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Taraweeh Reflections - Night 21

By Khalid Baig

Here are selected verses from the taraweeh recitation for each night with lessons for our lives today.

Juz 22 - Surahs Ahzab and Fatir

Surah Ahzab

Reflections on Hijab

In this surah, which was revealed at the time of the battle of the trench (also known as the battle of Ahzab), hijab was introduced as a formal requirement for Muslim women.  This was a revolutionary change. The Arab society of the time was a stranger to the idea of segregation and hijab as mentioned in ayah 33 below. This era was declared as a dark era of ignorance (Jahliyat Aula, or earlier Jahilya) and the new Muslim community was asked to move away from its cultural and social practices. The qualifier Aula (earlier) implies the prophesy of a later Jahliya, and what we are witnessing today in the modern world fits the bill.

Those who are trying to reconcile Islam to this modern Jahilya have been working hard to water down these teachings. Among their arguments is that these ayahs were meant only for the wives of the Prophet. Little do they realize that the household of the Prophet was charged with becoming the model that the rest of the community would follow, for a revolutionary change in such practices required the presence of cultural leaders.
A careful reading of the following ayahs will make that amply clear.

يَا نِسَاءَ النَّبِيِّ لَسْتُنَّ كَأَحَدٍ مِّنَ النِّسَاءِ ۚ إِنِ اتَّقَيْتُنَّ فَلَا تَخْضَعْنَ بِالْقَوْلِ فَيَطْمَعَ الَّذِي فِي قَلْبِهِ مَرَضٌ وَقُلْنَ قَوْلًا مَّعْرُوفًا

O wives of the prophet, you are not like any other women, if you observe taqwā (righteousness). So, do not be too soft in your speech, lest someone having disease in his heart develop fancies (about you); and do speak with appropriate words. (Ahzab, 33:32)

This ayah makes two points. 1) The wives of the Prophet are at a level above other women because of taqwa. 2) In talking to other men their talk should avoid display of female charms to prevent the development of any fancies. Are we to believe that developing taqwa and preempting the possibility of development of lust were only the concern of the wives of the Prophet?

وَقَرْنَ فِي بُيُوتِكُنَّ وَلَا تَبَرَّجْنَ تَبَرُّجَ الْجَاهِلِيَّةِ الْأُولَىٰ ۖ وَأَقِمْنَ الصَّلَاةَ وَآتِينَ الزَّكَاةَ وَأَطِعْنَ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ ۚ إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ لِيُذْهِبَ عَنكُمُ الرِّجْسَ أَهْلَ الْبَيْتِ وَيُطَهِّرَكُمْ تَطْهِيرًا

Remain in your homes, and do not flaunt your charms as they used to flaunt them in the days of earlier ignorance; and establish Salāh, and pay Zakāh, and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah only intends to keep (all sorts of) filth away from you, O members of the family (of the prophet), and to make you pure through a perfect purification. (Ahzab, 33:33)

Here again the question will be whether breaking from the Jahliya practices was only required of the wives of the Prophet. What about Salah and Zakah? Why are they mentioned in this “exclusive” directive?

 .. ۚ وَإِذَا سَأَلْتُمُوهُنَّ مَتَاعًا فَاسْأَلُوهُنَّ مِن وَرَاءِ حِجَابٍ ۚ ذَٰلِكُمْ أَطْهَرُ لِقُلُوبِكُمْ وَقُلُوبِهِنَّ ۚ

And when you ask any thing from them (the blessed wives of the Prophet), ask them from behind a curtain. That is better for the purity of your hearts and their hearts. (Ahzab, 33:53)

We can continue the same question here. Was the purity of hearts only needed for the wives?

 يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ قُل لِّأَزْوَاجِكَ وَبَنَاتِكَ وَنِسَاءِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ يُدْنِينَ عَلَيْهِنَّ مِن جَلَابِيبِهِنَّ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ أَدْنَىٰ أَن يُعْرَفْنَ فَلَا يُؤْذَيْنَ ۗ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ غَفُورًا رَّحِيمًا

O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers that they should draw down their shawls over them. That will make it more likely that they are recognized, hence not teased. And Allah is Most-Forgiving, Very-Merciful. (Ahzab, 33:59)

This ayah now extends the command to all Muslim women although wives and daughters of the Prophet are again mentioned first. The reason for earlier specific addresses to them should now be obvious to everyone. They were charged to lead the cultural revolution--- as they in fact did. Hijab became a symbol of all Muslim women, not just that of the wives of the Prophet. Ban on free mixing extended to the entire community. Islam established separate spheres for men and women and Muslim societies throughout the centuries held fast to this norm.

Surah Fatir

Perspective on Knowledge

أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ أَنزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَأَخْرَجْنَا بِهِ ثَمَرَاتٍ مُّخْتَلِفًا أَلْوَانُهَا ۚ وَمِنَ الْجِبَالِ جُدَدٌ بِيضٌ وَحُمْرٌ مُّخْتَلِفٌ أَلْوَانُهَا وَغَرَابِيبُ سُودٌ . وَمِنَ النَّاسِ وَالدَّوَابِّ وَالْأَنْعَامِ مُخْتَلِفٌ أَلْوَانُهُ كَذَٰلِكَ ۗ إِنَّمَا يَخْشَى اللَّهَ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ الْعُلَمَاءُ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزِيزٌ غَفُورٌ

Did you not see that Allah sends down water from the sky whereby We bring forth fruits having different colors. And among the mountains there are tracks, white and red- of different colors, and (others) utterly black. And among humans and beasts and cattle, there are those having different colors as well. Even so only those of His servants fear Allah who have knowledge; surely Allah is All-mighty, All-forgiving. (Fatir, 35:27-28)

After mentioning the great diversity in plant and animal kingdoms, in geological formations and in humans, this ayah goes on to give a new perspective on the knowledgeable and hence on knowledge itself. The examples mentioned are all the subjects of science. But not all those who would study and master them will have true knowledge for true knowledge produces consciousness and fear of Allah. If the later is absent, so is the former. Such a person will remain an ignorant person in the sight of Allah, no matter how many professional degrees and awards he or she has accumulated.