Islamic Character Qur'an

O You Who Believe, Have Taqwa of Allah by Suhaib Webb | Transcribed by Fuseina Mohamad

Surat Luqman, Qur’an 31: Part I | Part II Part III | Part IV

That being said, the discussion today is about mountains and hearts. In Surah Hashr, Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) says, “O you who have believed, fear Allah.” (Qur’an, 59:18)

The word يا (ya) is usually used to call someone far from you, however it can sometimes be used to talk to someone close as well if you want to honor them or indicate that what you’re talking about is very important. For example, if my daughter was doing something wrong I would say, “Ya Shifaa!” even though she’s right in front of me.

In this ayah (verse), ya is used as نداء التشريف (nidaa at-tashreef), a call that has honor in it. It also implies that what Allah (swt) is about to tell the believers is very important, so pay special attention to it. What does He say? “Oh you who believe, have taqwa of Allah (swt).

Taqwa comes from the root letters و  ق  ي  (waw, qaf, ya). The word وَقَيَ means to protect. Also, in Arabic وِقاية (wiqayah) is a shield that someone uses in the battlefield. In Surah At-Tur, Allah (swt) uses the word وقاهُم (waqaahum/he protected them) when He says “and their Lord protected them from the punishment of Hellfire.” (Qur’an, 52:18).

The scholars said that taqwa has two meanings in sharia (Islamic jurisprudence). The first meaning of taqwa is to place a barrier of good deeds between yourself and the possibility of punishment. We say the “possibility of punishment” because we don’t say that someone who leaves what Allah (swt) has ordered will be punished, rather we say he becomes eligible for punishment. This is because Allah (swt) can forgive who He wants and He can punish who He wants. Punishment and forgiveness are in the hands of Allah (swt), and we ask Him to forgive us.

The second meaning of taqwa is to do your best in obeying Allah (swt). It’s very important to note this as one of the mercies of Islam. The Prophet ﷺ said “ و ما أمرتكم به فأتوا منه ما استطعتم What I’ve ordered you to do, do it to the best of your ability.” This is why we have an axiom in Islamic Law that states “الأوامر مبنية على الاستطاعة  “Orders are based on ability.” As long as someone tries their best Allah (swt) will accept from them.

We aim to do our best to observe the orders of Allah (swt), first we do those things that are obligatory, then we add those things which are recommended to polish it off. And then we avoid that which is prohibited and leave some of the doubtful issues. Unfortunately we have inverted this process now and we go to the Sheikh (scholar) and ask, “Sheikh, can you find a way out to make this thing permissible for me? Maybe there’s a strange opinion that I can follow?” It’s like shopping for a fatwa. But the muttaqi (the one who has taqwa) is careful. That’s why the Prophet ﷺ said “من وقع في الشبهات وقع في الحرام Whoever fell into the doubtful issues fell into haraam [something forbidden].”

So, at the beginning of 59:18, Allah (swt) commands the believers and orders them to have taqwa of Him. He (swt) has already mentioned the believers, so as the ayah (verse) continues, there is no need to mention the people being addressed again. Allah (swt) could use a pronoun. But Allah (swt) uses a common noun in a place where there should be a pronoun. Let’s look at an English example. If I were to say to you, “I saw Suhaib and Ahmed at the store. Suhaib and Ahmed were drinking water. Suhaib and Ahmed bought this…” you would tell me “You can say ‘they’. Why do you keep saying ‘Suhaib and Ahmed’”?

In Arabic this is done to show the importance of something. It’s called إظهار في مقام الإضمار (showing/naming in the place of a pronoun). If you remember last year when we talking about Surat-ul Kahf, the 18th chapter of the Qur’an, we mentioned this. Allah (swt) continues to refer to the people of the cave by saying “the youth” and “they were youth” instead of using the pronoun “they”. This is done to emphasize the importance of youth in Islam.

Here also, Allah (swt) says, “And let every soul….” Instead of saying “and you all should look”. Also notice the word نفس (nafs, soul) is indefinite. The scholars mention something beautiful here. They say Allah (swt) said “every soul” to remind every single person – whether they are a scholar or not – that they are responsible to Allah (swt). As Allah (swt) tells us “And no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another.” (Qur’an, 17:15).

Additionally, the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) said in a sound hadith (narration): “Every soul is the barterer of itself. Either it will sell itself to destruction, or it will sell itself for success.” Allah (swt) also mentions: “Indeed, Allah has purchased from the believers their lives and their properties [in exchange] for that they will have Paradise.” (Qur’an, 9:111). Allah (swt) also mentions those people who sold their deen (their religion/faith) for a small paltry price (Qur’an, 2:41).

So Allah (swt) is warning us that every soul should look towards what it will send tomorrow. The word غدا (ghadan) means tomorrow, but here it is referring to the hereafter. Imam Ibn Ashur mentions that the reason Allah (swt) used the word “tomorrow” to refer to the hereafter is because when the Arabs wanted to speak of something that was as close to them as possible, they would use the word “tomorrow”. So Allah (swt) uses “tomorrow” to remind us that the Day of Judgment is near. As He (swt) says, “Indeed, they see it [as] distant, But We see it [as] near.” (Qur’an, 70:6-7). Don’t become negligent, the hour is close. That’s why Abdullah ibn Umar said, “If you live to see the evening don’t expect to see the morning, and if you live to see the morning don’t expect to see the evening.”

