Sunday, May 30, 2010

Habib Ali Zainal Abidin on the meaning of Dhul-Qarnain


Alhamdulillah wa shukrulillah for the opportunity to sit before Habib Ali Zainal Abidin and learned tafsir of Surah Kahf verses 83 to 88. I must say that my heart is soothed the fact that we can call someone by that special name (Habib Ali) as it reminds us of Habib Ali bin Jaafar al-Idrus. Habib Ali Zainal Abidin is one young, gifted scholar who has become a familiar face and voice in KL for his role as an interpreter for renowned scholars who speak in Arabic.

Habib Ali is now one of three resident mu'aleem at KL Ba'alawi alongside Baba Aziz and Shaykh Fahmi Zamzam al-Maliki. At KL Ba'alawi, Habib Ali focuses on tafsir Quran.

They ask you about Dhul-Qarnain. Say, “I shall now recite to you an account of him.” Surely, We gave him power on earth and gave him means to (have) everything (he needs). So he followed a course, until when he reached the point of sunset, he found it setting into a miry spring, and found a people near it. We said, “O Dhul-Qarnain, either punish them or adopt good behavior with them.” He said, “As for him who does wrong, we shall punish him, then he will be sent back to his Lord, and He will punish him with a severe punishment. As for the one who believes and acts righteously, he will have the best (life) as reward, and we shall speak to him politely in our directions.” (Qur'an, Al-Kahf 83-88)
Habib Ali said:
The Prophet was asked three questions to prove his prophecy:
- on ashabul kahf (the people of the cave)
- on ruh and
- on the man who went around the globe i.e. Dhul-Qarnain.

For two of the questions, Allah guided the Prophet to answer them as recorded in Surah Kahf. And the other question was answered in another verse. There are 16 places in the Qur'an where Prophet Muhammad was questioned - "Yas alu naka anil..." and Allah inspired him to answer by saying Qul, "Say O Muhammad.." Out of the 16 questions directed to the Prophet, one question was answered directly by Allah. It was a question pertaining to ruh (spirit). "When they ask you about me, say I am near". The Qur'an says "fa inni qarib" and not "qul inni qarib".  Notice that the question was about Allah Ta'ala so He the Exalted is He was the one who answered directly. Furthermore, the ayah is related to du'a. Prophet Muhammad was also asked on whether Allah was far that we have to shout to Him or if He was near that we should only whisper our petitions. Know that the ayah actually mentioned the word qabul first before du'a. What it means is that Allah grant your wish even before you begin to ask. The door for du'a is already opened even before you knock on its door! One who does not make du'a is mutakabbir (proud). By contrast one who is muttar is one who only focuses on Allah as his only savior, so his du'a is directed to Allah wholeheartedly because he is desperate for His help. Allah will immediately answer the du'a of one who is muttar. His du'a is qabul instantaneously.

Coming back to the story of Dhul-Qarnain. He is one man of a great stature that Allah said 'I will write his history.' The story of one as great as Dhul-Qarnain, to Allah, warrants a record in the Qur'an. But Dhul-Qarnain is not a name. It is a name referring to one man whose dedication on da'wah had caused his heads to be injured on account of assault from people who disliked what he was doing. Qarnain actually means horn. Dhul-Qarnain was hurt on both sides of his head on the spots where horns are.  

Some people asked Saidina Ali if Dhul-Qarnain was a prophet or Rasul or if he had a horn made of gold or silver. Saidina Ali said, 'No, he was just a pious man, a solehin.' Dhul-Qarnain was beaten for his dedication and bravery in propagating the deen. His story was recorded in the Qur'an to teach us the value of da'wah in Islam. But Dhul-qarnain is not his real name, it is just a nickname that describes his role and contribution to the deen. What is his real name then?

To be continued.

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