Ayaat 1-3 ― Arise and Warn
The Surah is chiefly addressed to the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam but through this Surah we also learn the characteristics that a da’ee must possess.
In the ayah, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala addresses the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and says, “O you enveloped!” The word al-Muddathir is from the root dal-tha-ra which means, ‘it became covered with sand and dust blown over, to be endowed with excellent capabilities, covered with a cloak or wrapped with a garment.’
We read in the introduction to this Surah that after the first encounter with angel Jibreel ‘alayhi salaam the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam got really scared and he asked his family to cover him up. The eloquence of the Qur’an is such that it chooses the exact words as the situation might be. Hence, the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was addressed as Ya ayyuhal muddathir instead of Ya ayyuhar Rasool or Ya ayyuhan Nabi. This personal address sets the theme for what great mission he had to perform. How could he lie under a cloak while there is a burden of a great mission over him? He could not relax. He had to get up.
Therefore, we see that the next ayah says, “Arise and warn,” (74:2). Let’s pause here for a moment and reflect on how much Qur’an was revealed between the first revelation ever of “Iqra,” (96:1) and this Surah. None! Yet the first command that came was to read and the one after that was “arise and warn,” (74:2). This means we cannot wait for years or decades until we begin warning people we must pass on the message ‘now’. This is a responsibility. As soon as something touches your heart let it be known to others. Many people do not even know the basics. Help them get connected to their Rabb.
The Prophets are both Nadheer (givers of warning) and Basheer (givers of glad tidings). The command fa-andhir [فَأَنذِرْ] comes from the infinitive indhar (warning) which is based on love and affection, such as a father’s warning his children against the dangers of a snake, scorpion or fire. At the time of revelation of this ayah there were only a handful of Muslims. The rest of the people were all rejecters and disbelievers. They needed to be warned and did not merit glad tidings. Therefore, the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was instructed to arise and warn the people who are living their lives in heedlessness. Warn them that they are not free to carry on their lives as they will. There is a law that must be followed and there will be accountability in the Hereafter. Every matter of this world will eventually come to an end but the Hereafter is ever-lasting therefore focus on your Hereafter more.
The next command that we come across is, “And your Lord magnify,” (74:3) meaning proclaim the greatness of your Lord both orally and practically. The attribute Rabb has been used which denotes that He is the Sustainer, Cherisher and Nourisher of the entire world. He alone is worthy of Greatness. At that time, the people were engaged in idolatry therefore the primary duty assigned to the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was to proclaim the greatness of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala alone. It is for this reason that the phrase Allahu Akbar is of supreme importance in Islam. The adhan begins with the proclamation of Allahu Akbar. We enter our prayer with Allahu Akbar and repeat the phrase every time we sit or stand. We pronounce Bismillahi Allahu Akbar when we slaughter an animal. The phrase has become a distinctive and prominent symbol of Muslims throughout the world today.
The first command in this Surah was to get up and warn others, and the very next command says, “Magnify your Lord.” When one reflects on the sequence one concludes that setting upon the journey of warning people, the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was to face hurdles, hostility and opposition. During such a time, he was not to give up but remember that his Lord is the Most Supreme Being. He is Great, and everything else is below Him. The one who has Allah’s greatness and majesty deeply embedded in his heart will feel no hesitation at all in facing and fighting the entire world by himself for the sake of Allah. This was Allah ta’ala’s way of strengthening the resolve of the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and making him steadfast in his mission. Subhan’Allah!
Ayaat 4-7 ― Be Patient for the Sake of Your Lord
In the last ayaat we learned about the characteristics of a da’ee, we will now learn the adaab (etiquette) of da’wah.
The word thiyab [ثِيَاب] is the plural of thaub and it refers to ‘clothes or garment’. One is not only supposed to do da’wah or magnify Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala but also be conscious of their hygiene and cleanliness. His body and clothes must be kept clean from all kinds of physical impurity. The heart and soul must be kept clean from false beliefs and adulterating thoughts, and free from moral decadence. One form of cleansing the garment is not to make or buy it from unlawful money. It must be made in such a way as the sacred law permits. It must cover one’s awrah and make one look respectable and dignified. However, it should be void of any tinge of vanity and pride, display and exhibition, pomp and show.
One is known by the way they dress up. It is our introduction to the people. The dresses of the rulers and princes, the dresses of the religious functionaries, the dresses of the vain and conceited people, all represent the tastes and tempers of those who wear them. The temper of the one calling to Allah is naturally different from all such people. Therefore, his dress also should necessarily be different from all of them.
The command to wear clean clothes is not specific to prayers. A Muslim must be clean under all conditions. Likewise, it is not permitted to sit in an unclean place. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says in Surah al-Baqarah,
إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ التَّوَّابِينَ وَيُحِبُّ الْمُتَطَهِّرِينَ
“…Surely Allah loves those who are most repenting, and loves those who keep themselves pure,” (2:222).
A Muslim, under all conditions and circumstances, needs to keep his body, clothes and house clean and pure and also maintain his inner cleanliness of the heart. Therefore, whether one is coming to an Islamic class or worshipping at home, they must not be in their sleeping pajamas. Treat it as your formal meeting with Rabbul Alameen. Be careful about how you dress up. Give respect to your Deen. Purify your hearts from pride, show off and deceit. Adorn yourself with the apparel of taqwa and beautify your character. Imagine how the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam would meet Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and be with the people. Follow the Sunnah.
“And keep away from filth,” (74:5), the word Rujz is from the root ra-jeem-zaay and it means “uncleanliness, filth or dirt’. It can be used both in the tangible and intangible sense such as every kind of filth, whether of belief and thought, of morals and deeds, of the body, dress or mode of life.
Here, the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was being told to keep away from the idols. We know that he never indulged in idolatry at any time in his life, therefore, the command here was for the future. He was instructed to abstain from the filth of idolatry and immoralities in the future as well as he has kept away from them in the past. The mufasireen have also interpreted this ayah to be as a direct command towards the idolaters. If the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam is being commanded to keep away from filth this means this is the message that he will convey to others. This highlights the importance of abstaining from idol-worship.
“And give not a thing in order to have more,” (74: 6) meaning be sincere in your da’wah activities. No gift should be given to anyone seeking to get back something in return especially of a higher value. Whomever you favor, you should do so without any selfish motive. Your bestowal of an endowment, generosity or kind treatment should be only for the sake of Allah. There should be no trace of any worldly desire in it. Moreover, it could also mean never gloat over your da’wah services. You should never have the idea that you are doing a favor to the people. Again, you are doing this only for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Had He not guided you, you would never have been in this place. If one begins expecting praise and acknowledgment from people they will never be sincere to their duties. While doing da’wah do not expect anything from the people.
In doing so you will face hurdles and opposition therefore “be patient for the sake of your Lord,” (74:7). The word sabr literally signifies ‘to restrain oneself’. In the Qur’anic context, the word has a very wide scope. It signifies to bind oneself to the laws of Allah, to restrain oneself from things made unlawful by Allah, and to control oneself from unnecessary bewailing and complaining in times of difficulties and hardships.
The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was advised to observe patience because in the early Surahs he was commanded to invite the people towards Islam and to shun idolatry. He was to be opposed and persecuted by his enemies therefore he was being prepared to fight opposition with patience and fortitude.
When one does sabr for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala matters become easier to endure. If a person is impatient and desires immediate results, he will forever remain discontent or even worse, hurt himself. So be patient for the sake of your Lord.