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Surat Ya Sin - Introduction

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COMMENTARY ON THE QUR`AN
Chapter 36: Surat Yā Sīn
The Heart of the Qur`an
(Selected Verses)


By: Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri

Introduction 

The prevailing disease of our present age is denial of the One Reality that underlies, permeates, encompasses and yet stands apart from existence. To awaken the heart of the seeker to this Reality, the teacher attempts to tap the remedy drawn from the unity and timelessness of the Truth, the source of which is within that very heart. The source book of Truth, the all-encompassing Book of Reality, the key to unlocking the heart of the seeker on the path to divine knowledge, is the Qur`an. The absolute Truth is reflected in the Book, is further reflected through the purified heart of the believer (mu`min) and reaches out to illuminate every atom in creation.

For the proper approach to the Qur`an there must be the right intention and the right outer courtesy: the ritual ablution (wudū`), the right courtesy in holding, opening and closing the Book, and even in where it is placed afterwards. Since it is the Book of Books, the correct approach is the vital key that allows us to profit best from its reading and recitation.

The traditionally classical approach to the Qur`an is to study it from the standpoint of linguistics, history (the specific occasions of the revelation of certain verses) and other relevant aspects. Having done that, should one seek greater insight, should one want to dive more deeply into this ocean, one must be completely empty of any notions, expectations or reactions. To obtain the greatest inward benefit the reader must be completely void. One must be totally and utterly in a state of purity. This means that the Qur`an is approached with the maximum fearful awareness (taqwā) and with the utmost openness from a pure heart that is open in the sense that anything may come to it or nothing at all, depending upon the extent of one's receptivity. If the approach be impure, contact with the Qur`an will be superficial. Nevertheless, this will still be a positive and beneficial experience for whomsoever approaches the Qur`an with the slightest outer propriety so long as he is not doing so just to criticize or analyze it.

The true inner courtesy owed to the Qur`an is that one should be as though in the presence of the King of kings, in the presence of the Ultimate, Whose words have been sung through the heart and by the tongue of His beloved Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, his family and his righteous Companions.* One should bring to life the realization that this divine song has come to one as a rare and precious gift; otherwise, its secrets will remain locked and inaccessible. For those who have the purest intentions the Qur`an is vast and its gifts are endless. Every time a seeker, scholar or commentator reflects on it as he progresses in his life, with an ever deeper experience of the purest mode of approach he finds a fresh spring.

Our interest is both the outward (zāhirī) as well as the inward (tinī) approach to the Qur`an, because we are interested in unity (tawhīd). Islam is the most perfect way of life and path to knowledge because it is the journey of unity. If it is original Islam, it will take one to the knowledge of unity, from faith (īmān) to absolute certainty (yaqīn). 'Alī ibn Abī Tālib said: 'If every unknown thing were made known to me, I would not increase in certainty.' One should reflect upon the state of inner knowledge that 'Alī speaks about, that absolute certainty about the knowledge of Reality.

The whole concern is about the full knowledge of unity, not about information. All the verses of the Qur`an must be of benefit right now. Every aspect of the Qur`an is to be taken and used by those who are desperate for the knowledge of Reality, those who aspire to know Allah. We are not only interested in the Qur`an as a historical document. Nothing ever finishes or changes. What was in man's heart millennia ago still exists in man's heart today. All the elements are the same: trust-mistrust, love-hate, peace-violence, compassion-anger, comfort-discomfort, illness-health, life-death. The self (nafs) is one consciousness and contains the full spectrum of these human characteristics within it, high and low. In every heart they exist in different proportions, while varying circumstances draw on one characteristic more than another, whether it be the heart of an ordinary man or of a prophet. The difference is that a characteristic such as anger in a prophet is directed against injustice and ignorance in man, whereas the anger of an ordinary man may be reactionary, emotional or unjust, because he is capable of making mistakes. A true man of Allah, and certainly a prophet or messenger of Allah, may exhibit all the lower characteristics of the ego but operate in a direction that is positive and conducive to man's ultimate awakening. A prophet hates: he hates ignorance and the self-imposed blindness of men. He hates injustice and man's unwillingness to move, hanging on to the past, to some illusion he inherited from his forefathers or that was conditioned by his own previous experiences.

The watchful traveler on this short journey recognizes these lower aspects of the ego in himself through his true submission and perpetual vigilance. He has a yearning (himmah) for knowledge that drives him on and on in his defensive war against unbelief (jihād), against these negative elements in himself. The battle is both outward and inward, for: 'He is the Outwardly Manifest and the Inwardly Hidden, and He is the First and the Last.' We notice today that the collapse of the so-called Muslim world is the natural outcome of Muslims' having neglected to take on fully the path to unitary knowledge. People talk about Islam and even teach Islam, but this cannot be the same as any other type of teaching for this teaching must be embodied, otherwise it is worse than useless.

Sūrat Yā Sīn is the heart of the Qur`an (qalb al-Qur`an). It is the chapter (sūrah) of the Qur`an which is read over the dead, therefore it is a chapter of great importance to the living. Should one seek to know the meaning of life, one must experience death, for man has come from the non-physical realm and he is swiftly proceeding towards it again. Knowledge is based on opposites. Man's apprehension of knowledge depends upon the condition of his heart. If the condition of his heart is pure and receptive, he sees perfection in every aspect of every situation he finds himself in. The Qur`an allows one to fathom the unfathomable.

Sūrat Yā Sīn is also about the Prophet Muhammad and it is addressed directly to the bearers of the unitary message who continue to carry out the message. Whoever takes on fully the message of unity is considered a representative (khalifah) of Allah. He becomes a true slave ('abd), liberated from enslavement by the absence of himself and continues to exist -- in the station of on-goingness -- in his Lord.

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* It is customary, whenever the name of the Prophet Muhammad is mentioned, to invoke the peace and blessings of Allah upon him, his family and his righteous companions.

Up Next

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 ]