In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
1. By the daybreak!
2. And the ten nights!
3. And the even and the odd!
4. And the night when it departs!
5. Truly in this is an oath for men of understanding.
6. Has thou not considered how thy Lord dealt with 'Ad,
7. (Of) Iram having lofty buildings,
8. The like of which were not created in the land;
9. And (with) Thamud, who hewed out rocks in the valley
10. And (with) Pharaoh, the lord of hosts,
11. Who exceeded the limits in the cities,
12. And made great mischief therein?
13. So thy Lord poured on them a portion of chastisement.
14. Surely thy Lord is ever Watchful.
15. As for man, when his Lord tries him, then gives him honour
and favours him, he says: My Lord honours me.
16. But when He tries him, then straitens to him his subsistence,
he says: My Lord has disgraced me.
17. Nay, but you honour not the orphan,
18. Nor do you urge the feeding of the poor,
19. And you devour heritage, devouring all,
20. And you love wealth with exceeding love.
21. Nay, when the earth is made to crumble to pieces,
22. And thy Lord comes with the angels, ranks on ranks;
23. And hell is made to appear that day. On that day man
will be mindful, and of what use will being mindful be then?
24. He will say: O would that I had sent before for (this)
25. But none can punish as He will punish on that day.
26. And none can bind as He will bind on that day.
27. O soul that art rest,
28. Return to thy Lord, well-pleased, well-pleasing,
29. So enter among My servants,
30. And enter My Garden.
This chapter was revealed in Makkah. In the last chapter, Al-Ghashiyah
(The Overwhelming Event), great emphasis was laid on this topic
the religion of nature and working according to its dictates
and the result of such actions was plainly delineated. The Holy
Prophet (sas) was told to advise and exhort mankind for there
cannot be any compulsion in matters of religion. Instead, his duty
was to encourage others and remind them of the natural religion,
that is, Islam. Nevertheless, his rejecters and objectors could
not bear to hear the truth that was being propagated by the Holy
Prophet and his companions. However, the Holy Prophet never resorted
to compulsion to force others to accept this truth but his opponents
never baulked at using force in their desire to prevent him from
carrying out his work of propagation. As a result, in order to preach
the religion, the Holy Prophet and his companions were forced to
make extraordinary exertion which, in Islamic terminology, is called
jihad fi sabil-lil-Lah (struggle in the way of Allah). That
is, in order to preserve and disseminate the truth it is necessary
to endure all kinds of difficulties as well as to make all kinds
of sacrifices of wealth and life and to draw strength from worship
and supplication to Allah, Most High. In addition to these things,
in the time of the Holy Prophet, there was, and indeed in any other
age there is another kind of jihad (struggle) that is mandatory
on the believer and that is to fight against one's own rebellious
self. In order to conquer the base passions and evil urges of this
self that commands evil, the believer has to undergo all
kinds of trials and make every kind of sacrifice and above all,
he has to resort to worship and supplication, which are his chief
weapons. Therefore, the believer must always keep in mind the struggle
against his own inner self mentioned in this chapter, Al-Fajr
(The Daybreak), and ponder over the struggle carried out in the
time of the Holy Prophet and the guidance provided by him to his
followers as well as the good news he gave them concerning their
eventual success. It has also been explained here that the methods
adopted by one believer who wages a war against his own inner self
and becomes successful can be utilised by any other striver in the
way of Allah to make him, too, successful whether against his own
inner self or against unbelievers. These are the paths which, if
taken by man, will help him to traverse all the spiritual stages
in his journey towards closeness to Allah and pleasing Him. Following
these paths will also make him a recipient of the status nafs-ul-mutma'innah
(soul at rest) and he will become one of Allah's cherished servants
who will inherit the kingdom of Heaven.
1-5. By the daybreak!
And the ten nights!
And the even and the odd!
And the night when it departs!
Truly in this is an oath for men of understanding.
The oaths of Allah point to hidden pieces of evidence which are
called into play in order to place strong emphasis on a particular
point. Al-Hijr is that thing which prevents a person from
becoming a slave to greed and lust. That is why the intellect of
man is metaphorically called hijr for it is supposed to control
our emotions and guide them. Thus, the literal meaning of hijr
(hijr comes from hajara which means to separate one's
self from, to leave off, to abstain from, to quit) is that element
which restrains a man from following the temptations of greed and
lust. And the meaning of the verse above, Truly in this is an
oath for men of understanding, is that there is a very important
piece of evidence in this statement for those people who protect
themselves from the evil prompting of their base self which excites
greed and sexual impropriety. Let us now look at the evidence presented
in the following verses:
By the dawn.
The dawn is used as evidence of the beginning of success or happiness
or the dawn of the day of 'Id.
