Lecture 21 in the Ramadaan series:
REFLECTIONS ON SURAH ISRAA’
5 May 2021 (23RD night of Ramadaan 1442)
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
This night is so great, that the whole chapter of Surah Qadr is dedicated to describing the magnanimity of this night. Surah Qadr (chapter 97 of the Holy Quran), which we all know by heart, reads as follows:
إِنَّا أَنْزَلْنَاهُ فِي لَيْلَةِ الْقَدْرِ
“Surely We revealed it on the grand night.
وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا لَيْلَةُ الْقَدْرِ
And what will make you comprehend what the grand night is?
لَيْلَةُ الْقَدْرِ خَيْرٌ مِنْ أَلْفِ شَهْرٍ
The grand night is better than a thousand months.
تَنَزَّلُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ وَالرُّوحُ فِيهَا بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِمْ مِنْ كُلِّ أَمْرٍ
The angels and Gibreel descend in it by the permission of their Lord for every affair,
سَلَامٌ هِيَ حَتَّىٰ مَطْلَعِ الْفَجْرِ
Peace! it is till the break of the morning.”
Let us pray to Almighty Allah (SWT) to accept our A’maal and duas in this sacred night, Insha Allah. May Almighty Allah (SWT) grant us the Taufeeq to again benefit from the nights of Qadr.
In this important night, we also remember our dearly departed souls, some of them recently over the past year due to the terrible coronavirus. Let us remember our parents especially, whom we are always supposed to remember in our duas, but more particularly on these sacred nights of Qadr. Let us read a Surah Fateha for these dearly departed souls from our community, our parents and relatives.
QURAN PROVIDES THE STRONGEST EVIDENCE FOR THE POWER OF LAILATUL QADR
The value of every minute of this night is absolutely priceless. This is evident from Surah Qadr noted above.
What greater evidence of this night can we ask for beyond the Holy Quran. It is not as if we are referring to Hadith narrations, where one can question its authenticity, because our point of reference for the critical importance of the nights of Qadr is from the Holy Quran itself! Hence, there clearly cannot be any iota of doubt regarding the significance of this night.
So, this is the most important night of the year, which should be kept alive. Trust me, nothing is going to happen if you hardly get any sleep on this night. The world is not going to crumble, nor will you all of a sudden get sick.
We therefore need to maximize these nights, as every minute of these sacred nights will be a great help on the Day of Judgement, and also on the day when we are buried in our graves and everyone will depart, leaving us alone, as if they never knew us!
EVERY LITTLE BIT ON THE SACRED NIGHT OF QADR CARRIES EXPONENTIAL REWARDS
This is a humble reminder that, whatever we can do in these nights of Qadr is great, from the recitation of the Holy Quran, where the recitation of Surah Qadr is recommended to be recited more than 1000 times! Anything which we do on these nights of Qadr carry exponential rewards, as it is greater than a thousand months, as noted in Surah Qadr.
Even reading a good book is great in the nights of Qadr. Shaykh Abbas Qummi, the great scholar of the 19th century who compiled various books, including the commonly used book of duas “Mafatih al-Jinan” which we benefit from all the time, has recorded so many duas recommended for the auspicious nights of Qadr, such that there simply is not enough time to get through them all, even if the nights were super long!
Interestingly, after he compiled all these recommended duas, he said that there is no greater Ibadah (act of worship) than the discussion and seeking of knowledge!
While rituals in these nights are very important, charity is absolutely crucial too in these nights of Qadr, with exponentially greater rewards. And there are more and more opportunities to earn reward by taking care of the most needy in today’s desperate times. Even more important is to do some form of charity on behalf of our deceased parents. This is amongst the best of deeds in such sacred nights.
VERSES FROM SURAH ISRAA’ ABOUT THE VIRTUES OF THE HOLY QURAN
Of course, as we all know, the night of Qadr is all about the Holy Quran and hence, our attention must be dedicated extensively towards the Holy Quran.
Since our theme for the month of Ramadaan has been focused on the commentary and reflections on Surah Israa’ (chapter 17 of the Holy Quran), it is most appropriate to discuss a few verses from this chapter relevant to these nights of Qadr, as there are a few verses discussed here about the Holy Quran directly.
In this regard, I would like to draw attention to verses 82, 88 and 105 of Surah Israa’:
وَنُنَزِّلُ مِنَ الْقُرْآنِ مَا هُوَ شِفَاءٌ وَرَحْمَةٌ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ ۙ وَلَا يَزِيدُ الظَّالِمِينَ إِلَّا خَسَارًا
“We send down (stage by stage) in the Qur’an that which is a healing and a mercy to those who believe: to the unjust it causes nothing but loss after loss.”
قُلْ لَئِنِ اجْتَمَعَتِ الْإِنْسُ وَالْجِنُّ عَلَىٰ أَنْ يَأْتُوا بِمِثْلِ هَٰذَا الْقُرْآنِ لَا يَأْتُونَ بِمِثْلِهِ وَلَوْ كَانَ بَعْضُهُمْ لِبَعْضٍ ظَهِيرًا
“Say: “If the whole of mankind and Jinns were to gather together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not produce the like thereof, even if they backed up each other with help and support.”
وَبِالْحَقِّ أَنْزَلْنَاهُ وَبِالْحَقِّ نَزَلَ ۗ وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلَّا مُبَشِّرًا وَنَذِيرًا
“We sent down the (Qur’an) in Truth, and in Truth has it descended: and We sent thee but to give Glad Tidings and to warn (sinners).”
There are other relevant verses in Surah Israa’ as well, but these verses give us a glimpse into the beautiful discussions in this chapter regarding the Holy Quran itself.
