Tafseer Maryam Day 2 Ayat 1-4

  • Imam Qurtubi : the 1st 3/4 of the surah talks about the need of people for children, how it’s a human desire to want child, starting with Zakariya then Isa then Ibrahim, Ismail, Ishaq, Yaqoub, subtle reminder of human need for a child
  • end of surah a harsh refutation that Allah has a child
  • emotional weakness of human being – to want a child
  • and Allah is above and beyond of any type of weakness
  • this surah begins like 29 other surah in the Quran -> with disjointed letters

Ayat 1

Sahih International

Kaf, Ha, Ya, ‘Ayn, Sad.

  • meaning:-
  • majority opinion -> Allah knows best
  • even in very reliable books of tafaseer, where they base it on narrations, some sahabah and scholars took certain inspirations from these
  • Ibn Abbas :- isn’t Allah the most knowing?
  • Ibn Umar saying”He suffices fr His Slaves, each letter stands for attribute of Allah
  • Ali r.a. heard by his students starting his dua by saying these letters and then making dua
  • at the end of the day, none of these narrations are strong enough to derive any type of opinion or interpretation
  • this just mentioned because this is an academic session
  • so what purpose do they serve?

reflection –

  • powerful reminder, no matter how much you know there is always something you don’t know
  • it grabs you right off from the beginning
  • remember before you start reading remember you don’t know anything, Allah knows everything
  • a wake up call at the beginning

from linguistic standpoint:

  • these letters are letters of the language, what the entire language is constructed of
  • Quran revealed at time of peak of eloquence for an entire race of people
  • to shock, awe, inspire, challenge them intellectually and spiritually
  • they have never heard them used in this fashion before
  • it wasn’t an alien sound, it was their own letters but recited in such a beautiful manner
  • the greatest poet never thought something like this is possible
  • impact of these huruf muqatt’aat :- grabs attention
  • imagine if the speaker is talking and suddenly speaker says, “Hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh” you will get people’s attention for sure
  • but Quraysh would make noise when Quran was recited
  • so these huruf muqata’at would grab their attention
  • this was the literary power
  • we don’t have that level of eloquence of the language, most of us don’t know the language, but it still doesn’t matter, when Quran recited it still amazes all of us
  • 29 places in the Quran opens with this type of opening
  • 24 out of these 29, immediately after, the Quran is mentioned
  • what about the other 5? Maryam is one of those 5
  • the next ayah after this has no mention of the Quran

3 understandings:

  • even if Quran not explicitly mentioned, it’s implicitly mentioned (here it’s zhikru – the mention of mercy of your Lord – alluding to the Quran)
  • in those 5 surah, the end of the surah ends by talking about the Quran
  • scenario – teacher calling student “Nihal, come get your assignment. Wasif, come get your assignment.” and after a while, you don’t need to say “come get your assignment,” anymore
  • it’s part of training of your student that you call their name and they know what is expected of them
  • so the 24 out of the 29, Quran is immediately mentioned after
  • but after this ‘programming’ , don’t need to say it immediately anymore
  • so it’s training the mind of the listener, that after hearing these hurf muqatta’aat don’t need to have Quran mentioned directly anymore, they know they have to pay attention now

Ayat 2

Sahih International

[This is] a mention of the mercy of your Lord to His servant Zechariah

  • mercy of your Lord
  • not rahmatillah (mercy of Allah)
  • ka – addressed to Prophet saw
  • khabr -zhikru
  • subject omitted, it’s assumed that this is the mention of the mercy of your lord

Why omitted?