The ten nights refers to the last ten nights of the month
of Ramadhan, including the Night of Majesty on which the Holy Qur'an
was revealed and during which the Holy Prophet (sas) used
to keep awake and engage in extra prayer. It can also mean the first
ten nights of the month of Dhul Hijj in which the Pilgrimage and
its ritual take place and in which special prayers are offered.
By the even and the odd.
These two references have very deep meanings. They refer to the
prayer in the latter part of the night, called the tahajjud,
which is read in even numbers, that is, in two's, and after ten
rakahs (cycles) are read in this manner, one rakah
(witr or "odd") is read and this makes all the
even rakahs "odd". However, by the use of the words
even and odd, the true meaning of which appears to
be shrouded in mystery, what is really meant is this: the creation
of Allah is regarded as "even" as the Holy Qur'an itself
says: And of everything We have created pairs that you may mind
(51:49). In other words, the creation is considered "even"
and the Creator is called "Odd" or "One" as
is recorded in the hadith: "Allah is One and He loves
Therefore, by the use of "even" and "odd" is
meant that Allah created His creatures so that everyone should unite
and become pairs, that is, among human beings there should exist
co-operation, unity, sympathy and kindness exactly according to
the pleasure of Allah for that is the true purpose of man's creation.
On the other hand, the outstanding characteristic of the Creator
is that He is Witr or One, that is, His creatures must never
accept any other teaching except the principle of the Oneness of
their Maker. It is by the perfection of this principle that the
"even" will become "odd" or one, that is, all
will accept one authority, for Allah is One, and in order for His
servants to perfect their obedience, love and belief in His Oneness
they should form a strong connection with Him so that the "odd"
may become "even". In other words, the servants must become
inseparable from their Master.
It can be seen from this that man's spiritual advancement and his
perfection depend on two factors. Firstly, there should be among
human beings such amity and love that in spite of being "even"
or "pairs" they will become one in their mutual affection
and harmony. Secondly, Allah is One but His servants should forge
such a powerful connection with Him, that He, in spite of being
"odd" will gradually become "even". This is
what is called the station of intercession and in the prayer in
the latter part of the night called the tahajjud, which contains
ten even rakahs and one odd rakah in the end, the
underlying objective is that man should never allow his attention
to be diverted even for a second from the above-mentioned significance
of "even" and "odd", for in this "even"
and "odd" lies the ultimate reality of the purpose of
his creation as well as his progress towards perfection.
The verse: By the night when it departs, refers to the last
part of the night when it is drawing to an end, specifically the
last third of the night when the excellence and the acceptance of
prayers are particularly emphasised in the Hadith.
The connection between the dawn and the ten nights
is that Allah has fixed the dawn of 'Id after the ten nights
of extra devotion for, after the special worship in the last ten
nights of Ramadhan and the rigorous efforts and the performance
of the duty of fasting, comes the dawn of 'Id-ul-Fitr which
brings the message of happiness. Similarly, after the extra worship
in the first ten nights of the pilgrimage and the strenuous devotion
and supplication and the performance of the duty of the pilgrimage
comes the dawn of 'Id-ul-Adha which, too, brings with it
a message of joy and happiness.
For Muslims, there are two 'Id festivals and both of them
take place only after the performance of a compulsory duty which
calls for stringent devotions. The dawn of 'Id-ul-Fitr comes
after the fast in the month of Ramadhan and the very strict exertions
in the last ten nights of the month. Similarly, the dawn of 'Id-ul-Adha
comes after the performance of the pilgrimage and the extra devotions
and supplications in the first ten nights of that period. It can
be observed, therefore, that the 'Id of a Muslim falls on
the day when he completes the performance of his duty and is free
of extra obligations. From this we can see that neither day of 'Id
is held in order to commemorate the birth or the death of anyone,
nor to celebrate the joy of some military victory, nor to mourn
over some sorrowful event.
Thus, a person who strives hard to subjugate his passions of greed
and lust will discover all these spiritual truths as evidence when,
during the last ten nights of Ramadhan and the first ten nights
of Dhul Hijj, he struggles against his inner self and forsakes his
bed at night to pray. And when he begins to grasp the reality of
these matters in the tahajjud prayer, then he worships Allah
with total devotion in the "even" and "odd"
(rakahs) and he keeps uppermost in his mind this important
point - that if a strong connection is created between his sympathy
and kindness to mankind and his obedience to Allah and belief in
His Oneness then He will obtain clear evidence that, as a
result of his exertions, Allah will certainly and inevitably grant
him from Himself a dawn of joy and happiness.
