Taraweeh Reflections - Night Eight
Posted: 6 Ramadan 1434, 15 July 2013
Here are selected verses from the taraweeh recitation for each night with lessons for our lives today.
وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا فِي قَرْيَةٍ مِّن نَّبِيٍّ إِلاَّ أَخَذْنَا أَهْلَهَا بِالْبَأْسَاء وَالضَّرَّاء لَعَلَّهُمْ يَضَّرَّعُونَ .ثُمَّ بَدَّلْنَا مَكَانَ السَّيِّئَةِ الْحَسَنَةَ حَتَّى عَفَواْ وَّقَالُواْ قَدْ مَسَّ آبَاءنَا الضَّرَّاء وَالسَّرَّاء فَأَخَذْنَاهُم بَغْتَةً وَهُمْ لاَ يَشْعُرُونَ
We did not send any prophet to a town, but We seized its people with hardship and suffering, so that they might humble themselves; then We transformed the affliction into ease of life, so that they thrived and said [to themselves], "Misfortune and hardship befell our forefathers as well" – whereupon We took them to task, all of a sudden, without their being aware [of what was coming]. [Surah A'raf, 7:94-95]
This surah narrated stories of many Messengers whose nations refused to listen to them and were ultimately destroyed. Here is then a general statement about their behavior. The hardships and ease of life were created by Allah as a way of shaking them out of their complacence with their ignorant ways. They are not accidents that just happen randomly, nor are they ultimately the result of just the local and apparent causes. There is a Divine plan behind everything that is happening in the world. People of wisdom can see the Hand of Allah in their afflictions as well as their prosperity and use both to come closer to Him and to submit to Him. Others fail--- even refuse--- to see it that way and are destroyed. A very important reminder for developing the right outlook about the news of the day.
وَجَاوَزْنَا بِبَنِي إِسْرَآئِيلَ الْبَحْرَ فَأَتَوْاْ عَلَى قَوْمٍ يَعْكُفُونَ عَلَى أَصْنَامٍ لَّهُمْ قَالُواْ يَا مُوسَى اجْعَل لَّنَا إِلَـهًا كَمَا لَهُمْ آلِهَةٌ قَالَ إِنَّكُمْ قَوْمٌ تَجْهَلُونَ إِنَّ هَـؤُلاء مُتَبَّرٌ مَّا هُمْ فِيهِ وَبَاطِلٌ مَّا كَانُواْ يَعْمَلُونَ
We made the children of Isrā’īl cross the sea, then they came across a people sitting in devotion before their idols. They (the Israelites) said, “O Mūsā, make a god for us like they have gods.” He said, “You are really an ignorant people. What these people are engaged in is sure to be destroyed; and false is what they are doing.” [Surah A'raf, 7:138-139]
This is after the Israelites had been rescued from the Pharaoh’s oppression. Long years of slavery had taken their toll on their ways of thinking and this can be seen in the slavish mentality showcased here. Blind imitation of the other (as can be seen in the vast areas of the Muslim world today regarding the West) is a serious disease. We want the same objects of devotion, days of celebration, and pursuits and patterns of life as those who we think to be successful. The reply of Prophet Musa is so fitting and can help rid us of this debilitating sickness.
الَّذِينَ يَتَّبِعُونَ الرَّسُولَ النَّبِيَّ الأُمِّيَّ الَّذِي يَجِدُونَهُ مَكْتُوبًا عِندَهُمْ فِي التَّوْرَاةِ وَالإِنْجِيلِ يَأْمُرُهُم بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَاهُمْ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَيُحِلُّ لَهُمُ الطَّيِّبَاتِ وَيُحَرِّمُ عَلَيْهِمُ الْخَبَآئِثَ وَيَضَعُ عَنْهُمْ إِصْرَهُمْ وَالأَغْلاَلَ الَّتِي كَانَتْ عَلَيْهِمْ فَالَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ بِهِ وَعَزَّرُوهُ وَنَصَرُوهُ وَاتَّبَعُواْ النُّورَ الَّذِيَ أُنزِلَ مَعَهُ أُوْلَـئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ
Those who follow the Messenger, the Ummi (unlettered) prophet whom they find mentioned in their own (scriptures),- in the Torah (law) and the Injīl (Gospel), and who bids them what is fair and forbids what is unfair, and makes lawful for them good things, and makes unlawful for them impure things, and relieves them of their burden, and of the shackles that were upon them. So, those who believe in him and support him, and help him and follow the light sent down with him, - those are the ones who are successful.” [Surah A'raf, 7:157]
A concise introduction to Prophet Muhammad and his message. He commands what is fair, just, and good. He forbids what is unfair, unjust, and evil. He declares permissible what is clean and pure. He declares impermissible what is unclean and unhealthy. He liberates the humanity from the shackles that it had put upon itself --- those of customs, traditions, superstitions and man-made laws. His is the most empowering and liberating message that leads to eternal success. This success is only for those who reject all the competing heroes and exemplars for the light of guidance brought by him.
