Louay Fatoohi

Louay Fatoohi

Aug 262015
 

Wonders of Tariqa Front Cover 500

This book compiles a very small number of paranormal feats that Allah has gifted to the Shaikhs of Ṭarīqa ʿAliyya Qādiriyya Kasnazāniyya and its present Master Sayyid Shaikh Muḥammad al-Kasnazān, the head of Ṭarīqa Kasnazāniyya. These karāmas were witnessed by or involved the deputy of ḥaḍrat Shaikh Muḥammad in India during his preaching tours of that country in 2011-2015. When ḥaḍrat Shaikh Muḥammad sends any of the caliphs of the Ṭarīqa to call people to Allah, he informs him that the blessings of the Shaikhs of the Ṭarīqa, which stem from the blessings of the Prophet (ṣallā Allah ʿalaihi wa sallam), will accompany him in the form of karāmas. These karāmas confirm to people the truthfulness of the preaching and that Ṭarīqa Kasnazāniyya indeed represents a spiritual link with the Prophet (ṣallā Allah ʿalaihi wa sallam).

I have compiled fifty-five karāma reports. Some of the individual reports include more than one karāma. For instance, one report documents the healing of over two hundred patients with dengue fever.[1] Furthermore, many of these karāmas include more than one paranormal feat. For example, in one karāma, a boy with dengue fever was cured by drinking water over which the caliph had read a special dhikr that ḥaḍrat Shaikh Muḥammad al-Kasnazān had given him permission to use. But the caliph was in the city of Sulaymaniyah in the north of Iraq, while the glass of water was in Kausar Nagar in the city of Bangalore in India. The distance between the two cities is over four thousand kilometres. The third paranormal feat in this karāma is that the water started to boil as the caliph started to read the prayer.

Some karāmas are simple, although of course still paranormal, such as the healing of a patient after taking the pledge of the Ṭarīqa. Others are more sophisticated, with their details unfolding over weeks. One such example is the karāma in which the caliph saw in repeated dreams phone messages instructing him to go to a place that was unknown to him.

I have classified the karāmas in different categories according to the main aspect of paranormality in each karāma. I have put each category into a separate chapter. For instance, all karāmas that include paranormal healing have been collected in one chapter. No karāma was included in more than one chapter, even if it contains more than one paranormal aspect, to avoid repetition. To facilitate referring to any karāma specifically, I have given each a title that indicates the main paranormal feat it involves.

The narrator in all karāmas is the caliph who witnessed them. The edited text is based on the narratives I compiled from the written diaries of the caliph in India and telephone and face-to-face interviews I conducted with the caliph to clarify certain details. I have also interviewed some witnesses of the karāmas by phone.

shaikh-muhammad

Shaikh Muḥammad al-Kasnazān

It is worth noting that the caliph communicated on a daily basis to ḥaḍrat Shaikh Muḥammad al-Kasnazān the details of his preaching tours. He would mention to the Shaikh any karāmas he witnessed. This is why there are sometimes comments by the Shaikh on some of the karāmas.

For consistency in documenting the karāmas, I have mentioned the date and location of each karāma before its account. In most cases, the day, month, and year have been listed, as these dates were taken from the caliph’s diaries. In some cases, the exact date of the karāma is unknown. This is usually due to the fact that the exact date is not written in the diaries, but at times because of the unavailability of written accounts of these karāmas. In these cases, the details came only from interviews that took place a relatively a long time after the karāmas themselves. When mentioning the location, I tried to name the city and the state. The precise locations of some karāmas could not be identified, because they took place in small villages that are not mentioned in the diaries, as they are unknown or the caliph could not remember.

The caliph has documented some of the karāmas using photos and films. At times, he took photos of those who experienced the karāmas. At others, he filmed the individuals concerned talking about what happened to them.

I have added footnotes to explain terms and concepts that some readers might be unfamiliar with. I have also compiled them in a glossary at the end of the book for easy reference.

Footnote

[1] This is a mosquito-borne disease caused by the dengue virus. It is found in tropical and sub-tropical regions, including India. Symptoms include fever, headaches, muscle and joint pains, and skin rashes. In a small proportion of cases the disease develops into the life-threatening “severe dengue” fever. I have referred to all cases in this book as “dengue” and have not attempted to identify cases of “sever dengue” because the caliph did not check the medical reports of the patients before he treated them. Nevertheless, the symptoms of many cases suggested advanced stages of the disease.

 

Copyright © 2015 Louay Fatoohi
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Dec 142014
 

One observation that is often made by critics of the Qur’an is that at times its historical account of a story, such as the story of Prophet Moses or Jesus, has similarities with Jewish and Christian scriptures and other writings. This observation is then used to claim that Prophet Muhammad must have copied at least parts of the Qur’an from those sources, so he could not have received it from God.

When the Qur’anic historical account has similarities with details that are not in the accepted scriptures but in apocryphal sources, i.e. writings that did not become part of the canonical books that the Jewish and Christian authorities adopted, a second claim is made. In this case, it is claimed that the copied information in the Qur’an is incorrect or inaccurate because it was taken from inauthentic or at least questionable sources.

Let’s analyse the logic behind these two claims closely.

Similarity Between the Qur’an and Supposed Authentic Scriptures

If Muhammad’s claim that he received the Qur’an from God is true, and if some of the historical accounts in other scriptures or books had truly come from God, then any similarity should only be expected. For instance, the Jewish scripture — the Old Testament — says that Moses split the sea with his staff when he and the Israelites escaped form Pharaoh and his troops. Now, if this Old Testament claim was indeed revealed by God, meaning it is historical, and if the Qur’an was also revealed by God, then mentioning this miracle in the Qur’anic story of Moses would be exactly what one should expect. The mere existence of similarities between the Qur’an and the Old Testament does not prove that the Qur’an was copied from the Old Testament, because if both books were revealed by God, then this similarity “must” be there.

Claiming that the Qur’an was copied from the Old Testament in such a case, therefore, can only be based on the “prior assumption” that it was not revealed by God. In other words, this claim is “not a conclusion” based on observing the similarity. It is simply an assumption about the Qur’an, so it was “not derived” from this similarity. Using the similarity between the two scriptures to present that critical claim about the Qur’an as a conclusion is either due to misunderstanding or deliberate misrepresentation.

