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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Fashionista's Review: Denial, Tafseer of Surah Ar-Rahman and Yasin

So here I am post-ILMFest enrolling myself at yet another of Al Maghrib's programs. I registered as a student and this is my first of their weekend seminars, Denial, Tafseer of Surah Ar-Rahman and Yassin taught by Dr Reda Bedeir

Okay, before you start reading, let me just warn you that this is a very, very long post. Oh okay, now that we've got that cleared, do continue.

So, how does Dr Reda teach? In a good way (which I find to be extremely beneficial) he teaches from the beginning. Now the thing is, where is the beginning? In teaching religion, there is no A B C to indicate the beginning. Even the first verse that was taught, "Iqra' bismirabbi kallazi halaqa" (which means "Read O'Muhammad in the name of your Lord, Who has created) is not the first verse in the Quran (it's actually in Surah no. 96, Al-'Alaq). So, the beginning could simply mean anywhere and everywhere. 

He started by explaining the first sentence that we would recite before we start reciting any Quranic verses, the ta'awwudh, "A'udhu billahi min ash-sharitani r-rajimi," meaning I seek refuge with Allah against Shaytan. So, he started by questioning us, why do we seek refuge with Allah against Shaytan? (Note in Surah Sad 38: 82-83 Shaytan said, "I will try to ambush and take them away from the straight path. Except those who are sincere.") As Muslims, we know that Shaytan have made an oath to bring us to Jahannam with him. We say it because Allah is the only resort and there is none more powerful than Allah. So we seek refuge with Allah against the whispers of Shaytan. 

Dr Reda then proceeded to explain the meaning of basmala, "b-ismi-llahi r-rahmani r-rahimi," meaning in the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. To elaborate, as we are servants of Allah, Allah gives us temporary control in the dunya (this life on earth) and Allah will take it away in the akhirah (hereafter). Thus this statement is indicative that we would do everything to please Allah. So this statement could be elaborated as in the name of The One who gave me all of these things that I could not live without, who gave me ears so I could hear, who gave me eyes so that I could see, who gave me my tongue and mouth so that I could speak.. He also differentiated between Ar-Rahman and Ar-Rahim (in the basmala that we recite). Ar-Rahman means the all merciful while Ar-Rahim is the act of being merciful or the nature that is merciful all the time.

Our student's kit by Al Maghrib consisted of a barcode (which is to be scanned before the morning lecture for attendance purposes), a student ID with lanyard and a workbook.

Dr Reda then followed by explaining that the Quran is divided into three parts where one-third consists of stories, one-third is on Allah and mono-theism and the remaining one-third on the rules that we should follow. (Note that in Surah Yusuf 12:111 Indeed there were lessons in the stories for those who want to learn and reflect). He also told us that there are actually two books where we can learn and reflect, the closed book (or physical book) which is the Quran and the open book (metaphorically) which is the universe. Indeed there are verses in the Quran that mentions the universe and signs of The Creator if only man would take heed.

The word Quran in itself stems from the word qara'a which means to recite. And the word Quran means recitation. Indeed the Quran was revealed through the Angel Gabriel to our Prophet Muhammad pbuh in oral form and was only compiled into the written form after the death of the Prophet pbuh during the time of the first Caliph, Abu Bakr. (Note: Abu Bakr was persuaded by Umar to compile the Quran into a book and he finally gave in after the Battle of Yamamah where a great number of the Quran memorisers had perished). It was compiled by Zayd ibn Thabit and verified against two companions who heard the verses directly from the Prophet pbuh. All the verses in the Quran were verified against two companions except for one verse in Surah no. 33 Al-Ahzab verse 23 which was only verified by one companion, Khuzaima ibn Thabit. This exception was allowed due to a transaction involving the Prophet pbuh and a Bedouin where Khuzaima had spoken up to bear witness of the transaction between the Prophet pbuh and the Bedouin. Due to this, the Prophet pbuh said, "if Khuzaima is your witness, you don't need a second witness."

