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Huroof-e-Muqatta`aat - Farahi's Theory
Friday, 30 May 1997 00:00
More than one-fourth of the Quranic Surahs begins with certain abbreviated letters called Huroof-i-Muqatta'aat.
These letters are actually the names of the respective surahs, as is evident from the Quran. Many Ahaadith as well as the pre-Islamic Arabic literature endorse this view. However, there remains the question of why the surahs are called so. Many scholars have attempted to answer the question but what they have come up with is not very satisfactory, Farahi (d:1930 AD) has presented an explanation which might hold the key to the problem. We shall briefly discuss his theory.
Those who are aware of the history of the Arabic alphabet know that it has been derived from the Hebrew alphabet, which itself has its roots in the alphabet used in ancient Arabia. Farahi is of the view that the letters of this parent alphabet as English and Hindi do
not represent phonetic sounds only, but as the Chinese alphabet symbolize certain meanings and objects and usually assume the shape of the objects and meanings they convey. He goes on to assert that it was these letters which the early Egyptians adopted and after adapting them according to their own concepts founded the hieroglyphic script from them. The remnants of this script can be seen in the tables of the Egyptian Pyramids.
The science which deciphers the meanings of these letters is now extinct. However, there are some letters whose meanings have persisted to this day, and the way they are written also somewhat resembles their ancient forms. For example, it is known about the Arabic letter Alif that it is used to mean a cow and was represented by a cow's head. The letter Bay in Hebrew is called Bait and means Bait (house) as well. The Hebrew pronunciation of Jeem is Jaimal which means Jamal (camel). Tuai stands for a serpent and is written in a serpent's shape also. Meem represents a water wave and also has a similar configuration.
Farahi presents Surah Noon in support of his theory. The letter Noon still denotes its ancient meaning of fish. In this Surah, the Prophet Jonah (sws) has been addressed as Saahib-ul-Hoot that is he who is swallowed by a whale. Farahi opines that it is because of this reference that the Surah is called Noon. He goes on to say that if one keeps in consideration the example given above, it is quite likely that the abbreviated letters by which other Surahs commence are placed at the beginning of the Surahs to symbolize a relation between the topics of a particular Surah and their own ancient connotations.
Some other names of the Quranic Surahs reinforce Farahi's theory. Surah Taaha, for example, begins with the letter Tuai which represents a serpent, as has been indicated before. After a brief introduction the tale of Moses and his staff which is transformed into a snake has been depicted in it. Other Surahs as Taaseen and Taaseen Meem, which begin with the letter Tuai, also portray this miraculous episode.
Surah Baqarah, which begins with the letter alif, is another example which further strengthens Farahi's claims. It has been indicated before that the letter Alif had the meaning of a cow associated with it and is represented by a cow's head. Surah Baqarah, as we all know, contains the anecdote of a cow and its sacrifice.
Another aspect of the Surahs which begin with the same letter is a similarity in their topics and even in their style and construction. For example, all Surahs which begin with Alif basically deal with Tauheed (monotheism). It would be appropriate here to point out that the letter alif also stood for Allah, the One and Alone.
We have presented here Farahi's theory only because it is substantiated to some extent with sound arguments. It must be conceded that the theory needs to be developed and verified still further if it is to be accepted as the only logical explanation of why the Quranic Surahs are so named.
Copyright (c) 1997. All Rights Reserved with the Author
Last Updated on Friday, 10 December 2010 15:49
The Lesson I Learned
Thursday, 27 March 2003 17:07
Much as I wish to live a happy life I am compelled to live a miserable one. My aspirations are shattered and my dreams are eroded beyond repair. The peace and serenity I plan to bring to my life is somehow impeded by the irony of fate. One after the other, obstacles keep popping up eventually leaving me weary and tired. Paradoxically, the more perseverance I demonstrate, the more trying circumstances I am put through. The increased patience instead of attracting the favors of Heaven adds to my misery and grief. So much so, the friends and the relations I trust and hold dear seem to have but little time for my recurring problems. The earth appears to narrow for all its spaciousness while the Almighty seems to be so ignorant of the inequity. As I deliberate, this hum of complaints turns into a full-blown pandemonium engendering in me feelings of hopelessness and confusion. My desperation reaches to the extent that I clutch my head between my fists to stop the echo when suddenly a voice whispers in my ears and says:
'This is so typical of humans. They jump so quickly to forming conclusions no matter if it is their Creator and Cherisher they are going to pronounce a judgment against. How could it be that their Master would be ignorant of their circumstances? It is He who places some in difficult times and some in prosperity according to His own ordained scheme. The underlying objective, however, remains to test them which one of them is good in deeds. The truth is nothing can ever escape the watch of the Omni-present and no notion passes through a person's heart but He is aware of it all. The fact that must be appreciated is that He is completely devoid of the hastiness that man is brimful with. He neither rushes to punish the wrong doers nor does He hurry to reward the pious. His scheme is firm and His strategy is based on all embracing wisdom and sagacity. He has indeed laid down many objectives for the pains and agonies that a person has to suffer in this world:
To shield him from greater misery (18:74, 18:79),
To give him the opportunity to earn reward by showing patience (3:142, 76:12),
To make him mend his ways (30:41),
To punish him for his misdoings (42:30).
