A Lecture by Suhaib Webb | Transcribed by Fuseina Mohamad
Surat Al-Fatiha Series: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | Part VII | Part VIII | Part IX | Part X | Part XI | Part XII | Part XIII| Part XIV | Part XV | Part XVI | Part XVII | Part XVIII | Part XIX | Part XX | Part XXI | Part XXII
We came together for a noble purpose: to study the book of Allah, the Qur’an. The Qur’an is the speech of Allah, innahu kalaam Allah. This is the speech of the Creator talking directly to the creation. That is why the father of the great poet Alam Muhammed Iqbal told him as a young boy, “When you read the Qur’an, read the Qur’an as though Allah, God Almighty, is talking directly to you.”
So we came together for the noble purpose of studying the Qur’an. And really what does it mean? For many of us what is our experience with the Qur’an? What is our educational history with the Qur’an? It’s very important that we look back at our history with the Qur’an because it is a reflection of what has shaped our outlook on the Qur’an. For example, maybe our only experience with the Qur’an happened primarily between the ages of five and ten. What was that experience like? We used to go to someone with a big beard and a large stick and he used to tell us, “Read or I’m going to hit you.” Although it’s humorous there are many people for whom I am sure this was their experience with the Qur’an. “Read…BAM!”
As an educator recalling constructive theory, which was developed by Jean Piaget and others, what type of construction will be built in the mind of a person who is introduced to the Qur’an like this? What type of attitude will they have toward the Qur’an? What type of affection or attachment will they have to the Qur’an?
For many of us the Qur’an was introduced strictly as a cultural phenomenon. Subhan’Allah (glory be to Allah) when someone dies we do what? Read the Qur’an. When anything like a marriage occurs we pay someone to come and read the Qur’an. When we finished the Qur’an, the khatim of the Qur’an, we pay someone to read to the Qur’an. The Qur’an is like a festive ornament that just floats in the ecosystem of our lives but is not really involved centrally. In many Muslim societies this is exactly what role this living miracle plays.
I remember I went to my wife’s country and I was reviewing the Qur’an there in front of my mother-in-law’s house. I happened to be in the juz (part) of the Qur’an which includes the Surah Ya-Seen. So I was reviewing Surah Ya-Seen and subhan’Allah the neighbors asked my my mother-in-law something very interesting: there is a guy in the front of the house reading Surah Ya-Seen, what does that mean? What would be the reason for someone to sit in front of the house in a Muslim country with a big beard and read the Qur’an and happen to be reading Surah Ya-Seen? Why would he be reading the Qur’an? What was the conclusion that most of the Muslims in that area came to?
“Did somebody die?”
Why else would someone be reading the Qur’an? But, in the same area where my wife is from, in that certain city, in a certain country, with a city called Kuala Lumpur, in that same neighborhood, I remember I used to go to the masjid and pray. And you will find guys singing Deep Purple songs or Def Leppard or Britney Spears. Subhan’Allah and nobody finds that weird, that in a Muslim country people can be singing these types of songs and nobody makes any phone calls. But here comes this man with a big beard sitting in front of someone’s house happening to be reading Surah Ya-Seen and the whole neighborhood goes crazy.
So how were we introduced to the Qur’an? Somebody hitting us with a stick? Somebody yelling at us? Somebody abusing children in front of us? The Prophet ﷺ used to kiss children on their heads and, as related by Imam Bukhari, the Bedouins said to him, “You kiss children? We don’t kiss children.”
He said, “Can I help it if Allah has taken mercy from your hearts?”
So how were you raised with the Qur’an? Was it a beautiful ornament that used to hang on the highest shelf in your home wrapped up in beautiful cloth? Was this the Qur’an?
In our time together we have the objective of taking the Qur’an as it should have been taken from the beginning: a manual for our lives. This is the Qur’an, this is the book of Allah. Maybe some people came tonight because your friend sent you an e-mail saying, “You have to come, please just come.” Maybe someone was walking and someone grabbed them and said, “Come on, please, you’ll find your friends there, and we’ll have some tea afterwards.” So maybe people don’t realize the value of being here, the value of being in a place where the Qur’an is studied.
