By:
Abul-‘Abbaas Moosaa Ibn John Richardson

In the Name of Allaah, the Most Merciful, may His Salaah and Salaam be upon His last Messenger Muhammad, to proceed:

Indeed the Book of Allaah is not a book like any other, it is the timeless Speech of Allaah, not a created thing, a study guide for life and death and what comes after. Therefore it deserves a more careful study than anyone else’s speech. It necessitates that its reader return to the early narrations of those who witnessed its revelation and heard its explanation by the one deputed by Allaah to rehearse and explain His Words to humanity (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam). For if one would try to ponder over the meanings of the verses without having done this study, then surely the filth of the time that he lives in and his ignorance of the correct application and understanding that the early Muslims had would cause him to understand some things not intended by Allaah Most High, and therefore he would go astray, thinking to be worshipping Allaah.

So every sincere Muslim who hopes to earn Allaah’s Love by reciting and reflecting over Allaah’s Book, then let him hold tight to the meanings explained by the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam), and those taught by the Companions and their immediate followers, and the early scholars of Islaam.

Know that reciting and pondering over the Book of Allaah, devoting your time regularly to its study and implementation has tremendous benefits in this life and the next, so let us now look to just a few of them to attach ourselves more firmly to Allaah’s Majestic Words. Each benefit stands as enough of an encouragement on its own for us to shun any laziness we have and dedicate ourselves to the Qur’aan properly.

1 – Reading and reflecting over the Qur’aan fulfills an Islaamic duty
Indeed the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) summarized this Religion with his statement: “The Religion is naseehah (sincerity)!”

So then Tameem ibn Aws (may Allaah be pleased with him) then said, “We asked, ‘To whom?'” He (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) replied: “To Allaah, HIS BOOK, His Messenger, the leaders of the people, and their common folk.” [Saheeh Muslim #194 (1/220 of Sharh An-Nawawee)]

The sincerity that is due to the Book of Allaah, as Ibn Rajab Al-Hambalee said, includes having a strong love for it, honoring it and extolling its great status, affirming that it is the Speech of Allaah, seeking to understand its meanings, acting by it, following the orders found in it, spreading its correct understanding, continually studying it, and taking on the good manners that are encouraged in it. [Refer to Jaami’ul-Uloom wal-Hikam, p.221 (Ar-Risaalah, 1417)]

So by reading and reflecting over the Qur’aan, one fulfills an obligation and is rewarded for that. Upon fulfilling this obligation, the Qur’aan then becomes a proof for him on the Day of Judgement! And that is our second benefit we will take by embracing this Noble Book…

2 – The Qur’aan will be a proof for us on the Day of Judgment
This is due to the statement of the Messenger: “…and the Qur’aan is a proof for you or against you…” [Part of a hadeeth in Saheeh Muslim #533 (2/97 of Sharh An-Nawawee)]

So one of two things will occur with this proof, the Book of Allaah. It will either be in your favor, a proof for you on the Day when you will need every single good deed, or it will be something standing against you, the very Speech of your Creator, a proof against you! Who could be saved from the terrors of that Day if Allaah’s own Speech is against him?!?!

Think carefully, dear Muslim brother or sister, about your position with the Qur’aan! Are you neglecting it, contradicting it, being heedless of its orders and prohibitions, are you thinking deeply over it?! Will it be on your side on the Day of Judgement?!

O Allaah! We ask you, by Your Glorious Speech and the rest of Your beautiful Names and Attributes, to make the Qur’aan a proof for us! O Allaah! Don’t make the Qur’aan a proof against us on that Day, and save us from the hellfire!

For if Allaah makes the Qur’aan a proof in our favour on that Day, then it would also be an intercessor for us, when NO intercession will take place except by His Permission.

3 – The Qur’aan will intercede for us on the Day of Judgment
The proof: Aboo Umaamah relates that the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) said: “Read the Qur’aan, for verily it will come on the Day of Standing as an intercessor for its companions.” [Saheeh Muslim #1871 (3/330 of Sharh An-Nawawee)]

4 – Your status in this life will be raised
In Saheeh Muslim, we find a lovely story, about how a man from the promised people of Jannah, ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattaab, and his deputy over Makkah understood this.

On the authority of ‘Aamir ibn Waathilah, he said that Naafi’ ibn ‘Abdil-Haarith met up with ‘Umar (ibn Al-Khattaab) at (a place called) ‘Usfaan. ‘Umar used to put him (Naafi’) to work (to govern) over Makkah.
So he (‘Umar) said, “Who have you put to work (to govern) over the people of the Valley (Makkah)?”
He (Naafi’) said, “Ibn Abzaa.”
He (‘Umar) said, “Who is Ibn Abzaa?”
He (Naafi’) said, “One of our freed slaves.”
He (‘Umar) said, “So you have put a freed slave in charge of them?”
He (Naafi’) said, “Verily he is a recitor of the Book of Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic, and verily he is knowledgeable of the laws of inheritance.”
‘Umar said, “Verily your Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) had said: “Verily Allaah raises some people by way of this Book and lowers others by it.” [Saheeh Muslim #1894 (3/339 of Sharh An-Nawawee)]

5 – You will be from the best of the people
‘Uthmaan (may Allaah be pleased with him), the third khaleefah and fourth most virtuous person on earth after the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam), Aboo Bakr, and ‘Umar, said that the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) said: “The best of you are the ones who learn the Qur’aan and teach it to others” [Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree #5027 (9/89-90 of Fath-ul-Baaree)]

