Category Archives: Qur’an

Surah Muhammad: Understanding the Command to Fight

Surah Muhammad or Al-Qital is one of the few Chapters in the Qur’an that has two names. Other examples of such chapters include chapters 9 (at-Tawbah or Bara’ah), no. 17 (Al-Isra’ or Bani Isra’il) and no. 40 (Ghafir or Al-Mu’min). Its first name (Muhammad) is derived from from verse 2, which implies that in it the Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) is mentioned by name (this occurs 5 times in total in the whole Qur’an). The name Al-Qital, which means ‘battle’, is derived from verse 20 “..and fighting is mentioned therein..” with ‘therein’ referring to the chapter itself.

This chapter was sent down after the Hijrah in Madinah. This was during the early years following the Hijrah, so active fighting was not undertaken yet.

This Chapter was sent down during a time when Muslims were the target of persecution – in Makkah as well as the Arabian Peninsula in general. The small settlement of Madinah was surrounded by enemy forces. Thus, there was a need to wage war, for it would be difficult for any new settlement to thrive in such a hostile environment otherwise.

The Muslims were first given permission to fight in Surah Al Hajj, verse 39 :

أُذِنَ لِلَّذِينَ يُقَـٰتَلُونَ بِأَنَّهُم ظُلِمُواْ‌ۚ وَإِنَّ ٱللَّهَ عَلَىٰ نَصرِهِم لَقَدِيرٌ (٣٩

“To those against whom war is made, permission is given (to fight), because they are wronged – and verily, Allah is Most Powerful for their aid-”

and then fighting was further enjoined in Surah Al Baqarah, verse 190:

وَقَـٰتِلُواْ فِى سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ ٱلَّذِينَ يُقَـٰتِلُونَكُم وَلَا تَعتَدُوٓاْ‌ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ ٱلمُعتَدِينَ (١٩٠

“Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loves not transgressors”

Now, a platform has been given for the Muslims to properly establish themselves. Note that there were only a handful of Muslims in Madinah, and they had barely a thousand soldiers; and despite this they were urged to stand up against the pagan forces of the rest of Arabia. Also, being a mere group of emigrants, they were suffering economically and thus lacked the resources for basic needs, much less the resources for battle. It is at times like this that the beauty and majesty of faith is realized, as we will discover.

The theme of this chapter is to prepare the believers for war and to give them preliminary instructions in this regard. This is another reason why it has been titled al-Qital. The following is an outline of the topics addressed in this chapter:-

It begins by illustrating two groups of people, which will become a further topic of discussion later in the chapter. The first is described as those who reject Allah and prevent others from His path, and the second group is described as those who believe in Allah and the revelation sent to Muhammad (pbuh). He renders the deeds of the former group fruitless and in vain, and rectifies the affairs of the latter group.

This is followed by basic guidelines as to what should be employed in the battle against enemy forces. This includes instructions with regards to dealing with captives (as per the example of Badr). The merits of martyrdom are then mentioned. Afterwards, a warning is given to the people of Makkah who have driven out Muhammad (pbuh). This shows that victory is already in the hands of the believers, and that the consequences of incurring injustice (zulm) are dire.

Surah Muhammad is not the only chapter in which the tactics of battle are laid out. It is also mentioned in Surah at-Tawbah, verse 123:

يَـٰأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ قَـٰتِلُواْ ٱلَّذِينَ يَلُونَكُم مِّنَ ٱلكُفَّارِ وَليَجِدُواْ فِيكُم غِلظَةً‌ۚ

“o you who believe! Fight the disbelievers who are close to you, and let them find harshness in you”

(‘Abdullah Yusuf ‘Ali translates ‘يَلُونَكُم ٱلَّذِينَ‘ as ‘those who gird you about’ instead of ‘those who are close to you’)

It is easy to misconstrue this verse without a proper guide. The ‘closeness’ referred to here is in terms of proximity. Thus why the Muslims began by fighting the enemies in the Arabian Peninsula, and afterwards advanced towards the Romans, and so on.

The Muslims did not only face enemies from the outside; there were also enemies within their community. Thus the chapter addresses the hypocrites, giving an accurate description of them (and an even more precise one later in chapter 63). Allah mentions their signs and then says that their secrets are not unknown to Him. This makes up almost half of the contents of this chapter. Put simply, the hypocrites were unwilling to go to war, and conspired with external forces to save themselves. This was definitely unfavourable to the Muslim army and must be dealt with before they can actually go to battle.

Afterwards, the chapter elaborates the differences between the believers and those who reject faith. Such differences only manifest when the Ummah is tried. Those who have faith will persevere and those who do not will flee, thinking that their lives are in their own hands. Those who persevere will be granted victory and those without faith have rendered their own deeds invalid. Thus a lesson in faith is taught in this scenario: one either worships Allah or himself. To have faith in Allah is to know that everything has already been taken care of, and such is the state of Sabr. This is reiterated in verse 35, when Allah says “…when you should be uppermost”, which means that these people have indeed been lifted in ranks.

And Allah knows.

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Posted by on November 13, 2012 in Qur'an, Spirituality


How to be a Mufassir

A Mufassir is a master of Qur’anic exegesis – noted scholars authorized to interpret the Qur’an and teach these interpretations to the masses. Some of the most commonly heard names around this discipline would be Ibn Abbas, At-Tabari and Ibn Katheer.

