Chapter 5: Why Ya Sin?

Immediately following is a chapter from ‘Ya Sin, Towards the Heart of the Qur’aan,’ a recently completed story by Umm Muhemmed, which follows from ‘A Qur’aanic Odyssey, Towards Juz Amma’. ‘Ya Sin’ narrates the family’s ongoing journey through the Qur’aan with a focus on Surah Ya Sin, the surah they set out to learn following completion of Juz Amma, throughout the month of Ramadan.  Although each of the chapters are connected, each one may be read as a stand-alone text as well.

Setting: Sunday morning, nearby park
Characters: Ibrahim, Abdurrahman, Khadija, Amna and Nani

Ibrahim has grabbed two limbs and is hanging freely between them. From where I am sitting with Abdurrahman, I can barely make out his face behind all the leaves.

Janu, please go see what he’s up to,” I say to Abdurrahman, who has been sitting quietly, trying to complete extra rounds of thikr on his tasbeeh. “It’s pretty high, and I know I can neither reach nor catch him,” I add.

“I’m going,” says Abdurrahman, standing up quickly, sensing my concern. “But, just so you know,” he says, turning back to me, “little boys were made to climb trees. I think your mother would vouch for me on that one too.”

My mother, who is squatting in a tree-shaded sandbox, nearby with Amna, nods her head and smiles.

Abdurrahman makes his way over to the tree, putting his tasbeeh away in his pocket as he walks. “So why so high bambino?” asks Abdurrahman.

“Papa, what do you mean? I just heard you, ‘little boys were made to climb trees’,” Ibrahim repeats.

“You’re right, I’m right, and mamas were made to worry,” says Abdurrahman smiling and grabbing the lower branch. Within another minute, he has climbed up to Ibrahim, and is hanging alongside, albeit with his feet dangling another three feet below.

“You know Ammi was telling me about Muslim athletes in Ramadan when she was growing up. Were you one?”

Bambino, you know I’m only a ten year-old Muslim, but let’s just say, I have played a couple of good rounds of soccer before iftar, with Taleem, that is, before you and Amna came along and ate up all my energy.”

“Papa, we don’t eat your energy,” responds Ibrahim.

“You know what I mean. So, a penny for your thoughts? What have you been strategizing up here?”

“Planning,” says Ibrahim.

“Planning what?” Abdurrahman responds.

“A game I am going to play with Yaseen when he comes over next time. I’ll take that branch up there and then he can have the lower one, and then we’ll fight the black lizards with our double edged swords.”

“What black lizards?”

“The ones that are taking over our planet,” says Ibrahim, in a very serious tone.

“Of course,” smiles Abdurrahman.

“Papa,” Ibrahim says, pausing. “Why do you and Ammi and Hafidha Rabia want me to learn Surah Yā Sīn now? You know how long it is…four Surah An Nabas lined up?” which seems to have become Ibrahim’s refrain about Yā Sīn this past week.[1]

“You know someone once said basically that if you recite Surah Yā Sīn at fajr, you’ll be happy all day,” responds Abdurrahman.

“Who said that?” queries Ibrahim.

“Who do you think?” Abdurrahman responds.

“Ammi?”

“Well, she may have reminded me of it, but no, think a little bit harder.”

“I give up,” says Ibrahim.

“You never give up, bambino. You’re Nonna’s grandson and she doesn’t allow quitters,” says Abdurrahman.

“Neither does Nani,” adds Ibrahim. “Ok, so if it’s not Ammi…and it’s not you,” he says looking at Abdurrahman for confirmation. “Then, maybe, Ammi’s papa?”

“Try again.”

“Papa, I’m lost. You aren’t giving me enough clues. In any real detective case, you have to give the detective clues.”

“Or the detective has to look for the clues,” responds Abdurrahman.

“Ok, so, was it a boy or a girl?” asks Ibrahim.

“A man,” Abdurrahman responds.

“Is he alive?” Ibrahim continues.

“No,” says Abdurrahman.

“Was he good or evil, like the black lizards?”

“He was the best,” says Abdurrahman.

“Really? Papa, are you sure he was real?”

“Yes, very sure. I’ve changed my life I’m so sure.”

“Papa, you just gave away the answer. It was Prophet Muhemmed,” says Ibrahim.

Salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam,” adds Abdurrahman, then continuing, “yes, and he also said that Yā Sīn is the heart of the Qur’aan.”[2]

“What else, Papa?”

