بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ
Reciting the Qur’an is an act of worship.
Thinking deeply about the ayaat of the Qur’an whilst reciting them in Arabic (especially when/if Allah has blessed the reciter with enough knowledge to understand the Arabic of the Qur’an directly) can have many beautiful effects on the reciter, not the least of which is the acquisition of deep insight (تَفَكُّر), which enables him/her to closely relate the ayaat they are reciting to the currently-happening events and incidents in their own lives, as well as the lives of other people dwelling in the same era as they.
Here are a few such pearls of wisdom in the Qur’an that I’ve extracted (by Allah’s will) over time. Please keep in mind, that I cannot explain in full details how I gleaned these lessons through the course of many events in my own life, but rest assured, it was the Qur’an that was the source of the wisdom imparted through them, to me.
And all good is solely from Allah.
☞ Victory and Success Comes Only Through Pain and Hardship
There is no shortcut to success, either worldly or that of the Hereafter.
To attain any goal, blessing, status, honor, achievement, award, or a high level of intangible or intangible success, one must be prepared to toil hard, tolerate and overcome problems with strength and patience, and face the opposition of people with staunch, unswerving firmness.
Only successful people have haters and antagonists. It is the people who aren’t achieving anything special or extraordinary in their lives, who have no enemies, antagonists, naysayers and critics.
It took Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) twenty three years to achieve his noble mission of conveying Allah’s message of guidance to mankind.
Yet, the first incident in his life that signaled the descent of this special gift from Allah was anything but a pleasant experience for him.
After receiving the first revelation of the Qur’an through an unexpected meeting with archangel Jibreel, he was actually so overwhelmed and scared, that he started trembling with terror and sought solace with his wife. Yet, rather ironically, the cause of his fear was the beginning of the greatest blessing anyone could ever ask for – that of being chosen to do Allah’s work on earth as His Prophet.
The lesson here is the same that I have extracted from almost all of the stories of the other Prophets in the Qur’an: success, pleasure of Allah, and higher ranks come only through hardships and unpleasant circumstances:
Prophet Musa عليه السلام had to run away from a city/nation to escape the persecution of rulers because he had unintentionally caused the death of a man.
Prophet Yunus عليه السلام had to endure suffering because of his people, which led him to almost drown, and then get ingested by a huge whale, suffering physical injuries and isolation as a result.
(I don’t know about you, but I have yet to meet someone who was swallowed by a whale yet came out of it alive! Talk about positivity! √)
Prophet Essa/Jesus عليه السلام was also persecuted by his people. We all know what happened to him. Despite being a chosen slave of Allah with whom his Lord was pleased, his miraculous birth, eventual (apparent) crucifixion by the Bani Israel, and the circumstances surrounding his apparent death depict a life picture full of pain, persecution and trials.
Prophet Yusuf عليه السلام was thrown in a well by his own blood-related kin when he hadn’t even reached adulthood. I don’t know about you, but I have yet to meet someone who was thrown deliberately, after devising a premeditated plot, into a well by his own siblings!
But it is not just the Prophets – who appear to be probably ‘out of reach’ for most of us, because we cannot even hope to reach a level of taqwa that is close to theirs – who endured extreme hardships and trials patiently for the sake of Allah, and were granted success in this world and the next, because of their endurance of the same.
It is also ordinary, fallible human beings like ourselves who have reached success in both worlds, who might grant us inspiration more easily, because more of us can hope to be like them.
Well, the Qur’an mentions a few of them as well.
There is Zaid, and the trial he endured when he divorced his wife Zainab and she was married by the Prophet ﷺ: this was an action that was considered very scandalous at that time, and carried great social stigma. Yet, Zaid endured the ensuing backlash for the sake of Allah, because through his endurance of this painful experience, Allah abolished a man-made social taboo/custom forever. Not to mention, he came out of it holding the exclusive honor of being the only companion of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ whose name is mentioned in the Qur’an!