Hence, if it is not for preventing him to attract more problems then it is for awarding him a chance to show perseverance in order to win fabulous rewards. And if it is not for cleansing him of his sins, it is for him to suffer punishment in this very world to avoid the greater one in the Hereafter. In a nutshell, as one test completes fulfilling the first objective, the next begins to achieve the second one. Thus move on the wheels of life always in the favor of the rider provided he understands and appreciates the scheme of the Almighty by surrendering to His will in all circumstances.
Another fact that a believer must keep in mind is that the Almighty has ordained that relief shall immediately follow the hardships (94:5-6). He should be hopeful that ease would replace the difficulty when the appointed time comes. The virtue of patience if adhered to will illuminate his path to help him cruise through difficulties to his destination. No doubt, there come times in a person's life when the flame of this virtue flickers and a sudden upsurge of emotional weariness endeavor to extinguish it for good. But then the Almighty has provided him with another weapon to protect and nourish it. A prayer rekindles the flame of hope and gives the seeker strength and courage to better combat the tough circumstances. He should place all his feelings and emotions in his stretched out hands and present them humbly before his Master. The Ever Merciful would surely accept the 'gift' and always return the seeker with a better one...'
You who have done great things,
O God, who is like You?
You who have made me see many
troubles and calamities
will revive me again;
from the depths of the earth
You will bring me up again.
You will increase my honor,
and comfort me once again.
Last Updated on Friday, 10 December 2010 15:47
How Many Angels Visited Mary?
Sunday, 19 April 1998 00:00
Mr. Jochen Katz, in one of his articles titled: "How many angels were talking to Mary?" has stated that the two narratives in the Qur'an regarding the incident when the angels of Allah visited Mary to give her the news of the birth of Jesus -- the Christ -- are in contradiction with one another. In the first instance, the Qur'an says that "angels" (i.e. the word in its plural form, implying, in Arabic language, that there were at least three) visited Mary. While in the second instance, it says that there was only one.
Writes Mr. Katz:
There are (at least) two passages in the Qur'an relating the annunciation of Jesus' birth to Mary.
Behold! the angels said: "O Mary! Allah has chosen thee ...
Behold! the angels said: "O Mary! Allah gives thee glad tidings ...
-- Sura 3:42 & 45
Then we sent to her Our angel, and he appeared before he as a man in all respects. She said: "I seek refuge from thee to (Allah) Most Gracious: (Come not near) If thou dost fear Allah."
-- Sura 19:17-18
How many angels came to Mary? One or three or more? [Correct me if the word for "angel" is in the dual, but if it is plural then there have to be at least three.]
The object of this article is to give answers to the objections raised by Mr. Katz in this respect.
Let us first of all consider the related verses of the Qur'an. In Surah Aal Imraan, the Qur'an says:
And bring to mind when the angels said: "Mary, God has chosen you; He has purified you and has exalted you above all other women of the world". "Mary, be obedient to your Lord, bow down and submit [to Him] with those that submit". This is an account of a hidden event. We reveal it to you. You were not present when they cast lots to see which of them shall have charge of Mary; nor were you present when they argued about her.
