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

21 Or who is it that will give you sustenance if He should withhold His sustenance? Nay! they persist in disdain and aversion.

Reflect upon what is above us in the form of birds. Nothing holds them up. The explanations given for this natural phenomenon are simply that, explanations; they are not the truth. Man tries to explain the flight of bird and airplane with a narrow band of counter-balanced mathematical forces. Tons of steel are in the airplane - how does it fly? How does it hang in the air? A steel ship floats upon water - what do these phenomena mean? Allah manifests Reality in this existence in wondrous ways. Nothing holds the bird up except the mercy of Allah. The mercy of Allah allows us to see all these strange events. All help comes from the one stream of Mercy. If man imagines that it comes from other than Him it is because he sees himself. It is ghurur (deception), arrogance which leads to deception, self-conceit and being cut off from tawhid (divine unity). The kafir (denier) who denies Allah's mercy is cut off from seeing the manifestation of tawhid in the perfection of the laws that govern existence.

From where does man's rizq, his provision, come? How is the recycling ecological continuum maintained? Because man is not in submission, his knowledge of creation is perverted. He only has limited knowledge which can only bring about momentary relief; this is arrogance. It cannot provide the fundamentally sound, inner understanding which can connect to the outer understanding. The knowledge of the One comes from within; it is the knowledge of the entire system.

22 What! is he who goes prone upon his face better guided or he who walks upright upon a straight path?

Mukibb (prostrated, dedicated) is from kabba, to prostrate. Imam. Rida, `alayhi-s-salam, upon him be peace, when asked who were the people who had fallen flat on their faces, replied that they were those who did not obey the Prophet's injuction to follow 'Ali, `alayhi-s-salam. Those who refused to follow 'Ali, `alayhi-s-saham, started to interpret for themselves. They assumed the belief that no wasiy (successor, deputy) had been nominated by the Prophet, salla-llahu 'alayhi wa alihi wa sallam. How could such a wise being as the Prophet, salla-llahu 'alayhi wa alihi wa sallam, leave his people without appointing an appropriate man, who would bring about the full fruition of the gifts of Qur'an? No Muslim denies what the Prophet, salla-llahu 'alayhi wa alihi wa sallam, said about the Ahl al-Bayt (family of the Prophet). Why do they not follow what is in the Qur'an and the sunny (sayings and doings of the Prophet)? Human beings wish to bring something of themselves into whatever they are given. When one is given a perfect recipe, there is the arrogance in one that desires to add some other ingredient. Unknowingly it may be poisonous to the liver.

There must be no interpretations; any interpretation will be a misinterpretation. The true slave is he who follows blindly and through his blindfold visualizes the light of his guidance. This is what gives yaqin, certainty. Otherwise, it is the fear of discovering that gives apparent strength.

The simple darkness of the blindfold makes some people ada­mant; that is not certainty. It may appear that they are very sure, but it is like the certainty of a despot compared to the certainty of the man of true iman and abandonment. The despot is sure of himself, but there is a point at which he cracks. The mu'min (believer) never cracks; if the afflictions increase he is increased in strength. When people turn away from him, he turns to Allah - that is from where real strength is derived. He who has abandoned into the true message and follows it diligently is on the clear path. He who has not is like one who has fallen upon his face.

There are degrees of iman. The ultimate iman is abandonment into Reality with knowledge - that is perfect harmony. As for those who have fallen upon themselves, they are Muslims who are misguided, muininun whose iman is incomplete or kuffar (plural of kafir, denier) who are in utter denial. These constitute fodder for the fire.

23 Say: He it is Who brought you into being and made for you the ears and the eyes and the hearts: little is it that you give thanks.

Qul, say, implies to witness, recognize and see the Creator. See how you have come about from the best of sources, the highest Source. See yourself, see how you hear and see. Reflect upon your heart, reflect upon your own situation. Then you will profess, confess and know that you have been created in the best form, in the highest form. It will bring gratitude, which will bring contentment, which in turn will bring greater sight and insight. Qul huwa-llahu ahad, "Say that Allah is One." (al- ikhlas:1). What is said often enough becomes what is meant and what is meant becomes what is said; then the created being sees only the One. By saying it he embraces tawhid.

"Little is it that you give thanks." Diving into the depths of the aya yields greater comprehension of its inner meanings. By increasing one's contentment and gratitude, one is able to gain insight into one's creation and therefore into the Creator, Whose attributes are contained in His creation.

24 Say: He it is Who scattered you on the earth and to Him you shall be gathered.

25 And they say: When shall this threat be (executed) if you are truthful?

26 Say: The knowledge (thereof) is only with Allah and 1 am only a plain warner.

27 But when they shall see it nigh, the faces of those who disbelieve shall be sorry, and it shall be said: This is that which you used to call for.

