Book Review 3: In the Shade of the Quran by Sayyid Qutb
This work by the Shaheed -by the will of Allah- along with “Milestones” represent his greatest works and the fruits of his life. I received 5 of the 6 volumes along with Madarij al Salikeen as the first books I was allowed to have. This came after a period of two months with nothing but the Quran. Having had the chance to spend that time with the book of Allah and to contemplate on it, I wanted to read what our scholars had to say about Quran so I ordered Tafsir Ibn Kathir which is a proper classical tafsir along with “In the Shade of the Quran” which is more about thoughts and insights on the book of Allah in addition to it being a contemporary tafsir.
Sayyid is a very prolific and eloquent writer. His style is unique. If someone has read for him then he could recognize his writings without having to be told who the author is. With Ibn kathir his tafsir is full of Hadiths and statements of scholars and rulings so it must be read slowly. I would limit myself to a maximum of 30 pages a day. But because of the flowing style of Sayyid I would read between 100-150 pages a day. In fact I would read until my eyes got tired. My left eye would get exhausted before the right eye so I would close it with my hand and carry on reading with my right eye until it can handle it no more and would just shut down. My vision started deteriorating especially in my left eye. Was it because of too much reading, or was it because of poor lighting, Allah knows best. I found that deteriorating eyesight along with kidney problems where the two most common complaints of the prisoners.
I would be so immersed with the author I would feel that Sayyid was with me in my cell speaking to me directly. There was something about my reading in prison: I could feel the personality of the author through his words. So even though I was in solitary confinement I was never alone. I was with ibn Kathir for some days, with ibn al Qayyim, Sayyid Qutb, al Shawkani, al-Nawawi and many others on other days. How could I feel the loneliness when all of these great men where my companions?
I believe it was Ibn al Mubarak who when asked why he used to spend his time alone said: And how can I be alone when I am in the companionship of the Sahaba?
My favourite parts of the Shades were Sura Yusuf, and al Qasas. Sayyid has a beautiful way of presenting the stories of Yusuf and Musa in these suras. Then there are the introductions to surah al Ankaboot and al Ra’d. In his introduction of al Ankaboot he has some wonderful words about trails and in the intro to Sura al Ra’d he talks about the miracle of Quran.
Something that the reader of Sayyid couldn’t fail to feel is the immense love Sayyid had for the words of Allah.
I lived with “In the Shade of the Quran” for over a month. It carried me through and offered me solace during that period. May Allah reward him abundantly on the Day of Judgment. Then I moved on to Sharh ibn Aqeel which is a book on Arabic grammer and the Tafsir of Ibn Kathir but my next comments will be on the “al Bidaya wa al Nihaya” by Ibn Kathir.