In Part I of my Post-Ramadhan Project, I have decided to share an activity which I have recently been practising – Qur’an Journaling.
I was doing some research the other day and I came across a considerable number of Christians in the west who have been doing Bible journaling for years now (and they even formed a community of Bible journalers)! So I thought, hey, what if I could get the ball rolling to start a Qur’an journaling community here too? Qur’an journaling is not something new (there are some great Qur’an journaling tips and examples if you would just Google them), but it’s still relatively nascent here in our community.
This idea also stems from a lack of personal connection with the Book which I have been reciting since young. I’ve been to classes to practise and recite the Qur’an till I get it right yet I felt like something was missing. After classes, I’d sometimes chuck it aside and only opened it in the next class. I realized that reflecting and applying these words to my life, doing tadabbur*, was essentially what I was lacking – what’s the point of fluently reciting a text if that is all there is to it? What’s the point of merely scratching ground if we fail to unearth the treasures beneathe? We can be as phonetically and lexically competent as we can but if we fail to immerse in Allah’s words and understand the semantics and pragmatics couched in the language, then we will always be at a loss.
Furthermore, with everything that’s happening in the world right now, I think it only makes perfect sense to go back to the truth, to Allah’s word. Hence, I decided to name my project The Light Journal because the Qur’an is our Light and our guide in times of darkness. I am in no way a scholar or a learned person – I am merely a student who’s struggling to get closer to my Lord. But I believe the Qur’an is not exclusive to a certain people only; it is a gift to all of humanity. And I strive to reap its benefits as long as I live from trusted teachers I can learn from. I believe that if everyone in this world were to reflect on His words and embody it in their actions, the world would be a much better place to live in. Truly, all the world needs now is
The main purpose of this project is so I can build my istiqamah*. It’s one of my post-Ramadhan efforts in growing myself spiritually. I have learnt that one of the biggest signs that our fast in Ramadhan has been accepted is when we continue the good deeds we have started then, beyond Ramadhan itself. We all want to be better Muslims as we age – I don’t think anyone enjoys regressing spiritually because every day that passes us is a day closer to meeting our Lord – so taking Ramadhan as a springboard to be better Muslims than we were before is always a good start. Consistency is always key. As our Prophet ﷺ said,
The most beloved of actions to Allah are those which are done persistently, even if they are little. (Muslim 783)
And I pray that through this project, I can build a stronger personal connection with the Qur’an and ultimately, with Allah.
You can follow @thelightjournal on Instagram for some #reflectionsonrevelation, and perhaps, join me on my Qur’an journaling adventure too! I think it’ll be really cool to share gems from the Qur’an and that way, our motivation to study the Qur’an will always be fueled insyaAllah. I need more Qur’an journaling buddies to talk to and chill with, yknow.
Main references for the translation and the context behind the reflected ayat in the Qur’an as journaled are mainly from bayyinah.tv and qtafsir.com. I lost count the number of people I’ve urged to sign up for bayyinah tv (it’s only 11 USD every month! the content is worth way more than that!) and enthusiastically advocated it to everyone I know but let me just do a shoutout again – go sign up! Trust me you won’t regret.
Before I leave, a belated EID MUBARAK to everyone! Taqabalallahu minna wa minkum. No photos to share (kinda lost it as I age lol that’s a good thing I hope) but the yummy food and beautiful family bonding will always be etched on my mind x
istiqamah* = steadfastness and consistency/ to go straight into the right direction and allowing no deviation
tadabbur* = to ponder, reflect, think
ayat* = verse / proof / miracle
5 thoughts on “The Light Journal”
Ma sha ALLAH very good idea!
Do you plan on continuing “The Light Journal” here as well or on Instagram only?
I did signup for Bayyinah TV! JazakILLAHU khairan katheeran.
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insyaAllah on instagram only, for now. wa iyyaki! yay bayyinah tv buddies! x)
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salaam sis humairah 🙂 here are the notes i took during the lecture by Ustaz Nouman Ali Khan (way back in 2013). it is not exhaustive but I hope it benefits us, insyaallah! and thank you again for embarking on TheLightJournal
“Rediscovering The Fatihah” by Ustaz Nouman Ali Khan
Surah Al Fateha was the first complete surah to be given to the Prophet (saw). When Muslims begin to reflect deeply on the meanings of Al Fateha, it will open the doors to the rest of the Qur’an for you. So reflect upon the meanings behind AlFateha and insya’allah all doors will open up for us.
