Lessons from Surah Al-Anbiya’ Part 2 (Verses 5-6)

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This article is a summary of takeaways from Ustaz Dr Mohamed Fatris Bakaram’s Tafsir Lecture at Darul Makmur Mosque FB on 26th April 2020. Summaries of previous lectures on Surah Maryam and Surah Taha can be found here. This lecture is a continuation of last week’s lecture after Surah Al Anbiya’ verses 1 to 4.

Introduction: Surah Al-Anbiya’

As previously mentioned, Surah Al-Anbiya’ is a surah that focuses on the stories of the prophets. In fact, most of the stories that we will come across in this surah have been previously studied in our previous tafsir lectures together. However, like I always say, there is always something more to learn and reminders to receive.

We will look at the story of Prophet Ibrahim AS in this surah. In Surah Maryam, we have already gone in-depth into the conversation between Prophet Ibrahim AS and his father, where his father rejects Islam after Prophet Ibrahim AS’ repeated attempts at advising him. In this surah, we will revisit Prophet Ibrahim’s life, this time focusing on how he interacts with the authorities. We will look at how he attempts to convince the people that the idols that they worship are powerless and unworthy of worship.

So you see, we need to look at this story in a fresh perspective. We should never have this mindset that we have already learnt about this prophet before and so there is no need to listen to it again. Remember that Allah SWT has His reasons for everything and that there is wisdom behind every verse in the Qur’an. Each mention of a prophet brings a different lesson and a different aspect of his life for us to look at.

If we look at verses 48 to 50, we will see a brief mention of Prophet Musa and Prophet Harun AS and the revelation given to them. We will briefly touch upon these verses before moving forward to the next story – that of Prophet Ibrahim AS.

Al-Furqan: What Was Revealed to Prophet Musa and Harun AS

وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَا مُوسَىٰ وَهَارُونَ الْفُرْقَانَ وَضِيَاءً وَذِكْرًا لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ

And indeed, We have granted Musa and Harun Al-Furqan and an Illumination and a Remembrance for those who have Taqwa. [21:48]

Al-Furqan comes from the root word “fa-ra-qo” which brings about the meaning of ‘distinguishing’ or ‘separating’. This word refers to the revelation being sent down to Prophet Musa AS, the Taurat.

The word “Al-Furqan” has also been used as one of the names of the Qur’an. This can be seen for example in Surah Al-Baqarah verse 185, where Allah SWT introduces the month of Ramadhan as the month in which the Qur’an was revealed. The Qur’an is referred to as Al-Furqan because it distinguishes between truth and falsehood, belief and disbelief, and between light and darkness. So, for anyone who is seeking the truth and wanting to distinguish the right path from the wrong, they can find the answers in the Qur’an.

الَّذِينَ يَخْشَوْنَ رَبَّهُم بِالْغَيْبِ وَهُم مِّنَ السَّاعَةِ مُشْفِقُونَ

Those who fear their Lord without seeing Him, while they are afraid of the Hour. [21:49]

In verse 48, we learn that Al-Furqan is given to the Muttaqun or those who have Taqwa. Verse 49 defines these people as those who fear Allah even though they cannot see or hear Him, and those who fear the coming of the Day of Judgement. This fear stems from their not being confident of their safety on the Day of Judgement; They are not sure of whether their deeds are sufficient to earn their spot in Paradise and whether they will get Allah SWT’s protection from the Hellfire.

وَهَٰذَا ذِكْرٌ مُّبَارَكٌ أَنزَلْنَاهُ ۚ أَفَأَنتُمْ لَهُ مُنكِرُونَ

This is a Reminder that is filled with Barakah that we have revealed; Will you then reject it? [21:50]

Barakah can be translated to goodness or blessings. When we ask Allah SWT for Barakah, we are asking for all that is good.  In Malay, the word “berkat” is used to refer to door gifts that you bring home from events. This is because the giver of gifts hopes to get the rewards of sharing to the guests and the receivers hope to get continued goodness both from the event and from the door gifts that they bring home.

The question is posed to the people of Prophet Musa and Harun AS, on whether they will continue to reject the revelation given to the prophets.

Rusydah: The Gift of Prophet Ibrahim AS

وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَا إِبْرَاهِيمَ رُشْدَهُ مِن قَبْلُ وَكُنَّا بِهِ عَالِمِينَ

And We had certainly given Abraham Rusydah from before, and We were of him well-Knowing [21:51]

Rusydah comes from the root word “ra-sha-da” which can be translated to ‘intelligence’ or the ‘ability to think’.

The scholars have discussed about what “min qablu”, meaning ‘from before’, refers to. Some are of the opinion that it means that even before prophethood, Prophet Ibrahim AS had already been granted intelligence. Even as a child he was someone who was reflecting on the Sun, the stars and the moon.

