Category Archives: Tafseer

Tafseer (explaination) of the Qur’an in small, bite-sized pieces and ideas.

How to Pass Tests: Lessons from the Du’a of Prophet Ibrahim


In Surah Al-Anbiyaa, Allah says:


Translation: Every soul will taste death. And We test you with evil and with good as trial; and to Us you will be returned. (Surah Al-Anbiya, verse 35)

In this verse, Allah uses the word “nablukum” (نبلوكم). This is a present-tense (mudaari’) form of the word “balaa.” From the grammar itself, scholars note, this means that Allah says that he will test you again and again and again, continuously.

Not only that, Allah also mentions good (khayr) and evil (sharr) are both tests. It won’t be always bad things in sequence like illness, loss of job, etc. but it will also be a test with goodness to see if we are thankful.

Who does Allah test the most? Rasulullah says:

قَالَ قُلْتُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ أَىُّ النَّاسِ أَشَدُّ بَلاَءً قَالَ ‏ “‏ الأَنْبِيَاءُ ثُمَّ الأَمْثَلُ فَالأَمْثَلُ يُبْتَلَى الْعَبْدُ عَلَى حَسَبِ دِينِهِ فَإِنْ كَانَ فِي دِينِهِ صُلْبًا اشْتَدَّ بَلاَؤُهُ وَإِنْ كَانَ فِي دِينِهِ رِقَّةٌ ابْتُلِيَ عَلَى حَسَبِ دِينِهِ فَمَا يَبْرَحُ الْبَلاَءُ بِالْعَبْدِ حَتَّى يَتْرُكَهُ يَمْشِي عَلَى الأَرْضِ وَمَا عَلَيْهِ مِنْ خَطِيئَةٍ.‏”‏

Sa`d bin Abu Waqqas, said: “I said: “O Messenger of Allah, which people are most severely tested?” He said: “The Prophets, then the next best and the next best. A person is tested according to his religious commitment.” (Sunan Ibn Majah)

Later in Surah Baqarah, Allah mentions about Prophet Ibrahim (alayhi salaam):


Translation: And [mention, O Muhammad], when Abraham was tried by his Lord with commands and he fulfilled them. (Surah Baqarah, verse 124)

In this ayah, Allah mentions that he ibtilaa Ibrahim (alayhi salaam). Ibtilaa is an even more difficult, intense form of balaa. Allah also says, “fa atamma hunn.” This means that Ibrahim (alayhi salaam) aced all his tests and scored 100%. He showed the perfect responses and did exactly what he needed to do. This makes him an ideal model to learn from and emulate.

As many parents can testify, among the most difficult test to bear is the loss of a child. Not only did Prophet Ibrahim (alayhi salaam) receive a child late in his life when he reached a very old age, but Allah asked him to leave his wife and child alone, in the middle of a barren desert, without a word to them. No food, no water, no lodging, no supplies, nothing. This appeared outwardly as certain death for the two of them.

What did he say as he walked away from them?


Translation: Alhamdulillah (Praise to Allah), who has granted to me in old age Ishmael and Isaac. Indeed, my Lord is the Hearer of supplication. (Surah Ibrahim, verse 39)

In this du’a, we find the key which allowed Ibrahim (alayhi salaam) to succeed in his tests: shukr (thankfulness). Despite this trial, he said “alhamdulillah” and he praised Allah, and thanked him for the blessings he gave.

We can extract and apply this lesson to our own lives: when Allah tests us with hardship, whatever difficulty we experience, we should always be thankful and focus on the good of what Allah gave us. Like Prophet Ibrahim (alayhi salaam), this enables us to pass difficult tests much more easily.

And finally, the best part of all this: don’t forget that Allah says that whoever thanks him, gets more:


Translation: And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed, “If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]; but if you deny, indeed, My punishment is severe.” (Surat Ibrahim, verse 7)

May Allah give us the tawfique to learn real life lessons from these stories and implement them in our lives, ameen ya rabb!

Source: Khutbah delivered by shaykh Aarij Anwer at Al-Huda Institute Canada on August 30th, 2013


The Significance of Seven in Arab Culture

One of the things we need to understand about Arabic culutre is the significance of the number “seven.” This boils over into our understanding of ahadith.

First, a strong disclaimer: Islam has nothing to do with numerology — that is, the study and assignment of arbitrary numbers to the value of letters of the Arabic alphabet — such as the popular “786” which represents “bismillah.”

Nor should numbers be interpreted symbolically or otherwise, unless there is a very good, strong reason for doing so — such as with number seven.

Now that that’s out of the way: the number seven appears alone, and in multiples (70, 700, 70k, etc.) in several ahadith.

Let’s take a quick browse. For example, this famous hadith which comes to play in aqeedah mentions the number 73:

Narrated AbuHurayrah:
The Prophet () said: The Jews were split up into seventy-one or seventy-two sects; and the Christians were split up into seventy one or seventy-two sects; and my community will be split up into seventy-three sects. (Sunan Abu Dawud)

Other hadith mention 70,000:

Ibn Mas’ud (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:
Messenger of Allah said, “Hell will be brought on that Day (the Day of Resurrection) with seventy bridles (leashes); and with every bridle will be seventy thousand angels, pulling it.” (Saheeh Muslim)

In these cases, and cases where the number seven is listed (seven itself or a multiple of seven — 70, 700, 7000, 70,000, etc.), the number seven signifies a large quantity — a lot. It does not literally mean 70 or 70k; it can mean a large number.

