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Qur’an summaries: Al Baqarah and Aale-Imran

Alhamdulillah, as we enter the first week of Ramadan, many of us will have reached up to the end of Surah Aale-Imran in taraweeh or your own reading. Imaam Muslim (rh) related that Abu Umaamah al-Baahili said: “I heard the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) say: ‘Read the Qur’aan, for it will come on the Day of Resurrection to intercede for its companions [those who read it]. Read al-Zahrawaan (the two bright ones), al-Baqarah and Aal ‘Imraan, for they will come on the Day of Resurrection like two clouds or like two shades or two flocks of birds spreading their wings, pleading for those who recite them. Recite Soorat al-Baqarah, for taking recourse to it is a blessing and giving it up is a cause of loss, and the magicians cannot confront it.” (Salaat al-Musaafireen, 1337). Imam An-Nawawi said in his commentary on Saheeh Muslim: they said, they are called al-Zahrawaan (the two bright ones) because of their light and guidance, and the greatness of their reward.

The Qu’ran did not begin with a story of the prophets, or about someone else’s relationship with Allah. But it talks to that which is most valuable. If you found Aladdin’s lamp and had an opportunity to wish for anything that you want – what would you wish for? More wishes, wealth, family, strength, contribution, happiness? This is a very important exercise as our wishes are our heartfelt dua. And of all those things, which is good for us or necessary?

In fact, if you break each down you’ll reaslise that the real challenge is not knowing what is good. The essence of Surah al-Fatihah is exactly this – it is to highlight that its only guidance which takes us towards what is good.

The other key lesson from Al Fatihah is to explain the nature of our relationship with Allah (SWT) – that we can always approach Him directly, without any middle-man, one of the key differences between Islam and other faiths.

So the question is why do we feel confused in day to day life? If we have asked for guidance, where is it?

The answer follows: – “Alif-Lam-Mim. This is the Book (the Qur’an), whereof there is no doubt, a guidance to those who are Al-Muttaqun. [Al-Baqarah 2:1-2] And who are the mutaqqun? The very same quality we are aiming for through fasting – la’allakum tattaqoon. Previously, we have discussed being mindful of Allah(SWT) but a friend mentioned a really profound point. When we discuss the mind in common language, it tends to be for rational and intellectual use only. However, in most of our important decisions, we are driven by our feelings – whether we like particular fashion, football teams, pastimes, etc.

In fact, I read this week that every consumer company is built on one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Tinder is “Lust”, Netflix is “Sloth”, Twitter is “Wrath”, Instagram is “Envy”, and so on. These feelings hinge on human needs and the seat of these feelings is actually the heart, not the mind. So should we be using this as a month to focus not just on what fills our mind – clearing out distractions and making space for Allah(SWT) – but on what fills our heart. The heart often speaks to us quietly and with common sense while the mind tends to rationalize our desires and reactions and the Imam Nawawai records in his famous 40 ahadith that the Prophet(SAW) said

Verily, in the body is a piece of flesh which, if sound, the entire body is sound, and if corrupt, the entire body is corrupt. Truly, it is the heart. (al-Bukhārī 52)


In summary, Allah tells us in Surah Al-Baqarah:

  1. What guidance is
  2. Why we should seek guidance
  3. How to be sincere in that pursuit of guidance
  4. Then Allah (SWT) tells us the stories of those who fell off the path of guidance and the factors that led them to such so that we don’t fall in the same trap

What guidance is

There is a story of a graduate villager who learnt less every year he studied which explains the philosophy that “True wisdom is knowing that you know nothing”. You can only appreciate you need guidance when you realise you are ignorant but willing to learn. The Qur’an is Allahs view of our world and a personal message which speaks to each of us individually. It also requires us to know that we are limited in what we can perceive and understand hence it’s a guide for those Who Believe in The Unseen.

Interestingly, at the end of the Qur’an, Allah tells us in Surah An-Naas to seek refuge with Him from Shaitan – and amongst the functions of Shaitan, are the unseen whispers and doubts that he brings. This is the real battleground of heartfulness – overcoming desires and doubts for sure guidance.