“Is This My Lord?”

We know of the story of how Prophet Ibrahim AS as a child had looked at the beautiful stars and asked if those were His Lord. When he saw the moon shining brighter than the stars, He said that the moon must be His Lord. But the moon set and the Sun rose, brighter than the moon had. Prophet Ibrahim then said that the Sun must be His Lord. When the Sun set, he declared that something that sets cannot be His Lord and that His Lord is Allah SWT alone. This story shows how Prophet Ibrahim AS had already been thinking intellectually since young.

We do not say from this story that Prophet Ibrahim was in a search for God. In fact, scholars have discussed this and say that this whole conversation was a way for Prophet Ibrahim to question his people. He AS was trying to demonstrate to his people how it did not make sense to worship anything that awed them, because there would always be something bigger and more powerful to worship. This was his way of highlighting the illogical attitude of his people.

The second opinion states that Rusydah comes from the root word “alif-ra-sha-da” or the word “irsyad” meaning ‘guidance’. This means that Prophet Ibrahim AS was granted guidance through the revelation. Following this opinion, “min qablu” would refer to ‘receiving revelation before Prophet Musa AS’.

This verse ends with Allah SWT saying that He knows Prophet Ibrahim AS very well. It is Allah SWT who gave him revelation, protected, and raised him and gave him the intelligence that he had.

إِذْ قَالَ لِأَبِيهِ وَقَوْمِهِ مَا هَٰذِهِ التَّمَاثِيلُ الَّتِي أَنتُمْ لَهَا عَاكِفُونَ

When he said to his father and his people: “What are these idols, to which you are so devoted?” [21:52]

Ibrahim AS’ Father

We have mentioned before about the usage of the word “abihi” meaning ‘his father’. Scholars hold two main opinions on whom this refers to. The first is that it refers to Prophet Ibrahim’s biological father who was an idol-worshipper.

The second opinion disagrees with this, saying that it is not possible for a prophet of Allah – in fact, one of the Ulul ‘Azmi or the best of prophets – to come from the bloodline of an idol-worshipper. Scholars holding this opinion say that the man referred to as “abihi” is in fact his uncle.

Only Allah SWT knows for sure which of the two opinions is true. For the convenience of this conversation, let us follow the general opinion that this refers to his father.

‘Akifun: Whole-hearted Devotion

The word “‘Akifun” used here has a similar root word to the word “‘Iktikaf” which we use to mean ‘worshipping whole-heartedly without interruption’. As Muslims, when we say that we are in Iktikaf, it means we are focused in our worship in the mosque. This means that we are not distracted with worldly matters or with entertainment. Whatever worldly affairs that need to be dealt with are done outside of ‘iktikaf and for as long as we are in the mosque, we are only doing worship – be it praying, making supplication, doing zikr or reciting the Qur’an.

The word ‘akifun implies that the people of Prophet Ibrahim’s time did not merely pray to their idols, they worshipped them whole-heartedly with full commitment and sacrifice. We look at these verses not for us to mock other religions.

As Muslims, we believe with all of our hearts that Islam is the true religion. However, we acknowledge that there are people who choose faiths other than ours. We respect them and leave them to their own worship, as per Surah Al-Kafirun – “For you is your religion, and for me is my religion.”.

Verses like these serve as a reminder for us to reflect on our own worship. We should feel embarrassed or ashamed, looking at people of other faiths worshipping whole-heartedly while we, the followers of the One true faith do not commit completely to it. Knowing that we are the true believers, it should not sit right with us to see others worshipping their false gods with more conviction than us.

Prophet Ibrahim AS’ Conversation with His People

قَالُوا وَجَدْنَا آبَاءَنَا لَهَا عَابِدِينَ

They said, “We found our fathers worshippers of them.” [21:53]

Ibrahim AS’ people responded saying that they were just continuing the legacy of their ancestors and generations of the past.

قَالَ لَقَدْ كُنتُمْ أَنتُمْ وَآبَاؤُكُمْ فِي ضَلَالٍ مُّبِينٍ

He said: “Indeed you and your fathers have been in manifest error.” [21:54]

It is important to note that Prophet Ibrahim’s response came at a time when he was still young. Some scholars say that he was only 16 or 25 at that point of time. I am not sure of what the sources to confirm this are, but what is clear is that he was still a youth. Yet, he had the confidence and conviction to speak up against the practices of his people and their ancestors.

The following verses are self-explanatory and so I will not go into detail for each one.

