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Chapter 27: Surah Al-Naml

Surah Al-Naml, Chapter 27 Verses 1-12 Introduction presented on 04/13/14

The session begins with a brief overview of the Huruf Al-Muqattaat (the broken letters) and the mindset that must accompany their recitation. The greatest rahmah to a believer is that he is granted access to his Lord outside of the dunya through the institution of salaat. The separation between the dunya and the aakhirah must be appreciated in that deen is part of the dunya, it is not a part of the aakhirah. In fact the Yawm al-deen belongs to Allah (S). It is folly to think in terms of running away from the dunya towards deen in order to have a good aakhirah. Rather the dunya must be negotiated with through the lens of deen to attain a good aakhirah. The presence of Allah (S) and the awe inspired by the Divine presence will cause the slave to perspire in proportion to his spiritual health. This is the nature of the awe felt by the prophet (S) when wahy descended upon him, and this is the awe experienced by all the Anbiyaa while they were in dialog with Allah (S), as was the case with Musa’s (AS) first contact with the Divine. People who are close to Allah (S) are observant of the sharia. They maintain their adab with the dunya – they do not bring fragments from the other world into this world. And this is manifest in Musa’s (AS) humble and awe-stricken behavior before Allah (S). A vigilant observance of the sharia has always been a prerequisite to prophethood.
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Surah Al-Naml, Chapter 27 Verses 13-19 presented on 04/20/14 – Session 2

The process of ‘uboodiyyah is that the ‘abd acknowledges the ni’mah of the ma’bud. Dawood and Sulayman (AS) were acutely aware that their abilities and powers were from Allah (S) and not a result of their own actions. The beauty of traditional knowledge is that you build on top of the paradigm that preceded you, without destroying or distorting what exists already. This is what Sulayman (AS) did, by Allah’s leave, with the legacy of his father’s knowledge. The army of Sulayman (AS) comprised human beings, jinn and birds. Military might was at its peak in the time of Sulayman (AS). Commanding an army of diverse species is a feat in and of itself, unimaginable in this day and age. Knowledge and intelligence have the effect of making their possessors proud, superior and haughty. Sulayman (AS) on the other hand demonstrates how, despite the abundance of knowledge and vast intelligence at his disposal, he remained a firm believer and humble before his Lord. This is in stark contrast to the arrogance of Fir’aun who was also bestowed with wealth and power, but was rebellious and ungrateful.
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Surah Al-Naml, Chapter 27 Verses 20-31 presented on 04/27/14 – Session 3

The session begins with the story of the hud-hud (the hoopoe bird) showing up late at the daily turnout of the armies of Sulayman (AS). The intelligence of the hud-hud is manifest in his recognition of the shirk in the people of Saba who worshipped the sun. The bird also shows an astute recognition of the purpose of all creation lying in the worship of the One Creator. Shaykh Amin presents an insight here in that there is no good in one preoccupied with manipulating and reforming one’s subjects if one cannot manipulate and reform the devil within oneself. This is subtly attributed to in the hud-hud’s words, “the devil has decorated their actions before their eyes”. Being a Nabi and a master of the jinn, Sulayman (AS) was acutely aware of this deception that human beings are prone to. The sophistication accompanying the letter from Sulayman (AS) to the Queen of Saba is complete in both presentation and content, and this is acknowledged by the queen. Furthermore, despite being a powerful king, Sulayman (AS) begins his letter in the Name of Allah, the Rahman and the Rahim, instantly informing the reader that even he, with all his might, is merely representing a power higher than himself, Allah (S). This manifest submission of Sulayman (AS) through his letter has a profound impact on the psyche of the queen who views him as an executor of a higher will. The genius underlying the letter of Sulayman (AS) is in his recognition of the fact that for a woman to maintain her power and authority over her subjects she must possess immense intelligence. Hence he initiates through his letter an intellectual exchange with her which eventually culminates in a battle of wits. A major component of true intelligence is tauheed. Intelligence without tauheed is deficient. The true leader is not one who can simply lead his people in worldly matters, but rather the one who can facilitate their salvation.
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Surah Al-Naml, Chapter 27 Verses 32-40 presented on 05/04/14 – Session 4

