Surah An-Naml Ayat 1-31

 

Surah An-Naml

(The Ants) 

Chapter 27

Which was revealed in Makkah

 

{1.Ta Sin. These are the Ayat of the Qur’an, and (it is) a Book (that is) clear.

2. A guide and glad tidings for the believers.

3. Those who perform the Salah and give the Zakah and they believe with certainty in the Hereafter.

4. Verily, those who believe not in the Hereafter, We have made their deeds fair seeming to them, so that they wander about blindly.

5. They are those for whom there will be an evil torment. And in the Hereafter they will be the greatest losers.

6. And verily, you are being taught the Qur’an from One, All-Wise, All-Knowing.}

The Qur’an is Guidance and Glad Tidings for the Believers, a Warning to the Disbelievers, and it is from Allah

In (the comments on) Surat Al-Baqarah, we discussed the letters which appear at the beginning of some Surahs.“These are the Ayat of the Qur’an, and (it is) a Book (that is) clear.” It is plain and evident. “A guide and glad tidings for the believers.” meaning, guidance and good news may be attained from the Qur’an for those who believe in it, follow it and put it into practice. They establish obligatory prayers, pay Zakah and believe with certain faith in the Hereafter, the resurrection after death, reward and punishment for all deeds, good and bad, and Paradise and Hell. This is like the Ayat: “Say: “It is for those who believe, a guide and a healing. And as for those who disbelieve, there is heaviness (deafness) in their ears…” (41:44). “that you may give glad tidings to those who have Taqwa, and warn with it the Ludd (most quarrelsome) people” (19: 97). Allah says here: “Verily, those who believe not in the Hereafter,” meaning, those who deny it and think that it will never happen, “We have made their deeds fair seeming to them, so that they wander about blindly.” means, ‘We have made what they are doing seem good to them, and We have left them to continue in their misguidance, so they are lost and confused.’ This is their recompense for their disbelief in the Hereafter, as Allah says: “And We shall turn their hearts and their eyes away, as they refused to believe therein for the first time” (6:110). “They are those for whom there will be an evil torment.” in this world and the Hereafter. “And in the Hereafter they will be the greatest losers.” means, no one but they, among all the people who will be gathered, will lose their souls and their wealth. “And verily, you are bing taught the Qur’an from One, All-Wise, All Knowing” “And verily, you” O Muhammad. Qatadah said: “are being taught” “Are receiving.” “the Qur’an from One, All-Wise, All-Knowing.” from the One Who is Wise in His Commands and prohibitions, and Who knows all things, major and minor. Whatever He says is absolute Truth, and His rulings are entirely fair and just.” (6:115)

{7. (Remember) when Musa said to his household: “Verily, I have seen a fire; I will bring you from there some information, or I will bring you a burning ember, that you may warm yourselves.”

8. But when he came to it, he was called: “Blessed is whosoever is in the fire, and whosoever is round about it! And glorified be Allah, the Lord of all that exists.”

9. “O Musa! Verily, it is I, Allah, the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.”

10. “And throw down your stick!” But when he saw it moving as if it were a snake, he turned in flight, and did not look back. (It was said:) “O Musa! Fear not: verily, the Messengers fear not in front of Me.”

11. “Except him who has done wrong and afterwards has changed evil for good; then surely, I am Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”

12. “And put your hand into opening of your garment, it will come forth white without hurt. (These are) among the nine signs (you will take) to Firawn and his people. Verily, they are a people who are rebellious.”

13. But when Our Ayat came to them, clear to see, they said: “This is a manifest magic.”

14. And they belied them wrongfully and arrogantly, though they themselves were convinced thereof. So, see what was the end of the mischief-makers.}

