greek authorities, writes that its real Greek origin means Ahmad, the one who is much praised. (al-Jisrī, 59). Truly, Paráklētos is derived from the Greek word Períklytos and means Ahmad. The Qur’ān also states that Jesus predicted the Prophet Muhammad with the name Ahmad, a synonym of Muhammad (61: 6). Christians assert that Jesus, peace be upon him, used Paraklit for the Holy Spirit. However, with the functions or attributes of interceding, pleading or advocating refer to principal attributes of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings,not of the Holy Spirit. Adding to the confusion, Gospel translators replace “Paraklit” with different and somewhat inconsistent terms. For example, they translate it as “Counselor” (New International Version by International Bible Society, placed and distributed by Gideon’s International), “Helper” (American Bible Society), “Comforter” (the Company of the Holy Bible), and other such terms. None of those who have claimed that it refers to the Holy Spirit has ever established whether the Holy Spirit has come down and done what Jesus said it would do. In addition, Jesus gives good tidings of the one to come not only as a Paraklit but also as “the Spirit of truth,” along with many other functions, which must belong to a Prophet and not to a “spirit,” as seen in the following verses:
When the Helper (Paraklit) comes, …. the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will testify of me. (John, 15: 26)
I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. And when he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will guide you into all truth, for he will not speak on his own authority; but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will tell you things to come. He will glorify me, for he will take of what is mine and declare it to you. (John, 16: 12–14)
It was also the Prophet Muhammad who testified to Jesus, peace be upon him, brought glory to him by declaring his Prophethood against the denial of the Jews and false deification of him by Christians, and restoring his religion to its pristine purity through the Book he brought.
· Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you that Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”
As understood from this passage, the Children of Israel had been expecting the coming of the Christ (Messiah), Elijah, peace be upon him, and another Prophet (that prophet), who must have been known and who was expected by everyone at that time. So, that Prophet expected was obviously, and appeared as, the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. For no other Prophet appeared after Jesus, upon him be peace. It cannot be the Prophet John, peace be upon him, because he had already been chosen for Prophethood before Jesus announced his mission.
ISLAM AND WAR, AND THE MAIN FACTORS IN THE SPREAD OF ISLAM
Some have criticized Islam because it recognizes war and even commands it in order to put an end to the domination of injustice and tyranny; to rescue the oppressed; and to establish a tolerant social–political environment where Islam can be practiced freely and everyone is free to practice their own religion. The criticism is wholly unjust insofar as, though not in so many words, it seems to be arguing that Islam introduced war into human history. The criticism is particularly inappropriate when voiced by adherents of Christianity : for although there is not a specific commandment in the Gospels to permit or prohibit war – the Gospels are silent and present no rules for instigating war nor for its proper conduct and containment – western history is replete with examples of extremely bloody wars, wide in scope and ruthless in their intensity, which were conducted in the name of Christianity. Indeed, the religion of Christianity was often employed by Western powers in previous centuries to provide a cover and means for the colonization of two-thirds of the world’s peoples and resources. The criticism is also entirely inappropriate when voiced by adherents of Judaism, for Jewish history, too, is largely a chronicle of religiously motivated conflicts and wars, and the Old Testament is explicit in sanctioning war . As for other faith communities, such as those in south, east and southeastern Asia, their followers have surely not refrained from waging war, either. Yet in the end, the driving forces behind the “modern secularized world,” which allow and even promote war in the service of individual rulers, nations, and even commercial interests — rather than God– have caused more bloodshed and destruction in the past one hundred years than every single religious conflict combined, throughout the whole of human history before it.
Part of the very meaning of the word Islām is peace; therefore, Islam prefers peace, desires it and seeks to establish it throughout the world. However, war is a reality of human history, a manifestation in the collective life of humankind resulting from the inner condition of those who have not been able to attain excellence in mind, heart (spirit) and conduct. Or, it is a manifestation of the war between the spirit and the carnal soul, or between Satan and the perfectibility of human nature. What is important and necessary, therefore, rather than denying the reality of war in a vainly idealistic manner, is to establish rules to make war just, in respect to both its motives and purposes, as well as its means and conduct, so that the harm of it is contained, and the good in it may benefit the people in general. War may then be, while not something in itself desirable, rather something capable of serving (versus perverting) a desirable end – like disciplining and training the body to improve its strength or skill, or doing a necessary operation to save someone’s health, or administering upon a criminal the due punishment for the sake of deterrence and the health of the moral environment. Precisely such disciplining of the means and ends of war is what Islam has done.
The verses do not order war, but allow it on condition that it be in God’s cause and for defensive purposes. It also enjoins that the limits set by God must not be exceeded. Those limits are related to both the intention and the practice. For example, Islam does not permit war for motives such as conquest or plunder, or to quench a lust for revenge, or for the sake of some material advantage, or to satisfy racist persuasions. Islam does not seek to compel anyone to change his or her faith. On the contrary, it seeks an environment where all are free to accept faith freely. Islam has also set limitations on the conduct of relations before, during, and after conflict; for example:
Do not betray any agreements you have entered into.
Do not plunder.
Do not commit injustices or use torture.
Do not touch the children, the womenfolk, the elderly, or other non-combatants of the enemy.
Do not destroy orchards or tilled lands.
Do not kill livestock.
Treat with respect the religious persons who live in hermitages or convents, and spare their edifices. (Ibn al-Athīr, 3: 227)
We should also point out here that people have embraced Islam in very large numbers over very many centuries and in very diverse conditions (from the heights of political and military superiority to the depths of military collapse and subjection), while few have left it to accept another faith. In part because of the psychological difficulty this success has provoked in those who do not wish it, and in part because of prejudices derived from ignorance about Islam, combined with dogmatic conviction about one culture’s superiority over another , some individuals have claimed that Islam is a religion of the sword which was spread by the force of the sword. However, this claim has been consistently refuted by Western unbiased scholarly researchers who have solidly rejected such arguments as simply the result of cultural prejudice:
Many have sought to answer the question of why the triumph of Islam was so speedy and complete? Why have so many millions embraced the religion of Islam and scarcely a hundred ever recanted? Some have attempted to explain the first overwhelming success of Islam by the argument of the Sword. They forget Carlyle’s laconic reply. “First get your sword.” You must win men’s hearts before you can induce them to imperil their lives for you; and the first conquerors of Islam must have been made Muslims before they were made fighters on the Path of God.
In all these explanations the religion itself is left out of the question. Decidedly, Islam itself was the main cause for its triumph. Islam not only was at once accepted (by many peoples and races in) Arabia, Syria, Persia, Egypt, Northern Africa and Spain, at its first outburst; but, with the exception of Spain, it has never lost its vantage ground; it has been spreading ever since it came into being. Admitting the mixed causes that contributed to the rapidity of the first swift spread of Islam, they do not account for the duration of Islam. There must be something in the religion itself to explain its persistence and spread, and to account for its present hold over so large of a proportion of the dwellers on the earth… Islam has stirred an enthusiasm that has never been surpassed. Islam has had its martyrs, its self-tormentors, its recluses, who have renounced all that life offered and have accepted death with a smile for the sake of the faith that was in them. (Ezzati, quoting from Stanley Lane-Poole, Study in a Mosque, 86–89)
Islam has spread because of its religious content and values, and “its power of appeal and ability to meet the spiritual and material needs of people adhering to cultures totally alien to their Muslim conquerors.” Among other important factors are the tolerance that Islam has shown to the people of other religions, the absence of an ecclesiastic hierarchy, intellectual freedom, the equity and justice that Islam enjoins and that Muslims have striven for throughout the centuries, the ethical values that Islam propagates, its inclusiveness and universalism, as well as its humanity and brother/sisterhood. In addition, the activism of the Sufis, the moral superiority of Muslim tradesmen, the principle of “enjoining the good,” and the dynamism and magnificence of Islamic civilization, have all contributed to the spread of Islam.
The qualities that principally attracted people to Islam were and are still:
the simplicity of its doctrines based on the strictest and purest Divine Unity;
the rationality of Islamic teachings;
the harmony between Islamic ideals and values and natural human conscience;
the inclusiveness and comprehensiveness of Islam as a way of life covering all aspects of individual and collective being, physical, mental, and spiritual, and the consequent harmony between religion and life lived within its compass and jurisdiction;
the lack of formalism and mediation in its rites and doctrines;
the vividness, dynamism and resilience of the Islamic creed, its creativity and universality, and its compatibility with established scientific facts;
the internal cohesion and harmony of the Islamic principles, and the practicability and practice thereof in everyday life;
A. J. Arberry has pointed out that the reason for the spread of Islam is Islam itself and its religious values (Aspects of Islamic Civilization, 12). He states: “The rapidity of the spread of Islam, noticeably through extensive provinces which had long been Christian, is a crucial fact of history…. The sublime rhetoric of the Qur’ān, that inimitable symphony, the very sounds of which move men to tears and ecstasy….” He continues: “This, and the urgency of the simple message carried, holds the key to the mystery of one of the greatest cataclysms in the history of religion. When all military, political and economic factors have been exhausted, the religious impulse must still be recognized as the most vital and enduring.”
The noted scholar, Brockelman, who is usuall y a less than sympathetic commentator on Islam, also recognizes the religious values of Islam as the main factor for the spread of Islam and suggests that Islamic monotheism, to a considerable extent, is the basis of the proselytizing power of Islam (History of the Islamic Peoples, 37). Rosenthal makes the point as follows:
The more important factor for the spread of Islam is the religious law of Islam (i.e. the Sharī‘a, which is an inclusive, all-embracing, all-comprehensive way of thinking and living) which was designed to cover all manifestations of life. (Political Thought in Medieval Islam, 21)
The tolerance of Islam is particularly relevant to an explanation of why it spread. Another distinguished scholar, Toynbee, praises the Muslim tolerance towards the Peoples of the Book, after comparing it with the attitudes of the Christians towards Muslims and Jews in their lands (An Historian Approach to Religion, 246). In turn, Trevor Ling attributes the spread of Islam to the credibility of its principles, its tolerance, persuasiveness and other attractive elements (A History of Religion, 330). Makarios, Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch in the seventeenth century, compared the harsh treatment received by the Russians of the Orthodox Church at the hands of the Roman Catholic Poles with the tolerant attitude towards Orthodox Christians shown by the Ottoman Government, and he prayed for the Sultans (Ling, 331). (For all these and several similar quotations, see Ezzati, 2–35)
That is by no means the only example of the followers of other religions preferring Islamic rule to that of their co-religionists. The Orthodox Christians of Byzantium openly expressed their preference for the Ottoman turban in Istanbul to the hats of the Catholic cardinals. Scholar Hans Barth wrote that the Muslim Turks allowed the followers of different religions to perform their religious duties and rituals, and that the Christian subjects of the Ottoman Sultan were freer to live their own lives than the Christians who lived under the rule of any rival Christian sect (Le Droit du Croissant, 143). And for his part, Popescu Ciocanel pays tribute to the Muslim Turks by stating that it was lucky for the Romanian people that they lived under the government of the Turks rather than that of the Russians or Austrians as, otherwise, “no trace of the Romanian nation would have remained (Revue du Monde Musulman).” (For both quotations, see Djevad, 71–72, 91)
A historical episode recounted by Balādhurī, a famous Muslim historian, tells how pleased the native peoples were with their Muslim conquerors:
When Heraclius massed his troops against the Muslims, and the Muslims heard that they were coming to meet them, they refunded the inhabitants of Hims the tribute they had taken from them, saying: “We are too busy to support and protect you. Take care of yourselves.” But the people of Hims replied: “We like your rule and justice far better than the state of oppression and tyranny in which we were. The army of Heraclius we shall indeed, with your help, repulse from the city.” The Jews rose and said: “We swear by the Torah, no governor of Heraclius shall enter the city of Hims unless we are first vanquished and exhausted.” Saying this, they closed the gates of the city and guarded them. The inhabitants of other cities – Christians and Jews – that had capitulated did the same. When, by Allah’s help, the unbelievers were defeated and the Muslims won, they opened the gates of their cities, went out with the singers and players of music, and paid the tribute. (Ezzati, 144)
MORE ON ISLAM AND WAR
When considered together with other relevant verses of the Qur’ān, verses 1-6 in sūrah 9 present significant principles concerned with the Islamic view of war. In summary:
The purpose of war is not to kill people. On the contrary, Islam, which attaches great value to life and regards the killing of one innocent person as being the same as killing all of humankind, and the saving the life of one person as being the same as saving the lives of all humankind, aims at the survival of humanity and at helping everyone to find truth through education.
Even in warfare, Islam is ready to make peace and a treaty with the opposing side.
A Muslim government must remain faithful to any treaty it has made until the end of its term.
If the opposing side betrays the agreement, the Muslim government must publicly and officially declare to the other side that the agreement is no longer valid. Even though it can declare war as soon as the agreement loses its validity, it should grant them respite so that a new evaluation of the situation can be made.