And Allah knows best. If you search books of hadith for the number seven and its multiples, you will actually find this occur in a lot of ahadith. So keep this in the back of your mind when you read.


  • Collector’s Edition: Sahih al-Bukhari. By Yasir Qadhi. 2012.

Tafseer Surah Nazi’at, Part 2

This is post #43 in our series on Tafseer of Juz ‘Amma (click the link to see all posts in this series).

Continuing into our foray of tafseer of Surah An-Nazi’aat, we reach the story of Musa (alayhi salaam). Allah (‘azza wa jal) says:

هَلْ أَتَاكَ حَدِيثُ مُوسَىٰ

Translation: Has there reached you the story of Moses? [Surah Naazi’aat, verse 15]

One of the interesting aspects of Qur’an you don’t get from the translation is discourse. (A discourse is a single discussion on a single topic.) In the Qur’an, Allah (‘azza wa jal) used rhyming to distinguish different discourses. This means that when the rhyming changes (look at the form of the last word), you can tell that the topic, too, is changing.

And here we see that — the word changes from “as-saahirah” to “Musaa,” with alif-maqsuwr. The next eleven verses keep with this type of rhyming, until the end of the story of Musaa (alayhi salaam).

Allah (subhannahu wa ta’ala) says:

هَلْ أَتَاكَ حَدِيثُ مُوسَىٰ
إِذْ نَادَاهُ رَبُّهُ بِالْوَادِ الْمُقَدَّسِ طُوًى
اذْهَبْ إِلَىٰ فِرْعَوْنَ إِنَّهُ طَغَىٰ

Translation: Has there reached you the story of Moses? – When his Lord called to him in the sacred valley of Tuwa, “go to Fir’awn (Pharaoh). Indeed, he has transgressed. [Surah An-Nazi’at, verses 15-17]

Allah (‘azza wa jal) uses the word “hadith” to describe the story of Musa. In Arabic, one of the meanings of hadith is a tale that is so old that it has become forgotten, and now seems new again. Because the story of Musa (alayhi salaam) is an old story, one from the time of Bani Isra’eel at least.

Another interesting point is that, from hadith, we hear that when Musa (alayhi salaam) was called to Tuwa, he came running full-speed to get there. He did not delay or come at his leisure. You can also see this in the qualities of Abu Bakr (radiallahu ‘anhu), that he would hasten to good deeds. This is a quality we should all engender in our lives. As one scholar said, “Live for dunya like you’re going to live forever (i.e. put things off because there’s always tomorrow), and live for akhirah like you’re going to die tomorrow.”

Notice also the reason that Allah sent Musa to Fir’aun — because he transgressed. Taghaa (طَغَىٰ) means going beyond the boundaries and limits, like water overflowing from a cup.

And then:

فَقُلْ هَل لَّكَ إِلَىٰ أَن تَزَكَّىٰ
وَأَهْدِيَكَ إِلَىٰ رَبِّكَ فَتَخْشَىٰ

Translation: And say to him, ‘Would you [be willing to] purify yourself, and let me guide you to your Lord so you would fear [Him]?'” [Surah An-Nazi’aat, verses 18-19]

The wording here of Musa is very eloquent and polite. You can translate it as would you care to purify yourself? A very nice, pleasant, respectful addressing.

To Fir’awn. The one who claimed godhood. The one who slaughtered legions of children from Bani Isra’eel.

Surely this is what Allah (‘azza wa jal) meant when He said:

ادْعُ إِلَىٰ سَبِيلِ رَبِّكَ بِالْحِكْمَةِ وَالْمَوْعِظَةِ الْحَسَنَةِ ۖ وَجَادِلْهُم بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ ۚ

Translation: Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best. [Surah An-Nahl, verse 125]

Many are those of us Muslims who start becoming practicing (or become Muslim) and don’t apply this ayah! Musa (alayhi salaam) could’ve called Fir’awn a mass-murderer, a child-killer, and worse; but he didn’t. Instead, he asked very politely:

Would you care to purify yourself?

The story continues:

فَأَرَاهُ الْآيَةَ الْكُبْرَىٰ
فَكَذَّبَ وَعَصَىٰ
ثُمَّ أَدْبَرَ يَسْعَىٰ
فَحَشَرَ فَنَادَىٰ
فَقَالَ أَنَا رَبُّكُمُ الْأَعْلَىٰ

Translation: And he showed him the greatest sign, but Pharaoh denied and disobeyed. Then he turned his back, striving. And he gathered [his people] and called out, and said, “I am your most exalted lord.” [Surah An-Nazi’aat, verses 20-24]

“Kathhaba” (كَذَّبَ) with shadda on the thal is a more intense version of kathaba (كَذَبَ — no shadda). Kathaba means to lie, and to deny the truth.

Note in Fir’awn’s claim, he said that he is Al-A’laa (الْأَعْلَىٰ). Aside from being one of Allah’s names, Al-A’laa is in the form of the superlative (the highest degree) of a description; it means “the highest” (literally), from the same root as the names ‘Ali (the masculine form) and ‘Aaliya (the feminine form).

