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Luqman Foundation

Quran Lecture 1998 

Ibrahim B. Syed, Ph. D. 
Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.
7102 W. Shefford Lane
Louisville, KY 40242-6462, USA


1. The Surah Al-Hadeed 57

a. What is the core message of this surah? Only points to be highlighted. 

The core message of this surah is to exhort the Muslims to spend in the cause of Allah. It was revealed to persuade the Muslims to make monetary sacrifices. The Essence of Islam is sincerity towards Allah and His religion.  

1. One should not evade spending one's wealth for the sake of Allah(SWT), for wealth indeed belongs to Allah(SWT). Only that much of this wealth will be of any use to a man, which he spends in the cause of Allah during the duration it is in his possession. 

2. Those who sacrifice their lives and expend their wealth to further promote the cause of Islam when it is already strong cannot attain to the rank of those who struggled with their lives and their wealth to promote and uphold the cause of Islam when it was weak.

3. Whatever is spent for the cause of the Truth is a loan on Allah, and Allah will not only return it increasing it manifold but will also give from Himself the best reward for it. 

4. In the Aakhira(Hereafter) the Light shall be bestowed only on those believers who would have spent their wealth in the cause of Allah. As for the hypocrites who watched and served only their own interested in the world will be deprived of the Light, and they will be counted among the disbelievers. 

5. The Muslims should not follow the footsteps of those followers of the earlier Books, whose lives have been spent in the worship of the world and whose hearts have become hardened due to negligence with the passage of time. One cannot be a believer whose heart does not dwindle at the remembrance of Allah and does not submit to the Truth sent down by Him.

6. The sincere champions of the Truth and the true witnesses of the Faith in the sight of Allah are only those believers who spend their wealth in His way sincerely, without any desire of show.

7. The life of this world is short and transient. The life of this world is like the crop which thrives and blossoms, then turns pale and then finally is reduced to chaff. The everlasting life is in the Aakhira(hereafter). Therefore, if one has to vie with another for something, one should strive for Jannah(Paradise).

8. Whatever a good man enjoys and whatever hardship he suffers in this world, are pre-ordained by Allah. A true believer does not lose heart in affliction and neither bloats with haughtiness in good times. Whereas a hypocrite behaves vaingloriously and shows miserliness when called upon to spend in the cause of the same Allah Who blessed him, and also advocates others to be stingy like himself. 

9. Allah sent His Messengers with clear signs and the Book and the Law of Justice so that the people may adhere to justice; besides, He sent down iron also so that power may be used to establish the Truth and vanquish falsehood. Allah likes to see as to who from among the people would rise to support and succor His true Religion even at the risk of their lives. 

10. Prophets came from Allah in the past, and by their preaching some people adopted the Right Path, but most of them persisted in wickedness. Then the Prophet Jesus came, whose teachings brought about many moral improvements in the lives of the people, but his community invented monasticism.  

1 b. What kind of subjects are discussed in this surah and their relationship within the surah especially the last section of the surah needs elaboration in which the followers of Jesus are discussed. 

For the Prophethood and the Book, Allah(SWT) selected the progeny of these two great Prophets-Hazrat Noah and Hazrat Ibrahim(may Allah's peace be upon them)-that after them this wealth will not go outside their progeny. The people unto which those two were sent, or in otherwords among the children of those two, some were guided but most of them proved disobedient. The past Messengers were on the footsteps of the ancient Messengers. From the viewpoint of fundamental principle, the education of all was one and the same. In the last, the final Messenger of the Bani Israel-Hazrat Isa(Jesus)-was sent with the Gospel, the Injeel. The followers of Jesus(AS) who really followed his way-in their hearts Allah had placed love and affection. They dealt affectionately with the creatures of Allah. They were also affectionate and loving with one another among themselves. Onward the followers of Hazrat Isa(peace be upon him) had invented an innovation(Bidat) Ruhbaniyat(Monasticism), i.e. renunciation of the world, being tired of the oppression of the irreligious king and rulers and being disgusted with the involvements of the world, but this renunciation was not prescribed by Allah upon them, but their intention was this only that the good pleasure of Allah should be sought, but they could not accomplish it fully. In verse 28, we read ...." But monasticism which they invented for themselves-We did not prescribe it for them-for the seeking of Allah's Pleasure; but they did not observe it as it should have been observed1 ." Now Allah has sent the Prophet Muhammad(upon whom be His peace and blessings). Those who affirm faith in Him and pass their life fearing Allah's accountability, will be given by Allah a double share of His mercy and He will bless them with the Light by which they will see and walk the straight path among the crooked paths met with at every step in the life of this world. Although the followers of the earlier revelation regard themselves as the monopolists of Allah's bounties, the fact remains that Allah Himself controls His bounties He may bless with these bounties on whomever He pleases. 

