Rafed English

Hidden Truths in God's Word

Hidden Truths in God's Word by : Sayyid Mujtaba Musawi Lari


Sayyid Mujtaba Musavi Lari is the son of the late Ayatullah Sayyid Ali Asghar Lari, one of the great religious scholars and social personalities of Iran. His grandfather was the late Ayatullah Hajj Sayyid Abd ul-Husayn Lari, who fought for freedom in the Constitutional Revolution. In the course of his lengthy struggles against the tyrannical government of the time he attempted to establish an Islamic government and succeeded in doing so for a short time in Larestan.

Sayyid Mujtaba Musavi Lari was born in 1314/1925 in the city of Lar where he completed his primary education and his preliminary Islamic studies. In 1332/1953 he departed for Qum to continue his study of the Islamic sciences studying under the professors and teachers of the religious institution including the main authorities in jurisprudence (maraji').

In 1341/1962, he became a collaborator of Maktab-i-lslam, a religious and scientific journal, writing a series of articles on Islamic ethics. These articles were later collected into a book published under the title Ethical and Psychological Problems. Nine editions of the Persian original of this book have been published, and it has also been translated into Arabic and most recently English.

In 1342/1963 he travelled to Germany for medical treatment, and returning to Iran after a stay of several months, he wrote a book called TheFace of Western Civilization. Thebook includes a comparative discussion of Western and Islamic civilization, and in it, the author seeks to prove, by way of a comprehensive, reasoned, and exact comparison, the superiority of the comprehensive and multidimensional civilization of Islam to that of the West. This book has recently been reprinted for the seventh time.

In 1349/1970 it was translated into English by a British Orientalist, F. G. Goulding and it aroused much attention in Europe. Articles concerning the book appeared in several Western periodicals and the BBC arranged an interview with the translator in which the reasons for translating the book and the reception accorded it in England were discussed. The English version of the book has up to now been printed three times in England, five times in Iran and twice in America.

About three years after the publication of the English translation, Rudolf Singler, a German university professor translated it into German and the version he produced proved influential in Germany. One of the leaders of the Social Democratic Party informed the translator in a letter that the book had left a profound impression upon him causing him to change his views of Islam and that he would recommend the book to his friends . The German translation has now been reprinted three times.

The English and German versions of the book were reprinted by the Ministry of Islamic Guidance for wide distribution abroad through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Islamic Students' Associations abroad.

At the same time that the first printing of the German translation was published an Indian Muslim scholar by the name of Maulana Raushan Ali translated it into Urdu for distribution in India and Pakistan. This Urdu translation has now been reprinted five times.

Sayyid Mujtaba Musavi Lari has also written a pamphlet on tawhid (divine unity) which was translated in England and published several times in America.

In 1343/1964 he established a charitable organization in Lar with the purposes of propagating Islam, teaching Islam to rural youth and helping the needy. This organization remained active until 1346/1967. Its main accomplishments were the dispatch of students of the religious sciences to the countryside to teach Islam to children and young people; providing thousands of school children with clothing, books and writing equipment; building a number of mosques, schools, and clinics in towns and villages; and the provision of miscellaneous services.

Sayyid Mujtaba Musavi Lari pursued his interest in Islamic ethics and writing new articles on the subject. In 1353/1974 a collection of these articles, revised and supplemented, appeared in book form under the title “The Function of Ethics in Human Development”. This book has now been reprinted six times.

In 1357/1978 he travelled to America at the invitation of an Islamic organization in that country. He then went to England and France and after returning to Iran began writing a series of articles on Islamic ideology for the magazine Soroush. These articles were later collected in a four volume book on the fundamental beliefs of Islam (tawhid, divine justice, prophethood, imamate, and resurrection) under the title “The Foundations of Islamic Doctrine”.

This four volume work has been translated into Arabic, some parts of it having already been printed three times. The English translation of the first volume of this work forms the present book, the remaining volumes will also be translated and published. Urdu, Hindi and French translations are also underway; two volumes of the French translation have already appeared.

In 1359/1980, Sayyid Mujtaba Musavi Lari established an organization in Qum called Office for the Diffusion of Islamic Culture Abroad. It dispatches free copies of his translated works to interested persons throughout the world. It has also undertaken the printing of a Quran for free distribution among Muslim individuals, institutions and religious schools in Africa.
Speech, and the ability to communicate through conversation is one of the wonders of creation. It is through this bounty and faculty that human beings are able to form relationships with one another; whatever a person wishes to convey is effortlessly drawn out from the recesses of his mind and shared with others through speech.

Similarly, the listener is also able to use the same channel to put across his own responses and explain his thoughts and ideas to his audience. Therefore, words and phrases manifest the intent of a speaker and are the means by which he communicates with his fellows.

In some ways, God’s speech is similar; however, understanding the intended meaning of God’s words in the Qur’an – which has been the source of the biggest transformation in the history of man – requires deep thought and reflection. This reflection should be unsullied by suggestion, adulteration and preconceived ideas because these verses have issued from an infinite source of wisdom and its sacred messages are directed towards an unassailable and firm reality, which is the God Almighty. Indeed the rays of Divine knowledge illuminate the entirety of creation.

Since God’s verses are primarily addressed to mankind, its lofty and unassailable meanings have to be somewhat reduced in complexity in a manner that takes into account the limits of human intellect, ability and knowledge, so that the intricate realities that they contain may be commonly understood. Perhaps it is for this reason that God Almighty uses the term “nuzul” (descent) when He refers to His speech.