Bring to mind when the angels said: "Mary, God gives you glad tidings of a "word" from Him; his name shall be the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary; he shall be noble in this world as well as in the hereafter; and he shall be amongst those who are close [to God]; he shall preach to people, while in his cradle and while in the prime of manhood; and he shall be a righteous man." She said: "Lord, how can I bear a child, when no man has [even] touched me?" He replied: "Even so it shall happen as told. God creates what He wills; when He decides a thing, He needs only say 'Be', and it is." (3: 43 - 47)
In Surah Maryam, the Qur'an says:
And recount in the book, the story of Mary. [The time] when she left her people and took for herself a place to the eastern side and hid herself from them. We sent to her Our spirit, which appeared to her as a perfect man. She said: "I give myself to the protection of the All Mercy (i.e. Al-Rahmaan) from you, if you fear Him." He replied: "I am but a messenger of your Lord and have come to gift you a boy, pure [from sin]". She asked: "How can I bear a child, when a man has never even touched me and neither have I ever been unchaste?" He said: "Thus shall it happen; your Lord says: It is easy for me." (19: 16 - 21)
Before explaining my point of view regarding these verses, I would first like to clarify that we can call two phenomena "contradictory" when there is no possible explanation that can, in any way resolve or remove the apparent contradiction. If, on the other hand, an explanation can be given for the apparently contradicting phenomenon, then these phenomena cannot be called "contradictory". I do submit that everyone has a right to criticize the explanation given. In such a case, if the explanation cannot face the criticism, it may then be rejected, and subsequently, due to lack of satisfactory explanation, the apparently contradictory phenomena may then be termed as a proven "contradiction". But, on the other hand, if the explanation adequately explains the phenomena, then unless the explanation is logically and convincingly rejected, the phenomena cannot be termed as "contradictory".
By close examination of the stated verses of the Qur'an, I think there can be two very acceptable explanations for the objections raised by Mr. Katz. Either of these two explanations, if acceptable, remove the objection raised by Mr. Katz in this respect. In case Mr. Katz or anyone of my readers believes that neither of the explanations is acceptable, he should then present his criticism on these explanations. Without rejecting both the explanations given, I really do not think that the referred verses of the Qur'an can in any way be called "contradictory".
The First Explanation
A close look at Surah Aal Imraan shows that the Surah from verse 33 to 63 presents, in a summarized form, some important events from the time immediately preceding the birth of Jesus to that of his death. It is within the narration of these events that the prayer of Mary's mother and her feelings at her birth are mentioned; Zacharias' custody of Mary is mentioned; Zacharias' prayer for a son is mentioned; John's birth is mentioned; Angels' visits to Mary is mentioned; the birth of Jesus is mentioned; and some (major) events from the life of Jesus are mentioned. In mentioning all these events, the Qur'an, following its normal style, has only referred to some of the more important events and that too in a very brief and summarized form. As should have been, events that are not as important from the perspective of the point that the Qur'an wants to make are not even mentioned; repetitions in the referred events are ignored; and to make the whole narration effective, some explanations and comments are also given.
It is in the above context that the verses of Surah Aal Imraan, referred to by Mr. Katz were revealed and placed.
Verse 37, 42 and 43 reveal that it was quite often that angels visited Mary. It is not necessary that the two statements, given in 42 and in 43 relate to the same visit of the angels -- although there is no reason to believe that they were not. Then a third statement in verse 45 and 46 is given. Again, it is not necessary that the third statement was given during the same visit in which the first or the second or both the statements were given. The third statement may or may not have been given in the same visit1. Moreover, the "glad tidings" of a son, given to a woman, even if she is not married, is not something very strange. There are many instances, in our everyday life that we hear a statement from someone that relates to our (relatively) far off future. For instance, while doing his high school, an intelligent student may hear from his tutor that 'You shall soon be treating sick people'. The student is not surprised. He knows that what his teacher implies is that after going through all the steps involved in becoming a doctor, you shall become a successful doctor. Likewise, it should not have been strange for a woman who is not even married to hear from an angel or a true prophet of God that she shall mother a male child. Obviously, she could easily have assumed that in due course of time she would get married and later she would bear a male child. But, on the other hand, when the angel comes and tells a virgin that she has conceived a child, or that a child grows in her belly, this should be some surprise. Now she is likely to ask the question that Mary asked the angel.
In my opinion, one explanation may be thus: Angels of God visit Mary and give her messages from her Lord; in one of these visits, they declare that she shall mother a boy child; Mary is not surprised, as she presumes that she shall bear the child after she gets married; some time later, the Spirit visits Mary and declares that it has come to deliver her with the male child; hearing this, Mary is quite surprised; she expresses her surprise and gets the mentioned answer from the Spirit.
This explanation implies that angels (plural) visited Mary a number of times, but in the particular instance that she was given the news that she shall now deliver the child, it was not angels but the "Spirit". Thus, in Surah Aal Imraan, where the life of Mary has been presented in a very brief and summarized form, some of the important events of her life that took place at different times have been covered without giving details of any particular incident. While in Surah Maryam, the particular incident of Jesus' birth has been narrated in detail, thereby clarifying some aspects that had remained vague in the first narration.