If the opposing side continues its hostilities and does not change its attitude, even after the end of the term granted, this means that a state of war has begun.
In order to force the enemy to cease hostilities or to defeat them in war, Muslims must be powerful and remain steadfast. However, Muslims must always observe the rules of war that are mentioned in Appendix 2 above.
It should be borne in mind that the expressions in sūrah 9, verse 5, are aimed at people who employ violence and who, as can also be inferred from the conclusion of that verse, do not recognize any rule or law and do not understand any language other than war. Like some commandments of the Islamic Penal Law, these expressions are of a deterring character. The second part of the verse, which mentions repentance and the fact that God is All-Forgiving and All-Compassionate, reveals the main purpose of the verse. In addition, this verse also aims at removing from Makkah and Madīnah the violent, polytheist outlaws and, therefore, is significant with respect to the security of the center of Islam.
It is never the goal of Islam to kill people or conquer lands through war. Therefore, when the enemy side is inclined toward peace and making a treaty, the Muslims should also be inclined this way. They should also give asylum to those who seek it and, without harming in any way the wealth or persons of the asylum seekers, convey them to a place of safety.
War is a legal matter between nations. Islam is, above all else, a religion that arranges the relationship between God and humankind, and this relationship is based on sincere faith. Therefore, its main adherents are the sincere believers. However, as a part of its basic mission, Islam also orders human individual and social life. This is the legal side of Islam. In legal terms, a Muslim is one who professes the Muslim faith and attends the Muslim congregation of Prayer, and who pays the Prescribed Purifying Alms as the fulfillment of the financial duty of being a Muslim citizen. It is possible that such a person may be not a believer, though, but a hypocrite. But one who professes faith and attends the Muslim congregation of Prayer and who pays the Prescribed Alms is nonetheless legally regarded as a Muslim. So, when an individual or a group of persons at war with Muslims profess faith, the state of war must end. No one is compelled to believe. One who professes faith and lives in a Muslim society is expected to see the truth and become a sincere believer. This is why, even if we know that one who professes faith is, in fact, a hypocrite, that person must be treated as a Muslim as long as she or he does not declare unbelief.
Islam will never apologize to any other religion, ideology, or system for granting such permission to fight. On the contrary, all other religions, ideologies, and systems have a debt of apology and gratitude to Islam. Islam, aiming at universal peace and accepting the reality of human history, realizes that ensuring peace sometimes requires fighting. As declared in the Qur’ān, (Though killing is something you feel aversion to) disorder (rooted in rebellion against God and recognizing no laws) is worse than killing (2: 191); and disorder (coming from rebellion to God and recognizing no laws) is even more grave and more sinful than killing (2: 217), the conditions that give rise to war and disorder are more grievous than killing itself and, therefore, war, although not inherently a good thing, is permissible if it will remove these conditions.
The reality w hich scholars record is clear. Noted researchers, Graham Fuller and Ian Lesser (Graham E. Fuller, Ian O. Lesser, 41-42), record that the Christians killed by Muslims during fourteen centuries of Islamic history were fewer in number than the Muslims killed by Christians in the twentieth century alone. Christianity began its assaults on Islam while the latter was still a small conclave in Madīnah. In the 8th year of the Hijrah, the first generation of Muslims had to face a Byzantine army of 100,000 soldiers in Mu’tah with only 3,000 warriors. One year later, the Messenger had to muster all his power against them; this battle was recorded in history as the Tabuk Campaign and is one of the subjects of sūrah 9. Three years later, the Muslim and Byzantine forces once more faced off in Yarmuk, a battle which ended in the decisive defeat of the Byzantines.
As for Judaism and Christianity, both, a few quotations from the Old Testament are enough to see what position the Bible adopts concerning war : “Then Sihon and all his people came out against us to fight at Jahaz. And the Lord our God delivered him over to us; so we defeated him, his sons, and all his people. We took all his cities at that time, and we utterly destroyed the men, women, and little ones of every city; we left none remaining. We took only the livestock as plunder for ourselves, with the spoil of the cities which we took…. So the Lord our God also delivered into our hands Og king of Bashan, with all his people, and we attacked him until he had no survivors remaining. And we took all his cities at that time; there was not a city which we did not take from them; sixty cities, all the region of Argob, the kingdom of Og in Bashan…. We utterly destroyed them, as we did to Sihon king of Heshbon, utterly destroying the men, women, and children of every city. But all the livestock and the spoil of the cities we took as booty for ourselves.” (Deuteronomy, 2: 32–35; 3: 3–7)
As for modern times, we only want to mention some facts to clarify the point: Islam has never had the least part in tens of millions of deaths in the communist revolutions, the suppression of freedom movements in several parts of the world at the cost of millions of lives, and in the adventures in several poor countries, costing more than millions of lives during the wars and many more indirectly since. It is not Islam which caused the death of more than 70 million people, mainly civilians, and forced countless millions more to remain homeless, widowed and orphaned, during and after the two world wars. It is not Islam which gave rise to totalitarian regimes such as Communism, Fascism, and Nazism, and raised war-mongers like Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini. Islam is not responsible for using scientific knowledge to make nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. Islam was not responsible for the extermination of tens of millions of natives in many parts of the world, for world-wide colonialism which lasted centuries, and for the slave trade, which cost the lives of tens of millions of people. It is not Islam, nor Muslim peoples even, that are responsible for the establishment of the despotic governments that rule over some Muslim countries and for their oppression, injustice, and bloody regimes. Nor is it Islam which is responsible for modern terrorism, mafia organizations, and for the world-wide smuggling of weapons and drugs.
THE STATUS OF WOMEN IN ISLAM
It is not necessary to argue in an apologetic manner, contrasting the plight of women in the pre-Islamic era or in the modern world of today, that in Islam women are accorded recognition, rights and privileges that they have not enjoyed under other systems. It becomes clear enough, without apology, if the issue is studied as a whole, rather than partially. Broadly speaking, the rights and responsibilities of a woman are equal to those of a man, but they are not necessarily identical with them. Equality and identity are not the same, and should not be confused. No two people, leaving aside gender differences, are the same: for there to be justice, those differences need to be recognized and affirmed without being made into a pretext for improper discrimination.
Human beings are not created identical, but they are created equal. With that distinction in mind, there is no excuse for any argument that would represent woman as inferior to man. There is no ground for the presumption that she is less important because her rights are not in every respect identical to those of the man. But the woman is not a duplicate of the man, and accordingly there is a difference in rights and responsibilities. The fact that Islamic law gives to the woman equal – but not identical – rights shows that it recognizes the woman’s being a woman, with proper respect for both the difference in constitution and personality and the sameness of her need for social and political dignity.
It will be worthwhile at this point to take a summary look at the rights of woman under Islamic law.
· Woman is recognized as a full and equal partner with the man in the procreation of humankind. He is the father, she is the mother, and both are essential for life. Her role is not any less vital than his. Within this partnership, she has an equal share of respect and dignity; indeed, as a mother, she gets greater respect and care from the children, in accordance with the Prophet’s injunction: “Paradise is under the feet of mothers.” (an-Nasāī, “Jihād,” 6)
An adult woman is equal to an adult man in carrying responsibilities, some individual and some shared with others, and she is equal in the recompense due for her actions. She is acknowledged as an independent legal personality, in possession of the moral and intellectual qualities, and the spiritual aspirations, that are characteristic of all human beings. The woman’s human nature is neither inferior to, nor different from, that of a man.
She is equal to a man in the seeking of education, of knowledge. The seeking of knowledge is enjoined upon Muslims as such, without distinction of gender. Almost fourteen centuries ago, the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and God’s blessings, declared that the pursuit of knowledge (necessary for every believer) is incumbent on every Muslim, (male and female) (Ibn Mājah, “Muqaddimah,” 17).
She is entitled to the same freedom of expression as a man. Her sound opinions are taken into consideration and may not be disregarded merely because she is a woman. It is reported in the Qur’ān that women not only expressed their opinion freely but also argued and participated in serious discussions with the Prophet himself (e.g. 58: 1–4; 60: 10–12). There are many hadiths that record similar occasions, and in subsequent history, we know that women objected in public to what Caliphs declared from the pulpit in the mosque.
Historical records show that women participated in public life with the early Muslims, especially in times of emergencies.
A woman has equal rights in law to enter into contracts, to initiate and run commercial enterprises, and to earn and possess wealth independently. Her life, her property, and her honor are as sacred as those of a man. If she commits any offense, her penalty is neither less nor more than a man’s in a similar case. If she is wronged or harmed, she gets due compensation equal to what a man in the same situation would get (2: 178; 4: 92–93).
The law and religion of Islam envisaged the measures necessary to safeguard these rights and put them into practice as integral articles of faith. The faith does not tolerate those who are inclined to prejudice against women or discriminate unjustly on the basis of the differences between men and women. Again and again, the Qur’ān reproaches those who used to believe a woman to be inferior to a man: 16: 57–59, 62; 42: 49–50; 43: 15–19; 53: 21–23.
Apart from the recognition of woman as an independent human being, acknowledged as equally essential for the survival of humanity, Islamic law (derived from the Qur’ān) has stipulated a share of inheritance for female heirs – as is explained in Sūrat an-Nisā’, note: 5.
· A woman enjoys certain privileges of which a man is deprived. She is exempt within the household from all financial liabilities. As a mother, she enjoys more recognition and higher honor in the sight of God (31: 14-15; 46: 15). As a wife, she is entitled to demand of her prospective husband a suitable dowry that will be her own. She is entitled to support and maintenance by the husband. She does not have to work or share with her husband the family expenses. She is free to retain, after marriage, whatever she possessed before it, and the husband has no right whatsoever to any of her belongings. As a daughter or sister, she is entitled to support and maintenance by her father and brother respectively. That is her privilege. If she wishes to work or be self-supporting and to participate in handling the family responsibilities, she is free to do so, provided her integrity and honor are safeguarded.
· The faith of Islam does not differentiate between men and women as far as their relationship to God is concerned, as both are promised the same reward for good conduct and the same punishment for evil conduct. Women’s standing behind men in the Prayer is neither intended nor understood as a mark of inferiority. The woman, as already mentioned, is exempt from attending congregational Prayers. But if she does attend, she stands in separate rows made up exclusively of women. The order of rows in the Prayer is introduced to help everyone to concentrate on their Prayers without distraction. The Prayer includes actions and movements – standing and sitting shoulder-to-shoulder, bowing, prostration, etc. If men mix with women in the same rows, it is possible that something disturbing or distracting may occur in the minds of those praying, alien to the purpose of the occasion, and a manifest obstacle to the duty to meditate.
Finally, there is no significance in the fact that the Qur’ān usually uses masculine pronouns when addressing or referring to the community. It is a feature of almost all languages that the masculine pronoun is used for a group formed of both men and women. This may be related to the fact that throughout history, in most societies, most of the time, the man has carried a “degree” of responsibility (for the household and for the collective affairs of the community) “above” that of the woman, and this is undoubtedly a consequence of having different duties and functions centered around maintaining the family and caring for the children, the next generation of the community. (For explanations for other aspects of the matter, see 2, note 161.) (M. Mutahhari, Woman and Her Rights, trans., M. A. Ansari; Hammuda Abdul-Ati, “The Status of Woman in Islam,” http://www.jannah.org/sisters/statuswomen.html)
THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD AMONG HIS PEOPLE
The Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, was born in the heart of a desert; his father had died some time before his birth, and he lost his mother when he was six years old. Consequently, he was deprived even of the scant training and upbringing which an Arab child of the time normally got. Education never touched him; he was unlettered and unschooled.
The Prophet, upon him be God’s peace and blessings, did not leave Makkah to go outside the Arabian Peninsula except for two brief journeys. The first was with his uncle Abū Tālib, when he was still a youth in his early teens. The other was in his mid-thirties, when he accompanied a caravan carrying the goods of Khadījah, a widow who was forty when he married her at 25, and with whom he lived for almost twenty years, until her death. Because of his being unlettered, he had no opportunity to read any of the religious texts of the Jews or Christians, nor did he become acquainted with these texts. Makkah was an idolatrous city, both in its ideas and customs, into which neither Christian nor Jewish religious thought had penetrated. Even the hanīfs (people who followed some things of the pure religion of Abraham in an adulterated and unclear form) among the Arabs of Makkah, who rejected the worship of idols, were influenced by neither Judaism nor Christianity. Nothing of Jewish or Christian thought appears to have been reflected in the poetic heritage left to us by the literary men of the time. Had the Prophet made any effort to become acquainted with Jewish or Christian thought, this would have been noticed. We observe, moreover, that the Prophet did not take part, before his Prophethood, in the intellectual forms of poetry and rhetoric which were popular among the people at that time.
