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Surah Fatir (#35) tafsir class 2 – The Angels (cont.)

Assalamo aleikum,

This is the second lecture on the tafsir of Surah Fatir. Sheikh Azhar Nasser talks about continues going in depth describing the role of angels and the blessings of Allah.

The PowerPoint from the lecture is available right below the lecture

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Surah Fatir (#35) tafsir class 1 – The Angels

Assalamo aleikum,

This is the first lecture on the tafsir of Surah Fatir. Sheikh Azhar Nasser talks about the context behind this surah and goes in depth describing the angels.

The powerpoint from the lecture is available right below the lecture

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Complete Tafsir of Surah Ar-Rum

Assalamo aleikum,

Alhamdolillah, the tafsir of Surah Ar-Rum (#30) is now complete.

Here is the full series:

Next, Sheikh Azhar Nasser will be beginning the tafsir of Surah Fatir (#35)

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New Tafsir: The Subtle Types of Shirk – Surah Ar-Rum

Lecture 7 on Surah Ar-Rum is now available.  In it Sheikh Azhar Nasser talks about the forms of shirk that even believers risk succumbing to. These include looking to other entities for success, showing off, and valueing anything over Islam

Class Notes

Below are my personal notes from the lecture you can use for reference. Please note that these are very raw notes and most likely contain many errors (all my own).

Sharing these notes is something new I’m trying. If you find them useful please let me know and I’ll continue sharing them

Verse 30 discusses the Fitrah of the human being

Prophet: every new born child possesses this innate knowledge, this recognition of a higher power.

Imam Sadiq: We are born with an innate knowledge of tawhid.

Surah Al-Araaf:172 – Allah made all humans testify to His rubbubiat.

  • People have forgotten this encounter, but they will remember it one day
  • If it wasn’t for this pre-temporal encounter, people would complain of being unaware of Allah
  • MW: This has an interesting tie in with how our fitrah is innately inclined to Allah

Flow of the Surah:

  • A divine promise made that the Romans will be successful after their recent defeat.
  • Allah discusses many signs of his power and knowledge
  • Allah discusses fitrah, an internal sign of god

مُنِيبِينَ إِلَيْهِ وَاتَّقُوهُ وَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَلَا تَكُونُوا مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ {31}

[Shakir 30:31] Turning to Him, and be careful of (your duty to) Him and keep up prayer and be not of the polytheists

[Pickthal 30:31] Turning unto Him (only); and be careful of your duty unto Him and establish worship, and be not of those who ascribe partners (unto Him);

[Yusufali 30:31] Turn ye back in repentance to Him, and fear Him: establish regular prayers, and be not ye among those who join gods with Allah,-

Our Fitrah has a purpose: to serve as an impetus to seeking Allah

When you recognize God, the second command is to have taqwa: to be conscious of him

  • Taqwa: Fulfilling the wajibaat and avoiding the muharramaat
    • An all-encompassing attitude
  • Taqwa is the totality of Allah’s’ obligations
    • But among those commandments one good deed has been singled out (Establishing Salat) and one bad deed is singled out (Shirk)
  • What is the difference between performing Salat and Establishing Salat?
    • Establishing Salat means observing the external etiquettes (the wajibaat and some of the mustahabbaat, removing distractions, wearing proper clothes, etc. Treating it as a private audience with Allah)
    • More importantly: Observing the internal etiquettes: Have the presence of heart, focusing. We should be preparing ourselves for salaat before we even reach the prayer mat. Recite the ahkam while doing wuzu, etc.  If our mind is still too active then sit quietly on the prayer mat first to calm your mind. Recite something to remind you of Allah
    • Consider Wuzu a form of ibadat itself
    • Something as simple as wearing our best clothes triggers our brains to think of it as important
  • “Do not be among those who commit shirk” – Does this mean do not be one of those people or do not spend time with such people?
    • If someone is having a bad influence on you and are distancing you from Allah, then that relationship is a liability.
    • But if you feel like you can be a positive influence eon them then that can be a good thing if that’s your intention.
  • Shirk:
    • All other sins stem from a type of Shirk
    • Can you talk about the types of shirk that believers may need to watch out for more? What forms of shirk are we at risk of committing?
      • Believing in more than one God
      • Shirk ul Khafee – Assigning independence to the God’s creation (doctor, medicine, pilot, etc) instead of seeing God as the ultimate cause
      • Shirk ul Ta’a – Allah commands one thing but giving more weight to your cultural practices/community figures
      • Shirk of Showing off – Seeking the attention/praise of people
  • Every type of tawhid has a corresponding shirk

مِنَ الَّذِينَ فَرَّقُوا دِينَهُمْ وَكَانُوا شِيَعًا ۖ كُلُّ حِزْبٍ بِمَا لَدَيْهِمْ فَرِحُونَ {32}

[Shakir 30:32] Of those who divided their religion and became seas every sect rejoicing in what they had with them

[Pickthal 30:32] Of those who split up their religion and became schismatics, each sect exulting in its tenets.