2. a. Explanation of Asma ul Husna attributes of Allah with reference to the subject of surah Ash-Shu'raraa 26.

The disbelievers of Makkah were persistently refusing to accept the message of Islam given by the Noble Prophet. Sometimes they would say that the Noble Prophet did not show them any sign to convince them of his Prophethood. They want to see a Sign which makes them bow their heads in humility. The seeker after Truth does not have to look far for a Sign. The Signs are natural phenomena which abound around him. In this surah in verse 7, Allah (SWT) gives the Sign of the creation of a variety of fine vegetation in abundance. "This surely has a Sign, but most of them would not believe. The fact is that your Lord is Mighty as well as Merciful." (26:8-9; 67-68;103-104;121-122;139-140;158-159; 174-175;190-191;). Allah is so Powerful('Aziz) that He could send chastisement at once at their misbehaving, but He is very Merciful(Raheem) and delays in sending rebuke perhaps they may come to believe some day in near future. Here Allah's attributes are mentioned in pair, that on the one hand He is 'Aziz, i.e. Mighty enough to punish the wrong-doers; and on the other he is Raheem, i.e. Merciful, so that the righteous followers will ultimately be delivered from the punishment which is going to be inflicted on the wrong doers. 

Allah had created man to demonstrate in his person His great attributes(Asma ul Husna) and in order that he should respond to the Divine Call. The term Asma ul Husna refers to the highest attributes of Allah the Almighty, which show His excellence and supremacy overall, and befit Him alone. The Sura particularly deals with the Divine attributes, Latif (Benignant), Sami' (Hearing), Malik (King) and Raheem(Merciful), and gives sound and solid arguments and reasons to prove that Allah is Holy, He hears the prayers of His creatures, He is Merciful and He is the King and Ruler of the whole universe. 

Allah is All-Mighty, All-Powerful and All-Merciful at the same time. History contains instances of His Wrath as well as His Mercy. Hence it is for the people to decide whether they would like to deserve Allah's Mercy or His Wrath. Allah wants that people should use their common-sense and recognize the Truth through the verses of the Divine Book and the Signs which are scattered all over the universe and are found even in their own- selves. This acceptance of the Truth and rejection of falsehood, is what Allah demands from man. It is for this reason that Allah has bestowed upon man choice and free will, and freedom to follow right or wrong, that he pleases. Those who follow the path of piety, belief and obedience receive Allah's Mercy and those who follow the path of sin, disbelief and evil will receive Allah's Wrath, as Allah is Mighty as well as Merciful. This Sura gives instances of Prophets Abraham, Noah, Hud, Salih, Lot and Shu'aib. Prophet Abraham's people rejected the Divine message and were punished, because it is the invariable law of Allah that the arrogant and the wicked disbelievers are punished for their rejection of truth. 

Abraham's account is followed by that of Noah. People of Noah threatened him with violence and incurred the wrath of Allah. Noah was followed by Hud and Salih. But their people also turned a deaf ear to their preachings and opposed them and persecuted them. The inevitable result of their opposition was that Divine punishment descended upon them. The people of Lot and Shu'aib fared no better. The former indulged in unnatural moral vice and the latter were dishonest in their commercial dealings. They, too, refused to listen to their Prophets and ignored Divine warnings, and consequently were seized with Divine punishment. 

2 b. Generally Asmaa ul Husnaa are mentioned in pairs throughout the Qur'an. What possible wisdom can one develop from this pattern. 

