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Chapter 92: Al-Lail (The Night)
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Chapter 92:

The Night

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

  1. By the night when it draws a veil!
  2. And the day when it shines!
  3. And the creating of the male and the female! —
  4. Your striving is surely (for) diverse (ends).
  5. Then as for him who gives and keeps his duty,
  6. And accepts what is good
  7. We facilitate for him (the way to) ease.
  8. And as for him who is niggardly and considers himself self-sufficient,
  9. And rejects what is good -
  10. We facilitate for him (the way to) distress,
  11. And his wealth will not avail him when he perishes.
  12. Surely Ours is to show the way.
  13. And surely Ours is the Hereafter and the former.
  14. So I warn you of the Fire that flames
  15. None will enter it but the most unfortunate,
  16. Who rejects (the truth) and turns (his) back.
  17. And away from it shall be kept the most faithful to duty,
  18. Who gives his wealth, purifying himself.
  19. And none has with him any boon for a reward,
  20. Except the seeking of the pleasure of his Lord, the Most High.
  21. And he will soon be pleased.

This chapter is a Makkan revelation. The last chapter, Ash-Shams (The Sun), dealt with the moral and spiritual excellence that the human soul can acquire. In addition, it gave a clear description of the destruction that attends those who oppose a perfected soul. The present chapter tells us that in order to obtain those qualities of perfection enumerated in chapter 91, The Sun, there are two essential prerequisites: forging a strong bond with Allah, and developing the qualities of righteousness and the spirit of sacrifice.

1-4. By the night when it draws a veil!
And the day when it shines!
And the creating of the male and the female! -
Your striving is surely (for) diverse (ends).

The diverse needs of man's strivings naturally produce different results and here, two kinds of evidence are put forward in support of this statement. They are the evidence of the night and the day, and that of the male and the female.

The reason for presenting these two kinds of testimony is to demonstrate the fact that whatever a person attaches himself to will lead to a particular result. For example, we all know that the earth revolves around the sun and that part of it which does not face the sun receives no light and so the darkness of night falls on it. On the other hand, that part which faces the sun makes a connection, as it were, with light and so daylight falls on it.

Similarly, the union between male and female gives birth to new life. If this union is not effected there is no new creation. In the same way, if the human soul (which is considered female) is not partnered with a male, no new life is produced. The male casts his influence and the female receives it. Therefore, everything that exercises an influence on the human soul is figuratively regarded as masculine whilst the human soul is considered feminine.

So, too, the quality of life of the human soul depends on the kind of male with whom it forms an alliance. If, like the night, the human soul chooses darkness and unites with Satan, the source of darkness, then inevitably darkness will overspread it with the result that the peculiarities of darkness will be born in it. Then alertness of mind will be replaced by heedlessness, while effort and hard work will give way to inertia and stagnation, and the light of discrimination between good and evil will surrender to the darkness of misguidance and error.

In the same way, if it forms a strong connection with Allah, Who is the Source of all heavenly and spiritual light, then it will become as bright as the day and it will exhibit the characteristics of light. It is a fact, therefore, that the consequences of our striving hinge on whether we choose light or darkness. The ways by which these two kinds of attachment are formed are described in the following verses:

5-7. Then as for him who gives and keeps his duty,
And accepts what is good
We facilitate for him (the way to) ease

These are the methods of forming a union with Allah: the first is 'ata (giving in the way of Allah), that is, sacrifice of person and property, or any other thing, in the way of Allah. The second is taqwa (piety), that is, guarding and upholding the Divinely-ordained duties we owe to Allah and also to His creation. The third is accepting what is good, that is, Islam, which is the supreme good that the Holy Prophet (sas) brought to the world. It is called al husna (goodness) because everything it teaches leads to exquisite goodness and beauty of character. Further, it has no blemish nor imperfection. Thus accepting what is good means accepting Islam. This is placed third in the order (after sacrifice and piety) because the Holy Qur'an wants to emphasise the point that mere verbal acceptance of Islam is not proof of one's sincerity. It has to be accompanied by piety and sacrifice or, in other words, profession of faith must be verified by deeds.

Thus, if sacrifice and righteousness are the hallmarks of a person's conduct, then his affirmation of faith reaches the highest level and it can be deservedly said of him that he has indeed accepted the religion. Although sacrifice and piety and difficulties are inseparably linked and the way to Allah seems arduous, yet this is the only way available to man to enjoy spiritual blessings and favours. As fire is latent in flint so, too, comfort, ease, peace and happiness are concealed in the cloak of difficulties.

