Lessons from Surah Al-Mu’minun (Verses 1-4)

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This article is a summary of takeaways from Ustaz Dr Mohamed Fatris Bakaram’s Tafsir Online Lecture on 13th September 2020. Summaries of previous lectures on Surah Maryam and Surah Taha and Surah Al-Ambiya’ can be found here. This lecture is a continuation of the previous lecture on Surah Al-Mu’minun can be found here.

Questions from the Previous Lecture

Du’a during Prayer

Q: You mentioned in the previous lecture that we can make du’a (supplication) during Salah after the Tahiyyat before the Salaam. Can we make these supplications in Malay or English in our hearts (not audibly)?

A: In the previous lecture, I mentioned two du’as that can be read during this part of Salah. I have posted the Arabic Du’a, transliteration and Malay translation on FB and IG (the English translation can be found in last week’s article). The answer to the question is yes. It is permissible to make du’a in your heart, without saying the words aloud, in any language other than Arabic, during Salah.

And this is not restricted to the du’as I shared. You can make your own du’as using your own words. For example, “O Allah, protect me from the punishment of the hellfire and the grave. O Allah, protect me from harm in this world and the next. O Allah, protect me from the evil of Dajjal.”

Q: Do we recite the du’as aloud or in our hearts?

A: If you are reciting the Arabic du’a, you should say it aloud – speak audibly not loudly. The reason for this is that there is a narration where a companion of the Prophet SAW heard him SAW reciting the du’a during Salah.

The companion RA would not have heard the du’a if it had not been spoke on the tongue. If you have not memorised the Arabic, then say the translation of it in Malay/English in your heart, without saying the words with your tongue.

Forgetfulness during Prayer

Q: How do we avoid forgetfulness in Salah? I come prepared and I try to remain in Khusyu’, but I still forget the Surahs I recite and even which Raka’ah or prayer I am on.

A: The issue of forgetting in Salah is something that is common, even amongst religious scholars, even for me as an ex-Mufti.  Even certain du’as and Surahs that I have put into memory since childhood can be forgotten. There was an occasion where I was leading Tarawih prayers in a mosque, and I got stuck on the recitation of Surah Al-Masad!

So, forgetting during Salah is not something that is strange. Whenever you find yourself getting stuck, pause, go back a few verses and restart. If you still get stuck and cannot remember, then it is ok, switch to another Surah.

Forgetting which raka’ah you are on is also something that is common in Salah. For this reason, the scholars have stated some guidelines in their writing to help us in the case that this happens. If you are asking me for tips to remember which raka’ah you are in, especially in Tarawih… I am afraid I cannot help you there. Try your best to stay focused.

If you find yourself forgetting which raka’ah you are on, there are two possible reasons. The first is that you are not present. Your mind is wandering during Salah to other matters. The second is that you have “too much Khusyu’”.

You are present to your own sins and faults, to Allah SWT’s innumerable blessings upon you, you feel ashamed and become too wrapped up in your own emotions that you are crying… at times, you get engulfed by your own Khusyu’. This is not wrong. It just shows our weakness as human beings as creations of Allah SWT full of our own shortcomings and reminds us of Allah SWT’s perfection.

Zuhud and Leaving the World

Q: Is there a difference between ‘leaving the world’ and ‘Zuhud of the world’?

A: I believe this has something to do with what I mentioned last week about how, when we want to have Khusyu’ in Salah, we need to leave the world behind instead of taking it along with us to Salah. If we bring the world with us, our mind spends the whole of Salah meandering in worldly thoughts of various events, activities and issues that preoccupy us.

We end up failing to have Khusyu’ because our mind is clouded with things to think about. When I say that we should ‘leave the world behind’, I am saying that we should align our hearts and mind when we enter Salah.

I am not asking that we detach ourselves completely from this world. This world has been entrusted as an Amanah upon us. Allah SWT says in Surah Al-Qasas:

وَابْتَغِ فِيمَا آتَاكَ اللَّهُ الدَّارَ الْآخِرَةَ ۖ وَلَا تَنسَ نَصِيبَكَ مِنَ الدُّنْيَا ۖ

“Seek the life to come by means of what God has granted you, but do not neglect your rightful share in this world…” [28:77]  

This your Amanah. Every blessing that Allah SWT gifts you, every piece of wealth and goodness that has been entrusted upon you, they will all be put to question in the Hereafter. Rasulullah SWT has informed us in a hadith that Allah SWT will ask us regarding our wealth, “Where did you get it from? What did you use it for?”.

Allah SWT will not ask you, “Why did you use the wealth that I gave you?”. Rather, Allah SWT wants us to spend of our wealth. I am not asking you to leave the world. I am just saying that when you enter into Salah, set the world aside from your mind. Empty out your mind for those few moments.

