01-20: Questions and Answers
1-What does it mean to draw close to Allah?
Drawing close to Allah means to enhance one's love, devotion, awe, and faith for Allah. There is no limit to how near one can draw to Allah. In the Hereafter, people will be repaid in proportion to their nearness to Him and, accordingly, will earn eternal life in Paradise. Therefore, every person should strive to make a sincere effort, as Allah proclaims. The Qur'an points out the believers' efforts in the following terms:
And among the desert Arabs there are some who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and regard what they give as something that will bring them nearer to Allah and to the prayers of the Messenger. It does indeed bring them near. Allah will admit them into His mercy. Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Surat at-Tawba, 99)
As a result of such an effort, the love and devotion of people who have drawn closer to Allah become even more intensified. They start to feel a greater contentment in their hearts with our Lord, seek to avoid acting in a way that would not please Allah, and accordingly ward off evil. Their devotion to religion, as well as their eagerness and will to serve religion, grow stronger. The stronger their closeness to Allah, the greater their virtues.
2 -What should the believers' target be in terms of getting close to Allah?
In the verse "You who believe! Heed Allah, seek the means of drawing near to Him, and strive in His Way, so that hopefully you will be successful" (Surat al-Ma'ida, 35), Allah invites people to seek ways to get close to Him. Hence, the believers' most important target is to conform to what Allah invites people to and to strive to be His nearest servant. The believers take the Prophets as their models, for the Prophets' nearness to Allah comes from their sincerity, heedfulness, righteousness, and the strong awe and love that they feel for Him.
In the verse "So We forgave him for that, and he has nearness to Us and a good Homecoming" (Surah Sad, 25), Prophet Dawud's (as) nearness to Allah is given as a model for all believers. Anyone who takes the Prophets' virtuous character and sincerity as their model may hope to attain their closeness to Allah by being in awe of Him as Prophets are, accurately fulfilling the Qur'an's commands, and dedicating their lives to earning His good pleasure. It should also be noted that one can get closer to Allah in only a few seconds by even one sincere intention to do so, for Allah is close to all men and women and answers His servants' calls.
3- How should the believers show their respect for the Prophets?
As the verse "And Isma`il, al-Yasa`a, Yunus, and Lut. All of them We favored over all beings" (Surat al-An`am, 86) states, Prophets are those individuals whom Allah has chosen and favored over all human beings. Allah has granted them a special knowledge direct from Him, supported them with His angels, and promised them Paradise. Throughout the ages, they have been responsible for communicating Allah's religion, and thus have conveyed His revelation to people and invited them to live by the religion of truth. No matter what difficulties they encountered, they always were resolute and continued their struggle with eagerness and steadfastness. All believers are attached to the Prophets, who are chosen by Allah and who are known for their strong faith and good morals, with true respect and love. The Prophet Muhammad (saas), whose loyalty to Allah is praised in the Qur'an, is said to be "closer to the believers than their own selves." (Surat al-Ahzab, 6)
As a result, all believers have a great respect in their hearts for the Prophets and hold them in high esteem. The Qur'an instructs them to display this respect to His Messenger (saas) as follows:
So that you might all believe in Allah and His Messenger, and honor him and respect him, and glorify Him in the morning and the evening. (Surat al-Fath, 9)
Several verses in the Qur'an tell us how the Prophets should be respected in daily life. Some of them are given here: "not to wait where the Prophet lives while food is being cooked," "not to call out to the Prophet from outside his private quarters," "not to raise one's voice above the Prophet's voice," "not to be as loud when speaking to him as the believers are when speaking to one another," or "not to put oneself forward in front of the Messenger."
Along with those who lived at the time of the Prophet (saas), all believers who lived after him continue to have the same idea of respect in their hearts. As the verse "You have an excellent model in the Messenger of Allah, for all who put their hope in Allah and the Last Day and remember Allah much" (Surat al-Ahzab, 21) reminds them, they try to express the deep respect they feel for our Prophet (saas) by taking him as their role models in all of their behavior and by honoring and praising him.
