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
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
[Shakir 30:31] Turning
to Him, and be careful of (your duty to) Him and keep up prayer and be not of
[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.
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
[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
[Yusufali 30:32] Those
who split up their Religion, and become (mere) Sects,- each party rejoicing in
that which is with itself!
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
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
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
[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
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
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.
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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”
On the page that it takes you to, click on the WEBCAM option:
You may see a message about allowing YouTube access to your camera and microphone. Let it have that access.
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.
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
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”
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.
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
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)
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.
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
Click “configure live stream settings”. That’s where the information should go
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”.
Then go to the YouTube studio page for the stream and click “Go Live” to actually start streaming.
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
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.
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 email@example.com and I’ll do my best to help out.