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Holy Quran Section > Commentary of the Holy Quran by Dr. Basharat Ahmad > Chapter 51 (Adh-Dhariyat - The Scatterers)


Commentary of Chapter 51 (Adh-Dhariyat - The Scatterers) of the Holy Quran:
by Dr. Basharat Ahmad
Translated by Imam Kalamazad Mohammed


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SECTION 1:

This chapter is a Makkan revelation. We are told in this chapter that the Holy Quran was revealed through Allah’s will in that age because people had gone astray from the path of Allah and whatever fragments of knowledge anyone had was mere conjecture. Further, whatever the purpose of existence Allah had destined for man – that by means of serving Him with total obedience he should forge a union with his Lord and so develop sublime morals and become his true successor – was lost. In fact, evil had become so endemic that besides perdition in the next life, even in this earthly existence destruction had begun to set in and was serving as a prelude to the punishment to be meted out in the next life. Thus, Allah’s message descended like heavenly rain which began to give life to a dead earth and the beneficence of which was destined to spread to all corners of the world. Thus, there is no one who can extinguish this celestial light. Indeed, whoever should fight against this light will himself be snuffed out. Alas! It will be a sad day for that nation on which this punishment alights as the following verses explain:

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

1. By those scattering broadcast!
2. And those bearing the load!
3. And those running easily!
4. And those distributing the affair! –
5. What you are promised is surely true,
6. And the Judgement will surely come to pass.

Allah, Most High, has sworn many times in the Holy Quran and here, too, He has taken an oath on four matters.

The meaning of an oath is to give evidence. In the wisdom of the Holy Quran, whenever an oath is presented, it is really a testimony after which supporting evidence is proffered. In the same way also, in everyday life, the purpose of an oath is to produce evidence. For example, when we swear by Allah, Most High, what we mean to say is that Allah is a witness of our words or deeds, although there is no doubt that Allah, Most High, is indeed a witness. There is also an important distinction in swearing by Allah, Most High, for in calling Him to witness there is also another objective which is to add emphasis to the oath. This emphasis comes about in this way in that the oath-taker, besides implying that Allah, Most High, is a witness, also accepts the fact that if he is telling a lie, then Allah should punish him.

However, it is also an accepted fact that when any action is attributed to Allah, Most High, although the same words are used to describe it as are employed to describe the action of a human being, yet there always remains an ingrained difference: that is, for every act of man he needs tools and means but Allah, Most High, stands in no such need. Therefore, that action that calls for implements and other necessities can never be attributed to Allah, Most High. Only the final result of the act that is intended can be ascribed to Allah, Most High.

Take, for example, the act of seeing. For this, man requires eyes and light but Allah’s seeing does not depend on eyes and light. That is why when it is said that Allah sees, it does not mean that He requires the means of seeing like eyes and light. Instead, what is meant is only the final result that is acquired from seeing. Similarly, in order to hear, man needs ears and air, but Allah, Most High, is exempt from such requirements and what is really implied by Allah’s hearing is only the end result that is obtained from hearing.

So, Allah, Himself, by explaining His evidence by means of oaths given above, has disclosed a particular reality to us. In short, whenever Allah, Most High, has made use of oaths, He has only done so to provide evidence, that is, to give testimony as well as to lay emphasis. Further, this testimony is always presented as proof in support of what follows whether in the form of a reply to what is mentioned in the oath, or, if the answer to the oath is ordained for the future, that also is implied in the oath.

Here the words dhariyat (scattering), hamilat (bearing the load), jariyat (running) and muqassimat (distributing) are used in the feminine gender and can mean either winds or communities (jama‘atin). The phenomenal revolution that was destined for the world through the revelation of the Holy Quran is here compared to rain from the heavens. A description of the whole system of rainfall – starting with water-vapour rising from the sea and its falling as rain on different areas in the world thus giving life and creating green vegetation - is given as evidence of the spiritual rain that was to bring about a miraculous transformation in the world. We are also told that as the physical world and the spiritual world run parallel to each other (as the researches of modern-day scientists have revealed), therefore, whatever arrangements are visible to us in the formation of rain and the revival of the earth when it receives this water is the exact phenomenon which we will witness on earth when spiritual rain descends from above.

Accordingly, the verse By those scattering broadcast tells us that the first step in the formation of rain is that water-vapour originates from the sea and rises high into the atmosphere. As a result of this, sweet water, which is the source of human and plant life, is separated from the salty water of the sea by means of water-vapour. And the salt which is present in the water and causes the soil to become sterile and even destroys crops remains in the sea. Similarly, the revolution that was destined for this world through the spiritual rainfall of the Holy Quran follows this same course in that the very first step is that of separation. In the land of Arabia all kinds of good and evil people intermingled. When the Holy Quran was revealed, those in whom there was some goodness accepted its teachings and cut themselves from their material and earthly moorings and thus rose high and took spiritual flight.

In other words, just like physical rain, the first step in spiritual rainfall demands that the first stage to be traversed is that evil people should be separated from good ones whose indispensable existence in the world for the sake of creating spiritual life is no less than that of sweet water. In the beginning, the worshippers of God have to face all kinds of afflictions and every possible form of persecution. The wisdom in this is that only those persons in whose piety and nobility there was no lingering doubt should enter the fold of this divine community (jama‘at): those who possessed in their hearts not even the slightest inclination to evil deeds which, like salty, brackish water, destroys spiritual life on earth.

The next verse says: And those bearing the load, and this, too, can apply both to winds or communities. Every knowledgeable person knows that this is the second stage in the formation of rain. In the first stage, water-vapour rises from the salt water of the sea. As a result, fresh water on which all life on earth depends is separated from the salty sea water and those water-vapours are driven by the winds towards arid areas. These are called monsoon or seasonal winds. In the second stage, when these winds rise high in the atmosphere and are filled with water-vapour they then change into clouds from which rain falls and signs of life begin to appear on earth. All life forms are dependent on this rainwater, whether plant, animal or human. Accordingly, the flourishing of all vegetation depends on rain and neither man nor animal can exist without this sweet water. Indeed, it is a known fact that whatever sources of fresh water exist on earth all come from rain.

Thus, it is essential for this life-giving rain that the wind should become pregnant with water vapour and should carry this load to such a height that because of this ascension it should be influenced by heavenly coolness and so become transformed into clouds from which rain falls on earth. Only then is it possible for the earth to receive life from it. This is because the heavenly influences contain and bring to earth oxygen and ammonia also. Similar is the case of spiritual rain also. When that group of fortunate people become completely filled with the physical and spiritual teaching of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and become the worthy bearers of this message and their heavenly connection attains that lofty pinnacle of perfection, they will become worthy to disseminate this celestial and spiritual bounty to the people of this world. Then this spiritual rain will fall on the whole world and saturate it with its blessings.

The next verse says: And those running gradually and easily (whether wind or community).

This is the third stage in the system of rainfall. It is generally known that the seasonal winds carry these water-vapours gradually and impart to every part of the country its fill of water. And it is of great importance that these winds travel slowly. For example, if there is a vehement hurricane somewhere the clouds immediately disperse. The verse informs us that in this same way the community that is bearing this spiritual rain will carry the teaching of the Holy Quran by slow degrees and will very gently and slowly impress the minds of people with this message and propagate this bounty far and wide and penetrate the hearts of people with it. God’s teachings spread very slowly and gently in the world. Propagation of this message by force and compulsion never gives life to people and that teaching which is disseminated by force is of no benefit to people because it makes no impression on their hearts.

The next verse reads: And those distributing the Affair! and this, too, can refer to winds or communities.

This is the fourth stage in the system of rainfall. Every knowledgeable and enlightened person knows that when rain clouds move with the winds, wherever rain falls in the country is solely in the hands of the Almighty. The whole system of water and wind hinges on this particular point.

Every day we read in the weather reports that as air pressure is low in a certain place, rain will therefore fall in that region. In other words, in whatever places air pressure is low, there will be rainfall in those disparate areas of the country. We may ask why air pressure falls in certain designated places and what causes this to happen. The answer to these questions is beyond the knowledge of man. In any case, the Almighty controls those causes so that wherever He wills He brings about by those means a lowering of the pressure, the purpose of which is to attract the monsoon winds and to direct them to those appointed areas. What these causes are and why they occur each time in different areas are not known to man.

If air pressure does not fall in these disparate areas, then the distribution of rain will not become universal. Rain will fall in only one locality but the water-vapour-laden winds may not be able to rise from the sea and travel to dry regions. In fact, rain will fall only on the sea. Thus, in the occurrence of low pressure in some places and the resultant allocation of rain to diverse regions of the earth we can clearly see the will of the Almighty at work. And the light of this wisdom and intention leaves us in no doubt concerning the existence of Allah, Most High.

In short, this verse promises us that, like physical rain, spiritual rain will also fall in turns on different areas of the world and that community which is filled with the water of spiritual wisdom will go on watering various regions of the globe each in due course in accordance with the will of the Almighty. Just as low pressure creates a vacuum and rain is drawn to it in a special way, in the same manner the thirst for spiritual knowledge operates, for it generates causes that attract this teaching with the result that the winds of spiritual rain arrive at that place and resuscitate the hearts and lives of people there.

Just as mountains and forests receive a large share of rain, similarly those people whose nature resembles the mountains in height and who possess within them, like forests, the seeds of green spiritual vegetation, are blessed with a greater portion of this spiritual rainfall. On the other hand, those who have turned their inner selves into deserts because their evil deeds have denuded them of spiritual vegetation and who are sunk in abasement and decadence, thus destroying the chances of their soul achieving spiritual elevation, will receive little benefit from this spiritual rain. Indeed, just as the hot air of the desert dissipates rain clouds, in the same way the hot wind of their opposition to the truth will be the cause of their being deprived of this spiritual bounty. In other words, man robs himself of Allah’s mercy by his own doings.

We are then warned in the next verse: What you are promised is surely true (v. 5). What is the significance of this promise? They are the very things that were mentioned in the four verses above (1-4) for which supporting evidence was presented from the physical events of nature.

Thus, if all these stages in rainfall are indeed true, then spiritual rain will have to pass through the same stages as we observe in the physical world. Allah’s promise is true and will always be truly fulfilled. The history of the world is a standing testimony to the clarity with which these promises were fulfilled. Look at how the fortunate ones and the wretched were separated in Makkah and Madinah; observe how the righteous community of the companions became pregnant with the teachings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and to what extent they achieved lofty heights of material and spiritual advancement; again, see how they carried this message to different corners of many parts of the world and how every aspect of the social life of nations gradually became coloured with the attributes of civilisation, culture and religion; and how, wherever they discovered the slightest desire and thirst for spiritual knowledge they immediately went there and so became the harbingers of life to many nations.

