Chapter 26: Sūrat al-Shuʿarāʾ

Sūrat al-Shuʿarāʾ, Chapter 26 Introduction (verses 1-9) presented on 12/15/13

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The chapter of The Poets begins with a recitation of the ‘ḥurūf al-muqaṭṭaʿāt’ through which Allah ﷻ strains the linguistic abilities of the Arab poets who were historically attributed with undisputed mastery over the Arabic language. In addition, the opening ‘āyah’ (verse)has a dual purpose in also comforting the Messenger ﷺ that the ‘muʿjizah’ (miracle) of the Qurʾān prevails regardless of whether those before him believe in it or not. Allah ﷻ sends reminders to human beings that they are not in control of their lives, but human beings are averse to such reminders. The reference to the noble union (‘zawj karīm’) is multi-faceted in that those who accept the Messenger ﷺ and become one with his message, give rise to seedlings that initiate and further the cycle of life in the spring of prophetic guidance. It is from the Majesty of Allah ﷻ and His ﷻ ‘Raḥmah’ (Mercy) that He ﷻ tolerates sin and disbelief. No human civilization can persist in excellence indefinitely, as borne out by history. Allah ﷻ has given the prophet ﷺ the ability to translate the Qurʾān through his actions and his words (the sunnah). Muslims do not ever panic when times are difficult, because they recognize Allah’s ‘Raḥmah’ (Mercy), that there is always a spring coming.

Sūrat al-Shuʿarāʾ, Chapter 26 Verses 10-26 presented on 12/22/13

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Although prophets (AS) know the wrong that people do, they do not engage in social or political reform for the sake of leadership. Their communication comes from Allah ﷻ, and the words they use also come from Allah ﷻ. This is in contrast with the preoccupation of poets. The mind and imagination of a prophet is not tainted with personal agendas or motives. The prophets (AS) never held their own opinions above the command of Allah ﷻ, the service to humanity, or the salvation of their people. Shaykh Amin describes the dialogue between Allah ﷻ and Mūsā (AS), Kalīmullah (the one who convened directly with Allah ﷻ). When Mūsā (AS) receives the command to go to Firʿawn (Pharaoh), he is not taken by vanity, but rather preoccupied with his own condition and ability to fulfill the mission he is trusted with. It is in this context that Shaykh Amin spells out in a nutshell the difference between poets and prophets (AS): the poet (or songwriter) is preoccupied with the message, while the Rasūl (AS) is unconcerned about the message because the message is from Allah ﷻ. Rather the Rasūl (AS) is preoccupied with the messenger (AS), i.e. himself, thereby raising the bar of personal ethics and integrity to a degree well above that of the rest of humanity. This is what qualifies the conversation that Mūsā (AS) has with Allah ﷻ, as well as the debates he eventually engages Fir’awn in. When Allah ﷻ sends a Rasūl on a mission, the Rasūl is never left alone. Allah ﷻ is always with His ﷻ Messengers (AS). One of the miracles of this Sūrah is the potency with which accounts from another time and another culture and language flow in a strain of chaste and sophisticated Arabic that left the poets of the time speechless – a time when Arabic oratory was at its prime and the Arabs were considered the undisputed masters of discourse.

