Exploring 30 juz in 30 days by Sister Fatemah Meghji Juz 2 contains Surat al-Baqarah (The Cow) and is a Medinan surah which explores themes of Islamic law and practice. Although Islamic laws do not make a grand appearance in the Qu’ran (only ~500 verses), these verses come accompanied by ethical and spiritual injunctions. In verses 185-187 of Surat al-Baqarah, we are reminded of the philosophy of fasting and how staying away from food, water, and other physical comforts are intended to train our souls and help us in our journey of attaining taqwa (God-consciousness).
Innaa Hadha Al Qur'ana Yahdee li-latee hiya aqwamu wo yo-bashir Al mu'mineen Al-lathi ya'malun al-salihat Anna lahum Ajran Kabira (17:9) [Indeed, this Qur'an guides to that which is most suitable and gives good tidings to the believers who do righteous deeds that they will have a great reward (17:9)].
Juz 2. 'A'udhu billahi min al-shaytan al-rajim. Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Rahim. I begin in the name of Allah, Compassionate to all, Merciful to each. As-salamu alaykum, and welcome to our second episode in this podcast series titled, "Journeying Our Eyes Through the Qur'an: Exploring 30 Juz in 30 days", in this blessed month of Ramadan. My name is Fatemah Meghji, and today, Inshallah, we will continue our journey through the pages of the Qur'an as we take a brief look into the second Juz of the Qur'an.
Yesterday, we began with a short reflection on one of the most beautiful chapters of the Qur'an, Surat al-Fatiha. Today, we will explore a few different verses from Surat al-Baqarah, the chapter of the cow, which is also the longest surah of the Qur'an, and spans an impressive 286 verses across 3 different Juz of the Qur'an. The surah takes its name from the story of the cow, which was mentioned in the first Juz, from verses 68 to 73.
This chapter is Medinan, which means that it was revealed in the period in which Rasul Allah, salla Allahu alayhi wa alihi wa sallam, and the Muslimun were living in the city of Medina as their home base after they had migrated from the city of Mecca. Many of you will know this already, but when a chapter is Medinan, that means that it primarily explores themes of Islamic laws, practices, hypocrisy, and other themes that were relevant to the Muslims in Medina.
On the other hand, Meccan surahs, which were revealed before the Hijrah, primarily focused on topics of aqeedah, belief, theology, etc.. As the Muslim community grew stronger in their beliefs in Mecca, various laws and practices were gradually introduced, as Islam evolved into the comprehensive ethical system that we see today. Surat al-Baqara, which is Medinan, contains many of these ethical injunctions and elaborations of Islamic law, or what we know as the Shari'ah.
In today's podcast episode, we will focus on a short part of Surat al-Baqarah in which some of these laws are mentioned and how they are discussed. Contrary to common belief, the laws of Islam do not make a grand appearance in the Qur'an and of its 6 348 verses, roughly only 500 or so verses speak of Islamic rulings. As Juz opens, it begins with the story of the changing of the qiblah, in which Muslims were directed to change their direction of prayer in Medina while they were in the middle of prayer, and it was a test to see who would follow the Prophet in his actions after the verse was revealed to him.
It was a test to see if they would obey Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala, and the Prophet of Allah, even though, of course, the direction in which we pray is symbolic. The Muslims were originally praying towards Bayt al-Muqaddas in Palestine, and traditions narrate that there were some Jews in Medina who would taunt them for not having their own direction in prayer, and instead using one that was special to them, the Jews of Medina. After some time, God ordered the Muslimeen to turn instead to the Ka'bah, and this was revealed to Rasul Allah while he was in prayer, and the test was to see who would follow Rasul Allah in his actions.
But this change in direction was not one that was easily understood or accepted by all immediately. Even though Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala, does not occupy a physical location that we are praying towards, the test was to see the submission of the Muslimeen to the rule and the wisdom of Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala, in changing the qiblah of the Muslimeen. This story and struggle opens and sets the scene for a huge chunk of the Juz, in which the laws of Islam are explored, roughly from verse 158 to 239 of Surat al-Baqarah. And it includes discussions on the practices of Hajj, punishments for murder, Qisas, how to leave a will, or Wasiyyah, jihad, and more. One of the discussions of these laws is particularly relevant to us, and is included in the following verses from Surat al-Baqarah, from verse 185 to 187.
Bismillah Hir-Rahman Nir-Rahim. Shahru Ramadaan alladheee unzila feehil Qur’aanu huda lin-naasi wa baiyinaatim min al-hudaa wa al-furqaan; fa man shahida minkum ush-shahra fa 'lyasum, wa man kaana mareedan aw ‘alaa safarin fa’iddatum min ayyaa min ukhar; yureedu Allaahu bikum ul-yusra wa laa yureedu bikum ul-‘usra wa litukmil ul-‘iddata wa litukabbiru Allaaha ‘alaa maa hadaakum wa la’allakum tashkuroon (2:185). Wa idhaa sa alaka ‘ibaadee ‘annnee fa innee qareebun ujeebu da’wataddaa’i idhaa da’aani fal yastajeeboo lee walyu minoo bee la‘allahum yarshudoon (2:186). [...] Kadhaalika yubaiyinu Allaahu aayaatihee lin-naasi la’allahum yattaqoon (2:187).