6 – There are ten rewards for each letter you recite from the Qur’aan
As an authentic hadeeth in Sunan At-Tirmithee proves: “Whoever reads a letter from the Book of Allaah, he will have a reward. And that reward will be multiplied by ten. I am not saying that “Alif, Laam, Meem” is a letter, rather I am saying that “Alif” is a letter, “laam” is a letter, and “meem” is a letter.” [Sunan At-Tirmithee #2910; Al-Albaanee authenticated it in Saheeh Sunan At-Tirmithee (3/164)]

So increase your recitation of the Qur’aan to gain these merits, and to gain the following merit as well…

7 – The recitors of the Qur’aan will be in the company of the noble and obedient angels
‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her), the Prophet’s beloved wife who held his head in her lap as he took his last blessed breaths, relates that the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) said: “Verily the one who recites the Qur’aan beautifully, smoothly, and precisely, he will be in the company of the noble and obedient angels. And as for the one who recites with difficulty, stammering or stumbling through its verses, then he will have TWICE that reward.” [Saheeh Muslim #1859 (3/325 of Sharh An-Nawawee); another version of this hadeeth with a slighty different wording can be found in Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree #4937 (8/852 of Fat-hul-Baaree)]

So do not let the Shaytaan give you false excuses, such as “I am not an ‘Arab,” or “Its not my language.” This hadeeth is a firm proof against these whisperings. Dedicate yourself to the Book of Allaah, whether you are an ‘Arab or not! The excuses have been eliminated and the pathway has been cleared for you to embrace the Book of Allaah without holding back or offering excuses!

And surely you will not hesitate to seek a teacher or a study circle for the Qur’aan once you hear the last and perhaps greatest benefits of reading and contemplating over the Qur’aan…

8 – The Qur’aan will lead you to Paradise
The Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) said: “The Qur’aan is an intercessor, something given permission to intercede, and it is rightfully believed in. Whoever puts it in front of him, it will lead him to Paradise; Whoever puts it behind him, it will steer him to the Hellfire.” [An authentic hadeeth found in Saheeh Ibn Hibbaan #124 (1/330-331 of Tarteeb Ibn Balbaan, printed by Ar-Risaalah), on the authority of ‘Abdullaah ibn Mas’ood; Al-Albaanee authenticated it in Silsilatul-Ahaadeethis-Saheehah #2019]

9 – Your position in Paradise is determined by the amount of Qur’aan you memorize in this life
‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Amr ibn Al-‘Aas heard the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) saying:  “It will be said to the companion of the Qur’aan: Read and elevate (up through the levels of the Paradise) and beautify your voice as you used to do when you were in the dunyaa! For verily, your position in the Paradise will be at the last verse you recite!” [Sunan At-Tirmithee #2914; Al-Albaanee authenticated it in Saheeh Sunan At-Tirmithee (3/164-165)]

Know that these nine benefits, from the many benefits available, can only be attained by a sincere commitment to the Book of Allaah, not by a person’s mere statement, “I love the Qur’aan, it’s beautiful.” Rather the heart must be sincerely attached to Allaah’s Book and the limbs and tongue will follow in this attachment.

You must know that only a few of the numerous benefits of reading and reflecting over the Qur’aan have been mentioned here. There are many benefits that await your reading in the Qur’aan and books of hadeeth, like the chapter of the Qur’aan that will argue on your behalf in the grave, and that it is a physical healing, a source of rest and relaxation for your heart, among many other things.

And Allaah knows best.

Taken From: http://www.bakkah.net/

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By Abdul Sattar

Recently, we talked about the concept of Qur’anic recitations done in a gathering and that they should not be criticized when done with the proper intention – that is – to understand and ponder upon the Qur’an.

It is important however, to really understand what this means – “to ponder upon the Qur’an.” One of the greatest criticisms we can make about our communities, and even about gatherings like the one we previously discussed, is that we will see dozens upon dozens of people, some who do not understand a single word of the Qur’an in its recitation – praising and getting excited when the reciter “busts out” in beautiful recitation.  Though this is fine by itself, it can sometimes lead to the following situations:

One of my friends told me that at a recitation some time back, he went and asked a brother what he thought of the recitation. He responded: “Alhamdulillah it was so peaceful and calming. It brought joy and peace to my heart.”

When my friend spoke to another brother who knew some arabic, he responded: “Those verses were some of the scariest verses about the punishment of sinners in Hellfire.”

When he said this, I realized that the reciter could have been reciting Arabic poetry, and many of us would have the same response: “This book is magical!”. Imagine, that we are smiling at the verses in which Hellfire is being threatened upon those who rebel against God.

When this is happening in our community, that we have a situation where we are listening to the book of Allah in this way, with absolutely no contemplation or thought, no true khashya, but rather a superficial obsession with the beautiful sounds of a person’s voice, we should truly think of the ayah:

أَفَلا يَتَدَبَّرُونَ الْقُرْآنَ أَمْ عَلَى قُلُوبٍ أَقْفَالُهَ

Will they not then ponder over the Qur’an, or is it that they have their locks on (their) hearts (which bar them from reason) [47:24]

As we look at this verse, it is important to recognize the way this ayah is constructed – with the particle أَم. When this particle is used, it breaks the sentence into two parts – two mutually exclusive possibilities. With regards to this phrase, this ayah is essentially saying EITHER they ponder upon the Qur’an…..OR there are locks upon their hearts. It doesn’t allow for other possibilities (at least in the ayah). We should realize that in context the ayah is talking about rejectors of the revelation, but at the same time, we must strive our utmost to ensure that even if we believe, we do not have the characteristics of those censured in the Qur’an.