Sūrat al-Shuʿarāʾ, Chapter 26 Verses 27-51 presented on 01/26/14

When Mūsā (AS) begins his dialogue with Firʿawn (Pharaoh), the tyrant has no idea how much Mūsā (AS) has the conversation in control. When he sees the first glimpse of Mūsā’s (AS) inner strength, Firʿawn tries to resort to his executive authority to incarcerate Mūsā (AS) whom he perceives as a fugitive from his state. But Mūsā (AS) deftly steers the conversation away from Firʿawn and informs him that he has self-evident proofs from Allah (S). For political reasons, Firʿawn decides to entertain Mūsā’s (AS) suggestion, and the Nabī throws down his staff. The miracle that ensues strikes untold fear in the hearts of the onlookers, including Firʿawn. But not to be outdone, the tyrant and his courtiers set a date for Mūsā (AS) to compete against Egypt’s finest magicians. And when the day comes, Mūsā (AS) prevails. And the greatest miracle of the day is the steadfast tauheed inspired by Allah (S) in the hearts of Musa’s (AS) competition, for the magicians embrace the faith of Mūsā (AS). Despite Firʿawn’s chilling threats, they are unmoved in their faith, and unswerved in their allegiance to Mūsā (AS). Their inspired reasoning is that Firʿawn cannot be their Lord for he is causing them hurt, and so once he has done his will with them, they will be with the Lord whose sign they recognized as true and far-removed from any trace of magic or sorcery.

Sūrat al-Shuʿarāʾ, Chapter 26 Verses 52-70 presented on 02/02/14

The arrogance of Firʿawn and the unflinching ‘Īmān’ of Sayyidina Mūsā (AS) are the focus of this session that recounts the persecution of the Banī Isrāʾīl and their ultimate flight from Egypt. Allah’s will causes Mūsā (AS) to lead his people toward the Red Sea where His divine plan for the tyrant and his armies is carried out. The session ends with an introduction to the second story contained within this Sūrah, that of Ibrāhīm (AS) who questioned the faith of his father – a stark reminder to the Arabs of the time, the children of Ismāʿīl (AS), who took pride in their forefather Ibrāhīm (AS). The reminder is for them to follow in his footsteps and question the wayward faith of their own fathers.

Sūrat al-Shuʿarāʾ, Chapter 26 Verses 71-88 presented on 02/09/14

These verses pose a challenge to the Arabs to follow the sunnah of Ibrāhīm (AS) and question the ridiculous traditions of their forefathers. It is important for a people to be consistent in their questioning of established traditions and not be selective with this line of questioning – we must question all to be consistent. In the light of the verse wherein Ibrāhīm (AS) denounces the idols of his people, Allah ﷻ informs the Quraysh that Muhammad ﷺ, in denouncing the idols of the Quraysh, was following in the Abrahamic tradition much more than they were. Shaykh Amin emphasizes the significance of Ibrāhīm’s (AS) comprehensive ʿduʿāʾ’ (supplication) in which he asks for a good name in this world, and a beautiful home in the hereafter. This is instructive to us to be heedful of how we might be remembered once we are gone. We must work to forge good relations with our brethren so we are remembered well after our death. There is no goodness in living only for ourselves, dismissive of the opinions of our detractors.

Sūrat al-Shuʿarāʾ, Chapter 26 Verses 89-122 presented on 02/16/14

Nothing will come to our aid on the Day of Judgment – neither wealth nor sons – but only a sound heart. This idea alone constitutes the ingenious ʿduʿāʾ’ (supplication) of Ibrāhīm (AS) in the opening verse of this session. Allah (S) reminds the Quraysh that although they may be biological descendants of Ibrāhīm (AS), their claim to his lineage is incomplete without their adherence to the Abrahamic belief of ‘tawḥīd’ (monotheism). After the discussions of Mūsā (AS) and Ibrāhīm (AS), the Sūrah goes further back into history to reassure the prophet ﷺ by relating the story of Nūḥ (AS) – the Nabī who patiently preached ‘tawḥīd’ (monotheism) to his people for over nine centuries despite their scornful treatment of him and the persecution of the poor class of people that followed him in faith. Allah ﷻ reminds the prophet ﷺ that his mission is not in vain, and his burden is not any newer than that of his ‘brothers’ (AS) who preceded him.

