Path towards Enlightenment (969)
Welcome to another episode of our weekly series titled “Path towards Enlightenment” which is an endeavour to make you and us familiar with an easy and fluent explanation of God’s Final Scripture to all mankind, the holy Qur’an that was revealed to the Last and Greatest of all Messengers, Prophet Mohammad (blessings of God upon him and his progeny).
As you know, last week we completed explanation of “Surah Toor” and from this Friday onwards we embark on explanation of the next Surah, that is, “Surah Najm”, which is number 53 in the serial order of compilation of the holy Qur’an. It was revealed in Mecca and has 62 Ayahs.
This Surah, which derives its name from the Divine Oath on a star or “Najm” in the opening Ayah, mentions the manner of Revelation upon the heart of Prophet Mohammad (blessings of God upon him and his progeny), and refers to his Me’raj or Ascension to the highest point in the heavens and back to earth. The Surah denounces the superstitions and idolatrous customs and rituals of the pagans and refutes their claims of the worship of deities by listing several truths about the Infinite Power of the One and Only Creator of the universe. It closes with a warning of the imminent Day of Resurrection and Judgement by pointing to the rewards reserved for the virtuous and the punishment of evil ones.
Several benefits have been mentioned about the recitation of Surah Najm including the forgiveness of sins by the All-Merciful Lord.
We start with recitation of Ayahs 1, 2, 3, and 4 of this Surah:
“In the Name of God, the All-Compassionate, the All-Merciful – By the star when it descends;
“Your Companion (that is, the Prophet) has neither gone astray nor gone amiss.
“Nor does he speak out of (his own) desire;
“It is just Revelation that is revealed to him.”
As we said earlier, this Surah begins with the Divine Oath on the star, which is part of the celestial bodies that differ in size and in brightness – factors which caused people of weak faith in the ancient times to worship them as deities. The emphasis here is that it is an object – like all other objects – created by God and functions according to Divine commandments, including the descent of a bright one, to the bewilderment of both the pagan Arabs and the neo Muslims, on the threshold of the Prophet’s cousin, Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS), to confirm his position as the Vicegerent.
As is evident by the next three Ayahs, the hypocrites and the disbelievers are reprimanded by God Almighty for doubting the entrustment of the mission of Islam to the Prophet, who as the son of Abdullah of the monotheist Hashemite clan, was born in Mecca in the full limelight of history, grew up in Mecca, and for forty years before his Divine appointment led an exemplary life of virtue amongst them by being acclaimed by all as “Sadeq” or the Truthful and “Amin” or the Trustworthy.
So it is obvious that such an impeccably perfect man with his sharp intellect and keen sense of judgement, is not delusional; neither has he gone astray nor does he speak anything out of his own desire. Whatever he says is revelation from the heavens, revealed to him for the guidance of mankind. In other words whatever he says are the Words of Allah infused into his pure heart, while his actions are fulfillment of the Divine Will
It is interesting to note that these facts are also confirmed in the Torah and the Evangel in spite of the interpolation wrought in these scriptures. For instance, in the Book of Deuteronomy, the Israelites, while being given tidings of the Last and Greatest Prophet to be raised from among their Ishmaelite cousins, the Arabs, are told “He does not speak of his own will”. Verse 18 of Chapter 18 of the same book quotes Prophet Moses (peace upon him) as saying: “Then the Lord said to me: I will raise up for them a prophet like you, of their own race, and I will put my words into his mouth. He shall convey all my commands to them.”
In the Gospel according to St. John, Verse 18 of Chapter 16, quotes Prophet Jesus (peace upon him), while informing his companions of the advent in Arabia of the Last and Greatest Prophet: “However, when he comes who is the spirit of truth, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but will tell only what he hears; and he will make known to you the things that are coming.”
These Ayahs teach us that:
- The Almighty Creator has power over everything, including stars and all other celestial bodies, whether suns, moons, or giant planets.
- Prophets were human beings who were born, grew up, and lived among their respective tribes, and given the Divine Mission to guide their nations.
- The disbelievers in a bid to avoid the truth accuse Prophets of insanity.
- Whatever words the Prophet of Islam expressed were neither personal desires nor irrational utterances, but commandments of Almighty God.
Now let us listen to Ayahs 5 and 6 of Surah Najm:
“(He the Prophet) taught by the Greatest Power;
“Possessor of the perfect judgment; he (the Prophet) stands upright.
Here, the Almighty Creator says that He Himself – and not any human being – is the teacher of Prophet Mohammad (blessings of God upon him and his progeny). So how could the Prophet err when he has been blessed with the most perfect judgement?
