In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
- Nay, I call to witness this City!
- And thou wilt be made free from obligation in this City
- And the begetter and he whom he begot!
- We have certainly created man to face difficulties.
- Does he think that no one has power over him?
- He will say: I have wasted much wealth.
- Does he think no one sees him?
- Have We not given him two eyes,
- And a tongue and two lips,
- And pointed out to him the two conspicuous ways?
- But he attempts not the uphill road;
- And what will make thee comprehend what the uphill road is?
- (It is) to free a slave.
- Or to feed in a day of hunger
- An orphan closely related,
- Or the poor man lying in the dust.
- Then he is of those who believe and exhort one another to
patience and exhort one another to mercy.
- These are people of the right hand.
- And those who disbelieve in Our messages, they are the people
of the left hand.
- On them is Fire closed over.
This chapter is a Makkan revelation. In the last chapter, Al-Fajr
(The Daybreak), the good news was given that struggle in the way
of Allah would ultimately bring success. In this chapter, The
City, we are reminded that without strenuous exertion, not even
a great man can achieve the fulfilment of his objectives. That is
why the command was given to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sas)
that he should strive hard and never give up, as victory was sure
to come, for he had undertaken to propagate a message which contained
the essential principles of freedom and equality for mankind.
1-4. Nay, I call to witness this City!
And thou wilt be made free from obligation in this City -
And the begetter and he whom he begot!
We have certainly created man to face difficulties.
It has already been mentioned several times before that Allah uses
oaths as a form of evidence and also to emphasise strongly a particular
matter. The particle la (not) negates the idea that may arise
in the heart of anyone that Allah's apostle wished to achieve success
in his mission without hard, uphill work. The Holy Qur'an states
that that notion is a false one and cites as evidence the city of
Makkah. The definite article al (the) in Al-Balad
(The City) points to a special characteristic and that peculiarity
is the sacredness of Makkah. The Holy Qur'an states that this city
is sacred and is known as the abode of peace where every living
thing is safe and protected from harm so much so that even to cut
down a tree is forbidden. But as regards the Holy Prophet, it says,
You are free from obligation in this city, that is, the inhabitants
do not extend the same rules of sanctity to you.
In this, there is a reference to two different conditions: one,
regarding the experiences the Holy Prophet was undergoing at that
time in Makkah, and the other, to the changed condition that the
Holy Prophet was going to enjoy in the future.
Whilst Makkah was a city in which every living thing was safe and
even a tree could not be cut down, yet for him there was no peace
there. He was being made to suffer every kind of distress and persecution
and there were plans afoot to take his life. In other words, although
that city was a sanctuary and a house of peace for the whole world,
for him there was no peace and no protection. The unbelievers had
violated the sanctity of that city and were bent on persecuting
him. However, the result of all that would be that one day he would
enter that very city in the garb of a conqueror. Hillum comes
from halla which means "to be exempt from treating something
as sacred" as well as "to enter a certain place as a conqueror".
So the time would come when he would be free from obligation to
that city and if he wished he could punish his bloodthirsty enemies.
And how beautifully that prophecy was fulfilled when Makkah was
conquered! Like a victorious general, the Holy Prophet marched into
that very city where previously he could enjoy no peace and his
life was always in danger. At that time, if he wanted, he could
have wreaked full vengeance on his enemies. But his nature was so
merciful that he forgave them all.
The second piece of evidence in support of the sanctity of this
city is given in the verse, And the begetter and he whom he begot,
that is, father and son. But who are meant by father and son here?
They can only be those two who had a strong historical relationship
with this city and they are Prophet Abraham and his son, Prophet
Ishmael, who founded this city and because of whom it became a sanctuary.
The Holy Qur'an then says, We have created man to face difficulties,
that is, as long as man is alive he cannot escape strenuous efforts
and hard work, but it is important that his pain and toil be such
that he advances from stage to stage in his upward climb. As a result,
the Holy Prophet is told to take as evidence the example of this
city, Makkah, which lay before his eyes and which holds so eminent
and sacred a position in the world today. The Holy Prophet should
cast his attention to the example of its famous founder and his
son how, after so many sacrifices in the way of Allah they
became so worthy of His regard that He blessed them with honour
in this world and the next that today, the whole world bows down
to them in acknowledgement of their glory. Further, in addition
to their high renown, look at how the dignity of this city is universally
accepted and consider also how the sacrifices of this father and
son entailed so much labour and hardship.