The Story of Musa and the End of Firawn

Here Allah tells His Messenger Muhammad about what happened to Musa, peace be upon him, how Allah chose him, spoke with him and gave him mighty, dazzling signs and overwhelming proof, and sent him to Firawn and his people, but they denied the proof, disbelieved in him and arrogantly refused to follow him. Allah says: “when Musa said to his household”, meaning, remember when Musa was traveling with his family and lost his way. This was at night, in the dark. Musa had seen a fire beside the mountain, i.e., he had noticed a fire burning brightly, and said, “to his household: “Verily, I have seen a fire; I will bring you from there some information…” meaning, about the way we should take.’ “or I will bring you a burning ember, that you may warm yourselves.” meaning, so that they could keep warm. And it was as he said: “He came back with great news, and a great light.” Allah says: “But when he came to it, he was called: “Blessed is whosoever is in the fire, and whosoever is round about it!’‘ meaning, when he came to it, he saw a great and terrifying sight: the fire was burning in a green bush, and the fire was burning ever brighter while the bush was growing ever more green and beautiful. Then he raised his head, and saw that its light was connected to the clouds of the sky. Ibn Abbas and others said, “It was not a fire, rather it was shining light.” According to one report narrated from Ibn Abbas, it was the Light of the Lord of the worlds. (At-Tabari 19:428) Musa stood amazed by what he was seeing, and “he was called: “Blessed is whosoever is in the fire…” (At-Tabari 19:428) Ibn Abbas said, “This means, Holy is (whosoever is in the fire).” “and whosoever is round about it” means, of the angels. This was the view of Ibn Abbas, Ikrimah, Said bin Jubayr, Al-Hasan and Qatadah. (At-Tabari 19:429) “And glorified be Allah, the Lord of all that exists”, Who does whatever He wills and there is nothing like Him among His creation. Nothing He has made can encompass Him, and He is the Exalted, the Almighty, Who is utterly unlike all that He has created. Heaven and earth cannot contain Him, but He is the One, the Self-Sufficient Master, Who is far above any comparison with His creation. “O Musa! Verily, it is I, Allah, the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.” Allah told him that the One Who was addressing him was his Lord Allah, the All-Mighty, Who has subjugated and subdued all things, the One Who is Wise in all His words and deeds. Then He commanded him to throw down the stick that was in his hand, so that He might show him clear proof that He is the One Who is able to do all things, whatever He wills. When Musa threw that stick down, it changed into the form of a huge and terrifying snake, moving quickly despite its size. Allah says: “But when he saw it moving as if it were a Jann (snake).” Jann refers to a type of snake that is the fastest-moving and most agile. When Musa saw that with his own eyes, “he turned in flight, and did not look back.” meaning, he did not turn around, because he was so afraid. Allah’s saying: “O Musa! Fear not: verily, the Messengers fear not in front of Me.” means, ‘do not be afraid of what you see, for I want to choose you as a Messenger and make you a great Prophet.’ “Except him who has done wrong and afterwards has changed evil for good; then surely, I am Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” This is an exception of the exclusionary type. This is good news for mankind, for whoever does an evil deed then gives it up and repents and turns to Allah, Allah will accept his repentance, as He says: “And verily, I am indeed forgiving to him who repents, believes and does righteous good deeds, and then Ahtada.[meaning he is guided] (20:82) “And whoever does evil or wrongs himself…” (4:110). And there are many other Ayat which say the same. “And put your hand into the opening of your garment, it will come forth white without hurt.” This is another sign, further brilliant proof of the ability of Allah to do whatever He wills. It is also confirmation of the truth of the one to whom the miracle was given. Allah commanded him to put his hand into the opening of his garment, and when he put his hand in and took it out again, it came out white and shining as if it were a piece of the moon or a flash of dazzling lightning. “among the nine signs” means, ‘these are two of the nine signs which you will be supported with and which will serve as proof for you.’ “to Firawn and his people. Verily, they are a people who are rebellious.” These were the nine signs of which Allah said: “And indeed We gave Musa nine clear signs” (17:101) – as we have stated there. “But when Our Ayat came to them, clear to see”, i.e., clear and obvious, “they said: “This is a manifest magic” .” They wanted to oppose it with their own magic, but they were defeated and were returned disgraced. “And they belied them” means, verbally, “though they themselves were convinced thereof.” means, they knew deep down that this was truth from Allah, but they denied it and were stubborn and arrogant. “wrongfully and arrogantly” means, wronging themselves because this was the despicable manner to which they were accustomed, and they were arrogant because they were too proud to follow the truth. Allah said: “So, see what was the end of the mischief-makers.” meaning, ‘see, O Muhammad, what were the consequences of their actions when Allah destroyed them and drowned every last one of them in a single morning.’ The point of this story is: beware, ‘O you who disbelieve in Muhammad and deny the Message that he has brought from his Lord, lest the same thing that befell them befall you also.’ But what is worse, is that Muhammad is nobler and greater than Musa, and his proof is stronger than that of Musa, for the signs that Allah has given him are combined with his presence and his character, in addition to the fact that previous Prophets foretold his coming and took a covenant from the people that they would follow him if they should see him, may the best of blessings and peace from his Lord be upon him.

{15. And indeed We gave knowledge to Dawud and Sulayman, and they both said: “All praise be to Allah, Who has preferred us above many of His believing servants!”

16. And Sulayman inherited from Dawud. He said: “O mankind! We have been taught the language of birds, and we have been given from everything. This, verily, is an evident grace.”

17. And there were gathered before Sulayman his hosts of Jinn and men, and birds, and they all were set in battle order (marching forward).

18. Till, when they came to the valley of the ants, one of the ants said: “O ants! Enter your dwellings, lest Sulayman and his armies should crush you, while they perceive not.”

19. So he (Sulayman) smiled, amused at her speech and said: “My Lord! Grant me the power and ability that I may be grateful for Your favors which You have bestowed on me and on my parents, and that I may do righteous good deeds that will please You, and admit me by Your mercy among Your righteous servants.”}

Dawud and Sulayman (peace be upon them), the organization of Sulayman’s Troops and His passage through the Valley of the Ants

Here Allah tells us about the great blessings and favors which He bestowed upon two of His servants and Prophets, Dawud (David) and his son Sulayman (Solomon), peace be upon them both, and how they enjoyed happiness in this world and the Hereafter, power and authority in this world, and the position of being Prophets and Messengers. Allah says: “And indeed We gave knowledge to Dawud and Sulayman, and they both said: “All the praises and thanks be to Allah, Who has preferred us above many of His believing servants!” “And Sulayman inherited from Dawud.” means, in kingship and prophethood. What is meant here is not wealth, because if that were the case, Sulayman would not have been singled out from among the sons of Dawud, as Dawud had one hundred wives. Rather what is meant is the inheritance of kingship and prophethood, for the wealth of the Prophets cannot be inherited, as the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:

“We Prophets cannot be inherited from; whatever we leave behind is charity.” (Tuhft Al-Ahwadi 5:234)

