Ayaat 1-16 – The Basis of Social Values
The address is mainly to the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam but the instruction applies to everyone. However, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala does not reproach him directly. Why was that? It is because the matter was so displeasing for Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala that He did not want to confront His beloved Messenger with it. But why was the Prophet criticized and why was this incident not ignored? It is because Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala had decreed for his Last Messenger to be of excellent conduct for all. He had to set an example for others.
It is part of the Qur’anic method to make use of isolated incidents in order to lay down fundamental and permanent principles. The point at issue here is not merely how an individual or a class of people should be treated. The matter is something far more important. It is: how should people evaluate everything in their lives and from where should they derive the values and standards necessary for such an evaluation.
Allah’s Book should be our standard. Neither social circumstances, traditions, practices, nor any other source be allowed either to encumber or determine these values and standards. A person’s looks, his wealth and status have no value in the sight of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala; what distinguishes a man from the other is his emaan as we studied in Surah al-A’naam Ayah 52. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says in Surah Hujarat ayah 13, “Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you.”
Pressure of society, culture, family values and social ties should not stop us from carrying out the commands of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.
Sometimes we want certain people of our own liking to accept the message of Islam. We chase them exerting all our efforts in bringing them closer to Islam. This at time not only brings ridicule but also causes us pain. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says: You chase the one who is not interested in guidance and you turn away from the one who comes running to you?
Here the lesson for us is that Allah’s guidance is irrespective of class and color. We should be more inclined toward teaching those who show their interest in learning matters of religion. The rest, if Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala sees any good in them, will follow on their own. We see that in the early days of Islam the weak and the downtrodden formed the majority among the believers. Only a handful of influential people had joined this new religion. Then as word spread and people witnessed the truth themselves social dignitaries such as the ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab and ‘Uthman ibn Affan radhiAllahu ‘anhum embraced Islam too and worked their entire life for it.
The one who pretends that he can do without religion should not be a reason for the preacher to be upset or divert his attention from the mission. The preacher is not answerable for an arrogant person’s sins. So do not give undue importance to those who have forgotten Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and become proud of their high worldly position. Islam’s success is not dependent on their acceptance.
“But as for he who came to you striving [for knowledge] while he fears [Allah], from him you are distracted.” Here Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala commands His Messenger to not single anyone out with the warning. Rather, he should equally warn the noble and the weak, the poor and the rich, the master and the slave, the men and the women, the young and the old. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala will guide whomever He chooses to a path that is straight. He has the profound wisdom and the decisive proof.
“No! Indeed, these ayaat are a reminder; so whoever wills may remember it,” meaning whoever wills, he will remember Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala in all of his affairs. “[It is recorded] in honored sheets, exalted and purified,” the pages on which Qur’an is recorded also become dignified. Here, we learn an important lesson that people of the Qur’an, those who study it, act by it, memorize it and teach it to others are honorable in the sight of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Their honor is not for any other reason than the Qur’an. Therefore, it is essential for the people of Qur’an that their character and their deeds are righteous, pure and perfect.
Then it goes on to say, “…[carried] by the hands of messenger-angels, noble and dutiful.” Qur’an is a noble and honored message in every respect. Its pages are purified and exalted, entrusted to ‘noble and devout’ angel ambassadors who convey it to those human beings selected to convey it to their people. It is also dignified. No one who pretends that he is self-sufficient need be approached about accepting this message of Islam. It is only for those who know its value and seek to be purified by it.
Imam Ahmad recorded from ‘A’ishah radhiAllahu ‘anha that the Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,
الَّذِي يَقْرَأُ الْقُرْآنَ وَهُوَ مَاهِرٌ بِهِ، مَعَ السَّفَرَةِ الْكِرَامِ الْبَرَرَةِ، وَالَّذِي يَقْرَؤُهُ وَهُوَ عَلَيْهِ شَاقٌّ، لَهُ أَجْرَان
“He who recites the Qur’an proficiently, will be with the noble, righteous, ambassador angels, and the one who recites it with difficulty will receive two rewards.”
May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala make us from the Ahlul-Qur’an and allow us to reform ourselves and build the character that is required of the people of the Qur’an, aameen.
Ayaat 17-32 – Man’s Arrogant Attitude
The second part of the Surah wonders at man’s conceit as he turns his back on the true faith. It wonders at how man forgets his humble origins, and how he remains totally oblivious of the care Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has taken of him and His complete power over every stage of his existence, both in this life and in the hereafter. In his ingratitude man fulfils nothing of his duties towards his Lord, who has created and sustained him and who will hold him to account for his action.
“Cursed is man!” The mode of expression employed also adds to the sense of horror excited by this abominable attitude. He strongly denies the claims of his creation. Had he been mindful of these claims he would have been humbly grateful to his Lord who created him. The path of life has been smoothed for him. He has also been given the ability to recognize and follow the right path. When the journey of life is over, when every living being meets its inevitable end, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala provides him a grave.