For the other Prophets, the Qur'an says:
Say, "We believe in Allah and what has been sent down to us and what was sent down to Ibrahim and Isma`il and Ishaq and Ya`qub and the Tribes, and what Musa and `Isa were given, and what all the Prophets were given by their Lord. We do not differentiate between any of them. We are Muslims submitted to Him." (Surat al-Baqara, 136)
As we understand from the verses, we are expected to show the same respect to all Prophets. In another verse, Allah says:
You have an excellent example in Ibrahim and those with him, when they said to their people "We wash our hands of you and all that you worship apart from Allah, and we reject you. Between us and you there will be enmity and hatred for everunless and until you believe in Allah alone." Except for Ibrahim's words to his father: "I will ask forgiveness for you but Ihave no power to help you in any way against Allah." Our Lord, we have put our trust in You and have repented to You. You are our final destination. (Surat al-Mumtahana, 4)
4 -What does "revelation" mean?
Revelation is Allah's way of inspiring the person's heart with whatever information He wills to provide. Based on the Qur'an's examples, revelation may be given by means of angels, "from behind a veil," or be placed directly in the person's heart by Allah without any intermediaries. Allah explains this matter as follows:
It is not for any human being that Allah should speak to him, except by inspiration or from behind a veil, or He sends a messenger who then reveals, with His permission, whatever He wills. He is indeed Most High, All-Wise. (Surat ash-Shura, 51)
Prophet Musa (as) is given as an example. The Qur'an relates that when he saw a fire, he went to find out more about it:
Then when he reached it, a voice called out: "Musa! I am your Lord. Take off your sandals. You are in the holy valley of Tuwa. I have chosen you, so listen well to what is revealed. I am Allah. There is no god but Me, so worship Me and establish prayer to remember Me." (Surah Ta Ha, 11-14)
Another verse relates that the Qur'an was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (saas) by means of Jibril:
It is nothing but Revelation revealed, taught to him [the Prophet] by one immensely strong, possessing power and splendor. He [Jibril] stood there stationary—there on the highest horizon. Then he drew near and hung suspended. He was two bow-lengths away or even closer. Then he revealed to Allah's servant what Allah revealed. (Surat an-Najm, 5-10)
Allah's revelation may also come through an invisible voice, as was the case with Prophet Musa (as):
When Musa came to Our appointed time and his Lord spoke to him, he said: "My Lord, show me Yourself so that I may look at You." He [Allah] said: "You will not see Me, but look at the mountain. If it remains firm in its place, then you will see Me." But when His Lord manifested Himself to the mountain, He crushed it flat and Musa fell unconscious to the ground. When he regained consciousness, he said: "Glory be to You! I repent to You and I am the first of the believers!" (Surat al-A`raf, 143)
Allah revealed the following to Maryam, the mother of Prophet `Isa (as), by means of a voice from under a stream:
A voice called out to her from under her: "Do not grieve. Your Lord has placed a small stream at your feet. Shake the trunk of the palm toward you, and fresh, ripe dates will drop down on you. Eat and drink, and delight your eyes. If you should see anyone at all, just say: "I have made a vow of abstinence to the All-Merciful, and today I will not speak to any human being." (Surah Maryam, 24-26)
On the other hand, Prophet Musa's (as) mother was told something in her heart:
We revealed to Musa's mother: "Suckle him, and then when you fear for him, cast him into the sea. Do not fear or grieve, [for] We will return him to you and make him one of the Messengers." (Surat al-Qasas, 7)
5- Are our prayers for other people of any use?