And Sulayman said: “O mankind! We have been taught the language of birds, and we have been given from everything.” Here Sulayman was speaking of the blessings that Allah bestowed upon him, by giving him complete authority and power, whereby mankind, the Jinn and the birds were subjugated to him. He also knew the language of the birds and animals, which is something that had never been given to any other human being – as far as we know from what Allah and His Messenger told us. Allah enabled Sulayman to understand what the birds said to one another as they flew through the air, and what the different kinds of animals said. Sulayman said: “We have been taught the language of birds, and we have been given from everything.” i.e., all things that a king needs. “This, verily, is an evident grace.” means, ‘this is clearly the blessings of Allah upon us.’ “And there were gathered before Sulayman his hosts of Jinn and men, and birds, and they all were set in battle order.” means, all of Sulayman’s troops of Jinn, men and birds were gathered together, and he rode with them in a display of might and glory, with people marching behind him, followed by the Jinn, and the birds flying above his head. When it was hot, they would shade him with their wings. “and they all were set in battle order.” The first and the last of them were brought together, so that none of them would step out of place. Mujahid said: “Officials were appointed to keep each group in order, and to keep the first and the last together so that no one would step out of line — just as kings do nowadays.” “Till, when they came to the valley of the ants,” meaning, when Sulayman, the soldiers and the army with him crossed the valley of the ants, “one of the ants said: “O ants! Enter your dwellings, lest Sulayman and his armies should crush you, while they perceive not.” Sulayman, peace be upon him, understood what the ant said, “So he smiled, amused at her speech and said: “My Lord! Grant me the power and ability that I may be grateful for Your favors which You have bestowed on me and on my parents, and that I may do righteous good deeds that will please You,” meaning: ‘inspire me to give thanks for the blessings that You have bestowed upon me by teaching me to understand what the birds and animals say, and the blessings that You have bestowed upon my parents by making them Muslims who believe in You.’ “and that I may do righteous good deeds that will please You,” means, ‘deeds that You love which will earn Your pleasure.’ “and admit me by Your mercy among Your righteous servants.” means, ‘when You cause me to die, then join me with the righteous among Your servants, and the Higher Companion among Your close friends.’

{20. He inspected the birds, and said: “What is the matter that I see not the hoopoe? Or is he among the absentees”

21. “I will surely punish him with a severe torment or slaughter him, unless he brings me a clear reason.”}

The Absence of the Hoopoe

Mujahid, Said bin Jubayr and others narrated from Ibn Abbas and others that the hoopoe was an expert who used to show Sulayman where water was if he was out in open land and needed water. The hoopoe would look for water for him in the various strata of the earth, just as a man looks at things on the surface of the earth, and he would know just how far below the surface the water was. When the hoopoe showed him where the water was, Sulayman would command the Jinn to dig in that place until they brought water from the depths of the earth. One day Sulayman went to some open land and checked on the birds, but he could not see the hoopoe. “and (Sulayman) said: “What is the matter that I see not the hoopoe? Or is he among the absentees” One day Abdullah bin Abbas told a similar story, and among the people was a man from the Khawarij whose name was Nafi bin Al-Azraq, who often used to raise objections to Ibn Abbas. He said to him, “Stop, O Ibn Abbas; you will be defeated (in argument) today!” Ibn Abbas said: “Why?” Nafi said: “You are telling us that the hoopoe can see water beneath the ground, but any boy can put seed in a trap and cover the trap with dirt, and the hoopoe will come and take the seed, so the boy can catch him in the trap.” Ibn Abbas said, “If it was not for the fact that this man would go and tell others that he had defeated Ibn Abbas in argument, I would not even answer.” Then he said to Nafi: “Woe to you! When the decree strikes a person, his eyes become blind and he loses all caution.” Nafi said: “By Allah I will never dispute with you concerning anything in the Qur’an.” (Al-Qurtubi 13:177)

“I will surely punish him with a severe torment” Al-Amash said, narrating from Al-Minhal bin Amr from Said that Ibn Abbas said: “He meant, by plucking his feathers.” (At-Tabari 19:443) Abdullah bin Shaddad said: “By plucking his feathers and exposing him to the sun.” (At-Tabari 19:443) This was also the view of more than one of the Salaf, that it means plucking his feathers and leaving him exposed to be eaten by ants. “or slaughter him,” means, killing him. “unless he brings me a clear reason.” i.e., a valid excuse. Sufyan bin Uyaynah and Abdullah bin Shaddad said: “When the hoopoe came back, the other birds said to him: “What kept you Sulayman has vowed to shed your blood.” The hoopoe said: “Did he make any exception ﴿did he say unless’﴾” They said, “Yes, he said: “I will surely punish him with a severe torment or slaughter him, unless he brings me a clear reason.” The hoopoe said, “Then I am saved.”

{22. But (the hoopoe) stayed not long, he said: “I have grasped which you have not grasped and I have come to you from Saba’ with true news.”

23. “I found a woman ruling over them, she has been given all things, and she has a great throne.”

24. “I found her and her people worshipping the sun instead of Allah, and Shaytan has made their deeds fair seeming to them to prevent them from the way, so they have no guidance.”

25. So they do not prostrate themselves before Allah, Who brings to light what is hidden in the heavens and the earth, and knows what you conceal and what you reveal.