[Yusufali 30:32] Those who split up their Religion, and become (mere) Sects,- each party rejoicing in that which is with itself!

Continuing discussing those who commit shirk.

Those who divided their religion and become factions, each party rejoicing in that which it has.

  • Breaking into sects is equated to a type of shirk

Imam Sadiq: There are some people who may not worship a thing but are still fully obedient to it

  • Polytheism of Worship vs Polytheism of Obedience

Saqifa was caused by a form of Shirk – by people who would rather obey their own souls than God

  • Surah 45:3 – The one who takes their desires as God

“Each party rejoicing in that which it has”

  • Referring to the blind support we give to those we see as members of our sect
  • Could this be referring to people thinking they’re more special compared to the other groups?

Surah Qasas:18 – When Musa comes out of the palace and is walking in the streets, he sees an Israelite fighting with an Egyptian. Musa comes to the help of his clan member Israelite who was being oppressed and inadvertently killed the Egyptian. Musa later sees the same Israelite who’s in a fight with another Egyptian who is calling out to him for help again. This time Musa told him “you are in manifest error”

  • We shouldn’t have unconditional support for people just because we see them as members of our own group. Our allegiance should be for justice

وَإِذَا مَسَّ النَّاسَ ضُرٌّ دَعَوْا رَبَّهُمْ مُنِيبِينَ إِلَيْهِ ثُمَّ إِذَا أَذَاقَهُمْ مِنْهُ رَحْمَةً إِذَا فَرِيقٌ مِنْهُمْ بِرَبِّهِمْ يُشْرِكُونَ {33}

[Shakir 30:33] And when harm afflicts men, they call upon their Lord, turning to Him, then when He makes them taste of mercy from Him, lo! some of them begin to associate (others) with their Lord,

[Pickthal 30:33] And when harm toucheth men they cry unto their Lord, turning to Him in repentance; then, when they have tasted of His mercy, behold! some of them attribute partners to their Lord

[Yusufali 30:33] When trouble touches men, they cry to their Lord, turning back to Him in repentance: but when He gives them a taste of Mercy as from Himself, behold, some of them pay part-worship to other god’s besides their Lord,-

When people face harm, they instinctively turn to Allah.  When they face ease again, they return to doing shirk

ضُرٌّ   – A type of harm that shakes us.  E.g. a violent earthquake, a capsizing ship. Something which makes people loose hope and fear for their lives.

They reach out to their Rabb – not god

  • Means that they not only believe there is a higher power, their fitra tells them the power cares for them.

The fitrah can be suppressed because of societal forces. But under supreme duress it comes to the surface.

Surah 12:106 – Most of them are mominen but they also ascribe partners to Allah

  • Imam: This is like the person who says “if it wasn’t for X, Y, Z I would have died” without including Allah in that list.  They may intellectually believe in Allah, but not practically.
    • Instead they should thank the person for being the waseelah, an instrument used by God
    • Person asks: What if I say “If god did not send this person to me, I would have perished” Imam replied “That would be fine”

Shirk is more subtle than the crawling of an ant

Surah 6:75 – We showed Ibrahim the heavens and the earth so that he might be one of the ones who have certainty

لِيَكْفُرُوا بِمَا آتَيْنَاهُمْ ۚ فَتَمَتَّعُوا فَسَوْفَ تَعْلَمُونَ {34}

[Shakir 30:34] So as to be ungrateful for what We have given them; but enjoy yourselves (for a while), for you shall soon come to know.

[Pickthal 30:34] So as to disbelieve in that which We have given them. (Unto such it is said): Enjoy yourselves awhile, but ye will come to know.

[Yusufali 30:34] (As if) to show their ingratitude for the (favours) We have bestowed on them! Then enjoy (your brief day); but soon will ye know (your folly).

