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In the Shade of the Qur'an - Surah # 87

In the Shade of the Qur'an - Surah # 87
Syed Qutb
Sura 87
                               The Most High
                                  al Al'a

             In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

  Praise the name of your Lord, the Most High, Who creates and proportions
  well, Who determines and guides, Who brings forth the pasturage, then
  turns it into withered grass. We shall teach you to read and you shall
  not forget save what Allah wills. He knows what is manifest and what is
  kept hidden. And We shall smooth your way to perfect ease. Give warning,
  therefore, if warning is of use. He who fears Allah will heed it, but
  the most wretched will turn aside from it, He shall be c cast into the
  greatest fire, in which he shall neither die nor live. Prosperous is he
  who purifies himself and glorifies the name of his Lord and prays. Yet
  you prefer this present life, while the life to come is better and longer
  lasting. All this is surely written in earlier scriptures; The scriptures
  of Abraham and Moses.
                           In the Shade of the Qur'an

  Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal has transmitted on the authority of Ali, the
  Prophet's cousin and companion, that the Prophet used to love this
  surah. The famous traditionalist, Muslim, has also transmitted that
  the Prophet used to read this surah and surah 86, "The Enveloper", in
  the prayers of Islamic festivals and in Friday prayers. If one of
  the festivals fell on a Friday, the Prophet would be sure to read
  these two surahs in the prayers.
  The Prophet is right to love this surah as it turns the whole universe
  into a temple whose four corners echo the praises and glorification of
  his Lord, the Most High.
    Praise the name of your Lord, the Most High, Who creates and
    proportions well, Who determines and guides, Who brings forth
    the pasturage, then turns it into withered grass.
  The rhythm of the surah, characterised by the long vowels with which each
  of its verses ends, imparts a feeling of the praises echoed every where
  in the universe. The Prophet is also right to love this surah as it brings
  him good news. As Allah charges him with the double task of conveying His
  message and warning people, He promises him:
    We shall teach you to read and you shall not forget, save what
    Allah wills. Be knows what is manifest and what is kept hidden.
    And We shall smooth your way to perfect ease. Therefore, give
    warning, if warning is of we.
  So Allah takes upon Himself the responsibility of making His Messenger not
  forget anything of the Qur'an. He also promises that his path will be
  smoothed in all his affairs, whether they are personal or concern his
  message. This is certainly a great favour. Again, the Prophet is right
  to love this surah as it includes the basic ingredients of the Islamic
  concept of life and existence: the unity of Allah, the Creator; the
  reality of Divine revelation; and the reality of reward and punishment
  in the life to come. The surah also affirms that these basic principles
  have well-established roots in the earlier Divine messages.
    All this is surely written in earlier scriptures; the scriptures of
    Abraham and Moses. 
  All this is in addition to the impression it imparts of the easy nature
  of the Islamic ideology, the Messenger who conveys it, and the nation it
    Praise the name of your Lord, the Most High, Who creates and proportions
    well, Who determines and guides, Who brings forth the, pasturage, then
    turns it into withered grass.
  The surah opens with an order to praise the Lord, which means to glorify
  Him, recognise His supremacy and  infallibility in everything, and
  remember His Divine attributes. It  is much more than verbal repetition
  of the phrase "Subhan Allah", or  "Praise be to Allah" . It is a genuine
  feeling of the sublimity of  these attributes.
  As the surah inspires one with the splendour of a life based on constant
  appreciation of the Divine attributes, it creates within one a feeling
  which is very real and very difficult to describe at the same time.

  The two immediately presented attributes are Lordship and Highness. The
  "Lord" or the Arabic equivalent "Rabb" is the one Who tends and nurtures.
  The denotations of this attribute fit in very well with the general
  atmosphere of the surah, its glad tidings and easy rhythm. The "Highness"
  attribute prompts one to look up to endless horizons. Having a genuinely
  vivid feeling of this attribute is indeed the essential purpose of praising
  Allah and glorifying Him.
  The surah opens with an order addressed by Allah to the Prophet in the
  first instance: "Praise the name of your Lord, the Most High." The order
  is given with an air of friendliness and compassion almost beyond

  Whenever the Prophet read this surah he used to fulfill this order
  promptly by stopping after the first verse to say: "All praise be to my
  Lord, the Most High". Thus, he would receive the order, carry it out
  promptly and read on. When this surah was revealed the Prophet told
  the Muslims to fulfill the Divine order as they prostrate themselves in
  their daily prayers. Similarly he told them to carry out the other
  order of 'Praise the name of your Lord, the Most Great,  as they bow in
  their  prayers. These praises, warm with life, have been included in the
  prayers as a direct response to a direct order, or more precisely to
  a direct permission. For Allah's permission to His servants to praise
  Him is one of the favours He has bestowed on them. It is a permission
  to them to be in contact with Him in a manner, given their limited
  abilities, they can appreciate. He, out of His grace, has permitted
  them to do this so that they may know Him and His attributes as best
  they can.