There is no need to go into details concerning the persecution
Prophet Abraham had to undergo at the hands of Nimrod and the extreme
difficulties he had to endure. However, the sacrifices he had to
make for the city of Makkah alone are beyond compare. In his old
age his first born son, Ishmael, was the delight of his eyes. Then
out of the blue came the command from Allah to leave him and his
mother, Lady Hagar, all by themselves in the sandy desert of the
Hejaz which was about fifteen hundred miles from their home. That
was the place where the Ka'bah, the first house erected for the
worship of Allah, was built. Only the foundations remained, so the
first sacrifice for Prophet Abraham was to rebuild Allah's house
and to populate the city of Makkah.
We must remember that he was commanded to leave his wife and son
in a place where there was no town, no habitation, no food and no
people and further, he was to leave them there forever. O Abraham!
Peace be on you. How marvellous was his faith in Allah that he displayed
not the slightest hesitation in complying with this order. When
they reached this frightful and desolate place, Lady Hagar was aghast.
There she stood with the baby in her arms with no sight of house
or shelter. Leaving them with a little food and water, Prophet Abraham,
in keeping with Allah's decree, was about to depart when Lady Hagar
inquired, "In whose care are you entrusting us?"
To which he replied, "In Allah's hands."
She then said, "You may go now. I am pleased with Allah. He
will never suffer harm to come to us."
Their supply of food and water was soon exhausted. She herself
bore it stoically but the child was in severe distress for want
of water. She looked frantically all around but there was no water
to be seen. Close to her were two hills, Safa and Marwah. She quickly
climbed up one of them and scanned the distance but still no sign
of people or water was visible. She descended this hill and decided
to climb the other but the child was lost from her sight on the
slope so that made her run. With great speed she ascended the other
hill, but still there was not even a hint of water anywhere.
The idea came to her that she should climb the first hill again
and take another look. Perhaps she might see something this time.
She had to run down the slope again because from there the child
was out of her sight. But still from the top of the first hill she
could see no water. Hope and terror in her heart drove her to run
and climb those hills several times to look for signs of water but
she had no luck. At last, totally exhausted, she returned and sat
down beside the child who was lying flat on the ground, and in the
throes of burning thirst, was rubbing his heels on the ground. She
could not bear to see him in this state of suffering, so throwing
herself down at the threshold of Allah's mercy, her soul flowed
like water in supplication to Him.
Now, it is the way of Allah that when a servant casts himself down
at His feet in total helplessness, He then grants him blessings
from His unbounded reservoir of mercy. Lady Hagar's lamentations
caused the spring of Allah's mercy to gush forth and in a vision
it appeared to her that an angel came and struck the ground in front
of her at which a spring of water started to flow. When she opened
her eyes she saw that from the place where the baby was rubbing
his heels the sand had shifted and water was beginning to seep through
to the surface. She quickly dug out more of the sand, whereupon
water started to burst out and spout out strongly. She immediately
gathered stones from all around her and made a bank around the mouth
of the spring, thus preventing it from overflowing.
The Holy Prophet (sas) is reported to have said that man
is created weak. Lady Hagar's blocking around the mouth of the spring
resulted in the water subsiding and becoming a well. Otherwise,
in response to her and Ishmael's predicament, so forcefully did
the mercy of Allah gush forth that if Lady Hagar had not stopped
the flow of water, then, like Allah's mercy, it would have flowed
there like a river forever.
One who is drawn close to Allah is subject to account for the slightest
infraction. Even Lady Hagar, a lady who was so uniquely reliant
on Allah, laid herself open to account for stopping the flow of
the water. In the eyes of worldly-minded people, her action would
be considered a wise one, but according to the high and demanding
standard of complete reliance on Allah, she made a mistake.