There are other very critical facts here that are always ignored in such a discussion about similarities between the Qur’anic stories and their counterparts in scriptures that are supposed to be genuine:

1) The Qur’anic account has also differences with the other scriptural version.
2) The differences are always more than the similarities.
3) The differences are profoundly significant.

The first two points are obvious, but let me say a little more about the third. Often the Qur’anic historical account would differ with details in the Jewish or Christian scriptures that have been proved to be wrong. For instance, the Old Testament claims that the Israelites were more than 2-3 millions when they escaped ancient Egypt. This claim has been known to be unhistorical for a few centuries now. The Qur’an, on the other hand, while confirming the escape of the Israelites, it does not repeat the unhistorical claim about the huge number of the Israelites. In fact, it states that they were small in number. Now, if Muhammad or someone helping him copied the story of Exodus from the Old Testament 14 centuries ago, how come that the copyist managed to leave that unhistorical piece of information out? Let’s take another example. Why would Muhammad make the claim that the body of the Pharaoh who chased Moses and the Israelites would be saved and would remain available for people to view, which is what happened to the mummy of Ramesses II, when the Old Testament makes it clear that the body was swallowed by the sea? I cover in detail many examples such as these in my books on the stories of Prophets Jesus, Moses, and Joseph.

There is another type of difference between the Qur’an and the Jewish and Christian scriptures where a character, event, or statement appears in one context in the Qur’an and in a different, wrong context in the other scriptures. For instance, there is a character called Haman in the Book of Esther of the Old Testament who was supposed to be a prime minster in Persia centuries after the exodus. Scholars have shown that this story is unhistorical. On the other hand, the Qur’an also has a character called Haman but he is a high ranking figure in the Egyptian court in the story of Moses. Haman is clearly an Egyptian name. What seems to have happened here is that changes by the editors of the Old Testament have resulted in moving the historical Egyptian Haman from the story of the Exodus to the completely different and unhistorical story of the Book of Esther. This is a completely different interpretation of this phenomenon from the tired and flawed explanation that the Qur’an copied information from the other scriptures. There is more on the concept of Contextual Displacement here.

Similarity Between the Qur’an and Supposed Inauthentic Scriptures

As I mentioned earlier, when a Qur’anic account has similarity with a story in an uncanonical books, the Qur’an is accused not only of copying its information from those sources, but also of copying the wrong information. For instance, the Qur’an says that one of Jesus’ miracles is that he spoke in the cradle. This miracle is not mentioned in any of the four Gospels in the New Testament, which Christians consider to be the authoritative sources on the life of Jesus. But this miracle is mentioned in apocryphal sources, such as The Arabic Gospel of Infancy. The above accusation against the Qur’an is based on the assumption that this miracle cannot be historical because it is not mentioned in the four Gospels in the New Testament but appears only in apocryphal gospels. But this argument rests completely on the assumption that the four Gospels are more historical than the apocryphal sources. The reality is that the four Gospels have numerous historical mistakes so they cannot be considered reliable anyway. For example, as I have explained in my book on The Mystery of the Crucifixion, the Gospel accounts of the crucifixion has many historically incorrect claims. Furthermore, these four books became the adopted Gospels of the Church after centuries of battles between conflicting opinions and dogmas, not because they are truly historical or the information they contain is always more reliable than information found in alternative sources.

Conclusion

The similarities and differences between the Qur’an and other scriptural and non-scriptural Jewish and Christian writings cannot be used to draw any conclusion about the originality, reliability, and credibility of the Qur’an or the other sources. When the issues in question can be examined in the light of historical knowledge, then history has to be the judge. Such issues can be found in the story of the Exodus, for example. When the information is impossible to ascertain historically, such as accounts of miracles, then faith in any version has to be supported by the general credibility and reliability of the source making the claim. In other words, when the Qur’an and Jewish and Christian scriptures disagree on claims that are not possible to verify independently, one has to take into consideration which of sources is more reliable.

It has been known for a long time now that while the Old and New Testaments contain correct historical information, they also have numerous inaccurate and wrong claims. Whenever a reliability comparison is possible between a historical account in the Qur’an and its counterpart in the Jewish or Christian sources, the Qur’an’s version of events always turns out to be superior.

Copyright © 2014 Louay Fatoohi
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Sep 182014
 

This is the first letter from “Fifteen Letters (Khamsata ‘Ashara Maktuban)

 

O dear one!

When the lightnings of direct witnessing1 flash from the clouds of the emanation of:

Allah guides to His Light whom He wills, (24.35)

—and the winds of the union of love blow from the windward of the care of:

He chooses for His mercy whom He wills,2 (2.105)

—the fragrant plants of close rapport will flower in the gardens of the hearts,3

—and the nightingales of longing will chant in the orchards of the spirits with the tones of:

Alas, my grief for Joseph! (12.84)

—and the fires of yearning will burn in the stoves of the innermost beings.4

The wings of the flying thoughts will become too tired in the space of greatness in its pursuit of the destination of the flight,

—the greatest minds will go astray in the deserts of spiritual knowledge,

—and the foundations of the cornerstones of understanding will shake from the shock of the majesty.5

The ships of determination will sail in the depths of the seas of:

They did not value Allah as He should be valued6 (39.67)

—by the winds of:

As it floated on with them amid waves like mountains,7 (11.42)

—and when the waves of the sea of the all-engrossing love of:

He loves them and they love Him, (5.54)

—collide, everyone will call in the tongue of the spiritual state

O my Lord! Disembark me with a blessed disembarking, and you are the best to disembark.8 (23.29)

So the predestined care of:

They for whom We have preordained good things (21.101)

—will reach them, and it will disembark them on the shore of the Jūdī9 of:

A seat of truth. (54.55)

It will take them to the assembly of the intoxicated of:

Am I not your Lord? (7.172)

—it will spread for them the tablecloth of the feast of the bliss of:

For those who do good there will be good and more, (10.26)

—and it will pass around to them the cups of attainment from the casks of nearness by the hands of the cupbearers of:

And their Lord shall provide them with pure drink,10 (76.21)

—so they will be honored with an everlasting kingdom and the sovereignty of:

And if you look far you shall see bliss and a great kingdom.11 (76.20) 

 

