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FaithPractice

Get to Know Your Qur’an: Surah Ale Imran

How well do you know the themes and merits of Surah Ale Imran?

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How well do you know the themes and merits of Surah Ale Imran?

The Holy Qur’an is a treasure trove of wisdom, inspiration and motivation. The Holy Qur’an is not a book but appears in book form in this worldly life. The reality of the Qur’an is difficult to comprehend. It’s a timeless entity full of guidance for whoever wishes to take heed.

We should strive to get to know the Holy Qur’an as much as possible. We may not always have time to read it but reading about it may be the next best thing. In light of that, we present a short blog on Surah Ale Imran.

Surah Ale Imran: An Overview

The English translation of Surah Ale Imran is literally the Family of Imran. The chapter was revealed in Medina. According to Tafhim-ul Qu’ran by Abdul Alaa Maududi, the large majority of it was revealed in the third year after hijra but there is an argument that a small minority of verses may have been revealed in the 10th year after hijra during the Mubahala between the Prophet and a group of Christians from Najran.

Although revealed after the hijra, Surah Ale Imran comes early on in the Qur’an at chapter three and contains 200 verses making it the fourth largest chapter in the Holy Book.

Surah Ale Imran: Main Themes

The Story of Jesus and John

Imran is the father of Maryam who is, of course, the mother of Jesus. In verses, 35-64 of the chapter, Allah (SWT) reiterates the story of Zachariah, Mary and Jesus. In summary, Zachariah was a Prophet who was the guardian (wali) of Mary in the absence of her father. Mary would spend time in solitude and in worship and would be brought fruits from heaven by Allah (SWT). One day, Archangel Gabriel appeared in the form of a man to give Mary the news of Jesus:

Remember when the angels proclaimed, “O Mary! Allah gives you good news of a Word from Him, his name will be the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary; honoured in this world and the Hereafter, and he will be one of that nearest ˹to Allah.”

(3:45)

Mary is astonished at how she could possibly give birth given no man has yet to touch her. God responds by saying: Allah creates what He wills.

A few verses earlier a similar theme is repeated. A conversation between Zachariah and Allah (SWT) where God promises Zachariah a son, John (or Yahya). In a similar fashion to Mary, Zachariah asks how it’s possible because he is old and his wife barren. Once again, Allah (SWT) says: Allah does what He wills.

With these two stories, especially the story of Jesus’ birth, Allah (SWT) is indirectly dispelling the myths that Jesus had a father or that he is the son of God. It makes sense for these discussions to take place after the hijra because that is the first time Muslims were properly exposed to the People of the Book namely the Jews and Christians and their ideologies,

The Event of Mubahila

Living in a city like Medina, which at the time had followers from many religions, naturally led to arguments and debates. One such was between the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) and the Christians who came from Najran. This event took place approximately one year before the Prophet’s passing away. Here’s the verse in relation to this event:

Should anyone argue with you concerning him, after the knowledge that has come to you, then say: ‘Come! Let us call our sons and your sons, our women and your women, our souls and your souls, then let us pray earnestly and call down Allah’s curse upon the liars’.”

(3:61)

Here’s what happened:

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After the conquest of Mecca, the Prophet sought to expand the reach of Islam to other regions. He sent a letter to the Grand Bishop of Najran. After receiving the letter, a group of prominent Christians decided to visit Medina and have discussions with the Muslims. Upon reaching, they began a dialogue with the Prophet concerning Jesus specifically the identity of his father. Allah (SWT) answered the Christians with the revelation of the following verse at that moment:

Verily, the similitude of Jesus with Allah is as the similitude of Adam; Allah created him out of dust, then said to him, ‘Be’, and he became.”

(3:59)

Using the example of Adam, God easily proves why it is possible for Jesus to have a similar ‘birth’ as such.

At the end of the discussions, it was decided that they’d perform Mubahala. This is a dua done by both parties who pray to God to curse the party who is in the wrong. The condition of the Mubahala (as verse 61 indicates) is to bring your sons, women and your soul or self. On the day of the Mubahala, the Prophet came with his grandchildren Hussain and Hasan (sons) and Fatima (women.) The Prophet also brought Imam Ali which means the Prophet chose him as his soul.

The Christians decided at the last minute to not go ahead with the Mubahala. The Bishop is quoted as saying:

O Christians! Surely I see the faces that if they ask Allah to remove a mountain from its place, He would surely remove it. Therefore, do not do imprecation, otherwise you will perish, and there will not remain any Christian on the face of the earth, upto the Day of Resurrection.”

This story is mentioned in many sources such as Tafsir al-Qummi and Tafsir al-Thalabi. Additionally, it is mentioned in Sahih Bukhari that when the verse “Let us call our sons and your sons” was revealed, the Prophet called Ali, Fatima, Hasan and Hussain (Sahih Muslim, Vol.2, Page 287 {Vol.4 pg. 1285 English version} [Book 31 no.5915]).

Other Themes in Surah Ale Imran

The Surah also touches on the battles of Badr and Uhud. There is more of an emphasis on the battle of Uhud perhaps because it was the battle the Muslims lost and so there were lessons to be learnt. They lost it because select companions disobeyed the Prophet and left the position he had asked them to cover to try and accumulate war spoils for themselves.

Merits of Reciting Surah Ale Imran

The Prophet referrers to Surah Ale Imran as one of the “bright ones” along with Surah Baqarah. It will intercede for the reciter on the Day of Judgement. The hadith in Muslim says:

Recite the Qur’an, for on the Day of Resurrection it will come as an intercessor for those who recite It. Recite the two bright ones, al-Baqara and Surah Al ‘Imran, for on the Day of Resurrection they will come as two clouds or two shades, or two flocks of birds in ranks, pleading for those who recite them. Recite Surah al-Baqara, for to take recourse to it is a blessing and to give it up is a cause of grief, and the magicians cannot confront it.’

In other narrations, we are encouraged to recite it on a Friday.

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