Tag Archive | ICNA

Presenting Islam to West Point Military Cadets

I had the pleasure of presenting Islam on behalf of 877-Why-Islam to a gathering of West Point Military Academy Cadets and other officials on behalf which was highly appreciated. One gentleman from the US Attorney General’s office remarked to me, “Every school in NJ should receive this presentation.”

[download the presentation Presenting Islam v2.0]

Imām Al-Qurtubī: From Our Darkest Times Emerge Our Brightest Minds

Spotlight on Islamic Tradition

The first of a series for the Message International Magazine, in which I attempt to examine one great personality from our rich and vibrant scholarly tradition, along with some information on one of their major literary works, explained in the context of the historical era they lived in. It is my hope that presenting glimpses from our tradition in light of these three aspects (the personality, the text, and the historical context that produced both) will make for a more holistic and comprehensive understanding of our tradition and go a long way towards building Islamic literacy and a more robust connection with our heritage.

The Scholar

Imām Al-Qurtubī [died 671H/1272CE]: Abū ‘Abdullah Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Abūbakr al-Ansārī al-Khazrajī al-Qurtubī, also known as “the Shaykh of the Qur’anic commentators,” was a prolific scholar born and raised in Andalus whose learning and expertise extended to a broad varietyof subjects, including not only the Islamic sciences but the social and cultural issues of his era. He was a beneficiary of the rich and vibrant intellectual heritage of Cordoba, where he had access to someof the world’s most renowned scholars, numerous schools and the biggest public libraries in the world. He also lived during a period of constant conflict with the neighboring Christian kingdoms. In 627H his own fatherwas killed defending their farm from invading Crusader armies, and al-Qurubīwas forced to carry his body home and provide him a proper burial. At the age of 25, he was compelled to leave the region altogether with the fall of Cordoba in633H/1236CE. Continue reading

Eid Mubarak to all from Six Flags!

Approaching the Noble Qur’an

 Allah’s blessings are so abundant that it is difficult to show gratitude in any meaningful way. Life itself, good health, a roof over our heads, sufficient food in our possession to last  a few days, they go on endlessly. But by far, the greatest of all of these blessings, above and beyond  any blessing you can enumerate, is the Book of Allah. It is for this reason Allah declares at the outset of Surah al-Kahf: “Praise is due to Allah, for revealing unto His servant the Book, not placing therein any crookedness.” [al-Kahf 18:1]


Part of showing gratitude for this esteemed blessing is to read this Noble Book and attempt to understand and implement it. The Qur’an was revealed in the month of Ramadan, and specifically on the Night of Power.

The Isti‘ādhah

When we open this Book, we find that it commands us to begin its reading in a particular way.


When you recite the Qur’an, seek refuge in Allah from the accursed Shaytan. [al-Nahl 16:98]


This supplication is called the isti‘ādhah and its formula is as follows:


أعُوذ ُ باِ للهِ مِنَ الشَّيطانِ الرَّجِيمِ


Now what is the wisdom and significance of the isti‘ādhah?


The greatness and virtue of studying the Qur’an is unimaginable, as we saw in the beautiful Hadith Qudsi from yesterday’s lesson. The Prophet also declared without reservation that the best people among the entire ummah are those who study and teach the Qur’an. Unfortunately, your enemy, Shaytān knows this fact all too well and will be doing his job to divert you. Hence the need for the isti‘ādhah.


Secondly, it is quite clear that in order to study and derive benefit from the Qur’an, one must rely on certain well-known means and tools, such as the Arabic language, proper works of tafsīr, knowledge of the life-history of the Holy Prophet, etc. The isti‘ādhah is an affirmation that the greatest tool and means of deriving benefit from the Noble Qur’an is supplicating the One who revealed it. This is an expression of our utter dependence on and complete need for Allah’s mercy and support. Hence we should constantly supplicate Allah to help us in all our affairs, especially if it involves His Noble Book.


There is one such supplication related to the Qur’an, a beatiful Prophetic du‘āh that shows us what our orientation should be towards the Qur’an:


 O Allaah, I am Your servant, son of Your servant, son of Your maidservant, my forelock is in Your hand, Your command over me is forever executed and Your decree over me is just. I ask You by every name belonging to You which You name Yourself with, or revealed in Your Book, or You taught to any of Your creation, or You have preserved in the knowledge of the unseen with You, that You make the Qur’aan the life of my heart and the light of my breast, and a departure for my sorrow and a release for my anxiety.’ [Musnad Ahmad, authenticated by al-Albani]


The Noble Qur’an should really be the springs of our hearts, the light of our chests and the erasor of our worries and concerns.


Today we live in an age of learning and study. Academic education is now considered a universal human right. While there is nothing wrong with that, the real crux of the matter is:


Read in the name of your Lord who created. [al-‘Alaq]


Real knowledge and learning is that which is connected to Allah. All other study is ignorance (jahālah). All other paths to learning lead to confusion. The Noble Qur’an is the only way out. The only way to a “Good Life” (Hayāt al-Tayyibah).


As for anyone – be it man or woman – who does righteous deeds, and is a believer withal – him shall We most certainly cause to live a good life, and most certainly shall We grant unto such as these their reward in accordance with the best that they ever did. [al-Nahl 16:97]


The Basmalah


It appears from a study of the Qur’an, Sunnah and Islamic works that it has been a divine method to begin all matters with Allah’s name. The Prophet Nuh rode his ark with Allah’s name, “And he said: Embark therein! In the name of Allah be its course and its mooring. Lo! my Lord is Forgiving, Merciful” [Hud 11:41]. The Prophet Sulayman began his letter to the Queen of Sheba with Allah’s name [al-Naml 27:30].


Likewise, all chapters of the Qur’an begin with the bamalah, the debate over whether it is a part of the surahs or external to them aside. The only exception is Surah al-Tawbah, which does not begin with it due to 2 possible reasons: its stern content relating to themes of jihad and dealing with hypocrites, etc. or its continuity with the previous chapter al-Anfāl. This fact is proof of the meticulous preservation and transmission of the Qur’an by the Companions and successive generations, for had it been a careless matter or related to our logic, the chapter may have began with it to preserve the “coherence” and continuity of the Qur’an.


The scholars of the Shafi‘ī legal school and others recite the basmalah aloud before each surah, considering it a portion of the surah. Our Hanafi school  considers the basmalah to be a continual verse of the Qur’an that should be recited at the beginning of recitation but is not necessarily the first verse of each surah.


Remember 4 key points relating to the basmalah:


  1. We have been commanded to recite with the basmalah [al-‘Alaq 96:1], so we should do so before every recitation.
  2. It is an Islamic custom and tradition to begin all tasks with Allah’s name. This is supported by a Prophetic hadith that deems any deed not beginning with Allah’s name as susceptible to failure.
  3. The basmalah contains 3 of Allah’s noble names and 2 of His key attributes (al-Rahmān and al-Rahīm), and so any deed beginning with it is truly blessed and worthy of Divine help. Al-Rahmān is the root of all Divine attributes, and the logical culmination of this attribute, the mercy of Allah, is the Qur’an, As he says, The Most Gracious is He who has taught the Qur’an (al-Rahmānu ‘allamal Qur’ān)  [al-Rahmān 55:1-2].
  4. If you make a habit of reciting the basmalah before each task, your sins will begin to diminish, for no person, however wretched, would dare to do evil deeds such as stealing with the recitation of Allah’s name.


Shaykh Yusuf Islahi,


Sep 10, 2008