Ayaat 1-11 – A Journey with Divergent Ends
Every one of us is making an effort, but our efforts are different. Some of us are working for the eternal happiness of the Hereafter while others are busy in making Paradise in this world. The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “Each morning when a man gets up, he goes to conduct his business and keeps himself busy. His business is either successful and emancipates himself from Hell, or unsuccessful and his efforts become the cause of his destruction.” A wise person should think what his efforts are for. He should not indulge in temporary pleasures and comfort but rather keep his eyes on the Hereafter. In this Surah, Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala says,
Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala swears by the night and the day, and describes them by the scene each produces on the horizon; the night as it enshrouds everything with its veil of darkness and by the day as it attains its full splendor. The night covers and conceals the land and all there is on it, and the day brightens up and makes every object apparent and visible. These times differ in their respective scenes, qualities and effects.
Then Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala swears by men and women who are again both different from one another in the sense of their responsibilities as well as physique and other characteristics.
By these contrasting examples, Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala brings our attention to the diverse striving of human beings. “Indeed, your efforts are diverse.” These efforts vary in essence, motives, directions and results. Men have diverse temperaments and concerns. This is a fact that groups them into two distinct classes and two contrasting positions. There is one “…who gives and fears Allah. And believes in the best [reward]…” and another “…who withholds and considers himself free of need.”
Each group has its way in this life smoothed, with all obstructions removed: “As for he who gives and fears Allah. And believes in the best [reward], We will ease him toward ease. But as for he who withholds and considers himself free of need. And denies the best [reward], We will ease him toward difficulty.” He who is charitable, God-fearing and believes in an ideology which is synonymous with ultimate good has indeed done his best to purify himself, seeking right guidance. Hence, he deserves the help and grace of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala. He whose path to perfect ease and comfort is made smooth by Allah achieves something great. Such a person achieves this great goal in this life without difficulty. He lives in ease. His situation, his living, his dealing with others, his worship, everything becomes easy for him. Success and contentment become the distinctive mark of his life.
On the other hand, he who sacrifices nothing of himself or his wealth, professes that he is in no need of His Lord or His guidance and disbelieves in His message and religion, makes himself vulnerable to evil. For so doing he deserves that everything should be made hard for him. Hence, Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala makes easy his path to affliction, and withholds from him all kinds of help. Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala makes every stride he takes hard, drives him away from the path of right guidance, and leaves him to traverse the valleys of misery, although he may imagine himself to be taking the road to success. How greatly mistaken he is!
He loses balance: thus he tries to avoid falling only to go down heavily, and finds himself further away from the path set by Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala, deprived of His pleasure. Facilitating evil and sin is the same as facilitating the way to affliction, even though the sinful may be successful and prosperous in this life. For is there any affliction worse than hell? Indeed, hell is affliction itself?
When he eventually goes down to his grave, he can make no use of the wealth he has hoarded. It is that very wealth that has caused him to imagine himself in no need of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala or His guidance. “And what will his wealth avail him when he falls?” Thus the first part of the Surah ends having made clear that there are only two ways for all mankind at all times and in all places. All humanity forms into two parties, under two headings, however numerous their colors and forms may be.
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