Monday, June 28, 2010

Ahsanul qasas - the best of parables


The best of moments for many of us is when we are in the company of awliya and habaib. The best moment for me this weekend was being in the company of my qurrata a'yun, Habib Ali Zainal Abidin. [Grin]. It was at KL Ba'alawi, a favorite hang-out place. O you people around KL, be there or be square!

Habib Ali continued his regular slot at KL Ba'alawi doing tafsir Qur'an. This time was verses 1 - 8 of Surah Yusuf.
الۤر تِلْكَ آيَاتُ ٱلْكِتَابِ ٱلْمُبِينِ
إِنَّآ أَنْزَلْنَاهُ قُرْآناً عَرَبِيّاً لَّعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ
نَحْنُ نَقُصُّ عَلَيْكَ أَحْسَنَ ٱلْقَصَصِ بِمَآ أَوْحَيْنَآ إِلَيْكَ هَـٰذَا ٱلْقُرْآنَ
 وَإِن كُنتَ مِن قَبْلِهِ لَمِنَ ٱلْغَافِلِينَ
إِذْ قَالَ يُوسُفُ لأَبِيهِ يٰأَبتِ إِنِّي رَأَيْتُ أَحَدَ عَشَرَ كَوْكَباً
 وَٱلشَّمْسَ وَٱلْقَمَرَ رَأَيْتُهُمْ لِي سَاجِدِينَ
قَالَ يٰبُنَيَّ لاَ تَقْصُصْ رُؤْيَاكَ عَلَىٰ إِخْوَتِكَ فَيَكِيدُواْ لَكَ كَيْداً
 إِنَّ ٱلشَّيْطَانَ لِلإِنْسَانِ عَدُوٌّ مُّبِينٌ
وَكَذٰلِكَ يَجْتَبِيكَ رَبُّكَ وَيُعَلِّمُكَ مِن تَأْوِيلِ ٱلأَحَادِيثِ
 وَيُتِمُّ نِعْمَتَهُ عَلَيْكَ وَعَلَىٰ ءَالِ يَعْقُوبَ كَمَآ أَتَمَّهَآ عَلَىٰ أَبَوَيْكَ
 مِن قَبْلُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْحَاقَ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٌ
لَّقَدْ كَانَ فِي يُوسُفَ وَإِخْوَتِهِ آيَاتٌ لِّلسَّائِلِينَ
إِذْ قَالُواْ لَيُوسُفُ وَأَخُوهُ أَحَبُّ إِلَىٰ أَبِينَا مِنَّا وَنَحْنُ عُصْبَةٌ إِنَّ أَبَانَا لَفِي ضَلاَلٍ مُّبِينٍ

Alif Lām Rā. These are verses of the enlightening Book.
We have sent it down, as an Arabic Qur’an, so that you may understand.
By revealing this Qur’an to you, we hereby narrate to you the best narrative, while before this you were among those unaware (of it).
(It happened) when Yūsuf said to his father, “My father, I saw (in dream) eleven stars and the Sun and the Moon; I saw them all fallen prostrate before me.’’
He said, “My son, do not relate your dream to your brothers, lest they should devise a plan against you. Surely, Satan is an open enemy for mankind.
And it will be in this way that your Lord will choose you and teach you the correct interpretation of events, and will perfect His bounty upon you and upon the House of Ya‘qūb, as He has perfected it earlier upon your fore-fathers, Ibrāhīm and IsHāq. Surely, your Lord is All-Wise, All-Knowing.”
Surely, in (the story of) Yūsuf and his brothers, there are signs for those who ask.
(It happened) when they said, “Yūsuf and his brother are dearer to our father than we are, while we are a whole group. Surely, our father is in clear error.

Habib Ali Zainal Abidin said:
Surah Yusuf was revealed in Makkah. It has got many special qualities. The verse started off with ahsanul qasas, meaning the best of parables or the best of narratives. Not that Prophet Yusuf was better than the other prophets, Musa, Adam or Nuh, but when a surah begins with ahsanul qasas it carries plenty of weight and blessings. Reading the surah makes one's thoughts focused and it brings much joy to one's heart. Surah Yusuf is special. Anyone who recites it would surely be given irtah. His sorrows and worries would be lifted.

It is also special in that it is the only surah which is dedicated to one and only one prophet from the beginning right to the end. Unlike the other prophets, Prophet Musa for example, stories about him are scattered in several surah like Surah Baqarah, Qasas and Nazi'at.

Allah revealed the verses to console Prophet Muhammad s.a.w for him to know that Prophet Yusuf too had suffered from similar predicament. He faced opposition from his own family. Prophet Muhammad was challenged by kafir Quraish in the likes of Abu Jahal and Abu Lahab. This verse was meant to strengthen Prophet Muhammad's heart - tatbil lil fu'ad, so that he would have more resolve in propagating Islam.

Surah Yusuf was also meant as a lesson for Prophet Muhammad s.a.w., a lesson about the Jews, preparing him to deal with the Jews later in Madinah when he would interact with them for the first time. Prior to Surah Yusuf, there had been no stories about the Jews, except for what was mentioned in Torah. But Prophet Muhammad was illiterate, there was no way for him to learn about it. Moreover, Prophet Yusuf had been around 2130 years before him. The Arabs themselves had not heard of Prophet Yusuf because they had not have any relations with the Samawi religions, be it Christianity or Judaism. The Arabs only knew about prophets Nuh, Ismail, Lut, Hud, Ibrahim and Ishak. Apart from Waraqah bin Naufal, the Arabs in Makkah did not know any Christians or Jews. Prophet Muhammad and the people at that time was minal ghafilin, not ghaflah (heedless) but they were unaware of the stories of Prophet Yusuf.