26. Allah, La ilaha illa Huwa, the Lord of the Supreme Throne!”}

 

How the Hoopoe came before Sulayman and told Him about Saba’

Allah says: “But (the hoopoe) stayed not long,” meaning, he was absent for only a short time. Then he came and said to Sulayman: “I have grasped which you have not grasped” meaning, ‘I have come to know something that you and your troops do not know.’ “and I have come to you from Saba’ with true news.” meaning, with true and certain news. Saba’ (Sheba) refers to Himyar, they were a dynasty in Yemen. Then the hoopoe said: “I found a woman ruling over them,” Al-Hasan Al-Basri said, “This is Bilqis bint Sharahil, the queen of Saba’.” Allah’s saying: “she has been given all things,” means, all the conveniences of this world that a powerful monarch could need. “and she has a great throne.” meaning, a tremendous chair adorned with gold and different kinds of jewels and pearls. The historians said, “This throne was in a great, strong palace which was high and firmly constructed. In it there were three hundred and sixty windows on the east side, and a similar number on the west, and it was constructed in such a way that each day when the sun rose it would shine through one window, and when it set it would shine through the opposite window. And the people used to prostrate to the sun morning and evening. This is why the hoopoe said: “I found her and her people worshipping the sun instead of Allah, and Shaytan has made their deeds fair seeming to them, and has prevented them from the way,” meaning, from the way of truth, “so they have no guidance.” Allah’s saying: “and Shaytan has made their deeds fair seeming to them, and has prevented them from the way, so they have no guidance, so they do not prostrate themselves before Allah.” They do not know the way of truth, prostrating only before Allah alone and not before anything that He has created, whether heavenly bodies or anything else. This is like the Ayah: “And from among His signs are the night and the day, and the sun and the moon. Prostrate yourselves not to the sun nor to the moon, but prostrate yourselves to Allah Who created them, if you indeed worship Him.” (41:37) “Who brings to light what is hidden in the heavens and the earth,” Ali bin Abi Talhah reported that Ibn Abbas said: “He knows everything that is hidden in the heavens and on earth.” (Ad-Durr Al-Manthur 6:352)

This was also the view of Ikrimah, Mujahid, Said bin Jubayr, Qatadah and others. (At-Tabari 19:445) His saying: “and knows what you conceal and what you reveal.” means, He knows what His servants say and do in secret, and what they say and do openly. This is like the Ayah: “It is the same whether any of you conceals his speech or declares it openly, whether he be hid by night or goes forth freely by day” (13:10). His saying: “Allah, La ilaha illa Huwa, the Lord of the Supreme Throne!” means, He is the One to be called upon, Allah, He is the One other than Whom there is no god, the Lord of the Supreme Throne, and there is none greater than Him in all of creation. Since the hoopoe was calling to what is good, and for people to worship and prostrate to Allah alone, it would have been forbidden to kill him.

Imam Ahmad, Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah recorded that Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with him, said that the Prophet forbade killing four kinds of animals: ants, bees, hoopoes and the sparrow hawks. Its chain of narration is Sahih. (Ahmad 1:332)

{27. (Sulayman) said: “We shall see whether you speak the truth or you are (one) of the liars.”

28. “Go you with this letter of mine and deliver it to them, then draw back from them and see what they return.”

29. She said: “O chiefs! Verily, here is delivered to me a noble letter, ”

30. “Verily, it is from Sulayman, and it (reads): ‘In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;’

31. ‘Be you not exalted against me, but come to me submitting (as Muslims).’ ”}

Sulayman’s Letter to Bilqis

Allah tells us what Sulayman said to the hoopoe when he told him about the people of Saba’ and their queen: “(Sulayman) said: “We shall see whether you speak the truth or you are (one) of the liars.” meaning, ‘are you telling the truth’ “or you are (one) of the liars.” meaning, ‘or are you telling a lie in order to save yourself from the threat I made against you’ “Go you with this letter of mine and deliver it to them then draw back from them and see what they return.” Sulayman wrote a letter to Bilqis and her people and gave it to the hoopoe to deliver. It was said that he carried it on his wings, as is the way with birds, or that he carried it in his beak. He went to their land and found the palace of Bilqis, then he went to her private chambers and threw the letter through a small window, then he stepped to one side out of good manners. Bilqis was amazed and confused when she saw that, then she went and picked up the letter, opened its seal and read it. The letter said: “it is from Sulayman, and it (reads): ‘In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful; Be you not exalted against me, but come to me submitting (as Muslims).”  So she gathered her commanders and ministers and the leaders of her land, and said to them: “O chiefs! Verily, here is delivered to me a noble letter.” She described it as such because of the wondrous things she had seen, that it was delivered by a bird who threw it to her, then stood aside out of good manners. This was something that no king could do. Then she read the letter to them: “Verily, it is from Sulayman, and it (reads): In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful; Be you not exalted against me, but come to me submitting (as Muslims).” (Ad-Durr Al-Manthur 6:354) Thus they knew that it was from Allah’s Prophet Sulayman, upon him be peace, and that they could not match him. This letter was the utmost in brevity and eloquence, coming straight to the point. “Be you not exalted against me,” Qatadah said: “Do not be arrogant with me.“but come to me submitting (as Muslims).” (At-Tabari 19:453) Abdur-Rahman bin Zayd bin Aslam said: “Do not refuse or be too arrogant to come to me “but come to me submitting (as Muslims).”

Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Abridged) Vol 7 Pages 299-319

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Contemplating One’s Departure from this Life

Whoever reflects on the nearness of the moment of his departure from this life shall surely busy himself in collecting the supplies needed to make this journey. How disgraceful it is when a person barters his precious self for the paltry gains of this life.

The soul is the quintessence of his self, indivisible and perpetual; it is a priceless jewel that cannot be valued; the limbs of the body are merely instruments made to serve it in its journey to Allah.

