Lessons from the Life of the Prophets (Surah Maryam, verses 51-57)

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This article is a summary of takeaways from Ustaz Dr Mohamed Fatris Bakaram’s Tafsir Lecture at Darul Makmur Mosque on 19th January 2020. It is a continuation of the verses of Surah Maryam. Summaries of the previous lectures on Surah Maryam containing lessons from the lives of Prophet Yahya, Sayidatina Maryam and Prophet Isa AS can be found here.

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Bismi-llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīm

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

اللهم صلي على سيدنا محمد وعلى اله وصحبه وسلم

Allahumma salli ala Sayyidina Muhammad wa ala alihi wa sahbihi wasallim

O Allah, send your peace and blessings upon our Master Muhammad and upon his family and companions

This article comprise of two sections: (1) A response to questions raised by audience members and (2) a continuation of the tafsir of Surah Maryam, verses 51 to 57.

Question & Answer

Q: When the Janazah Prayer (prayer for the deceased) is performed at the void deck, is it permissible to pray without a prayer mat and with our footwear on?

A: Yes, Salat can be conducted with footwear on and without a prayer mat. The conditions for an accepted Salat are simple: (1) Prayer is performed at the appropriate time, (2) Appropriate aurat is covered, (3) Prayer is performed facing the Qiblat, (4) Cleanliness from big or small hadath. This fourth condition means that the person praying has to have cleaned himself from both small hadath (via wudhu’) or big hadath (via ghusl) where appropriate. Cleanliness also implies clean clothes, body and prayer area.

What is important in determining cleanliness is that we do not see any visible impurity (Najasah) at the prayer area. For as long as this is assured, there is no problem in performing prayers there. Praying in footwear is likewise permissible for as long as we do not visibly see any trace of najasah (i.e. no smell, shape, colour or any other indication that there is any najasah) on our shoes.

Q: Is it appropriate to bring a janazah into the lift in order to bring the body downstairs? Isn’t it disrespectful to put the body upright just to ensure it fits in the lift?

There is no issue in this. Islam is simple and practical, do not complicate things. Do what is needed, according to what is necessary and appropriate, with as much respect as you can give to the body as you would to a living person.

Continuation of Surah Maryam

Prophet Musa AS and the meaning of Ikhlas

وَاذْكُرْ فِي الْكِتَابِ مُوسَىٰ ۚ إِنَّهُ كَانَ مُخْلَصًا وَكَانَ رَسُولًا نَّبِيًّا

And mention in the Book, Musa. Indeed, he was chosen, and he was a messenger and a prophet. [19:51]

The word “Mukhlasan” was used to describe Prophet Musa AS in the qira’at of Hafs an ‘Asim. In certain qira’ats, the word “Mukhlisan” is used instead. This word comes from the root letters Kho, Lam & Sod meaning ‘clean’, free from impurity. From this root word, comes the word “Ikhlas”. In the Malay language, we have adopted this word to mean ‘sincerity’. A heart that has Ikhlas, an intention that is Ikhlas, leads to deed being performed for Allah SWT alone. Someone doing worship in order to get praise or recognition from people is someone who does not have Ikhlas, because he is seeking something other than Allah.

Prophet Musa AS was described as someone with Ikhlas. There are a few interpretations of this word. One of which is that Prophet Musa AS had a heart that had been cleansed by Allah SWT. He was free from syirk, sin, and from his past mistakes.

Let us recap the story of Prophet Musa AS. He was born from the people of Israel, at a time when Firaun (the Pharaoh) had ordered for all baby boys to be killed. He was saved by Allah’s Will when his mother was instructed to send him down the Nile river in a basket. This resulted in him being rescued by the wife of Firaun. He was raised in Firaun’s palace, in the very household of the man who tried to kill him. Musa AS grew up to become a strong man. There was an occasion when he hit a man, who made a mistake, causing the man to be killed. Musa fled in fear of the punishment which awaited him, fleeing Egypt to the city of Madyan. Later, Musa AS was given revelation and chosen by Allah to become a prophet. He was selected because he had been purified- his past sin was forgiven. He did not kill a man intentionally; It had been an accident. As such, Allah had freed him from the sin.  He was hence regarded as Mukhlasan.