Sūrat al-Shuʿarāʾ, Chapter 26 Verses 123-159 presented on 02/23/14

In this session, Shaykh Amin concludes the story of Nūḥ (AS), and takes us on a journey through the civilizations of the ʿĀd and the Thamūd. The ʿĀd were a strong, powerful and innovative people who although adept at using natural resources to their benefit were exploitative in their ways. The Thamūd were master craftsmen well known for sculpting their homes into the mountains. Both peoples rejected the messengers that Allah ﷻ sent to them. And despite their authority over the lands, they were destroyed by Allah ﷻ because of their open disbelief. The story of the ʿĀd and the Thamūd is a reminder that possessing strength, power and worldly luxuries is by no means an indication of our salvation. They are bounties that we must use and appreciate, but they cannot affirm our salvation. Only the ‘Raḥmah’ (Mercy) of Allah ﷻ can do that.

Sūrat al-Shuʿarāʾ, Chapter 26 Verses 160-191 presented on 03/02/14

26:160-191. Lūṭ (AS) warned his people to cease their transgression. Shaykh Amin clarifies the nature of their transgression. The issue of homosexuality has nothing to do with one’s freedom to choose one’s way of life. Rather it has to do with the preservation of the human being and being in harmony with one’s nature. Ādam (AS) and his spouse were married in Jannah and lived in Jannah, but it was only after they came upon the earth that they engaged in procreation, a sign that the purpose of marriage is dual – to live with your spouse in harmony (as did our parents in the heavens) and to procreate in our worldly existence. It is why marriage must be between persons belonging to opposite genders. Like the people of Sadūm, the dwellers of Madyan rejected their Messenger, Shuʿaīb (AS). Their blatant dishonesty in trade and shameless defiance attracted a grievous punishment that none of them could escape. Allah ﷻ is always looking for reasons to shower his mercy upon a people, and if they repent, He ﷻ hastens to forgive them. And the nature of Allah’s ﷻ chosen messengers (AS) is that they too are slow to anger, always exhausting themselves in their ‘daʿwah’ (propagation of faith) and exhortation to goodness and ‘tawḥīd’ (monotheism). But when a people invoke His ﷻ wrath by explicitly inviting it, Allah ﷻ is fully capable of bringing it down upon them.

Sūrat al-Shuʿarāʾ, Chapter 26 Verses 192-211 presented on 03/09/14

The Prophet’s ﷺ heart was ready to receive the Qurʾān. His relationship with his heart attracted Divine attention which in turn led to the ‘raḥmah’ (mercy) of the Qurʾān descending upon his heart. Muhammad ﷺ was selected to deliver the message and be a warner because he was trustworthy, and his trustworthiness was attested to by his people even before he received prophethood. There was no one else who possessed a heart that was capable of receiving revelation. A Prophet (AS) has no vested interest in his community until he receives prophethood, and once he does, his only interest is in delivering the message in a trustworthy manner. Revelation comes down as a trust upon the heart of the Messenger (AS). The Messenger (AS) acts with complete selflessness as he receives the revelation and delivers it perfectly, although he is condemned for it by those who reject the message. Such condemnation does not bother a sincere warner because he focuses on carrying out the will of Allah ﷻ.

Sūrat al-Shuʿarāʾ, Chapter 26 Verses 210-220 presented on 03/16/14

The opening verse of this session disproves the notion that the Qurʾān was borne by the occult or satanic forces. This is because revelation does not touch what is foul or immoral. The Prophet ﷺ was excellent in his morals as well as his personal hygiene and character, and the Qurʾān was borne by Jibrīl (AS). The Qurʾān cannot be received through ‘himmah‘ (determination). It can only be sent down to a human being based on that human’s capacity to carry the nūr of the Qurʾān. The first order of business after ‘nubuwwah‘ (prophethood) for the Prophet ﷺ was to deliver the message to those in his family who were closest to him. The wisdom behind this lies in their extreme familiarity with his high level of conduct and trustworthiness. This is more evidence that their rejection had to be based on their adherence to the ways of their forefathers and not on any reservations they had regarding the person of the Prophet ﷺ. You cannot reach Allah ﷻ if you do not go through the teachings and methods followed by His Nabī ﷺ. Although the visions of the Prophet ﷺ six months prior to ‘nubuwwah‘ were accurately reflected in each day’s ongoings, the Qurʾān and the shariah do not rely on subjective experiences to define standards for the ‘dīn’. This is why anyone may have a subjective spiritual experience but it will not be incorporated into the Islamic code. Such subjective experiences are always considered secondary and subordinate to ‘nubuwwah‘. We do not see the Nabī as divine, we see him as human. We cannot follow the Divine, we can only obey the Divine. The Divine is above following, but the Nabī is one of us and meant to be followed. Allah’s ﷻ ‘maʿiyyah’ (withness) comes with humility in ṣalāh, most intense in ‘sajdah‘ (prostration).