Footnotes

1Shuhūd (direct witnessing)” is a spiritual state in which the person has direct revelatory experiences.
2 This and the previous verse emphasize that Allah chooses whom to grant this spiritual favor to.
3 The flashes of direct witnessing and the whiffs of the union with the Lover are not permanent, but they leave the heart with the unique experience of intimate friendship.
4 Having tasted intermittently that unparalleled experience, the heart now cannot stand the separation and wants that experience permanently. The pain of separation is reminiscent of prophet Jacob’s pain when he lost his beloved son prophet Joseph. The term “sirr (innermost being)” denotes the deepest and most secret part of man.
5Maʿrifa (spiritual knowledge)” is an experientially acquired spiritual form of knowledge that is beyond the comprehension of even the greatest brains. It is not something that can be attained or understood by reason but it can become accessible only to the sound heart. Spiritual knowledge is a fruit of piety: “And be pious toward Allah and Allah shall teach you” (2.282).
6 But the seeker is determined to continue his pursuit of that intimate closeness to Allah, knowing that He is worthy of every effort, and being aware of and avoiding the failure of those who underestimated Allah.
7 This journey of salvation is similar to that of prophet Noah, which Allah commanded him to make and subtly directed.
8 As he negotiates the difficulties of sailing in the sea of divine love, he prays to Allah to guide him to the shore of His acceptance.
9 Exegetes think that “the Jūdī” is the name of the mountain on which Noah’s arch settled.
10 Allah will then land the seekers safely as He guided Noah’s arch to the Jūdī.
Allah then admits them into the company of those who are intoxicated with His love. They will be served unique food and drink that are available only to those who attain nearness to Him.
11 This turn of fortune and honor from Allah will be everlasting.

Copyright © 2014 Louay Fatoohi
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Sep 162014
 

This article is from “Fifteen Letters (Khamsata ‘Ashara Maktuban)

This is not the first English translation of this book. It was first translated in 1997 by Muhtar Holland, the outstanding translator of many of Shaikh ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Jilan’s works into English. Mr Holland used one manuscript from the Databank der Orientalischen Handschriften der Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany. In my editing and translation of the text I have used three manuscripts, one at the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, UK, the second in the Special Collections Library at Michigan University, USA, and the third in King Saud University in Saudi Arabia.

Translating a mystical work like this is a big challenge. The meaning of the text is often subtle, deep, and open to interpretation. The task of translation is not made any easier by the fact that the Arabic text is itself a translation from the original Persian. But as I explained earlier, the fact that the text consists of short sentences each followed by a Qur’anic verse makes the job of the translator easier. Unsurprisingly, Holland’s translation and mine show differences in understanding various parts of the text.

The style of the writing has resulted in a translation structure like this: words of the Shaikh + of: + Qur’anic verse. I have used the character “—” to indicate that the text on a new line continues the preceding text. This is an example:

Be afraid of:

The Day on which the person flees from his brother, mother, father, spouse, and sons, (80.34-36)

—and think of the reckoning of:

Whether you show what inside your souls or hide it Allah will reckon with you for it. (2.284)

I have used “of” to link the Shaikh’s words to the verse they precede, instead of using something like “that is mentioned in the following verse” which is too verbose. This means that the transition from the end of the Shaikh’s words to the beginning of the verse is often not smooth linguistically but completely natural and elegant at the level of the meaning.

Each pair of words of the Shaikh and the verse that follows them has a concept that is present in both the Shaikh’s words and the verse. The Shaikh’s words explain the verse, and the verse explains what the Shaikh meant. So in the example above, the Shaikh is talking about a particular “call” that he quotes a specific verse to elucidate.

To retain the tone of the original text while at the same time presenting it in a way that is easy to read, I have put the long conjunctive sentences on separate lines. To make it easy to distinguish between the Qur’anic text and the Shaikh’s words, I have used a different font for the former and placed each verse on a separate line.

Copyright © 2014 Louay Fatoohi
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Sep 152014
 

This article is from “Fifteen Letters (Khamsata ‘Ashara Maktuban)

With the exception of the second letter in “M,” which starts with the expression “O dear servant (ayyuhā al-ʿabd al-ʿazīz),” and the thirteen letter in “B,” which starts with “O brother (ayyuhā al-akh),” both of which look to be copying mistakes, every letter starts with the addressing formula of “O dear one (ayyuhā al-ʿazīz)”. This is reminiscent of the expression “O young man (yā ghulām)” which Shaikh ʿAbd al-Qādir often used in his lectures. These two forms address the listener or reader in general and do not refer to a specific person.

Articulated in a highly mystical language, the letters describe spiritual experiences that are attained through striving against one’s base desires and committed devotion to Allah. They are written in a peculiar style whereby each sentence or group of sentences is followed by a related Qur’anic text, which is often a part of a verse. For instance, the Shaikh may mention a state of bliss that the believer will receive and then follows his statement by a verse that talks about the bliss in paradise.

The Qur’an is quoted in 267 places in the fifteen letters. At times, more than one verse is quoted in a location, so in total 279 verses are quoted. Some verses occur more than once, making the number of unique verses in the text 225.

The text, in effect, is a Sufi experiential interpretation of the quoted Qur’anic verses. This peculiar style of consistent pairing of mystical words of the Shaikh with a Qur’anic verse has produced an immensely beautiful text with a highly poetic tone. Often several pairings are connected with “and,” which is a common practice in Arabic. This uniquely charming, poetic, and experiential way of interpreting the Qur’an forced me to put aside my other writing projects to edit an Arabic edition of the book and do this translation. It is something that I have immensely enjoyed doing.

The mystical language of Shaikh ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Jilānī speaks of spiritual experiences that words could do so much to describe, and the reader who has had no such experiences can at best hope to understand them only partially. This is why I have added a commentary to the text, but I have also kept it succinct and focused on my understanding of the main points of the text without any attempt to delve deeper into it. This should reduce the possibility of any misunderstanding that is likely to happen as a result of any further elaboration. I have not commented on any text that I found to be clear enough. Having been added as footnotes, the comments should not get into the way of reading the text alone without the commentary.

Any translation is an act of interpretation, so translating the Arabic text is in effect interpreting the understanding of the translator of that original Persian text. However, the fact that the words of the Shaikh consist of short sentences that are effectively interpreting clearly quoted Qur’anic verses makes it easier for the translator and limits the extent of any misunderstanding.

Copyright © 2014 Louay Fatoohi
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Sep 152014
 

This biography is taken from “Fifteen Letters (Khamsata ‘Ashara Maktuban)

Shaikh ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Jilānī was born in 470 H. (1077 CE). Old sources claim that he was born in “Gaylān” in the north of today’s Iran.1 But recently it has been suggested that he was in fact born in a village called “al-Jīl” near the city of Madā’in 40 kilometers south of Baghdad.2 That the current work was originally written in Persian seems to support the mainstream view that he came from Iran. Either way, this is why he is known as “al-Gaylānī,” “al-Jīlānī,” or “al-Jīlī.”