“Let them be grateful for what we have given them”

  • When Allah expresses anger over the ingratitude of people it’s rooted in his love for us
  • By orienting our heart towards anything other than him we’re going into the wilderness
  • “Soon you will know” the consequences of seeking refuge in anything other than Allah

أَمْ أَنْزَلْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ سُلْطَانًا فَهُوَ يَتَكَلَّمُ بِمَا كَانُوا بِهِ يُشْرِكُونَ {35}

[Shakir 30:35] Or, have We sent down upon them an authority so that it speaks of that which they associate with Him?

[Pickthal 30:35] Or have We revealed unto them any warrant which speaketh of that which they associate with Him?

[Yusufali 30:35] Or have We sent down authority to them, which points out to them the things to which they pay part-worship?

Allah is asking “where do you get this from? Do you have any rational evidence for doing shirk? That something else will give you the tranquility and peace you are searching for?”

  • Nowadays people don’t think they’re even searching for tranquility and peace.  Could you talk a bit about what people look to for happiness?
    • People look to different things to improve their lives. But they have a spiritual poverty. People feel emptiness and continue to feel it.

وَإِذَا أَذَقْنَا النَّاسَ رَحْمَةً فَرِحُوا بِهَا ۖ وَإِنْ تُصِبْهُمْ سَيِّئَةٌ بِمَا قَدَّمَتْ أَيْدِيهِمْ إِذَا هُمْ يَقْنَطُونَ {36}

[Shakir 30:36] And when We make people taste of mercy they rejoice in it, and if an evil befall them for what their hands have already wrought, lo! they are in despair.

[Pickthal 30:36] And when We cause mankind to taste of mercy they rejoice therein; but if an evil thing befall them as the consequence of their own deeds, lo! they are in despair!

[Yusufali 30:36] When We give men a taste of Mercy, they exult thereat: and when some evil afflicts them because of what their (own) hands have sent forth, behold, they are in despair!

  • Seems like a contradiction with verse 33 where an evil befalling them makes people turn to Allah
  • A lot of the hardships we face are due to our own actions
  • The rejoicing upon tasting mercy here is a delusional rejoicing
    • Surah 39:49 – People take the credit for the good that happens to them, but not for the evil which they actually did cause

Imam: When people commit a new sin that had never been done before, Allah creates a new calamity which had never been seen before

Most people die before their maximum allotted life span because of their sins.

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Next Tafsir Class will be after Eid

Assalamo aleikum, we’ll be pausing the Tafsir classes for the next five weeks since Sheikh Azhar will be busy during Ramadan offering classes in Arabic Grammar.

iA classes will resume after Eid

In the meantime there are many recorded tafsirs available at www.why-quran.org/all-tafsirs.  If you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend starting with the tafsir of Surah Najm

Jazakallah

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Why Five Prayers?

Surah Ar-Rum, Lecture 4

Verses 16-21 of Surah Ar-Rum discuss various signs of Allah and our remembrance of him. They describe the times in which He should be remembered, and Sheikh Azhar Nasser shares a hadith about why we have five wajib prayers.

Live classes + Q&A are held on Wednesdays at 7pm PST. Subscribe below to get reminders of upcoming classes and to hear about new tafsirs.

You can watch past lectures in the series here

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How to Conduct Masjid Programs Online

Assalamo aleikum,

Here are some instructions for how Islamic Centers can effectively hold online programs for their community members.

The coronavirus has forced many of our centers to cancel their programs, just when their communities need them the most. iA these steps may help those centers provide some of their services. These recommendations are based on lessons learned while organizing online tafsir classes at why-quran.org over the past four years.

You’ll find five different stages below, starting with the easiest one to implement, which will let you quickly start offering programs.

They’re all designed to let you conduct programs while everyone remains in their own homes, including the scholar and the tech team (if any).

Each stage builds upon the previous one, gradually becoming more complex but also offering you something better in return (e.g. ease of use for your community, interactive lectures, higher quality recordings). You can stop at whichever option you’re most comfortable with.

Stage 1: Speaker streams directly to YouTube

This is the easiest way to get started

What this gets you:

  • A scholar can stream a video of himself live over YouTube
  • Recording is automatically available on YouTube (if you want it to be)

What you’ll need:

  • A YouTube account
  • A laptop with a webcam

Give the speaker the username and password for your center’s YouTube account (if you don’t have one yet, they’re free to create). When it’s time to start the lecture, the speaker will need to go to youtube.com, log in with the YouTube account, and click on the camcorder icon on the top right corner of the window, and then click on “Go Live”

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Go Live from Youtube

On the page that it takes you to, click on the WEBCAM option:

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Switch to Webcam mode

You may see a message about allowing YouTube access to your camera and microphone. Let it have that access.