Now, if the idea enters the mind that as the opposing forces of
unbelief are so mighty it is impossible for us to put an end to
the dark night of misguidance and error, then take heart from the
fact that, in the past, great powers and mighty nations came head
to head with the religion of Allah, and what happened? They were
all beaten back and destroyed. So, today, when we have the greatest
of all truths in the form of the Holy Qur'an and the Holy Prophet
Muhammad (sas), can the enemy forces of the world ever prevail?
The Holy Qur'an now gives us some examples of past peoples who
fought against truth.
6-8. Has thou not considered how thy Lord dealt with 'Ad,
(Of) Iram having lofty buildings,
The like of which were not created in the land.
There were two ancient Arabian tribes the first of which was called
the first 'Ad and the second was called 'Ad of Iram or the second
'Ad. But Iram was also the name of the grandfather of the first
'Ad and their capital city was also called Iram. Probably it was
this grandfather who had founded that city. The term dhatul 'imad
(having lofty columns) was used in reference to them for several
- They were of strong body and tall in stature. 'Imad means
"columns" and this word was used to emphasise their
strength as if, as it were, they were tall and broad as columns.
- As signs of their military victories and power they used to
build tall columns just as the kings and emperors of India used
to build tall monuments, for example, the memorial columns of
Ashok and Feroze Shah which are still present in Delhi.
- This tribe lived in the south of Arabia and flourished in the
region of Hadramaut and used to build tall buildings. Modern researches
have established the fact that the civilisation of Egypt pre-dated
that of India, but older than the civilisation of Egypt was that
of Yaman. Recent archaeological discoveries in that region have
unearthed a plaque on which the name of the Prophet Hud is written
together with some incidents relating to his life. This plaque
has silenced those Christian priests who had denied the historicity
of the Prophet Hud and has confirmed the truth of the Holy Qur'an
which was the first book to make mention of Hud. In short, these
people possessed in their time such a mighty and advanced civilisation
that the Holy Qur'an itself testifies to it in the above verse:
The like of which (buildings and cities) were not created
anywhere else in the world.
Look how cultivated an aesthetic sense the Muslim kings possessed
that the whole of this chapter, Al-Fajr (The Daybreak), is
written on the door of the Taj Mahal at Agra in beautiful mosaic
style. And this was done just because of this verse: The like
of which was not created in the land. The underlying idea behind
putting this verse on the door of the Taj Mahal was to demonstrate
to the world that in point of exquisite beauty and elegance the
Taj Mahal would be unrivalled today as Iram was in its time. And
we all know that the Taj Mahal is considered as one of the seven
wonders of the world.
9. And (with) Thamud, who hewed out rocks in the valley
This tribe lived in the northern region of the Hejaz in a very
rocky area which they populated and for strength and fortification,
these people built houses for themselves by hewing out rocks and
mountains. Evidence of their civilisation has existed for centuries
for these houses hewn out of the rocks are still extant. In fact,
quite recently a marvellous city made out of red stone was discovered.
Pictures of this city and its history were recently published in
The Times of India.
Houses hewn out of rocks are very strong. In Aden, there is a dry,
rocky mountain in the sea and the English have cut through it and
built a fort in the heart of this rocky mountain. If any foreign
warship should attempt to pass through there without their permission
then the large cannons hidden in the interior of the rock could
be used to destroy them.
10. And (with) Pharaoh, the lord of hosts (or tent pegs)
Pharaoh was the title of the kings of Egypt. The vast number
of his army has been described as autad (tent pegs) because
when a large army is encamped in an area all that can be seen is
a massive conglomeration of horses and tent poles.
Here, three nations have been mentioned. The first was the tribe
of 'Ad who lived to the south of Makkah; the second was the people
of Thamud who settled to the north of Makkah; and the third reference
was to Pharoah who was an opponent of the prophet of the Children
of Israel, the law-bearing Prophet, Moses, to whom the Holy Prophet
Muhammad (sas) claimed a resemblance. And in speaking of
these three, the Holy Qur'an has mentioned all the major powers
and resources at man's command. These are:
- The large stature and physical strength of the people.
- The huge and massive buildings, fortresses and monuments to
commemorate their victories in war.
- The construction of large, powerful buildings carved out of
- The possession of mighty armies.
However, in spite of possessing all those advantages, when they
rebelled against Allah and opposed the truth, the result was that
all their supposedly invincible resources availed them naught. Therefore,
the Holy Qur'an states:
11-12. Who exceeded the limits in the cities
And made great mischief therein?
Two things are mentioned here they spread corruption in
the land because of their transgression and cruelty and their disobedience
to Allah, and secondly, they were very rebellious in their opposition
to the truth.
