[Stories from the Quran] An Uncalled-For Murder

quran-2The Background

This is a story about the nature of evil, anger and hostility- as well as-the nature of goodness, forgiveness and peace. These two characteristics are in complete contrast, and result in the first murder that humanity ever experienced. This is the story told in Surah Maidah, verses 27 to 31.


“And (O Muhammad (sa)) recite to them (the Jews) the story of the two sons of Adam in truth…”Allah (swt) narrates the tale of two brothers who are the sons of Adam (as). This story occurs only once in the Quran, and we know that it is the truth. No authentic Hadeeth, or Quran, mentions the names of the main characters – the two sons, nor are we told the time or place where the incident occurs. Ibn Qutb says: “Leaving the story in the general terms in which it is given in the Qurān ensures that the purpose of relating it is fulfilled and its lessons are understood”.

Generally, siblings fight with each other, but they also love and protect one another; this is inherent in our nature as humans. Siblings are essentially the people we are closest to and care about. So, let’s see what happened between the two sons that resulted in a violent crime.

Faith or Fury?

“…when each offered a sacrifice (to Allah), it was accepted from the one but not from the other.”

Each of the sons offered a sacrifice to Allah (swt). This situation in any normal person’s mind is about pleasing and obedience to Allah (swt). However, when they both offered their sacrifices, one was accepted and the other was not. The Quran or Hadeeth does not detail the nature of how an offering was accepted at that time; hence, we deem it as unimportant. What we must focus on is that one son offered the best sacrifice only to please and obey Allah (swt), he proved to be God-fearing; while, the other brother’s sacrifice was not accompanied by Taqwa.


The fire of desire

“The latter said to the former: I will surely kill you.” This statement clearly shows the evil intent of one brother. It makes us shocked and horrified. How can such a severe punishment be given for no crime at all? We all disapprove of this son’s behaviour and thought process. The only reason for such a statement is envy. Envy is a serious disease of the heart; it is what led Iblees towards pride, which resulted in Allah’s (swt) disobedience.

“The former said: Verily, Allah accepts only from those who are Al-Muttaqun. If you do stretch your hand against me to kill me, I shall never stretch my hand against you to kill you, for I fear Allah; the Lord of the ‘Alamin (mankind, Jinns, and all that exists).Verily, I intend to let you draw my sin on yourself as well as yours, then you will be one of the dwellers of the Fire, and that is the recompense of the Zalimun (polytheists and wrong-doers).”

Envy is a serious disease of the heart; it is what led Iblees towards pride, which resulted in Allah’s (swt) disobedience.

The other brother did not react violently; he remained calm and tried to reason with his sibling. He put the entire matter in a proper perspective. This son of Adam said that, “It is not you or I who is better- it is the way we perform our sacrifices for Allah (swt).” This brother after explaining why the sacrifice was not accepted tried to reason with his sibling. He assured his brother, “I shall not lay my hand on you to kill you…” He feared Allah (swt) and would not commit a sin, even though he was being wronged. This was his advice, in a gentle calm manner.

Ibn Qutb describes this as, “What we have here is a case of a peaceful man making clear that his attitude is based on fearing God and implementing His commandments. We must admire the victim’s calmness, reassurance, and the fact that he fears God alone. His gentle words should have been sufficient to quench his brother’s rage, reduce his anger, re-establish the feelings of brotherhood and the reassurance of faith.”

The just brother added a warning- in case his gentle words were not heeded. He said that, “If you murder me, it would only add to all your other sins and you would ultimately be a loser.” The murdering brother would be gaining a double sin. He, the just brother, was staying on the right path at the stake of his life. He was not ready to go against Allah’s (swt) commands.

The narcotic Nafs

“So the Nafs (self) of the other (latter one) encouraged him and made fair-seeming to him the murder of his brother; he murdered him and became one of the losers. Then Allah sent a crow who scratched the ground to show him to hide the dead body of his brother. He (the murderer) said: Woe to me! Am I not even able to be as this crow and to hide the dead body of my brother? Then he became one of those who regretted.”

After all the peaceful persuasion and gentle warnings, the crime was committed. The murderer’s evil soul was able to overrule his good side. Following only his Nafs, removed all obstacles and drove him towards killing. He lost a sibling, a brother who was a friend, a shoulder to cry on, and a companion. More importantly, he lost his after life, as he added that new sin to his earlier ones. Once the deed was done, the crime then took on a physical shape in the form of his brother’s dead body. It began to rot and he did not know what to do. He felt helpless and weak, not because he was remorseful, but because he did not know what to do.

