One of the earliest manuscripts of Tuhfat ul Atfal, from the al-Azhar Library Collection 385/29810.

One of the earliest manuscripts of Tuhfat ul Atfal, from the al-Azhar Library Collection 385/29810.

A Closer Look at the Historical Transmission of this Popular Text

pdfdThe poem Tuḥfat al-Aṭfāl, authored by the Egyptian scholar Sulaymān Ḥusayn al-Jamzūrī [died circa 1198AH/1783-4CE], has been memorized, taught and kept alive by countless individuals since its authorship more than two centuries ago, making it the single most utilized resource for learning Tajweed to this day. Since that time, it has continued to be transmitted in the traditional manner, in the line of great classical works of Islamic learning, complete with formal authorization (ijāzah) and chains of transmission (isnād) tracing the line of one’s teachers back to the author. These documents exist across the Muslim world in various shapes and forms, handwritten, transcribed and sometimes even oral; at times free-standing and sometimes as part of larger written works.

Despite its great popularity as a traditional text, however, the chain of transmission of Tuḥfat al-Aṭfāl to the author remains problematic for a variety of reasons. Continue reading

The World Deserves to Know Islam

This was a tribute to the brothers and sisters of ICNA-WhyIslam’s NYC subway project whose tireless efforts in the path of education and dissemination of Islamic information, which is none other than the path of the Holy Prophet, continues to be a ray of hope in this country. This article originally appeared on MuslimMatters.

One day in a lonely cave on a barren mountain in the outskirts of Makkah, the heavens and the earth collided for a moment that would change the course of history forever. The very first words of Heavenly revelation came down to a youthful man of Makkah who would become the saviour of the world.

Continue reading

Arabic Grammar Crash Course Notes

207421353Arabic is the chosen medium for the conveyance of the Divine message. It is the key to understanding Islam and its sciences, and no serious student of Islam can do without it. These are my notes to a crash course in Arabic grammar I last taught in 2006. It is an unfinished work as I got side-tracked by other projects, but I am still posting it for the benefit of fellow students.

Click here to download: grammar-by-the-book1

Reflections from Surah Yusuf

 While I am not in the habit of posting other people’s work on my blog, I wanted to make an exception and support a young student of knowledge who wrote some beautiful reflections on some verses from Surah Yusuf. This is exactly the type of work and thought process that is badly needed, and that I have been promoting: for people to read the Book of Allah in a serious and contemplative way and share their reflections and gems with others [click here]. Please support this sister by reading her piece and posting your comments. -Abu Zayd

Our Trials and His Story

By Umber Siddiqi


Certain overlapping and distinctly unique messages popped out at me while reading Surah Yusuf one night. Below are my personal reflections on the first few lines. They are based on obvious themes coupled with the coloring of my personal experiences, some social contemporary commentaries I read, and some ‘realities of life’ we all must face.  This is not a concise point by point reflection based on a through verse by verse study, for I did not read a scholar’s word for word analytical work before writing this piece. Rather, below are some personal gems an average Muslim has gathered based on one reading.

 A few themes that are often repeated often mentioned in lectures and are more often forgotten really hit home. I was inspired by Sheikh Yaser Birjas at Durbah’s Heavenly Hues seminar to reengage myself in “the beautiful story of Yusuf”. Thus, they are only personal reflections motivated on the external, brief scholarly insight and advice mentioned by Sheikh Yaser Birjas on this surah, and not based on some progressive, complete study of surah Yusuf.  I ask you to read the first 18 lines of Surah Yusuf before reading the article below.

Go ahead, go get your personal Quran, go to your laptop and link up to Surah Yusuf, chapter 12, verses 1-18, then continue reading below.  It will take you approximately one minute to read these verses.  If you don’t read these verses beforehand, you will not get my personal jems.




Surah Yusuf: Thematic gems :: Verses 1-18


 Had Allah Willed it, He would have allowed Prophet Yusuf’s brothers to protect him from any harm.

This surah first starts off with every loving parent’s 1st instinct: to protect their children from any and every harm.  A parent’s worst fear is to have their son or daughter become a victim of crime.  Prophet Ya’coob, by asking his son to not dispel the contents of his dream to his sons, hoped to prevent their plotting, and prevent their temptations, the whisperings Shaytaan from getting the best of them.  One can picture his worries, as we may worry if some new information is dispelled, leaked to the wrong people: ‘What might he or she do, what will they think if someone told them this?’  However, the steps of security Prophet Ya’coob took could not stand in the way of Allah’s ultimate destiny for Ya’coob.  His actions did not stop what was about to occur.  One can picture his worries, as we often worry: ‘What might he or she do, what will they think if someone told them this?’  Can you imagine the trial he experienced knowing his ‘preventative measure’ were not enough to protect his favorite son?  Contemplate what I am telling you.  You can take all the necessary precautions in life and yet, there are some things you just can’t control in life; no one has the power to defeat Divine will.  Allah Azza wa Jal’s countless decisions have infinite wisdom and at times, cause anguish, sadness, hope, and fear.

‘A high rank is awarded to those who prove themselves to be righteous in very hard trails.’

