A Lecture by Suhaib Webb | Transcribed by Fuseina Mohamad
Surat Al-Fatiha Series: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | Part VII | Part VIII | Part IX | Part X | Part XI | Part XII | Part XIII| Part XIV | Part XV | Part XVI | Part XVII | Part XVIII | Part XIX | Part XX | Part XXI | Part XXII | Part XXIII | Part XXIV | Part XXV
When we talk about understanding the Qur’an, we talk about the Angels asking Allah in Surah al-Baqara, “Will You place upon it [the world] one who causes corruption therein and sheds blood […] ?” (2:30). This is one of the jobs of the Qur’an: to make society civil. The opposite of spilling blood and oppression and sin is to live a civil life. So one of the objectives of the Qur’an is a social-political reality of stability in society. That’s why many of the great ulema, such as Ibn Taymmiyah, Imam Al Shatibi, Sheikh Abdulah Bin Bayyah, said that the entire Islamic legislative system came for the benefit of the servants of Allah. To make life good for us. That’s why Allah said in the Qur’an, “Those people who believe and do righteousness, We are going to give them a good life.” (16:97)
Now specifically, we want to talk about how we should understand the Qur’an in the concept of our lives. What does the Qur’an do for us, besides “BAM! Read!”
First of all, the Qur’an gives us the main objective of our existence. And those of you who studied philosophy and other similar disciplines, this is what people talk about all the time. Subhan’Allah, I went to the library the other day and you can find countless books on the purpose of human beings. Why are we here? What’s our purpose? What’s our cause?
Allah is Al-Aleem (the All Knowing), Al-Hakeem (the Most Wise) and whenever Allah mentions these attributes, He emphasizes that He is the One who is Knowledgeable and He has Wisdom in His Knowledge. In one verse of the Quran, in the 51st chapter of the Quran, Adh-Dhariyat, verse 56, Allah identified the purpose of humanity. The reason that we’re here, the objective of life. Allah said:
“And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me” (51:56).
Our purpose is ibada (worship). To worship Allah. In one verse. There’s no need for a long discourse on this. We have been created to worship.
Maybe in your classes, especially the classes that you’re taking in philosophy, you have some atheists and maybe someone would say to you, “Well, I don’t believe in this. I don’t believe that we’re here to be servants.”
Tell them, “Okay, don’t use the restroom. Don’t sleep. Don’t eat. Don’t get tired. Don’t pick your nose when nobody’s looking. Don’t blink your eyes.”
They’re going to tell you, “I can’t. I can’t not do that.”
“Yes, because you are the slave of something. You are enslaved.”
They’re going to say, “Oh, this is physics.”
“You can call it what you want to call it, man. We call it enslavement. Stephen Hawking calls it physics. But we call it ibada.”
Allah said everything is going to submit to Allah whether by choice or by force -force meaning in the physical realm of life, not in the intellectual realm (13:15). So the Qur’an identified the purpose of creation. And there are many logical arguments mentioned in the Qur’an as to why human beings have been created for this purpose.
We should know that in the Qur’an Allah made this ibada comprehensive (and we’ll talk about that later on when we talk about the concept of ibada in Islam as found in Surah Al-Fatiha) when He said:
“Say, ‘Indeed, my prayer, my rites of sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allah, Lord of the worlds'” (Qur’an 6:162).
This is the purpose of our existence. To be the servants of Allah.
Why? Because if somebody is not the servant of Allah they will be what? They will be the servant of something else. I remember, subhan’Allah, before I was Muslim I used to be a member of the Bloods and I came into a swapmeet wearing all my red and stuff, with my boys. And we ran into these Muslim guys, you know with big turbans and beards, in Oklahoma of all places. So, I went to this brother and I said, “Yo, what’s up, man?” (I don’t talk like that any more, alhamdullilah.)
So, he responded to me and said, “Yeah, what’s up?” And I was amazed, thinking, “This foreign cat can really speak English.” Little did I know that that guy was from Brooklyn, NY. He was an American. And subhan’Allah he started giving me da’wah (call to Islam).
He said, “You see that money you have in your pocket from selling dime bags? You see that pager you have? You see that car you drive with the Daytons and the beats? You see them girls you’re trying to rap on? All of this is your ilah.”
I said to him, “What’s an ilah?”
He said, “Your god.”
I said, “You’re right. You’re correct, this is my god.” At that time, if somebody scratched my car I’d put a cap in their…foot. If somebody tried to talk to my girl we were going to go outside. I said, “These are the emotions that should be attached to a deity.”