What is meant by ‘Zuhud of the world’? Zuhud does not mean to leave the world. No, it means do not chase after the world beyond the boundaries set. Do not let the world overpower your heart and your mind. Do not make the achievements of the world become your sole and ultimate priority.

That is greed, the opposite of Zuhud. Zuhud means we manage our world, and we strive to get whatever portions of the world is meant for us.

How do we determine what has been allocated as rightfully ours by Allah SWT? We put in effort. When we do not strive, we do not know what our outcome is. When we put in the effort, we start to see the results of our actions. If we get a lot, then we know that that is what Allah SWT has portioned for us.

Be grateful and make that a reason for you to attain closeness to Allah SWT, instead of letting it distance you from Allah SWT. If, after all that striving, you find yourself not getting much in return, then that is what Allah SWT has apportioned for you in this world. Be grateful, accept what you have received, and work towards getting better.

We will only know what Allah SWT has assigned to you after you have put in your efforts. Putting in effort does not mean that we do not have Zuhud. Not having Zuhud is when you have strived hard and then realise that you do not get the results that you desire, then you flip out and get upset with Allah SWT. You become unhappy seeing the joys and successes of others that Allah SWT did not give you.

What having Zuhud means is that you strive in this world until you get the portion of the world that is meant for you within your hands for you to manage. Do not let that wealth in your hands enter and colonise your heart, and rule over your soul. Zuhud is to have power over the world as a responsibility entrusted to you by Allah SWT, and to not let that world hold power over your heart.

Unanswered Du’as

Q: I have performed the Tahajjud prayers, at times the Dhuha prayers, I also recite the Qur’an. Why is it that my du’as are taking so long to be answered?

A: This is for all of you out there who say that you have done many things and yet Allah SWT has not answered your prayers. In a hadith Rasulullah SWT has stated that the Dhuha prayers are guaranteed to bring you Rizq.

You say you have done this and not seen any results. For those of you who wonder why your prayers are still unanswered, there are three things to consider.

First, when making du’a, there are two parties involved in this communication. There is us, the suppliant, the one who requests. There is Allah SWT, the One who is asked and the One who gives. There is also the du’a and the thing that we are requesting for.

The first question to ask is: Who is the owner of the thing you are requesting for? Does it belong to Allah SWT? Or is it yours? Is what you are seeking something that belongs to you, and Allah SWT is merely holding on to it and refusing to give it back?

Of course not. As believers, we would never claim that whatever we are asking for is rightfully ours to have. It is something that Allah SWT owns.

Seeing that it is Allah SWT’s property, who has the right to determine where it goes to, who gets it, when it is given, how much is given, and how it is given? That is completely up to Allah SWT to decide. In fact, not only do the things that we ask for belong to Allah, we ourselves belong to Allah SWT.

Second, when we ask for things from Allah SWT, we are always asking for only good things. But who is the one who gets to determine whether something is good for us? How extensive is the knowledge that we own, such that we know for a fact that what we are asking for is indeed good?

How do we know that now is the best time to get that thing that we assume is good for us? Who do you think has more authority and knowledge to decide what is good for you and when it is good for you to have it? Allah SWT knows best, and it is up to Allah SWT to determine what is best for us.

Next, if I were to ask you to list out all the things you ask for from Allah SWT, would you be able to do it? I am sure that most of us can enumerate what we have asked for in our du’as. Now compare that list that you have of the things that you ask for and to the list of things that you do not ask for that Allah SWT gives to you anyway.

Do you think you would be able to count all the blessings that have been given to you? We should be ashamed of ourselves for picking on the small number of items that we have requested that have not been granted to us.

Every day is filled with blessings that Allah showers upon us that we do not even ask for. If it had become compulsory for us to only be given that which we ask for, then life would be impossible for us. Every breath that we take is a blessing from Allah SWT – do we ask for them?

If we had to ask Allah for a breath each time we needed to take one, we would not be able to do anything else. Allah keeps us breathing throughout the day and night without us having to think about it. Our eyes can see, our ears can hear, our stomach gets filled when it gets hungry.

Are there any of us who even makes a du’a for the meals that we eat each day? Imagine if you had to book your meals just like how you book your slots for Friday prayers at the mosques today. Is there anyone amongst you who makes du’a each time you step out of the workplace, to reach home in one piece, safe and alive to be united with your loved ones at home? No, and yet Allah gives us this blessing each and every day.

We cannot count the things that Allah SWT has given us even without us asking for them. So, for the few things that Allah SWT has not given you, do not question Allah SWT about them. Do not complain and say that you have worked so hard to get what you want, and yet Allah SWT is not answering your prayers.

What you are asking for belongs to Allah SWT, it is Allah SWT’s Mercy and Love that you are asking for. Do not measure your actions against what Allah SWT can give you. Regardless of how good your deeds are, they can never compare to the blessings that Allah SWT has given you all this while.