The first receptacle for the descent of revelation was the sacred heart of the last Messenger (S) and he was the only human able to withstand revelation directly from its source, and qualified to understand its content:
فَإِنَّهُ نَزَّلَهُ عَلَى قَلْبِكَ بِإِذْنِ اللّهِ مُصَدِّقاً لِّمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ وَهُدًى وَبُشْرَى لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ
For surely he (Jibra’il) revealed it to your heart by Allah's command, verifying that which is before it and guidance and good news for the believers (al-Baqara, 2/97)
As for the rest of mankind to whom God’s words are addressed, they learn the Qur’anic verses from the Prophet (S). This is a further stage of simplification and descent so that the verses are better understood.
In the Qur’an, God Almighty has set forth concepts and realities that appeal to the differing levels of human intellect and thought, and its messages become even more radiant with the evolution of man’s knowledge.
A great thinker like Mulla Sadra derives from the following Qur’anic verse, the concept of burhan al-siddiqin1 in his thesis on hikmat al-muta’aliya (transcendent philosophy):
سَنُرِيهِمْ آيَاتِنَا فِي الْآفَاقِ وَفِي أَنفُسِهِمْ حَتَّى يَتَبَيَّنَ لَهُمْ أَنَّهُ الْحَقُّ
We will soon show them Our signs in the Universe and in their own souls, until it will become quite clear to them that it is the truth. (Fussilat, 41/53)
Similarly, other readers can also draw inferences from this verse about the realities of tawhid according to their individual level of understanding and intellect.
God continually urges His servants to reason and ponder over the verses of the Qur’an – which is the richest and most complete source of knowledge at the disposal of mankind – and categorically prescribes that the truth be sought through deep contemplation.
Therefore to understand the words of God scholars more than anyone else are exposed to the limitless knowledge contained in His speech. It’s fascinating attraction in various dimensions draws them to benefit from it in proportion to their intellectual competencies.
Due to the vastness of its spiritual treasures, Muslim scholars in different eras have offered a variety of opinions about the contents of the Qur’an. Of course, such a great and unlimited source cannot be imagined to be a product of information that existed at the time of revelation because it contains information about the secrets of creation and external events that was not possible for an individual to know at that time.
The Qur’an states:
أَفَلا يَتَدَبَّرُونَ الْقُرْآنَ أَمْ عَلَى قُلُوبٍ أَقْفَالُهَا
Do they not then reflect on the Qur’an? Or are there locks on their hearts? (Muhammad, 47/24)
The three terms, “tadabbur” (reflection), “qulub” (hearts) and “aqfal” (locks), demonstrate the special place of the Qur’an, this eternal miracle, in the lives of mankind. The verses of the Qur’an invite man to ponder deeply so that he may have access to the best policies, undo the shackles of ignorance and unawareness and illuminate the heart. They urge him to study nature to its limits so that he may explore the frontiers of what lies beyond.
The aim of the Qur’an is not to solve the diverse issues of human inquiry because these topics are out of the scope of a book of guidance. However, motivated by the Qur’an, which warmly praises the written word and the amassing of knowledge, creative and enthusiastic nations who have come to possess amazing knowledge and distinction were inspired. And great transformations that led in turn to other changes are indebted to this very message espoused by the Qur’an.
The Qur’an elevates the outlook of man to an extent that he is able to journey from the known and apparent to the shores of that which is unknown and hidden and in this manner begin to unravel the mysteries of creation which are of crucial importance to mankind.
The objective that the Qur’an seeks is that of the guidance and nurturing of man in all facets of his existence so that he may move towards achieving nobility. The only way man can acquire perfection is by nurturing his soul, transforming his inner self, and achieving distinctions in the different dimensions of his being by following the directives of God contained in the Qur’an. In this manner the fundamental role of the Qur’an and the system of values it espouses becomes clear.
We must take note that the invitation to ponder over its verses comes from the Qur’an itself. This sacred book, unlike ordinary books which are only concerned with information and inquiry about one subject, tackles a diverse variety of themes, ranging from Divine gnosis, legal precepts, social and individual organisation, rights and politics, morals, manners and history, articles of worship, and scores of other matters. On the other hand, the Qur’an is an integrated unit with every part of it conforming to the rest of its principles and laws. Studying one principle can provide the key to unlocking another principle and this unique and exclusive quality highlights the essential miraculous nature of this rich fountain of guidance.
For this reason, one must not adopt a narrow-minded approach to the exegesis of the Divine revelation by imagining it to be static and inert and content oneself with the opinions of the scholars of former times; rather, there must be a constant research and new exegesis as times change. Indeed, it has been reported that the great Qur’anic exegete Allama Tabataba’i has stated, “A new commentary and exegesis of the Qur’an which is commensurate with the needs of the time with regards to the Qur’an must be published at least once in every ten years.”
What is acceptable in the exegesis of the Qur’an is an expression of views derived from contemplation on its verses and intelligent interpretations based on sound reasoning; what is unacceptable is embarking on the false path of personal interpretation (tafsir bi’l ray) based on whimsical exegesis instead of sound explanations, which will only pull mankind towards perdition.
Over the years, researchers and many scholars and pious individuals have worked tirelessly to better understand the verses of the Qur’an, thereby opening avenues to reach the lofty heights of the Qur’anic wisdom. In contemporary times also, intellectuals and scientists must direct their efforts to research at various levels to uncover the realities contained in the verses of the Qur’an, and to benefit from this ultimate and concise source of principles of knowledge and wisdom, whose qualities cannot be overstated.  The vast expanse of human endeavour can certainly reveal the hidden treasures of the Qur’an and extract the deeper and loftier meanings of God’s words.
Indeed, the sea of God’s words is boundless; the deeper we will search in this vast ocean, the more radiant and valuable jewels will come to hand. The Qur’an sates:
قُل لَّوْ كَانَ الْبَحْرُ مِدَادًا لِّكَلِمَاتِ رَبِّي لَنَفِدَ الْبَحْرُ قَبْلَ أَن تَنفَدَ كَلِمَاتُ رَبِّي وَلَوْ جِئْنَا بِمِثْلِهِ مَدَدًا
Say: If the sea were ink for the words of my Lord, the sea would surely be consumed before the words of my Lord are exhausted, though We were to bring the like of that (sea) to add. (al-Kahf, 18/109)
This work is a small step in the realization of the objectives that were discussed. However, before we embark on the main discussion, two important points must be borne in mind:

