You never know when something will strike you differently.  I know surah al-Kawthar and recite it fairly often.  As a mom with young kids running about I am often forced to resort to very short surahs in my prayers, and it doesn’t get much shorter than this one:

1. Verily, We have granted you (O Muhammad) Al-Kauthar (a river in Paradise)

2. Therefore turn in prayer to your Lord and sacrifice.

3. For he who makes you angry – he will be cut off.

I recite it and go on.  But this morning, while searching for an answer to a question about the wives of the Prophet, I came across the story of his marriage to Maria al Qibtiyya and the birth and death of his son by her, Ibrahim.  Ibrahim was born healthy but passed away later.

Maria gave birth to a healthy son in 9 AH, the same year that his daughter Zaynab died, and the Prophet named his new son Ibrahim. Unfortunately, when he was only 18 months old, Ibrahim became seriously ill and died. Even though he knew that his small son would go to Paradise, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) could not help shedding some tears. When some of his Companions asked him why he was weeping, he replied, “It is my humanness.”

As Ibrahim’s body was being buried, the sun was eclipsed and it grew dark and gloomy. Some people thought this was connected with Ibrahim’s death, but the Prophet soon clarified this. “The sun and the moon are two of Allah’s signs,” he said, “they are not eclipsed because of anyone’s birth or death. When you see these signs, make haste to remember Allah in prayer.” Although the disbelievers used to mock the Prophet Muhammad because he had no sons, and say that he was ‘cut off’ , Allah made it clear in the following surah that the station of the Prophet Muhammad was far above that of any other man.

Reading the explanation of this surah, reading it in the context of his grief over the death of his son and the taunts of the disbelievers, I found myself becoming emotional, tears flooding my eyes.  I had read this surah so many times before, but only by KNOWING what I was reciting, and knowing the background, could I truly appreciate the depth of this promise that Allah made to Muhammad, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him.

It is a reminder to us all that it is not sufficient to simply memorize Qur’an and recite it like a parrot recites what its master teaches without understanding.  We have to learn what the Arabic means, and under what circumstances each verse was revealed. This is the only way we can truly honor Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) and worship Allah in the best way.  And Allah knows best.

Nancy Shehata

Nancy is a wife, mom, blogger, and dispenser of advice living in Virginia in the United States.  She writes whatever comes to mind at and hoards candy.

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