The Difference between a Nabi and a Rasul

In this verse, Prophet Musa AS was declared as “Rasulan Nabiyyan”. Scholars use this verse to distinguish between the two types of messengers.

There is a popular opinion that a Nabi is a person who receives revelation from Allah for himself, whereas a Rasul is a person who receives revelation to be spread to the people. However, the scholars question this opinion based on verses of the Qur’an where ‘Nabi’s are seen to have preached the word of Allah. One example is in Surah Maryam verse 41, where we see that Prophet Ibrahim was referred to as “Siddiqan Nabiyyan”. He was truthful and a Nabi. He was also mentioned to be calling his father to Allah, rendering this definition of ‘Nabi’ inappropriate.

As we know, all Nabis have the following four characteristics: Siddiq (Truthfulness), Amanah (Trustworthiness), Tabligh (Advocacy) and Fathonah (Intelligence). A prophet has to be Tabligh, meaning that he delivers and relays whatever revelation has been sent to him. It is impossible for a messenger of Allah to keep revelation to himself. I am therefore of the opinion that this definition of Nabi, being someone who receives revelation for himself, as inaccurate.

Both Nabis and Rasuls receive revelation and preach it to their people. The difference between the two is that Rasuls have a Syari’at (a code of law or living) that comes with the revelation. This means that Rasuls are sent with a Kitab or Book, and this book comes with a specific set of rulings that applies to their people. Nabis are also given revelation, however there are no specific system of rules and laws that come with the message being sent. Examples of Rasuls are Prophet Musa AS with the Taurah, Prophet Isa with the Injeel and Prophet Muhammad SAW with the Qur’an.

These are opinions of the Scholars. Only Allah knows the true distinction between the two groups. Scholars can only hypothesise, because there was no specific hadith of Rasulullah SAW which explicitly distinguishes between the two.

The Meaning of Munajat

وَنَادَيْنَاهُ مِن جَانِبِ الطُّورِ الْأَيْمَنِ وَقَرَّبْنَاهُ نَجِيًّا

We called him from the right side of Mount Ṭur, and drew him near, speaking (with him) directly. [19:52]

There are two opinions of the word “at-Tur” in this verse. Some say that it refers to a mountain- any mountain. Others say that it is the name of a specific mountain called “Tur”.

Because of this incident on the mountain, Prophet Musa AS was given the nickname “Kaleemullah” meaning ‘the one who speaks to Allah’. The word “Najiyya” here comes from the same root word as that in the word “Munajat”. We hear the word “Munajat” often in the Malay community. Some mosques even hold “Majlis Munajat”, which are gatherings where people supposedly do Munajat together.  I personally disagree in calling zikir gatherings in the mosque “Majlis Munajat”. The word Munajat means to speak directly in a private whispered conversation to someone. It does not refer to an activity done in a group or in public. We actually perform Munajat to Allah when we have conversations with Allah alone in solitude. This word is more appropriate to be used in the situation where someone awakes in the middle of the night, during a difficult period of his life, whispering, praying and begging from Allah in private, seeking His forgiveness and aid.

Prophet Harun AS

وَوَهَبْنَا لَهُ مِن رَّحْمَتِنَا أَخَاهُ هَارُونَ نَبِيًّا

And We bestowed upon him of Our mercy his brother Harun, a prophet (likewise). [19:53]

As can be seen in this verse, Prophet Harun AS, was identified as a Nabi, but not a Rasul. He did not have a Syari’at of his own. Instead, he merely supported Prophet Musa AS in spreading the word of Allah. We will see in Surah Taha that Prophet Harun AS, the elder brother of Nabi Musa, was appointed as a prophet out of the du’a of Prophet Musa AS asking Allah for a helper in his mission.

Prophet Ismail and Ishaq AS

وَاذْكُرْ فِي الْكِتَابِ إِسْمَاعِيلَ ۚ إِنَّهُ كَانَ صَادِقَ الْوَعْدِ وَكَانَ رَسُولًا نَّبِيًّا

And mention in the Book (the story of) Ismail. He was truly a man of his word, and was a messenger and a prophet. [19:54]

Do you remember the story of Prophet Ismail? Even as a child he was a man of his word; He always fulfilled his promise. We see in Surah As-Saffat, that when Ismail’s father, Prophet Ibrahim AS had come to him telling him of his dream in which he was slaughtering young Ismail AS, the boy had replied with “O my father, do as you are commanded. You will find me, if Allah wills, of the steadfast.”

