Speech by Sister Nur Rahim on the Women’s Forum program on Friday 30 April 2021 (17 Ramadaan 1442 AH)
بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
الْحَمْدُ لٍله رَبِّ الْعَالَمٍيْن
وَ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَى سَيَّدِنَا مُحَمَّدِِ وَ آلِهِ الطَّاهِرِيْن
السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته
To my dear respected sisters and listeners and welcome to the program WOMEN’S FORUM on AFOSA’s Facebook page during this Holy Month of Ramadaan.
I pray that the month has been uplifting thus far and that the remainder of the month is even more uplifting as we enter the part of this Holy month in which we seek the great Night of Qadr Insha’allah.
I have been requested to speak a bit this morning about my personal experience with the Quran and drawing inspiration from it.
Now there’s much that one can reflect on in relation to this topic and I will limit it to one aspect of the Quran that possibly covers many hundreds of verses and that is the aspect of historical narratives about incidents in history and the deep lessons to learn from it.
NURTURING THE NEXT GENERATION
One of our roles as mothers in nurturing the next generation is to teach them sublime values.
The question is – how are we meant to do this?
Firstly we do this through trying to lead by example ourselves.
Our children need first hand reference of what good values are by seeing it reflected in our own lives.
But in addition to the example offered by ourselves, children and all of us for that matter also need other role models who are greater than ourselves.
QURANIC METHOD OF NURTURING THROUGH PARABLES
Almighty Allah’s method of nurturing us is also to teach us through examples as we human beings relate better to examples than to dry theory.
So in the Quran Almighty Allah does not only command us to do certain things and acquire certain values, but also provides us with good examples and bad examples alike of how those values were actually lived or not lived by people in history.
These examples that occur in the Quran are of more than one type.
Sometimes the Quran’s examples are in the form of parables which is more like a story that demonstrates a moral or spiritual lesson but does not refer to a specific person or persons or actual incident that occurred in the past.
PARABLE ABOUT HYPOCRITES IN STATE OF DARKNESS
An example of a parable that is mentioned close to the beginning of the Quran in Surah Baqarah refers to the negative qualities of hypocrites in general and then gives a parable about them to demonstrate that they are in so much darkness that they are stuck standing on the same spot.
They are stagnant.
There’s no development in their spirituality.
They are standing still.
In reality it means that they moving backwards as they are running out of time in their worldly life while they are standing still in their darkness.
Why can’t they move forward?
They can’t move forward as they can’t see in front of them.
The parable continues to mention that occassionally when there is lightning, they momentarily have some light and move just a little bit, but the lightning quickly disappears and they remain in darkness and remain standing still.
So this is one example of a parable that already occurs at the beginning of Surah Baqarah.
PARABLE ABOUT POLYTHEISTS AND A SPIDERS WEB
Another parable in the Quran, this time in relation to polytheists, is found in Surah Ankabut, where the parable of those who take others besides Allah to be their guardian are compared to be like a spider who builds a house which is extremely frail but it thinks that it is strong.
Just one little blow and the house is wiped out.
That is how weak polytheism is demonstrated to be.
Yet human beings are very keen in seeking help from those who have nothing to do with Allah.
And so there are many many parables in the Quran which I find to be a great source of inspiration for me which I will recommend you to become familiar with.
REAL LIFE HISTORICAL EXAMPLES STRENGTHEN TAUHEED AND AKHLAQ
But besides numerous parables in the Quran which are all extremely beautiful, Almighty Allah also uses real life examples of the past with references to real characters or personalities that existed whether they were good or bad and from whom we draw deep inspiration.
When reading their stories, I find that one’s Aqeedah or Doctrinal beliefs like belief in Existence of God and Prophethood and the Hereafter become strengthened.
In others words reading the Quranic stories about people of the past strengthens the very foundation of our religion.