There is no mention of any distinction of the Holy Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, over the rest of the people except in his moral commitments, his trustworthiness, honesty, truthfulness, and integrity. He never told a lie; even his worst enemies never accused him of lying on any occasion during his life. He used to talk politely and never used obscene or abusive language. He had a charming personality and excellent manners with which he captivated the hearts of those who came into contact with him. In his dealings with people, he always followed the principles of justice, altruism, and fair-play. He never deceived anyone and never broke his promise. He remained engaged in trade and commerce for years, but he never entered into any dishonest transaction. Those who dealt with him in business had full confidence in his integrity. The entire nation called him “Al-Amīn” (the Truthful and the Trustworthy). Even his enemies would deposit their precious belongings with him for safe custody, and he scrupulously fulfilled their trust. He was the very embodiment of modesty in the midst of a society which was immodest to the core. Born and bred among a people who regarded drunkenness and gambling as virtues, he never touched alcohol and never indulged in gambling. Surrounded on all sides by heartless people, he himself had a heart overflowing with the milk of human kindness. He would help orphans, widows, and the poor; he was hospitable to travelers. He harmed no one; rather, he exposed himself to hardships for the sake of others. He kept aloof from the feuds in his tribe, and was foremost in bringing about reconciliation. He did not bow before any other created thing and did not partake of the offerings made to idols, even in his childhood. He hated all kinds of worship devoted to creatures and beings other than God. In brief, the towering and radiant personality of this gentle man in the midst of such a benighted and dark environment may be likened to a beacon of light illuminating a pitch-dark night, or to a diamond shining out amongst a heap of stones.
Suddenly a remarkable change came over his person. His heart became illuminated by the Divine Light. He went to the people, and addressed them in the following strain:
The idols which you worship are a mere sham. Cease to worship them from now on. No mortal being, no star, no tree, no stone, no spirit, is worthy of human worship. Therefore, do not bow your heads in worship before them. The entire universe with everything that it contains belongs to God Almighty. He alone is the Creator, the Nourisher, the Sustainer, and, consequently, the real Sovereign before Whom all should bow down and to Whom all should pray and render obedience. Thus, worship Him alone and obey His commands. Theft and plunder, murder and rapine, injustice and cruelty – all the vices in which you indulge are crimes in the eyes of God. Leave your evil ways. Speak the truth. Be just. Do not kill anyone; whoever slays a soul unjustly, it will be as if he had slain all of humanity; and whoever saves the life of one, it will be as if he had saved the life of all of humanity.
Do not steal from anyone. Take your lawful share. Give that which is due to others in a just manner.
Do not set up another god with God, or you will sit condemned and forsaken. Be good to your parents whether one or both of them attains old age with you, do not say to them even “uff” nor chide them, but speak to them with respectful words, and lower to them the wing of humbleness out of mercy. Give your kinsfolk their rights and give to the needy, and the traveler, and never squander. Do not slay your children from fear of poverty or other reasons. Do not approach adultery; surely it is an indecency, an evil way. Do not approach the property of orphans and the weak. Fulfill the covenant, because it will be questioned. Fill up the measure when you measure, and weigh with a true balance. Do not pursue that of which you have no knowledge; the hearing, the sight, and the heart will be questioned about it. Do not walk on the earth exultantly; certainly you will never tear the earth open, nor attain the mountains in height. Say to each other words that are kindly, for surely Satan provokes strife between you because of the use of strong words. Do not turn your cheek in scorn and anger toward people, nor walk with impudence in the land. God does not love the braggart. Be modest in your bearing and subdue your voice. Let not some people deride another people, who may be better than they are in God’s sight. And do not find fault with one another, nor revile one another with nicknames. Shun most of suspicion, for suspicion is a sin. And do not spy, nor backbite other people. Be staunch followers of justice and witnesses for God, even though it be against yourselves, or your parents and kinsfolk, whether the person be rich or poor. Do not follow caprices, which cause you to swerve. Be steadfast witnesses for God in equity, and do not let your hatred of any people seduce you so that you do not deal justly. Restrain your rage and pardon the offences of your fellow-people. The good deed and the evil deed are not alike, so repel the evil deed with the one which is good, then the person with whom you have enmity will become as though a loyal friend. The recompense for evil committed wittingly is like evil; but whoever pardons and makes amends with the evil-doer with kindness and love, their reward falls upon God. Do not drink alcohol and do not play games of chance; they are both forbidden by God.
You are human beings and all human beings are equal in the eyes of God. None is born with the slur of shame on his face; nor has anyone come into the world with the mantle of honor hung around his neck. Those who are God-revering and pious, true in words and deeds, alone are high and honored. Distinctions of birth and glory of race are no criteria of greatness and honor. There is an appointed day after your death when you will have to appear before a supreme court. You will be called to account for all your deeds, good or bad, and you will not then be able to hide anything. The whole record of your life will be an open book to God. Your fate will be determined by your good or bad actions. In the court of the True Judge – the All-Knowing God – the question of improper recommendation and favoritism does not arise. You will not be able to bribe Him. No consideration will be given to your pedigree or parentage. True faith and good deeds alone will stand you in good stead at that time. Those who have performed these fully will take their abode in the Heaven of eternal happiness, while the one devoid of them will be cast in the fire of Hell.
For forty years the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, lived as an ordinary individual amongst his people. In that long period he was not known as a statesman, a preacher, or an orator; none had heard him imparting wisdom or knowledge, as he began to do thereafter. He had never been seen discoursing upon the principles of metaphysics, ethics, law, politics, economy, or sociology. Not only was he not a general, he was not even known as an ordinary soldier. He had uttered no words about God, the Angels, the revealed Books, the early Prophets, the bygone nations, the Day of Judgment, life after death, Hell or Heaven. No doubt he possessed an excellent character and charming manners, and he was well-behaved; yet . He was known among his acquaintances as a sober, calm, gentle, and trustworthy citizen of good nature, but when he appeared with the new message, he was completely transformed.
In the face of these historical facts, facts which can never be challenged, there are two alternatives: either one can claim that the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, is – God forbid!— the greatest liar and meanest trickster of all times; or one must accept that he is a Messenger and Prophet of God. Even Satan and the Messenger’s bitterest enemies of his time never dared to voice the first claim; nor can anyone with sound knowledge of history do so. Therefore, there is no alternative but that everyone with reason should acknowledge Muhammad’s Messengership and Prophethood (Mostly from al-Mawdūdī, Towards Understanding Islam, 56–65)
THE QUR’ĀN’S CHALLENGE AND SOME ASPECTS OF ITS MIRACULOUSNESS
At a time in history when eloquence was most highly prized, the Qur’ān of miraculous exposition was revealed. Just as God Almighty had endowed Moses and Jesus, upon them be peace, with the miracles which were most suitable to their times, He used eloquence as the most notable aspect of the Qur’ān, the chief miracle of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. At the time that the Qur’ān was revealed, it first challenged the literary figures of the Arabian Peninsula, and then all the people throughout the ages and at every level of knowledge and understanding until Judgment Day, in the following manner:
If you think that a human being wrote the Qur’ān, then let one of your people who are unlettered as is Muhammad produce something similar.
If he or she cannot do this, let a learned one or a literary one try to do the same.
If he or she cannot do this either, then send your most famous writers or scholars and let them come together and produce the like of the Qur’ān.
If they cannot, let them work together and call upon all their history, “deities,” scientists, philosophers, sociologists, theologians, and writers to produce something similar.
If they cannot, let them try – leaving aside the miraculous and inimitable aspects of its meaning – to produce a work of equal eloquence in word order and composition, regardless of whether what they write is true or not.
If you cannot produce the like of it in equal length, then produce only the like of its 10 chapters.
If you cannot do this, then produce only one chapter.
If you cannot do that, produce only a short chapter.
Those self-conceited people could not argue verbally with the Qur’ān and chose rather to fight it with their swords, a perilous and difficult course. If such intelligent people could have argued verbally with the Qur’ān, they would not have chosen the perilous, difficult course as they did, risking the loss of their property and lives. It is only because they could not rise to the challenge that they had to choose this more dangerous way.
The Qur’ān is miraculous in many aspects. Here we will indicate only some of them:
· There is an extraordinary eloquence and stylistic purity in the Qur’ān’s word order and composition. Just as a clock’s hands complete and are fitted to one another in precise orderliness, so too does every word and sentence – indeed the entire Qur’ān – complete, and fit with, every other.
· It is in this way that each of the Qur’ānic verses is not only part of a larger entity; it is also a whole in itself and has an independent existence. There is an intrinsic relation among all the verses of the Qur’ān and between one verse and all the others. In the words of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, “The verses of the Qur’ān are like stars in the sky among which there are visible and invisible ropes and relationships. It is as if each of the verses of the Qur’ān has an eye which sees most of the verses, and a face which looks towards them, so that it extends to them the immaterial threads of relationship to weave a miraculous fabric. A single sūrah can contain the whole “ocean” of the Qur’ān in which the whole of the universe is contained. A single verse can comprehend the treasury of that sūrah. It is as if most of the verses are each a small sūrah, and most of the sūrahs each a little Qur’ān.”
· In many places, like in Sūrat al-Ikhlās (Sincerity) which comprises six verses or sentences, each sentence has two meanings: one a priori (functioning as a cause or proof) with the other being a posteriori (functioning as an effect or result). This means that the sūrah contains 36 sūrahs, each made up of six sentences. One is a premise or a proposition, while the others are arguments supporting it. (See 112, note 4.)
· The Qur’ān has a unique, original style that is both novel and convincing. Its style, which always preserves its originality, freshness, and the “bloom of youth,” does not imitate and cannot be imitated.
· The Qur’ān’s wording is extraordinarily fluent and pure. Not only is it extraordinarily eloquent when expressing meaning, it is also wonderfully fluent and pure in wording and word arrangement. One proof of this is that it is not boring; rather it gives pleasure, even when recited thousands of times. A child can easily memorize it. Seriously ill people, even if troubled by a few words of ordinary speech, feel relief and comfort upon hearing the Qur’ān. For dying people, the Qur’ān gives their ears and minds a great taste and pleasure.
· The Qur’ān feeds the heart, gives power and wealth to the mind, functions as water and light for the spirit, and cures the illnesses of the soul. Reciting or listening to the pure truth of the Qur’ān and its guidance does not fatigue the mind.
· The Qur’ān’s expressions contain a superiority, power, sublimity, and magnificence. Its fluent, eloquent pure composition and word order, as well as its eloquent meanings, and original and unique style, give it an unsurpassed excellence in explaining things. Truly, in all categories of expression and address – deterrence and threats, in praise, censure and restraint, in proof and demonstration, in teaching and explanation, and in silencing and overcoming arguments – its expositions are of the highest degree.
· As pointed out in a hadith (Ibn Hibbān, 1:146; al-Munāwī, 3: 54), each verse has external and internal meanings, limits and a point of comprehension, as well as boughs, branches, and twigs. Each phrase, word, letter, and even every diacritical point has many aspects. Each person who hears a verse receives their understanding through a different door. In addition to providing resources to exacting jurists, the treasuries of the meanings of the Qur’ān provide enlightenment for those seeking knowledge of God, ways for those trying to reach God, paths for perfected human beings, and schooling of mind and heart for truth-seeking scholars. The Qur’ān has always guided them and illuminated their ways. It deals with humankind and our duty, the universe and its Creator, the heavens and the earth, this world and the next, and the past, future, and eternity. It explains all essential matters related to our creation and life, from the correct ways to eat and sleep to issues of Divine Decree and Will, and from the universe’s creation in six days to the functions of the winds. For human beings, it is a book of law, prayer, wisdom, worship, and servanthood to God, and it contains commands, invitations, invocations and reflections. It is a holy book containing comprehensive guidance for all of our spiritual needs—a heavenly book that, like a sacred library, contains numerous booklets from which all saints, eminent truthful people, all purified and discerning scholars, and those well-versed in the knowledge of God have derived their own specific ways—which illuminates each way and answer the needs of its followers. The Qur’ān contains references to all of the knowledge that is needed by humankind. Moreover, it gives people whatever they need, so that the expression Take from the Qur’ān whatever you wish, for whatever need you have, has been widely circulated among exacting scholars.
· The Qur’ān is always fresh, and its freshness is maintained as if it were revealed anew in every epoch. As an eternal discourse addressing all human beings, regardless of time or place and level of understanding, it should – and does – have a never-fading freshness. The wise Qur’ān informs all people, regardless of time, place, or level of understanding, about God, Islam, and faith. Therefore, it has to teach each group and level in an appropriate manner. People are very diverse, yet the Qur’ān has sufficient levels for all. It addresses all levels of understanding, regardless of time and place.
· The Qur’ān’s conciseness is like offering up the ocean contained in a pitcher. Out of mercy and courtesy for ordinary human minds, it demonstrates the most comprehensive and universal principles and general laws through particular events on particular occasions.
· The Qur’ān has an extraordinarily comprehensive aim, subject-matter, meaning, style, beauty, and subtlety. When studied well, its sūrahs and verses, particularly the opening sections of the sūrahs and the beginning and end of each verse, clearly show that there is no trace of confusion. And this is despite the fact that it contains a variety of modes of speech; all categories of elevated style; all examples of good morals and virtues; all principles of natural science; all indices of knowledge of God; all the beneficial rules of individual and social life; and all the laws that enlighten creation’s exalted reasons and purposes.
