Nouman Khan Seminar on Surah Rahman 10/8/2011

The night before the seminar I went to bed very early, much earlier than I usually do so I could be fresh in the morning for the seminar. But unfortunately I didn’t get the sort of magical sleep I was hoping for and I ended up just lying in bed unable to turn off my overworking mind. When morning came I was exhausted and I admit there was that little voice (usually blamed on shaitan) telling me to keep sleeping, you know you need it, get some rest for a few more hours. Alhamdullah I turned that voice off and rolled out bed, showered, got dressed, ate my cheerios and orange juice and hit the road. The seminar was being held in a city about an hour away from where I live and that entire hour
I listened to my favorite reciters Sheikh Sudias and Sh. Bukhatir, already my heart was feeling inspired. The Quran recited beautifully deeply moves my heart and I hope my heart will forever respond to the recital for as long as I live. It’s a beautiful feeling.

I get there at the center twenty minutes early feeling spiritually high from listening to the Quran and reflecting a lot on life during the almost hour drive. Being on the road when alone usually provides me a great platform to reflect and I enjoy those times a lot.

When I entered the building, I paid my ticket fee and entered the main hall eager to learn new wisdom. Bro. Khan is one speaker I admire and who has taught me a lot so to listen to him in person I had high expectations and alhamdullah my expectations were not only met but surpassed.

The main hall had a long but short partition in the middle of the hall between the men and women. Very pleased with the set up I sit near the front of the women side pumped for the seminar. Bro. Nouman started his talk about 15 minutes late. He looked exactly like he does in his videos and his speech is no different. Although it was my first time seeing him in person because I had watched him a lot online I felt like I had already known him. He is a very christmatic and knowlegable speaker this I knew, but what was new to me was how funny he was. He told stories with meaning and laughter, that I laughed a lot and when each break came I was disappointed we were taking a break.

Following are the notes I took from the seminar.

He began the seminar by asking the audience to honor courtesy. He outlined the breaks and time for questioning, the sisters first then the brothers and alternating after each break. So he reminded the attendees when someone approaches him no one should cut off that person until that person has finished their discussion. For him to take the time and ask for this great but simple ethical conduct that Islam, the Sunnah of the prophet scw and hopefully our parents have taught us I felt was very telling about our Muslim community. We have these great principles, we have the example of the noble prophet and we seemed to have forgotten our manners. A lot of these little gems and reminders were found throughout his talk.

Back to the main purpose of the seminar, the sura of Rahman. To begin the discussion of the Sura he asked where the sura was in the Quran. Why is the Quran in the sequence it is in? This was already a revelation to me in looking at the Quran and we were not even five minutes into the talk. I knew the Quran was split into Meccan Sura’s and Madinah Sura’s, but I never really thought about the individual sura’s, which sura came first and the next one after it. He mentioned every sura is specially picked by Allah SWT and is in a certain neighborhood of suras for a purpose. So before Sura Rahman is Sura Qamar and after it is Sura Waqiah. He mentioned how Sura Qamar Allah begins with a miracle-the splitting of the moon, which was a major incident in the life of the prophet scw and in Sura Rahman Allah again starts with a miracle, in this case the Quran. So both Sura’s begin with a miracle and end with people sitting in jannah. I didn’t really catch the notes of Sura Waqiah.

In Sura Rahman there are 5 major subjects:
Subject 1: Greatness of the Quran
Subject 2: Allah’s favors to humanity
Subject 3: People that are ungrateful to those favors and what happens to them
Subject 4: Rewards-(there are two kinds of jannahs, one excels the other in rewards, is the higher jannah)
Subject 5: Jannah itself

He mentioned the lessons in Sura Rahman which are in reverse order with the lessons in Sura Waqiah. He talked about the reasons for this and why it was powerful, unfortunately I didn’t take good notes here (My friend was running late to the seminar during this part and I was texting her). At the end on this part he said we lack appreciation for the literary greatness of the Quran, I remember being impressed with his points here. We think about the Quran as a guide to live a good life and to stay away from what is wrong, but with every verse and order of these verses and chapters there is meaning behind it and style of the Quran is something we don’t really think about.

There are 3 conditions to effective communication, was the next part:

1) Effective communication requires good content-the content should be worthy, make sense in other words be logical and have benefit.
2)Effective communication requires style. How you say it and deliver the content is very important to get the message across. He used the example of how the Quran and Sunnah are good content, however some speakers in the masjid, imams, teachers in their style make the content lose the meaning and thus don’t deliver the message effectively.
3)Effective communication requires knowing your audience. Depending who you are communicating with your tone changes.

If you are talking to someone stubborn you have to repeat yourself a lot. When you are stopping a fight you have to yell to calm down the tension, thus depending on the audience and situation your tone changes.