In the chemistry of tears, some doctors have written women cry at least four times as much as men. SubhanAllah, as Sheikh Yaser rightly mentioned a Prophet’s hardship. Can we put into perspective the tears of grief of Prophet Ya’coob cried for his son, hearing the unbelievable news that his closest son was devoured by a wolf, his bloody shirt presented to him by those who took away the object of his greatest affection?  Prophet Ya’coob’s greatest nightmare becam a reality regardless of the precautions he gave his son about revealing his honorable dream. Imagine the utter shock and pain Prophet Ya’coob felt hearing this news.  We should feel humbled, in awe of Allah Azza wa Jal’s Power and Might.  For we plan, but no one, no one can escape Allah’s Plan.  Dear brothers and sisters, I do not think we can internalize this distress completely until we ourselves reread this surah while we are personally in a most befitting situation that tests our sanity, our nerves, that essentially leaves us vulnerable and drained to mental anguish.  Like a diamond in the rough that is fit to be polished, this test is also most befitting for the best of creation. If we ‘pass’ it, our character is refined, and our personalities are molded so we may inshaAllah become more righteous worshippers.  At the same time, we can benefit from reading about Prophet Ya’coob’s trails even if we have never felt this type of pain.  Allah only gives this burden to Whomever He chooses.  Prophet Ya’coob’s response to his burden is absolutely unbelievable. When the ripped, blood soaked shirt is presented to Prophet Ya’coob as a symbol of defeat, what did he say? What were the first words out of his mouth? He states, ‘I shall exercise patience without any complaint, and I shall seek Allah’s assistance against what you have devised.’  

but they never lost heart for that which did befall them In Allâh’s way, nor did they weaken nor degrade themselves. and Allâh loves As-Sâbirin (the patient ones, those who are firm and steadfast).. Surah Imraan:146)\   

Surely the patient will be paid their wages in full without measure Surah Az Zuamr, Chapter 39 verse 10

A Crime Compounded

The trial brought on Prophet Yusuf and Ya’coob may appear above our limits, above our circle of patience.  Now compound this scenario. Imagine this: imagine the crime feared being committed by your own next of kin, your own sons. Imagine the magnanimity of living with those who have caused you the most pain, and forgiving them. So not only do you bare the pain of their actions, but you eat and sleep with them; you provide sustenance for each other.  Can you contemplate what I am telling you?  Living with the one who designated your worst sadness, your worst fear, living with the people who devised your own heart wrenching situation. One father is housed with many sons, all of whom brought about his misery. Your sons were pre-warned concerning your affection towards Yusuf.  They chose the path that delivered some of the worst outcomes a parent can be inflicted with, can bear.  However, let us remember this: just because the pain was maximized did not mean the benefits were overlooked. Rather, the crime was compounded, and the ultimate reward was compounded as well.

SubhanAllah just in the opening verses of Surah Yusuf, we can get a tremendous amount of hikmah (wisdom). Just in the first 18 lines of this surah, much can be derived.  Once we process the enormity of the entire story, we can  extractcan extract the fruits of experiencing extreme hardship coupled with exemplary faith. We will now see a totally different way of viewing things we may not have ever considered before. We can examine our lives according to the role of father and son, king and queen, temptress and victim, prisoner and minister, to see a cause and effect relationship of our actions coupled with motive regardless of the state we are in. All this is seen through a guided lens to benefit the believers.

In your daily struggles, find time to compare them to the struggles of the stories of past generations In the Quran.


You will not regret it and you will gain insight and thankfulness.  Whether it is a marriage issue (pre or post marriage), mid life crises, work, school, parents or other significant relationships, a dose of Quran will make you feel better, and may even open the doors to the perception of  not only feeling wiser, but actually being wiser.


Allah in His Infinite Mercy and Wisdom has given us His ultimate word, the Quran. Surah Yusuf is a mind blowing surah that can be shared as a great dawah tool. Muslims know the story of Joseph and his father Jacob and regardless of its detailed differences, we know only God and one God alone helped Joseph and Jacob get through their trials.  I ask all of you to be mindful of your relationship with this surah and absorb its soothing and calming benefits.


This was just a sneak peak of the first 18 lines on Prophet Ya’coob’s perspective. This surah consists of 111 verses; we have not even touched Prophet Yusuf’s trails and the remainder of his father’s trials! This article is not the end as you can see, but only the beginning. I am still trying to internalize this first eighteen lines subhanAllah.  There are numerous lessons to contemplate and write about.  I believe all the bloggers and writers can read this surah and have some amazing things to write about. I believe if we all take ‘in’ even one aspect of sacrifice in this surah, we will build bridges to completing even greater deeds, and this will hopefully inshaAllah increase our patience, our imaan,  and our reliance on only Allah Azza wa Jal. I believe if a person reexamines his life according to the above points, they will see they have much more to give as a Muslim, much more they can sacrifice happily with no sadness in mind. Our minor concerns and troubles no matter how ‘gigantic’ they seem at the moment will seem puny and easily manageable when we reflect on the trials of these two prophets. SubhanAllah.


 Brothers and sisters have we contemplated these verses yet?  Some of you may say ‘yes, I have’, while others will say ‘no, I haven’t and I feel helpless. Well, I have given you and a taste here of what to expect.   Sheikh Yaser mentioned in Heavenly Hues that we really must take this surah to heart.  We can find many more benefits from the rest of this surah. The Question is, will you allow it to impact your perception on life? Will you allow it to shape the lens in which you view what happens to you in your life? 

Do they not Then consider the Qur’ân carefully?

 An-Nisa 4.82 

Do you not ponder over the Quran?



  1. ibn Kathir- Abridged
  2. The Meaning of the Quran- Maududi
  3. Personal reflections