Saturday, September 29, 2007

Expressions in the Qur'an II

A simile is described as a comparison of two unlike things, typically marked by use of "like", "as", "than", or "resembles" 1

The Qur’an employs similes (amthal, singular mathal (مَثَلُ)) to explain certain truths or to drive home important points of the message. Similes are used by likening it to something well known or describing it in a pictorial, vivid manner. They are referred to the natural phenomena and existential situation the Arab was most familiar with, but one does not have to be an Arab to feel their force.

The particle كَ is used in the meaning of "like", "as", "than", or "resembles". It is also interesting to note that the كَ is a harfe Jar, therefore the word following it will be Majroor (in the state of Jar)

1. Jews who have the Torah but do not profit by it are compared to an ass loaded with books:

مَثَلُ الَّذِينَ حُمِّلُوا التَّوْرَاةَ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَحْمِلُوهَا كَمَثَلِ الْحِمَارِ يَحْمِلُ أَسْفَارًا
THE PARABLE of those who were graced with the burden of the Torah, and thereafter failed to bear this burden, is that of an ass that carries a load of books [but cannot benefit from them] [62.5].

2. The works of unbelievers, from which they hope to benefit at the Judgement, are like ashes blown away by the wind [14.18], or like a mirage which appears to be water, but, when one comes to it, turns out to be nothing [24.39].

مَّثَلُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ بِرَبِّهِمْ أَعْمَالُهُمْ كَرَمَادٍ اشْتَدَّتْ بِهِ الرِّيحُ فِي يَوْمٍ عَاصِفٍ
the parable of those who are bent on denying their Sustainer: all their works are as ashes which the wind blows about fiercely on a stormy day [14.18]

وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا أَعْمَالُهُمْ كَسَرَابٍ بِقِيعَةٍ يَحْسَبُهُ الظَّمْآنُ مَاء حَتَّى إِذَا جَاءهُ لَمْ يَجِدْهُ شَيْئًا
But as for those who are bent on denying the truth, their [good] deeds are like a mirage in the desert, which the thirsty supposes to be water - until, when he approaches it, he finds that it was nothing [24.39].

1. Wikipedia

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Surah Kahf: An Explanation of the Dua of the Young Men

Surah Kahf starts off with the story of the men who fled from the torture of their disbeliever king, and took refuge in a cave. The first ayah we read on these young believing men is their dua. Sheikh Sohail Hanif1, explains how beautiful this dua is.

When the young men fled for refuge to the Cave and said: Our Lord! Give us
mercy from Thy presence and shape for us right conduct in our plight

إِذْ أَوَى الْفِتْيَةُ إِلَى الْكَهْفِ فَقَالُوا رَبَّنَا آتِنَا مِن لَّدُنكَ رَحْمَةً وَهَيِّئْ لَنَا مِنْ أَمْرِنَا رَشَدًا

Let's do a breakdown of the words used in this ayah:

  • الْفِتْيَةُ fitya - young men. Another usage of this term- chivalrous (indicate strength of character)
  • لَّدُن ladun - indicates a place near or next to something. They put the term “from you” in front of their dua. They're asking for a direct mercy, not from any intermediary distance.
    The prayer they made- O Our Lord, O you who cares about us, grant us, from you, a special mercy, not the general mercy of life and gifts in life.
    What they are asking for is all good- the good of this world and the hereafter, a mercy which will save them from all humiliation, a mercy which will free them from all hardships completely
    Their circumstance at the time of supplication was that they were in dire need, in a time when every opposite thing was expected, starvation, their fate threatened to be taken away from them, and to be exiled forever from their loved ones.
  • َهَيِّئْ hayyi' - The idea here is “to prepare something” [translated here as shape for us]
  • أَمْر amr - Meaning their circumstances [Translated here as right conduct]
    Make easy for us, our circumstance
  • رَشَدًا rashad - The meaning encompasses (1) goodness or khair, (2) an-nafu: everything most beneficial to one, and (3) salaah: everything perfect and upright
    Oh Allah make our circumstances, and grant us in it complete rashad

Subhanallah, this dua was answered by Allah subhana wa ta'ala.

How did Allah give the men rashad?

  • By warding off the enemies from the cave.
  • Also Allah showed them to the cave, the cave was in a perfect location
  • He put them to sleep and they woke up in times of belief
  • And finally, the most beautiful part to me is that, He made them a sign for all of mankind

What an immense reward Subhanallah!

Benefit of reciting this prayer :

  • Gathers together all good of this world.
  • It's a sign of Allah (swt) accepting the duas soon after they are made.
1. Commentary on Key Chapters of the Qur'an

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Expressions in the Qur'an

There are a number of expressions used in the Quran. Some are used to clarify, others used to draw an imagery.

In Surah Al bayyinah (96) verse 16, Allah SWT uses a hyperbole. A hyperbole is a figure of speech in which statements are exaggerated. It may be used to evoke strong feelings or to create a strong impression, and is not meant to be taken literally1

نَاصِيَةٍ۬ كَـٰذِبَةٍ خَاطِئَةٍ۬ - translated as "The lying, sinful forelock"

If you look back at verse 13, there's a mention of a "kadhib" - a liar, someone who denies. From there on the verses describe the punishment of such a person. And verse under question declares the forelock as lying and sinful, as if to say, the person is so sinful, that every part of him is sinful.