Shaykh Noman (from Bayyinah) mentions that this is not the first time Fir’awn made this claim; indeed, in other surahs, we see that in other places in the story he claimed similar things.

You can’t just make a claim like that and get away with it. Allah says:

فَأَخَذَهُ اللَّهُ نَكَالَ الْآخِرَةِ وَالْأُولَىٰ
إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَعِبْرَةً لِّمَن يَخْشَىٰ

Translation: So Allah seized him in exemplary punishment for the last and the first [transgression]. Indeed in that is a warning for whoever would fear [Allah]. [Verses 25-26]

Notice that khashiya (simply translated as “fear”) is mentioned here again. What did Musa (alayhi salam) call Firawn to? To having khashiyah of Allah — “And let me guide you to your Lord so you would fear [Him]?'” (verse 19).

Truly, this is the fruit of eman in Allah: that you have fear (and hope) in Allah, and that you do (more) good deeds and stay away from sins and evil deeds.

Here, the rhyme scheme changes (new discourse). And so here, we will stop, until next week insha’Allah where we conclude this great surah. May Allah (‘azza wa jal) give us the tawfique to learn from these great lessons and implement them in our lives, ameen!


  • Touched by an Angel: Tafseer of Juz ‘Amma. By Muhammad Alshareef. 2009.

Tafseer Surah Nazi’at, Part 1

This is post #42 in our series on Tafseer of Juz ‘Amma (click the link to see all posts in this series).

In this post, insha’Allah we will take a whirlwind tour of the first third or so of Surah Naazi’aat, a great and powerful surah of the Qur’an. Then insha’Allah we will go back and dive into more details (particularly in the Arabic side of things).

Allah says:

وَالنَّازِعَاتِ غَرْقًا
وَالنَّاشِطَاتِ نَشْطًا
وَالسَّابِحَاتِ سَبْحًا
فَالسَّابِقَاتِ سَبْقًا
فَالْمُدَبِّرَاتِ أَمْرًا

Translation: By those [angels] who extract with violence, and [by] those who remove with ease, and [by] those who glide [as if] swimming, and those who race each other in a race, and those who arrange [each] matter, … [Surah Nazi’at, verses 1-5]

These ayaat describe attributes of angels:

  • Ripping Out: Gharq (غَرْق) means to rip out, to yank out, to extract harshly. If you had a tree and you uprooted it, roots and all, that would be gharq. This refers to the angels who remove the souls of the corrupt and the evil-doers.
  • Gently Pulling: Verse two contrasts verse one by mentioning nasht (نَشْط), which is like a gentle pulling. This refers to the angels that remove the souls of the righteous believers.
  • Swimming: Verse three refers to angels who swim through the air; they are described as swimming.
  • Racing: Verse four refers to angels who are racing; racing the souls of the righteous to Jannah.
  • Al-Mudabiraat: Al-Mudabiraat are those angelswho settle the affairs of deen and dunya, in the dunya. They take care of floods, earthquakes, and other natural disasters, among other things. Their name, al-mudabiraat, also implies that they are thorough planners and executers of those plans.

All of these are aqsaam (oaths), which is typical in Mecci surahs. What is Allah (‘azza wa jal) swearing to?

Continue reading


Tafseer Surah Naba’, Part 3: Contemplate

This is post #41 in our series on Tafseer of Juz ‘Amma (click the link to see all posts in this series).

In the previous two posts, we discussed the first three quarters of this juz; now, we move into the final quarter. After describing some of the punishments of Hellfire, Allah says:

إِنَّ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ مَفَازًا
حَدَائِقَ وَأَعْنَابًا
وَكَوَاعِبَ أَتْرَابًا
وَكَأْسًا دِهَاقً
لَّا يَسْمَعُونَ فِيهَا لَغْوًا وَلَا كِذَّابًا

Translation: Indeed, for the righteous is attainment/success – gardens and grapevines, and full-breasted [companions] of equal age, and a full cup. No ill speech will they hear therein or any falsehood. [Surah An-Naba’, verses 31-35]

This is the fire-escape that you almost always see in the Qur’an — the balance of fear and hope. You rarely hear about Hellfire without Paradise, or vice-versa.

What is the benefit of knowing about these pleasures of paradise — pleasures that are not just physical, but spiritual (not hearing any false speech?) Isn’t it enough just to escape Hellfire?

The answer is that you should contemplate them and use them to motivate yourself to do more good deeds. We rarely do this; but the same way that certain punishments in the grave, on the Day of Resurrection, and in Hellfire motivate us, we should use specific rewards of Jannah to motivate us, too.

And who’s promising this? Imagine if you get a cheque in the mail (or an unsolicited email) saying “You just won $10M dollars!” Right away, you know from the sender that this couldn’t possibly be true.

But in this case?

جَزَاءً مِّن رَّبِّكَ عَطَاءً حِسَابًا
رَبِّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا الرَّحْمَٰنِ ۖ لَا يَمْلِكُونَ مِنْهُ خِطَابًا

Translation: – [As] reward from your Lord, [a generous] gift [made due by] account, [From] the Lord of the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them, the Most Merciful. They possess not from Him [authority for] speech. [Surah Naba, verses 36-37]

The reward is coming from no other than the Lord of the heavens and the Earth. The One who created all these things can surely deliver what He promised in these ayaat — this, and so much more.