  • scholars say it doesn’t focus energy so much onto ‘what this is’ but rather it focuses on ‘what is the point of this’
  • when you remove subject, you are automatically giving more attention to the predicate
  • it removes “this’ and just mentioned “mention of mercy of your Lord..”
  • gets to the point immediately
  • it emphasizes it by omitting it
  • throughout this surah there is that tone of omitting of the endings
  • all of that emphasizes a sense of urgency, desperation
  • when person calling out to Allah he says Rabbee
  • when he omits the ending and says Rabbi and drops the ya that shows urgency on part of person making dua
  • entire surah has powerful emotional undertone
  • it doesn’t mention Allah by name
  • but says Rabbika

reason why Rabb is used

  • this surah talks about blessing Zakariya a.s. with son at very advance age
  • blessing Isa to Maryam
  • of Ibrahim advising his father
  • continuous lineage of sons
  • aspect of family emphasized, so attribute of Allah as Rabb mentioned
  • rabb – He creates, provides, nourishes
  • to bring that emotional tone right from the very beginning
  • this surah gave an introduction to Zakariya a.s. as His slave

significance of that :

  • Zakariyya lived up to task of being slave of Allah
  • he didn’t think of impossibility, but he made dua anyway
  • surah Kahf and Israa opens with mention of slave of Allah and there it refers to Muhammad saw

Why isn’t Prophet saw being addressed in this ayah?

  • it was revealed shortly after dawah went public, oppression started, Muslims facing great odds, all odd stacked against Prophet saw
  • Allah quickly points to Prophet saw and that this surah is going to remind you of mercy that is bestowed on Zakariyyah a.s.
  • all odds were against Zakariya a.s., logic tells you he cannot have a child but Allah gave him a child
  • “…all odds are against you now Oh Muhammad saw, but like Allah showered His mercy on Zakaria a.s. He will shower His mercy upon you too…”
  • “Oh Muhammad (saw), I haven’t forgotten about you. Hang in there.”
  • Allah consoles Prophet saw
  • not that prophet saw was a weak person, but it reminds us of the human side of the Prophet saw
  • he (saw) did feel pain
  • it displays the love that Allah has for him (saw)

Ayat 3

Sahih International

When he called to his Lord a private supplication.

  • izh – in Arabic used for ‘remember back when’, past tense, something that has already occurred, part of history

naada –

  • comes from nidaa
  • we are more familiar with word du’a
  • nidaa is different from du’a
  • du’a :- when you call out and they can hear you and you know they can hear you
  • nidaa :- when you call out of desperation and their might be no one there to listen to you, you’re just calling out of the desperation
  • ‘he just let out a cry’
  • Zakariya a.s. called out from yearning in his heart
  • naadaa is on a specific pattern
  • Arabic is a language of pattern
  • pattern brings implication
  • here, it implies mutual action – two people calling out to one another
  • in cases where it’s illogical for it to be such (like here), then it’s used for emphasis
  • he didn’t just call out but he cried out very emphatically
  • to his lord and his master


  • khafiyy – for something to be very quiet, light, subtle
  • seems like q contradiction, but it’s not
  • he was crying out to Allah
  • you don’t need to be loud for Allah to hear you, it just needs to come from the heart
  • because of khafiyyan, we understand that nidaa implies that he was pouring his heart out but not necessarily loudly
  • in surah israa : tadharru’an wa khufyatan
  • tadharru’an :- with humility, with subjectiveness, humbling yourself before Allah
  • khufyatan :- very quietly
  • interpretations from this:
  • scholars discuss if this is evidence for making dua silently if it’s best to do so or what
  • qurtubi said sad ibn abi waqqas narrate from Prophet saw “the best zhikr of Allah is one that is done quietly and the best sustenance from Allah is that which is enough”
  • from this, we can extrapolate that it’s best to make dua quietly and privately
  • whether you make it loudly or quietly, does it make any difference to Allah? No, because He hears
  • but scholars point out that when person makes dua quietly and silently it’s more safe in terms of sincerity of the person, can save him from showing off, vanity
  • for purposes of educating people or in public gathering for public of attendees, yes dua can be made out loud but that is the exception to the rule
  • when you want to cry out your heart before Allah, would you rather do that in private or public? Private
  • easier for you to get it out of your system in private
  • this is what is being emphasized here
  • Hasan Basri says
  • nidaa2an la riyaa fiihi – dua of Zakariya had no showing off in it
  • some scholars says he wants to scream and cry, emphasizing human side of him but he’s not able to, because he was an extremely old man, losing voice, ends up crying, making dua, and in that situation whatever little voice you have is gone
  • he starts out calling out to his lord and gets more emotional, passionate and eventually loses voice and becomes silently
  • he cried so much that he lost his voice
  • this teaches us how strong our conviction should be in Allah’s ability to answer our dua
  • there shouldn’t be the slightest bit of doubt
  • lay everything on the line
  • from Zakariya’s perspective, he himself says he is an extremely old man “I’m super super old! and my wife couldn’t bear children when when she was young, but that doesn’t affect my conviction. I’m going to sit here and beg and cry Ya Allah as if I’m a 28-year-old. You can give Ya Allah”
  • that insistence is like that of how a child cries and begs the parents bec child knows parent has soft spot for him
  • this is already a powerful imagery
  • but Allah wants to complete the picture -> next ayah