· The Qur’ān gives news of the past, and it has many categories of predictions. It contains information concerning the people of the past and gives news of the people of the future. From one viewpoint, the Qur’ān is full of explicit and implicit predictions. It also speaks about the Unseen Divine truths, and the realities of the Hereafter. It is impossible to contradict its accounts of historical events; therefore, whatever it predicts either has come true or will come true when its time is due. It was impossible for God’s Messenger to know the histories of the Prophets and their peoples. But, based on Divine Revelation, and with utmost confidence in his mission, he conveyed both the histories of bygone nations and many predictions concerning future important events. This is a challenge to all ages and peoples, including historians and other researchers, and is one of the undeniable proofs of His Prophethood and the Divine origin of the Qur’ān.
GOD WILLS GOOD FOR HUMANKIND BUT HUMANKIND INCURS EVIL
From one perspective, the Qur’ān anatomizes the spirit or character of humankind. In human life, the periods of health and prosperity are greater in number and last much longer than those of illness and misfortune. Despite this, people complain greatly when some misfortune visits them; it is as if all their lives have passed in hardship and affliction, and they now feel as if the days of health and prosperity will never come again. Yet, when they are relieved of their misfortune or when they recover from an illness, they are exultant beyond all measure and, in self-glorification, forget to thank God, as if they had not suffered at all. One of the most important reasons why humans act in such a way is that they are unaware of the wisdom in, and Divine reasons for, illnesses and misfortunes, or health and prosperity.
God Almighty always wills good for humanity. In other words, He always gives us mercy, good, and grace. Even in misfortunes that arise as a result of unforgivable corruption or wrongdoing, there are many aspects of good for people, including for believers in particular. But human beings, by misusing their free will, either prevent that grace, good, and mercy from reaching them or transform these things into evil. Let us give an illustration here. Water is inherently a good thing – it quenches our thirst and provides moisture for our crops. Yet, if we were to dive into the water without measuring its depth or considering whether there may be currents, or without knowing how to swim, then water becomes a means of evil. In the same way, fire can be made into an evil if we allow it to burn a finger because of ignorance or carelessness. Factors such as haste, thoughtlessness, ignorance, inexperience, or not taking due care can all transform something which is good for a person into an evil. Consequently, all the evils that befall humankind are caused by ourselves, by our mistakes and errors.
Here it might be argued that huge numbers of people are born into misfortune of one kind or another, having had no part in causing it – in any meaningful sense of causing (i.e. being responsible or answerable for) it. It may be that collectively, over a large span of generations, human beings cause all the misfortunes that beset some of them; but the fact is that many misfortunes are suffered individually by people who themselves, individually, did not earn them by their intentions or actions – some indeed suffer long before they attain the age of legal responsibility.
It is true that individuals have no part in causing the misfortune they are born into and which has been caused by earlier generations. However, the Divine Religion views the world and its misfortunes from the perspective of the afterlife, and we are here in the world to gain this eternal life. So God tests us here so that we acquire the state appropriate for this life. He tests us according to His blessings upon us. More blessings mean more responsibility. As God gives us more bounties and blessings, our responsibility grows. For example, almsgiving is compulsory for the wealthy, but not for the poor; while those who have the required power and equipment are required to go to war when necessary, while the disabled, blind, or sick do not have to bear arms in God’s cause.
The Prophet Jesus, upon him be peace, says: “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell (Matthew, 5: 27-30). When viewed from this perspective, we cannot know what specific circumstances into which we are born are to our good, or to our harm. God knows, and we do not know. We cannot know if being rich or poor, or healthy or sick, or sound and disabled is better for us. And, the Qur’an tells us that it may be that we dislike a thing although it is good for us, and love a thing although it is bad for us. God knows but we know not (2: 216). This means that we cannot regard as misfortune any circumstances into which we are born.
Evil is destruction, and humans have a great capacity for destruction. Destruction is related to non-existence, and the non-existence of something is possible even if one component is missing. But all the good that comes to humanity is from God. Good relates to existence, and the existence of something is not possible even if only one of the components does not exist. For example, a person can survive and be healthy on the condition that all the cells of his or her body – numbering more than 60 trillion – are healthy. If only one cell is deformed, it can lead to the death of a person. So the health of a body is dependent on the health of its components. Furthermore, for something to exist, time is required, while its destruction can take place within a minute. A lazy child, by igniting a match, can burn to ashes in an hour a building that it took ten persons a hundred days to build. What all this means is that human beings have little capacity to accomplish good. As has been pointed out in the example of bread in Sūrah 9, note 23, in order to obtain bread, which is a vital food for humans, a person needs soil, air, water, the sun, a seed of wheat which has the capacity to germinate and grow into wheat, and the ability and power to grow wheat, all of which are provided by God. So whatever goodpeople have, it is from God, while whatever evil befalls them, it is from themselves.
It can be said that human free will works in the direction of evil, while it is God Who causes people to will good and enables them to do it. The human carnal soul always wills evil and to commit sins, but God always wills good and makes people succeed in willing good, provided that they refrain from characteristics such as haughtiness, wrong viewpoints, ill intentions, ill-disposition, evil suspicions, prejudices, wrong judgment, and subjection to carnal appetites. In order to help people refrain from such ills, God has sent Prophets andrevealed Books, and He has established a special way of thinking, belief, and conduct in the name of religion.
As a consequence, people should know and acknowledge that whatever evil befalls them is because of their errors and sins, and therefore they should turn to God in repentance, mending their ways and correcting their errors. They should neither fall into despair nor complain about others or Destiny. When they recover from an illness or are relieved of any misfortune, they should attribute this blessing to God alone, and accept that, like illnesses and misfortunes, health and prosperity are also a test for them. They should be thankful to God, without taking any credit for themselves, refraining from making errors or sinning. Both of these attitudes – turning to God in repentance and mending one’s ways when visited by illness or misfortune, as well as thanking God in times of health and prosperity – require patience. Patience which is shown in resisting the temptations of the carnal soul and in avoiding sins, and which is displayed when enduring misfortunes without complaint, causes one to acquire piety; patience and perseverance in thanking and worshipping God elevates one to the rank of being loved by God.
Another point to mention here is that a person should attribute to themselves whatever misfortune or evil befalls them, but when another believer has been visited by misfortune, others should not think ill of them; rather they should take into consideration that God has caused this person to be able to attain a higher spiritual rank through misfortune or evil. The greatest of humankind, such as the Prophets and saints, did not remain immune from illnesses and other misfortunes. Nearness to God is a cause of misfortune, as God always keeps people pure by means of misfortune. As the Prophets and saints always thanked God in patience when a misfortune visited them, they were promoted to a higher rank as heroes of patience and thankfulness. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, declares: “Those who are most visited by misfortunes are the Prophets, then come others who are near to God, each according to his nearness.” (at-Tirmidhī, “Zuhd,” 57) A Companion came to the Messenger and said: “O Messenger of God, I love you very much.” The Messenger replied: “Then be prepared for poverty” (at-Tirmidhī, “Zuhd,” 36). When another one said that he loved God very much, the Messenger replied: “Then be prepared for misfortunes.” That is why it is said: “Nearness to the Sultan is a burning fire.” This is another subtle point that merits much reflection.
ON THE EXISTENCE AND UNITY OF GOD
It is very easy to explain existence when one attributes it to One Divine Being. If you try to explain existence by attributing it to various origins, insurmountable barriers are encountered. If you attribute existence to One Divine Being, you can then see that the whole universe is as easy to create as a honeybee, and that a honeybee is as easy to create as fruit. If, by contrast, you ascribe it to multiple origins, creating a honeybee is as difficult as creating the universe, and creating fruit will be as difficult as creating all the trees in the universe. This is because a single being, with a single movement, can produce an effect that deals with a whole. If that effect or treatment is expected of multiple beings, it will only be obtained, if at all, with extreme difficulty and after much controversy. Which is easier or more difficult: managing an army under a single commander, or letting the soldiers make their own decisions;employing a builder to construct a building, or letting the stones arrange themselves; the revolution of many planets around a single sun, or vice versa?
When all things are attributed to One Divine Being, they do not have to be created from absolute non-existence, for creation means giving external, material existence to things that already exist in the Divine Knowledge. It is like putting in words the meaning in one’s mind, or applying a substance to make letters written in invisible ink be visible. However, if things, most of which are lifeless, ignorant, and unconscious—or, if alive, powerless and lacking in sufficient knowledge—are ascribed to themselves or to their causes— which are themselves lifeless, ignorant, and unconscious—then these things have to be created from absolute non-existence. This is impossible. The ease with which One Divine Being does this makes the existence of things as easy as is necessary; the difficulty in the latter is beyond measure. The existence of a living being requires that the atoms forming it, which are spread throughout the soil, water, and air, should come together. Therefore, each atom would have to have universal knowledge and absolute will. Anything with such knowledge and will would be independent of any partner and would not need to acknowledge any such partner. Nowhere in the universe is there any sign of such things or partners to be found. Creating the heavens and the earth requires a perfect, infinite power that has no partner. Otherwise, this power would have to be limited by a finite power, which is inconceivable. An infinite power does not need partners and is not obliged to admit of such even if they were to exist (which they do not).
Tawhīd, that is the Principle of Divine Unity and Oneness, can be clearly observed throughout the universe. Those who take a look at themselves and their environment can easily discern that everything depends upon this basic principle of God-revealed Religion. Parts of the human body, for example, are in close cooperation with one another, and each cell is also interconnected with the whole body, making it impossible not to conclude that He Who has created the single cell is also He Who created the whole body. Likewise, the elements comprising the universe are interrelated and in harmony with one another and the universe as a whole. One cannot help but believe that the entire universe, from the particles to the galaxies, has been brought into existence by the same Creator, and furthermore that the motion of atoms observed in a molecule is the same as that observed in the solar system. Everything originates from “one” and eventually will return to “one.” The tree, for instance, which grows out of a seed or a stone, will result finally in a seed or stone. This visible evidence explains why an orderliness and harmony are observed in the whole universe; it operates in strict obedience to the One Who has established that order. In other words, it is directly operated by the Creator, the One, the All-Powerful, and the All-Knowing. Otherwise, as pointed out in the Qur’ān: God has never taken to Himself a child, nor is there any god along with Him; otherwise each god would surely have sought absolute independence with his creatures under his authority, and they would surely have tried to overpower one another (23: 91); and: The fact is that had there been in the heavens and the earth any gods other than God, both (of those realms) would certainly have fallen into ruin (21: 22).
Tawhīd is the highest conception of deity, the knowledge of which God has sent to humankind in all ages through His Prophets. It was this same knowledge which all the Prophets, including Moses, Jesus, and the Prophet Muhammad (God’s blessings and peace be upon them all) brought to humankind. Humans were guilty of polytheism or idol-worship after the demise of their Prophets. They misinterpreted the religion, mixed it with superstition, and let it degenerate into magical practices and meaningless rituals. The concept of God, the very core of religion, was debased by anthropomorphism, the deification of angels, the association of others with God, the attempt to elevate Prophets or godly people as ‘incarnations’ of God, and the personification of His Attributes through separate deities.
The followers of Tawhīd must not be narrow-minded. Their belief in One God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, the Master of the east and the west, and the Sustainer of the universe, leads them to view everything as belonging to the same Lord, to Whom they belong as well. Thus, they consider nothing as alien. Their sympathy, love, and service are not confined to any particular race, color, or group; they come to understand the Prophetic saying: “O servants of God, be brothers (and sisters)!”
The followers of Tawhīd know that only God has true power, that only He can benefit or harm them, fulfill their needs, cause them to die, or wield authority and influence. This conviction makes them indifferent to and independent and fearless of all powers other than those of God. They never bow in homage to any of God’s creatures.
The followers of Tawhīd, although humble and mild, never abase themselves by bowing before anyone or anything except God. They never aim at any advantage by their worship, even if that advantage is Paradise. They seek only to please God and obtain His approval. They know that the only way to success and salvation is to acquire a pure soul and righteous behavior. They have perfect faith in God, Who is above all needs, related to none, absolutely just, and without partner in His exercise of Divine Power. Given this belief, they understand that they can succeed only through right living and just action, for no influence or underhanded activity can save them from ruin. However, some believe that they have atoned for their sins, while others assert that they are God’s favorites and thus immune to punishment. Still others believe that their idols or saints will intercede with God on their behalf, and so make offerings to their deities in the belief that such bribes give them license to do whatever they want. Such false beliefs keep them entangled in sin and evil, and their dependence on such deities causes them to neglect their need for spiritual purification and for living a pure and good life.