We cannot afford to let this book become a center piece of our pseudo-spiritual gatherings (pseudo when we have no idea what it is telling us). We cannot afford, spiritually, intellectually, or in context to our state today, to allow the message, the purpose, and the mission of this book, be lost in beautiful voices and flowery scripts, without a single word understood or acted upon. It is time to ask ourselves, where the locks are upon our hearts – whether they are locks of desire, anger, negligence, or the daily dunya grind.

Many might say: “But there is baraka in the Qur’an, even without understanding.” This is correct. There is barakah in Alif, in Laam, and in Meem alone. But when we look at the names of the Qur’an, Barakah is not the central theme…Guidance is. Barakah is a benefit.

Noor (the light) – So the Muslim should never feel in darkness.

Shifaa (the healing) – So the Muslim should know this book has a cure for his afflictions.

Huda (the guidance) – So the Muslim should never feel misguided/lost.

Tanzil (that which is sent down [from the heaven]) – So the Muslim should be confident in its authority.

Kitab (the book) – So the Muslim should know it is permanently inscribed and unwavering.

Qur’an (the recitation) – So the Muslim should know this is a Word to be Proclaimed.

Fadl Allah (the bounty of God) – So the Muslim should know this a bounty and a Mercy from Him.

Furqan (the criterion) – The Muslim should base his decisions on it’s guidance without fear or doubt.

Some practical tips to understanding and benefiting from the Qur’an:

1. Sit with Wudu’ and a clear mind. Turn off the cellphone, computer, and TV.

2. Sit knowing that you are reading words that came from the highest heavens, to the lowest heaven, to the heart and speech of the Angel Gabriel, to the heart and hearing of the Prophet (saw), to his companions, to their descendants, through 1428 year of preservation, propagation, and recitation, to you. There are billions of people in this world who do not know this book, but you do.

3. If you don’t know Arabic, learn Arabic. We have so many online resources, books, and teachers right now, there is no excuse. From the Islamic American University, to Sunnipath, to Toronto’s Shariah Program, you can learn it from Antarctica if you needed to. If you cannot devote so much time (1-3 hours a week), there is a list of words which contain 80% of the basic Qur’anic vocabulary in a very concise fashion – learn a few of these a day. If you are a young college student, you shouldn’t settle for this, learn the language. Preferably, find a teacher in your area.

4. While getting to that point, read the Arabic, and after every page, read the translation. Ask yourself:

-What do I need to do to implement this in my life?

-What do the attributes of Allah that He mentions here have to do with me? What effect should they have in my life?

-How can I connect this verse with what I already know about Islam?

There are thousands more questions we can ask, but these are just some we can start with.

5. Read a fixed amount regularly without measurably increasing or decreasing that amount unless you decide to increase it permanently. This will keep you from burning out and will allow consistency.

6. Invest in a tafsir. It is important for the serious student of the Qur’an, that he/she invests in a solid explanation of the Qur’an. For English speakers, I suggest having the following together – because each one of them makes up for one another’s gaps:

-Ma’riful Qur’an – Mufti Muhammad Shafi. An amazing work in 9 volumes, about 1000 pages each. In depth analysis meant for the commonly educated person. Touches on community, spiritual, and asbab ul nuzul (reasons for revelation) as primary focus. Has a Hanafi Fiqh bent to it, but is still a very powerful tafsir to have. Can be found online in PDF form for free.

-Tafhim ul Qur’an – Maulana Abul Ala Maududi. A powerful work which can be found on http://www.englishtafsir.com. Touches on community, social, political aspects of the Qur’an’s message and the importance of actualizing the Deen in social life to cause change in society. Focus on Islam as it was sent as a means of civilizing human beings and the goal of the Muslims to establish the Shari’ah in every aspect of their lives. Has a strong historical grounding as well.

-Tafsir Ibn Kathir – I’m sure you have heard of this one. Essentially compiles numerous hadith which have to do with each verse and provides some commentary connecting the ayaat and the hadith together. There are a few online versions as well as a downloadable online tool.

These three for the English speaker, when placed together and read consistently, can give a person a well balanced understanding of the Qur’an’s meaning and message for the laymen.

7. With all of the focus on youth, many communities and organizations do not cater to the needs of older people and seniors with regards to Islamic education. We forget that no one should be deprived of the message, and every iota of ‘ilm is better for us and our relationship with Allah. So we should remember this when doing activities especially with regards to educating parents – because they are the best teachers of their children.

InshaAllah with this, we can start to fulfill the rights of the Qur’an upon us
of believing in it, learning it, understanding it, implementing it, and spreading it.