Then there is A’ishah bint Abi Bakr and the incident of ifk. She and the Prophet ﷺ (and their loving relationship), were tested greatly through this trial. She spent most of the days that this trial lasted, weeping. Allah halted Divine revelation for a month, which further exacerbated the difficulty of the situation, and gave the mischief-makers and gossip-mongers in Madinah a further chance to show their true colors through the careless wagging of their tongues.
However, she and the Prophet ﷺ (and their marriage) successfully emerged from this test of their faith stronger than ever, and even though people who slander and curse her exist in the world to this day (thankfully, they are an exclusive minority), through this trial, Allah raised her ranks, and proved her innocence through a specific, acquittal-imparting – albeit indirect – mention of her in the Qur’an.
What could be a greater honor than that?
I can give other examples as well, of ordinary people who were sincere Muslims during their time, who endured trials and were raised in ranks because of their lofty level of faith for the sake of Allah, but I cannot go into details here because that will make this post too long.
There are the 3 believers whom Allah ordered to be socially marginalized because they didn’t go out in time for jihad with the Prophet ﷺ.
There is the man who was martyred when he tried to help the three Prophets who were being persecuted by his nation, and got killed by them because of it (the whole story is in Surah Yaseen, ayaat 13-27).
There is the man who publicly supported Prophets Musa and Harun in front of Pharaoh by making an impressive speech in their defense, after hiding his faith from Pharaoh (who was his relative) until that point i.e. he had secretly become a believing Muslim despite Pharaoh’s antagonism towards Prophet Musa, as narrated in Surah Ghafir.
There are the companions of the cave; the group of young lads who took a stand for the sake of monotheism; who received, as a result, Allah’s special miracles. One was in the form of ‘time travel': awaking to having traversed a 100 years without advancing in age. Another special miracle that Allah gave them was the bypassing of the sunlight from the mouth of their cave in such a way that they remained undisturbed; of His turning them over and over; and His casting special terror (of them) upon anyone who entered the cave.
And there is Khaulah, who has a whole surah of the Qur’an named in her honor because she stood up to the oppression of her husband when he first did dhihaar (a custom in Arab jahiliyyah) on her, then tried to be intimate with her later the same day, by stopping the Prophet in his tracks and complaining to him about her husband in an argumentative manner (جدل).
All of these believers have been granted raised ranks by being mentioned by Allah, either directly or indirectly, in the Qur’an.
But the point I am trying to make is: that if you want to be one of Allah’s ‘special’ slaves; someone whom He loves; whom He honors by making His close, special friend (ولى) – be prepared to be tested severely; to cry hot tears of grief; to feel isolated and ‘let down’ by people; to lose loved ones for His sake (and I do not mean by death); to be socially marginalized and persecuted (even killed) by ‘your’ people.
Be prepared for a life full of outer difficulties, but inner peace. Be prepared to feel like you are weird; that you don’t belong; that people hate you. Because they will.
And because victory (of both worlds) comes through pain, loss, grief, and hardship.
There are no shortcuts.
☞ Never Say “Die!”
The Qur’an has taught me that Allah’s help definitely comes for believers who are 100% sincere to Him.
However, sometimes, that help apparently ‘gets late’ in coming, because man is naturally predisposed to being impatient and full of haste.
People generally want to hasten outcomes in their lives according to their desires; whereas, with Allah, every decree and decision has an optimally-appointed time that is perfect and best for the believer’s own benefit in life.
Yet, whenever we encounter an apparent dead-end, or a seemingly immovable road-block in life (think: our dua’s for a particular blessing not being answered for many years), Shaitan tries to make us despondent, and entices us to think and say bad things about Allah, e.g. “Why isn’t Allah helping me?”
However, the sincere believer doesn’t fall into the trap of Shaitan, and forces himself to think positively about his Lord, even in the most seemingly bleak, hopeless, and rock-bottom circumstances and dead-end situations. He says with conviction:
كَلَّا إِنَّ مَعِيَ رَبِّي سَيَهْدِينِ
“By no means! My Lord is with me! Soon will He guide me!” [26:62]
I know that, as believers, we cannot hope to receive miracles from Allah the way His Prophets did during their lives and missions, but nevertheless, it is not totally untrue and unheard of for the friends of Allah (أولياء الله) to have inexplicable, apparently ‘miraculous’ incidents happen in their lives that personify the descent of Divine help from their Lord.
