A couple of things happened since the last time I wrote my last entry (I blame Instagram for my lack of proper updates on this blog – microblogging is too convenient a distraction). One of these was a trip up to Kuala Lumpur to attend Nouman Ali Khan’s talks.
See, one of the awesome things about having friends across the causeway is getting to know about these kinda talks before most people in Singapore. A friend of mine shared the event link on her Facebook and I was blessed to have noticed it soon after. I saw it and immediately thought, “I HAVE TO BE THERE.”
*At this point, the YAD has yet to announce Ustaz Nouman’s visit to Singapore.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not a fanatic or anything. I’m fully aware that we should never be too taksub or obsessed with a particular scholar. Yet my conviction came from two things: 1) The desire to be in the presence of the immense barakah associated with an ‘ilm gathering and 2) it was Ustaz Nouman’s first visit to this part of the world.
The way I see it is this: watching his lectures on YouTube is one thing, actually physically attending his lecture is another.
I can spend money to travel and be in the presence of many people, why can’t I travel to KL (which really isn’t too far away) to be in the presence of a learned man whose video has accompanied me through my toughest times abroad?
I was even more convinced when I found out the lecture topics!
Dudeeeeee! Surah Ar-Rahman is one of my top 10 favourite surahs in the Quran! And UIA is one of my favourite university campuses! I don’t care if I had to miss a lecture or two in school to attend the talks – I HAVE TO BE THERE.
And alhamdulillah, Allah made it easy for me. I was able to save up enough money to make the trip, I was able to invite my mum, aunt and grandma to follow me up to KL for their own little separate vacation, I found a place to crash for the night with my SMSO (Singaporean Muslim Students Overseas) sisters whom I met in the UK andddd, I managed to attend all three lectures in KL!
It was a surreal experience that couldn’t have possibly happened without His help so here goes: I would like to pass it forward. I’d like to share the little I’ve managed to take away from the talks and hopefully, share the benefits that I reaped.
I’ll be doing it in parts because doing them all at one go will make the entry too long and well, let me try to do justice to his talks and to your attention span. (:
Please note that these are not exhaustive notes and are based on my very limited understanding. Once the videos are up online, I strongly recommend you to watch them and make your own notes. Also, be aware that Ustaz Nouman is a student of language so he delves into the language of the Quran many a times. (Oh how can I not be even more attracted to his talks?)
May Allah grant all of us the understanding and comprehension of His text. (:
Lessons from Surah Ar-Rahman, held at Masjid Wilayah Persekutuan.
Allah’s speech is the best of communication.
Effective communication boils down to 3 ingredients: content, style and audience. You need to be able to fine-tune all of these in order to convey the best message. Have the best content that is beneficial to others, be aware of the way you say it and know your audience. All of these are interlinked. Allah’s speech incorporates all of these; there are different surahs with different styles for different people.
Surah Ar-Rahman is at best, a late Makki surah (i.e. it was sent down in the last few years of Rasulullah saw’s time in Makkah before making the hijrah to Madinah), which means it was sent down during a time when the Musyrikin were extremely stubborn. They were at that point, already aware of the Quran but were not interested and were making fun of it. Now, imagine you were talking to a stubborn person (or a person who is in a stubborn state of mind due to anger/stress etc): you’d need to repeat yourself many times before the point gets across. Likewise for this surah, Allah repeats the ayah:
فَبِأَيِّ آلَاءِ رَبِّكُمَا تُكَذِّبَانِ
So which of the favors of your Lord would you deny?
This constant repetition serves as a reminder for the stubborn people of Makkah and mashaAllah, the stubborn people of today too! (Side note: if you actually listen to the above video of a recitation by Sheikh Mishary, you’d realize he actually broke down reciting this particular ayah! 😥 )
The first 2 ayahs of Ar-Rahman are actually composites of one sentence but was broken up! Why?
To highlight ‘Ar-Rahman’ and invite man to think about each ayah deeply on its own.
Ar-Rahman comes from the root word ‘Rahm’, which is the mother’s womb. A common translation of Ar-Rahman is ‘The Most Merciful’ but this isn’t entirely accurate – the very problem of translation! Mercy has an implicit connection with punishment, i.e. sparing someone from punishment, but Ar-Rahman has nothing to do with punishment! When you think of Ar-Rahman, think about how a mother protects, loves and cares for her unborn child. She’ll go to much extent just to make sure the child in her is safe. So Ar-Rahman here has something to do with complete care, love, respect and sensitivity.
Ar-Rahman, linguistically, with the addition of the suffix ‘-an’ emphases extremity and immediacy so this shows Allah wanting to shower the most extreme and unlimited care, love and protection to His slaves, His understanding of our vulnerability and need for His care and protection at all times.
So what does that mean for us?
It is human nature to be constantly thinking about our problems but not Ar-Rahman! It is easy to not appreciate what we have and not realize Allah’s blessings upon us at any one point. But it’s time to change this! We are constantly saying His name “Ar-Rahman” in the basmalah, our fardh prayers and many more – it’s time to not only have it on our tongue but also in our hearts. Let’s learn and guide our hearts to constantly appreciate the love, protection and mercy of Allah in our lives. We are still alive, we have our five senses, we have a job, we live in a safe country etc. There are so many things to be grateful for, all the way from the minor things to the great things in life, so let’s be a people of gratitude.
