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Chapter 100: Al-‘Adiyat (The Assaulters)
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Chapter 100:

The Assaulters

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

  1. By those running and uttering cries!
  2. And by those producing fire, striking!
  3. And those suddenly attacking at morn!
  4. Then thereby they raise dust,
  5. Then penetrate thereby gatherings —
  6. Surely man is ungrateful to his Lord.
  7. And surely he is a witness of that.
  8. And truly on account of the love of wealth he is niggardly.
  9. Knows he not when that which is in the graves is raised,
  10. And that which is the breasts is made manifest?
  11. Surely their Lord this day is Aware of them.

This chapter, Al-‘Adiyat (The Assaulters), was revealed at Makkah. A prophecy about a great imminent revolution had been made in the preceding chapter, Al-Zilzal (The Shaking). In this chapter, Al-‘Adiyat, the Muslims have been told that the success of the revolution will depend upon the struggle made by them. Until a nation takes its struggle to its climax, no grand and awe-inspiring changes can be made in the religious field of life. With the struggle and exertion put in by a horse as an analogy and as a model, the human being, the highest form of creation, has been roused to action. Allah, Most High, says:

1-6. By those running and uttering cries!
And by those producing fire, striking!
And those suddenly attacking at morn!
Then thereby they raise dust,
Then penetrate thereby gatherings —
Surely man is ungrateful to his Lord.

No other analogy could be as effective as that of a horse in the case of the Arabs because in Arabia a horse was a greatly loved animal and no doubt it was worthy of their love because the loyalty, the hard struggle and obedience of an Arab horse to its master is legendary. The analogy that has been presented here was no doubt an everyday scene for the Arabs of those days, but even today, the graphic sketch portrayed here to our eyes, of obedience and loyalty, cannot be equalled by another picture.

Here, the object is to make the reader understand the analogy of the horse: look at how the horse renders obedience to its master's commands, a master who provides the horse with ordinary nurturing, that is, he feeds and waters it and cares for it; how it runs at his master's bidding, and the reins that are held by the master can direct the horse to turn or to run faster and faster. Yet its obedience and loyalty to its master is so perfect that it does not show the slightest reluctance in starting to move and to run at the master's command and signal. When the master desires it to work, it runs according to his command and signal. It not only runs, but runs and runs till it starts panting. Panting, in fact, is a signal from nature of the danger entailed in the exertion; it says that the exertion has reached such a pitch that the heart can no longer cope with it, and if this hard running continues for any length of time, the heart will fail, leading to death. Indeed, many a man and horse have fallen and died when running, but the horse keeps on running, even when panting, at the master's signal. By panting, its limbs and faculties are hinting at the danger of death, yet the regard for safeguarding its reputation for loyalty and obedience drives it on and it cares not a bit even for death, and continues to exert itself to the utmost limit under the master's orders. This gives us an idea of the intensity of its exertion.

Now let us turn our attention to the state of the road. It will not be a difficult task if the road is easy and soft and offers no hardship during this arduous run, but the master of the horse puts it on hard and rocky terrain and the rocks are so hard that they may well nigh break the foot. As the foot of the horse hits them, sparks fly off. But even there, the horse does not disobey the master's command but it hits this hard road at once and continues to exert itself with such grace, and continues to strike the road with such fury that wherever the foot falls, sparks fly off. We now have an idea of the intensity of the struggle and the hardships of the road.

Now let us look at the difficulties of the timing. In this world, the day is meant for work and the night for rest. No matter how hard one works during the day, if the fatigued human or animal can go to his place of rest and go to sleep, he gets up the next day quite refreshed for the struggle that commences the next morning. But what of the horse? Allah, Most High, explains: If the master needs its services during the night, though it is meant for rest, he calls upon it to go to work, for an all-night sprint will enable the master to mount a surprise raid on the enemy at dawn. So, at such a time the horse cares not a whit about this untimely pursuit. On being given the command by the master, it does not care whether it is day or night. Casting aside all thought of rest and sleep, it starts off at its master's bidding and begins to run on a rocky and difficult path, and panting, it keeps running, putting its own life at risk. Galloping all night without any rest, it reaches its destination by dawn and forthwith attacks the enemy.