The basic premises for the above explanation are:
In Surah Aal Imraan, the angels (plural) have used the word "yubashiroke" i.e. God gives you the good news of giving birth to a boy child. We know that the words "glad tidings" or "good news" may or may not relate to an immediate happening. Thus, Mary could have perceived the "good news" to relate to an event that would take place at some future date, after her marriage. On the other hand, in Surah Maryam, the Spirit uses the word: "le ahaba lake' " (to deliver you with; to present you with). These words, under the circumstances, imply that the referred gift was being presented at that particular instance, and this is what surprised Mary.
In Surah Aal Imraan, when Mary expresses her surprise at getting the good news, she is given a reply by a person, who is referred to in the Qur'an by a third person singular pronoun (qa'la, that is 'he said', in place of qa'lat al-Mala'ikah or qa'lu', that is 'the angels said'). The reply does not come from the angels, that have been referred to previously. So it seems that she expressed her surprise not in front of the angels (plural) but to one angel (or as is clarified in Surah Maryam, the Spirit). It seems that the surprise expressed by Mary and the response that she received, does not relate to the same visit in which she initially received the "good news", but to a later visit by the Spirit. If Mr. Katz and all those who have the stated objection in their mind only knew the Arabic language, they would have known that the Qur'an by changing the pronouns has given a clear hint in the narration of Surah Aal Imraan that the whole event does not refer to one incident only.
To summarize, the narrative given in Surah Aal Imraan does not refer to one incident only. It is a collection of various important incidents that took place at different times, relating to the life of Jesus. While, in Surah Maryam, the circumstances of Jesus' birth have been given in some detail. If looked at the narratives of Aal Imraan and Maryam in this perspective, there is absolutely no contradiction in the two narratives.
In case Mr. Katz or anyone else thinks that the above explanation is not acceptable, he must take the pains of correcting me by informing me of the reasons that hinder the acceptance of this explanation. I shall be obliged.
The Second Explanation
The two verses may also be explained in a different way:
To fully understand this explanation, let us first consider an everyday example from our lives: Suppose the President sends a delegation headed by the Foreign Secretary and consisting of three Junior Secretaries to Russia. Later on, while talking about one of the meetings of the delegation, the President says: "My Secretaries reiterated the importance of open market economy; the Russians were found to be quite interested in understanding and implementing it in their country." The press while reporting the incident writes: "The Foreign Secretary succeeds in convincing Russia to bring about changes in its economic structure and policies." The Russian President, while talking about the same incident says: "My Secretaries are forced to consider the American proposal." The Russian press writes: "The Chief Secretary was found to be interested in the idea presented by the Americans." And the Press of a third country writes: "America influences Russia in economic matters."
Look at the words used for the two delegations in the various statements: Secretaries, the Foreign Secretary, Americans and America; likewise, the Russian group has also been called by various titles: the Russians, Russia, Secretaries, the Chief Secretary. The reader must note that all these different words have been used to narrate the same event, and none of these can be termed a contradiction of the other.
Let us now consider the referred verses in the light of the same literary principle. The event referred to in these verses happens thus: God sends a group of His angels, headed by the arch-angel Gabriel2 to Mary. Now, suppose while reporting this incident, we say: "The angels said to Mary...", at another time, we say: "Gabriel said to Mary..." and at yet another time we say: "God said to Mary...". Any one who has no objection to the American/Russian example above, should not have any objection here. If some one believes that the American/Russian example is not fully compatible with the problem under consideration, I shall be most obliged if I am informed of the reasons for its incompatibility. But if there is no objection on the compatibility of the example with the problem in question then the explanation given above has to be accepted.
One question raised by Mr. Katz in this regard is: Why does Mary only seek refuge from one of the angels as she only addresses one in Sura 19:18? Were the others not like men and threatening to her?
Although I do not think that this question has anything to do with the real problem under consideration, but still, just to answer the question, I think the question raised by Mr. Katz himself, i.e. "Were the others not like men and threatening to her?" itself is a plausible explanation to the above question. As I see it, a group of angels, headed by the arch-angel Gabriel came to Mary. From among these angels, Gabriel appeared as a man. It was only Gabriel that spoke to Mary. In Aal Imraan, according to the general principle common in about all languages (as explained in the American/Russian example above), the speech of their leader is attributed to all the angels, while in Maryam, the speech is attributed only to the speaker among them.
