An Exposition on Faith as a Primary Tool of Interpretive Analysis
The Sunday Tafsīr of Sūrat Al-Rūm concluded recently with a powerful commentary from Shaykh Amin recounting the relevance of the sūrah in present times. But as with all tafsīr Shaykh Amin executes, the jewels in the unemphasized embellish the raw uncut diamond that is the import of his message. What follows is an overview of all nine sessions delivered at Darul Qasim over a period of two months.
It all began with a bet by Abū Bakr. This was no frivolous wager, neither one borne from an urge to gamble. Far from it, Abū Bakr’s bet was entrenched in his deep-rooted, unshakeable conviction in the message of his closest friend and Sayyid, our Sayyid, RasulAllah. The news of the defeat of the Romans had come to Makkah, and the mushrikīn relished the vicarious thrill of Persian victory. Yet, against the odds, Abū Bakr interpreted the defeat of the Romans as a precursor to their eventual success. He perceived this owing simply to the nearness he appropriated for Islām towards Christianity, an Abrahamic faith born of the message of Jesus, son of Mary. His interpretation was begotted by an understanding of the world, a faculty (or skill) he was gifted with and which he honed in the company of the Messenger.
Other companions reflected comparable degrees of excellence in their own areas of expertise, all sharpened through prophetic ‘suhbah’ (companionship). For example, ʿUmar was recognized for his genius at preempting Qurʾānic injunction, on several occasions. But Abū Bakr: his was the craft of interpretations, be it dreams representing events in the hidden realm, or tangible events of the observable world. And so this bold wager of Abū Bakr served as the backdrop for the revelation of this sūrah, and the content of the first session.
In the second session, Shaykh Amin dwells on the fact that historically, Muslim leadership always attached importance to the dunyā along with the ākhirah, with a clear preference for the latter. But the point was that the dunyā was never neglected in matters of planning and execution. True understand was a product of insight and outward observation. The session was filled with counsel for Muslims preaching peace, and warnings for those given to mocking revelation and for those obsessed with the dunyā.
The third session called out faith and good deeds as the ultimate discriminators in the Hereafter. Topics covered included tasbīh as a purification for the believer, the dynamism of Arabic in gleaning commands from news, and the disinclination of the companions to obsess with the analysis of commands. Shaykh Amin also commented on compatibility in marriage as a necessary component for sukūn.
The fourth session covered diversity in creation as a proof for Allah’s existence, tawhīd as a monolithic creed, and the sunnah as a monolithic way of life for a diverse humanity. The session is filled with insightful observations around the petty confusion of ranks with roles and the universal acknowledgement of Arabic as central to worship.
Human accountability and Allah’s guidance within the phenomena of cause and effect formed the backbone of the fifth session. Shaykh Amin shared his thoughts on worship in seclusion, the lack of differences in what is a conclusive understanding of God (ʿaqīdah) and a celebration of differences in what is inconclusive. This session was critical for anyone battling the forced issue of unity in the ummah. Historically, the maintenance of order was the overarching driver of all religious discourse.
The sixth session contained profound discussions of the rules of cause and effect governing sustenance, the challenge of relinquishing control, the spiritual effects of assisting or repelling the needy, and greed as an undeniable cause of poverty. Shaykh Amin ended the session with an allusion to the genius of the early fuqahāʾ in recognizing the many causes of human suffering, and the idea that neighborhood economics ought to come first.
In the seventh session, Shaykh Amin elaborated on some of the more fundamental axioms of belief, such as Īmān being a prerogative of Allah. The Shaykh talked about the non-discriminatory nature of Allah’s raḥmah, characterized by Divine order. The session ended with a reminder of the weight of actions over words.
God’s creation is an expression of His knowledge. This was the theme of the eighth session in which Shaykh Amin expounded on Īmān as an act of active submission. True knowledge is accompanied by patience, while imagination and creativity found in revelation must raise the seeker to higher states. Shaykh Amin used this discussion of imaginative creativity to bring the tafsīr full circle back to where it all began, namely the wager of Abū Bakr and his moral and positive alignment with the Christians of the time.
In the concluding session, Shaykh Amin spoke to the many challenges of Muslims in these times. He called out the historical significance of the first Muslims seeking asylum in the Christian land of Abyssinia. Shaykh Amin stressed the need for Muslims to recognize Christian nations that accommodate Islām and Muslims. He ended the final session with a call to re-embrace the prophetic definition of Islām, to adopt an uncompromising positivity as a companion of Īmān, and to honor Abū Bakr as a role model in the affirmation of faith and truth, and as an archetypal genius at truth-seeking.