8-10. And as for him who is niggardly and considers himself self-sufficient,
And rejects what is good -
We facilitate for him (the way to) distress.

That is, although man can evade the difficulties inherent in this path, the result, however, is not a happy one, for it brings hardship, straitened circumstances, difficulties and sorrow.

Bukhl (niggardliness) means not spending one's money or faculties or other resources appropriately. For example, a need may arise for spending in the way of Allah but an individual withholds his hand. By doing so, he ostensibly escapes the sacrifice and self-denial required for ascending the steep uphill road and suffers no decrease in his money. However, he has really chosen the very path that leads to pain, misery and hardship. Any individual or nation that chooses the route of niggardliness and egoism and rejects the way of sacrifice and high morals must eventually suffer perdition.

Istighna literally means "self-sufficiency" but here it bears different connotations, that is, firstly, not having the slightest thought of sacrificing or spending in the way of Allah and secondly, not showing any inclination for taqwa (righteousness) or, in other words, demonstrating a total indifference to the limits of Allah which establish the duties we owe to Allah and also to our fellow human beings. Therefore, bukhl (stinginess) and istighna (feeling of self-sufficiency or egotism) mean an absence of self-abnegation and piety or rathe,r a deliberate renunciation of both these noble qualities.

After this, the next verse gives us another peculiarity of the one who contradicts religion: And rejects what is al-husna (good), that is, he rejects Islam. In other words, included among the beliers of Islam is the person whose behaviour contradicts the tenets of the religion. When a person's actions go against the teachings of a religion, it means that he neither gives up anything for his religion nor does he display the qualities of piety. Thus, in the same category fall both the person who denies Islam and rejects its teachings by word of mouth, and the one whose actions run contrary to the principles of the religion. In other words, this person is a denier of Islam by virtue of his practical behaviour.

The next verse, We shall facilitate for him (the way to) distress, refers to the person who holds money dear to his heart and wilfully obeys his own low desires and thinks he is very fortunate in that he has chosen the road to comfort and happiness. Little does he know that he has opted for a path that brings misery and calamity.

Those who verbally claim to be adherents of Islam but avoid the road of self-denial and piety should do some serious self-examination and reflect on whether their avarice and egotism have not placed them in the same class as those who deny religion.

11. And his wealth will not avail him when he perishes.

This verse tells us that miserliness is the road to ruin. Ironically, the miser will give his life but will not spend his money although he eventually has to leave it behind. He does not realise that his accumulated wealth cannot save him from perdition. In fact, any nation that does not practise the virtue of sacrifice ultimately suffers destruction. Thus, wise is the man who perceives that there is no merit in amassing wealth for its own sake for if it cannot save man from perishing, then wealth that is not put to good use is more worthless than broken pieces of glass. The best way to spend one's resources is to sacrifice for the sake of Allah for this opens the door to man's success.

12. Surely Ours is to show the way.

That is, Allah does not compel anyone. He has clearly shown the way to man. The decision is man's: he may choose the virtues of sacrifice and piety and so attain the goal of peace and comfort, or he may adopt the weaknesses of avarice and self-conceit and so end up in misery and agony.

13. And surely Ours is the Hereafter and the former.

Assurance is given that whoever spends in the way of Allah will be beautifully rewarded not only in the Hereafter but in this life, too. It is true that the life after death belongs to Allah, but we must understand that His power extends over this life also, so man should never have any fears concerning the consequences of his piety and self-denial, and he should expunge from his heart any satanic suggestions that the Hereafter is far away and that sacrifice and righteous conduct will bring only misery and hardship in this world's life. This verse categorically denies these evil insinuations of Satan and emphasises the fact that no place or time is outside the ambit of Divine control. If Allah recompenses man in the next life, He also rewards him in this life, too.

We have at hand the example of the Holy Prophet's companions who walked along the difficult but rewarding path of sacrifice and piety. So much did Allah confer on them in this life that many a time they were worried by the fear that perhaps they were getting all their rewards in this world with nothing left for the next life. Take the example of the companions of the Suffa. They were a group from among those who fled with the Holy Prophet (sas) from Makkah to Madinah. They had neither house nor shelter and a thatched-roof shed was built for them in the courtyard of the Prophet's mosque. The pain of hunger and hardship dogged their life and they passed many days without a morsel of food. Many a time they did not even have clothes to wear and were forced to wrap themselves with the prayer mats from the mosque. Once, a certain companion of the Holy Prophet (sas) found in the jungle a discarded sheet of cloth which was cut in two and given to two men to cover themselves.

