Surah Al-Qadr (Surah 97 – The Power) describes the Night of
Power when the Qur’an was first revealed
We have indeed revealed this (Message) in the Night of Power:
And what will explain to thee what the night of power is?
The Night of Power is better than a thousand months.
Therein come down the angels and the Spirit by God’s permission, on every errand: Peace!…This until the rise of morn!
(Surah Al-Qadr 97:1-5)
Surah Al-Qadr, though describing the Night of
Power as ‘better than a thousand months’ still asks what the Night of Power
was. What was the Spirit doing that made
the Night of Power better than a thousand months?
(Surah 92 – The Night) has a very similar theme of Day and light follow the
Night. The Day comes in Glory, and Allah guides because He knows everything
from Beginning to End. Therefore He warns us of Fire at the End.
By the Night as it conceals (the light);
By the Day as it appears in glory;
(Surah Al-Layl 92:1-2)
Verily We take upon Ourselves to guide,
And verily unto Us (belong) the End and the Beginning.
Therefore do I warn you of a Fire blazing fiercely;
(Surah Al-Layl 92:12-14)
Surah Al-Qadr and Surah
Al-Layl with the following:
And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
Do you see similarities? When I read Surah Al-Qadr and Surah Al-Layl I was reminded of this quotation. It also declare a Day rising after a Night. During the night revelation was given to prophets. It also warns us not to ignore the prophetic messages. Otherwise we face severe consequences.
This was written by the Apostle Peter, the leading disciple and companion of the Prophet Isa al Masih PBUH. Surah As-Saf (Surah 61 – The Ranks) says about the disciples of Isa al Masih:
O ye who believe! Be ye helpers of God: As said Jesus the son of Mary to the Disciples, “Who will be my helpers to (the work of) God?” Said the disciples, “We are God’s helpers!” then a portion of the Children of Israel believed, and a portion disbelieved: But We gave power to those who believed, against their enemies, and they became the ones that prevailed.
(Surah As-Saf 61:14)
Surah As-Saf declares that the disciples of Isa al Masih were ‘God’s helpers’. Those who believe the message of the disciples receive this power spoken of. As the leading disciple, Peter, was the leader of the ones helping God. Though he was a disciple of the prophet Isa al Masih PBUH, witnessing his many miracles, hearing his many teachings, and seeing his authority exercised, Peter still declared above that the words of the prophets were even ‘more certain’. Why was he more certain of the prophets than what he himself witnessed? He continues:
Above all you must understand that no prophecy of scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit
(2 Peter 1:20-21)
This tells us that the Holy Spirit of God ‘carried’ the prophets along, so that what they recited and then wrote down was ‘from God’. This is why a Night like this is better than a thousand months because it is rooted in the Holy Spirit rather than in ‘the will of man’. Surah As-Saf tells us that those who pay attention to Peter’s message will receive the Power that was exercised on the Night of Power and will prevail.
Many of us have not had the chance to read these writings for ourselves. Here, with these different links, is an opportunity. Surah Al-Layl warns of a coming Fire. Surah Al-Qadr declares that the Spirit of God was at work in the Night of Power. Surah As-Saf promises Power to those who believe the message of the disciples. Peter, leader of these disciples, then advises us to ‘pay attention’ to the revelation of the earliest prophets, given in the Night, who looked forward to the Day. Would it not be wise to know their messages?
Surah al-Mudaththir (Surah 74 – The Cloaked One) pictures the prophet PBUH wrapped in his cloak sternly giving his warnings about Judgment Day
O thou wrapped up (in the mantle)!
Arise and deliver thy warning!
And thy Lord do thou magnify!… (Surah al-Mudaththir 74:1-3)
Finally, when the Trumpet is sounded,
That will be- that Day – a Day of Distress,-
Far from easy for those without Faith. (Surah al-Mudaththir 74:8-10)
Surah Al-Kafirun (Surah 109 – The Disbelievers) pictures the prophet PBUH clearly calling out a different path from the disbelievers.
Say : O ye that reject Faith!
I worship not that which ye worship,
Nor will ye worship that which I worship.