Then, Allah (swt) says و اتقوا الله (and be dutiful to and fear Allah). This is interesting because Allah (swt) opened the verse with this command and closed it with the same command. Twice, Allah (swt) mentions being dutiful to and fearing Allah (swt).

Why does Allah (swt) say this twice? There are two reasons, according to the scholars. The first, according to the scholars, is fear of Qur’an. The second is to ensure that you stay upright on this taqwa. For example, Allah (swt) says “Oh you who believe, believe in Allah!” Why does Allah (swt) say “believe” twice? (Qur’an, 4:136) To command us to stay as believers, to be firm in this belief. So, here the second command is to remind us to maintain that taqwa of Allah (swt). If you’re lucky enough to fear Allah (swt) the first time, then fear Allah (swt) again.

Finally Allah (swt) ends with “Indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what you do.” (Qur’an 59:18) This is the reason why Allah (swt) says “Fear Allah (swt)” in the beginning. The sentence in the middle is an independent clause, but the ending answers the question “Why should we fear Allah (swt)”?

The word إنَّ (inna) means surely, and in this verse it’s used for purposes of التعليل (at-ta’leel) to answer the question “why”. Why should we fear Allah (swt)? Because Allah (swt) is خبير (khabeer). This word form is the فعيل (faeel) word pattern used to speak of someone’s essence, something that comes naturally to them.  For example, when you talk about me, you would say “Suhaib is طويل (taweel/tall).” because it’s part of my nature, I can’t be short. So, when we say Allah (swt) is khabeer, it means that it is from His (swt) essence and attributes that He is well aware of everything that we do. We should ask ourselves, how does this attribute of Allah (swt) rectify our attitudes and behaviors when we are dealing with Him as our Lord?

This verse that we have been studying is from Surat ul-Hashr (Chapter 59). This surah (chapter) mentions two major events that happened in the life of the Prophet ﷺ in Madinah. The first is the victory Allah (swt) gave them over Banu Nadir. Secondly Allah (swt) describes the hypocrites to the Prophet ﷺ and his Companions, and how Allah (swt) gave them victory over these hypocrites.

So in the next ayah, Allah (swt) commands: “And do not be like those who forgot Allah (swt)…”(Qur’an, 59:19)

The word “those” is a definite article, so it is as though Allah (swt) is speaking about someone He already mentioned in the Surah, and the listener of the Qur’an who lives in Madinah and hears these words knows who Allah (swt) is talking about. The scholars say these people are those two groups who were mentioned previously in the Surah. The first are the followers of Musa (the Jews of Madinah) whose attributes Allah (swt) describes throughout the Qur’an, and He warns the Muslims not to acquire the main attribute of those followers of Musa, which was knowledge without practice. The second is the hypocrites: those people who expressed faith but internally had no faith. What is the result of these people forgetting Allah (swt)? Allah (swt) caused them to “forget themselves.”

Allah (swt) continues to say that indeed these people are the people of fisq. Fisq means something that’s abnormal. For example, if the inner part of a date comes out of the skin in a strange way, the Arab would say فَسَقَ (fasaqa), meaning it has come out abnormally. We know that everyone is born on fitrah (innate natural disposition towards virtue and oneness of God). So when a person leaves the fitrah and rebels against Allah (swt), we say he becomes a faasiq, he left the natural human disposition and became something strange.

Then Allah (swt) continues in the next ayah to explain this further. He says: “Not equal are the companions of the Fire and the companions of Paradise. The companions of Paradise – they are the attainers [of success].” (Qur’an 59:20) Thus, if we stay on the Qur’an and are amongst the people who mind their remembrance of Allah (swt), then we will be from the people of Paradise. However, those people who forgot Allah (swt) and did not fear Him will be from the people of Hellfire. And Allah (swt) says they are not the same. The people of Paradise are faaizoon.

The word فائز (faaiz/winner/successful) is called اسم فاعل (ism faa’il) and Allah (swt) uses this ism faa’il here to show certainty. “Definitely, for sure, there’s no doubt, that they are successful!.”

About the author

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb is a contemporary American-Muslim educator, activist, and lecturer. His work bridges classical and contemporary Islamic thought, addressing issues of cultural, social and political relevance to Muslims in the West. After converting to Islam in 1992, Webb left his career in the music industry to pursue his passion in education. He earned a Bachelor’s in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and received intensive private training in the Islamic Sciences under a renowned Muslim Scholar of Senegalese descent. Webb was hired as the Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where he gave khutbas (sermons), taught religious classes, and provided counselling to families and young people; he also served as an Imam and resident scholar in communities across the U.S.

From 2004-2010, Suhaib Webb studied at the world’s preeminent Islamic institution of learning, Al-Azhar University, in the College of Shari`ah. During this time, after several years of studying the Arabic Language and the Islamic legal tradition, he also served as the head of the English Translation Department at Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah.

Outside of his studies at Al-Azhar, Suhaib Webb completed the memorization of the Quran in the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. He has been granted numerous traditional teaching licenses (ijazat), adhering to centuries-old Islamic scholarly practice of ensuring the highest standards of scholarship. Webb was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in 2010.


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