13. So thy Lord poured on them a portion of chastisement.
Just as when some rogues are causing a disturbance somewhere and
an administrative officer comes and flogs and chases them away,
similarly, Allah administers a flogging on those who oppose His
messengers and sow corruption in the land so that they are defeated
and put to ignominious flight and none remains. Therefore, even
today, the Holy Qur'an affirms:
14. Surely thy Lord is ever Watchful.
Nothing is hidden from the Lord, Most High, and just as the general
of an army watches from a look-out and as soon as an opportunity
arises he falls on the enemy forces and destroys them, so, too,
Allah is always on the alert. He is fully aware of the mischief
of the evildoers and when the opportune time comes, such will be
His seizure of them in the midst of their wickedness that they will
not be able to move.
15. As for man, when his Lord tries him, then gives him honour
and favours him, he says: My Lord honours me.
16. But when He tries him, then straitens to him his subsistence,
he says: My Lord has disgraced me.
In these two verses, the Holy Qur'an has solved the question behind
the disparity in prosperity and straightened circumstances, and
wealth and poverty in the world. Whenever people are intoxicated
with riches and power, they do not like to listen to any advice
or preaching from anyone. The religion of the poorer classes, especially,
holds no attraction for them. On the other hand, pride in the possession
of wealth and worldly status creates in them such an inflated attitude
of themselves that they begin to think, or at least they give off
this feeling, that Allah is happy and pleased with them and so He
has so blessed them with His favours that wherever they go power
and wealth run towards them.
In this connection, we relate a very interesting incident. Many
years ago in the time of the late Maulana Nur-ud-Din, the first
successor to the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement, Hazrat Mirza
Ghulam Ahmad, and just after the Balkan War, a delegation of Christian
priests went to Lahore and began a series of lectures. Their main
point was that through the grace of God, the Messiah Jesus, the
Christian Empire was successful and was predominant all over the
world whereas the condition of Muslims was so wretched that even
their only Sultanate, that of Turkey, had suffered destruction.
On hearing of this, Maulana Nur-ud-Din sent a delegation of Ahmadis
to them with the advice that they should support the Christian priests
when they spoke the truth but they must refute whatever false allegations
they may make. They should also convey to them the message that
the reason for Christian domination which they gave was not the
true one. Instead, the true reason is contained in an incident recorded
in the Gospel, which for them is an authentic book. The incident
he reminded them of was that for forty consecutive days Jesus, the
Messiah, was tempted by Satan who transported him over jungles and
mountains. At last he carried him to the top of a mountain and showed
him all the kingdoms of the world. He then said to Jesus: "If
you bow to me, all these kingdoms shall be yours."
Whereupon Jesus replied: "Get thee hence, Satan, for it is
written in the former Scriptures that you must make prostration
to God alone. Therefore, it is not fitting for me to bow to you."
Jesus, the Messiah, refused to bow to Satan and rejected the kingdom
of the world. But Christians saw that the result of his action was
that for his whole life he suffered poverty and indigence. They
thought, therefore, that it was not wise to follow him in this matter
so they prostrated before Satan and received in return worldly kingdoms.
In other words, the fact that they inherited all the kingdoms of
the world was, according to the Gospel, because they had bowed down
to Satan. The Christian priests could not give a reply to this message
and a few days later they fled the city.
In short, in two verses the Holy Qur'an has solved this riddle
which the Gospel could not. It says that abundance of wealth and
poverty are but two trials. In other words, trials continue to come
from Allah for the purpose of testing the character of His servants.
Therefore, to consider abundance of riches and honour as signs that
Allah is pleased with us and more than that, He is conferring honour
on us because of his diverse favours, is a dangerous error. Similarly,
to consider penury and indigence as evidence of Allah's anger or
His contempt in that he is depriving us of wealth and riches is
also a very grave mistake. These two conditions befall man as a
form of trial. Look how beautifully 'Umar Faruq (ra) expressed
this sentiment when he said: "In times of difficulty and straitened
circumstances, we show patience, but when we are tried by opulence
and prosperity we are unable to practise restraint." He applied
this statement to himself in all humility with the result that both
in poverty and in prosperity he became a peerless example of fortitude.
Unfortunately, however, his statement fitted the later Muslims so
closely that the words that came from his mouth turned out to be
a prophecy regarding their behaviour for when kingdoms and riches
came to the lot of Muslims, they failed to upkeep their religion
as their predecessors had done.
In short, prosperity and indigence are two conditions of trial
for man. Until Allah, Himself, tells us that favours, success, power
or wealth have come to us because of our good deeds and are blessings
given to us as a reward for our actions; or, if we suffer disgrace
and abasement and Allah does not tell us beforehand that we will
suffer such treatment as punishment for our wrongful behaviour,
then for any individual or nation to attribute wealth and power
to the pleasure of Allah, or poverty and disgrace to the anger of
Allah, is a serious mistake and indeed an absurd position.
