In the Shade of the Quran (part 30)


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  • In the Shade of the Quran (part 30)


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    Surah 92 The Night al Lail

    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

     

    By the night when she lets fall her darkness, by the day in full splendour, by Him who created the male and the female: surely your striving is diverse. For him who gives and is godfearing and believes in that which is the Best We shall smooth the way to perfect ease. But as for him who is a miser and deems himself self-sufficient, and calls the Best a lie We shall smooth his way to affliction. His wealth will not avail him when he falls headlong. It is for Us to give guidance, and to Us belong the End and the Beginning. I warn you, therefore, of the fiercely blazing fire, in which none shall burn but the most wretched, who denies the truth and turns away. Preserved from it will be the righteous who gives away his money to purify himself, not in recompense of any favour done Him by anyone. He simply seeks the pleasure of His Lord, the Most High. He shall indeed be well content.

     

    Commentary:

    Within a framework of scenes taken from the universe and the realm of human nature, this surah states emphatically the basic facts of action and reward. This issue had diverse aspects: "Surely your striving is diverse. For him who gives and is godfearing, and believes in that which is the Best, We shall smooth the way to perfect ease. But as for him who is a miser and deems himself self-sufficient, and calls the Best a lie, We shall smooth his way to affliction. " The end in the hereafter is also varied, according to the type of action and the direction taken in this life: "I warn you, therefore, of the, fiercely blazing fire in which none shall burn but the most wretched, who denies the truth and turns away. Preserved from it will be the righteous who gives away his money to purify himself. "

    The subject matter of the surah, i.e., action and reward, is by nature double directional, so the framework chosen for it at the beginning of the surah is of dual colouring. It is based on contrasting aspects in the creation of man and the universe: "By the night when she lets fall her darkness, by the day in full splendour, by Him who created the male and the female. " This is one form of artistic harmony extensively used in the Qur'an.' [For a fuller treatment of this reference may be made to the chapter entitled "Artistic Harmony" in the author's book "The Qur'anic Art of Picture Drawing" (Arabic).]

    "By the night when she lets fall her darkness; by the day in full splendour, by Him who created the male and the female. " Allah swears by these two of His signs, namely, the night and the day, and describes them by the scene each produces on the horizon: the night as she enshrouds everything with her veil of darkness, and the day as it attains its full splendour. The night covers and conceals thc land and all there is on it, and the day brightens up and makes every object apparent and visible. The two times are contrasting in the astrological cycle and in their respective scenes, qualities and effects. Allah also swears by His creation of all species in two contrasting sexes: "by Him who created the male and the female." This completes the contrast in the general atmosphere of the surah as well, as in the facts it emphasises. The night and the day are two general phenomena which carry a certain message with which they inspire the human heart. The human soul is automatically affected by the cycle of the night and its curtain and the day and its splendid brightening. This continuous succession of night and day specks the universe, its mysterious secrets and phenomena over which man has no control. It suggests that there is a power which controls time in the universe as if it was a simple wheel. It also tells of the never-ending change in the universe.

    As one contemplates and meditates upon these phenomena one is bound to conclude that there is an able hand which controls the universe and alternates the night and the day in that perfect, unfailing accuracy. One is also bound to conclude that the hand of Allah also controls the lives of men. He has not created them in vain, and He does not abandon them to lead a life without purpose.

    However the disbelievers try to drown this reality and divert attention away from it, the human heart remains responsive to this universe. It receives its intimations and ponders over its changes and phenomena. Contemplation and meditation endorse its innate feeling that there is a Controller whose presence is bound to be felt and recognised in spite of all nonsense and conceited denials.

    The same applies to the creation of male and female. In man and the mammals it all starts with a living germ settling in a womb, a sperm which unites with a cell. What is the reason then for this difference in outcome? What is it that says to one germ, "Be a male", and to another, "Be a female"? Discovery of the operative factors does not make the matter any different. How do the male factors exist in one case and the female ones in the other? What makes the end product, I.e., division of the species into two sexes, so fitting with the course of life as a whole and a guarantee of its continuity through procreation?

    Is it all a coincidence? Even coincidence has a rule which deems it impossible for all those elements to come together accidentally. The only explanation is that there is a Controller in charge Who creates the male and the female according to a carefully worked-out plan which has a definite objective. There is no room for chance in the order of this universe.

    Moreover, the male and female division is not limited to mammalia alone: it is applicable to all animate species, including plants. Singularity and oneness belong only to the Creator Who has no parallel whatever.

    Allah swears by these contrasting aspects of the universe and of man's creation and constitution that the striving of human beings is diverse, the roads they follow lead to different ends. Hence, their reward is also diverse. Good is not the same as evil, following the right guidance is unlike wrong-doing, and righteousness is different from corruption. Generosity and godfearing are unlike hoarding and conceit. The faithful are unlike those devoid of faith. Variance of ways necessitates variance of destinations. The reward is also appropriately different: "Surely your striving is diverse. For him who gives and is godfearing, and believes in that which is the Best, We shall smooth the way to perfect ease. But as for him who is a miser and deems himself self-sufficient, and calls the Best a lie, We shall smooth his way to affliction. His wealth will not avail him when he falls headlong."

    " Your striving is diverse." It varies in essence, motives, directions and results. Men have diverse temperaments, environments, concepts and concerns, so much so that every man seems to be a distinct world by himself living in his own, special planet.