The Qur’an has taught me, and by the grace of Allah I have practically experienced this in my own life, to never, ever ‘say die’.
That is, to never give up, throw my hands up in the air, and quit doing something good,- thinking, “This is it. No way out from here”.
There is always, always a way out. And no matter how bleak a situation might seem, no matter how difficult and bad, there is always good in it for us.
Day always follows night. The light is always there at the end of the tunnel, and the tunnel always has an end.
And Allah is always there for you.
☞ Our Enemies Are Very Near
One of the most amazing things that I’ve come across in more than one place in the Qur’an, is the warning Allah gives us about being careful of enemies in our midst, near us, especially in our families.
I mean, who would ever suspect a family member of being their enemy, right?
Yet, Allah specifically warns us about them in the Qur’an:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِنَّ مِنْ أَزْوَاجِكُمْ وَأَوْلَادِكُمْ عَدُوًّا لَّكُمْ فَاحْذَرُوهُمْ وَإِن تَعْفُوا وَتَصْفَحُوا وَتَغْفِرُوا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
“O you who believe! Truly, among your wives and your children are (some that are) enemies to yourselves: so beware of them! But if you forgive and overlook, and cover up (their faults), verily Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [64:14]
Nothing can be truer than Allah’s words. No advice could be more sincere or beneficial for us than the advice and exhortation of the Lord of the Universe.
And He is telling us clearly in the above ayah, that we have some enemies among our own families. He uses the same Arabic word in the Qur’an, to call them our enemy (عَدُوّ), which He uses to refer to Iblees (Shaitan).
We spend most of our time with our families as we live life, and expect them to be pillars of support and a source of unconditional and unrelenting love for us.
Yet, some of them are our own enemies. And this is precisely because this love of ours for them, and their love for us, can often become an obstacle in our path towards success in the Akhirah, and a major roadblock in acquiring the pleasure of Allah in this world.
That happens when our family members cause us pain and suffering because of the level of our faith in Allah (religiosity), or when they act in a manner that it becomes difficult for us to act upon some commands of Islam.
Ask anyone who has come towards Deen, about who made it the most difficult for them to act upon Islam, and they will most probably name a close family member.
Also, here I’d like to add that, the pain caused by family members varies over the course of our lives. For example, during our youth, we might suffer pain because of one particular relative, whereas a few years or decades down the road, that same relative might have become our very close friend/supporter, and the source of our problems could now be another family member, who was hitherto cordial and nice to us. This happens throughout our lives. Certain relatives cause us varying degrees of problems at different stages in our lives.
As I mentioned above, it was the brothers of Yusuf who not only plotted to ‘get him out of the way’ in their endeavors to acquire their father’s exclusive attention, but actually went ahead, put their heads together, and practically achieved their vile mission.
It was Qabil who killed his own blood-brother, Habil.
It was Yusuf’s master Aziz’s wife who tried to cheat on her righteous husband, Aziz, behind his back, in his very house, by seducing his own slave, Yusuf. And even though he caught her red-handed in the act, she remained unrepentant afterwards, trying to garner her socialite girlfriends’ support in continuing to sexually harass the young Yusuf.
The wives of both Prophets Lut and Nuh (عليهما السلام) also proved treacherous to their husbands despite dwelling in their homes, because they harbored sympathies and love for their sinful, transgressive, doomed townspeople instead.
These are the few examples I could think of from the stories mentioned in the Qur’an, about how it is a righteous person’ own family members who become a trial of their faith and steadfastness upon the path of Allah, by dishing out actions and words towards them that makes it difficult for them to obey Allah and His Messenger ﷺ consistently.
And if we allow them to succeed in their opposition, they will truly prove to be our enemy.
So what do we do, when someone from our own family thus becomes our enemy?
Please proceed to read the point below ☟for the answer to that question.