Therefore, the opponents of Islam should not regard their wealth
and authority as indications that Allah is pleased with them and
so He will not punish them. The Holy Qur'an emphatically denies
this belief and promises them retribution instead, for Allah's pleasure
is won through good works and high morals of which they are devoid.
So, to consider their prosperity as proof that Allah is pleased
with and is honouring them is an egregious error. Wealth by itself
does not necessarily constitute a sign of Allah's approval.
17-20. Nay, but you honour not the orphan
Nor do you urge the feeding of the poor
And you devour heritage, devouring all
And you love wealth with exceeding love
In these four verses the Holy Qur'an explains why wealth alone
is not necessarily a sign of Allah's pleasure as it lists four grave
short-comings in the behaviour of materialistic-minded people. It
accuses them of not honouring the orphan and not encouraging one
another to feed the poor. These two words, yatim (orphan)
and miskin (poor), need some clarification. Yatim means
one who is left alone in the world and his condition is such that
he cannot look after himself and has to depend on others. That is,
he does not yet have the ability to work and provide for his own
livelihood and those who provided sustenance for him and cared for
him before are no longer alive. Therefore, a person whose father
is dead is called an orphan (yatim).
Miskin (poor) comes from sakana (to be quiet, to
rest) and it means a work which was in progress has now suddenly
come to a standstill. It is applied to a person who has the knowledge
and expertise to work for his living and care for himself but has
lost the means or tools for doing so. Therefore, one who has been
deprived of the resources for earning his daily bread is called
a miskin (needy).
No society in the world can ever establish a foundation of prosperity
and claim honour for itself until the people apply themselves diligently
to find means to ameliorate the condition of these two classes in
their midst - the orphan and the poor. It is because of neglect
of these two groups that prosperity and honour depart from a community.
If people were to support and maintain these two sections of the
society, then they will suffer no fear of losing their riches and
well-being nor their honour and renown. Look how beautifully the
Holy Qur'an discloses the manner of sustaining them:
1. The orphan. The orphan can be
fostered in two ways: he can either be treated honourably or humiliatingly.
That is why the command is given here to honour the orphans. In
other words, their rights should be safeguarded and their upbringing
be such that they do not suffer abasement. The Holy Qur'an emphasises
that every orphan, whether of rich or poor parentage, should be
accorded respect - his right should be protected and in his upbringing,
education and training, due consideration should be given to his
status so that he may never be allowed to look down on himself with
contempt nor to develop low habits. Thus, he can become a useful
member of the society. As regards the upbringing of this kind of
orphan, the Holy Prophet (sas) is reported to have said:
"I and the one who takes responsibility for an orphan, whether
of his own kin or of others, will be in paradise thus" and
he pointed his forefinger and middle finger with a slight space
between them. (Bukhari)
2. The poor. Here by feeding
the poor does not only mean giving them food to eat but the
command is really to urge one another to find means of livelihood
(a job or occupation) for the needy ones. It is indeed an act of
virtue to feed the needy but the word ta'am (food) does not
refer only to cooked food but also means a source of livelihood
and here it carries both meanings, hence the command to encourage
one another to feed the poor.
The underlying meaning is that until a society or nation gets together
and through mutual consultation devises a system that will help
its poorer section to obtain a source of livelihood, that society
or nation is in danger of losing its affluence and honour. If a
nation wishes to maintain its position of prosperity and honour,
then, in order to improve the welfare of its distressed section,
it is mandatory for the people of that nation through planning and
consultation to set up a national institution that will make provision
for the livelihood of the poor among them. And is it not the purpose
of the zakah (poor-rate) and the bait-ul-mal (public
treasury) to collect taxes from the wealthy and place them in a
central body, and for the sake of ameliorating the plight of the
orphan and the needy, to set up an institution that will provide
the means of their upbringing and education in a dignified manner?
If such a treasury should exist and Muslims should entrust their
zakah (poor-rate) to a central authority and spend it on
deserving cases, then in a matter of days the condition of the Muslim
nation will improve and instead of hardship it will enjoy ease,
and from abjection it will rise to eminence.
In the verses above, the verse, Nay, but you do not honour
the orphan, goes with, And you devour heritage, devouring
all; and, Nor do you urge the feeding of the poor, relates
to, And you love wealth with exceeding love, to highlight
the fact that disgrace is bound to befall a nation which not only
dishonours orphans but denies them a due share in their inheritance;
and instead of providing the means of livelihood for the needy,
they love wealth with an inordinate love and are guilty of niggardliness.
