Ayah 1: The Piling Up of Worldly Things
The Surah begins with Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala drawing our attention towards the distractions. He tells us that while we are lost in the beauty of the distractions of the world, we stay needlessly busy in chasing, and thus away from the remembrance of Allah. He says,
“The piling up of worldly things diverts you.”
This means that such an activity keeps us busy and distracts us from what we should really be doing. We are wasting our time on something that is less important. The time that we spend in piling up material goods or accumulating more and more wealth could be spent on something more important.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says in Surah al-Munafiqun Ayah 3, “O you believe! Do not let your wealth and children divert you from the remembrance of Allah.” meaning that our wealth and children should be considered a blessing drawing us closer to Allah and not be a source of distraction which distances us from Him.
The word ‘alhakum’ is from the word ‘lahv’ which means heedlessness. In Arabic, this word is used for every occupation which engrosses man to the extent that he becomes heedless of the important things in life.
The word ‘Takathur’ is from kathrat/kathra/katheer which means a lot or plentifulness.
Therefore, alhakum at-takathur would mean, ‘greed for more and more has occupied you so much that its pursuit has made you heedless of every higher thing in life’. This applies to all the gains and benefits, pleasures and comforts, power and authority, etc.
What are the things that delude us in dunya?
1. The desire of having a lot – For example, I want more money, a better car, a bigger house.
2. Competing with others in getting a lot – For example, competing in wanting to get a better job than someone else. Even in petty things like competing in wanting a better chair than a friend at school or colleague at workplace, getting a bigger slice of cake.
3. Taking pride in the fact that you have more – For example, getting a brand new car every year, moving to a bigger house and showing it off to friends with statements like “I got it before you did.”
4. Wanting more and more. No one desires frugal living. The one thing that unites humans is the fact that we always want MORE.
Having such an attitude distracts us from the real purpose of our creation. What ‘was’ the purpose of our creation? Wasn’t it remembering Allah? We should all look at ourselves how much time is spent in worshiping or remembering Allah and how much of it is spent in beautifying ourselves, beautifying our homes, beautifying our meals, etc.
People who accumulate wealth become heedless of Allah, of the Hereafter, of the moral bounds and moral responsibility of the rights of others and of their own obligations towards them. They are only concerned about raising the standard of their living and won’t bother even if the standard of humanity, in general, is falling.
They want to acquire more and more of wealth no matter how and by what means it is acquired. They desire to have more and more means of comfort and physical enjoyment and, overwhelmed by this greed, they have become wholly insensitive as to the ultimate end of this way of living. They are blindly engaged in this race of having more and more. They have no idea that all this is a means of filling earth with tyranny and wickedness and of destroying humanity itself.
This Surah provokes the reader to ask himself, “What is my purpose? In what pursuits am I spending my time?”.