يَوْمَ يَقُومُ الرُّوحُ وَالْمَلَائِكَةُ صَفًّا ۖ لَا يَتَكَلَّمُونَ إِلَّا مَنْ أَذِنَ لَهُ الرَّحْمَٰنُ وَقَالَ صَوَابًا

Translation: The Day that the Spirit and the angels will stand in rows, they will not speak except for one whom the Most Merciful permits, and he will say what is correct. [Surah Nabaa, verse 38]

But to get there — you have to go through the Day of Judgement first. Every single human being will go through that great and terrible day; a day when even the angels, who did not sin once, and Ar-Ruh (Jibreel), will stand in silence. Nobody will speak that day out of turn.

ذَٰلِكَ الْيَوْمُ الْحَقُّ ۖ فَمَنْ شَاءَ اتَّخَذَ إِلَىٰ رَبِّهِ مَآبًا

Translation: That is the True Day; so he who wills may take to his Lord a [way of] return. [Surah Naba’, verse 39]

That IS the promised day — Al-Yawm Al-Haqq. Subhanallah, when you recite this with tajweed, you really feel that hard stop on the shaddah of the qaaf in haqq.

And the choice is yours — “fa man shaa,” so whoever wishes, they can go back to their Lord. And finally, the surah concludes with:

إِنَّا أَنْذَرْنَاكُمْ عَذَابًا قَرِيبًا يَوْمَ يَنْظُرُ الْمَرْءُ مَا قَدَّمَتْ يَدَاهُ وَيَقُولُ الْكَافِرُ يَا لَيْتَنِي كُنْتُ تُرَابًا

Translation: Indeed, We have warned you of a near punishment on the Day when a man will observe what his hands have put forth and the disbeliever will say, “Oh, I wish that I were dust!” [Surah Naba’, verse 40]

All this is just a warning of a punishment that’s close, very close — as close as your own death. A warning of things to come, and a day where every human will see what their hands sent forth to the Hereafter.

And this final, curious statement of the kaafir — what does it mean, that he wishes he’ll be dust? Abu Hurayrah mentions that the Messenger of Allah said:

On Resurrection Day, the rights will be paid to those to whom they are due so much so that a hornless sheep will be retaliated for by punishing the horned sheep which broke its horns. [Saheeh Muslim]

That is to say, imagine two sheep, one of which has horns and one doesn’t. In the dunya, the one without horns harmed the one with horns; and in the akhirah, they will be resurrected, and justice will be metted out to both.

After this, all the animals will turn to dust; and the kafir, who did worse than this, who wronged more than this, will wish that his punishment was this light — dust, and to be nothing more.

May Allah allow us to understand this great day and implement the many, many great lessons of this amazing surah.


  • Touched by an Angel: Tafseer of Juz ‘Amma. By Muhammad Alshareef. 2010.

Tafseer Surah Naba’, Part 2

This is post #40 in our series on Tafseer of Juz ‘Amma (click the link to see all posts in this series).

In the previous post, we discussed the first 16 verses of Surah Naba’. The remaining 24 verses discuss the Day of Judgment, Paradise, and Hellfire; you should read them to extract the details. Insha’Allah we’re going to touch on a few points that are interesting.

First, a recap–verse 16 talked about (a continuing discussion of) some of the blessings of Allah (‘azza wa jal) in the dunya on the people. Then–WHAM!–verse 17 says:

إِنَّ يَوْمَ الْفَصْلِ كَانَ مِيقَاتًا

Translation: Indeed, the Day of Judgement is an appointed time. [Surah An-Naba’, verse 17]

Suddenly, the topic shifts seamlessly into the Hereafter. Some gems to extract from this verse:

  • Yawm Al-Fasl: The Day of Judgment is called Yawmul Fasli. What’s the meaning of fasl? Arabic students will say “aha! it means class!” But what does it really mean? The root verb is (I believe) fasala, which means to differentiate, to distinguish, to split apart into levels; this, class–students of different levels. And Yawmul-Fasl? The day that the people will be divided into groups and nations and successful and unsuccessful.
  • An Appointment: Meeqat is a word familiar to all the hujjaaj–it means an appointed place (in the context of Hajj), i.e. the points at which Ihram must go on. It can also mean an appointed time; here, Allah (‘azza wa jal) is saying, the Day of Judgment is scheduled at an appointment. It won’t run late. It won’t surprise you early; if anything, it’s already decided when it will happen, down to the nanosecond …

Then Allah (subhannahu wa ta’ala) continues:

يَوْمَ يُنفَخُ فِي الصُّورِ فَتَأْتُونَ أَفْوَاجًا

Translation: The Day the Horn is blown and you will come forth in multitudes. [Surah Naba, verse 18]

The phrase “yunfakhu fis-soor,” might confuse you; yunfakhu is clearly a Baab I word in the passive form (it was done); but with a harf-ul-jarr? In English, we don’t really say things like “the balloon was blown into,” but this is precisely the Arabic construct.