Tafseer is no simple feat and bestows considerable authority the Mufassir as sharia is mainly derived from it. Before one can endeavour to take on such a heavy responsibility, there are a few prerequisites to fulfill – and they are as follows:

Requirements of a Mufassir

  1. His ‘Aqidah must be sound.
  2. He must be free of his nafs (i.e, overcome it)
  3. He must be a master of (all the 13 disciplines of) the Arabic language.
  4. He must be learned in the disciplines related to the Qur’an itself (e.g Tajweed, Qiraat, Asbab an-Nuzul, Nasikh wal Mansukh, etc)
  5. He must be of high intellect and understanding.

The exegesis itself should be done in this order:

  1. Because the Qur’an is essentially self-explanatory, it must first and foremost be explained via references within itself.
  2. Afterwards, use references in the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh)
  3. If he fails to find an explanation, look to the sayings of the companions
  4. Then, the sayings of the Tabi’in

The Adab of a Mufassir

A Mufassir must possess the following qualities:

  1. Good intention ( حسن النية و صحة المقصد ) – because actions are by their intentions, and ones intention of delving in the disciplines of sharia should be first and foremost the betterment of society.
  2. Excellent mannerisms ( حسن الخلق ) – as such is obvious of one who has triumphed over his nafs.
  3. To be actively practicing what he knows ( الإمتثال و العمل ) – for the benefit of this is more than the expanse of his knowledge and understanding.
  4. Trustworthiness ( تحري الصدق و الضبط في النقل ) – he must be able to quote and make references accurately
  5. Humility ( التواضع و لين الجانب ) – because boastfulness is an impregnable barrier between knowledge and benefiting from it.
  6. Dignity ( عزّة النفس ) – for knowledge raises its acquirer above inferior matters.
  7. Unafraid to uphold the Truth ( الجهر بالحق ) – for such is a considerable jihad, to be able to stand up against an unjust leader.
  8. Excellent self-conduct ( حسن السمت ) – more specifically, to be solemn in all his actions, even when sitting, standing, walking, and so on.
  9. Patience and deliberation ( الأناة و الروية ) – thus ensuring accuracy in his words.
  10. Puts the more knowledgeable before himself ( تقديم من هو أولى منه ) – he must not openly challenge other Mufassireen in their lifetime, nor despise them after they have deceased. He should instead encourage learning from them and reading their books.
  11. Well-versed in presenting knowledge ( حسن الإعداد و طريقة الأداء ) – the explanation of the ayat should be done in an orderly fashion. For example, he could begin with explaining the Asbab an-Nuzul, and then explain the Mufradaat, afterwards proceed to identify the literary and grammatical instruments (Balaghah and Nahu) used, and so on.

[taken from: Mabaahith fi ‘Ulum Al-Qur’an by Mannaa’ al-Qatthaan (1990), Ch 24: Shuruut al-Mufassir wa Aadaabihi]

Terms explained

‘Aqidah: belief system

Nafs: the sense of self, also known as ego

Tajweed: the (high precision) art of reciting the Qur’an

Qiraat: the study of the different styles of Qur’anic recital

Asbab An-Nuzul: the study of the reasons behind the revelation of individual Qur’anic verses

Nasikh wal Mansukh: the study of early rulings and their nullification against more recent ones, during the time of revelation.

Mufradaat: synonyms

Balaghah: a discipline in Arabic literature

Nahu: Arabic grammar and syntax

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Posted by on August 27, 2012 in Qur'an


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On the authority of Abu Hurayrah (R.A) from the Prophet (PBUH), who said:

“Allah (mighty and sublime is He) says:

‘Fasting is Mine and it is I Who give reward for it. (A man) gives up his sexual passion, his food and his drink for My sake.’ Fasting is like a shield, and he who fasts has two joys: a joy when he breaks his fast and a joy when he meets his Lord. The change in the breath of the mouth of him who fasts is better in Allah’s estimation than the smell of musk”

[Bukhari, Muslim, Malik, at-Tirmidhi, an-Nasa’I and Ibn Majah]

some recommendations of conduct and etiquette for fasting are (this is an abridged translation from Imam ash-Shafie’s Fiqh al-Manhaji) :

a. taking Sahur (pre-dawn meal) and delaying it – as well as hastening the Iftar (the breaking of fast). the Prophet (pbuh) said, “my Ummah  persists in goodness as long as they hasten the Iftar and delay the sahoor.”

b. abstaining from negative talk – this includes swearing, cursing, lying, backbiting, etc. in accordance to the hadith where the Prophet (pbuh) said,”whoever does not abandon false speech and his acting upon it, Allah has no use for his abandonment of his food and drink’

c. avoiding acts that deliberately (and substantially) depletes the body’s nourishment e.g cupping or any act that requires drawing blood from the body.

d. engaging in more suprerogatory acts. the Prophet (pbuh) was once asked,’o Messenger of Allah! which (type of) charity is preferred?’ the Prophet (pbuh) answered,’charity in Ramadhan’.

also, according to imam Al-Haddad, it is best to begin your mental and physical (e.g schedule arrangements to maximize time for ‘ibadah) preparations some time before the fasting actually starts.

Blessed Rejab to all.



Posted by on May 20, 2012 in Fiqh, Hadith, Qur'an, Ramadan