“For reciting Yā Sīn you receive the reward of reading the Qur’aan ten times,” responds Abdurrahman.[3]

“Ten times?” Ibrahim exclaims, “I haven’t even finished one time. So you mean if I finish Yā Sīn before I finish reading the whole Qur’aan, I’ve already finished it?”

Abdurrahman smiles, again. “I think we should ask your mother about that one, or maybe Hafidha Rabia. That’s a technicality I don’t quite get.”

“So, anything else?” probes Ibrahim, who is still hanging, with his feet dangling between the two trees.

Bambino, don’t you want to put your feet down on the ground for a minute?”

“Papa, I’m starting my fast at noon, and I’ve got all the energy in the world. I think I could hang here all day, even if I were fasting.”

“It’s a pretty cool spot,” adds Abdurrahman. “And to answer your question, I do have more ahadith, a lot more, but let’s take them one at a time. They mean more that way, sort of like your ayah, which I have been meaning to ask you about. Did you get it before we left this morning?”

“Errr,” says Ibrahim, looking around as though he’s guilty, then shakes his head.

“Ok, well then, let me take you through it now. Ayah six right, that’s what your mother said you were on today.”

Ibrahim nods.

Abdurrahman starts reciting quietly until he gets to ayah six, then pronounces it out loud for Ibrahim to hear, “Li-tundhira qawman-ma undhira aba’ uhum fahum ghafilun.” He repeats it again, and again. Ibrahim closes his eyes, as he listens, then starts to move his lips. Then both are silent for a minute.

“Papa, I think I got it,” says Ibrahim.

“Of course you do,” responds Abdurrahman, “but you have to promise me, you’ll go look in your mushaf when we get home. Your mama is not going to be happy if she thinks we cut any corners.”

“Don’t worry Papa, we’re not going to make her worried….can you tell me what it means now?” asks Ibrahim.

“Don’t quote me on this, but I think it has to do with Prophet Muhemmed Salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam warning people whose fathers didn’t warn them, and who didn’t obey Allah Subhanahu wa-ta‘ala’s command, but again, let’s go look it up when we are at home.”[4]

“So, like you?” says Ibrahim.

“What?” responds Abdurrahman.

“Like you, your father wasn’t Muslim,” Ibrahim says.

“No, I take your point, but alhumdulilah, he was a very good man,” Abdurrahman says. “And that’s the way I want you to think of him, bambino. And maybe one day when I’m gone, you’ll remember me with your children, inshaa Allah.”

“I’ll remember you Papa, don’t worry, but first, help me get up to the next branch, and then the one after that and then that one up there. I want to surprise Ammi and show her we can go all the way to the top.”

“Ibrahim, your mother will never forgive me. So, how about, we go up to the next branch, but we don’t make a scene. Just you and me, for a minute, and we leave the other branches for another day, ok bambino?”

“You make good deals, Papa. Ok, just one more branch, and one more time on Yā Sīn and then we’ll go back to the sandbox,” says Ibrahim, starting to hoist his legs up.


[1] The fictitious character Hafidha Rabia, who featured more prominently in A Qur’aanic Odyssey, Towards Juz Amma, teaches the family remotely, from Jakarta. As previously noted, ‘hafidha’ is the honorary title given to a woman who has memorized the Qur’aan (the male designation is ‘hafidh’ also spelled ‘hafiz’). The name

‘Rabia’ means ‘spring’ in Arabic. Among the most renowned personages to hold the name ‘Rabia’ in Islamic history is ’Rabia al Basri’, the 8th century, Sufi mystic. During Ramadan, as mentioned in the ‘Cast of Characters’, lessons with Hafidha Rabia have been suspended, however, progress and review, with the immediate family, still continue apace.

[2] The hadith transmitted by ‘Ataa bin Abi Rabaah RA states that the Prophet SAW said: “Whosoever recites Surah Yā Sīn in the early part of the day his needs will be fulfilled,” (Mishkaat); furthermore, under the commentary of the above hadith it is explained: “ones worldly needs and the needs pertaining to the deen and the Hereafter will be fulfilled.”

[3] “Everything has a heart and the heart of the Qur’an is Yā Sīn. Anyone who reads it, God will write down for him ten readings of the Qur’an,” as recorded by Anas (Tirmidhi Hadith Collection).

[4] As translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, “In order that thou mayest admonish a people, whose fathers had received no admonition, and who therefore remained heedless (of the Signs of Allah),” (1989, p.1117).

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