"Excellent names" are the names that point to the greatness, the supremacy, the sanctity, the purity and the perfection of His attributes. (7:180). 

A clear Concept of the Divine Being is given in 59:22-24. The Attributes of Allah have been mentioned in a most comprehensive way in 2:255 and 59:22-24. The mention of Divine Attributes of Allah Almighty gives man the feeling that he has not to deal with an ordinary being but with Almighty Allah Who has such and such attributes. 

He should be remembered by those names which express His attributes of perfection. In the Qur'an these beautiful names of Allah have been mentioned here and there, and in the Hadith 99 names of that Exalted and Pure Being have been enumerated, which Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah have related on the authority of hadrat Abu Hurairah. 

Allah alone is 'Aziz(All-Mighty) and Hakim(All-Wise). Seldom in the Qur'an has Allah's attribute of 'Aziz(All-Mighty) been accompanied by His attributes of being Qawi(Strong), Muqtadir (Powerful), Jabbar(Omnipotent), Dhuntiqam(Avenger) and the like, which only signify His absolute power, and this has been so only in places where the context demanded that the wicked and disobedient be warned of Allah's relentless punishment. Wherever the word 'Aziz has been used for Allah, it has everywhere been accompanied by one or other of His attributes of being Hakim(Wise), Alim(Knower), Raheem(Merciful), Ghafoor(Forgiving), Wahhab(Generous) and Hamid(Praiseworthy). The reason is that if a being who wields un-limited power is at the same time foolish, ignorant, un-forgiving as well as stingy and devoid of character, its power and authority cannot but lead to injustice and wickedness. Thus, wherever injustice and wickedness is being committed in the world, it is only because the one who wields authority over others, is either using his power un-wisely and foolishly, or he is merciless and hard-hearted, or evil-minded and wicked. Wherever power is coupled with these evil traits of character, no good can be expected to result.

That is why in the Glorious Qur'an Allah's attribute of 'Aziz has necessarily been accompanied by His attributes of being All-Wise and Knowing, Compassionate and Forgiving, Praiseworthy and Generous, so that man may know that Allah Who is ruling this universe has, on the one hand, such absolute power that no one, from the earth to the heavens, can prevent His decrees from being enforced, but, on the other, He is also All-Wise: His each decision is based on perfect wisdom; He is also All-Knowing: whatever decision He makes, He makes it precisely according to knowledge; He is also Compassionate: He does not use infinite power mercilessly. He is Forgiving as well: He does not punish His creatures for insignificant offenses, but forgives their errors; He is also Generous: He does not treat His subjects stingily, but liberally and benevolently; and He is also Praiseworthy: He combines in Himself all praiseworthy virtues and excellences. 

The full importance of this statement of the Qur'an can be better understood by those people who are aware of the philosophy of politics and law on the question of sovereignty. Sovereignty connotes that the one who possesses it should wield unlimited power: there should be no internal and external power to change or modify his decision or prevent it from being enforced, and none should have any alternative but to obey him. At the mere concept of this infinite and un-limited power, man's common-sense necessarily demands that whoever attains to such power, should be faultless and perfect in knowledge and wisdom, for if the one holding this power is ignorant, merciless and evil, his sovereignty will inevitably lead to wickedness and corruption. That is why the philosophers who regarded a single man, or a man-made institution, or an assembly of men as the holder of this power, have had to presume that he or it would be infallible. But obviously, neither can unlimited sovereignty be actually attained by a human power, nor is it possible for a king, or a parliament, or a nation, or a party that it may use the sovereignty attained by it in a limited circle faultlessly and harmlessly. The reason is that the wisdom that is wholly free of every trace of folly, and the knowledge that fully comprehends all the related truths, is not at all possessed even by entire mankind, not to speak of its being attained by an individual or an institution, or a nation. Likewise, as long as man is man, his being wholly free of and above selfishness, sensuality, fear, greed, desires, prejudice and sentimental love, anger and hate is also not possible. If a person ponders over these truths, he will realize that the Qur'an is indeed presenting here a correct and perfect view of sovereignty. It says that no one except Allah in this universe is possessor of absolute power, and with this unlimited power He alone is faultless, All-Wise and All-Knowing, Compassionate and Forgiving, and Praiseworthy and Generous in His dealings with His subjects. 