Verse 1 Alhamdulillah
This first phrase has been used all the time by muslims everywhere. The word ‘hamd’in Arabic has two meanings; praise and thanks.
Whatis the difference between praise and thanks?
Giving thanks is something that is given when someone does something for you. Someone you praise is not necessarily someone you thank and when you thank someone it does not necessarily constitute to praising.
Musa(as) was adopted and raised by Fir’aun, a fact that none can deny. When Fir’aun asked him how could he not show gratitude for he was the one who raised him?Musa (as) replied that he was thankful (but that does not mean he was praising him). In other words, thanks can exist without praise. Another example lies in parents’ rights. Even if they have not set great examples, you still have to be grateful and thank them for having you (for bringing you up).
In using ‘hamd’ Allah (swt) is saying that both praise and thanks is to Allah(swt). Allah (swt) combines the meaning of both. Why is this better than simplyonly praising or only thanking?
It’s because when one praises someone, it may not constitute to thanking them orwhen thanking someone it does not mean that you are praising them. The Arabiclanguage in this sense shows that it is the most comprehensive in its meaning.Using separate terms does not convey the same meaning as the one word (inArabic) can convey.
Which means when you say the word “Alhamdulillah” you aren’t just saying it by meremovement of the tongue. It is not just a word but an attitude, a characteristicreflective of you. It forces the muslim to think positively. That, when you arein a worse situation, you do not just say “Alhamdulillah” but instead you sayit in praise and thank Allah for whatever worse plight He may have just savedyou from, and how He is trying to teach you something from that situation youare in.
Allah(swt) uses the word ‘hamd’ in its noun form (instead of verb). If you said “I praise Allah” you are only doing it in the present form and it does not reflect the past nor the future. A verb in that sense isn’t something permanent.However, Allah (swt) uses the word “Alhamdulillah” in its noun form –indicating the permanency. “Alhamdulillah” is indicative that it is independent of its own. By saying “Alhamdulillah” we are in fact acknowledging that Allah(swt) doesn’t need it, isn’t in need of it but that we are dependent on it.
When something is being said, it can be seen as being either a speech that expresses information or that which expresses feelings (emotions). When you explain something to someone, you are simply giving informative speech. However that same content, you are telling yourself, it can become something that is conveying feelings.
“Innahamd” – when you use “inna” it can only be informative but not something thatconveys emotions. That’s why we say “Alhamdulillah” as in that form, it issomething that can be both informative and something that expresses emotion.
“Hamd” belongs only to Allah, no one else. Allah (swt) introduces himself to us in thefirst verse. He does not want to debate. Al Fateha is Allah (swt) introducingHimself to His creations, us. With His name (Rabb).
Theadding of His name signifies that it is specific, that the praise and thanks isto Allah (swt).
Verse 1 – Rabbil ‘Aalamin
Allah(swt) chose the word Rabb as the first thing to describe about Himself. The word “Rabb” itself is complicated. It has several meanings to it.
1) He is the Owner. He is the One who takes care of something (so that that something can grow). Rabb is someone who owns and who takes care.
2) Rabb is also someone who gives gifts. Our bodies itself are a gift to us.
3) Rabb is someone who makes sure everything is kept together from falling apart. If Allah (swt) stops taking care of us even for a single second, everything will fall apart.
4) Rabb also means that He has full authority over everything. The breath that you take one after the other is only because He is letting you do so. In reciting “Rabbil A’la min” you are recognizing that we don’t have authority over anything. In other words, thefirst description that Allah azza wa jalla gives us of Him is that of a relationship that exists (should exist) between us and Him. The understanding that should dawn upon you; that He is the Master and we are the Slave.
The word slave shouldn’t be understood in its simplistic term. A slave from how weunderstand it is that he/she does what he/she has been told and unless he/sheis told what to do, there is no way he/she knows what needs to be done. Thismeans that we need to know what our Master wants. You need to come to thewilling consensus with yourself in accepting that your Rabb is Allah (swt) andthat you are the abd (slave).
“ ‘Alameen” – lord of the worlds. The word “worlds” isn’t a good word to describe the meaning behind “ ‘Alameen”. It instead means the worlds of people, that which encompasses different generations, different nations. Allah (swt) is saying it doesn’t matter the different cultures or the different languages, but that He is the Master for all. And that He was the Creator of it all. So it doesn’t matter that you aren’t an arab, or born in Makkah. Everyone is the same so long as you have accepted His Guidance.