Shaikh ʿAbd al-Qādir was born to very pious parents both of whom descended from Prophet Muhammad (prayer and peace be upon him). His father and mother are from the lineage of al-Imām al-Ḥasan and al-Imām al-Ḥusain, respectively. He received his first religious education at home before migrating to Baghdad at the age of eighteen to continue his learning and start what turned out to be a unique and amazing spiritual journey. References to only his mother advising him before he left his home town suggests that he had lost his father by the time he headed to Baghdad.

Baghdad was then the capital of the Abbasid caliphate and, more importantly, it was a center of knowledge and education that was vibrant with spiritual and intellectual activities. But this was also a period of political upheaval, with the crusaders in action in Palestine, Syria, and Antakya in Turkey, and Baghdad at the mercy of the neighboring Turkish and Seljuq Sultans.

In Baghdad, Shaikh ʿAbd al-Qādir first accompanied the Sufi Shaikh Ḥammād al-Dabbās (d. 525/1131), and later Shaikh Abū Saʿīd al-Mukharramī (al-Makhzūmī). It has also been reported that Shaikh ʿAbd al-Qādir was a student of al-Imām Muḥammad al-Ghazālī (d. 505/1111), and that the Shaikh’s book al-Ghunia reflects influences by al-Ghazālī’s Iḥyā’ ʿUlūm al-Dīn.3 He also had other teachers.4

When Shaikh Abū Saʿīd saw how his student was developing, he asked him in 521/1127 to teach in his school. Shaikh ʿAbd al-Qādir used to lecture three days a week. His audience grew quickly until a lecture would attract tens of thousands. Many students used to write down his lectures, preserving the words of the Shaikh. He continued to preach in his school until his death in 561/1165.5 The fame that this school developed as a result of the respect and following that Shaikh ʿAbd al-Qādir had and its being his burial place guaranteed its status as one of the most revered and visited Islamic sites.

The Shaikh disapproved of the scholars and Shaikhs who built close ties with the rulers, visited them, or benefited from them, often at the cost of performing their religious duties properly. This is what he says in one of his sermons:

O backslider, you build relations with the sultans, the princes, and the rich seeking power and further worldly things, yet you do not do business with the King of kings, the Wealthiest of the wealthy, the One who never dies, the One who never becomes poor, the One who repays your loan to Him multiplied manifold!6

Nobilities and rulers still attended his lectures, while he did not spare them any criticism he had of how they governed.

The Shaikh went for pilgrimage to Mecca twice, the first time in 505/1112, when he was still little known. In this trip he met Shaikh ʿUdayy bin Musāfir (d. 557/1162). In his second in 555/1160 he met the famous Moroccan Shaikh Abū Midian (d. 594/1197). By then, Shaikh ʿAbd al-Qādir had become one of the most, if not the most, famous Sufi Shaikhs, with countless followers everywhere. His mother, who had come to live in Baghdad, is said to have been with her son on his second pilgrimage. If this account is historical, then reports that his mother conceived him when she was sixty years old are probably incorrect.7

There is no figure in the history of Sufism who has been linked to as many miracles as Shaikh ʿAbd al-Qādir. He is reported to have performed some miracles as one way to convey and support his teachings.

The influence of Shaikh ʿAbd al-Qādir on Muslims and his role in the spread of Islam are impossible to exaggerate. There are far more Sufi Tarīqās (Ways) whose chains of masters trace themselves back to him than any other Shaikh. Accordingly, the followers of Qādirī Ṭarīqas far outnumber the followers of any other Ṭarīqa. Sufis in general and Qādirīs in particular played a major role in spreading Islam in Asia and Africa.

Shaikh ʿAbd al-Qādir left a large number of sermons and writings. These include al-Ghunia li-Ṭālibī Ṭarī al-Ḥaq, al-Fatḥ al-Rabbānī wal-Faiḍ al-Raḥmānī, Futūḥ al-Ghaib, Jilā’ al-Khāṭir, Sir al-Asrār, and many more. As noted earlier, while he authored a lot of works, some were compiled by his students who attended his lectures.

Let’s read some of Shaikh ʿAbd al-Qādir’s words on a number of topics, starting with the following about love:

Woe to you! You claim to love Allah, yet you open up your hearts to others! Because Majnūn Laylā (the mad lover of Laylā) became truthful in his love for Laylā, his heart would not accept other than her. One day he came across some people who asked him: “Where have you come from?” He replied: “From being with Laylā.” They asked him: “Where are you going?” He answered: “To Laylā.”

Once the heart has become truthful in its love for Allah (mighty and glorified is He) it becomes like Moses (prayer and peace be on our Prophet and on him) about whom Allah (mighty and glorified is He) has said: “And We had caused him to refuse the wet-nurses” (28.12). Do not lie; you do not have two hearts but one, so once it is filled with something there is no room for another. Allah (high is He) has said: “Allah has not made for any man two hearts in his breast” (33.4) — a heart that loves the Creator and a heart that loves the creatures. There can be no heart in which this world and the hereafter coexist.8

He said about trust:

O young man, religion in the sight of Allah is Islam, and the reality of Islam is surrender! You have to reach the state of Islam first and then fulfil surrender. Purify your outward by Islam and purify your inward by surrender.

Surrender yourselves to your Lord (mighty and glorified is He) and be satisfied with His management of your affairs. Give up your will and accept the destiny that your Lord (mighty and glorified is He) has decreed. Accept all of what destiny brings. Your Lord knows you better than you know yourselves. Accept His words with certitude. Receive His commandments and prohibitions with total acceptance. Receive His religion with all of your hearts, and make it your inner and outer covers.9

Here he criticizes the hypocrites:

Woe to you! How can you tell others to endure with patience when you are impatient? How can you tell him to give thanks in return for the favors when you have given up thankfulness? How can you tell him to be satisfied with the divine decree when you are dissatisfied? How can you tell him to renounce this world when you are full of desires about it? How can you tell him to yearn for the hereafter when you have renounced it? How can you tell him to trust Allah (mighty and glorified is He) when you have relied on other than Him? You are hated by the True One (mighty and glorified is He), the angels, and the hearts of the truthful and the righteous of His servants.10

This is how he encouraged spending on the poor:

O miserable one, when a poor person comes asking for a loan, go ahead and lend him and never say: “Who is going to give me?” You must disagree with your lower self and give him a loan, and after a while make it a donation to him. Among the poor is one who disapproves of begging for alms, preferring to ask for a loan, with every intention of paying it back. He has confidence in Allah (mighty and glorified is He), and on the basis of this confidence he borrows. So, if he approaches you for a loan, O wealthy one, lend him and never face him with a request to pay back, for this would further humiliate him. If a long time passed without you receiving any repayment, go to see him, ask him to accept that loan as a gift, and absolve him of his obligation. Thus, you will be rewarded for his first joy [when you gave him the loan] and for his second one [when you turned the loan into a gift.] The Prophet (Allah’s prayer and peace be on him) said: “A beggar at the door is a gift from Allah (mighty and glorified is He) to His servant.”