Sūrat al-Shuʿarāʾ, Chapter 26 Verses 221-224 presented on 03/23/14

The Qurʾān does not negate the influence of devils and the occult, rather it deals with the reality of their existence and influence. Lying or deception is a characteristic of the devils. The Prophet ﷺ was not touched by these qualities, being widely acknowledged as the epitome of honesty and trustworthiness. The genius of the prophets lies in their ability to subdue the devils in them. We do not subscribe to a worldview wherein Allah ﷻ creates no evil. Allah ﷻ created evil for reasons known only to Him and best left to him. We seek refuge in Allah ﷻ from the evil He ﷻ created. Prophets (AS) do not need to engage their faculties of imagination to come up with overwhelmingly impressive content – that is a part of the revelation entrusted to them. Further, prophets do not need to resort to sophisticated and artistic language to embellish the content, because that too is done for them by the Divine. These are tools resorted to by poets because their content is from their own exercises in fanciful imagination. The words of poets do not reflect the reality of what they aim to depict. The danger is that such depictions can easily become deception to the listener who can be swayed to believe the hyperbole inherent in poetry. This freedom of expression without moral regulation amounts to anarchy in expression. When one uses one’s imagination in an uncoordinated and unguided manner, one may be able to craft works of art that are stunning to others, but such works do not attract the barakah of Allah ﷻ. Muslim civilization has never shied away from fostering the arts, as evidenced by the architectural, culinary and, to a greater degree, poetic accomplishments. But all these forms of expression were regulated by moral behavior and primarily facilitated worship and love for Allah ﷻ and his beloved. The words of the Prophet ﷺ overwhelm the poets due to the sheer measure and quality of both the content and the presentation. Who can conceive of a fruit that tastes different and better with each tasting? Who can conceive of an angel that has six hundred wings with each wing the span of the horizon? Who can conceive of a horseman that gallops five hundred years yet does not escape the shadow of a tree in Jannah? Who can conceive of this level of vastness and magnitude? Only a prophet (AS) who speaks from the truth that is revealed to him (AS).

Sūrat al-Shuʿarāʾ, Chapter 26 Verses 224-227 presented on 04/6/14

Conclusion of the Sūrah. By the time the Qurʾān was revealed, the Arabs of the time had reached the limits of their oratorical capacity. They were considered masters of the oral tradition. Performances by Arab poets had a mesmerizing effect on the audience, very much like the performing arts of today. Poets were idolized in the same way that celebrities today in the performing arts are idolized. The Qurʾān was revealed against this backdrop when poets were considered to be leading intellectual figures in society. The Qurʾān came to inform the Quraysh and the poets of the time that poetry and poetic expression is good, but the content underlying the expression must also be true and rooted in morality. The only poets and artists who will attain true success are those who have faith in Allah ﷻ and who resist the urge to put their selves above the Divine. Allah ﷻ will be the inspiration for all their content, and their love for Allah ﷻ will be manifest in all their expression. Shaykh Amin draws out a subtle distinction between the poet who is of sound ‘ʿaqīdah’ (fundamental belief) and in a state of love for this Lord, and one who is in plain error and whose love is malformed by theological misunderstandings. The former is afforded poetic license within the realm of love for the divine so long as it is constrained to individual expression, and not extended over into sharīʿāh. The beauty of the Qurʾān in its inimitable Divine expression lies in its universal accessibility, unlike many of the arts that are restricted only to a few who possess talent or may have been trained in them.