Within the receptacle of the heart, there is a fire that is like a burning lantern; life is its light, blood is its fuel oil, movement is its light beams, desire is its heat and anger is its smoke. When Allah created man, He made the forehead the soul’s guard, the middle part a counsellor, the back part of the head a protector, the faculty of intellect a teacher, and the sensory faculty a learner. Then He deployed the limbs to be in its service, whether in a state of inaction or motion. He also made this wordily life a battlefield, and gave him the freedom to move to and fro in his battle array; thus when he defeats his enemies it is as if he has subdued Chosroes [the King of Persia], but if he is defeated then no one survives.

When the pious became mindful of the journey to the Hereafter, they walked through the darkness of their nature, cutting across it with exertion and endeavour. And when the light of the unseen shone over them, “Every time it lights [the way] for them, they walk therein.” (Surah al-Baqarah 2:20) Until they arrives at the gates of Paradise, their state of poverty being their sole adornment, their night vigils [night prayer] being their source of pleasure and humility being their distinguished characteristic. For too long have they been imprisoned in this world, so they communicate their grievances [against this life and its temptations] to Allah through their invocation and worship; had you been awake during the night you would have heard the voices of the inmates of this prison.

The birds of their longing [for their Lord] are locked in secret cages of their innermost selves, lamenting out of their yearning desire, late during the night [anxious to meet their Lord in the Hereafter]. Whenever the doves of their anxiety cool, the clouds of their eyes send down a torrent of rainfall. And it is when the Angel of death is about to take their souls that the cage is opened up letting their soul out to seek the soothing Mercy of Allah. Momentarily does their soul waver as if dreading the knock of “who will cure [him]?” (Surah al-Qiyamah 75:27) But as soon as they hear the call of love addressing them, “Return to your Lord, well-pleased and pleasing [to Him].” (Surah al-Fajr 89:28) The sweetness of the summon makes them completely forget the bitterness of the cup, and the agony of death becomes ease.

Wounds were insignificant to them, and they were content to live in anguish; O you who are distant from them, what are you in comparison to them! Do not think of it as a trivial matter; indeed snatching the star of Canopus out of the sky would be an easier matter than catching up with them! It is akin to polishing a worthless sword, or encouraging an old man to play like a child, or making a wingless eagle fly!

He who was not moved by a subtle suggestion will not benefit from a flood of admonishment or lengthy sermons! Do you see even one arrow from my quiver of exhortations being broken? Aye, maybe it hit the heart of a grieving person without him knowing who the shooter was!

Advance forward purposefully, full of determination, letting victory be your only concern – not your share of the spoils – because glory can never be attained by a coward; the pens that write the best are those with the sharpest tips.

Awaken yourself from the slumber of your heedlessness, for the dawn of greyness (of your hair) has appeared. Be swift of foot and hasten forward, because the fellowship of the righteous has already left. Beseech your Lord in the valleys of the dark nights, so that He might bestow upon you His Mercy. Seek out the traces of those who undertook this journey before you, to ensure that you stay on the right track. And when you catch up with your company, devote yourself to serving their mounts, so that perhaps you might have the good fortune of entering the tent of the One you love.

And our closing supplication is that all praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, and may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon Muhammad and his family and companions.

Seeds of Admonishment and Reform by Imam Ibn Jawzi Pages 216-219 (end)

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Consequences of Being Neglectful

As soon as you rise from a gathering of remembrance you should quickly make your way to the house of solitude, ensuring that you stay there for a while; seek the advice of your meditation, bring to account all the parties involved in the betrayal [i.e. limbs that committed sins during your stay with others], and gather up what negligence and laziness caused you to squander from the capital of your lifespan; grieve over every sin as well as every lost opportunity to perform a good deed.

Hasten to benefit from what remains! Let the delinquent collect what he has missed; let the one-eyed person be careful of stones thrown in his direction in case they hit his only sound eye.

Do not underestimate the value of even a simple good deed.

Your hearts have lost the way in the desolate land of vain desires so rise now on the feet of endeavour, pay no heed to the crowded road and strive to make full effort, seeking whatever means are available to you; just as Yaqub, peace be upon him, directed his sons, “go and find out about Yusuf and his brother and despair not of relief from Allah.” (Surah Yusuf 12:87) Take all means to recover what you have lost and do not despair from the Mercy of Allah; indeed many people have been healed though they were on the verge of ruin.

I wonder at how observant the bodily eyes are, even though the hearts have turned blind. If the spring and its flowers, the sounds of chanting and its lyrical cadences cannot move you, then who and what will? Woe to you: the mourning of doves is their expression of love; so if there was in your heart any place for loving your Lord, then cry just as al-Junayd used to weep, and you might chance upon the secrets of Sirin. Sell the wealth of you desires for the sake of the One who will reward you more richly, is you wish to attack the rank of Abu Yazid.

How many opportunities have called out to you but you have missed out! Indeed, the mercy of Allah is spacious and encompassing; it is only that ignorance is expelled by whatever contains it.

Woe to you, the fire of guidance has appeared from the tinder of sermons that carry admonition, so stand upon resolute feet and strive hard so that you might find guidance near this fire.

