Why Memorize the Qur'an?
Question: My question is: what is the need and significance of memorizing the Qur'an these days? I ask this question because these days, the Qur'an has been saved in its best form. It is saved on computers, CDs, hard disks and papers. There is no chance of any amendment or forgery now, so is there a need to memorize the Qur'an now? The second part of my question is: why should 6-8 year old kids be forced to memorize the Qur'an by taking them out of their schools for a few years and then making them rejoin the schools after losing 2-3 years? After all, they are not able to decide what to choose. Parents make this choice for them.
Answer: May I dare say that even after the invention of the sources you have referred to, memorization still remains the primary tool for preservation and transmission of the Qur'an since every CD, hard disk, codex etc needs the authentication of a memorizer to certify if the Qur'an has been correctly recorded in these mediums. Moreover, memorization of the Qur'an establishes a living relationship of a memorizer with the Qur'an if he understands what he has memorized. This relationship of course cements his faith and augments his ability to practice Islam.
The intense regard Muslims have for the Qur'an and the importance it occupies in their lives on the one hand and the easy-to-memorize text of the Qur'an on the other induces automatically the yearning in a person to commit it to memory.
Regarding the second part of your question, I think that this memorization process should be adjusted to schooling by spreading it over the entire 4-6 years of high school and college period. Taking children out from their mainstream education and sending them to religious seminaries for this purpose not only at times badly damages their psyche but is also detrimental for their education. It is advisable that children should not be taken out of their schools for this purpose. Moreover, if this process is begun at a mature age, the child himself is in a position by this age to choose if he wants to memorize the Qur'an or not.
What if a Memorizer forgets the Qur'an?
Question: Ihave memorized the Qur'an and I have forgotten a lot due to my over interest in understanding and comprehending the Qur'an. In other words, I read translations and exegeses of the Qur'an a lot so that I am able to understand it properly but I don't pay the required attention to memorize it again. So is it a great sin?
Answer: This often happens with people whose native language is not Arabic and who are made to memorize the Qur'an by rote without being taught Arabic. Forgetting the Qur'an in this manner cannot be classified a sin.
However, you should devote some time for recalling what you have forgotten. You will need less time to refresh your memory. And since you are now well-versed with its meanings also, you will greatly enjoy reciting it by heart whether in the prayer or while travelling etc.
Memorizing the Qur'an is also one way of preserving the Qur'an and transferring it to the next generation. So when you memorize the Qur'an, you actually contribute to the divine scheme of protection of the Qur'an. Hence if you are able to do so, it will reap great reward for you as well.
Also, it is expected from a Qur'an memorizer to be a person who does not merely recite and understand the Qur'an. He should be a person who follows the teachings of the Qur'an also. The Qur'an, you would agree is not merely an intellectual reading. It is a Book that is meant to change one's life and outlook.
Reading vs Understanding the Qur'an
Question: Ever since childhood I have been forced to learn to recite the Qur'an in Arabic. I have always had problems with it and I have never been really fluent in reciting the Qur'an in Arabic. I personally believe that instead of wasting time in trying to learn the Arabic recitation I should be reading a translation of the Qur'an along with an in-depth analysis of its meanings. What is the importance of reciting the Qur'an without understanding it?
Answer: Reading the Qur'an in order to understand and seek guidance from it should be the primary objective of a Muslim. This can only be achieved if he or she knows the meanings of the language. It is perfectly all right to read the Qur'an in one's own language to start with. The Arabic recitation should be learnt so that it is the first step towards reading the Qur'an and understanding it directly from Arabic, which I assure you, just requires at best a year long effort. The affect of reading the original Arabic words and also being able to grasp their meanings is tremendous and it really stirs the heart. So, one should try to take out time for this all important task. Till this end is achieved he or she should of course keep reading the Qur'an with an appropriate translation.
Protection of Previous Scriptures
Question: The God Almighty has protected the Qur'an from being tampered with ever since it was revealed. Why did He take the responsibility of protecting the Qur'an only and not the previous Divine Scriptures?
Answer: Various explanations have been offered for this. To my mind, the best among those offered is that the institution of Prophethood existed in the period of all previous scriptures. This meant that divine revelation could still come at the advent of the next Prophet and correct any tampering done by the people in previous divine scriptures. However, once an end was put to the institution of Prophethood, the need arose to eternally protect the message of Allah. So, after the departure of Muhammad (sws), the last of the Prophets, preservation of the Book became essential.
Challenge of the Qur'an
Question: The Qur'an at various places has thrown a challenge to its disbelievers to produce a discourse like it. My question is that how will a person judge the Arabic of the responses to this challenge to be substandard because there can be answers to this challenge which are in eloquent Arabic?