So let's go to the first surah that we studied, Surah Yasin. Surah Yasin is the 36th surah in the Quran. It was revealed in Mecca, thus it is also known as a Meccan Surah. (Note that the revelation of the Quran covers a period of 23 years, 13 years in Mecca and 10 years in Medina. Thus surahs that were revealed in Mecca is known as a Meccan surah while surahs that were revealed in Medina is known as a Medina surah. Surahs that were revealed in Mecca are mainly on who is Allah and stories of the people before the people of Quraisy while Medina surahs are themed on rules and regulations to be applied by Muslims). It is among one of the most widely recited surahs in the Quran (it is usually recited to the dead thus during funerals you would normally observe the guests to a Muslim funeral reciting Surah Yasin to the deceased). However despite this, please do not think that other surahs are not as widely recited because in the Quran, there are 114 surahs, some are recited more frequently due to many reasons (like the first surah in the Quran, Surah Al-Fatihah is recited at least 17 times in a day by each individual Muslim as it is included in their daily prayers, and this surah is also frequently recited at the beginning of a du'a and also at the end of a du'a).

As one of the most frequently recited surahs, there are many da'if or weak hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad pbuh) on Surah Yasin and some of them are even untrue (false hadith). The thing about hadith is that the types of hadith is divided into which is sahih or authentic, hasan or good  and da'if or weak. The hadith in the photo above are weak hadiths related to Surah Yasin (except for the last one, which is in bold, that is a false hadith). 

So could da'if or weak hadith be used as a reference? Weak hadith can be accepted on three (3) conditions:
1. The hadith should be slightly weak
2. Use it when it comes to the virtues of deeds, to motivate something good or to stay away from something bad. However, it should not be used for matters relating to Aqidah.
3. If used, it must be mentioned that it is a weak hadith.

Surah Yasin starts with the story about Allah, then it continues forward with the message and ends with the messenger. It is divided into an introduction (verse 1 - 12) and three parts (1) the historic argument (verse 13 - 32), (2) the rational argument (verse 33 - 68) and (3) the moral argument (verse 69 - 83). The introduction describes the status of the believers and non-believers and the nature of Quranic revelation while the following three (3) parts provides a proof of the authenticity of the Quran.

Among the gems that I could share on Surah Yasin (there are so many but I won't be able to share them all so those who are interested to learn tafseer, do sign up for Al Maghrib's seminars or any other similar organisations of your choice):

1. The meaning of Ya Siin (the first verse in the surah, which incidentally is also the name for the surah). Do note that the meaning is unknown, thus these are simply opinions by various scholars. Some scholars say that ya siin is similar to the beginning of Surah no 2, Al-Baqarah or Surah no 20, Taha, letters of the Arabic alphabet. Some scholars are of the opinion that ya siin could be Arabic letters that refers to either a person or something, i.e. due to the third verse in the surah (Truly, you are one of the Messengers) it could be the name of a Prophet. Another scholar mentions that it could be a nickname for Prophet Muhammad pbuh meaning the Master of Humanity while another scholar says that it could refer to man, ya siin - ya insan (oh man!). 

2. Usually when the beginning of a surah starts with separate letters like ya siin in this surah (or other surah like alif lam mim in Surah Al-Baqarah) the following verse would be talking about the Quran. The letter waw in the beginning of this verse is used as an oath, "By the Quran."

3. In the third verse, Allah personified the Quran as if it is a man (note: messenger or in this case the Prophet pbuh) that will teach us the Quran.

4. In the fourth verse, the path refers to the sirat (the bridge over Jahannam) that is carrying us to Jannah (heaven).

5. In the fifth verse, it refers to the Quran which was sent down to us from Allah.

6. In the eleventh verse, the reward that is generous refers to the reward which will come to those who act as Muslims even though we cannot see Allah. (Note: as quoted from Ali who said, "How do you define sincerity? It means to act exactly the same whether you are among people or you are alone.")

7. The verses 13 - 32 tells a story about a city who was sent with two messengers whom they rejected. The messengers were reinforced with a third but was also rejected (not only were they rejected but they were also threatened with stoning and torture). The city itself is not important in the story, for what is important is the message it conveys. However, Dr Reda informed us that the city in this tale is the city of Antioch and if you'd like to read more on the tale you may want to click [here]. The story then follows with a man (Habib Al Najjar or Habib the carpenter) running towards to non-believers saying that the messengers are indeed true. Unfortunately, the people of the city stepped on  him and killed him. So he died a martyr and the verse continues with the man (Habib Al Najjar) entering Paradise.