I wonder at those who have halted to a standstill at ‘if only Allah were to guide us!’ when they do not even seek out the means of guidance, because in reality “they did not intend except to flee.” (Surah al-Azhab 33:13) Woe to you, the troops of inaction have closed in, therefore, “Go forth, whether light or heavy, and strive with your wealth and your lives in the cause of Allah.” (Surah al-Taubah 9:41)

And take from this life only the bare necessities that you need in order to reach your final destination – the Hereafter. Indeed, the demands of life and its vagaries can change one’s purpose and alter one’s course, causing the one walking on the path to Allah to falter, but “whoever fears Allah – He will make for him a way out” (Surah al-Talaq 65:2) Therefore whatever fate has decreed upon you in happiness of calamity “So let there not be in your breast distress therefrom.” (Surah Al-Araf 7:2) The indication of Allah’s love for you is that He safeguards and preserves you, your conviction of His Oneness. The instrument of admonishment is a whip to discipline the self and drive it away from the house of indolence. Thus what you may think is torture is actually a means by which to rectify your broken affairs: it is the slits cut in a garment that makes it a robe. Know that “If you had sinned, Allah would have replaced you with a people who would sin and then seek Allah’s forgiveness upon which he would forgive them.” (Recorded in Muslim 2749) Indeed, the outreach of love is what preserves the people of refinement, even if the love is buried deep down int he heart.

When Adam and Eve, peace be upon them, ate from the forbidden tree they found themselves encircled by calamitous dismay; thereupon they were hit by the rod of departure, banished from heaven and sent down to earth. nevertheless, it is the same One who sent them down Who asks every night, “Is there anyone asking me so that I may grant him his request? Is there anyone asking My forgiveness, so that I may forgive him?” (Recorded in Muslim 758)

O you who stand in the marketplace full of profit; what did you gain from your visit there? O you who has become cut off from the path of spiritual connection; will you not get back on track? Did you dedicate yourself to your Lord, or to everything else except Him? O Munkar and Nakir [the Angels questioning the deceased in the grave] go down to meet one who has just left the gardens of profit that is located in the house of action and transaction [dunya] and see whether he decided to bring out with him [to the next life] a thorn of doubt, or a rose of certainty with which to perfume his mouth when given an affirmative reply of “Yes, indeed” to the question “and made them testify of themselves, [saying to them]: ‘Am I not your Lord?” (Surah al-Araf 7:172)

Then see whether his good deeds changed his state of prolonged heedlessness? Are the blemishes of the kind that is excused by Allah? Does the water of his tawhid reach the size of Qullatayn [the level which will make something pure]? At any rate, Allah will look after him, but what is his condition?!

Seeds of Admonishment and Reform by Imam Ibn Jawzi Pages 211-215

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“Those for Whom the Best [Reward] has Preceded from Us”

When the determination to return to Allah is firmly planted in the heart of “Indeed, those for whom the best [reward] has preceded from Us.” (Surah al-Anbiya 21:101) The basis of his desires will be uprooted from the garden of hope.

Ibrahim Ibn Adham was preparing himself to attend a hunting expedition but the trap of “Indeed, those who have believed and done righteous deeds – their Lord will guide them because of their faith. Beneath them rivers will flow in the Gardens of pleasure.” (Surah Yunus 10:9) had already been laid for him, surrounded by the snare of “people whom He loves and who love Him” (Surah al-Maidah 5:54) Thus he had become the hunted even before he could hunt. The interpreter of his desirous self unravelled the language of “Indeed, those for whom the best [reward] has preceded from us.” (Surah al-Anbiya 21:101)

And he came to the realisation that this idle play was not what he had been created for, nor had he been commanded to engage in it! The Doctor [i.e. Allah] prescribed him a special medicine which cleansed and evacuated the colon of his base self; He shot him with the arrows of exhortation, putting an end to his misery and suffering. Thereupon catching a glimpse of the fire of guidance that had been lit for him, he shouted to the soldiers of his desirous self “Indeed, I have perceived a fire” (Surah al-Qasas 28:29), and he found his heart drawn towards the One who is “the companion of he who remembers Me” and whose manifestation rendered him unconscious. When he awoke from the overwhelming daze of his devoted love which had caused the mountain of his desirous self to crumble to dust, his pertinent tongue shouted rightfully, “I turn to You in repentance” (Surah al-Araf 7:143). Then after he left the lands of the heedless, his newly-found awakening said to his desires: I greet all pleasures, playfulness and recklessness; but this greeting is not to welcome them, but rather a farewell saying goodbye.

O Ibn Adham, why not return to your palace with the intention to use it to worship Allah? his desirous self suggested. However his strong will and determination overturned this suggestion, saying, “Nay, by law [a desirous self] that is divorced thrice is entitled neither accommodation nor compensation.” And from that moment on, he roamed the desert of devotion to his Lord, his mind was relieved of the illness caused by excessive indulgence, so he was able to endure clothes made of coarse wool.

As soon as the beauty of the hereafter revealed itself to him through the words “Indeed, those who have believed and done righteous deeds – their Lord will guide them because of their faith.” (Surah Yunus 10:9)

His love for his Lord rooted itself firmly in the depths of his heart, and thus he tirelessly busied himself collecting the mahr of Paradise through the means of his indigence. The wait to meet his Beloved became so long for him that he became as if a guardian of the gardens. His love for his Lord pardoned what he still owed in mahr, and his soul left his body in a strange and remote land! Indeed, this is the price of Paradise, so let the penniless step behind.

Seeds of Admonishment and Reform by Imam Ibn Jawzi Pages 204-207

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Solitude

The believers are upon the purity of Tahwid from the moment Allah said, “Am I not your Lord? They said, Yes, we have testified [that you are our Lord]” (Surah al-Araf 7:712) but when mankind debase themselves with the dirt of their desires, the garment of their deeds became stained. To get the stains off there is only one way; and that is to clean the garment with the water of knowledge in the house of solitude.

