ON THE QUR`AN
Chapter 73: Surat Al-Muzzammil
the name of Allah,
the Beneficent, the Merciful
you, folded up in your garments!
This is one of the
earliest Meccan surat. 'Tazzammala', from 'zammala',
is to protect, to cover and to separate oneself. The Prophet, peace
and blessings of Allah be upon him and his family, used to cover
himself up fully whenever he was in a deep state of prayers. He
would do so because when the ayat were revealed to him the
physical affliction that accompanied them was so great.
Everyone wants to
protect himself, and that desire is echoed in us. The reality of it
is that there is nothing but protection. The essence of being-ness
is protection. Allah is the Protector. We all want to go back to
where we came from. We were most protected in the womb, where it was
dark, and liquid, and nothing disturbed us, the nearest state
possible to death. We are actually seeking death, because dying
implies merging into the totality, and because life comes from
The word 'al-muzzammil'
(folded up in garments), is employed here as though it were a form
of endearment – it is love of Allah for someone who is constantly at
the beck and call of gatheredness. That shielding or covering of
being enwrapped prepares him for the experience of gatheredness, and
separates him from dispersion.
Rise for prayer in the
night, except a little
Half of it, or a little
This is addressed to the
Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him,
'Get up in the
night, except for a little.'
'Iqamah' is the beginning point of action. The highest action
is that of total abandonment, that is, a total freedom that comes
through worship, and worship implies total love and the complete
willingness to surrender.
Night implies the plane
of the lowest energy and the time of incubation and rest. The
implication is: Take from the night what you need for your rest, and
get up for the other part of it. There is a balance. It does not
just say, 'Rise up in the night!' It says,
'Half of it, or
a little less.'
Because in those days the tendency was to overdo it, and there were
many people who practiced severe asceticism. This ayah is an
indication from Allah to keep this tendency in correct balance. The
way has always been not to stay up more than two-thirds of the
night. Leave a third for taking rest. Do as much as you can, and
remain in balance.
Or add to it – and
recite the Qur`an in slow, measured, rhythmic tones.
So increase your
dhikr (remembrance) in the night, increase your inward action,
for the rehabilitation of the inward, and read the Qur`an 'tartila',
meaning to recite aloud in clear, comprehensible, repetitive tones.
The implication here is that the Qur`an is already known to the
Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. Once he knew the
Reality, he knew the Qur`an, but he had not yet vocalized it. The
stream of it had not yet begun to flow from the inward to the
Surely, We will soon
make to light upon you a weighty word.
'Nûlqi' (from 'alqi')
means to throw upon. The surah started with the word 'al-muzzammil',
one who is covered, so that whatever you throw upon him will not
'We will throw upon you heavy words.'
It means, if it is going to be thrown upon you, and if it is of
maximum weight, then what is going to be left of you? Nothing.
Surely, rising in the
night is stronger in impact, and straighter in speech.
'Nash`ah' is from
nasha`a, which means to construct, to establish. It is easier
to establish and confirm oneself in inner knowledge at night. 'Aquamu
qila': Speech is more effective. 'Nâshi`atul-layl' is the
maximum darkness during which your sleep is sound, the energies are
low, and the field of reflection is clear and empty. 'Ashaddu
wat`an', it has the greatest impact. This part of the night has
the best results, the greatest barakah, according to what we
have just indicated.
Surely in the daytime
you have prolonged occupation.
During the day you are
absorbed and preoccupied with outer activities; There is enough time
for you in the day to roam around and attend to all your existential
requirements. There is enough time if you are efficient, if you are
able to swim, head above water, in the whirlpool of worldly
energies. 'Sabaha', means to swim, and swimming implies a
certain ecological balance with that in which you are swimming.
And remember the Name of
your Lord, and devote yourself to Him wholeheartedly.
Here you have a
reference back to the word 'muzzammul.' 'Batila tabtila',
means to devote yourself to one thing by cutting yourself off from
other things. 'Batila' is to cut off, and by extension this
means to cut yourself off from any other thing, allowing you to be
connected to one thing only. So in this ayah it says, 'Remember
isma rabbika, with remembrance of your Sustainer, and be
connected with Him by being disconnected from everything
Lord of the east and the
west – there is no god but Him – so take Him as a protector.
This ayah says that the
Lord is the Lord of all, the Lord of the east and the west. If there
is east, then there is also west. If there is night, then there is
also day. If there is power, then there is also weakness. If there
is expansion, then there is also contraction. Everything from the
Lord is manifest in one of two forms. That is the essence of this
ayah. Do not see anything other than Allah, whether it be east
or west, whether it be your night's worship or your day's action.
is no god but He – so take Him as wakil`.