واَسْأَلْهُمْ عَنِ الْقَرْيَةِ الَّتِي كَانَتْ حَاضِرَةَ الْبَحْرِ إِذْ يَعْدُونَ فِي السَّبْتِ إِذْ تَأْتِيهِمْ حِيتَانُهُمْ يَوْمَ سَبْتِهِمْ شُرَّعاً وَيَوْمَ لاَ يَسْبِتُونَ لاَ تَأْتِيهِمْ كَذَلِكَ نَبْلُوهُم بِمَا كَانُوا يَفْسُقُونَ
Ask them about the town which stood by the sea, when they used to transgress in the matter of Sabbath, when their fish came to them openly on the Sabbath, and did not come when they did not have Sabbath. In this way, We put them to a test, because they used to act sinfully. [Surah A'raf, 7:163]
Muhammad Asad writes: “Since the Qur’ān does not mention the name of the town nor give any indication as to the historical period in which those offences were committed, it may be assumed that the story of the Sabbath-breakers (alluded to in several places in the Qur’ān) is a general illustration of the tendency, so often manifested by the children of Israel, to offend against their religious laws in pursuit of their passions or for the sake of worldly gain.”
Unfortunately the description of the past of the children of Israel fits the present of much of the Muslim world with all sorts of economic justifications being offered for putting Allah’s commands on the side. Those who put forward or accept such fancy justifications, sometimes in highly academic language, should realize that when economic gains result from breaking Allah’s commands, then the situation is itself a punishment for our transgressions. And the proper thing to do is to throw away the balance sheets and turn to Allah in repentance.
وَإِذْ أَخَذَ رَبُّكَ مِن بَنِي آدَمَ مِن ظُهُورِهِمْ ذُرِّيَّتَهُمْ وَأَشْهَدَهُمْ عَلَى أَنفُسِهِمْ أَلَسْتُ بِرَبِّكُمْ قَالُواْ بَلَى شَهِدْنَا أَن تَقُولُواْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ إِنَّا كُنَّا عَنْ هَذَا غَافِلِينَ
(Recall) when your Lord brought forth their progeny from the loins of the children of ’Ādam, and made them testify about themselves (by asking them,) “Am I not your Lord?” They said, “Of course, You are. We testify.” (We did so) lest you should say on the Day of Judgment, “We were unaware of this.” [Surah A'raf, 7:172]
According to the Qur’an, as explained further by several ahadith, all human beings who will be born until the Last Day had a prior existence when the witnessing referred to above took place. Our innate sense of our Creator and our obligation to worship and obey Him is a result of that event. That is why belief in a deity and acts of worship have been a common phenomenon in all human societies. Another hadith informs us that all human beings are born in the state of fitra, which is in perfect harmony with Islam, and only later nurture and environmental influences make them deviate from that path. The awareness may be obscured from our conscience and buried deeply under false ideas but it comes to the surface at extra ordinary times. Thus at times of great calamities people of all persuasions suddenly remember God.
قُل لاَّ أَمْلِكُ لِنَفْسِي نَفْعًا وَلاَ ضَرًّا إِلاَّ مَا شَاء اللّهُ وَلَوْ كُنتُ أَعْلَمُ الْغَيْبَ لاَسْتَكْثَرْتُ مِنَ الْخَيْرِ وَمَا مَسَّنِيَ السُّوءُ إِنْ أَنَاْ إِلاَّ نَذِيرٌ وَبَشِيرٌ لِّقَوْمٍ يُؤْمِنُونَ
Say, “I have no power to bring a benefit or a harm to myself, except that which Allah wills. If I had the knowledge of the Unseen, I would have accumulated a lot of good things, and no evil would have ever touched me. I am but a warner, and a herald of good news for a people who believe.” [Surah A'raf, 7:188]
Prophets receive communications from God and speak to the people for Him, but they are not God. Many people have difficulty in comprehending this distinction. Non-believers, including the mushrikeen of the pre-Islamic Jahiliya said that if the Prophet did not have divine powers then he could not be the Prophet. Ignorant followers later claimed that he indeed had full knowledge of the unseen. This ayah sets the record straight. The Prophet is a human being, but he is appointed by Allah to speak for him to the humanity. His knowledge of the unseen world exceeds that of other human beings, because it has been given to him by Allah. But this is not the all encompassing knowledge of the unseen, which is held by no one except Allah.
وَإِذَا قُرِىءَ الْقُرْآنُ فَاسْتَمِعُواْ لَهُ وَأَنصِتُواْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ
When the Qur’ān is recited, hearken unto it, and listen in silence, so that you may be blessed. [Surah A'raf, 7:204]
This is the proper etiquette regarding Qur’anic recitation. It should command our attention and devotion unlike any other word as this is the word of Allah. Disrespect here will deprive us of the mercy contained in it. Consequently a person should not recite it at a place where people will not be able to listen to it with attention, because they are busy in other activities. Unfortunately in the media age this situation has become more common. Electronic devices make recitation easy but many a time the required attention is lacking. We should remember that the Qur’anic recitation should never form the background sound for our activities. We should either listen to it with full attention or turn it off. For the same reason using it as a ring toner in the phones is an act of disrespect.
When the Qur’an is recited in taraweeh, the spirit of this ayah requires that we listen to it and not leave in the middle without a good reason. Unfortunately this is becoming common place in the US where many people, and especially the youth, leave it for no reason whatsoever, or worse, talk over it.