But look how liberally and bounteously Allah bestowed His gifts on them in this very life! Not much later after their period of destitution, one member of the group approached another member and asked him for some horses. He replied that as he himself had pressing need of horses just at that time, he could spare him only a few hundred. In other words, so many horses he came to own that he could have lent his friend many more if he himself did not need them for his present work.

Other examples of this kind abound but one can judge from the following two incidents the magnitude of the enrichment of the Holy Prophet's companions.

Hazrat Abu Bakr's sacrifice for Islam surpassed that of all the companions with the result that he became the first Caliph after the Holy Prophet (sas), and the first Head of State in Islam. When he was elected caliph, even his father could not believe it.

Immediately after the Holy Prophet (sas) died the whole of Arabia was thrown into turmoil and the fire of rebellion raged in every corner of the country. Islam was indeed experiencing a most precarious period in its young life. At this time a certain person left Madinah and went to Makkah where he happened to meet Abu Qahafah, Abu Bakr's father who at that time was ninety years of age, very experienced and wise. But he had not yet accepted Islam. He now inquired of the Madinite the state of Islam, now that the Holy Prophet (sas) had passed away. The Madinite replied:

"Qama rajulun," that is, A man has been elected as leader.

Abu Qahafah asked: "Who is that man?"

The Madinite replied: "The son of Abu Qahafah," that is, Abu Bakr.

Abu Qahafah did not immediately understand that it was his own son, so he again questioned: "Which son of Abu Qahafah?"

The Madinite answered: "Your son."

The elderly Abu Qahafah was overwhelmed with astonishment. He placed his head on his knees and remained so far a while. Then he raised his head and asked: "What about the Banu Hashim?" This was the tribe of the Holy Prophet's family.

"They have all sworn allegiance to Abu Bakr," came the reply.

On hearing this, the elderly gentleman was more amazed and he bowed his head again. A little while later he looked up and inquired: "What about the Banu Ummayah?" These were very intelligent people, wealthy and adept at politics.

On learning that they, too, had pledged loyalty to his son, the father's amazement increased. He bent his head again for a while, then lifted it and once more inquired: "What about the Ansars (Helpers) of Madinah?" (The Ansars were those Madinites who sheltered the Holy Prophet and his companions when they fled from Makkah to Madinah.) On hearing that they, too, had taken the oath of allegiance at the hand of Abu Bakr, the father's amazement was beyond imagination.

Shortly afterwards, he shook himself, stood up and left exclaiming: "Al Islamu haqq," that is, Islam is indeed the true religion.  So many obstacles were removed from my son's path and he has now become the successor of the Holy Prophet (sas)."

A greater testimony of truth, freedom, equality and the fulfilment of promises is impossible to find.

The second incident comes from the life of the second Caliph of Islam, Hazrat 'Umar. Once during his caliphate he had completed the rites of the Pilgrimage and was on the way home. With him was a multitude of seven hundred thousand pilgrims among whom were hundreds of companions of the Holy Prophet (sas). Some distance away from Makkah they came to an acacia tree and Hazrat 'Umar went and stood under it. He stood there in deep thought looking at the tree. It was a very hot day and the people who were standing under the fierce sun began to suffer greatly from the heat. Finally a companion by the name of Hazrat Hudhaifah bin al Imam approached the Caliph and asked him what he was staring at so intently under that tree whilst the people were becoming distressed by the burning sun. This was his touching reply:

"I am thinking at what we were and what Islam has done to us - how it has elevated us to the pinnacle of human advancement. There was a time in my childhood days when I used to graze camels here and through carelessness I lost one. For this piece of negligence my father gave me a sound flogging under this very tree. Look at what my condition was then and consider it today - the whole of Arabia and Iran, Rome, Syria, Egypt, and Africa all tremble in fear and awe of our majesty. How did we get all these things except through the bounties and blessings of Islam?"

In short, those who practise selfless dedication and piety in the way of Allah will be given magnanimously from His grace not only in the Hereafter but also in this life. So it is wrong to think that if we sacrifice in this life and develop high moral conduct we shall become poor, or to harbour the thought that in this modern world moral scruples are out of place.