So now, she got water. The Almighty now had to make provision for
her food. Caravans were the norm in Arabia in those days and as
water was extremely scarce in that country, they used to halt wherever
they found it. In this area (around Makkah) there was no water so
caravans would not stay there. But this time, as Providence would
have it, a caravan was passing through there and seeing water bubbling
up from a spring they pitched tent. When they found out that a lady
and her child were staying there, they considered it a very great
blessing and requested her to continue to remain there and look
after the water. They built a shelter for her and made arrangements
for her daily sustenance. So now she got a home and the owners of
the caravan provided her with more than sufficient food. They then
spread the news throughout Arabia that a most wonderful spring had
been discovered in a certain place with the result that all passing
caravans would encamp there and provide for Lady Hagar who now started
to enjoy a life of great ease and comfort.
But this was not the end of her sacrifices. The city of Makkah
started to expand from the foundation of that house which was built
for Lady Hagar and Ishmael. But for raising the foundation of the
Ka'bah another sacrifice, greater than the first, was needed. The
laying of the foundation of the Ka'bah called for the sacrifice
of the child himself. In addition, it was the will of Allah that
the father, too, should be part of this severe trial.
When Ishmael had grown into a young man, Prophet Abraham was directed
by Allah to make a short visit to his wife and son in order to see
for himself how beautifully He had protected them and provided sustenance
for them. Prophet Abraham complied and was astonished at what he
saw. When he looked at the young man who was his son, his heart
overflowed with joy, and rightly so, for how noble and righteous
he was! Little did he suspect that another trial was just around
He saw in a dream that he was slaughtering his son. Now, a prophet's
dream is considered a command of the Almighty, so he apprised his
son of the dream and asked him his opinion. This was the reply of
the young man - one that is unparalleled in the history of the world:
O my father, do as thou art commanded; if Allah please, thou
wilt find me patient (37:102).
Can we find in world history a greater example of filial obedience
and willing acceptance of the command of Allah to perform such a
singular and unprecedented act of sacrifice?
Men have been known to sacrifice for country, nation, family and
self because all these form part and parcel of their social ties
and obligations and some benefit accrue to them for their sacrifice.
But nowadays, who sacrifices for the sake of Allah, especially when
it seems that, far from receiving any worldly benefit, total loss
seems to be in store?
Father and son both got ready for the sacrifice: the son lay down
on the ground and offered his neck to the knife, while the father,
acting under the command of Allah, stood ready to cut the neck of
his son. He held the knife in his hand but every true father knows
that the knife that has to cut the neck of a son must first cut
the heartstrings of the father himself. O Allah! O Allah! What faith
he possessed! He was about to lay the knife to the most powerful
of all natural bonds of love and affection, but in the nick of time
the mercy of Allah withheld Prophet Abraham's hand saying: The
trial is over. Your sacrifice has been accepted.
The deeper significance of putting the knife to the neck of the
son is that in order to develop true love for Allah and unswerving
obedience to Him we must first cut off relations with all that is
beside Him. He who was prepared to slaughter his own son had, in
fact, severed allegiance from everything else except Allah, for
nothing is more beloved than a son, especially one who is the first
born of a man very advanced in years. We must remember that at that
time Ishaq (Isaac) was not yet born.
After the trial of the sacrifice, the command came to raise the
foundation of the Ka'bah and it was due to the great honour paid
to this father and his son that the city of Makkah also became a
highly revered place.
However close to Allah and beloved of Him a person may be, without
difficulty and hard effort he can make no headway in life. So here,
the Holy Prophet (sas) is told that he is the spiritual father
of his community and they are his spiritual sons. It is true that
they enjoy no peace in this city, yet it is necessary for them to
undergo all kinds of hardship and even to make sacrifices in order
to progress. As a matter of fact, until he and his community are
prepared to make every kind of sacrifice as Prophets Abraham and
Ishmael did, they cannot expect success in their mission. However,
the day will come, Allah reassures him, when he will enter this
very city as a conqueror and once again, this sanctuary will be
purified of idols and be freed from the clutches of the idolaters.
It will then become a house for the worship of one God and will
be an abode of peace till the Day of Resurrection. But before he
can reap success, sacrifices like those of that father and son,
Prophets Abraham and Ishmael, will have to be made.