Allah (swt) sent a crow who scratched the ground to show him how to hide the dead body. Once he had hidden the body, he was regretful; not because he killed- but because he realized how useless the crime was. This son of Adam (as) did not gain anything from murder; the killing of his brother didn’t make his sacrifice more acceptable to Allah (swt). He was helpless and weak, in complete loss due to his actions – a result of envy and pride.

Moral of the story


Transcribed and adapted by Tasneem Vali.

Pearls of Peace – An extract from Surah Anam 1

pearls3As we are seated in our houses in comfort and peace, there are fellow Muslims across the globe suffering for various reasons. Some of them are being tested by famine. Some of them are showered with bombs. Some of them are gripped by civil war. We might not be able to lessen their sufferings, but at least we can make Dua. We need to be sensitive to others people’s pains. May Allah (swt) bring them comfort and relief. Ameen.

“Remind!” for reminder has benefits

Allah (swt) has sent us several reminders through the Quran. These reminders are not merely to be heard, but we also need to pay heed and reform our lives to the pleasure of Allah (swt). The previous nations were much stronger and powerful than us, yet they were perished due to their negligence and disobedience. We need to study their stories so that we don’t repeat their mistakes.

Allah (swt) says, “Have they not seen how many a generation before them We have destroyed whom We had established on the earth such as We have not established you? And We poured out on them rain from the sky in abundance, and made the rivers flow under them. Yet We destroyed them for their sins, and created after them other generations.” (Al-Anam 6:6)

What goes around, comes around

Messengers after messengers were sent but it did not move their hearts. Their hearts were hardened. They would mock the messengers and hurt them. Sometimes today in our gatherings when Shaytan overtakes us, we make fun of the scholars. Remember, if today, we make fun of the messengers or the message that they brought; the scholars and the knowledgeable; the pious and the friends of Allah (swt), then someday, we will be made a laughing stock of. “And indeed, (many) Messengers were mocked before you. But their scoffers were surrounded by the very thing that they used to mock at. Say (O Muhammad (sa)): Travel in the land and see what was the end of those who rejected truth.” (Al-Anam 6:10-11)

Mock at your own risk

Don’t laugh at others. Sometimes, we lose our peace because we made fun of a scholar, a pious person or a friend of Allah (swt). We used the tongue that should be engaged in Quran recitation and Dhikr in abusing someone. We need to seek repentance and make Dua to Allah (swt) to soften our hearts; so that we don’t end up like the perished nations. This is the main purpose of reminders: to guide us and give us a wakeup call.

Further Allah (swt) talks about the reverence of the prophets, Allah’s (swt) message and friends of Allah (swt). The discussion, then moves on to Shirk, i.e., associating partners with Allah (swt). This is the most repeated topic of Surah Al-Anam, since the main addressees of this Surah were the idolaters of Makkah. Allah (swt) says, “And on the Day when We shall gather them all together, We shall say to those who joined partners in worship (with Us): Where are your partners (false deities) whom you used to assert (as partners in worship with Allah)? There will then be (left) no Fitnah (excuses or statements or arguments) for them but to say: By Allah, our Lord, we were not those who joined others in worship with Allah.” (Al-Anam 6:22-23) We need to thank Allah (swt) that unlike some other people who bow before a passing animal or revere an idol, He made us of those who worship the Creator. Alhamdulillah!

This world – a temporary abode

There are some people who say, “You live only once, do as you please.” They do not believe in the Resurrection. Allah (swt) addresses such people in the Quran and says, “And they said: There is no (other life) but our (present) life of this world, and never shall we be resurrected (on the Day of Resurrection). If you could but see when they will be held (brought and made to stand) in front of their Lord! He will say: Is not this (Resurrection and the taking of the accounts) the truth? They will say: Yes, by our Lord! He will then say: So taste you the torment because you used not to believe.” (Al-Anam 6:29-30) Yes, we do live our lives in this Dunya once; but one day we will be resurrected for an eternal life, and we don’t want to lose that.

Turn a deaf ear to the fools

Then Allah (swt) reminds us of how the Prophet (sa) was persecuted by the people of Makkah in the early days of Prophethood. He was called a sorcerer, a magician, a person after position and power, a person after money and so on; yet he remained patient and brought about victory.

