Reminder from Sura Al-Araf

Today’s reminder is another based on a passage in Allah’s book. This week is about ayat 157 from the 7th Sura of the Quran which is Sura Al-Araf.

As with these kind of reminders, the lessons we can take from the Glorious Quran is more than a reminder like this can contain but an attempt has been made to summarize them today.

The Ayat itself is translated to say:

Those who follow the messenger, the Prophet who can neither read nor write, whom they will find described in the Torah and the Gospel (which are) with them. He will enjoin on them that which is right and forbid them that which is wrong. He will make lawful for them all good things and prohibit for them only the foul; and he will relieve them of their burden and the shackles that they used to wear. Then those who believe in him, and honour him and help him, and follow the light which is sent down with him: they are the successful.

Dear brothers and sisters, the first lesson that we take from this passage is the description given to the Prophet SAWS. We see that Allah SWT describes the Prophet SAWS as unlettered. This is different to the word illiterate as the latter implies someone who is without education. Our Prophet SAWS was the best of teachers and he received the best of education and that was divine education from Allah SWT through the Angel Jibreel.

So why is it that Allah SWT has mentioned that the Prophet SAWS is someone who can neither read nor write? The doubters of the Prophet SAWS of the time would argue that he was someone who was fabricating these verses himself and claiming that they were from Allah SWT. They would also argue that he would spend his time learning other cultures and religions to gather this information and then pass it off as the revelation from Allah SWT.

By describing the Prophet SAWS, Allah SWT is telling us that the Prophet SAWS is innocent of the charges being made against him by those who did not believe his message. Indeed, there is also a lesson there for us in this time and age that someone who did not read nor write has  given the world  complete code of life in the shape of Islam as well as the most reliable masterpiece of knowledge in the shape of the Quran.

It demonstrates then to the average person that this individual is someone special and worthy of further study and often you will hear of those people coming to Islam as being those who did so by studying our beloved Prophet SAWS, our teacher and the best of creation.

The second lesson we can derive from this passage is that of the lesson of Islam as a continuation of the same message.

Dear brothers and sisters, we are often reminded by those who are misguided of the term “our God” or the term “their God”. It implies that Christians and Jews each have their own God that they worship and then we have Allah SWT which our own God that we worship. This is a misconception and something that is addressed in this part of the ayat.

By Allah SWT referencing the Gospel and the Torah, He is uniting the nations together and challenging those who follow the Gospel and the Torah to refute the challenge placed here.

So first of all, the Gospel is the book that is followed by the Christians and the Torah makes up the majority of what the Jews follow in Judaism.

This is telling us then that those who disbelieve in the message of the Prophet SAWS can refer to their own books and find that this is a continuation of the message in those books.

Dear brothers and sisters, how often do we read a book in which the sequel is mentioned? Or that we watch a film in which the next film is already mentioned? Most of the cinema films follow this format in which the film we are watching has a teaser of the next film within it.

Allah SWT gave that to the students of the Gospel and to the students of the Tora, the teaser about the final Prophet SAWS and some got the message and we hear of them embracing Islam and the Prophet SAWS due to this. Listen to prominent inviters to Islam like Dr Zakir Naik and he can reference those verses in the Gospel and Torah that speak of our beloved Prophet SAWS and thus proving this point.

Therefore we need to be mindful of this when we are speaking of the followers of Christianity and Judaism as they are believers in Allah SWT too. We need to be respectful to their beliefs but at the same time invite them to the continuation of their message, i.e. Islam, through the mannerisms taught to us through the lessons of Islam.

And lastly, the point on following our beloved Prophet SAWS is a lesson on the next point that may be made by the followers of the Gospel and the Torah.

Some might say that if those books are also from Allah SWT, why should they follow another Prophet and another book of guidance?

The ayat answers this question for those people. Firstly, by following the Prophet SAWS, they will get more than what they have at present and that is the religion of Islam will specifically enable them to live a life on the right path and assist in their everyday living and help them distinguish right from wrong.

Allah SWT then mentions the burden and shackles that they will be free from. This tells us that just saying they believe in a God isn’t enough, if they do not follow then the commandments sent by Him. They may still be believers in God but their soul will yearn for more, it will feel malnourished and so following the teachings of the Prophet SAWS will relieve them of this burden that their soul feels.

Finally, if there is any doubt about whether to follow the final message delivered by the final Prophet, the ayat concludes by telling us that only those who do so will be the successful ones.

The imam referenced a hadith in which Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “All my followers will enter Paradise except those who refuse.” They said, “O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)! Who will refuse?” He said, “Whoever obeys me will enter Paradise, and whoever disobeys me is the one who refuses (to enter it).”

