Lessons from Surah Al-Anbiya’ Part 5 (Verses 83-84)

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This article is a summary of takeaways from Ustaz Dr Mohamed Fatris Bakaram’s Tafsir Online Lecture on 8th June 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 76 to 82.

Introduction

Alhamdulillah my dearest brothers and sisters, since the beginning of this series we have decided to look for, read, understand, and appreciate the verses of Allah, within the Quran, which contains stories. We believe that all stories in the Quran have lessons that we can learn from together.

So, we have looked since the start, at Surah Al-Fatihah, then at Surah Al-Baqarah, all the way up until our previous lesson where we looked at Surah Al-Anbiya’ together. We have learnt about the stories that are presented in the verses of the Quran as well as the stories that are linked to these verses.

For example, we have gone through verses that were revealed by Allah SWT as a response to events that occurred in the life of Prophet Muhammad SAW. So even though these stories were not narrated in the Quran, we learnt about them from the scholars of Tafsir who have studied these verses and the circumstances which led to their revelation. Let us pick up from where we have left off.

Harm has touched me

وَأَيُّوبَ إِذْ نَادَىٰ رَبَّهُ أَنِّي مَسَّنِيَ الضُّرُّ وَأَنتَ أَرْحَمُ الرَّاحِمِينَ

And (remember) Ayyub, when he called to his Lord: “Verily, harm has touched me, and You are the Most Merciful of all those who show mercy.” [21:83]

In this verse, Allah SWT is narrating to us the story of Prophet Ayyub AS when he complained to Allah SWT of the pain and suffering that he was going through. Many of us may have heard of Prophet Ayyub AS. He was a prophet who was praised by Allah SWT for his patience. He was someone who stood strong throughout the incredibly challenging trial that Allah SWT had put upon him.

Prophet Ayyub AS’ test was not only incredibly difficult; it also lasted for a long time, caused a lot of destruction, was very painful to bear and affected his loved ones and those around him. It was because of the extent of this difficulty that Prophet Ayyub AS was praised by Allah SWT as the model of true patience for us all. Despite the immense hope and faith in Allah SWT that Prophet Ayyub AS held, he had a lot of adab with Allah SWT.

The word “Dhurru” here can be translated to mean danger, distress, pain, and suffering. The word “massaniya” translates to “has touched me”. The suffering that Prophet Ayyub AS went through was not something that was light. We have even heard of scholars narrating that part of his trials was that his family was affected so much so that all his children died. His trial was beyond what most people would be able to endure.

When we talk about trials and tribulations that affect us, we use phrases like “I was inflicted with” or “he was devastated by” to describe the extent of pain we had to go through. Yet, in Prophet Ayyub’s whisper to Allah SWT, he used the word “massa” implying that the pain had only lightly touched him; it was something that did not affect him immensely.

This is the adab of speaking to Allah SWT. Regardless of what trials may come upon us, as believers, we trust that all trials were given to us by Allah SWT. Regardless of how difficult they may be, we know that Allah SWT has given it to us because He knows what we can bear.

You have all probably heard of this hadith before:

عَجَبًا لأَمْرِ الْمُؤْمِنِ إِنَّ أَمْرَهُ كُلَّهُ خَيْرٌ وَلَيْسَ ذَاكَ لأَحَدٍ إِلاَّ لِلْمُؤْمِنِ إِنْ أَصَابَتْهُ سَرَّاءُ شَكَرَ فَكَانَ خَيْرًا لَهُ وَإِنْ أَصَابَتْهُ ضَرَّاءُ صَبَرَ فَكَانَ خَيْرًا لَهُ

‏Amazing are the affairs of the believer for there is good in every affair of his and this is not the case with anyone other than the believer. For if he has an occasion to feel delight, he thanks Allah, thus there is good for him in it. And if trouble afflicts him, he endures it patiently, and there is good for him in it. [Muslim]

The Adab of Making Du’a

Prophet Ayyub AS chose the word “touched”, a word that is linked to gentleness, love, and affection. This teaches us to be mindful of our word usage in our supplications to Allah SWT. Do not use words that make it seem as though you are blaming Allah SWT. Do not use words that may imply that the trials you are going through are beyond what you deserve from Him SWT.

Whatever your hopes may be from Allah SWT, whatever your wishes may be, ensure that you maintain your adab with Allah SWT. Why is this so? It is because a believer is always aware that Allah SWT’s blessings upon him is always present. A believer stays firm in his belief that in spite of the pain and difficulty, Allah SWT’s Mercy and aid will always prevail for as long as they remain faithful to Him. Prophet Ayyub AS has taught us that a believer never gives up. A believer does not get angry with Allah SWT. A believer firmly believes that Allah SWT is the Most Merciful amongst anyone who has mercy.

