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Chapter 87: Al-A‘la (The Most High)
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Chapter 87:

The Most High

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

  1. Glorify the name of thy Lord, the Most High!
  2. Who creates, then makes complete,
  3. And Who measures, then guides,
  4. And Who brings forth herbage,
  5. Then makes it dried up, dust-covered.
  6. We shall make thee recite so thou shalt not forget —
  7. Except what Allah please. Surely He knows the manifest, and what is hidden.
  8. And We shall make thy way smooth to a state of ease.
  9. So remind, reminding indeed profits.
  10. He who fears will mind,
  11. And the most unfortunate one will avoid it,
  12. Who will burn in the great Fire.
  13. Then therein he will neither live nor die.
  14. He indeed is successful who purifies himself,
  15. And remembers the name of his Lord, then prays.
  16. But, you prefer the life of this world,
  17. While the Hereafter is better and more lasting.
  18. Surely this is in the earlier scriptures,
  19. The scriptures of Abraham and Moses.

This chapter, Al A‘la (The Most High), was revealed at Makkah. In the chapter, At-Tariq (The Comer by Night), we were told that our future existence hinged on the preservation of our deeds. In this chapter, the reason for this is disclosed; that is, the very purpose of man’s existence in this world is the doing of good deeds, and as that is an indispensable ingredient in the glorification of the Lord, Most High, we are commanded: Sabbihisma Rabbikal A‘la (Glorify the name of thy Lord, Most High).

We are told in the Hadith that when this verse is recited, whether in salah (formal prayer) or outside of it, we should say: Subhana Rabbiyal A‘la (Glory be to my Lord, the Most High).

1. Glorify the name of thy Lord, the Most High!

Tasbih (glorification of Allah) means that we should understand and express the belief that Allah, Most High, is perfect and without any trace of blemish or defect in His attributes, whilst by taqdis (declaring the sanctity of Allah) we express the same regarding His deeds. In tahmid (praise of Allah) we appreciate and declare the conviction that Allah’s attributes comprise every beauty and every perfection.

Unfortunately in our country today, by tasbih (the glorification of Allah) is meant the rosary which Hindu pundits, Jogis, Muslim jurists and many maulvis and their so-called religious followers count. This is a palpable innovation for neither did our Holy Prophet (sas) nor his blessed companions tell any beads. Muslims have seen and copied this practice of the Magians, Hindus and Christians. What has happened now is that they rush through their salah (prayer) haphazardly in a few minutes and then sit down for hours counting beads. This they call tasbih (glorification of Allah). Now, of all the tricks of ostentation that people use, this rosary business is the greatest one, for whatever the occupation in which they are engaged – sitting, conversing, abusing someone, offering a bribe to another, or committing any other act of dishonesty, the rosary is ever present. In short, it is an innovation, but as an adjunct to trickery it is an especially powerful one, for through this, an awe-inspiring aura of religiosity is firmly established in the minds of others.

A Sufi was once telling beads and a woman happened to pass by. She asked him what he was doing. “I am calling out the name of my Beloved,” replied the Sufi.

“I also have a Beloved, but I have never called out His name like this,” the woman remarked. “He lives in my heart all the time and His name is on my lips.”

On hearing this, the Sufi burst into tears and threw away the rosary.

The Holy Prophet says: “There are two expressions that are light on the tongue but heavy on the scale: Glory be to Allah, and with His praise. Glory be to Allah, the Great.”

The Holy Prophet would frequently repeat these phrases. Similarly, Maulana Nur-ud-Din, a well-known commentator of the Holy Qur'an, did the same. In our salah (ritual prayers) we also glorify Allah by saying: “Glory be to Allah, the Great” and “Glory be to Allah, the Most Exalted.”

The object of repeating all these phrases of glorification is that such repetitions should so affect the heart that it should always remember the divinity and holiness of Allah and that one’s deeds may also reflect this.