"The month of Ramadan is one in which the Qur'an was sent down as a guidance to mankind, with manifest proofs of guidance and the Criterion. So let those of you who witness it fast [in] it, and as for someone who is sick or on a journey, let them fast a similar number of other days. Allah desires ease for you, and He does not desire hardship for you, and so that you may complete the number and magnify Allah (Subhana wa Ta'ala) for guiding you, and that you may give thanks" (2:185). "When my servants ask you about me, [tell them that] I am indeed near. I answer the supplicant's call when he calls me. So let them respond to Me, [...] let them have faith in Me, so that they may fare rightly" (2:186). "...Thus does Allah clarify His signs for mankind so that they may be Godwary" (2:187).
These verses from Surat al-Baqarah discuss the fast of the month of Ramadan, and some of the rules associated with it. While fasting makes an appearance in several instances in the Qur'an, these verses contain the only instance in which the month of Ramadan is mentioned by name. As we have now entered this blessed month, it is worth reflecting on the philosophy of why this month is as special as it is.
As the verse mentions, it is the month in which the Qur'an was revealed. It is also the month in which we are mandated by Islamic law to fast, and for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, the past few years have been difficult, as we have fasted long hours. As we go through the caffeine withdrawals and the initial hungriness that comes with this first week of the blessed month, we thought it was only appropriate for us to recall the beautiful words of our Lord that He often mentions in the Qur'an when discussing laws that are difficult for us to navigate.
After giving the exemptions of fasting to those who travel and to those who are sick, He says, "yureedu Allaahu bikum ul-yusra wa laa yureedu bikum ul-‘usra wa litukmil ul-‘iddata wa litukabbiru Allaaha ‘alaa maa hadaakum wa la’allakum tashkuroon"(2:185). God wants and wills ease for us. He does not want hardship for us. He continues to say that He ordains these laws in the month of Ramadan and the fast in particular for a few reasons, including that we do the Takbir of Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala, i.e. that we recognize and glorify God's greatness, and that we do Takbir over what we have been guided to, so that we may give thanks.
Previously in the verse it says, "la’allakum tattaqoon"(2:183) - "so that we may be Godwary (so that we may have Taqwa)". What this means is that God has ordained the fast so that we may attain Taqwa. But how is this so? Taqwa at its root, wa-qa-ya, means, "to protect something against everything which may damage it", and "taqwa" means, "to put the soul under protection against whatever threatens it". As such, fasting leads us to protecting our souls against what threatens it, like our material desires and the pursuit of them.
When fasting, we essentially put God's pleasure over our own. And this God-centeredness is the true spirit of the fast. The point here is that these injunctions, like fasting, are mentioned along with their ethical beauties and implications. Even in this set of verses, in the middle of them, Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala, mentions a form of du'a - the very beautiful verse where He says that when my servants ask you about Me, tell them that I am near - "innee qareeb" (2:186).
And this is revealed amidst the verses that speak about our responsibilities and fasting. This is an interesting point to pay attention to, both with regards to this verse, and the other legislative injunctions throughout the Juz. And it is important to pay attention to the beautiful technique that Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala, employs in the Qur'an: legislation and Islamic laws are always mentioned in tandem with ethical injunctions, and the impact that following these laws has on our spiritual purification and proximity to God.
One of our habits is to unfortunately compartmentalize the teachings of religion, sometimes we learn Ahkam, and other times we discuss spirituality. Sometimes we discuss Akhlaq, sometimes we discuss manners with other individuals, and sometimes we discuss issues of money, or education, or science. But we often compartmentalize these things separated from one another. This habit of compartmentalizing different parts of our religion is contrary to the way in which Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala, speaks to us.
When He reminds us of our legislated duties and Ahkam, He also takes the time to remind us that this is good for our souls, that this is a part of our spirituality. In the middle of these verses, He mentions things like du'a. He lets us know that He is forgiving and kind, that He understands our struggles, that He wants ease for us. And He reminds us of our purpose in life, that all of these rules are there for a higher purpose: to help us turn towards Him, to remember Him, and to achieve the ultimate purpose of our existence in this lower world. As you read Juz 2 today, try to pay particular attention to these points, and the ways in which Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala, presents divine legislation to us.
We pray that we are able to carry through His commands and to have the Tawfiq to fast and worship Him in this blessed month, in which the beautiful guidance of this blessed book was revealed. And we pray that we answer His call and that we have the opportunity to call on Him during this beautiful month.
Wa Al-Hamdulillah Rabb Al-Alameen wa salla Allahu alaa nabiyyina Muhammadin wa alihi al-tayibeen al-tahireen, wa assalamu alaykum, wa rahmatullahi, wa baraktu. Rabbana La tuzigh Qulubana (3:8)