A Comment on Mr. Katz's Explanation Regarding an Apparent Contradiction in the Gospels
Mr Jochen Katz in his referred article has also given his comments on an apparent contradiction in the Gospels, which is somewhat related in its nature with that mentioned above from the Qur'an. He writes:
Since the resurrection of Jesus is the main proof for his claims in regard to his deity, many have tried to disprove this account by pointing to contradictions in it. Since Muslims deny the crucifixion they obviously also have to deny the resurrection. One of the favorite items on the list of Bible contradictions, presented by atheists and Muslims alike, is therefore that in the Gospel according to Mark, chapter 16 [also Matthew 28], the women encounter at the grave on Jesus a man [angel] which is read to mean one and only one angel, while according to Luke, chapter 24 [also John 20], it is explicitely stated that they encountered two angels.
Incidentally, this problem in the Qur'an is much harder to resolve for Muslims than the Biblical one for Christians, since in the Qur'an Mary addresses this one angel and it is clear she only speaks to one angel which would be strange if there are three or more around her. In the Bible the angels are not directly addressed by the women. Hence nothing establishes that there is only one. Mark and Matthew might have only mentioned the one who is prominent and who is the one talking while Luke and John make clear there were actually two of them.
The reader must note the words: Mark and Matthew might have only mentioned the one who is prominent and who is the one talking while Luke and John make clear there were actually two of them. I have no objection in accepting the explanation given by Mr. Katz, if this explanation is literally accepted by the words of the four Gospels. I would therefore like all my readers to have a look at the related portion of the four Gospels and see if the explanation given by Mr. Katz is acceptable or not. Matthew has narrated the event thus:
After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earth quake; for an angel of the Lord descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. (28: 1 - 4)
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?" When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. (16: 1 - 5)
Luke's words are as under:
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? (24: 1 - 5)
John's narration follows:
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him." Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed. For as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes. But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. (20: 1 - 13)
The reader is requested to have a close look at these excerpts from the four Gospels3 and see for himself if the explanation given by Mr. Katz (Mark and Matthew might have only mentioned the one who is prominent and who is the one talking while Luke and John make clear there were actually two of them) is acceptable or not.
My reservations in accepting the explanation given by Mr. Katz are:
What are the words used by Mark and Matthew that allow this explanation to be acceptable? If Mark and Matthew had really intended to imply the prominent angel then, at least the word "angel" should have been preceded by a definite article rather than the indefinite one. It should then have read: the angel, rather than: an angel. If the readers would notice the words of the Qur'an, they shall see that the Qur'an has clearly distinguished between the plural and the singular entities. It has used angels in one place and "roohana" (our spirit) in the other. Thus, the explanation given by Mr. Katz can be acceptable for the Qur'an but not for the referred part of the Gospels.
Mr. Katz also says that Mark and Matthew have only mentioned the angel that is talking, while the words in Luke: "but the men said to them..." do not allow us to accept this explanation either.
Mr. Katz has also given an example to clarify his point of view. He writes:
After meeting the President and [the] Vice-President on the street somewhere, I might come home and only say, I saw the President today. Nothing in such a statement precludes that I also met the second in command and maybe more people too.
I fully agree with this example. But unfortunately, this example can be given as an explanation for the words of the Qur'an but not for those of the Gospels. When someone says: "I saw the President today", this sentence, as Mr. Katz has rightly stated, does not negate that the person giving such statement had seen the Vice President and a crowd of other officials. I would further add that if the statement given was: "I saw a number of high officials today", even then it would not negate that the person had seen the President. But, on the other hand, if some one says: "I saw an officer of the state today", and later on says: "I saw two/three/four officers of the state today" now, at least to me, these statements seem to be contradictory.
If you look at the words of the Qur'an, they are of the same nature as: "I saw the President today", which according to Mr. Katz does not preclude that the person might have seen a number of other officials too. The Qur'an at one instance says: "We sent our spirit (the President), and at another instance, it says: "We sent our angels (a number of other officials). Are the two statements cotradictory?
On the other hand, the four statements of the Gospels are of the same nature as: "I saw an officer of the state today". According to Matthew: "an angel of the Lord descending from heaven..." (an officer); according to Mark: "As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man..." (a gentleman, maybe accepted as "an officer"); according to Luke: "suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them" (two gentlemen, may be accepted as "two officers"); according to John: "and saw two angels in white... " (two officers). Are these statements not contradictory?