1. It is evident that the wings of human thought can never scale the heights of the lofty and esoteric mysteries of the Qur’an and that which is mentioned as “the hidden insights in God’s word” are inferences that have come to the mind of the author. These views, just like the rest of the opinions and commentaries about the verses of the Qur’an cannot be stated with certainty to be the meaning intended by God; rather, every deduction made from the sacred verses, after the appropriate exposition, must be qualified by the well-known phrase, “wallahu ya’lam” (and God knows best).

2. By presenting a differing viewpoint from that of the exegetes about the subjects that will be discussed, it is not intended to suggest that the opinions of those great scholars are invalid. This is because, as we indicated, the intention is to study some verses from a different angle and the author is looking at the contents of the verses under review in a special manner that takes into account the thoughts of these scholars. In the course of establishing the validity of these views, it will be necessary to consider respectfully the valuable opinions and ideas of the great exegetes and to acknowledge their intellectual and special status.

Sayyid Mujtaba Musavi Lari
Qom, Shahrivar 1385/ August 2006
1. Literally, “the argument of the veracious”, an ontological proof for the existence of God.
وَقَالَ رَبُّكُمُ ادْعُونِي أَسْتَجِبْ لَكُمْ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَسْتَكْبِرُونَ عَنْ عِبَادَتِي سَيَدْخُلُونَ جَهَنَّمَ دَاخِرِينَ
And your Lord says: Call upon Me, I will answer you; surely those who are too proud for My worship shall soon enter hell abased. (al-Mu’min, 40/60)
This verse of the Qur’an is one of those that raises some questions. In the verse God guarantees not to turn away any supplicant empty-handed and to approve every petition that His servants place before Him. However, in practice we see that although people continually ask God to answer their prayers, most of their supplications remain unfulfilled. In fact, if we compare the volume of requests that are placed before God and the limited number of individuals who have their supplications answered, it appears that a large proportion of supplicants are unsuccessful.

At this point the reactions of the supplicants takes different forms, and everyone’s interpretation of the outcome will depend on his level of insight and understanding and his worldview. The one who knows well the actual concept of supplication and its consequences adopts an enlightened view about what has happened, whereas those who are pessimists and who possess gloomy dispositions view the matter in a different light.

As a result, frequently people whose supplications have apparently not been answered, and whose outlook is superficial, become despondent and pass through the vicissitudes of life alternating between disappointment and despair. They turn their back on faith and even fall into the error of denying God’s omnipotence.

The question that arises here is that why do the prayers of supplicants go unanswered despite God’s assurance to the contrary? Exegetes have attempted to answer this question and in the main, have suggested two possibilities:

1. The acceptance of prayers depends on various conditions, the most important of which is inner purity from, and the absence of, the pollution of excessive sin and defiance of God’s commandments. This is because disobedience of God is the main factor in the rejection of supplications, and it deprives man from attaining God’s abundant and endless grace and bounties.

2. God’s knowledge of what is in the best interest of an individual, which is based on wisdom, as well as His all-encompassing knowledge over all aspects of an affair, results in the acceptance of some supplications and the rejection of others. This is because God is aware of what is beneficial for an individual as well as for the entire creation, whose lives are inextricably linked with one another. An individual only views matters, knowingly or unknowingly, as they affect himself, and the wider implications and impact of his supplication do not enter his thoughts. However, God’s all-encompassing knowledge does not consider every prayer expedient for acceptance. Even at an individual level, everything that a supplicant prays for may not be beneficial for him, and if it is not in his ultimate best interest to have his prayers answered, God will not do so.

Although these two main explanations are plausible and correct to some extent, they are not fully satisfactory answers, and do not completely alleviate the curiosity of the questioner, especially because God has emphatically stated in the verse under review that He guarantees to answer every supplication. In fact, the wording of the verse does not mention any conditions that need to be met before the prayers of a supplicant are answered.

Furthermore, classifying the most usually asked supplications as outside the ambit of this general verse may not be consistent with the eloquence of God’s words, and we must therefore seek an explanation that is robust enough and at the same time, both conforms with the verse as well as provides the questioner and the researcher with a suitable and basic answer.

When we begin to examine the verses of the Qur’an with some thoroughness, we find that the kinds of supplications that God has guaranteed to answer have a particular formulation, and by observing and following it, one can be expectant of the acceptance of his prayer. In fact, the Qur’an illustrates paradigms of supplications so that God’s servants can emulate them and place their own worthy desires in front of the Creator, with sincerity and every hope for acceptance.

The supplication must be in synchrony with the human’s progress towards perfection and in harmony with the constant movement of creation towards perfect existence; this is when the prayers will be met with the desired response, and will be answered by God.