These people are not only contemptible in the eyes of Allah but
in this very life their end will surely be one of humiliation and
In short, in the above verses, Allah's main objective is to make
man understand that when he is tried by abundant wealth he should
not fall prey to pride and self-conceit. Further, he should not
consider his riches as proof of God's honour to him for that thought
can very well lead to his destruction. On the other hand, if a man
is tried by straitened circumstances he should never entertain the
idea that he is pre-destined to live a life of penury and abasement
for this idea is a great hindrance to human progress and advancement.
Poverty is not necessarily a sign of degradation. The real signs
of dishonour are those base morals and vile actions of which man
is guilty. The moral, therefore, is that man should not exult in
his wealth nor should Muslims surrender to abject despondency because
of their poverty. Instead, they should develop high moral qualities
which are the essence of genuine honour.
21-22. Nay, when the earth is made to crumble to pieces
And thy Lord comes with the angels, ranks on ranks.
A simple minded person thinks that no one is seeing his evil deeds
nor are his wicked actions witnessed by anyone. But Allah says that
He and His angels are close at hand, but He is invisible for between
Him and an evil person there is an intervening veil of worldly and
material means. A time will certainly come when this veil will be
lifted and all mundane expedients will be dissipated and Allah will
emerge from on high and seize the evil one in the midst of his mischief.
For example, take the case of a thief who is stealing fruits from
a garden and thinks that no one is seeing him, but the owner and
his servants are observing him from a hiding-place and as soon as
the thief begins to move away with the stolen fruits, they emerge
from their hiding-place or from behind the cover of the trees and
catch him red-handed with the stolen loot. Similar is the example
of man and his Lord.
This worldly screen between man and Allah is rent on three occasions:
1. The first occurs at the time of death
and this is called the Minor Resurrection.
2. The second time when the veil is removed
is in the life of a prophet when his followers reap the reward of
success whilst the unbelievers reap a harvest of humiliation and
destruction. In reference to this the Holy Qur'an states in another
verse: But Allah came to them from a place they expected not
and cast terror into their hearts…(59:2). The unbelievers in
their pride and reliance on their worldly power desire to obliterate
the believers but they themselves suffer the same defeat, abasement
and destruction that they planned for the believers; for the hand
of Allah becomes visible and He, together with His angels, come
to assist the faithful and to punish the unbelievers from whence
they perceive not. For example, Pharaoh pursued the Children of
Israel in order to capture them but he, himself, was captured and
was drowned in the sea. The unbelievers of Makkah, too, set off
towards Madinah to wipe out the Muslims, but they, also, suffered
an inglorious defeat at Badr at the hands of a handful of Muslims.
The treaty of Hudaibiyah ostensibly strengthened the hand of the
unbelievers against the Muslims but that very seemingly one-sided
treaty was the cause of the fall of Makkah and the permanent defeat
of the unbelievers. The lifting of this screen is called the Middle
3. The third occasion when the veil will
be lifted will be on the Day of Resurrection when all hidden things
will be made manifest. That is called the Great Resurrection.
23. And hell is made to appear that day. On that day man will
be mindful, and of what use will being mindful be then?
The Holy Qur'an says that when the worldly veil is torn apart,
and the servant is seized and brought before his Lord in order to
give an account of his bad deeds, and the hell which he was fashioning
with own hands is brought before his eyes, then he will come to
his senses. But then his repentance and realisation will be futile
just as it is for a student who idles away his time and does not
do well in his examinations and so fails outright. To cry tears
of repentance when the results are published is useless.
24. He will say: O would that I had sent before for (this) my
In this verse, the Holy Qur'an points out to us that the true life
is the life of the Hereafter. So, wise is the one who prepares beforehand
for that life which is the real one.
25-26. But none can punish as He will punish on that day.
And none can bind as He will bind on that day.
Everything that Allah has created is unique. There is no limit
to His favours. His punishment ought to be the same and so, too,
His seizure should be such that no one can approach its totality.
Man can evade the capture of man and even escape it outright; man's
punishment, too, may be tainted by errors and flaws. But no one
can elude the grasp of Allah nor get away from it. His punishment
is eminently suited to the crime and in perfection it is unrivalled.
Therefore, it will be an act of wisdom for man to try to avoid the
punishment of Allah. How ironical it is that even a wise man tries
to escape from the punishment of worldly judges and sometimes even
succeeds, yet he cares not for Allah's punishment although His seizure
is so comprehensive that no one can escape it. The purpose of this
announcement is to advise man that he should try to endure every
difficulty on earth, but he should try to save himself from Allah's
punishment and for the sake of this he should bear all the punishment
of worldly judges if he has to, for their punishment is nothing
compared to Allah's.
27-30. O soul that art rest,
Return to thy Lord, well-pleased, well-pleasing
So enter among My servants,
And enter My Garden.