As-Soor means, well, a trumpet; what kind of trumpet is not important. The Messenger of Allah (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said to the meaning of: “How can I enjoy myself anything, when the angel has already put the trumpet (As-Soor) into his mouth and has taken a breath and stands with his eyes fixed on the throne of Ar-Rahman, waiting for the instant that the command will be given, to blow?” So the sahaba said, “What should we say O Messenger of Allah (since the end of the world is so close)?” He said: “Say: hasbunallaha wa ni’ma al-wakeel,” Allah is sufficient for us and he is Al-Wakeel (the one who takes care of all your affairs).” [Source unknown]

After describing more of the horrors of the Day of Judgment, Allah says:

إِنَّ جَهَنَّمَ كَانَتْ مِرْصَادً

Translation: Indeed, Hell has been lying in wait. [Verse 21]

Mirsaad is a word known very well by the Arabs of that time — and by anyone who plays first-person shooter games. If you’re riding down a road, and people spring out of nowhere and ambush you — that’s mirsaad. Ambush. So we see that Hellfire is a creature; it’s not just some passive flames — but rather, it will ambush those who are walking through life, unaware, that it’s just waiting around the corner.

A couple of verses later, describing the fare of the people of Hellfire, Allah says:

لَّابِثِينَ فِيهَا أَحْقَابًا
لَّا يَذُوقُونَ فِيهَا بَرْدًا وَلَا شَرَابًا
إِلَّا حَمِيمًا وَغَسَّاقًا
جَزَاءً وِفَاقًا

Translation: In which they will remain for ages [unending]. They will not taste therein [any] coolness or drink, Except scalding water and [foul] purulence – An appropriate recompense. [Surah An-Naba’, verses 23-26]

We already discussed the food of the people of Hellfire — long, spiky, poisonous fare; and their drink — boiling water, and the juices of the roasting people of Hellfire. And then Allah says: “Jazaa’an wifaaqaa,” an exact and perfect repayment for them.

And this shows that they are the most evil people — that Allah does not wrong them anything or give them more or less than they deserve; and this is what they deserve.

We seek Allah’s refuge in being from among those people.

If you could interview those people now and ask them, “why are you here?” Or, statistically, what trend or trait lead to these people being in Hellfire? Wouldn’t you want to know, so you could avoid that trait?

Allah (‘azza wa jal) explains:

إِنَّهُمْ كَانُوا لَا يَرْجُونَ حِسَابًا

Translation: Indeed, they were not expecting an account. [Verse 27]

Hisaab is the taking-to-account that every human being will go through on the Day of Judgment. It’s referred to as “reckoning,” “taking to account,” or similar phrases in translations.

One of the things we learn from studying the verses addressing ahlul-kitaab, is that the verses don’t just address them; they address anyone who has the same characteristics that they have. So if you’re Muslim, and you’re not worried about your hisaab … that’s a very dangerous place to be; Allah (‘azza wa jal) says to these people who denied the truth:

فَذُوقُوا فَلَن نَّزِيدَكُمْ إِلَّا عَذَابًا

Translation: “So taste [the penalty], and never will We increase you except in torment.” [Surah An-Naba’, verse 30]

This is a very scary verse. Think about it. Punishment only gets more intense in Hellfire. The easiest part is the beginning; it gets progressively worse and worse and worse. You ask for food? You have to choke down poisonous spikes. You ask for water? You get hameem and ghassaq. You ask for a lighter punishment? You get more punishment.

May Allah protect us all from the punishment of Hellfire.

Insha’Allah we will wrap up Surah Naba’ in our next post, and then on to other suraat in this juz.


  • Touched by an Angel: Tafseer of Juz ‘Amma. By Muhammad Alshareef. 2009.

Tafseer Surah Naba’, Part 1

This is post #39 in our series on Tafseer of Juz ‘Amma (click the link to see all posts in this series).

The tafseer of Surah Naba’ really speaks for itself; it talks about the Day of Judgment, Paradise, and Hellfire–three strong, recurring themes in the last juz. And this is, of course, the first surah in Juz ‘Amma.

Therefore, we’re going to focus mostly on the linguistic meaning of the words in the verses, and some gleams of tafseer you might not extract from just reading the verses in Arabic.

Allah (‘azza wa jal) says:

عَمَّ يَتَسَاءَلُونَ

Translation: About what are they asking one another? [Surah An-Naba’, verse 1]

The first word, ‘amma, is actually a compound of two words; ‘an (عن), which is an interrogative particle (indicates a question) and roughly means “about,” and maa (ما), which means, “what.” They are combined into ‘amma–about what? This is what gives the juz it’s name.

Yatasaa’aloon comes from sa’ala/yas’alu, which means to ask. There’s an additional fourth letter here, the ta (ت), which changes the meaning from the expected “what are they asking” (‘amma yasaluwna) to “what are they asking each other.”

Verse two continues:

عَنِ النَّبَإِ الْعَظِيمِ

Translation: About the great news – [Surah Naba, verse 2]

An-Naba (النَّبَإِ) means news; this is the word that gave the surah it’s name. Atheem means great, just like the name of Allah, Al-Atheem; here, it’s an adjective to naba’.

Allah (‘azza wa jal) continues:

الَّذِي هُمْ فِيهِ مُخْتَلِفُونَ

Translation: That over which they are in disagreement. [Verse 3]

This verse hints at a reality–that people disagree about the Day of Judgment. Muslims believe in it, but non-Muslims don’t; and we argue over it. Then Allah says:

كَلَّا سَيَعْلَمُونَ
ثُمَّ كَلَّا سَيَعْلَمُونَ

Translation: No! They are going to know.Then, no! They are going to know. [Verses 4-5]

Kalla is an emphatic, strong no; in the Qur’an, it negates something before it (which may be deleted); in this case, it’s negating their denial of the Day of Judgment; it WILL come to pass.

