Today's Reminder

July 09, 2020 | Dhuʻl-Qiʻdah 18, 1441

Living The Quran

Privileged Status
Al-e-Imran (The House of Imran) Sura 3: Verses 36-37

But when she delivered her, she said, "My Lord, I have delivered a female." And Allah was most knowing of what she delivered, "And the male is not like the female. And I have named her Maryam, and I seek refuge for her in You and [for] her descendants from Satan, the expelled [from the mercy of Allah]. So her Lord accepted her with good acceptance and caused her to grow in a good manner and put her in the care of Zakariyya. Every time Zakariyya entered upon her in the prayer chamber, he found with her provision. He said, "O Mary, from where is this [coming] to you?" She said, "It is from Allah. Indeed, Allah provides for whom He wills without account."

In the Quran, Maryam's story begins from the time of her conception. Her birth itself was a miracle because her mother is presented to have been barren and passed the age of childbirth. Her mother, whom the Quran identifies as "the wife of Imran," appears to have been disappointed after giving birth to a female child, uttering the words: "My Lord, I have delivered a female." This disappointment may be attributed to the mother's sense of an unfulfilled dream that her child be dedicated to the service of God. Since such roles were reserved only for males at the time, her mother did not expect Maryam to be able, socially or otherwise, to enjoy such a role. But, as the Quran notes, God's response to Maryam's mother's dissatisfaction was for to accept her "with good acceptance" and to "cause her to grow in good manner". And so it was that Maryam became the first woman in history to pray in a temple.

Verse 3:37 is a potentially radical (progressive radical, that is) statement: It is a reminder to Maryam's mother—and, by extension, to all of us—that if she thinks Maryam will not fulfil a certain role because of her gender, then make sure her surroundings are such that they will enable her to do so. In other words, we are the bearers of change in our times and societies. In Maryam's case, the Quran tells us that she was sent to be raised by Zakariyya, a religious teacher, where she completely submitted herself to God's service. In exchange for her devotion, God blesses her with miraculous provisions of foods outside of their season (e.g., summer foods in winters and winter foods in summers). This surprises Zakariyya, although he had always known Maryam was a miracle and someone to be emulated, and, when he asks her where she gets her food from, she tells him they are from God. Zakariyya, aware that they must be the literal fruits of her commitment to God, is thereby inspired to ask God to bless him with a child of his own who could enjoy the privileged status of Maryam.

Compiled From:
Jesus, Muhammad and the Goddess, "Who is Maryam and What is Her Story?" - Shehnaz Haqqani, pp. 179, 180

From Issue: 1005 [Read original issue]

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Burden of Atonement

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, "By Allah, I seek forgiveness from Allah and I repent to him more than seventy times in a day." [Bukhari]

Be quick in seeking forgiveness. Spread out your hands towards Allah to seek His forgiveness as soon as you have sinned. The stains on your heart shall have been wiped away and it will shine brightly. The darkness shall recede and there will be light. The faith that shall have gone away from you shall return. Do not ever delay this.

Recite istighfar frequently. The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, recited it more than 70 times every day. Do not let the frequent repetition of your sins keep you away from seeking pardon. Sinning repeatedly and then seeking forgiveness just as frequently does not come within the definition of a state of deliberate insistence upon sin. It is sinning with impunity and then not attempting to seek forgiveness, and attempting to explain your sins away that comes within that meaning of insistence on sinning.

Shed your tears after every sin. Do not shy away from this. Self-impose a burden of atonement whenever you sin, such as giving away something as sadaqah (alms); forgiving someone for any wrong he may have done you, or a certain number of rakat of Prayer. Hasten in repenting and seeking forgiveness. Do not relent in this. The door for seeking forgiveness is open at all times but the best time of all is the early hours of dawn before Fajr. Even if Allah enables you to devote just a few moments, do so. Place your forehead on the prayer mat and seek forgiveness with flowing tears.

If you have sinned with regard to the rights of others, then together with repentance and seeking forgiveness, it is also essential to ask for the pardon of those concerned and to make up for the damages. Recitation of istighfar will open the door to that forgiveness which is essential for entry into heaven. Not only that, this will lead to other blessings as well - material prosperity, relief from difficulties, and a feeling of ease even in adversity.

Compiled From:
"Dying and Living for Allah" - Khurram Murad

From Issue: 1005 [Read original issue]


Inner Voices

Due heed must be paid to small voices (or inner voices) that sometimes challenge the interpretations offered by those who are considered to be speaking authoritatively. Many Muslims have a strong internal conviction that God is just and fair, and that any Quranic interpretation that conflicts with their sense of justice and fairness, even if it is considered authoritative, demands, at the very least, further scrutiny. To this end, stories like the following can encourage ordinary Muslims to feel confident enough to voice their reservations or discomfort with certain interpretations of the Quran.

Zaynab bint Muayqib was a woman of Madina, who, along with thousands of others, went out to attend the funerals of two great men - one a religious scholar and one a poet - who died on the same day at the beginning of the second century of Islam. Zaynab was among a large group of women who were gathering behind one of the coffins. A prominent Sayyid, Abu Jafar Muhammad ibn Ali ("al Baqir" - who would be identified by the Shiites as their fifth "Imam"), tried to approach the coffin. Blocked by the crowds of women who would not part to let him through, Abu Jafar began to snap his cloak at them saying, "Enough, you companions of Joseph!"

In response to Abu Jafar's insult, Zaynab called out, "O son of the Messenger of God, you are correct that we are the companions of Joseph - and we treated him better than you!" After the funeral was over, Abu Jafar sent someone to bring Zaynab to him. The narrator of the story says that Zaynab arrived "as though she were a spark of fire." Abu Jafar asked what she had meant when she said that "(We) women are better than (you) men." Zaynab responded to him: "We women, O son of the Messenger of God, invited (Joseph) to the delights of food and drink, and to enjoy and be comfortable. But you men threw him in the well, sold him for a miserable price and locked him in prison - so which of us was more tender and kind to him?"

When Abu Jafar used the Quran to dismiss the women who got in his way, Zaynab knew this was not fair. Her knowledge was not based on an academic study of the Quran, nor on the claim that she had any special spiritual status that gave her unique insight to the meanings of the Quran. Zaynab, rather, had confidence in her intuitive sense of fairness which allowed her to tell Abu Jafar how she perceived misogyny in his words (for his part, Abu Jafar is said to have expressed admiration at Zaynab's spirited defense). As a woman, Zaynab also had a different perspective than Abu Jafar on the Quranic story of Joseph. In her eyes, the story clearly shows a male propensity for violence and acquiring power at any cost.

Compiled From:
"The Story of the Qur'an: Its History and Place in Muslim Life" - Ingrid Mattson, pp. 226-228

From Issue: 505 [Read original issue]