This is very important. We should not take for granted that we believe in these foundational principles like belief in God and Prophet Muhammad (sawa) and the Hereafter, but need a means to continuously water this foundation with fresh insight to keep it strong.
And the Quranic stories play a great role in this process.
And in addition to that I find that we learn many lessons in Akhlaq from these historical examples that are narrated to us in Quran.
Before elaborating further on some of these examples, I would like to remind you about 2 points about the Quran itself.
QURAN IS A LIVING REALITY INSPIRING FRESH MEANING IN RAMADAAN
In a famous Hadith we learn from the 5th Imam Baqir (a.s) who is narrated to have said:
“For everything there is a spring, and the spring of the Quran is the month of Ramadaan”
Spring is a time when we experience resurgence, freshness, new life, good feeling and so on.
Spring is related to something living.
In another hadith from the 6th Imam Saadiq (a.s) we learn that someone asked the Imam why it seems that the more we study and learn the Quran, it appears to us to be more fresh.
The Imam is narrated to have replied:
“Because Allah did not make the Quran for a particular era and not for another, or for a particular people and not another, in every era it is new and with every group of people the Quran is fresh until the Day of Judgement”.
Building upon these 2 narrations and similar ones, our scholars say that Ramadaan is the month in which we seem to find fresh NEW MEANING in the same Quran that we might have been reading in the past 30 or 50 years.
That’s because the Quran is a living reality.
And in the Nights of Qadr, when the Angels descend, they are potentially bringing each one of us individually new, fresh meaning and understanding of the Quran that we did not have before.
REFLECTION ON QURAN AND MELODIOUS RECITATION SOFTENS THE HEART
So that is the first point about the Quran I would like to remind you about – that it inspires us as it is a living Reality.
The second point that I would like to make which is linked to the first point is something mentioned by the Philosopher Abu Ali Sina.
Ayatullah Mutahhari refers to a book of Abu Ali Sina wherein he describes the stations that mystics travel through on their spiritual journey to Almighty Allah.
Of all of the work of the famous Philosopher Abu Ali Sina, Ayatullah Mutahhari describes this aspect of his work which refers to the spiritual stations of the wayfarers to Almighty Allah to be EXTRAORDINARILY SUBLIME and BEAUTIFUL.
Now without going into the various stations of the wayfarer that Abu Ali Sina describes, he makes reference to the importance of spiritual exercise and self discipline.
He then states that one of the goals of this self discipline is to subjugate or gain control of our nafsul ammaarah which is our lower self like various desires that pushes us towards evil and commiting sin.
Then he mentions certain things that help in this process of subjugating our nafsul ammaarah or lower self.
One is to worship with reflection and presence of heart.
Another is to listen to melodious recitation of the Quran as it impacts your heart…. it impacts our hearts to make it more soft and receptive.
Why do I find this point about the Quran linked to the first point?
It is because the Quran is a living Reality such that it’s recitation and reflection can impact our hearts which is also a living Reality.
QURAN INSPIRES US WITH SUBTLE POINTS
Now bearing in mind that the Quran is a living reality and its reflection and melodious recitation softens our hearts, when I say that the real life examples by which the Quran teaches us of past personalities strengthens our Aqeedah and teaches us many points in Akhlaq, I mean that the Quran has the power to inspire us with SUBTLE points through these stories that can leave you in absolute awe.
And unlike any other book written by human beings that we only read once or twice and get bored thereafter, everytime we read the Quran and learn about its meaning, there’s the possibility of learning a new subtle point that you did not realise before.
And this causes us to come back to reading the Quran repeatedly…. as we search for that limitless inspiration that it contains.
CALLING PROPHET MUHAMMAD (SAWA) TO PATIENCE
Let me now just look at a few examples from Quranic stories in the time that remains to try to extract some inspiration from it.
One of the challenges we all face in life is interaction with other human beings and how we communicate with them.
Those human beings may be your family like your parents or your children or your spouse or your siblings or your guardian, etc.