A wakil is one who is completely reliable, a trustee. When we
leave our property to go abroad, we have a wakil behind, a
man who represents us. We depend totally on him, and we are
absolutely in his hands.
Earlier it was said, 'tabattil
ilayahi', sever yourself from all but Him – this is the pure
definition of wakil, and it implies having only one. If you
were to have two wakils, you would be confused. But that means in
your innermost attitude, in what you are truly depending on, because
if you were to cut off from everybody, then you would die, and Allah
wants nothing but mercy for you. Allah said earlier on,
'Rise for part
of the night, or increase it, or reduce it.'
Be genuine, be sincere. But in essence, do not depend on anything
other than your Lord, because He is the only One available at all
times for you to totally depend on. It is only because we want to be
totally reliant on Him, that we can even think of trying to rely on
somebody else. It is an echo of that reality within un, which is
manifest even in our perversion of it. So do not blame yourself.
And bear patiently what
they say, and part company with them with a courteous leave-taking.
The immediate reference
in this ayah is to the people who were constantly objecting
to the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, just as they did
with all the prophets and messengers before him. Everyone wants to
perpetuate his own system of security, regardless of whether or not
it is based on false premises, for they have invested a whole
lifetime in building it up. These people will object to what they
hear of the truth, because it shatters their private illusion, and
that illusion is their security blanket.
So Allah says to the
'Be patient with what they say...'
In surat al-'Asr Allah sets forth the conditions of coming
out of loss, one of which is sabr (patience, fortitude).
Without patience nothing can happen. If you know that your worship
has been correct, then all you need is patience. If the situation
reaches a point beyond what is endurable, then there is also an
answer for you: Part company with them with a courteous leave
Do this even to the
extent of migrating – make hijrah jamilah, beautiful
courteous. In other words, you should turn away. Let there be a
clear space behind you. Leave those who are unable to see, hear and
grasp the message, but leave them in a noble manner. Allah is the
Most Beautiful, and the space you leave behind is a reflection of
the manner in which you left it.
And leave Me to deal
with those who deny, who possess the good things of life, and be
easy with them for a little while.
The Prophet, peace and
blessings be upon him, came at a time of great darkness. Those who
were in kufr (denial, covering up) appeared well off and
comfortable, their appearance the best, but their reality the worst.
There cannot be one without the other.
The people who gathered
around the prophets always wondered and asked: 'Why is it that those
against us appear to be in good form and having a nice time, while
we are the poor ones who cannot even make ends meet?' Their Reality
is being reflected here: "Leave Me, leave Reality, leave time and
the unfolding of events to show who are the liars and kûffar,
and those who appear to have na'ma, the good things, the
luxuries. Their reward is a very short-lived one in this life. If we
believe in the hereafter, then we recognize that this life is only a
part of the whole process of Allah's creation.
Surely, with Us are
heavy chains and raging fire –
'`Ankal', is what
chains you. The chains are what these people who are covered up have
manufactured themselves by their attachments, expectations and love
of wealth. The implication is that people like this are already in
chains and in the perpetual agitation of the Fire.
And food that chokes,
and a painful punishment.
The reference here is to
the final taste which comes to man as a result of his actions. 'Ta'am'
(taste, food), is what he will be fed. There is no feeding as such –
what he is going to be fed is only what he has earned. What you have
lived with is what you have to take with you. It is the degree of
your freedom and the degree of your abandonment into the truth, that
is, the degree of your true submission that is being tested, and
will be revealed.
Those who are in kufr,
who deny the truth, deny `iman, and the whole purpose of
existence. They are the ones who will have 'adhaban `aliman,
a suffering torment.
On the Day when the
earth and mountains quake, and the mountains will be as a heap of
The Day of Reckoning is
the day marking the end of this realm of existence. The implication
of the earth being shaken, and the mountains becoming heaps of sand,
is that those who have taken refuge in their wealth, and their
luxurious habits, will be shattered. Your habits, your wealth, or
your work, cannot be more solid than the earth and the mountains,
which in the end are shattered away when the creational reality goes
through its final cycle of destruction.
We have sent a Messenger
to you, as a witness over you, just as We sent a Messenger to
'We have sent a
Messenger to you'
– Allah's message has been continuous since the time of the
beginning of the creation of man. What has differed each time is
only the particular communicative aspects of the message. The final,
simplest, clearest and most devastatingly unswerving message came
through the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon
him and his family.
means witnessing over you. You accept man as a witness when he is
impartial, when you trust him. When you are in the right you want
everybody to be your witness, and when you are wrong you pray that
nobody is the witness. So you accept the Messenger, peace be upon
him, as a witness over you, because the Messenger witnesses the
situation of the totality of reality. If not, how could he deliver
But Pharaoh defied the
messenger, so We took hold of him with a painful taking-hold.