Allah’s name is full of barakah!
In the last ayah of Ar-Rahman, Allah says:
تَبَارَكَ اسْمُ رَبِّكَ ذِي الْجَلَالِ وَالْإِكْرَامِ
Blessed is the name of your Lord, Owner of Majesty and Honor.
Here, Allah is talking of His name, not Himself! So, what exactly does barakah mean?
It has 2 connotations: 1) One thing giving fruit to many and 2) Something that increases but is stabled “like a camel sunk into the ground”. Therefore, barakah means something that allows something to increase and stay.
In other words, when we say His name ‘Ar-Rahman’ i.e. in the basmalah etc, do our very best and according to His teachings, whatever we are doing will achieve more and stays (does not fall down or scatter). I just have to include Wardina Safiyyah’s illustration here:
Doing something without barakah is akin to building a single base lego block upwards – the higher it goes, the less stable it becomes. But barakah ensures that the higher it goes, the more stable it becomes. Personally, it is only now that I understand the concept and importance of having barakah in all that we do. It is only through having barakah that we are able to achieve great things that are lasting and truly benefit ourselves and others!
Another note about barakah is that it defies human logic. The provision of barakah is entirely up to Allah. Allah gives as He wills and you know that Allah’s gifts goes beyond our limited comprehension.
Never underestimate the things that we do for the sake of Allah.
When we do something for the sake of Allah, we do not expect from people – we expect from Allah! The barakah from Allah is wayyyyy better, above and beyond what humans are able to give! Why feel disappointed when we’re not praised, not singled out for acknowledgement or publicity etc? Is that not temporary?
Make the right intention and inshaAllah, Allah will make it easy for you. The next time you’re doing something (eg: studying, working, volunteering), try your best to ensure your intention is for the sake of Allah. Allah will never disappoint and the bounties He bestows upon you is more than any human ever can. Really, what is human praise and acknowledgement compared to His blessings and barakah?
The Quran came down as an act of love from Allah to humans.
In the 2nd ayah, He states that He has taught the Quran:
Taught the Quran
Rasulullah saw is the best of teachers and the Quran is the best of curriculum. The Quran is a gift that puts things into perpective and it comes from a reliable source. Ustaz Nouman uses the analogy of traffic news updates on the radio:
When you’re driving and you hear on the radio that there’s a traffic jam in front of you and you’re advised to take the nearest exit if possible, you tend to listen to it right? Even if you can’t see it, you trust the reliable source and make a detour to avoid the jam and the stresses associated with it.
Likewise for the Quran! It is a form of news coming from a reliable source to guide humans! The Quran is a book of reason and man, having reason, should use the book as guidance. It is an important point of departure in the attempt to build a personal relationship with Allah. It doesn’t matter if you’ve not started yet, the point is to start something now and be conscientious in our effort. It’s time to reconnect with the gift of love from Allah and be a people with vision.
Now, since Allah has placed Himself as the teacher, that immediately makes us His students. How honoured does that make us, mashaAllah! Furthermore, He sent down the highest thing (the Quran) down to us – now that’s what you call a gift! It is time to appreciate the love He has for us and the honour He has accorded to us and be a people of the Quran. Share and teach the Quran with love, even to those who hate. The Quran isn’t only sent down to the Muslims but to all of mankind.
It is time to make the Deen inviting, not only to non-Muslims but to Muslims alike. There are Muslims who are also in need of the guidance and the invitation back to Islam, being Muslim only by name. It is time to spread the message of love, not hatred and punishment. Allah is Ar-Rahman!
Let’s make the intention of wanting Allah’s love, care and mercy and inshaAllah, Allah will make things easy for us to get such.
Personally, this particular talk was a wake-up call for me. It reminded me that Allah’s love and care are all-enveloping and in no way or no time am I every supposed to doubt that. There is no room for despair and pessimism in life because Allah’s love is always around. A true Muslim is an optimist.
It has also led me to reflect on the people that I have in my life and how little I have done for them. It is a reminder that the best of people are those who are of the most benefit to the people around them and to mankind, and how I am far from that. May I be given the strength to make the right decisions, to maintain a relationship with Allah and to share the beauty of Islam with the people around me, first and foremost. And may Allah make it easy for each and every one of us to attain His barakah.
I sincerely apologise for my lack of insight in this entry and hopefully, I’ve done justice to Ustaz Nouman’s talk. I hope it has benefit you in one way or another and if I had missed out on anything, please do leave a comment so that it can be shared too!
You may also want to read Wardina Safiyyah’s reflection here.
InshaAllah, I’ll be back soon with notes from the other lectures! 🙂
P.s.: If this has benefited you in one way or another, please do pass it forward and share the love! Share this entry so that more people will be able to benefit and may you reap the rewards for sharing too! xx