Let us recap. Three difficulties have been mentioned so far: unbearably hard work and difficulties on the journey entailing the risk of death; the difficulties encountered on the way and the difficulties of the timing of the run. The point is made here that the horse cares not a bit about these three difficulties and gives top priority to the obeying of orders. In such a struggle, there are two other difficulties; one is the anxiety for those left behind, and the second is the fear of what the future may hold. So, here we are told that the daring and the bravery of the horse in this respect is worth emulating. It continues to go forward under his master's orders, caring not at all about what is left behind. The only thing that one can see in its rear is the dust it stirs up with its hard gallop, which is proclaiming the intensity of its struggle. The horse is only concerned with obeying the master's command and not caring about what may happen in the rear.

Similarly, as for what may befall it in the future, it cares not a whit. After running all night, panting, after making sparks fly off the rocks on the road, after covering the entire distance by night, no rest station is its lot, no food or fodder is ready for it. Instead, the enemy hosts stand in front. To attack them and to enter their ranks is to enter the jaws of death. But the horse is not at all worried about this in the presence of the master's orders. Obeying the command of the master, it charges into the enemy ranks and into the jaws of death, caring not a bit about anything. This is what can be called the height of obedience and loyalty.

These are the five difficulties that can break a man's resolve and put an end to his struggle. By giving the analogy of the horse here, Allah, Most High, says: When faced with its master's command, it cares not a bit for these difficulties; loyalty as well as obedience to the master is its religion and its faith.

Allah, Most High explains further: Compare the gratitude and loyalty of the horse to its nourisher with the ungratefulness of man who does not gird himself up for the sake of his Master and Nourisher, although the providence provided by the Lord to man is many times greater than that provided by man to his horse, because the latter is only an inferior, ordinary and deficient nurturing, whereas the nurturing provided by Allah, Most High, is a perfect nurturing; every particle of man stands in need of this nurturing every moment of his life.

But no revolution can be brought about in the world until man takes a lesson from the struggle of the horse. The fact is that man's reins should be in the hands of his Master, the Nourisher of the worlds, and whenever the Master gives the signal for the start of the struggle, it should start with such zest that, though his mind may feel anxiety over the struggle and it may repeatedly remind him of the danger of death and destruction, nay, even his relatives and friends may try to dissuade him from putting his life and honour on the line, yet in the face of the command of his Master he should not care a bit about such dangers, advice and misgivings, and should continue his struggle despite all kinds of dangers and apprehensions. Then, in whatever direction his Master points him, he should go cheerfully, and if hardships and difficulties are encountered on the way, he should be totally oblivious to these. The difficulties should act as a spur for further increasing the intensity of the struggle. He should continue to advance with such force and power, trampling over the difficulties and ignoring the hardships, that the on-looker, who thought that these difficulties would break the feet of his struggle and put an end to them for good, should feel the firmness of his steps of fortitude and the sparks of his fire of faith, sparks that cannot be ignited without deep love and longing for Allah, Most High. The observer should be able to see how a true believer intensifies his struggle in the time of difficulties. Then, in the face of his Master's commands, there should be no thought as to whether the time is convenient or not. When the Master's command comes, he should cast off all thoughts of his own ease and comfort and all feelings of sleep and rest and should gear himself for action. Although the time may be an inopportune one, however much the inconvenience and hindrance offered by the circumstances, he should pass through every darkness, and not get tired nor feel worn out before he finds his destination.

Again, he should have such faith in the nurturing power of the Master that he should have no concern for the welfare of those he left behind. Here, when the soldiers of ordinary temporal kings get killed in battle, the government itself cares for the dependants of the deceased and honours them by granting pensions and land grants. So, for those who offer to sacrifice themselves while complying with the commands of a King like Allah, Most  High, to have any misgivings and worries as to what would happen to their dependants is to show a great deficiency of trust in Allah. Therefore, it is essential that a true believer should have faith in the providential power of his Lord and should sacrifice his all - wealth, life, time, honour and reputation - in His Way, leaving behind such an unparalleled example of selfless sacrifice, struggle and exertion that the coming generations may take a lesson from the example that his struggle has left behind. And, though he himself is not desirous of leaving behind his example, yet the law of nature is such that, in the course of time, it highlights the evidence of such a struggle.