Prophet Ismail AS was referred to in this verse as “Rasulan Nabiyan”. He was a Nabi who was the son of a Nabi, Prophet Ibrahim AS, and a brother of a Nabi, Prophet Ishaq AS. However, he was the only Rasul amongst the three.

According to some narrations, upon the birth of Prophet Ismail AS by Sayidatina Hajar, his stepmother, Sayidatina Sarah felt uneasy with him. Upon Allah’s instruction, Prophet Ibrahim had brought Sayidatina Hajar and Prophet Ismail to the desert. This was where the incident of Zamzam at Safa and Marwa occured.

Prophet Ishaq, Prophet Ibrahim AS’ second child, was born out of Sayidatina Sarah. From his lineage came Prophet Ya’qub, also known as Isra’il. The phrase “Bani Isra’il” therefore refers to the descendants of Prophet Ya’qub. This group includes a line of prophets that came after such as Prophet Yusuf, Prophet Musa and Prophet Isa AS. From the lineage of Prophet Ismail, there was no series of Prophets. However, the final messenger of Allah, the leader of all Nabis and Rasuls, Prophet Muhammad SAW came from this lineage.

The Jews and Christians tend to claim that Prophet Ishaq is more honourable than Prophet Ismail. In fact, some Jews claim that the son that was said to be chosen for sacrifice by Prophet Ibrahim had in fact been prophet Ishaq, not prophet Ismail AS.

For Muslims, our scholars are of the view that Prophet Ismail AS was of a higher status than Prophet Ishaq for the following reasons: (1) The Qur’an explicitly mentions that it was Ismail who was asked to be “slaughtered”, (2) It was Prophet Ismail who supported his father in building the Ka’bah, and (3) Prophet Ismail AS was mentioned as being both a Rasul and a Nabi. On the other hand, neither Prophet Ishaq nor Prophet Ibrahim AS had been Rasuls.

There is no denying that both prophet Ishaq and prophet Ismail AS were noble and honoured prophets of Allah. However, we believe that prophet Ismail was of a higher status than Prophet Ishaq.

وَكَانَ يَأْمُرُ أَهْلَهُ بِالصَّلَاةِ وَالزَّكَاةِ وَكَانَ عِندَ رَبِّهِ مَرْضِيًّا

And he enjoined on his family prayer and almsgiving, and was one in whom his Lord was well pleased. [19:55]

The ruling of Solat and Zakat had already been given since the time of Prophet Ismail AS. The implementation might have been different. As previously mentioned, every Rasul, including Prophet Ismail AS, had their own Syari’at specific to their own people.

Prophet Idris AS

وَاذْكُرْ فِي الْكِتَابِ إِدْرِيسَ إِنَّهُ كَانَ صِدِّيقًا نَّبِيًّا

And mention Idris in the Book; surely he was a truthful man, a prophet, [19:56]

وَرَفَعْنَاهُ مَكَانًا عَلِيًّا

And We raised him high in Heaven. [19:57]

Prophet Idris AS was mentioned here without a life story to follow. What Allah tells us about him was that he was Siddiq, truthful and obedient to Allah, and that he had an honourable status. We’ve also heard separately in the story of Isra’ Mi’raj, of how Prophet Muhammad SAW had met Prophet Idris AS in the 4th heaven, during his SAW’s ascension through the heavens.

Prophet Idris AS was born after Prophet Adam and before Prophet Nuh AS. He was one of the prophets mentioned in the Qur’an without much reference to his life story. Be cautious when you come across any stories linked to him. Note that these stories are likely to come from the people of the book; They are likely Isra’iliyat stories which have no clear source and backing to Rasulullah SAW. Their authenticity is questionable.

I will narrate to you one of the stories linked to Prophet Idris- not as a lesson to learn from but for us to be aware that such stories are shared even in Islamic texts. We need to be careful when we hear these stories and remember to check their authenticity, so that we do not become gullible and fall to believing in nonsense.

