Dr. A Q Khan
Mohsin e Pakistan

With whom do I stand?

Posted in English Articles  by draqkadmin
December 30th, 2009

Random thoughts
By Dr A Q Khan

By looking at the title of this column, you might suppose that I am going to talk about hypocrites, the takers of bribes, adulterators, thieves or murderers, after which I would once again arrive at identifying the enemies of the nation and the state. Far from it! I do not intend to take that painful route today. What I am going to talk about here is a very serious story full of lessons for all of us. My attention was drawn to it by a dear friend of mine, Dr Shamsul Haq Alvi, who is professor of civil engineering and architecture at the University of Bahrain. I am also thankful to my dear friend, Prof Dr M Al-Ghazali for his invaluable input.

We (should) all know that in our Islamic history, there have been four great Imams whose legal edicts are followed by the majority of Muslims today. These are: Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam Malik, Imam Shafei and Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal. The majority of our Shia brothers generally follow Imam Jafar Sadiq. Let me also mention in passing that Imam Muhammad, a well-known disciple of Imam Abu Hanifah, was the teacher of Imam Shafei. The latter was the teacher of Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal. Imam Malik, who used to give lectures in the Prophet’s mosque at Madinah, was also among the teachers of Imam Shafei. All these Imams were thus connected to a common network of Muslim scholarship and all of them strived to promote the understanding and application of the Divine Commands and instructions given by the Holy Prophet (PBUH) to the lives of the Muslim community.

Among the disciples of Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal was a great scholar known as Shaikhul Islam Abu Abdullah Muhammad bin Nasr Marwazi Baghdadi. (294-202 AH). In his book: Qiyam al-Lail (Praying at Night), he narrates the following story, which is full of lessons for us. In it he also refers to verse 21:10 of the Quran: “We have revealed for you a book in which there is a mention of you. Will you not then understand?”

His story helps us comprehend the meaning of this verse, as it enables us to appreciate how our great elders focused their utmost attention on understanding and reflecting upon the Divine Book and seeking guidance from it. The story goes as follows:

One day a great Tabei (of the generation next to that of the Companions) and an Arab tribal leader by the name of Ahnaf bin Qais was present when someone recited the above verse. Ahnaf was struck by the verse and said: “Bring the Quran! Let me find mention of me in the Quran and see with whom I have been placed and which category of people I have been likened to.” He opened the Quran and came across the verse that speaks of some people who: “Were in the habit of sleeping but little by night, and in the hours of early dawn they were praying for forgiveness and in their wealth and possessions was acknowledged the right of the needy and the seekers of help.” (51:17-19)

He continued his search in the Quran and came across verses mentioning some others in this way: “Their limbs leave their beds of sleep while they call their Lord in fear and hope, and they spend in charity out of the sustenance that We have bestowed on them.” (32:16)

Still further he found a verse saying: “Those who spend the night in adoration of their Lord, prostrate and standing.” (25:64)

He then came across another type of people mentioned as: “Those who spend freely whether in prosperity or in adversity, who restrain anger and pardon people, and Allah loves those who do good.” (3:134)

Yet another category of people about whom the Quran spoke read: “They give them preference over themselves even though poverty was their own lot. And those saved from the covetousness of their own souls, they are the ones that achieve prosperity.” (59:9)

There were others whose morals were described in this manner: “Those who avoid the grave sins and shameful deeds, and when they are angry, even then forgive; those who hearken to their Lord and establish regular prayer, who conduct their affairs by mutual consultation and who spend out of what We bestow upon them for sustenance.” (42:37-38)

At this point he became perplexed and remarked: “O Allah! I know what I am worth. I do not find myself included in these categories of people.” Still he continued his search and found some people mentioned in the Quran as: “When they were told that there is no god except Allah, they would puff themselves up with pride and say: ‘What! Shall we give up our gods for the sake of a poet possessed?’ ” (37:35-36)

Then he found still others mentioned as: “When Allah, the One and Only, is mentioned, the hearts of those who believe not in the Hereafter are filled with disgust and horror. But when gods other than He are mentioned, behold, they are filled with joy.” (34:45)

He then came across other folk who, when they were asked: “What led you into Hell-Fire?” They replied: “We had not fed the indigent, but we used to talk vanities with vain talkers, and we used to deny the Day of Judgement until there came to us the Hour that is certain.” (74: 42-47)

After reading the above verse, he held his breath and exclaimed: “O Allah! I take Thy refuge: I have nothing to do with these men.”

He was now turning over the pages of the Quran frantically to find out where he himself was mentioned, until he paused and pondered over the verse that said: “There are some others who have acknowledged their wrongdoings. They have mixed an act that was good with another that was evil. Perhaps Allah will turn unto them in mercy, for Allah is often Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (9:102) Thereupon, Abu Abdullah Muhammad bin Nasr exclaimed spontaneously: “Yes indeed, this is me; this is my real condition!”

As the readers will have gathered by now, this story is replete with instructive lessons for all of us. We must ask ourselves: “Do we really turn to this supreme source of knowledge, wisdom and guidance that Allah has so graciously placed in our hands?” Some of us do read it off and on. But how often do we seriously reflect upon its intrinsic message of hope and promise, the message of salvation and success which it is meant to carry and apply it to our daily lives in letter and in spirit?

I hope our rulers, politicians, men of influence as well as of affluence as well as the rest of the people will find in this story something to reflect upon and something to encourage them to try to change the course of their lives towards a better direction.

May Allah enable all of us to benefit from the wisdom of our great elders, saints and savants, seers and sages such as Abu Abdullah Muhammad bin Nasr al-Marwazi, who – despite the high status of respect and admiration that he enjoyed among his peers and friends – tried to find out exactly where he belonged in Divine estimation and did not take his high status for granted. Can anyone of us afford to take ourselves for granted without attempting to improve?

In the end, I would like all of us to pray to Almighty Allah using His own words: “Our Lord! Forgive us our sins, and wipe out our evil deeds and make us die with the truly pious. Our Lord! Fulfil what You promised to us through Your Messengers, and disgrace us not on the Day of Resurrection; indeed, You never go back on Your promise.” (3:193-194)

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One Response to “With whom do I stand?”

  1. mohammad imran khan Says:

    The day i met Dr khan was in early, 1980, having just done my msc in physics. I was seated before him in his Pindi office, with two others namely Dr Javed Arshad and Dr G.D Alam. I could not muster enough courage to show him the verse of the Quran,as i was being interviewed by him, that i had guoted in my thesis. Behold! in the creation of the Heavens and the Earth,and the alternation of Night and Day ― there are indeed Signs for men of understanding.
    ― Al-Qur’an [3:190).
    having served with him for 15 years, I had frequent opportunities to meet him, it gives me immense pleasure of seeing Dr Khan writing so lucidly on Islam and Quran.

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