The Qur’an is an all-encompassing revelation, providing principles of theology, history, prophecy, jurisprudence, ethics, politics, business and other sciences. Allah states in this regard, ‘And certainly We have explained for mankind in this Qur’an every kind of example; yet most people do nothing but deny.’ (Qur’an, 17:89)
The Qur’an was revealed so that people ‘may ponder over its verses, so that those endowed with understanding may be mindful.’ (Qur’an, 38:29) When people read, ponder and grasp the deeper meaning of its verses, ‘their skins and their hearts become compliant to the remembrance of Allah’. (Qur’an, 39:23)
Although the Qur’an is a ‘Book which makes things clear’ (Qur’an, 12:1) and its verses are ‘easy for remembrance’ (Qur’an, 54:17), there are many people who will avoid reading it, neglecting its recitation for months on end, thereby ‘reducing the Qur’an to shreds’. (Qur’an, 15:91)
On the Day of Judgement, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S) himself will complain about such Muslims, proclaiming, ‘O my Lord! Surely my community have treated this Qur’an as a forsaken thing!’ (Qur’an, 25:30) Allah warns that if one is blind to the Holy Qur’an in this world, he will be so in the next world: ‘He shall say, “My Lord! Why have you raised me blind whilst I was indeed seeing?” and the reply shall come, “Thus it is, Our communications came to you but you neglected them; hence, you shall be forsaken on this day.”’ (Qur’an, 20:124-126)
The Ahlul Bayt were very attached to the Holy Qur’an; it was their first point of recourse for every matter; they lived by it, spoke through it, moulded their characters according to it and guided others by it. As their followers, it is our duty to do the same: ‘And whoever submits himself wholly to Allah and he is the doer of good to others, he indeed has taken hold of the firmest thing that anyone can lay hold of.’ (Qur’an, 31:22)
A lady came to interview Ayatullah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Fadhlullah for an article. She asked many questions about his views and soon the discussion turned to the topic of philosophy. Ayatullah Fadhlullah was known for his expertise in philosophy and his study of the great philosophers and so the interviewer asked his opinion about them.
She asked, ‘In terms of your philosophical outlook, which scholar have you gravitated towards? Are you Aristotelian in your views? Are you Hegelian in your views?’
To which Ayatullah Fadhlullah replied, ‘Neither; rather, I am Qur’anian in my views.’
The family and friends of Shaykh al-Tabarsi thought he had died. He was given his ghusl (religious bath) and kafan (shroud); the prayer of the dead was recited over him and he was taken to the graveyard and buried as normal. The difference between Shaykh al-Tabarsi and others who are buried is that whilst he was in his grave, he opened his eyes - he had been buried alive by accident!
Whilst he was in the grave, he made an oath that if Allah rescued him and he came out of his grave alive, he would write a commentary of the Holy Qur’an.
No sooner had a few minutes passed when a grave robber approached the grave to take the shroud of the Shaykh so he could sell it in the market. He began to dig through the grave until he reached the body. As the thief started to remove the shroud, Shaykh al-Tabarsi suddenly reached out and grabbed his hand, terrifying him! Trying to quickly calm the thief down, he said, ‘Don’t be afraid!’ and explained what had happened, saying, ‘Allah has answered my prayer and my vow through you1. Go to my house, bring my clothes and I will give you more than this so that you do not go back to committing this crime for it is a forbidden action.’
Shaykh al-Tabarsi returned to his house to the surprise of everyone!2 He then started writing a Qura’nic commentary in fulfilment of his vow. The commentary that resulted from Shaykh al-Tabarsi’s promise is considered to be one of the great Shi’a commentaries.3
When Shaykh al-Tabarsi died, by the blessings of Allah, he died as a martyr. When he was buried, he was placed next to the body of Imam Ali ibn Musa al-Ridha (A).
In the time of Marhum Ayatullah Ali Kuni, Sultan Nasr al-Din Qajjar wanted to build a grand royal palace but there was a mosque next to where he wanted to build the palace. He wanted the scholars to pass a fatwah (religious ruling) to endorse the destruction of the mosque with the proviso that he would provide another area of land to rebuild the mosque.
Some of the corrupt4 scholars said it was permissible. Some of them came to Ayatullah Kuni to seek his approval but he told them, ‘I will go to the King myself and I will sign the fatwah myself.’ The King and the scholars were overjoyed to hear this response.