This, however, should not be viewed in a physical or material sense in the manner of a student seated before a teacher. God, Who is far Glorious to have any shape, size, or place, infuses knowledge and wisdom in the person of His choice through spiritual means that are greater than intuition.
From these Ayahs we learn that:
- Prophets, especially the Prophet of Islam, are Divinely-inspired and possess the soundest judgement for resolving the issues of mankind.
- The Prophets and Imams are Infallible, unlike the rest of humanity.
We now invite you to listen to Ayahs 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12 of Surah Najm that point to the sublime characteristics of the Prophet of Islam and how he was granted the honour of Me’raj or Ascension to the highest point in the heavens:
“While he (the Prophet) was on the highest horizon;
“Then he drew nearer and nearer (in the Divine Presence);
“Until he was within two bows’ length or even nearer;
“Whereat He (God Almighty) revealed to His servant whatever He revealed.
“The heart did not deny what it saw.
“Will you then dispute with him (the Prophet) about what he saw?!”
This part of Surah Najm, like the opening Ayah of Surah Isra (that is, number 17), refers to the Me'raj or Ascension to the highest point in the celestial heavens and back to Planet Earth in a part of a single night by Prophet Mohammad (blessings of God upon him and his progeny). This miraculous event happened in Mecca a few years after the proclamation of Islam. The Archangel Gabriel descended with a means of travel, referred to as Buraq, which is a derivative of Barq or Lightning, and indicates that this means of conveyance was faster than the speed of light. This is proof of the fact that the Me'raj was physical and bodily. In the twinkling of an eye the Prophet found himself in the heavens, where Gabriel upon Divine Orders provided another means of conveyance, faster than Buraq and called Rafraf, which indicates that now the speed was even faster than thoughts, which in a fraction of a second flash from earth to the sky.
In short, God Almighty, Who has no form or place, beckoned the most perfect of his creatures to the highest point in the heavens, where no creature can venture, not even Archangel Gabriel, and after making him see wonders of creation which no human eye has ever seen, God returned the Prophet back to his residence on Planet Earth. All this happened within a fraction of a night. This is all indicative of not just the power and glory of God, which is beyond human imagination, but is also proof of the fundamental concepts of Monotheism, Divine Justice, God-oriented leadership, and Resurrection, which negate polytheism and atheism, along with corruption and oppression. Belief in the Prophet's physical ascension to the heavens and back to earth is among the fundamental principles of Islam, and whoever denies it is not considered a Muslim. This is also proof of the dignity of the human being, the best of God's creatures.
The words ‘closer’ or ‘nearer’ towards God does not mean physical proximity, but indicates spiritual nearness that is attained by the heart with full certitude – of course, as a blessing and a favour of the Almighty. The Lord Most High revealed to His Greatest Prophet the mysteries of existence, including the Divinely-designated leadership of mankind that transcends time and space, even if usurpers were to seize political power.
The heart of the Prophet was perfectly receptive to whatever he saw and heard, and there is no denial of this fact, so what makes the disbelievers and the hypocrites among Muslims to dispute the discourse of the heavenly Ascension.
From these Ayahs we learn that:
- Without Divine guidance spiritual growth and perfection is not possible.
- Although no creature can attain the exalted status of Prophet Muhammad (blessings of God upon him and his progeny), for those who sincerely strive and seek truth, God shows the path.
- It is the certitude of the heart which removes many a veil from the eye and opens up vistas for clear perception of truth and realities.
- The sense of servitude to God is the greatest asset of a sincere person, so whatever the doubters and skeptics say is nothing but trash talk.
Now we recite Ayahs 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18, in conclusion of this week’s episode:
“Certainly he saw it yet another time;
“By the Lote Tree of the Sidrat ul-Muntaha (the Ultimate Boundary);
“Near which is the Garden of the Abode;
“When there covered the Lote Tree what covered it.
“The gaze did not swerve, nor did it overstep the bounds.
“Certainly he saw some of the greatest signs of his Lord.”
Here it is mentioned that during the Ascension to the heavens the Prophet saw some of the greatest signs of God such as paradise, the hell and the situation of the faithful and the faithless ones. God showed all the dominions of the heavens and the earth to the Prophet as he had showed some of them to Prophet Abraham. Veils that normally cover human sights were removed and the Prophet was shown wonders of creation not even seen by the angels, let alone human beings.
These Ayahs teach us the following points:
- The hearts of the Prophets as well as their eyes are full of certitude regarding God Almighty and signs.
- In addition to paradise on the Day of Judgement, there is a paradise in Barzakh or the intermediary state between death and Resurrection, in which the righteous will be rewarded.
- The account of the Me’raj as found in the authentic books of hadith is indeed fascinating.