Milestones: To know is to act upon

From egypt -alexandria

I have mentioned about my book module previously, the one I am very excited about and a few days ago we had this short session with our librarian (who was a scientist himself, having two degrees in scientific field, worked in the industry and later became a librarian, specialized in chemical engineering stuff. How cool is that?) on the Concept of Book. Oh yes, this stuff we are learning is going to be asked in the exam.

But never mind, it just came to my mind that books, for its reliability and durability, lasting for thousands of years, transferring knowledge from a generation to another generation, from a place to another place. I could not remember the exact historical chronology, but it didn’t fail to amaze me, how useful a book has become, and that reading, as I always want to believe, is essential it is like a basic need.

Though I am truly biased about reading and its necessity, I am currently reading a short book, not-so-serious one (due to its less than serious style of writing) entitled Everything Bad is Good for you I grabbed a few days ago after a few hours spent in Waterstone’s (revising that is). I only managed to finish a few chapters, but it does get me moving, the author’s ability to look at things from a very different view (example: If video games come before books, are we going to see video games as bad as it is now?), and that is kind of exciting.

But that is not the point of me writing this. Another book I am trying to finish is Milestones by Syed Qutb. This book sends a shiver down my spine. I am holding a book which had his author hanged to death. There are a number of authors that had the same fate for their writings but such ending will only add up the attraction factor of the books. Just like how I am tempted to read Salman Rushdie’s writings.

By the way, Milestones, had me thinking all over again upon this quote, keep reminding me along the way, that there is only one rule to succeed (by succeed I mean the real success as defined in the Quran) – to act upon what you know. Yes, I dwell too in Imam al-Ghazali’s writing on the importance of knowledge, but it just struck me as always – knowing without acting upon what we know, it means nothing. An absolute nothing. Knowledge is what is stuck to your heart and manifested through your action. There’s no point of knowing loads of stuff, but at the end it doesn’t show in your akhlak or even your action. I know a number of hadiths, listen to many of them, and memorised some of them – but the way I conduct myself, does it comply to the knowledge I already have? That is a big question. And a bigger one would be – we have read Quran so many times (remember how proud we were, the Malays, as children when we managed to khatam/finish the Holy Book over and over again?) but I doubt, for myself, out of 6236 verses of the Holy Book, how many of them we actually act upon it? Perhaps only 1% I actually act upon as required.

Take one example. The earlier verses of Surah al-Baqarah – the one that we were forced to memorise back then (both in high school, and college – lucky me):

Verse 2:3
Yusuf Ali: Who believe in the Unseen, are steadfast in prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them;
Zohurul Hoque: who believe in the Unseen, and establish the Salat, and out of what We have provided them with, they do spend;
T. J. Irving: who believe in the Unseen, keep up prayer, and spend something from whatever We have provided them with;
T.U. Hilali-M. Khan: Who believe in the Ghaib and perform As-Salât (Iqâmat-as-Salât), and spend out of what we have provided for them [i.e. give Zakât, spend on themselves, their parents, their children, their wives, etc., and also give charity to the poor and also in Allâh’s Cause – Jihâd, etc.].
M. Pickthall: Who believe in the Unseen, and establish worship, and spend of that We have bestowed upon them;
M.H. Shakir: Those who believe in the unseen and keep up prayer and spend out of what We have given them.



See the translation – steadfast in prayer, establish the solat, keep up prayer, perform as-solat, establish worship etc. It gives many more meaning than just a mere ‘doing’ it. And how Ibnu Abbas defined the term ‘Iqamat as-Solah’ humbled me, knowing that not all the time that I fulfil the requirement of this verse – ‘Iqamah as-solat is to perfect bowings and prostrations, the readings and khusyu’. If this one verse that I keep chanting over and over again has its right unfulfilled, how about other verses that I rarely read or maybe, never ever look up for the tafseer? (**I check Tafseer al Qurtubi in Prayer Hall South – it even includes performing the sunnahs in prayer in the requirement of iqamatussalah)

And this one reason, this one lacking, make us different from the earlier generation – the generation of the Companions, said Syed Qutb. They referred everything to the Holy Book, and act upon every single thing they gained from it. They don’t look up and study the Book for intellectual discussions, or just to get information. They seek in that book the prescription given by the Lord for them; on what and how God wants them to be.

Well, I think this is the fundamental difference between our generation and theirs.

What they do is read 10 verses, memorise them, and act upon them.

What we do is read hundreds of verses (well, some read none), and in months finish the whole book, and practise something else.

Yes, even in reciting itself you’ll gain blessings. But then what kind of person we are, that even after 20 years we are still in the same cycle of reading and finishing it (and take pride on having finished it so many times per year) while our understanding is next to nothing?

Is it enough for us to just ponder upon the translation while we know that one verse can contains more rights and obligations to be fulfilled than what meets the eye?

Is it enough to recite Quran when we might as well take extra effort to ponder upon the translations?

Is it enough to read the translations when we might as well study the interpretation and tafseer of the verse?

Is it enough to read just one tafseer when we might as well read those written by different scholars?



Yes, time constrains. That is a well-understood reason for not moving forward, for staying stagnant. But then comes prioritising. An ustaz once mentioned to me – when you are a student, take time to read, for when you step out of your single life, you might find that there’s no time to dwell much in this (that’s kind of thought-of; if you can’t manage to read much when you have only yourself to manage, what if there are two, three four little kids around to take care of?)- and he even said perhaps, studying and reading is more important than performing non-compulsory prayers.

And on this matter of studying the Quran, may I suggest that perhaps, we can start reducing the amount of time spent to read, and spend more time studying the exegesis.

OK, so you say that in Sunan Abu Daud there is a hadith saying:

Book 6, Number 1393:


ed Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-‘As:



The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: If anyone prays at night reciting regularly ten verses, he will not be recorded among the negligent; if anyone prays at night and recites a hundred verses 

, he will be recorded among those who are obedient to Allah; and if anyone prays at night reciting one thousand verses, he will be recorded among those who receive huge rewards.



True. But remember that Lord Himself tells us:

“[This is] a blessed Book which We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad ], that they might reflect upon its verses and that those of understanding would be reminded.”[Quran: 38: 29]

Well, with our limited knowledge on language, how can you ponder upon it, and reflect without knowing the true meaning of what you recite?

Those who were truly reminded and pondered upon these verses were the people who managed to reach the peak of excellence any human can think of – the generation of the Prophet that is.

And with the same recipe and formula, there is no way we can go wrong, can’t we?



p.s. Yes. Studying tafseer requires a teacher. The least that you can do (if you just could not find one) is to read on your own and ask people who knows better, or maybe, try to listen to lectures on tafseer in the internet (with a little research on the background of the speakers prior to that).

Download your Tafseer Ibn Kathir here .

Have a click here too – the best I can suggest for now.


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