In other words, the supplications of a servant in front of God must be consistent and compatible with the objectives of the creation of man, which are inextricably linked to his existence. That supplication that would extend the vision of a man to the boundaries of the spiritual realms is one that shapes his destiny and enables his development in every aspect that is necessary to achieve the pinnacle of spiritual distinction and elevation, so that he is aided by Divine grace to increase his status even further.

Thus a true supplication must be viewed from this perspective, whereas the majority of the prayers of mankind are completely devoid of any spiritual motivation or content and are about personal and mundane desires, or about relief from the daily hardships which people ordinarily face in the course of their lives.

As we mentioned before, according to the exegetes of the Qur’an, there are two main obstacles that impede the granting of supplications: sin and the absence of one’s best interests; however, in the case of true supplications, these two factors cease to apply because they begin by asking God for forgiveness from sin and His pardon and clemency.

The plea for forgiveness is found at the heart of these prayers which the supplicants who possess spiritual and intellectual distinction constantly murmur at the threshold of their matchless Sustainer. God himself has instructed man that the only way to wipe out the stain of sin is to purify himself through repentance and a firm resolve not to regress and by distancing himself from the habits of the past. It is only then that God, in His infinite mercy and love, will accept the remorse of His servant, which is no more than a return to his original course in seeking understanding about His Lord, professing belief in Him and making amends for his past misconduct.

As for the supplication not being in the best interest of the supplicant, that factor no longer applies when the prayers are of a spiritual nature, because the supplicant has asked for favours that will increase his knowledge of God, and result in an elevation of his own spiritual merits and status; certainly acceptance of such a prayer will be in the interests of the supplicant, because the factors that would have made acceptance of a supplication inappropriate do not exist in these kinds of prayers.

Therefore when it comes to supplications that have a spiritual component, the two afore-mentioned impediments no longer apply, and the grounds for acceptance of the supplication are completely prepared.

The best examples of genuine supplication can be clearly found in the Qur’an, and after the necessary investigation, we can become properly familiar with them. God has quoted samples of the supplications of His Prophets and close servants which clarify the principles and aims of God for creating the mankind, viz. to achieve His proximity. And if the supplications of the Prophets that are mentioned in the Qur’an seem to be apparently about worldly matters, they are pronounced as preludes to achieve loftier merits, and latent within them lie noble and high objectives.

