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Commentary of Surat ul-Ankabut on advent of Zaman - Versese 21-30

21 He punishes whom He pleases and has mercy on whom He pleases, and to Him you shall be turned back.

22 And you shall not escape in the earth nor in the heaven, and you have neither a protector nor a helper besides Allah.

The nature of existence is that of a journey. Everything is based on movement. The electrons journey around the nucleus and the earth journeys through space. The first thing a newborn child does is to move. The entire creation is a journey from Allah, to Allah, by Allah, and the highest benefit for man comes if he emulates it by journeying into the land.

In every way it is a blessing to travel. In the Shadhili tariqa (a Sufi path), the masters never slept in one place for more than three weeks, so as not to take what was around them for granted. Haraka ma al-baraka: movement is with blessing. Man must change, he must move on so that he does not become a slave of outer habits and become fixated. Man is attracted to fixation because he loves the permanent, the ever-fixed within him. But to desire preservation of outer fixation is ignorance. The outer can never be fixed. No sooner does man try to control an event than he finds it beyond his power to do so.

Man wants to know the permanent but he mistakenly tries to bring it about in his environment by establishing rigid habits. At the lowest, most superficial level, travel disturbs this tendency. The earth would be sterile if it were not disturbed, if it were not plowed. The same thing applies to man's heart. If it is not disturbed, if it is not cut off from its desires and attachments, how can it resonate and keep turning? At first one resents being cut off, but the purpose of one's life is to move both outwardly and inwardly; outwardly by having dynamic attitudes toward the world and the earth, and inwardly by being willing to turn away from what the self desires.

Travel fi sabili-llah is a very blessed outer activity. A sa`ih at one time meant a man traveling for Allah, calling people to the din (life-transaction). He was a mubashshir, (deliverer of good tidings) following the way of those who give the bushr the good news). Now siyaha, which used to mean travelling fi sabili-llah, means tourism. Tourism today is synonymous with irresponsibility, as it enhances outer greed and appetite, whereas previously travelling from one culture to another promoted inner growth and fulfillment.

23 And (as to) those who disbelieve in the communications of Allah and His meet­ing, they have despaired of My mercy, and these it is that shall have a painful punish­ment.

24 So naught was the answer of his people ex­ cept that they said: Slay him or burn him! Then Allah delivered him from the fire; most surely there are signs in this for a people who believe.

25 And he said: You have only taken for your­ selves idols besides Allah by way of friendship between you in this world's life, then on the resurrection day some of you shall deny others, and some of you will curse others, and your abode is the fire, and you will not have any helpers.

The creation of Allah, having come from Allah, must already intrinsically know Allah and therefore already have met Allah. But He is forgotten by man, hidden by the visible and solid. The sharia (outward path) of existence overwhelms the haqiqa (inner truth). The shahada (testimonial witnessing) is said aloud in the belief that its reality will be witnessed. Everything one sees is from Allah. If it can be named, its essence is derived from the mercy of the Latif (the Subtle, the Kind); its kathif ( thickness) is derived from subtlety.

The seeker is the one who follows the path of abandonment and submission. Giving in unquestioningly, he finds that there is no ques­tion and only Allah. He gets to the root of his affairs. His transactions in .life become correct, provided there is the recognition that all has emanated from one merciful Source. He is then on a straight path, acting and not reacting. He is not reacting to something that is within himself, such as insecurity. Yet even insecurity is Allah's love, forcing man to seek the ultimate security. It is the love of Allah that he finds when he moves from one object of security to another. He thinks it is in the wife, mother, father, children or money, but it is in none of them. This is the true shahada.

Awakening starts with rejection of what is not: there is no God -la ilaha. When the seeker, the witnesser, has excluded all, he says: but Allah - illa-llah. After negation comes confirmation. It is "The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favors. Not (the path) of those upon whom Your wrath is brought down, nor of those who go astray." (al-Fatiha: 7)

AI-Liqa' (the meeting) is with Allah, as promised by Him, as will be witnessed by all in the next phase of life, after death. The resurrection, ba`th, is the meaning of the meeting. Everyone will then know that there was only Reality acting throughout his previous life. That knowledge will be untarnished or uncolored by emotional connotation or attachment. If knowledge of Allah is attained before death then the being, the soul, will embark onto the next life in that state. If it is not, and the soul is still entrapped by what it has spun in its previous life, then the being will be afflicted in the eternal fire.

"So naught was the answer of his people except that they said: Slay him or burn him!" Ibrahim, alayhi-s-salam, was put through the fire in this life. Because he had knocked down their idols, his people came to him in anger, asking for an explanation. He said: If they are gods, ask the big one which I have spared to remake the small ones which I have broken. Furious, they made a fire and threw him in. Ibrahim, alayhi-s-salam, -knew that-the key to the garden was within himself. He already knew the meaning of the fire in its absolute form. He had saved himself from his inner fire so he was not afraid of the outer fire. Similarly it has been documented in our time that in the state of complete fearlessness, people have been seen to walk great distances on hot coals. This is true iman.

Man is given a long life in order to seek its purpose; and every time he questions he falls into a hole. This life is Allah's madrasa(a school) within which man is constantly enrolled, in order to grow and learn. If he can reflect on his life he will find unending lessons.