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Allow Youtube access to your camera and microphone

Now you can setup the lecture and give it a title. Set your privacy level to Public.

You’ll also want to select the button that says “No, it’s not made for kids.” Please understand, this doesn’t prevent kids from watching it. Saying ‘yes’ means you’re making a program specifically intended *only* for kids, and it forces you to comply with other legal requirements. Most masjid programs don’t fall under that category.

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Describe your lecture

When you click next you’ll see a preview of your lecture. Click “Go Live” to start broadcasting the lecture publicly

How can other people find the lecture? You have two options

Option 1: If you click on the arrow at the bottom of the page then you’ll see a url that will take people to the correct YouTube page. You can share that link with others

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Share the link to your livestream

The downside here is that you have to wait until the livestream starts before you can share the link with anyone.

Option 2: Share your YouTube channel url with people. The livestream will become visible there once it starts.

You can get your YouTube channel url by clicking on your account logo on the top-right corner of YouTube.com, right clicking “Your Channel”, and clicking “Copy link address”

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Share the link to your channel’s home page

When you’re done giving the lecture, click the “End Stream” button at the bottom of the page

Stage 2: Share the Lecture in Advance

Why would you want this?

  • By getting the link before the lecture actually starts, you community can find the lectures more easily. They could receive the link days in advance, making it much easier for them to watch the lecture.

This is exactly the same as Stage 1, except you’ll do the steps before the lecture time and and clicking “Schedule for later.” That’ll let you set a time in the future when you want your lecture to actually start and will give you a link where the livestream will be viewable. You can share that link with your community, making it much easier for them to find the lecture.

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Schedule your livestream to start later

When it’s time to start the lecture click “Go Live” and the Live Stream will begin and be automatically recorded. When you’re done with the lecture click the “End Stream” button at the bottom of the page.

Stage 3: Multiple Speakers

What this gets you:

  • You can have multiple people talk during the live stream and see your audience, making it more interactive. For example, some people can recite marsiyas/nohas, or there can be a Q&A
  • Easier setup for the scholar. Technical work gets shifted from the scholar to another person who’s willing to take responsibility for setting this up.
  • Zoom will automatically record the lecture

Downsides:

  • It’s not free, and the cost depends on how many people you expect to join your live stream:
    • It costs $15/month to have up to 100 people
    • It will cost $200/month to have up to 500 people
    • More than 500 people is not possible
  • Your video will not automatically be streamed to YouTube. You’ll have to upload it there manually later

This step is pretty simple. Register for a Zoom.us account and buy their Pro plan (or the Business plan if you expect more than 100 participants).

Follow the instructions to create your meeting, and then share the meeting link with your community before the class starts.

This time, the scholar doesn’t have to do anything themselves. Someone else can create the zoom meeting and send them an invitation to join the meeting.

Stage 4: Large Audience at a Cheaper Cost

What this gets you:

  • All the benefits of the previous steps and…
  • No limit on the number of participants
  • Your video gets automatically streamed and recorded to YouTube
  • This is a cheaper way to stream to more than 100 people than Stage 3 (using the same $15/month instead of $200/month)

Downsides:

  • A little bit more of a technical setup, but not too much more difficult.

In this setup, we first follow the steps in Stage 2 to schedule a live stream via YouTube, then we use Zoom to setup a webinar, connect the Zoom webinar to the YouTube livestream, and stream the Zoom webinar over YouTube.

On your Zoom.us plan, add the the webinar add on

Create a recurring meeting on Zoom. You can select anything for the date and time, Zoom won’t make you stick to those times (I make this a recurring meeting). Then click ‘Save Meeting’

Follow the steps on this page to enable Live Streaming the meeting to YouTube. Specifically, you want to enable streaming to a Custom Live Streaming Service (which would be YouTube in our case). So you’ll want to follow the steps under “Streaming a Meeting or Webinar to a YouTube Event” to be able to stream to scheduled events. Note that while it is possible to stream to YouTube without setting up the Custom Live Streaming Service, you’ll not be able to schedule a class in advance (so you’ll loose out on the benefits of Stage 2).

After reading the instructions linked to above, if you’re confused about where to enter the stream url and key (that part of the instructions isn’t very clear), go to your meeting’s page on Zoom and scroll down to the bottom of to see the Live Streaming options

Configure Custom Live Streaming Service on Zoom by clicking the “Edit” button

Click “configure live stream settings”. That’s where the information should go

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Enter your Livestream settings here

To share the link to this lecture with others, you’ll want to share the YouTube stream URL (the same one you shared in Step 2). The Zoom webinar is limited to 100 people, so you can’t have too many people join that at once. They would also have to install Zoom to make it work, making it harder for them

When it’s time to start the lecture, the Zoom host and speaker should both join the Zoom meeting and the host should specify “More->Live on Custom Live Streaming Service”.

