Lecture 9 in the Ramadaan series:
UNPACKING THE MOST INTRIGUING QUESTIONS IN THE QURAN
Sunday 3 May 2020 (9 Ramadaan 1441)
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
10 Ramadaan is the anniversary of passing of our dear mother, the first lady of Islam, Lady Khadija al-Kubra (s.a). In today’s discussion, I wish to explore the Quranic ideals and values manifested in the life of Lady Khadija (s.a).
There are 3 verses from the Holy Quran I wish to reference for this discussion. The first is the very well-known verse 78 from Surah Kahf (chapter 18 of the Holy Quran), which narrates the communication between Nabi Moosa (a.s) and Khidr (a.s).
This particular event between Nabi Moosa (a.s) and Khidr (a.s) recorded in the Quran is itself an independent topic with lots of detail and important aspects to be explored and many lessons to be learned. Our wish is to unpack this discussion between Nabi Moosa (a.s) and Khidr (a.s) in the next lecture.
However, today I wish to draw your attention to one aspect of this story, where Khidr (a.s) addresses Nabi Moosa (a.s) in the final part of their journey. Verse 78 from Surah Kahf refers:
قَالَ هَٰذَا فِرَاقُ بَيْنِي وَبَيْنِكَ ۚ سَأُنَبِّئُكَ بِتَأْوِيلِ مَا لَمْ تَسْتَطِعْ عَلَيْهِ صَبْرًا
“He said: This shall be separation between me and you; now I will inform you of the significance of that with which you could not have patience.”
These words at the end of the verse by Khidr (a.s) to Nabi Moosa (a.s) is very important to reflect on. Khidr (a.s) regularly informs Nabi Moosa (a.s) that he will never be able to have patience on the matter at hand. Nabi Moosa (a.s) apologizes, but then after a while he again loses his patience by questioning or criticizing Khidr’s (a.s) actions. Khidr (a.s) responds to Nabi Moosa (a.s) by reminding him “didn’t I tell you that you will never be able to have patience”?
It then reaches the point of the above verse, where Khidr (a.s) says to Nabi Moosa (a.s) that he will explain the philosophy behind his actions, because Nabi Moosa (a.s) is quite restless at being told to be patient. Now, this conversation is happening with Nabi Moosa (a.s), one of the big 5 divine prophets (ulul azm).
LESSONS FROM THE DIALOGUE OF NABI MOOSA (A.S) AND KHIDR (A.S)
Nabi Moosa (a.s) is the most often mentioned Prophet in the Holy Quran. The status, virtue and position of Nabi Moosa (a.s) is not in any way under question.
Who is Khidr (a.s)? According to some scholars, he was also a Prophet (a.s). However, many believe that he was not a Prophet (a.s), but rather a wali. He was somebody very much elevated spiritually, blessed with great mystical understanding of Almighty Allah (SWT).
In this dialogue between Nabi Moosa (a.s) and Khidr (a.s), we find that Nabi Moosa (a.s) could not comprehend what Khidr (a.s) was doing, despite being of the elevated level of Ulul Azm Prophets (a.s). Nabi Moosa (a.s) objects and criticises Khidr (a.s) because he could not understand the secrets, philosophy and reasons behind the actions of Khidr (a.s). Then, Khidr (a.s) again says to Nabi Moosa (a.s) that he told him before, that he (Nabi Moosa (a.s)) won’t be able to tolerate it.
What I am trying to say is that it is amazing that Nabi Moosa (a.s), despite all his great virtues, is unable to handle it from a wali of Allah (SWT), resulting in him questioning and objecting to the actions of Khidr (a.s). The very important lesson here is that we are supposed to surrender before Almighty Allah (SWT). This is the spirit of surrendering wholeheartedly before Almighty Allah (SWT) without questioning and intellectual reasoning and arguments.
Of course, we always say that we MUST understand religion with rationality, but it is not always possible to understand the commands of Almighty Allah (SWT) with rationality. We understand from this event that Khidr (a.s) wanted to teach Nabi Moosa (a.s) that it is not possible to always question and doubt and always argue to understand things rationally.
COMPLETE SURRENDER TO ALLAH (SWT) IS THE KEY HALLMARK OF LADY KHADIJA (S.A)
Khidr (a.s) was explaining that often we need to surrender, and that spirit of surrendering before Almighty Allah (SWT), with the highest level of Imaan (faith) is something else!
Now, this particular quality is amazingly flourished in Lady Khadija al-Kubra (s.a). We speak about different angles of the life of this noble lady, but this aspect of her personality, of surrendering wholeheartedly, is truly remarkable.
Sayyida Khadija (s.a) is a very prominent, influential, businesswoman of Mecca. She came with acclaimed management skills and great respect and dignity in the society, to the extent where she was called Tahira and Sayyida of Quraysh. This was even in the pre-Islamic era in the Meccan society.