It is clearly evident from these verses that if in Europe, today, there has arisen a thirst for spiritual knowledge then, if Allah wills, this community that bears the message of Islam will carry it there and will inundate those regions with spiritual rain forever.

The Holy Quran then continues: And the Judgement will surely come to pass (v. 6).

The Holy Quran places great emphasis on reward and punishment for deeds, for accountability for actions is the essential principle on which the foundation of human dignity is built. If this were not so, then man would be worse than the animals. Indeed, if the purpose of his wisdom, will-power, intellect and perception were to have a deeper significance, then it is for his deeds and his responsibility for them.

Thus, the Holy Quran in every possible way desires to warn man that he must always bear in mind the inevitability of accountability for deeds, whether by way of punishment or reward, for he was not created in vain.

This is the message that the Holy Quran brought and for this reason it has taught man all the paths he can tread so that in respect of his actions he can stand dignified in the presence of Allah. And it was indeed essential that for such an important affair He should provide guidance from Himself for man as He has done for everything He has created as the following verses assert: Who creates, then makes complete, and Who measures, then guides (87:2-3).

The Holy Quran then goes on to explain why, for this pre-ordained spiritual revolution, Allah, Most High, did not leave man to depend on his own intellect but instead furnished him with knowledge and guidance from Himself:

7. By the heaven full of paths (hubuk)
8. Surely you are of varying opinion -
9. He is turned away from it
(‘anhu) who would be turned away.

Hubuk is the plural of habikatun, meaning road, whilst the pronoun hu (it) in ‘anhu refers to the Holy Quran.

As proof of the necessity of divine revelation, certain scenes from nature are presented and the physical world is offered as proof of the hidden spiritual realm, for in the universe, the physical and the spiritual bear a close resemblance to each other and, in fact, move along parallel lines as all scientific researches now concur. We are told that man’s eyes cannot discern the paths of the physical heavens because of their height and elevation. And as man is unable to discover these pathways with the aid of his physical eyes alone, human intellect has suffered all kinds of deceptions. As regards the planets and other celestial bodies and the diverse heavenly orbits in which they revolve, man devises all kinds of theories and many erroneous views which he considers to be accepted and proven facts. These errors cannot be avoided if there is no telescope to help his eyes to escape them by disclosing to him the true nature of these heavenly pathways.

Similarly, the heavenly paths of the hidden spiritual world are so subtle and lofty that man’s intellect by itself cannot comprehend them. Consequently, different philosophers who claim to know or to meditate on the pathways of the spiritual world have established hundreds of disparate theories from which thousands of false creeds have sprung and hundreds of false philosophies continue to be invented. Thus, in such a delicate and important matter on which the purpose and object of man’s creation depend, it was incumbent on the Most High God to come to the assistance of human intellect and to guide and lead him to that station of perfection and advancement which he cannot attain solely by his own intellect.

So, divine revelation has not come to put an end to man’s reasoning faculty. Instead, its purpose is to perfect his intellect, to liberate him from his materialistic limitations and to assist him to enter the limitless world of the spirit. Thus, the Holy Quran is a book of knowledge and guidance that the Almighty has sent down to help the intellect of man. After the coming of this revelation, whoever deviates from it has turned his face from truth to falsehood. In other words, when the Holy Quran presents the authentic path of heavenly sciences, if a person spurns it and deludes himself with his own intellectual conjectures, then it is clear that such a one has chosen falsehood over truth.

Here the verb yu’faku is used in the passive voice meaning He is turned away. This is a clear indication that Allah, Most High, has not created man’s nature crooked. Instead, the ability to receive guidance is embedded in his very nature. However, the reasons for people’s deviation and straying from the path of truth that we observe come from external sources and are not inherent in man. For example, the origins of misguidance can be wealth and power, or increase in knowledge and intellect in materialistic endeavours which give rise to egotism. Further, so great is the resultant pride and conceit in intellectual prowess that such people are never disposed to accept the truth or even listen to it. Instead, they give preference to the speculations of their brain in all matters and consider them superior to everything else.

10. Cursed by the liars!
11. Who are in an abyss, neglectful;
12. They ask: When is the day of Judgement?

When a philosophic or a materialistic scientific professor or such educated people who take a very superficial view of things give an opinion, because they do not possess within them the spiritual eye of divine revelation, they put forward their hypothetical opinions and erroneous theories as facts and so delude themselves and lead others astray as well. On the other hand, a prophet, who sees with the light of divine revelation, discerns the true reality of things in an authentic manner and with deep spiritual knowledge, guides mankind towards the straight path, even though he comes up against obstacles from many philosophers, naturalists and conjecturers who place excessive pride in their intellect. That is why Allah, Most High, says that those conjecturers have been destroyed. That is, they have ruined their future existence, the purpose of which is really to give everlasting life.

The verse tells us that on account of their lack of true knowledge, their habit is to engross themselves in falsehood and so whatever they consider as knowledge is, in reality, ignorance. The result of this is that from their life-condition it can easily be seen that they are totally unconcerned with and heedless of the Hereafter. Day and night they are absorbed in the pursuit of worldly things and carnal desires and consider life to have no other purpose but these trivial matters. If by chance they uphold certain principles it is only because of the dictates of society. To stand in the presence of Allah, Most High, and to be responsible and accountable to Him for their deeds, that is, to entertain fear of Allah, Most High, are matters for which they have no concern whatsoever and are totally heedless of such considerations. Nevertheless, they have the audacity to ask with ridicule and pride in their hearts: "When will the day of Judgement come?"

Among them, wherever you find such people whose creed it is to deny the day of retribution for deeds and to regard the reality of the day of Resurrection as mere indulgence in superstition – that is, relying on their intellectual prowess alone their defective researches have engendered this kind of false belief – you also find in their midst those whose evil deeds speak for themselves by revealing that they have no certainty in a day of reward and punishment for deeds. Their immersion in false, unverified doctrines and in regard to deeds, their heedlessness and unconcern for retribution – in other words, their very actions - reveal that they are sceptical of a day of Judgement.

If they had any deep belief in a day of accountability, then they would have examined their beliefs and if they found any flaws in their former tenets they would have rectified them. And if they had reformed their doctrines, then they would have given up their heedlessness. However, the fact that they did not do so indicates that from the very beginning they had no faith in a day of accountability. Hence, their indifference.

13. (It is) the day when they are tried at the Fire.
14. Taste your persecution! This is what you would hasten on.

Fitnah (trial) means to heat gold in fire so as to separate it from adulteration. When trials afflict people in their life, the pure are made free of impurities. That is, the righteous are set apart from the wicked. In hell also, the object of heat is that the impurities of evil deeds which man carries with him from this life may be shed from him when he has to pass through fire.

We are told that retribution for deeds is something inevitable. A day will come when the consequences of the evil deeds and false beliefs of the conjecturers will confront them in the form of fire because of their wicked actions. It is the impurity of their own deeds that demanded this fire in which they will burn and feel the heat so that they may cast off their pollution.

Thus, every deed carries a consequence which will come to light one day and this will happen in its own time. This is a law of Allah. To continue to increase one’s heedlessness just because the consequences are delayed, or to deny the day of retribution with contempt, or to reject it by virtue of one’s actions is the height of folly.

The meaning of asking for punishment to be hastened is that when man commits an evil deed and sees that he is not immediately punished, he then begins to believe that there is nothing like reward and chastisement for actions, even though to hold the view that every evil deed must be met with swift reprisal is a very wrong idea. Punishment, too, comes at a time when the consequences of deeds are brought to light. At this time, either reward or chastisement, depending on one’s actions, comes to light. And that result is not bound to come about immediately. Thus, the person who does something wrong and is not immediately punished and, as a result, becomes steeped in heedlessness and chooses the path of indifference concerning his deeds and forgets that he has to account for them is in reality the kind of individual who, by virtue of his own actions, is one who demands prompt punishment and reward for his actions. He ought to remember that if he does not meet with immediate punishment for his bad actions he still has to pay for them one day. Thus, he should have followed the path of righteousness. But if he does not do so, nor even considers it, he is the kind of person who would hasten on the punishment for his deeds. So, because he escapes instant punishment for his actions he evinces no concern for accountability.

In contrast with these conjecturers, mention is made of those people who, with the help of Allah’s revelation, choose the straight path and act upon the guidance given by the Almighty. In other words, they develop righteous qualities so that respect for good deeds and their importance may be deeply impressed in their hearts and that they may form in their brain the correct picture and concept of the next life. Thus, after having conceptualised the future consequences of their actions they may reform their present life.

15. Surely the dutiful (muttaqin) are amidst gardens and fountains,
16. Taking that which their Lord gives them. Surely they were before that the doers of good
(muhsinin).

A muttaqi (righteous, God-fearing one) is a person who is very careful of his obligations whether to Allah, Most High, or to His creation. He does not allow any violation in the rights of anyone.

A muhsin (doer of good) is one who does goodness (ihsan) to others. In a general sense, ihsan means goodness but in the terminology of the Shari‘ah (Law), ihsan in relation to Allah, Most High, means that the servant always feels that he is seeing his Creator, or, at least, Allah, Most High, is seeing him. In regard to others, ihsan means to give someone more that is rightfully due to him.

So, taqwa means not to violate the rights of anyone but instead to accord to each person his dues to the fullest degree. And ihsan signifies giving a person more than is owed to him, but without any hope for reciprocal remuneration or goodness from him. In short, whilst taqwa is a beautiful virtue, ihsan greatly exceeds it in merit. Therefore, those who practise taqwa are promised peace and happiness in the next life. The meaning of garden is more than just a physical garden. Instead, it includes all provisions for peace and tranquillity. There is a connection between this present life and the next: this life is the cause while the next is the consequence. In other words, faith and good deeds in this life are indeed the signs and impressions or material from which the next life will be built. In that life, faith will take the form of gardens whilst good deeds will assume the shape of streams from which man will derive bliss and serenity.

However, whoever had achieved the rank of muhsin (doer of good deeds to others) will be rewarded with much more than the muttaqi (pious). Just as in this life the muhsin practised goodness and he never suffered Allah, Most High, to be hidden from his eyes, and just as he treated others with kindness and gave them more than their due, so, too, his Lord on that day without consideration for any compensation, will shower bounty upon bounty and blessing upon blessing on him and the faithful servant will continue to receive them without disruption as the Holy Quran says in another verse: Is the reward of goodness (ihsan) aught but goodness (ihsan)? (55:60).

