Quran Stories 2: The Believer of Ya-Sin

Alone in a crowdEver since we were kids, our eyes glazed over at the prospect of being told a story. Even as adults with kids of our own today, we relive our stories and memories. The Quran is nearly 1/3 stories, Allah (swt), our Creator, knows how powerful stories are; in fact all civilizations used  to pass on knowledge in the form of stories from one generation to the next. Stories have a profound impact on our minds – for example, how influential Hollywood is universally! Allah (swt) has related to us the best stories that are true, so why go elsewhere.

Story of the anonymous preacher

The story of an unnamed believer in Surah Ya-sin is noteworthy for many reasons, but most importantly because it teaches us how to be a Daee or the one who invites others to Islam. It starts with a conversation that two messengers have with people in a small town. When these people transgress and deny the messengers, Allah (swt) reinforces the two messengers with a third to lend weight to their claim and help them.

This also serves to indicate that the message is crystal clear, three people claiming the same thing. The names of the people or the town are not relevant so Allah (swt) has left them out in His wisdom as it would detract us from the lessons in the story. Also Allah (swt) will leave no place without sending guidance.

The messengers say: “Verily! We have been sent to you as Messengers.”

The people of the town denied that those men could be Messengers, they belied them. Their argument was like the one that the Quraish used on the Prophet (sa) as well: “You are only human being like us, and the Most Beneficent (Allah) has revealed nothing, you are only telling lies.”

The messengers reply: “Our Lord knows that we have been sent as Messengers to you, and our duty is only to convey plainly (the Message).”

They claimed that they wanted no riches or fame, their only aim was to deliver Allah’s (swt) message. They said Allah (swt) was enough for them, He was their witness that they were telling the truth.

Now, when people are stubborn and do not want to see the truth, they start an illogical argument, they said: “For us, we see an evil omen from you, if you cease not, we will surely stone you, and a painful torment will touch you from us.”

Imagine, in exchange for good, these evil people wanted to hurt the messengers who were trying to save them from doom.This is typical of people who do not have truth on their side; they will always resort to tyranny and oppression. They do not have words to counter the truth with; they just rely on superstitions and omens.

The messengers reply: “Your evil omens be with you! (Do you call it “evil omen”) because you are admonished? Nay, but you are a people Musrifun (transgressing all bounds by committing all kinds of great sins and by disobeying Allah).”

This is such an important lesson for us. Whenever we feel that someone wants to hurt us; we should look within ourselves and evaluate whether we are the ones who are being prejudiced? The messengers’ job is only to deliver Allah’s (swt) message as clearly and accurately as possible; people are free to choose what they want.

Dawah – Our sole and sacred mission!

A man from the furthest part of the city arrived. This statement teaches us two things: First, when the truth is apparent, we should hurry towards it and make an effort to tell others. Sitting at home and tweeting about it does not work. The first thing this man did was to call his people towards Allah (swt). He did not claim to be one of the messengers. His concern was only for his townsfolk – he did Dawah. Even when there are others doing Dawah, our responsibility to enjoin good and forbid evil does not desist; it is still our duty. He said, “My O my people! Obey the Messengers; Obey those who ask no wages of you (for themselves), and who are rightly guided.”

It is obvious that the man was not an influential person in the town, he was an average resident.

The townsfolk were very upset, and they did not want to hear what this man had to say, “And why should I not worship Him (Allah Alone) Who has created me and to Whom you shall be returned. Shall I take besides Him Aliha (gods), if the Most Beneficent (Allah) intends me any harm, their intercession will be of no use for me whatsoever, nor can they save me? Then verily, I should be in plain error. Verily! I have believed in your Lord, so listen to me!”

He was adamant, and knew that if Allah (swt) wanted harm to come to him, no one could stop it. Allah (swt) tells us that He will test our patience. The man realized that false idols could not harm or save him. What was perceived as harm was in reality Allah’s (swt) mercy- as we discover in the next verse.