Here’s a lesson for us. If the best of the creation was not spared, then how can we be spared? People will spread rumours about us and disturb our peace. Ignore them. Don’t waste your time in replying to them. And please don’t go into depression. Look at what Allah (swt) says, “We know indeed the grief which their words cause you (O Muhammad (sa)): it is not you that they deny, but it is the Verses (the Qur’an) of Allah that the Zalimun (polytheists and wrong-doers) deny. Verily, (many) Messengers were denied before you (O Muhammad (sa)), but with patience they bore the denial, and they were hurt, till Our Help reached them, and none can alter the Words (Decisions) of Allah. Surely there has reached you the information (news) about the Messengers (before you).” (Al-Anam 6: 33-34)

If you are truthful and you have not snatched the rights of others, then Allah (swt) will protect you. As the saying goes, His help is near. Be patient and endure a little more.

Advocate the truth

This also teaches us another lesson. When we receive any information about someone else, if it does not concern us we don’t need to spread it around. And in case that we must share it with others, then we must verify its authenticity first before spreading the word; whether it is true or not! When we are away from Allah (swt), He puts a difficulty in our lives so that we might raise our hands in Dua. The question is: Must we wait for a calamity to strike before we connect with Allah (swt)?

Rags or riches – living with humility is the key

He says, “Verily, We sent (Messengers) to many nations before you (O Muhammad (sa)). And We seized them with extreme poverty (or loss in wealth) and loss in health with calamities so that they might believe with humility. When Our Torment reached them, why then did they not believe with humility? But their hearts became hardened, and Shaytan (Satan) made fair-seeming to them that which they used to do.” (Al-Anam 6: 42-43)

Sometimes, we look at people living in big houses and driving fancy cars; we look at them and conclude Allah (swt) must be really pleased with them to grant such blessings upon them. It is the way of Allah (swt) to open the doors to His treasures and let people enjoy themselves. He then observes their attitude. One would hope it would soften their hearts and make them humble. On the contrary, being blessed with worldly treasures people engage in all kinds of sins. Shaytan beautifies for them their sin. Their hearts become hardened and they do not even realize the evil that they are committing. It is then that they are struck by Allah’s (swt) wrath.

The point is that material possessions do not communicate one’s closeness to Allah (swt). Rather, it is one’s actual connection with Allah (swt) that determines one as the favoured ones. If the connection with Allah (swt) is missing from our lives then everything else is insignificant.

Muhammad (sa), Allah’s (swt) Messenger, owned very little and lived his life in poverty. Yet, he was the most content of the people. You know why? It is because he lived within his means and was generous. He never yearned for the treasures of Dunya. And if ever he was sent some gift or food, he would share it with others, especially the poor. Our problem is that we have increased our wants; which is why we see more and more people taking loans. Then committing suicide for not be able to pay the mountain of debt that they have burdened themselves with. Financial constraint has been noted as one of the reasons for marriage failures. You want peace? Limit your wants. For how long are you here in this world? Learn to live within the sustenance that Allah (swt) has provided you with.

A person sitting high above at the top, with every little blessing of this world within his means, can be destructed by the smallest nudge at the bottom. Ever observed a stack of books? You have meticulously arranged a pile of books. When you are placing the last book on the top, your foot accidentally touches the books at the bottom and there collapses your tower. One small nudge and all is gone. That is how Allah (swt) destructs nations.

Equality rules

Islam prohibits its followers from making money as the sole focus of their lives. When money and things become the criterion for judging someone’s character and status- the ones wealthy are considered as high and noble; while the poor ones are considered as unworthy and low. We learn that the weak and the poor were the first to accept Islam. Then Abu Bakr as-Siddiq (ra) and other rich Muslims spent their wealth in freeing of slaves. In Prophet’s (sa) gatherings, these weak and poor would be seated near to him, listening attentively to what the Prophet of Allah (swt) had to say. The Makkan leaders demanded the Prophet (sa) that if he wished to see them in his gathering, then he first needs to get rid of the weak and the poor. The Makkans were filled with pride and ostentation; they could not envisage being seated next to someone who was once their slave. Allah (swt) said, “And turn not away those who invoke their Lord, morning and afternoon seeking His Face. You are accountable for them in nothing, and they are accountable for you in nothing, that you may turn them away and thus, become of the Zalimun.” (Al-Anam 6:52)

Meet and greet

Further, He said, “When those who believe in Our Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) come to you, say: “Salamun ‘Alaikum” (peace be on you).” (Al-Anam 6:54) The weak and the poor are to be greeted by the most honourable greeting of the Muslims: Salam-un-Alaykum.

This tells us not to be a racist or judge people according to their skin colour, language or wealth. Don’t underestimate anyone; they might be the first ones to enter Paradise while we will still be defending ourselves in the court of Allah (swt). May Allah (swt) protect us, Ameen.