14-18. So I warn you of the Fire that flames.
None will enter it but the most unfortunate,
Who rejects (the truth) and turns (his) back.
And away from it shall be kept the most faithful to duty,
Who gives his wealth, purifying himself.

These verses give us a description of 'usra (ease) and yusra (distress), a perfect manifestation of which will be witnessed on the Day of Resurrection. The Holy Qur'an tells us that he who chose the way of miserliness and indifference and denied Islam in his heart and by his actions will enter a blazing fire as a direct result of his stinginess and unconcern for the religion. His condition will be a most wretched one because Allah had made plain to him the path of ease, that is, happiness and peace, but this unfortunate one had repudiated it and turned his back on it and so brought this calamity on himself with his own hands.

On the other hand, far removed from this fire will be the one who was a truly pious person. A description of a genuinely God-fearing person is given by Allah, Himself, as a person who spends his wealth in the way of Allah for the sake of self-purification and improvement. Tazkiyyah (purification) means nurturing one's latent talents and spiritual potential by means of cleanliness, purity, charity and goodness. These verses also inform us that the sincerely God-conscious person is he in whose heart there is a yearning to nourish all his God-given and pure qualities, and who spends freely of what he loves most without the slightest reluctance in order to attain his objective. His only intention is to purify his soul and cause it to grow. There is not the least desire in him for name and fame nor does he act for the sake of show.

19-20. And none has with him any boon for a reward,
Except the seeking of the pleasure of his Lord, the Most High.

We are told that no one possesses any particular goodness in life for which he is entitled by right to a reward from Allah, for, in fact, everything is a favour granted by Allah as this couplet by the poet, Mirza Ghalib, so elegantly explains:

The very life we enjoy is a gift from Him.

The truth is we have not adequately thanked Him.

The truth is we have not adequately thanked Him by completely fulfilling our duty to Him.

So, if we do not spend our Divinely-given gifts in order to seek the pleasure of our Lord, how can we rightly make a claim for recompense? Whatever has been given to us are all gifts from Allah - wealth, power, honour, rank, knowledge, life, beautiful talents, are all bestowed on us by Allah, so to exult over them is absurd. These are all blessings from Allah and we can earn no reward for them unless they are used solely in His way. Further, there must be no ulterior motive in us to seek reputation, popularity, or worldly gain, neither must they be used to repay others for favours rendered to us. Instead, they must be expended only to win the pleasure of Allah. Only then will these blessings assist us to reach the goal for which we yearn. If that is done, then the next verse promises:

21. And he will soon be pleased.

That is, he will rejoice in the pleasure of Allah. if a person strives hard to win the approval of Allah, then in return Allah will not be niggardly in His love for him. Is the happiness a servant experiences when his Lord is pleased with him something to be sneezed at? As for those who seek their Lord's pleasure, their Lord makes them happy and contented in every way and even gives them clear proofs of His approbation. For example, He was satisfied with the companions of the Holy Prophet (sas) and so He made them happy in this world and in the Hereafter.


In the verse, Except to seek the pleasure of his Lord, Most High, there are two subtle points to be understood. The first is that by saying, Your Lord Most High, attention is drawn to the fact that Allah is the Highest of the highest and so to seek the pleasure of anyone else besides Him is to pursue a course of degradation. Therefore, to try to please the One Who is Most High is the highest goal in life and if man keeps that objective uppermost in his mind he will never suffer abasement nor disgrace but instead he will achieve eminence and attain perfection. Not to seek the pleasure of one's Lord, the Most High, and the Best of all judges and instead to run hither and thither using vile means to satisfy low motives is the worst form of stupidity and more than that, it is contrary to the belief in one God.

The second point worthy of notice is that the believer aims to please only his Lord. Paradise is not the desired goal. In fact, the process of winning Allah's pleasure and being successful in the attempt constitute the paradise of a true Muslim. Gardens and streams are blessings which are the concomitants of Paradise but these are earned only through the pleasure of Allah. So to the believer, endeavouring to gain gardens and streams is not priority. Instead, trying to win the approval of his Lord is his sole objective. Gardens and streams are an entertainment from Allah to His servant who has spent a lifetime seeking to please Him as we learn from this verse of the Holy Qur'an:

As for those who believe and do good deeds, for them are Gardens of Paradise, an entertainment (18:107).

Next: Chapter 93: Ad-Duha (The Brightness of the Day)
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