The Prophet ﷺ said, “No group of people will gather together in a house from the houses of Allah”— and many ulema (scholars) said this doesn’t mean just the masjid, this could be any place where people gather to study the Qur’an—and the Prophet continued “and they come together to recite the book of Allah, the Qur’an, and to study it and to ponder upon it, except that tranquility from Allah will descend on them and that they will be covered with rahma (mercy) and that the angels will come to this gathering and cover them and shower them. And the stack of the angels will go all the way to the heavens and Allah is going to mention your name by you studying the Qur’an.”
So is it possible that this book that is going to bring about these wonderful things—as-sakina (tranquility), mercy, the angels being here, and that Allah is going to mention your name—is it possible that this book is only for ritualistic affairs? Yet this happens when people read it.
Another hadith related by Imam al-Bukhari: Uthman bin Affan said that the Prophet ﷺ said, “The best of you is the one who learns the Qur’an and then teaches it.”
Subhan Allah, how many of us tonight said, “I want to watch the tape of the all-star game from yesterday, everyone was wearing MJ’s old shoes, I’ve got to see that.” Or how many of us were saying, “God forbid I miss the new Shahrukh Khan four-hour program tonight on my television.” Or “God forbid I can’t go to this [other event]” or “My friends are going to San Francisco.” But subhan’Allah by being here tonight the Prophet ﷺ said you are from the best people in the eyes of Allah. The Prophet said the best people are the people who study the Qur’an.
In another very beautiful hadith the Prophet ﷺ said, “The people of the Qur’an are the people of Allah and His chosen people.” Allah chose you to be here to study His Book and really you should feel [grateful and think], “Alhamdullilah (all praise is for Allah) that Allah brought me to study the Qur’an” because it is with the Qur’an that Allah raises nations and He raises people. He shapes people with this Book.
Tonight insha’Allah (if Allah wills) we plan to focus on three important areas. First of all, the scope of the Qur’an. What is the scope of the Qur’an? Secondly, how can we benefit from the Qur’an? And third, the scope and range of Surat al-Fatiha.
Many people ask, “Subhan’Allah, how can you give six lectures on al-Fatiha?”
Let me give you one statement of one scholar about al-Fatiha that will amaze you. Hasan al Basri, many years ago, said something which when I read it, and my teacher told it to me when I was memorizing Qur’an with him, subhan’Allah it really shook me. And every time I hear it, it really touches me. He says that God Almighty, Allah, sent some 100 or more books from the heavens and He condensed these books into four books: the Torah, Zaboor, Injeel, and Qur’an. This is amazing. Then Allah took these four books and condensed them into the Qur’an. Then Allah took all of the knowledge in the Qur’an and condensed it from Surah al-Hujurat (the 49th chapter of the Quran) all the way to Surah al-Nas. Then He took all of that—from 100 something, to four, to the Quran, to what’s called al-Muffasal (from the 49th chapter to the end)—He took all of that and condensed it in al-Fatiha. Subhan’Allah. Then He took all of that and condensed it into:
“It is You we worship and You we ask for help.” (Qur’an, 1:5).
That’s why the main book that I use in this class is a book called Madarij al-Salikeen written by a great Sufi scholar many years ago, and then ibn Qayim al Jawziya rewrote it again and he added some other notes to it, but a lot of the time he quoted that great Sheikh of tassawuf.
Madarij al-Salikeen - what does it mean? Madarij means the stations, al-Salikeen are those who are going back to Allah. Those who are saalik, so saalikeen is the plural of the word saalik. The title continues bayna manazil iyaka na’budu wa iyyaka nasta’een. Look at the beautiful title of ibn Qayim: The steps of those going to Allah between the balance of iyyaka na’budu wa iyyaka nasta’een, balanced on it is: “You alone we worship and You alone we seek for help.”
The other book that I use is the book of Ihya’ ‘Ulum Al-Deen of Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali called “The Revival of Religious Teachings and Learnings.” Also a very good book of a scholar who took the book of al-Ghazali and broke it down is that of Sheikh Saeed Hawa, who died not too long ago, called Al Mustakhas fi Taskiyatu Anfus which is masha’Allah a very nice book. Also the tafseer of Ibn Kathir, the tafseer of Imam al-Qurtubi, the tafseer of Imam at-Tabri and many other explanations of the Qur’an.