The session resumes the story of Sulayman (AS) and Bilqis, the Queen of Saba. Shaykh Amin talks about the clever insight of the queen in knowing the futility of engaging Sulayman (AS) in warfare, and so sends him gifts to win his good will. Sulayman’s (AS) ability to overwhlem Saba is equal to his own aptitude in using the opportunity presented by the queen to spread his message of Allah’s tawheed. The rest of the session focuses on the task that Sulayman (AS) presents to his chieftains, and how Ifrit (of the Jinn) is outdone by Asif (of the men). The shukr of Sulayman (AS) towards Allah (S) for the assistance of Asif is especially noteworthy given Sulayman’s (AS) own great stature as a prophet of Allah (S). It is the mark of a Nabi to be cognizant of Allah’s (S) favor upon him as well as the favor of Allah’s (S) creation upon him. This is the way of one who is ghaniyyu (independent) and kareem (noble). One attribute does not take away from the other.
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Surah Al-Naml, Chapter 27 Verses 41-44 presented on 05/18/14 – Session 5

The story of the Queen of Saba continues whereby Sulyman (AS) receives her with honor and tests her perception at two levels. At one level he orders her throne disguised and fools her into not identifying it due to its outward state, although her intelligence shines through as she recognizes its striking similarity with her own throne. At a deeper level, she is completely deceived by the water-like effects of the glassy floor when she raises her royal robe to step upon it, thereby explosing her ankles and shins (as the Shaykh points out, an allusion to the Arabic idiom representing a breach of one’s secrets). The profound realization that comes upon her with respect to the well-known deceptive effects of light and hence the true place of the sun which she and her subjects worshipped, is only surpassed by an even deeper realization of the distinction between authority and faith. Sulayman (AS) impresses upon her that just the way his own power and authority over her (by way of his physical and military prowes as well as his contrived tests) does not make him an object of worship, neither is the sun worthy of worship depsite its life-giving properties. Sulayman’s (AS) own gratitude to Allah (S) for gracing his court with the likes of Asif (as discussed in the prior session) speak to this distinction within his own mind. And now with her apparent failure to identify her throne as well as to identify the nature of the path that may take her to her throne, the intelligent queen is absolutely disarmed and she is urged by this realization into submission. Shaykh Amin calls out the sohbah (company) of a powerful Nabi as instrumental in this experience of faith for the queen. He goes on to speak of the mangitudinous effects of the sohbah of the last and final Messenger (S) that moved not only the companions into submission, but also hordes of tribes and kingdoms. And all this depsite there being no kingdom or kingship given to the Messenger(S), as was the case with Sulayman (AS).
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Surah Al-Naml, Chapter 27 Verses 45-58 presented on 09/07/14 – Session 6

Shaykh Amin draws a parallel between the plot of the people of Salih (AS) and the Quraysh. Both parties conspired to assasinate the messenger who was sent unto them. The story of the Thamud teache us that the doors of tawbah are always open while a people are being tested as articulated by Salih (AS) to his people. Adhaab is a divine pronouncement that only comes down once the doors of tawbah are shut. Istighfaar is a formula to bring down Allah’s rahmah, and this is something Allah (S) teaches us through the example of the prophets. All prophets exercised and promoted the practice of seeking forgiveness. The lofty behavior of Lut (AS) with his people defines the standard for the Muslim response to the societal promotion of promiscuity, be it heterosexual or homosexual.
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Surah Al-Naml, Chapter 27 Verses 59-66 presented on 09/14/14 – Session 7