Woe to you! How can the beggar not be a gift from Allah (mighty and glorified is He) when he takes from your share in this world to add to your share in the hereafter? He saves something for you that you will find when you need it. The amount that you give him will vanish and disappear anyway, yet on account of giving it to him you will be promoted by several degrees in the eyes of Allah (mighty and glorified is He).11

He said on good manners:

The Prophet (Allah’s prayer and peace be on him) said: “Keep to good manners in your relationships with people so that when you are dead they pray for Allah to show mercy to you and when you are alive they yearn for you.” Heed to this good advice. Tie it to your hearts and do not forget it. It points out to you an easy work that carries much reward. How good fine manners are! They are a source of comfort to the person who has them and to others. How detestable are bad manners! They are a source of fatigue to the person who has them and a source of harm to others.12

Finally, this is what he had to say about humility:

Be humble and do not be arrogant. Humility raises people up, whereas arrogance brings them down. The Prophet (Allah’s prayer and peace be on him) said: “When someone behaves with humility with Allah, Allah (mighty and glorified is He) raises him up.” Allah has some servants who do righteous works that are as great as the mountains, like the deeds of the predecessors, yet they humble themselves to Allah and say: “We have done nothing that can cause us to enter Paradise. If we would enter it, it would be by the mercy of Allah (mighty and glorified is He), and if He would deny us admission, it would be on account of His justice.” They continue to stand in His company on the foot of bankruptcy.13

Footnotes

1 Al-Dhahabī, Siyar Aʿlām al-Nubalā’, vol. 20, p. 439
2 Al-Gaylānī, Al-Shaikh ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Gaylānī: Ru’ya Tārīkhiyya Muʿāṣira, p. 9. Also, al-Gaylānī, Jughrāfiyyat al-Bāz al-Ashhab.
3 Al-Gaylānī, Al-Shaikh ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Gaylānī, p. 12.
4 Al-Dhahabī, Siyar Aʿlām al-Nubalā’, vol. 20, p. 443.
5 Al-Dhahabī, Tarīkh al-Islām wa-Wafiyyāt al-Mashāhīr wal-Aʿlām, pp. 86-100.
6 Al-Jīlānī, Purification of the Mind (Jilā’ al-Khāṭir), p. 8.
7 Al-Tāfidhī. Qalā’id al-Jāwāhir, p. 3.
8 Al-Jīlānī, Purification of the Mind (Jilā’ al-Khāṭir), p. 16.
9 Al-Jīlānī, Purification of the Mind (Jilā’ al-Khāṭir), p. 24.
10 Al-Jīlānī, Purification of the Mind (Jilā’ al-Khāṭir), p. 36.
11 Al-Jīlānī, Purification of the Mind (Jilā’ al-Khāṭir), p. 106.
12 Al-Jīlānī, Purification of the Mind (Jilā’ al-Khāṭir), p. 149.
13 Al-Jīlānī, Purification of the Mind (Jilā’ al-Khāṭir), p. 157.

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Jul 212014
 

This is the Introduction to the Book “The First and Last Revelations of the Qur’an

The Qur’an was revealed by God to Prophet Muhammad over 22 years from 610 CE when he was in Mecca until his death in 632 CE in Medina. He migrated to Medina in 622 CE. This is one verse that describes this gradual revelation of the Qur’an:

A Qur’an which We have divided that you may read it to people at intervals. We sent it down, sending it down! (17.106)

At times an individual verse and at others a number of verses were revealed to the Prophet. As soon as a verse was inspired to the Prophet, he conveyed it to the Muslims, who memorized it, and had it written down. Leather, parchment, shoulder-bones, rib-bones, stones, and leaf stalks of date palms were used as writing material. The consensus, based on Ḥadīth sources, is that the Qur’an was compiled in one volume by the Prophet’s Companions after him. I find this claim extremely incredible, as it would have been in conflict with the natural course of action of the Prophet and early Muslims with regard to the Book they most revered, but this subject is outside the scope of this book.

The compiled volume of the Qur’an is known as the “muṣḥaf.” This Arabic word means a “collection or volume of written sheets,” but it has developed the technical meaning of the “compiled written sheets of the Qur’an.”

People often use the terms “Qur’an” and “muṣḥaf” interchangeably, which is an inaccurate use. “Qur’an” is the name of the revelation whereas the term “muṣḥaf” denotes the written record of that revelation. This important distinction will be maintained in this book. The term “Qur’an” is used to refer to the revelation, whereas “muṣḥaf” denotes how this revelation is laid out in a book form.

The Qur’an consists of 114 chapters. The longest chapter, which is number 2 (al-Baqara), has 286 verses. The shortest chapters have 3 verses each. These are chapters 103 (al-ʿAṣr), 108 (al-Kawthar), and 110 (al-Naṣr). In total, there are 6,326 verses in the Qur’an.

It is agreed by all that the Qur’anic chapters are not listed in the muṣḥaf in the chronological order of their revelation. For instance, the first chapter in the muṣḥaf is not the first chapter of the Qur’an, i.e. not the first chapter that was revealed. In fact, while the muṣḥaf starts with a Meccan chapter, the next 4 chapters are all from the Medina period. Similarly, the first and last verses in the muṣḥaf do not represent the first and last verses of the Qur’an.

Scholars have disagreed on how the chapters came to be in this order in the muṣḥaf. One group thinks that it was done according to the Prophet’s instructions, another believes the Companions who compiled it after the Prophet chose this particular order, whereas a third group takes the view that the order was chosen by the Prophet and his Companions.