Despite this high rank in society, the spirit of surrender in Lady Khadija (s.a) is truly remarkable. When our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) returned from the cave of Hira to Mecca, after receiving the first revelation of “Iqra bismi rabbikalladhee khalaq”, the first person whom he shared his most unique experience with was none other than his dear wife Khadija al-Kubra (s.a).
With this background of Lady Khadija (s.a), where she enjoyed high social status in the Meccan society, it is only natural for one to expect her to question or doubt, or at least pause and advise her husband Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) to double-check and verify. Not at all, as the response from Lady Khadija (s.a) was complete submission!
LADY KHADIJA (S.A) HAD MYSTICAL INTUITION ABOUT THE GREATNESS OF RASULULLAH (SAWA)
Allama Majlisi (r.a), the author of one of the main resources for Hadith in the Shia tradition (Bihar al-Anwar) narrates here that without background she remarks to Rasulullah (SAWA) upon his return by asking “what light do I see shining from your forehead?” Rasulullah (SAWA) replied that this is the light of Prophethood. From here, he explained the main tenets of Islam to her.
She immediately took oath in Rasulullah (SAWA), saying that she believes, she is pleased, she testifies, and she surrenders. This is Khadija al-Kubra (s.a), and the aspect of her personality which is often overlooked.
The concrete position of Khadija (s.a), with absolute certainty and faith in Rasulullah (SAWA) is most remarkable, in that she already had intuition that something special happened to her husband before he even explained. This is evident from her observing a special halo from Rasulullah (SAWA) upon returning from the cave of Hira.
This is the manifestation of the ideal of Quran known as “Tasleem” ie. surrender. This is the constant trend of the life of Lady Khadija (s.a) while married to Rasulullah (SAWA). We never find her doubting or criticizing or wondering why this or why that.
LOYALTY AND WEALTH OF KHADIJA (S.A) WAS MOST INFLUENTIAL TO THE ISLAMIC MISSION
We should not misunderstand this for her being a subdued wife. Instead, what is highlighted here is her level of faith (Imaan) and surrender before the will and commands of Almighty Allah (SWT), such that she accepts without questioning.
This testifying of Lady Khadija (s.a) was so important, so much so that our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) could never forget her unconditional support. People complained to Rasulullah (SAWA) wondering why he still misses his dear Khadija (s.a) long after she has passed away, especially since he was granted a younger wife thereafter.
The response from Rasulullah (SAWA) is of course well-known and overwhelmingly recorded, where he said that Almighty Allah (SWT) has not replaced Khadija (s.a) with anyone better. He said that she believed in him when people chose disbelief, and she testified in him when people rejected him. He goes further to say that she spent her wealth for Islam when people took away. And Almighty Allah (SWT) provided him with children through Khadija (s.a) and none of his subsequent wives.
This unconditional faith of Lady Khadija (s.a) was most invaluable for our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) and the mission of Islam.
KHADIJA (S.A) SPENT FOR ISLAM WITHOUT EXPECTATION OF FAME OR RECOMPENSE
Another very important Quranic ideal reflected in Lady Khadija (s.a) is Infaaq – spending to please Allah (SWT) without expecting anything in return. Verse 262 of Surah Baqarah (chapter 2 of the Holy Quran) refers:
الَّذِينَ يُنْفِقُونَ أَمْوَالَهُمْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ ثُمَّ لَا يُتْبِعُونَ مَا أَنْفَقُوا مَنًّا وَلَا أَذًى ۙ لَهُمْ أَجْرُهُمْ عِنْدَ رَبِّهِمْ وَلَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ
“As for those who spend their property in the way of Allah, then do not follow up what they have spent with reproach or injury, they shall have their reward from their Lord, and they shall have no fear nor shall they grieve.”
Who can be a better example of this verse than Lady Khadija (s.a), from the very first day of Islam?! It would still be an understatement if I say that Lady Khadija (s.a) was a very rich woman in Mecca. She was the most resourceful woman of Mecca. She had unlimited material resources at her disposal, through her vast accumulation of wealth. History has recorded this was truly unique and amazing about Lady Khadija (s.a).
Now, what makes Lady Khadija (s.a) one of a kind is that she gave ALL her wealth for the sake of Allah (SWT), without making mention of it. In her final days of her life, we see her level of humility on display, where she is most concerned about her shortcomings instead of boasting about all her sacrifices for Islam. This is another Quranic ideal displayed by Lady Khadija (s.a).
THE SELFLESS SACRIFICE OF LADY KHADIJA (S.A) REDEFINES GENEROSITY
What Lady Khadija (s.a) did in the form of Infaaq – giving for the sake of Allah (SWT) without any expectation of any favour in return – was much more than generosity. It was Infaaq on an exemplary level. Verse 207 of Surah Baqarah explains the type of person that Lady Khadija (s.a) was, and her unwavering commitment to Islam and tireless support she provided her husband (Rasulullah (SAWA)):
وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَنْ يَشْرِي نَفْسَهُ ابْتِغَاءَ مَرْضَاتِ اللَّهِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ رَءُوفٌ بِالْعِبَادِ
“And there is the type of man who gives his life to earn the pleasure of Allah: And Allah is full of kindness to (His) devotees.”
