The Qur’an for Youthful Minds
Surah No.2, Al-Baqarah
Syed Iqbal Zaheer
 (As against Hellfire for the unbelievers), give glad news to those who believe and do righteous deeds, that for them are gardens beneath which rivers flow. Whensoever they are served there with a fruit to eat, they will say, ‘We (seem to) have been served this before,’ – and they will be (in fact) served with the like of it. And for them shall be partners purified, living there forever.
The previous verses mentioned the sorry end of the Unbelieving party. They were given the choice to either bring something similar to the Qur’an, which they always thought was produced by a human – or win a ticket to Hellfire. They gladly chose the ticket. (Note the following statement: “Muhammad was a poet rather than a philosopher,” E. B. Havell, Aryan Rule in India, p. 209).
So, why should they be angry with those who want no ticket for Hellfire? They can see that mankind could not bring something like the Qur’an. They said, “Let’s be reasonable. Dozens and dozens of unbelieving Arabic experts have been translating the Qur’an into Spanish, English, French, German, Japanese and so many other languages, since 1400 years. Instead of simply translating it, they could write a new book with the same contents as the Qur’an. They – none of them – did it. But instead, some of them said that the like of it cannot be produced.”
“So,” they said to themselves, “let us be reasonable, and get no ticket.” Why then the world is angry with them? And they are not tired of being angry with them. Since 1400 years they have been angry. Every time they find a new excuse to be angry with them.
The ways of their Lord too seem to be mysterious. They believe in something which is a matter of commonsense. But He rewards them with Paradise! It’s like somebody saying at noon, “Believe that the sun is out, and you get a billion dollars.” Who would argue about the sun at noon except the blind, cold blind, or the most stupid?
The other price is itself a prize in this world: good deeds. Whenever the humans produce it in this life, there is joy … and happiness … and peace. You spend out on the needy, and you are already a hero. There is applause all over. You devote some hours to your Lord, and you earn respect among the people. So, why be rewarded with Paradise? There seems to be no justification. But strange are the ways of your Lord.
Among the rewards it says, “beneath which rivers flow.” It appears that in Paradise, their villas would be at a height, perhaps on hills, beneath which rivers would be flowing. How lovely a scene! Why would some people choose a ticket, one wonders.
And the foods and the fruits served by the palace attendants. Angels serving things similar, like those served last time, but so different in taste. But something is missing. What is it? Company.
Look at a 4-5 year old baby. How cute, coy, innocent, shy, and recoiling within the self! A pearl, sweet and lovable. Such will be the companions – your own – in Paradise.
Should a Muslim be Proud?
They ask you about the sacred month about fighting therein. Say, ‘Fighting therein is great [sin],” and we totally condemn such actions that are perpetrated by heretical terrorists. Islam is a religion of peace. An unfamiliar verse, but nonetheless not far removed from the type of responses that many Muslims proffer in their feeble attempts to shield Islamic principles that are intermittently under attack. A simpleton may question the apparent variances between divine responses and those of such people who are apparently exercising wisdom and intellect in order to portray Islam in what they believe to be the best possible light. Closer inspection of the situation would illustrate, perhaps, that the observations of the simpleton reveal a flaw in the responses of our modern day defenders of the faith – a lack of pride and honour in Islam.
The pride I am referring to here is the ‘feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from achievements, qualities, or possessions’, ‘Consciousness of one’s own dignity,’ and ‘a sense of one’s own proper dignity or value; self-respect.’ While honour is ‘a clear sense of what is morally right,’ and ‘personal integrity; allegiance to moral principles.’
This, clearly, is not the pride that is forbidden in Islam; rather this is historical pride and honour which the Prophet (peace be upon him) filled the hearts of the believers with, and which Allah defends His religion and its followers with, and with which the companions (may Allah be pleased with them) spread Islam to the expansive empires of their time with; a pride and honour with which Allah, the Mighty and Majestic defends Islam and the Muslims when they are accused of transgression, outlining the greater transgression of their opponents:
“They ask you about the sacred month about fighting therein. Say, “Fighting therein is great [sin], but averting [people] from the way of Allah and disbelief in Him and [preventing access to] al-Masjid al-Haram and the expulsion of its people there from are greater [evil] in the sight of Allah. And fitnah is greater than killing.”
A pride and honour with which Salman Al-Farsi (may Allah be pleased with him) answered the polytheist who mockingly questioned the need for divine guidance in answering the call of nature. Rather than being embarrassed by Islam’s holistic teachings, he assertively replied, “Yes, indeed! He has forbidden us from facing the direction of prayer when urinating or defecating.”