This looks similar to Surah At-Takaathur, where we saw two “sa-ya’lamuwn” (or in that case, sawfa ta’lamoon); the first indicated the realization when the person dies, and the second, when they are resurrected.

The difference between ya’lawmuwn and ta’lamuwn is that the former is third-person (they), while the latter is second-person (you). And as for the addition of sa (س) or sawfa (سوف), it makes it certainly future-tense (the mudaari’ verb indicates present or future tense).

Then Allah (subhannahu wa ta’ala) continues:

أَلَمْ نَجْعَلِ الْأَرْضَ مِهَادًا

Translation: Have We not made the earth a resting place? [Verse 6]

The first part of this verse is interesting; it has an alif, which is an interrogative particle (i.e. a question-mark), followed by a negation (lam). It’s almost calling the person to contemplate and say, yes, you did.

Then Allah says:

وَالْجِبَالَ أَوْتَادًا
وَخَلَقْنَاكُمْ أَزْوَاجًا
وَجَعَلْنَا نَوْمَكُمْ سُبَاتًا
وَجَعَلْنَا اللَّيْلَ لِبَاسًا
وَجَعَلْنَا النَّهَارَ مَعَاشًا
وَبَنَيْنَا فَوْقَكُمْ سَبْعًا شِدَادًا

Translation: And the mountains as stakes? And We created you in pairs. And made your sleep [a means for] rest. And made the night as clothing. And made the day for livelihood. And constructed above you seven strong [heavens] [verses 7-12]

Here, we see an enumeration of the many blessings of Allah upon us. Among them are:

  • Mountains that keep the earth pegged in place (tectonic plates), so that continents don’t slide around too much
  • Sleep refreshes and rejuvenates you; get rest out of it.
  • Night time. Can you imagine sleeping in daylight all the time?

A couple of Arabic words to bring to your attention–jibaal is the plural of jabal (جبل), which means mountain. And ma’aash (معاش) means something that everybody has to go out and do; earn a livelihood. Work for a living.

Also, the seven heavens which are implicitly mentioned — all of the scholars are in consensus that the first heaven includes everything in the known universe. What’s beyond it, we don’t know; but we know there are seven samawaat.

Then, Allah (‘azza wa jal) says:

وَجَعَلْنَا سِرَاجًا وَهَّاجًا

Translation: And made [therein] a burning lamp. [Verse 13]

This is where the famous da’ee, Siraaj Wahhaj, picked his name out of. This “burning lamp” refers to none other than the sun; how do we know? Because siraaj means “has light,” and wahhaaj means “gives light.” The moon gives light, but it doesn’t have light–it’s just reflected light from the sun.

Then, Allah says:

وَأَنزَلْنَا مِنَ الْمُعْصِرَاتِ مَاءً ثَجَّاجًا
لِّنُخْرِجَ بِهِ حَبًّا وَنَبَاتًا
وَجَنَّاتٍ أَلْفَافًا

Translation: And sent down, from the rain clouds, pouring water, That We may bring forth thereby grain and vegetation. And gardens of entwined growth. [Verses 14-16]

In verse 14, anzalnaa (أَنزَلْنَا) is the “we form of anzala (أَنزَلَ), which is originally from nazala (نزل). Nazala means to descend; anzala means to cause something to descend. And anzalnaa? “We caused to descend.”

And a point of advanced grammar: in verse 15, Allah says, “li-nukhrija,” (لِّنُخْرِجَ) and not li-nukhriju. Why is nukhriju mansoob, showing fatha instead of damma? The answer is, because it’s lam-ut-ta’leel, the lam of explaining, which turns a mudaari verb into the mansoob case.

And finally–what’s the point of all these verses? Why send down verse after verse after verse, explaining and pointing out the different blessings of Allah?

So that we can think, and contemplate, and understand. These are verses that really illustrate a fragment of Allah’s power. That’s Allah–the one who created the mountains. And the clouds. And rain. And green growth. For us.

Think about it.

Wallahu a’lam.


  • Touched by an Angel: Tafseer of Juz ‘Amma. By Muhammad Alshareef. 2009.
  • Tafsir ibn Katheer, summarized version, online.

Tafseer Surah Ghashiyah: Heaven and Hell

This is post #38 in our series on Tafseer of Juz ‘Amma (click the link to see all posts in this series).

Allah (‘azza wa jal) says in Surah Al-Ghaashiyah:

هَلْ أَتَاكَ حَدِيثُ الْغَاشِيَةِ

Translation: Has there reached you the report of the Overwhelming [event]? [Surah Ghashiya, verse 1]

The surah starts with a question, to make you think. The companions would say: Allahu wa rasuluhu a’lam (know better), out of humbleness, even know they had an answer in mind. So humble yourself and listen.

Al-Ghashiyah is, of course, “The Overwhelming” — one of the names of the Day of Judgment. Have you heard of it? Sure. But listen:

وُجُوهٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ خَاشِعَةٌ

Translation: [Some] faces, that Day, will be humbled. [Surah Ghashiyah, verse 2]

Khaashiyah is from the same root as khushoo–humility.All these people who never humbled themselves to Allah with khushoo’, on that day, will be humbled with khushoo’.