☞ ‘Kill Them’ With Kindness
When someone – anyone – wrongs us, treats us badly, or oppresses us, the natural, innate, reactive urge within us entices us to strike back at them, and give them an eye for an eye, (perhaps even more)!
When the one who mistreats us is someone from our own family, and they unapologetically continue to mistreat us over time (knowing that we do not like what they are doing to us), it hurts even more, because they are close to us, and/or we love them.
For cases such as these, Allah has recommended a long-term strategy that will ‘kill’ the enmity for us harbored in the hearts of our enemies, especially those within our families:
وَلَا تَسْتَوِي الْحَسَنَةُ وَلَا السَّيِّئَةُ ادْفَعْ بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ فَإِذَا الَّذِي بَيْنَكَ وَبَيْنَهُ عَدَاوَةٌ كَأَنَّهُ وَلِيٌّ حَمِيمٌ
“Nor can goodness and Evil be equal. Repel (evil) with what is better: Then will he between whom and you was hatred, become as it were your close friend.” [41:34]
Returning bad behavior with good is definitely not easy, especially when tremendous damage has been done.
However, it is possible, for those who are determined enough to continue forgiving their enemies, albeit without falling into the same hole twice.
The key to striking the balance between being a weak pushover who allows people to walk all over him by not taking a stand (mistaking this to mean “being patient”), and becoming a hostile grudge-holder and vengeance-seeker bent on taking revenge,– is to maintain a safe distance from those family members who have repeatedly wronged one, and from whose harm one still does not feel safe.
Those relatives who continue to pose a danger to our Akhirah, via word or deed i.e. they refuse to change their vile ways/habits over the course of many years,– we should continue interacting with them from a safe distance on our own terms – i.e. without compromising on our limits/boundaries.
It is very important for us to impose these strict boundaries; for us to remain careful and wary with such relatives, because this is what Allah has advised us (فَاحْذَرُوهُمْ) in the Qur’an, and it ensures our dignity, self-respect, privacy and emotional/psychological safety from their evil.
Returning bad with good can be achieved with such relatives as follows:
- Greeting them with a quick salam and a smile whenever you meet them in person (this doesn’t apply to non-mahrums), but quickly moving on.
- Visiting them briefly when/if they are ill. A phone call or text message can also accomplish this at a lesser level.
- Helping them financially if/when they need it.
- Accepting their banquet invitations, but keeping interactions therein business-like, limited and to-the-point e.g. by leaving soon and not allowing yourself to be drawn into long conversations with them.
- Giving or sending them occasional gifts.
Returning the bad deeds of one’s enemies with good deeds is possible without allowing them to go on harming you. All it needs is a little prudence, firmness and discretion. People treat us a certain way only if we allow them to.
The best example from the Qur’an of repelling evil with good that I can think of, is the way Prophet Yusuf handled his half-brothers on meeting them again, in Egypt, when he was in a position that allowed him to have the upper hand over them.
He used the wisdom, discretion, and shrewdness that he had acquired as a result of enduring years of hardship, to reveal his true identity to them only after he had made them agree to a business deal/contract, according to the terms and conditions of which, they had to leave his younger brother with him before returning home with the purchased grain.
Yusuf knew only too well how they had plotted against him when he was young, benign and naive. Once they came to Egypt after he had become (unbeknownst to them) the government-appointed treasurer, he didn’t do or say anything that would enable them to put him (or his younger brother) in a weak, compromising position again.
Rather, he used his knowledge of their mindset, nature and specific personal situation (viz. need of grains due to famine) to make them bring not only his younger brother to him, but also his aging parents.
As I said above, I have had life experiences that corroborate what I am saying here: using the strategy outlined by Allah in the Qur’an with our enemies in the long term, of returning their ad deeds with good (without compromising on our personal safety/distance/boundaries from their harmful actions), brings about surefire results: it is the single most wonderful way of ‘killing’ our antagonists’ enmity towards us, and making them our friends instead.
But it takes years; it doesn’t happen overnight. Very few people have the patience to go the distance with this strategy.