    Praise the name of your Lord, the Most High, Who creates and proportions
    well, Who determines and guides.
  Everything Allah has created is well proportioned and perfected. Every
  creature is assigned its own role and given guidance so that it may know
  its role and play it. It is told the purpose of its creation, given what
  it needs for sustenance and guided to it. This is clearly visible in every
  thing around us, big or small, important or trivial. (For everything is
  well perfected and guided to fulfill the purpose of its creation as it
  can be fulfilled best.) All things are also collectively perfected so
  that they may fulfil their collective role.

  The single atom is well balanced between its electrons and protons, to
  the same degree as the solar system, its sun, planets and satellites! are
  well balanced. Each of the two knows the way it is assigned to travel and
  fulfills its role. The single living cell is also perfect and well
  equipped to do everything it is asked to do, in the same measure as the
  most advanced and complex species. This perfect balance, in the individual
  and the collective sense, is easily noticeable in every one of numerous
  kinds of creation that fill the gap between the single atom and the solar
  system or between the single cell and the most advanced living creature.

  This basic fact, evidenced by everything in the universe, is well
  recognised by the human heart as it contemplates what is in the universe.
  This sort of inspiration and recognition is within the reach of every man
  in every age, regardless of his standard of education. All that is
  required for it is an open mind which contemplates and responds. Increased
  knowledge then endorses and emphasizes with individual examples what
  inspiration has already proven with the first glance. The results of
  study and research endorse, within their limited scope, this basic truth
  which applies to everything in the universe.

  The American scientist, A Cressy Morrison, Head of the Science Academy
  in New York, says in his book "Man Does Not Stand Alone":

    Birds have the homing instinct. The robin that nested at your door
    may go south in the autumn, but will come back to his old nest the
    next spring. In September, flocks of many of our birds  fly south,
    often over a thousand miles of open sea, but they do  not lose their
    way. The homing pigeon, confused by new sounds  on a long journey in
    a closed box, circles for a moment then  heads almost unerringly for
    home. The bee finds its hive while  the wind waving the grasses and
    trees blots out every visible  guide to its whereabouts. This homing
    sense is slightly developed  in man, but he supplements his meagre
    equipment with instruments  of navigation.

    We need this instinct and our brain provides the answer. The tiny
    insects must have microscopic eyes, how perfect we do not  know, and
    the hawks, the eagle and the condor must have telescopic vision. Here
    again man surpasses them with his mechanical  instruments. With his
    telescope he can see a nebula so faint that  it requires two million
    times his vision, and with the electron microscope he can see hither
    to invisible bacteria and, so to  speak the little bugs that bite

    If you let old Dobbin alone he will keep to the road in the  blackest
    night. He can see, dimly perhaps, but he notes the  difference in
    temperature of the road and the sides with eyes  that are slightly
    affected by the infra-red rays of the road.  The owl can see the nice
    warm mouse as he runs in the cooler  grass in the blackest night. We
    turn night into day by creating  radiation in that short octave we
    call light.

    The honey-bee workers make chambers of different sizes in the  comb
    used for breeding. Small chambers are constructed for the  workers,
    larger ones for the drones, and special chambers for the prospective
    queens. The queen bee lays unfertilized eggs in the cells designed for
    males, but lays fertilized eggs in the proper chambers for the female
    workers and the possible queens. The  workers, who are the modified
    females, having long since  anticipated the coming of the new
    generation, are also prepared  to furnish food for the young bees by
    chewing and predigesting  honey and pollen. They discontinue the
    process of chewing,  including the predigesting, at a certain stage
    of the development  of the males and females, and feed only honey and
    pollen. The  females so treated become the workers.

    For the females in the queen chambers the diet of chewed and 
    predigested food is continued. These specially treated females  develop
    into queen bees, which alone produce fertile eggs. This  process of
    reproduction involves special chambers, special eggs,  and the marvelous
    effect of a change of diet. This means  anticipation, discretion, and
    the application of a discovery  of the effect of diet.

    These changes apply particularly to a community life and seem  necessary
    to its existence. The knowledge and skills required must  have been
    evolved after the beginnings of this community life,  and are not
    necessarily inherent in the structure or the survival  of the honey
    bee as such. The bee, therefore, seems to have out stripped man in
    knowledge of the effects of diet under certain  conditions.

    The dog with an inquiring nose can sense the animal that has passed.
    No instrument of human invention has added to our  inferior sense of
    smell, and we hardly know where to begin to  investigate its extension.
    Yet even our sense of smell is so  highly developed that it can detect
    ultra-microscopic particles. 
    How do we know that we all get the same reaction from any single  odour?
    The fact is that we do not. Taste also gives a very different sensation
    to each of us. How strange that these differences in  perception are

    All animals hear sounds, many of which are outside our range of
    vibration, with an acuteness that far surpasses our limited sense  of
    hearing. Man by his devices can now hear a fly walking miles  away as
    though it was on his eardrums, and with like instruments  record the
    impact of a cosmic ray.

