The Qur’an: A gift worth celebrating

Updated 20 November 2015

The Qur’an: A gift worth celebrating

So, celebrate, rejoice…” proclaimed my teacher in a loud insistent voice making me look up at her while jotting down quick notes from her tafsir lecture.
“Celebrate,” she said again, “and be happy from the depths of your heart ... for the blessing, the treasure Allah sent down to you. Cherish the blessing of the Qur’an … It is way better and way above the rest of the blessings that you collect and enjoy.”
I heard the bell indicating that the class was over for today. Wrapping up I took my copy of the Qur’an, stared at it for a while, smiled and wiped away a tear. Feeling a deep sense of gratitude I fixed my hijab and walked out into the warm sunshine thinking about how blessed we really were! Allah bestowed us with countless blessings.
He endowed us with the gifts like sight and hearing, the intellect, health, wealth and family. He has even subjected everything in the universe for us: The sun, the moon, the heavens and the earth, and many countless things, but none of these can ever match up to the blessing of the Qur’an that He gifted us with! Mere words can’t describe its excellence and magnificence. It’s a precious gift in the form of a divine Book, a valuable treasure given by Allah Almighty to mankind. It’s too precious to be left untouched on high shelves, too precious to be kept back after reading a few lines without understanding it, too precious to ignore it and move on in life like stray cattle. It is this precious quality of the Qur’an through which hundreds of people accept Islam each year, in awe of its eloquent verses, precise words and astounding meanings which penetrate and shake their innermost souls.
Awed by the deep sense of love and gratitude, I fondly recalled the verses we had studied earlier where Allah addresses all of mankind and says: "O mankind there has to come to you good advice from your Lord and healing for what is in the breasts and guidance and mercy for the believers. Say, ‘In the bounty of Allah and in His mercy, in that let them rejoice; it is better than what they accumulate." (Qur’an 10:57-58)
The Qur’an without doubt, is the best advice ever to reach us. It is an instruction, a guide that gives us the strength to wake up each day and strive to be the best in all that we do. It gives us not just a larger perspective of life but also a deeper understanding of the things and people around us. It’s a Light that guides us not just out of the darkness of ignorant practices but also makes us get back to our feet after every failure and loss.
The Qur’an is like a miraculous pill that if read with understanding and reflection, takes away the diseases in the heart such as doubt, hypocrisy, shirk, deviation, misguidance, envy, anxiety, grief and greed; the Qur’an heals all of that. And it is also a mercy which brings about faith, wisdom and the pursuit of and desire for goodness specifically for those who believe in it and follow it. If the noble words of this Book brought eternal peace to the hearts and freedom to the souls who were chained to the whims of their own desires more than fourteen hundred years ago, it surely can free us from our own issues and stressful facets of life. From wonderful stories and parables that have special effects on the heart and mind, serving as lessons, glad tidings and admonition for those who reflect to beautiful supplications which when recited and repeated calm the soul and make one obtain Allah’s mercy, love and acceptance, one can only marvel and be amazed at the gems and jewels the Qur’an contains!
So no wonder, Allah Almighty, the Master and Creator of all that exists, calls us to rejoice, celebrate and treasure His Glorious Book as it deserves to be treasured. It truly demands our appreciation, undue attention and reverence. And true appreciation and gratitude means we should be sincerely grateful for this blessing from our heart, then use our tongues to utter words of praises and thanks to our Master who blessed us with this Noble Book and show Him the practical proof of this gratitude by increasing in recitation of its beautiful verses, learning and understanding them for His sake and then applying its teachings into our lives in a way that pleases Allah and benefits His™ servants.
The biggest motivation that we would ever need for this task is in the words of our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) when he said: “The best among you is the one who learns the Qur’an and teaches it.” (Bukhari) At another instance, he (peace be upon him) said: "Allah has His own family among mankind." His companions said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, who are they?’ He (peace be upon him) said: ‘The people of the Qur’an, the people of Allah and those who are closest (special) to Him.” (Sunan Ibn e Majah, Hadith no 214, Sahih Al-Albani)
Such is the Generosity of our Creator that on being grateful for this gift, by understanding, absorbing and by following and teaching the Qur’an, we have been promised huge rewards and high status in this world and in the Hereafter. Nothing can ever bring us nearer to our Lord and His pleasure than the moments we spend with His Book.
In one of his lectures, Sheikh Ibn Baaz (May Allah have mercy on him) said: "Of the things that I advise you and myself to do is attachment and eagerness toward reading the Majestic Qur’an; to perform this a great deal at night and during the day, with reflection, thinking and comprehension of its magnificent and heart-purifying lessons that prevent one from following desires and following the Satan. The Qur’an is the unbreakable rope of Allah and His straight path to which whoever holds on will reach Allah and will reach the home of grace (Paradise), and whoever turns his back on it will live a life of struggle in this world and the next."
So let’s strive to appreciate and show true gratitude to Allah for the precious gift He has blessed us with. Let’s not alienate this Glorious Book to be read only in Ramadan, or let it be kept away on a dusty bookshelf, or to be used only by the elders of the household. Instead, let’s pick it up now, benefit from the treasures it contains for us and experience peace, true happiness and eternal success.