Solitude is the best diet for the one seeking to renounce wordily pleasures. When you blind the eyes of the eagle of your serious self, it will no longer be used to flying. The example of solitude is like an arid desert far from every inhabited land, in which doom is sighted in every direction by those who see it with their hearts. Indeed, the plants of solitude produce fruits of affability in the company of Allah.

O novice, consign yourself to seclusion, for it is the basis of good deeds; with it you will collect the scattered parts of your heart, and preserve your perspicacity. Your analogy is like that of an old, torn garment; if you as much as move while wearing it, it will fall down. When it has been decreed that your intellect and conviction be gathered inside the house of contemplation, blame falls on your desirous self that is prone to committing sins. When the period of spiritual illness ends, the ensuing self-reproach provokes determined and radical revolt, whereupon your inner self writes down its divorce from its desires with the hand of abandonment, wears the robe of asceticism and becomes a recluse in the monastery of austerity, and so it becomes aloof from the inhabitants of this world in favour of seeking the company of Him who said, “I am the companion of the one who remembers me.” (Shu’ab al-Iman 680)

O you, whose heart mourns the loss as distressing as Yaqub’s loss of his son Yusuf, peace be upon them both, roam the tents of the pious so that you might find the scent of Yusuf, stand up praying in the nights, on the feet of humility, and invoke your Lord by saying, “O ruler! Adversity has touched us and our family.” (Surah Yusuf 12:88)

O you whose indifferent attitude has failed him, yet he holds on to hollow hopes to live long, the ship of you life has sunk in the sea of indolence. Woe to you, he who is apt to sleeping excessively will only see dreams! When will the time come when you finally open the eyes of strong will and endeavour? How much longer will you waste you life in dreams? Do you not long to breathe the late night breeze [the best time to pray]? Do you not feel the coolness of Fajr? Do you not mark the light reflecting off your grey hair? Are you not hurt by time reproaching you for wasting your life in vain?

The beloved devotees mounted the backs of their firm determination and pressed onwards in their journey; they have arrived at the house where they bond with their Lord through firm ties, and here you are, still asleep! O you, whose strong will ought to be like Umar’s, how much more will you tarry before you make your way to the house of al-Khayzaran? O you whose love for his Lord should be as deep as al-Fudayl’s was, when will you break the sword of extravagance [i.e. having more than you need]? O you whose endeavours ought to be as ardent as Ibn Adam’s, the time for pilgrimage has commenced, so what are you doing sitting home in Balakh [a city in Iraq]?

Seeds of Admonishment and Reform by Imam Ibn Jawzi Pages 201-203

 

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Condemnation of Shaytan

O brothers and sisters, the care of Allah is a source of perpetual wealth.

When it was ordained by divine decree before the beginning of time, that low-lying mud [Adam] would be favoured over rising fire [Jinn], hell recognised that the latter was of the same essence as dust itself. Dust resisted fire and thus overcame it; and this itself was sufficient as a lesson for hell; and indeed fortunate is the one who learns from others’ experiences. And thus when the believer passes over it, hell submissively says, ‘pass, for your light extinguishes my flame.’

Pure hearts are lamps that illuminate from within the innate nature of beings, prior to any form of divine revelations, “whose oil would almost glow even if untouched by fire.” (Surah Nur 24:35) As soon as the light of guidance shone out from the house of al-Khayzaran [the house of al-Arqam ibn Abi al-Arqam], Umar ibn al-Khattab found himself standing on its doorstep. On the other hand, when the heart of Shaytan became blind, the daylight of guidance became as dark as the night for him, because his heart’s eye was deformed therefore the way of guidance became as dark as the night for him, because his heart’s eye was deformed therefore the way of guidance, despite its clarity, was of no benefit to him. His example is that of a bat that returns to its nest saying to the other bats, stay inside and sleep for the night has just fallen, but they reply to it saying: It has just been sunrise and yet you say it is nightfall! And the bat replies: please show mercy to the one who is unable to distinguish sunrise from sunset.

As soon as the lights of prophethood shone, the eyes of Bilal the Habashi, may Allah be pleased with him, whose status was low at the time, caught sight of it, whereas the eyes of Abu Talib the Qurayshi, whose status was high at the time, failed to see it. O brother, beware the arrows of Allah’s Power and be warned because your vigilance will not avail you. That said, do not let some of your sincere good deeds put your heart at undue ease, on the contrary, you should be more concerned, knowing as you do that “the hearts of individuals are between two Fingers of the Fingers of Allah and so he changes them as He wants.” (Reported in Tirmidhi 3522) Whenever judges are litigated by others, the case always goes in favour of the judge.

The example of Shaytan is that of a town that once prospered with worship, but a winter thunderstorm came and struck it down, causing the death of all its inhabitants; so the house of deeds of Shaytan and his ilk became as Allah says, “So those are their houses, desolate because of the wrong they had done.” (Surah al-Naml 27:52)

Thus the garment of Shaytan’s prior worship was taken away from him and reduced to the grade of the discarded food of the dog of the companions of the cave; therefore this pitiful creature expressed his enmity against mankind, sparing no time or effort in striving to bring about mankind’s downfall? Rather, it was his frustration for what he had lost; the pride of “I am better than him” (Surah Sad 38:76) caused Shaytan’s ruin whereas the humility of “Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves.” (Surah al-Araf 7:23) saved Adam, peace be upon him, because true servitude to Allah necessitates lowering one’s self in humility before the Lord.