Prophet Zakariyya (A) wanted a son to inherit the office of prophethood and continue the guidance of his community after him, and not for the pleasure of a father at having a son. The words of Zakariyya (A) and his whispered and heartfelt communions are too deep to pass over with just a cursory reading. The term he used for a son was, “successor” (wali), and not, “son” (walad), meaning that the fruit of his life had to be a close servant of God and his succession would result in the continuation of prophethood and the guidance of humanity.
يَرِثُنِي وَيَرِثُ مِنْ آلِ يَعْقُوبَ وَاجْعَلْهُ رَبِّ رَضِيًّا
Who should inherit me and inherit from the children of Ya‘qub, and make him, my Lord, one with whom You are well pleased. (Maryam, 19/9)
The supplication of Zakariyya (A) was granted and he was blessed with the son that he had desired, who continued to preach God’s message and guide the people till the end of his days.
Prophet Sulaiman (A) did not ask for a mighty kingdom and authority because he wanted fame, power and glory; rather, it was his noble aspiration to remedy the spiritual malaise of his people and to introduce them to sublime truths, and this was the focus of his teachings. At no time does history show that Sulaiman (A) ever used his powers for his own ambitions or for personal gain; in fact, he placed his great power and means at the service of his people to guide them so that the banner of tawhid was kept aloft and justice prevailed on the earth. This is the supplication of Sulaiman (A) to his Lord:
رَبِّ أَوْزِعْنِي أَنْ أَشْكُرَ نِعْمَتَكَ الَّتِي أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيَّ وَعَلَى وَالِدَيَّ وَأَنْ أَعْمَلَ صَالِحًا تَرْضَاهُ وَأَدْخِلْنِي بِرَحْمَتِكَ فِي عِبَادِكَ الصَّالِحِينَ
My Lord! grant me that I should be grateful for Your favour which You have bestowed on me and on my parents, and that I should do good such as You are pleased with, and include me, by Your mercy, in the ranks of Your righteous servants. (al-Naml, 27/19)
Next, let us also consider the supplication of Prophet Ibrahim (A):
رَبِّ اجْعَلْنِي مُقِيمَ الصَّلاَةِ وَمِن ذُرِّيَّتِي رَبَّنَا وَتَقَبَّلْ دُعَاء رَبَّنَا اغْفِرْ لِي وَلِوَالِدَيَّ وَلِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ يَوْمَ يَقُومُ الْحِسَابُ
My Lord! make me keep up prayer and from my offspring (too), O our Lord, and accept my prayer. O our Lord! grant me protection and to my parents and to the believers on the day when the reckoning shall come to pass! (Ibrahim, 14/40-41)
The only case mentioned in the Qur’an when the supplication of a Prophet has been denied and not accepted is that of Prophet Nuh (A) regarding the salvation of his son from the flood. This supplication stemmed purely from fatherly love, and such prayers are not guaranteed to be accepted by God (even if they issue from an eminent Prophet).
The supplications that the angels and the bearers of God’s throne invoke for the good of the believers as recounted in the Qur’an are all directed to help man achieve eternal felicity. Thus, they supplicate at God’s door asking Him to accept the repentance of the believers and to envelop them in His mercy and forgiveness:
الَّذِينَ يَحْمِلُونَ الْعَرْشَ وَمَنْ حَوْلَهُ يُسَبِّحُونَ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّهِمْ وَيُؤْمِنُونَ بِهِ وَيَسْتَغْفِرُونَ لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا رَبَّنَا وَسِعْتَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ رَّحْمَةً وَعِلْمًا فَاغْفِرْ لِلَّذِينَ تَابُوا وَاتَّبَعُوا سَبِيلَكَ وَقِهِمْ عَذَابَ الْجَحِيمِ {o}رَبَّنَا وَأَدْخِلْهُمْ جَنَّاتِ عَدْنٍ الَّتِي وَعَدتَّهُم وَمَن صَلَحَ مِنْ آبَائِهِمْ وَأَزْوَاجِهِمْ وَذُرِّيَّاتِهِمْ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ
Those who bear the throne and those who go around it celebrate the praise of their Lord and believe in Him and ask forgiveness for the believers: Our Lord! You embrace all things in mercy and knowledge, therefore forgive those who turn (to You) and follow Your way, and save them from the punishment of the hell. Our Lord! and make them enter the gardens of perpetuity which You have promised to them and to those who do good of their fathers and their wives and their offspring, surely You are the Mighty, the Wise. (al-Ghafir, 40/6-7)
The Qur’an also describes the supplications of the close servants (awliya) of God. As we see, these prayers have the same qualities as those of the Prophets and angels. The following are clear examples:
الَّذِينَ يَذْكُرُونَ اللّهَ قِيَامًا وَقُعُودًا وَعَلَىَ جُنُوبِهِمْ وَيَتَفَكَّرُونَ فِي خَلْقِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ رَبَّنَا مَا خَلَقْتَ هَذا بَاطِلاً سُبْحَانَكَ فَقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ {o}رَبَّنَا إِنَّكَ مَن تُدْخِلِ النَّارَ فَقَدْ أَخْزَيْتَهُ وَمَا لِلظَّالِمِينَ مِنْ أَنصَارٍ {o}رَّبَّنَا إِنَّنَا سَمِعْنَا مُنَادِيًا يُنَادِي لِلإِيمَانِ أَنْ آمِنُواْ بِرَبِّكُمْ فَآمَنَّا رَبَّنَا فَاغْفِرْ لَنَا ذُنُوبَنَا وَكَفِّرْ عَنَّا سَيِّئَاتِنَا وَتَوَفَّنَا مَعَ الأبْرَارِ {o}رَبَّنَا وَآتِنَا مَا وَعَدتَّنَا عَلَى رُسُلِكَ وَلاَ تُخْزِنَا يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ إِنَّكَ لاَ تُخْلِفُ الْمِيعَادَ
Those who remember Allah standing and sitting and lying on their sides and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth: Our Lord! You have not created this in vain! Glory be to You; save us then from the chastisement of the fire. Our Lord! surely whomsoever You make enter the fire, him You have indeed brought to disgrace, and there shall be no helpers for the unjust. Our Lord! surely we have heard a caller calling to the faith, saying: Believe in your Lord, so we did believe; Our Lord! forgive us therefore our faults, and cover our evil deeds and let us die with the righteous. Our Lord! and grant us what You have promised us by Your messengers; and disgrace us not on the day of resurrection; surely You do not fail to perform the promise. (Aal-Imran, 3/191-4)
If we look at the verses at the end of Suratu Baqara, we see once again that the supplications of the believers have the same elements as the prayers of the Prophets, angels and the close servants of God:
رَبَّنَا لاَ تُؤَاخِذْنَا إِن نَّسِينَا أَوْ أَخْطَأْنَا رَبَّنَا وَلاَ تَحْمِلْ عَلَيْنَا إِصْرًا كَمَا حَمَلْتَهُ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِنَا رَبَّنَا وَلاَ تُحَمِّلْنَا مَا لاَ طَاقَةَ لَنَا بِهِ وَاعْفُ عَنَّا وَاغْفِرْ لَنَا وَارْحَمْنَا أَنتَ مَوْلاَنَا فَانصُرْنَا عَلَى الْقَوْمِ الْكَافِرِينَ
Our Lord! do not punish us if we forget or make a mistake; Our Lord! do not lay on us a burden as You did lay on those before us, Our Lord do not impose upon us that which we have not the strength to bear; and pardon us and forgive us and have mercy on us, You are our Patron, so help us against the community of unbelievers. (al-Baqara, 2/286)
All these supplications that the Qur’an quotes from the Prophets, the angels who pray for the believers, the close servants of God and the prayers of the believers for themselves are all about raising one’s station, developing one’s understanding and achieving proximity to God. For this reason, after mentioning these types of supplications in the Qur’an, God states:
فَاسْتَجَابَ لَهُمْ رَبُّهُمْ
So their Lord accepted their prayer... (Aal-Imran, 3/195)
It is quite clear that in no part of this collection of supplications is there a plea for personal or material gain or for the fleeting pleasures of life. In another verse, the Qur’an states:
وَيَسْتَجِيبُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ وَيَزِيدُهُم مِّن فَضْلِهِ
And He answers those who believe and do good deeds, and gives them more out of His grace. (al-Shura, 42/25)
According to some commentators, this verse restricts the fulfilment of the supplications of the believers to their worship and obedience, because that leads to their advancement, and such prayers are always accepted by God.
After the mention of the rituals of the Haj, and exhorting the believers about the remembrance of God (dhikr), the Qur’an states that men are of two types; some of them say:
رَبَّنَا آتِنَا فِي الدُّنْيَا وَمَا لَهُ فِي الآخِرَةِ مِنْ خَلاَقٍ
Our Lord! give us in the world, and they shall have nothing in the hereafter. (al-Baqara, 2/200)
while others say:
رَبَّنَا آتِنَا فِي الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً وَفِي الآخِرَةِ حَسَنَةً وَقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ {o} أُولَـئِكَ لَهُمْ نَصِيبٌ مِّمَّا كَسَبُواْ وَاللّهُ سَرِيعُ الْحِسَابِ
Our Lord! grant us good in this world and good in the hereafter, and save us from the chastisement of the fire. They are the ones who shall have (their) portion of what they have earned, and Allah is swift in reckoning. (al-Baqara, 2/201-2)
As we see, this supplication is not for the inspiration of the soul and elevation in the level of spirituality or achieving proximity to God; it is about acquiring the goods of this world, or of this world and the next. Therefore, in the reply contained in these verses to both groups – those who desire the goods of this world only and have prayed for the same, as well as those who desire the goods of this world and the next, and have resorted to supplication to acquire these desires, which are empty of any spiritual content – God does not mention acceptance of their supplication. Instead, to attain their objectives, He has directed them to follow a general Divinely ordained system in this world; viz. to apply effort and action to achieve their aspirations on the basis of the free will and freedom of choice that has been granted to mankind.