The followers of Tawhīd do not become hopeless or disappointed. Their firm faith in God, Master of all treasures of the earth and the heavens, and Possessor of limitless grace, bounty, and infinite power, imparts to their hearts extraordinary consolation, grants them contentment, and keeps them filled with hope. In this world, they might meet with rejection at all doors, nothing might serve their ends, and all means might desert them. But faith in and dependence on God, which never leave them, give them the strength to go on struggling. Such a profound confidence can come only from belief in One God. Such a belief produces great determination, patient perseverance, and trust in God. When such believers decide to devote their resources to fulfilling the Divine commands in order to secure God’s good pleasure and approval, they are sure that they have the support and backing of the Lord of the universe.
Tawhīd inspires bravery, for it defeats the two factors that make people cowardly: fear of death and love of safety, along with the belief that someone other than God can somehow be bribed into postponing one’s death. Belief in the Islamic creed that “there is no deity but God” purges the mind of these ideas. The first idea loses its influence when people realize that their lives, property, and everything else really belong to God, for this makes them willing to sacrifice whatever they have for God’s approval. The second idea is defeated when people realize that no weapon, person, or power can kill them, for only God has this power. No one can die before his appointed time, even if all of the world’s forces combine to do so. Nothing can bring death forward or push it back, even for one instant. This firm belief in One God and dependence upon Him makes followers of Tawhīd the bravest of people.
Tawhīd creates an attitude of peace and contentment, purges the mind of subtle passions, jealousy, envy and greed, and it prevents one from resorting to base and unfair means for achieving success.
THE DIARY OF A HONEYBEE
A honeybee, which is female (interestingly enough, the Qur’ān uses the feminine form of the verb in this verse), lives for about two months. At the beginning of her life, she is a white egg, hardly bigger than a full stop. On the fourth day she is a larva. She has about 1,300 meals every day during her growth. She feeds on a sort of jelly that is extremely rich in vitamins and proteins, prepared by her elder sisters in the hive. She gains five times her weight every day. The temperature around her must be 35°C, and this is maintained by her elder sisters, too.
On the seventh day, instead of jelly, she begins to feed on a food prepared with honey and pollen. On the ninth day, the ceiling of her cell is covered with wax. She weaves a silk cocoon around herself the following day, and becomes a pupa.
At the end of two weeks, she looks more like a bee, and on the twentieth day, she is a perfectly-formed honeybee with a head that has antennae to touch and smell, five eyes – three of which are located on the upper part of her head with the other two larger ones on the side of the head – a tongue to suck water and nectar, jaws, legs, wings, and a sting to defend herself. Her abdomen has been arranged in such a way that it can both digest and secrete. She begins to work according to a strict division of labor. Her first job is cleaning, which she does for two days. Then she is promoted to nurse, looking after the larvae for four to six days. A secretion gland begins to work in her body. She feeds the larvae with the pollen offered to her by her elders.
On the twenty-sixth day, she begins to make jelly and offer it to the larvae, which eat 1,300 meals a day. At the end of the first month, she is a cook, making honey from the nectar her elders have collected from the flowers. The honey is composed of water, sucrose, and glucose and is very rich in vitamins. It contains enzymes to digest carbohydrates.
Thousands of bees die every day in the comb while thousand others are born. This happens in such an orderly way that no confusion is apparent. In the community of bees, the queen bee lays the eggs. She must lay around 2,000 eggs every day. While the female bees are feeding her, she lets them taste from a substance she produces. They go round the comb and allow all the female bees to taste that substance, which enforces a kind of birth control. On the day when the bees do not taste of this substance, they all begin to lay eggs. Since those eggs are not fertilized, only male bees hatch out. Male bees have no task other than inseminating the queen bee. Their number is quite limited.
On the thirty-fifth day, a new factory starts to work in the queen bee’s body. Located in the back, lower part of her abdomen, this factory produces wax. She collects the wax with the hairs on her middle legs and chews it in order to mould it into the cells of the comb. The cells are hexagonal in shape; this is the ideal shape to ensure the greatest amount of storage for the least amount of wax. Also, a hexagonal form has the greatest resistance to external pressure. Thirty-five thousand cells are made from half a kilo of wax and 10 kilograms of honey are stored in these. They need 3.5 kilos of honey to make half a kilo of wax. While making the cells, they take gravity into account. For example, the cells where the female worker bees lie are horizontal, forming a vertical layer, while the cells where the future queen bee lies are vertical, parallel to the surface of the earth. The cells where male bees grow are larger than those of the females.
On the thirty-seventh day of a bee’s life, she leaves the hive to fly around it and to obtain knowledge of the outer world. Unlike birds, bees do not flap their wings. When bees fly, their wings move automatically in such a way that the wing makes 250 complete turns per second, as well as curving along certain lines so that the bee is able to adjust its body to the air current. The wings make a figure-of-eight shape in the air. In proportion to the size of their wings, their bodies are heavy (unlike birds), and their bodies grow progressively heavier as they collect nectar from flowers. Despite this, they can fly as fast as 15 kilometers an hour. Not only is a bee’s flight miraculous; the way they land is awe-inspiring as well. Unlike birds, they do not need to decrease their speed before they land. Thanks to the tips of their legs, they can immediately alight wherever they want in mid-flight.
On the thirty-eighth day of a bee’s life, her task is to guard the entrance of the hive. No one, not even bees from other hives, are allowed to enter the hive. Bees recognize one another by smell. The smell of each community of honeybees is different. The entrance of a hive is also marked by the smell unique to that community.
On the forty-first day of her life, she is a fully-matured honeybee. The factories in her body that produce royal jelly and wax have ceased production. From now on, she will spend her days collecting nectar. Bees are attracted to flowers by their colors and smells. The flowers are structured in such a way that it is as if they have been built as landing platforms. When the bees land on a flower, they use their tongues to reach into the source of the nectar in their center. At the same time, the pollen from the flowers clings to the hairs on their bodies, making the bee look like a thorny twig. They leave some of this pollen on other flowers they visit and thereby assist in the pollination of flowers. They do not visit flowers at random. They continue to visit the same kind of flower in the same environment as the first flower they visited that day.
A bee can visit as many as 20,000 flowers in one day. They store the nectar in their stomach and the pollen in sacs located on their back legs. Since flying home is made more difficult by the weight of their load, they follow a direct route when returning to the hive; this is known as a “bee line.” Even if they pass through places unknown to them, they always follow this direct route. It is extremely easy for a bee to establish a bee line. The place and position of the sun tells them the direction. The change of the sun’s position does not hinder them. They can easily calculate the exact place and position of the sun at any time of the day. They use atmospheric polarization and find the place of the sun by means of any light that comes from anywhere in the sky.
At the end of her life, a span of two months, the bee has flown more than 2,000 kilometers and has produced 50 grams of honey. This amount should not be considered as trivial, for the population of a hive makes 200,000 flights a day, producing one kilo of honey. Yet if all the human beings in the world were to work together, they could not produce even a single gram of honey.
It is clear that it is impossible for any being other than God Almighty, Who is the All-Knowing, All-Powerful, All-Willing—even for what some call “nature,” natural forces, or matter— to create the bee and organize her life; all of these are blind, lifeless, and ignorant. They have no will at all and cannot create.
THE ASCENSION (Mİ‘RĀJ) OF THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD
During his entire lifetime, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was in continual search for unadulterated minds and hearts to which he could impart God’s Message. He may have offered his Message only a few times to those like Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, but he must have offered it to Abu Jahl and his like at least fifty times. Each time he appeared before them, he would say: “Proclaim, ‘There is no deity but God’, and be saved!” He would visit the places where people gathered and carry the fragrance of the same words, “Proclaim, ‘There is no deity but God’, and be saved!”
Fairs used to be held periodically in places around Makkah, such as in ‘Arafāt, Mina, Muzdalifah and ‘Aqabah, which attracted many people not native to Makkah. The Messenger would visit these fairs for the purpose of preaching Islam, and his effort, as well as the measure of success he had in persuading people to listen, angered the polytheists of Makkah.
A time came when reactions, which had begun as indifference, turned to derision and mocking, then to persecution, torture, and boycotting of the Muslims, finally reaching an unbearable point when there was no hope for further conversions among the Makkan polytheists. God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, took Zayd ibn Hārithah with him and went to Tāif. Unfortunately, there, too, he was faced with violent anger and terror. The children of Tāif, positioned on either side of the road, threw stones at him. There was not a square inch on his body that was not hit by the stones. However, he finally succeeded in leaving the town and reached a tree in a vineyard, under which he took shelter, bleeding profusely. He held up his hands and supplicated:
O God, unto You do I complain of my frailty, lack of resources, and lack of significance before those people. O Most Merciful of the merciful, You are the Lord of the oppressed and You are my Lord. To whom do You abandon me? To that stranger who looks askance and grimaces at me? Or to that enemy to whom You have given mastery over me? If, however, Your indignation is not against me, I am not worried. But Your grace is a much greater thing for me to wish for. I seek refuge in the Light of Your “Face,” which illuminates all darkness and by which the affairs of this life and the Hereafter have been rightly ordered, lest Your wrath alight upon me, or Your indignation descend upon me. I expect Your forgiveness so that You may be pleased with me, and there is no other resource nor any power but what is in You.
While he was lying in the Sacred Mosque one night, some time after he had returned from this painful trip, he was taken from there to Masjid al-Aqsā in Jerusalem, and thence through the heavenly dimensions of existence, where he observed the greatest signs of God. That is, he observed the greatest truths and signs concerning God’s Divinity and Lordship, and the original truths of the fundamentals of faith and worship and all existence in archetypal forms. He also witnessed the original meanings of all events and things in the physical world, as well as the forms they take and their results pertaining to the other world. The Prescribed Prayer was also enjoined on him and his community and was established as five times daily.
The Ascension is one of the greatest miracles of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. The Prophet realized spiritual perfection and full refinement through faith and worship and as a reward God took him to His holy Presence. Escaping from the imprisonment of “natural” laws and material causes and rising beyond the limits of bodily existence, the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, crossed distances swiftly and transcended all dimensions of existence until he reached the holy Presence of God.
Multi-dimensional Existence and the Ascension
In order to clarify subtle matters and abstract truths, we usually make use of comparisons, and we compare such matters and truths to concrete things in the material world. For such comparisons to be possible and potentially worthwhile, there must be some similarity between the things that are compared to each other. However, since both the Prophet’s journeying from Makkah to Jerusalem (the Night Journey) and his Ascension (al-Mi‘rāj) through the dimensions of existence are miracles without equal or like in the material world, the method of comparison cannot be applied. These events can only be known and understood by God’s teaching. Nevertheless, the names of the “vehicles” mentioned in the Prophetic Traditions with respect to both the Night Journey and the Ascension – Burāq (derived from barq, meaning lightning) – and the very name of the journeying through the dimensions of existence Mi‘rāj (meaning stairway), allude to the fact that we can refer to certain scientific truths to make this miracle understandable by the “restricted” human mind.
Atomic physics has changed many notions in physics and established that the material world is a dimension or an appearance of existence. Alongside this world, there are many other worlds or dimensions of existence, each having its own peculiarities. Einstein put forward the notion that time is only one of the dimensions of existence. Science has not yet reached a final conclusion about existence, and new findings and developments continually change our understanding. Therefore, especially today, it would be irrational to question the event of the Ascension.
In the Ascension, the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, must have moved with the speed of the spirit and he traveled through all time and space and all dimensions of existence in a very short period. People may have difficulty in understanding how a mortal, physical being can make such a journey and observe all existence with its past and future. In order to understand this subtle matter, consider this analogy: imagine that you are standing with a mirror in your hand, with everything reflected on the right representing the past, while everything reflected on the left represents the future. The mirror can reflect one direction only since it cannot show both sides at the same time as you are holding it. If you wish to reflect both directions at the same time, you will have to rise high above your original position, so that left and right are united into one and nothing remains to be called first or last, beginning or end. As in this comparison, the Messenger traveled through the dimensions of existence, including time and space, and reached a point from where he could penetrate all time as a single point in which the past, present and future are united.
During that heavenly journey, the Messenger met with the previous Prophets, saw angels, and beheld the beauties of Paradise and the terrors of Hell. He also observed the essential realities of all the Qur’ānic issues and the meanings of and wisdom in all the acts of worship. He went as far as the realms—where even the greatest of angels, Gabriel, cannot reach—and was honored with vision of God’s “Face,” free from any qualitative or quantitative dimensions or restrictions. Then, in order to bring humans out of the darkness of material existence into the illuminated realm of faith and worship, through which they could realize a spiritual ascension each according to their capacity, he returned to the world where he was made subject to all kinds of persecution.
The Wisdom of the Ascension
A ruler holds two kinds of conversations or interviews, and has two modes of address or favor. One is when he converses with an ordinary subject or citizen about a particular matter or need by means of a direct, private line of communication, such as a telephone. The other is that under the title of supreme sovereignty, being the ruler of the whole country, he chooses an envoy, one whose office is concerned with the matter, to publish and promulgate his royal decree, and this decree carries the authority and weight of his majesty.