The wretched Shaytan thought that by his refusal to prostrate before Adam, peace be upon him, he was saving his pride and dignity while, in fact, his refusal subjected him to the humiliation of “And indeed, upon you is My curse until the Day of Recompense.” (Surah Sad 38:78) Thus he became like the person who escaped rain by standing under a gutter. Indeed the garment and adornment of worship was not fitting for him, and hence it was taken away from him.

Shaytan’s understanding was flawed and abnormal, and not for one such as him to uphold the adornment of worship, whereas Adam, peace be upon him, had sound understanding, therefore the hood of dispute did not at all suit him. The mandate of decree had served to bring out the distinctive characteristics and behaviour of each of the two, following which both of them were restored to their respective origins (i.e. Shaytan to fire and Adam to earth).

It is reported that Umar ibn al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, encountered Shaytan, wrestled him and overcame him. If Shaytan could have spoken at that moment, it would have said, ‘O Umar, I have already been struck dead by the sword of humilation.’ ‘O Umar, [before Islam] you did not recognise the road [to Allah]’, while on the other hand, I used to be in a state of power and authority and even had Angels under my command. However, the declaration of “He will not be questioned as to that which he does, but they will be questioned.” (Surah al-Anbiya 21:23) was made, and thus I was removed from my position and he replaced me with you; so be wary of the change of conditions and circumstances, for the sharp sword that killed me is still in the hand of its owner. This continuous concern [over his state and his outcome] is what made Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, always rush to Hudayfah [who was the keeper of the Prophet’s secrets and the one whom he trusted on the names of the hypocrites; and Umar feared that his name might be among them due to his constant mindfulness to Allah and his fear for Him].

Seeds of Admonishment and Reform by Imam Ibn Jawzi Pages 196-200

 

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Incapacity and Lassitude

When the pious supporters of Allah find themselves engulfed in the darkness of this wordily life, they cut off the threads of their desires by striving and through self discipline. The paths leading to safety have been lit up for them and they make acquaintance with one another along the way. Whenever the lightning of hope flashed they walk forward, and when the night of fearing Allah arrives, they stand still in order to pray; therefore they are forever shifting between the state of fear and hope, such that when people see them, they think them to be insane.

During the daytime, the devotee is in a state of anguish due to his being conspicuous among the throngs. The bulbul of his thoughts and feelings is as if locked in a cage that keeps him from revealing his true state and condition. It is only upon the arrival of the breezes of late does his soul transcend to a state of indescribable divine comfort that extends from the palace of wishes to the land of hope, upon which the yearning traveller starts feeing the gentle breeze of ease while being immersed in a feeling of passion.

O brother and sisters, the day of the one grieving is as dark as his night, and the night of one unaccepted [by Allah] is like his day. O you whose sight is too blind to discern the path of the pious, Allah has restored your eyes for you so that you can see the path. However, this is a matter that does not reveal itself to a heart darkened by desires until it is first polished with self-struggle. Your terrain is full of thorns of sin, but had you surrendered it to the One who would cultivate and develop it for you, you would have certainly had different results “[It will be] on the Day the earth will be replaced by another earth.” (Surah Ibrahim 14:48)

Woe to you: your state of bankruptcy [i.e. no account of good deeds] is a result of your dangling between the state of incapacity and slackness.

Whenever the pious used to hear a sermon, it would implant within their hearts a palm tree of strong resolve and lofty endeavour, whereas the effect of a sermon on your heart is only to grow a few grassy shrubs.

I truly wonder at this! I do not know who I ought to describe these people to! Because I feel as if I am reciting the Surah of Yusuf to Rubel! O you who is expelled (from Allah’s Mercy) yet do not realise it, know that the pain of lashes can only be felt by a person with some feeling left in him, because by Allah, if you were really distressed by Allah’s turning away from you, you would never have been in a comfortable state! Your example with respect to lethargy and apathy is like the two companions of the Judhaymh; but sadly this admonishment falls on a heart that is deaf!

This rebuke might have been effective had the one being rebuked any sensibility whatsoever! Had there been embers, I would have tried to blow on it hoping to get a fire started; and despite there being a field ready to be harvested, food is still unavailable. The fence of your piety is full of breaches, and your foes have already surrounded your land, there time is precious little time, so do not delay any longer in rectifying your deeds. Be generous, before your are judged and criticised. Woe to you, the moment of your departure from this world is ever near, yet you have neither set aside yourself fruits of good deeds to stave away the pangs of your hunger, nor filled your bottle with the drops of your tears, to cool down the heat of your midday sun. Spare, yourself with earnest resolve earnestly for the long journey ahead of you, and thus live, without falling  into the traps of your desirous self.

O you who is left alone in the desert of his desires, cut off from his companions, hasten so that you might catch up with your people because the leader of your traveling group does care for the straggling members of his group; press on ahead without making any stops, even if your feet have become swollen. If you are held up on your way by the caravan of fatigue, seclude yourself up from everyone and call out for help while shifting between hope and fear of your Lord.

O hermit of this monastery, has any travelling caravan passed by you? How sad it is for one whose regret is of benefit for him no longer. This is because hands of idleness and languor manipulated his time; thus he needed up lost, and the palms of old age broke apart the hand-hold of his youth, and thus he ended up ruined.

O you who pray at night, kindly intercede for those who spend their nights in slumber; O you whose heart is alive, be so kind as to ask for the Mercy of Allah to be bestowed upon the one whose heart is dead; O you, the ambassadors of endeavour, kindly deliver the letters of the distressed.

Seeds of Admonishment and Reform by Imam Ibn Jawzi Pages 192-195

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