The plight of the unbelievers when the veil of worldly resources
is lifted has already been described. The focus now is on the condition
of the believers who at night engaged themselves in worship and
struggled to defeat their lower self and who, in times of error
and misguidance, were concerned with propagating the religion and
fighting in the way of Allah, all the while strenuously striving
to develop high moral and spiritual excellence. As a result, they
were awarded that exalted rank called nafs-ul-mutma'innah
(soul at rest).
The Holy Qur'an has given us three stages in the development of
the human soul. The first is called nafs-ul-ammarah (the
spirit that commands evil). At this stage, the lower self of man
is wont to command evil and under the instigation of his passions
and desires he commits evil deeds without even feeling ashamed.
The second stage is that of nafs-ul-lawwamah (the accusing
spirit). At this level there is a continuous war between man and
Satan. Man desires to save himself from evil and from the wicked
promptings of Satan as well as his own animal passions and instincts.
Sometimes he is successful and saves himself from evil but sometimes
in the face of satanic impulses he finds himself powerless to do
so and does commit a sin, whereupon his inner self or his conscience
duly blames him.
The third level is that of nafs-ul-mutma'innah (the soul
at rest) at which stage the war between Satan and man comes to an
end. Satan finally suffers a permanent defeat as was the case of
the Holy Prophet (sas) when he said: "My jinn
(that is, Satan) has become a Muslim." In this condition, deeds
of righteousness begin to flow from man freely and spontaneously
as if it has become second nature to him to do good.
The meaning of the soul at rest has been explained by Allah
Himself in the words, well-pleased, well-pleasing. Well-pleased
means that the servant in his life on earth had cheerfully accepted
the decrees of Allah and had been obedient to the Shari'ah
(Law), and well-pleasing indicates that the devotee has won
the pleasure of his Lord through obedience to His commands and resignation
to His decrees. How deserving of envy is the state of peace and
tranquillity of this servant who was always well-pleased with every
command and action of Allah and with whose word and deed Allah,
too, was correspondingly pleased. The following is a further elucidation
of these two expressions mentioned above.
Radiyah (well-pleased) means to be pleased with the commands
of Allah and His decrees. Man is happy when he gets what he likes.
When a person reaches the position of soul at rest he observes
the dictates of the Law, that is, the commands and prohibitions
of Allah, without any difficulty. Even more, his obedience creates
a feeling of joy and delight in his heart and so disobedience is
impossible for him for this will cause him pain and agony. This
is the station of 'ubudiyyat (servitude) which is the ultimate
point of man's perfection. At this stage, obedience becomes second
nature and brings into being its own paradise. This is why the Holy
Prophet (sas) said: "Prayer is the coolness of my eyes,"
and Sayyid Abdul Qadir Jilani explains that when this stage is reached,
getting a reward for prayer is no longer the object of man's worship,
for now prayer itself becomes a source of pleasure for him so he
seeks no other reward. The reward for prayer is contained in the
prayer itself, so if at this point the summons from Allah comes
to him: Enter among My servant, it will indeed be most appropriate
Similarly, whatever Allah decrees for His servant, for example,
alternating conditions of happiness and sadness, of delight and
agony, is borne with cheerful resignation by the one who has reached
the stage of "soul at rest".
One praise-worthy reaction to sorrow and pain is that in spite
of a heavy burden on a person's soul, man does not lament or weep
over Allah's decrees but silently endures all that comes his way.
This is called the station of resignation which every Muslim should
try to acquire. However, there is a higher response which is called
the station of pleasure and this is the preserve of the "soul
at rest". At this stage, the believer enjoys a feeling of delight
and comfort from the sorrow and pain which he suffers because he
feels that Allah's will has been fulfilled. The Sufis have written
that when Allah allows something to happen according to our wishes,
we ought to be happy over it, but not so much as when Allah decides
that a matter should take place according to His pleasure and we
have to abandon our own desire in preference to His will.
Thus, it is written in the Hadith that if a servant of Allah
made supplications that were not answered according to his wishes
and Allah instead decreed according to His will with which the servant
was pleased, the magnitude of the reward for resignation which the
servant will receive on the Day of Resurrection will be such that
he will wish that all his supplications had remained unanswered.
Someone once asked the saint, Rabiah of Basra, whether she ever
felt sadness, to which she replied: "Yes, when there is no
sadness in my heart." It is natural for man to feel sadness
under certain circumstances, but in the midst of the pain, if a
person experiences pleasure at the thought that this is the will
of his Lord and so becomes pleased with his Lord's pleasure, he
indeed attains a most elevated state in which his soul enjoys peace
and tranquillity. This state is called Heaven and if at this juncture
he is told: Enter My Garden, then how deserving it will be
Mardi'ah (well-pleasing) refers to those who have gained
the favour and approbation of Allah. And how can this be obtained?