Verse2 – Ar Rahman Ar Raheem
The most Beneficent, most Merciful. Most often people do not understand the meaning. In the most simplest terms, Rahman means to be showing intense love,care, concern and then, mercy.
The beauty behind Al Fateha is that Allah swt, immediately after telling us that Heis our Master, He tells us that He is a different kind of a Master. A Rabb wholoves. Ar Rahman does 3 things: He is of extreme and beyond expectation. Allah reflects that which happens immediately; that you do not have to wait but that He shows His love right now. Thirdly, Allah (swt) tells us that He is Rahman –that which you get is something temporary because there will be something that would take it away. That something being your actions/your behavior towards Allah (swt). Ar Raheem on the other hand signifies 2 other qualities:permanency but not necessarily right now.
Rahman comes first (in the ayat) because Allah (swt) is telling us that it is to takecare of immediate needs; that which is needed right now. Allah (swt)understands His creations, that is why it is His way of telling us that I knowyou, so I’ll take care of what you need now and then immediately Allah (swt)also tells us, I am also Ar Raheem, and I will take care of your needs in thefuture as well. So worry not. Subhanallah.
Verse3 – Malikiyaw mid deen
When you only have Ar Rahman and Ar Raheem, it means to say, you are aware of the abundance of love and mercy that Allah azza wa jal is showering upon His creations. But when we know that we have so much of mercy and love, when weonly have that, we will take advantage of it. That is why Allah (swt) tells using the 3rd verse, “Master of the day of Judgment” / Maliki yawmiddeen. Allah (swt) tells us that you either get love and mercy from me or you will get justice from me. He does not say punishment but rather justice (meaning you are being dealt with what you deserve, in accordance to what you have done). Allah (swt) is Most Just. We want to receive Allah’s love and mercy on the day of judgement, insya’allah. Allah (swt) love and mercy is always going to be there for you but we shouldn’t even for a single moment take advantage of His Love for He will be the Judge on that Day.
The first 3 ayats of Al Fateha are a complete introduction of Allah (swt). It tells us about the relationship between us and Him and when we understand this, that is when we will comprehend the 4th ayat.
Going back to the discussion of the relationship between Allah and us as being that of slave and Master. Usually slavery is unwilling, no one applied or does it willingly. And most often, these slaves hate their masters (because they aremade to do things that they do not want to do). However, Allah (swt) tells us that He is the most powerful Master; none as He is. And Allah tells us that He loves and shows mercy upon us. And He tells us that you (we) need to come to that willing conclusion, that we need to make that choice and come to Him on our own. In other words, you come to Allah (swt) understanding your relationship with Him and that you are willing and ready to do that which He commands you to do.
We are therefore making a claim with Allah not just in words’ form, but with our hearts. And that is why Al Fateha becomes even more significant in its meaning.
Verse4 – Iyya ka naqbudu wa iyyakanas ta’im
It is only Allah (swt) help that we seek. When we say that we are going to Allah(swt) slave, it is a big commitment. It means that you are firstly acknowledging that you need His help in this commitment that you just made. The word “Isti ‘ana” means that you are already trying (putting effort) and then you are calling for help. Every often we hear people who lament that Allah isnot helping them. Remember that Allah (swt) will help you only when you put inyour own effort in and then calling for help. Success in this case, does not come because you work very hard (on your own), but because you are putting in the effort and Allah (swt) is helping you (because you asked Allah for help). Very often when we ask for help, we ask for specific help. You need to say specifically what is it that you need help with. However, this ayat, because of our constant need for help in every aspect, encompasses the entity of help.
Thewords “Iyyakana’ budu” comes first because it is signifying our purpose (of being created) and “wa iyyakanas ta’im” is to tell us how to attain that purpose.
Verse5 – Ihdinas siratal mustaqim
“Ihdina”– Guide us. Because Allah (swt) is our Master, the relationship begins only when He gives instructions to tell us what to do. So when we ask Allah for guidance, do not just simply ask, without actually doing it. By saying “ihdina”we are asking Allah (swt) for the ultimate gift. We are asking for His guidance, and not just for ourselves but for all (in plural form). Allah (swt)guidance is more than just information but His Guidance that we ask for also includes the strength to make the right decisions. If you needed guidance just for information sake, you wouldn’t need to ask for it every time. However you and I, we know that we need guidance in every step in our life. Guidance isalso not something that is permanently there. Think of it like water. When you are thirsty, you drink water and your thirst is fulfilled, but just for that moment. You would still need water in another few hours right? So guidance isnot something that is going to be permanently there, unless you ask for it.