In the verse "Your Lord says: 'Call on Me and I will answer you. Those who are too proud to worship Me will enter Hell abject'" (Surah Ghafir, 60), Allah invites all people to pray and says that He will answer their calls. Therefore, if someone prays for someone else, it will benefit them, if Allah wills. In another verse, Allah tells the Prophet (saas) to pray for other believers, as follows:
… Pray for them. Your prayers bring relief to them. Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. (Surat at-Tawba, 103) Each believer desires that all other believers earn Allah's good pleasure and Paradise, and has the same hope for himself or herself. Hence, they pray for their fellow believers at least as much as they do for themselves. Yet whether the prayer is accepted or not, and how it is answered, is completely in Allah's hands. If He wills, He answers that prayer in a different way for a certain purpose and a better cause.
6- What does "praying with hope and fear" mean?
Allah commands people to obey Him, to exhibit good behavior, to race each other to do good, and to perform good deeds in order to earn His good pleasure throughout their lives. However, no one is sure of entering Paradise due to their actions. Thus, no matter how strong their faith and devotion to Allah, they live every instant of their lives in hope and fear. Fearing the punishment of Hell, they ask for forgiveness for their mistakes. On the other hand, since they sincerely believe in Allah, they seek His forgiveness. They always have both the fear of entering Hell and the hope of entering Paradise, until the Day of Judgment, when they will be called to account.
The Qur'an relates that the Prophets prayed to Allah in hope and fear:
We responded to him and gave him Yahya, restoring for him his wife's fertility. They outdid one another in good actions, calling out to Us in hope and fear, and humbling themselves to Us. (Surat al-Anbiya, 90)
7 -For what did the Prophets and believers pray?
Allah sets no limits on prayer, invites believers to take refuge in Him, and tells them to ask for help in anything: "Call on Me and I will answer you" (Surah Ghafir, 60) The Qur'an gives some examples of these prayers, as follows:
8- Is it proper to refer to people as "the people of Paradise" or "the people of Hell" while still in this world?
Making such comments is improper, for only Allah knows who will enter Paradise and Hell. People will have such knowledge, if Allah wills, only in the Hereafter. The believers hope for Paradise, but they can never be sure whether they will enter it. Prophet Yusuf's (as) prayer that he be allowed to die as a Muslim is a good example of this:
... Originator of the heavens and Earth, You are my Friend in this world and the Next. So take me as a Muslim at my death and join me to the righteous. (Surah Yusuf, 101)
9 -What does the phrase "leaders who summon to the Fire" mean?
Both the believers and the unbelievers have leaders. The believers' leaders invite them to live by the religion, perform good deeds, and exhibit good behavior. They inform them of Allah's existence and the good morals that they should have, describe how the religion's commands should be fulfilled, and enable them to improve themselves by showing them what they are doing wrong.
In the case of the unbelievers, we should not understand their "leaders" to be the community's leading people. People who do not believe in Allah, and reflect their unbelief in their way of thinking, behaving, and living, call others to the Fire, and so become leaders of unbelief. They do not direct people to believe in Allah; rather, they lead them away from belief in Him. They incite the people to follow Satan and their desires, instead of the Qur'an and their consciences. As a result, these leaders of unbelief draw their followers into the Fire and Allah's punishment:
... See the final fate of the wrongdoers! We made them leaders, summoning to the Fire, and on the Day of Resurrection they will not be helped. (Surat al-Qasas, 40- 41)
10- What does the Qur'an mean when it says that people's skin, ears, and eyes will bear witness against them on the Day of Judgment?
This statement means that all of the unbelievers' actions, even the ones that they thought no one knew about, will be revealed when their ears, eyes, and skins start to talk. Allah sees everything, whether hidden or open, but on that day He will make these people bear witness to their own crimes through a personal confession. This is a very easy matter for Him, for since He gave each person's tongue the gift of speech, He can surely bestow it upon each person's skin, eyes, and ears. This fact is related in the Qur'an, as follows:
On the Day We crowd the enemies of Allah into the Fire and they are driven in close-packed ranks, when they reach it, their hearing, sight, and skin will testify against them concerning what they did. They will ask their skins: "Why did you testify against us?" and they will reply: "Allah gave us speech, as He has given speech to everything. He created you in the first place, and you will be returned to Him. You did not think to shield yourselves from your hearing, sight, and skin testifying against you, and you thought that Allah would never know much of what you did." (Surah Fussilat,19-22)
11- What does the "Unseen" mean?
