Exploring 30 juz in 30 days by Sister Fatemah Meghji Juz 4 continues Surah Aal-Imran as well as the initial verses of Surat an-Nisa, Chapter 4, titled “The Women”. In the latter portion of Surah Aal Imran, in verses 102-105 there is advice from Allah swt on how to cling onto Truth and to remain united instead of divided. This advice includes actively seeking to understand the Truth and God’s revelation and acting on it and also the injunction to enjoin the good and forbid the evil. When the truth becomes obscure, this is an important step in preventing ourselves and our communities from moving away from this message. The strongest source of unity for us as a Muslim nation and as humans—is the Truth and God himself, the firmest of handles.
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 4. '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 fourth episode in this podcast series titled, "Journeying Our Eyes Through the Qur'an: Exploring 30 Juz in 30 days". Today, InshaAllah, we will continue our journey through the pages of the Qur'an as we take a brief look into the fourth Juz of the Qur'an, in which the second half of Surah Aali-Imran is explored, as well as the first 23 verses of the fourth chapter of the Qur'an, Surat al-Nisa, or The Women.
As we explored in the previous episode, Surah Aali-Imran was revealed around the time of Uhud, and explores the occasion of Mubahala, as well as extensive discussions on the family of Imran, alayhi assalam, and the non-divine nature of Prophet Isa, alayhi assalam, his grandson. In this section of Surah Aali-Imran, we see a significant amount of ethical discussions about what makes the Muslim Ummah distinctive, and some of the characteristics of the Muttaqeen when faced with these difficulties, as they faced many in the battle Uhud.
One of the overarching themes of this Juz, and particularly within this section of Surah Aali-Imran that we will explore today, is the value of hanging on to truth as a community - and together - and this being the center of our actions and our ethical pivot, despite the difficulty of external circumstances. When we measure our success based on the apparent nature of the world around us, or we change according to our whims or the whims of others, we often miss what is important and of value, and we can lose our grasp on the truth.
To this vein, Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala, points to examples of past nations who failed to hang on to the truth, and hence became divided into different factions, splitting off from the truth. In verses 102 to 105 of Surah Aali-Imran, Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala, says:
Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Rahim. Yaaa ayyuha alladheena aamanu uttaqu Allaah haqqa tuqaatihee wa laa tamoontunna illaa wa antum muslimoon (3:102). Wa’tasimoo bi Habl Illaahi jamee’an wa laa tafarraqoo; wa adhkuroo ni’mata Allaahi alaikum idh kuntum a’daaa’an fa allafa baina quloobikum fa asbah tum bini’matiheee ikhwaanan wa kuntum ‘alaa shafaa hufratim min an-naari fa anqadhakum minhaa; kadhaalika yubaiyin Ullaahu lakum aayaatihee la’allakum tahtadoon (3:103). Wa altakum minkum ummatuny yad’oona ilal khairi wa yaamuroona bil ma‘roofi wa yanhawna ‘anil munkar; wa ulaaa’ikahum ul-muflihoon (3:104). Wa laa takunoo kalladheena tafarraqoo wakhtalafoo mim ba’di maa jaaa’ahum ul-baiyinaat; wa ulaaa’ika lahum ‘adhaabun ‘azeem (3:105).
"O you who have faith! Be wary of Allah with the wariness due to Him and do not die except as Muslims" (3:102.) "Hold fast, all together, to Allah's cord, and do not be divided. And remember Allah's blessing upon you when you were enemies, then He brought your hearts together, so you became brothers with His blessing. And you were on the brink of a pit of Fire whereat He saved you from it. Thus does Allah clarify His signs for you so that you may be guided" (3:103). "There has to be a nation among you summoning to the good, bidding what is right, and forbidding what is wrong. It is they who are felicitous" (3:104). "Do not be like those who became divided, and differed after manifest signs had come to them. For such, there will be a great punishment" (3:105).
Our true goal, as stated at the beginning of these verses, is to have a form of Taqwa which is worthy of Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala - "haqqa tuqaatih" (3:102). In Surat at Taghabun, chapter 64, verse 16, a similar verse is mentioned which says to have as much taqwa as is possible, according to one's capacity - "Fa attaqu Ullaaha mastat’tum" (64:16) - "have Taqwa of Allah as much as you can". In the words of Allamah Tabatabai in Tafsir al-Mizan, our ultimate goal is mentioned in the verse that we just explored in Surah Aali-Imran, which is, "Yaaa ayyuha alladheena aamanu uttaqu Allaah haqqa tuqaatihee" (3:102) - to have Taqwa of Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala, as is worthy of Him, as is due to Him.
But the way in which we reach this level of Taqwa that is worthy of Him and that is due to Him is by acting according to the path that is mentioned in Surat at Taghabun, which is to act in the best way that is possible, according to our capacity, as much as we can. This verse in Surah Aali-Imran also commands us to hold fast together to the cord of Allah, to hold on together, to take hold of the "Habl Illaah" (3:103), which is the rope of Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala, or the cord of Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala.
