This article is a summary of takeaways from Ustaz Dr Mohamed Fatris Bakaram’s Tafsir Lecture at Darul Makmur Mosque on 15th March 2020. Summaries of previous lectures on Surah Taha can be found here. This lecture is a continuation of last week’s lecture of Surah Taha verses 58 to 70.
فَأُلْقِيَ السَّحَرَةُ سُجَّدًا قَالُوا آمَنَّا بِرَبِّ هَارُونَ وَمُوسَىٰ –
So the magicians fell down in prostration. They said, “We have believed in the Lord of Harun and Musa.” [20:70]
قَالَ آمَنتُمْ لَهُ قَبْلَ أَنْ آذَنَ لَكُمْ ۖ إِنَّهُ لَكَبِيرُكُمُ الَّذِي عَلَّمَكُمُ السِّحْرَ ۖ ٰ
Firaun said, “How dare you believe in him before I give you permission? He must be your master who taught you magic… [20:71]
Firaun was enraged with the reaction of the sorcerers. He refused to accept what had happened and started throwing blind accusations towards the sorcerers. His accusation was ridiculous seeing that even he knew that Musa AS had not been in contact with anyone from Egypt in the past couple of years. Firaun was incredulous to the point that he was at a loss for words and could not see how illogical he was being.
فَلَأُقَطِّعَنَّ أَيْدِيَكُمْ وَأَرْجُلَكُم مِّنْ خِلَافٍ وَلَأُصَلِّبَنَّكُمْ فِي جُذُوعِ النَّخْلِ وَلَتَعْلَمُنَّ أَيُّنَا أَشَدُّ عَذَابًا وَأَبْقَى
… I will certainly cut off your hands and feet on opposite sides, and crucify you on the trunks of palm trees. You will really see whose punishment is more severe and more lasting.” [20:71]
The phrase “fa la uqatti’anna” can be translated to mean “And I will for sure vigorously cut”. The choice of word used by Firaun indicates that not only were the hands and feet cut off, they were to be cut repeatedly and forcefully, as though they were being minced. This is in addition to having their opposite limbs being amputated and being hung on palm trees as though being crucified. Firaun wanted to make sure that the sorcerers saw the consequences that they would have to bear from their decision to follow Prophet Musa AS.
قَالُوا لَن نُّؤْثِرَكَ عَلَىٰ مَا جَاءَنَا مِنَ الْبَيِّنَاتِ وَالَّذِي فَطَرَنَا ۖ
They said, “Never will we prefer you over what has come to us of clear proofs and [over] He who created us… [20:72]
We have heard in previous verses of Surah Al-A’raf that the sorcerers were being tempted by promises of riches and power if they should win in this battle. However, the moment they saw the truth from Allah SWT and accepted it, all the promises and threats of Firaun no longer held any weight in their hearts. Nothing he said could make any difference to their stand. They did not need years of Islamic education to change their perspective. In a matter of minutes, Allah the Most Powerful and Able was able to flip their opinion completely.
فَاقْضِ مَا أَنتَ قَاضٍ ۖ إِنَّمَا تَقْضِي هَٰذِهِ الْحَيَاةَ الدُّنْيَا
… So decree whatever you are to decree. You can only decree for this worldly life [20:72]
The sorcerers declared that whatever Firaun wants to decree is restricted in impact towards them. His rule is limited to this world. They knew that what Allah has for them is eternal and extends beyond this life and this world.
إِنَّا آمَنَّا بِرَبِّنَا لِيَغْفِرَ لَنَا خَطَايَانَا وَمَا أَكْرَهْتَنَا عَلَيْهِ مِنَ السِّحْرِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ خَيْرٌ وَأَبْقَىٰ
Indeed, we have believed in our Lord that He may forgive us our sins and what you compelled us [to do] of magic. And Allah is better and more enduring.” [20:73]
They sought forgiveness from Allah because they were aware that true forgiveness is only from Allah. They did not fear the punishment of Firaun, only the punishment of Allah frightened them.