    One of the water spiders fashions a balloon-shaped nest of  cobweb
    filaments and attaches it to some object under water. Then  she
    ingeniously entangles an air bubble in the hairs of her under  body,
    carries it into the water, and releases it under the nest.  This
    performance is repeated until the nest is inflated, when she  proceeds
    to bring forth and raise her young safe from attack by air.  Here we
    have a synthesis of the web, engineering, construction, and 
    aeronautics. Chance perhaps, but that still leaves the spider 

    The young salmon spends years at sea, then comes back to his own river,
    and, what is more, he travels up the side of the river into  which flows
    the tributary in which he was born. The laws of the  States on one side
    of the dividing stream may be strict and the  other side not, but these
    laws affect only the fish which may be  said to belong to each side.
    What brings them back so definitely? 
    If a salmon going up a river is transferred to another tributary  he
    will at once realize he is not in the right tributary and will  fight
    his way down to the main stream and then turn up against the  current
    to finish his destiny. There is, however, a much more  difficult reverse
    problem to solve in the case of the eel. These  amazing creatures
    migrate at maturity from all the ponds and rivers  everywhere, those
    from Europe across thousands of miles of ocean, all go to the abysmal
    deeps south of Bermuda. There they breed and  die.

    The little ones, with no apparent means of knowing anything  except
    that they are in a wilderness of water, start back and  find their way
    to the shore from which their parents came and  thence to every river,
    lake and little pond, so that each body  of water is always populated
    with eels. They have braved the  mighty currents, storms and tides, and
    have conquered the beating  waves on every shore. They can now grow and
    when they are mature,  they will, by some mysterious law, go back
    through it all to  complete the cycle.

    Where does the directing impulse originate? No American eel has  ever
    been caught in European waters and no European eel has ever  been caught
    in American waters. Nature has also delayed the  maturity of the European
    eel by a year or more to make up for  its much greater journey. Do atoms
    and molecules when combined in an eel have a sense of direction and
    willpower to exercise it?

    A female moth placed in your attic by the open window will send  out
    some subtle signal. Over an unbelievable area, the male moths  of the
    same species will catch the message and respond in spite of  your
    attempts to produce laboratory odours to disconcert them. Has  the
    little creature a broadcasting station, and has the male moth  a mental
    radio set beside his antennae? Does she shake the ether  and does he
    catch the vibration? The cricket rubs its legs or  wings together, and
    on a still night can be heard half a mile  away. It shakes six hundred
    tons of air and calls its mate. Miss  Moth, working in a different
    realm of physics and, in apparent  silence, calls quite as effectively.
    Before the radio was  discovered, scientists decided it was odour that
    attracted the  male moth. It was a miracle either way, because the odour
    would  have to travel in all directions, with or without the wind. The
    male moth would have to be able to detect a molecule and sense  the
    direction from whence it came. By a vast mechanism, we are  developing
    the same ability to communicate, and the day will  come when a young man
    may call his loved one from a distance  and without mechanical medium
    and she will answer. No lock or  bars will stop them. Our telephone and
    radio are instrumental  wonders and give us means of almost instant
    communication, but  we are tied to a wire and a place. The moth is
    still ahead of  us, and we can only envy her until our brain evolves
    an  individual radio Then, in a sense, we will have telepathy.

    Vegetation makes subtle use of involuntary agents to carry on  its
    existence - insects to carry pollen from flower to flower and  the
    winds and everything that flies or walks to distribute seed.  At last,
    vegetation has trapped masterful man. He has improved  nature, and she
    generously rewards him. But he has multiplied so  prodigiously that he
    is now chained to the plough. He must sow,  reap, and store; breed and
    cross-breed; prune and graft. Should  he neglect these tasks starvation
    would be his lot, civilization  would crumble, and earth return to her
    pristine state.

    Many animals are like a lobster, which, having lost a claw, will  by
    some restimulation of the cells and the reactivation of the  genes
    discover that a part of the body is missing and restore it.  When the
    work is complete, the cells stop work, for in some way  they know it
    is quitting time. A fresh-water polyp divided into  halves can reform
    itself out of one of these halves. Cut off an  angle worm's head and he
    will soon create a new one. We can  stimulate healing but when will our
    surgeons, if ever, know how  to stimulate the cells to produce a new
    arm, flesh, bones, nails,  and activating nerves?