5. Does he think that no one has power over him?
This verse addresses those who are persecuting the Holy Prophet
in the sanctuary of the Ka'bah and asks them whether they think
no one has power over them. If they are of that opinion, then they
are in great error for the time will come when regretfully:
6. He will say: I have wasted much wealth.
That is, those people who are spending countless money on their
opposition to the Holy Prophet (sas) and who think that no
one has any authority over them will one day rue their actions.
They will experience bitter regret at their failure and will lament
the huge amount of money they wasted in a vain effort to destroy
the Holy Prophet (sas). How clear a prophecy is this and
how true it proved! Today, those people who are spreading enormous
wealth in their fight against Islam should heed this warning of
7. Does he think no one sees him?
In other words, this verse is telling us that actions determine
the consequences of an affair. In great error is the person who
strays from the path and oppresses others and tries hard to be victorious
through deceit, wickedness, aggression and violence. Allah reminds
him that He is Seer of everything and no evil or aggression is hidden
from Him and He will requite the wrongdoers for their mischief.
However, it is the mind-set of the transgressor that he believes
that Allah is not witnessing his evil action.
8-10. Have We not given him two eyes,
And a tongue and two lips,
And pointed out to him the two conspicuous ways?
When a person is travelling, there are three prerequisites to enable
him to reach his destination and this is so whether it pertains
to this life or the next. In this world, if we have to journey to
a particular place and we do not know the way, there are three means
of getting information. Firstly, we can seek the way for ourselves
either by means of our physical eyes or our intellectual or conjectural
eyes. Secondly, we can seek information from one who knows the way
so as to become more certain. Thirdly, the Government ought to build
a highway to the desired goal and if there are side roads that lead
away from the destination, then, for the sake of guidance to travellers,
there should be some public announcement or written signs as we
find today at road crossings, where sign posts are put up with the
names of roads and their destinations written on them.
Thus, it is the duty of the traveller to use his eyes and his intellect
to find the way himself, or to seek information from one who knows
the way. So, when he sees a government highway and reads the sign
informing him of the different roads and their destinations, then
it is incumbent on him to make use of this guidance to help him
choose the correct way to his goal, whether the way is difficult
or arduous or not.
So here, Allah, Most High, has pointed out the same three methods
for the spiritual journey of man or his travel along the road of
religion. Firstly, man should employ his powers of observation and
innate intelligence to discover the paths that will lead him to
his Lord; secondly, for greater conviction, he should seek knowledge
from God-fearing and wise and experienced people; and thirdly, when
Allah sends His guidance through a messenger who, under direction
from his Lord, clearly differentiates between the right way and
the wrong way, and an unequivocal announcement comes from Allah
pointing out the path of rectitude, then man should choose this
way however difficult it may be.
Najd means high ground or a road built on a higher level.
Here a highway is meant and it is called "high" because
the difference between the road to goodness and the one to evil
is easily discerned just as a road on a higher level can be seen
by all. What a beautiful analogy has Allah used to establish the
need for Divine revelation and the equally wonderful way He has
explained the deep affinity between intellect, information-gathering
and revelation from the Almighty!
So when the Holy Qur'an was revealed to the world, the proclamation
of guidance was given in the words: I, Allah, am the Best Knower.
This Book, there is no doubt in it, is a guide for those who keep
their duty (2:1-2).
Concerning this straight and true path, Allah, by means of this
announcement, compensated for man's deficiency of intellect and
knowledge and pointed out to him the surest way to reach his destination
as is borne out by the verse: These are on a right course from
their Lord, and these it is who are successful (2:5).
So that road which carries man to his goal is one that is filled
with abundant blessings. This is why those who tread this path are
called in a later verse of this chapter, people of the right
hand, or people who are walking on the way to blessings. On
the other hand, those who oppose the truth are referred to as people
of the left hand or those who are heading for misfortune.
It is common knowledge that an unambitious person likes the downhill
road for the uphill one appears to him to be too demanding. As the
path of error is the downhill one or the one that leads to degradation,
therefore, the weak-minded lover of ease who shrinks from difficulties,
quickly chooses this path which ultimately leads him away from the
true goal of life and so he destroys himself. And as the way of
guidance or the way to the true destination is the uphill road or
the road of progress and advancement, this weak-spirited lover of
comfort is afraid to attempt it, even though for him this is the
best and most successful way which can lead him to self-actualisation,
if only he decides to take it.