The servant who practised goodness in this life has indeed opened for himself the door of blessings and bounties from the royal court of his Lord. In the use of the attribute Rabb, that is, Lord, or the One Who elevates from the lowest to the highest point, there is a sure indication that those blessings will be of the kind in which the Providence of the servant is included. That is, the servant will continue to be the happy inheritor of limitless and uninterrupted progress and perfection.

17. They used to sleep but little at night.
18. And in the morning they asked (Divine) protection.
19. And in their wealth there was a due share for the beggar and for one who is denied (good).

In these verses a brief description is given of the doers of good (muhsinin). As regards the servant’s obligations to Allah, the epitomy of taqwa (righteousness) is that he should perform all his duties that he owes his Creator, for example, the five obligatory daily prayers. However, the glorious quality of goodness (ihsan) is evidenced from the fact that the devotee performs extra duties in addition to what are prescribed like, for instance, staying awake at night. Although this is not a compulsory duty, yet in order to make humble supplication at the threshold of his Lord, Most High, he forsakes his sleep at night and in the latter part he gets up and falls at the feet of his Creator. It is related about the Holy Prophet (pbuh) that he used to sleep at night and would also rise and perform voluntary prayer services. Indeed, he used to spend a greater part of the night in these supererogatory prayers.

If a person has faith in Allah, Most High, to such an extent that he feels he is seeing Him all the time, then how can he feel complacent at night and sleep right through it? He will always rise up and fall in prostration at the feet of his Lord, Most High, and will make petition (du‘a) and seek forgiveness (istighfar).

Generally speaking, the meaning of istighfar is to seek forgiveness. In the terminology of the Shari‘ah (Law), it bears the following significance: to seek protection from the consequences of evil deeds, or to ask for protection from falling into sin in the future because of human weakness, or to seek Allah’s protection from committing sins. As regards the true believers, the more a servant makes istighfar the more is he saved from the evil repercussions of his past misdeeds and he is even safeguarded from future weaknesses and indiscretions.

In this regard, even in salah (formal prayer), this same istighfar is made, for when the servant prays thus: Thee alone do we serve and Thee alone do we beseech for help, he is seeking help from Allah and is asking Him to guide him along the straight path, and when he entreats Allah to preserve him from the path of those upon whom wrath is brought down and those who have gone astray (maghdub and dallin), he is in fact engaging in another aspect of istighfar.

Thus, to get up at night and fall at the threshold of the Almighty beseeching Him for preservation from committing any kind of mistakes is not sufficient for the true lover of his Lord. He goes further and does goodness to the servants of his Beloved to such an extent that he gives away of wealth in the service of the beggar (sa’il) and even those who are mahrum (deprived) so that he may earn the pleasure of his Lord.

Sa’il is one who makes his needs known, whilst mahrum is one who does not ask openly, perhaps because he does not have the ability to do so, for example, a dumb person or animals, etc.

Thus, if such doers of good (muhsinin) do not become the deserving recipients of limitless Divine blessings and progress in this life or the next, then what else will they receive?

From a consideration of these verses, it is the consensus of all the venerated spiritual personalities of the Islamic community that rising in the latter part of the night and making istighfar, as well as giving charity and alms, are potent means of averting disastrous calamities in life.

To underline the certainty of the celestial results of the good deeds of the righteous (muttaqin) and the doers of good (muhsinin), testimony is advanced in the following verses from the world of nature:

20. And in the earth are signs for those who are sure
21. And in yourselves – do you not see?
22. And in the heavens is your sustenance and that which you are promised.

Signs are given to those who possess deep faith. That is why attention is drawn both to the earth and to the soul of man. In other words, the earth which is one of the constituents of the physical world is compared with the human soul which is a part of the hidden spiritual realm. And in the succeeding verses we are told in regard to the earth that its sustenance lies in the heavens, whilst of the soul, it is said that everything that is promised to it also comes from the heavens. Now, it is for us to discern in what way the earth attracts nourishment from heaven for it is evident that the human soul also will experience the fulfilment of Divine promises in the same way.

In order to attract heavenly sustenance certain things have to be done to the soil and then reciprocal action comes from heaven. First the soil has to be cleared of all useless weeds and shrubs, then it has to be ploughed, after which seeds must be sown. The heavens respond by sending down rain and sunshine which give nourishment to the seeds that have been sown, then the seeds grow into fruit-bearing plants after which grain by grain is gathered to make a big harvest. Then, that sustenance which formerly lay in heaven becomes visible to us.

The human soul is like the earth, too, and has to be made free of all kinds of dross and impurities by means of istighfar (prayer for forgiveness) and supplications (du‘a). That is, first the soul must be purified and then the soil of the soul has to be ploughed through all kinds of service, strict religious discipline and sacrifice. After this, the seeds of Oneness of the Almighty (Tauhid), deep spiritual knowledge, righteous actions and principles of truth must be sown. Then the Almighty will send down from Himself showers of spiritual blessings on the heart of the devotee as well as Divine assistance. In addition, with the light of Divine revelation, the seed of latent capabilities, virtuous deeds, and principles of justice receive nourishment and bears fruit. When such individuals form a community, they become the initiators of miraculous spiritual revolution in the world and those promises which were reposed in heaven before, mention of which was made in the beginning of this chapter, are finally fulfilled in this life and will also be realised in the hereafter.

23. So by the Lord of the heavens and the earth! It is surely the truth, just as you speak.

This verse tells us that the Holy Quran is true and that it is the word of Allah, Most High, just as we speak. That is, it is not a thought that arises from the heart of anyone, nor is it like the composition of a poet which originates in the poet’s heart itself and influences it. Instead, it is the word of the Almighty in exactly the same way in which human beings use their own words when they speak and listen to words that come externally from others. (Nowadays, in the opinion of knowledgeable people, this point has been fully proven from the fact that the radio picks up sound waves from an external source and so we listen to other human beings through this medium. Similarly, the heart of man is also a very subtle radio which receives sound waves from outside and so hears communications from the spiritual world.)

Among the many signs of Allah’s existence, this one is of outstanding importance, for to whomsoever this word (that is, the Holy Quran) belongs is the One Whose Providence extends over the heavens and the earth. And if this is His word, then whatever promises are given in this Book must be true and both physically and spiritually, His Providence must encompass those who act in accordance with the teachings of this Book. They should be the inheritors of earthly progress as well as heavenly advancement. That is, they should be the recipients of spiritual elevation as well. Further, whatever kinds of good deeds this Book guides us to perform should be certain to attract the fulfilment of heavenly promises. 

 

SECTION 2:

The first section of this chapter dealt with the revelation of the Holy Quran and the advent of the Holy Prophet (pbuh), both of which were indispensable in bringing about the mighty transformation in Arabia, initially. Evidence to this effect was provided from natural phenomena, and the laws of nature which we witness in the physical world were also adduced in order to make prophecies of future events, in particular, that this little community that was infused with the message of Allah, Most High, and was at that time enduring all kinds of persecution so that the righteous might be separated from the wicked, would ultimately spread throughout the world and inundate it with a flood of spiritual rain.

In the second section, evidence of the above-mentioned prediction is drawn from history and recurring events from the fate of past nations are recalled to underscore the following points: Whenever Allah, Most High, desired to bless the world with His favours through the agency of a messenger, and to usher in a spiritual awakening through this chosen one, then those who honoured him and accepted his teachings received good news from the Almighty and became recipients of a new life and both their religious and worldly lives were beautified. On the other hand, those people who strive to humiliate their messenger were themselves abased. Indeed, those who desired to obliterate the message were themselves extirpated.

To build a philosophy from these historical facts and then make predictions concerning future occurrences is a type of knowledge that was first taught by the Holy Quran. If we ponder on this philosophy of history we will discern that the conclusions have not been drawn merely on the basis of human conjecture. Instead, Divine knowledge drawn from its store of certain knowledge has made grand prophecies and has been so clearly and naturally fulfilled that human hearts have been filled to the brim with faith and conviction.

In this section, based on the fate of the Prophets Abraham, Lot, Moses, Hud, Salih and Noah, certain prophecies have been made. The Holy Quran often makes mention of those prophets and their nations for two reasons: firstly, because of their geographical locations. That is, these countries and their people were to be found in the environs of the Hejaz, and the Arab people to whom the Holy Quran was first addressed knew of them and some knowledge of their history; secondly, their historical authenticity was well established. That is, the events of these prophets and their communities were well-documented in history and so their influence was liable to be quite efficacious.

Prophets Abraham and Lot lived in Syria and Palestine respectively. The events of Prophet Moses and Pharaoh took place in Egypt. The people of ‘Ad, among whom the Prophet Hud was raised, inhabited the southern part of Arabia, that is, Yemen and Hadramaut, whilst the people of Thamud, from whom came the Prophet Salih, lived in the northern region of the Hejaz. Prophet Noah’s people were inhabitants of the east of Arabia and the area that bordered Iraq.

The incidents relating to Prophet Abraham and Prophet Lot are the first to be narrated here. These two were contemporaries and were related to each other but were sent separately to those communities mentioned above. Prophet Lot’s town in Palestine was called Sodom. He was the nephew of Prophet Abraham and was not from Sodom but had married into one the aristocratic families of that city.

24. Has the story of Abraham’s honoured (mukramin) guests reached thee?

Prophet Abraham was a very hospitable person and every day he would not eat if a guest was not present. The legacy of his hospitality can be found among the Children of Ishmael and they are famous for this virtue. Gustali Ban, a French historian, has written a well-known book entitled Arab Civilisation in which he has spoken glowingly of the warmth with which Arabs treat their guests, and as testimony of this, he has recorded many extremely marvellous and mind-boggling accounts of this fact. There was no greater disgrace for the Arab people than to insult a guest. The honour of a guest was inviolable. This is why the Holy Quran uses the word mukramin (honoured) in this verse to describe the guests of Prophet Abraham. And in certifying the hospitality of the descendants of Prophet Ishmael, Allah, Most High, has stamped His approval on this virtue and has thereby taught Muslims that to honour a guest is morally binding on them.

The Holy Prophet (pbuh) himself practised this principle with such perfection that it astounds the mind of man. This is the same spirit that he infused into his companions. It was his custom to entertain all guests who came to visit and he used to allocate them among his companions, also.

