Lesson From The Qur’an

by : Mawlana Mufti Muhammad Shafi (RA)

Verses 151 -152
كَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا فِيكُمْ رَسُولًا مِنْكُمْ يَتْلُو عَلَيْكُمْ آيَاتِنَا وَيُزَكِّيكُمْ وَيُعَلِّمُكُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَيُعَلِّمُكُمْ مَا لَمْ تَكُونُوا تَعْلَمُونَ () فَاذْكُرُونِي أَذْكُرْكُمْ وَاشْكُرُوا لِي وَلَا تَكْفُرُونِ ()
As also We have sent in your midst a messenger from among you, who recites to you Our verses, and purifies you, and teaches you the Book and the wisdom, and teaches you what you did not know. Remember Me, then, and I will remember you. And be thankful to Me, and be not ungrateful to Me.
These verses conclude the discussion on the theme of the Qiblah or religious orientation. So, Verse 151 repeats the second part of the prayer of Sayyidna Ibrahim (AS) which the discussion had begun (Verses 127 - 129). He had, as one would recall, prayed Allah to accept his founding of the Ka'bah, and to send among his progeny a Messenger from among themselves. The subsequent discussion on the subject of the Qiblah has already shown that the first prayer has been heard and accepted. Now, Verse 151 declares that similarly the second request has also been granted, suggesting that since the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam), has been sent in answer to the prayer of the founder of the Ka'bah, it is no wonder that it should be appointed as his Qiblah. Verse 151 has specifically mentioned that the new Prophet (Muhammad (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam)) is sent with the same attributes as specified by Sayyidna Ibrahim (AS) in his prayer, namely: (1) He recites to them the verses of the Qur'an; (2) He teaches them the Book and the wisdom; (3) He purifies them; (4) He teaches them things which his listeners did not know of, nor could they be found in the earlier Divine Books or through individual reason.
Since Allah has, in granting the two prayers, sent such great blessings to mankind, Verse 152 asks men to "remember" Him as the Supreme Benefactor, and to render Him thanks by being obedient. As long as they do so, Allah will "remember" them in showering on them His material and spiritual blessings. The verse ends with the reminder that men should not be ungrateful to Allah in denying His blessings or in being disobedient.
In the light of this commentary, one can see that the word "as" (in Arabic, the letter Kaf which denotes a comparison between two terms) provides the link between Verse 151 and Verse 152. But, according to al-Qurtubi, the word Kaf or "as" is connected with the first phrase of Verse 152 فاذكروني : "Remember Me, then". Viewed in the line of this syntactical relationship, the two verses, taken together, would mean that the ability to "remember" Allah is as much a blessing for men as the ordination of the new Qiblah and the coming of the Last Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam), and hence it is the duty of men to render thanks to Allah, so that they may continue to receive His favours.

The merits of 'Dhikr' (Rememberance)
Dhikr or "Remembrance" essentially pertains to the heart, but in so far as the tongue is the interpreter of the heart the oral recitation of a Divine Name or a verse of the Holy Qur'an is also described as Dhikr. In other words, oral Dhikr can be worth the name only when it is accompanied by the "remembrance" of the heart. As the great Sufi poet Rumi points out, the recitation of a Divine Name can have no efficacy if one keeps thinking of cows and donkeys while repeating it mechanically with the tongue. One must, however, bear in mind that even a mechanical Dhikr without the heart being engaged in it is not altogether futile. It is related that the great Sufi Abu 'Uthman, hearing a man complain of such a situation, remarked that one should be grateful to Allah even for this favour of having drawn at least one organ of the body, the tongue, into His service. (Qurtubi)
The merits of Dhikr are, indeed, innumerable. What greater merit could one wish for than the assurance that when a man "remembers" Allah, He too "remembers" him. Abu 'Uthman once claimed that he knew the time when Allah remembered His servants. The listeners grew curious as to how he could determine this. He replied that, according to the promise made in the Holy Qur'an, when a Muslim remembers Allah, He too remembers him, and thus everyone can know for himself that as soon as he turns to Allah and remembers Him, Allah too remembers him.
Let us add that Verse 152 means to say that if men "remember" Allah by obeying His commandments, He will "remember" them by granting His pardon and His rewards. The commentator Sa'id ibn Jubayr has, in fact, interpreted the Dhikr or "Remembrance" of Allah as obedience and submission to Him. He says:
فمن لم يطعه لم يذكره و إن كثير صلاته و تسبيحه
"He who has not obeyed Him has not remembered Him, even though he has kept himself externally busy in offering (nafl: supererogatory) prayers and reciting His praises."
This explanation is fully supported by a hadith cited by Al-Qurtubi on the authority of "Ahkam al-Qur'an" by Ibn Khuwayz Mandadh. The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) has said that one who has been obeying Allah - that is, following the injunctions with regard to the lawful (Halal) and the unlawful (Haram) - has truly been remembering Allah, in spite of being deficient in (nafl: supererogatory) prayers and fasting, while one who has been disobeying divine commandments has, in fact, forgotten Allah, in spite of devoting long hours to nafl prayers, fasting and recitation of His praises.
The great Sufi Master Dhu al-Nun al-Misri has said that the man who remembers Allah in the full sense of the term forgets everything else, and that, in reward of such a total absorption, Allah Himself takes care of all his concerns, and grants him something far more valuable for everything he loses. Similarly, the blessed Companion Mu'adh (RA) has remarked that in so far as winning absolution from divine wrath is concerned, no good deed on the part of man can compare with Dhikr. And in a hadith reported by the blessed Companion Abu Hurayrah (RA), Allah Himself says that so long as the servant keeps remembering Him and his lips keep moving in Dhikr, Allah is with him (for a more elaborate discussion of the subject, see Dhikrulldh by the author).

