Path towards Enlightenment (876)
Welcome to our weekly programme "Path towards Enlightenment" in which we present you a fluent and easy-to-understand explanation of the Ayahs of the last and final heavenly scripture for the guidance of all humanity, the holy Qur’an.
Last Friday we ended the explanation of Surah Ghaffer (also known as Mo’men) and today we begin the next Surah, that is, Surah Fussilat, the 41st in serial order.
This Surah, which has 54 Ayahs, was revealed in Mecca to Prophet Mohammad (blessings of God upon him and his progeny). It takes its name from the word “Fussilat” which means “elaborated”, a word that occurs in Ayah 3 and again in Ayah 44. It describes the holy Qur’an as the “Elaborated Heavenly Revelation” for those who pay attention to its wordings. The Surah deals with the obduracy of the disbelievers, the truthfulness of the holy Qur’an, towheed or the Indivisible Unity of the One and Only God, and the inevitability of Resurrection. In Ayahs 5, 20 and 44, the Surah makes several references to the senses, which the disbelievers shut off from perceiving the Truth in this world, and which will then testify against them on the Day of Resurrection. Ayah 49 describes the arrogance displayed by people when all is well in contrast with their humility and despair when difficulties strike.
The Surah is also known as “Haa Meem Sajdah” since it opens with the Arabic alphabet “Ha” and “Mim” and is the first among the four Surahs with obligatory prostrations. Thus Ayah 37 of this Surah requires prostration on its recital by the reader and the listeners. The Prophet used to recite this Surah every night before going to bed, and a hadith related from him says: “One who recites this Surah, God Almighty will bestow upon him ten good deeds for each of its letters.”
For the information of our listeners, there are seven consecutive Qur’anic Surahs beginning with the letters “Ha Mim”. Surah “Fussilat” is the second one in the series termed as “Hawamim” and the other Surahs are: “Ghaffer” – whose explanation we finished last week – then “Shura”, “Zukhruf”, “Dukhaan”, “Jathiya”, and “Ahqaaf”.
According to a hadith from the Prophet “Hawamim” constitute the gist of the Holy Qur’an, and this series is known as the Crown of the Holy Qur’an and its fragrant flowers. God bestows His Bounties upon the reciter of these Ayahs as well as on neighbours, relatives, and friends for whom the angels seek forgiveness.
Let us listen to or read Ayahs 1, 2, 3, and 4 of Surah “Fussilat”:
In the Name of God, the All-Compassionate, the All-Merciful.
A (gradually sent down) revelation from the All-Beneficent, the All-Merciful;
“A Book whose signs have been elaborated, an Arabic Qur’an, for a people who have knowledge;
“A Bearer of good news and a Warner, but most of them turn away [from it]’; [and] so they do not listen.”
If you might recall, as we said at the beginning of Surah Baqarah, as well as the Surahs Aal-e Imran, A’raaf, Younus, Hood, Ibrahim, Shua'ra, Ankabut, Yaseen, etc, 29 Surahs of the Holy Qur’an start with the “Horoof Muqatta’at” or seemingly unarranged alphabets whose meaning is known only to God and His Prophet, although some exegetes have tried to interpret them. Surah Fussilat is thus one such Surah, and here the use of the letters “Haa” and “Meem” by God is among the marvels of the unmatched eloquence of the Holy Qur'an, which bewildered the infidels of the age of Prophet Mohammad (blessings of God upon him and his progeny). Today also the miraculous Qur’an continues to confound the disbelievers of our times, who despite the advancement in science and technology, have failed to meet the divine challenge to bring about at least some phrases equal to those of the Holy Qur'an.
The next Ayah refers to the gradual revelation of the holy Qur’an to the Prophet lasting almost 23 years until its completion and compilation. Thus, the entire Qur’an is a source of mercy and benefits all those who strive for faith and truth. It was revealed in flawless Arabic at a time when Arabs used to take pride in the purity and comprehensiveness of their language. Yet despite knowledge and the sense of understanding, many put shutters on their senses in order to deny it, as was the common reaction of obdurate disbelievers throughout history towards the messages of the Prophets.
