The 20th Juz consists of Surat an-Naml (last 37 verses, The Ant), Surat al-Qasas (88 verses, The Stories) and Surat al-Ankabut (first 45 verses The Spider). The discussion in these suras explore the barriers/veils that prevent one from allowing the Quranic guidance to permeate their hearts. God clearly states that only those who believe in God’s signs, are open-hearted and have submitted, even partially, to the truth will be able to perceive the guidance offered by the Quran. Those who insist on rejecting the truth, and are arrogant, will be like the ‘deaf or dead who can’t hear’ because they lack intellectual humility and intentionally don’t want to listen to the message of God. Suratul Qasas relates the story of Prophet Musa, and includes the story of Qarun, who despite his knowledge and wealth, lacked humility, believing he ‘deserved’ God’s blessings. Pharoah and Haman are also mentioned in the same vein, and their arrogance led them to punishment and destruction. The reference to the spider’s web, giving Sura Ankabut its name, describes how such people’s base is like the frailest of homes, that of a spider, while the hold of God is the strongest. The Juz ends with God’s promise that those who strive in God’s way, will attain guidance.
Innaa Hadha Al-Qur'ana Yahdee li-latee hiya aqwamu wa yubashshir 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 20. 'A'udhu billahi min al-shaytan al-rajim. Bismillah, Al-Rahman, Al-Rahim and begin in the name of Allah, compassionate to all, merciful to each. Wa assalamu alaykum and welcome to the 20th episode in this podcast series titled "Journeying Our Eyes Through the Qur'an, Exploring 30 juz and 30 days". Today, Insha Allah, we will continue our journey through the pages of the Qur'an as we take a brief look into the 20th juz of the Qur'an, which consists of three different Meccan surahs, namely the last 37 verses of Surat an-Naml, which is Chapter 27.
It also contains all of Surat al-Qasas which is 88 verses and can be translated as the stories. And finally the first 45 verses of Surat al-Ankabut, the Spider. Insha Allah, in today's episode we will continue to build on the theme of Revelation and exploring our relationship with the Qur'an. In yesterday's episode, we discussed how our relationship with the Qur'an at a communal level needs a lot of work. And we also mentioned the damning prophecy mentioned in Surat al-Furqan. In today's episode, we will discuss some of the obstacles to building this connection and personal relationship with the Qur'an.
We know that the Qur'an is the word of God, theoretically and rationally. But what is it that stops us from listening to its words, reflecting on its messages? What stops the messages from permeating our hearts? What is it that stops us or prevents us from appreciating the magnitude of the message of the Qur'an. This blockage or more accurately, a veil, a barrier or a Hijab, as the word is used in its Qur'anic usage, is mentioned in the Qur'an in a few different times.
One is in Sura Fussilat, which is in upcoming juz but we're going to bring it here in order to open the discussion for today.
Wa qalu qulubuna fee akinnatin mimma tad'oonaaa ilaihi wa fee adhaninaa waqurrun wa mim baininaa wa bainika hijabun fa'amal innana 'amiloon (41:5). They say our hearts are in veils, which shut them off from what you invite us to, and there is a deafness in our ears and there is a curtain between us and you. So act as your faith requires. We too are acting according to our own (41:5). In these verses, Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala mentions that there is a deafness or a waqrun and akinna or a type of blockage which is blocking them off from listening to the words of the Qur'an. But what is this referring to? What type of deafness and what type of blockage?
Let's now return to our exploration of the current juz, juz 20 with a selection from Surat an-Naml to see if we can understand this concept further.
Inna hadha al-Qur-ana yaqussu 'ala Bani Isra'ila akthar alladhihum fihi yakhtalifoon (27:76). Wa innahoo lahuda wa rahmatun lil-mu'mineen (27:77). Inna Rabbaka yaqdee bainahum bihukmih, wa Huwa al-'Azeezu al-'Aleem (27:78). Fatawakkal 'ala Allahi innaka 'ala al-Haqqi al-mubeen (27:79). Innaka la tusmi'u al-mawta wa laa tusmi'u as-summa ad-du'aaa idha wallaw mudbireen (27:80). Wa ma anta bihaadi al-'umyi 'an dalaalatihim in tusmi'u illaa man yu'minu bi ayaatinaa fahum muslimoon (27:81).