Commentary on 1b 

Verse 28 in Surah Al-Hadid 57 may mean that the followers of Jesus invented monasticism in order to seek Allah's pleasure but Allah had not prescribed it for them; or they invented monasticism which Allah had not prescribed for them-He had only prescribed for them the seeking of His pleasure. 

In the present verse the example of a people-the Christians-has been cited to show that the adoption of an extreme course by them, with howsoever good intentions, led them away from the goal they had sought to attain. They invented the institution of monkery(monasticism) in order, as they thought, to seek pleasure of Allah, and in conformity with, according to them, Jesus's own teaching and practice. The adage that the road to heaven is paved with good intentions was never better illustrated than in the case of Christians for whom monkery(monasticism) proved a source of many evils. They started with monasticism and ended with giving themselves up to the worship of Mammon. By implication the Muslims were told that because a great Prophet had been raised for them, by following whom they would be given great worldly power and wealth, they should not go to the other extreme and give themselves up to the pursuit of material gains and physical pleasures. While monasticism has been decried and deplored as repugnant to human nature, the Noble Prophet also is reported to have said: there is no monasticism in Islam(Ibn Athir). Islam is not a religion for dreamers and visionaries who live in a world of their own conception, entirely divorced from the hard realities of life, but is a practical system which gives effective and full guidance in mundane as well as spiritual affairs. It has not left any aspect of crowded human life for which it has not laid down practical guidance. There is no place in Islam for such an impracticable teaching as "take no thought for the morrow"(Matt. 6:34). It emphatically enjoins a Muslim "to look to what he sends forth for the morrow"(59:19). According to Islam a true Muslim is one who discharges fully and completely the obligations he owes to his fellow-beings(Haquuq al Ibaad) as he discharges those he owes to his Creator(Haquuq Allah). 

1. History of Christian Monasticism: 

For about 200 years after Prophet Jesus(peace be upon him) the Christian Church did not know anything about monasticism. The basis of monasticism is to look upon asceticism as a moral ideal and to regard celibacy as superior to matrimonial and mundane life. Historically the spread of monasticism has three main causes: 

First, in the ancient polytheistic society sensuality, immorality and materialism had so permeated that in their zeal to nullify it the Christian scholars adopted the extremist way instead of the way of moderation. They so stressed chastity that the relationship between man and woman by itself came to be looked upon as filthy, even if it was within marriage. To possess property of any kind was considered a sin for a religious person and to live like a poor man and ascetic the criterion of moral excellence. They made withdrawal from pleasure and all material comforts, self-denial and curbing of the desires the object of morality and regarded torturing the body by different sorts of harsh discipline as the climax and proof of a person's spirituality.

Secondly, when Christianity started achieving successes and spreading rapidly among the common people, the Church in its zeal to attract more and more adherents went on imbibing every evil that was prevalent in society. Thus, saint-worship replaced the ancient deities. Images of Christ and Mary began to be worshipped instead of the idol of Horus and Isis. Christmas took the place of Saturnalia. Christian monks began to practice every kind of occult art like curing the sick by amulets and magic incantations, taking omens and fortune-telling, driving out spirits, etc., as were prevalent in ancient days. Likewise, since the common people looked upon a dirty and naked person who lived in a cave or den as a holy and godly man, this very concept of saintlihood became prevalent in the Christian Church, and legends of their miraculous powers began to abound in the memoirs of the Christian saints. 