Ayah 4 refers to the Qur’an as “Basheer” or “Bearer of good tidings”, as well as “Nadheer” which means “Warner of divine punishment. These two attributes of the holy Qur’an means glad tidings to believers for their righteous deeds, the rewards of which is the bliss of Paradise; while for those who deny the manifest truth, it is a warning of the severe punishment of Hell for the disbelievers and sinners, as a result of their evil deeds. The holy Qur’an says elsewhere that disbelievers are deaf, dumb, and blind unable to comprehend divine guidance since they do not make use of their God-given intellect. Thus, the disbelievers, whether polytheists or atheists, who are preoccupied in their vain desires, usually do not like to hear the recitation of the holy Qur’an.
These Ayahs teach us the following points:
- The holy Qur’an is the Revealed Word of God sent down on the heart of the Prophet and conveyed by him to humanity for the guidance and benefit of mankind and as an indication of Divine Mercy to all those who pay heed.
- The holy Qur’an grants awareness and knowledge to those who seek truth.
- Tidings of rewards for good deeds, coupled with warnings of punishment for evil deeds, are the correct mode for proper education.
Now let us enlighten our souls by listening to or reading Ayah 5 of Surah Fussilat:
“They say, ‘Our hearts are in veils [which shut them off] from what you invite us to, and there is a deafness in our ears, and there is a curtain between us and you. So act [as your faith requires]; we too are acting [according to our own].’”
This Ayah points to the reaction of the pagan Arabs towards the invitation of Prophet Mohammad (blessings of God upon him and his progeny). Whenever the Prophet used to recite the passages of the holy Qur’an as they were revealed to him by God, they would try to disappoint him by saying: Do not make useless effort as our ears are deaf, and even if we hear this will not affect. Thus leave us to do whatever we like. In other words, the disbelievers took several stances against the Messenger of God and the Holy Qur’an, by turning away from him, refusing to listen to passages of the Qur’an, and saying they were unprepared for accepting the Truth. Thus they persisted obdurately in their error.
From this ayah we learn that:
- The Ayahs of the Qur’an are like rain that falls on parched earth and makes it verdant, but if it rains on a hard stone it will not be absorbed, which shows the difference between the hearts of believers and the obstinate people.
- If the invitee and addressee is not intent to accept the truth, nothing will impact him, including the Words of God.
- Undue prejudices act like a curtain on the hearts of disbelievers, thus depriving them of accepting the ultimate Truth.
Ayahs 6 and 7 are the concluding ayahs that we discuss. Let us listen or read:
“Say, ‘I am just a human being like you. It has been revealed to me that your God is the One God. So be steadfast toward Him and plead to Him for forgiveness.’ And woe to the polytheists;
“Those who do not pay the zakāt and disbelieve in the Hereafter.
In reaction to the absurd claims of the polytheists, the Prophet of Islam used to say: I am just a human being like you. The only difference is that God has chosen me to guide you by revealing on my heart His Words of guidance in order to make you realize that it is wrong to worship idols or associate partners with the One and Only Creator of the universe. I do not want to compel you to accept my invitation. I only show you the right path manifestly and ask you to quit your past deeds so that God forgives your sins. The Ayah is a warning for the polytheists saying that if they persist in idolatry they will meet a very terrible end. The polytheists, beside their lack of faith in God, also do not pay attention to the needs of the poor and deprived classes, while the faithful who believe in the Hereafter, pay to the poor and the needy, since God will compensate them manifold. Thus, zakat is a source for the benefit of the society. According to the Prophet of Islam Failing to pay zakat is on a par with disloyalty and polytheism.”
From these Ayahs we learn that:
- The Prophet used to call people toward God and their aim was to free humans from the yoke of the internal carnal desires and the external tyrants.
- Believing in the One and Only God must be manifested in every aspect of one’s life. Monotheism is not a mere belief and should be visible in every conduct of the individual.
- A faithful person is steadfast on the path of monotheism, and always tries to compensate the past mistakes so that he can remain firmly on the right path.
- Faith is not a mere claim, and anyone who does not pay zakat, is in fact having polytheist tendencies.