As for the future, there should be no ambition for greatness or fame or name or rulership and rank, or comfort and luxury, or luxurious enjoyment. Nay, even if finally there is an order from the Master to accept death, and instead of comfort and ease and benefit there is an order to take on the burden of dangerous difficulties and hardships, he should accept those cheerfully and should not at that time begin to mutter, "What shall we gain after all this struggle?" Because in this entire struggle he does not have any benefit for his own self or person in view, but only obedience to his Lord is his aim. In other words, he starts on the way after sacrificing all he had and now in the end he sacrifices himself. This is the ultimate in obedience and gratefulness to one's Lord. It was only because the noble companions of the Holy Prophet (sas) transcended all the stages of this struggle that they could have brought about a revolution the like of which the world has never seen. Today, we, too, cannot bring about a spiritual revolution in the world until we pass through these five stages of struggle.

Allah, Most High warns: Ungrateful is he who shirks from going through these five stages of struggle in obedience to his Lord's commands. And He brings up an argument about this ungratefulness saying:

7. And surely he is a witness of that.

8. And truly on account of the love of wealth he is niggardly.

What a lovely argument has been given. Says the Lord: "Let no one bring up the excuse that the five stages of struggle that Thou hast mentioned are beyond our capacity and capability, so please do not burden us with work we cannot do."

He adds: This lover of wealth is quite used to covering these five stages with great eagerness and relish for the sake of wealth. Give him money, show him money or tempt him with wealth, and he will at once bear the heaviest of burdens for its sake!

In short, he will bid farewell to all ease and comfort for the sake of money, and will be quite prepared to do anything for it. But why? Because he loves wealth and loves it intensely. That is why he is always ready to make every sacrifice for its sake and goes through the five stages of struggle with such eagerness and relish as if he gets a feeling of ecstasy in the process of the struggle itself. As long as the money keeps coming, a man will work from dawn till dusk and again from dusk till dawn, and no fatigue will slow him down. He does not care about eating, drinking and sleeping, but to him these are of no consequence.

Anyway, what is the secret underlying the love for wealth and getting enjoyment out of the struggle for it? It is nothing else but that man knows that wealth supports him and fulfils his needs: that is why it is so dear to him. So it stands proven that in reality it is the nurturing power of wealth that has made it so beloved to man. But a wise man can appreciate that the real Nurturer is Allah, the Most High, and wealth is only one means of support. How often it happens that wealth is there, yet a man's life is lost and his honour destroyed. He may be rolling in wealth and enjoying all sorts of lavish bounties, yet if he is a victim of diabetes or is suffering from any other such illness, he cannot enjoy his luxuries. He may possess wealth but has no offspring, or his most beloved family member may die and thus his life becomes bitter. His wealth is still there but he is powerless. A man's honour may be lost due to the misdeeds of a family member or the misdemeanour of a relative. And often a man, despite all his wealth and affluence, may not enjoy the respect that is given even to a beggar.

In short, wealth cannot provide a comprehensive nurturing; it is just one means out of many means of nurturing. Thus, the real source of comprehensive nurturing is the Nourisher of the worlds Himself, Whose nurturing is real and all-encompassing. So, how foolish it is for one to go cheerfully through all the stages of struggle for the sake of attaining a single means of nurturing, yet for going through even one of those for the sake of the True Nurturer one raises a lot of objections and offers numerous excuses!

Thus, the testimony of man against himself contained in the verse, Verily he is a witness over it, is only this, that he loves wealth, which is only one means of nourishment, and this love is given to the deficient nurturing that one gets through wealth. Therefore, there is no reason why one should not love the real Nurturer, Who is a manifestation of all-embracing nurturing, more than one loves wealth. If nurturing is to be the cause of love, then the love for the real Nurturer should be far greater than love for wealth. And whatever sacrifice is made for His sake, and whatever toil and struggle one has to carry out in obedience to his Lord should be far more than one does for wealth. Yet, on the contrary, if man has to perform a struggle in obedience to his Lord, he starts to offer excuses and arguments, although for the sake of wealth he is prepared to bear everything. So, what can be said of him except that he is utterly ungrateful to his Lord?