And I will not worship that which ye have been wont to worship,
Nor will ye worship that which I worship.
To you be your Way, and to me mine. (Surah Al-Kafirun 109:1-6)
The Zabur closes by referring back to the Prophet Elijah PBUH who did exactly as Surah al-Mudaththir and Surah al-Kafirun described. But the Zabur also looks forward to the coming of another prophet who will be like Elijah and prepare our hearts. We know him as the Prophet Yahya PBUH.
The coming of the Prophet Yahya (PBUH) Foretold
We saw in the Sign of the Servant that the Servant was promised to come. But the whole promise of his coming balanced on an important question. Isaiah 53 began with the question:
Who has believed our message …? (Isaiah 53:1a)
Isaiah (PBUH) was predicting that this Servant would not be readily believed, and the problem was not with the message or the Signs of the Servant because they would be precise in timing by cycles of ‘Sevens’ as well as by name and specifying that he would be ‘cut off’. The problem was not that there were not enough signs. No, the problem was that the hearts of people were hard. So someone needed to come before the Servant came to prepare people for his coming. Therefore the prophet Isaiah (PBUH) gave this message about the one who would prepare the way for the Servant. He wrote this message in his book of the Zabur in the following way
A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the LORD;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the LORD will be revealed” Isaiah 40:3-5
Isaiah (PBUH) wrote about someone who would come ‘In the wilderness’ to ‘prepare the way for the LORD’. This person would smooth out the obstacles so that the ‘glory of the LORD will be revealed’. But Isaiah did not specify in what way this would be done.
The Prophet Malachi – Last Prophet of Zabur
About 300 years after Isaiah came Malachi (PBUH) who wrote the last book of the Zabur. In this last book Malachi (PBUH) elaborates on what Isaiah had said about a coming Preparer. He wrote:
“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. (Malachi 3:1)
Malachi (PBUH) then closes the entire Zabur with the last paragraph of his book. In that last paragraph he again looks to the future and writes:
“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.” Malachi 4:5-6
What did Malachi (PBUH) mean by ‘Elijah’ would come before the great day of the LORD? Who was Elijah? He was another prophet whom we have not looked at (we cannot look at all prophets of Zabur since it would make this too long but see him in timeline above). Elijah (PBUH) lived around 850 BC. He was famous for living in the wilderness and wearing garments of animal hair and eating wild food. He probably looked quite peculiar. Malachi (PBUH) wrote that in some way The Preparer who comes before the New Covenant will be like Elijah (PBUH).
And with that statement, the Zabur was completed. This is the last message in the Zabur and was written about 450 BC. The Taurat and the Zabur were full of promises of things to come. Let us review some.
Reviewing the Promises of Taurat & Zabur that were still unfulfilled
The Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) in the Sign of the Sacrifice had declared that on Mount Moriah it ‘will be provided’. The Jews were still waiting at the end of Zabur for this ‘providing’ to occur.
The Prophet Musa (PBUH) had said that Passover was a Sign for the Israelites, and the Israelites celebrated the Passover through all their history, but they forgot that, as a Sign, what it pointed to had not yet been revealed.
The prophet Musa (PBUH) in Taurat had predicted that a prophet would come for whom Allah had said that, “I will put my words in his mouth” . Allah had also declared in that promise of the coming Prophet that, “I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name”.
And as we saw here, the prophet Malachi (PBUH) had predicted that all this would be preceded by the coming of The Preparer. He was to Prepare the hearts of the people because our hearts are so easily hardened against the things of God.
So with the close of the Zabur in 450 BC the Jewish people lived in anticipation of the fulfillment of these wonderful promises. And they kept waiting and waiting. One generation replaced another and then still others would come – with no fulfillment of these promises.
What happened after the Zabur was completed
As we saw in the History of the Israelites, Alexander the Great conquered most of the known world in 330 BC and from these conquests the peoples and civilizations of the world adopted the Greek language. As English today has become a universal language for business, education and literature, in that time Greek was similarly dominant. Jewish teachers translated the Taurat and Zabur from Hebrew into Greek around 250 BC. This translation was called the Septuagint. As we saw here, this is where the word ‘Christ’ comes from and we saw here that this was where the name ‘Jesus’ also comes from.