Extolling Allah’s praises is of two types. One is a declaration by the tongue and a simultaneous affirmation by the heart of Allah’s Glory and of His being free from all defects and blemishes. That is, one should not attribute anything to Allah which is against His perfect and goodly attributes. One should firmly believe so in his heart also, in addition to the verbal affirmation.

Correct divine gnosis and tauhid (unity of Allah) depend on this very tasbih (glorification of Allah) because polytheism presupposes a weakness and a defect in Allah, Most High. Tasbih and tauhid are therefore co-related things. Tauhid is not perfected unless the tasbih is perfect and vice-versa. Until one considers Allah to be free from all defects and blemishes, one cannot attain correct divine gnosis. This type of tasbih is limited to human beings only.

The second type of tasbih (glorification of Allah) is through the demonstration of Allah’s Glory through deeds or condition. This type of tasbih is a mandatory part of every created thing, which is that everything created speaks of the high quality of workmanship and the beauty of the qualities of the Creator, because the organs and faculties bestowed on all things are so perfect for the achievement of their purpose in life that no human intelligence can design better organs and faculties.

Thus, every particle which is present and functioning in this universe and is busy and trying hard to achieve its purpose in life is manifesting the perfection of its Creator and His being free from all defects and blemishes; that is, of His subhaniyyat (being Holy and free from all defects). In other words, it is engaged in the tasbih of its Creator through the language of its condition, or what the Holy Qur’an has described in the verse: And there is not a single thing but glorifies Him with His praise, but you do not understand their glorification (17:44).

What a beautiful statement! Allah says that everything, for whatever purpose its creation, enjoys such a perfect creation that just observing a created thing offers a lucid argument for the holiness and perfection of its Creator. The only difficulty is that since man does not know the purpose of this creation and has no knowledge of the powers and the capability inherent in something, he starts to raise objections due to his ignorance and lack of understanding. Otherwise, if a man’s knowledge were perfect and if he should become aware of the powers and the purpose of the creation of every particle of this universe, he would be able to hear the glorification of the Creator of the universe coming out of every particle, and his own heart would join in this glorification. The following Persian verses of Shaikh Sa‘di capture this point:

Each leaf of the green tree
Unfolds volumes of God-gnosis
To the eyes of an intelligent observer.

Once an Englishman, an atheist, was looking through the microscope at the creation of life in an egg, and as he kept watching the drama of the creation of life unfolding before his very eyes, he became ecstatic and cried out: “Indeed! There is really some God Who is making this chick with His own hands!”

I had the occasion to go to East Africa in 1900 and made two or three trips by ship carrying Indian labourers. Once, when at sea, the rains continued to fall for several days, and as I was watching the rainfall while sitting on the deck, a sudden misgiving arose in my mind: what is the use of rain falling on the sea? Had it rained on land, it would have benefited the crops, but rain falling on the sea is a waste of good water. Is this not against the Subhaniyyat (Glory) and Wisdom of Allah? I then sought Allah’s pardon and offered istighfar (seeking pardon for one’s sins) for entertaining such an impertinent misgiving. It was through Allah’s Grace that suddenly this idea entered my mind, that is, what is my knowledge compared to Allah’s knowledge and the following verse of the Qur’an came to mind: Glory be to Thee, we have no knowledge but that which Thou hast taught us (2:31).

But what a great favour was shown by Allah to this humble scribe, when after twenty-five years He clarified my knowledge of this misgiving through a book. I happened to look through a book by an English scientist in which he said that the sea’s marine life gets its oxygen and nitrogen through the rain, and were it not for rain on the sea, all marine life would perish. On gleaning this knowledge, a glorification of Allah arose from the depths of my soul and I could hear at that time every particle glorifying Allah. In short, it is man’s ignorance of the benefits of something that makes him raise objections. How can the limited intelligence of man comprehend the creation of the entire universe and the purpose of its creation? So we should understand that everything is busy in celebrating Allah’s glorification through the language of its condition and it does so by striving for the attainment of the purpose for which it was created. That is why we are commanded in the Qur’an to say: Glorify the name of thy Lord, the Most High. That is, O man, you should also engage yourself in glorifying Him Who has created you and Who wants to elevate you to great heights by virtue of His attribute of Rububiyyat (bringing something to perfection). Just as He, Himself, is Most High and His attributes also embody the Most-High quality and His Exaltedness is free of all defects and blemishes, similarly, He, through His Rububiyyat, wants to lead man up to the highest pinnacle of progress. Hence, if man wants to become heir to the greatest of progress through Allah’s perfect Rububiyyat, it is essential that he should engage in the glorification of Allah, both through his heart and his tongue, and also through his deeds and his condition.