Summary of the Verses 1-4 of Surah Al-Mu’minun

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ

Successful indeed are the believers. [23:1]

Verse 1 – Faith (Iman) [Success]

These verses were revealed before the Hijrah, at a time when the believers were still small and struggling. Power and wealth were still in the hands of the disbelievers.

Allah SWT used the past tense in Surah Al-Mu’minun to declare that the believers have indeed succeeded. Imagine how the disbelievers would have reacted upon hearing this verse being revealed. Imagine how they would have mocked the believers who, in their eyes, were far from success.

The language of the Qur’an is so beautiful such that verses revealed over a thousand years ago remain relevant today. Whatever characteristics of successful believers of the past remain the same today.

الَّذِينَ هُمْ فِي صَلَاتِهِمْ خَاشِعُونَ

They who are during their prayer having Khusyu’ [23:2]

Verse 2 – In Salah: Khusyu’ [Creator + Reality of a Slave]

When it comes to Khusyu’ in Salah, there are two aspects of it to remember:

The first is that we need to acknowledge that there is a Creator. This is why we need to perform Salah. Salah has nothing to do with anyone else, it is only for Allah SWT.

The second is to acknowledge our reality as a slave. We need to remember who we are. We perform Salah as a servant of Allah. Whatever we do in life, it is only out of our capacity as servants. We do not own anything. Anything that we need requires Allah. Therefore, we lower ourselves in front of the Creator.

وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ عَنِ اللَّغْوِ مُعْرِضُونَ

And those who leave Al-Laghwi. [23:3]

Verse 3 – Leaving Laghwi [Focus (no distractions) + Goals]

The word Laghwi refers to things that are in vain, they do not bring any benefit – they are pointless and useless.

Allah SWT uses this same word in the Qur’an to refer to oaths or swears; these oaths are meaningless. Some examples are to swear that you would pray five times a day if you managed to marry a certain woman. This is ridiculous because praying five times a day is a given obligation for you already, one that you should do even without getting the woman’s hand in marriage.

Another usage of this word in the Qur’an is linked to hearing. Allah SWT says that there will be neither Laghwi nor lies being heard in Paradise. This means that there will be no vain and non-beneficial talk then, no gossip or slander. There will be only good in Paradise that nobody would waste a moment speaking about that which brings no gain.

In Surah Al-Mu’minun, Laghwi refers to all things that are done in vain – not just oaths and empty talk. Scholars have discussed and said that Laghwi is not restricted to things that are sinful.

Of course, sinful things are done in vain. We waste our time, energy, and effort to do things that are displeasing to Allah SWT, things that add upon our sin, these are definitely pointless and in vain.

Scholars emphasise that things that are Mubah, things that are allowed but do not bring reward or sin, can also be Laghwi. This is especially true for Mubah deeds that are done excessively such that things that are Sunnah (encouraged) and Wajib (obligatory) to be done are not done.

For example, there is nothing wrong with playing badminton. However, if someone spends his whole day to play badminton every day, to the extent that he does not work to earn a living for his family or misses prayers in the mosque, then it becomes Haram upon him to continue doing so.

There are two aspects to leaving Laghwi. The first is to avoid distractions – to be focused in life. In Psychology, we learn that human beings will face difficulty in charting their life if they are unable to avoid distractions.

In Educational Psychology, educators are taught of the importance of teaching their students to focus. Someone who is unable to focus will always succumb to distractions.

In life, there are many occasions when that which is Mubah becomes compulsory for us.

The Story of Salman and Abu Darda’

There is a story where Salman Al-Farisi RA, a companion of the Prophet SAW, visited his companion Abu Darda’ RA. While waiting for Abu Darda’, he noticed that something was off with Abu Darda’s wife, Ummu Darda’.

She seemed to be unhappy. When questioned about it, Ummu Darda’ told Salman that his friend no longer had any desire of the world. Abu Darda’ was no longer interested in being with his wife and in affairs of the world, he was only concerned about doing Ibadah for the Hereafter.

When Abu Darda’ arrived, Ummu Darda’ served Salman food. Abu Darda’ did not eat, saying that he was fasting. Salman refused to eat until Abu Darda’ broke his fast and ate with him. That night, Abu Darda’ invited Salman to spend the night and sleep.

He himself said that he did not sleep at night, he usually spent the night in prayer. Salman refused to sleep until Abu Darda’ said he would not pray all night and would sleep. Salman remembered the state of Ummu Darda’ who had probably spent a long time being neglected by her husband who fasted all day and prayed all night.

Before Salman left the home of Abu Darda’, he gave the latter a word of advice, “O Abu Darda’, surely your Rabb has rights over you. Your body has rights over you. Your family, your wife, has rights over you.”.