Once, a particular guest was allotted to one of his companions. He invited him to his home but then learnt from his wife that there was just enough food in the house for one person. Now, it was the tradition among the Arabs that the hosts would partake of the meal together with their guest. This posed an embarrassing problem but they finally decided that they would coax the children to sleep and after putting out the light, husband and wife would sit with the guest in the dark and would open and close their mouths as if they were eating and in this manner they would feed the guest. And this is how it was done. The guest went on eating with the understanding that both his hosts were sharing in the meal whilst, in reality, the couple had nothing to eat and went to bed hungry.

This touching example of hospitality found such approbation with the Almighty that the Holy Prophet (pbuh) was informed through revelation of His goodly pleasure. When these two companions came to the Prophet’s mosque for the morning (fajr) prayer, he saw them and began to laugh. They very politely enquired of him the cause of his mirth. In reply, he said: "It is not I (alone) who am laughing. Allah, Most High, also is smiling at that wonderful fulfilment of hospitality on your part. In other words, the Almighty, Himself, is giving testimony of how greatly pleased He is."

Thus, this was the spirit which the Holy Quran, in using the word mukramin (honoured) in relation to guests and the magnificent example of the Holy Prophet (pbuh), instilled in the hearts of the Muslim nation that, even to this very day, even though Muslims have fallen in prestige and power, yet there is no nation in the world that comes close to them in the matter of hospitality. Europe, in spite of all her loud proclamations and claims of civilisation and culture, is devoid to a large extent of this noble quality of hospitality. In short, the Quraish who were enormously proud of being the descendants of Prophet Abraham were presented with the following incident relating his meritorious treatment of guests:

25. When they came to him, they said: Peace! Peace! said he: Strangers!

This verse teaches Muslims a principle of etiquette in that before entering a home we must salute the inmates with the greeting of peace, which is a supplication for the people of the home to enjoy peace and security. And it is the duty of the inmates to reply in the same manner. Although these were strangers to Prophet Abraham, yet he did not treat them coldly because of that but, instead, he very cheerfully accepted them as his guests and made immediate arrangements for providing food and drink for them.

26. Then he turned aside to his family and brought a fat calf.
27. So he placed it before them. He said: Will you eat?

In the chapter entitled Hud, the phrase "roasted calf" (11:69) was used whilst here "fat calf" is the description given. If we read the two together, we will realise that it was the meat of a fat, plump calf that was roasted and brought for the guest. In other words, they cooked and offered the best food that was available to them. The Holy Quran could simply have stated that they brought the best food they had, but there was a special purpose for specifying that it was a fat calf and the reason is that calf worship has created great misguidance among many nations in the world. In Egypt, the cow was worshipped and that practice came from there to India. Not only has cow-worship destroyed the worship of one God and so prevented unfortunate people from acquiring true and profound spiritual knowledge, but the oppression and persecution that have befallen unitarians and which are still being practised against Muslims even today, in India, in the name of cow-worship, are not hidden from the eyes of anyone.

When the Children of Israel learnt this odious practice of cow-worship from the Egyptians, the command came to them from Allah, Most High, to slaughter their most beautiful cow (2:71) which they unwillingly did and so abandoned this evil practice. Again, the golden calf made by the Samiri was burnt by Prophet Moses and its ashes thrown in the sea (20:97). The Holy Quran makes a pointed reference to these incidents in order that this type of worship or any trace of reverence for the cow may never find a place in the hearts of Muslims. And by mentioning the roasted meat of a calf it tells us that this is just another animal, the flesh of which is used for food and more so, when roasted, its meat is very tasty and thus worthy of being offered to guests.

In these two verses, several principles of hospitality are disclosed to us: Firstly, we should not inquire of a guest whether he will eat or not. When a visitor comes to our home it is the duty of the host to make provisions for his meal, so it is redundant to ask him for very often the guest observes the rules of etiquette and says: "No, thank you. There is no need for you to take the trouble."

Secondly, Prophet Abraham did not disclose in the presence of the guests that food was being prepared, for to openly proclaim this information would be humiliating to the guest.

Thirdly, he prepared the best meal for his guests – a calf was slaughtered. In those days, land and animals were highly prized as sources of wealth. As the flesh of a calf was extremely delicious, he, therefore, never entertained even for a moment the thought that he would suffer loss in his property. A fat calf was killed and cooked in the best way he knew. That is, it was beautifully roasted and then offered to the guests.

Fourthly, he did not give his guests the trouble to rise and go somewhere else to dine. He brought the meal right there to them.

Fifthly, he paid attention to see whether the guests were partaking of the food brought to them or not, so that if the meal was not pleasing to them another dish could be arranged for them. Thus, when Prophet Abraham observed that they were not eating the food he sought the reason, for, as they were strangers, some doubt could have arisen in his mind that perhaps these were some shady characters who might have come with the intention to steal or burglarise. In those far-off days, a thief or a highway robber would not partake of a meal or taste the salt in any intended victim’s home. That is why when they did not touch the food he asked them the reason for it. It seemed that from the tone of Prophet Abraham’s speech that he entertained some fear in his heart and this prompted the guests to assure him thus:

28. So he conceived a fear of them. They said: Fear not. And they gave him the good news of a boy possessing knowledge.

Whatever words of consolation the guests used to reassure Prophet Abraham are not stated here – that is, whether they were fasting or whether they had some other reason for not eating. All these details are omitted for there was no need for a full explanation. However, there was one matter that was specially mentioned: they gave Prophet Abraham the good news of a son, Isaac. It appears that these messengers were bearers of revelation or inspiration as the following verse from the chapter Hud informs us: And certainly Our messengers came to Abraham with good news (11:69).

It seems from this that instead of getting the revelation direct from Allah, Most High, or at least before he got it, these venerable personalities had already been informed of this good news from the Almighty, Himself. This is not a cause for surprise for the Holy Prophet (pbuh) himself used to ask his companions after the morning (fajr) prayer to reveal whatever dreams anyone might have had during the night even though when it came to Divine revelation he was the recipient par excellence. In fact, the splendour of his revelation was so magnificent that it duly surpassed that of all the other prophets. Nevertheless, in accordance with the verse: This is Allah’s grace – He gives it to whom He pleases (5:54), he used to inquire of his companions just in case anyone of them had received good news from Allah, Most High.

In the verse under discussion, by describing the son of whom good news was given as ghulamin ‘alimin (a boy possessing knowledge), Allah, Most High, has emphasised the importance of knowledge, for if the son was one possessing knowledge, then it constituted good news. On the other hand, the birth of a youth characterised by ignorance and lack of knowledge would not have been considered as welcome news for he would be a source of grief to his parents and the public at large. Consider how much prestige and honour the Almighty has reposed in this single word – knowledge.

In short, at the time this pleasing information was given, Prophet Abraham’s noble wife, Lady Sarah, was standing somewhere close by. So when she heard it, this was her reaction:

29. Then his wife came up in grief, and she smote her face and said: A barren old woman!

The meaning is that she was struck with amazement and involuntarily a scream escaped her lips and in pure astonishment he struck her forehead with her hand and exclaimed: "How can I have a child when I am nothing but an old, barren woman!"

On hearing this, the guests replied:

30. They said: Thus says thy Lord. Surely He is the Wise, the Knowing.

The guests replied that what she said was indeed true, but on the other hand, this good news did not originate with them but was really a communication from her Lord, the Possessor of perfect knowledge and absolute power. In other words, this welcome news was from Allah’s infinite knowledge and was thus something sure. As regards the question of her sterility, this, too, was known to Allah, Most High, and it was a fact that no one could comprehend the extensive nature of His power. Therefore, it was not difficult for Him to bring about the means to remove her barren condition and to make her capable of giving birth to a child. After all, He was the One Who possessed total power and perfect knowledge.

I never cease to be amazed at a particular point: when the news of Prophet Isaac’s birth was announced to his mother, she replied in great wonder and astonishment: "How can I have a child and the conditions are not suitable?"

The response to this was: "Thus says your Lord."

Again, when the birth of Prophet John was communicated to his father, Prophet Zacharias, he, too, expressed surprise and wondered how a child could be born in his home when the circumstances were not favourable. The response to this was: "So (it will be). Thy Lord says: It is easy to Me…" (19:9).

The mother of Prophet Jesus, too, received the happy news of his impending birth and she, also, evinced wonder and expressed her astonishment in the following words: "How can I have a child when the conditions are unsuitable?" She, too, received the same reply as was given to Prophet Zacharias: "So (will it be). Thy Lord says: It is easy to Me …" 19:21).

In other words, although the conditions were not conducive at the time, it was easy for her Lord. That is, her Lord would create the appropriate circumstances for her that His word would be fulfilled.

The point is that in regard to the first two births, all the commentators of the Holy Quran have interpreted the words Thy Lord says: It is easy for Me to mean that it was a simple matter for their Lord to make the conditions right. However, when the question of Prophet Jesus’ birth comes up, an extremely startling construction is put on it. They do not take the meaning of the words to be that it was easy for her Lord to put things in order for her. They put forward this explanation that although the conditions were not feasible (for a natural birth), nevertheless, Allah, Most High, would cause Prophet Jesus to be born in a miraculous manner. In other words, whether it is the death of Prophet Jesus or his birth, on each occasion a strange and novel explanation is given so that there would be no doubt left about his supposedly unique status, and this is indeed an error.

31. He said: What is your errand, O messengers!

Prophet Abraham was himself a prophet as well as a messenger of Allah and was blessed with the gift of deep spiritual insight. He immediately realised that those exalted ones were Divine messengers and that they had not come merely to give the happy news of a son. No doubt, they had come there on a more important mission in mind for the word khutbah (errand) also means an eminent task.

The following verse gives their reply:

32. They said: We have been sent to a guilty people,

These guilty ones were the people of Prophet Lot who had brought the message to them but that wicked nation did not desist from their evil ways. As a result, Allah, Most High, in order to put an end to further vile opposition from them, had sent other messengers to them. This was not an unusual action on the part of Allah, Most High, to send additional messengers to a people to whom a messenger had already been deputed for it is written in the Holy Quran itself: And set out to them a parable of the people of the town, when apostles came to it. When We sent to them two, they rejected them both; then We strengthened (them) with a third, so they said: Surely We are sent to you (36:13-14).

Similarly, together with Prophet Moses, his brother, Prophet Aaron, was appointed as his helper and so, too, Prophet Jesus came as an assistant of Prophet John. It is also written in the Torah that at a particular time there were as many as four hundred prophets among the Children of Israel. So, if a few more messengers were sent to assist Prophet Lot, this was not an unprecedented occurrence.