إِنَّهُ مَن يَأْتِ رَبَّهُ مُجْرِمًا فَإِنَّ لَهُ جَهَنَّمَ لَا يَمُوتُ فِيهَا وَلَا يَحْيَىٰ
Surely whoever comes to his Lord as a sinner, for him there is Jahannam in which he neither will die nor will live. [20:74]
وَمَن يَأْتِهِ مُؤْمِنًا قَدْ عَمِلَ الصَّالِحَاتِ فَأُولَٰئِكَ لَهُمُ الدَّرَجَاتُ الْعُلَىٰ
And whoever will come to Him as believer, having done righteous deeds, for such people there are the highest ranks, [20:75]
جَنَّاتُ عَدْنٍ تَجْرِي مِن تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا ۚ وَذَٰلِكَ جَزَاءُ مَن تَزَكَّىٰ
the Gardens of Eternity, under which rivers flow, where they will stay forever. That is the reward of those who purify themselves. [20:76]
The Highlight of the Story
My dearest brothers and sisters, it is common for us to pay close attention to a message at its beginning and throughout the story but to lose focus towards the end. Whenever we recite the Qur’an and we reach the end of a paragraph, we often quickly glance over the final few verses. However, the final verses are the most important in every story. They serve as a highlight and summary of what the whole message behind the story is.
In this story, the most fundamental point is this: In order to be a true believer and to do good deeds that please Allah, we need to have clean hearts. Good deeds are only empty hopes and aspirations if not coupled with a clean heart. We need to first seek forgiveness so that our hearts are purified in order for us to be able to not only make plans to take action, but to be able to carry them out effectively.
Learn from the Sorcerers
Look at the sorcerers, how they asked Allah for forgiveness first knowing that they have committed transgressions and sins in the past. When signs from Allah come to jolt us awake and bring us back to Him, we need to ensure that we do not choose to ignore them and remain unaffected.
Sometimes, Allah gives us small trials in order to serve as a wakeup call and reminder. He gives us a hint of punishment, of pain, loss and fear in order to see how we will react. Allah uses these trials to test the believers to reflect on their lives and how they have been living it. Have you, as believers, been careless and thoughtless in your worship? Have you, as believers, been too busy with your time that you forget Allah, who is always waiting for Your prayers? Have you, as believers, been too preoccupied chasing the desires of this world, spending your time and wealth on the temporary rather than the eternal? This is the time to reflect and recalibrate.
In recent days there has been a lot of online lectures and podcasts from the religious scholars (asatizah). Today I decided that instead of learning from the religious scholars, we will learn from the sorcerers. I’m not saying that we should learn their magic. Rather, have a look at these sorcerers, who used to be the worst of people because of their dark magic. Regardless of how evil and dark their hearts were as sorcerers, the moment a reminder came from Allah, they surrendered all that they owned and all that they knew to Him SWT. At that moment, it no longer mattered to them if they lost all their power and magic. They let truth triumph over falsehood in their belief.
Firaun on the other hand, was still caught up in maintaining his wealth, status and power. He refused to see the truth that was evident and chose to remain in falsehood.
Have a Look at Your Life
My dearest brothers and sisters, have a look at what is in your hands. What you have been working for all this while? Is it something that pleases Allah?
Does the wealth that you have reaped come as a product of your own hard work and relentless efforts, through halal means of work that pleases Allah? If so, then Alhamdulillah, please proceed with hearts filled with gratitude.
However, if you find yourself seeing things that do not work, then now is the time to have a look. At times, as human beings, we need a knock on our head before we realise and see what is right in front of us. Allah SWT is giving us that knock right now.
Have a look at what is in your hearts. That thing that you treasure the most, that you have bene holding onto with all of your might, that you have been loving and protecting all of this while… Is it something that pleases Allah? Do you realise that that thing has been the one that is distancing you from Allah SWT, distracting you from what truly matters, bringing you away from the houses of Allah? It’s time to let go of them.
Look at these sorcerers. Even if Firaun had not tortured or killed them, submitting to Islam would have meant losing their only livelihood as sorcerers. They did not have any other skills; Magic was all that they knew and all that they have been doing – they were experts of it. They did not worry about this, because the truth was worth more than what they knew.