I do not think the order of the chapters is insignificant to be left to the Companions to decide or discuss with the Prophet. One modern researcher convincingly notes that if the order of the chapters was chosen by those who compiled the Qur’an and it was not instructed by the Prophet, they would have mentioned the reasoning behind the organization they chose, yet there is no such explanation. He also notes that there is no clear obvious reasoning behind the current structure.

The order of the verses within each chapter is also not necessarily chronological. But unlike the case of the order of the chapters, there is consensus that the verses were ordered in their respective chapters by the Prophet. There are a number of ḥadīths in which the Prophet is said to have ordered a newly revealed verse to be inserted in a particular position in a partially revealed chapter.

As the order of the chapters and verses in the muṣḥaf does not reflect the chronology of their revelation, scholars have invested considerable time and effort to determine various aspects of the chronology of the revealed text. Knowing the chronology of the revelation can be helpful, even at times necessary, for interpreting the Qur’anic text, learning about the life of the Prophet and early Muslims, and understanding the Qur’anic legal rulings.

These efforts have developed into a sub-science within the broader discipline of ʿUlūm al-Qur’an (The Sciences of the Qur’an). This relatively late term denotes the study of various aspects of the Qur’an and its history. One particularly famous work is Al-Itqān fī ʿUlūm al-Qur’an by the 9th century Hijrī scholar Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūṭī.

More specifically in this subdomain, scholars have been interested in identifying the first verse that was revealed on certain subjects, such as the first verse that permitted the Muslims to take arms to defend themselves against their enemies, the first revelation that dealt with the drinking of alcohol, and the first inspiration about the permitted and prohibited foods. A specific enquiry that attracted considerable interest is determining the first and last verses and chapters of the Qur’an, which is the subject of this book.

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Mar 232014
 

Statements by scholars dating back to the 3rd century Hirji have claimed that the following verse, which has become known as “the verse of the sword,” has abrogated, i.e. annulled, many Qur’anic verses:

When the Inviolable Months have passed away, kill the polytheists wherever you find them. Seize them, besiege them, and wait for them at every place of observation. If they repent, observe prayer, and pay the obligatory alms then let them go their way. Allah is forgiving, merciful. (9.5)

The significance of these reports is the nature of the alleged abrogated verses. The latter include numerous verses that call on the Muslims to be tolerant, forgiving, and patient, and to display such positive attributes toward non-Muslims that allowed Muslims to live peacefully with various religious groups for 1,400 years. Although the alleged abrogating function of verse 9.5 has been dismissed by most scholars, it has become very popular among Muslim terrorist groups and individuals who use it to justify their atrocities.

There are a number of fundamental problems with this abrogation claim, which I will summarize here. For those who are interested in a more detailed analysis of this issue with references to primary sources and other works, there is a dedicated chapter in my book Abrogation in the Qur’an and Islamic Law.

First, only by taking 9.5 completely out of context it maybe be claimed that it has abrogated verses that command the Muslims to show tolerance to non-Muslims. To see how blatant that distortion is, I have quoted 9.5 with the verses that surround it:

A proclamation from Allah and His Messenger to people on the day of Greater Pilgrimage that Allah is clear of the polytheists, as is His Messenger. If you repent that is better for you but if you turn away then know that you are not beyond the power of Allah. And give [O Muhammad!] glad tidings of a painful chastisement to the disbelievers. (9.3) Except those of the polytheists with whom you have a treaty and they did not break its terms or aid someone against you, so abide by their treaty until their term. Allah loves the pious. (9.4) When the Inviolable Months have passed away, kill the polytheists wherever you find them. Seize them, besiege them, and wait for them at every place of observation. If they repent, observe prayer, and pay the obligatory alms then let them go their way. Allah is forgiving, merciful. (9.5) If anyone of the polytheists seeks your protection [O Muhammad!], then protect him so that he may hear the Word of Allah, and escort him to his place of safety. That is because they are a people who do not know. (9.6) How can there be a treaty with Allah and with His Messenger for the polytheists, save those with whom you [O you who believe!] made a treaty at the Inviolable Mosque? So long as they are true to you, be true to them. Surely, Allah loves the pious. (9.7) How [can there be any treaty for the others] when if they would get an advantage over you they would not honor any relation or treaty with you? They satisfy you with their mouths while their hearts refuse. Most of them are backsliders. (9.8) They have purchased with the verses of Allah a little gain, so they have turned away from His way. Surely, evil is what they do. (9.9) They do not honor any relation or treaty with a believer; these are the transgressors. (9.10) But if they repent, observe prayer, and pay the obligatory alms, then they are your brethren in religion. We detail Our verses for the people of knowledge. (9.11) If they break their oaths after their treaty and assail your religion, then fight the heads of disbelief. Surely, they have no binding oaths, so that they may desist. (9.12) Will you not fight a people who broke their oaths, set out to drive out the Messenger, and attacked you first? Do you fear them? Allah is more worthy of your fear, if you are believers. (9.13)

I have analysed these verses in my book Jihad in the Qur’an. The verse immediately before 9.5 commands the Muslims to honor any peace treaty they had with disbelievers. Then verse 9.6 shows that Islam does not consider a peaceful disbeliever an enemy. The Qur’an even commanded the Prophet to give protection to any polytheist who sought his help.

Verse 9.7 commands the Muslims to honor their treaty with the polytheists as long as the latter honored it. God considers this to be an act of piety: “Allah loves the pious.” He reminds the Muslims in verses 9.8-10 that the polytheists used to break their peace treaties whenever they felt they had the upper hand and that they showed a similar disregard for their relations with the Muslims. He explains that the polytheists made peace with their mouths but did not embrace it with their hearts.

Muslims were commanded to forgive the polytheists, live with them in peace if the latter honored peace, and forgive and consider them brothers if they convert to Islam (9.11). God then emphasizes that the aim of fighting the heads of disbelief is to make them desist and establish peace (9.12).

Finally, verse 9.13 urges the Muslims to fight aggression, reminding them of the background of the conflict with the disbelievers. First, it was the polytheists who broke the treaty they had with the Muslims. Second, like the Meccans who forced the Prophet to immigrate to Medina, the polytheists were trying to expel him from Medina. Third, it was the polytheists who attacked the Muslims first.

