Uzair (AS) â€œEzraâ€ â€“ Part 1:
In the name of Allah, The Most Merciful The Most Compassionate. Peace and Blessings be upon our master, the most noble Prophet Muhammad. We praise Allah (SWT), thank Him, and seek His help, guidance and forgiveness. We seek refuge in Allah (SWT) from the evil in our souls and the sinfulness of our deeds. â€œHe whom Allah guides, he is the rightly guided; but he whom He sends astray, for him you will find no guiding advocateâ€.
Uzair (Ezra) (AS) is a Prophet that has not been mentioned in Qurâ€™an but in few occasions. In spite of the fact that his story is not a famous one, it is highly significant. Let us now read in Surat al-Baqarah what can be translated as, â€œOr like the one who passed by a town while it had tumbled over its roofs. He said: â€œOh! How will Allah ever bring it to life after its death?â€ So Allah caused him to die for a hundred years, then raised him up (again). He said: â€œHow long did you remain (dead)?â€ He (the man) said: â€œ(Perhaps) I remained (dead) a day or part of a dayâ€. He said: â€œNay, you have remained (dead) for a hundred years, look at your food and your drink, they show no change; and look at your donkey! And thus We have made of you a sign for the people. Look at the bones, how We bring them together and clothe them with fleshâ€. When this was clearly shown to him, he said, â€œI know (now) that Allah is Able to do all things.â€ (TMQ, 2:259).
This verse lies between two verses. The first one is verse number 258 and it can be translated as, â€œHave you not looked at him who disputed with Ibrahim (Abraham) about his Lord (Allah), because Allah had given him the kingdom? When Ibrahim said (to him): â€œMy Lord (Allah) is He Who gives life and causes death.â€ He said, â€œI give life and cause death.â€ Ibrahim said, â€œVerily! Allah brings the sun from the east; then bring it you from the west.â€ So the disbeliever was utterly defeated. And Allah guides not the people, who are ZÃ¢limÃ»n (wrong-doers)â€ (TMQ, 2:258).
The second one can be translated as, â€œAnd (remember) when Ibrahim said, â€œMy Lord! Show me how You give life to the dead.â€ He (Allah) said: â€œDo you not believe?â€ He [Ibrahim] said: â€œYes (I believe), but to be stronger in Faithâ€ (TMQ, 2:260)
The verses as you see create a harmonious theme that serves one single fact that Allah (SWT) wants to teach us. Todayâ€™s lesson depends on a great concept referred to in these three verses that compose three different stories. Moreover, we notice the correlation between the verses. Verse number 259 begins with â€œorâ€ and verse number 260 begins with â€œandâ€, which denotes that very association.
Uzair (AS) is one of Allahâ€™s (SWT) Prophets who came after Musa (AS) (Moses), Dawud (AS) (David), and Solaiman (AS) (Solomon). We mentioned before that the People of israel excelled in arguing and disputing and they have never changed. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said that Allah (SWT) sent many Prophets to them, that once a Prophet dies, He would send another to them. Therefore, the Children of israel did not live one day without a Prophet since Yaqub (AS) (Jacob) till Isa (AS) (Jesus). It was Allahâ€™s (SWT) mercy to send them so many Prophets. Many of them believed that sending many Prophets was due to their favor with Allah (SWT). On the contrary, this was because they were a nation so far away from Allah (SWT).
Furthermore, the Prophet (PBUH) said, â€œAmong the nation of Bani israel who lived before you, there were men who used to be inspired with guidance though they were not Prophets, and if there is any of such persons amongst my followers, it is Omar.â€
The question you might ask now is: Are they better than us? You see, in the hadith, the Prophet (PBUH) confirmed that there were many inspired people (i.e.: able to predict events as Allah (SW) wished them) in those nations and that very few existed in ours. This is due to the fact that the Prophet (PBUH) has taught us everything we need to know; â€œThis day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religionâ€(TMQ, 5:3), that we are in no need for that kind of inspired people. Besides, previous nations underwent aberration and needed such guidance while the nation of Islam is pure and accepts truth and goodness instinctively.