Dear brothers and sisters, there is a lesson in here for us. We need to strive not only to rest on our belief in our faith but to follow the Sunnah, i.e. the lessons of the Prophet SAWS. By doing so, we can then hope to be the successful as is mentioned by Allah SWT in this ayat.

May Allah SWT enable us to be mindful of these lessons, may Allah SWT enable us to benefit from the lessons in the Quran and may Allah SWT reward us for the effort in understanding the lessons in the Quran.

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Christmas, tolerance and mutual respect

Many Muslims fully endorse and engross themselves in celebrating non-Muslim religious holidays, such as Christmas. They also celebrate New Years Day whilst not even knowing the Islamic new year.

In fact some have transferred this behaviour to Islamic nations, but without realising the damage that this is causing.

The evidence from the Quran and the Sunnah prove that celebrating Christmas is not allowed by joining in with the non-Muslims from the Jews and the Christans in their  celebrations. This is mentioned in the Quran and the imam makes reference to Sura Al-Furqan, ayat 72:

And [they are] those who do not testify to falsehood, and when they pass near ill speech, they pass by with dignity.

Dear brothers and sisters, the scholars have said that this ayat is referring to celebrating the ‘eids’ of the non-Muslims, and Christmas being on of those.

The imam also mentioned a hadith in which the Messenger of Allah SAWS said:

“He who imitates any people (in their actions) is considered to be one of them.”

So what lessons can we take from this practically to ensure we are doing right by our faith?

Firstly, the concept of wishing someone Merry Xmas can be simply overcome by wishing someone Happy Holidays. This is preferred as we want to reciprocate to our neighbours but not compromise on our faith.

By wishing someone Merry Christmas, Muslim scholars state that this is agreeing with the notion of Jesus being the Son of God and therefore impermissible to us as Muslims.

The other things associated with this festival aren’t even strictly religious such as the Red Santa Claus. This was originally a man in green depicting a Christian saint and he was even in green instead of red until Coca Cola made him red one year and it stuck. He isn’t even celebrated in other Christian countries and the same goes for the tradition of the Christmas tree.

However, this point is merely to educate on the specifics of Christmas and it isn’t about ridiculing the beliefs of anyone.

Lastly, this reminder should expand beyond the topic and to the wider question of intolerance that the media portrays Muslims as being guilty of.

You see we are not a people who don’t believe in a multi-cultural co-existence. This masjid is multi-cultural as you look around you. We are not a people who don’t believe in a multi-religious co-existence. Our masjid opens its doors to all, often and when asked of it.

After the Manchester Arena atrocitity, this city proved to all the world that it is a city of tolerance, co-existence and respect to one another. Average people came out in the street in support of Muslims to show us that they did not believe the hype and that besides a few bigoted idiots, this city is a safe city in which Muslims can practice their faith.

Manchester is a city in which people are from many different faiths and all backgrounds. My children for example attend a school in which all different faiths are taught. They are taught how Muslims and Jews do not eat pork. They are taught Hindus do not eat beef. And they are taught how Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25th.

But alongside these facts about their faiths, the children are taught respect for one another. Growing up they have friends from all the different faiths but they are taught that if they are to progress in society then having a difference in faith does not mean having intolerance for the other person.

They are taught that if a Hindu is present, offering beef may be disrespecting that person’s faith. They are taught that if a Muslim is present, offering ham may be disrespecting that person’s faith. So they are taught that being different is OK, provided you do not shove your opinion onto others. Provided you do not be hateful towards others. Provided you show kindness, respect and tolerance towards others.

Dear brothers and sisters, this is what is taught to us in the Glorious Quran. Understand the message of Sura Kafiroon and you will see that difference in opinion on the most important of topics, faith, can exist in a society and yet still have a society that functions. This is what our faith teaches us and what we must teach ourselves and our children.

Christmas is a time when living in the UK it is impossible to escape this festival. But ultimately we don’t have to. Take happiness from the fact that others are using this time to think of family and of friends. Take happiness from the fact that this is the time when schools are off, family movies are on TV, adults have holiday leave from work and even as Muslims, we get the time together with our family and our loved ones.

We don’t need to believe in Christmas to take all that is good from this time of year. We do though need to remind ourselves that our identity cannot be compromised during this time of year. We need to hold firm to our belief on who Prophet Jesus or Isa was. What he stood for and why we don’t celebrate this festival. But alongside that, we hold firm to our teachings of tolerance, respect and kindness to all of Allah SWTs creation, Muslim or otherwise.

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