The story continues and we are informed that Allah (swt) had asked this man to enter Paradise. We read in between the lines, that the people must have murdered this innocent man. The man was in Paradise, yet concerned for his people and said, “Would that my people knew! That my Lord (Allah) has forgiven me, and made me of the honoured ones!”


He was only an ordinary man and was killed for his belief. His response was not revenge; he only wished that the people could see what he could see after his remorse, so they would believe. He was forgiving and was steadfast in his mission, in spite of messengers sent by Allah (swt). Finally, after Allah (swt) had given the town’s people every chance to redeem themselves, He said, It was but one Saihah (shout, etc.) and lo! They (all) were silent (dead-destroyed).”

Subhan’Allah, we humans are so fragile, and when we disobey Allah (swt), nothing but humiliation is our destiny!

(Adapted with permission for “Hiba” by Tasneem Vali.)

Understanding Surah Asr – 2

hour-glassTranscribed from the Bayyinah podcast Tafseer series by Iqra Asad.

How scholars define Asr?

Ibn Abbas (ra) says that “Asr” refers to the different ages of different nations. Allah (swt) is talking about human history as a proof that human beings are in loss. Ibn Kisan says that “Asr” refers to the night and the day. Hasan Al Basri says this is the time from late day to sunset, signifying the end of an era; we should know that we are on the verge of death. Qatada says it’s the last part of the day. Another Mufassir says that it means the time of Asr prayer; the busiest time of the day. Asr refers to time; all of it.

Be the change to bring a change!

The time you’re supposed to change for the better, this is implied in Asr. A lot of your days are exactly the same. If you can change one part of your day, you’ve transformed your life. We change at the death of a person, or in Ramadan; but then we go back to our old ways. For example, you know you have to reach your workplace at 9 a.m, no matter what, no negotiation; you’ll do it, or you’ll lose your job. Similarly, if you are convinced that certain behaviours will lead to loss, changing your life becomes easy. This is why the first thing that is mentioned is “belief”. If your boss comes into the office and says, “Every single employee over here is in trouble, I swear to you!” Will you take it casually? In this world, there must be a sense of urgency.

Choice is NOT yours – It’s all or none!

Sometimes, the boss gives you tasks you’re really good at. Sometimes you get tasks you don’t like doing. If you decide to do only two out of four, decide not to even touch the other two tasks, thinking that the first two being done excellently will compensate for the other two not being done, what do you think the boss’s reaction will be? So when Allah (swt) sets out four conditions, and we say, “we should work on our faith, do some good deeds, this other stuff is not for me, it’s for the speakers and Dawah workers.” If you’re picking and choosing, you are also in loss. It’s all or nothing.

You don’t need to memorize the whole Quran to change your life. Just start with Surah Asr!

Humankind is in loss

“Inna” is used to talk to people who are in doubt about what you are saying. Rhetorically, it is used to remove doubt; the doubt already exists. You’d think this was addressed to disbelievers; but Allah (swt) has addressed all humanity, “Illa” at the end conveys that it includes all humanity.

“Insan” comes from “Nisyan” i.e. “forgetfulness”. The word “Insan” is used here to refer to our forgetfulness, and also to refer to each of us as individuals. If someone specifies a person individually, that person pays more attention.

This is a noun-based sentence “Jumla Ismiya”, which is stronger than a verb-based sentence. The word “Insan” is presented as “Al-Insan” i.e. with emphasis. It is not “the human being is a loser” or “has lost”, it is “in loss”. He is immersed in loss. Someone being a loser is one thing, but by using the preposition “Fi” the meaning of constantly being in that state is given. The translation doesn’t even begin to cover the rage and the terror embedded in this verse.

Truth and patience cure doubts and temptations

There is the meaning of “delusion” in “Khusr” i.e. humans are deceiving themselves. “La fi Khusr” means that mankind sets itself up for a vicious end, the kind of end people don’t want. Ibn Taimiyyah comments, “Humanity is kept from accepting the truth of this Deen by two obstacles, doubts and temptations.” When you ask someone to accept Islam, you’re asking them to give up a lot of things. Someone says, “I can’t give up the life of partying.” He can’t give up his temptation, even though he has no doubts. Most people are caught in temptations, even if they give the excuse that they are in doubt. They cover up their desires by making intellectual arguments. Truth and patience mentioned in this Surah are the cures for doubts and temptations.