Maybe that is why most of our enemies remain our enemies throughout life, because we harbor grudges and indulge in doing their gheebah to let off steam, instead of following the recommendations of the Qur’an to get rid of the enmity between us and them for good.
☞ The Mills Grind Slowly, But Surely
This is definitely not the last life lesson that I have gleaned from the Qur’an, but it is the last one I intend to discuss here, due to word-count and post-length constraints (this post has again become quite long by now, hasn’t it? So what else is new?).
To put it briefly, it takes a certain amount of time pre-appointed by Allah for decrees to happen; for things to reach fruition; for visions to be accomplished, and for missions to be completed.
As I said above, man is a creature of haste. Man wants to get what he desires quickly and immediately. Yet, the all-wise plan of Allah is based upon His limitless Divine knowledge of the Unseen (الغيب).
Many a thing that we desperately want can take years in coming, because Allah knows at what exact time that thing will be beneficial for us to have.
The Qur’an itself took 23 years to be revealed in totality. This process (i.e. the total revelation of Allah’s final message of guidance to all of mankind) also involved many ground-breaking and difficult events, incidents and situations in the lives of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and his companions.
Many, many a time, man wants to achieve his goal or attain a particular blessing as quickly as a snap of his fingers. However, the Qur’an teaches us that there is a law of Allah that cannot be changed, no matter how much we want or try to hasten outcomes: reaching a certain place, or acquiring a certain blessing takes time.
إِنَّا كُلَّ شَيْءٍ خَلَقْنَاهُ بِقَدَرٍ
“Verily, all things have We created in proportion and measure.” [54:49]
Combined with apparent Divine ‘delays’ in the culmination of our desired goals, missions, and outcomes, man’s haste and impatience causes his own frustration and distress.
For example, a human baby can never be born in just a month or two. Creation of each human life that comes into this world, has been decreed according to a pre-ordained amount of time (9 months, give or take a little).
The same law applies to aging. A person can never grow up overnight and reach a certain age, without passing each and every year (365 days) in between. No amount of haste can allow a 10 year old child to become 25 years old overnight.
The above examples are just of the exact, known preordained amounts of time that is needed for obtaining tangible things/goals. But what about the uncertain time intervals that are needed to be passed before attaining certain other, more surreal blessings, which only Allah knows about?
E.g The time that is required to achieve or acquire intangible types of provision, such as knowledge, wisdom, and insight. Or the exact amount of time that has to be passed before a person’s marriage is decreed, or the birth of their child, or the acquisition of provisions such as a high-paying job, a house, and the car of their dreams?
Man can never ever be sure of the the exact length/amount of these preordained time intervals; only Allah knows.
وَإِن مِّن شَيْءٍ إِلاَّ عِندَنَا خَزَائِنُهُ وَمَا نُنَزِّلُهُ إِلاَّ بِقَدَرٍ مَّعْلُومٍ
“And there is not a thing but its (sources and) treasures (inexhaustible) are with Us; but We only send down thereof in due and ascertainable measure.” [15:21]
So when things appear to be taking ‘too long’ in coming to him, man begins to get hopeless and despondent.
The truth is, that no matter how hard he pursues the means to achieve his desired ends, man can never be sure that at the end of his toils, he will surely acquire those ends. For this, he is totally dependent upon the will of Allah; waiting needily for Allah to say “Be!” regarding his decreed provision, so that he can get it.
The Qur’an has taught me that delays (or what I perceive to be delays) in the acquisition of goals and blessings are always for my own good. There are many things that I now realize, as I look back at the approximately three and a half decades of my life, that they came at a preordained time that was just right, even though I was getting impatient to get them sooner back then.
Even right now, when there are apparent delays in some of my dua’s being answered, alhamdulillah, I seem to know better. I know that my Lord will never decree something for me before the time for it is just right – for my own benefit and good.
So there they are: five valuable pearls of timeless wisdom that I have gleaned from reciting and pondering upon the Qur’an, bi idhnillah. لَا قُوَّةَ اِلَّا بِالله
What have you learned? Please share. :)