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Today's Reminder

September 21, 2020 | Safar 3, 1442

Living The Quran

Unlettered
Al-Jumuah (The Congregation) - Chapter 62: Verse 2

"It is He who has sent among the unlettered a Messenger of their own, to recite to them His signs, to purify them, and to instruct them in Scripture and Wisdom, although they had been, before, in manifest error."

Some of these words are very interesting. God is mentioned in the third person, because the ignorant, primitive, and savage Arabs did not know Him. As there was no "He" in their minds, God first emphasizes the darkness of their nature, their great distance from Him, and indicates that they cannot be addressed directly by Him.

Then God calls them unlettered. They were not all illiterate, but they had no knowledge of God and the Messenger. The word among shows that the Messenger was one of them, but only in the sense of being unlettered. Being chosen by God, he could not possibly belong to the Age of Ignorance. However, he had to be unlettered so that God would teach him what he needed to know. God would remove him from his people, educate him, and make him a teacher for all unlettered people.

The phrases to recite to them His signs and to purify them point out that he teaches them about the meanings of the Quran and of creation in a gradual manner, and informs them how to strive for spiritual perfection. He guides them to higher ranks by explaining the Quran and the universe to them, and showing them in minute detail how to lead a balanced and exemplary life in every sphere of activity.

The sentence although they had been, before, in manifest error indicates that God would purify and educate them even though they had gone astray. He did all of this through an unlettered Messenger and by teaching them the Quran. Throughout history and even today, this Book has met the needs of countless brilliant scientists, scholars, and saints.

Compiled From:
"The Messenger of God: Muhammad" - Fethullah Gulen, pp. 183, 184

From Issue: 819 [Read original issue]

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Meditative Contemplation

"No act of worship is as meritorious as reflection. So reflect on God's bounties and the works of His Power, but do not try to reflect on His Essence, for you will never be able to do that."[Bayhaqi]

To reflect on God's creation is known as a great act of worship, a practice that helps a person see the signs - those glimpses of the unseen purposely placed in the physical world so that we may be increased in faith and certitude. This meditative contemplation is the most virtuous of devotions. Those inclined to reflection are known as people of understanding.

The objects of reflection (tafakkur) are many. One may reflect on the verses of the Quran. Another may reflect on the signs of God in creation or reflect on the promises of God, the reward that He guarantees believers who are patient and obedient. Such reflection creates ardent desire and hope for Paradise with its unfathomable bliss, peace, provision, landscapes, and excellent company. Likewise, one reflects on the punishment God has promised those who choose wickedness over purity, misguidance over guidance, and corruption over wholesomeness. Reflecting on the terrors of the grave and the horrors of Hell instils the kind of dread that strengthens a person's resolve to never stray from the path of God. When we reflect on all that God has given us that infinitely exceeds the measure of what we deserve, and then reflect on what little is required from us, this extinguishes self-righteousness and arrogance and increases gratitude.

Compiled From:
"Purification of the Heart" - Hamza Yusuf, p. 167

From Issue: 819 [Read original issue]

Blindspot!

Miracles and Signs

It has become commonplace to use the phrase "the miracles of the prophets" in place of the more Quranic concept of "the signs of the prophets." One might say that even though both "miracles" and "signs" were originally seen as evidence of, or a witness to, the veracity of the person through whom God had brought about the event in question, the confusion between the concepts of "sign" and "miracle" has entrenched an attitude of stubbornness and defiance among those prone to resist the truth. The difference between the two is actually quite significant. The stuff of "the miraculous" tends to stir up resistance and defiance among those who witness it. As for the "sign," it includes the element of miraculousness but presents the miraculous event as a kind of evidence, the function of a "sign" being to prepare those who witness it to listen more attentively, and to be more receptive to the message and the message-bearer.

The Arabic term ajz conveys the sense of failure, weakness, or inability to do something; as such, it connotes the opposite of ability or strength. As Cain cried out, "Oh, woe is me! Am I then too weak (ajaztu) to do what this raven did...?" (Quran 5:31). Based on the usage of the word in other places of the Quran, it is clear that the triliteral root a-j-z has nothing to do with the signs, or ayah brought by the prophets in support of their messages. In fact, there is nothing to indicate that the words mujizah and ayah are synonymous.

Al-Qadi ibn al-Baqillani has mentioned four conditions that must be met in order for something to be termed miraculous (mujiz). These four conditions are: (1) that God alone would be capable of it; (2) that it is so out of the ordinary that it may be said to violate a law of nature; (3) that no one but a prophet would be able to manifest the likes of it; and (4) that it take place at the hands of an apostle who is challenging the people to whom he has been sent, and with the claim that it is a sign of the truth of his message.

Compiled From:
"Reviving The Balance: The Authority of the Qur'an and the Status of the Sunnah" - Taha Jabir Alalwani

From Issue: 978 [Read original issue]