During this time (300 – 100 BC which is the blue period shown in the timeline) there was an ongoing military rivalry between Egypt and Syria and with the Israelites dwelling right between these two empires they were regularly caught up in the battles. Some specific Syrian kings sought to impose the Greek religion (a religion of idol worship) on the Israelites and to eradicate their worship of One God. Certain Jewish leaders led an uprising to defend their monotheism and restore the purity of worship instituted by the Prophet Musa (PBUH). Were these religious leaders the fulfillments of these promises that the Jews awaited? These men, though faithful followers of worship as instructed in the Taurat and Zabur, did not fit the Prophetic Signs. In fact they themselves did not even claim to be prophets, just pious Jews defending their worship against idolatry.
Historical books about this period, describing these struggles that preserved the purity of worship were written. These books provide historical and religious insight and are very valuable. But the Jewish people did not regard them as being written by prophets and so these books were not included in the Zabur. They were good books, written by religious men, but they were not written by prophets. These books were known as the Apocrypha.
But because these books were useful they were often included alongside the Taurat and Zabur to give a complete history of the Jewish people. After the Injil and the message of Isa al Masih (PBUH) was written the books of Taurat, Zabur and Injil were combined into one book – al kitab or Bible. Some Bibles today will even include these books of Apocrypha, though they are not part of Taurat, Zabur or Injil.
But the promises given in Taurat and Zabur were still waiting for fulfillment. Following the Greek influences the powerful Roman Empire expanded and replaced the Greeks to rule over the Jews (this is the yellow period that comes after the blue in the timeline above). The Romans ruled efficiently but harshly. Taxes were high and the Romans tolerated no dissent. The Jewish people longed ever more for the fulfillment of the promises given in Taurat and Zabur, though in their long wait their worship became very rigid and they developed many extra rules not from the prophets but from traditions. These extra ‘commands’ seemed like good ideas when they were first suggested but they quickly replaced the original commands of the Taurat and Zabur in the hearts and minds of the Jewish teachers.
And then finally when it looked like perhaps the promises were long forgotten by Allah, the mighty angel Gabriel (Jibril) came to announce the long awaited birth of the Preparer. We know him today as the Prophet Yahya (or John the Baptist – PBUH) . But that is the beginning of the Injil, which we look at next.
In the Introduction to Zabur, I mentioned that the Prophet and King Dawood (PBUH) started the Zabur with the inspired writings of the book of Psalms, and that other books were then added by succeeding prophets. A very important prophet, considered to be one of the major prophets (because his book is so long) was Isaiah. He lived about 750 BC. The timeline below shows when Isaiah lived in comparison with the other prophets of Zabur.
Though Isaiah lived so long ago (about 2800 years ago) he made many prophecies predicting future events, as prophet Musa (pbuh) had previously said a prophet should make.
His prophecy predicts such an astounding miracle that Surah at-Tahrim (Surah 66 – The Prohibition) ayah 12 recaps it.
And Mary the daughter of ‘Imran, who guarded her chastity; and We breathed into (her body) of Our spirit; and she testified to the truth of the words of her Lord and of His Revelations, and was one of the devout (servants). (Surah At-Tahrim 66:12)
What is surah at-Tahrim describing? We turn back to Isaiah to explain the prophecy.
As explained in the Introduction to Zabur, the kings that followed Suleiman (pbuh) were mostly wicked, and this was true of the Kings in the time of Isaiah. So his book is full of warnings of coming judgment (which happened about 150 years later when Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylon – see here for history). However, he also prophesied far beyond that and looked deep into his future when Allah would send a special sign – never yet sent to humanity. Isaiah speaks to the King of Israel, who is a descendant of Dawood (pbuh), which is why this Sign is addressed to the ‘House of David’ (Dawood)
Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. He will eat curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right. (Isaiah 7: 13-15)
This was certainly a bold prediction! Who had ever heard of a virgin woman having a son? It seemed such an incredible prediction that for many years people wondered if there had been some mistake. Certainly, a man simply making a guess about the future would not state – and write down for everyone in succeeding generations to read – such a seemingly impossible prediction. But there it was. And from the Dead Sea Scrolls that exist today we know that this prophecy was in fact written long ago – hundreds of years before Isa (pbuh) was born.