Omar Ibn Al-Khattab narrated, â€œOnce a Jew said to me, â€œO the chief of believers! There is a verse in your Holy Book, which is read by all of you (Muslims), and had it been revealed to us, we would have taken that day (on which it was revealed) as a day of celebration.â€ Omar Ibn Al-Khattab asked, â€œWhich is that verse?â€ The Jew replied what can be translated as, â€œThis day I have perfected your religion for you, completed My favor upon you, And have chosen for you Islam as your religion.â€ (TMQ, 5:3). Omar replied, â€œNo doubt, we know when and where this verse was revealed to the Prophet. It was Friday and the Prophet was standing at â€˜Arafat (i.e. the Day of Hajj)â€ Consequently, our Umma (nation of Islam) is sustained by the perfection of religion as Allah (SWT) set rules to set Muslims firm in their religion and too make them close to each other. For example, the daily five prayers gather Muslims five times a day in Masjids, the Friday prayer gathers them in a weekly meeting, and both Ramadan (Muslim holy month) and Hajj (pilgrimage) unites them every year. Hence, these are permanent rules to keep this nation integrated and unified.
Letâ€™s go back to Uzair (AS), who was sent to the People of israel, as one of the many Prophets sent to them. It was strange indeed when Uzair (PBUH) grew up and lived in a town different from the one he was meant to make daâ€™wa (call to Islam) in. Observe how Allah (SWT) ordered Yunus (AS) (Jonah) not to leave his people, while he ordered Uzair (PBUH) to move to a different town. You see, Allah (SWT) wills what He wants, while we are to implement His orders. This is why we read in the verse what can be translated as, â€œOr like the one who passed by a townâ€ (TMQ, 2:259), to indicate that the town is not his place of birth. Moreover, the story of Uzair (PBUH) differs from that of other Prophets, since all Prophets were sent by Allah (SWT) to their own people, â€œNow hath come unto you a Messenger from amongst yourselvesâ€(TMQ, 9:128); unlike Uzair (AS). The Prophetsâ€™ mission, including Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), was to start with their neighbors and relatives. However, Allah (SWT) ordered Uzair (AS) to move to another town to make daâ€™wa. So, Uzair (AS) mounted his donkey, taking his food and water, to the place Allah (SWT) commanded. Now I want to clarify the greatness of making daâ€™wa as you leave your home to help a brother or a sister in Islam.
The main aim from narrating the stories of the Prophets here is to encourage you to make daâ€™wa. Did anyone of you try to make daâ€™wa after what you have learned about what the Prophets had to go through? Nuh (AS) spent 1000 years in daâ€™wa: â€œO my Lord! I have called to my People night and day.â€(TMQ, 71:5) Yunus (AS) left his people angrily and went to different people, and that is why he was imprisoned inside a whaleâ€™s belly. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) spent 23 years and bore all the sufferings for the sake of daâ€™wa. Yet, do the people present here right now consider daâ€™wa (calling to Allah (SWT)) their main goal in life? How do you address people when you make daâ€™wa? Do your words match your behavior? One may say: â€œI do not know enough to make daâ€™waâ€. To him I say that it is not necessary to be a scholar as long as you can talk about the little that you already know. The Prophet (PBUH) said that we should narrate from him even if it were one single verse. There are so many ways you could use to make daâ€™wa like telling people about the verses you already know, or like bringing a friend along to our lessons. Does your heart ache for every Muslim that does not pray or for every sister who is not wearing hijab? That should be your motivating force day and night. You should feel that it is your own responsibility to make daâ€™wa for Islam even if you think you do not have the skill to do it yet. You will acquire the skill in time, but you have to try first so that Allah (SWT) helps you.