In this way, He informs both groups that they will achieve their desires through exercising the appropriate efforts and actions; the Qur’an states: “They shall have their portion of what they have earned.”
The infallible Imams (A) have also presented valuable instances of this manner of supplication, a clear example being the supplication of Kumail, as taught to him by Imam Ali (A). One of the phrases in this supplication states:
يا ربّ قوّ على خدمتك جوارحى واشدد على العزمة جوانحى و هب لى الجد فى خشيتك و الدوام فى الاتصال بخدمتك ... و منّ عليّ بحسن اجابتك و اقلنى عثرتى و اغفر زلّتى
O Lord! Strengthen my limbs for Your service and sustain the strength of my hands to persevere in Your service and bestow upon me the earnestness to fear You and to constantly serve You... be gracious to me through Your best response and reduce for me my sins and forgive my lapses.
The supplication continues until there occurs an interesting statement that is resonant with our present discussion:
فانك قضيت على عبادك بعبادتك و امرتهم بدعائك و ضمنت لهم الاجابة
For verily, You have ordained Your worship for Your servants and commanded them to supplicate to You and guaranteed them a response.
In this part of the du’a of Kumail, Imam Ali (A) makes an allusion to the guarantee mentioned in the verse of the Qur’an that we are reviewing, mentioning God’s assurance to reply to every supplicant as a consequence of those supplications that are based on spiritual and noble wishes.
In truth Imam Ali (A) intends to demonstrate that supplications made in the manner of the prophets, angels, close servants and believers are the type that God has guaranteed to accept and teaches us to call to God in this manner so that we may likewise receive His reply.
When we turn to the supplications contained in the Sahifa of Imam Sajjad (A) we see exceptional examples of supplications that qualify for acceptance; we find that all of them express noble and spiritual aspirations. Similarly, we should study this prayer taught by Imam Mahdi (AF):
اللهم ارزقنا توفيق الطاعة و بعد المعصية و صدق النية و عرفان الحرمة و اكرمنا بالهدى و الاستقامة و سدد السننا بالصواب و الحكمة و املاء قلوبنا بالعلم و المعرفة و طهّر بطوننا من الحرام و الشبهة...
O Lord grant us the gift of being obedient to you,
and being remote from sin,
and let us be sincere in our intention,
and give us true knowledge of that which is sacred,
and honour us with guidance and steadfastness,
and direct our tongues to that which is righteous and wise,
and fill our hearts with knowledge and comprehension,
and purify our stomachs from that which is forbidden and that which is doubtful...
In the entirety of this supplication, there is no mention of any request that is restricted to worldly desires or pleasures.
The other holy Imams (A) have also left treasures of valuable supplications, containing lofty and worthy messages, all seeking God’s grace to achieve the highest spiritual levels.
Mystics and other scholars have emphasised that the essence of du’a (supplication) and beseeching at the threshold of God is an instinctive need, because the fundamental philosophy of supplication and the secret conversation of man with his Lord is to ultimately bring about his guidance, development and elevation even if the supplication is about material and basic needs.
Therefore, true supplication – whose reply has been assured by God for those individuals who have purified their thinking, filled their hearts with the love of God, and have cleansed their beings from every tinge of Godlessness – is that supplication which aids and benefits the supplicant on his journey to his Lord. However, that is not to say that, God, whose treasures of mercy and bestowal are limitless, does not grant the requests of His distressed and helpless servants out of His grace and favour. It is for this reason that the holy Imams (A) have always insisted that one should ask for every need from God and constantly supplicate to Him.
Therefore, when beseeching in the correct manner from God, the manner that results in acceptance, the believers can also invoke God’s grace and mercy, so that God may approve their supplications for basic and worldly needs also. However, even if they are about alleviating the troubles of this world, such prayers must not be devoid of mention of the real needs, which are in the hereafter.
If the scope of the verse, “Call on Me, I will answer you” and the assurance of acceptance is so wide that it includes supplications for all worldly desires and material excellences and the endless quest for ease and plenty and all that man seeks in the course of his lifetime, then we are faced with a kind of contradiction. The world is a place for the trial of mankind and in the course of their life, everybody’s capacity to face difficulties is revealed. Indeed God has categorically stated that this world is the abode of tribulations, which shape the character of human beings and cause them to develop and advance.
The Prophets (A) and close servants of God went through some of the most demanding adversities in their lives, yet they expressed only love and adoration at the Divine threshold and in this way acquired proximity to their Lord and received blessings suitable to their own great stations.
If supplication is all that is required to alleviate the usual and day-to-day problems and difficulties that man faces in this world and God had also guaranteed the acceptance of these sorts of prayers, then He would not have allowed the following order and arrangement to prevail on earth, where He states:
لَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ فِي كَبَدٍ
Verily, We have created man to be in distress. (al-Balad, 90/4)
Indeed, this expectation and mental concept is against Divine wisdom that on the one hand, God should create a system of trials and tribulations in order to test man, and on the other he would remove all these difficulties at their supplication. For He has stated in the Qur’an:
أَحَسِبَ النَّاسُ أَن يُتْرَكُوا أَن يَقُولُوا آمَنَّا وَهُمْ لا يُفْتَنُونَ
Do men think that they will be left alone on saying, “We believe”, and not be tried? (al-Ankabut, 29/2)
It must not be ignored that another portion of the disappointments and difficulties that man encounters in this world are due to his own inept and unwise actions and by granting man the gifts of intellect and reason, God wants him to try his utmost to solve his own problems and overcome the obstacles that block his path.
A point that can be inferred from the last part of the verse we have been discussing is that, if we consider “worship” as mentioned in the latter part of the verse:
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَسْتَكْبِرُونَ عَنْ عِبَادَتِي سَيَدْخُلُونَ جَهَنَّمَ دَاخِرِينَ
surely those who are too proud for My worship shall soon enter hell abased. (al-Mu’min, 40/60)
to mean supplication, it is more compatible with the beginning of the verse, where God commands man to supplicate, because this verse talks about supplication and its acceptance, and supplication is also a part of worship. If man wants to reach an elevated level he cannot do so except through the means of the constant remembrance of God (dhikr) and supplication (du’a). On the other hand, worship is best expressed by words of praise of God and by thanks and gratitude for His bounties and by acknowledging His transcendent and exalted station.
However, supplication is an earnest expression of man’s desires and expectations from God, and in reality, it is man’s acknowledgement of his own weakness and helplessness in front of God’s greatness; this is where the pompous and shameful pride of arrogant individuals prevents them from supplicating and expressing their humility and abjectness in front of their Lord, and thus cutting off their relationship with Him.
If we deliberate about the character and thinking of the arrogant, we will find that in the main, they tend to praise God with empty words, and one does not see any sincerity in their prayers. These haughty individuals are not prepared to demonstrate their humbleness in front of their Creator and acknowledge their own true worthlessness.
That is why God, the Omnipotent Lord of creation, warns those caught in the trap of pride and arrogance that the same vanity that prevents them from supplicating humbly in front of Him, will ultimately lead only to their eternal loss and punishment in the fire of hell.
Let us look once again at the verse we have been discussing:
وَقَالَ رَبُّكُمُ ادْعُونِي أَسْتَجِبْ لَكُمْ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَسْتَكْبِرُونَ عَنْ عِبَادَتِي سَيَدْخُلُونَ جَهَنَّمَ دَاخِرِينَ
And your Lord says: Call upon Me, I will answer you; surely those who are too proud for My worship shall soon enter hell abased. (al-Mu’min, 40/60)
وَاللاَّتِي تَخَافُونَ نُشُوزَهُنَّ فَعِظُوهُنَّ وَاهْجُرُوهُنَّ فِي الْمَضَاجِعِ وَاضْرِبُوهُنَّ
And (as to) those [women] on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and [if that does not make any difference, then] leave them alone in the sleeping-places and [if that does not make any difference, then] strike them. (al-Nisa, 4/34)
A reliable study of the Qur’an can only be made when the mind is freed of previously held beliefs and notions, because pre-judging and viewing its concepts without objectivity will only lead to closed-mindedness and inflexibility. This is the one danger that every discerning researcher must avoid at all costs.