قَالُوا أَجِئْتَنَا بِالْحَقِّ أَمْ أَنتَ مِنَ اللَّاعِبِينَ

They asked, “Have you brought us the truth or are you just playing about?” [21:55]

قَالَ بَل رَّبُّكُمْ رَبُّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ الَّذِي فَطَرَهُنَّ وَأَنَا عَلَىٰ ذَٰلِكُم مِّنَ

He said, “No, your Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the Earth, who has created them, and I can give you the evidence to prove it. [21:56]

وَتَاللَّهِ لَأَكِيدَنَّ أَصْنَامَكُم بَعْدَ أَن تُوَلُّوا مُدْبِرِينَ

And by Allah, I shall plot a plan (to do something towards) your idols after you have gone away and turned your backs.” [21:57]

فَجَعَلَهُمْ جُذَاذًا إِلَّا كَبِيرًا لَّهُمْ لَعَلَّهُمْ إِلَيْهِ يَرْجِعُونَ

So he broke them to pieces, (all) except the biggest of them, that they might turn (and address themselves) to it. [21:58]

قَالُوا مَن فَعَلَ هَٰذَا بِآلِهَتِنَا إِنَّهُ لَمِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ

They said, “Who has done this to our gods? Indeed, he is of the wrongdoers.” [21:59]

قَالُوا سَمِعْنَا فَتًى يَذْكُرُهُمْ يُقَالُ لَهُ إِبْرَاهِيمُ

They said, “We heard a young man making mention of them; he is called Ibrahim.” [21:60]

قَالُوا فَأْتُوا بِهِ عَلَىٰ أَعْيُنِ النَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَشْهَدُونَ

They said, “Then bring him before the eyes of the people that they may bear witness.” [21:61]

قَالُوا أَأَنتَ فَعَلْتَ هَٰذَا بِآلِهَتِنَا يَا إِبْرَاهِيمُ

They asked, “Was it you who did this to our gods, O Ibrahim?” [21:62]

قَالَ بَلْ فَعَلَهُ كَبِيرُهُمْ هَٰذَا فَاسْأَلُوهُمْ إِن كَانُوا يَنطِقُونَ

He said, “Rather, this – the largest of them – did it. So ask them (the smashed smaller idols), if they should [be able to] speak.” [21:63]

فَرَجَعُوا إِلَىٰ أَنفُسِهِمْ فَقَالُوا إِنَّكُمْ أَنتُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ

So they turned to one another and said, “In fact, you yourselves are the wrongdoers.” [21:64]

ثُمَّ نُكِسُوا عَلَىٰ رُءُوسِهِمْ لَقَدْ عَلِمْتَ مَا هَٰؤُلَاءِ يَنطِقُونَ

Then, hanging their heads they reversed their position (and replied to Ibrahim,) “You already knew that they do not speak.” [21:65]

Prophet Ibrahim AS was wise in his plan, such that he was able to make his people admit for themselves how absurd their beliefs were, without him having to say it. This was what Allah SWT had meant when He said that Prophet Ibrahim AS had been gifted Rusydah. He had a sharp intellect even as a youth.

قَالَ أَفَتَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ مَا لَا يَنفَعُكُمْ شَيْئًا وَلَا يَضُرُّكُمْ

He said, “Then do you worship instead of Allah that which does not benefit you at all or harm you? [21:66]

أُفٍّ لَّكُمْ وَلِمَا تَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ ۖ أَفَلَا تَعْقِلُونَ

Shame on you and whatever you worship instead of Allah! Do you not have any sense?” [21:67]

Human Responses to Being Corrected

Now, as human beings, we all know that we are not faultless. At times, we too are mistaken and make mistakes. When we stand corrected and realise our own fault and mistake, the best course of action that follows should be that of acceptance and remediation. We should choose what is right and leave what we now know to be wrong – even if what is wrong has been practiced for a long period of time.

The response of Prophet Ibrahim’s people shows us the state of human beings that occurs even today. We often see that things are wrong and yet we fail to correct or leave them. We are unable to reject and refute the truth because we ourselves see that the truth is clear. So what do we do instead? We attack the person who brings the truth. We do this by damaging their reputation and destroying their dignity by spreading falsehood about them.

This was what the Quraysh did to Prophet Muhammad SAW. They were unable to retort to the truth and evidences brought up by Prophet Muhammad SAW. So, they resorted to throwing ridiculous accusations at him – calling him crazy, a liar or a sorcerer. They attacked his identity.

In the case of Prophet Ibrahim AS, his people chose to attack his life. They attempted to get rid of him for good so that he would no longer threaten their way of life and their beliefs. It is not easy to change habits and beliefs, especially when it comes to practices that have existed across many generations.