Allah, Most High, then admonishes man thus:

9. Knows he not when that which is in the graves is raised,

10. And that which is the breasts is made manifest?

11. Surely their Lord this day is Aware of them.

How well has it been put! Allah, Most High, says that the very wealth, for the love of which a man bears such toil and hardship and makes so many sacrifices, will remain behind in the world and he himself will be put in a grave. After death, that wealth will be of no avail. On the other hand, the life that comes after death is a life that is real and eternal. On the Day of Resurrection, all the secrets that lie buried in the graves will become manifest and the intentions and resolutions that lie hidden in the breasts or the hearts will also come to light. On that day, it will be realised that the body for whose nurturing one had struggled so hard to acquire wealth had become rotten in the grave, and the real thing that was to endure was the thing that was in the breast, that is, the love of Allah and the yearning for winning His pleasure and the effects of deeds that leave an impression on the heart and are the building blocks for the new life. On that day it will be realised how well their Lord, to Whom they had been so ungrateful, was aware of their intentions and the secrets of their hearts. On that day, no excuse, no machination and no pretence will work with their Lord, because no secret of the heart is hidden from Him. But certainly the veil that covers a man's eyes today will be lifted on that day and the manifestation of the glory of Allah's attribute, Al-Khabir (the All-Knowing), will be so complete that every man will come to know that no word or deed of his is hidden from this attribute of Allah. That is why the judgement delivered by Allah, Most High, on that day will be correct and perfect. The recompense for good and for evil will be exactly according to the demands of justice, because only perfect knowledge can deliver perfect justice.

Thus, the one with his heart full of love for money and the one with his heart overflowing with the love of Allah will not be equal on that day. Whosoever trusted in the nurturing power of wealth and filled his heart with its love will discover that that wealth will not be present there to provide nourishment on that day. However, whosoever trusted in the beneficent providence of Allah, Most High, and filled his heart with His love, will find that love visible there on that day, and Allah's perfect nurturing will also be present there, a nurturing that had been made beloved by Him, and without which every life will become a source of torment on that day.

Look at the life of this world: people save money in the bank during their working years so that it will come in handy in the latter part of life, and if there is not enough savings they live in constant fear of adversity. But however much this money may be, it remains behind in this world because its deficient nurturing is only limited to this world. After death, the money in the bank is of no avail. But whosoever has his trust in the perfect nurturing power of Allah, Most High, and in obedience to Him he saves the wealth of good deeds in the treasury of the Lord, such wealth shall come in useful after death. In other words, money is a means of nurturing, yet it is a means of nurturing this body only, a body that shall meet annihilation in the grave, and also its nurturing is limited to this world alone. However, the good deeds that a man does in obedience to his Lord and the struggle and sacrifices he makes are also means of nurturing, but this nurturing is for that life of man which is at present hidden in the breasts. But a day will come when these secrets will be exposed and whatever is hidden in the breasts will come out. On that day, this means of nurturing will be of great avail to man and will remain with him forever, and will be the cause of his elevation to the greatest heights in the Hereafter and his enjoying a life that is real and eternal.

Remember, that just as a man has to go through the five above-mentioned stages of struggle for bringing about a great revolution in the world, similarly, he has to go through these very five stages of struggle to bring about a great change in his inner self, and these are:

  1. To put one's person into great toil in obedience to Allah's commands and despite the reluctance and excuses put up by one's evil self, not to give up the compulsory duties like prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, zakah (charity), and jihad (struggle) with the Qur'an and with the sword; and not to dread any sacrifice in showing affectionate concern for one's fellow-men.
  2. To disregard the difficulties of the journey, and whether in sickness or in health, to advance and never turn back.
  3. To remain awake during a part of the night for worship and for service to Allah's creatures, and even in the most testing moments, never to abandon one's sublime principles.
  4. To display perfect trust in the nurturing power of Allah, Most High, and not to worry unduly about one's dependants in times when one is called upon to make sacrifices and show selflessness.
  5. Not to have as the goal of one's sacrifices the procurement of indulgence and comfort, or name and fame, or prestige and authority, but to be ready to accept death for attaining the pleasure of the Lord and to accept it willingly, if need be, as a testimony of one's sincerity, love, obedience and gratitude in the way of Allah.

The self of such a person then undergoes such a change that he becomes heir to a new kind of life, and by getting annihilated in the love of Allah, Most High, he, himself, becomes a beloved of Allah.

Next: Chapter 101: Al-Qari‘ah (The Calamity)
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