Moral Provision, Stimulate Charity, Miracles and Signs

Issue 978 » December 22, 2017 - Rabi-al-Thani 4, 1439

Living The Quran

Moral Provision
Al-e-Imran (The House of Imran) Sura 3: Verse 37

"Her Sustainer graciously accepted her, and caused her to grow in a goodly growth and placed her in the care of Zakariya. Whenever Zakariya visited her in the sanctuary (mihrab), he found her supplied with sustenance (rizq). He would ask: 'O Mary! Whence (comes) this to you?' She would answer: 'It is from Allah, for Allah grants sustenance (rizq) to whom He pleases without measure.'"

The word mihrab (sanctuary) in the text means either the part of the temple reserved for women to worship and to retire for itikaf or a specific chamber reserved for Maryam to live in and worship. There were many such chambers and rooms in the temple for worshippers. The words "whenever Zakariya visited her in the sanctuary" show two facts. One, to take care of her he frequently visited her, and two, Maryam spent all her time in her sanctuary in worship and remembrance of Allah.

"He found her supplied with sustenance (rizq)" indicate the exceptional spiritual excellence of Maryam that even Zakariya, a person of extraordinary spiritual and moral gifts, was impressed by her moral and spiritual excellence and would in great astonishment ask her, "O Maryam, whence have you got all these gifts and wisdom?"

The word rizq here means wisdom and insight. In the Quran, it has been used at more than one place for revelation and spiritual guidance just as it is used in the Torah and the Injil. Prophet Jesus is also reported as having said, "Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." (Matthew 4: 4). In the next verse, it is mentioned that Zakariya was so impressed by Maryam's wisdom and knowledge that even though he had reached extreme old age and his wife was barren, he supplicated for a righteous offspring like her. Obviously, a person with spiritual gifts like Zakariya could not be impressed merely by provisions of grapes and apples to be moved to supplicate for offspring for himself. Only the moral and spiritual sustenance could ignite his spiritual fervour so that, on seeing its manifestation, he would marvel and wished for a child with similar moral and spiritual gifts.

Clearly the rhetorical question, "O Mary! Whence (comes) this to you?" is not meant to elicit information but is expressive of surprise and appreciation for her excellence and is a natural result of finding someone gifted far beyond her or his years in the eyes of the speaker. Such an expression is a form of appreciation and here it shows the humility and generosity of Zakariya that he graciously appreciates the moral excellence of a rather young girl under his care. The answer of Mary, "It is from Allah," indicates her wisdom and maturity. She describes all her achievements as a bounty and gift from Allah and does not consider it a reward for her piety and worship.

Compiled From:
"Pondering Over The Qur'an: Surah Ali Imran" - Amin Ahsan Islahi

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Stimulate Charity

Because human greed is a major obstacle to the abundance of these acts, the Shariah has taken special care to encourage people and stimulate their interest in gifts and donations by classifying them as acts whose reward for the donor does not cease even after death. Thus, it is reported in an authentic Tradition: "When a man dies, his acts come to an end, except three, recurring charity, or knowledge [by which people] benefit, or a pious son, who prays for him [i.e. for the deceased]." [Muslim]

During the Prophet's time, there were numerous cases of repeated charity (sadaqa jariya) and endowments (awqaf) that were made by either him or his Companions. Mention can be made here of Uthman ibn Affan's charity which he made when he heard the Prophet saying: "Who will buy the well of Rumah [a famous well in Medina] and endow it for the general welfare of the people so that he may use it like the other Muslims without any privilege," Uthman bought it and endowed it for the welfare of all Muslims.[Bukhari]

Compiled From:
"Maqasid Al-Shariah" - Ibn Ashur, pp. 309, 310


Miracles and Signs

It has become commonplace to use the phrase "the miracles of the prophets" in place of the more Quranic concept of "the signs of the prophets." One might say that even though both "miracles" and "signs" were originally seen as evidence of, or a witness to, the veracity of the person through whom God had brought about the event in question, the confusion between the concepts of "sign" and "miracle" has entrenched an attitude of stubbornness and defiance among those prone to resist the truth. The difference between the two is actually quite significant. The stuff of "the miraculous" tends to stir up resistance and defiance among those who witness it. As for the "sign," it includes the element of miraculousness but presents the miraculous event as a kind of evidence, the function of a "sign" being to prepare those who witness it to listen more attentively, and to be more receptive to the message and the message-bearer.

The Arabic term ajz conveys the sense of failure, weakness, or inability to do something; as such, it connotes the opposite of ability or strength. As Cain cried out, "Oh, woe is me! Am I then too weak (ajaztu) to do what this raven did...?" (Quran 5:31). Based on the usage of the word in other places of the Quran, it is clear that the triliteral root a-j-z has nothing to do with the signs, or ayah brought by the prophets in support of their messages. In fact, there is nothing to indicate that the words mujizah and ayah are synonymous.

Al-Qadi ibn al-Baqillani has mentioned four conditions that must be met in order for something to be termed miraculous (mujiz). These four conditions are: (1) that God alone would be capable of it; (2) that it is so out of the ordinary that it may be said to violate a law of nature; (3) that no one but a prophet would be able to manifest the likes of it; and (4) that it take place at the hands of an apostle who is challenging the people to whom he has been sent, and with the claim that it is a sign of the truth of his message.

Compiled From:
"Reviving The Balance: The Authority of the Qur'an and the Status of the Sunnah" - Taha Jabir Alalwani