And the indefinitivity of “wujoohun,” some faces, gives us hope–it won’t be everybody.

But it’s too late for them.

عَامِلَةٌ نَّاصِبَةٌ

Translation: Working [hard] and exhausted. [Surah Ghaashiyah, verse 3]

This verse is hard to translate; it means you will see, on their faces, tiredness. Have you ever seen someone who didn’t sleep for two days? Or someone working at McDonalds/Popeyes/etc, standing all day?

Or try going to Walmart at 11pm. You see the tiredness in the faces of people. On the Day of Judgment, there will be no respite from tiredness, no “here’s a lunch break, come back for more punishment in 15 minutes.”

Then Allah says:

تَصْلَىٰ نَارًا حَامِيَةً
تُسْقَىٰ مِنْ عَيْنٍ آنِيَةٍ
لَّيْسَ لَهُمْ طَعَامٌ إِلَّا مِن ضَرِيعٍ
لَّا يُسْمِنُ وَلَا يُغْنِي مِن جُوعٍ

Translation: They will [enter to] burn in an intensely hot Fire. They will be given drink from a boiling spring. For them there will be no food except from a poisonous, thorny plant (dariy’), which neither nourishes nor avails against hunger. [Surah Ghashiyah, verses 5-8]

“Aynun aaniyah,” a spring of boiling hot water, so hot, that it would kill a person. Nobody would ever think about drinking such a thing normally–but they will be so intensely thirsty, that they will drink anything that they see. Even this.

But they won’t die.

And for food? Dariy’, which was known to the Arabs of that time, is a thorny plant. When it’s soft, camels eat it; but when it ripens, big, long, HUGE thorns erupt out of it–thorns which can choke you. And on top of that, it’s poisonous and can kill. Nobody would ever think about eating such a thing normally–but they will be so intensely hungry, that they will eat anything they see. Even this.

But they won’t die.

And all that eating and drinking, you’d think they’d slack their thirst or hunger; but Allah says, no, it won’t help you anything.

Then Allah says:

وُجُوهٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ نَّاعِمَةٌ
لِّسَعْيِهَا رَاضِيَةٌ

Translation: [Other] faces, that Day, will show pleasure. With their effort [they are] satisfied. [Surah Ghaashiyah, verses 9-10]

When you really understand and recite these verses, it’s almost like a breath of fresh air after all the verses of Hellfire. Others on that day, will have brightness, softness–naa’imah. And they will be pleased with the reward that Allah dispenses them.

So what do they get? What is this exclusive reward, for those who avoid Hellfire? Let’s take a quick peek at some of the things waiting for them and us, insha’Allah:

فِي جَنَّةٍ عَالِيَةٍ
لَّا تَسْمَعُ فِيهَا لَاغِيَةً
فِيهَا عَيْنٌ جَارِيَةٌ
فِيهَا سُرُرٌ مَّرْفُوعَةٌ
وَأَكْوَابٌ مَّوْضُوعَةٌ
وَنَمَارِقُ مَصْفُوفَةٌ
وَزَرَابِيُّ مَبْثُوثَةٌ

Translation: In an elevated garden, wherein they will hear no unsuitable speech. Within it is a flowing spring. Within it are couches raised high. And cups put in place. And cushions lined up. And carpets spread around. [Surah Ghashiyah, verses 10-16]

When you read these verses, verse after verse, you get a sense of preparation. An elevated, penthouse suite with a spring in it. High, elevated couches. Cups all set out for drinking, and cushions sitting in a row, and the carpet rolled out.

Because when it comes down to it, it’s either this, or hameem and dariy’. The choice is yours. Choose wisely … because Hellfire is not really a choice at all.


  • Touched by an Angel: Tafseer of Juz ‘Amma. By Muhammad Alshareef. 2009.

Tafseer Surah Tariq: You Will Be Recreated

This is post #37 in our series on Tafseer of Juz ‘Amma (click the link to see all posts in this series).

Allah says, in Surah Tariq:

وَالسَّمَاءِ وَالطَّارِقِ
وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا الطَّارِقُ
النَّجْمُ الثَّاقِبُ

Translation: By the sky and the night comer (At-Tariq), And what can make you know what is the night comer? It is the piercing star. [Surah At-Taariq, verses 1-3]

As we mentioned before, one of the characteristics of early and Mecci surahs, like this one, is that they begin with a qasam — an oath, a testification. And this shows the greatness of that thing, that Allah (‘azza wa jal) is testifying by it.

As we mentioned before, we should always ask yourself — why is Allah testifying? Of all books, this book is the Qur’an, the most important book; and of all speakers, the speaker is Allah, the Rabb of creation. AND on top, Allah is testifying.