Answer: The following two aspects of the challenge thrown by the Qur'an need to be kept in consideration:
First, its basic stress is that if the Idolaters think that the Qur'an is the product of Muhammad's fancy, then they should realize that what they are implying is that Muhammad (sws) who they know as an unlettered person has produced such a magnificent literary masterpiece. Is that possible? Can a person who is not even conversant with Arabic author such a matchless piece of literature? If they think that it is, then they have people among them who, unlike Muhammad (sws), are well read and well versed in Arabic language and its literature: can they produce such a masterpiece?
Second, the challenge thrown here does not mean that its rejecters have been asked to imitate one surah or some parts of the Qur'an. The words "produce one surah like it" actually imply that they should try to produce some discourse which is similar in its grandeur and magnificence as the Qur'an. In other words, what it says is that the rejecters should come up with something as unique as the Qur'an: it should of course not be a copy of the Qur'an, rather something which has its own distinctive features that can place it in parallel with the Qur'an. People of later periods who undertook this challenge failed to realize what it meant and all their efforts hinged upon imitating the style and diction of the Qur'an.
Was Adam taught Every Name?
Question: What is the connotation of الْأَسْمَاءَ (names) in the following 31st verse of Surah Baqarah: وَعَلَّمَ آدَمَ الْأَسْمَاءَ?
Answer: Various interpretations have been offered by exegetes for the word الْأَسْمَاءَ (names). According to al-Ṭabari, 'Abdullah ibn 'Abbas (rta) is of the view that الْأَسْمَاءَ connotes the "names of everything;" al-Rabi' maintains that it is used for the "names of the angels" and Ibn Zayd opines that it refers to the "names of Adam's progeny."
Farahi and Islahi hold that it refers to illustrious individuals among Adam's progeny. The arguments proffered by them in support of their view can be summed up in the following words:
Firstly, the pronouns used for the word الْأَسْمَاءَ are the ones that refer to living and cognizant objects and not to inanimate ones; the pronouns and the expressions in which they are found in the set of verses in which the given verse occurs are as follows:
ثُمَّ عَرَضَهُمْ عَلَی الْمَلَائِكَةِ…أَنْبِئُونِي بِأَسْمَاءِ هَؤُلَاء …ياَدَمُ أَنْبِئْهُمْ بِأَسْمائِهِمْ…فَلَمَّا أَنْبَاهُمْ بِأَسْمائِهِمْ
Second, as per the context, the purpose of this whole exercise was to answer the objection very respectfully raised by the angels that the progeny of Adam would create havoc and disorder on earth. This could only have been done by introducing them to people of lofty character from among Adam's descendents about whom mankind would feel proud. Instead of misusing the authority granted to them by the Almighty and creating disorder and anarchy on earth, they would exercise this authority within the specified limits and set examples of high conduct.
Thus the الpre-fixed to the word أَسْمَاءَ is for definition (لِلْعَهْد) and connotes specific names and not "all names" – the names of specific individuals from among the progeny of Adam. These individuals were introduced to the angels to allay their fears. As far as the question of the occurrence of this incident is concerned, the Qur'an itself says that such a huge assembly took place before the birth of Adam on this earth when the Almighty asked all the souls of mankind to acknowledge Him as their Lord:
وَ اِذۡ اَخَذَ رَبُّکَ مِنۡۢ بَنِیۡۤ اٰدَمَ مِنۡ ظُہُوۡرِہِمۡ ذُرِّیَّتَہُمۡ وَ اَشۡہَدَہُمۡ عَلٰۤی اَنۡفُسِہِمۡ ۚ اَلَسۡتُ بِرَبِّکُمۡ ؕ قَالُوۡا بَلٰی ۚۛ شَہِدۡنَا ۚۛ اَنۡ تَقُوۡلُوۡا یَوۡمَ الۡقِیٰمَۃِ اِنَّا کُنَّا عَنۡ ہٰذَا غٰفِلِیۡنَ.(172:7)
When your Lord drew forth from, the children of Adam – from their loins – their descendants, and made them testify upon themselves, [saying]: "Am I not your Lord [who cherishes and sustains you]?" – they said: "Yes! we do testify!" Lest you should say on the Day of Judgment: "Of this we were never aware." (7:172)
Sabrin the Qur'an
Question: What is the meaning of sabr in Arabic? Can it be translated as "patience" or is this not appropriate?
Answer: In the Arabic language, the word sabr is used to firmly set oneself on one's view while protecting oneself from worry, frustration and anxiety. It does not have any element of feebleness and frailty in it.
