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Lessons from the opening of Surah Nur

Alhamdulillah I had the opportunity to study Surah Nur under Shaykh Akram Nadwi. Here I
summarise some of the lessons we can learn from the first few verses of this beautiful Surah.

1. Allah’s wisdom is infinite while our reason is limited

In this day and age, you find many people, both Muslims and non-Muslims, who explain away certain injunctions prescribed by Allah SWT because rationally it doesn’t make sense to them. The question then comes to mind is that if both reason and revelation have the same source then why is there an apparent contradiction. The answer is that whether you like it or not, Allah has made your reason limited while Allah’s commands and prohibitions are from his infinite knowledge.

The best of mankind, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and the companions understood this very well, which is why he (SAW) mentioned many times, that he willed something in a particular matter but then Allah sent down revelation to the contrary to it and he (SAW) submitted wholheartedly, recognising Allah’s (SWT) infinite knowledge.

If the Best of mankind (SAW), though he has the purest reasoning, feels he needs to give up his reasoning
for Allah’s then where do we stand?

Surah Nur addresses one some injunctions which Muslims and non-Muslims find hard to accept socially – the hudood. It’s as if Allah knows from beforehand that this will be a stumbling block for some Muslims which is why He begins the Surah with “We have sent this Surah and made it obligatory upon you” and then after each command he repeats “And if it weren’t for the favour of Allah upon you”.

It’s a reminder that the One who loves you most dearly has revealed this command to you and not an enemy of yours, hence there must be some benefit in it for you. And some things have so much benefit that He makes it obligatory upon you. The Prophet (SAW) says in one hadith: “It is better for you to perform the Hadd (rules of Allah(SWT)) then for it to rain for 40 days consecutively.”

For those that explain away those injunctions which go against their intellect, Umar (RA) ascended the pulpit on one occasion and warned: “One of the things to be revealed to the Prophet (SAW) was the ayah of stoning which we have recited and understood. The Messenger of Allah (SAW) carried out the punishment of stoning and after him we did so. But I fear a time when some will say that they do not find the ayah of stoning in the book of Allah and they will go astray because they abandoned one of the obligations of Allah”.

2. Don’t underestimate the consequences of negative speech and thought

Allah (SWT) deals with two main issues in this Surah: Hadd for Zina and slander. We see the consequences of negative speech through the Hadith of Ifk (accusation) against Aysha (RA).

The whole of the Madinan society was impacted for a whole month by a rumour initiated by one man. And such was the severity of it that Allah revealed guidance in the Quran relating to it for all future generations to take heed from. It had such an impact that even ]the Best of Mankind (SAW), who was always the best to his wives, couldn’t show his usual affection to Aysha (RA) and out of character, he even went to the pulpit and asked the people who would bring the false accuser to justice.

How many times have we read a social media post, a news article or heard a rumour which we have hastily forwarded on to everyone we know? Have we ever considered what impact this might have on those that are involved?

80 lashes are due on the person who, even if truthful, gives witness of having seen someone commit zina without three other people who have seen the actual act of penetration.

Furthermore, this person will never have his witness accepted in court even if he repents thereafter according to many jurists and Allah says that he/she is from the Fasiqoon ie those who have rebelled against Allah.

3. Difficulties in this world are not necessarily punishments

One of the key lessons we learn from the verses related to the slander against Aysha (RA) is that not all difficulties are punishments in this world. Despite the hurt and grief the Prophet (SAW), Aysha (RA) and the Muslims felt during this trial Allah (SWT) assures them that “Consider it not a bad thing for you. Nay, it is good for you”.

As stated in the first point, it’s very rare that we will we see the true reality of trials and tribulations in our life. Using our limited intellect let’s see some of the benefits that came out of this trial:

  • The most significant benefit that came from this was that Allah sent down guidance for the whole of humanity on how to deal with issues of slander/false witness.
  • Aysha (RA)’s purity was confirmed from the heavens and this will be reaffirmed for as long as the Quran is read.
  • Through this incident it became clear who had ill intentions towards the Muslims in Madina. Hence the Muslims knew who to be careful of going forward.

Laws don’t make people better Muslims, rather, strengthening the will of the people does. The hudood grab all the headlines in today’s news and conversations about Islam yet it comprises less than 0.1% of the Quran and the Shariah. And further to that, if we take the hadd for zina, Allah makes it close to impossible to punish someone based on witnesses. In fact, throughout Islamic history no one has been punished by 4 witnesses coming forward, rather hadd has always been carried out through self-confession.

The remaining 99% or so of the Quran focuses on teaching Muslims about Allah and His favours. This is to strengthen the will of the Muslims which is ultimately how the companions reached such a lofty state. What we learn from this is that laws don’t make people better Muslims, teaching does. Some jurists went as far as holding the opinion that hadd on it’s own does not attain Allah’s forgiveness for the sin committed, it must be coupled with sincere repentance to have any hope of Allah’s forgiveness. Allah knows best!

It is a known fact that law enforcement breeds hypocrisy and bad people will always find loopholes to avoid being legally punished. Hence laws are never 100% effective. The hudood are there to prevent sins  becoming open and affecting other people’s ability to do good actions.

The Prophet (SAW) would turn his face away when someone confessed to committing zina until he said it 4 times, after which hadd becomes compulsory. This was a characteristic he showed throughout and the righteous have always adopted ever since whereby they would be harshest upon themselves and merciful to others. It’s sad to see that we have reversed this trait in our day and age. This is a very important lesson when dealing with children, family and society in general.

– Hafiz Javid Patel


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