Allah continues (skipping a verse):

فَلْيَنظُرِ الْإِنسَانُ مِمَّ خُلِقَ
خُلِقَ مِن مَّاءٍ دَافِقٍ
يَخْرُجُ مِن بَيْنِ الصُّلْبِ وَالتَّرَائِبِ
إِنَّهُ عَلَىٰ رَجْعِهِ لَقَادِرٌ

Translation: So let man observe from what he was created. He was created from a fluid, ejected, Emerging from between the backbone and the ribs. Indeed, Allah , to return him [to life], is Able. [Surah Tariq, verses 5-8]

Allah then talks about the creation of man, and how man was created from virtually nothing; from this, a full, functional human being emerges. And then Allah (‘azza wa jal) mentions–as was mentioned in many other verses–that He is able to bring them back to life.

This is an aspect that the mushrik Arabs had a very hard time grasping; they would be resurrected, after becoming bones and then dust? And not only that, Allah mentions elsewhere, that He will recreate us down to our fingertips–every detail, perfectly recreated, as it was originally created.

And we intuitively understand this. If you think about manufacturing, what’s the hardest part? Coming up with a product or idea the first time! Once it’s been done, it’s usually much less effort to recreate and redo it over and over–and in bulk!

And then, Allah says:

يَوْمَ تُبْلَى السَّرَائِرُ
فَمَا لَهُ مِن قُوَّةٍ وَلَا نَاصِرٍ

Translation: The Day when secrets will be put on trial, Then man will have no power or any helper. [Verses 9-10]

That’s where we are going — resurrection on a day when all the secrets will be exposed publicly, on a day when we will have no strength, no power, and nobody to help us.

Everyone stands alone on that day.

We discussed prior verses about the day when graves will be dumped open, and that hearts will be peeled; here, we see another aspect — secrets will be exposed publicly.

Ibn Katheer mentions in his tafseer a hadith from Bukhari and Muslim regarding this verse:

Narrated Ibn ‘Umar: The Prophet said, “For every betrayer (perfidious person), a flag will be raised on the Day of Resurrection, and it will be announced (publicly) ‘This is the betrayal (perfidy) of so-and-so, the son of so-and-so.'” [Recorded in Bukhari here, here, here, and here with slight variations.]

Imagine that! That person who you betrayed secretly, whom nobody saw you plan against … that day, not only will it be publicly announced in front of the entire human race that you did so, but to make sure that people know who’s being mentioned, you’ll have a big flag pointing you out.

That’s Allah–the one who sees everything, hears everything, and knows everything, down to the most minute, unimaginably small level. And that is the day that we should prepare for, a day that has no doubt in it.

Thus, tafseer of Surah Tariq.



The Beautiful Qualities of Yahya alayhi salam

Bismillah walhamdolilah wassalatu wassalam ‘ala rasool Allah

Allah subhaanhu wa ta’ala says in the Qur’an (the meaning of which is):

(It was said to his son): “O Yahya (John)! Hold fast the Scripture [the Taurat (Torah)].” And We gave him wisdom while yet a child. And (made him) sympathetic to men as a mercy (or a grant) from Us, and pure from sins [i.e. Yahya (John)] and he was righteous, and dutiful towards his parents, and he was neither an arrogant nor disobedient (to Allah or to his parents). So Peace on him the day he was born the day that he dies and the day that he will be raised up to life (again)! [19:12-15]

Here we see that Allah gives certain people over others honour and nobility. Allah begins by telling us that Yahya alayhi salam is given knowledge, understanding, and adherance to the scripture. On top of that, he is given wisdom. In this is a great lessons for mankind. Verily, knowledge of scriptures is useless without the ability to excercise wisdom in teaching it and learning from it. Thus we see that in knowledge and wisdom is true nobility and status.

Ibn Kathir rahimuhallah says in his tafsir:

This means he (Yahya alayhi salam) was given understanding, knowledge, fortitude, diligence and zeal for good and the pursuit of good. He was blessed with these characteristics even though he was young. Then Allah mentions: “And (made him) hananan from Us”. Ibn Abbas radhiAllah anhu and others such as ‘Ikrimah and Qatada rahimuhumallah said: “This means mercy from Us.” Ad-Dahhak rahimuhallah added, “Mercy that no one would be able to give except Us.”  This means that he (Yahya alayhi salam) was a compassionate man, who was righteous.

After Allah mentioned Yahya’s obedience to his Lord and that Allah created him full of mercy, purity and piety, He attached to it his obedience to his parents and his good treatment of them. Allah mentioned that he refrained from disobeying them in speech, actions, commands and prohibitions.

Then, after mentioning these beautiful characteristics, Allah mentions his reward of security and safety in three circumstances. Sufyan bin `Uyaynah rahimuhallah said, “The loneliest that a man will ever feel is in three situations. The first situation is on the day that he is born, when he sees himself coming out of what he was in. The second situation is on the day that he dies, when he sees people that he will not see anymore. The third situation is on the day when he is resurrected, when he sees himself in the great gathering. Allah has exclusively honored Yahya, the son of Zakariyya, by granting him peace in these situations.”

SubhanAllah! What beautiful qualities for us to follow! Here’s a quick recap of the 8 characteristics mentioned about Yahya alayhi salam:

1) He was given knowledge and understanding of the scripture
2) He was granted wisdom
3) He was compassionate to mankind
4) He was pure (i.e. from sins)
5) He was righteous (i.e. was aware of Allah, had taqwa)
6) He was dutiful of his parents
7) He was not arrogant towards Allah or his parents
8) He was not disobedient towards Allah or his parents

May Allah give us the ability to follow the guidance given to us by our Lord. Ameen.