11-12. But he attempts not the uphill road;
And what will make thee comprehend what the uphill road is?
This form of expression is employed to emphasise the importance
of a point. The way to climb that uphill road for which the Holy
Qur'an came to teach man is explained by the Holy Qur'an itself
in the next few verses as it enumerates one by one what the uphill
13. (It is) to free a slave.
In other words, the first step in the uphill road towards human
progress and perfection is called "emancipation" in Islamic
terminology. How great a calumny have these people committed when
they say that Islam has not made provisions for the complete liberation
of slaves. The Holy Qur'an has pointed out the two paths open to
man: the path of guidance and the path of transgression. It has
also emphasised the point that the first step on the road of guidance
is to free slaves not only from one kind of slavery but to free
mankind in general from every conceivable kind of slavery which
can be divided into ten classes.
- Physical slavery which has been very prevalent throughout the
history of the world. In other words, it is the physical enslavement
of man by man.
- Slavery to false deities, or polytheism.
- Racial slavery discrimination between black and white,
tribe and nation or superior and inferior.
- Mental bondage or the blind following of religious scholars
and so-called spiritual leaders.
- Slavery to customs.
- Slavery to ignorance and superstition.
- Political slavery or the tyranny of dictatorship.
- Economic slavery the exploitation of workers by the capitalists
as well as the curse of usury.
- Social slavery the oppression of women by men.
- Slavery to self slavery to one's base emotions and passions.
These ten types of slavery readily come to mind but the list is
not exhaustive for further research may uncover other kinds. The
Holy Qur'an has commanded us to free all these kinds of slaves and
our Holy Prophet (sas), through his noble example, demonstrated
to us how to free every class of slaves. If, after him, people should
resort to any one of these types of slavery, then neither the Holy
Qur'an nor the Holy Prophet (sas) could be held accountable,
for as the Holy Prophet (sas) is told in another part of
the Holy Qur'an: So remind. Thou art only to remind. Thou art
not a warder over them (88:21-22).
In other words, the Holy Prophet (sas) was not responsible
for the deeds of others for he was not a keeper over them. His duty
was only a clear deliverance of the message.
It is astonishing, therefore, to hear so many Muslim religious
scholars and jurists sing the praises of freedom in Islam whilst
at the same time they connive at slavery and even justify it in
everyday life. If the truth be told, they have subjugated the minds
of the public to their way of thinking and they themselves have
become slaves of their low desires.
The Holy Qur'an gives us some other steps on the uphill road:
14-16. Or to feed in a day of hunger
An orphan closely related,
Or the poor man lying in the dust.
After freedom, the next step is Islamic equality and the methods
mentioned in these verses are eminently practical ones. We all know
that in salah (formal prayer), big and small, rich and poor,
all stand shoulder to shoulder on equal terms. In addition, during
the Pilgrimage, pilgrims, all dressed in the same garb and facing
the same conditions, remain on the plain of 'Arafat in a demonstration
of equality that Islam came to establish on earth.
However, from a practical, everyday point of view, the methods
advocated in the above verses are not to be met with anywhere else
for they teach us how to uplift the downtrodden classes of society
and establish them on a footing of equality in society. Therefore,
the Holy Qur'an tells us that arrangements must be made to ensure
the livelihood of these two groups, the orphans and the needy. The
sustenance of the orphans must be taken care of, and the condition
of the needy must be improved so that they may become useful and
equal members of the society. This is what constitutes equality
Unfortunately, many of our religious scholars have fallen into
error concerning the meaning of these verses. One misconception
is to interpret it'am (food) to mean the feeding of a few
young students in a mosque or giving food to a few poor people and
then feel we have fulfilled our duty to them. But that opinion is
not correct. Here it'am means making provisions for their
daily livelihood, for feeding someone for one day is not a permanent
solution to his needs. So, here, the meaning of feeding on a
day of hunger is to make lasting arrangements for removing the
hunger of the orphans and this can only be done by making provisions
in such a way that their condition of hunger is totally eradicated.
Similarly, some religious scholars have taken the words an orphan
closely related to mean a close relative of the orphan as if
human sympathy in Islam is confined to family and tribe. This is
a big slur on the teaching of universality in Islam.