And Allah Knows Best.

www.suhaibwebb.com

My Experience in Egypt

June 21, 2008

Alhamdulillah, by the Grace of Allah (SWT), I have been privileged to spend the last four months living in Cairo, Egypt as I study Arabic at the Fajr Institute (www.fajr.com – what a prime-time website, huh?).  As my time is starting to near its end (unfortunately, I’m scheduled to depart Cairo at the end of July), I thought it may be a good idea to reflect on my time here and to possibly, insh’Allah, offer advice to those will travel abroad for their studies whether it is to Egypt or anywhere else it may be.

SO WHY EGYPT?

It seems to be a thriving place for the aspiring student of knowledge with many people flocking here to study.  The Visa to stay here is a gimme if you are an American and the cost of living is extremely cheap.  I think it is the best option for someone wanting to study Arabic in the Middle East.  Jordan is also fantastic, but extremely expensive.  Yemen was a lil too-third world for me, but if you can hack it, it is also a place of extreme benefit.  I would not recommend studying in Syria, especially if you are an American.  One of my friends got deported from Syria because they thought he was an American spy.

No doubt that there is a lot of hustle in Egypt, especially if you pick Cairo.  However, if you choose to be patient, insha’Allah, you will be rewarded greatly.  Or, you can try to keep up with the bustle (as I did sometimes) and enjoy the ride.

ARRIVING IN EGYPT

Alhamdulillah, I was fortunate to come to Egypt with a good friend of mine and we planned to experience everything together.  We left Florida together, have studied together at Fajr, have lived together (with another brother) and will depart together, insh’Allah.  Regardless of where you go, always try to live with someone at your destination.  It helps keep companionship and it can be good motivation in your studies as well (plus it helps to have a backup alarm for Fajr!).  If you are going to Egypt (or possibly anywhere else in the Middle East) and do not know anyone, let me know, and maybe, insh’Allah, I will be able to hook you up with someone there.

As far as arriving in Egypt goes, be prepared to stopped, held, and questioned at customs by the Egyptian-version of the FBI.  I’m pretty sure some Egyptian government officials are intimidated by a person who grows hair on their mandible (jaw) and that is why we got pulled to the side.  My advice would be to just answer their questions and brush it off.  Never give them your real address on where you are staying.  They are known to come see you if you do.  They had my phone number and called me a couple times during my stay asking me to come in to see that.  I completely blew them off and would recommend you do the same thing.  Everything here is done by paper (20th century stuff!) and eventually they will forget about you.

As far as being in actual Egypt is concerned, just carry a copy of your passport around and everyone will treat you like royalty (yeah).  Bust out the English whenever talking with a police officer and know the USA Embassy phone, just in case (I would also recommend registering with the Dept of State while traveling abroad).

WHERE TO STUDY?

If you are coming for Arabic studies, Nasr City is the place to be.  There are numerous Arabic centers located in Nasr City including Fajr, Diwan, Sibawayh, and Al-Ibaanah.  I personally chose Fajr and absolutely loved it there while at the same time other brothers have had mediocre experiences at Fajr.  Fajr is the oldest and most established.  It has 13 total levels (each level = 75 hours) and if you finish the 13th level, you receive a certified diploma from the Egyptian Ministry of Education that certifies you to teach Arabic (I think).  The books used at Fajr are from a series called “Arabia Bayna Yadaak” (Arabic Between Your Hands).  Diwan, from what I’ve heard, is extremely nice; however, it is more expensive.  I believe they use the Asassy books at Diwan.  Al-Ibaanah has its own books that it uses.  However, I would like to point out that Ibaanah heavily concentrates on grammar at the beginning and thus, many of its students are not very good at speaking.  Many students also branch off and do their own thing with a private tutor, which can for some people, be an excellent idea.  If you want to go to Alexandria, the place to study is definitely Qortaba.  Insha’Allah, keep reaffirming you intention to study solely for the sake of Allah (SWT).

TELL ME ABOUT NASR CITY

Nasr City (Madinat Nasr) is a mash’Allah, baller-awesome place.  It is considered middle-to-upper class in Cairo but is still relatively inexpensive.  Everything you need is pretty much located in Nasr City.  Al-Azhar University is located here as well so you can manage to run into quite a bit of its students.  Whenever you go out to eat or walk around, you will run into some foreigners who are aspiring students of knowledge.  They tend to stand out for some reason.  Talk with them, network, enjoy!  Subhana’Allah, I’ve met people from the north of Egypt (i.e. Russia, Kazakiztan), east of Egypt (i.e. Malaysia, China), south of Egypt (i.e. Nigeria, South Africa), and, of course, west of Egypt (i.e. Holland, Denmark just for extra emphasis!).  Unfortunately, Americans are seriously lacking in numbers as compared to Frenchmen and Brits.  The only desis you’ll probably find are those from Britain and the USA.

There are also some malls in Nasr City including the famous City Stars Mall, which is a reminder of shopping malls in America.  City Stars is nice, but it is also a place of fitna and thus it would be recommended to go there during the weekdays during the daytime instead of the evenings during the weekends.  Genaina Mall has an ice-skating ring in it if you are into that.

HOW WE LIVE?  WHAT ABOUT COSTS, DUDE?

If you do live in Nasr City, the streets to know are Mustafa an-Nahas, Makram-Obaid, Abbas-al-Ekaad, and Sharia Tayhran.  Nasr City is broken into Zones 6,7,8,9, and 10.  Zone 7 (Hai Saba) is probably the nicest and most expensive while Zone 10 (Hai Ashar) is the cheapest and most developing.

