Developing Your Strengths; Knowing Your Purpose – a Quranic Guide

Are you good with kids? Or perhaps you’re good with numbers, people or you’re a born leader? We all have a flair for something. This is our strength or our talent as a human being. 

Interestingly, the Quran discusses this in great detail. In fact an entire Surah discusses having a strength, how do we get it as well as the pros and cons of developing a flair for a particular talent. And more importantly, what to do with your talent or strength. 


Surah Taha explains: Our Lord is He who grants each thing its characteristic then it makes Hada هَدَى)) (alQuran 20:50) 


The Mufassireen explain that in this verse, we are informed that we are each given our particular characteristics which we can use to achieve a beneficial state to which we are naturally inclined. (Tafseer Kabeer Mafatihul Ghayb, Imam Raazi) 


Simply put, it means that Allah Ta’aala blessed us with our special characteristics. We need develop this characteristic into our strength so that we can aspire to a beneficial state; a higher state which we inherently are supposed to reach. 


Surah Taha goes further to give examples of different people who’ve developed and used their strengths for different purposes. If we look at ourselves and those around us we would find that each of these examples are actually found amongst us, be it colleagues at work, family, friends or somebody in the news headlines. 


One of the examples is Firoun. He refined his talent of political leadership, to the extent that he ruled the entire world. This is a feat that only four people in history have achieved. However Firoun’s his talent convinced him that he was the Lord of the worlds (Allah Ta’aala) and he used this strength of his to oppress the people. Allah Ta’aala says: ‘.. Firoun verily he is a tyrant’ (alQuran 20:24) So in this first example we find a man whose power and political prowess lead him away from Allah Ta’aala. Finally Firoun was drowned, whilst chasing Nabi Musa Alauhis Salaam through the sea. (alQuran 20:78)


Another example that Surah Taha gives, is the followers of Firoun. Being an obedient follower is also a strength. A talent which many organisations need, in order to be successful. Society looks for law and order, and this is only achieved if people are willing to be compliant. Some of Firoun’s people were obedient and complied to his every rule. But this characteristic of theirs lead them to following Firoun’s misguidance and they too were drowned with Firoun. In this case too, although these people developed a strength, they used it to their misguidance by wrongfully following Firoun. Allah Ta’aala says: And Firoun made his people to be misguided and he did not lead them to Hada هَدَى) ) (alQuran 20:79)


Those who were with Nabi Musa Alauhis Salaam, had escaped Firoun and his misguidance. They believed in Allah Ta’aala and they accepted Nabi Musa Alayhis Salaam as their Prophet. Then from amongst them a guy named Samiriy coerced them to build a calf of gold which they would worship. Allah Ta’aala says: ‘And Samiriy caused them to be misguided … He took out for them a calf moulded for him with an emanating sound then he said This is the what you worship and what Musa worships’ (alQuran 20:85-88) Shaykh Muhiyyudeen ibn alArabi radi Allahu anhu explains that their worshipping a golden animal symbolises to us those who are slaves of wealth and their animalistic self (Naffs). Although these people had passed the test against Firoun’s misguidance and many other tests, being subservient to wealth and their Naffs lead to their misguidance. 


Although the people had accepted Nabi Musa Alauhis Salaam as their leader, Samiriy used his talent of convincing people to make them rebellious. In life we often come across this example where a regular citizen will stir up a rebellion, appealing to people’s love of wealth and their Naffs. 


Whilst these are examples of one’s strength or talent leading to misguidance, it’s not all doom. Surah Taha also gives us some excellent examples of how others have used their strengths and talents for the purpose of guidance and good. 


But first, let’s look again at the verse about one’s strengths / talents. ‘Our Lord is He who grants each thing its characteristic then it makes Hada هَدَى) ) (alQuran 20:50) This verse means that each of us is given our particular characteristics which we can use to achieve a beneficial state to which we are naturally inclined. (Tafseer Kabeer Magatihul Ghayb, Imam Raazi) 


The important question is what is this beneficial state which we ought to be naturally inclined to? The answer to this lies in the reason for us being created. Allah Ta’aala says in the Quran that Jin and Man have only been created for Allah’s Ibadat. (alQuran 51:56) So our naturally inclined state has to do with making Ibadah. However elsewhere in the Quran Allah Ta’aala says that all creation in the heavens and earth make Sajda to Allah and all creation make His Tabeeh (Surah Jumma & Surah Nahl). 