To illustrate the condition of the needy, the expression lying
in the dust is used, that is, a person who has fallen from a
position of honour and is now in a fallen state as if he were lying
in the dust and so needs a helping hand. His condition is purposely
used as an example in order to create a feeling of sympathy in the
hearts of Muslims.
Similarly, the expression closely related is chosen to explain
the condition of the orphan. In other words, there is a close relationship
between him and every individual in the nation. That is, the orphan
is the close relative of every Muslim. A particular child is the
child of his father and a relative of his close family. However,
an orphan is the child of a whole nation and so every Muslim male
is his father, religiously speaking. This is how the Holy Prophet
(sas) interpreted it in practice as the following incident
It was the day of 'Id and hundreds of Muslims were going
to Madinah to perform the 'Id prayer. They carried along
their children who were all dressed in beautiful clothes and some
of them were even enjoying a ride on the backs of their fathers.
At the corner of a street stood a child. He was an orphan. He was
standing there looking wistfully at the faces of all the passers-by
when there came along that person who was sent as a mercy to the
whole world, that is, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sas). His
eyes fell on the sad face of the child and drawing close to him
he asked: "Why are you standing here so disconsolately?"
The boy replied: "I have no one to carry me to the place of
the 'Id prayer for my father is dead."
The Prophet's heart was filled with sorrow. He immediately took
him up in his arms telling him: "I'm your father and I shall
take you there." And this he did with the child in his arms.
This is an instance of pure and noble behaviour which our eyes long
to see today. That, too, is part of the uphill road which the Holy
Qur'an wants us to climb and that, also, is equality which is the
second stage in the ascent of the uphill road and it comes after
the first stage, the extirpation of all kinds of slavery.
17. Then he is of those who believe and exhort one another to
patience and exhort one another to mercy.
Here, a question comes to mind: As the Holy Qur'an brought faith
to the world, faith, therefore, should have been mentioned first.
What then is the reason for speaking of faith after freedom and
equality? The reply is: It is true that the foundation upon which
a way of life or a religion is established is faith. If there are
no guiding principles, on what shall people act? However, the reason
faith is mentioned after freedom and equality is that, until man's
actions are based on the precepts of freedom and equality, his claim
to faith is useless. Thus, his entire struggle should be selfless
and must be performed only for the pleasure of Allah and through
deep faith in Him.
But the Holy Qur'an is not satisfied with a person making the uphill
climb all by himself. It says that he should help others, too, to
do the same. Although the ascent calls for extraordinary strength,
the distinctive mark of faith, which instils courage and bravery
in man, is that a strong person should try to take weaker people
with him in his climb to the top of the mountain. This is why the
Holy Qur'an says: …and exhort one another to patience and exhort
one another to mercy.
Here, we must remember that the believer must himself follow the
advice he gives to others and must not behave like one of those
mentioned in the verse, O you who believe! Why do you say that
which you do not do (yourself)? (61:2), for then he will make
himself deserving of Allah's displeasure.
So, the two virtues which he must himself practise and which he
strongly has to encourage others to inculcate, are patience and
mercy or sympathy. It is a fact that all the duties we owe to Allah
and to our fellow-men are performed through these two virtues. For
example, through patience we fulfil our obligations to Allah in
that all the commands of Allah must be observed with patience and
steadfastness. That is, whatever commands and prohibitions we find
in the Shari'ah (Law), we must uphold with great fortitude
and there must be no regression in our obedience.
As regards the decrees of Allah, that is, in happiness and sorrow,
tranquillity and distress, in short, in whatever befalls us from
Allah, we must always be pleased with Him and there must be no defect
in our faith and trust in Him.
Through patience we also fulfil our duties to others by giving
them their just dues without the slightest diminution. In fact,
however badly an opposing party may treat us we must never swerve
from our high principles and retaliate, neither should we fall from
our high moral standards. We should also bear the persecution of
people with patience and never fall short in our duties and obligations
By means of marhamah (mercy) we perform our duties to Allah
by showing sympathy and compassion to the weak and downtrodden as
the following hadith beautifully explains:
The Holy Prophet (sas) once said: “On
the day of Judgement, Allah will address a particular individual:
O Son of Adam! I was sick but you did not attend to Me. Bewildered,
this individual will say: ‘How is that possible? You are after all
the Supreme Lord of all the worlds (and cannot fall sick).’ Allah
will reply: Do you not remember that so and so among My servants
was ill and lying close to you and you did not turn to him in sympathy?