Let us bear in mind that Prophet Lot was living amongst an alien people. It is possible, therefore, that these inspired messengers were sent not only to assist him but also to carry him to a safe destination before the threatened punishment came, for Prophet Lot was not well acquainted with that region. There is no clear reference in the Holy Quran to lend support to the view that these messengers were angels. It merely says that they were messengers of Allah and that they were sent to the people of Prophet Lot. Now it is the way of Allah, Most High, that when He sends a messenger to a nation, He always sends one of their own kind as the Holy Quran says: …Did there not come to you messengers from among you … (39:71), whilst in another verse we read: Say: Had there been in the earth angels walking about secure, We would have sent down from the heaven an angel as messenger (17:95).

33. That we may send down upon them stones of clay,
34. Marked
(musawwamatan) from thy Lord for the prodigal.
35. Then We brought forth such believers as were there.
36. And We found there but a (single) house of Muslims.
37. And We left therein a sign for those who fear the painful punishment.

I cannot deny the fact that the Holy Quran does not clearly state whether these messengers who were sent to Prophet Abraham with glad tidings and with news of punishment for Prophet Lot’s people were men or angels. Neither did the Holy Prophet (pbuh) say who they really were. It is written in the Torah that they were angels. The Holy Quran, on the other hand, emphasised only one thing – that they were messengers who were bearers of both good news and also admonitions. From this we can infer that they must have been human messengers.

At this point, we have to admit that these verses belong to the category of allegorical verses and many times this doubt is bound to cross the mind that perhaps they must have been angels and not men. I have already furnished evidence above to substantiate the view that they were men. However, if we suppose that they were angels, then that, too, is not such a far-fetched idea. True, we will then have to agree that this was a vision of Prophets Abraham and Lot which came to them in a state of wakefulness and in which their wives were included because of their proximity, for if angels sometimes assume the identical shape of men, then they will be seen only through a vision. This physical eye can make no contact with them as is stated in the Holy Quran in relation to Lady Mary: …Then We sent to her Our spirit and it appeared to her as a well-made man (19:19).

It is evident that this is a vision which came in such a state of wakefulness and was so closely associated with the physical world that she was deceived and truly believed that it was a real man as her reply indicated: She said: I flee for refuge from Thee to the Beneficent, if thou art one guarding against evil (19:18).

There is one question left to be answered: can other people, too, be included in such visions? In relation to this, the Mujaddid of the Age, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, may Allah be pleased with him, used to say that sometimes the spirituality of the recipient of the vision is so powerful that many other people who are close by are incorporated in his vision and are fortunate enough to share in such visions that come to the one who is actually experiencing the vision or revelation.

It is a well-known fact that Angel Gabriel used to descend with revelation on the heart of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and the nature of the revelation possessed an inner spiritual quality from which others were excluded and whatever the Holy Prophet’s eye saw or his ear heard were inner experiences, revelation and insights which had no connection with the visible world. In spite of this, the fact that there was one companion to whom the Holy Prophet (pbuh) had pointed out Angel Gabriel, or several companions who had seen the angel in the form of a Bedouin Arab, was a miracle of the magnitude of the Holy Prophet’s spiritual power which caused those sitting or were asked to sit close by to see those inner spiritual scenes and to hear also the voice of revelation.

Thus, in this case, we will have to believe that this was a vision of Prophets Abraham and Lot which seemed so physically real that they erroneously took the messengers for men and so thought it incumbent on them to take measures to entertain them. And in both places, as their wives were nearby, they were included in the vision.

The people of Prophet Lot were punished by the onset of a volcanic eruption and an earthquake. From the bowels of the earth spewed burning lava, and fiery stones and volcanic ashes rained upon them and they were burnt and killed by this disaster. The earth sank and water sprang up to form what is named in the map of Palestine the Dead Sea, which is lower than sea-level. It is called the Dead Sea because its water is so salty that no living organism can survive in it. The meaning of musawwamatan (marked) is that it was intended as a sign that was sent (by Allah, Most High). That is, to send those stones on the guilty ones as a recompense for their sins had already been decreed. In other words, the punishment for these evils was to be meted out by a rain of stones on them. Therefore, the Almighty preserved the believers from this chastisement by giving them the command to leave that city. From this we can deduce that to leave a place at a time when punishment is about to descend is not a wrongful act but a necessary one. Thus, it is imperative to leave one’s home and repair to the open plains during the days of a plague. Of course, it is forbidden to flee from one city to another and so become the cause of the pestilence spreading there, too.

The second matter that deserves attention is that the Almighty discloses that there was only a single house of Muslims in that city. From this statement, we can conclude that in the eyes of Allah, Most High, a very large congregation, by itself, carries no weight with Him. Where obedience is cherished, there was only one house in which could be found submission to the Divine laws. That house was saved whilst the whole disobedient nation was destroyed with absolutely no concern shown to them.

It is not the policy of Allah, Most High, that if a particular nation is very large, He, like worldly governments, becomes terrified by its massive population and so abstains from punishing it. Before His Power and Will, the largest nation is of no consequence. It is not the law of Allah, Most High, for people to commit sins and remain unscathed. Perhaps if respite is given for a certain period and a particular nation remains unpunished for a length of time, still there is no guarantee of immunity to them. Accordingly, Prophet Lot’s people were seized with such a violent seizure that the Holy Quran says that there was a sign in it for those who would take a lesson from it. So, up to this very day the very presence of that Dead Sea stands as an ever-living sign proclaiming the evil end of those who dare to contradict the laws of nature. The fact that it lies under sea-level tells us that the end of such wrong-doers is the lowest level of existence and the reality that nothing can live in it reveals to us a deeper meaning also – that the consequence of such actions can only be the death of the inner self and the destruction of life itself.

In conclusion, concealed in the narrative of the guests of Prophet Abraham there is a prophecy and a lesson that the community that honours this Divine messenger, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), will become the inheritors of the good news that he has brought. Further, even though that nation still possessed the characteristic of a barren woman (Isaiah, ch. 54), yet, through Allah’s grace, it will give birth to such an extraordinary personality that the world will be struck with amazement. On the other hand, that section of the nation that will, like Prophet Lot’s people, oppose him and turn away from his teachings, which were exactly in consonance with human nature, and will persist in their misguidance and their attribution of partners with Allah, Most High – deviations that were contrary to nature – will, ultimately, suffer disgrace and abasement themselves and such people will be cut off from the world and be exterminated.

38. And in Moses, when We sent him to Pharaoh with clear authority.

After the account of the guests of Prophet Abraham, the events relating to the philosophical lesson of Prophet Moses are presented, and keeping this in view, we can see here a prophecy relating to the Holy Prophet (pbuh). That is because there is a very distinct resemblance between Prophet Moses and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). We are told that when Prophet Moses was sent to Pharaoh he went with very clear arguments and signs.

39. But he turned away on account of his might and said: An enchanter or a madman.

This verse tells us that he rejected the valid arguments and signs because his power made him proud and arrogant. Otherwise, a person with a sound heart can never deny unambiguous signs and proofs. The only thing he could say was that he was a magician or a madman. The meaning of sihr is enchanting words, the source of which cannot be ascertained. As a prophet’s teaching is full of truth and wisdom, it appeals to the heart of man. However, a proud denier is not affected by this attraction so as to accept the truth. Instead, he brands it as magic simply because he cannot find a logical reason to explain the course of this magnetism. He adjudges these prophecies of future successes for the prophets as a kind of lunacy but he does not even stop to think how the words of a madman can generate such an attraction that penetrates the hearts of people. Further, if he is a magician, which means that he is a great trickster who bewitches people with his cunning ways, how can he be a madman at the same time? The truth is that the root of these pronouncements lies solely on the fact that these deniers do not possess the attitude of searching for the truth. By issuing these temporary pronouncements, they only go on trying to appease their own conscience. When they hear fascinating and incisive words of truth and wisdom from the prophet’s mouth they deem it magic, and when they hear prophecies of success from the prophet, all that they can say is that he is a lunatic who is making such claims that have no hope of ever coming into fruition.

Once, Walid bin Mughirah, who was a person of great importance among the leaders of Makkah, came to the Prophet (pbuh) requesting him to tone down his rejection of polytheism and his emphasis on preaching the Oneness of the Almighty as pre-conditions to peace and amity in Makkah. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) read to him chapter 41 (Ha Mim Sajdah) of the Holy Quran.

After hearing this revelation he returned to his people, but the truth of the Holy Quran had made a deep impression in his heart. Abu Jahl, the leader of the unbelievers, inquired of him that after having gone to visit the Holy Prophet (pbuh) what was the opinion with which he came back, in particular, whether the word the Holy Prophet (pbuh) was preaching was really the word of the Almighty or that of a poet. Walid replied: "No one knows poetry better than I. This is not poetry." Whereupon Abu Jahl asked: "Is it the word of a soothsayer, then?" Walid again responded thus: "I am very well acquainted with soothsayers also. This is not soothsaying, neither is it falsehood, for he (the Holy Prophet) has never told a lie in his life."

On hearing this, Abu Jahl shouted out aloud: "He has returned to us as a secret Muslim, otherwise he should tell us what kind of word it is."

Constrained by considerations of national pride and honour, he was finally forced to reply that it was magic. In other words, when, for some reason, people cannot comprehend the power and attraction and influence of a particular speech, and there are several obstacles preventing them from accepting its truth and sincerity, then what else can they say except that it is magic? And this is exactly what Pharaoh said.

40. So We seized him and his hosts and hurled them into the sea, and he was blameable.

It happened just as Prophet Moses had prophesied. In spite of his power and armies, Pharaoh was destroyed and was drowned in the Red Sea. We are told that he was not arbitrarily drowned but in fact he richly deserved his fate. Indeed, his deeds were so outrageous that they warranted denunciation. The unbelievers of Makkah are warned that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), whom they called madman and enchanter, was bound to triumph and that they would ultimately meet with destruction and humiliation just as was the case with Pharaoh and his hosts. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) had said that his Pharaoh was Abu Jahl. Thus, the manner in which Abu Jahl and his community tasted perdition and abasement is not hidden from those possessing knowledge and insight.

41. And in ‘Ad, when We sent upon them a destructive wind (rihal ‘aqim)
42. It spared naught that it came against, but made it like ashes.