So the question is that, whilst all creation are making Sajda and Tasbeeh to Allah Ta’aala, why did Allah Ta’aala specify that Jin and Man have been created only for His Ibadat? What special Ibadat is expected from Jin and Man, which the other creation have not fulfilled? 


Imam Hasan alBasri radi Allahu anhu and Imam Mujaahid radi Allahu anhu explain that the special Ibadat which we have been created for, is the recognition or the gnosis of Allah Ta’aala (Ma’rifa Allah). (Tafseer Imam Qurtubi & similarly alBaghawi)


Recognising or knowing Allah Ta’aala can come in three stages. The first is knowing and recognising His Works eg all the things He created, their wonders and attributes and knowing them to be His creation. Next is knowing the Names of Allah Ta’aala. And then is actually knowing or recognising Allah Ta’aalas’ Being. (Jawaahirul Quran)


After Allah Ta’aala had created Nabi Aadam alayhis salaam, the Quran says the He thought Nabi Aadam alayhis salaam the Names, and the Angels were unable to learn these Names. (alQuran 2:31/33) The Mufassireen explain that ‘the Names’ that were thought were the names of all created things and their attributes, ranging from currency, natural resources and even each human being until the last day. Furthermore, Shaykh Muhuyyudeen Ibn alArabi radi Allahu anhu explains that the sacred Names of Allah Ta’aala were thought to Nabi Aadam alayhis salaam, however the Angels were unable to take cognisance of this. (Fusus Hikm)
In this example of Nabi Aadam alayhis Salaam, we find him taking cognisance o the creation of Allah Ta’aala as well as the Names of of Allah Ta’aala. 


Consequently, Imam alBayhaqi says that through the Noor of Allah, Allah Ta’aala becomes increasingly apparent to a Believer and this process is known as Hada (هدى ). (I’tiqaad al Imaan) This process of Hada leads to actually taking cognisance of Allah Taala’s Being. 


So let’s look again at Surah Taha to find examples of those whose talents and strengths allowed them to make cognizance of Allah Ta’aala. 


Surah Taha draws our attention to Firoun’s magicians. They were the most skilled magicians on earth and Firoun setup a dual between them and Nabi Musa Alauhis Salaam. These magicians casted their most amazing magic but the staff of Nabi Musa Alauhis Salaam easily ate up their magic. The Quran records that this miracle ‘made the magicians go into Sajda saying we believe the Lord of Haroon and Musa.’ (AlQuran 20:70) The magicians were skilled enough in their magic to realise that they performed magic whilst the staff of Nabi Musa Alauhis Salaam eating up their magic, was an act from Allah Ta’aala. They fell into Sajda, accepting Allah Ta’aala as their only Deity. Their talent as magicians lead them to recognising Allah Ta’aala as their Lord. This miracle of Nabi Musa Alayhis Salaam is amongst the creation of Allah Ta’aala. Thus the Existence of Allah Ta’aala became apparent to the magicians through Allah’s Ta’aala creation, in this case the miracle of Nabi Musa Alauhis Salaam. 


Surah Taha also gives examples of those who make cognizance of Allah Ta’aala through His Attributes. Allah Ta’aala says: ‘When We inspired to your mother what We inspired, that he (Nabi Musa) should be cast into an open casket and cast it into the river (Nile)’ (alQuran 20:38/39) Allah Ta’aala had sent inspiration to Nabi Musa’s Alauhis Salaam mother that she should put her newborn in an open casket into the river Nile. Although she was not a Nabi, she had direct contact with Allah Ta’aala. This type of communication of the pious is known as ilhaam, and is considered a high level of cognisance of Allah Ta’aala.


