By Jeanette Hablullah, ND
Surely all praise and gratitude is due to Allah, Lord and Evolver of all that exists. He is the One Who sent down the Book onto the heart of His Messenger, Muhammad (saw) so that he could recite it to humanity in intervals. May Allah accept this task from me.
And there is not a creature on the earth except that Allah is responsible for her provision and He knows her fixed abode and her temporary places. All (this) is in a Clear Book. (Interpretation of the meaning of Quran Surah 11: ayah 6)
Thus begins this juz’, rich with the qasas (the narratives) – timeless and fixed by the names of various messengers. Allah is the greatest of the Tellers, the Conveyors of Narratives, whose purpose is stated in the final ayah of Surah Yusuf. Though not part of juz’ 12, this knowledge needs to be part of our background as we read and reflect in these early days of the part of the Blessed Month of Ramadan that is dominated by ‘maghfirah,’ or the covering of the faults. Allah says that in the recounting of faults is instructive guidance for ‘possessors of the core,’ or those whose hearts are endowed with understanding.
In the general and specific narrative of the juz’, beginning with that of Prophet Muhammad (saw) in ayah 12, there is great emphasis on sabr – being constant, adhering to what Allah has commanded and what reason (one’s own core knowledge) tells us should be. This sabr relates to our rizq, our provision, on the physical, intellectual and spiritual levels as Allah has taken that upon Himself. For this, the Rabb (Lord) moves us, each of us, as He does His Prophets and Messengers through different situations, locations, conditions and circles of companions as He evolves us to greater levels of perfection.
Awareness of this process is necessary for the desired outcome – the falah or successful life. He, Allah, speaks to Muhammad (saw), “I know it bothers you what they are saying. I know your chest has become constricted because of the reaction to My revelation to you, which you must convey. I know you may even feel like leaving something out, but ‘Allah is the Authority over all affairs.’ (interpreted from Surah 11: ayah 12) I am the Wakil working in the ghrayb (the imperceptible realm). Be patient!
And for Prophet Nuh (as), working with his people hundreds of years without complaint would have been impossible without the strong presence of the noble quality. His story briefly parallels that of Prophet Yaqub (as) in the aspect of patience in the loss of a son. Yes, there are stark differences. Prophet Nuh sought to guide and save his son and he continued in this until the very end when his son was overcome by that from which he thought he could escape (Surah 11: ayah 42). Prophet Yaqub sees that his son, Yusuf (as), has been chosen by Allah to perfect the blessings to the family of Ibrahim (as) (Surah 12: ayah 6). Yet, we can feel the grief of Prophet Nuh as intensely as we do that of Prophet Yaqub when he says, “sabrun jamilun,” which means: [Let me exhibit] A beautiful patience. And we can reflect on fathers and sons and hope and grief and grief and hope. We can try to bring some divinely guided thought to the daily losses in our communities of children, those who have been corrupted and misguided and those who are murdered or lost to prisons for no just reasons.
Note the juxtaposition of the emotions in each situation given. With Prophet Nuh (as) it is hope accompanied by lack of clarity followed by grief with acceptance of the Divine Ordinance (Surah 11: ayah 45). As for Prophet Yaqub (as), it is grief as he is presented with Yusuf’s shirt, stained with ‘false blood’ followed and dominated by hope in an outcome governed by Allah (Surah 12: ayah 18)
The statement “sabrun jamilun” is immediately followed by the proclamation: “wa Allahu al-Musta‘an” (And Allah is the One Sought After for Help and Support). Al-Musta‘an is one of the Beautiful Attributes of Allah. It appears only twice in the Quran (here and 21:112) and is generally not included in the standard list of Ninety-Nine names of God. Yet, there is something about this Attribute that is subtly desired for us by Allah. We refer to it no less that 17 times each day as we recite surah al-Fatihah in the required salat – “iyaka na‘budu wa iyaka nasta‘in.”
Then as we make connections, as Allah intends with His ayat, we find related commands. In surah al-Baqarah: “And seek help with steady adherence to what is commanded and prayer. And, this is truly a difficult thing except on those who humbly submit.” (interpretation of the meaning of Surah 2: ayah 45) Then again, “Oh you who believe, see help and support by steady adherence to what is right and salat. Surely, Allah is with those who patiently persevere.” (interpretation of the meaning of Surah 2: ayah 153).
Notice that sabr is always placed first and is evident in each Prophet’s story told in this juz’. Surah 12, revealed all at once in the ‘Year of Sorrow’ when the early Muslim community was in exile is dominated by the story of the sabr of father and son and meant to serve as a comforting salve in our times of rejection, deprivation, anxiety, shortage of resources, etc. It is said that there is no man nobler than Prophet Yusuf (as) – a Prophet who is the son of a Prophet, who is the son of a Prophet, who is the son of a Prophet. It is also said that no one has suffered greater fluctuation in the ni‘mah (good) given to him or her. It helps to keep these facts in mind as we suffer hardship and enjoy immense blessings.
These are instructive examples for individuals, for families, for communities, for the rich and for the poor. It’s all here. Ya al-Musta‘an.
Then I cannot end this reflection without a few words on the ayah that insists on my attention:
And He is the One Who created the heavens and the earth in six days and His Dominion was over the water so that He might test you as to which of you is better in deeds… (interpretation of the meaning of Surah 11: part of ayah 7)
Water, the blessed fluid, generator of life, was and is under the dominion or authority of Allah. No one knows the origin of water. We only know, as Allah tells us, it is sent down from the heavens. Without water there is no life. Without gratitude there may be no water in specific areas or on the entire earth. Water retains a memory of Divine origin, as we do, and absorbs the words of Allah to be changed into a more pure and more powerful substance. Thus, there is in our ummah the practice of reciting of Quran over water that can be drunk for healing. Keep water close to you while reciting Quran and infuse the liquid with gratefulness for having been provided with an essential aspect of the rizq.
May Allah enhance our righteous provision and increase our sabr and salat, our du‘a and our adhkar (remembrance).
Jeanette Hablullah is a Wholistic Healer and Educator. She teaches Quran Reading and Comprehension, leads a Quran Study Group in the Northern Virginia / Maryland region and conducts seminars on Islamic topics. She is also author of The Magnificent Organ: The Heart of Quran, Hadith, Science, and Wholistic Healing Experiences.