Uzair (AS) arrived to the appointed town and was stunned to find it empty; no life no plants, and no animals, simply nothing! He wondered why he was sent there in the first place. Allah (SWT) described the town as: â€œtumbled over its roofsâ€ Contrary to the norm, the roofs in this case collapsed first only to be followed by the walls, due to the immense destruction in the town. I thought about the questions he must have thought of then:. 1- He must have wondered if he is in the right place. But he knew that he followed Allahâ€™s (SWT) description precisely. 2- He must have wondered where the dwellers of the town are and thus decided to look for them. He could not find anybody, nor could he question Allahâ€™s (SWT) orders, so he did not go back. He put his absolute trust in Allah (SWT) and knew that since he was sent to this town, then Allah (SWT) would give life back to it. Compare his attitude to our condition nowadays. He trusted Allah (SWT) and followed his orders. On the other hand, the whole world nowadays is lost, and Allah (SWT) has promised us in this verse saying what can be translated as, â€œAllah has promised those among you who believe and do righteous good deeds, that He will certainly grant them succession to (the present rulers) in the landâ€(TMQ, 24:55) Thus, the earth is for Muslims, so do you trust Allah (SWT) and his promise, like Uzair (PBUH) once did?
Letâ€™s go back to the verse in what can be translated as, â€œOr like the one who passed by a town while it had tumbled over its roofs. He said: â€œOh! How will Allah ever bring it to life after its death?â€ (TMQ, 2:259). Mark that â€œHowâ€ in that context does not indicate impossibility. It rather indicates anticipation as Uzair (PBUH) wanted to see how that will take place. This is very similar to the case when Ibrahim (AS) said what can be translated as, â€œMy Lord! Show me how You give life to the dead.â€ He (Allah) said: â€œDo you not believe?â€ He [Ibrahim] said: â€œYes (I believe), but to be stronger in Faithâ€ (TMQ, 2:260). He wanted to move from the heart felt level, to the visual sensory level. That is why one verse here follows the other to represent one idea; gathering both the sensory and the spiritual proofs of Allahâ€™s (SWT) might. And here it is important to differentiate between certainty of knowledge and certainty of sight with the latter mentioned in the following verses that can be translated as, â€œThe mutual rivalry (for piling up of worldly things) diverts you. Until you visit the graves (i.e. till you die. Nay! You shall come to know. Again nay! You shall come to know! Nay! If you knew with a sure knowledge (the end result of piling up, you would not have been occupied yourselves in worldly things). Verily, You shall see the blazing Fire (Hell)! And again, you shall see it with certainty of sight! Then on that Day you shall be asked about the delights you indulged in, in this worldâ€)Day of Judgment(â€œ(TMQ, 102:1-8).
So Ibrahim (AS) was asking for that â€˜certainty of sightâ€™, a gift bestowed by Allah (SWT) to certain people after years of definite knowledge and strong belief in Him, which is required by every Muslim. Therefore, people who are to have â€˜certainty of sightâ€™ are tested for long years and are finally granted it at the end of their lives. It was given to Uzair (AS), to Ibrahim (AS), and to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Allah (SWT) tested Ibrahim (AS) when he was thrown into fire and when Allah (SWT) ordered him to slaughter his son Ismaâ€™il (AS). Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) underwent long years of enormous suffering and anguish to deliver his message. Uzair (AS) had to be sent to an empty town where his belief was tested. Hence, once they succeeded in their tests, Allah (SWT) rewarded them by granting them â€˜certainty of sightâ€™. Prophet (PBUH), for example, entered Paradise, saw its rivers, and ate from its fruits in his Miâ€™raj journey (ascent to heaven).
Furthermore, the Prophet (PBUH) mentioned that to his sahaba (companions) saying: â€œWho entered Paradise?â€ Abdullah bin Umar raised his hand replying: â€œI, O messenger of Allahâ€ So Umar bin Alkhattab put his hand on his head (a mark of discredit) Then the Prophet (PBUH) said: â€œWho drank from the rivers of Paradise?â€ Abdullah replied: â€œI, O messenger of Allahâ€ Umar, his father, then wished he were not in that gathering in the first place (he was embarrassed). After that, the Prophet (PBUH) asked: â€œWho ate from the fruits of Paradise?â€ Abdullah raised his hands replying: â€œI, O messenger of Allahâ€. The people then looked at him and the Prophet (PBUH) smiled and said: â€œYou said the truth, tell them how you did Abdullahâ€. Abdullah said: â€œO messenger of Allah, I had entered paradise, drank from its rivers, and ate from its fruits when you didâ€. Which kind of certainty was that do you think; â€˜certainty of sightâ€™, or definite knowledge?