This is also why we are taught to begin any du’a with the Basmalah (Bismillahi ar-Rahmaani ar-Raheem). We remind ourselves that Allah SWT is the Most Merciful and the Most Compassionate. After the Basmalah, we are taught to start with the Hamdalah (Alhamdulillahi Rabbi al-‘Alameen). We praise Allah SWT, the Lord of all the worlds. We praise Him despite the trials we may be going through or the sustenance that we may be losing. We follow this with the Salawat upon the Prophet SAW before making our requests.

When closing the du’a, we are taught to end with the Salawat, followed by the Hamdalah, praising Allah SWT once more. As a follower of Rasulullah SAW, hold onto what has been taught. Practice this in making supplications to Allah SWT. Whenever you are in difficulty, call to Allah and make sincere du’a. Ask Him for a way out, and do so using the proper adab in speaking to Him.

The Answer to Prophet Ayyub’s Prayers

 فَاسْتَجَبْنَا لَهُ فَكَشَفْنَا مَا بِهِ مِن ضُرٍّ ۖ وَآتَيْنَاهُ أَهْلَهُ وَمِثْلَهُم مَّعَهُمْ

So We answered his prayer and removed his adversity, and gave him back his family, twice as many… [21:84]

Allah SWT eliminated whatever difficulties were affecting Prophet Ayyub AS. If the trials were in the form of sickness, he AS was healed. If it was the death of his offspring, Allah SWT replaced them with new children. If it was the loss of wealth, Allah SWT replaced that with wealth that is filled with Barakah for Prophet Ayyub AS.

Prophet Ayyub AS, before the advent of the trials that befell him, was someone who had wealth, he owned pastures and livestock, and he had a happy family with many children. When his illness came, he watched his children die, one after another. However, at the end of the trial, after his patience and faith had shone through, Allah SWT returned it all to him AS. Whatever that he had lost was returned “mithlahum”, meaning in the same manner as that which had been lost. Scholars say that the children that he regained were similar in number, and in characteristics and beauty.

When Prophet Ayyub had lost all his children, his wife remained faithful and loyal to him, staying firm alongside him through the difficult trials. This contrasts with the wives of Prophet Lut and Prophet Nuh which we learnt about in the past session. Despite the immense difficulty and hardship that she had to endure, Prophet Ayyub’s wife stayed firm with him. As a result, when the trials had ended, Allah SWT granted her health and energy that enabled her to bear healthy and strong children once more. All of this was granted as a Mercy from Allah SWT as a reward and gift for the patience and steadfastness of His servants to Him.

A Mercy from Allah

رَحْمَةً مِّنْ عِندِنَا

… as a mercy from Us… [21:84]

As believers, whenever we receive blessings or ease in life, we should not ever get cocky with Allah. If we undergo difficulty in life, and at some point of time, that difficulty is overcome and replaced with ease or abundance, the moment that advantage comes to you, do not start thinking of yourself as being great. Do not consider yourself deserving of the goodness, thinking that the ease is a reward for your strength or patience in the light of your challenges.

Why do I say this? I say this because we want the blessings that have arrived for us to be filled with Barakah because it is out of Allah SWT’s Love for us, not out of our own strength. In this verse, we see that the blessings that Prophet Ayyub received after his intense hardship was only out of Allah SWT’s Rahmah (Mercy).

Likewise, the joys and blessings of Paradise are only achieved due to the Mercy and Love of Allah SWT, not out of our own efforts and hard work. The evidence for this is this oft-repeated hadith, narrated by ‘Aisha RA:

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately, and receive good news because one’s good deeds will not make him enter Paradise.”
(The Companions) asked, “Even you, O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)?”
He said, “Even I, unless and until Allah bestows His pardon and Mercy on me.” [Bukhari]

Do not be arrogant and think that your good deeds are the ones that will guarantee Paradise. You may think that your many Sunnah prayers make you stand out above the rest of the Muslims. But realise, that even the two raka’ah prayer that you perform is only performed out of Allah’s Will. If Allah SWT had not guided you and given you the knowledge, means and desire to perform the prayer, you would not have been able to do it. Our entrance into Paradise and our protection from Hellfire will only be gotten out of Allah SWT’s Compassionate Mercy for us SWT.

Whenever you find yourself in ease and abundance, do not get proud with Allah SWT. Remember that all of the ease, blessings and goodness that you receive is only achieved because of the outpouring of Love and Mercy from Allah SWT.

وَذِكْرَىٰ لِلْعَابِدِينَ

… and a lesson for the ˹devoted˺ worshippers. [21:84]

All that Prophet Ayyub had gone through – his trials and difficulties, his overcoming of the challenges, his experience of goodness and ease after difficulties – all of these serve as a reminder to the servants of Allah.

