In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
- 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).
- Then as for him who gives and keeps his duty,
- And accepts what is good
- We facilitate for him (the way to) ease.
- 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,
- And his wealth will not avail him when he perishes.
- Surely Ours is to show the way.
- And surely Ours is the Hereafter and the former.
- 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.
- And none has with him any boon for a reward,
- Except the seeking of the pleasure of his Lord, the Most
- 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
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
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
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
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
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
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).