    An extraordinary fact throws some light on this mystery of recreation.
    If cells in the early stages of development are  separated  each has
    the ability to create a complete animal.  Therefore, if the original
    cell divides into two and they are  separated, two individuals will be
    developed. This may account  for identical twins but it means much
    more - each cell at first is in detail potentially a complete
    individual. There can be no doubt then, that you are you in every cell
    and fibre.

    An acorn falls to the ground - its tough brown shell holds it  safe.
    It rolls into some earthy crevice. In the spring the germ  awakes, the
    shell burns food is provided by the egg like kernel  in which the genes
    were hidden. They send roots into the earth,  and behold a sprout, a
    sapling, and in years a tree. The germ  with its genes has multiplied
    by trillions and made the trunk,  bark and every leaf and acorn
    identical with that of the oak  which gave it birth. For hundreds of
    years in each of the  countless acorns is preserved the exact
    arrangement of atoms  that produced the first oak tree millions of
    years ago.

  The author says in another chapter of his book:

    Every cell that is produced in any living creature must adapt  itself
    to be part of the flesh, to sacrifice itself as a part  of the skin,
    which will soon be worn off. It must deposit the  enamel of teeth,
    produce the transparent liquid in an eye, or  become a nose or an ear.
    Each cell must then adapt itself in  shape and every other
    characteristic necessary to fulfil its  function. It is hard to think
    of a cell as right-handed or left  handed, but one becomes part of a
    right ear, the other becomes  part of the left ear. Some crystals that
    are chemically identical  turn the rays of light to the left, others to
    the right. There  seems to be such a tendency in the cells. In the exact
    place  where they belong, they become a part of the right ear or the
    left ear and your two ears are opposite each other on your head, and
    not as in the case of a cricket, on your elbows. Their curves  are
    opposite, and when complete, they are so much alike you cannot tell
    them apart. Hundreds of thousands of cells seem impelled to  do the
    right thing at the right time in the right place.

  Elsewhere in his book Mr Morrison says:

    In the melee of creation many creatures have come to exhibit a high
    degree of certain forms of instinct, intelligence, or what  not. The
    wasp catches the grasshopper, digs a hole in the earth,  stings the
    grasshopper in exactly the right place so that he  becomes unconscious
    but lives as a form of preserved meat. The  wasp lays her eggs exactly
    in the right place, perhaps not  knowing that when they hatch, her
    children can eat without  killing the insect on which they feed, which
    would be fatal to  them. The wasp must have done all this right the
    first and every  time, or there would be no wasps of  this species.
    Science cannot  explain this mystery, and yet it cannot be attributed
    to chance.  The wasp covers a hole in the earth, departs cheerfully,
    and dies.  Neither she nor her ancestors have reasoned out the process,
    nor  does she know what happens to her offspring. She doesn't even
    know that she has worked and lived her life for the preservation  of
    the race.

  In the same book we also read:

    In some species, the workers bring in little seeds to feed the other
    ants through the winter. The ants establish what is known  as the
    grinding room, in which those which have developed gigantic  jaws
    especially built for grinding, prepare the food for the colony.  This
    is their sole occupation. When the autumn comes and the seeds  are
    all ground, 'the greatest good for the greatest number'  requires that
    the food supply be conserved and as there will be  plenty of grinders
    in the new generation, the soldier ants kill  off the grinders,
    satisfying their entomological conscience by  believing perhaps that
    the grinders had had reward enough in having  had first chance at the
    food while they ground.

    Certain ants, by means of instinct or reasoning (choose which you 
    prefer), cultivate mushrooms for food in what may be called  mushroom
    gardens, and capture certain caterpillars and aphids (plant  lice).
    These creatures are the ants' cows and goats, from which they  take
    certain exudations of a honeylike nature for food. Ants capture  and
    keep slaves. Some ants, when they make their nests, cut the  leaves to
    size, and while certain workers hold the edges in place,  use their
    babies, which in the larval stage are capable of spinning  silk, as
    shuttles to sew them together. The poor baby may be bereft  of the
    opportunity of making a cocoon for himself, but he has served his
    community. How do the inanimate atoms and molecules of matter composing
    an ant set these complicated processes in motion? There  must be
    Intelligence somewhere.

  True, there must be a Creator Who guides these and other creatures, big
  and small. He is the One " Who creates and proportions well Who determines
  and guides ". The examples we have quoted above are but few of the large
  number of remarkable aspects science has recorded in the worlds of plants, 
  nsects, birds and animals. But all these aspects reflect only a part of the
  import of the two verses: "Who creates and proportions well, Who 
  determines and guides. " For our knowledge covers only a scanty part of
  what is in the visible universe, beyond which extends a whole world of
  which we know nothing apart from the few hints Allah has chosen to drop
  to us, as befits our limited abilities.
  Having fired such a great volley of praises to Allah to resound in even
  the remotest corners of the universe, the surah complements that with an
  inspiring touch from the realm of plants: Who brings forth the pasturage,
  then turns it into withered grass." The "pasturage", as used here, refers
  to all plants. Every plant is suitable for one sort of species or another.
  The term then has a much wider sense than the familiar pastures where
  cattle feed. Allah has created this planet and provided on it enough food
  to nourish every single living creature which walks, flies or hides itself

