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Commentary of Surat ul-Waqi'a on advent of Zaman - Versese 11-20

11 These are they who are drawn near (to Allah),

"And the foremost are the foremost." Sabaqa is to be ahead, to precede. In this life everyone is either leading or being led. Allah refers here to the state of ultimate success which is the success of the one who has moved into the zone of the beyond time, the next creation. According to some traditions, the sabiqun were those who early on were in iman. The Imams identify some of the early mu'minun who went to the garden as the son of Adam who was murdered, the first man who embraced Islam from among Pharoah's people, Habib an-Najar who followed Sayyidna `Isa, alayhi-s-salam, and 'Ali ibn Abi Talib, alayhi-s-salam.

As-sabiqun generally refers to those who will be in the garden without question, being already in that state in this life.

They are the near ones, the ones who have come first. Traditionally, the people of tafsir (, Qur'anic commentary) have said that it refers to all the Prophets. The Prophet himself, salla-llahu `alayhi wa alihi wa sallam, said: "It refers to those who are close to my way." Those who have fully taken on the Muhammadi path have no account to render because they were rendering their account at all times during their lives. They had already been in a complete state of abandonment.

12 In the gardens of bliss.

13 A numerous company from among the first,

14 And a few from among the latter.

They are "in the gardens of bliss." Na`im ( ) is from na'ama, to live in comfort, ease. Nima is a blessing, any­ thing one wants to have more of. "It may be that you dislike a thing while it is good for you." (al-Baqara: 216). Often something comes to man in which he does not see the goodness. If man were to see what befalls him as being in the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful, bismi-llahi-r-Rahmani-r-Rahim, then he would see the mercy behind every event and every situation. Otherwise he would be judging from his individual point of view. The mu'min only sees goodness no matter how it may look to others. If he is in true iman, if he believes that the controller of this creation is the Rahman, he will try to see the rahma of Allah behind every event. For that reason, the mu'min's heart is never baffled, shocked, or disturbed. The mu'min acts as best he can because he is both actor and acted upon. Outwardly, he will respond to an emergency, while inwardly, he will be content, knowing that it came from the Reality. If he dislikes what happens to him it is because he has judged it incorrectly and erroneously.

Judgement is based on the degree of ignorance and knowledge. "And it may be that you love a thing while it is evil for you." (al-Baqara: 216) A child loves to be buried under a mound of chocolate, whereas a grownup with knowledge may recognize the damage it can cause his health. A responsible young man does not realize the affliction and the responsibility that comes with wealth until he earns it by the sweat of his brow; then he recognizes the difficulty of acquiring it, keeping it and dispensing it correctly. An irresponsible person, however, has a roman­tic desire for things without knowing what danger and affliction ac­company them.

A group of those who came earlier to the knowledge of Reality came earlier to the garden of iman. They were early in the sense that they arrived at the garden before death, having achieved in this life the state of joy, tranquility and abandonment. They already knew the meaning of bliss and had a direct knowledge of tawhid in this world. Those who have not obtained direct knowledge can only improve their prayers and supplications in the hope that they will get it when this chain of the body and the world is removed by death. No matter how much one is in tawhid and iman there is still the pull of the body. It is another of Allah's reminders that one is held by the chain of this realm of existence. It does not matter to what extent one is in total aban­donment, duality and loss are still recognized.

Human injustice exists because the ultimate height in spiritual evolution, which is the historical or worldly event of the appearance of the Mahdi (literally the rightly guided one; he is the twelfth Imam who is in concealment), has not occurred. At that time, the earth will be inherited by the humble people of right action and Allah's justice will be fully manifest in this life.

If one is concerned about time, then one is concerned about the chronology of events. If the light of intellect enables one to go beyond time for just a moment, then "early" implies those who simply got the message, regardless of when. Those whose main concern is to live the life of tawhid are inclined to place less importance upon time. The man who seeks unification seeks to obtain Sayyidna Ibrahim's knowledge, he seeks the company of the Prophet, salla-llahu alayhi wa alihi wa sallam, and desires the guidance, counsel and companionship of the Imams and the select sahaba (companions). He wishes to be close to their state. It is meaningless to desire closeness to them physically, without desiring to take of what they possess of meanings. And if one wishes closeness to their state it can occur at any time, because their states are expounded to man through the Qur'an, the sunna (Prophetic custom) and hadith (tradition). One is living in their presence if one has access to the gate of their state.