Surah Taha also gives the example of Nabi Adam Alayhis Salaam receiving communication from Allah Ta’aala. This is a greater degree of cognizance of Allah Ta’aala and occurs either in a Nabi’s dream of via angelic action.


Surah Taha also discusses the communication of Nabi Musa Alayhis Salaam. He spoke to Allah Ta’aala directly but without seeing Allah Ta’aala. This represents an even greater degree of knowing and recognising Allah Ta’aala, whereby there is direct communication without any angelic action. 


Surah Taha then draws our attention to the Day of Resurrection during which, some of the Believers will see Allah Ta’aala. Whilst being able to see Allah Ta’aala, He would Speak. Hadrath Ibn Abbaas and Qatada radi Allahu anhuma say that on that Day, Allah Ta’aala will speak directly to Nabi Muhummud SallAllahu Alayhi Wasallam, stating the qualities and attributes of RasoolAllah SallAllahu Alayhi Wasallam and He would demonstrate how RasoolAllah SallAllahu Alayhi Wasallam is greater than Nabi Isaa Alauhis Salaam. (Sharah Bukhari, Irshaadus Sareeh, Imam Qastalani) After praising RasoolAllah SallAllahu Alayhi Wasallam, Allah Ta’aala would then allow RasoolAllah SallAllahu Alayhi Wasallam to intercede. Whilst Allah Ta’aala says this to RasoolAllah SallAllahu Alayhi Wasallam, he SallAllahu Alayhi Wasallam and some of the Believers would see Allah Ta’aala, as is explained in Surah Qiyaamah: ‘A Day on which a face would be vibrant looking at its Lord’ (alQuran 75:22/23)


Surah Taha captures this wonderful moment saying: ‘(The day of Resurrection) is a day in which the intercession is not served except by him about whom arRahmaan (Allah) announces and he will be pleased with His proclamation’ (alQuran 20:109) 


We have seen that Surah Taha has given us different examples of Hada (هدى) the process whereby Allah Ta’aala becomes apparent to a person. The Surah gave the example of a non-Prophet receiving inspiration from Allah Ta’aala; the example of Nabi Adam Alauhis Salaam receiving message from Allah Ta’aala; as well as Nabi Musa Alauhis Salaam talking directly to Allah Ta’aala but without seeing Him. Now Surah Taha introduces us to another level whereby during the day of resurrection, RasoolAllah SallAllahu Alayhi Wasallam would see Allah Ta’aala whilst He speaks directly to RasoolAllah SallAllahu Alayhi Wasallam. This is a very pure and elevated state of Hada (هدى) .


After discussing these great events of Qiyaamah, Surah Taha goes on to inform us that this form of Hada (هدى) has also occurred in the Dunya. Surah Taha says: ‘And in this manner We revealed to him an Arabic Quran’ (alQuran 20:113)


So Surah Taha is telling us that on the Day of Resurrection Allah Ta’aala will speak directly to RasoolAllah SallAllahu Alayhi Wasallam whilst RasoolAllah SallAllahu Alayhi Wasallam will see Allah Ta’aala. Furthermore, this is the manner in which the Quran was revealed to RasoolAllah SallAllahu Alayhi Wasallam, that is RasoolAllah SallAllahu Alayhi Wasallam saw Allah Ta’aala whilst Allah Ta’aala revealed the Quran, which is actually the Speech of Allah Ta’aala. Imam Bayhaqi says that this type of Wahi, whereby Allah Ta’aala spoke to RasoolAllah SallAllahu Alayhi Wasallam whilst he could see Allah Ta’aala, is the highest form of revelation. (Kitaab alAsma wa Sifat) 


This can be further understood from the explanation of the Quran. Allah Ta’ala says in the Quran: ‘And it is not fitting for a man that Allah speak to him except 

(by way of) Wahy direct revelation / inspiration 

or (whereby) the man be at the other side of a veil

or (whereby) He sends a messenger so by His command revealing what He pleases. Undoubtedly He is Exalted Wise. -alQuran 42:51-


Imam Raazi radi Allahu anhu explains that this verse is specifically regarding the Anbiya. -Kitaabul Anbiya by Imam Raazi-


This verse explains that there are three methods by which Allah Ta’ala speaks to a human. 