One of the verses that the opponents of Islam and the proponents of women’s rights have singled out in order to impugn the ordinances of Qur’an is the one mentioned above. The verse concerns the issue of the desertion (nushuz) of women. Instead of trying to objectively understand the true purport of the verse, they have resorted to strident criticism, unaware that discussions based around an incorrect presumption leads away from the truth and obstructs thinking.

In fact, through a detailed and necessary study of the word “yadribuhunna” (strike them) in the verse, one can infer two distinct meanings, which we will explain in some detail below:

The first meaning is derived by considering the apparent meaning of daraba, which is to hit; and the majority lean towards this interpretation.

The second meaning, which is consistent with a study of the context of the matter being discussed in the verse, is an alternate translation of the word daraba, which is a word with several different meanings. One can consider the possibility of this second meaning, which is indignation and disregard, as a response of the man to the nushuz displayed by his wife. This conforms to the extensive meaning of daraba, which includes parting and separation.1

Another meaning of daraba is to “turn away from” or “to dispense with”; therefore when referring to the speech of someone who is speaking nonsense, or to a piece of baseless writing, one may say, “fadribuhu ‘ala’l jidar” (throw it at the wall), which is an allegory for, “do not pay attention to it”.

The meaning of parting and separation for daraba can also be applied to the verse under consideration, and a study of the verse can be done on this very basis, because it has been mentioned that the term darabahas been used here because it denotes a sudden parting as opposed to a gradual one.2

Therefore, it seems that here the Qur’an advises the husband who has unsuccessfully tried to censure his rebellious wife by two milder means, to finally separate (daraba) from her. However, he should avoid any harshness towards her and patiently await for his action to have an effect; he should allow her to think over matters and to takes steps towards what is best for her. Therefore, when interpreted in this manner, we can say that the verse means to say: If a woman shirks her responsibility and acts inappropriately, then the husband must attempt to remedy matters in the prescribed stages.