8. The verses 33 - 40 starts with signs of the Creator for the disbelievers. Verse 37 talks about the day and the night. In Islam, we believe that the night starts first followed by the day. (Example: during Ramadhan, Tarawih prayers starts the night before, after Maghrib prayers, for the fasting that is to be conducted the next day). Thus in this verse, it indicates that the default is the night, Allah sends the light to cover the darkness, and the way the verse is written is to indicate the changing of the day to night as if Allah peels off the light and then everything goes to darkness. As you may see during sunset, the changing of the day to night is as if the light (the setting of the sun) is peeled off (similar to how the skin of an orange is peeled off from the fruit) from the sky as the day turns into night. Verse 39 refers to an analogy of the moon and the dates, where the dates starts growing until the branch withers and dies when the dates mature. This is similar to the situation of the moon which is also in stages. Verse 40 talks about the sign of the day and night, and the position of the moon and the sun against the earth's hemisphere. Thus it could be seen that the signs of the Creator that is mentioned in Surah Yasin does not only cover signs on earth but also signs in the sky (the universe).

9. The verses 41 - 46 refers to the Prophet Noah who built a ship on top of the mountain (and he was ridiculed by his people for that) and the flood that killed everything except for the pairs that were carried on the ship.

10. The verses 47 - 54 starts with Allah telling us that he is The One that showers us with wealth. And Allah tests us by giving, He would expect us to share our wealth with the unfortunate and poor. (Note: when Allah gives, he is testing us with gratitude and when Allah takes, he is testing us with patience). The following verses then details with the Day of Judgment and how we will be resurrected from our graves with one blow of the trumpet. It is only on the Day of Judgment will the non-believers admit that the messengers were indeed telling the truth but by then it would be too late.

11. The verses 55 - 58 then describes the lives of the people in Jannah (paradise) and in verse 58, Allah swt shall greet us in Jannah.

12. In verse 60, the term worship Shaytan refers to the obedience to Shaytan (or in simple words, following the footsteps of Shaytan). Dr Reda then continued to explain this term by associating it with ibadah, referring to terms such as part-time Muslims, full-time Muslims or all-time Muslims. He then related this to the verse in Surah no. 2, Al Baqarah verse 85, "... would you believe some parts of the book and leave some parts of the book? ..." Definitely the best is an all-time Muslim (you are a Muslim when you are around other people and when you are alone). "... and Allah loves those who are in a constant state of purification," Surah Al Baqarah verse 222. If you notice, in verses 60 and 61 of Surah Yasin, I and Me (singular) is used to describe Allah swt, while in the verses 65 - 68, We and Our (plural) is used. Some might question, why is there a difference? You might want to note that when talking about worship, I or Me (singular) is used to refer to Allah, for example, "... worship Me" while when the Quran describes the attributes (act or creation) of Allah the royal We is used. (Note: an example is when the Queen of England speaks, she does not use I or me to refer to herself, she uses we or us, it refers to her, but since she's the majesty, a plural we is used).

13. In verse 70, it states that Yasin is a book to remind the living (quite dissimilar to certain customs who associates recitation of the Yasin for the dead). Here living refers to those with a living heart and the Quran is the message to bring life to the hearts of the living. Similarly in Surah no 8 Al-Anfal verse 24, "... and know that Allah has the power to change or to hinder anything between a man and his heart..." This verse talks about us answering the call of Allah swt and the call of the messenger.

14. In verse 75, the word they refers to the idols which the non-believers have taken besides Allah swt. The idols will be used as witnesses in the hereafter to testify to the deeds of the non-believers. In Surah no 66 At-Tahrim verse 6, "O believers! Guard yourselves and your families against the Fire (of Hell) whose fuel is human beings and stones..." here the stones refers to the idols which are worshipped by the non-believers, it will be used in the hereafter as fuel to Hellfire.

15. Verse 78 refers to a man who came to the Prophet pbuh with a bone and he crushed it in front of the Prophet pbuh and threw it to the Prophet pbuh. He then asked the Prophet pbuh, "Does your Lord can bring life back to this decayed body?" This is then answered in verse 79 where it shows that Allah swt created man (Adam) out of the earth, how easy it would be for Allah swt to bring life back to the crushed bones held by the man.

Surah Ar-Rahman is the 55th surah in the Quran. Ar-Rahman is one of Allah's names which means the unimaginably merciful. It refers to the nature of Allah swt to be exceedingly merciful. During the time of the Prophet pbuh, the people of Quraisy had a problem with the name Rahman, to the point they even questioned the basmala and denied the word Rahman. In the first four (4) verses of the surah, it goes like this:

Ar-Rahman. He has taught the Quran. He has created man. He has taught him articulate speech. (Al-Quran, 55: 1-4)

In this four verses, it shows the importance of the Quran over man's creation (thus the mention of Quran's creation comes first in the surah). This indicates that the purpose of our creation is more importance the our creation. And it also uses the word 'teach' indicating that Allah swt teaches. Man is the student. To whom did Allah swt teach the Quran? It is left open, indicating that Quran is not only for humans (either believers or non-believers), but also to Jinn. 