I request Mr. Katz and all my other readers to have a look at these statements of the Qur'an and those of the Gospels and give a just judgment on them. I remind all my friends and brethren that the important thing is not to prove what we want to believe, but to search for and submit to the truth even if it is against our personal likings.
1- The reason for keeping the number of visits vague is that the Qur'an is not interested in clarifying it. The Qur'an wants to concentrate on the real message that it wants to deliver -- that Jesus is not God or His son; that his birth is not much different from that of John; and he or his mother were no different from the rest of mankind as far as human physical and emotional feelings are concerned. The only difference is that he and his mother were true servants of their Lord.
2- The word Al-Rooh has been used in the Qur'an for the arch-angel Gabriel.
3- I am sure Mr. Katz and all others can also see the various differences in the narrations of the particular event in the four Gospels; I wonder what exactly is a contradiction, and what is not?
Last Updated on Friday, 10 December 2010 15:47
What is the Qur'an?
Monday, 27 October 2003 20:56
The Qur'an is the very word of God that descended upon the Prophet Muhammad.The first verses of the Qur'an were revealed on the Night of Decree (i.e. Lailatul Qadr) during the month of Ramadan. The revelation of the Qur'an was completed during a period of about twenty-three years. Al Qur'an (or Koran), Arabic for "the Recitation" is the holy book of Islam.Although it is frequently referred to as the "Bible of Muslims," this appellation is inappropriate.Unlike the Bible, the Qur'an is the actual word of God not the inspired word of God as is generally held to be the case with the Holy Bible.Another difference is that the Prophet's Companions memorized and wrote down the words of the Qur'an in his lifetime.It was written on pieces of leather, shoulder blades of camels, leafstalks, stones and other items.This writing was reinforced by the memory of the Muslims.Not only were the words written and memorized but also the followers of Islam preserved the accent, inflection, intonation and articulation of the entire Qur'an during the lifetime of the Prophet.The Qur'an, from God to Gabriel to Muhammad to the world, is the very same book, unchanged, as it is read and spoken to this very day.
In the time of the Prophet Muhammad, the Arabs were quite talented in verse and prose.Although illiteracy was rampant and claimed almost every single person including the Prophet, the poets of the Arabian Peninsula were able to construct some of the finest lyrical compositions.When the verses from the Qur'an began to be revealed it humiliated the skills of the Arab poets.Its depth of meaning, matchless level of morality that it prescribed to its listeners and its excellent literary style astounded even the most eloquent of Arab poets.The Qur'an, unlike the poets who were absorbed with materialism, focused on a moral message that would bring humanity together and guide them eternally.Their consorted effort was put to shame in a challenge put forward by the Qur'an itself, which was never met.The Arabs - with all the arrogance and pride of their eloquence and command over speech - had to submit that the message of the Qur'an is inimitable both in language and character, flawless and supreme in construction and incontrovertible in composition.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Its brilliance dimmed the poets' glimmer and rendered their boisterous speech silent and unmoving.
Though revealed in fragmentary fashion its seemingly disjointed materialization perfectly administered to society's circumstances as they appeared.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Throughout the revelation, an evolutionary process was taking place.A uniformed cohesive entity began to emerge from the intermittent manifestations that brought a clear message and guidance to humanity.The Qur'an, just as in the nature of a flower blooming or the life cycle of a butterfly, matured in volume to become the Book of God.It was arranged, bound and completed during the life of the Prophet Muhammad.
"This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion." (Al Ma'idah 5:3)
It is the Furqan (Criterion) for humankind to discern between good and evil.It is the Tanzeel (Descended) word of God as a gift to His beloved creatures and the Dhikr (Reminder) for the relationship of humanity to God as well as their ultimate return to Him.These are some of the names that the Qur'an designates itself.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â No book has ever claimed itself to be the word of God yet the Qur'an speaks of itself:
"This is undoubtedly the book (of God.)" (Al Baqarah 2:2)
So powerful are the words of the Qur'an that it leaves an indelible impression upon the spirit of anyone who hears its melodic tones. Its harmonious nature and tranquil appeal softens the hardest of hearts and its captivating seriousness stirs the emotions of its listeners.It is this mesmerizing appeal that brings so many adherents to the message of God.
Last Updated on Friday, 10 December 2010 15:45
How to Improve our Daily Prayers
Tuesday, 13 July 2004 03:36
These are a number of tips and points that will insha'Allah be useful for the readers who are interested in improving their prayers. It should be emphasised that these are all based on personal experiences and there is no claim that any of the following is derived from the Qur'an, Sunnah or Hadith, although it is easy to see that many of them are supported by these sources. Nevertheless the author can promise that to the best of his understanding none of the following is opposed to or in conflict with the Qur'an or Sunnah.