In this narration with questionable authenticity, Prophet Idris was said to be walking on a hot day. He felt the hot sun bearing down on him and spoke to Allah saying, “Oh Allah, here I am feeling the intense heat of the sun. I can’t imagine what the Angel tasked to carry the sun might be feeling. Oh Allah, have pity on that angel! I ask you that you lighten the burden of that Angel from the weight and heat of the Sun.” The next day, it was said that the angel carrying the sun noticed that the sun was lighter than usual. He asked Allah about it. After getting to know that Prophet Idris had made du’a leading to Allah lightening his load for him, the Sun Angel requested to meet with Prophet Idris to thank him.

At the meeting, Prophet Idris was said to have asked the Sun Angel if he could be introduced to the angel’s friend, the Angel of Death. He had wanted to ask the Angel of Death to postpone his death. Despite the Sun Angel’s assurance that such a feat would be impossible to execute, because his life and death has already been predetermined by Allah, Prophet Idris had insisted upon his request. The Sun Angel then proceeded to bring Prophet Idris to meet with the Angel of Death, leaving him at a safe place before heading to meet with the Angel of Death in person. The Sun Angel had a conversation with the Angel of Death, mentioning Prophet Idris and his request. The Angel of Death reassured the Sun Angel that postponing someone’s death is something he is unable to do. However, if prophet Idris wishes, he will be able to let him know his pre-determined time and place of death so that he may make necessary preparations. The Sun Angel was told that Prophet Idris was destined to die at the point where the sun rises. The Sun Angel then remembered that he had left Prophet Idris at that exact place where the sun rises and rushed back to see him. Upon arriving, he saw that Prophet Idris had already passed away.

This strange story has been found in several tafsir texts, including in Tafsir Al-Azhar by Professor Hamka. These stories are difficult to conceive logically. While we do acknowledge that nothing is impossible by Allah’s Will, there is little evidence to prove the authenticity of these tales. We fear the implications that may happen if we do accept these stories and they happen to be false. This story for example, comes with the connotations that a Prophet and angels could be making light of the role of the angels, and of Allah’s Qadr – even to the extent of a Prophet seeking for an extension in his lifespan not from Allah SWT directly but from another creation. These ideas do not align well with our faith and we need to be firm in leaving that which is unclear. What is certain is that Prophet Idris AS was a prophet who was mentioned twice in the Qur’an. Not much is known about him other than that he had been honoured by Allah SWT.

Fame and Popularity

The previous characters mentioned in Surah Maryam had been popular figures in our Islamic characters, people with many verified and known stories behind their names. Prophet Idris AS, however, was also mentioned in this Surah even though he was a lesser-known prophet.

What we can learn from this is that honour and status in Allah’s eyes has nothing to do with popularity. In fact, there are thousands of Nabis that existed that were not even mentioned in the Qur’an; We only know of 25. There are a few honourable people whom Allah chooses to make known their names in the tongues of people, but many others are honoured in Allah’s eyes and yet Allah conceals their status from the eyes of the people.

This is something we need to remember, Allah’s honour is not found in seeking fame. On the contrary, when fame is sought, Ikhlas is lost- this is a sickness that we want to avoid. Whether or not we are recognised by the people for our deeds, is completely in Allah’s Hands. What we should realise is that fame and recognition is something that should be feared and avoided. You see, if our deeds are done in secret with nobody but Allah knowing about them, In syaa Allah, we will be safe from Riya’ (arrogance) or showing off. We will be able to act sincerely, expecting reward only from Allah, hopeful for His Pleasure. We need to strive to always do good even when nobody is watching, not for praise and fame, but for Allah’s sake alone.

Concluding Words

Sins committed in the view of people are easy for us to repent for, because we are embarrassed in front of people. However, sins committed in secret are more difficult, they are only known by Allah SWT. We are often not ashamed of being seen by Allah committing these sins. May Allah cleanse our hearts from any sin of the past, present and future. May He look at us with the Gaze of Mercy and Forgiveness, and may He grant us the Syafa’at of Rasulullah SAW in the hereafter.

Ameen.

 

——————–

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.

Arina Adom – Linkedin Profile


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