The word ‘‘Abideen’ translates to ‘the people who enslave themselves to Allah’ or ‘people who worship (perform Ibadah to) Allah’. You may know of people whose names are “Zainal Abidin”, for example, this name would translate into ‘beautification for all the devoted worshippers of Allah’.

Israeliyat Stories

So this was all that was mentioned of Prophet Ayyub AS in this Surah. If you notice, Prophet Ayyub AS was not frequently mentioned in the Qur’an. We hear about him here in two verses of Surah Al-Anbiya’ and for a bit more in Surah Sod.

I have previously mentioned that it is a common practice for scholars of tafsir, when relaying the stories of the prophets, to add onto the stories from the Qur’an. They do this to strengthen the story, to complete any missing links, and to bring out the lessons to be derived from them. So, some scholars do add on stories to their books, even if some of these stories do not quite have strong authenticity.

There are stories of past prophets derived from unknown sources, not from the Qur’an or from hadith of Prophet Muhammad SAW. These stories are likely to have come from the People of the Book (Jews and Christians). We call these ‘Israeliyat’ stories, and they are found even in the books of reputed scholars of tafsir. We need to be careful when we read from these sources and to have a certain level of knowledge before we approach them.

I will narrate to you an Israeliyat story of Prophet Ayyub, not because it is the truth, but so that we may recognise this story and derive from it some takeaways.

Israeliyat Story of Prophet Ayyub

In one of the Israeliyat stories regarding Prophet Ayyub AS, he was known as a man who had an abundance of blessings. He was wealthy, happy, and powerful, with many strong, healthy, and devoted children. His goodness was known throughout the land and he became the envy of many, including Iblis. According to this story, Iblis was enraged by Prophet Ayyub’s abundance, and unhappy thinking that Prophet Ayyub and his family was sure to receive goodness in this world and Paradise in the hereafter.

Iblis was then said to complain to Allah SWT, claiming that Prophet Ayyub AS was only a good servant on the surface. Iblis claimed that Prophet Ayyub was only a devoted servant because of the ease and abundance that he had. He claimed that that the removal of these blessings would reveal Prophet Ayyub’s true colours. Iblis asked Allah SWT for His permission to prove to Allah SWT what a disobedient servant Prophet Ayyub truly was.

According to this story, Allah SWT knew best what would happen; He SWT decided to let Iblis proceed with his plan. Iblis then proceeded to gather his army of Syaitan to cause destruction upon Prophet Ayyub’s property and life. One of the troops destroyed all of Prophet Ayyub’s livestock. Syaitan then went to Prophet Ayyub to incite ingratitude in him. He came in the form of a man and criticised Prophet Ayyub, telling him that his devotion and obedience to Allah SWT was useless; despite all of his hard work, Allah SWT did not bother to protect his hard-earned property. Prophet Ayyub responded saying that whatever that happened was Allah’s Will and he would stay firm in his faith. So Iblis’ first attempt failed.

A second troop came to Iblis offering to wreck destruction upon Prophet Ayyub’s crop fields. Upon Iblis’ approval, they wiped out all of Prophet Ayyub’s crops, leaving nothing behind. Syaitan came to Prophet Ayyub in the form of a man to incite hatred and disobedience in Prophet Ayyub, claiming that his obedience was worth nothing to Allah SWT because of what had happened to his crops. Prophet Ayyub AS stood firm in his resolve and Iblis failed once more.

The third troop, after getting approval from Iblis, headed out to destroy the children of Prophet Ayyub. They claimed that Prophet Ayyub may have withstood the loss of wealth and property, but he would never be able to stand firm when he deaths of his own children, one after another. Prophet Ayyub AS stood firm, proving them wrong.

Seeing the failure of his troops, Iblis declared that he himself will set out to set things straight. He saw that neither the loss of his livestock nor the loss of his crops nor the loss of his children could move Prophet Ayyub into disobedience. Iblis went out to meet Prophet Ayyub AS. He was said to have found Prophet Ayyub in a state of prostration to Allah SWT.

Iblis used his powers to inflict a disease upon Prophet Ayyub from where he was prostrating. Upon getting up from his prostration, Prophet Ayyub found himself with a severe itch all over his body. He was said to have scratched himself raw until his nails came off, his flesh disintegrated, emitting a putrid smell and his skin expelled pus and blood. He scratched himself until there was nothing left but putrid flesh and bones.

When he found himself in that state, Prophet Ayyub was said to turn to Allah and say, “O my Lord, why did you make me into a human being? Would it not have been better for you to have let me die while I was still a clot of blood in the womb of my mother? Whatever I have left in my life is gone. People distance themselves from me… Nobody will listen to me…” and he continued to complain to Allah to the point that Allah SWT reprimanded him.