An explanation of what the glorification of the heart and the tongue means has already been given. Now listen to the explanation of the glorification through the language of one’s deeds and the language of one’s condition from Allah, Most High, Himself. He says:

2-3. Who creates, then makes complete, and Who measures, then guides.

Here, four reasons for glorification are given. First, creating; second, leading to perfection; third, setting a destiny and a limit for everything; fourth, providing guidance. Since no specific object has been mentioned for these four verbs, here the whole of creation would be the object, that is, Allah created everything, He gave perfection to everything, He set up a destiny and a limit for everything, from which it cannot escape, and gave guidance to everything, that is, made it subservient to a Law, by following which it can attain to its perfection. In other words, everything that has been created has four things attendant on it:

  1. It has been created by Allah;
  2. It has been endowed with certain organs and capabilities for the attainment of the object of its creation, and these organs and capabilities are so perfect that nothing better could be suggested by human intelligence. In the Qur'an this is called taswiya (making a thing in perfect form);
  3. He made a Law and a destiny for the functioning of these organs and capabilities. They have to follow this path and cannot deviate from it. This is called taqdir (destiny).
  4. He has endowed its nature with a tendency to tread a certain correct course, and the course that it is treading, which in the process of attaining its purpose of creation, is called guidance, as He says elsewhere in the Qur’an: Our Lord is He Who gives creation to everything then guides it (20:50). That is, He grants it guidance by following which it can attain its purpose of creation. This guidance is inherent in its nature and it does not deviate from it. We refer to this faculty by the names nature and disposition.

Another thing that must be understood is that man is endowed with two types of faculties. One type pertains to those faculties that he has in common with other living things. Such faculties and organs are to carry out the dictates of their nature involuntarily, and man has no control over their functioning. For instance, the tongue, when it indicates something to be sweet or bitter, functions independently and man has no control over it. But there are other types of faculties and organs which work under man’s volition, and since man has been created as an entity with a will and with the power of discrimination, and has been granted self-consciousness and an independent will, that is why he has been made responsible for his deeds. Hence, these organs work under his will and volition. For example, the tongue can speak the truth as well as tell a lie. Here the human will is in action and the tongue will follow his will.

The guidance which has been vouchsafed to man is also of two types – one is the guidance given to those of man’s organs which are not functioning under his will and are common to all creation and hence this guidance is inherent in his nature as it is in all creatures, man having no hand in its operation. For example, man’s stomach, liver, lungs, heart etc. are all working independently of his control and are engaged in fulfilling the purpose of their creation. The second type of guidance is for the faculties, the functioning of which is subject to the human will and intention.

Therefore, it was essential to give a role to the human will and intention in this type of guidance. Hence, this guidance was given to man through knowledge. That is, Allah revealed to man his purpose of creation by giving him guidance and He told him those ways by treading on which he can attain to that perfection which is a prerequisite of being a vicegerent of Allah and for which he was created. Thus, he was given guidance while maintaining his free will and control over his affairs, and that is a special feature of man. That is why Allah, Most High, called Islam a religion according to nature, meaning thereby man’s receipt of such knowledge from Allah which will disclose to him the paths leading to that perfection which is the purpose of his creation.

If Allah has bestowed guidance upon those faculties of man which are not under his control and also to all creation — a guidance which is found to be inherent in their nature — there is no reason why man should not have been provided guidance for those faculties and organs which work under his will and intention. Hence, the guidance that was vouchsafed to man through revelation and inspiration was absolutely in accordance with nature. Anyone who follows this guidance acts according to nature and in response to the call of the Creator and thus becomes a bright argument for the perfect attributes of Allah by becoming heir to the highest perfection and by attaining the purpose of his creation. He thus engages in glorification of Allah through the language of his deeds and his progress.