Moreover, Omar Ibn Al-Khattab perceived â€˜certainty of sightâ€™ in a different form when he said, â€œBy Allah, if the heaven was to split in front of me so that I actually see paradise and hellfire, my certainty of their existence would not increase one bitâ€
Therefore, Uzair (AS) was positive that Allah (SWT) would give life to that town due to his deep belief in Him, and he wanted to strengthen that belief by acquiring â€˜certainty of sightâ€™ as he watches the town being brought back to life. How far do you trust Allah (SWT)? Are you confident that He will forgive your sins? Are you positive that He will bring victory to Islam in Palestine by liberating Al-Aqsa Masjid? Do you have Uzairâ€™s (PBUH) conviction who resolved not to go back (leave the empty town) due to his trust in Allah (SWT)?
Uzair (AS) wanted to see Allahâ€™s (SWT) might with his own eyes. Hence, he went to the top of a mountain taking his food and his donkey in order to watch Allahâ€™s (SWT) miracle in this town. You see conviction gives you strength and closeness to Allah (SWT). Thus you are never overcome with fear, you are certain of victory, certain that Allah (SWT) will reveal the truth and annihilate lies, and you are ever proud of being a Muslim. Accordingly, faith keeps you away from despair and moves you to make daâ€™wa in order to help people. Thus, Uzair (AS) wanted to watch the way life will be brought to that town. However, Allah (SWT) sometimes teaches us that things do not necessarily take place as we want them to. For example, sometimes we wonder how Allah (SWT) will bring victory to Muslims in Palestine, so we start imagining certain scenarios in our minds. Yet, Allah (SWT) will bring victory in a different way than we envision in order to assure us that He is The Able as we are given little of his knowledge.
Let me give you an example, the Prophet (PBUH) went to Altaâ€™if (a town close to Makka) on foot and kept walking for100 kilometers only to make daâ€™wa there. It so happened that the people there were so unkind that they hurt him, threw stones at him, and refused to listen to him. Yet, on his way back, he prayed two rakaaâ€™s, only to be heard by some of the jinn, who told the rest of Jinn about what they had heard and these in their turn converted to Islam. Thus, in spite of the fact that his aim was to make daâ€™wa to humans, it was the Jinn who believed. Allah (SWT) accepted his effort but the result did not have to match his main intent. That is to teach us we have to exert effort to be granted victory, but it is Allah (SWT) that gives us victory in the way He chooses. We are demanded to do our best, but everything is accomplished according to Allahâ€™s (SWT) will. Similarly, you might try time and again to make daâ€™wa to help a certain person who would not respond to your efforts, only to find that your efforts helped someone else to see the right path. Moreover, Allah (SWT) trains us not to be conceited by the effort we exert since everything is accomplished by His will.
These words stress on a single idea: it is Allahâ€™s (SWT) will that rules this universe regardless of what we do. So, Uzair (AS) went to the top of the mountain to watch the miracle, but Allah (SWT) revealed it in His way, â€œSo Allah caused him to die for a hundred years, then raised him up (again).â€ Consequently, the verses 258, 259, and 260 all tackle one main idea, which is that life, death, and resurrection are all controlled by Allah (SWT). This idea has to be fixed in our minds and hearts. Allah (SWT) may will it that we die in our sleep, yet people wait for nighttime to commit their sins. The issue of life and death is essential in our belief since it is the one that should set a believerâ€™s life straight. â€œSo Allah caused him to die for a hundred years, then raised him up (again). He said: â€œHow long did you remain (dead)?â€ (TMQ, 2:259). There is a controversy about the word â€œHeâ€, whether it refers to Allah (SWT) or to a revelation to Uzair (AS) through an angel sent by Allah (SWT). â€œHe (the man) said: â€œ(Perhaps) I remained (dead) a day or part of a dayâ€. (TMQ, 2:259). He found that he looked the same. It is said that he was 40 years old, but when he woke up he saw no grey-hair, no wrinkles, and no long nails. He felt that he had a good nightâ€™s sleep that is all. Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, â€œNay, you have remained (dead) for a hundred yearsâ€. (TMQ, 2:259).