Pharaoh rebelled, and we
also rebel, because we have invested too much in the whole set-up
system, and in ourselves. Pharaoh wanted Allah, but he had invested
too much in his pharaonic system, and confronted with the Reality,
he was at a loss, so he rebelled. The Prophet Musa, peace be upon
him, said to him, 'Look, you are a real worshipper, but you are
perverted.' And Allah says,
'So We took
hold of him.'
What takes hold of us is what we have come from. There is nothing
other than that taking. It is either after one minute, or one hour,
or one year, or fifty years. The Creator brings, and He also takes
us. We say,
'We are Allah's
and to Him we return.'
We repeat this dhikr (invocation) in order for it to sink
into the heart. If you mean it once, it is enough.
(wabila). Why is it painful? Because the shock is too much,
when a person realizes all of a sudden that all he has done amounts
to nothing. Rebellion is a reaction to that ending. The opposite of
rebellion is 'taslim', surrender.
If you reject, how will
you safeguard yourselves with fearful awareness on a Day which will
turn children's hair gray?
'Taqwa' is to be
in constant watchfulness and awareness, a state which keeps you from
committing acts that are not fi sabil illah, in the way of
Allah (that is, not in the way of other-than-Allah), and from having
thoughts that are not on the path of knowledge of Allah. The state
of fearful awareness prevents us from performing deeds that chain us
more securely to our attachments. Allah questions us: 'How deep is
your taqwa?' Can you ever have enough taqwa? Can there
ever be enough fear of you not being in true islam, or from having
even a little bit of rebellion? You have to question yourself. It
says in the Qur`an,
'Every man is a
witness over his self.'
You are your own witness.
Now we come to
Jahannam, which is a bottomless pit. This means that nothing can
settle in it. It is always and forever in a state of turmoil. If you
cannot constantly act in a manner that will purify and release you
from attachments, then how will you be able to avoid what happens to
you on the Day of Reckoning, as described here – the Day when young
men become old. 'Shayb' is an old, gray man. It means that
time is meaningless there, it means that the weight of the event is
heavy, and that even a young man looks as though he has aged from
the immensity of the Day of Reckoning, where everything is exposed,
and nothing can be nicely hidden away out of sight. Everything
becomes crystal clear.
Heaven will be torn apart by it – His promise will be fulfilled.
means that Reality and Truth will be completely effulgent. The whole
aspect of the truth of reality will be revealed. The promise will
come to pass. That is the description of the Day of Reckoning.
Surely this is a reminder. So that he who wills, may take a way to
Again, there is only the
reminder – Tadhkirah. Qur`an is also referred to elsewhere as
a dhikr. 'Tadhkirah', in common Arabic, means a
ticket, a memento, a passport. The reference there is that the
Qur`an is to remind you, but also this reminder is to be used in
conjunction with taking the path to the Lord. Because, the Qur`an
alone is not enough – you cannot say, 'I only want to depend on the
Qur`an.' It is not enough by itself. If you relied only on Qur`an,
you could not know the rest of the living picture. The rest of it
was revealed by the Prophet to his Ahl ul-Bayt. Another way to look
at ayah number 5 is that the Prophet, peace and blessings of
Allah be upon him, said, 'I leave for you thaqalain, the two
heavy ones, the two serious ones, the two important ones. The Qur`an
and my Ahl ul-Bayt. The Qur`an and the Prophetic Way of the
message of the Prophet. In other words, risala wa rasul, the
message and the Messenger. The confirmation of the right path comes
from the teachings transmitted from him and through his family,
peace and blessings of Allah be upon them.
Surely, your Lord knows that you stand to pray nearly two-thirds of
the night, or half the night, or a third of the night, and so do a
party of those with you. And Allah measures the night and the day.
He knows that you are unable to keep count of it, so He has turned
to you. So, recite as much of the Qur`an as may be easy for you. He
knows that there may be sick ones among you, and others who are
traveling throughout the land seeking Allah's bounty, and others
fighting in the way of Allah. So read as much of it as may be easy
for you, and establish regular prayer, and pay the zakat, and
lend Allah a good loan. And whatever good you send forward for
yourselves, you will find it with Allah – better and greater in
reward. And seek forgiveness from Allah. Surely Allah is Forgiving,
Lord knows that you stand in prayer nearly two-thirds of the night,
or half the night, or a third of the night, and so do a party of
those with you.'
