Posted by: Dawud Israel | January 31, 2010

Ship Stranded at Sea: 20+ Reflections on Shura:33

Bismillah, alhamdulillah wa salat was salam ala rasulullah.

The following are 20 some reflections on this ayah. The reflections are metaphorical, philosophical and imaginary in nature…not tafsir, so they are expansive and for pondering.

I should point out why this is special to me. I spent a good 2-3 days reading a 400 page book of quotations, obviously from Western sources (I think it was Bartlett’s). But then on the last day, I spent some time relaxing reading the Quran. Well, it wasn’t so relaxing because this ayah was more strenuous, more sapping of my mental abilities because it was much more meaningful than that 400 page book!

Concentrate on the imagery of this ayah!

“And among His Signs are the ships, in the sea, like mountains. If He wills, He causes the wind to cease, then they would become motionless on the back (of the sea). Verily, in this are signs for everyone patient and grateful. (Surah Shuara: 33)

wasiya kulli shay- My mercy encompasses all things

-A conversation amongst the righteous broke out as to which form of sabr (patience) is the hardest? After guessing…the answer came: Sabr (patience) WITHOUT God. The man gave a shriek and died at the thought. How can one have patience to even live without Allah?

– One can wonder: if the ship stops in the middle of the sea, has the ship arrived? Will it ever arrive? That is to say, how do we know when we are there, perhaps a detour or stopping in the middle of the sea is the goal of the journey.

-Does this ayah describe the ummah today? We are simply waiting…complacently and lazily or is it a trial? If so, then where is the patience and gratefulness we need to endure this?

– If we were in this scenario, we would wonder, “What is the time? And what place are we at?” It is like an existential vacuum, we are marooned from God, like a cripple that has feet but is paralyzed, blind/deaf/dumb.

– In this ayah we also see a warning on transportation and the excesses in our usage of it. Traffic congestion today occur regularly. We have cars that can go to 200km/h but when its a traffic congestion, where everyone has cars, the average speed of a car slows to about 5 km/h. So despite the ability to move fast, we are powerless. Just as this verse demonstrates, that no matter how capable we are, Allah can prevent us very easily, bringing all our might to a futility.

– Verse prior to this one: “And among His Signs are the ships, in the sea, like mountains.” Are then mountains moving or are they stationary and the Earth and mountains are moving alltogether, as if the ships and ocean are moving togather- both with Allah’s will? (Consider the Quran and Science articles on how mountains stabilize the Earth).

-This ayah relates to 2 other ayahs in the Quran: Fa’aina tafkhoon (So where are you wandering?)/Fa’ina tadhaboon (So where are you going)?

-There is a saying that it takes the same amount of stress to be a success as it does to be a failure. Here its the same stress- but failure and success are contingent upon God.

– I imagine this ayah represents a figurative representation of people’s progress in their journey towards Allah.

– Perhaps this ayah speaks of a representation of people’s growth and maturity, in dealing with relationships and life’s difficulties- and how they make the same mistakes over and over, not learning from them and so are always at a standstill in life. But with sabr and gratefulness, they succeed in maintaining successful relationships.

– “Nothing really happens when it happens all the time” so when the wind stops, something feels like its happening, because its challenging. And that is the utility of sabr. Similarly, then, when the wind picks up its as if something new is happening. There is then more gratefulness.

– The soft wind is considered in Islam to be a blessing and closely related to Allah’s Will. So stranded in the sea is like imprisonment and hell is where there will be no breezes or calming winds

– Now and on judgment day, our khayr is at a standstill before the ocean of the akhirah.

– Consider the phrase, “sea with out a shore” (I can’t recall the Arabic phrasing). Muslims used this term to describe great things in the past. The scholars were afraid of fighting the Crusaders and described them as a sea with out a shore, but Saladin, refused and went and fought. So the wind stopped and the Crusaders glory stood still and was destroyed by the Muslims.

– Consider the ayah above along with this ayah from Surah Kahf:109 “Say (O Muhammad SAW to mankind). “If the sea were ink for (writing) the Words of my Lord, surely, the sea would be exhausted before the Words of my Lord would be finished, even if we brought (another sea) like it for its aid.” And so we can only advance because of His Words (commands) and even that depends on his mercy (wind).

– How does the story of Nuh alayhi salam and the Ark relate to this?

– A ship marooned in the middle of the ocean without a wind is like a brain without a thought, a catatonic state.

– Or imagine a ship (marooned?) carrying sabr and shukr driven by the mercy of Allah (we can only have these through His mercy and help) stuck out in the middle of the sea and we swim so hard to get some of that constancy in sabr and shukr, but on the way there swimming hard towards that ship, we develop sabr and shukr when we arrive and it is that journey itself, that when we arrive on that ship we find ourselves with sabr and shukr; shows how hard sabr and shukr are so hard to obtain and maintain (that in reality, one must turn in on oneself, applying sabr and shukr in order to be able to give life to it).

– The sea water represents the ease with which we can move…but the absence of wind is showing how without the mercy, even ease is difficult.

– If it then rains when you are marooned like this…you may think it is not the mercy you need, but it could be only to let you survive and live, or do wudhu and pray for rescue.
– “And (it is) a Quran which We have divided (into parts), in order that you might recite it to men at intervals. And We have revealed it by stages. (in 23 years)” (17:106) …it is a mercy to have sabr and shukr and in this situation of being stuck in the middle of the sea, you would exhaust your sabr and shukr (hopeless and hateful to God), but Allah moves the ship forward bit by bit, so you make sabr and shukr in intervals and develop sabr and shukr bit by bit, in ways that are easy and within your limit (shaytaan makes you think reverse, that it is hopeless and be hateful) until you can handle much much more.

– but with your sabr, you show shukr (show gratefulness in expectation) and with your shukr you have sabr (when you are still waiting! it isn’t so bad yet)- they exist together (given time to show shukr and without theose periods of sabr, you wouldn’t show shukr and without shukr you wouldn’t be ready to show sabr)

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.


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