Thus, the command given in this chapter is for both types of glorification — by words as well as through the language of his condition and deeds. Verbal glorification contains a hint that one’s doctrine, both on the tongue as well as in the heart, should be such in respect of Allah’s Unity and His attributes, that any type of polytheism or any type of defect or blemish cannot find its way into the divine attributes. By glorification through the language of deeds is meant that one’s deeds should be such that one can attain one’s purpose of creation. Thus, by attaining one's natural and lofty perfection, one should become a clear argument in favour of Allah’s Holiness. The divine guidance that was essential for this glorification was given to man in its complete form through the Holy Qur’an.

4-5. And Who brings forth herbage,
Then makes it dried up, dust-covered.

This is an analogy to impress upon man that if anything does not attain to its purpose of creation, its creation becomes meaningless and void, and its entity becomes worthy of hatred reserved for dingy heaps of dirt fit only to be discarded or burnt. When the green fodder grows out of the earth, how pretty and endearing it is! The purpose of its creation is that animals should feed on it. If eaten by animals, though apparently annihilated, it has fulfilled the purpose of its creation and it has become a part of the body of the next higher order of life, and thus has progressed from a lower category to a higher category. But if this purpose of creation is not fulfilled, and if it does not serve as fodder for animals, then its end would be that it would be dumped or burnt after becoming dark garbage. Thus, if a man dies trying to attain the purpose of his creation, this would not amount to his annihilation. Nay, it means a transformation to a higher life. That is why it has been said about the martyrs: And speak not of those who are slain in Allah’s way as dead. Nay (they are) alive but you perceive not (2:154).

In short, if a man achieves his purpose of creation, though he may have to accept death in doing so, it is a means of progress and perfection for him, and this sets up an argument for the holiness of his Lord. But if he does not achieve the purpose of his creation, though he may stay in this world a long time, his status is not more than that of a bundle of blackened garbage, which deserves contempt and which is of no use and is ready for dumping and burning.

So a perfect rendering of tasbih (glorification of Allah) is only achieved when one proclaims by word and deed that there is no defect or blemish in Allah’s tauhid or in His attributes and fully complies with Allah’s guidance and thus achieves the purpose of his creation, however great the sacrifices he may have to make to do so.

For this, it was essential that the guidance should be so conveyed to man that he might not forget it, and so that it should be preserved with him forever, because on this guidance depends the acceptance of his tasbih.

That is why Allah, Most High, says:

6-7. We shall make thee recite so thou shalt not forget — Except what Allah please. Surely He knows the manifest, and what is hidden.

As stated above, it was essential that the guidance, upon which depended man’s progress and perfection and his tasbih of Allah, the Most High, be so taught to him that he should not forget it. That is why Allah, the High, has said here: We shall make thee recite so thou shalt not forget.

When Allah, Most High, made the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sas) recite, it was so well preserved in his heart and mind that he never forgot it.

Some consider that the seen (s) in the word sa-nuqriuka is placed here for emphasis. That is, We willcertainly make thee recite…. In any case, the connotation of both renderings is the same; that is, You shall never forget the revelation that We have sent down, because when Allah is the Teacher, how can anyone forget His teachings?

