Path Towards Enlightenment (803)
Welcome to our weekly program "Path towards Enlightenment" in which we present you a fluent and easy-to-understand explanation of the ayahs of the holy Qur’an.
Last Friday we completed explanation of Surah Ya Sin, and today we start the next Surah, that is, Saaffaat, which is 37th in the serial order of compilation of the holy Qur’an, though not in order of revelation, since it was revealed in Mecca in the early days of the universal mission of Prophet Mohammad (blessings of God upon him and his progeny).
This Surah, containing one hundred and eighty-two ayahs, was revealed at Mecca. The name of this Surah has been taken from its first ayah, which begins with an oath by Saaffaat, meant to specify groups of angels who are arrayed to perform the commandments of Allah.
The Arabic word “Saaffaat” is the plural form of “saffah” or row, and refers to a group which has ranged itself in ranks or numerous rows.
Like in other Meccan Surahs, the emphasis in Saaffaat is on fundamental beliefs rather than religious precepts and injunctions. Lessons from the life of the prophets of the past and their striving against polytheism and disbelief, are mentioned, especially Abraham’s breaking of the idols. Ayahs of this Surah also shed light on Origin and Resurrection, accompanied by admonitions and warnings.
As for the virtues of reciting Surah as-Saaffaat, the Prophet’s 6th Infallible Heir, Imam Ja’far as-Sadeq (AS) has said:
“Whoever recites Surah as-Saaffaat every Friday (with firm belief) will be saved from every pollution and disease, and every contamination will be removed from his worldly life, and Allah will provide him with the most abundant sustenance and safeguard him, his children and his body from the harms of the accursed Satan and the hostile haughty ones. And if he dies on that day or night, Allah will cause him to die as a martyr, and He will raise him among martyrs, and He will set him in the same grade with the martyrs in Paradise.”
Let us now listen to and read ayahs 1to 5th of Surah Saaffaat:
“By the [angels] ranged in ranks;”
“By the ones who drive vigorously;”
“By the ones who recite the Reminder;”
“Indeed your God is certainly One;”
“The Lord of the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them, and the Lord of the easts.”
This Surah begins with a few oaths to attract the attention of listeners and readers. These expressive oaths direct human thought in various directions in order to make it ready for accepting the facts.
It is true that Allah is more truthful than all truthful ones and He does not need to take any oath. Moreover, if the oath is for the believers, they have already submitted to Allah without any oath; and if it is for the deniers of truth, they do not believe in Divine oaths.
In response it could be said that oaths are always made to emphasize worthy and important things. This means, the oaths of the Qur’an indicate the importance and greatness of the things being emphasized by God Almighty in order to raise the level of contemplation on these particular things so as to acquaint man some basic facts. In other words, when a speaker conveys his message in a decisive manner with emphasis upon its important points, his words have instant psychological affect on the addressee. Thus, the oaths by Allah on certain things are meant to strengthen the faith of the believers, while stimulating the thoughts of the disbelievers.
The oaths of Allah regarding the rows of angels and their duties of disciplined presence in the Divine Court for performance of the tasks delegated to them, like vigorously driving away from mankind the elements of evil and constantly reciting the Reminder that is, the holy Qur’an, reflects the greatness of their ranks.
In the first sermon of the Nahj-ul-Balaghah, where the angels are mentioned, the Prophet of Islam’s Frist Infallible Heir, Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS), describing their divisions into different groups, says:
“…some of them (angels) are in array and do not leave their position. Others are extolling Allah and do not get tired. The sleep of the eye or the slip of wit, or languor of the body, or the effect of forgetfulness does not affect them. Among them are those who work as trusted bearers of the message, those who serve as speaking tongues for His prophets…”
After these oaths, in ayahs 4 and 5 of Surah as-Saaffaat, God Almighty emphasizes His Oneness or monotheism as the fundamental article of faith and the fact that He Alone is the Creator of the heavens and the entire and whatever it contains between the heavens and the earth. It means, Allah has no partner or associate; and no angels or any creatures, whatever their rank, have any role in the creation and the orderly functioning of the world.
The Lord of the Easts, or “Mashareq” in Arabic (plural of ‘mashreq’, which means ‘east’), doesn’t mean Divine Power is limited to the east. Actually, there is no east or west in the vast universe, and the word ‘mashreq’ denotes the place of rising of the sun, which in fact is in the centre of the solar system and around which the planets including Earth, revolve in an orderly manner on their orbit, as night gives way to day, and vice-versa. It is thus clear that every day throughout the year, as per astronomical calculations, sunrise is from a different point of the sky compared to the previous day or the next day, although we don’t feel it; hence the use of the plural term “easts” in this ayah. The orderly system of the universe and all that it contains, including the heavens, earth and planets, i indicative of both the Oneness of Almighty Allah and His Power over all things.
From these ayahs we learn that:
- Order and discipline of the universe indicates the Oneness, Infinite Powers, and Wisdom of God Almighty.
- Angels are the creation of God to do His biddings without the least doubt or objection, since unlike human beings, they do not have emotions, desires, and independent will of their own.
- The All-Merciful Lord has made mankind the best of creation by bestowing upon them free will to choose between truth and falsehood, virtue and vice, right and wrong, with promise of the bliss of paradise for true believers who keep their emotions and desires under firm control in order to abstain from sins, while those who misuse their fee will to live a life of disbelief and indulgence in sins, including oppression of fellow humans, are destine for the eternal fires of hell.
Now we listen to and read ayah 6 of Surah Saaffaat:
“Indeed We have adorned the lowest heaven with the finery of the stars”
This ayah means to say that since God has bestowed upon human beings the sense to discern and appreciate beauty. He has adorned the sky above our heads, which is the nearest firmament to us, with stars.
Indeed, the scenery of the stars of the sky is so beautiful that never do the eyes become tired of seeing them. On the contrary, by observing the cosmos and contemplating upon its wonders, we overcome our fatigue and stimulate our minds. Unfortunately, in this industrialized age of large cities enveloped by the smoke of factories and fumes of vehicles, the sky and its finery of stars, have become dark and distant for urban-dwellers, but the villagers can still observe the concept of this ayah of the holy Qur’an which says that the lower heaven is adorned with the beauty of stars, which could be likened to lights used for illumination at functions.
From this ayah we learn that:
- The tendency to adornment and beauty is part of the innate nature of mankind; hence the reference by the holy Qur’an to the finery of nature.
- The sky and the stars are a sign of the Majesty of the Creator of the world.
- Contemplation on the wonders of the cosmos enables man to explore the vistas of the science of astronomy and other branches of knowledge, as emphasized by Islam.