The first method by direct inspiration / revelation. The second whereby the Nabi is at the other side of a veil. The third whereby an angel is sent as a messenger to a Nabi. 


The third method, whereby a messenger is sent, refers to whereby Allah Ta’ala sends an angel to whichever Nabi and in this way the Kalaam of Allah is revealed. Sahabi Ibn Abbaas radi Allahu anhuma says regarding this method that, when Jibreel alayhis salaam would descend to a Nabi through this method, only Nabi Muhummud, Eesaa, Moosa and Zakariyya alayhimus salaam did see him. -Tafseer alMawridi- This method of revelation also includes the True Vision of a Nabi whilst asleep (Ru’ya Saadiqa). During this True Vision of this method, a Nabi would get revelation without seeing Allah. Haafidh alAsqalani radi Allahu anhu explains that in this case the revelation would reach that Nabi’s heart via an angel. -Ru’ya wal Ahlaam by Haafidh alAsqalani-


The second method, where the respective Nabi is at the other side of a veil, refers to the manner like that by which Nabi Moosa alayhis salaam spoke directly with Allah Ta’aala but he did not see Allah Ta’aala. 


The first method of (Wahhyan) direct inspiration / revelation is whereby the respective Nabi would see Allah Ta’ala (as He knows best) and Allah would speak directly to him. Imam Bayhaqi radi Allahu anhu explains in his Kitaab Asma wa Sifat, that this method (Wahhyan) may occur whilst the respective Nabi is asleep (as in Ru’yatus Saadiqa- True Vision of Anbiya alayhimus salaam) or whilst awake. With this regards, the Quran gives the example of Nabi Ibrahim alayhis salaam and Nabi Muhummud sallAllahu alayhi wasallam to have had such a vision whilst asleep. However, seeing Allah Ta’aala in a wakeful state, only Nabi Muhummud sallAllahu alayhi wasallam has been blessed with this. – Tafseer Imam Qurtubi, Kibaab Asma wa Sifat by Imam Bayhaqi, Kitaab alAnbiya by Imaam Raazi, cumulative-


Remember that Allah Ta’aala being apparent to a person is known as Hada هَدَى) ) . (I’tikaad Imaan, alBayhaqi) It is clear that the Hada هَدَى) ) which RasoolAllah SallAllahu Alayhi Wasallam achieved is greater than that of anybody else, for although Nabi Adam Alauhis Salaam received message from Allah Ta’aala, he either received it through a dream or an angel. Although Nabi Musa Alauhis Salaam spoke directly to Allah Ta’aala, he did not see Allah Ta’aala. It is only RasoolAllah SallAllahu Alayhi Wasallam who achieved this perfection of Hada هَدَى) ) whereby Allah Ta’aala spoke to him directly, whilst he saw Allah Ta’aala. 


Imam Sufyan Thawri radi Allahu anhu says that this incident of Hada هَدَى) ) of RasoolAllah SallAllahu Alayhi Wasallam during the revelation of the Quran, is captured in the 7th verse of Surah Wad-Dhuha. (Tabaqaat ibn Saad) Allah Ta’aala says: ‘And We deemed you (Oh Prophet) to be Dhaalan so We granted you Hada هَدَى) )’ (alQuran 93:7) 


Imam Ja’far Saadiq radi Allahu anhu, who is Imam Abu Haneefa’s teacher, says that in this verse Dhaalan means love (Tafseer Roohul Ma’ani) and Imam Raazi in his Tafseer Kabeer gives the grammatical evidence to say that Dhaalan would refer to love in this verse. As for the word Hada هَدَى) ) it would mean that Allah Ta’aala was unveiled to Nabi Muhummad SallAllahu Alayhi Wasallam. (Kitaab Asma wa Sifat, alBayhaqi) As for the word Wajadaka (deemed you), grammatically it has a connotation of deep love. 