If you had but gone near him, you would have found Me beside him.
In a like manner, Allah will address another
individual: O Son of Adam! I had asked you for a piece of bread;
but you would not give it to Me. The individual will submit:
‘How is that possible? Can Allah feel hunger and need bread?’ Allah
will reply: So and so among My servants in a moment of hunger
had asked you for bread, and did you not refuse to give it to him?
If you had given him food, you would have found Me beside him.
Similarly, Allah will turn to yet another and
address him: O Son of Adam! I was thirsty and I asked you for
a cup of water, but you did not give it to me. The individual
will cry out: ‘How is that possible? How can Allah feel thirsty?’
Allah will reply: So and so of My servants was thirsty and asked
you for water, but you did not give it to him. If you had given
it to him, you would have found Me beside him” (Muslim).
Therefore, exhibiting mercy and compassion to the weak and the
helpless forms a part of our obligation to Allah, Himself. Through
mercy, we also fulfil our duties to our fellow human beings by treating
everyone in society, whether friend or foe, rich or poor, with equal
regard and affection and also by giving kindly assistance to anyone
in distress. In short, through patience and compassion we fulfil
our duties both to Allah and to our fellow-men in every way.
However, Allah's command goes further as it directs us not only
to act righteously ourselves but also to exhort others to do the
same. It is quite evident that if a person resolutely obeys the
commands and prohibitions of Allah, and calmly accepts whatever
circumstances may come to him from Allah, and displays the greatest
of restraint and forbearance under persecution from others, and
if he strongly advises others to do likewise, there is no doubt
that that person has liberated himself forever from the bondage
of animal passions because he has reached that stage where he has
subjugated all his base emotions.
Therefore, freeing a slave is the highest point in his journey
and this he has attained by displaying patience. And if through
the motivation of mercy he shows kindness and sympathy not only
to the poor, the needy, the orphans and the dispossessed, but also
to every individual in the society, then where can we find a better
standard-bearer of Islamic equality than him? Similarly, if everyone
in a community exhorts and encourages others to patience and compassion,
then there can be no other community as united, strong, honourable
and dynamic as this one.
We can plainly see, then, that the Holy Qur'an wants us to climb
the uphill road of freedom, equality, faith, patience and compassion
for these are principles of righteous conduct which are impossible
to surpass. Further, we must not only practise them ourselves but
we must advise and encourage others along the same path. That is,
we must not climb the hill alone but must exhort others to make
the ascent and also help them on the way. Can anyone imagine better
principles for individual and national advancement than these?
18. These are people of the right hand
These people chose the road to the right, that is, the road of
blessings, which resulted in good fortune for them.
19. And those who disbelieve in Our messages, they are the people
of the left hand.
As for these, they did not make use of Allah's guidance and preferred
the road to the left, that is, the bad and unlucky road which led
to disappointment and evil.
20. On them is Fire closed over.
That is, they are thrown into a pit of fire and the opening has
been closed over them. This is the fire of desires which blazed
in them during their stay on earth. If a person disregards the straight
path given to us in the Holy Qur'an a path which leads to
all-round progress and advancement and chooses the way of
degeneracy, then day by day, and step by step, he is inexorably
drawn into the heat of passions. It is a proven fact that once a
person is caught in the fire of greed, lust and base emotions, it
is difficult for him to extricate himself. It is as if a never-ending
chain of desires and passions has closed the door of his escape.
For example, if a person becomes enamoured of money and day and
night his mind is engrossed in devising means of acquiring it, then
it becomes impossible for him to get out of this net. The same goes
for intoxication, gambling, adultery, litigation and so one. In
short, it becomes increasingly difficult for man to free himself
from the net of worldly desires and ambitions in which he is ensnared.
This description of a fire which engulfs man on all sides and from
which there is no escape is really the consequences of his own evil
deeds for which he is being punished. So the inner condition he
created for himself by his own actions in this life will become
visible to him in the life after death.