Similarly, the Master of the whole of existence has two kinds of conversing and two manners of favoring. One is particular and private—the other, universal and general. The particular and private one occurs in the mirror of the heart by means of one’s particular relationship with the Lord. Everyone may receive a manifestation of the light and a conversation with the Master of creation in accordance with their capacity and the character of their spiritual journeying in traversing the degrees toward sainthood, and their ability to receive the manifestations of Divine Names and Attributes. That is why there are innumerable degrees in sainthood. The second is that, by virtue of having a comprehensive nature and being the most enlightened fruit of the Tree of Creation, humans are potentially able to reflect all the Divine Names manifested in the universe in the mirror of their spirit. But not everyone can realize this. Almighty God manifests all His Beautiful Names and Attributes only in the greatest of humanity at the greatest level and most comprehensively, as it is only that greatest one who is able to receive them. It was this form of manifestation that occurred in Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings.
The Reality of the Ascension
Thus, the Ascension is the journey of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, through the degrees of perfection. That is, Almighty God has various Names or Titles manifested in the arrangement and disposition of creatures, and the diverse works of His Lordship (His upbringing, training, sustaining, and providing) are displayed as the results of the execution of His absolute authority in the invention and administration of creatures in the levels of the heavens where He executes His Lordship according to the different conditions of each level.
Thus, in order to show those works of His Lordship to His special servant, and thereby make him a being encompassing all human perfections and receiving all Divine manifestations—i.e., one who can view all the levels of the universe and announce the sovereignty of His Lordship, and who can proclaim the things of which He approves and unveil the enigmatic meaning of creation—God Almighty mounted him on Burāq (a mount of Paradise) and had him travel through the heavens like lightning, promoting him to higher and higher ranks, and causing him to observe the Divine Lordship from mansion to mansion, and from sphere to sphere, showing him the Prophets, his brothers, whose abodes are in the heavens of those spheres, one after the other. Finally, He raised him to the station of the distance between the strings of two bows (put adjacent to each other) or even nearer (for the meaning of which, see 53: 9, and the corresponding note 4), and honored him with the special manifestation of all of His Names to the fullest degree.
The Fruits or Benefits of the Ascension
Out of numerous fruits of the Ascension, we will mention only five.
The First Fruit
The vision of the truths from which the pillars of faith originate and of the angels, Paradise and the Hereafter, became the cause of such a treasure of eternal light, such a gift for the universe and humankind, that it has freed the universe from being perceived and experienced as a disordered heap doomed to destruction. This gift showed that, in reality, the universe is the harmonious collection of the sacred “inscriptions” of the Eternally Besought-of-All and lovely mirrors where the Grace and Beauty of the Single One are reflected. This vision has pleased and delighted the universe and all conscious beings. Again, through that light and gift, this vision has freed humankind from the confused state of misguidance in which all were seen as wretched, helpless and destitute beings, entangled in innumerable needs and hostilities and doomed to permanent annihilation, and showed that, in reality, each human being is of the most fair composition and the best pattern of creation, one who, being a miracle of the Power of the Eternally Besought-of-All and a comprehensive copy of the collection of His “inscriptions,” is addressed by the Sovereign of Eternity, and one who is His private servant to appreciate His perfections, His friend to behold His Beauty in amazement, and His beloved and His honored guest designated for Paradise. This fruit of the Ascension implant infinite joy and enthusiasm in those who are truly human.
The Second Fruit
The Ascension brought to humankind and the jinn the essentials of Islam as a gift, including primarily the prescribed five daily Prayers, which contain all the things pleasing to the Ruler of Eternity, Who is the Maker of creatures, the Owner of the universe, and the Lord of the worlds. People are inevitably curious to perceive what it is that pleases Him, and their perceiving it brings an indescribable happiness. For everyone is desirous of knowing the wishes of a renowned benefactor or a benevolent ruler; they say: “We wish we had a means of communication so that we could talk to him directly! We wish we knew what he asks of us! We wish we knew what things we have done that are pleasing to Him!” God has the possession of all creatures, and the grace, beauty, and perfection shared by all creatures are but a dim shadow in relation to His Beauty, Grace, and Perfection. You may understand to what degree human beings, who need Him in infinite ways and receive His endless bounties at every moment, should be curious about and desirous of perceiving His will and the things pleasing to Him.
It was as a fruit of the Ascension that, having left “seventy thousand veils” behind, the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, heard of the things pleasing to the Creator and Sustainer of the universe directly, and brought them with absolute certainty to humankind as a gift.
People are extremely eager to learn facts about the moon or indeed other planets. They send explorers there to find out and then to tell them about it. They are ready to make great sacrifices for this end. But the moon travels in the domain of such a Master that it flies around the earth like a fly. The earth flies around the sun like a moth. As for the sun, it is only a lamp among thousands of other lamps and functions like a candle in a guest-house of the Majestic Master of the Kingdom. Thus, these are the acts and qualities of the Majestic Being and the wonders of His art and the treasures of His Mercy in the eternal world that the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, saw during the Ascension and then told humankind about. You may understand how contrary to reason and wisdom it would be if humankind were not to listen to this person with utmost curiosity and in perfect amazement and love.
The Third Fruit
The Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, saw the hidden treasure of eternal happiness during the Ascension and brought its keys to humankind and jinn as a gift. Through the Ascension, he saw Paradise with his own eyes, observed the everlasting manifestations of the Mercy of the Majestic All-Merciful One, and perceived eternal happiness with absolute certainty, and then he brought to humankind and jinn the glad tidings that there is eternal happiness (in an everlasting world).
It is indescribable what great happiness this aroused in the mortal, wretched human beings and the jinn who had regarded themselves as being condemned to permanent annihilation; such glad tidings were given to them at a time when all creatures were emitting heart-rending cries at the thought of being in flux amidst the convulsions of death and decay in an unstable world, of diving into the ocean of non-existence and eternal separation through the flow of time and the motion of the atoms. Consider how a person would rejoice if they learned that they were to be given a palace by the king in the vicinity of his residence just at the time of their execution. Add to this the instances of joy and happiness to the number of all humankind and jinn, and then you may be able to measure the value of these glad tidings.
The Fourth Fruit
As the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, himself received the fruit of the vision of God’s All-Beautiful “Face,” he brought it to humankind and jinn as a gift that every believer may be honored with the same vision. You can understand how delicious, fine, and beautiful that fruit is when you make the following comparison:
Anyone with a heart loves a beautiful, perfect, and benevolent one. This love increases in proportion to the extent of the beauty, perfection, and benevolence of the being and mounts to the degree of adoration and self-sacrifice. Whereas, when compared to God’s Attributes, all the beauty, perfection, and benevolence shared by the whole of the creation are nothing more than a few flashes of the sun when compared to the sun itself. You may understand from this what a pleasant, beautiful, rejoicing, and blissful fruit it is that one deserves the sight of the Majestic One of perfection, Who is worthy of infinite love in the abode of eternal happiness; such a sight can only inspire infinite eagerness.
The Fifth Fruit
It was understood through the Ascension that each human being is a valuable fruit of the universe and a darling beloved of the Maker of the universe. Though outwardly an insignificant creature, a weak animal, and an impotent conscious being, each person has risen to a position so far above all other creatures that it is the cause of pride for us. The joy and happiness we receive from this is indescribable. If you tell an ordinary private that he has been promoted to the rank of field-marshal, he will feel infinite joy. While being a mortal, helpless, reasoning, and articulating animal knowing only the blows of decay and separation, we were told unexpectedly through the Ascension:
As you may realize all your heart’s desires in an everlasting Paradise, enveloped by the Mercy of an All-Merciful, All-Compassionate, and All-Magnificent One, and in recreation, in traveling with the speed of imagination and in the broad sphere of the spirit and the mind, you also may see His Most Beautiful “Face” in eternal happiness. (Summarized from The Words, “the 31st Word,” by Said Nursi.)
ARGUMENTS FOR THE RESURRECTION
Concerning the Resurrection, the following six questions may be asked:
One: Why will the world be destroyed? Is its destruction necessary?
Two: Is he who will destroy it, and the builder who will rebuild it, capable of doing this?
Three: Is the destruction of the world possible?
Four: If it is possible, will it really be destroyed?
Five: Is the rebuilding of the world possible?
Six: If possible, will it actually be rebuilt?
It is possible to destroy the world, and there is a necessary cause for its destruction. He Who will destroy and rebuild it is capable of that, and it will certainly take place, and it will surely be rebuilt. Our arguments are as follows.
The spirit is undoubtedly eternal, and the proofs of the existence of angels and other spirit beings are proofs of the eternity of the spirit. (For the existence and characteristics of angels and other invisible beings, see sūrah 2, note 31, 36, 40; sūrah 11, note 19; and sūrah 15: 27, note 7.) We are too close to the souls of the dead, who are waiting in the Barzakh, the intermediate world between this and the next to go to the Hereafter, to require any proof of their existence. It is commonly known that some can communicate with them, whilst almost everyone encounters them in true dreams. (For arguments concerning the eternity of the spirit, see Appendix 12.)
It is necessary that an eternal world of happiness should be established and the Majestic One Who will establish this world is certainly capable of doing that. The destruction of the world is possible and will certainly occur. Moreover, the resurrection of everything is also possible and, with equal certainty, will take place.
There is a purpose and necessary cause for the foundation of an eternal world of happiness, and the following ten points indicate the existence and necessity of this purpose and cause.
The whole of creation displays a perfect harmony and a purposeful order, and in every aspect of the universe, signs of a will are manifest. It is impossible not to discern, through the testimony of its fruits or results, in each thing and event, an intention and will, and in each composition, an instance of wisdom and choice. If this creation were not meant to produce eternal happiness, then its harmony and order would be a deceptive appearance, and the meanings, relations and connections that are the spirit of the order would come to nothing – for it is eternal happiness which causes this order to be established and the world to be so in its present state.
The creation of the universe displays perfect wisdom embodied in benefits and purposes. Indeed, the Divine Wisdom, being the representation of eternal favor, announces the coming of eternal happiness in the language of the benefits and purposes in the whole universe. If, then, there was no eternal happiness, it would require the denial of all the benefits and purposes observed in every thing and event in the universe.
As pointed out by the intellect, wisdom, experience and deductive reasoning, nothing superfluous or vain occurs in creation, and this indicates the existence of eternal happiness. The Majestic Maker of the universe chooses the best and easiest way in creation, and apportions hundreds of duties and thousands of purposes to any creature, no matter how insignificant it may appear. Since there is no waste and nothing is in vain, there will surely be eternal happiness. Eternal non-existence would make everything futile, and everything would be a waste. The absence of waste in all creation, and in humankind in particular, demonstrates that humankind’s endless spiritual potential, their limitless aspirations and ideas, and their inclinations will never go to waste. Their basic inclination towards perfection indicates the existence of perfection, and their desire for happiness proclaims that they are definitely destined for eternal happiness. If this were not so, then all the basic spiritual features and sublime aspirations which constitute their true nature would be for nothing.
The alternation of day and night, spring and winter, atmospheric changes, the renewal of the human body each year, and awakening and rising every morning after sleep all indicate a complete rising and renewal. Just as in time, seconds forecast the coming of the minute, the minute predicts the hour, and the hour anticipates the day, so, too, do the dials of God’s great clock – the earth – point, in succession, to the day, the year, a person’s lifetime, and the ages through which the world passes. As they show that morning follows night, and spring follows winter, they intimate that the morning of the Resurrection will follow the death of the whole of creation.
As the daily, seasonal and annual changes, going to sleep and awakening the next morning, and the revivals and renewals which occur during a person’s life can all be regarded as a kind of death and resurrection, so too is the revival of nature every spring a promise of the final resurrection. Hundreds of thousands of different kinds of resurrection take place in the realm of animals and plants each spring; some animals come to “life” after hibernation, while trees burst into leaf and flower. Thus, the All-Wise Creator reminds us of the Resurrection to come.
Each human being is equal in value and comprehensiveness to any other animate species because the light of the human intellect has endowed people with comprehensive aspirations and ideas that encompass the past and future. In other species, the nature of the individuals is particular, their value is local, their view restricted, their qualities limited, their pleasure and pain is instantaneous. Humankind, on the other hand, has a sublime nature and is of the greatest value; its perfection is limitless, and its spiritual pleasures and suffering are more lasting. It can be concluded from these facts that the kinds of resurrection experienced by other species in nature indicate that every human being will be completely resurrected on the Day of Judgment.
Humankind has been endowed with unlimited potential. This potential develops into unrestricted abilities, which give rise to countless inclinations. These inclinations generate limitless desires, and these desires are the source of infinite ideas and concepts. All these together indicate the existence of a world of eternal happiness beyond this material world. Their innate inclination towards eternal happiness makes one sure that this world of happiness will be established.