Dhara means to scatter, disperse. Its related root of Dharra yields the Arabic words for atom (the smallest unit of anything) and offspring. For every action there is a reaction, for every scattering there is a gathering. Man has been scattered here in order to see the meaning of his existence, his reality, and his Source, to Which he will be gathered again.

Those who are not in the state of submission - who are not in an inner state of contentment, gratitude and therefore tawhid, and who do not see themselves as inseparable from Reality - see nothing other than discord; they are in kufr. They ask when the promise of oneness will come to pass. If you are truthful, when will the promise of akhira (hereafter) be fulfilled? A man in doubt is constantly searching and asking for proof. The answer to the people of doubt emanates from the iman in one's heart - the heart has seen what is not and therefore dwells upon that which is.

The knowledge of the Unseen -the next world and the day of reckoning - is with Allah. Only a warning can be given to those who deny. The aya explains to those who ask about time that Allah is beyond time. Time exists so that man may take notice, pause, and reflect on what is behind it.

Warn them that to persist in questioning only increases doubt. It will sink them deeper into the quicksand which they believe to be the solid ground upon which they rely. The system of kufr perpetuates the illusion of its own firmness. In reality it has no foundation; it follows its wahm (fancy, delusion), causing the seeker to seek in the wrong direction. His search leads him away from answers towards false hopes and despair. Man takes refuge in the bubble of kufr. One strategic prick will burst it and cause both his own collapse and that of the system of kufr.

When the next life comes, those who formerly were in denial will wear an expression of contrition upon their faces. They will be in a dreadful state, having come face to face with that which they denied. They are told that this is what you were promised - you will be what you have earned. They have earned this state through their actions, which are backed by their intentions. In a tradition of the Ahl ul-Bayt, it is said that this aya refers to some of the companions of the Prophet, salla-llahu `alayhi wa alihi wa sallam, who, upon seeing that 'Ali, `alayhi­s-salam, was so close to the Prophet, were exceedingly jealous.

28 Say: Have you considered if Allah should destroy me and those with me - rather He will have mercy on us; yet who will protect the unbelievers from a painful punishment?

Reality will cause everyone to perish. One must see that Allah's mercy and protection fall over everyone, whether mu'min or kafir. "Who will protect the unbelievers?" Yujiru is from ajara , which means to protector to aid someone. Jar means neighbor; the word implies mercy and compassion. The rahma of Allah covers even he who denies at the moment of his denial. But whatever has a beginning has an end. A father's love for his son continues until he dies. The father has a contract with his son to be patient with him in every situation. But after the father dies, an uncle may take his place and treat the son roughly and impatiently. Everyone is given constant protection until he is woken up, whereupon there is regret for having left behind the remains of nothing but a misurable and misguided life. Allah has given everyone a respite, ila ajalan musamma, until an appointed time. The Rahmin covers all beings with His beneficence and mercy. Understanding the rahma of Allah is attained by experiencing it whilst depending upon it.

29 Say: He is the Beneficent God, we believe in Him and on Him do we rely, so you shall come to know who it is that is in clear error.

30 Say: have you considered if your water should go down, who is it then that will bring you flowing water?

"So you shall come to know who it is that is in clear error." A time comes to the Prophet, salla-llahu alayhi wa alihi wa sallam, and to men of knowledge when there is nothing left to say. Having used `aql and heart in every way possible to cause an awaken­ing to occur, he can only say: You shall come to know.

Ghawr is a depression in the ground, from ghara, to sink in, become hollow, seep away. If your water is lost, there can be no sustenance. All beings depend upon water for their lives. The Qur'an says that all life is based upon water and that the throne - the `arsh, the foundation of creation - is afloat upon water. If there were no rock under the soil, only sand descending for miles, water would enter the earth and disappear. If all water is lost who will bring the flowing water? From where will it come? One's inner life is such that whenever there is arrogance, knowledge enters the question­ing being like water and permeates down through an endlessly deep hole.

The state of being at a loss does not allow one to begin to reflect. Self-knowledge, the water that springs from the well of knowledge, does not stay; it passes on through and disappears into one's cave. The ghawr, the depression, is related in meaning to nafaq, under­ground tunnel. No matter how much knowledge you pour on the mun­afiq, the hypocrite, it will never take root because he always shakes it off, like a person who repeatedly escapes through tunnels. It is Allah's business to give water, to give sustenance, love, mercy; if there is reflection, then knowledge will remain.

The entire creation is the kingdom of the one and only King Whose attributes are known, Whose love is all-encompassing, Whose presence is beyond time, before time, in time and after time. One is able to initiate the growth of knowledge by momentarily stopping one's hypo­crisy and lack of confidence and by admitting that one has nothing. If you have anything, it is by permission of He Who has created you.

Allah has placed man on earth as a guardian, and that guardianship comes with responsibility, the responsibility of acknowledging his debt at all times to the merciful King of creation.

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

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