We lived in Hai Thamin (Zone 8 ) right next to Siraj Mall.  Alhamdulillah, we were in a prime-time location and close to everything.  I lived with two other brothers in a 2 bedroom/1 bathroom flat.  Our rent was L.E. 1800 which translates to about $330 split three ways.  We lived on the 5th floor (note: the first floor here is not the first floor it is the ground floor as what is the real 2nd floor is called the 1st floor here) and there was no elevator (alhamdulillah, I lost some weight!).  If you are willing to live in Hai Ashar, you can cut your rent in half easy.

I would like to note that crossing the street in Egypt is crazy.  You will face death everyday while doing it.  Just suck it up and walk like you own the place and cars will try to avoid you, insh’Allah.

You can check out: http://www.geocities.com/learnarabicincairo for a map of Nasr City and other goodies about Cairo.

I LOVE FOOD

If food is your thing, Egypt is also a good place for that.  Koshari is huge here (tho I’m not a big fan, I prefer meat!) as are the other standard Arab dishes.  In Hai Saba (Zone 7), there are good Thai and Malay restaurants.  Assil on Mustafa an-Nahas in Hai Thamin (Zone 8 ) has some off-the-chain shawerma shami sandwiches, a must-try.

Almost all the food places deliever (even MickeyD’s and KFC!), but I would recommend going out to these places so as to at least get some exercise.  I would eat out everyday (but only one meal a day) and I would try to walk everywhere.

I, personally, watched what I would take into my stomach while in Egypt.  I didn’t drink the man –made sugar-cane juice because people are known to get sick off them.  Don’t drink the local water, your body won’t like it.  Drink bottled water and plenty of it.  Please be hygienic and smart.  Oh yeah, if you wear contacts, I would recommend bringing your entire duration’s supply (lens and solution), but glasses you can get pretty cheap here.

I tend to eat anything if it is hot (including corn cooked on a fire!) and try to stay away from stuff that is cold, including cold meat.  Fruits and veggies in Egypt are great as they are smaller but more flavorful (ballerlicious mangos).

MASAJID

Some of the big masajid in Cairo have graves in them and so I would be cautious of them.  Alhamdulillah, Nasr City is relatively new and thus does not posses any masajid with a grave (to my knowledge).  Masjid Bilal (cool name for a Masjid, IMO), located in Hai Thamin (Section 8 in Nasr City) is a popular masjid for Western students of knowledge (including Imam Suhaib Webb).  However, Masjid Bilal has heavy surveillance.

There are lots of local basement masajid everywhere in Nasr City (there are a double-digit number of masajid within a quarter-mile of our apartment building!)  I prefer the basement masjid-scene because it gives one the community feeling that is present in the masajid back in the United States.  Subhana’Allah, there are numerous knowledgeable people at these basement masajid as well.  If you live in Nasr City and are looking for an amazing and patient Quran teacher, I would recommend Shaykh Adel of Masjid Ridwan in Hai Thamin.  Email me for his contact.  Subhana’Allah, I thought he was awesome.  I remember one day he was sitting with his fellow shayook boys (they’re all like 30 years old) and they start testing each other in recitation of different ayaats of the Quran in different qiraat (this is a game for enjoyment for these scholars!).

As far as the different types of Muslims that are present in Cairo, you are going to get the whole shabang.  You have your twirling sufis (with shows every week!) and, at the same time, you have your neo-salafis.  If you ever go to Masjid Hussain, you can see some ‘unique’ characters there too (but try not to pray there!).

Oh yeah, get this, there is an Arab Tablighi Jamaat as well!  They do the whole 3 day stay in the masjid with bayaans all day and everything.  However, the weird thing is, there are Salafi Tablighis and they use Riyadh-us-Saaliheen.  I guess Fadail-Amaal hasn’t been translated into Arabic yet 😛

TAXIS, PLEASE

Everyone apparently complains about taxis in Egypt.  I personally would recommend walking everywhere and when going somewhere further away, using the bus or micro-bus system.  However, in my use of taxis, alhamdulillah, it has been a pleasant experience (I got ripped-off one time, but gave the dude the money cuz he swore to Allah it was legit).  The places to work on your Arabic are at your school, at your masjid, and with taxi cab drivers!  One way to ensure a cab driver will not rip you off is to talk with him the whole time you are in the cab and have fun with the driver.  He is obviously going to know you are not local, but that doesn’t mean you cannot befriend him (I would often just say that I’m from America).  Cab drivers would offer me advice, cassettes, their phone numbers if I ever needed anything.  I would negotiate a rate when going somewhere far, but would just pay them what I thought was fair if going somewhere close.  I remember when I was coming back from the airport once; one cab driver only wanted L.E. 20 from me even though we had agreed on L.E. 25.  Subhan’Allah, there are some really good people out there.  I would recommend that you pay your cab driver after you have gotten out of the taxi at your final destination.  Have fun with the cabbies.  Smile, it goes a long way and people tend to like you more, plus you’re following the Sunnah as this is a sadaqa for your fellow Muslim brothers.

If you sit on the big bus, they have shot-gun seats in the front next to the driver.  Sit there and you can have a say in what they play on the radio as well as well as get an amazing view of the road 🙂

As far as talking with the locals goes, some really good advice I received by several brothers was never to talk about politics or soccer (futbol as they call it).  Talking any politics will get you thrown in jail.  Don’t even say the word ihkwaan anywhere.  Futbol is also a diehard thing here.  You will know when a soccer match is going on b/c no one cares about anything else at that time.  Don’t pick a side to cheer for either b/c if you pick the wrong side, Allahu Alim what will happen to you.