The King demanded the royal palace be decorated to welcome Ayatullah Ali Kuni. And so, on the day of the Ayatullah’s arrival, the palace workers were very busy with preparations to ensure a grand welcome. When Ayatullah Kuni entered the palace, the King himself went to receive him, praising and honouring him. Having welcomed Ayatullah Kuni with lavish ceremony, the King put in front of Ayatullah Kuni a pen and paper so that he could write a fatwah permitting the demolition of the mosque.
Ayatullah Kuni raised his hand and recited something quietly and then wrote down what he said on the paper and signed it. He then stood up and left, with the King and those around him following him out. When they returned, the King very happily took the paper to view what Ayatullah Kuni had written and signed. When he read it, he saw that on it was written,
‘Have you not seen how your Lord dealt with the People of the Elephant?’(Qur’an, 105:1)
The King was furious, his face reddening with anger. He did not destroy the mosque until the death of Ayatullah Kuni, beginning its destruction on the day of Ayatullah Kuni’s death.
Shaykh Muhammad Ali Salih recounts:
‘I was sitting in the tafsir class of Ayatullah Sayyid Sadiq Tehrani, one of the great students of the Holy Qur’an, and Allamah Tabatabai.
‘He [Ayatullah Tehrani] was addressing two issues at the same time. The first was regarding the people who do not allow for the interpretation of the Holy Qur’an beyond the exact sayings of the Ahlul Bayt and the second was regarding those who forbid any interpretation beyond the literal meaning of the text. Ayatullah Tehrani said:
‘“Those who confine themselves to the literal meaning believe that Allah is sitting on His throne or has a leg or will be seen on the Day of Judgement5. For example, they believe literally that Allah has two hands because the Holy Qur’an states,
‘He asks, “O Iblis! What prevented you from making obeisance to him whom I created with my own two hands?”’(Qur’an, 38:75)
We must reject and disprove this idea by using the very same Qur’an that clearly indicates its usage of metaphors.‘“For example, if we have to take literally the words of the Holy Qur’an in relation to Prophet Ibrahim (A), we will ask, ‘Where did he go?’ for Allah states Ibrahim (A) said ‘I will go to my Lord. He will guide me.’ (Qur’an, 37:99)
So where did Ibrahim (A) go to? To Allah? How? Where is the direction of Allah? The fact is that when Ibrahim (A) said these words, he was going from the land of Iraq to the land of Palestine. Was the land of Palestine the place where Allah was? No, it means his migration was for the sake of Allah and the Holy Qur’an confirms this by saying, ‘To Allah belongs the East and West. Wherever you turn to, there is the presence of Allah.’ (Qur’an, 2:115)
‘“Thus if we must believe that literally, Allah has two hands, then we must also believe, literally, that Prophet Dawud (A) had more than two hands! Why? For the Holy Qur’an says, ‘Bear patiently what they say. And remember Our servant Dawud, the man of many hands.’(Qur’an, 38:17)
Is Dawud greater than Allah? Did Dawud (A) have more than two hands? In most commentaries the phrase, ‘many hands’ has been interpreted as ‘the man of strength’. In this way, we can use the Holy Qur’an to prove the reality of these matters.”’
Shaykh Salih concludes, ‘Often when giving his tafsir lesson, Ayatullah Tehrani would cry and say, “Indeed the Qur’an has become a victim.”6
Ayatullah Muhsin Qara’ati relates:
‘I remember well when the mujtahid, Ayatullah Sayyid Ali Khamenei, was the leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran and he was leading Friday prayers in the University of Tehran, when a bomb planted by Saddam’s spies exploded amongst the lines of the congregation. They planted the bomb under the carpet, not far from where Imam Khamenei was.
‘Some of the congregation were sitting on the carpet unaware [of what lay beneath it] when suddenly the bomb exploded, tearing their bodies apart. Many died whilst their souls were at peace, as Allah says in the Holy Qur’an,
“O soul that is at peace! Return to your Lord, well-pleased with him, well-pleasing him. So enter amongst My servants and enter into My garden.”(Qur’an, 89:27-30)
‘What is very strange is that when the bomb exploded, Ayatullah Khamenei was addressing the congregation and he did not move from his place - not even a single step!7 Rather, he continued to speak with full conviction and tranquillity of heart.8 Moreover, whilst all this was happening, Ayatullah Khamenei chose to mention in his speech, a verse of the Holy Qur’an which suited the occasion:
“[And when they went out against Jalut and his forces, they said,] ‘Our Lord! Pour down upon us patience and make our steps firm and assist us against the disbelieving people.’”’(Qur’an, 2:250)
Sayyid Ali Qadhi Tabatabai had a student in the days of his youth. He observed that his student appeared increasingly pale and sick, day after day and so he asked him, ‘What are you doing that makes you become like this?’ The student replied, ‘Every day, in addition to my work, I complete the recitation of the entire Qur’an and because of this, I do not even have time to sleep.’