There is a famous story that many of us have heard of before. It was said that Prophet Ayyub AS used to be so sickly that he would have worms and larvae feeding on his flesh and scabs. He was said to have picked up the worms when they fell off during his prostration and return them to his head. He did this because he had repented after being reprimanded by Allah for his brief moment of losing patience with Allah.

The Authenticity of Prophet Ayyub’s Israeliyat Story

This was the story that has been often studied by scholars of the past and present. There are no authentic sources that link the chain of transmission to Prophet Muhammad SAW. Scholars ask, how would it be possible for a Prophet of Allah, an obedient servant to question or blame Allah SWT? Scholars have agreed that the words that Prophet Ayyub was said to have said are unfathomable to have been spoken by a Prophet.

Furthermore, scholars agree that it makes no sense for Allah SWT to inflict upon a Messenger of God a disease that would distance people from him. The main role of a prophet is to reach out to people and deliver the Word of Allah to them. Such a disease would not have been inflicted upon a prophet to remove him from his people.

Just look at the life of Prophet Muhammad SAW. He was an orphan, a poor man. However, he was someone who was loved and respected by his people. He was the perfect representation of a Messenger of Allah. He SAW was always presentable in terms of his character, image, and personality. He was known to always have with him: his comb, his oil, his perfume, and his kohl (eyeliner).

His hair was always combed. He always smelled good. His clothes were always neat and clean – even though his favourite colour to wear was white, a colour that was easily dirtied. He always had his miswak to ensure his teeth were clean. He applied kohl, as was the practice of the men of his time. A Prophet of Allah SWT is always presentable to the eyes of his people so that he may remain approachable in order to carry out his role as a messenger.

My dearest brothers and sisters, remember this so that you may not relay the wrong message to others. It is not possible for a prophet of Allah to be put in a state that repulses people, having an appearance that is disgusting, filthy and putrid.

We leave the truth to Allah SWT. What is true is that Prophet Ayyub AS did lose a huge portion of his wealth, his property, and the lives of his children. What is clear is that a disease did inflict him. We do not know what exactly the disease that befell Prophet Ayyub AS was, but we know that what was narrated in the Israeliyat story is improbable and illogical.

Practices Founded on Israeliyat Stories

In his book, Tafsir Al-Azhar, Professor Hamka explained the practice of a portion of Muslims who place their hand on their head after giving their salaam at the end of the tahiyyat in Salat. He states that these people hold onto the misguided or misunderstood reasoning that this is done to emulate the patience of Prophet Ayyub who stood firm despite the trials of having worms eating the flesh on his head. This practice, one that I have not seen in practice in person, is baseless.

It is strange, my dearest brothers and sisters, that we often do not put into practice the authentic and validated Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad SAW. Yet, when it comes to practices that are based on stories and come from questionable sources such as these, we are quick to put them into practise and to hold onto them tightly. Do not busy yourselves with things that are questionable.

For example, people ask me about whether we should wipe our face with our hand after giving salaam at the end of the tahiyyat. This is a matter of khilaf, there is a difference of opinion amongst the scholars about the authenticity of this practice. Some scholars say that this is not allowed because there are no narrations of the Prophet SAW ever having done so himself. Some, including scholars of the Maliki mazhab, say that it is harus (permissible). Some say that it is encouraged, based on certain hadith such as that of Imam Al-Baihaqqi that states that Prophet Muhammad SAW after his prayer, used to wipe his face while reciting a du’a. However, some scholars say that this hadith is not Sahih in its authenticity.

The conclusion is that in the practice of wiping your face at the end of Salat, there is a difference of opinion, each opinion is backed by their own evidence or daleel. Choose whichever opinion your teachers have taught you, and respect whichever opinions others hold onto. Agree to disagree on matters of khilaf. But when it comes to practices that are based on unfounded Israeliyat stories, such as the practice of touching your head after Salat to emulate returning worms onto your head, avoid these practices at all costs.

Final Takeaways

We will stop here for now. The main takeaways for today are that whatever may be the difficulties or trials that afflict you, stay firm in your belief that these trials are from Allah SWT. Our job is to avoid falling into difficulty, to put in effort to distance yourself from harm. However, if the trials and difficulties still come even after our efforts, then have adab with Allah SWT. Remain firm in striving for Allah. Make du’a to Allah and maintain your adab in the supplications. Start with the Basmalah, follow it with the Hamdalah and the Salawat upon the Prophet SAW. Then, make your requests and complaints with adab, just as Prophet Ayyub AS had. Have faith that Allah SWT will answer your prayers and replace what you have lost with something better, out of His Love and Mercy for His servants.

May Allah make us amongst His servants who deserve His Love and Mercy. May we never be amongst the people who forget His Love and Mercy for us. May we achieve protection, prosperity, and happiness in this world and the next as we continue to strive in serving Him SWT whole-heartedly.

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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