قَالُوا حَرِّقُوهُ وَانصُرُوا آلِهَتَكُمْ إِن كُنتُمْ فَاعِلِينَ

They said, ‘Burn him and defend your gods, if that is what you can and want to do.’ [21:68]

Takeaway One – Trials & Tribulations

Scholars say that this verse firstly highlights the challenges faced by the prophets of Allah in carrying out their duty. Prophethood is not a bed of roses. There are many difficult situations and trials that they have to face. Know that as Muslims, in carrying out our duty in service to Allah SWT, it will not always be a smooth journey. Do not ever think that Paradise can be attained easily without us having to carry out our responsibilities and striving through trials. There will be many challenges along the way. In Surah Al-Ankabut, Allah SWT reminds us of this:

أَحَسِبَ النَّاسُ أَن يُتْرَكُوا أَن يَقُولُوا آمَنَّا وَهُمْ لَا يُفْتَنُونَ

Do people think they will be left alone after saying ‘We believe’ without being put to the test? [29:2]

Trials and tests are inevitable. The role of Muslims is to face these trials with patience and faith, being fully aware of what we are doing. It is not our responsibility to run away from trials. When a difficult test comes, ask Allah SWT for strength so that we may be able to bear it.

We are taught this supplication in the last verse of Surah Al-Baqarah:

رَبَّنَا وَلَا تَحْمِلْ عَلَيْنَا إِصْرًا كَمَا حَمَلْتَهُ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِنَا ۚ رَبَّنَا وَلَا تُحَمِّلْنَا مَا لَا طَاقَةَ لَنَا بِهِ ۖ

“Our Lord! Lay not on us a burden like that which You did lay on those before us. Our Lord! Put not on us a burden greater than we have strength to bear.” [2:286]

Why is this du’a taught to us? It is not to teach us to run away from responsibility. It is not to teach us to become people who try to escape trials and difficulty. Rather, when we ask Allah SWT not to put on us a burden greater than we can bear, we need to already have the understanding that Allah SWT would never give His servant a burden that is beyond his capacity. In the same verse, before this du’a was taught, Allah SWT says:

لَا يُكَلِّفُ اللَّهُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا

Allah does not burden any soul with more than it can bear [2:286]

Knowing that this has already been assured and promised by Allah, why then would we still make the du’a above? The reason is that the supplication is a means for us to ask Allah SWT for the strength and the capacity to take on the challenges being given to us whole-heartedly. When we make that du’a, we are asking Allah SWT for the firmness of heart, the conviction of faith, the inayah (or guidance and help), and the emotional, physical, and spiritual strength required to meet the tests. This is so that whenever we find ourselves in a difficult situation, we find that we are in the position to deal with the challenges with patience, determination, and full knowledge of the best course of action to move forward.

So, this verse demonstrates to us that the role of a Messenger of Allah is not easy and comes with many threats and challenges. This is similar for the inheritors of the message of Islam; Those who speak the truth and spread the word of Islam will face challenges as well, if not as immense then slight.

Takeaway Two – Strategizing and Acting Responsibly

The second takeaway from this verse is that in carrying out our daily affairs, we need to have hikmah (wisdom) and strategy. We need to ensure that our actions bring about an impact that is the best for ourselves and for the community. Scholars who study this verse tell us that this is not a green light for us to act in a sloppy or rash manner. We should not do things citing that Prophet Ibrahim AS did actions that even led to him being burnt alive. That was Prophet Ibrahim AS. Other human beings would have been burnt to ash if placed into a fire. Allah SWT intervened in Prophet Ibrahim AS’ situation and protected him from the fire so that he could continue to carry out his duties as Allah SWT’s messenger.

To the rest of us, we should not take this as a sign that we are allowed to act irresponsibly, thinking that whatever the consequences we might face, Allah SWT will protect us. Rather, if we as Muslims are careless and not cautious with our actions, we will receive consequences such as that which Prophet Ibrahim AS was threatened with. However for us, safety from harm will not be assured.

There is still a lot of responsibility for us to fulfil, so act responsibly with wisdom and intelligence. Learn from the stories of Prophet Muhammad SAW and His companions and see how they deliberated the impact of their every action. They considered the consequences of their choices and chose whichever option was more suitable and would result in the least potential harm or negative impact. Allah SWT then helped them, ensuring that the positive outcomes of the options that they did not pick would also be realised. There are many examples, amongst them in the Treaty of Hudaibiyah and during the Boycott of Makkah.

We will resume in the next lecture in syaa Allah with the story of Prophet Ibrahim AS. May Allah SWT make us amongst the people who have Rusyd, intelligence. May we also inherit the wisdom of our Prophet Muhammad SAW in dealing with the challenges of daily life.

Ameen.

 

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Summary by: Arina Adom

Arina Adom is a lover of learning who takes on the world with an open mind. Resourceful and adaptable, always ready to take on new challenges. Comfortable working with diverse groups of people, yet able to work independently. Thrives under pressure. Currently seeking a meaningful career that enables her to impact lives directly and bring about positive changes in the lives of others in the community.

Arina graduated with a degree in Science ( Hons ), Life Science from NUS. She is currently taking a diploma in Quran and Sunnah Studies from Al Zuhri.

Arina Adom – Linkedin Profile


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