Sayyid Qadhi responded by saying, ‘From tonight, I want you to imagine that I am sitting in front of you when you start reading the Qur’an.’ A few days later, the student came to Sayyid Qadhi and exclaimed, ‘I am unable to read even one part from the Qur’an now!’
A few more nights passed and thereafter, Sayyid Qadhi told the student, ‘Now imagine that when you’re reciting the Qur’an, amongst those observing your recitation is Imam al- Zaman (AJ) or the Prophet Muhammad (S) or Imam Ali (A).’ The next day the student returned, saying, ‘Again I feel unable to read more than a section of the Qur’an!’
A few more days passed, after which Sayyid Qadhi again approached the student and this time told him, ‘Now when you read the Qur’an, imagine you are reciting each verse before Allah.’ That night, the youth began to read the Qur’an from its beginning but due to him bringing the presence of Allah to mind, he was unable to exceed his recitation beyond ‘You alone do we worship and from You alone do we seek help,9’ as he was too overwhelmed and awed by this verse to continue.
Ayatullah Sayyid Muhammad Husayni Shirazi narrates:
‘I recall how my father, may Allah be pleased with him, advised me to sleep less [so as to make the most of the night]. He would regularly sleep an average of only 2.5 hours during the night and whenever he felt tired or lethargic and intended to relax, he would tell himself, “O Mahdi” -
that was his name - “O Mahdi, you can sleep in the grave!” And so in this way, he would strive to seek knowledge in the service of the Almighty.
‘One night, we went from Najaf to Karbala and I prayed the evening prayers with my father, en route. Whilst we were on the road, however, the car ran out of fuel. The driver turned to us and said, “We’ll be forced to stay here until morning.”
‘It was a bitingly cold night and no other cars happened to be on the road or passing by. Since no-one was able to help us, we remained in the car to protect ourselves from the cold. However, despite the cold weather, my father stayed out in the wilderness until the morning. When dawn arrived, he performed tayammum as we were without water.
When the sun came up, I said to my father, “You did not sleep, even though it was a long winter night?” He replied to me, “Correct. I decided I wanted to read some portions of the Holy Qur’an instead!”
‘It was through his continuous engagement with the Holy Qur’an that he memorised it entirely. It was because, no matter what the circumstance, he would read the Holy Qur’an after the morning prayer until the sun had fully risen. He would recite one juz’ (portion) per day in a melodious voice.
‘I asked him that morning, “During this night, how many ajzaa’(portions) did you complete?” ‘“Eight,” he replied.’
- 1. This incident is a manifestation of the noble verse,
‘So We responded to him and delivered him from his grief. And thus do We deliver the believers.’ (Qur’an, 21:88)
- 2. This incident is a manifestation of the noble verse,
‘Then We deliver Our Messengers and those who believe; it is binding on Us that We deliver the believers.” (Qur’an, 10:103)
- 3. Majma’ al-Bayan
- 4. Imam Ali (A) was asked, ‘Who is the best of Allah’s creations after the Imams in terms of guidance?’ He replied, ‘The scholars if they do good.’ He was then asked ‘And who are the worst of Allah’s creation after Iblis, Fir’awn and Namrud?’ To which he replied, ‘The scholars if they are corrupt.’ (Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, vol 2, p. 89)
- 5. Historically, people who only accepted a literal interpretation of the Holy Qur’an were known as the Mujassimah; a literalist view of the Qur’an persists until today within many sects in Islam. This is known as anthropomorphism.
- 6. This statement is a manifestation of the noble verse,
‘And the Messenger cried out, “O my Lord! Surely people have treated this Qur’an as a forsaken thing!”’ (Qur’an, 25:30)
- 7. This action is a manifestation of the noble verse,
‘O you who believe! If you help the cause of Allah, He will help you and make your feet firm.’(Qur’an, 48:7)
- 8. This action is a manifestation of the noble verses, ‘Allah has endeared the faith to you and made it beautiful in your hearts. And He made detestable to you disbelief and sins and disobedience. Such people are rightly guided.’ (Qur’an, 49:7) and ‘He it is Who sent down tranquillity into the hearts of the believers so that they might have more faith added to their faith.’ (Qur’an, 48:4)
- 9. Qur’an, 1:5.