24 Tips and Points That can Improve our Prayers:
There is an extreme difference between a prayer that is performed on time and one that is delayed. No matter how effective the postponed prayer is, you can be assured that it could be many times more effective if you had carried it out on time. Part of improving and purifying one's soul is to allow prayer to interrupt our daily affairs rather than allow daily affairs to interrupt our prayer times.
Let your life (e.g. daily affairs) be oriented around your prayer. Instead of thinking that life is spending 24 hours a day during which we do 5 prayers in, consider that life is 5 prayers a day in the middle of which we are living (think about it).
Supplementary prayers (Nafl) have many effects on one's soul. Two of these effects are:
Exercising the physical and spiritual self to better the prayer. This is an exercise that never ends because there are no limits to a better prayer.
Compensating for obligatory prayers that are done in a weak manner. Try to do a routine amount of Nafl. Nafl can be also seen as practicing for the real thing. In the same way that you practice for your exam or for a match, you should also practice your prayers by doing Nafl.
Although it is not obligatory, but to improve one's prayer, it is always better to refresh our ablution even if it is still valid from our last prayer.
Ablution is primarily for physical cleansing. I think it is also a symbol of our spiritual cleansing. Try to feel this. For example when washing your face you may also intend to purify your face (including eyes, mouth) from any sinful and useless act. The same can be said for the hands and feet. When wiping your head you may also intend to purify yourself from any sinful or useless thoughts.
When you make your ablution, it is like brushing your teeth. You won't eat chocolate immediately after brushing your teeth. Do not engage yourself in worldly affairs (good or bad) after making ablution. Go directly to do your prayer.
There are a number of points in your prayer that can take you from a spiritual state to an improved spiritual state. It is helpful to be aware of the ascending transmission of our spiritual condition throughout these points in our prayer:
Commence the prayer with Takbir- This is a stage in which you are saying a temporary good bye to the outside world and is the point from which direct communication with your Creator will begin.
Arriving at the words, "Iyaka Na'bodo wa Iyaka Nas'ta'een"- In the Surah of Al Fatiha you start your prayer by addressing God in the third person. The first place you address God as the second person is when you say the above words. Consider this as you reach the climax of what you want to achieve by reciting Al Fatiha in your prayers. Make this phrase the warning and awakening signal in the prayer so that when you say them you feel compelled to focus more. If you feel like it, you can repeat the phrase till you are satisfied (there is no problem in doing so from the point of view of Shari'ah).
Bowing (Ruku')- Bowing is a sign of you giving in your selfishness after appreciating the presence of a superior and glorious power. Idealistically going to the bowing position should be regarded as a natural reaction to a stronger feeling of humbleness in front your Creator. In other words, one should reach a stage in which one finds no other choice but to bow in front of the superior and glorious power in front of him. Of course not everyone can reach this level of prayer. However, even being aware of this will help to work towards that level.
Prostration (Sujood)- Prostration is a higher degree of humbleness before Allah (swt). Here, even bowing is not enough to show the humble feeling of a Muslim. Falling on the ground in the state of prostration is the only way to express this level of humbleness. All that was said above about bowing applies here but on a much greater scale
Tashahood- Do not take the last part of your prayer lightly. Tashahood is in fact the concluding part of your prayer. After a divinely guided spiritual journey you are now renewing your allegiance to Allah and His messenger. This (if done correctly) can have a tremendous effect on reinforcing your certainty and firmness (Yaqin).
Prayer is talking to Allah.Ã‚Â You most probably dress decently when speaking to another person. Do your best when you want to talk with Allah. Your attire should be decent and clean, your hair should be combed, it is preferable that you brush your teeth and moderately perfume yourself. These all will help you believe and appreciate that you are going to enter into a dialogue rather than talking alone to yourself.
Do not only not mind your daily work to be interrupted by prayers but even be keen on interrupting it with prayers (of course unless doing prayer on-time will cause a real loss or damage). What is one of the most enjoyable things that you do not like to be interrupted from? Watching a movie? Being with friends? Playing games? Studying Islam? Improve your spiritual position and make yourself less relying on worldly affairs by willingly interrupting these affairs with an on-time prayer. Try to recite your prayer in its normal speed (not faster and not slower) and with full concentration on these occasions. On the other hand, when there is really an important task that is needed to be done promptly, if possible, still perform your prayers on time but make it as short as possible. You will gradually get used to reading prayers even if they cut into the middle of your tasks without losing your concentration when you come back to them. You will find that this can also bring some blessings to the task you are engaging in.