This Qur'an recounts for the children of Israel, most of what they differ about (27:76), and it is indeed a guidance and mercy for the faithful (27:77). Your Lord will decide between them by His judgment, and He is the almighty the all knowing (27:78). So put your trust in Allah for you indeed stand on the manifest truth (27:79). You cannot make the dead hear, nor can you make the death listen to your call when they turn their backs (27:80). Nor can you lead the blind out of their error. You can make only those here you who believe in Our sins and have submitted (27:81).
Here Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala is talking about the psychological state that a person needs to be in in order to accept the Truth or to be able to listen to the messages of the Qur'an in order to accept the Truth. There's a beautiful metaphor that He uses here to describe someone who is arrogant, someone who does not want to hear or does not want to listen to the message. Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala says you cannot make the dead hear, nor can you force someone who is deaf to listen to you calling them because they're incapable of it.
It's clear here that Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala is not trying to chastise someone who is physically dead or who's physically deaf and does not have the gift of hearing. Rather, it is clear that this is talking about someone who intentionally does not want to listen to the messages of God and have closed themselves off from it. They have closed themselves off to the Truth by virtue of nothing other than their own arrogance, and refusal to accept that they may be wrong in their judgments. As such, with this refusal, they may as well be deaf or dead because the impact would be the same. They have rendered themselves incapable of learning, incapable of accepting the Truth.
The latter part of these verses reads that only those who believe in God signs and who are open hearted, who have submitted to some degree of the Truth, are capable of perceiving the Truth. He says, you can only make those here you who believe in Our signs, who have submitted to some degree. At first glance, this may seem rather odd. But on second glance, it makes logical sense, this doesn't mean that a person needs to have come to one hundred percent of the truth in order to benefit from the Qur'an, but rather, it means that in order to benefit from the Qur'an, at the very least, they need to be open to it. They need to be open to the Truth. They need to be open to the fact that they might be wrong.
They also need to believe in some level of the existence of the unseen and open to it, that there is a creator in the world, that there is a purpose and they're doing their best to figure out what that is, even if they haven't gotten there yet. The verse also mentions, 'illaa man yu'minu bi aayaatinaa fahum muslimoon (27:81)- which means that those who have faith in our signs while they are submitting . Over here, when we look at the Arabic which reads Muslim, when we look at the commentaries, Muslim in this verse doesn't necessarily mean someone who follows the Shari'a of Prophet Muhammad, Sallal-lahu alayhi wa alihi wa sallam, but rather it's an Ism F'ael or a noun of action, meaning someone who is actively in the state of submitting to what they know of the Truth, submitting to what they know of God and seeking Him.
In psychology this concept also comes to play where it is argued that it is only someone with a level of intellectual humility who is capable of growth and changing their minds. The opposite of this is intellectual arrogance, which is where it almost doesn't matter what arguments you present a person with. It doesn't matter what facts you have or how much the truth may be on your side. If someone is not open to listening to the truth, if they are not open to the idea that they may be wrong, it's almost as if there's no point, they're deaf.
When we look at the verses in this way and reflect on the depths of their meanings, we need to ask ourselves, are we willing to be wrong? Are we willing to change? Are we open to the idea that there is something of the truth that we do not know yet or that we have not yet understood? It is with this level of intellectual humility and open heartedness that we will truly be able to grow and soak in the messages of the Qur'an, allowing Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala to shape us, and to shape our souls, and to shape our hearts, and to mould us into the types of people that He wants us to be.
This idea of intellectual humility and intellectual arrogance, where arrogance serves as a block, is also manifested in many of the stories where Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala describes previous nations and what led to their destruction. In Surat al-Qasas also in this juz, the story of Prophet Musa, alayhi as-salam is related in detail and in its chronological order. In this passage, we see the story of a man named Qarun, a man who is actually from the people of Prophet Musa, alayhi as-salam but had rejected the truth.
The story is read in verses 76 to 80 of Surat al-Qasas which mentions the vast riches that Qarun had. Qarun is also known as Korah. The verse says that he was so rich that people had to carry the keys for the riches that he had. And he wasn't so humble either. He acted arrogantly about the wealth that he had and the riches that were in his control. His reaction to his wealth was not one of humbleness or gratefulness, but rather it was a reaction where he claimed that he deserved the blessings that he had because of his knowledge.
The idea of him claiming that he deserved the blessings of Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala is noted with particular contempt by Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala. And it's mentioned that even though the rest of his community was suffering and poverty at the hands of Firawn, Qarun would flaunt all of his wealth. When the people of Bani Isra'il saw the wealth and the supposed power of Qarun, those who desired the world look longingly at what he had and wish that they too had been given a part of the world thinking that he was fortunate.