A pride and honour with which ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) protested, “Are we not on the right path in this life and the Hereafter?’
To which the Prophet [peace be upon him] answered: “Of course you are! I swear by Allâh in Whose Hand my soul is, you are upon the truth in this world and in the Hereafter.”
Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said in response, “Why then must we conduct ourselves secretively. I swear by Allâh Who has sent you with the Truth, we will leave our concealment and proclaim our noble cause publicly.”
He then proceeded to march with the Muslims to pray openly at the Ka’bah at a time when the oppression and torture of the Muslims was at its height.
This pride in the religion of the Creator is without doubt a praiseworthy one and something that emanates from the honour that Islam demands, “And to Allah belongs all honour, and to His Messenger, and to the believers”
As for blameworthy pride, then that is ‘the quality of having an excessively high opinion of oneself’, and “arrogant or disdainful conduct or treatment; haughtiness.’ This is, of course, dispraised and more often than not based on nationality, wealth, status, intellect, being ‘Western’ etc. No less blameworthy is the lack of pride and honour in what has been divinely revealed to us from Islam; a defect which seems to be, in many cases, caused by an inferiority complex and something which causes Muslims to go on the defensive, bending over backwards to show the compatibility of Islam with Western values and ideals. The hijab thus becomes a mere expression of modesty similar to that which is displayed by nuns, jihad becomes a last resort and only applicable in self defence, polygyny becomes restricted by a host of conditions making it, for all practical purposes, an impossibility, and the Shari’ah is explained in a watered-down and liberalised model that is aspiration for dark-skinned people in far-off lands who have not tasted civilisation and the enlightenment that it brings to the mind.
As for the responses presented in the divine sources from the Words of Allah, the Mighty and Majestic, His honourable Messenger (peace be upon him) and his blessed, chosen companions (may Allah be pleased with them), then we see expressions replete with honour and dignity; responses that recognise their own superiority as well as the inferiority of their adversaries, and which have the assurance to go on the offensive instead of exhausting all efforts in defending every accusation in a futile manner.
An example of such a response was beautifully illustrated by the honourable companion Rabi’ ibn Aamir (May Allah be pleased with him), when he entered into the presence of Rostum, the leader of the Persian army, in response to his request for negotiations. The pomp and glitter of the magnificent reception laid out by the Persians in no way made this bedouin feel inferior or leave him in awe. Instead, he marched forward, indifferently, in his ragged clothes and on his short-legged horse refusing demands to drop his arms.
Tying his horse to Rostum’s throne, the latter, taken aback, asked, “What brings you?”
Rabi’ (may Allah be pleased with him) responded with his unforgettable words, “Allah has sent us to free mankind from the worship of people to the worship of Allah, from the narrowness of this life to the expanse of the Hereafter and from the oppression of other religions to the justice of Islam. Allah has sent us to His creatures with His religion. Whoever accepts it, we will accept that from him and whoever refuses, we shall fight him until we attain the promise of Allah.”
“And what is His promise?” asked Rostom.
“Paradise for those who die and victory for those who survive,” replied Rabi’ (may Allah be pleased with him). He then refused to give the Persians any longer than three days to deliberate and left in the unique majesty that only those who stand up for the truth can experience.
Such was the honour with which the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) carried themselves. Despite being materially inferior to their enemies, they were not distracted from their certainty in the superiority of their own faith and principle-based civilisation; a civilisation based on the divine teachings of the Creator of the heavens and the earth and everything else that exists. We should thus realise that honour will not return to us through empty material, industrial or intellectual advances; rather, it will only make a comeback when we recognise and realise the timeless words of Caliph ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him):
“We were a people who lived in humiliation and then Allah gave us honour through Islam. Accordingly, if we were to seek honour through anything other than Islam, Allah would humiliate us once again.”
Did You Know That…?
- Though human noses have an impressive five million olfactory cells with which to smell, sheepdogs have 220 million, enabling them to smell 44 times better than man.
- Using their swiveling ears like radar dishes, experiments have shown that dogs can locate the source of a sound in 6/100ths of a second.
- The theobromine in chocolate that stimulates the cardiac and nervous systems is too much for dogs, especially smaller pups. A chocolate bar is poisonous to dogs and can even be lethal.
- There are 701 types of pure breed dogs.
- The phrase ‘raining cats and dogs’ originated in seventeenth century England. During heavy downpours of rain, many of these poor animals unfortunately drowned and their bodies would be seen floating in the rain torrents that raced through the streets. The situation gave the appearance that it had literally rained ‘cats and dogs’ and led to the current expression.