    This is a fact, but along with it there is another general fact which applies to all beings and their different worlds. It groups them in two distinct classes and two contrasting positions. It assigns to each its distinctive label: "who gives and is godfearing and believes in that which is the Best;" and, "who is a miser and deems himself selfsufficient and calls the Best a lie. "

    These are the two positions at which the disparate souls line up where all the diverse striving and the divergent ways of life end. Each group has its way in this life smoothed, all obstructions removed: "For him who gives and is godfearing, and believes in that which is Best, We shall smooth the way to perfect ease." He who is charitable and godfearing and believes in the ideology which has the Best as its title has indeed done his best to purify himself seeking right guidance. Hence, he deserves the help and grace which Allah has, by His own will, committed Himself to provide. For without this grace man finds himself absolutely helpless. He whose path to perfect ease and comfort is made smooth by Allah achieves something certainly great, and achieves it with ease and in this life. He lives in ease. Ease flows from him to all around him. Ease becomes characteristic of his movement, action and handling of all things and situations. Success coupled with quiet contentedness becomes the distinctive mark of his life, all its details and its general aspects. He attains the highest grade of all, in the sense that he joins the Prophet as recipients of Allah's promise to His messenger: " We will indeed facilitate for you the way to perfect ease. " [Al-Qur'an 87:8].

    But for him who is a miser and deems himself self-sufficient. and calls the Best a lie We shall smooth his way to affliction. His wealth will not avail him when he falls headlong.

    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 most vulnerable to evil. He deserves for so doing that everything should be made hard for him. Hence, Allah makes easy his path to affliction, and withholds from him all kinds of help. Allah makes every stride he takes really hard, drives him away from the path of the 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 so he tries to avoid falling only to go down heavily, and finds himself further away from the path set by Allah, deprived of His pleasure. When he falls headlong eventually he can make no use of the wealth he has hoarded and which has caused him to imagine himself in no need of Allah or His guidance. "His wealth will not avail him when he falls headlong." Facilitating evil and sin is the same as facilitating the way to affliction, even though the sinful person may be successful and prosperous in this life. For is there any affliction worse than Hell? Indeed, Hell is affliction itself.

    Thus the first part of the surah ends having made clear that there are only two ways for all mankind in all times and places. All humanity is in two parties under two headings however numerous are their colours and forms.

    The second part states the fate of each group. It emphasises firstly that the end and reward of each group is fair and inevitable, for guidance has been provided and warnings have been issued: "It is for Us to provide guidance, and to Us belong the End and the Beginning. I warn you, therefore. of the fiercely blazing fire. in which none shall burn but the most wretched who denies the truth and turns away. Preserved from it will be the righteous, who gives away his money to purify himself, not in recompense of any favour done him by anyone. He simply seeks the pleasure of His Lord, the Most High. He shall indeed be well content."

    One aspect of Allah's grace and mercy to His servants is that He has taken upon Himself to provide clear guidance readily acceptable to human nature, and to explain it as well through His messages and messengers, and by means of the signs He has provided. Thus, no one will have a valid argument for his deviation, and no one will suffer injustice: "It is for Us to give guidance. "

    Then follows a straightforward statement of the essence of the power which has control over man and all around him, from which he can have no shelter: "and to Us belong the End and the Beginning. "

    By way of elaboration on the two facts just mentioned, namely, Allah's provision of guidance and that to Him belongs this life and the hereafter, i.e., the realms of actions and reward, there is a reminder to us that He has cautioned and warned: "I warn you, therefore, of the fiercely blazing fire. " It is only the most wretched of mankind who are thrown in this fire. Indeed there is no wretchedness Worse than suffering in Hell: "in which none shall burn but the most wretched." Then follows a description of the most wretched. It is he "who denies the truth and turns away." He denies this message and turns away from Divine guidance. He does not answer his Lord's beckoning to him so that He may guide him as He has promised any one who comes towards Him with open mind.

    "Preserved from it will be the righteous." who will be the happiest in contrast with the most wretched. The righteous, the surah explains, is the one "who gives away his money to purify himself", not for any vanity or to satisfy any snobbish feeling. He spends it voluntarily not out of any indebtedness to anybody, seeking no gratitude from anyone. His only objective is the pleasure of his Lord, the Most Exalted: "nor in recompense of any favour done him by anyone. He simply seeks the pleasure of his Lord, the Most High. "

    What can the righteous person expect in return for spending his money in self-purification, for the pleasure of his Exalted Lord? The reward which the Qur'an states is indeed astonishing: "He shall indeed be well content. " It is the satisfaction which fills the believer's heart and soul, animates everything in his life, and radiates through him. What a reward, and what grace! "He shall indeed be well content. " He will be satisfied with his religion, his Lord and his destiny. He will be content with whatever befalls him of comfort or discomfort, and whether he is poor or wealthy. He will be free of anxiety and hard feelings. He does not worry about his burden being too heavy or his objective too far. This satisfaction is in itself a reward, great beyond description. Only the person who sacrifices hlmself and his wealth for it and who seeks to purify himself and to win the pleasure of Allah deserves this reward. It is Allah alone Who can pour such a reward into the hearts which submit to Him with all sincerity and pure devotion. Having paid the price, the believer "shall indeed be well content. " At this point, the reward comes as a surprise, but it is a surprise awaited by the one who attains the standard of the righteous, whose main qualifications are spending for self purification and seeking the pleasure of Allah. Such a person will be well pleased and well satisfied.

     

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