Even though the Holy Prophet was a human being and every human being is given to forgetting, and no doubt the Holy Prophet also forgot other matters, nevertheless, the sign of Allah’s teaching was that whatever he learnt from Allah, Most High, he never forgot. At times a chapter comprising twenty rukus (sections) would be revealed to him all at once (and the subject matter of these chapters is full of arguments in favour of prophethood and tauhid, and is very abstruse), yet he never forgot even a single word. Then again, the period of revelation of a chapter was spread sometimes over many years, and when a verse came down, he would get it written in its proper place under divine guidance, and when another verse came down, he would have it placed elsewhere. He himself did not know to read or to write, nor did he have a notebook at home in which memoranda could be recorded. He always recited the Qur’an from memory, yet whenever he recited it, whether in salah (prayer) or otherwise, he never made a mistake. He used to recite the Qur’an from various places during the prayers but there was never a change in the text or the order of the Qur’an. The details of the religion, which mostly consisted of the exegesis of the Qur’an, as also thousands of points of Law, he kept teaching the people, yet he never forgot even the smallest point of Law, and never made contradictory explanations of these at different times. Nowadays, even authors forget what they have written, but he never forgot. This is a clear and vivid indication that Allah was his Teacher, and it is also a miracle of great magnificence before which the human intellect bows its head, because historical events cannot be denied.

The expression, except what Allah please, does not at all mean that he sometimes used to forget some portion, because this would render the text meaningless and would read: “You do not forget what We teach you but you forget out of it what Allah please.”  If Allah wants something to be forgotten, why does He teach it? Hence, this meaning is absurd and wrong. The preposition illa (except) here is exclusive and the expression means: “Whatever Allah teaches you, you cannot forget, otherwise, you forget many things just like other human beings.”

By using the phrase “What Allah please”, Allah has indicated that “your forgetfulness as a human being also has a purpose under the divine plan.” In other words, whatever he learnt from Allah as a messenger, whether the Qur’an or other details of religion, he never forgot, but as a human being, whenever he forgot, there was Allah’s plan in it and some divine wisdom behind it.

One aspect of such wisdom of Allah is that his not forgetting the divine revelation and other details of the Law thus becomes a grand miracle, because if it was that he never forgot anything, it could be construed that his mental make-up was such that it was impossible for him to forget. But his not forgetting the divine revelation and other details of the Law as a messenger of Allah and his forgetting some things in daily life highlight a clear difference between the two – the supernatural power and the limitations of humanity.

Secondly, forgetting as a human being was beneficial for humanity, because concessions in divine Law were thus granted for human weaknesses. For example, the Holy Prophet laid down the number of rakahs (cycles) in prayer under divine instruction and he never forgot anything about this point, never telling anybody that the rakahs (cycles) in the afternoon prayer were three instead of the prescribed four. This was his messengership. But see how his human condition worked. Whilst leading the prayer service, the Holy Prophet once made a mistake. Instead of four, he read two rakahs (cycles), and when his companions pointed this out to him, he read two more rakahs (cycles) and then performed sajdah sahw (prostration of forgetfulness). Now, had the Holy Prophet not committed this inadvertent error because of human weakness, the ummah would have been in some difficulty, because as human beings they were bound to make such mistakes and for this a procedure for rectification was essential. Thus, under a divine plan, the Holy Prophet made a mistake out of his human condition and then an antidote for this situation was provided in the Shari'ah. Thus, what is meant here is that “Whatever Allah makes you recite, you will never forget it whilst teaching others, or whilst setting an example through action.”

Just as he retained the Qur’anic words in his memory, so was the teaching of the Qur’an also preserved in his memory. And so, too, were his deeds that were always according to the Qur’an, as also the explanations of religion that he gave. Sometimes he forgot because of his human condition, but never in the propagation of the divine word or in matters of messengership, but rather in the matters that he had in common with other human beings.

There are two very subtle points in the verse: Surely He knows what is manifest and what is hidden. One is the above miraculous sign set up by Allah, that whatever the Holy Prophet learnt from Allah, he never forgot. This sign encompasses both types of revelation – the manifest revelation, that is, the Qur’an, which he would recite to the people, and the hidden revelation which was an inspiration coming to his heart secretly, and under the instruction of which he would explain the Holy Qur’an and would himself act upon it. The teacher of both types of revelation was Allah, Most High, and the sign which had been set up to prove that the revelation was from Allah was his not forgetting it. Now, obviously, if not forgetting the manifest revelation is a sign of it being from Allah, then not forgetting the details of the Shari'ah, both scholastically and practically, should be an argument in favour of this silent inspiration also being from Allah, an inspiration through which Allah taught the Holy Prophet the details of the religion.

