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Commentary on Surat Al-Muzzammil


Chapter 73: Surat Al-Muzzammil
The Enwrapped

By: Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri

In the name of Allah,
the Beneficent, the Merciful

  1. O 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 death.

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.

  1. Rise for prayer in the night, except a little

  2. Half of it, or a little less

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.

  1. 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 outward.

  1. Surely, We will soon make to light upon you a weighty word.

'Nlqi' (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 touch him. '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.

  1. 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. 'Nshi`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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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 the Name, isma rabbika, with remembrance of your Sustainer, and be connected with Him by being disconnected from everything other-than-Him.

  1. 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.

'There 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.

  1. 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 Prophet, '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 taking.

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.

  1. 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 kffar, 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. On the Day when the earth and mountains quake, and the mountains will be as a heap of running sand.

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.

  1. We have sent a Messenger to you, as a witness over you, just as We sent a Messenger to Pharaoh.

'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.

'Shahidan 'alayjum', 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 the message?

  1. 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.

'A painful taking-hold.' (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.

  1. 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.

  1. Heaven will be torn apart by it His promise will be fulfilled.

`As-sama`u munfatirun, 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.

  1. Surely this is a reminder. So that he who wills, may take a way to his Lord

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.

  1. 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, Merciful.

'Surely, your 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.

'And Allah 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 turned away.

'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 reality.

'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!' 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.

'And whatever 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.

'And seek 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, 'Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.'

End of the Surah


The Opening - A Commentary on Chapter 1: Surat Al-Fatiha ] The Cow - A Commentary on Chapter 2: Surat Al-Baqarah ] The Family of 'Imrān - A Commentary on Chapter 3: Surat Al-'Imrān ] The Spider - A Commentary on Chapter 29: Surat Al-'Ankabt ] The Heart of the Qur`an - A Commentary on Chapter 36: Surat Ya Sin ] The Beneficent - A Commentary on Chapter 55: Surat Al-Rahmn ] The Event - A Commentary on Chapter 56: Surat Al-Wqi'ah ] The Kingdom - A Commentary on Chapter 67: Surat Al-Mulk ] The Jinn - A Commentary on Chapter 72: Surat Al-Jinn ] The Unwrapped - A Commentary on Chapter 73: Surat Al-Muzzammil ] A Commentary on the Last Section of the Qur`an ]