But those who had a level of knowledge or understanding reminded him not to boast, not to show off, and to remember that God's reward was better for someone who had faith and acted righteously. But due to his arrogance and in order to teach all of them a lesson, Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala opened a sinkhole into the ground such that it swallowed him and his home and all of his riches.
When the Bani Isra'il woke up to see what had happened, they were astounded and it was a lesson for them. They realized that their lack of riches was actually a blessing, and that had it not been for Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala favour, they might have ended up like him, too. This story is a cautionary tale of what can happen to us when we're arrogant. Despite being from amongst the people who Prophet Musa, alayhi as-salam came to, and a community of believers, we see how Qarun ruined his soul and allied himself with Firawn and Haman. And he is mentioned alongside them in the Qur'an. Later on in the same juz in Surat al-Ankabut in verses 39 to 41, Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala says the following.
Wa Qaroona wa Fir'awna wa Haman, wa laqad ja'ahum Moosa bilbaiyinaati fastakbaroo fil ardi wa ma kanoo saabiqeen (29:39). Fakullan akhadhna bi dhanbih, fa minhum man arsalnaa 'alaihi haasiba, wa minhum man akhadhathu as-saihatu, wa minhum man khasafna bihi al-ardh, wa minhum man aghraqna, wa ma kana Allahu li yadhlimahum wa lakin kanoo anfusahum yadhlimoon (29:40). Mathalu alladheena at-takhadhoo min dooni Illahi awliya'a kamathali al'ankaboot, ittakhadhat baitaa, wa inna awhana al-buyooti la bait ul-'ankaboot, law kaanoo ya'lamoon (29:41).
And Korah, Pharoah and Haman. Certainly, Moses brought them manifest proofs, but they acted arrogantly in the end, though, they could not outmanoeuvre Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala (29:39). So We seized each of them for his sin. Among them were those upon whom We unleashed a rain of stones, and among them were those who were seized by the Cry, and among them were those whom We caused the earth to swallow, and among them were those whom We drowned. It was not Allah who wronged them, but it was they who used to wrong themselves (29:40). The parable of those who take guardians instead of Allah is that of the spider that takes a home. And indeed, the frailest of home is the home of a spider, had they known! (29:41)
Over here what's interesting is that the verse when talking about these three individuals Qarun, Firawn and Haman, it says, 'fastakbaroo fil ardh'- that they acted arrogantly in the earth (29:39). And we can see very clearly how our arrogance can also sometimes closes off to accepting the truth and listening to the beautiful messages of the Qur'an approaching Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala with humbleness.
This is what had happened to Qarun, and it has what has also happened to others in the past. And this is how Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala warns us about their behaviour. The verses here mentioned that instead of taking a strong foundation, i.e. Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala what these individuals took was the weakest of places as a refuge, the frailest of homes, their own devices, their own selves, their own arrogance.
And here it's mentioned that when you take something other than Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala as a home or as a place of refuge or as a foundation, it's like the home of a spider. It's frail, it's fragile, and it breaks. As we reflect on these verses and think about those who were immersed in their own arrogance, it can be a little overwhelming to think that maybe this has happened to us, too. And maybe it'll cause us to worry that there are veils over us. And if there are veils over us, then how do we get rid of them?
How do we truly benefit from the Qur'an?How do we know if there's veils over our hearts? But it's important to remember here that Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala is the best of providers and one of my favourite verses of the Qur'an, and in the last verse of Surat al-Ankabut, Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala reminds us of one of the definitive principles in which He guarantees guidance for those who are sincere and who genuinely try and strive in his way. Let's end episode with this verse from the Qur'an.
Wa alladheena ja'ahadoo feenaa lanahdiyannahum subulana, wa inna Allaha lama'a al-muhsineen (27:69). As for those who strive in us, We shall surely guide them in our ways. And Allah is indeed with the virtuous (27:69).
Wa Al-Hamdulil-Lahi Rabbi Al-Alameen, wa salla Allahu alaa nabiyyina Muhammadin, wa alihi, al-tayibeen, al-tahireen. Wa as-salamu alaykum, wa rahmatullahi, wa baraktu.
Rabbana La tuzigh Qulubana (3:8) [Our Lord, let not our hearts deviate (3:8)]