Hence, what Allah is saying here is that: Allah, Who knows about the manifest revelation, that is, the Qur’an that was recited to the Holy Prophet, also knows about the hidden revelation through which all the details of the Shari'ah were revealed, and He testifies on the basis of this knowledge, that whatever the Holy Prophet was made to recite by Allah, was never forgotten by him. Hence, this guidance is well protected and worthy of implementation and worthy of being followed.

The second subtle point here is that man is not aware of all his needs, whether manifest or hidden. To guide him according to all these needs and teaching is a work that only Allah can do, for He is the Creator of human nature and He is aware of every human capability and faculty, whether hidden or manifest, and He can point out the ways for their purification and evolution.

Hence it was essential that Allah, Himself, should give education and teaching to the Holy Prophet for the guidance of mankind, and in such a way that there should be no possibility of forgetfulness and error in it. Otherwise man, because of his limited and deficient knowledge, cannot understand his needs, nor can he propose the correct ways for their guidance.

8. And We shall make thy way smooth to a state of ease.

 By yusra (ease) is meant a good deed, because it results in convenience and comfort. That is, “You are striving to do a good deed in the form of receiving divine guidance from Allah, Most High, and conveying it to the people, so We will help you in this mission and provide facilities and conveniences for you and would remove the difficulties that are in the way.”

The truth of the matter is that if a deed is good and a man wants to do it, Allah, the Most High, definitely provides conveniences and facilities and helps him, and if there are any difficulties in the way, He certainly removes them. This is something that has been experienced by all spiritual personages.

If a man does not pay attention to good works, that is his misfortune, otherwise it is reported in the Hadith that if a man comes towards Allah by one hand’s span, Allah advances towards him by yards, and whoever comes to Him walking, He advances towards him running. Let man take a first step sincerely in some good work and Allah will Himself come to his aid.

9. So remind, reminding indeed profits.

No force is to be used whilst admonishing others towards guidance, so the preacher should not get tired and frustrated and should keep doing his duty of reminding people of religious truths.

10. He who fears will mind.

Whoever fears Allah and dreads the day when he will be called to account before Allah for his actions will certainly heed and benefit from this admonition.

11. And the most unfortunate one will avoid it.

The classification of sa‘id (fortunate) and shaqi (wretched) is based on one’s deeds and is not based on birth. No one is created fortunate or wretched from the very beginning. Nay, people become inmates of heaven or hell as a result of their deeds; an inmate of paradise is fortunate and an inmate of hell is wretched. In short, good fortune and wretchedness are the outcome of one’s deeds. The same applies here. The wretched and the unfortunate run away from admonition (who can be more unfortunate than one who turns away from a sublime teaching like the Holy Qur’an?) and such wretchedness is the outcome of one’s misdeeds and lack of fear of Allah’s reckoning.

By bringing the wretched in juxtaposition to the one who fears in the previous verse, Allah has made it clear that whoever fears Him and takes to heart the admonition contained in the Qur’an is fortunate. On the other hand, whoever does not fear Allah and turns away from this Reminder is wretched and unfortunate. It is reported in the Hadith that in response to an enquiry by Allah, the angels responded that there was a gathering of people in such and such a place where they were remembering Allah’s name, and sitting among them was a shaqi (wretched and unfortunate person), to which Allah, the Most High said: “Anyone sitting in such a gathering cannot be a shaqi.” That is, if a man is sitting in such a righteous gathering, how then can he be a shaqi? Only he who avoids such a gathering is fit to be called shaqi.

12. Who will burn in the great Fire.

That is, such a person has been called unfortunate because his end would be bad, because he would enter the Fire, and it is a huge fire.

There are diverse types of fires in the world but in Allah’s sight, the fire that is kindled in a man’s heart as a fire of hell due to his passions and low desires is the biggest fire of them all. Though it is not felt so strongly in this life, it will be felt intensely in the Hereafter.