He honors man by making the earth his last abode, rather than leaving him as food for wild animals. He has made it part of human nature to bury the dead. When the time He has appointed arrives, He brings him back to life for the reckoning. So man will not be left without reward or retribution.
But has man prepared himself for this reckoning? “No! Man has not yet accomplished what He commanded him,” [80: 23].
Man does not fulfill his commitment to His Creator. He remains negligent of his duties and does not thank and praise Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Man does not prepare himself in this life for the day of reward and retribution. In addition, the great majority of people arrogantly turn their backs on divine guidance. This applies to humanity as a whole.
Next, the Surah invites man to reflect upon his food and that of his cattle, which is one of the great many things Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has provided for him, “Then let mankind look at his food,” [80: 24]. Let man reflect: does he play any significant role in it? Had Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala not provided the means for it, man did not had the power to create it on his own. Every step of man’s sustenance is determined by the Supreme Will that creates man.
Water vapors are raised in vast quantities from the oceans by the heat of the sun: then they are turned into thick clouds; then the winds blow and spread them over different parts of the earth; then because of the coolness in the upper atmosphere the vapors turn back to water and fall as rain in every area in a particular measure. The water not only falls as rain directly on the earth but also collects underground in the shape of wells and fountains, flows in the form of rivers and streams, freezes on the mountains as snow and melts and flows into rivers in other seasons as well than the rainy season. Has man himself made all these arrangements? Had his Creator not arranged this for his sustenance, could man survive on the earth?
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala then cleaves it in a way that the seeds, or seed-stones, or vegetable seedlings that man sows or plants in it, or which are deposited in it by winds or birds, or by some other means, should sprout up. Man can do nothing more than to dig the soil, or plough it, and bury in it the seeds. Beyond this everything is done by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. It is He Who has created the seeds of countless species of vegetable; it is He Who has endowed these seeds with the quality that when they are sown in the soil, they should sprout up and from every seed vegetable of its own particular species should grow.
This is a means of sustenance not only for man but also for those animals from which man obtains food items such as meat, fat, milk, butter, etc. and which perform countless other services also for man’s living. Man benefits by all this and yet disbelieves in Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala Whose provisions sustain him.
Ayaat 33-42 – Some Faces on that Day will be Bright, Laughing and Rejoicing
The Judgment Day is the end of all delight and enjoyment. It fits perfectly with the planning and designing which included every stage of man’s development. The end portrayed here fits perfectly with the scene at the beginning of the Surah which shows someone coming forward with zeal and with a feeling of fear in his heart, and another considers himself self-sufficient and turns away from divine guidance.
Al-Sakhkhah[الصَّآخَّةُ] translated here as “the Deafening Blast” has been interpreted in different ways. Ibn ‘Abbas said, “Al-Sakhkhah is one of the names of the Day of Judgment that Allah has magnified and warned His servants of.” Ibn Jareer said, “Perhaps it is a name for the blowing into Trumpet.” Al-Baghawi said, “Al-Sakhkhah means the thunderous shout of the Day of Judgment. It has been called this because it will deafen the ears. This means that it pierces the hearing to such an extent that it almost deafens the ears.”
When the trumpet will be blown people will be fleeing from their nearest and dearest ones lest they call them for help. It may also mean that when they see the evil consequences of committing sin for the sake of one another and misleading one another, fearless of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and heedless of the Hereafter, in the world, each one would flee from the other lest the other should hold him responsible for his deviation and sin. Brother will fear brother, children their parents, husband his wife, and parents their children lest they should become witnesses in the case against them.
The fearfulness depicted in this scene is purely psychological. Each person will think only of himself. None shall have any time or power to think of others.
Then follows a description of the conditions of the believers and the unbelievers after the two groups have been assigned their values by divine standards and given their respective positions: “[Some] faces, that Day, will be bright – laughing, rejoicing at good news,” [80: 38-39]. These faces beam with a happiness overflowing with delight. They are hopeful and reassured because they feel that their Lord is pleased with them. These people are spared the terror of the stunning blast, so they can afford to smile and demonstrate their joy. Or probably the smiles and manifestations of happiness are seen after these people have realized the good end awaiting them.
“And [other] faces, that Day, will have upon them dust. Blackness will cover them. Those are the disbelievers, the wicked ones,” [80: 40-42]. Such faces are covered with the dust of sadness and misery, darkened with humiliation and depression.
They know what they have done in this life and they await their inevitable punishment. These people are devoid of faith. They do not believe in Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala or in the divine message. Moreover, they are hardened in their erring and sinful ways. They persistently violate divine commandments.
The destiny of each group is portrayed in their faces. The opening and the ending of the Surah are in perfect harmony. The opening lays down a fundamental principle and a general standard, and the ending shows us the results of applying this standard.
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