Another verse to highlight is the following excerpt from verse 9 of Surah Hashr (chapter 59 of the Holy Quran), which refers to Imam Ali (a.s), but the key principle is equally applicable to Lady Khadija (s.a):
وَيُؤْثِرُونَ عَلَىٰ أَنْفُسِهِمْ وَلَوْ كَانَ بِهِمْ خَصَاصَةٌ ۚ
“and prefer (them) before themselves though poverty may afflict them”
The principle established in this verse is that there are people who do not simply spend in the spirit of Infaaq. They have Eethaar, which is much greater than Infaaq. The religious subject matter experts on noble character explain the difference between Infaaq and Eethaar.
They say that Infaaq is to give something which you do not need, meaning it is excess. You have too much and therefore feel the need to give back. This is generosity the way we know it ie. Infaaq. On the other hand, Eethaar is when you give what you need. Here you prefer others over yourself.
Now, in the case of Lady Khadija (s.a), we do not only see free-handed generosity, but rather, she takes it to the supreme level of Eethaar. She gave absolutely everything for the mission of Islam, while she probably needed it the most due to her stature in Meccan society.
Lady Khadija (s.a) could have everything in this world (dunya), but she preferred to give her worldly pursuits (dunya) for the Hereafter (akhirah).
SELFLESS SACRIFICE IS THE SECRET TO REACH ALMIGHTY ALLAH (SWT)
We find in Hadith recorded from the Ahlul Bait (a.s), that Eethaar (selfless sacrifice) is the best level of kindness and the highest level of faith. Hence, we find that Eethaar is very, very important for those wanting to really travel on the journey of spirituality and love of Almighty Allah (SWT).
Abu Nu`aym al-Isfahani was a Persian Muslim scholar of 1000 years ago and wrote an important piece of work called Hilyat al-Awliya, wherein he defines Tasawwuf (mysticism) by saying that Eethaar is one of the basic elements of mysticism and pure spirituality. He says that spirituality is a tree of love which can only be fed with the water of Eethaar (selfless sacrifice). This is because love is the mode of transportation of a mystic to Almighty Allah (SWT).
That love has certain consequences of which the most important one is Eethaar. This is when you start to forget yourself and truly believe that you are nothing.
We have all heard that most remarkable Hadith Qudsi of spirituality, where Almighty Allah (SWT) says:
“whoever is seeking for Me, finds Me;
Who found Me, knows Me;
Who knew Me, loves Me;
Who loves Me, I have deep love for Him too;
Whoever I love, I kill;
Whoever I kill has compensation (blood money) expected from Me;
And I am the compensation for such a person!
When love reaches this deep level, then there is nothing by the name of oneself remaining, but Eethaar is there. This Eethaar in Lady Khadija (s.a) is on the highest level.
HARDSHIPS OF LADY KHADIJA (S.A) AT THE END OF HER LIFE
Where is this most resourceful woman of Mecca in her earlier life compared to the later part of her life where she experienced 3 years of isolation in Shahb of Abu Talib, along with her husband Rasulullah (SAWA) and his committed, loyal companions helping them out and taking care. This was when they hardly had anything to eat and drink most of time.
This sacrifice shows what type of love ruled over the heart of Lady Khadija (s.a), where this material world was worth absolutely nothing in her eyes. She was not feeling upset over the material wealth she gave up for becoming the wife of Rasulullah (SAWA).
She read the following poetry to express her love for Rasulullah (SAWA), which is the source of the Eethaar and her selfless sacrifice:
“If I have everything and this material world becomes my property,
It will not even be worth the wing of a mosquito for me,
If my eye is not looking on your eyes.”
History has recorded what she endured during that difficult 3 year period in Shahb Abu Talib, where she did not even survive a few months after coming out from this period. What difficult and sad days it was for Rasulullah (SAWA) when she was bedridden, as he had to reconcile with the reality that his most beloved, loyal, committed companion is going to depart this world.
After doing so much for Islam from the onset until the end of her life, history has recorded that she asked her daughter, Lady Fatima (s.a) to request from Rasulullah (SAWA) if he can first go into her grave, because his presence in her grave will bless it and protect it from punishment. Her second request through Lady Fatima (s.a) was to ask Rasulullah (SAWA) if she can be buried in that cloak which he wore when he received revelation, so that she can be protected from the punishment of the grave.
She was too shy to ask Rasulullah (SAWA) directly, and therefore requested Lady Fatima (s.a) to assist with this request. She was worried about how she is going to cope with the first night in the grave. Despite her most significant sacrifice and tireless service for Islam, she is worried about how she is going to face her Lord (SWT). This is another great Quranic quality manifested in Lady Khadija (s.a).