- The first seeing-eye dog was presented to a blind person on April 25, 1938.
- The common belief that dogs are color blind is false. Dogs can see color, but it is not as vivid a color scheme as we see. They distinguish between blue, yellow, and gray, but probably do not see red and green. This is much like our vision at twilight.
- Some 39% of pet owners say they have more photos of their pet than of their spouse or significant other. Only 21% say they have more photos of their spouse or significant other than of their pet.
- Scientists have discovered that dogs can smell the presence of autism in children.
- ‘Seizure Alert’ dogs can alert their owners up to an hour before the onset of an epileptic seizure.
- Most pet owners (94%) say their pet makes them smile more than once a day.
- It has been established that people who own pets live longer, have less stress, and have fewer heart attacks.
- Every known dog except the chow has a pink tongue – the chow’s tongue is jet black.
- Every year, $1.5 billion is spent on pet food. This is four times the amount spent on baby food.
- Many of the Crusaders are represented with their feet on a dog, to show that they followed the standard of the Lord as faithfully as a dog follows the footsteps of his master.
- Dogs are mentioned fourteen times in the Bible.
- Dogs can hear sounds that are too faint for us to hear, and also can hear noises at a much higher frequency than we can. Their hearing is so good that they probably rely more on sound than on sight to navigate their world.
- Before the enactment of the 1978 law that made it mandatory for dog owners in New York City to clean up after their pets, approximately 40 million pounds of dog excrement were deposited on the streets every year.
- Cats have better memories than dogs. Tests conducted by the University of Michigan concluded that while a dogs memory lasts no more than five minutes, a cat’s can last as long as sixteen hours – exceeding even that of monkeys and orangutans.
- Cats have more than one hundred vocal sounds, while dogs only have about ten.
- Cats, not dogs, are the most common pets in America. There are approximately 66 million cats to 58 million dogs, with Parakeets a distant third at fourteen million.
- Contrary to popular belief, dogs do not sweat by salivating. They sweat through the pads of their feet.
- An estimated one million dogs in the United States have been named the primary beneficiary in their owner’s will.
- The word ‘Kalb’ is mentioned five times in the Qur’an. It is used to describe people who reject the signs of Allah. (Incidentally they are also mentioned five times in the Qur’an).
The Rose Within
A certain man planted a rose and watered it faithfully and before it blossomed, he examined it. He saw the bud that would soon blossom, but noticed thorns upon the stem and he thought:
“How can any beautiful flower come from a plant burdened with so many sharp thorns?
Saddened by this thought, he neglected to water the rose, and just before it was ready to bloom… it died. So it is with many people. Within every soul there is a rose. The God-like qualities planted in us at birth, grow amid the thorns of our faults. Many of us look at ourselves and see only the thorns, the defects.
We despair, thinking that nothing good can possibly come from us. We neglect to water the good within us, and eventually it dies. We never realize our potential.
Some people do not see the rose within themselves; someone else must show it to them. One of the greatest gifts a person can possess is to be able to reach past the thorns of another, and find the rose within them.
This is one of the characteristic of love… to look at a person, know their true faults and accepting that person into your life… all the while recognizing the nobility in their soul.
Help others to realize they can overcome their faults. If we show them the ‘rose’ within themselves, they will conquer their thorns. Only then will they blossom many times over.
A Bamboo Tree
A farmer had a cluster of beautiful bamboo trees. One day, he stood before the tallest one and said, “My friend, I need you.”
“Sir,” said the bamboo, “Use me in any way you wish, I am ready.”
Then the gardener’s voice became serious and he said, “In order to use you, I’ve got to split you in half.” Then the bamboo reacted, “Split me! Oh, no… I’m the nicest bamboo in this garden. Use me in any way you wish, but please don’t split me in half.”
“Well,” said the gardener, “If I can’t split you, I can’t use you.”
The bamboo went silent. Then it bowed its head and said, “Okay. If the only way you can use me, is by splitting me, go ahead.”
“But that’s not all,” said the gardener. “I am going to have to cut off all your branches.”
“That will be the end of my beauty,” the bamboo said. “But – if that’s the only way I can be of use – cut me down altogether.”
So the farmer cut down the bamboo, removed its branches and split it down the middle. After hollowing out its insides, he brought it to a spring of water. It became a pipe to bring water to the gardens and make them fertile and fruitful.
It gave its life to help other lives. Everyday right around us people are giving their lives that we might live… Take our parents, our teachers, social workers, scholars etc.
“He who saved a single life it is as if has saved the whole of humanity; and he who destroyed a single life it is as if he has destroyed the whole of humanity.” (Qur’an)