“Siratal mustaqim”- When you ask directions, you normally ask for a destination.When we ask Allah guidance to the straight path, we are not just asking guidance to the path but rather guidance all the way; to the path, through the path andall the way until we reach the end of the straight path. In Al Fateha, we are asking for directions for the path, and this path is only one way. One road.And at the end of this path, you will get to the destination. In other words,when you say, “Siratal mustaqim” you are saying Oh Allah, guide me to the path,be with me, stay with me, make sure I stay on that path and get me to the end.The word “Sirat” refers to a road that is wide, in which multiple people can travel, and it is a path that is straight. It is also a path that is dangerous.“Al Mustaqim” also means straight but it comes here because it is to signify the path that goes up, rising to Allah (swt). The more you rise,the less you become attached to the word but the more you progress up, the more you need tobe careful (because of the danger of falling). That is why when you see the Most Alim of people seem to be more worried and concerned even though they are doing all that Allah swt has told them and more. This is because they are afraid of falling and their fall would be more severe than others. The higher you do, your view also changes. You see things that you didn’t see before. You have perspectives that you didn’t have before. But this verse, it also teaches us one other thing, that there are no guarantees until you reach the end. And in order to reach that end, you need His Guidance.
Verse 6 – Siratal lazi na an am ta alayhim
When you want or look for role models, you tend to look at people who have already accomplished/attained that which you are looking forward to. If you look at those who haven’t attained that and consider them as role models, then there is no way for you to learn. That is what Allah (swt) tells us in this ayat, that you will look for role models in the past (our sahabahs, our prophets, peace be upon them all). The role models are not of those right now because now none is guaranteed. Allah swt is telling us that He made the path easy for them andtherefore you are praising Allah (swt) for showing them, for helping them and now you are asking Allah (swt) to show you the right path and help you just like how He helped them.
Verse7 – Ghairil magdhu bi alayhim waladholeen
And then we ask Allah (swt) to show us the bad examples, those who went on the wrong path and help us protect ourselves from that path. The translation tells us “not of those who earned your anger”. Allah (swt) doesn’t say specifically whose anger, but rather it is the anger from Allah, from the angels, from the people (sahabas) the mu’min. Allah (swt) uses it in its noun form, indicating its permanency, that there was such people in the past, in the present, and will be in the future. The message from Allah (swt) is so clear, so precise that we really are in need of guidance from Allah azza wa jalla.
What makes the entire Al Fateha miraculous?
There are two things in Al Fateha, knowledge, and action. The first 3 ayats/verses are that of knowledge, while the last 3 are (verbs) about actions.
There are 3 categories in which you can fall into:
1.Knowledge leading to action – which means you are on the straight path.
2.Knowledge with no action – which means you are like those ‘magdhubi alay’
3.Action with no knowledge – which means you are like those of ‘dholleen’
Al Fateha is in 3 parts about:
1.Allah (swt) – the first 3 first that introduces to us to our Rabb.
2.Agreement that is between Allah (swt) and us – 4th ayat (where there is a mixture of noun and verbs, indicating that it is part for Allah (swt) and part for us)
3.About our requests to Allah (swt) – in its collective form.
The perfect symmetry lies in the middle ayat, which can be split into two parts
“Iyyakana’ budu” is the conclusion of the 1st part (introduction of Allah swt) and “wa iyyaka nas ta’im” is the introduction to the 2nd part(of our requests). Everything about this surah is a reflection of the balance between two. Praise and thanks are balanced with the word “hamd”. Knowledge and action are balanced with “siratal mustaqim”. If we look at the surah, it begins with identifying the individual relation, personal (between Allah and the slave)and the surah ends with collective (us). This can be observed when we look at the Qur’an as a whole as well; where the Surah Fateha is collective in its end whereas the last surah AnNas is individual.
We humans face 4 different types of battles. The battle between body and soul, the battle between man and woman, the battle between capital and labor and the battle between government and people. Finding the balance is what you call justice. In all these conflicts, who decides the solutions? Allah azza wa jalla gives us the answer in the surah so beautifully. Ihdina Siratal Mustaqim. The path of the middle.
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jazakillah khayran kathira!