  The pasturage is green when it first shoots forth, but it withers away and
  blackens. It may be used for feeding when green, after it blackens and
  withers, or in between. Thus, it is useful in every condition, and it
  serves a purpose according to the elaborate planning of the One Who
  creates, proportions, determines and guides.
  The reference here to the life of plants carries also an implicit
  connotation that all plants are reaped and harvested. Similarly, every
  living being will come to its appointed end. This connotation fits in
  well with the reference to the two worlds of man: "Yet you prefer this
  present life, while the life to come is better and more lasting." This
  life is a pasture which comes to its end when it withers away and blackens,
  while the life to come is the one which lasts.

  As the beginning of the surah opens up this limitless horizon, it provides
  a framework for the fundamental facts tackled in this surah to be related
  to the whole universe. The framework is remarkably suitable, it is
  perfectly harmonious with the atmosphere of the surah, its rhythm and its
  shades of meaning.

  The surah then gives the Prophet, and the Muslim nation in general, a very
  welcome tiding:
    We shall reach you to read and you shall not forget save what Allah
    wills. He knows what is manifest and what is kept hidden. A And We
    shall smooth your way to perfect ease. Give warning therefore if
    warning is of use.
  The glad tiding starts with sparing the Prophet the trouble of memorising
  the Qur'an. All he needs to do is to read as he is taught and Allah will
  ensure that he will never forget any part of it.
           We shall teach you to read and you shall not forget. 
  So keen to keep the Qur'an in his memory, the Prophet used to repeat it
  after Jibril, the angel, had come down with it to him. He felt that it was
  part of his responsibility to keep it registered in his memory. But Allah
  decided that He would look after this task. The tiding is also a happy one
  for the Islamic nation since it is a reassurance that the faith the Prophet
  preaches is authentic. It is from Allah and He looks after it. This is part
  of Allah's grace. It shows how weighty the question of purity of faith is
  in His scales.

  Every time the Qur'an states a definite promise or a constant law, it
  follows it with a statement implying that the Divine will is free of all
  limitations and restrictions, even those based on a promise from Allah or
  a law of His. For His will is absolute beyond any such promise or law.
  Here, the surah emphasizes this principle after the promise made to the
  Prophet that he will never forget anything of the Qur'an:
                             Save what Allah wills.
  The two are complementary in the sense that the promise is within the
  Divine will. So we look forward to Allah's fulfilment of what He has
  willed to promise.
           He knows what is manifest and what is kept hidden. 
  This is stated here by way of giving a reason for all that has passed:
  teaching to read, freedom from forgetfulness and the exception made to
  that. Everything is decided according to the wisdom of the One Who knows
  the secret and the manifest. He views everything from all angles and makes
  His decisions on the basis of His unfailing knowledge.

  Then follows another tiding, happy and all-embracing:
               And We shall smooth your way to perfect ease.
  This is a glad tiding for the Prophet personally and for the Islamic
  nation at large. It is furthermore a statement of the nature of Islam,
  its role in human life and in the universe. This verse, which is rendered
  in Arabic in no more than two words, states one of the most fundamental
  principles of faith and existence. It provides a link between the nature
  of the Prophet, the nature of Islam and that of the whole universe. It is
  a universe created by Allah with ease; it follows its appointed way with
  ease and draws nearer its final objective with ease. Thus it is an
  inspiration lighting limitless horizons.

  If Allah smooths a certain person's path, he finds ease in everything in
  his life. For he will move along his way to Allah with the universe which
  is characterised by its harmony of construction, movement and direction.
  Hence he does not clash with those who digress, for these are of no
  importance, compared with the vast universe. Ease will pervade his whole
  life. It will be evident in his hand, tongue, movement, work, concepts,
  way of thinking and conducting all affairs and tackling all matters; ease
  with himself and with others as well.