Uzair (AS) was astonished when he saw that the miracle of death and resurrection took place nowhere but in himself. But he kept looking around looking for any sign of change. Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, â€œlook at your food and your drink, they show no changeâ€ (TMQ, 2:259). But the food, the drink, and his own body indicated no change and there had to be a sign that shows him that resurrection actually took place. So Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, â€œand look at your donkey!â€ (TMQ, 2:259). The donkey had disintegrated into bones that were scattered on the ground in a way that indicates that it indeed died 100 years ago. Therefore, Uzair (AS) was before two opposite miracles. Neither did he, or his food or drink have change, yet his donkey was completely distorted. This reveals Allahâ€™s (SWT) dominance over time as He made 100 years pass on Uzair (AS), and his food and drink, as one day, on the one hand, and as the donkey remained in its place for 100 years, on the other.
Accordingly, we have to reflect on two of Allahâ€™s (SWT) Names: The Withholder and The Expander. Allah (SWT) does not only withhold and expand life and sustenance, but He also holds and extends time. The Prophet (PBUH) asked his companions what they will do on the Day of Judgment when they stand for fifty thousand years without eating or drinking. The companions covered their faces and cried. But the Prophet (PBUH) told them that they will seem like the time of two rakaaâ€™s for the believer. Thus, Allah (SWT) dominates time and manages it differently for different people. That is why we sometimes feel that a single hour takes a lifetime, while some events pass by in seconds. How glorious is Allah (SWT) the One who dominates time!
I mentioned the â€˜certainty of eyesightâ€™ and the â€˜definite knowledgeâ€™ and let me add to them the â€˜absolute Truth with certaintyâ€™ as mentioned in Surat Al Waqiâ€™ah in what can be translated as, â€œVerily, this! This is an absolute Truth with certainty.â€(TMQ, 65:95) Let me explain the three of them in one simple simile. When I tell you that there is a tree in Paradise that has fruit on it, you apply â€˜definite knowledgeâ€™ when you believe in it without actually seeing it. You apply â€˜certainty of eyesightâ€™ when you actually see it. But â€˜absolute Truth with certaintyâ€™ is applied, when you actually eat the fruit in Paradise Inshaâ€™ Allah.
Let us go back to the verses and to Allahâ€™s (SWT) Beautiful names The Withholder and The Expander, which reminds me of a question I once read. A scholar was asked how two people will endure the same kind of hardship and difficulty in the tomb, if one died one thousand years before the Day of Judgment and the other died only one day before it. The scholar replied that value of time for humans differs from its value to Allah (SWT) and He manages it as he wishes by making it longer for some and shorter for others. Furthermore, a Prophetâ€™s Hadith stresses this point. Abu Huraira narrated that the Prophet (PBUH) said, â€œBetween the two blowings of the trumpet there will be forty.â€ The people said, â€œO Abu Huraira! Forty days?â€ I refused to reply. They said, â€œForty years?â€ I refused to reply.â€ You see, it does not make a difference whether they are 40 years or 40 days since time is relative to us and completely controlled by Allah (SWT).
Consequently, Uzair (AS) was amazed looking at his fresh food and at the same time his donkey that died 100 years ago. However, Allah (SWT) wanted to show him another miracle, â€œAnd thus We have made of you a sign for the people.â€ (TMQ, 2:259). The town was brought to life!
Uzair (AS) wanted to watch one miracle, yet he was granted three miracles. The first was how Allah (SWT) controlled time. The second was how the whole town was brought to life. The third was shown in what can be translated as, â€œLook at the bones, how We bring them together and clothe them with fleshâ€ (TMQ, 2:259). Uzair (AS) saw with his eyes how the bones of the donkey were brought together and how life was given to it. The word Nashaza in Arabic (used in the verse to describe the bones) comes from Nushuz (discordance) and Nashez is an example that means the disobedient wife. So such discordance (Nushuz) disappeared when the scattered bones were collected and given life to. Allah (SWT) is indeed most glorious. Hence, the bones composed a complete skeleton, then flesh started to cover it with blood vessels and all till resurrection was completed. Glorious is Allah (SWT)!
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