Among the gems that I could share on Surah Ar-Rahman are:

1. The second verse indicates that the Quran is created first before the creation of man. 

2. In this surah, similar to Surah Yasin, Allah swt talks about the Quran and this is followed by the universe.

3. The word mizan (balance) is repeated three times (in verses 7, 8 and 9). Mizan literally translated means scale, it is also a symbol of justice and also represents balance in the universe.

4. In verse 13, "Which of the blessings of your Lord will you both deny?" You both refers to both man and Jinn. The blessings refers to all that Allah swt has given us, our health, our family, our wealth, our partner, our offsprings etc. This verse is repeated 31 times in the surah. And each time it is repeated after a verse that talks about the gifts and blessings that Allah swt has bestowed upon us. The Prophet pbuh recited this verse to the Jinn and every time he comes upon this verse, the Jinn would reply, "None of the blessing o' Lord that we deny."

5. In verse 17, it talks about the two easts and two wests. This refers to the daily rising and setting of the sun. The point of the rising of the sun is different every day (due to the earth moving in its own orbit and the sun moving also in its own orbit) and the sun asks for permission from Allah swt everyday whether it should rise. Allah swt would give permission until the day of judgment, where the sun would then be commanded to rise from the west.

6. In verses 19 and 20, Allah swt creates the seas where the seas meet but they do not mix. This refers to the meeting of fresh water seas (and even rivers) and salt water seas and indeed you can see from the video below how the two seas meet but there is a noticeable barrier between them. And in verse 22, from both seas come out pearls (indeed we do have freshwater and saltwater pearls).

Unfortunately we were running out of time, there were too many to share that I guess Dr Reda felt compelled to share as much as he can (and we couldn't fit all in the two days seminar that we had) and I also had to leave the auditorium at 6.45pm to catch my 9.15pm flight back to Kuching. Thus I only learnt up until verse 25 of Surah Ar-Rahman. So I am still waiting for the team from Qabeelat Ihsaan for the notes that they promised to comply and share with us. So in the same spirit, I am sharing my notes (up until verse 25 of Surah Ar-Rahman unfortunately) with everyone. Hope my notes will benefit you as much as the seminar with Dr Reda have benefited me. Subhanallah.

To those who are interested to learn and join seminars organized by Al Maghrib, do visit their website and register as a student [here].

To love of our Allah and our religion, Islam.

xoxo Mrs Fashionista

Ps: In the midst of writing this post, I stumbled upon an interesting page related to the verses in the Quran on the hereafter. If you're interested, you can visit the page [here].

Fashionista's Book Review: Biografi Syed Mokhtar Albukhary

I seem to be reading a lot of non fiction books lately (well actually, I don't remember when was the last time I read a fiction book) and I've been eyeing this book for quite a while. Finding myself to be traveling for quite often for the past few months and getting the book was simply an excuse for me to read while I wait for my flight at the airport.

Not much is known about this guy Syed Mokhtar Albukhary. He is most known for his wealth, he's listed among the top 20 wealthiest Malaysians and his charity (he has his own charitable foundation). Other than that, you barely see him in the news or anywhere (maybe except the business section, sometimes). Thus, that enticed me to buy the book. To know the man behind the name Syed Mokhtar Albukhary.

Needless to say, the book is definitely interesting and indeed motivating. I found a lot of inspiring stories of how he built his business, the strong discipline and business ethics that made him a success that he is today. What I liked about the book is his attachment on his family (and it could also be the backbone of his success).There were a lot of familial tales in the book, stories of him lending a hand in his father's business, he went to Johor to work with his uncle and even his wife is also a distant family relative. This shows how important family is to him. And indeed you can see from the story on how much his mother means to him, and how his family have influenced his nature in giving to others.

I would definitely recommend this book, to aspiring business people or those who are seeking for motivation. In this book you'll learn how determination, perseverance and never giving up (and even picking up the pieces after you've fallen) are the keys to his success. There are plenty of lessons to be learnt from this book. Absolutely inspiring!

To reading and learning.

xoxo Mrs Fashionista