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Stream lecture on Custom Live Streaming Service

Then go to the YouTube studio page for the stream and click “Go Live” to actually start streaming.

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Don’t forget to click Go Live on YouTube

Additional options to improve the broadcast:

  • If you want to make sure only the speaker’s video is shown, in your Zoom meeting right click on their video and click “Spotlight video”. That will ensure only their video (and no one else’s) gets sent on the broadcast.
  • To stop the speaker’s name from showing up on the bottom left corner of the stream, rename their name to just be an empty space (” “)

Stage 5: Get Higher Quality Recordings

What this gets you:

  • Higher quality video recording. The livestream is unaffected, but you can upload a higher quality video to YouTube later

Downsides:

  • High Complexity: you need to setup the main speaker’s laptop to support this setup
  • Only the main speaker’s video can be seen (though other people can still talk)
  • You need to upload the recording to YouTube manually (since we’re recording a higher quality video on the speaker’s laptop)

Why would I want this?

The recordings created by the previous stages are good, but live streamed video tends to be lower quality than normal recordings. And if at any point the internet connection weakens then the video or even the audio can cut out for a few seconds. That’s bad enough during a live stream, it feels even more jarring when someone is watching a recording!

This step will show you how to simultaneously stream the Live Stream while also recording it to your computer at a higher resolution. That way you’ll have a video with a much better quality recording that you can upload later on.

So how do I add it?

We keep the exact same setup that we had in Stage 4, but add some extra software to also record the lecture locally.

To do this we’ll need to use a free program called Open Broadcaster Software (OBS). You can download it from https://obsproject.com. We will only use it to record the lecture in HD. We’ll continue to use Stage 4’s Zoom + YouTube setup for the actual live stream.

You’ll want to install OBS on the main speaker’s laptop. If you can’t visit them in person, you can use Zoom to have a video chat with them and ask them to share their desktop. Request to control their desktop remotely and install & configure OBS.

You can find multiple videos on YouTube for how to setup OBS for recording (you could try skimming this one for the important parts). You’ll want to set your video output to be at a 1080p resolution and video format to .mkv.

Also, note the Recording Path setting. We won’t set this right now, but you’ll come back to this setting a few steps later so remember where you saw it.

Once you have OBS setup to record the video, right after connecting to the Zoom lecture the lecturer will need to click the “Start Recording” button on OBS to start recording locally, and then click “Stop Recording” once the lecture is complete.

Now your speaker will need to either upload the lecture to YouTube, or put it on a service somewhere that the people doing the video editing can access it. Following the principle of “make it as simple as possible for the speaker”, ideally the the speaker should have to do nothing.

Instead, you can install a cloud storage program like OneDrive or Dropbox to their laptop, create a shared folder that both the speaker and tech team have access to, and set that folder as OBS’s Recording Path (remember that setting I asked you to note?). This way any new lecture will automatically be come available to the rest of the team. (Be sure the account which owns these shared folders has sufficient storage space on it).

Want even better quality recordings? Upgrade your speaker to a higher quality, 1080p webcam. It’ll make a big difference at this stage.

One Important Extra Step if your Speaker is using a Windows laptop

Mac users can skip this section. There’s one extra problem with Windows laptops: by default their webcam can only be used by just one program. So it’s either OBS or Zoom. But we want to use both, that’s how we get both local recording and live streaming.

To make this work download and install a free software called ManyCam, available at manycam.com. This will give your computer a virtual webcam that can be shared by multiple programs. Set this as the video source for both OBS and Zoom

Stage 6: Upgrade to an even Higher Quality Camcorder

The general idea is to take a professional quality camcorder and turn it into a webcam for your laptop, which will require using a hdmi video capture card.

This is something we’re experimenting with right now. I’ll update these instructions once I get this setup to work successfully.

Stay tuned

Conclusion

These are multiple options that you can utilize based on your level of technical knowledge. You can start off easily by adopting Stage 1, and gradually go on to the next stage as you feel it’s needed.

If you get stuck or have suggestions to improve these methods, please reach out! You can share questions/comments below or send me an email at tech-support@why-quran.org and I’ll do my best to help out.

Iltemase dua