The "Unseen" is that of which we can have no knowledge, sight, or hearing unless Allah reveals part of this knowledge to us, for only He knows the Unseen. Only Allah is Transcendent, free from the limitations of time and space, and so only He has full knowledge of the past, the present, and the future. As the verse "Though you speak out loud, He knows your secrets and what is even more concealed" (Surah Ta Ha, 7) informs us, He is the One Who possesses the knowledge of the most concealed things, which we can never know. He knows what our hearts contain, what people conceal in their subconscious, and their most secret thoughts, which they do not share with anyone. The Qur'an relates that only Allah knows the Unseen:
The keys of the Unseen are in His possession. No one knows them but Him. He knows everything in the land and sea. No leaf falls without His knowing it. There is no seed in the darkness of the earth, and nothing moist or dry, which is not in a Clear Book. (Surat al-An`am, 59)
12- Can anyone relate information about the future?
Knowledge of the future, whether close or remote, belongs only to Allah, the sole possessor of the knowledge of the Unseen. Thus, people cannot relate any information about the future. Allah, however, says in the Qur'an that He may provide some information about the future to His Messengers:
He is the Knower of the Unseen, and does not divulge His secrets to anyone—except a Messenger with whom He is well pleased, and then He posts sentinels before him and behind him. (Surat al-Jinn, 26-27)
13- Is it proper to talk about the future in a definite manner?
No, for only Allah knows what will happen. Whatever one encounters in a week, a minute, or a second later occurs completely by His will. Thus, people cannot possibly make a definite plan even for the following day. Allah may redirect or even end the course of a person's life, send a serious accident or a fatal illness, destroy his or her city by means of an earthquake, or send some other unexpected events. As people cannot know their destiny, which Allah has predetermined, they have no guarantee that they will even be able to execute a given plan in the next second. Given that all events occur according to Allah's decree, the Qur'an advises people not to talk about anything so definitely, but rather to say: "If Allah wills," as follows:
Never say about anything: "I am doing that tomorrow," without adding: "If Allah wills." Remember your Lord when you forget, and say: "Hopefully my Lord will guide me to something closer to right guidance than this." (Surat al-Kahf, 23-24)
14- How should compliments and praises be proclaimed?
People are praised for their physical beauty or good morals, although the unique and real possessor of all of these admirable features is Allah. Hence, we present all of our compliments to Him, the only One Who creates and shapes everything in its perfect form. For example, if one's physical beauty is praised, we have to remember that Allah has given that beauty as a blessing. Wisdom, intelligence, and all other features are the blessings of Allah on that person. Therefore, all praises find their proper place only when they are made with the intention to praise Allah. The Qur'an proclaims that Allah is the true owner of everything that can be admired, as follows:
And say: "Praise be to Allah, Who has had no son and no partner in His Kingdom, and Who needs no one to protect Him out of weakness." Proclaim His Greatness repeatedly! (Surat al-Isra, 111)
For that reason, when praising a thing's or a person's beauty, we have to realize that Allah created it, that it belongs to Him, and that He may take that blessing back, if He wills to do so.
15- Does Allah accept the repentance of a dying person?
Allah reveals that He will accept repentance, but not at the time of death. Even so, every person has the chance to repent while still alive, for Allah sets no limits on what may be forgiven. Even the worst crimes or the most irreligious acts can be forgiven if the person's repentance is sincere, if he or she proves this sincerity by abandoning such activities and becoming a devoted servant of Allah, and if Allah wills to accept it. However, Allah says the following about those people who do not find it necessary to repent of a long life of unbelief and turn to Him until they find themselves on the point of death and the fear of death overtakes them:
There is no repentance for people who persist in doing evil until death comes to them and who then say: "Now I repent," nor for people who die as unbelievers. We have prepared for them a painful punishment. (Surat an-Nisa, 18)
16- Can one seek forgiveness for another?