Initially, the man must gently counsel his wife, and remind her of her responsibilities, and encourage her to reconsider her actions which have resulted in the unhappiness in the life they share together.

However, if the efforts of the husband are to no avail, and the wife persists in her improper behaviour, he must react conservatively by only leaving the marital bed but remain in the house and make no overt change to the normal routine of the household. This is because the verse of the Qur’an stipulates only the act of leaving the bed at this stage and no more.

If this action also does not bring about a change in the wife’s conduct, and she persists in behaving against her own interest, and the husband’s efforts are all in vain, then a sterner measure is required in an attempt to break the impasse. This step requires the husband to cut off all contact with his wife within the house and lead a completely separate life. It is as if he has removed the wife from her place of focus in the household, with the intention that she herself changes her mind and alters her disagreeable behaviour to prevent a further deterioration in the situation.

It is true that in this situation the wife still lives in the house and benefits from material and other comforts, but she will not be in the spiritual and emotional state to feel at peace, and this may motivate her to acknowledge her responsibility towards the family and take the first steps to restore harmony and allow the family to advance towards a better and happier life.

However, if we take daraba here to mean “striking”, and we assume that the Qur’an requires that in such circumstances, the man should compel his wife to resume her duties and responsibilities by raising his hand to her, so that she comes back to her senses, then acting on this interpretation will probably have an adverse effect for the reasons discussed below:

1. The books of jurisprudence state that the slightest physical violence towards one’s wife, if it bruises her skin, carries a penalty (diya) and such an act of chastisement is not permitted for the man for any reason. On the other hand, it is doubtful whether a lighter or soft blow may have any effect in chastising a rebellious wife and causing her to alter her behaviour; in fact it is highly unlikely that such an act would resolve anything.

In cases of nushuz, the jurists are more concerned with (legislating for) the action of the man with regards to stopping the maintenance of his wife and not the matter of beating or physical chastisement. As a rule, jurists have not made a thorough examination of the issue of beating, rather they have focused on its secondary details; such as the number and frequency of blows, the circumstances under which the perpetrator is excused from having to pay the penalty or blood-money (diya), or if the woman displays her fractious behaviour continually and every day, how many times may the man resort to hitting her, and for how long such violence is permitted, etc. These questions need to be discussed in detail but even a lengthy examination may not be able address all the issues that arise in this regard.

2. Usually physical discipline will only push a woman into a position of bitterness and animosity, especially when she realizes that the husband has used his last resort and can do no more to stop her; at this time she may feel there is nothing more he can direct at her.

3. Any physical action will usually result in an adverse reaction, and may drive the woman to become even more entrenched and resolute in her misbehaviour. This is especially the case especially for women who have a quarrelsome nature and who are more prone to antagonism than women of a calmer and more level-headed temperament.

Therefore, the use of punishment and force on this type of women will only harden their obstinacy, sometimes leading to a loss of control on both sides with unpredictable results. Whenever one embarks on a method of chastisement to bring about compliance and ultimately restore an affectionate relationship between the spouses, there is always the possibility that the outcome may not be positive, or that the rift between them becomes even deeper or the chance of any mutual agreement in the future is weakened.

4. To compel the woman into compliance through physical violence is not an agreeable process psychologically for both spouses and will not provide inner contentment to either one. In time it will erode their love for one another and ultimately may lead to the breakdown of the marriage. On the other hand, it seems that the previously described step of total disassociation from the wife, while she still lives within the household, may be the stimulus that causes her to review matters and think about the future and persuade her to reform her behaviour. Furthermore, such a rejection by her husband is unpleasant for the wife and she would not be able to bear or tolerate it for long.

5. No one can deny that the final step in this series of actions, which apparently seems irrevocable, where the wife has resolutely rejected all the efforts of her husband to restore harmonious relations, is divorce. Divorce is the last resort when every other course of action fails.

Therefore when all three steps fail to achieve the compliance of the wife, and no amount of reasoning can change her inappropriate behaviour, the husband embarks on a course of permanent separation and dissolution of the marriage by invoking divorce. When the husband is convinced that nothing will break the impasse and that the marital bond has broken down completely, he brings about relief from the stormy relationship through the agency of divorce, without the need for any physical chastisement or action.

6. We know that Islam has paid a special attention to the spirit and true meaning of earthly life, and the paths that lead to the its best conclusion. For this reason, it promotes a sound relationship between members of the family and recognizes that a strong attachment between husband and wife will result in the prosperity of a family.

As a result of the great respect accorded to women in every aspect of life, the husband has not been allowed to put the least pressure on his wife to perform household chores or to force her to do something that is against her disposition. In fact, the wife has also been given the choice to ask for payment from her husband for breastfeeding their child.

By appreciating that Islam has adopted a holistic approach to the issues relating to women, which incorporates their rights and honour in the household and in society, it is not improbable that in Islam’s view, men cannot react with physical violence in the face of the rebellious behaviour of the wives because it is not compatible with the Islamic ethos of love and harmony amongst the spouses in a family.

The holy Prophet (S) has stated: I am amazed at the one who strikes his wife, while he is more deserving to be struck himself; do not strike your wives with canes, because there is a legislative retaliation (qisas) for that. Rather, chastise them with a curtailment in their maintenance; thus, you shall gain felicity in this world and the next. 3

Here the Prophet (S) reminds men that it is more beneficial to them to gain the attention of women by punishing them by curtailing their allowances rather than by physically striking them. This is because, o

Share this article

Comments 0

Your comment

Comment description

Latest Post

Most Reviews