He said, “Exactly, and this is the message of Islam. To attach these emotions, as well as physical actions, to the one who deserves it. La ilaha illa Allah (there is no god but God).”
So Islam identified this purpose in our lives for us. For thirteen years in Makkah, this was the message of the Qur’an: submission to and worship of the One who deserves to be worshiped.
The other thing that we should know about the Qur’an is that it is comprehensive. And in university you’re going to be pounded with something called secularism, maybe directly or indirectly. But it will be implanted into your hard-drive. If you use anti-virus it will not work. You have to use the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ. This is our anti-virus system. When something comes in to us, and it doesn’t fit our understanding of the world around us, we apply the anti-virus system of the Qur’an. But if we’re not reading the Qur’an, if we’re not studying the Qur’an, if we’re not thinking about the Quran, it’s the same as if you leave your computer open without ever using anti-virus on it. What’s going to happen to your computer after six months? So, subhan’Allah, how many of us for many many years have not used the anti-virus system of the Qur’an? How many? So many of us, subhan’Allah. Do we have a day-to-day relationship with the Qur’an? Do we have a monthly relationship with the Qur’an? Do we have a yearly relationship with the Qur’an? If not, we are going to be infected cognitively and eventually it will affect al-jawarih (the limbs).
Look at the Qur’an. You’re going to find penal law in the Qur’an. For example, Allah mentioned in the Qur’an that if somebody kills someone you have the right to blood money, or that they should also be killed according to the government system (2:178). We have in the Qur’an inheritance (4:11). We have in the Qur’an charity (zakah). We have in the Qur’an family issues: for example, for our brothers, how did Allah order us to live with women? He said to live with women in a nice, nice way (4:19). Even bringing up children is mentioned in the Qur’an. One page of Surah Al-Luqman is dedicated to raising children. Allah says, “Oh you who believe, protect yourselves and your families from the hellfire […]” (66:6). Even fun is mentioned in the Qur’an. Allah said, “In the bounty of Allah and in His mercy – in that let them rejoice.” (10:58) Every aspect of life has been covered in the Qur’an, maybe not in specifics. Because the Qur’an does not deal with specifics, it deals with general principles.
Like, for example, the verse where Allah said to live with your wife nicely. Allah didn’t say, “Buy her a Gucci handbag.” Allah didn’t say, “Bring her roses.” Allah didn’t say, “Bring her gulab jamun with kheer and dupati.” Why didn’t Allah specify? Because not every woman is the same. Maybe some women don’t like roses (I haven’t met one yet!) Maybe some women don’t like Gucci (possibly). So Allah left it open with a general principle, “Live with your families nicely.” Because niceness is wide, and everybody has their own things that they like. The Qur’an gave general principles, very rarely does it deal with specifics; it left the specifics to the Sunnah of the Prophet.
We see the Qur’an is comprehensive, it addresses the individual, it addresses the family, it addresses the social system (al-mujtama), it addresses the state (al-dawlah), and it even addresses the nation. If you want to know how to build a nation, go to the story of Moses and you’ll find five periods in which a nation is built: that he took them from Egypt when they were nothing, then they went to the next phase. It’s interesting, Allah sent the older people to the desert for forty years to get them out of the way and then brought the youth in to bring out the nation. Then after a battle and struggle you had the birth of Bani Israel.
Being a just leader is also mentioned in the Quran. Why do you think in the 18th chapter we see the story of Dhul Qarnayn (18:83-98)? Why, in many Muslim countries, do the Presidents of those countries not want the quraa (those who recite Qur’an) to read these verses about Dhul Qarnayn? Because it’s going to remind them about being just rulers.
Everything is addressed in the Qur’an. Allah says, “We have not neglected in the Book a thing.” (6:38). Nothing has been left out of the Book of Allah. That’s why they used to say that the Sahaba (Companions of the Prophet), even if they lost the string on their camel, they would go to the Qur’an for the answer. Us, we have to wait until our professor comes and says, “Well, you know Abdul it looks like you’re going to get a D.” This is our relationship with the Qur’an. Whereas the Companions of the Prophet, for the most minute, insignificant problems they would refer to the Qur’an. As Allah mentioned in Surah Al Nisa, “[…] return back to Allah and His Messenger […]” (4:83). How can you return back to Allah, now? It’s by going to the Qur’an.