Al salamu alaykum and Eid Al Adha Mubarak! I pray that you and your loved ones enjoy a peaceful and loving Eid insha'Allah!
We have been clicking along here through Project Illumine. This past week, we had the opportunity to revisit Surah 59: Al Hashr and Surah 24: Al Nur through our Q&A session, and also begin our engagement with Surah 33: Al Ahzab (Day 1). As I was reviewing my pages upon pages of handwritten notes on these surahs, I was overcome by the sheer amount learning we have covered, and what was required by someone studying this entire tradition to arrive at the learning we receive. I was awestruck that so much of what appeared to come together so naturally in our halaqas actually have never quite come together before. We have received so many gold nuggets of enlightenment that have never been uncovered previously in the tafsir literature. Most striking, humbling, penetrating and sobering is how directly God is speaking to us in our time about our attitudes as human beings, as a society, and as Muslims who are supposed to light the way forward in terms of virtue, kindness, commitment to justice, love, achievement, and presenting a moral example for everyone else to follow. Not only do our studies elucidate what God wants us to achieve, but also how to achieve it. It is all here, before us, if only we are willing to study and take it seriously. We ignore all of this deep knowledge at our own peril. We look around us today and see what happens when we become completely disconnected from our faith, our intellectual tradition, and our moral foundations, so clearly laid out before us.
At the risk of being too reductive, let me share some of these gold nuggets. I am mindful that many people will not have kept up with the pace and progress of these halaqas, so please know that whatever I share is but only scratching the surface, and over the course of the eight halaqa sessions in which we have touched these three surahs so far, the knowledge we have covered goes far, far wider and deeper.
Shaykh Abou El Fadl reminds us about his methodology, particularly with regard to the surahs once the early Muslims have arrived in Medina. The Medinan surahs are much more entrenched in the historical events that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and the early Muslims encountered, so understanding the import of the surahs and the Qur'anic message necessarily requires an understanding of what was taking place at the time of revelation. The Shaykh walks us through the history, the culture, the prevailing attitudes, and human emotions given what we know of the circumstances at the time of revelation based on his expansive research. He explains that the Qur'an addresses and responds to the historic circumstances - of course, God is speaking to the Prophet and early Muslims in light of their circumstances and the events taking place - yet also conveys transcendental moral messages that speak to humans long after the time of the Prophet. For example, when God addresses historical circumstances, but then tells the Muslims, "Do not be like those who forget God, so God allows them to forget themselves," God is conveying a transcendental moral message that goes well beyond the historical circumstance.
In Surah Al Hashr, we learn that all of creation supplicates God by nature of their creation. The only creation that has the free will to choose whether or not to supplicate God are human beings and jinn. Human beings can choose to supplicate God or not; we can be like the rest of creation in supplicating God - or not. Thus, there are two choices: we are either with God and creation - or not. We are either on the side of light - or not. We are reminded that God is the source of all light and goodness, and that the victories that the Muslims experienced were the direct result of God's will. God goes on to describe and diagnose those who are victorious with God, and those who are on the opposite path. God describes the attitudes and actions of those who choose to be on the right moral path, and dissects that attitudes of those who are not. Shaykh opens up the understanding and examples for us in such a way that we can see ourselves and those we know very clearly. Human beings are prone to certain attitudes and behaviors, and it is clear that God in the Qur'an knows us and our tendencies and human beings with a clarity that only the Creator can have. God confronts us with a truth we already know - and don't always want to hear or confront.
In Surah Al Nur, God teaches us how to be the instrumentality for God's light and beauty through how we act as individuals and how we should treat one another. God teaches us about the rights of dignity, privacy, honor and respect for one another. God teaches us about modesty and decency and how to conduct ourselves with one another. God is both detailed and specific in certain circumstances, and intentionally ambiguous in others. Part of our learning is to recognize and reflect on when God is specific versus less so, and why.
In Surah Al Ahzab, we learn that human beings have an incredible ability to construct their own realities, and will often do so to protect their own egos and vanities, even at the expense of the sacred. However, God did not create human beings to have two hearts, meaning that they cannot have a divided will. The path to God requires a commitment, serious determination, resolve and humility. God's path is the path to truth and God knows what is in peoples' hearts. We are told we must be introspective to what takes priority in our lives and what takes full authority. And we have only touched on the first 19 verses of the surah! To be continued...
It is deep and profound learning, which is both accessible and timeless. Even if you do not have time to uncover the gold with us in real time, know that the "gold mining" is in progress and ongoing. We are now on our 81st surah on the way to completing all 114, ultimately to be published in its entirety insha'Allah for future generations to benefit. It is an ambitious, time-consuming, labor-intensive, and critically important project that has the potential to change the trajectory of humanity's understanding and relationship with Islam. I believe in this work with my full heart and we are all committed to seeing it through to the end.
Now, I would like to ask for your help. If you believe in this project and/or have benefitted from it and would like to see it completed, will you please consider becoming a monthly supporter? All donations are tax deductible, but more importantly, convey to God that you support learning, teaching and expanding knowledge of God's magnificent book. What could be more important than an investment in Qur'anic knowledge in these darkest of times for Muslims around the world? And, in these first ten days of Dhul Hijjah, all acts of charity are extra blessed. :) We are so grateful for all who have supported us over the years and ask God to reward and elevate all those who are with us on this blessed journey!
Wishing you all a blessed Eid and look forward to seeing you online soon insha'Allah!
In Peace and Hope,
The Usuli Institute