Thus this verse means ‘And We deemed you to be in deep love with Us so we unveiled Ourselves to you.’ If we look back at Surah Taha’s explanation of one’s characteristics and Hada, we can get a clearer understanding. ‘Our Lord is He who grants each thing its characteristic then it makes Hada () (هَدَىalQuran 20:50) Hada is achieved by refining the characteristics with which we have been created thereby reaching a state of Hada whereby Allah Ta’aala becomes apparent to us. RasoolAllah SallAllahu Alayhi Wasallam reached the pinnacle of Hada. Surah Wad-Dhuha, by saying And We deemed you to be in deep love with Us so we unveiled Ourselves to you,’ indicates that RasoolAllah SallAllahu Alayhi Wasallam achieved Hada هَدَى) ) by developing the characteristic of love. RasoolAllah SallAllahu Alayhi Wasallam is thus referred to as HabeebAllah (the Beloved of Allah) and this is a state which distinguishes him from all others, for RasoolAllah SallAllahu Alayhi Wasallam says, ‘Allah has made Ibraheem Khaleel (a Close Friend) and Musa Najiyy (One whom He conversed with) and He made me Habeeb (Beloved one) then He said: By My Izzat and My Jalaal! Truly I am more intimate with My Habeeb than with My Khaleel and Najiyy.’ (Imam alBayhaqi) 


This verse of Surah Wad-Duha first says that RasoolAllah SallAllahu Alayhi Wasallam achieved an intense love for Allah Ta’aala. The verse then says ‘Thus’ or consequently, Allah Ta’aala unveiled Himself to RasoolAllah SallAllahu Alayhi Wasallam. An interesting question is, what will be the consequence of us loving Allah Ta’aala? If we develop the love for Allah Ta’aala, will that alone be enough for us gain Hada هَدَى) ), the unveiling of Allah Ta’aala ? 


The Quran answers us, ‘Say (to them, Oh Prophet) If you love Allah then follow me; Allah will love you’ (alQuran 3:31) So an interesting contrast is shown between us and RasoolAllah SallAllahu Alayhi Wasallam: the consequence of him loving Allah Ta’aala was that Allah Ta’aala was unveiled to him directly, whilst if we happen to develop love for Allah Ta’aala, then we are directed to RasoolAllah SallAllahu Alayhi Wasallam. Whilst this shows us that we are unlike RasoolAllah SallAllahu Alayhi Wasallam, it also teaches us that his love for Allah Ta’aala was so perfect that Allah Ta’aala unveiled Himself to him. 


Being inquisitive humans, we would ask, if we develop love for Allah Ta’aala, why does the Quran direct us to RasoolAllah SallAllahu Alayhi Wasallam before we can gain Allah’s Ta’aala love? The answer can be found in a quote from Imam Sahal bin Abdullah Tastari radi Allahu anhu. Commenting on this verse ‘Say (to them, Oh Prophet) If you love Allah then follow me; Allah will love you’ (alQuran 3:31), Imam Tastari radi Allahu anhu says, One’s love for Allah Ta’aala is recognised through one’s live for the Quran and one’s love for the Quran is recognised through one’s love for the Nabi SallAllahu Alayhi Wasallam and one’s love for the Nabi SallAllahu Alayhi Wasallam is recognised through following him. (Tafseer Qurtubi)


Thus by directing us first to RasoolAllah SallAllahu Alayhi Wasallam, this verse wants us to love the Nabi SallAllahu Alayhi Wasallam, then only can we earn Allah’s Ta’aala love. Now that the Quran has given us the formula of developing our characteristics into strengths and thereby gaining Hada هَدَى) ) it is up to us to follow this blue print. RasoolAllah SallAllahu Alayhi Wasallam developed his strength of love for Allah Ta’aala and this earned him Hada هَدَى) ) and bear in mind, for the rest of us the Quran first directs us to loving the Nabi SallAllahu Alayhi Wasallam before gaining Allah’s Ta’aala love. 




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