Second, there are verses in other places in the Qur’an commanding the Muslims to establish peace with any party that wants peace (e.g. 4.90, 8.72). The Qur’an even has clear references to the Prophet continuing to make peace with people who repeatedly violated their peace treaties with the Muslims:

Surely, the worst of beasts in Allah’s sight are those who are ungrateful as they would not believe. (8.55) Those with whom you [O Muhammad!] have made a covenant yet they break their covenant every time and do not act piously. (8.56) Therefore, should you get hold of them in war, make of them an example that would disperse [the gathering army of] those who are behind them that they may be mindful. (8.57) If you fear treachery from a people, then throw back to them [their treaty] on equal terms. Surely, Allah does not love the treacherous. (8.58) Let not those who disbelieve think that they can outstrip [Us]. Surely, they are not impregnable. (8.59) Prepare [O you who believe!] for them what you can of force and horses tethered, to frighten thereby Allah’s and your enemy and others besides them whom you do not know but Allah knows. Whatever you spend in the way of Allah will be paid back to you in full and you shall not be wronged. (8.60) If they incline to peace then incline [O Muhammad!] to it, and rely on Allah. Surely, He is the Hearing, the Knowing. (8.61) If they intend to deceive you, then surely Allah is sufficient for you. It is He who supported you with His help and with the believers. (8.62)

Third, verse 9.5 is claimed to have abrogated even verses commanding the Muslims to be patient in general, not specifically when dealing with the polytheists or their enemies! This shows the false nature of the claims of abrogation involving this verse in general.

Fourth, those who argue that 9.5 has the power to override other verses ignore the fact that this verse targeted certain groups of polytheists, as they apply it to all idolaters. They make an even bigger mistake by claiming that it applies to all non-Muslims, including even the Jews and Christians. Yet the verse talks about the “mushrikīn,” which is the term the Qur’an applies to the polytheists of Arabia, whereas the Qur’an calls the Jews and Christians “Ahl al-Kitāb” or the “People of the Book.” Even when referring to Jews and Christians behaving like “mushrikīn,” the Qur’an still calls them “Ahl al-Kitāb,” as in verse 29 from the same chapter as the verse of the sword.

Fifth, in addition to the fact that scholars have disagreed on how many verses are supposed to have been abrogated by 9.5, the number of claims of abrogation by 9.5 grew over time. This clearly shows that the claims were based on the opinions of certain later scholars rather than sources that go back to the Prophet or even his Companions or the Successors.

Sixth, if 9.5 really abrogated tolerance and forgiveness for the disbelievers, it would have abrogated all of the many verses that promote such concepts. Yet even when considering all the verses that are claimed to have been abrogated by 9.5, there are still many other verses that command the Muslims to live peacefully with the disbelievers left uncovered by abrogation claims.

It should now be clear that the claim that verse 9.5 has abrogated other verses, let alone such a large number of them, is absurd. Even the title “the verse of the sword” is a late invention. While “the verse of alms” has been given this name by scholars because it talks about almsgiving and other verses have been given names after words that occur in them, the expression “the verse of the sword” is very much a misnomer because the term “sword” is not found in the verse. Even more telling is the fact that this word does not exist anywhere in the Qur’an!

Copyright © 2014 Louay Fatoohi
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Dec 242013
 

This article is adapted from my book The Historical Jesus: The Messiah in the Qur’an, the Bible, and Historical Sources.

Every year, Christians across the world celebrate in Christmas the birth of Jesus. One prominent aspect of this tradition is the Christmas tree. This tradition is known to have developed in Germany in the 16th century, but the earliest tree may be traced to the 14th century. The festive evergreen tree then started to gain popularity beyond Germany in the 2nd half of the 19th century, gradually becoming one of the symbols and expressions of Christmas everywhere in the world.

There have been a number of attempts to explain how the Christmas tree tradition developed, but these are mere speculations with no supportive evidence. One popular suggestion is to link the new Christian practice to ancient traditions in which evergreen trees were used as symbols for eternal life and were also worshipped. One obvious problem with this and other approaches is that they fail to explain the link of this tradition with Christmas in particular. Christians could have used this tradition for any event, but why to celebrate Jesus’ birth in particular?

The four Gospels do not suggest any link between Jesus’ birth and any tree. Mark and John do not say anything about Jesus’ birth. Matthew only states that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, before moving on to talk about the “wise men” who came to visit the newborn and King Herod’s concern about what this birth could mean for his reign (Matthew 2:1-6). Luke confirms that when Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem “the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” (Luke 2:6-7).

But in the Qur’an’s account of the birth of Jesus a tree features prominently. I have commented elsewhere on the story of Jesus’ birth in the Qur’an, so I will only quote the relevant Qur’anic verses here:

She conceived him, and she withdrew with him to a far place. (19.22) And the pangs of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm tree. She said: “I wish I had died before this and had become something totally forgotten!” (19.23) Then he called her from beneath her: “Do not grieve! Your Lord has placed a rivulet beneath you, (19.24) and shake the trunk of the palm tree toward you, and it will let fall fresh dates upon you. (19.25) So eat, drink, and be consoled. If you meet any human being, say: ‘I have vowed a fast to God, so I will not speak today to any human being.’” (19.26)

The birth took place under a palm tree which also provided Mary with food she desperately needed. This account also has noticeable similarity with the tradition of placing presents under the Christmas tree. The latter may be seen as celebrating the sending of Jesus as a present to the world.

There are two apocryphal Christian sources that are worth quoting here. Apocryphal writings are considered inauthentic and inferior to the New Testament. The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew1 is claimed to have been written in Hebrew by Matthew the Evangelist and translated into Latin by Jerome. But scholars believe it was probably written as late as around the 8th-9th century. In the relevant part, this book talks about Mary sitting under a palm tree and of a spring of water but in a very different context from that of the Qur’an. On the third day of the journey of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus to Egypt escaping Herod, the following happened:

While they were walking, that the blessed Mary was fatigued by the excessive heat of the sun in the desert; and seeing a palm tree, she said to Joseph: “Let me rest a little under the shade of this tree.” Joseph therefore made haste, and led her to the palm, and made her come down from her beast. And as the blessed Mary was sitting there, she looked up to the foliage of the palm, and saw it full of fruit, and said to Joseph: “I wish it were possible to get some of the fruit of this palm.” And Joseph said to her: “I wonder that you say this, when you see how high the palm tree is; and that you think of eating of its fruit. I am thinking more of the want of water, because the skins are now empty, and we have none wherewith to refresh ourselves and our cattle.”