This discussion about guidance divides humanity into 3 categories:

  • Those who believe
  • Those who don’t believe
  • Those who neither believe or don’t believe – the confused munafiqoon who think they are players, but have really been played by Shaytan

Then Allah (SWT) gives us practical examples of this:

  • The story of the first man, Adam (AS) and what caused him to fall. Allah also gives us the story of Iblis who fell away from guidance, highlighting 2 major obstacles to guidance – Desire (for eternal life in Paradise) and Pride (I am better than him).
  • The Story of Bani Israel and Fir’aun: Bani Israel initially turned away from Allah due to their desires, but as they insisted upon their desires, that itself became a form of pride on its own. But we learn in the Qur’an that they kept wavering – at times they did came back to Allah, but at other times they arrogantly turned away.

    And then Fir’aun, this is a Shaytan in the form of a man – a man who insisted and literally put his pride before guidance, before humanity and empathy. He worshipped himself and expected everyone to worship him in every true sense of the word.

  • The story of Sulaiman (AS) who was of the descendants of Prophet Ya’qub(AS) who was known as Israel. Prophet(SAW) also had power and access to all the desires that Bani Israel could only dream of having access to – a ruler, wealth, control over the elements, jinns and animals. A kingdom greater than Fir’aun – everything that usually would leave someone astray. Yet he (AS) took all of these and channelled them in a way that would bring him closer to Allah (SWT). He used these to make him a means of a beacon of guidance, rather than a person who turns away from guidance.
  • Then, we are brought back historically to the story of our forefather, Ibrahim (AS). He (AS) is the example of the one truthful to Allah, who always seeks guidance, and who – no matter what is thrown at him – constantly responds in a way that is pleasing to Allah. He is an example of complete submission to the guidance, and he does not feel any sense of pride by the great position that Allah gave him, never show preference of his desires but always prefers the commandments of Allah, never questioning or looking for loopholes like what Bani Israel did.

    Here, we are taught how he led by example and guided his children stating

“Indeed, Allah has chosen for you this faith; so do not die except in ˹a state of full˺ submission.” [Al-Baqarah 2: 132]

He then follows this with du’a for his offspring and nation to send amongst them a Messenger of their own (and Allah answered this invocation by sending Muhammad s.a.w.), who shall recite unto them Your Verses and instruct them in the Book (this Qur’an) and Al-Hikmah (the Sunnah of Rasulallah s.a.w.) and purify them. Verily! You are the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.” [Al-Baqarah 2:129]

We might wonder: Purify from what? Purify from the elements that took people away from guidance – the desires that people take preference over Allah’s commandments, and the pride that cause people to permanently insist on misguidance until they meet a humiliating end.

Then Allah (SWT) mentions the change of the Qiblah from Al Quds (Jerusalem) to the Ka’bah, rebuilt by Ibrahim(AS) himself. So we face the way of Ibrahim a.s. both physically and spiritually, and we are expected to adopt that standard that Ibrahim a.s. wishes to see in his progeny and the ummah of Rasulallah s.a.w.

Now, comes the means of gaining that heart consciousness – fasting.

This is a month of controlling our desires – I mentioned this week that when our IT system stops responding, the solution would be to halt the processes running using the 3-finger salute “Control-Alt-Delete”. Similarly, every year we have a training and reset programme to control our desires, alter our behaviour and delete those things which divert us from Allah(SWT). And we fill our hearts container with the nourishment of the soul – the Qur’an.

Not only do we rejuvenate our hearts, but we praise and recognise Allah’s(SWT) greatness.

How Should We Seek Guidance?

In the very next ayah, “When My servants ask you ˹O Prophet˺ about Me: I am truly near. I respond to one’s prayer when they call upon Me. So let them respond ˹with obedience˺ to Me and believe in Me, perhaps they will be guided ˹to the Right Way˺. [يَرۡشُدُونَ] [Al-Baqarah 2:186]

Notice the specific use of the word [Yarshudun / Rushd] for ‘guidance’ instead of [Hidayah]. [Rushd] is a level above hidayah –a GREATER guidance, when guidance manifests itself in one’s actions as well. This is why the righteous leaders after the Prophet(SAW) were called khulafa raashida–guided in both their action (rushd) and knowledge (hidayah). So in this ayah, Allah says that when we call upon Him AND when we answer His call, we will achieve guidance in every single way (rushd). Enter into Islam completely and don’t follow the footsteps of Shaitan. [Al-Baqarah 2:208]

