By this Book We Rise or Fall
Recently, it seems that a number of pious people and a few eminent Muslim spiritual leaders have had premonitions and dreams about the quickening of the Hour and the imminent appearance of the Dajjal. Every generation has its warners proclaiming the End of Days being nigh and the doors of Dajjal, the Antichrist, being flung open. So in that respect, ours is no different.
Where our age does differ from others that have passed is that we live in times where all (or almost all) the signs spoken of in the hadiths that foretell the appearance of the Dajjal have now come to pass. The advice from these spiritual authorities, therefore, is to increase in seeking Allah’s forgiveness (istighfar), and to read the first and last ten verses of surat al-kahf (the 18th chapter of the Qur’an), daily or frequently. One hadith says about the Dajjal: ‘Whoever among you encounters him, let him read the opening verses of surat al-kahf against him.’1 Another hadith asserts: ‘Whoever memorises the ten verses from the beginning of surat al-kahf [in a narration: from the end], it will be a protection against the Dajjal.’2
The first six of the ten opening verses of surat al-kahf have as their theme the Qur’an: Praise be to Allah who has sent down the Book to His servant and has not placed in it any crookedness. [But has made it] straight, to give warning of severe punishment from Him, and to proclaim to the believers who do good works that theirs will be an excellent reward, wherein they will remain forever. [18:1-3] Thus this Book from the Majestic Presence is plain and clear in instruction; is glad tidings and a warning; a reminder for the hearts of the faithful; and an intimate comfort to the souls of seekers and knowers alike. In its own words: This Qur’an does guide to that which is most upright. [17:9] And: We have sent down upon you the Book, as a clarification of all things. [16:89]
With that said, let me offer the following six points to meditate upon in terms of just how significant the Qur’an ought to be in our lives as believers:
Firstly, we should realise that the honour, status, preeminence, rank and excellence of the Muslim ummah is inextricably tied with the Qur’an. The Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: ‘Indeed Allah raises a people by this Book, and by it He disgraces others.’3 At the individual level we read in another hadith: ‘The best of you are those who learn the Qur’an and teach it to others.’4
Secondly, Allah, exalted is He, states: O mankind! There has come to you an exhortation from your Lord, and a healing for what is in the breasts, and a guidance and a mercy to the believers. [10:57] Many people talk of Islam’s solution to this problem, or the Qur’an’s solution to that problem – as if one could just punch in a bunch of numbers on some computer and, hey presto, the problem is solved! The Qur’an offers itself, not so much as a solution, but as a healing. And healing, by its very nature, involves time, patience, commitment and consistency; it is a process. Indeed, there is no illness that can afflict our hearts, nor any sorrow, grief, bitterness or agitation, which cannot be mended by the healing capacity of the Qur’an. So let us pour the word of Allah over our spiritual wounds and leave it to work its miracle.
Thirdly, what are the major themes of the Qur’an that help bring about this healing in the human condition? The major themes include: (i) God and His divine unity. While the Qur’an goes out on a limb to tell us that God is utterly dissimilar to His creation, it also says that He is closer to man than his jugular vein. The God of the Qur’an did not create the heavens and the earth in six days/periods and then rest on the seventh; instead He continuously creates and recreates, at each and every instant. Though God cannot be seen, we can sense His effects and can come to know Him through His acts and His attributes as described in the Qur’an. In fact, hearts were created to adore the One true God. Its other main themes are: (ii) The prophetic narratives; that is, of how God’s prophets and their message of monotheism and submission have been received by various communities, and how their warnings about idolatry and immorality were responded to. (iii) Man and his relationship with his Creator, his purpose of being, his duties on earth; as well as helping him to make sense of the existential dilemmas of life, death, suffering and loss. (iv) The Afterlife; the continuation of human existence after death where man will be confronted with all he has done upon earth, be it good or bad, and the requital of his deeds in either heaven or hell. (v) Cosmic phenomena verses; they discuss the natural world and various cosmic phenomena, offering them as proof for a benevolent, omnipotent, omniscient God. The Qur’an sees the whole of the cosmos as a tapestry of signs, each one pointing to God. (vi) The legislative verses; these provide spiritual, ethical, social and juridical precepts and directives which serve to guide and regulate man’s private and public life. It is from these legislative verses that practical Islamic law, morality and spirituality are derived.5
Fourthly, the unfortunate reality today is that many of us Muslims ignore the Qur’an and cast it behind our backs: seldom reading it, referring to it for guidance, or seeking to be transformed by its teachings. Instead, we open our souls to ideas and ideologies that run counter to the Qur’an, and fill our hearts with music, entertainment or other trivia that distracts us from recollecting Allah and the Afterlife. If anything, our lives resemble what is being spoken of in the verse: And the Messenger will say: ‘O my Lord! My people have abandoned this Qur’an!’ [25:30] Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah explains that: ‘Forsaking the Qur’an is of various types: (i) Refusing to listen to it, believe in it, or to pay any heed to it. (ii) Not acting on it or abiding by what it declares to be lawful and unlawful, even if one reads it and believes in it. (iii) To forsake judging by it and being judged by it, be it in the fundamentals of the faith or its branches; and to believe that its does not beget sure knowledge. (iv) Neglecting to ponder over it or comprehend it; not seeking to uncover what the Speaker intended by it. (v) To leave seeking a cure or healing through it for the various diseases of the heart, but rather to seek healing for such illnesses from other than it.’6
Fifthly, to desert the Qur’an and to persist in acting against it, even if one believes it to be Allah’s word, warrants some level of inclusion under the following divine warning: ‘But whosoever turns away from My remembrance, surely will have a life of narrowness and on the Day of Resurrection We will raise him up blind.’ [20:124] And in this neglect, one resembles those unbelievers about whom the Qur’an informs that they said: ‘We hear and we disobey.’ [4:46] And all this will not bode well for a believer, neither in this life nor the life to come.
Sixthly, the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: ‘He who recites the Qur’an and is adept at doing so will be with the devout, noble, recording angels. He who reads the Qur’an and struggles, it being difficult for him, shall receive two rewards.’7 So let us each take to reciting the Qur’an and to adorning our character and conduct with it. Let us drink from its sweet spring to quench our thirst, be illumined by it and be made joyous due to it: Has not the time come for the hearts of those who believe to submit humbly to Allah’s remembrance and to what was revealed of the truth? [57:16]
Allahumma’j‘ali’l-qur’ana rabi‘a qulubina wa nura sudurina
wa jila’a ahzanina wa dhahaba humumina wa
ghumumina ya rabba’l-‘alamin
1. Muslim, no.2137.
2. Muslim, no.809.
3. Muslim, no.816.
4. Al-Bukhari, no.5027.
5. Adapted from Turner, Islam: the Basics (Oxon: Routledge, 2006), 54-62.
6. Al-Fawa’id (Makkah: Dar ‘Alam al-Fawa’id, 2008), 118.
7. Al-Bukhari, no.4937; Muslim, no.798.