DOING THE TOURIST THING

Yes, I did the tourist thing.  Pyramids were great, but a one-time thing.  Nile is a great river to walk next to.  There are these L.E. 2 party boats that are quite amusing to see.  Al-Azhar Park is fantastic and gives you an amazing view of Cairo.  It was definitely worth the L.E. 5 entrance free.

We went to Alexandria twice.  Alex is a beautiful place.  We went by micro-bus both times (about L.E. 20 each way) though train is also an option.  The micro-bus ride is death-defying, but I recommend just sleeping through it to avoid the anxiety.  Alex can be accomplished in a day-trip.  Definitely check out the beautiful library while you are there, it is breath-taking.  Seafood in Alex is fantastic.  Recommendation:  try the herb-stuffed sea bass at Abu Ashraf Restaurant (prolly the most famous restaurant in Alex and its open 24/7!).

Pollution

This, unfortunately, is a major down-side of living in Egypt.  The air pollution is ridiculous.  Almost everyone smokes including some little kids and women (biggest turn-off ever).  Supposedly, breathing the air in Nasr City is equivalent to smoking twenty cigarettes a day.  I managed to have some allergies when I first arrived though I have never had allergies before in my life!  Furthermore, there were even a couple instances where I would get random nose bleeds in the beginning.  At the same time, the pollution can be avoided by living outside Nasr City in an area like Rehab.  I would recommend this if you travel to Egypt with a family.  You do not want to risk your child getting asthma by living in Nasr City.

Noise pollution is something else too.  Apparently, the New York Times (www.nytimes.com, yeah, like you needed their website) reported Cairo is possibly the loudest city in the world.  Everyone honks their car horn like there’s no tomorrow.  I’ve heard of people having to replace their car-horn every three months (I didn’t know this was possible!).  My advice would be to just bear it and put up with it, insh’Allah.  Sometimes a horn does save your life.

LIVING IN A MUSLIM COUNTRY

This is my first time living in a Muslim country for such an extended period of time (I have visited family in Pakistan for a couple of months several times in the past).  Subhana’Allah, I absolutely loved it.  Granted you will always see Muslims doing un-Islamic things and you need to come here expecting it or you will be sorely disappointed.  However, at the same time, many of the people I have met are amazing and fantastic people.  In Cairo, there are parts where you can go and 95% of the sisters are wearing hijab and there is a masjid on every street (literally!) while at the same time there are parts of Cairo you can go to where you would not be able to differentiate it from a European society.

I loved the Egyptian people as I would chill with the Egyptians at the masjid, in our building, and just other random places (I think some Egyptians look very desi).  Fellow bearded people have an automatic connection in Egypt.  If you walking and there is another bearded brother on the other side of the street walking in the opposite direction, expect a big-wave and try to read “Assalamu Alaikum” off of his lips (yeah, pretty cool, huh?).  I remember once a random bearded brother even picked up in his car to give me a ride where I was going.

There have been some funny experiences here in Egypt as well.  I remember one time a brother asked me if I knew “Assalamu Alaikum” when he learned I was American (I think he was kidding, maybe).  Another time, I went to play basketball with some friends at a sports club.  They wouldn’t let me in cuz I was wearing a thobe (the fobs wanted to be more American like me), so I just took it off in the middle of the street as I always had my bball clothes on underneath ready to play, alhamdulillah.  One time our landlord’s wife sent over some soup for us.  It smelled delicious and I went straight for it, but the taste was waaay off from the smell.  We later realized it was fresh home-made jam (a lot of it) and it was good too, just not be drank in the same way as soup, lol.

I have made a general observation in terms of Islam in Egypt (can be extended to the Arab world) versus Islam in Pakistan (can be extended to the non-Arab world).  The Muslims in Pakistan, mash’Allah, have a lot of zeal and they want to be practicing Muslims, following the Sunnah and everything.  However, it seems, that knowledge seems to be lacking significantly in Pakistan.  At the same time, in Egypt, the knowledge is present and people know the Quran and are well-grounded in the Sunnah.  However, the zeal and desire to follow through with that knowledge is not present.  As Muslims, we need to bring these two extremes together where we can combine knowledge and desire.  Obviously, this reflection does not include all Pakis and Egyptians and it is a simple observation and it is just a thought.

I HEART EGYPT

I’ve loved my experience here thus far, alhamdulillah.  I have significantly increased my respect for Azhari students.  Subhana’Allah, they work out ridiculously hard and are a very impressive group of students.

I have had an amazing time in Egypt thus-far, alhamdulillah.  If you actually go to Egypt, email me and I may be able to give you some more personal tips.  I can be emailed at coolguymuslim @ gmail.com.  I pray that this summary may actually be of some benefit to someone who goes to study abroad.  Insha’Allah I may do a follow-up to this piece after I return back to Florida in a month.  Please keep me and my family in your dua’s, insh’Allah.  Go Islam!

The Answer in short is, yes, it really is that important!  Check out the statements of just a few scholars in terms of the importance of the Arabic language in Islam (from various sources):

Abu Bakr (ra) said, “That I recite and forget (a portion of the Qur’an) is more beloved to me than to make a grammatical mistake!”  (Understand that one letter omitted changes the entire meaning of verses!)