While referring to this meaning, Farahiwrites:
الصبر عند العرب ليس من التذلل في شى كمايصبر المضطهد العاجز بل هو أصل القوة والعزم و كثر في كلام العرب استعماله بهذا المعنی
To the Arabs, صَبْر never referred to what is frail and feeble – something accustomed to the weak and meek. On the contrary, it is the basis of power and determination. It is abundantly used in this meaning in classical Arabic.
Farahi goes on to corroborate his claim by quoting from the Qur'an and from various classical poets:
وَ لَمَنۡ صَبَرَ وَ غَفَرَ اِنَّ ذٰلِکَ لَمِنۡ عَزۡمِ الۡاُمُوۡرِ .(43:42)
And indeed if anyone shows sabr and forgives, that would truly be an exercise of the courageous. (42:43)
A famous classical Arab poet, Haṭim al-Ṭa'i says:
وغمرة موت ليس فيها هوادة
يكون صدور المشرفي جسورها
صبرنا له في نهكها و مصابها
بأسيافنا حتی يبوخ سعيرها
(Many are the seas of death on which are bridges of swords. We showed sabr with our swords against all their torments and tortures until they cooled down.)
يا بن الجحاجحة المداره
والصابرين علی مكاره
(O progeny of noble chiefs and of people who show sabrwhile facing hardships.)
قود الجياد وأصهار الملوك وصبر
في مواطن لو كانوا بها سئموا
(Riding thoroughbred horses, being sons in law of kingsand[showing] sabr in trenches where others lose inner strength.)
All these usages of the word sabr show that it is referred to as a commendable trait and not something which reflects weakness and frailty. Thus a more accurate translation of it would be "perseverance" rather than patience.
The Word Rusul in the Qur'an
Question: In some of your articles you have referred to various usages of the word rusul in the Qur'an. Can you please explain for me its literal meaning as well as the one when it is used as a term?
Answer: The word الّرُسُل (al-rusul) is a plural of الّرَسُوْل (al-rasul). It has two connotations: one as a common Arabic word and the other as a term having a specific meaning. As a common Arabic word, it means a "messenger." So the rusul of the Almighty can be His angels and His Prophets since both bear His message.
Here are some usages of rusul in the Qur'an as a common Arabic word signifying the angels and prophets:
i. Signifying Angels:
اِنَّہٗ لَقَوۡلُ رَسُوۡلٍ کَرِیۡمٍ.(19:18)
This is the word of a gracious and mighty messenger. (81:19)
اَلۡحَمۡدُ لِلّٰہِ فَاطِرِ السَّمٰوٰتِ وَ الۡاَرۡضِ جَاعِلِ الۡمَلٰٓئِکَۃِ رُسُلًا اُولِیۡۤ اَجۡنِحَۃٍ مَّثۡنٰی وَ ثُلٰثَ وَ رُبٰعَ ؕ (1:35)
Praise be to God, Creator of the heavens and the earth! He sends forth the angels as His messengers, with two, three or four pairs of wings. (35:1)
اَللّٰہُ یَصۡطَفِیۡ مِنَ الۡمَلٰٓئِکَۃِ رُسُلًا وَّ مِنَ النَّاسِ ؕ اِنَّ اللّٰہَ سَمِیۡعٌۢ بَصِیۡرٌ.(75:22)
God chooses messengers from the angels and from men. Indeed, God hears all and observes all. (22:75)
ii. Signifying Prophets:
اٰمَنَ الرَّسُوۡلُ بِمَاۤ اُنۡزِلَ اِلَیۡہِمِنۡرَّبِّہٖوَ الۡمُؤۡمِنُوۡنَؕکُلٌّ اٰمَنَ بِاللّٰہِ وَ مَلٰٓئِکَتِہٖوَ کُتُبِہٖوَ رُسُلِہٖ ۟ (285:2)
The Messenger believes in what has been revealed to him by his Lord, and so do the faithful. They all believe in God and His angels, His scriptures, and His messengers. (2:285)
یٰمَعۡشَرَ الۡجِنِّ وَالۡاِنۡسِ اَلَمۡ یَاۡتِکُمۡ رُسُلٌ مِّنۡکُمۡ یَقُصُّوۡنَ عَلَیۡکُمۡ اٰیٰتِیۡ وَیُنۡذِرُوۡنَکُمۡ لِقَآءَ یَوۡمِکُمۡ . (130:6)
Then He will say: "O Jinn and men! Did there not come to you messengers of your own who proclaimed to you My revelations and warned you of this day?" (6:130)
یٰبَنِیۡۤ اٰدَمَ اِمَّا یَاۡتِیَنَّکُمۡ رُسُلٌ مِّنۡکُمۡ یَقُصُّوۡنَ عَلَیۡکُمۡ اٰیٰتِیۡ ۙ فَمَنِ اتَّقٰی وَ اَصۡلَحَ فَلَا خَوۡفٌ عَلَیۡہِمۡ وَ لَا ہُمۡ یَحۡزَنُوۡنَ.(35:7)
Children of Adam! When messengers of your own come to proclaim to you My revelations, those that take warning and mend their ways will have nothing to fear or to regret. (7:35)
As a term of the Qur'an, the word rasul signifies a cadre among the prophets (anbiya') of Allah. The difference between a prophet (nabi) and a rasul is that the latter decides the fate of his immediate and direct addressees from among his nation in this world. The righteous among them are rewarded and wrongdoers punished. The Qur'an says:
اِنَّ الَّذِیۡنَ یُحَآدُّوۡنَ اللّٰہَ وَ رَسُوۡلَہٗۤ اُولٰٓئِکَ فِی الۡاَذَلِّیۡنَ.کَتَبَ اللّٰہُ لَاَغۡلِبَنَّ اَنَا وَ رُسُلِیۡ ؕ اِنَّ اللّٰہَ قَوِیٌّ عَزِیۡزٌ.(58 :20-1)
Indeed, those who show hostility to Allah and His rasul are bound to be humiliated. The Almighty has ordained that I and my rusul shall always triumph. (58:20-1)
In other words, the direct addressees of a rasul cannot triumph over him, and they must end up as losers in the end. This humiliation has various forms. In most cases, the addressees are destroyed in their capacity as a nation if they deny their respective rasul. Take, for example, the case of Muhammad (sws). Some of his active adversaries were destroyed by the swords of the Muslim believers until at the conquest of Makkah, the remaining accepted faith. In the case of Moses (sws), the Israelites never denied him. The Pharaoh and his followers however did. Therefore, they were destroyed. In the case of Jesus (sws), the humiliation of the Jews has taken the form of servitude to the Christians till the day of Judgment as referred to by the Qur'an in 3:55 and 59:3. The 'Ād, nation of the rasul Hud (sws), the Thamud, the nation of the rasul Salih (sws) as well as the nations of Noah (sws), Lot (sws) and Shu'ayb (sws) were destroyed through natural calamities when they denied their respective rasul as is mentioned in the various surahs of theQur'an. In this regard, Surah Qamar can be referred to since it summarizes the fate of the nations who denied their respective rasul.
Divorce in the Qur'an and the Bible
Question: You have stated many times in your articles that the shari'ah given to the Abrahamic religions varied while issues of beliefs and morality always remained the same. Can you please point out how the shari'ah of divorce is different in the Old Testament from that of the Qur'an?
Answer: The divorce verses of the OT (Old Testament) read as follows:
If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives to her and sends her from his house, and after she leaves his house, she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, then the first husband who divorced her is not allowed to marry her again after she had been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the Lord. Do not bring sin upon the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance. (Deuteronomy, 24:1-4)
Some of the contrasting points regarding divorce between the OT and the Qur'an are:
i. According to the OT, a husband can seemingly divorce his wife only on the grounds of indecency. The Qur'an, on the contrary does not impose such a condition.
ii. The divorce sentence according to OT must be in written form (certificate of divorce), while the Qur'an does not impose this condition. Divorce sentences pronounced orally are also acceptable.
iii. Contrary to the Qur'an, the OT does not allow re-marriage between a former husband and wife, if after divorce, the wife is married to some other person and this second husband dies or divorces her.
iv. The OT also does not allow a husband to exercise his right of a revocable divorce twice in the course of a marriage, as the Qur'an does. He can only exercise it once.
. Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Ṭabari,Jami' al-Bayan, 1st ed., vol. 1, (Beirut: Dar al-ihya al-turath al-'arabi, 2001), 246-248.
. See: Hamid al-Din al-Farahi,Tafsir Surah Baqarah, 1st ed. (Azam Garh: Dai'rah Hamidiyyah, 2000), 207; Amin Ahsan Islahi,Tadabbur-i-Qur'an, vol. 1, 160-161.
. Hamid al-Din al-Farahi,Mufradat al-Qur'an, 1st ed. (Azamgarh: Maṭba' Islah, 1358 AH), 48.
Haṭim al-Ṭa'i, Diwan, 39.
Muhammad ibn Mukarram ibn Manz@ur. Lisan al-'arab, 1st ed., vol. 13 (Beirut: Dar sadir, n.d.), 488.
Abu Muhammad 'Abdullah ibn Muslim ibn Qutaybah, Gharib
al-hadith, vol. 2 (Baghdad: Maṭba'ah al-'ani, 1397 AH), 333.
. The New Testament limits this "indecency" to "marital unfaithfulness". In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus (sws) says:
I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery. (Matthew, 19:9)