Allah (S) has created the heavens and the earth to facilitate his praise (Hamd). This praise comes through the insitution of prophethood. Although prophets come about by Divine selection, they themselves are not selective in the dispensation of the message with which they are charged. The furtherance of societal norms can be tolerated so long as they are not in conflict with the decrees of Allah (S). If they conflict with the decrees of Allah (S), then such norms must be decried and are not promotable as part of a universal worldview. The mission of a prophet is to maintain peace and security in this world as well as the world Hereafter. These beautiful verses glorify Allah’s Oneness in His omnipotence as Creator and Sustainer of all that He creates. Injustice is at the core of polytheism – a person cannot deal out justice to creation if he cannot be just in his dealings with the Creator.
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Surah Al-Naml, Chapter 27 Verses 67-77 presented on 09/21/14 – Session 8

The idea of being brought back to life after death and decay is disturbing to disbelievers who have always belittled the idea as a myth that was originated by those who needed to control people. Such forms of opposition to organized religion are almost as old as religion itself. For instance, even the people of Nuh (AS) challenged such ideas. The response to such from Allah (S) is to observe the world about and examine the end that befell past peoples whereby what they created (their homes and monuments) survived although they themselves did not survive. The prophet (S) was preoccupied with the worldview of the Arabs of his time. Although they were a good and honorable people, their worldview was corrupt which in turn affected their honor and goodness. This concerned the prophet (S) who had his eyes on the Hereafter, mindful of the permanent an lasting over the temporary and passing. Allah (S) eases mind of the prophet (S) in these verses.
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Surah Al-Naml, Chapter 27 Verses 78-87 presented on 09/28/14 – Session 9

Allah (S) will enact justice on the Day of Judgment with anyone who has used/distorted revelation for exploitative purposes. The prophet (S) is exhorted in these verses to put his trust in Allah (S). He is assured that the Truth will always prevail. Ideals and values will speak for themselves when the one who exemplifies them is true to them and firm in practice. Shaykh Amin calls out the difference between being firm because of holding a conviction versus being firm and unyielding because of stubbornness. These verses assure the Prophet (S) that he is in the former category. The deaf cannot hear and the dead cannot hear. The analogy in these verses is not to be used for a theological discussion around the hearing of the dead. Rather this verse alludes to those who are destined to enter Islam yet not heed the message (deaf), and those who are not destined to enter Islam altogether (dead). Shaykh Amin gives due attention to the laws of cause-and-effect and the laws of fate and destiny. Allah’s knowledge encompasses the eventual destinies of all people, and that should not preoccupy us. We should exert ourselves within the laws of cause-and-effect, and submit to Allah’s will after we have discharged our obligations. The speech of the queen ant mentioned at the beginning of the surah serves as a backdrop to the speech of the creature mentioned in these verses – a creature that speaks to mankind’s disbelief in Allah’s signs. This will occur in a time when it will be too late to disbelieve.
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Surah Al-Naml, Chapter 27 Verses 88-93 presented on 10/12/14 – Session 10

The scene described in these verses is reminiscent of that described at the beginning of the Surah wherein Sulayman (AS) arranges his armies of beasts, men and jinn. These verses speak to the mass of humanity from all times that will be gathered before the Lord on the Day of Judgment. Men and women will be arrayed in accordance with their belief and the lack thereof. Furthermore, amongst the believers, there will be a divinely ordained arrangement reflecting the level and intensity of belief. Allah (S) will carry out a microanalysis of each and every individual, and the judgement pronounced on that day will be final and irrefutable. In the same way, the ability of Sulayman (AS) to dispense mercy and chastisement is magnified in the realm of the divine, as Allah showers his mercy on his slaves while at the same time being fully capable of bringing about firm chastisement where it is due. It is only possible to appreciate Allah (S) once you appreciate His might and power, and that only comes about by observing the perfection and harmony in creation all around us. Understanding the Quran ought to be a post-tilawah exercise, not pre-tilawah. When you hymn the song of a songwriter or musician, that is pleasing to the musician at a deep and personal level regardless of whether you understand the meanings of the words. The same applies to the recitation of the Quran.
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