Umar ibn al-Khattaab (ra) wrote to Abu Musa al-Ashari (ra) and said: “Understand the Sunnah and understand the Arabic language because the Qur’aan is in Arabic.”

Ubay ibn Ka’b (ra), the Sahaba, said, “Teach Arabic like you teach the memorization of the Qur’an!”

Al-Hasan Al-Basri said, “They (the heretics) were destroyed by their inability in Arabic.”

Imam Shafii said, “People did not become ignorant and did not differ amongst themselves except because they left Arabic and leaned towards the language of Aristotle.”  It is reported Imam Shafii indicated what he did because the cause of the heresy is ignorance of the Arabic language.

Shaykh-ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah even went so far as to say that, “The Arabic language is part of the Religion, and knowing it is an obligation.”

Check out the following lecture entitled, “Why Study Arabic and How?” by Nouman Ali Khan:

Nouman Ali Khan runs the Bayyinah Institute that offers week-long intensive Arabic courses throughout the United States.  To see if his program is coming to your city (or to invite him to your city and reap the rewards of providing your community with ilm AND ajr), check out: www.bayyinah.org

By Nouman Ali Khan 

Writing about the literary dimension of the Qur’an for an audience that may or may not have background in Arabic grammar and rhetoric can be rather challenging. I’m going to attempt to navigate around technical lingo as much as possible. Building a basic familiarity with the subject is my goal, not presenting it in a sophisticated fashion.

The words AlHamdu Lillah are most commonly uttered from Muslim lips around the world. After the basmalah (the tag name used for BISMILLAHI ALRAHMANI ALRAHEEMI)¸ it is the first statement mentioned in the opening surah, al-Fatiha. One way to explore the beauty, precision , and thought provoking eloquence of the Qur’an’s words is to explore the very choice of each word. Arabic is a rich language full of terms similar in meaning.

Hamd, commonly translated ‘praise,’ has sister terms like shukr, madH and thanaa.

Comparing Madh’, Hamd, and Thanaa’

Madh’مَدح : Praise + Mention of noteworthy qualities and actions attributed to someone or something.

By Comparison

Hamdحَمد :Praise + Acknowledgement of noteworthy qualities and actions done out of genuine love, veneration, reverence, gratitude and appreciation.

Madh can be made for the living as well as the non-living, for beings of intellect (humans, angels, jinn) and animals.

Hamd is exclusively directed at the living & intellectual الحي العاقل .

Madh is possible before a noble deed or after (as a result of it). It is therefore possible to make Madh of a person who may not have done anything good and no good deed may ever have been attributed towards him/her.

Hamd can only be made after a noble/ praiseworthy contribution of some sort.

Thanaa’ is a more eloquent, more impressive, more flattering type of MadH.

Conclusion: By using Hamd instead of Madh or Thanaa’

a. we acknowledge Allah as Eternally living

b. we recognize His attributes and decisions as Hamd worthy

c. There is an element of sincerity in our praise of him stemming from love and reverence.

d. we not only praise His incredible being, attributes & works, we appreciate them as favors for which we are grateful

Comparing Hamd with Shukr

Shukr (thanks) is a consequence of whatever good comes to a person from someone else.

Hamd is a consequence of good that whose effects go beyond an individual favor.

Shukr is exclusively related with favors and doesn’t include appreciation or praise of any noteworthy attributes. For instance you don’t thank someone for being smart or wise or athletic.

Hamd is made because of favors and also over noteworthy attributes even if they don’t benefit oneself directly. For example I say Alhamdu Lillah when I hear that my friend passed his midterms or something.

a. Madh is too wide in scope and using it wouldn’t be precise enough.

b. Shukr is too narrow in scope and using it wouldn’t be comprehensive enough.

c. Hamd as opposed to Shukr & Madh also implies a genuine motive.

The Word ALLAH in alhamdulillah

We looked briefly at the choices that would have represented alternatives to the word Hamd in the divinely revealed phrase AlHamdu Lillah. Let us now take a look at the word Allah itself. It is the unique name of our Lord. We learn through His revelation that He possesses and rightfully owns the best Names and Attributes (thank you Sheikh Yasir for your awesome class!) . Why is it most appropriate to use His unique Name in this phrase rather than AlRahmaan (the exceedingly merciful), Al Khaaliq (the creator) etc.? Simply because any of these names might imply that His Hamd is associated with that particular power or attribute. By using the word Allah, Hamd is acknowledged for Him independent of any of His attributes, OR for all of them simultaneously!

A Variety of Ways to Make Hamd of Allah

Arabic offers great flexibility in communication. There are varying degrees of emphasis with which a statement can be made. There are multiple options that can be manipulated in sentence structure. Similar statements can be made such as :

أحمدُ اللهَ

“I praise Allah.”
نَحْمَدُ اللهَ

“We praise Allah.”

اِحْمَدُوْا اللهَ

“Praise Allah!”.

1. All of the above are Jumal Fi’liyyah. This sentence structure necessarily implies the occurrence of an act bound by time. Alhamdu Lillah is Jumlah Ismiyyah which, for one, is a far more emphatic form of declaration in Classical Arabic by comparison. Secondly, it implies continuity, stability and permanence. Another unique feature of the Ismiyyah structure is that it communicates a decisive statement.