It means for us to get closer to Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala through what He has sent to us, this rope, which is the message that is revealed in the Qur'an as explained by Rasul Allah, salla Allahu alayhi wa alihi wa sallam, and his Holy Ahlul Bayt. It is particularly in holding onto this truth that a nation can become, and stay united, so long as they do not stray from it and therefore become divided. Unity attained through maintaining Taqwa and fearing Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala, or God-consciousness, which is our goal - this is the type of unity that can unite us.
Allamah Tabatabai in Tafsir al-Mizan in the commentary of these verses notes: "A society built on disunited hearts and divergent minds cannot proceed under one leader or in one direction. It is bound to turn into a disoriented and deranged collection of people, each one pulling to his side as it suits his own wishes and desires. Such a society would be a cauldron of dissension and strife, always pushing its members to ever new conflicts, embroiling them in wars and fights, and threatening them with decline and extinction. It is the fire that neither allows one to endure, nor does it leave one alone, raging in the pit of ignorance from which no inmate could hope to escape."
So how does a community stay united under the banner of truth? How is it that from one forefather - a Prophet of God, Adam, alayhi assalam - the survivors of the flood of Prophet Nuh, alayhi assalam - who were all believers - how is it that humanity has disintegrated so much that we no longer agree on very much at all, differing on our opinions, our ways of life, our ideologies, and our beliefs? What do we do in such a situation where we live in a world of many divergent views, and it seems almost impossible to stay united? Whether it is our grander institutions or our situation as a Muslim Ummah, division seems almost inevitable.
But the key of uniting is mentioned in this verse, and that is to hold on to the Truth - "Wa attasimoo bi Habl Illaah" (3:103) - and to genuinely strive for Taqwa, or God-centeredness. When you have a society - or when you have a group of people - that collectively puts God's pleasure before anything else, there is a unity in purpose. There is an amicability, or love, in sisterhood and brotherhood, that comes with this. And alongside this, there comes a level of kindness, of forgiveness, of tolerance, and a sincere pursuit of truth.
When there is a sincere pursuit of truth, Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala, has promised not only to unite our hearts - as is the case in the verses mentioned here in terms of the unity that He brought within the hearts of the Muslimeen - but He also removes the enmity, and moreover, He guarantees that He will guide any Truth-seeker to His path. When there are disagreements, Truth-seeking individuals will be able to ascertain the difference between acceptable differences of opinion, like the ones we see among scholars and ulama, who are simply trying their best with all of the resources we have to discern the stance of Islam on a certain issue, especially in the Ghaibat of our Imam.
However, there are also times where opinions arise which are the result of one's whims and desires, or they are forms of corruptions and ways of life that are contrary to Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala's, revealed law. With the latter scenario, the next verse in this selection is crucial, and that is that Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala, ordains that within our community, there must be a group of people who enjoin good and forbid evil - who do Amr bil Maruf and Nahay anil Munkar - and this is to keep the ethical standards of our community. Amr bil Maruf and Nahay anil Munkar, as all of us will know, are critical components of our practice. We mention them whenever we learn the Furu' ad-Deen in Sunday School, but the underlining values of this practice are what we would like to focus on and reflect on for today.
In Tafsir al-Mizan, Allamah Tabatabai goes through the definition of what Maruf and Munkar mean, which are usually translated as "right" or "wrong". But literally, Maruf and Munkar mean "known" and "unknown", respectively. In his explanation for this, he says that this is because the ideal society, the ideal group of people, who are holding onto the cord of Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala, as is mentioned earlier in these verses, it would be them who would know the right. The good would be what they recognize, it would be known to them because they have held onto the truth. But the wrong and the evil that they don't recognize, which would be unknown to them, is what would be Munkar.
In other words, the nation that holds onto the truth knows and recognizes its implications, and then work to implement it within the definitions that they know. This stage is crucial - if we do not have Amr bil Maruf and Nahay anil Munkar, then society often slips and disintegrates. Amr bil Maruf and Nahay anil Munkar is what stops our society from leaving the truth, and from abandoning it.
In summary, these verses mention, one, the importance of actively seeking to understand the truth and God's revelation, and then acting on it with Taqwa as much as is possible, and two, the injunction to remind our brothers and sisters to hang onto this, because if we collectively do so, and we are Truth-seeking, and help each other out, sincerely, and honestly, and with love, then these divisions are theoretically moot.
Taqwa, alongside enjoining the good and forbidding the evil when the truth becomes obscure for some, is an important step in preventing us from moving away from this message. The strongest source of unity for us as a Muslim nation, and as human beings, is the Truth and God Himself, the firmest of handles.
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) [Our Lord, let not our hearts deviate (3:8)]