This is an instance of a part of the body being attributed with the attribute of the whole. He is such a big liar that, it is as if every part of his body lies seperately. That's the stage of his sins - gives us an idea of the extreme2

1. Defination of Hyperbole, Wikipedia
2. Tafseer Ruhul Ma 'aani

Friday, September 14, 2007

Conjunctions in the Qur'an III


Indicates choice. Can also mean unless, except, that when followed by a subject.

Here's a beautiful ayah, that starts with this conjunction:

أَوْ كَالَّذِي مَرَّ عَلَى قَرْيَةٍ وَهِيَ خَاوِيَةٌ عَلَى عُرُوشِهَا قَالَ أَنَّىَ يُحْيِـي هَـَذِهِ اللّهُ بَعْدَ مَوْتِهَا فَأَمَاتَهُ اللّهُ مِئَةَ عَامٍ ثُمَّ بَعَثَهُ قَالَ كَمْ لَبِثْتَ قَالَ لَبِثْتُ يَوْمًا أَوْ بَعْضَ يَوْمٍ قَالَ بَل لَّبِثْتَ مِئَةَ عَامٍ فَانظُرْ إِلَى طَعَامِكَ وَشَرَابِكَ لَمْ يَتَسَنَّهْ وَانظُرْ إِلَى حِمَارِكَ وَلِنَجْعَلَكَ آيَةً لِّلنَّاسِ وَانظُرْ إِلَى العِظَامِ كَيْفَ نُنشِزُهَا ثُمَّ نَكْسُوهَا لَحْمًا فَلَمَّا تَبَيَّنَ لَهُ قَالَ أَعْلَمُ أَنَّ اللّهَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ
Or (take) the similitude of one who passed by a hamlet, all in ruins to its roofs. He said: "Oh! how shall Allah bring it (ever) to life, after (this) its death?" but Allah caused him to die for a hundred years, then raised him up (again). He said: "How long didst thou tarry (thus)?" He said: (Perhaps) a day or part of a day." He said: "Nay, thou hast tarried thus a hundred years; but look at thy food and thy drink; they show no signs of age; and look at thy donkey: And that We may make of thee a sign unto the people, Look further at the bones, how We bring them together and clothe them with flesh." When this was shown clearly to him, he said: "I know that Allah hath power over all things." [2:259]

It's interesting that this ayah follows the one where Ibrahim (as) asks the King to bring the sun from the West, but the King disbelieves. And in the ayah after it, the one above, Allah (swt) shows that even Ibrahim (as) wondered about life after death.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Conjunctions in the Qur'an II


Meaning: and, and also, and... too

و ان : even if, even though, although

و لو : even if, even though, even in case that

و لكن : but, however, yet

This conjunction, with the all too familiar meaning of 'and' (simultaneity) conveys slightly different meanings depending on how it's used in sentences, although it's usage is fairly flexible.

In a previous post, Hafsa discussed the different types of "ifs". That will give you an idea of how the different meanings appear in the Qur'an.
As much as using these particles are important to convey the meaning you want, when such particles are omitted in parallel ayahs in the Qur'an, there's a significance to that which Sh Sohail Hanif explains1 .

In Surah Ash-Shu'ara two verses are repeated, with a subtle difference.

  • قَالُوا إِنَّمَا أَنتَ مِنَ الْمُسَحَّرِين مَا أَنتَ إِلَّا بَشَرٌ مِّثْلُنَا
    Thay said: "Thou art only one of those bewitched! "Thou art no more than a mortal like us: ..." [26:153-154]
  • قَالُوا إِنَّمَا أَنتَ مِنَ الْمُسَحَّرِين و مَا أَنتَ إِلَّا بَشَرٌ مِّثْلُنَا
    They said: "Thou art only one of those bewitched! "Thou art no more than a mortal like us, ..." [26:185-186]

In the first instance, people are speaking to Prophet Saleh (pbuh), and in the second, it's to Prophet Shuaib (pbuh). Yusuf Ali translated (الْمُسَحَّرِين) musahharin as bewitched in both the ayahs. However, musahharin has two meanings- one is to be bewitched, and the other is "to be from from those who eat and drink"- In other words, you are nothing but a man like us.

Scholars have differed in the meanings of these verses- Are the people saying you are bewitched, or are they saying you are from those who eat and drink?
In the second ayah, the و means and. So the translation is, You are from the musahharin, and you are like us.

Dr Fadhl Abbas says because of the missing و in the first instance, both ayahs refer to the same meaning, which is, you are from those who eat and drink, you are like us. And in the latter it means bewitched, because the two verses are separated by an and.
This is not only a miracle in the concise use of language, but also in historical accuracy. The early prophets weren't accused of being bewitched. And it appears that sorcery became a widespread phenomena in the Pharoanic Egypt. Shuaib (as) was in Madyan as the same time as Prophet Musa (as). Prophet Saleh was from the Prophets of early Arabia.

And we derive all these facts because of the و .

1 Introduction to the Qur'an- SunniPath