So how do we approach the Qur’an? If you want to know someone what is the first thing you should know about them? Their name. For example if you are coming across campus and you think you see your friend and you say, “Oh, Muhammed!” He turns around and it’s not him. You realize, “Oh! That’s not Muhammed!” and subhan’Allah when you realize that this is not Muhammed your whole internal as well as physical reality changes. How many of us who have been born Muslim know more than five names of the Qur’an? Because if you want to know something you know its names. How many of us know more than five names of the Prophet (ﷺ)?
In Arabic the word ism (name) came from sima. Sima means a sign or also it means to be raised high because sometimes somebody has a good name and if they lived up to the meaning of that name, then it raises them high. For example Faatih. If someone is named Faatih and he does something good to help the Muslims, he would live up to this name.
So the Qur’an has many names. The first one is the Qur’an, al-Qur’an, from qara’a. Qara’a means to recite. The first word sent in the Qur’an was iqra (read).
The next name of the Qur’an is al-Kitab (The Book):
“This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allah.” (Qur’an, 2:2).
Allah says, “This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allah.” Subhan’Allah, here the ulema said something nice. Why did Allah name it al-Qur’an and al-Kitab? Al-Qur’an means the recitation, al-Kitab insinuates something that will be written (from the word kataba, to write). Because not only did Allah want us to read to the Qur’an, but He knew in the future that He wanted us to write it. This is why some ulema say, Mana`a al-Qatan mentioned in his book Uloom al-Qur’an, Allah called it al-Qur’an and al-Kitab.
Another name of the Qur’an which is really beautiful, which will really show us the effect that the Qur’an should have in our lives, not just “BAM! Read!” is that Allah named the Qur’an rahma (mercy).
In Surat al-Isra, the seventeenth chapter of the Qur’an, Allah states that the Qur’an is rahmatan lil mumineen, “a mercy for the believers”(17:82). Also in the Qur’an Allah used the name rahma for rain. Why? Because the ulema said, what’s the effect rain on dead land? It will bring the land to life. So the Qur’an has the same effect on a dead heart. A heart that is dead will be brought to life as a rain brings life back to a dead land.
Another name of the Qur’an is ash-Shifaa. Ash-Shifaa means healing, and the ulema said that the Qur’an’s healing is extremely comprehensive. It will heal what we call taskiyatul nafs, purification of the soul: it will heal someone’s cognitive understanding of the world around them; it will have a comprehensive healing on them. Subhan’Allah how many of us when the person was hitting us with a stick to learn Qur’an and he said “The Qur’an is a healing,” we said, “No, the Qur’an is not a healing, the Qur’an is a punishment!”
So we know the Qur’an by its names and there are many many names of the Quran. Another is al-Huda. Al-Huda means the guidance:
“Say, ‘Indeed, the guidance of Allah is the [only] guidance’” (Qur’an, 6:71).
Another name is An-Nur (The Light):
“There has come to you from Allah a light and a clear Book.” (Qur’an, 5:15)
“It brings them out from darkness into the light” (Qur’an, 2:257)
Another name of the Qur’an is al-Bayaan, the one that explains everything. As Allah mentions in the Quran tibyanan li kuli shay, “a clarification for all things” (16:89). The Qur’an didn’t leave any aspect of our lives out, basically everything has been addressed in general terms.
Insha’Allah, I recommend that you memorize some of the names of the Qur’an and memorize some of the meanings of these names so you can understand the Qur’an in the context of your life; how it should function with you in your life. It’s a Light, so the Muslim can never be in darkness. It’s a Healing, so the Muslim should never be sad. It’s a Mercy, so the Muslim should never give up on the Mercy of Allah. Why do you have the Qur’an with you? Because it’s al-Huda (the Guidance) so the Muslim should never feel that, “I am completely lost, what am I going to do?” because you have the Huda, you have the Qur’an. And the Qur’an is a Guidance for you.