Note: This is post #9 in our series on Tafseer of Juz ‘Amma.
Surah Al-’Ala is one recited quite often; the Messenger of Allah (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) used to recite it in Witr, and in Jumu’ah, and in ‘Eid; and on days when Jumuah and ‘Eid coincide, people would hear it in ‘Eid, then again a few hours later in Jumu’ah. This indicates the great importance of Surah Al-’Ala.
One thing you probably didn’t know about this surah–when we say “Subhanna rabbiy al-’alaa” in sujood, that comes from this verse–because the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) commanded us to do so. This is where it comes from!
Let’s dive into some of the tafseer. In ayah 9, Allah says:
فَذَكِّرْ إِن نَّفَعَتِ الذِّكْرَى
Translation: So remind, if the reminder should benefit.
There’s a critical point here–remind at the time and place where it will be accepted. Ali (radiallahu anhu) used to say: you will never tell people something they don’t understand, except that it will become a fitnah for some of them. There was one shaykh who was explaining to some bedouins a concept, and he narrated a hadith, and he said, “and this hadith is da’eef.” The people said “No! The Prophet’s hadith cannot be da’eef! You’re da’eef!” and kicked him out and stuff. It became a fitnah for them.
So speak to people at a level they can understand. If they ask you basic questions, don’t go into 17 differences of opinion and the usool-ul-fiqh application to explain which one is the right ruling–just give them whatever they can digest. As Ali used to say, “explain to the people at a level they can understand; would you like Allah and His messenger to be denied?”
Then Allah goes on to describe who benefits from reminders, and who doesn’t. Allah says:
سَيَذَّكَّرُ مَن يَخْشَى
الَّذِي يَصْلَى النَّارَ الْكُبْرَى
ثُمَّ لَا يَمُوتُ فِيهَا وَلَا يَحْيَى
Translation: He who fears [ Allah ] will be reminded. But the wretched one will avoid it – [He] who will [enter and] burn in the greatest Fire, neither dying therein nor living.
It’s the people who fear Allah, those are the ones who benefit from the reminders. As for the wretched: they end up in Jahannam, may Allah protect us, “neither living nor dying.” What does this mean?
If someone studies Hellfire, they will find, among the attributes Allah describes:
- Blazing fire that incinerates human bodies
- Choking smoke that chokes and kills people
- Poisonous food from the tree of Zaqqum, that kills with even one drop
- Scalding water that burns and cuts open your bowels
Again and again and again, death coming at a person from every angle. Even one of these is enough to kill someone; but Allah does not let them die. “Laa yamuwtuw.” They will not die.
Yet, they won’t be living, either; what kind of life is Hellfire? More then this, being chained up, in the darkness; with punishment that only increases in torment over time. We ask Allah to protect us from that evil, wretched end (ameen!!)
Imagine yourself there. Think about it. You could, right now, be reading about your own destruction–wa iyyadubillah. How can people, knowing this, choose to sin and lead themselves to destruction? Why? What could possibly deter them from this path?
بَلْ تُؤْثِرُونَ الْحَيَاةَ الدُّنْيَا
وَالْآخِرَةُ خَيْرٌ وَأَبْقَى
Translation: But you prefer the worldly life, while the Hereafter is better and more enduring.
Dunya. It’s all dunya. This is the reason why people sin; why they reject the truth; why they don’t believe in God, or refuse to worship that one true God. Why people steal and kill and murder and everything in-between.
But the akhirah, really, truly is better.
But we just don’t understand.
Even with the biggest billionaire-mansion, the fanciest solid-gold car, and the best food and drink and clothes money can buy … how long will it last? 10, 20, 30 years; then you’re back to the hereafter with sins piled on sins and nothing to show for it.
Look at the Taj Mahal, one of the greatest palaces ever built in dunya–where are the owners now? Did it avail them anything? (If you don’t know, one of the things the owner did, was to get the hands of all his slaves cut off–so nothing like this could ever be built again.) But now, they are in their graves, and they have returned to Allah.
We ask Allah to help us understand and implement this great, great surah in our lives (ameen thumma ameen ya rabbi!)
- Reflect. As usual, reflect. Reflect on Jannah and Jahannam. Most people don’t think about them; but Allah calls us to do so!
- Post Your Reflections. What one thing about Jannah, or about Jahannam, hits you the most? Share it with us, insha’Allah.
- Touched by an Angel: Tafseer of Juz ‘Amma. By Muhammad Alshareef. 2009.
- Fiqh of Da’wa, by Muhammad Alshareef.