Learn, Even from Those Who are Not Teachers
This is reminder to us to learn. Learn so that we may understand the knowledge that comes from Allah SWT. Lessons do not only come from those who are noble and of high status. If we open our hearts and reflect, there is much to learn even from the people who are of low standing in the society. Information and religious knowledge may only come from the asatizah who are trained and established in their fields. However, the lessons of life do not necessarily only come from those deemed honourable and pure.
At times we may see someone and shake our heads at how foolish they might seem. However, we should not look down upon them because there may be lessons that they may be able to teach us. Today we may mock them for their mistakes, thinking that we are wise and intelligent above their foolishness. We do not know what may happen in the future. Someday our deemed intelligence may be our own downfall if Allah SWT does not guide our hearts or grant us purity. In verse 76, Allah SWT reminded us that only pure hearts deserve the rewards of Paradise.
The Effect of Trials on a Believer
Today we go through many trials with the anxiety, uncertainty and worries brought about by the virus and the repercussions it brings about. During this period, keep checking on your heart. How pure are your hearts? It is scary. Allah SWT sends us a hint of punishment in this world as a reminder for us to give our hearts a check-up. We fear coming to Allah after this trial with hearts that are still dirty and darkened, earning ourselves the recompense of punishment in the hereafter as well.
All the wealth and status that is given to a believer does not do them harm. When a reminder reaches them, the believers remember that these gifts are for them to be grateful and humble, increasing in worship and obedience of Allah. When the trial of loss of wealth, health or lives of loved ones touches a believer, they are not affected because they will return their hearts to Allah. They turn to Allah SWT because they want Him SWT to see them. They want Him to be pleased with them saying, “Regardless of how difficult the circumstances, My servant still remembers Me. My servant still asks of Me. My servant still seeks My Mercy and My Aid. My servant is still looking for a way to please Me.”.
The Power of Istighfar
Make Istighfar. Seek Allah SWT’s Forgiveness and Mercy. We hope that after this trial passes in the days and weeks to come, that we may return to normal life with pure hearts cleansed of sin. Make Istighfar, you have nothing to lose from it.
Our Prophet Muhammad SAW, someone who is purified and free from sin, is known to have made Istighfar 70 – some narrations even say 100 – times daily. What about us, people who make so many sins daily. How often do we seek repentance from Allah SWT?
In a hadith, we see the immense value of Istighfar. The Messenger of Allah SAW said,
“If anyone constantly seeks pardon (from Allah), Allah will appoint for him a way out of every distress and a relief from every anxiety, and will provide sustenance for him from where he expects not.”
At times we find ourselves overwhelmed with constraints in life – be it at work, with our families or in other aspects of life. We find that regardless of all that we do and all that we strive to achieve, problems keep coming in and do not go away. It may be that we have failed in fulfilling our responsibility to Allah SWT, in remembering Him, serving Him and seeking forgiveness from Him. We do not want to return to Allah in a state where our sins are not forgiven. So, make Istighfar!
This hadith is proof of the immense honour that is available for us out of just seeking forgiveness from Allah SWT. This is Allah’s promise to us of the sure way to earn His Regard. What Allah has given, we take, rush for it and make the fullest use of it. Allah is not stingy, and He knows how we as human beings are. So, He gives this promise as an incentive for us. He will still reward us with what we seek, regardless of why we seek His forgiveness.
But there is one way to be honoured even more than this – and that is to make Istighfar just because we realise that we are slaves of Allah. We make Istighfar because we realise that we are weak and flawed and so we seek forgiveness from Him, not because we want the benefits, sustenance and the freedom from anxiety and distress. The best kind of Istighfar is made for the sake of Allah, not for our own pleasure.
May Allah SWT make us amongst those who have the humility to learn from others and the wisdom to let go of that which displeases Him. May Al-Ghafoor Forgive us all and cleanse our hearts out of every bit of sin, so that we may emerge after this trial closer to Him than before, with hearts that are pure. Ameen. Stay safe and take care, everyone.
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 me 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 and is currently a Research Assistant at Evolutionary Biology Lab ( NUS ). She is currently taking a diploma in Quran and Sunnah Studies from Al Zuhri.
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