Thirdly, the Christian possessed no detailed law and definite traditions and practices to determine the bounds of religion. They had given up the Mosaic Law. The Gospel by itself afforded no perfect code of guidance. Hence the Christian theologians went on permitting every kind of innovation to enter the religion partly under the influence of alien philosophies, customs and practices and partly under their personal preference and whim. Monasticism was one such innovation. They took their philosophy and rules and practices from the Buddhist monks, Hindu Yogis and ascetics, Egyptian Anchorites, Iranian Manicheans, and the followers of Plato and Plotinus, and made the same the means and methods of attaining self-purification, spiritual loftiness and nearness to Allah. Those who committed this error were not ordinary men. From the 3rd to the 7th century(i.e., till about the time the Qur'an began to be revealed) the religious personalities who were recognized as the foremost scholars and religious guides and leaders of Christendom, both in the East and in the West-St.Athanasius, St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, St. Augustine, St. Benedict, St. Gregory the Great-

all were monks themselves and great upholders of monasticism. it was under their influence that monasticism became popular in the Church. 

The basic rules of Christian Monasticism are derived from the writings and instructions of St.Anthony(25-350 A.D.) of Egypt who is regarded as the father of Christian Monasticism. Afterwards monasticism spread like a deluge in Egypt and monasteries for monks and nuns were set up everywhere in the land. In some monasteries three thousand monks lived at a time. The monastic movement then began to spread in Palestine and Syria and in different countries of Africa and Europe. In the beginning the Christian Church accepted relinquishment of the world, celibacy and voluntary poverty as an ideal of spiritual life, however it could not declare marriage, begetting children and possessing property or wealth to be sinful as the monks did. Subsequently under the influence of early saints such as St. Athanasius(d. 373 AD), St. Basil(d.379 AD), St. Augustine(d. 430 AD), and Gregory the Great(d. 609 AD) many of the monastic rules became part and parcel of the Church. 

The monastic innovation has some characteristics which are described below: 

(1) Inflicting pain on the body by severe exercises and novel methods. In this act every monk tried to surpass the other. St. Macarius of Alexandria constantly carried with him a weight of 80 pounds and for six months he slept in a swamp while poisonous flies preyed on his naked body. His disciple, St. Eusebius carried a weight of 150 pounds and lay in a dry well for three years. St. Bessarion lay in thorny bushes for 40 days and did not rest his back on the ground for 40 years. St. John remained standing in worship for three years during which he neither sat nor lay down; he would only recline at times against a rock. St. Simeon Stylites (390-449 A.D.) spent last 30 years of his life on a 60 foot high pillar and remained permanently exposed to the elements. When he died the Christian world proclaimed that he was the best model of a Christian saint. One saint remained silent for 30 years. Some lived in the dens of beasts, or in dry wells, or in old graves; and some other remained naked and concealed their private parts under long hair and would crawl on the ground. After death their bones were preserved in monasteries. 

(2) They remained dirty and strictly avoided cleanliness and bodily care. A famous nun, Virgin Sylvia, never allowed any part of her body except the fingers to become we with water throughout life. 

(3) Monasticism practically forbade married life and ruthlessly abandoned the institution of marriage. All religious writings of the fourth and fifth centuries are filled with the thought that celibacy is the highest moral virtue. Chastity meant that one should strictly abstain from sexual relation even if it was between husband and wife. The perfection of a pure spiritual life lay in complete self-denial, with no desire for physical pleasure. It was indispensable to suppress any carnal desire because it strengthened animality. For them pleasure and sin were synonymous. St. Basil forbade even laughing and smiling. Marriage was considered as filthy. A monk was forbidden even to look at a woman, and was required to abandon his wife, if he was married. Women were asked to shun marriage and remain spinsters, and if they were married, they should separate from their husbands. St. Jerome, the distinguished Christian scholar, ruled that the woman who remained a spinster as a nun for the sake of Christ, was the bride of Christ, and her mother was the mother-in-law of Christ, i.e., God. Hence many Christian saints abandoned their spouses as there was no provision for divorce. As a result married monks were having "illicit" relations with their wives in private. They were asked to meet their wives only in the presence of at least two other men and they should sleep in the open. 