  His wife, Aisha, reports that whenever faced with a choice, the Prophet
  would always choose the easier of the two alternatives. She also reports:
    Whenever the Prophet was alone with his family at home, he was the
    easiest of men, always smiling and laughing.
  Al-Bukhari has also transmitted,
    A maid servant would take the Prophet by the hand and lead him wherever
    she wished.
  His guidance in matters of clothes, food, household furniture and other
  matters of day to day life points to a preference for what is easy. Imam
  Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah speaks in his book "Zaad Al-Ma'ad ' of the
  Prophet's guidance in matters of dress: "He had a turban which he gave
  to Ali as a gift, but he used to wear it over a cap. But he also wore
  either the turban or the cap separately. When he wore the turban, how
  ever, he used to leave the end part of it hanging between his shoulders.
  This has been transmitted by Muslim in his book of authentic traditions,
  on the authority of Omar ibn Hareeth, who said, 'I saw the Prophet
  speaking on the platform of the mosque, wearing a black turban with its
  end hanging between his shoulders'. Muslim has also transmitted on the
  authority of Jabir ibn Abdullah that the Prophet was wearing a black
  turban when he entered Makka, but nothing is mentioned here about his
  leaving its end part hanging. This signifies that the Prophet did not
  always leave the tail of his turban hanging between his shoulders. It
  is also said that the Prophet entered Makka wearing his battle dress,
  with a helmet on his head, which suggests that he used to wear what
  suited the occasion."

  Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah says in another chapter of his book: "The best
  method, it is true, is that followed by the Prophet and which he
  encouraged his companions to adopt. His guidance regarding dress is,
  in short, that he used to wear whatever was available, whether woollen
  or cotton or other types of material. He used Yemeni gowns and had a
  green gown. He also used different types of dress such as overcoat,
  long dress, shirts, trousers, top gown, sandals and shoes. He left the
  end of his turban hanging between his shoulders on occasions, and did
  not on other occasions."

  On the Prophet's guidance regarding food, the author says: "The Prophet
  never refused what was available at home, nor did he ever go out of his
  way to get what was not. He would eat whatever was served of good food
  and he never slighted any sort of food whatsoever. If he did not like
  something he would simply not eat it but would not forbid it. An example
  of his attitude is the case of dhabb, which he used not to eat but he did
  not forbid others eating it. On the contrary, he watched others eating it
  at his own table. He liked sweets and honey, used to eat dates, fresh and
  preserved; drank milk, pure and mixed, added water to ice and honey and
  drank dates drink. He also ate khazeerah which is a thick soup made of
  milk and flour. He ate cucumber with fresh dates butter, dates with
  bread, bread with vinegar, dried meat, a dish called dabba (which was
  one of his favourite dishes), boiled meat, rice and meat cooked with
  fat, cheese, bread with oil, water melon with fresh dates, and he used
  to like dates cooked with butter. In short, he never refused good food,
  nor did he go to any trouble to get it. His guidance was to eat what was
  available. If he did not have anything to eat he would simply go hungry

  The author also speaks of the Prophet's guidance concerning sleep and
  wakefulness: "He used to sleep sometimes on a mattress, sometimes on a
  simple animal skin. Occasionally he would sleep on a rough mat, or on
  the cold earth with nothing under him, or on a bed, perhaps a plain bed
  and perhaps covered with a black bedspread." The Prophet's traditions
  urging the adoption of an easy, gentle and tolerant attitude in all
  matters, especially those which concern religious duties are numerous.
  From among these we may quote: "This religion is of an easy nature. Any
  one who pulls hard against it shall be the loser." (Transmitted by Al
  Bukhari). "Do not be hard on yourselves lest it should be made hard for
  you. A former nation chose to be hard and it was made harder for them."
  (Transmitted by Abu Dawood). "A rider driving hard neither reaches his
  destination nor keeps his transport." (Transmitted by Al-Bukhari). "Make
  it easy, not difficult, for others." (Transmitted by Al-Bukhari and
  Muslim). Concerning social dealings, the Prophet says: "May Allah have
  mercy on any person who is tolerant when he buys, sells and asks for
  his rights." (Transmitted by Al-Bukhari). "A believer is gentle and
  friendly" (Transmitted by Al-Baihaqi). "A believer gets on well with
  others and is easy to get on well with." (Transmitted by Al-Daraqutni).
  "The type of man Allah dislikes most is the quarrelsome one who does not
  budge " (Transmitted by Al-Bukhari and Muslim). One of the highly
  significant features of his character is that he hated hardness even
  in names and physical features. This shows how Allah has moulded his
  nature and smoothed even his temperament. Saeed ibn Al-Mussayyib reports
  that the Prophet asked his father what was his name (Al-Mussayyib was his
  nickname). He answered "Hazn" (which means rough and difficult). The
  Prophet said, "No you are Sahl (plain and easy).' The man said, "I will
  never change a name given to me by my father". Saeed comments, "As a
  result, we have always had a trace of hardness in our characters."
  (Transmitted by Al-Bukhari). "Ibn Umar reports that the Prophet changed
  the name of a woman from 'Aassiyah (disobedient) to Jameelah (pretty)."
  (Transmitted by Muslim). He also said, "It is part of kindness to receive
  your brother with a smiling face." (Transmitted by Al-Tirmithi). Thus we
  realise how refined and gentle the Prophet was to dislike even names and
  features which smacked of roughness and to try to substitute for them
  what related to gentility and tolerance. The life story of the Prophet
  is composed of pages of gentility, ease, tolerance and understanding in
  all affairs. Let us quote here an incident which reveals his method of
  dealing with people of difficult temperament: "Once a bedouin came to
  the Prophet asking something. The Prophet granted his request then said,
  'Have I treated you well?' The bedouin said, 'No, and you have not been
  kind either!' The Muslims with the Prophet felt very angry and wanted to
  punish the man. The Prophet, however, motioned them to leave him alone.