It is always possible for a person to ask that other believers be forgiven, regardless of what they have done. The Qur'an mentions that the believers pray to Allah for all believers to be forgiven and for mercy. Since they know that only those with whom Allah is well pleased will be safeguarded from Hell's punishment and will earn Paradise, they desire the wrongdoings of other believers, as well as their own, to be forgiven. Allah's command in this matter is expressed as follows:
Know then that there is no god except Allah, and ask forgiveness for your wrongdoing and for the men and women who believe. Allah knows both your activity and your repose. (Surah Muhammad, 19)
Until the end of their lives, the believers seek forgiveness for other believers. However, whether their prayers are accepted or not is completely within the authority of Allah. The Qur'an gives the following example of such a prayer:
Those who have come after them say: "Our Lord, forgive us and our brothers who preceded us in faith, and do not put any rancor in our hearts toward those who believe. Our Lord, You are All-Gentle, Most Merciful." (Surat al-Hashr, 10)
17- Can anyone know when the Last Hour will come?
No, for such knowledge is unique to Allah. No person, unless Allah wills, can know when it will take place. All we know is that it is coming, for the Qur'an states:
People will ask you about the Last Hour. Say: "Only Allah has knowledge of it. What will make you understand? It may be that the Last Hour is very near." (Surat al-Ahzab, 63)
18- Who are the people "with sickness in their hearts"?
This phrase is used in the Qur'an to designate those people whose faith is weak and who lack sincerity toward Allah, religion, and the believers. Their sickness is not physical; rather, it is spiritual. In other words, it indicates a problem with their degree of faith.
People who have a sickness in their hearts generally reveal their true nature through some behavioral deviations, some of which the Qur'an reveals: not remembering Allah, not living by the Qur'an's moral codes, not striving to serve religion, being unwilling and slow to perform prayers, being uncaring and cold toward the believers, being cowardly, and not paying meticulous attention to the limits set by Allah when they encounter a difficulty. Allah says that these signs can be perceived by those of His servants whom He wills to perceive such things:
Or did those with a sickness in their hearts imagine that Allah would not expose their malevolence? If We willed, We would show them to you and you would know them by their mark and their ambivalent speech. Allah knows your actions. (Surah Muhammad, 29-30)
19- What about being persistent in Allah's worship?
In the verse "He is Lord of the heavens and Earth and everything in between them, so worship Him and persevere in His worship. Do you know of any other with His Name?" (Surah Maryam, 65), Allah commands people to be persistent in their worship of Allah. All good deeds that are performed to earn His good pleasure will be paid in full in His sight. Nonetheless, Allah tells people to be resolute in this matter to point out that perseverance in worship is the real satisfactory objective:
Wealth and sons are the embellishments of the life of this world. But, in your Lord's sight, right actions that are lasting bring a better reward and are a better basis for hope. (Surat al-Kahf, 46)
20 -How should one behave toward one's parents?
Allah commands people to show kindness to their parents. Speaking kind words, showing affection and respect, and being compassionate to one's parents is a requirement of the Qur'an's morals. Allah reminds people not to say even "Ugh" to their parents. Even if their parents do not share their children's belief and do not believe in Allah, the believers still maintain their compassionate and respectful manner toward them.
The fact that they do not follow their parents' advice when it conflicts with religion does not affect their idea of respect negatively in the least:
We have instructed man to honor his parents. But if they endeavor to make you associate with Me something about which you have no knowledge, do not obey them. It is to Me that you will return, and I will inform you about the things that you did. (Surat al-`Ankabut, 8)