(4) The most painful and pathetic chapter of ascetic monasticism is that it cut asunder man's relations with his parents, with his brothers and sisters, and even his own children. Because love for family members was sinful. They believed it was necessary for man to break off all those relations for the sake of spiritual progress. After 27 years the mother of St. Simeon Stylites came to see him in a monastery, but was not allowed to enter being a woman. The son refused to go out and meet her. The woman lay at the entrance for three days and three days night and finally breathed her last. Then the holy man emerged from his seclusion, mourned his mother's death and prayed for her forgiveness. The same way they treated their sisters and children. The viewpoint of Christian monasticism in these matters was that the one who sought love of God, should break off all relations of human love that bound him in the world of his parents, his brothers and sisters, and his children. Of a nun it is said that for three days after her death, she remained subject to a torment because she had not been able to cleanse her heart of her mother's love. About a saint it is written that he never treated anyone harshly except his relatives. 

(5) With practices like these, they made their human feeling dead, with the result that they would treat with utmost enmity those with whom they had any religious differences. In the beginning of 4th century, there arose 80 - 90 sects in Christianity, each of which regarded the other with extreme hatred. Alexandria was a great center of this sectarian conflict. There, in the beginning the Bishop of the Arian sect attacked the Athnasius party. Virgin nuns were dragged out of their convents, stripped naked and beaten with thorny branches and branded in order to make them give up their creed. Then, when the Roman Catholics came to power in Egypt, they treated the Arian sect likewise; so much so that according to the prevalent view Arius himself also was poisoned. Once in the city of Alexandria the monks of St. Cyril created turmoil. They seized a nun of the opponent sect and took her into the church; they killed her, hacked her body to pieces, and cast them into the fire. Rome was not any different from this. In 366 A.D, at the death of Pope Liberius, two sects nominated their respective candidates for papacy. This resulted in great bloodshed. In one day 137 dead bodies were taken out from one church. 

(6). Although they retreated from the world and lived a life of seclusion and poverty, but at the same time they amassed the wealth of the world most avariciously. In the beginning of 5th century the condition was that the Bishop of Rome lived in his palace like a king, and when his carriage emerged in the city, it would be as stately and splendid as of the emperor himself. St. Jerome complained that the feast hosted by many of the bishops out-classed the feasts of the governors. The flow of wealth to monasteries and churches had assumed the proportions of a deluge by the beginning of the 7th century(the age of the revelation of the Qur'an). A person who happened to commit a grave sin could be redeemed only by making an offering at a saint's shrine, or a sacrifice at the altar of a church or monastery. Common people developed extreme reverence for the monks because of their self-discipline and self-denial. Taking advantage of this, hosts of world seeking people also donned the monk's garments and entered their ranks. Then under the garb of feigned poverty they turned acquisition of worldly wealth and possessions into a flourishing business. 

(7) Monasticism was repeatedly was defeated in the matter of chastity and in its fight against nature. In the monasteries some exercises of self-mortification were such that the monks and nuns were required to live together in one and the same place, and they had often to pass the night in the same bed in their enthusiasm for more and more temptations. St. Evagarius, the well-known monk, has praised the self-control acquired by the Palestinian monks, saying : "They had mastered their passion so completely that although they bathed with the women together, looked at their bodies, touched them, even embraced them, yet they remained invincible to nature." Albeit bathing was an abhorrent thing in monasticism, such baths were also taken for the same of exercise in self-control. Finally, about the same Palestine, St. Gregory of Nyssa(d. 396 AD) writes that it has become a center of wickedness and immorality. Human nature avenges itself on those who fight it. Monasticism fought it and ultimately fell in the pit of immorality, the story of which is a most shameful blot on the religious history of the 8th to 11th centuries. An Italian bishop of the 10th century writes: " If the penal law for misconduct is practically enforced against those who perform religious services in the church, none would escape punishment except the boys, and if the law to remove illegitimate children from religious services was also enforced, there might perhaps be left no boy among the attendants of the church." Books of the medireview authors are filled with complaints that the nunneries had become houses of prostitution. Within their four walls new-born babies were massacred; the priests and religious attendants of the church had developed illicit connections even with forbidden relatives; the crime of the unnatural act had spread like epidemic in the monasteries; and the practice of confession had become a means of immorality in the churches. 

From these details one can fully appreciate what corruption of Christianity is the Qur'an alluding to when it says: "The Christians themselves invented monasticism, but they did not observe it as it should have been observed." (57:27).


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