Allah s.w.t began Surah Yusuf with three alphabets Alif Lam Ra whose meanings are only known to Him. This was meant to attract the attention of the Arabs making them eager to listen to the rest of the verses. The Arabs at that time were keen on poetry and literature and the Qur'an was a literature par excellence that captured their imagination. Alif Lam Ra was also meant to challenge those who thought they could compose something like the Qur'an. It served as lit tahaddi, a challenge.

The Qur'an was revealed in the Arabic language, it was the language of Prophet Muhammad and his people so that they would understand better. Nonetheless, it was not solely meant for the Arabs. The language itself was a mukjizat. The Arabic Qur'an has remained unaltered unlike Torah or Injil. It cannot be translated. It is a language that is easily understood yet its meanings are deep. Allah said: "We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur’an, so that you may understand", so that you belong with people with intelligence. Akal is the most significant part of our body. Allah is not worshipped with any better worship save by one who knows Him. If you do not worship Him with knowledge, then your worship is of low quality. That is why it is said, one second of tafakkur (contemplation) is better than a thousand years of worship.
It was narrated that one syaitan had entered a mosque with an intention to distract a man who was praying but ran away. When asked why he left hurriedly, he said he was fearful of the man who was sleeping next to the one who was praying. He was afraid that he would get burned by the breath of the aleem who was sleeping because that man was a knower of Allah. That is why one aleem is better than a thousand abid. Saidina Umar al-Khattab was one such person. Syaitan would avoid crossing path with him.

When Saidina Umar heard a man reciting Surah Yusuf, he asked, 'Are you reciting Surah Yusuf?' The man said yes, Saidina Umar then said, 'Go on read.' When the man came to the second verse Tilka ayatu kitabil mubin... (These are verses of the enlightening Book), Saidina Umar told him to stop and said, 'Are you going to read other stories? Enough!'

When Prophet Muhammad saw someone brought chapters of the Torah for study, he scolded him, saying, 'Is Qur'an not enough?' We should not busy ourselves with other books. The Qur'an is sufficient and is the best kitab there is. It is as we mentioned, ahsanul qasas, the best of parables, so tell your children stories from the Qur'an. Allah promised to grant ibrah to the one who narrates or recites stories from the Qur'an. He/she will surely obtain much hikmah and iktibar from the reading.

In Surah Yusuf, Prophet Yusuf addressed his father as Ya abati not Ya abi, ya walidi or ya abuya. It is a term of endearment. Likewise Prophet Yaakub addressed his son as Ya bunaiya, not ya ibni or ya walidi. This ahsanul qasas begins with a dream of Prophet Yusuf who told his father about his amazing experience. He was young and his father knew it was rare for a young boy like Yusuf to have such a wonderful dream. Prophet Yaakub thus advised Yusuf not to tell anything to his siblings.

Rukya solihah (a dream) is one of 60th part of wahyu for anbiya/solehin like Yusuf. Wahyu in this context refers to ilham (inspiration). If you are blessed with a good dream, know that it is from Allah and you are encouraged to share with those who are close to you, provided that you do not feel riya' (proud) about it. If you had a bad dream, do not tell anyone and do not believe that it is a bad omen. Do not refer to books for interpretations because only a select few are given knowledge of ta'wil. Ibn Sirrin was one gifted in matters of dreams' interpretations. Even then, he would interpret the same dream differently depending on his ilham. Therefore, we cannot generalize that if a person dreamed of hearing azan he would go for hajj. Ibn Sirrin was known to have given a different ta'wil for the same dream.

Prophet Yusuf dreamed 11 planets prostrating to him. Sajada or lis sajidin is the point where we are closest to Allah that is why we are asked to make plenty of petitions in sajada. In rukuk, we are asked to glorify Him. But sajada in Prophet Yusuf's dream meant that his siblings would eventually bow to him and not literally make sajada to him. Sajada is only meant for Allah. Prophet Yaakub had 12 sons, when Yusuf dreamed of 11 stars prostrating to him, it referred to the other 11 siblings of his.

Mu'az once made sajada to Prophet Muhammad but it was not welcomed. He saw people in some countries making sajada to their kings and he thought Prophet Muhammad of all people was more deserving. At this point, Rasulullah said if he could allow sajada for people, he would ask wives to prostrate to their husbands.

Prophet Yaakub cautioned his son Yusuf not to share his dream to his siblings for fear that they might feel envious (hasad) towards him. Envy and all bad characteristics arise from shayatin - 'Surely, Satan is an open enemy for mankind.' Prophet Yaakub knew that his other sons were able to interpret dreams and they would know the good fortune awaiting Yusuf.

Beware of hasad because it eats up all your good deeds like fire destroying wood. People who have hasad wish that calamities befall their enemies. It happens when one is angry towards someone and harbour ill feelings towards that person. Therefore, hasad is destructive to both the person who has it and his enemies. Yusuf's siblings were envious of him because they thought their father was being unfair towards them, that Yaakub was treating Yusuf favorably. Yusuf was a young boy, his father naturally gave him more attention and affection. Yusuf's brothers did not understand that though, so they devised an evil plot against him.

To be continued in the next lesson.
Wallahu a'lam.

May I be forgiven for any errors or omissions.

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