There are two ways open to man: obedience to the laws of Allah and
cheerful resignation to, and acceptance of His decrees. Therefore,
if a servant fulfils these two conditions and is happy and content
with them, then in return his Lord will respond to him in like manner.
One should consider, therefore, how fortunate is the person who
has won the pleasure of his Lord. In this everyday world, when a
person receives a certificate of commendation from a ruler whose
tenure even is transient, he can hardly contain himself for joy.
So just think for a moment how unimaginably happy will be that person
who receives a mark of approbation from the Best of all rulers,
the Lord of the worlds! Here well-pleased is placed before
well-pleasing because the former is the response of the servant
whilst the latter is the consequence, for, indeed, it is a servant's
conduct that attracts the pleasure of Allah, Most High.
To be pleased with one's Lord in this world is such a difficult
task that very few are those who achieve this. If a servant accepts
the commands of his Lord and, moreover, is pleased with them, then
how can he be disobedient? But if every day a servant grumbles over
the decrees of his Lord, and if he suffers a slight pain and something
happens against his desire and expectation, he loses his temper
and abandons his beliefs and his religion and exceeds the bounds
in ingratitude, then it will be impossible for him to be pleased
with his Lord. Thus it can be seen that to remain pleased with Allah
without the least complaint is indeed a very difficult goal to achieve.
That is why the Hadith tells us that if every day a person
sincerely recites certain expressions, Allah will be pleased with
him on the Day of Resurrection. These words are: "I am satisfied
with Allah as my Lord, Muhammad (sas) as His Messenger and
Islam as my religion."
The root of all difficulties is that the wisdom underlying the
commands of Allah and the consequences of acting according to them
are hidden from man and so he stumbles along the way. Thus, to be
pleased with one's Lord is the highest point in belief in the Unseen
and it is for this reason that Allah's favour and pleasure in return
are the highest and most unsurpassable of all bounties. There is
no doubt that a recipient of such magnanimity has displayed his
servitude to Allah to the best of his ability and, together with
calmness and contentment of the soul, he has become an inheritor
of paradise. Thus to receive the invitation, So enter among My
servants, and enter My Garden, is eminently fitting for such
Two further points for consideration
Firstly, the Holy Qur'an has confirmed the error of the philosophy
of pantheism for, according to the Holy Qur'an, the highest stage
of man's perfection is that of 'ubudiyyat (servitude) and
not that of becoming a sort of Creator, however much he may discover
and control some of the forces of nature. This is supported by the
verse, Enter among My servants and enter My Garden, from
which we can see that the strongest bond between man and his Lord
is that of total submission. His progress towards the status of
slave of Allah increases in proportion to his obedience just as
his fana fil-lah (self-effacement in Allah), that is, his
union with Him, becomes stronger as he treads further on the path
of submission, for there is no other path available by which man
can unite with Allah except that of obedience. That is why the station
of greatest honour for man in the Court of his Lord is that of slave
of Allah as this verse of the Holy Qur'an testifies:
I have not created the jinn and the men except that they
may become My slaves (51:56).
This explains why the most honourable title conferred on the Holy
Prophet Muhammad (sas) was that of "slave of Allah".
This is confirmed firstly by the following verse of the Holy Qur'an:
If you are in doubt as to that which We revealed to our abd
and secondly by this testimony:
I bear witness that Muhammad is the abd (slave)
Without being a slave he could not have become an apostle. Just
as man's highest rank in relationship to Allah is that of slave,
so, too, in relation to the Holy Prophet (sas) man's greatest
rank is that of ummati (follower). And the more our obedience
to the Holy Prophet (sas) increases, in the same measure
does our status of follower rise. In other words, self-obliteration
in the Holy Prophet (fana-fir-rasul) is another name for
ummatiyyat (perfect discipleship) and this is corroborated
by the following verse of the Holy Qur'an:
Say, if you love Allah, follow me: Allah will love you (3:30).
In other words, the more we become disciples of the Holy Prophet
(sas), that is, ummatis (followers), the more will
Allah love us.
The second point is that from this verse, Return to thy Lord,
it seems that just after death, in the state of barzakh, the
blessings of Paradise begin to come into operation. However, those
who have attained the state of "soul at rest" and have
advanced to the stage of ubudiyyat (servitude) begin
to experience the sweetness of Paradise right here on earth, for
the verse, Enter among My servants, and enter My Garden,
indicates to us that becoming a slave and entering the Garden take
place simultaneously. That is, whoever becomes a slave enters Paradise