15 On thrones decorated,

16 Reclining on them, facing one another.

The root of surur (thrones) is sarra, which is to make happy, to confide a secret, to hide something. From it come many words that form an interesting pattern of meanings. Surer is joy, implying that the source of joy is a secret that can only be whispered to oneself. It is the secret of secrets and cannot be divulged. If one is happy, happiness is itself the explanation of that state, .but one cannot give the source of that state to someone else. It relates to another level of consciousness.

A pleasure is something one can share, something one can buy. It is related to attachments and is a worldly thing while surer, joy, is for its own sake. The bird sings because its nature is to sing, irrespective of whether the hunter is hunting it or the neighborhood is giving it extra food. A pleasure is the result of something that has occurred. A person is lonely, then he meets a companion who echoes much of what he believes in - that is a pleasure. Someone was hungry, there was empti­ness in his stomach and it was filled by food - that is a pleasure. Pleasure is like neutralization: the negative and the positive meet and are neutralized.

Joy is something else; it is the negation of the negative. joy occurs when what was considered to be desirable has been recognized as being wahm, illusion. Negation of the negative is positive and that is the normal state of man. It is for this reason that man inherently seeks joy. He knows pleasure, he knows it is purchasable, but he does not readily know the way to joy. Man seeks happiness because it is his real nature. He is unhappy because he has been telling himself that he needs a certain something to be happy. He constantly runs after it, but as soon as he gets it, he desires something else.

The door to the abode of joy is the recognition of how to unknot what one has knotted. That is why it is said that the source is a secret within a secret. A desirable thing is in itself a wahm. The recognition of the wahm is the negation of it. And if that negation is genuine, then the root of joy is being nourished from within. That is the soil in which the tree of contentment will grow. Contentment is a tree that nobody can transplant into anybody else. One has to, through one's own labor, nurture it and make it grow.

There is inherent contentment in a created being such as a bird, but man has the consciousness of contentment. Furthermore, he has the light of consciousness of consciousness. This establishes man as the highest of creation. Man is conscious of the consciousness of happiness. He is conscious of the consciousness of unhappiness.

Surur cannot be passed on, it has to be earned. If one has grasped the way to its attainment one will constantly seek after it in one's life. It has nothing to do with time or place. Often, an ignorant man returns to the lake or the mountain top where he had spent a holiday or had had a good time, thinking that he can reproduce the inner state of a momentary opening of the heart. He yearns for the upliftment of joyfulness. This perverted seeking is found among the inspired souls of people such as artists and composers. In the biographies of these madmen, one will find that they often go back to the same mountain spot or shack, to live for the rest of their lives in a romantic illusion so that they can reproduce their creative moments. But creative moments are moments of detachment from this world. It simply happened that he was there in that chalet on that mountain top. He yearns for the moment of joy he experienced but cannot retrieve it. He thinks joy is prescribable or describable but it is not. "The path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favors. Not (the path) of those upon whom Thy wrath is brought down, nor of those who go astray." (al-Fatiha: 7) Look at what has caused you trouble and kept you from joy: attach­ments, expectations, desires and fears - guard against these and you are already in the garden.

The root of the word surur is also connected with the word mean­ing the cutting of the umbilical cord of a newborn baby. It is a joy ; because the child is no longer dependent on a thing called 'womb.' The cutting heralds his outer independence and leads him to the possi­bility of understanding that he is dependent only upon Allah. It is the beginning of a journey of joyfulness during which the child may begin to recognize that he is a child of Truth and Reality and that he is born by the grace of Allah, while the mother was the instrument within whom he had dwelt before birth. The potentiality of his existence before conception was in the knowledge of Allah and became an expression, a manifestation.

Sarir ( thrones, bed, singular of surer) is a symbol of relief from outer troubles and a means of joy. It allows one to relax and establishes a mood of happiness, a state of restfulness. "Reclining on them, facing one another." Reclining upon the couches, the near ones are not troubled, they are relaxed. Mutaqabilin (facing one another) is from taqabala to meet, to be face to face. They see their reflection in each other. They see others who are like them. They see repeat performances, holograms. Its root is qabala to receive; qibla, from the same root, is that to which one turns; qabila is a midwife, the one who faces and receives the baby.

17 Round about them shall go youths never altering in age,

18 With goblets and ewers and a cup of pure drink;

19 They shall not be affected with headache thereby, nor shall they get exhausted;

20 And fruits such as they choose,

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

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