Rihal ‘aqim means a wind that does not bring rain, or one that is not beneficial to plants and other organisms but instead causes widespread devastation. Or it may signify the visiting of such destruction on people as if women had not given birth to offspring.

The people of ‘Ad lived in Yemen and Hadramaut, that is, the southern part of Arabia, and their civilisation is the oldest in history. In the light of modern researches, the civilisation of Egypt is older than that of India, whilst Yemen predates even Egyptian civilisation. Prophet Hud was sent to them as their prophet.

There was a time when Christian priests used to put forward the objection that Prophet Hud never even existed in the world and his was only a story related in the Holy Quran. However, glory be to Allah, recently there was discovered among the excavated relics in Yemen a tablet on which the name of Prophet Hud and the circumstances he underwent were recorded. Look how night and day modern investigations are verifying the truth of the revealed words of the Holy Quran.

The punishment that befell ‘Ad for their rejection of the Prophet Hud and their severe opposition to him came in the form of a violent wind which was, in reality, a very vehement and extraordinarily powerful cyclone, the circumference of which encompassed hundreds of miles and it is impossible to estimate its force. The result, however, was that men and beasts, houses and trees, were all ripped to pieces and ground into powder.

43. And in Thamud, when it was said to them: Enjoy yourselves for a while.
44. But they revolted against the command of their Lord, so the punishment
(sa‘iqatu) overtook them, while they saw.
45. So they were unable to rise up, nor could they defend themselves;

The people of Thamud lived to the north of the Hejaz. They used to hew out houses in the mountains and their dwellings can still be seen in that rocky region lying to the north of the holy city of Madinah. Even today, archaeologists excavating for ancient relics in this stony area are discovering city after city made out of red stone and they have dug up huge stone palaces also. I, myself, have seen pictures of them in the Times of India. In short, to this people was sent the Prophet Salih who advised them that if they followed his teachings they would enjoy a happy life in this world for a fixed period, otherwise their deeds had become so vile and debased that the punishment of the Almighty would surely fall on them and destroy them completely. However, no one paid heed to this well-intentioned message. On the contrary, they started to revolt against their prophet and rebelled against the command of their Lord with the result that punishment came in the form of a sudden earthquake which made instant havoc. This punishment is referred to here as sa‘iqah. In another verse relating to the chastisement of Thamud, the Holy Quran says: So the earthquake (rajfatu) seized them… (7:78).

Sa‘iqah means a terrifying sound. Before a strong earthquake hits, it is preceded by a frightful sound. But in using the word sa‘iqah, which is more often used to describe a thunderclap, there is also an indication that when the punishment of an earthquake comes, then like the speed of a flash of lightning it will immediately demolish and leave everything in ruins. Thus, figuratively speaking, it is a roar of thunder and lightning which, in seconds, leaves everything in a state of devastation.

This, then, was the fate of the people of Thamud as it was, too, for the Makkan unbelievers on whom punishment came in a flash. In the battle of Badr, the prestige of the Quraish was laid low as they were themselves defeated and left in shambles. In the same way, at the time of the conquest of Makkah, also, Abu Sufyan and the pagan community of Makkah suddenly discovered that the Muslims had besieged them. After having secretly broken the treaty of Hudaibiyah, they made a sneak night attack on the allies of the Muslims and after destroying them, they sat cheerfully in homes, when all of a sudden, they saw that the Muslims had surrounded them in a siege, the result of which was that a seal was set on their abasement and failure and the power of infidelity was broken once and for all.

46. And the people of Noah before. Surely they were a transgressing people.

The people of Prophet Noah inhabited the eastern part of Arabia and the area bordering Iraq and Armenia also. Because of their disobedience, punishment befell them by way of a flood. It is an error to say that the flood in Prophet Noah’s time submerged the whole world. It was a chastisement for a particular people and it afflicted only those whose transgression and rebellion to Prophet Noah made them deservedly suffer a painful retribution.

The punishment meted out to the peoples of Prophets Noah, ‘Ad, Thamud, Prophet Lot and Pharaoh incorporates, in fact, a veiled and subtle philosophy of history pointing out to us that opposition to the prophets and commissioned ones of the Almighty and disobedience to His laws attract Divine retribution. And on this basis, a very forceful and ominous prophecy has been made in that since the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is a true messenger of the Almighty, it is therefore inevitable that those who oppose him and the nation that is disobedient and refractory to their Creator will also meet the same end as those nations mentioned above.

 

SECTION 3:

After furnishing proofs from natural phenomena and historical events, and making prophecies of the miraculous revolution that was to come through the advent of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and the revelation of the Holy Quran, Allah, Most High, now provides the means through which a transformation can be made in the individual lives of people and which can also serve as an impetus for a revolution in the collective life of a nation.

47. And the heaven, We raised it high with power (aidin) and We are Makers of the vast extent.
48. And the earth, We have spread it out. How well We prepared it!
49. And of everything We have created pairs that you may be mindful.

Aidin means power and is not the plural of yad (hand), whilst musi‘un signifies the All-powerful One Who is most extensive in reach.

By sama’un is meant ‘height’.

Four points are disclosed in these verses:

1. In the creation of the heavens, the panoramic view of Allah’s power and extensiveness is so astonishing that if man tries to comprehend this vast expanse his heart will become dispirited for its extensiveness and majesty strike the mind with tremendous awe. As regards the elevation of the heavens, whatever is beyond our sight is known to the Creator alone, but, on the other hand, whatever we can see of this physical and material heaven is also unparalleled in its splendour and awesome sublimity. For example, we have one sun and look how stupendous is its size and that of its system! From this, try to calculate the vastness and majesty of the three billion suns that have so far been discovered and imagine how extensive and marvellous their systems may be. So distant is our pole star that light which travels at the rate of 186000 miles per second will take seventy-five years to reach our earth from that star. If we look at it another way, we can estimate that if that star is destroyed today, even so, we will continue to see its shining light for seventy-five consecutive years.

2. With this in mind, try to calculate its distance. We will exhaust all the numerals of the mathematical table and still we will not be able to grasp the distance between the stars. Further, it is said that this is only one island in the sea of the universe and only one spoke in the wheel of the physical world. To calculate all of this is way beyond the brain and intellect of man. And this is the only visible material elevation, that is, the physical firmament that we are talking about. In comparison to this, who can estimate the hidden spiritual heaven, that is, the higher regions of heaven or the abode of the angels of heaven? Thus, who can comprehend the power and extensiveness of the Creator of the vast extent – the One Who is the Originator and Master of this whole universe?

3. A moving object is called ard from which is derived the word maruz which means a person who is suffering from palsy because the limbs of such an afflicted one are always shaking. The late Hazrat Maulana Nur-ud-Din used to say that ard signifies a moving sphere the movement of which cannot be detected by the eye on account of its speed. It is a common experience that when a spinning object like, for example, a top, is revolving, if another object is placed on it that object cannot remain on it even for a second. The spinning object will cast it far off in the wink of an eye. On the other hand, look how Allah, Most High, has made the earth, in spite of the speed of its revolution, a bed for us. That is, He has made it a place of rest for us so that instead of being flung far away we enjoy a residence of peace, tranquillity and stability on it. Thus, how powerful is that Being Who has built a revolving sphere in such a way that it has become a home and resting place for us.

4. The next point that is made is that Allah, Most High, has created everything in pairs. See how clearly the Holy Quran has disclosed this subtle scientific question fourteen hundred years ago. Everyone knows that there were pairs in human beings and animals, but it was not too long ago that it was discovered that there were male and female in vegetables also, whether in separate plants or in one plant or even in one fruit – in both (fruit and tree) male and female are present. And now present-day researches have verified this fact. First, it is said that there are male and female atoms in metals also. Then it was discovered that not only in metals, but in every atom there were male and female elements. Then further researches revealed that even in the atomic particle, the former condition of which took the form of electric particles or electrons, there are also male and female elements called positive and negative. After this, further discoveries have revealed that even before electric particles, in nebula, too, there are opposite sexes. In fact, prior to this, there were male and female counterparts in energy, too. That is, from the creative power from which the rays of ether emanate and which is the original source of this physical world, male and female forms exist. In short, from the origin of creation to the present day, whatever progress this physical world has made under the law of evolution was effected because of the agency of pairs in all things. Were it not for this division of male and female there would have been no perpetuation of life nor any evolution in the universe. But more than that, every form of life and every stage of progress in the realm of the universe are dependent on pairs. There can be no evolution and no vestige of progress if two things are not coupled together as a pair.

Thus, after mentioning the heavens and the earth in this verse, the purpose of referring to the presence of pairs in everything else seems to point to the fact that the heavens and earth actually form a pair, for the relation between the earth and the heaven is just like that between the female and the male. Unless the rain does not fall from the heavens, bringing with it oxygen and ammonia and unless the light of the sun does not cast its influence on the earth, no life nor vegetation can come into being and the natural properties of the soil and its hidden seeds cannot find nourishment.

We will remember that in the last part of the first section of this chapter a comparison was made between the human soul and the earth. Thus, as no life can originate unless the earth is coupled with the heaven and receives its influence, so, too, it is necessary that for the nourishment of the human soul it must develop a connection with the Almighty, and the spiritual heaven, that is, the abode of the angels, must shed its influence on it and its hidden capabilities and the hidden seeds of goodness must find sustenance from the rain of divine revelation and the refulgent and glorious rays of Divine light.

It is for the formation of that connection between the Almighty and the human soul that the Holy Quran was revealed and the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was sent. And it is not difficult a task to understand that if a person should form a close alliance with Allah, Most High, can he ever be short of anything? In the life of this world, if someone holds the slightest position of authority then people become anxious to ingratiate themselves with him in the hope of deriving some sort of benefit from his authority or power. So one should ponder how much more solicitous and restless man’s heart ought to be in order to find favour with the Most Powerful of all rulers and the Master of all dominion, Who is more so the Creator and Master of both the physical and spiritual kingdoms. Further, Allah, Most High, is that Being about Whom the Holy Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have said: "Whoever makes Allah his own, Allah, in return, makes him His own." That is, just by forging a close bond with Him brings such a tremendous blessing that no human mind can conceive of any greater bounty.