13. Then therein he will neither live nor die.

No better description can be offered of the punishment of being in Hell, that is, neither will one die so that the punishment comes to an end, nor will that life be such as could be called a proper life. In other words, it will be a life of such pain and misery that death will be better than such a life. But neither will death come, nor will such a life be worth calling a life that one can desire.

14. He indeed is successful who purifies himself.

That is, success in life and in religion depends on self-purification, a purification which helps man evolve spiritually, and the way to achieve self-purification is through tasbih (glorification of the Lord), which is mentioned in the next verse.

15. And remembers the name of his Lord, then prays.

The method of remembering the Lord has been described in the beginning of this chapter, that is, Engage in the tasbih (glorification) of the Lord, the Most Exalted. Thus, if anyone engages in celebrating the glory of the Lord, both in words and through his works, and acts upon His guidance in order to achieve the purport of his creation, his step advances daily on the road to self-purification. As he continues to extol Allah’s Holiness and Perfection through his words and deeds, the Lord also continuously keeps on granting him self-purification and perfection. The result of engaging in the tasbih of Allah is man’s own self-purification, and celebrating the tasbih by mentioning His attribute of Exaltedness, exalts man in his self-purification. But man is weak, and for attaining the purpose of his creation he needs to seek help from the Lord, hence the need for prayer, so that he may bow before the Lord and beseech Him for help and for guidance on the right path. That is why the Surah Fatihah is considered the kernel of the entire salah (prayer). By intoning the prayer: Thee do we serve and Thee do we beseech for help…. Guide us on the right path, one seeks guidance towards the path by treading on which one attains one’s purpose of creation  and one also fulfils one’s obligation to celebrate the tasbih of the Lord. That is why when one is in prostration during salah, a posture symbolising the extreme humbleness and servitude of man, one engages in the same tasbih which has been mentioned in this chapter and which is: Glory be to Allah, the Most Exalted. In other words, whilst extolling His tasbih, he beseeches Allah’s help in total submission and in all sincerity and humility, for the opportunity to carry out the practical tasbih, a tasbih he had prayed for when reciting Surah Fatihah.

16-17. But, you prefer the life of this world, while the Hereafter is better and more lasting.

In these verses, Allah has pinpointed the real disease – that the real reason for wretchedness and heedlessness towards Allah’s guidance is the priority one gives to worldly affairs and desires, although every wise person knows that every ease and every pleasure of life is temporary and finite. Hence, to abandon the Hereafter which is much better and perpetual for this finite and perishable life is folly and wretchedness of the highest degree.

The Mujaddid of these times, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam, made a very correct diagnosis of and prescribed the best treatment for the disease afflicting mankind at the present time by including the salient clause: “I shall give precedence to my Faith over my worldly affairs,” in the pledge of fealty. A nation that stands up to pronounce tasbih world-wide must observe this, that is, it must give priority to the Faith over all worldly affairs.

18-19. Surely this is in the earlier scriptures, the scriptures of Abraham and Moses.

The same teaching was given in the scriptures of the earlier prophets, that: He indeed is successful who purifies himself. Man can only achieve success through self-purification and self-purification is the outcome of Allah’s tasbih. In other words, it has always been the teaching of all the prophets that man should not limit his vision only to this world’s life. Nay, he should also keep an eye on the purpose of his creation, that is, the Hereafter, where he will find a new life, and for success there, it is essential that he should carry out his self-purification through extolling the tasbih of his Lord, both in words as well as through deeds.

Moses and Abraham have been specially mentioned here because Moses was a prophet recognised by the Israelites and was their leader, and Abraham was the Patriarch of both the Israelites and the Ishmaelites. Therefore, when these two nations were especially addressed, to mention the teachings of their master-prophets carries a special effect. But the statement has not been limited to these two only. Nay, by saying that this is the teaching of all the old scriptures the message has been widened and the argument is brought home to all the nations of the world, because it is not for a wise man to reject the unanimous testimony and teaching of all the recognised righteous persons of the world.

Next: Chapter 88: Al-Ghashiyah (The Overwhelming Event)
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