The beauty of prayer in Islam

Updated 23 September 2016

The beauty of prayer in Islam

GOING deeper into our spiritual state during prayers (salah) requires that we have a presence of heart and are mindful of the words being said during the prayers.
Our prayer will feel shorter, yet when we look at how much time we actually spent, we will think, “Did I just spend 10 minutes?” or even 15 and 20 minutes.
A person who began applying this said he wished the prayer would never end.
A feeling that Ibn Al-Qayyim describes as “what the competitors compete for… it is nourishment for the soul and the delight of the eyes,” and he also said, “If this feeling leaves the heart, it is as though it is a body with no soul.”

The love of Allah
Some people’s relationship with Allah is limited to following orders and leaving prohibitions, so that one does not enter hell. Of course, we must follow orders and leave prohibitions, but it needs to be done out of more than fear and hope; it should also be done out of love for Allah. Allah says in the Qur’an: “… Allah will bring forth [in place of them] a people He will love and who will love Him.” (Qur’an, 5:54)
We often find that when a lover meets the beloved, hearts are stirred and there is warmth in that meeting. Yet when we meet Allah, there is not even an ounce of this same feeling. Allah says in the Qur’an: “And (yet) among the people are those who take other than Allah as equals (to Him). They love them as they (should) love Allah. But those who believe are stronger in love for Allah.” (Qur’an, 2:165)
And those who believe are stronger in love for Allah. There should be a feeling of longing, and when we raise our hands to start the prayer, warmth and love should fill our hearts because we are now meeting with Allah. A dua of the Prophet (peace be upon him): “O Allah, I ask You for the longing to meet You” (An-Nisa’i, Al-Hakim)
Ibn Al-Qayyim says in his book Tareeq Al-Hijratain that Allah loves His Messengers and His believing servants, and they love Him and nothing is more beloved to them than Him. The love of one’s parents has a certain type of sweetness, as does the love of one’s children, but the love of Allah far supersedes any of that. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Any person who combines these three qualities will experience the sweetness of faith: 1) that God and His messenger are dearer to him than anything else; 2) that his love of others is purely for God’s sake; and 3) that he hates to relapse into disbelief as much as he hates to be thrown in the fire.” (Bukhari)
Thus, the first thing he mentioned was: “… that God and His messenger are more beloved to him than anything else…”
Ibn Al-Qayyim says: “Since ‘there is nothing like unto Him’ (Qur’an, 42:11), there is nothing like experiencing love for Him.”
If you feel this love for Him, it will be a feeling so intense, so sweet, that you would wish the prayer would never ever end.
Do you truly want to feel this love? Then ask yourself: ‘why do you or should you love Allah?’
Know that you love people for one (or all, in varying degrees) of three reasons: For their beauty, because of their exalted character or/and because they have done good to you. And know that Allah combines all of these three to the utmost degree.

All-embracing beauty
We’ve all been touched by beauty. It is almost fitrah (natural disposition) to love what is beautiful. Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him, said about the Prophet, peace be upon him, that it was “as if the sun is shining from his face.” Jabir (may God be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allah was more handsome, beautiful, and radiant than the full moon” (Tirmidhi)
Allah made all His Prophets have a certain beauty so that people would have a natural inclination toward them.
And beauty is more than what is in the face, because beauty is in all of creation and somehow has the ability to take our breath away and give us peace simultaneously. The glimmer of the crescent moon on a calm night, the intensity of a waterfall as the water drops for thousands of feet, the sunset by the sea … certain scenes of natural unspoiled beauty stirs something in us. As Allah is the One Who made it beautiful, so what of Allah’s beauty?
Ibn Al-Qayyim said: “And it is enough to realize Allah’s Beauty when we know that every internal and external beauty in this life and the next are created by Him, so what of the beauty of their Creator?”
This fitrah for loving what is beautiful is because Allah is beautiful. One of His Names is Al-Jameel (the Most Beautiful). Ibn Al-Qayyim states that the beauty of Allah is something that a person cannot imagine and only He knows it. There is nothing of it in creation save for glimpses.
Ibn Al-Qayyim says if all of creation were the most beautiful they could be (so let’s imagine, ever single human being looked as beautiful as Yusuf, peace be upon him, and the whole world was like Paradise), and all of them combined from the beginning of time until the Day of Judgment, they would not even be like a ray in comparison to the sun when compared to Allah. Allah’s beauty is so intense that we will not even be able to take it in this life. In the Qur’an, Allah describes Musa’s (peace be upon him) request: “And when Moses arrived at Our appointed time and his Lord spoke to him, he said, ‘My Lord, show me (Yourself) that I may look at You.’ (Allah) said: ‘You will not see Me but look at the mountain; if it should remain in place, then you will see Me.’ But when his Lord appeared to the mountain He rendered it level, and Moses fell unconscious.” (Qur’an, 7:143)
Even the mountain could not bear the beauty of Allah and crumbled, and when Musa, peace be upon him, saw this (he did not even see Allah), he fell unconscious. This is why on the Day of Judgment it is Allah’s light that will shine on everything. We talk about breathtaking beauty, but we have yet to experience Allah’s beauty. While things in this world can be beautiful or majestic or if they combine both they are finite, true majesty and beauty are for Allah: “And there will remain the Face of your Lord, Owner of Majesty and Honor.” (Qur’an, 55:27)
Keeping all of this in mind, the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Allah directs His Face toward the face of His servant who is praying, as long as he does not turn away” (Tirmidhi).
Remember this in your prayer, and ask Allah to allow you the joy of seeing Him in Paradise.