Verse 153
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اسْتَعِينُوا بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلَاةِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ ()
O you who believe, seek help through patience and prayer. Surely, Allah is with those who are patient.
As we have already seen, the enemies of Islam have been objecting to the change in the orientation of Qiblah, wishing to produce in the minds of the people doubts about the validity of Islam as a religion. The earlier verses have, in answering these objections, removed all such misgivings. But some of the enemies simply ignored the answers, and still persisted in their hostility. This situation was likely to dishearten the Muslims. So, the present verse nullifies such a re-action on the part of the Muslims by prescribing the method of overcoming one's grief or anxiety.

The patience and the Salah
And the method consists in turning to patience and prayers; for Allah assures us here that He is with those who are patient. This promise applies, above all, to those who offer prayers, whether fard (obligatory) or nafl (supererogatory), for prayers are the supreme form of worship.
In explaining the context, we have mentioned a specific situation, but the verse, in fact, identifies the elixir for all the ills which are a necessary part of human existence, whether they be wants and needs, or anxiety and suffering. The Holy Qur'an itself has indicated; in a very subtle and eloquent way, the general efficacy of this remedy by employing a generalizing expression - "seek help" - without specifying the situation in which help is to be sought. (Mazhari)
Now, the two ingredients of this remedy are patience and prayers. The Arabic term Sabr is much more comprehensive than its usual English equivalent, "patience". Lexically, the word "Sabr" signifies "restraining oneself, or keeping oneself_ under control." In the terminology of the Holy Qur'an and the Hadith, Sabr has three modes:-
1. Restraining oneself from what the Shari'ah has declared to be illegal or impermissible (Haram).
2. Forcing oneself to be regular in the observance of the different forms of worship and to be steadfast in obeying the commandments of Allah and the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam).
3. To endure all kinds of trouble and pain - in other words, to understand clearly and to believe that it is the will of Allah to make one suffer, and to hope that one shall receive a reward for this suffering. With regard to this last point, let us add that, on the authority of the commentator Sa'id Ibn Jubayr, Ibn Kathir says that if one cannot help uttering a word of grief or a sigh of pain, it does not go against Sabr, or nullify it.
People generally identify Sabr with the third mode alone, and ignore the first two which are, indeed, more basic and essential. We cannot insist too much on the fact that all the three are equally obligatory, and that every Muslim is required to practice all the three forms of Sabr. In the terminology of Holy Qur'an and the Hadith, Al-Sabirun is the title of those who are steadfast in observing all the three forms with equal rigour. According to the Hadith, people willhear a call on the Day of Judgment, "Where are the Sabirun?; at this, those who had been constant in observing the three forms of Sabr will stand up, and they will be allowed to enter Paradise without having to present the account of their deeds. In citing this hadith, Ibn Kathir points out that it is corroborated by the Holy Qur'an itself: إِنَّمَا يُوَفَّى الصَّابِرُونَ أَجْرَهُمْ بِغَيْرِ حِسَابٍ : "The Sabirun shall certainly receive their full reward without reckoning." (39:10)
As for the second ingredient of the prescription, it is Salah (Prayer). Although Sabr, as we have just explained it, covers the different forms of worship, including prayers, all of them being its branches. Salah, however, has been mentioned separately, because that is the most perfect model of Sabr. For, in the state of Salah, one binds oneself to obedience and worship, and restrains oneself not only from all that is sinful or reprehensible but even from what is otherwise permissible - e.g., from eating or drinking or talking. Hence, Salah is a visible demonstration of Safer which signifies keeping oneself under control in shunning everything sinful and in submitting oneself totally to obedience.

A remedy to all problems
Moreover, Salah does possess a special efficacy in releasing man from all kinds of trouble and pain, and in fulfilling all his needs. We may not be able to explain it rationally, but the efficacy is present as a characteristic quality in the very nature of prayers - as happens in the case of certain medicines too. But the efficacy shows itself only when prayers are offered in the proper way and according to the physical and spiritual etiquette laid down by the Shari'ah. If our prayers seem to be fruitless, it is because we have been deficient in observing this etiquette, and have not turned to Allah in single-minded devotion and total submission. Let us not forget that, according to the Hadith, whenever the Holy Prophet life was faced with a grave problem of any kind, he always hastened to offer nafl prayers, and through the barakah (benediction) of the prayers Allah came to his aid and resolved the problem satisfactorily.
As to how Sabr can save man from all kinds of trouble and pain and resove all his difficulties, the secret has been revealed in the last phrase of this verse - "Surely, Allah is with those who are patient." That is to say, as a reward for Sabr man receives the honour of the "company" of Allah. And it goes without saying that when the might of the Lord of the Worlds Himself has come to the aid of a man, what pain or trouble can overcome him, and who can prevent his concerns from prospering?