Pious Foundations, Pinnacle of the Quran, Prologue in Heaven
Issue 996 » April 27, 2018 - Shaban 11, 1439
Al-Baqara (The Cow) Sura 2: Verse 274
The call to give to charity can be seen as the Quran's way of urging Muslims to establish pragmatic and perpetual institutions for the social transformation of society. Across the Muslim world, such institutions were known as waqfs, 'pious foundations'. Muslims seeking spiritual advancement would leave a legacy in the form of property or a plot of land as a trust in perpetuity to be used for the benefit of humanity. The individual establishing the waqf would specify its purpose clearly, and appoint a legally responsible person or group to carry out its function with knowledge and experience. Such trusts supported universities and hospitals, scholarship and learning, and funded research and travel. As George Makdisi shows in his detailed study, The Rise of Colleges, waqfs played a vital part in enabling the flourishing of science and civilisation in the classical era of Muslim civilisation.
Contemporary Muslims have forgotten the intellectual, educational, scientific and cultural dimensions of charity. Charity amongst Muslims is now associated almost solely with building mosques and responding to natural disasters. We need to recover the scope, imagination and creativity this verse implies in ways relevant to the extent of need in contemporary society at home and abroad.
"Reading the Qur'an: The Contemporary Relevance of the Sacred Text of Islam" - Ziauddin Sardar, p. 194
Pinnacle of the Quran
The Prophet (peace be upon him) spoke very highly of the many excellences and merits of al-Baqarah. Sahl ibn Sad reports that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: 'Of everything there is a pinnacle, and the pinnacle of the Quran is Sura al-Baqarah. Whoever recites it in his house during the day, Satan would not enter his house for three days, and whoever recites it at night, Satan would not enter his house for three nights.' (Ibn Kathir, Tabarani)
Abu Hurayrah reports that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: 'Don't turn your houses into graves. Satan does not enter the house in which al-Baqarah is recited.' (Muslim, Ibn Kathir)
Abu Umamah al-Bahili reports that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: 'Recite the Quran, it will be the intercessor for its companions. Recite the two luminous ones — al-Baqarah and Al Imran — for on the Day of Resurrection they will come as two clouds or canopies [full of light], or as two flocks of birds in ranks, pleading for those who recite them. Recite al-Baqarah: for in learning it is a blessing, and neglecting it results in great remorse, and only the slothful do not recite it.' (Muslim, Ibn Kathir)
To Ubayy ibn Kab he said: 'Whoever recites it, on him are Allah's blessings and His mercy. He will have the merit of one who has kept the siege in the way of Allah for an entire year without wavering. Instruct the Muslims to learn the Sura al-Baqarah.'(Qurtubi)
Al-Baqarah contains an ocean of meaning. The more one reflects and ponders over it, the more the priceless gems of guidance, wisdom and light he finds. (A canopy of light, indeed!) Referring to the 'ocean of meanings' it contains, Abdullah ibn Umar once said that it took him more than eight years just to 'learn' Sura al-Baqarah (Suyuti).
"Treasures of the Qur'an: Surah al-Fatihah to Surah al-Mai'dah" - Abdur Rashid Siddiqui
Prologue in Heaven
Culture began with the "prologue in heaven." With its religion, art, ethics, and philosophy, it will always be dealing with man's relation to that heaven from whence he came. Everything within culture means a confirmation or a rejection, a doubt or a reminiscence of the heavenly origin of man. Culture is characterized by this enigma and goes on through all time with the steady striving to solve it.
On the other hand, civilization is a continuation of the zoological, one-dimensional life, the material exchange between man and nature. This aspect of life differs from other animals' lives, but only in its degree, level, and organization. Here, one does not find man embarrassed by evangelical, Hamletian, or Karamasovian problems. The anonymous member of society functions here only by adopting the goods of nature and changing the world by his work according to his needs.
Culture is the influence of religion on man or man's influence on himself, while civilization is the effect of intelligence on nature, on the external world. Culture means the "art of being man"; civilization means the art of functioning, ruling, and making things perfect. Culture is a "continual creating of self'; civilization is the continual changing of the world. This is the opposite man-thing, humanism against chosism.
Religions, creeds, drama, poetry, games, folklore, folk tales, mythology, moral and aesthetic codes; elements of the political and juridical life affirming a personality's value, freedom and tolerance; philosophy, theatre, galleries, museums, libraries - this is the unbroken line of human culture, the first act of which has been played in heaven between God and man.
"Islam Between East and West" - Alija Ali Izetbegovic, pp. 44-45