THE HOLY QURAN AS A CURE FOR DISEASES OF OUR SOUL
Going back to verse 82, we understand that Almighty Allah (SWT) describes the Holy Quran as a cure and a mercy! What does this mean, especially since Almighty Allah (SWT) has described the Holy Quran as a cure in other verses elsewhere in the Holy Quran as well?
We have a body and a soul. Our bodies require medication when it gets sick. We think that our souls don’t get sick, when in fact it does! We all know of the fatal consequences of cancer, which destroys your body. Truth be told, there are many cancers killing our souls too, and then all that remains is the body! When this happens, you are simply the walking dead!
We read at the end of verse 82, that when the soul is dead, “it causes nothing but loss after loss”. The same Holy Quran, which is a remedy, becomes a poison for the unjust! Amazingly, there are various verses in the Holy Quran which explains it as a Shifaa (cure), but then there are various verses in the Holy Quran which explains it as a disease (maradh)!
If our hearts are clean and our souls are healthy, we will indeed benefit from the Holy Quran. And if our soul is sick, we will misuse the same Quranic verses and take ourselves to the Hellfire of Jahannum!
Common diseases of the soul which destroys us are:
- Ego and arrogance;
- Constantly competing with others to undermine them;
- Thinking ill about others;
- Being drowned in the illusions of this material world (dunya)!
DIFFERENT TYPES OF CURES OFFERED BY THE HOLY QURAN
Now, the Holy Quran is a Shifaa (cure) for all these diseases, as referenced in verse 82. Important for us to seek the remedy from the Holy Quran before our souls die, in the same way that you cannot go to the doctor after a person passes away! The doctor cannot do anything to help at that point, other than issue your death certificate!
So, when our souls get sick, we should not delay in getting the disease of the soul treated with the remedy of the Holy Quran! There is so much to discuss on this subject of how the Holy Quran remedies, and the different types of cures it offers.
The first type is through enlightening our hearts and taking our thinking to a different level. Let us understand this through a practical example, namely jealousy, which is one of the terrible diseases of the soul.
Jealousy is when someone has, but we do not. Now, as a remedy for this, the Holy Quran takes your thinking to a level where these material haves and have nots don’t matter, because there is Almighty Allah (SWT) who controls everything, so it does not matter who has more in this material world.
The Holy Quran broadens the horizon of our souls, and when the expansion of our chests occurs, then these diseases cannot affect us. So, through our enlightened ideology and vision, the Holy Quran acts as a treatment.
BEAUTIFUL ANECDOTE OF A THIEF BECOMING A GREAT MYSTIC THROUGH HEARING THE HOLY QURAN
The words of the Holy Quran itself have a magical effect, such that it melts the heart! There is the well-known story about a thief about to jump over a wall to gain unauthorized entry to someone’s house, but then the thief heard the Holy Quran being recited from one of the rooms, and that deterred him from jumping over the wall to commit the intended theft.
The person inside the house was reading verse 16 of Surah Hadid (chapter 57 of the Holy Quran), which caused the thief to fall from the wall upon hearing it and hence did not commit the crime:
أَلَمْ يَأْنِ لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَنْ تَخْشَعَ قُلُوبُهُمْ لِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ وَمَا نَزَلَ مِنَ الْحَقِّ وَلَا يَكُونُوا كَالَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ مِنْ قَبْلُ فَطَالَ عَلَيْهِمُ الْأَمَدُ فَقَسَتْ قُلُوبُهُمْ ۖ وَكَثِيرٌ مِنْهُمْ فَاسِقُونَ
“Has not the Time arrived for the Believers that their hearts in all humility should engage in the remembrance of Allah and of the Truth which has been revealed (to them), and that they should not become like those to whom was given Revelation aforetime, but long ages passed over them and their hearts grew hard? For many among them are rebellious transgressors.”
This verse addresses the people for whom there is some sort of hope, for them to humble down for the remembrance of Almighty Allah (SWT). The thief who fell from the wall after hearing this came to the realisation that the time did indeed arrive! This person went through an internal revolution through this verse, and he changed from being a thief to a big mystic (aarif)!
THE HOLY QURAN AS A CURE AND MERCY
The verses of the Holy Quran can also be a cure to bodily diseases. This is a well-established fact recorded in the Hadith traditions of the Ahlul Bait (a.s). An example is Surah Fateha, where there is a Hadith which says that there is no disease which cannot be cured by this opening chapter of the Holy Quran! Similarly, Surah Falaq (chapter 113) or Surah Nas (chapter 114) or certain verses of Surah Fussilat (chapter 41).
So, this is another effect that the verses of the Holy Quran have in curing bodily diseases, but the major cure of the Holy Quran is in regard to the diseases of the mind and soul!
Now, verse 82 of Surah Israa’ says that the Holy Quran has been sent as a remedy and a mercy. The difference between the two is that “Shifaa” refers to treatment of diseases, whereas “Rahmah” is to decorate you with the love of Almighty Allah (SWT)!
The grand mystics (Urafaa) say that these are two phases, the first being to empty our hearts with the diseases of the soul (Shifaa) and the result of this is that the mercy (Rahmah) of Almighty Allah (SWT) descends on that heart, once it is cleaned from the diseases noted in the first phase.
Let us pray to Almighty Allah (SWT), that indeed our hearts are hardened, but He is capable of softening them. We beg Him that our hearts be treated and enlightened by the Holy Quran and receive mercy from the Holy Quran. We especially beg from Almighty Allah (SWT) to reward us in these sacred nights of Qadr with Shifaa and Rahmah of the Holy Quran!
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