  He then went into his house, sent for the man and gave him something over
  and above his original request. He then asked him, 'Have I treated you
  well?' The man said, 'Yes, indeed. May Allah reward you well for you are
  a good kinsman and a good tribesman'. The Prophet then said to him, 'When
  you said what you said you made my companions feel angry with you. If you
  like to tell them what you have just told me so that they would have
  nothing against you.' The man said, 'I will'. The following day he came
  and the Prophet said, 'This bedouin said yesterday what you have heard.
  We gave him more and he claims now that he is satisfied. Is that so?' The
  bedouin said, 'Yes indeed! May Allah reward you well, for you are a good
  kinsman and a good tribesman.' The Prophet then said to his companions,
  'My affair with this bedouin is similar to that of a man who had a she
  camel which ran loose. Other people rushed to try to catch her but they
  managed only to make her run wild. The owner then appealed to them to let
  him alone with his she-camel as he was gentler to her and knew her
  temperament. The owner then went towards her, having picked something
  to feed her with. He approached her gently until she responded and sat
  down. He then saddled her and mounted her back. Had I left you alone when
  the man said what he said, you would probably have killed him and he would
  have gone to Hell."
  So gentle, simple and compassionate was the Prophet's attitude towards
  any person of rough nature. Examples of this attitude abound in the
  records of his life. These examples are practical manifestations of how
  his path had been smoothed for him to achieve perfect ease in every
  aspect of life. He had been given a tolerant, understanding nature so
  that he might carry out his mission as Allah's messenger to mankind. In
  this way his nature and the nature of Islam, the message he carried and
  conveyed, are alike. He was able, with Allah's grace, to fulfil the great
  task with which he had been entrusted. For when his path was smoothed,
  the heavy burden of his mission became an enjoyable sport.

  The Qur'an describes Muhammad, Allah's Messenger, as a source of mercy
  to humanity, who has come to relieve people of the burdens imposed on
  them by reason of their being too hard against themselves
    We have sent you forth only as a mercy to mankind. (21:107) Those
    who follows the Messenger, the Prophet who can neither read nor write,
    whom they shall find described in the Torah and the Gospel. He will
    enjoin upon them what is right, and forbid them what is evil. He will
    make all good things lawful to them and prohibit all that is foul. He
    will relieve them of their burdens and of the shackles that weigh upon
    them. (7:157)
  The Qur'an also describes the message the Prophet has delivered in
  statements of like import:
    We have made the Qur'an easy for warning: but will any take
    heed? (54:22) He has laid on you no hardships in the observance
    of your religion. (22:78) Allah does not wish to burden you,
    He seeks only to purify you. (5:6) Allah does not charge a soul
    with more than its capacity. (2:286)
  The message of Islam is made easy for people to follow since it takes
  into consideration the limitations of human abilities. It imposes no
  burdens which are too heavy. This easy nature of the religion of Islam
  is readily identifiable in its spirit as well as in its commandments:
    Follow the upright nature Allah has endowed mankind with. (30:30)

  When we look carefully through this religion we find that care has been
  taken to make it easy for men to follow, without overstraining themselves.
  It takes into consideration the different situations man finds himself in,
  and the conditions he faces in different environments. The faith itself
  is based on concepts which are easy to grasp: a single god; none like Him;
  He has created everything, He has guided everything to realise the purpose
  of its existence, He has also sent messengers to remind people of their
  role in life and to call them back to their Lord Who has created them.
  All obligations imposed by this faith fit in perfectly together; there
  are no conflicts, no contradictions. People have to fulfil these
  obligations according to their abilities: there need be no overstraining,
  no heavy burdens: "If I give you an order, fulfill! it as much as you
  can; but leave off what I forbid you." Prohibition may be also relaxed
  "save under compulsion of necessity." (6:119) These basic principles
  provide the limits within which the Islamic commandments and principles

  Hence the Messenger and the message have this basic feature, easy nature,
  in common. So does the nation of Islam, the easy message, build: it is a
  middle nation, merciful, the recipient of Divine mercy easy natured and
  enjoys a life which is perfectly harmonious with the; wider existence in
  the universe.
  The universe itself with its perfect harmony provides a true picture of
  how Allah's creation moves easily and smoothly, without clash or crash.
  Millions of millions of stars move in their orbits in the great space
  Allah has provided, each with its own gravity, yet none moves out of
  step and none crashes against another. There are millions of millions of
  living creatures, each moving through life to its appointed aim, near or
  distant, according to a perfect plan. Each is given the abilities which
  make its aim easy to achieve. Millions of millions of movements, events
  and conditions come together then go their separate ways; yet they are
  much the same as the sounds of the different instruments in an orchestra:
  so different but combine to give together a beautiful tune.