Isa al Masih (pbuh) was prophesied to be born of a virgin
We today, living after Isa al Masih (pbuh), can see that it is a prophecy of his coming. No other prophet, including Ibrahim, Musa and Muhammad (pbut) was born of a virgin. Only Isa (pbuh), of all humans ever born, has come into the world in this way. So Allah, hundreds of years in advance of his birth, was giving us a Sign of his coming and was also preparing us to learn things about this coming son of a virgin. We note two things in particular.
Called ‘Immanuel’ by his mother
First, this coming son of a virgin would be called ‘Immanuel’ by his mother. This name literally means ‘God with us’. But what does that mean? It probably had several meanings, but since this prophecy was declared to the evil kings whom Allah was going to judge shortly, one important meaning was that when this son would be born it was a sign that God was no longer against them in judgment but was ‘with them’. When Isa (pbuh) was born, it seemed in fact like the Israelites had been forsaken by Allah since their enemies ruled them. The birth of the son of the virgin was a sign that God was with them, not against them. The Injil in the Gospel of Luke records that his mother Maryam (or Mary) sang a sacred song when the angel gave her the message of her coming son. This song contained the following:
“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior… His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation… He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.” (Luke 1:46-55)
You can see that Maryam, when she was informed that she would have a son though she was a virgin, understood this to mean that the Lord was remembering his Mercy to Abraham (Ibrahim) and his descendants forever. The judgments did not mean Allah was never going to be with the Israelites again.
The son of the virgin ‘rejects the wrong and chooses the right’
The amazing part of this prophecy in Isaiah is that this son ‘will eat curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right’. What Isaiah is saying is that this son, as soon as he is old enough to make conscious decisions, will ‘reject the wrong and choose the right’. I have a young son. I love him, but certainly there is no way that on his own he is rejecting the wrong and choosing the right. My wife and I have to work, teach, remind, admonish, set an example, discipline, provide the right friends, make sure he sees proper role models, etc. to teach him to reject the wrong and choose the right – and even with all our effort there is no guarantee. As a parent while I am trying to do this, it brings back memories of my childhood when my parents were in the same struggle in teaching me to ‘reject the wrong and choose the right’. If the parents do not spend all that effort and work, but just let nature takes it course – the child becomes one who does not ‘reject the wrong and choose the right’. It is as if we are struggling against a ‘moral gravity’ where as soon as we stop effort it goes downhill.
This is why we all lock the doors of our houses and apartments; why every country needs policemen; why we have banking encryption and passwords; and why we continually need to keep making new laws in all countries – because we need to protect ourselves against each other since we do not ‘reject the wrong and choose the right’.
The prophets even do not always reject the wrong and choose the right
And this is true even of the Prophets. The Taurat records that on two occasions the prophet Ibrahim (pbuh) lied about his wife saying that she was only his sister (in Genesis 12:10-13 & Genesis 20:1-2). It also records that the prophet Musa (pbuh) murdered an Egyptian (Exodus 2:12) and on one occasion did not exactly follow Allah’s command (Numbers 20:6-12). The prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is commanded to ask forgiveness in Surah Muhammad (Surah 47 – Muhammad) – showing that he too did not always reject the wrong and choose the right.
So know, [O Muhammad], that there is no deity except Allah and ask forgiveness for your sin and for the believing men and believing women. And Allah knows of your movement and your resting place. (Surah Muhammad 47:19)
The following hadith from Muslim shows how earnestly he prayed for forgiveness.