And then Surah Al-Baqarah ends reminding us that this Guidance Is Not Overbearing. Allah burdens not a person beyond his scope. [Al-Baqarah 2:286]

On to Surah Aale-Imran, we begin by mentioning the Greatest Names of Allah(SWT) – Al-Hayy Al-Qayyum – also, the beginning of Aayat ul Kursi.

In Al Fatiha we seek refuge from 2 types of people, which the Prophet(SAW) said refer to the Jews and the Christians. Al-Baqarah explains the situation of the first group – Bani Israel and Aale-Imran speaks to the Christians.

At the end of al-Baqarah we made du’a to be guided without giving in to external pressures and challenge. Now, we begin Aale Imran making du’a for guidance regarding the internal state of the heart, to maintain sincerity after guidance has reached us. If the heart is strong and sincere, it’s ready to receive guidance:

˹They say,˺ “Our Lord! Do not let our hearts deviate after you have guided us. Grant us Your mercy. You are indeed the Giver ˹of all bounties˺. [Aale Imran 3:8]

In a hadith by Tirmidhi, we learn Rasulallah s.a.w. most frequent du’a! Shahr bin Hawshab said to Umm Salamah: ‘O Mother of the Believers! What was the supplication that the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) said most frequently when he was with you?’ She said: ‘The supplication he said most frequently was: “Ya Muqallibal-qulub, thabbit qalbi ‘ala dinik.” (O Changer of the hearts, make my heart firm upon Your religion).

Our Lord! You will certainly gather all humanity for the ˹promised˺ Day—about which there is no doubt. Surely Allah does not break His promise.” {3:9}

So we learn from these two du’as is that the believers are very much focused on the Hereafter, so much so that the desire of this dunya are not appealing enough to take them away from Allah. Believers always know their priority, that the Day of Judgment is imminent, and therefore they will not betray the guidance for worldly desire, the way the hypocrites did.

Allah(SWT) mentions the same 3 groups from Al-Baqarah at the beginning of Aale-Imran – those who doubt when the guidance is presented to them, those who believe (making the above dua) and those who disbelieve and chase after hubbus-shahawaat – “…women, children, much of gold and silver, branded transport, cattle and well-tilled land. [Aale Imran 3:14-15]

But Allah s.w.t. also says: “Say, ˹O Prophet,˺ “Shall I inform you of what is better than ˹all of˺ this? Those mindful ˹of Allah˺ will have Gardens with their Lord under which rivers flow, to stay there forever, and pure spouses, along with Allah’s pleasure.” And Allah is All-Seeing of ˹His˺ servants”

Allah(SWT) clarifies that the way to Him has always been Islam, submitting to the One God in the way that He has ordered us to submit. The people of the book did not differ in the guidance sent to them, except out of their ego, pride and animosity amongst themselves. They even had the audacity to say that if they went to Hellfire, it will be for a few days only [Ali Imran 3:24] How many from our times say the same – I’ve believed and so its all good, doesn’t matter about the drugs, womanising, fraud or missing prayers.

Next follows, an extensive and beautiful discourse on the blessed family of Imran, Zakariyya, Maryam, Isa, Yahya (peace be upon them all), and clarifies their position with Allah – worshippers devoted to their Lord, never ascribing partners to Him(SWT).

Allah (SWT) ends this juz with a definition of righteousness – By no means shall you attain Al-Birr (piety, righteousness – here it means Allah’s Reward, i.e. Paradise), unless you spend (in Allah’s Cause) of that which you love; and whatever of good you spend, Allah knows it well. [Aale Imran 3:92]

Basically what Allah s.w.t. is telling us is that He doesn’t just expect us to not be distracted by the dunya, but Allah also expects us to shed the dunya for His sake – that we should be willing to part ways with some of the material things for the sake of seeking the pleasure of Allah and salvation in the Hereafter. This is a mark of guidance on a person.


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