  In short, perfect harmony exists between the nature of the universe, the
  message, the Messenger and the Islamic nation. They are all the creation
  of Allah, the One, the Most Wise.
           Give warning, therefore, if warning is of use.

  Allah has taught him to read and not forget, smoothed his way to perfect
  ease so that he may be able to discharge his great task, namely, to warn.
  For this he has been the subject of careful preparation. Hence, he is
  asked to warn whenever he has a chance to address people and to convey
  to them Allah's message. "If warning is of use". Warning is always useful.
  There will always be, in every land and every generation, those who will
  listen to the reminders and warnings and will benefit by them, no matter
  how corrupt their society is and how hardened their people are.

  If we ponder a little over the verses in this surah and their sequence,
  we realise the greatness of the message entrusted to the Prophet. To convey
  it, and to give the warnings he is asked to give he needs special
  equipment: a smooth way to perfect ease in everything, to be taught to
  read and Allah's preservation of the message intact. Once the Prophet
  has conveyed his message, his task is fulfilled. Everyone is left to
  choose his way, Their destinies differ according to their choice of the
  ways they follow:
    He who fears Allah will heed it, but the most wretched  will turn
    aside from it. He shall be cast into the greatest fire, in which he
    neither dies nor lives. Prosperous is he who purifies himself and
    glorifies the name of his Lord and prays.
  The Prophet is told here that his warnings will benefit him, Who fears
  Allah and fears His punishment. Any intelligent man will feel a shudder 
  in his soul as soon as he learns that there is a Creator who proportions
  well, determines and guides. For he realises that such a Creator must
  hold every man responsible for his actions, good or evil, and will reward
  him accordingly. Hence he fears and heeds the warnings when he is warned
  "But the most wretched will turn aside from it." If a man does not listen
  to the warning given, then he is absolutely "the most wretched" He lives
  in a void, uninspired by the facts surrounding him, turning a deaf ear
  and a senseless mind to the evidence they give.
  Such a person lives in constant worry, striving hard to attain the paltry
  pleasures of this world. Hence he is the most wretched in this life. But
  he is also the most wretched in the hereafter as he suffers there endless
  torment: "He shall be cast into the greatest fire, in which he shall
  neither die nor live." The greatest fire is that of Hell. It is indeed
  the greatest of all fires in intensity, duration and size. He who suffers
  it finds it endless. He neither dies to rest from its torment, nor does
  he live in it a life of rest and security. It is a never-ending agony
  which makes the sufferer yearn for death as his greatest hope. At the
  other end we find prosperity accompanied with self purification and
  heeding of the warnings: "Prosperous is he who purifies himself and
  glorifies the name of his Lord and prays. " Purification is used here
  in the widest sense of the word: purification from everything filthy or
  sinful. The person who seeks to purify himself, glorifies his Lord, feels
  His power and majesty in his inmost soul and prays, (whether taken in its
  general sense or its special Islamic sense) will definitely be
  "prosperous", as Allah states here. He will be prosperous here in this
  life as he enjoys his relationship with Allah and the perfect bliss that
  results from his glorification of Allah. He will also be prosperous in
  the hereafter as he escapes Hell and is rewarded with perfect happiness
  in Paradise. How different the two destinies are.

  Having sketched the two different ends of the most wretched and the
  godfearing, the surah points out to the addressees the real reason for
  their great wretchedness, the failure which drives them headlong into
  the greatest fire: "Yet you prefer this present life while the life to
  come is better and longer lasting". This short sighted preference for
  the present life is the real reason for every misery which befalls man.
  It is indeed the cause of man's taking no heed of the warnings given to
  him. The Qur'an calls the present life "dunia" which connotes both
  contemptuousness and ease of access. The life to come is better in kind
  and duration. Only the foolish who are deprived of sound Judgement would,
  in the circumstances, prefer the present life to the next.

  In conclusion, the surah points out that the message of Islam is not new,
  its roots go back far deep in time. "All this is surely written in earlier
  scriptures, the scriptures of A Abraham and Moses." The basics of the
  grand faith contained in this surah are the same old basic facts outlined
  in the ancient scriptures of Abraham and Moses.
  The truth is one and the faith is one. This results from the fact that
  their origin is one, Allah, Whose will it was to send messengers to
  mankind. The messengers deliver basically the same message, the same
  simple truth. Details of the messages may differ according to local or
  temporal needs, but the basics are the same. They have one origin: Allah,
  the Most High, Who creates, proportions well, determines and guides.





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