Ayat 4

Sahih International

He said, “My Lord, indeed my bones have weakened, and my head has filled with white, and never have I been in my supplication to You, my Lord, unhappy.

  • Rabbi should be Rabbee but ya dropped due to desperation
  • wahana –
  • for something to become extremely weak
  • specifically used when talking of body of a person
  • something strong and solid to get worn out over time
  • used as a metaphor for the body because the human body is very strong

al’azhdm – bones of the body

  • my bones are very weak, falling apart
  • something strong, bone, that even something so strong that is the last to decompose
  • even my bones are crumbling and has become very weak Ya Allah


  • for fire to flame up
  • comes from root that means flame, like flame of a fire
  • head has ‘flamed up’

shayb – to become old

  • head has flamed up in terms of becoming old
  • he is referring to oldness
  • hair is going white


  • metaphor:-

1. fire has a glow, so naturally white is brighter than black or brown hair

  • “my hair is starting to glow”

2. fire consumes anything around it

  • the white in my hair is eating away at the black in my hair, it’s growing, spreading rapidly
  • walam akun – and I have never been
  • bidu’aaika
  • ba => in exchange of making du’a to You
  • shaqiiy – antonym of sa’id
  • sa’ada – to have good fortune
  • shaqaawah – to be unfortunate, deprived
  • up to this point I have never experienced that in exchange of making dua to you that I have been deprived
  • every time I have made du’a to You, I have never been left deprived, benefited, whether it’s what I want or not that is a different story but I’ve always benefited
  • these are 2 contrasting statements
  • the previous one – I’m getting so old, not just hair going white, but also beard, eyelashes, eyebrow
  • this is tadharru‘ – humbling oneself, stating one’s weakness
  • when you want to win favor os someone you want to let them know how desperate you are
  • this is not just anyone, this is Allah
  • it’s praiseworthy to state our own state, weaknesses because that attracts mercy of Allah
  • “Oh Allah without Your help I’m pathetic.”
  • when journey of Taif Happened and P saw escaped brutality he (saw) said “oh Allah I complain to you of my weakness and my lack of resources and my lack of dignity and respect in eyes of people..”
  • he’s (saw)saying “I’m the problem Ya Allah”
  • but 2nd part is equally powerful and beautiful
  • he is also establishing fact that he has never walked away empty-handed whenever he made dua to Allah,
  • “You’ve taken care of me Ya Allah.”
  • story about a poet:- Haatim at Taa”i (famous person in Arab folklore known for his generosity) – one day man came to ask for favor. He starts with “I’m the same guy you have been good to so many times before.” Haatim responds ,”Welcome come on in, there is nothing better than the one who seeks my good favor through my own generosity.”
  • what better way to get on someone’s good side than to mention the favor he has done on you?


  • When you make dua to Allah, pour your heart out, nothing is impossible

Link to tafseer series on MuslimMatters


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