The all-encompassing Mercy of the All-Merciful Maker of the universe requires that there be a world of eternal happiness. Were it not for such a world of happiness, which is the chief grace of God for human beings, they would unceasingly lament due to the pain of eternal separation, acts of favor would turn into vengeance, and Divine Compassion would be negated. Divine Mercy, however, is found throughout the whole of creation, and is more evident than the sun. Observe love, affection, and intellect, which are the three manifestations of Divine Compassion. If human life were to result in eternal separation, with unending pangs of parting, then that gracious love would turn into the greatest affliction. Affection would turn into a most painful affliction, and that light-giving intellect would become an unmitigated evil. Divine Compassion (because it is Compassion), however, would never inflict the agony of eternal separation upon true love.
All the pleasure-giving experiences known in the universe—all the beauty, perfection, attractions, ardent yearnings, and feelings of compassion—are spiritual articulations and manifestations of the Majestic Creator’s Favor, Mercy, and Munificence made known to the intellect. Since there is a truth, a reality in this universe, there most certainly is true Mercy. And since there is true Mercy, there will be eternal happiness.
The human conscience, which is humanity’s conscious nature, reflects eternal happiness, and whoever hearkens to this conscience will hear it pronouncing eternity over and over again. If a human being were given the whole universe, it would not compensate him or her for a lack of eternity – people have an innate longing for eternity; it is this for which we have been created. This means that humankind’s natural inclination towards eternal happiness comes from an objective reality, which is the existence of eternity and humankind’s desire for it.
The Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, who spoke the truth and whose words have been confirmed over the centuries, preached the coming of everlasting life and eternal happiness, and it was his words which promised this. In his message, he concentrated almost as much upon the Resurrection as he did upon the Divine Unity, referring to the consensus of all the Prophets, peace be upon them all, and the unanimous agreement of all the saints.
The Qur’ān, as well as all other Divine Books, announces the Resurrection and the coming of eternal happiness. It unveils the mystery of creation and offers many rational arguments in support of the Resurrection.
Just as the necessity of the Resurrection cannot be doubted, so too it is without question that the One Who will bring it about is eminently able to do so. He is absolutely powerful over everything. The greatest things and the smallest are the same in relation to His Power. He creates the spring with as much facility as He creates a flower. He is so powerful that the whole of creation, with its planets, stars, worlds, particles, and substances, bear witness to His Power and Majesty. No one, then, has the right to doubt that He will be able to raise the dead for the Last Judgment. His Power is such that each century, He causes a new environment to come into existence; He renews the world every year—or rather, He creates a new world every day. He hangs many transient worlds upon the string of time, as centuries, years, or even days pass, for a perfect, definite purpose. He does all these things, and He also displays the perfection of His Wisdom and the beauty of His art by causing the earth to wear the garment of spring, as if it were a single flower which He has decorated with the embellishments of hundreds of thousands of resurrections. Since He is able to do this, how is it then possible for anyone to doubt that He is able to cause the Resurrection to happen and to replace this world with another? (For the infinite capability of Divine Power, see 31: 28 and the corresponding note 6.)
It has been established that there is a necessity for the Resurrection, and the One Who will raise the dead is able to do this. The whole world is exposed to the Resurrection, and there are four matters relating to this subject as follows:
First: It is possible for this world to come to an end.
Second: The world will actually come to an end.
Third: The possibility exists for the destroyed world to be rebuilt again in the form of the Hereafter.
Fourth: The destroyed world will actually be resurrected and rebuilt.
The death of all of creation is possible. If something is subject to the law of development, then it will certainly evolve to a final end. If something develops to this final end, then that means it will have a limited lifetime, and if something has a limited lifetime, then a “natural” end is certain to be fixed for it. Lastly, if something is destined for a fixed end, then it will inevitably die, and since humankind is a microcosm and nothing prevents us from dying, so too, the whole universe, which can be regarded as a macro-human being, cannot be saved from perishing. Accordingly, it will perish and be brought to life again on the morning of the Last Day. Just as a living tree, which is a miniature of the universe, is not able to save itself from annihilation, so too will “the branches of creatures” which have grown from “the Tree of Creation” pass away. If the universe is not destroyed by an external destructive event, which could occur by the leave of the Eternal Will, then a day, as also predicted by science, will certainly come when this macro-human being will go into the throes of death. It will give a sharp cry, and what is described in these Qur’ānic verses will take place:
When the sun is folded up (darkened); and when the stars fall (losing their luster; and when the mountains are set moving (81: 1–3).
When the heaven is cleft open; And when the stars fall in disorder and are scattered; And when the seas burst forth (spilling over their bounds to intermingle) (82:1–3 ).
A Subtle but Important Point
Water freezesand loses its essential liquid form; ice changes into water and loses its essential state as a solid; the essence of something becomes stronger at the expense of its material form; the spirit weakens as the flesh becomes more substantial; and the flesh weakens as the spirit becomes more illuminated. Thus, the solid world is being gradually refined by the mechanism of life to the advantage of the afterlife. The Creative Power breathes life into dense, solid, and inanimate substances as a result of astonishing activities and refines that solid world to the advantage of the coming world through the light of life.
A truth never perishes, no matter how weak it is. As the truth flourishes and expands, the form containing it grows weaker and is refined. The spiritual truth which actually constitutes the essence of something is inversely proportional to the strength of its form; in other words, as the form grows denser, the truth becomes weaker, and as the form grows weaker, the truth obtains more strength. This law is common to all creatures that are destined to develop and evolve. We can conclude from this argument that the corporeal world, which is a form containing the great truth of the universe, will break into pieces by leave of the Majestic Creator and be rebuilt more beautifully. One day, the meaning expressed by the Qur’ānic verse, On the Day when the earth is changed into another earth, and the heavens (also), they all appear before God, the One, the All-Overwhelming (14: 48), will be realized. Finally, it is without a doubt that the death of the world is possible.
The world will certainly die. It is indicative of the inevitable death of the world that its inhabitants are replaced by new ones every day, every year, and in every age. Those who have been welcomed into this worldly guesthouse bid us farewell some time later and are followed by newcomers, a fact which testifies to the final death of the world itself.
If you would like to imagine the death of this world as indicated by the relevant Qur’ānic verses, look at how minutely and precisely the constituent parts of the universe have been connected to one another. Consider how sublimely and delicately they have been organized into a system, so that if a single heavenly body were to be given the order “Leave your axis!” the whole universe would be thrown into its death throes. Stars would collide, planets would be scattered and the sound of the exploding spheres would fill space. Mountains would be set in motion and the earth would be flattened. This is what the Eternal Power will actually do to bring about the next life, upsetting the universe, to separate the elements of Paradise from those of Hell.
The universe can be resurrected after its death because, first of all, the Divine Power is in no way defective. Secondly, there is a strong necessity for this resurrection, and, moreover, it is possible. Consequently, if there is a strong necessity that something should occur, and if that thing is possible, then it comes to be regarded as being something that will inevitably occur.
Another Significant Point
A close examination of what goes on in the universe will make it clear that within it are two opposed elements that have spread everywhere and become rooted. The result of the opposition of these elements, like good and evil, benefit and harm, perfection and defect, light and darkness, guidance and misguidance, belief and unbelief, obedience and rebellion, fear and love, is that they clash with one another in the universe. The universe manifests, through such a continuous conflict of opposites, the incessant alterations and transformations necessary to produce the elements of a new world. These opposed elements will eventually lead in two different directions to eternity, materializing as Paradise and Hell. The Eternal World will be made up of the essential elements of this transitory world, and these elements will then be given permanence. Paradise and Hell are, in fact, two opposite fruits which grow on the two branches of the Tree of Creation; they are the two results of the chain of creation. They are the two cisterns which are being filled by the two streams of things and events, and the two poles to which beings are flowing in waves. They are the places where Divine Grace and Divine Punishment manifest themselves, and they will be filled up with their particular inhabitants when the Divine Power shakes up the universe with a violent motion.
People are being tested here so that their potential can develop and their abilities can manifest themselves. This emergence of abilities causes the appearance of relative truths in the universe. In other words, the All-Beautiful Names of the Majestic Maker manifest their inscriptions and make the universe a missive of the Eternally Besought-of-All. It is also by virtue of this testing that the diamond-like essences of sublime souls are separated from the coal-like matter of the base ones.
For whatever sublime purposes God has willed creation to take place (we are aware of some of these purposes and of others we are unaware), He also willed the change and alteration of this world for the same purposes. He mixed together opposites and made them confront one another; He kneaded them together like dough, and made the universe subject to the law of alteration and to the principle of perfection. The time will arrive when the trial or testing comes to an end, and the Pen of Divine Destiny will have written what it has to write. The Divine Power will have completed its work, all the creatures will have fulfilled their duties and services, and the seeds will have been sown in the field of the afterlife. The earth will have displayed the miracles of Divine Power, and this transitory world will have hung all the eternal scenes upon the picture-rail of time, while the eternal Wisdom and Favor of the Majestic Maker will require that the results of the test be announced, the truths of the manifestations of the Divine Beautiful Names and the missives of the Pen of Divine Destiny be unveiled, the duties performed by the creatures be repaid, the truths of the meanings expressed by the words of the book of the universe be seen, the fruit of potential be yielded, a supreme court be established, and the veil of natural causes be removed, so that everything is submitted directly to the Divine Will and Power. On that Day, the Majestic Creator will destroy the universe in order to eternalize it, and He will separate opposites from one another. This separation will result in the appearance of Paradise, with all its beauty and splendor, and of Hell, with all its awfulness;. The People of Paradise will be welcomed with the words, Peace be upon you! Well you have faired and are purified (from the foul residues of sin, and delivered from all suffering), so enter it (Paradise) to abide! (39: 73); whilst the people of Hell will be threatened with the words, And you, O disbelieving criminals! Get you apart this Day! (36: 59).
The Eternal All-Wise One will give, through His perfect Power, an everlasting, unchanging existence to the inhabitants of both these dwelling-places. They will never grow old, nor will their bodies suffer any disintegration or decomposition, because there will be nothing to cause any changes that lead to disintegration.
We have stated in the previous Matter that it is possible for the earth to be resurrected after its death. After its being destroyed, the One Who created this world will undoubtedly create it again more beautifully, and will convert it into one of the mansions of the Hereafter. In the same way that the Holy Qur’ān, with all its verses containing so many rational proofs, and the other Divine Scriptures are unanimously agreed upon this matter, so too are the Attributes of the All-Majestic One pertaining to His Majesty and those pertaining to His Grace, and all His Beautiful Names, clear indications of the occurrence of the Resurrection. Furthermore, He has promised that He would bring about the Resurrection and the Great Gathering through all His heavenly decrees which He sent to His Prophets, and He will certainly carry out His promise. This is an undeniable truth, which is agreed upon by all the Prophets; the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, is the foremost in confirming it with the strength of his thousand miracles, as are the saints and righteous scholars. Lastly, the universe predicts it with all the scientific proofs contained in it (From The Words, “the 29th Word”). (For the Resurrection, see also 15: 85, note 17.)
ISLAM: GOD’S ORIGINAL PATTERN ON WHICH HE HAS CREATED HUMANKIND
God created the universe so that He could be known and recognized in all His Names and Attributes, and so His creation includes one creature with free will: humankind. Of all creatures (in addition to the jinn), only human beings can manifest the Divine Name the All-Willing, and more than any other species, His Names of the All-Knowing and the All-Speaking. That is, humanity excels other creatures in having free will, greater knowledge, and a more articulate and sophisticated mode of communication. God, then, endowed us with the knowledge of things (“names”), and made us His vicegerent to rule on the earth according to His laws. As having free will means that one must make choices, each person’s life consists of choosing between what is right and wrong.
God endowed humankind with three principal faculties fundamental to our survival and carrying out our function as His vicegerent: desire for such things as the opposite sex, offspring, livelihood, and possessions; anger or resolve in defense and struggle; and reason or intellect. We are tested in this worldly life so that we may be able to develop our potential, and become intellectually and spiritually perfected, in order to deserve eternal happiness. For this reason, and so that we may be able to progress materially, spiritually, and scientifically, God did not restrict these faculties, but has established standards to use them within proper limits so that we may be able to rise to perfection.
According to Islam, human happiness lies in disciplining our faculties so that we may produce a harmonious and peaceful individual and collective life. If these faculties remain undisciplined, they may drive people to pursue immorality, illicit sexual relationships, unlawful livelihoods, tyranny, injustice, deception, falsehood, and other vices. To prevent the ensuing chaos and suffering, we must submit to an authority that guides and regulates our collective affairs. Since one person should not accept the authority of another just like themselves and cannot be forced to do so, and since all human beings are unable to find the exact criteria and rules for human individual and collective happiness in both worlds, humankind need a universal intellect and guidance from beyond human reason and experience, to whose authority all may assent freely. That guidance is the Religion revealed and perfected by God through His Prophets: Islam.