Or they may be your neighbours or your employers or your employees or your business partners.
Or they may be your teachers or your students.
Or they may be your travelling partners or strangers that you interact with.
Or they may be your governors or rulers or your subjects and so on.
Different levels of human relationships brings with it it’s own challenges and one of those challenges relates to communication with them.
The Quran of course gives us general instructions of speaking to people in the best way.
But what happens when there is conflict?
It often says to the Prophet Muhammad (sawa) that he should be “patient” or have sabr regarding what people say.
They called him a magician, a mad person, a poet, and so on – which were all extremely hurtful names – but he was instructed to maintain sabr and he did this in the most amazing manner.
In the conquest of Makka many of his previous arch enemies expected him to execute them, but he forgave them.
PATIENCE OF PROPHET YUSUF (A.S) IN SIBLING RIVALRY
In the story of Prophet Yusuf (a.s) when he was thrown into the well, his brothers lied to their father to say he was eaten by the wolf.
Prophet Yaqub (a.s) did not keep quiet, as patience does not mean to necessarily keep quiet, but he says to them that he will be patient as patience itself is something beautiful.
And how long did he maintain his patience?
He observed patience for over 40 years to the point of becoming blind.
That is how he managed a family dispute.
Many years later when Prophet Yusuf (a.s) was the governor of Egypt, his brothers came to Egypt to look for food.
Prophet Yusuf (a.s) devised a plan to bring his family all back together again. So he caused his brother Bienyamin to appear to be a thief who stole the drinking cup of the king.
The brothers were in shock as it put them into a predicament as Bienyamin would be arrested and they would go back to their father Prophet Yakub (a.s) having lost his trust for a second time.
Without knowing that they were speaking to Prophet Yusuf (a.s), in the heat of the moment and in desperation they said to him the following that we read in Surah Yusuf Verse 77:
قَالُوا إِن يَسْرِقْ فَقَدْ سَرَقَ أَخٌ لَّهُ مِن قَبْلُ
“They said: ‘If he steals, a brother of his had stolen before.’
In other words they were referring to a false allegation about Prophet Yusuf (a.s) that when he was young, he was once a thief.
And they said this in Prophet Yusuf (a.s)’s face, without realizing who they were speaking to and that they were saying something so horrendous about him.
Can you imagine the emotion that Prophet Yusuf (a.s) felt at that point? After more than 40 years, his brothers were still jealous of him such that they would lie about him?
But what did he do? He ramained patient!
The verse continues to say:
فَاَسَرَّهَا يُوسُفُ فِي نَفْسِهِ وَلَمْ يُبْدِهَا لَهُمْ
“But Yusuf kept it secret within his heart and did not reveal it to them.”
It’s like just looking at them with a straight face, while hurting so badly inside you, but not responding.
Instead the verse says:
قَالَ أَنتُمْ شَرٌّ مَّكَاناً وَاللَّهُ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا تَصِفُونَ
“He said: ‘You are in a worse situation, and Allah knows best (the truth) of what you state’.”
Now we may be familiar with these stories, but strangely I find that one can read these stories repeatedly on different occasions and it moves you so much as if you reading about it for the first time!
That is because the Quran is alive and inspires us.
MODESTY OF PROPHET MUSA (A.S) AND DAUGHTERS OF PROPHET SHUAIB (A.S)
So that’s one example of sublime Akhlaq in a situation of dealing with conflict.
And there are many more examples.
Let’s look at another example that’s particularly relevant to us as women but also relevant to men.
And that is the ethical value of modesty.
In Surah Qasas Verses 23 to 26 we learn some sublime lessons on the issue of modesty.
It’s the story of when Prophet Musa (a.s) escaped from Egypt as he discovered that the chiefs were planning to kill him.
He then travels by foot and lands in the City of Madyan.
In this place he comes across a small crowd of people who were shepperds that were giving water to their sheep at a well.