The entire earth has been made a worshipping ground for the Muslim. When the prayer time comes and you are not at a convenient or private place it may be wise to wait till you get to a comfortable place to pray. However, to work on your faith and strengthen it, it is also good to carry on with your prayers in the first possible place (being in a park, a corner of a street or a shop, a peaceful area at the work place - if there are no prayer rooms). Of course this is with the condition that (if applicable) the owner of the place does not mind you praying at his/her place and also that your prayer in public does not cause any inconvenience or annoyance to the people present. In any case, if you wait to reach a more appropriate place, this should only be for the sake of having a better prayer and not because of being shy or lazy.
Like an airplane that needs to speed down the runway before taking off, our spirit too needs preparation for reaching its maximum capacity in getting closer to Allah Ta'Ala. Saying Iqama with concentration and doing Istiqfar before the prayer can be considered as part of this preparation.
While in the standing position of prayer do not take away your eyes from the place of prostration. In the sitting position do not take away your eyes from your knees or your pointed finger (of course unless you are saying Salam). This will help you focus, have more respect and brings humbleness (Khushoo) within your prayer. Do not close your eyes, as this will bias the point of concentration.
Always try to be reluctant in making excessive movements during the prayer. If you need to move your hands (for instance you are desperate to scratch your face), do so with humbleness and respect as if you do not want to disturb the very formal climate that is established. This might further help you find yourself in the presence of God.
One of the things that prevents you from making the most out of your prayer is that the prayer become a ritual habit for you. To avoid this, try to bring some changes to your prayer every now and then, like reading another version of Tashahhod or reading a new Sura after Hamd or shortening or lengthening one of the Rukoo' and/or prostration.
In general and as a routine, make your prayer a little bit longer than what you would consider a comfortable length of prayer. However keep in mind the previous point regarding shorter prayers. It is sometimes very helpful (for an improved prayer experience) to change the routine and recitation of prayers faster (or much faster) than usual.
The rather short pause after Rokoo before going to Sajda and the one between the two Sajda are very important. These can help you appreciate the different stages of the prayer that you are going through (refer to point 5). It is narrated that the Prophet used to stay long in these pausing situations.
In prayer we are entering into a dialogue with God. Like any dialogue our focus should on the other side of the dialogue (God) and NOT the means of dialogue (words uttered). Prayer is not Sufi Zikr or Buddhist chanting, do not concentrate on the words, concentrate on the one for whom these words are uttered and then the concentration on words will naturally follow. When you are talking with a person some times you automatically say something to him without taking notice, but you are still talking to him. On the other hand, sometimes you put too much focus on your words that in the end you feel as if you have not talked to him, but have merely talked to yourself. The same analogy can be found in prayers.
Following from the previous point, do not worry about a few gaps in your concentration, stick to the main focal point. Make sure you are not focusing on concentration, but that you are focusing on God.
Relevant to the above, and in particular if you do not understand Arabic, you need to know the meaning of the words you are saying. However, note that prayer is not the place for practicing the meanings of the words. Practice the words with their meanings when you are not praying.
Prayer is not an opportunity to read the Qur'an beautifully. Avoid giving even minor attention to make your reading beautiful. Humbleness (Khushoo') is the main point in reading. Humbleness is not necessarily the same as reading beautifully. Of course there is nothing wrong with reading beautifully, it is in fact very good and recommended. The point however is that it is not the aim and it should not be the main point of attention.
Unless you are in Jama'at (i.e. congregation), avoid being in a disruptive place.
The Qur'an says that prayer restrains from shameful (Fahsha) and unjust (Munkar) deeds. Two lessons can be learned and derive
If you can read you prayers with a clear conscious while being in a state of shameful and unjust deeds then your prayer is not a satisfactory prayer.
Avoid shameful and unjust deeds to be able to have better prayers.
The relationship between hypocrisy (Rya) and prayer is like the relation between fire and water. One of the signs of hypocrisy could be that you feel your prayers in presence of others are better than those you do alone. The real amount of your progress in prayers is what you can feel when praying alone and not what you feel when praying in presence of others.
It is highly recommended that the obligatory prayers should be done in Jama'at. Some of the above points might be irrelevant to a prayer that is being done in Jama'at. Nevertheless all the above equally applies to Nafl prayers.