For the Quran, the content, style and audience delivers an effective communication from the Creator to the creation. Each sura (chapter) in the Quran is speaking to a particular group of people. So in the Quran Allah is teaching us how to be effective communicators. So in this particular sura of Rahman who is Allah addressing? To make us understand this, Br. Nouman draws attention to the prophet scw, who was delivering the message of Islam. People originally felt bad for the prophet, they charged he was overtaken by “jiin” in other words saying he was mentally ill. So the prophet was refused, nasty stuff was said to him, he was avoided and insulted for many years while delivering the message. To bring this point home, he told the audience this was his first trip to Indiana and addressing us the audience.

Therefore if someone from the audience insulted him, said nasty stuff about him he would immediately be offended and never come back to address the audience that had trashed him. As human beings we hate to be insulted and the more decent a person is the harder it will be for that person to take insults. However If someone is surrounded by filth, disrespect, insults all the time then such a person will have no problem dishing the insults right back, however a respectful and decent person will take insults very hard and leave. The prophets of God are the most decent of people and they were insulted by their communities, the nicest thing done to them was getting laughed at. Thus the prophet scw finds himself in the same position as the prophets before him. Before conspiring to kill the prophet, people humiliate him, call him a lair, a magician. And if he was a truth teller his people challenged him to see the proof of “his god” and the warnings in his message. Therefore it is these stubborn people that deny the unseen and require proof to believe that are being addressed in Sura Rahman.

Nouman used an illustration of fire in a building to make a point for the reasoning of denying the unseen. He said the human being has the gift of language, therefore if people were at a gathering say like in a movie theater, or school etc and a reliable source came on the speakers to warn of a fire in the building, everyone would run out of the building before seeing the fire. To believe there was a fire didn’t require to see the fire or feel the fire for the human beings, they took warning by hearing the announcement. However if in that same building was a cat, would the cat understand the speaker and run out of the building? The answer is no because the cat does not have the gift of speech, it will only take warning when the fire is felt or seen. He linked the methods of the cat to the reasonings of the people that deny God. Allah has given us a higher reasoning as human beings to come to know of the existence of Him and this is what sura Rahman is about.

He mentions in this Sura Allah is taking the role of a teacher, that is the sura was revealed after 10 years of the prophet scw delivering the message and people still refusing. Therefore the audience is very stubborn and this sura is a warning from the Merciful teacher. He asks what comes to our mind when we think about the Quran. The non-Muslims hear of the Quran they will say violence, terrorism, jihad and so on. For Muslims many of them the Quran has become haram, staying away from the forbidden, rules, the last thing that comes to mind is Rahman (mercy). But the Quran is Ar-Rahman, a mercy from Allah.

He defined the meaning of Rahman in Arabic, which means being extremely mercificul right NOW (in other words the mercy is immediate). Ar-Rahiim however means mercy that is always there. The first verse of this chapter, is Ar-Rahman. The ayah or verse stops right there. Each time an ayah stops we are to think deeply about it by itself. This ayah stops with Ar-Rahman. He asks us to reflect on how Allah is being merciful to us right now, our health, our family, our children, our wealth, even getting to the seminar in one piece and not being in an accident. This was a beautiful reflection, which I can not do justice in how he described it. As Muslims he brings our attention to the one thing we should appreciate the most and that is the Quran.

How much do we really appreciate the Quran as Muslims? This was the end of the first hour of notes. We took a break and I went to talk to him in person. Immediately I liked him. He was humble and his good character was humbling. He made eye contact just enough to demonstrate he was listening, but I could see the shyness in him. As someone that is used to looking someone directly in the eye, I respected that shyness, found it beautiful and looked away myself. It felt nice being around him. He came across as just a regular brother, very nice and respectful. The question I asked him since we ended on appreciating all the favors of Allah for us was what about those who had to battle hardship, famine, disease, pain, torture, heartache. I already knew the answer to my question, I was merely interested in seeing his perspective and gaining more insight since this is a question that comes up again and again, ie what did a small child do to deserve the ugliness that has been inflicted upon him/her. We talked a good few minutes and I didn’t want to hog his time and take away from the others so I cut it short. He never cut me off or seemed rushed, which I liked very much about him. The main idea of the long conversation, we must understand the role of Master and slave. This theme was repeated again later in the seminar which I will outline. InshaAllah for now we end here.

Modesty: The Missing Element

A lot of gems in this lecture. Loved it. This brother is one of my favorite’s speakers, but I do wish he would stop using the word “animal” to describe human beings involved in immoral behaviors. I know people do that (i hear it all the time from Somali’s “waxas wa xoolo”, ie that is animalistic behavior=immodest behavior and i have used it before myself to condemn horrific actions), but in speech and conveying an important message to an audiance using the word seems harsh and wrong to me. A better term can be used to make the same point.