Humans are so preoccupied with their personal problems that they fail to see the larger picture. They fail to see the problems lying ahead. They think they are in loss in this world, but that is nothing compared to the loss that is coming. They fail to see the signs in the creation of Allah (swt). Financial and health problems are nothing compared to the problem of faith. That’s a much bigger problem.

Breakthrough anxiety, fear and despair

Human beings have more suffering than animals. In addition to physical suffering, we also have psychological suffering. In this Surah, Allah (swt) doesn’t just give us relief from the loss of the hereafter, but from the loss of this world; freedom from anxiety, depression, fear and despair.

You should remember that the entire Surah is linguistically one statement.

The entire society has headed to the way of loss. The ones, who are not the losers, are considered strange because they practice Islam.

United we stand, divided we fall!

When Allah (swt) mentions the loss of the human being, the human being is being addressed singularly. This is because when the time comes to face the consequences of your actions, you will be all alone. However, when Allah (swt) mentions the four exceptions, He uses the plural. This means that the ones who are successful, find success in teamwork, good company, counsel, reminder, Salah (prayer) and Jamaa (congregation).

Do you know the taste of faith?

In this verse, Allah (swt) doesn’t mention any qualifications of faith. How are you supposed to know what faith tastes like? The fruit of faith is tranquility. If you have faith, you know that this world is temporary, and compared to what Allah (swt) has in the hereafter, is nothing. You are at peace with your life whether you are old or young, healthy or ill.

The word “Assaalihaat” (good) is an adjective, which requires a noun. The Arabic says just “good”, not “good deeds”, but it is implied. The form of the adjective is such that it conveys the doing of a few, countable good deeds. The main obligations are few. Then there are things that embellish your life as a Muslim; the Sunnah of the Prophet (sa). There are a few things that you should definitely do, and there are a few things that you should not do. Everyone knows those things.


Mind your Language

Image mind your languageWords can make or break someone’s day. They could help a friendship grow, or they could end it. Words could bring us the blessings and favours of Allah (swt) or they could result in Allah’s (swt) anger. Words are our worst foes or best friends!

In the Quran, Allah (swt) commands us: “and speak good to people…” (Al-Baqarah 2:83)

Ahadeeth of the Prophet (sa) tell us that our tongue could either take us to heaven or land us in hell.

There are some things to bear in mind when conversing. Let us make a checklist.

  • Do I talk politely?
  • Do I smile as I talk?
  • Do I give attention to the person I am talking to, that is do I have eye contact or do I look away?
  • Do I refrain from abusive language, sarcasm and nasty remarks?
  • Do I avoid lying?
  • Do I realize that lying is one of the foremost signs of a hypocrite?
  • Do I guard secrets of my friends as an Amanah, or does my tongue give them away?
  • Do I yell and shout?
  • Is my voice calm, peaceful and soothing to listen to? Or is it monotonous, high-pitched, shrill and annoying?
  • Do I backbite? Do I realize that backbiting is a grievous sin in Allah’s (swt) eyes?
  • Do I make fun of others with my remarks?
  • Do I give genuine compliments and encouragement to others?
  • Is my accent artificial and an attempt to impress others?
  • Do I brag and boast?
  • Do I sound humble? Or do I sound arrogant?
  • Do I talk to others with empathy, understanding and affection?
  • Do I complain too much?
  • Am I impatient when others talk?
  • Do I cut into other people’s conversation with my words?
  • Do I impose my opinions on others?
  • Do I lie and make up jokes and exaggerate to be popular among my friends?
  • Do I love delving into juicy gossip and talking about scandals which I actually know nothing about?
  • Do I talk about things that are useless and don’t concern me at all?
  • Do I use my words to enjoin good and forbid evil?
  • Above all, do I use my power of speech to do Dhikr (remembrance) of Allah (swt) and recite the Quran?