One must remember that at this point in his life that Prophet Musa (a.s) was a young unmarried man.
He then noticed that there were 2 young ladies standing at a little distance from the well and keeping back their sheep and not going forward to the well.
He then realised that the men had surrounded the well and were not giving an opportunity to the women.
Prophet Musa (a.s) then went over to them and is quoted in Verse 23 of Surah Qasas to say to them:
قَالَ مَا خَطْبُكُمَا
“He said: ‘What is the matter with you?'”
In other words he was asking them why they were standing back and not coming forward.
Now listen to their reply for the first sublime lesson in modesty.
Verse 23 continues when it says:
قَالَتَا لاَنَسْقِي حَتَّي يُصْدِرَ الرِّعَآءُ
“They said: ‘We cannot water (our flocks) until the shepherds take away (their sheep from the water)”
In other words, they were not going to mix with strange men who were crowded together wherein there was the possibility that they would touch them and be in too close proximity to them.
Women in the work place should think about whether there are sufficient boundaries to work with modesty.
The second value in modesty that we learn from these young girls is that if you do not have someone to take care of you, like in their case they had no brothers and their father was old, instead of being beggars and dependent on others, you should be prepared to work hard yourself.
Working hard for your own income is part of modesty instead of depending on others.
The story continues that Prophet Musa (a.s) offered to assist them and gave sheep to their water.
Later on their father, who was Prophet Shuaib (a.s) wanted to reward him and asked one of his daughters to go out to call him.
Now we learn a third sublime point in modesty.
Previously Prophet Musa (a.s) interacted with the 2 daughters when they were together.
This time he was only going to interact with one of them.
Do bear in mind that both Prophet Musa (a.s) and this young girl were unmarried.
With this background the Quran so beautifully describes how she approached him.
In Verse 25 read:
فَجآءَتْهُ إِحْدَاهُمَا تَمْشِي عَلَي اسْتِحْيَآءٍ
“And one of the two women came walking to him modestly or bashfully”.
This is a very important part of modesty.
How we walk. Is it to attract attention of strange men?
Why do women walk with high heels other than for their bodies to swing from side to side and attract attention?
The girl informs Prophet Musa (a.s) that he must come home with her to meet her father who wants to reward him.
So he goes home with her and in this part of the story we learn a fourth sublime point about modesty
The hadith narrations indicate to us that she was walking in front as she had to show Prophet Musa (a.s) the way to her father’s house.
But the wind was blowing so hard against her clothes that it was possible for her to become exposed.
So Prophet Musa (a.s) said to her that he will walk in front and she should walk behind him and inform him in that way regarding which direction he had to walk.
In this way she was protected from her body being exposed to a stranger.
PROPHET MUSA (A.S) LEARNING FROM PROPHET KHITHR (A.S) – LESSONS IN TEACHER / STUDENT RELATIONSHIP
So as you can see, the Quranic stories are extremely inspirational and teach us subtle points about Akhlaq.
In the famous story of when the same Prophet Musa (a.s) went to learn from Prophet Khithr (a.s) on another occasion, we find there are a number of sublime subtle points to learn about the teacher student relationship.
Some ideas we extract from this story is about:
- learners being obedient to their teachers
- learners being polite to their teachers
- learners not being demanding upon their teachers
- learning from your teacher through observation
- not asking irrelevant questions that would irritate the teacher
- being patient for the teacher to share their pearls of wisdom with you
- being prepared to travel the world in finding the right teacher
And so on.
So with that brief reflection on how the Quran inspires one, I once again encourage our listeners to spend some time in the remaining part of this Holy Month of Ramadaan read the Quran with the hope of finding these subtle points that inspire you.
Insha’allah my closing dua is that Almighty Allah accepts all our fasting and good action and grants us to find the Night of Qadr and also to accept our commemoration of the Martyrdom of Imam Ali (a.s) on the 21st Ramadaan.
Until next time
والسلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته