After today’s reading we would have completed half of the longest Chapter in the Qur’an.
Those who are unfamiliar with the Qur’an, are usually amazed that Muslims so often remember Prophet Abraham peace upon him. They find mention of him in Muslims’ daily prayers and in many verses of the Qur’an (Ch. 14 is named after him). Among all the names of Prophets, his is the second most-common name for boys. Actually, it was Prophet Muhammad himself who named his son after this great Prophet, peace upon them both, but not many people know that, because the child died before completing two years of age.
But what would truly amaze them, is the Muslim Pilgrimage which is -in many of its rituals- a veritable Tribute to Abraham and his family, peace upon him, as we shall soon see.
1. In footnote no. 122 to Verse 146, M. Asad discusses Abraham’s building of the Ka’ba, as well as certain Biblical prophecies regarding the advent of the Messenger Muhammad, peace upon them both. Withholding such prophecies is what was being challenged in this verse, a deed committed by those who recognized the legitimacy of Muhammad and his mission even as well as they recognized their own children.
2. Verse 148 gives the perception of life being a Race towards Good, and with that as an ultimate goal for humanity, it is of little consequence which different directions of prayer diverse peoples would have faced whilst seeking it. See M. Asad’s note 123.
3. Nevertheless, the Faithful are commanded to turn towards the ‘Inviolable house of Worship’, ‘the Sacred Mosque’ (Asad, Ali, respectively), which is Abraham’s prayer-direction, or ‘Qibla.’ They have been commanded to do so for two reasons. The first is related to Abraham, proving an argument and helping complete a mission and a vision (understood as the following): By designating the House he built as their Qibla – a bearing relative to which all Believers in the Qur’an would face in prayer to God- they are, in fact, proving themselves as Abraham’s true followers and bringing his mission to fulfillment, exactly as he had desired and prayed. The second is related to the Faithful themselves; God tells them that turning towards the Ka’ba is an important step towards the completion of God’s Favor upon them as a distinctive community.
4. Upon comparing Verses128- 129 to Verses 150-151 we realize that the latter verses answer Abraham’s prayer (in the former verses), and we also recognize an added detail, “and to teach you that which you knew not.” That was the God-given bonus which Abraham had not asked for. The Qur’anic Message not only brought new awareness, but was the catapult that enabled the Faithful to seek and obtain knowledge so successfully.
5. In Verse 152 we are told to remember God (a remembrance which will grant us His Blessings) and make full use of His favors by working with, and multiplying, them. The word ‘shukr’ in Arabic does not denote simple gratitude or thanks, although that may be how the word is understood today. ‘Shukr’ means accepting what is little and making the most of it until it achieves abundance (as in the example of a 'shakoor' horse or tree in definifion below)*. This helps us better understand the verses which call God ‘Al Shakoor,’ or The Enhancer (HQ: 35:30; 35:34; 42:23; 64:17). God accepts what little we do and enhances it!
Early Believers understood that ‘shukr’ meant productivity, and they made use of whatever they had until it was enhanced manifold. This concept is quite clear in HQ: 14:7, where God guarantees such an outcome. Unfortunately, later generations understood ‘shukr’ to mean showing gratitude- by word of mouth.
6. Verses 153-157 discuss the value of patient Perseverance amid the trials of Life, bringing us back to the vicinity of the Ka’ba, to the small hills of Safa & Marwa upon which Ishmael’s mother is known to have searched for water (read M.Asad). And then we read about those who deny the Truth ('kufr' literally:'cover')-and DIE in that state of Denial, and we think back to Verse 132, to both Abraham and Jacob's plea to their children NOT to die EXCEPT as those who are pure in their surrender to God, as 'Muslimoon.'
Our reading for tomorrow is from verse 164-176.
Peace unto all.
*شكر: الثَّناء على الإنسان بمعروف يُولِيكَهُ. ويقال إنَّ حقيقة الشُّكر الرِّضا باليسير. يقولون : فرسٌ شَكور، إذا كفاه لسِمَنِه العلفُ القليل. والأصل الثاني: الامتلاء والغُزْر في الشيء. يقال حَلُوبة شَكِرَةٌ إِذا أصابت حَظّاً من مرعىً فَغزُرت. ومن هذا الباب: شَكِرَت الشّجرةُ، إذا كَثُر فيئُها