Abu Musa Ash’ari reported on the authority of his father that Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) used to supplicate in these words: “O Allah, forgive me my faults, my ignorance, my immoderation in my concerns. And Thou art better aware (of my affairs) than myself. O Allah, grant me forgiveness (of the faults which I committed) seriously or otherwise (and which I committed inadvertently and deliberately. All these (failings) are in me. O Allah, grant me forgiveness from the fault which I did in haste or deferred, which I committed in privacy or in public and Thou art better aware of (them) than myself. Thou art the First and the Last and over all things Thou art Omnipotent.” (Muslim 35: 6563)
This is very similar to the prayer of prophet Dawood (pbuh) when he prayed for forgiveness for his sins:
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin…Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow…. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. (Psalm 51:1-9)
So we see that these men – though they are prophets – struggle with sin and need to ask for forgiveness. This seems to be the universal human condition of all the descendants of Adam.
The Holy son of the virgin
But this son prophesied by Isaiah rejects the wrong and chooses the right naturally and right from his early age. It is instinct for him. For that to be possible he must have a different lineage. All the other prophets, through their fathers, trace back to Adam, and he did not ‘reject the wrong and chose the right’ as we saw. As genetics passes the nature of the father to his descendants, so this rebellious nature of Adam passed to all of us and even to the prophets. But the son born of a virgin, by definition, would not have Adam in his lineage as a father. The parental line of this son would be different, and so he would be holy. This is why the Qur’an, when recounting the angelic message to Maryam about her virgin-born son, called the son ‘holy’
He (the angel) said: “Nay, I am only a messenger from thy Lord, (to announce) to thee the gift of a holy son. She (Maryam) said: “How shall I have a son, seeing that no man has touched me, and I am not unchaste?” He said: “So (it will be): Thy Lord saith, ‘that is easy for Me: and (We wish) to appoint him as a Sign unto men and a Mercy from Us’:It is a matter (so) decreed.” So she conceived him, (Surah 19:19-22) Maryam
The Prophet Isaiah (pbuh) was clear, and the later Books agree – there was a son coming who would be born of a virgin, thus having no earthly father and would not have this nature of sin, and would thus be Holy.
Flashback to Adam in Paradise
But it is not only the later books that speak of this coming son of the virgin. It was also there from the beginning. We saw in the Sign of Adam that Allah had Spoken a Promise to Satan. I repeat it here.
“And I (Allah) will put enmity between you (Satan) and the woman (Eve), and between your offspring and hers; he (offspring of woman) will crush your (Satan) head, and you (Satan) will strike his (offspring of woman) heel.” (Genesis 3:15)
Allah will orchestrate that both Iblis/Satan and the woman will have an ‘offspring’. There will be ‘enmity’ or hatred between these offspring and between the woman and Satan. Satan will ‘strike the heel’ of the offspring of the woman while the offspring of the woman will ‘crush the head’ of Satan. These relationships are seen in this diagram.
Please note that Allah never promised the man an offspring like he promises the woman. This is quite extraordinary especially given the emphasis of sons coming through fathers through the Taurat, Zabur & Injil (al kitab/ Bible). In fact, one criticism of these Books by modern Westerners is that they ignore the blood lines that go through women. It is ‘sexist’ in their eyes because it just considers sons of men. But in this case it is different – there is no promise of an offspring (a ‘he’) coming from a man. It says only that there will be an offspring coming from the woman, without mentioning a man.
Isaiah’s ‘son of a virgin’ IS the ‘offspring of the woman’
Now from the perspective of Isaiah’s clear prophecy of a son from a virgin it is clear that what was meant even long ago in the Garden was that an offspring (son) would come from a woman only (thus a virgin). I urge you to go back and read this discussion in the Sign of Adam from this perspective and you will see that it ‘fits’. All the sons of Adam from the beginning of history suffer the same problem of not ‘rejecting the wrong and choosing the right’ as our ancestor Adam did. So Allah, right then when sin came into the world, made a promise that someone holy and not from Adam would come and ‘crush’ Satan’s head.
But how was this holy son going to do this? If it was about giving a message from Allah, the other prophets like Ibrahim and Musa (pbut) had already faithfully given messages. No, the role of this holy son was different, but to understand this we need to explore further in the Zabur.