A person is judged by the company he keeps

One way of protecting our hearts and tongues from doing or uttering the most detested thing is not sitting with those who make fun of the verses of Allah (swt), as He says, “And when you (Muhammad (sa)) see those who engage in a false conversation about Our Verses (of the Qur’an) by mocking at them, stay away from them till they turn to another topic. And if Shaitan (Satan) causes you to forget, then after the remembrance sit not you in the company of those people who are the Zalimun.” (Al-Anam 6:68) In discussions people say, “Hey! We are studying the Quran and trying to understand religion.” But when these discussions are filled with foul language, abuses, mockery and ridicule then there is no Khair (goodness) in them. Get up and leave unless they talk about something else. If one keeps sitting with them, he will be influenced and become like them.

The courage to speak up, stop and leave the gathering of evil results in peace. If they can mock the Book of Allah (swt), tomorrow they will be ridiculing you. May Allah (swt) help us realize the consequences of our deeds, Ameen.

(Adapted from Mufti Ismail Menk’s “Pearls of Peace” series, Cape Town, Ramadan 2013. The lecture can be listened to at this link.)

A Reminder for Ahl Al-Quran

Vol 6 - Issue 4 A reminder for Ahl Al Quran

I get amused to read the occasional newspaper article, describing the chagrin felt by well-established members of society at how educated Pakistani women are increasingly adopting the Islamic dress code. Whether by spotting a university bus full of black-Abaya-clad students or attending a hotel conference dominated by a significant proportion of women in Hijab, some people are definitely not too happy about witnessing this growing phenomenon of women covering up.

The reason behind this heartening or disconcerting – whichever way you see it – trend is, undoubtedly, the upsurge of regular Quran classes among the country’s educated women’s circles. Gone are the days when the Quran was opened only on deaths of relatives or to be recited without comprehension on other occasions for the sole purpose of gaining blessings. Now, commendable efforts are being made to understand its meanings and ponder over its deeper message.

Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “The best of you are those who learn the Quran and teach it.” (Bukhari)

As a result, any random ‘aunty’ you’d meet at a wedding, grocery store or tailor’s shop will tell you that she attends such-and-such Quran class. Most of these classes, usually comprising Tajweed, translation, and Tafsir, are held in people’s homes.

Although studying the Quran is highly praiseworthy, the fact remains that the basic purpose behind gaining its knowledge is to act upon it; to mould oneself according to its commands; to change ourselves to how Allah (swt) wants us to be. The Quran should, in short, have a visibly profound effect on a person’s character, conduct, demeanor and overall dealings with people. This usually takes some time – perhaps by going through the Quran in-depth a few times – but, nevertheless, the Quran should have its intended effect eventually, one that is openly visible.

It should be a cause for concern if a person has been teaching the Quran for several years, for example, but finds it difficult to act upon it or to submit to its commands at the level of Ihsan (superlative degree). Teaching the Book of Allah (swt) – whether conducting a Tajweed class, translation review or Tafsir – is the best ‘professional occupation’ in the world, so to speak. It comes with the added responsibility of embodying epitomic Muslim behaviour and upright Islamic character. Of course, no one other than Allah (swt) can grant a person this level of action.

The Companions of the Prophet (sa) would not learn a new Ayah, until they had incorporated the one they had studied completely into their actions. As for us, we might claim that we are full-time ‘workers of Allah (swt)’ or Daees dedicated to serving the Quran, but how much have our actions and character changed according to it?

Ask yourself some key questions

  • Why is it that my prayers are different before people than when I am alone?
  • Why do I need to be woken up by someone else for Fajr?
  • Would I confidently recite the Quran to a Qari/Shaikh, or would it cause me shame as I still make too many mistakes?
  • Why do I wear an Abaya to my Quran class, but not to a wedding, market or a family picnic?
  • Why do I cover my face from one man at the Quran class venue, but leave it unveiled in public places when I am out with my family?
  • Do I still acquire clothes, jewellery and interior decorations with the same frequency and zeal as before studying the Quran?
  • Why do I still call up my friend/sister/mother/cousin to gossip when I’m bored?
  • How do I react when someone points out my weaknesses?
  • What thoughts occupy my mind when I am alone?

Muslims involved in Quran education, Sunnah propagation and Dawah have a greater responsibility to act upon what they are preaching and to cleanse their hearts from diseases of the self (Nafs) and desires of this world. So renew your intention today, and ask Allah (swt) to help you submit to every command of the Quran at the degree of Ihsan.