The reference here is to seekers who are genuinely following the
path of Knowledge.
measures the night and the day.'
It means everything that is visibly manifest is subject to
multitudinal, interrelated and ecologically unified laws, both
visible and non-visible. If you love Allah, then you love the
Mugaddir, the Measurer.
'He knows that
you are unable to keep count of it.'
Allah is the Giver of all the laws governing the cosmic play.
Because we are given the ability to count, we want to encompass
everything that exists. It is the echo of Allah in us, the
reflection of the Divine Reality in His creation. But we are limited
– we want to know everything, but we cannot. Because Allah is the
Encompasser (muhit), and we are the encompassed (muhat).
'So He turned
to you.' This
means that if you turn to Reality, it is always there. It is only
you and I who have inadvertently conceived the idea that we have
'So recite as
much of the Qur`an as may be easy for you.'
This has a specific meaning, which is to recite in the ritual
prayers what portions you know of the Qur`an. The inner meaning of
this part of the ayah is to read what is in your own heart.
Live it by what you have found to be accessible and easy. The
deen of Islam is the path of ease. Drink whatever you can from
the fountain of the Qur`an, which is in your heart from your
'He knows that
there may be sick ones among you.'
The ill are always forgiven. If you are ill, there is an imbalance
in you, because your level of priority becomes purely physical, and
you are concerned with self-preservation. Man is always a little off
balance in this way.
'And others who
are traveling throughout the land seeking Allah's bounty, and others
fighting in the way of Allah.'
People are on the move to purify themselves by seeking the goodness
of Allah on this earth, fi sabil illah (in the way of Allah).
Others are inwardly fighting the nafs, the self and what it
desires. Outwardly there are those who fight to defend the community
from the attacks of its enemies. Islam is only at war when it is
attacked. It is the way of the seeker of peace. If you are willing
to be killed in the outer jihad (holy war) at any moment,
then you are the most likely to be qualified for the inner jihad.
If you are willing to drop whatever you are doing, your family, your
business, or whatever it is that you are attached to, to defend your
brothers and sisters, then you may be qualified to abandon your
nafs – if you are doing it all truly in the way of Allah.
'So read as
much of it as may be easy for you, and establish regular prayer, and
pay the zakat.'
Again it says,
Read what you already know, what is in your heart, and what has
already come to you. And establish salat. Salat means
to connect, so you are connecting with your reality through prayer.
Zakat is purification, and taxing yourself by giving away
what you really want to keep.
'And lend to
Allah a good loan.'
There are three transactional aspects of a loan, regarding the thing
you are going to give as a loan. On a material level the thing that
you loan must be the best you have, and the recipient must be a
suitable recipient. Otherwise, there is no point in giving something
of little value to someone who has no need of it. The middle aspect
of a loan is the relationship you have with the thing itself, and
your attitude towards it. If you give the best that you have to the
most deserving person, without the least expectation of any reward,
or even of any expression of gratitude, then you have purified
yourself. If you constantly remember the loan, that you gave it,
that now you do not have it, or whatever, then you are chained by
the memory of it, and it is not something which liberates you. The
third and highest loan is that of your ruh (spirit), which
you hand over to Allah, which is your life. itself.
good you send forward for yourselves, you will find it with Allah –
better and greater in reward.'
Allah is the Best and the Highest Good, khayr. And for you,
He is the highest reward. Because everything comes from Allah, is by
Allah, and goes to Allah. If you are acting in a manner suitable to
Allah, as one who is truly and utterly in submission, and you
recognize that the act of submission has, in a real sense, nothing
to do with you, and that is a release from what appears to be the
shackles of dunya (the life of this world), then from this
action you obtain 'khayran wa 'azama `ajran', the highest
reward. Your reward comes from doing the act itself, it is not the
result that only comes when you complete your action. Your actions
and their rewards are only as good as your intentions.
forgiveness of Allah. Surely, Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.'
Be in a state of beseeching Allah for Ghufar, for protection,
as a covering and protection for you not to act in any way other
than fi sabil illah, in the way of Allah. This surah
started by saying,
'O you, folded
up in your garments!', O you who have covered yourself,'
and it ends by saying,
'Open up and be
free, there is nothing other than forgiveness!'
Do not try to restrict your freedom of movement in that blanket, do
not bind yourself. There is nothing for you to hide from. That is
why the Mesih, Sayyedina 'Isa, peace be upon him said, 'My legs are
my mount, my hands are my servant, the rock is my bed, and heaven is
my cover.' He was uncovered because he knew the Ghafur,
Allah, the Forgiving One. And so the surah ends,
End of the Surah