2. Jumlah Fi’liyyah exclusively attributes an act to a specific subject. In the suggested alternatives above, ‘I’, ‘we’ and ‘you all’ are the specific subjects respectively. الحمد لله , being a Jumlah Ismiyyah, doesn’t identify the subject which makes it a universal declaration. I, we, you, they, people, animals, rocks, trees, rather all of creation can be understood as the subject! There is another beautiful subtlety here. Whether anyone or anything makes حمد of Allah or not, الحمد is still for Allah!

3. The Jumlah Fi’liyyah renditions above are limited by time and applicability. The original statement is timeless and has universal applicability. Through الحمد للهِ the way in which the praise is made is kept unspecified while in the Fi’liyyah format the praise would be by the tongue.

وَإنْ مِنْ شَيْئٍ إلا يُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِهِ ولكِنْ لا تَفْقَهُوْنَ تَسْبِيْحَهُمْ

4. In Jumlah Fi’liyyah there is the possibility of doing an act for an object that isn’t worthy of it. For instance, ‘I paid him’. It may be that ‘he’ didn’t deserve to get paid. In Jumlah Ismiyyah the necessary implication that this praise is actually rightfully placed is naturally implied, ALHAMDULILLAH!

5. In saying الحمد لله , we are also acknowledging that حمد is the property of Allah while this is not implied in alternative fi’liyyah renditions. When using the command form, ’Praise Allah’ instead of Alhamdulillah, there are a number of shortcomings. Firstly, there is the sense that this praise is being asked of the audience. By comparison الحمد لله declares the existence of حمد without dependence on an audience responding to an imperative. The imperative may also imply a response that may or may not be voluntary while Alhamdulillah is an observation of the voluntary praise done by all forms of creation.

Why the ‘Al’ in Alhamdu?

ALHAMDU is definite or proper as I like to call it in my intro course. As Dr. Fadel puts it in his article, the Al serves the meaning

الحمد المعروف بينكم هو لله

The distinguished, universally acknowledge form of Hamd known among you belongs particularly to Allah. The ‘AL’ also serves the implication of ‘istighraq’, a kind of absolute totality (All Hamd is Allah’s). None of these enhancements would come forth in the indefinite version HAMDUN.

Why Not Inna Alhamda Lillah?
Have you ever heard a khateeb say INNAL HAMDA LILLAHI? The word INNA means ‘certainly’ and is used to emphasize a statement. What benefit would there be in NOT emphasizing ALHAMDU LILLAH in the Fatiha? You see, Arabic sentences are divided and categorized from different angles and perspectives. One of these angles is Jumlah Khabriyyah vs. Jumlah Insha ‘iyyah. What this categorization basically means is that statements in the language are either declarative (which can be judged as either true or false) or they are statements communicating an emotion. The latter are a form of subjective communication which don’t necessarily communicate facts, but rather they serve to vocalize feelings and sentiments. When a statement has INNA, it can only serve to be informative and the emotional dimension of it is removed. By not stating the INNA, the phrase retains informative and emotional potential depending on the context. Think of it this way: If a bus whisks by you missing you by half an inch and you say ‘ALHAMDU LILLAH’, you are not really making a statement of fact, rather vocalizing your internal feelings. The emotionally charged dimension of AlHamdulillah is kept intact by not using the INNA.

What About Lillahilhamdu?

In Hajj season we say ALLAHU AKBAR wa LILLAHI ALHAMDU! We reverse ALHAMDU LILLAH with LILLAHI ALHAMDU. This is a form of TAQDEEM in Arabic grammar and serves to color a sentence with a shade of exclusivity, ‘ Hamd belongs ONLY to Allah’. It is appropriate particularly on the occasion of Hajj because that blessed house was misused for Shirk so in response a strong denial of it is implied even when we say LILLAHI ALHAMDU. This TAQDEEM also serves the function of IZAALAT ALSHAK ‘removing doubt’. Why now say it this way in the Fatiha then? The context of the Fatiha is not one that demands the removal of doubt. Also, exclusivity exists in response to a challenge to the original statement. If somebody is attributing Hamd to Allah and other than Him, he or she should be taught that Hamd is ONLY for Allah. The Fatiha is not a response in debate with those who falsely associate with Allah. But we do find LillahilHamdu in the Qur’an. Interestingly, it appears in Al Jathiah: 36

(فلله الحمد رب السموات ورب الأرض رب العالمين) الجاثية (لآية 36)

The context, unlike fatiha is one where disbelievers who credit life and death to other than Allah. Here, the exclusive, emphatic mode of declaration is more befitting so we see LILLAHILHAMDU. The Fatiha declares certain universal truths that are completely in line with the embedded fitrah (natural pre-disposition) you and I are born with. In our fitrah there is no competition between belief and disbelief, tauheed & shirk, iman & kufr. Rather our faith is an unchallenged manifest truth seeded deep within our conscience. In Fatiha, this truth is therefore uttered in a fashion (ALHAMDULILLAH and not LILLAHILHAMDU ) that doesn’t even indicate the existence of an alternate point of view because within our genuine conscience, there isn’t one.

(Source: http://muslimmatters.org/2008/01/07/alhamdulillah-a-linguistic-miracle-of-the-quran)