Sunday, January 4, 2015

Jottings from Shaykh Abdul Aziz Fredericks' tafseer of Al-Fil & Al-Quraysh


La hawla wala quwwata illah billahOh dear Lord, I disavow having any abilities to write notes from majlis ta'lim let alone a session on tafseer of the Qur'an. But there I was at a tafseer class organized by the Madina Institute of Malaysia and the Muslim Society of the International Medical University in KL. Shaykh Abdul Aziz Fredericks came all the way from the UK for the event which coincided with 12th Rabi'ul Awal. Allahumma salli ala Sayidina Muhammad adadama yakun wama qadkan

Before stopping by in KL, Shaykh Abdul Aziz was in Singapore for the Sacred Path of Love event organized by the Sout Ilaahi group.  

It's unfortunate that I wasn't able to properly sit in all the four mini-sessions during which Shaykh Abdul Aziz expounded the meanings of two surah fitting for the occasion, namely Surah Al-Fil and Surah Al-Quraysh. Below is my feeble attempt to put together not notes but random jottings. Nevertheless, first, let's just read the translations and brief intro of the surah as given in the class handouts.

Surah Al-Fil
Have you not considered [O Muhammad] how your Lord dealt with the companions of the elephant? Did He not make their plan into misguidance? And He sent against them birds in flocks. Striking them with stones of hard clay. And He made them like eaten straw.

This year of the Elephant marks the holy year our beloved Prophet Rasulallah salallah alaihi wasalam was born. Yemen was then under the rule of the Abyssinians and Abraha was the Abyssian governor. Intoxicated with power and fired with religious fanaticism, he led a big expedition against Mecca, intending to destroy the Ka'aba. He had elephants in his train. But his sacrilegious intentions were defeated by a miracle. Abdul Mutalib told Abrahah that the Lord of the Holy House will protect the Holy Ka'aba. A shower of stones, thrown by flocks of birds, destroyed the invading army almost to a man.


Surah Al-Quraysh
For the accustomed security of the Quraysh. Their accustomed security [in] the caravan of winter and summer. Let them worship the Lord of this House. Who has fed them, [saving them] from hunger and made them safe, [saving them] from fear.

This Meccan Surah may well be considered as a pendant to the last. If the Quraysh were fond of Mecca and proud of it, if they profited by its central position and its guaranteed security, from their caravans of trade and commerce, let them be grateful, adore the One True God and accept His Message.

Shaykh Abdul Aziz as many of you would know, has a special ability to impart lessons in a casual entertaining way. Morals of stories/parables from both surah were delivered amid anecdotes and significant side stories.

Random jottings:
  • Surah Al-Fil begins with Alam tarakai which according to the shaykh, is a question but not really a question. It is harfu istifham. It is like asking with a loaded intonation and meaning e.g. Did you not see the rain/flood? You did see it didn't you?
  • Tarak in Alam tarakai comes from the word takrir meaning to establish or to reinforce a principle.
  • Some tafsir mentions three elephants, some one. The elephant was named Mahmud. Unais was his trainer.
  • Tadlil means wrong path.
  • Ibrik means bowl.
  • Ibn Abbas was good in tafsir because the Prophet made du'a for him so that he would be good at it. The Prophet favored him. Ibn Abbas would bring him ibrik for making wudhu. He would accompany the Prophet almost everywhere. When people ask him about a verse of the Quran he would talk with certainty and say this means that. Saidina Abu Bakar on the other hand was good in poetry and genealogy. He was able to memorize plenty of poetry. Unlike Ibn Abbas, he would often quote other people and not say something from himself.
  • Ababil is a a regiment of bird. There is no singular to it.
  • Sijjil means hard clay or names that have been written.
  • Al-Fil and Al-Quraysh are two related surah. Ubay bin Kaab would read these two verses continuously without reciting bismillah in between them.
  • Li ila fi Quraysh - ilaf - yalaf - alafa means to be familiar with. 
  • Ulfa - It is Allah who brings ulfa between people's hearts. It is the peaceful feeling you have in your heart when you are in the company of a person. You feel comfortable being around certain people.
  • Taddabur means to reflect upon. Tafsir comes from the word fasara meaning to explain/go into details.
  • Shaykh Abdul Aziz's favorite seerah is the one written by Martin Lings who studied from CS Lewis - a literary giant of his time.
  • Two lessons from the surah is that Allah has protected the Prophet even before he was born and that people knew about the coming of the Prophet.
  • The level of your tawfik is the level of your connection to Prophet Muhammad salallah alaihi wasalam.
  • The coming of Prophet Muhammad was in fact the momentous event.            
Allahu a'lam.

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