What we may consider as supernatural, such as walking in fire, is natural. It is exceptional but it does occur. Because man is so dis­tracted, he considers those events to be unnatural. How often do events unfold in which someone is miraculously saved? A man is saved every second by the fact that he is given air by breathing in and out. He is hanging on air but he does not remember. He takes it for granted because he is gross.

"And he said: You have only taken idols besides Allah..." People who have denied themselves access to the path of mercy, who have denied themselves movement or direction towards that which man has been created for in this life, will be in denial in the next life. If he denies now, he will in time be cut off and disconnected. Whenever one does not see the mercy of Allah in a situation, he has fallen. It is a taste of the fire, of anger or disturbance. It is a taste of something that never takes root. The fire is constant agitation and it does not allow anything to hold fast or grow.

But everyone has tasted bliss and momentary contentment. Those who want to have joy in this life will have access to it. They will be in their nafs-workshop, cutting and filing the key to joy. The cause of one's trouble is expectation and attachment: this is the key to the door of hell. Since life is dynamic, you are preparing either one of the two keys. You either progress or regress, deriving spiritual nourishment or deficiency.

26 And Lut believed in Him, and he said: I am an emigrant to my Lord. Surely He is the Mighty, the Wise.

27 And We granted him Ishaq and Ya'qub, and caused the prophethood and the book to remain in his seed, and We gave him his reward in this world, and in the hereafter he will most surely be among the good.

28 And (We sent) Lut when he said to his people: Most surely you are guilty of an indecency which none of the nations has ever done before you.

29 What! do you come to the males and commit robbery on the highway, and you commit evil deeds in your assemblies? But nothing was the answer of his people except that they said: Bring on us Allah's punishment, if you are one of the truthful.

30 He said: My Lord! help me against the mis­ chievous people.

The Prophet but, Ibrahim's maternal cousin, 'alayhi-s-salam, did his best for his community. His people had transgressed in their actions and were ultimately cut off from the way of nature, of procreation, by their homosexuality. This community was finished. He had tried his best among them, failed and could move no further. There is a limit to what man can do.

Lut, alayhi-s-salam, said: "I am an emigrant to my Lord." His Lord is everywhere. His Lord is the Lord of destruction, the Lord of creation, the Lord of all. The Prophets and their followers and seekers have to emigrate from what they are used to, to what is better - from good to better, from old habits to freer ones. Hijra (emigration) is, in meaning and form, the heritage of seekers of truth. A hadith from the Prophet, salla-lla'hu 'alayhi wa alihi wa sallam, relates that if someone has emigrated fi sablli-llah, even if it is only a foot, he is already in the garden.

After doing his best amongst a people and finding that the stream is moving against him, a man should not stay, for the society may collapse upon him. Once a situation has fossilized no one can be helped. No healing is possible and the only thing left to do is to jump out. Allah says: Do as Ibrahim did - make hijra. All the great Prophets followed his example.

If the hijra is truly fi sabili-llah, then the muhajir (emi­grant) will be in such a state that Allah will unveil for him His mercy, making his emigration easy. Allah bestowed upon lbrahim, alayhi s-salam, the pure gift of Ishaq, and from Ishaq, Ya'qub, alay hum­us-salam. Both Ibrahim and the mother of Ishaq were old, she having previously been barren. Isma'il, 'alayhi-s-salam, is not mentioned here because he is from a wife of Ibrahim who was not barren. Ishaq and Ya'qub were gifts given to the Prophet Ibrahim, alayhi-s-salam, when he began his emigration fi sablli-llah, and a provision for future gener­ations.

The Prophet Muhammad, salla-llahu 'alayhi wa allhi wa sallam, had many newcomers to Islam whose iman was not strong; they feared for lack of provisions. They were accustomed to a narrow way of survival, living on the edge of life. The miraculous expansion of Ibrahim's family, alayhi-s-salim, when his hijra began, is a demon­stration to Muhammad's followers that if one calls upon the powers of Reality by treading the prophetic path, one will receive openings.

On a journey, the intelligent man will leave behind excess baggage, values that are inadequate. The life one leaves behind could only get one deeper and deeper into trouble. In this way hijra is both inward and outward. Inwardly, a man recognizes and avoids what he knows will cause him trouble. Outwardly, he leaves any situation that is not beneficial to him, until he has enough knowledge to re-enter it without harm coming to him. By then his tree of knowledge has put down such roots that the winds that shake it can only make it drop its dead leaves.

Something that may be useful now may not be right in ten months' time. Movement and struggle must be based on spiritual capacity. At first man should go where he is most familiar. He would be completely devastated if he were to travel in south India, having before that never left Chicago. First one travels to Europe and then onward to the jungle, changing the level of struggle slowly, naturally, a step at a time. It is a dynamic process, cybernetic and self-feeding. Biologically man is continuously moving on and growing. If he does not grow inwardly, he will end up having a white beard and the mentality of a small child.

Man brings difficulties upon himself by his own actions. There is no separation between one's outside and inside. The outer gloom or collapse is a reflection of an inner collapse. A derelict house reflects the inward state of its dweller. The pulsating heart of the man or family that inhabits the house has become static, so the house collapses. It is an outer symptom of an inner collapse. If one is not inwardly willing to uphold what is appropriate for human values, it will show outwardly. One can only prop up the outer facade to a limited degree.

Adapted from the book: "The Mercy of Qur'an and the Advent of Zaman" by: "Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri"

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