Then the child Jesus, with a joyful countenance, reposing in the bosom of His mother, said to the palm: “O tree, bend your branches, and refresh my mother with your fruit.” And immediately at these words the palm bent its top down to the very feet of the blessed Mary; and they gathered from it fruit, with which they were all refreshed. And after they had gathered all its fruit, it remained bent down, waiting the order to rise from Him who had commanded it to stoop.

Then Jesus said to it: “Raise yourself, O palm tree, and be strong, and be the companion of my trees, which are in the paradise of my Father; and open from your roots a vein of water which has been hid in the earth, and let the waters flow, so that we may be satisfied from you.” And it rose up immediately, and at its root there began to come forth a spring of water exceedingly clear and cool and sparkling. And when they saw the spring of water, they rejoiced with great joy, and were satisfied, themselves and all their cattle and their beasts. Wherefore they gave thanks to God. (PsMatt. 20)

Another apocryphal book known as The Arabic Gospel of the Infancy or The First Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ,2 which is dated to the 2nd century, has this very brief mention of a tree and a Jesus’ miracle of causing a water well to appear:

They went on to a city in which were several idols which, as soon as they came near to it, was turned into hills of sand. Hence they went to that sycamore tree, which is now called Matarea. And in Matarea the Lord Jesus caused a well to spring forth, in which St. Mary washed his coat. And a balsam is produced, or grows, in that country from the sweat which ran down there from the Lord Jesus. (AraIn. 8:8-11)

These two Christian accounts have obvious similarities but differences also with the Qur’an. The historical account of Jesus’ birth under a tree had at some point been changed to what appears in these gospels. I have discussed this common phenomenon which I have called “Contextual Displacement” elsewhere. This type of textual corruption denotes the instances where a character, event, or statement appears in one context in the Qur’an and in a different context in other sources. There are many differences between the Qur’an and Jewish and Christian sources, including the Old and New Testaments, that can be convincingly explained as contextual displacements in these sources

There is no direct evidence to link the tradition of the Christmas tree to the tree under which Jesus was born, so this link remains speculative. But it is a distinct possibility that the mysterious Christmas tree tradition originally grew from the historical tree in Jesus’ story of birth, which the Qur’an has revealed.

References
1 The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, translated by A. Walker, in: Ante-Nicene Fathers: Translations of The Writings of the Fathers down to a.d. 325, Volume 8, WM. B. Eerdmans publishing company: Michigan.
2 The Arabic Gospel of the Infancy, translated by W. Wake, The Lost Books of the Bible and the Forgotten Books of Eden, A&B Publishers Group: New York, 1926, 38-59.

Copyright © 2013 Louay Fatoohi
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Dec 202013
 

This article is extracted from my book The Historical Jesus: The Messiah in the Qur’an, the Bible, and Historical Sources.

I have discussed in detail elsewhere the story of Mary’s miraculous conception of Jesus in various traditions, as well as the arguments made against and in support of it. I have also explained The Qur’an’s Affirmation of Jesus’ Virginal Conception. I will review here quickly the virginal conception before I present the account of Jesus’ birth in the Qur’an. There are some similarities with the story in the New Testament, but the differences are much more. I will focus here on the Qur’anic account.

Mary, who had been living a particularly pious life, was one day visited by Gabriel, the Holy Spirit:

She put a veil between herself and them (her family). Then We sent to her Our spirit, and he assumed for her the likeness of a human being in all respects. (19.17)

This mysterious being must have appeared in the shape of a man, because Mary addressed him in the masculine. Seeing a man appear suddenly in her secluded place, Mary was scared:

She said: “I seek refuge in God from you, if you are dutiful [to God].” (19.18)

Gabriel reassured Mary that he was in fact a messenger from God:

He said: “I am only a messenger of your Lord, that I may bestow on you a pure son.” (19.19)

After receiving the amazing news and regaining her composure, Mary asked how she could bear a son when she was never married or involved in an illicit sexual relationship:

She said: “How can I have a son when no man has touched me, neither have I been unchaste?” (19.20)

Gabriel replied that this miracle was easy for God to do, and that it had already been ordained to happen, confirming that her conception was not going to involve a man:

He said: “Thus Your Lord has said: ‘It is easy for Me. And so that We may make of him a sign for people and a mercy from Us, and it is a matter that has been ordained.’” (19.21)

Having found herself with a miraculous pregnancy she could not explain to people, Mary chose to live alone and away from her family:

She conceived him and she withdrew with him to a far place. (19.22)

When she later was in labor in what looks like a public rather than private place and about to give birth to what people would consider an illicit child, Mary found herself in an extremely distressing situation. Her feeling of despair is reflected in her wish for a death that would leave no trace of her and make people forget about her:

And the pangs of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm tree. She said: “I wish I had died before this and had become something totally forgotten!” (19.23)

Almost immediately after Mary gave birth, her newborn miraculously spoke to her. Moreover, the child already knew the psychological state of his mother, so he comforted her by asking her not to grieve and informing her that God has made a stream beneath her so she can drink and wash. Mary was not only in bad need for water, but she was also very hungry and exhausted and in need of energy, so her newborn went on to reveal to her that God has also made food available for her:

Then he called her from beneath her: “Do not grieve! Your Lord has placed a rivulet beneath you. (19.24) And shake the trunk of the palm tree toward you, and it will let fall fresh dates upon you. (19.25)

The fact that Jesus told his mother about the stream and the dates means that neither had been there before, otherwise Mary would have noticed them. This is also confirmed by the newborn’s description of the stream as something that God has placed beneath Mary: “Your Lord has placed a rivulet beneath you.” Mary was so weak having just delivered, so being able to shake the trunk of the palm tree must have also been a miracle.

Jesus then asked his mother to eat, drink, relax, and not worry about what would happen. He asked her to tell any human being she meets that she had vowed to God to abstain from speaking to any person. This fast was temporary, as indicated by the word “today,” and was intended to spare Mary the trouble of having to argue with her people, to whom she was going to go back with her child, and to instead leave her miraculous son to speak in her defence:

So eat, drink, and be consoled. If you meet any human being, say: ‘I have vowed a fast to God, so I will not speak today to any human being.’” (19.26)

The Qur’an then goes on to talk about what happened when Mary went back with her son to her people.

Typical of its style when recounting historical accounts, the Qur’an contains very limited information about Jesus’ birth. The reader who is interested in learning more about the Qur’an’s style in narrating history may like to consult my article on History in the Qur’an.

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