All Prophets came with the same essentials of faith: belief in God’s Existence and Unity; the world’s final destruction, Resurrection and Final Judgment; Prophethood and all the Prophets, without distinction between them;, all Divine Scriptures; angels; and Divine Destiny and Decree (including human free will). They called people to worship the One God, preached and promoted moral virtue, and condemned vice. Differences in particular rules and injunctions were connected with the scientific-intellectual development level and the social, economic and political relationships that existed at that time, and it is also because of this that all Prophets prior to the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and God’s blessing, were sent to their own people and for their own time. The Prophet Muhammad, however, came at a time when humankind was on the threshold of a new era, when there would no longer be need for a new Prophet; and, therefore, he was sent to the whole of humankind until the Last Day. With the Prophet Muhammad, Islam, the Religion which God chose for humankind and sent with every Prophet, was perfected and gained a universal form. Thus, to be a Muslim means believing in all the previous Prophets and in the original previous Scriptures.
Faith, or belief, the essence of religion, is not just a simple brief affirmation based on imitation. Rather, it has degrees and stages of expansion or development, just as a tree’s seed is gradually transformed into a fully-grown, fruit-bearing tree. Faith contains so many truths pertaining to God’s Names and the realities contained in the universe that the most perfect human knowledge and virtue are faith with all its degrees and stages of development, and knowledge of God that originates in faith based on argument and investigation. Such faith has as many degrees and grades of manifestation as the number of Divine Names. Those who attain the degree of certainty of faith coming from direct observation of the truths on which faith is based can study the universe as a kind of Divine Scripture.
Another degree of faith is known as certainty coming from the direct experience of its truths. This depends on God’s consciousness, regular worship, strict obedience to God’s orders and prohibitions, and reflection, and those who possess it can challenge the world. So, the foremost duty of all Muslims is to attain the greatest degree of faith that they can, and to communicate it to others.
Faith engenders different kinds of worship, the basic ones of which are the Prescribed Prayers, Fasting, the Prescribed Purifying Alms, and the Pilgrimage, and requires obeying prohibitions (e.g., avoiding killing, all kinds of unlawful sexual relations, intoxicants, gambling, usury, and deception). Those seeking to strengthen their faith and attain higher ranks of perfection should be careful of acts of their hearts and intellects (e.g., contemplation, reflection, invocation, the recitation of God’s Names, self-criticism, perseverance, patience, thankfulness, self-discipline, and perfect reliance upon God). Moral virtues are the fruits of religious life.
Islam also regulates our collective life. By means of faith and worship, as well as its intellectual, moral, and spiritual principles, Islam educates us in the best possible way. In addition, it uses its socio-economic principles and the virtues it emphasizes, such as solidarity, mutual assistance, and altruism, to establish an ideal society free of dissension, corruption, anarchy, and terror, one that allows everyone to obtain happiness both in this world and in the Hereafter. Its penal law is principally directed toward preserving individual and collective happiness.
The Qur’ān, the universe, and humankind are three manifestations of one truth. Therefore, in principle, there can be no contradiction or incompatibility between the truths of the Qur’ān, described as the Revealed Universe and issuing from the Divine Attribute of Speech, and the truths derived from the objective study of its counterpart, described as the Created Qur’ān, and issuing from the Divine Attributes of Power and Will. If there sometimes appear to be contradictions, they arise from an incorrect approach to either the Qur’ān or the universe and humankind, or to both at the same time. An Islamic civilization true to its authentic, original roots and dynamics contains no contradiction between science (the objective study of the natural world) and the Religion (the guide for the personal and collective effort to seek God’s good pleasure). True faith is not a dogmatic commitment based on blind imitation, but rather it should appeal to our reason and heart, and combine reason’s affirmation and the heart’s inward experience and conviction.
Islam is primarily based on Tawhīd, absolute faith in God’s Oneness without any partners whatsoever in His Divinity, Lordship, and Sovereignty. Given this, the universe is an integral whole of interrelated and cooperative parts in which a splendid coordination, harmony, and order are displayed, both throughout the universe and within each living organism. This harmony and order come from the Oneness of the One Who created them and Who is absolute, without partner, peer, or like. The universe operates according to the laws God established for it, and therefore is literally Muslim – absolutely submitted to God. Thus, its operations are stable, orderly, and harmonious.
So, Islam is the Religion of all creation, which every thing and every being follows willingly or unwillingly. In this sense, even unbelievers are Muslims, as far as the functioning of their bodies is considered. In addition, as stated in a hadith, the Messenger declares that every human being is born in the original nature or pattern of Islam and is prone to accept Islam as Religion in their life. However, under the influence of a person’s family, environment, and the education they receive, they may adopt another religion, another way of life. But if they can remain free of prejudices and the misguiding influence of their inclinations, bodily desires, worldly ambitions, the delusions or drives of their carnal self, and especially preserve their primordial, moral purity, they can find Islam or be rewarded by God with Islam.
THE TRUST WHICH HUMANITY HAS UNDERTAKEN
Although the Trust mentioned in the verse 33: 72 includes the Divine Religion which humankind must follow in life, it is not restricted to it. Not only humankind, but also the jinn, are responsible for following the Divine Religion. Some commentators are of the opinion that the Trust is human free will or the faculty of volition. This is also included in the meaning of the Trust, but we should bear in mind that the jinn also have been endowed with free will. So, what is meant by the Trust is, first of all, the human ego.
God has absolutely no limits at all. So something absolute and unlimited cannot be determined in such a way that its essential nature can be comprehended. For example, light undetermined by darkness cannot be known or perceived. However, light can be determined if a real or hypothetical boundary line of darkness is drawn. In the same way, the Divine Attributes and Names (e.g., Knowledge, Power, Wisdom, and Compassion) cannot be determined, for they are all-encompassing and have no limits nor anything similar. Thus, what they are essentially cannot be known or perceived. A hypothetical boundary is needed for them to become known.
God Almighty, so to speak, has drawn a hypothetical line before His Names and Attributes and created ego, reflecting in it all His Names and Attributes. Since absolute Independence is the most essential quality of Divinity, ego finds in itself the same quality. It imagines within itself a fictitious lordship, power, and knowledge, and so posits a boundary line, hypothesizes a limit to God’s all-encompassing Attributes, and says: “This is mine, and the rest is His.” Ego thus makes a division.
Through this imagined lordship, ego can and must understand the Lordship of the Creator of the universe. By means of its own apparent ownership, it can understand the real Ownership of its Creator, saying: “As I am the owner of this house, the Creator is the Owner of this creation.” Through its partial knowledge, ego comes to understand His Absolute Knowledge. Through its defective, acquired art, it can intuit the Exalted Fashioner’s primary, originative art. For example, ego says: “I built and arranged this house, so there must be One Who made and arranged this universe.” So, ego is the key to the Divine Names and Attributes and also to solving the enigma of creation.
However, ego has two aspects or faces. One face looks toward its Creator and, therefore, to good. With this aspect, it only receives what is given; it cannot create. It is not the origin of the good and virtues God creates in or through it. The other face looks toward evil. Here, ego is active and is the source and doer of all evils.
Essentially, as stated above, ego is like a measure, a mirror, or an instrument for seeing or finding out. Its real nature is only indicative – like a letter that has no meaning by itself – and indicates the meaning of things other than itself. Its lordship is completely hypothetical, and its own existence is so weak and insubstantial that it cannot bear or support anything on its own. Rather, ego is a kind of scale or measure showing the degrees and quantities of what is measured. The Necessarily Existent Being’s absolute, all-encompassing, and limitless Attributes can become known through it.
Ego must realize that it is God’s servant and that it is to serve the One other than itself, and that its essential nature has only an indicative function. It must understand that it bears the meaning of the One rather than that of itself, and that it can be meaningful only when it points to that One upon Whom its existence depends. Its existence and life depend upon that One’s creativity and Existence. Its feeling of ownership is illusory, for it enjoys only an apparent, temporary ownership by the real Owner’s permission, and it only has a shadow-like reality. It is a contingent entity, an insignificant shadow manifesting the true and necessary Reality. Its function of serving as a measure and balance for its Creator’s Attributes and essential Qualities is a conscious, willing service.
Those who know and realize that this is the reality of their essential nature or the human ego act accordingly; these are included in: He is indeed prosperous who has grown it in purity (away from self-aggrandizing rebellion against God) (91: 9). Such people truly carry out the trust and, through their ego, see what the universe really is and what duties it performs. They also find that their ego confirms the information they have gathered about the universe. As a result, this information will retain the quality of light and wisdom for them, and will not be changed into darkness and futility. When ego has performed its duty in this way, it renounces its claim to lordship and hypothetical ownership (mere devices of measurement) and proclaims: His is the sovereignty and ownership of all beings, and to Him are due all praise and thanks. His is the Judgment and rule, and to Him we are returning. Thus it achieves true worship and attains the rank of the best pattern of creation.
But if ego forgets the Divine purpose of its creation, abandons the duty of its nature, and views itself as a self-existing being independent of the Creator, it betrays the Trust. Thus, it supposes itself to be a permanent reality that has, as its duty, the quest for self-satisfaction. It falsely assumes that it owns its being and is the real lord and master of its own domain. Those who see ego in this way fall into the class of those warned and threatened by: And he is indeed lost who has corrupted it (in self-aggrandizing and rebellion against God) (91: 10). This development is responsible for all the varieties of polytheism, evil, and deviation that have caused the heavens, earth, and the mountains to be terrified of assuming the Trust – lest they might be led to associate partners with God, because such an ego grows and swells until it gradually permeates all parts of a human being. Like some huge monster, it completely swallows such people so that they and their faculties consist of nothing more than an ego. Eventually, the ego of the human race gives strength to the individual ego through mere individualism and national racism. This causes the ego, swollen by support from the ego of race, to contest, like Satan, the Majestic Maker’s commands. Finally, taking itself as a yardstick, it compares everyone and everything with itself, divides God’s Sovereignty between them and other causes, and begins to associate partners with God in the most grievous manner. It is such people that are being referred to in: Surely associating partners with God is indeed a tremendous wrong (31: 13).
This betrayal causes the ego to sink into absolute ignorance. Even if it has absorbed thousands of branches of science, its ignorance is only compounded by its knowledge. Whatever glimmers of knowledge of God that it may have obtained from the universe through its senses or reflective powers have been extinguished, for it can no longer find within itself anything with which to confirm, polish, and maintain them. Whatever comes to the ego is stained with the colors within it. Even if pure wisdom comes, it becomes absolutely futile within an ego stained by atheism, polytheism, or other forms of denying the All-Mighty. If the whole universe were full of shining indications of God, a dark point in that ego would hide them from view, as though they were invisible.
We will now shed some light on the truth of this subject. Consider the following: from Adam’s time until the present, two great currents or lines of thought have spread their branches in all directions and in every class of humanity, just like two tall trees. One is the line of Prophethood and Religion; the other is that of mere human thinking. Whenever they have agreed and united (whenever human thinking joins the Religion in obedience and service to it), humankind has experienced brilliant happiness in individual and collective life. But whenever they have followed separate paths, truth and goodness have accumulated on the side of Prophethood and the Religion, whereas error, evil, and deviation have been drawn to the side of human thinking.
Human thinking, whenever it has split from the Religion, has taken the form of a tree of Zaqqūm, that spreads its dark veils of ascribing partners to God and of all other innumerable kinds of misguidance. On the branch of empowered reason, which is one of the three cardinal faculties with which human beings are endowed, it has yielded the fruits of materialism and naturalism for the intellect’s consumption. On the branch of empowered anger and passion, it has produced such tyrants as Nimrod and the Pharaoh who tyrannized people. On the branch of empowered animal desires and appetites, it has produced the fruits of “goddesses,” idols and those who have claimed Divine status for themselves. This line has shown the “lowest of the low” into which humankind can fall.
In contrast, the blessed line of Prophethood, which takes the form of the Tūbā tree of worship, has borne the fruit of Prophets, Messengers, saints, and the righteous in the garden of earth and on the branch of empowered reason. On the branch of empowered anger, the branch of defense against and repelling of evil, it has yielded the fruits of virtuous and just rulers. On the branch of empowered animal desires or appetites, which have taken the form of empowered attractiveness, it has borne the fruits of generous, benevolent persons of good character and modest bearing throughout history. As a result, this line has demonstrated how humankind is the perfect fruit of creation.
Prophethood considers that the aim and function of human beings is to be molded by the Divine values and to achieve good character. Prophets believed that people should perceive their weakness, and seek refuge with Divine Power and rely on Divine Strength; realize their insufficiency and essential poverty, and trust in Divine Mercy; know their need and seek help from Divine Wealth; see their faults and plead for pardon through Divine Forgiveness; and perceive their inadequacy and glorify Divine Perfection.
According to human thinking that has been deviated, power is approved. “Might is right” is the norm. Its maxims are: “All power to the strongest;” “Survival of the fittest;” “Winner takes all;” and “In power, there is right.” It has given moral support to tyranny, encouraged dictators, and urged oppressors to claim Divinity. By ascribing the beauty in “works of art” to the works themselves, and not to the Maker and Fashioner’s pure, sacred Beauty, it says: “How beautiful it is,” not: “How beautifully it is made,” and thus considers each as an idol worthy of adoration.