This story eventually came to be heard by the Prophet SAW. Who do you think he defended? Abu Darda’ was stopped from doing deeds that are pleasing to Allah SWT by Salman who wanted him to fulfil worldly desires such as eating, sleeping and being with his spouse. Rasulullah SAW, however, praised Salman’s actions, saying that he said what was right.

So, there are things in this world that are Mubah, and yet they should be done. One cannot say that they refuse to do anything that is not obligatory in Islam. A father should not tell his children to spend all their time studying and reciting Qur’an, stopping them from meeting friends and spending time to relax and destress.

Destressing is important and socialising is good, for as long as you meet people who are good and do things that are not haram.

It is important that we have clear goals and objectives in life. Likewise, in our religion, we need to have goals; We want to be loved by Allah SWT, we want to achieve forgiveness from Allah, we want to attain Khusnul Khatimah (A good end), we want our wealth to be used for goodness and to be filled with Barakah from Allah SWT. Oftentimes, people fall into doing Laghwi because they do not have clear goals of what they want in life.

Couples who want to get married need to consider this as well. For example, if we wanted to get married next year, we would have booked a Kadi, we would have made preparations for a wedding… while that is important, what is more important is to have the goals of your marriage in order. This is to ensure that you are not distracted by other things.

وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ لِلزَّكَاةِ فَاعِلُونَ

And those who do Zakat. [23:4]

Verse 4 – Do Zakat [Purification of the heart + Pay Zakat (community spirit)]

It is interesting to note that Allah SWT did not say perform or pay Zakat. Instead, we are asked to “do” Zakat. Zakat here comes from the root word “Zakaa” meaning ‘clean/pure’ or ‘increase/grow’. So in this verse, Allah SWT is not necessarily talking about the Zakat charity that we pay.

At the point of time when this verse was revealed, the commandment of paying Zakat was not yet revealed. Those verses were revealed in Madinah, years after Surah Al-Mu’minun was revealed. Scholars say that Zakat here refers to the purification of the heart.

So, in Surah Al-Mu’minun we have seen how as believers who succeed, they have Khusyu’ in their Salah, they take care of their relationship with their Creator and acknowledge their lowness as slaves. In life, they stay focused away from distractions, only taking what is necessary of the Mubah and sticking to their goals.

However, as human beings, we are weak. At times we fall, slip, step out of line, get lost and stray away. Human beings are never free from fault, it is in our nature to sin. As such, it is important for us to constantly cleanse and purify our hearts.

The second opinion of scholars is that Zakat here refers to the Zakat paid. While it is true that at that point of time, the details of implementing Zakat (i.e. the eight asnaf, the items that are chargeable for Zakat, the amount to be paid etc.) has not been revealed, the command to execute Zakat was already given.

Believers had been told to give up a portion of their wealth (however much they wanted to) to benefit those who need it, to help one other out, especially the needy amongst the believers.

As Muslims, we need to be aware that no man is an island. Someone who wants to succeed cannot exist outside of the community. Regardless of your profession, career, or social status, you need to be thinking about the needs of other people. Give of your wealth to benefit the community.

Summary of Today’s Session

Let us pause here for this lecture, we will resume in the next session In Syaa’ Allah. As a summary, as Believers we are told that we have achieved success in life. One of the conditions for this are that we need to have Khusyu’ in our Salah. There are two dimensions to Khusyu’.

The first tells us it is important for us to maintain a link to the Creator, a link to Allah SWT. The second tells us to lower ourselves in front of Allah SWT, to remember our reality as Insan, as humble slaves.

A person whose life is filled with arrogance and pride is likely to be someone who does not perform Salah. Even if he does pray, he is likely to not have Khusyu’ in his Salah, to not lower himself and his heart in the presence of Allah SWT.

Next, we need to stay away from doing that which is not necessary. Remember that not all that is Mubah is unnecessary – some of it can become necessary – taking a break, relaxing, eating, spending time with family, playing with children, being with your spouse… all of these are important for replenishing and resting the mind and the heart.

What is important is to make your focus in Salah as the launchpad to your focus in life. Ensure that you always have a goal that you are heading towards. Such that you do not stray in wasting your time on deeds that do not bring any benefit.

Lastly, doing Zakat is essential. There are two aspects of this; the first is to purify your heart. Do not ignore the dirty state of your heart after you have done sin and transgressed against Allah SWT’s commands.

Purify your hearts. Then, live a life where you are concerned to the needs and suffering of those around you. Spend your wealth in Zakat in the hopes that Allah SWT protects you in your life.

May Allah SWT grant us success in whatever we are out to achieve in life. May He grant us Barakah in all that we do. Ameen. Remember, dear brothers and sisters, we belong to Allah SWT.

Make sure that we use whatever blessings that He SWT has given us for good. Do not ever forget ourselves or forget Allah SWT. I love all of you for the sake of Allah SWT. See you all next week at the same time and place In Syaa’ Allah.


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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