Brief ReadsDeep Tafsirs

Linguistic Precision

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There is a verse in sūrat al-Anʿām-—it reveals its literary gems only to the reflective. See what you notice upon a first reading…

Say [O Muḥammad], “Come, elevate yourselves, that I may recite to you what Allāh has prohibited: [He commands] that you not associate anything with Him; and to parents, excellent treatment; and do not kill your children out of poverty. We will provide for you and them. And do not approach indecencies…” قل تعالوا أتل ما حرم ربكم عليكم ألا تشركوا به شيئا وبالوالدين إحسانا ولا تقتلوا أولادكم من إملاق نحن نرزقكم وإياهم ولا تقربوا الفواحش ما ظهر منها… Place this verse under a microscope and examine its innermost workings. What do you notice? One of the actions listed is not actually “ḥarām.” It is, in fact, the very opposite. In this string of prohibitions-—wedged between promiscuity and murder, infanticide and shirk-—Allah mentions the single-most noble deed: “and to parents, excellent treatment.” Scholars derive a lesson: when it comes to your relationship with your parents, anything short of excellence is a grave prohibition; the depths of its depravity matches murder and shirk.

An image of “wa bil-wālidayni `iḥsānāh” | A scholar of high calibre, Muḥammadb. al-Mundakir, recalled a memory from his past: “Nighttime descended upon us, and my brother ʿUmar spent the his hours in ṣalāh [prayer], while I spent it knelt before my mother’s feet, massaging them. And I did not prefer his night over mine.” بات أخي عمر يصلي، وبت أغمز قدم أمي، وما أحب أن ليلتي بليلته.

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