Thus, when the human soul feeds to its fullest on this connection, it scales the summit of perfection. When it fulfils its duties to Allah as it ought to, it becomes like the heaven in height and elevation and in largeness and extensiveness. And like the heaven, it is far removed from every meanness and is cut off from anything besides Allah, Most High. On the other hand, when it attains the furthest peak in human kindness and compassion to mankind, it acquires, like the earth itself, the qualities of humility, meekness and beneficence to Allah’s creation. Thus, in order to gain this perfection, this affinity which the servant must have with his Creator is mandatory. Consequently, the following verse exhorts us:

50. So flee to Allah. Surely I am a plain warner to you from Him.

That is, in order to build with such a God a relationship that brings miraculous results, the unbelievers should hasten as fast as possible and should seek every conceivable method to rush towards that Exalted Being. This is the message that the Holy Prophet tells them he has brought with him. But there is a further communication from him and that is that their beliefs and deeds are so impure and debased that they attract punishment and they can only bring in their wake pain and misery and shame and destruction. Thus, he is reminding them in plain language to abandon those evil ways and choose the path to Allah and so save themselves from punishment. Here, in the words nazirum mubin (a plain warner) the warning he is informing them about does not come from Allah. Instead, he is in fact trying to put fear in their hearts regarding the consequences of their own deeds, for if terror of Allah is not put in their minds, how can the exhortation to flee towards Him have any significance to them? Wherever the Holy Quran speaks on the subject of admonition, man is always told to fear the consequences of his deeds which come in the form of inescapable chastisement, whilst fleeing towards Allah, Most High, can be understood from the example of a child running towards its mother to avoid some kind of danger. In other words, if they wish to escape punishment as a result of their own evil deeds, they should hasten towards Allah, Most High, for He is that Supreme Being in Whose sole embrace man finds total peace and comfort just as a child experiences the same in the arms of its mother. Therefore, it is at the threshold of this Holy Being man should fall seeking atonement and forgiveness whilst making sincere repentance, that is, trying to win His pleasure through reformation of his actions. Then that All-merciful and All-generous Being will turn to man with compassion and will enfold him in His mercy and forgiveness and save him from the evil consequences of his deeds, that is, from punishment. Besides this, there is no other way for man to be rescued from the evil repercussions of his actions.

51. So do not set up with Allah another god. Surely I am a plain warner to you from Him.

This verse discloses to us the subtle secret that there is one basic reason for all the evil consequences that attend the deeds of man and that is he has taken as the object of his worship, his besought, his beloved, his main goal in life not Allah, his Lord, and Creator, but something else, whether it is an idol or a human being or his own desires. Hazrat Abdul Qadir Jilani (ra) has written in the first discourse of his book Futuh Al-Ghaib (Revelations of the Unseen) that man has three objects of worship:

1. Base carnal desires
2. Created objects
3. God

Thus, there can be no perfect belief in the Oneness of Allah, Most High, until all created things and all we hope for from them and the ego and every low desire that springs from it are sacrificed in obedience to the commands of the Almighty. So if man wishes to save himself from the grievous repercussions of his misdeeds he should cut himself off everything besides Allah, Most High, whether it is a created being or his own desires and then he should turn to Him in total humility. That is true repentance by means of which punishment is averted and which makes man free from fear and grief.

The statement: And of everything We have created pairs, encloses another subtle point and that is that there are two sides to everything: one is beneficial and the other detrimental, and man has been endowed with the power to choose whichever side he pleases - he may incline towards degradation or he may choose the path of eminence and progress, or he may prefer punishment to reward. The first course is the one that brings progress and reward whilst the second leads to chastisement and destruction. So, wise is the one who accepts the first path and preserves himself from the second.

In short, that was the message that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) brought. He came with a teaching exhorting a devoted servant to form a close affinity with his Master, to save himself from chastisement of all kinds and so become the inheritor of peace and tranquillity and perfection. However, the response he got from his people is recorded in the following verse:

52. Thus there came not a messenger to those before them but they said: An enchanter or a madman!

In other words, history repeated itself. Prophets and commissioned ones had been coming from Allah, Most High, before the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and the same treatment they received was meted out to him as well. That is, he, too, was called a magician or a madman. In another section of this chapter I have explained in some detail the reason the Holy Prophet (pbuh) was called sorcerer and madman. But briefly, the fact is that when the rejecters heard the teachings of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) they could find no explanation for this attraction towards truth and wisdom except to say that he was an enchanter, and when they heard his prophecies and his confident promises of success all they could do to console their hearts was to call him a madman. In other words, when the intention is not to accept the truth but to persist in their false beliefs, then without giving much thought to it they give their conscience the false consolation and explain away the truth by calling the Holy Prophet (pbuh) an enchanter sometimes and sometimes a lunatic. Thus, the opponents themselves could not come to a definite conclusion on the matter. This is why every time a prophet or a messenger or a reformer comes from Allah, history repeats itself so identically that it amazes the mind. Thus, Allah, Most High, says:

53. Have they bequeathed this to one another (as a legacy)? Nay, they are an inordinate people.

That is, in every age, when people continue to make the same pronouncement against Allah’s messengers and commissioned ones then, at first sight, it begins to appear as if these people have been bequeathing this objection to their heirs. Otherwise, how do we explain the fact that whenever the messengers of Allah, Most High, come to a people, they make the very same kind of objection to them as did their forbears? We, too, have seen in our age the same kind of treatment given to the Imam of the Age, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (may Allah be pleased with him) by his rejecters. Sometimes they say that he is a very great trickster and a mesmeriser who either deceives people or, like a hypnotist, concentrates his gaze on them and so brings them under his power. At other times, they begin to allege that he is a lunatic or a madman. In short, this is a tradition that has been coming down from ancient times concerning which the Almighty has said that it begins to appear on the surface as if these people have been leaving this accusation in their wills for their inheritors. However, this is not true. The real truth is that these people are a rebellious people whose intention is not to search out the truth but to oppose it. It is not their business to ascertain how true and trustworthy the message-bearer is, nor how full of truth and wisdom is his message. Their motive is to oppose the truth. No matter how pure the words of the message are, their object is to remove from the hearts of people whatever respect and reverence they may have for it. And for this purpose they have no recourse but to level accusations of lunacy or sorcery on the messenger in order to deceive the public and appease their own conscience. Thus, this is an example of refractory behaviour which precludes the acceptance of truth, otherwise which right-minded person can find any doubt in the message of truth that the Holy Prophet (pbuh) has brought? And is there any deficiency left in his teaching? As a result, the next verse advises:

54. So turn away from them, for thou art not to blame;

The Holy Prophet (pbuh) is here told that there is no deficiency in his propagation of the message and that there is no blame on him for the stubborn resistance of the unbelievers. This is a consoling answer to the Holy Prophet’s solicitude for the reformation of his people and for whatever grief and anxiety that may lurk in his mind when he saw the opposition of the people that perhaps there was some defect in his preaching. This is one of the many verses of the Holy Quran that attest to the purity of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) for it is clear from this verse that all his words and deeds and everything else pertaining to him are free from censure.

55. And remind (dhak-kir), for reminding profits the believers.

Dhikr means honour and nobility and also a reminder. Thus, dhak-kir means to remind man that according to his inborn nature he was created in order to rise to the highest degree of eminence and dignity in this life and so he must choose the paths of guidance which the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) taught the world through the agency of the Holy Quran. Thus, the Holy Prophet is exhorted to do his work, to propagate his message and to give good counsel for these exhortations will certainly benefit all those persons who possess a sound nature and who accept this message of truth – they will definitely profit from this guidance and will become the happy recipients of nobility and dignity for which their inherent nature was created. The history of the world eloquently demonstrates how true these words of the Almighty proved to be, and to what heights of glory and honour soared those believers who benefited from his message. And why should they not become inheritors of blessings since they lived according to the teachings of the Holy Prophet (pbuh)? What this message was is given in the following verse:

56. And I have not created the jinns (jinna) and the men except that they should serve Me.

The word jinn is derived from janna which means to cover or to hide. Thus jinn really signifies such creatures as are hidden from the eyes. In Arabic, this word has a wider connotation and can be used to describe several classes of people. For example, the rich are called jinns because they are hardly seen by the masses, whilst the mountain people or jungle dwellers are also designated so because they, too, live mostly out of the sight of people. Germ-carrying bacteria are also called jinns because they, too, cannot be seen by the naked eye, and without the aid of a microscope they are not visible. Similarly, the appellation jinn is ascribed to those creatures who incite the passions within man. If, besides these there are other kinds of invisible beings which in common parlance are called jinn or fairies or spirits, I cannot deny. However, I have not seen these kinds of beings mentioned anywhere in the Holy Quran.

Of course, the word jinn is used in several places in different senses in the Holy Quran. And it is a linguistic rule that when a word bears several meanings then in order to ascribe the right meaning to it, in every place it is used, the accompanying circumstances and conditions must be taken into consideration and then the appropriate meaning should be given in keeping with the context. Thus, when the word jinn, which has diverse meanings, is used, in every place its meaning has to be understood in the context in which it is employed. For example, when reference is made to the putting of evil suggestions in the heart or the incitement of passions, what is meant there are these invisible beings that excite the animal passions of man. Again, when courts are spoken of, there the reference would be to the nobles of the court just as in King Solomon’s court the expression "Ifrit from among the jinns" relates to a particular courtier who was extremely sharp and shrewd of intellect but who had a propensity towards evil. Consequently, in view of these attributes he was given the name Ifrit. In a similar manner, when mention is made of illnesses, the meaning of jinn would be bacteria as we find in a hadith which tells us that seasonal fever, cholera and plague all originate from jinns which in this setting certainly refer to bacteria. They are called jinns because they are such beings that are hidden from the eyes and can only be seen through the aid of a microscope. Thus, when the words jinn and men are used together in any verse of the Holy Quran, then the reference is to the rich and the poor or to the elite class and the common folk. In other words, these are two classes of the same species of the Children of Adam, and not two separate species. The Holy Quran was revealed to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and he was a prophet to the entire race of the Children of Adam. Thus, if the Holy Quran is a book of guidance for both jinn and men and the Holy Prophet (pbuh) was a prophet for both, then jinn and men cannot come from outside of the race of the Children of Adam for in support of this the Holy Quran states: Say: Had there been in the earth angels walking about secure, We would have sent down to them from the heaven an angel as messenger (17:95).

This verse proves conclusively that one genus cannot be a messenger for another genus. And the reason for this is very plain, for a messenger is not only a deliverer of commands, but his designated duty is also to disclose to people how to act upon these injunctions and it is plainly evident that as angels belong to a different species they cannot be models for human beings for they cannot properly fulfil the obligations of a messenger to men. Similarly, if we should accept the suggestion that the word jinns refers to a species different from the Children of Adam, then in that case a man cannot serve as an example for them for he, too, cannot fittingly do the work of a messenger to them. Thus, if the Holy Prophet (pbuh) was a messenger to jinns and men, then we have no alternative but to accept the fact that both jinns and men belong to the same genus. To this effect we have as testimony the explicit words of the Holy Quran in another verse: O community of jinns and men, did there not come to you messengers from among you relating to you My messages…(6:131).

To establish the fact that both jinns and men form a single community, this verse tells us that both of them belong to the same species otherwise the word ma‘shar (community) would not have been used, for ma‘shar is employed when speaking of people of the same kind. Thus, ma‘shar can refer only to the people of Prophet Adam, that is, the Children of Adam, or, in other words, the human race. There is also another verse of the Holy Quran in which the identity of ma‘shar is unambiguously explained as: O Children of Adam, if messengers come to you from among you relating to you My messages… (7:35).

If these two verses are read together, is it not plainly evident that the words O community of jinn and men used in the first verse (6:131) refer to the words Children of Adam in the second verse (7:35)? Thus, this proves beyond a doubt that jinns and men are really two classes from among the Children of Adam.

We now turn our attention to the statement: except that they should serve Me. Every single act of worship including prayer, charity, fasting and pilgrimage propels man towards the higher levels of righteousness and makes him the recipient of success and causes him to ascend to the elevated position of vicegerent of Allah, Most High. So, if man is created for Divine service, it does not mean that the Almighty stands in need of anyone’s service. On the other hand, what it really signifies is that man may enjoy Divine favours through this service. In this regard, let us ponder deeply over the matter of Divine service and see whether it is man who benefits totally or whether Allah’s Godhead is magnified in any way. It is plainly evident that if man prays, it is for the purification and refinement of his soul. Charity is aimed at developing in man’s heart the spirit of selflessness and sacrifice and inculcating the noble qualities of generosity and compassion, whilst at the same time instilling in him the desire to assist the poor and indigent. If he learns to control his egoistic desires and passions through fasting, then it is he himself who benefits from it, for self-discipline is the root of all progress and advancement. If through pilgrimage the spirit of the equality of man, and the essence of righteousness and sacrifice and Divine love penetrate his innermost being, then it is man who benefits and not the Almighty.

Thus, the benefits of service are really for man and by means of this when he acquires the condition of perfect obedience to Allah, Most High, and becomes His consummate slave (‘abd) then he comes completely under the Providence of the Almighty because providence and servitude are twin companions. The result is that servitude makes unbounded progress under the wings of Divine Providence. Thus, the more a servant advances in servitude the more he benefits from the favours of Divine Providence and he continues to acquire more and more excellences that have been reposed in his inherent nature (fitrah). That is why, as the Holy Prophet (pbuh) reached the topmost peak of perfect subservience to Allah, Most High, his progress and ascension also surpassed by far every one else on earth. The Mi‘raj (Ascension) of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) was a vision of the limitless growth and advancement that accrue through perfect subservience to Allah, Most High. I have called it endless progress because just as the bounties of Providence are boundless, so, too, the elevation of a servant ought not to have any boundary.

Thus, the purpose of the Almighty in creating man to serve Him is that after gaining total servitude, the servant should become the inheritor of infinite Divine blessings. So, if there is benefit in subservience, it is all in man’s favour and the Creator gains nothing from it, as the following verses elucidate:

57. I desire no sustenance (rizq) from them, nor do I desire that they should feed Me.
58. Surely Allah is the Bestower of sustenance, the Lord of Power, the Strong.

The word rizq has several meanings: sometimes it is used to signify continuous blessings whether of this life or the hereafter; sometimes it carries the meaning of share or portion; sometimes it refers to food and sometimes it simply means giving as in: Ruziqtu ‘ilman, that is, I have been given knowledge.

In the verse under discussion, rizq cannot mean food for that is understood in the word yut‘imuni (that they should feed Me). Therefore, the word rizq can be used in a general sense to signify: to give a share, or to apportion, or merely to bestow a favour.

The meaning of this verse is that by subservience to Allah, Most High, the intention is never for the servant to give something to his Master or to make provision for his physical sustenance. Indeed, the truth is that Allah is Himself the Supreme Provider (Razzaq), that is, the One Who imbues His creation with every kind of power and the One Who Himself provides sustenance for all. So, what can anyone give to Him? Further, He is the One Who possesses all power, the Mighty.

Food is an essential ingredient for man because he depends upon it for his strength but the Almighty is supremely exalted above and far removed from this human need. He possesses in His own person the source and storehouse of all powers and does not need food to replenish His strength. On the contrary, in His person are reposed all might and power by way of attributes and all the forces of the universe, vast as they may appear to us, are just a small gift from Him. Thus, the real purpose of servitude for which man is created as well as inclining him towards Allah is really to enable him to derive benefit from the court of the King of kings and to help him to acquire strength also.

If, therefore, there is any advantage attached to obeying Divine laws, then it goes to the creatures of Allah, for obedience to Him embraces the secret of the servant’s very life and its perpetuation. If any object, too, deviates from obedience to Divine laws, it will face certain ruin and destruction. Obedience is that quality that profits creation, which gives it life and its continuation as well as its evolution. Everything hinges on this one characteristic – obedience.

Thus Allah, Most High, does not stand in need of His servant’s compliance, for His Godhead and Sovereignty do not depend on man’s obedience to Him. On the other hand, to ensure his success and well-being, his life and progress, it is indeed man who is obliged to obey his Creator so that he may receive the fullest benefit from that Exalted Being’s attribute of provider (Razzaq). Allah’s power is not based on the obedience of His creatures nor is it akin to a tribute paid to Him by man, for He possesses all power in His Own person. In other words, He is the Source and Repository of all kinds of power. He is Matin (Strong). That is, to be strong is one of His attributes which means that He does not require anything from an external source. Instead, strength and power are His attributes and whatever energy and force we observe in the world are all gifts of that Razzaq (Great Provider). Thus, the servant who develops an affinity with Him through obedience and service adds nothing to the power of the Omnipotent but instead it is the servant who acquires blessings from the One Who possesses all powers (Dhul quwwa-til-Matin) and partakes of them according to his capacity and the measure of his obedience.

The exhortation: So flee towards Allah which was given in the beginning of this section is only an explanation of servitude (‘ibadat). That is, hastening towards Allah, Most High, is the medium through which subservience is accomplished. So, from the following advice of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) it is clear that whoever does not take heed of this advice ends up wretched and destitute for, by virtue of adopting a wrong path, he will taste destruction and humiliation as well as punishment and disgrace: "I have come to you as a plain warner advising you that if you wish to save yourselves, then flee towards Allah, Most High, make peace with Him and form a strong bond with Him Who is One, without any peer, the Incomparable. That is true service by means of which a relationship is forged with Him. By choosing this path, man begins to advance and becomes a sincere worshipper and an obedient servant and thus becomes fortunate inheritor of all kinds of progress – physical and spiritual."

59. Surely the lot (dhunuban) of the wrongdoers is as was the lot of their companions (ashabihim), so let them not ask Me to hasten on.

A bucket full of water is called dhanb which also means lot or destiny, whilst ashab (companions) refers to those like-minded people who lived before these (rejecters) and who were heedless of the warning given by the previous prophets.

Long ago, in certain police stations, there used to be a water-clock in the form of a can with a hole at the bottom of it. It used to be put in a bucket filled with water. The water would seep into the can drop by drop through the hole at the bottom so that exactly in one hour the can would be filled up enough to cause it to sink to the bottom of the bucket. At that very moment an officer would strike a gong (to signal the passing of another hour).

We are told that those who do not lend an ear to the message of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and do not turn to Allah, Most High, in humble repentance but are happy with their evil deeds should not be in a state of hurry. In other words, they should not think that Allah, Most High, is heedless of what they do and that there was no retribution for their wicked actions. Their case is similar to the cup that is slowly filled with water and then sinks. Man goes on engaging in vile deeds and the Almighty’s forbearance allows him a generous respite. Benefiting from the grace of a kind and merciful God Who delays His reprisal, unfortunate man grows more audacious in his sinfulness whilst his cup is gradually being filled with evil until a day comes when he is suddenly seized by Allah, Most High, and suffers destruction or disgrace.

We are told that long before the Makkan unbelievers, there were people who had the same attitude like these. That is, there were people who, like the Makkans, were indifferent to the admonitions of their prophets and so unfortunately for them, there came a day when their cup of evil overflowed and they were caught in the grip of Allah’s punishment. Thus, the same fate is inevitably reserved for those deniers who spurn the warning of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and instead of accepting his message, they organise themselves in opposition. One day their cup of evil will run over and they will fall in the clutches of Allah’s retribution.

The next verse tells us how severe will be the requital on that day:

60. Woe, then, to those who disbelieve because of that day of theirs which they are promised.

Consider the severity of that day which Allah, Most High, describes – a day of the manifestation of sorrow which results solely because of man’s misdeeds in spite of the fact that Allah, Most High, sent the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as His messenger to mankind, and revealed the Holy Quran as a book of guidance. However, if man still persists in disbelief, then for him is misfortune in addition to punishment for his evil actions. And so, look how the unbelievers of Makkah were ultimately devastated in the Battle of Badr and how they were disgraced and annihilated in the conquest of Makkah. Then came the grievous day of which the Holy Prophet (pbuh) had warned them and which is mentioned in verse six of this chapter in the following words: And the Judgement will surely come to pass. That is, they were told that the promise made to them was true and that the day of accountability was bound to come. That was the day concerning which, in the first section, natural phenomena and scenes from the natural world were proffered as proof, and of which in the second section, the philosophy of world history was presented as corroborating evidence and to escape from the punishment on that day, servitude and obedience were recommended in this section (third) as spiritual pathways.

Thus, those who adopted the road of subservience and obedience to Allah, Most High, were saved, whilst the ones who denied and brought evil fortune on their own selves were finally seized by the Almighty. Furthermore, as the messengership of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) extends over the whole world and the Holy Quran is a book of guidance for all times, even today, all those who act in accordance with his teachings will be blessed with success and prosperity. On the other hand, those who repudiate this teaching wreak vengeance on their own souls. A day will finally overtake them and on that day they will taste retribution for their vile behaviour and whether it comes in this life or the next, that day will be a day of sorrow and agony. 

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Holy Quran Section > Commentary of the Holy Quran by Dr. Basharat Ahmad > Chapter 51 (Adh-Dhariyat - The Scatterers)


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