A Commentary on Surat Al-Waqia
by Shaykh Dr. Abdalqadir as-Sufi
Given at Masjid al-Mahmud, Constantia, Cape Town, South Africa, 2003
Surat al-Muzzammil – The Enwrapped
In the name of Allah, All Merciful, Most Merciful
You who are enwrapped in your clothing!
stay up at night, except a little,
half of it, or a little less,
or a little more,
and recite the Qur’an distinctly.
We will impose a weighty Word upon you.
Certainly rising at night has a stronger effect
and is more conducive to concentration.
In the daytime much of your time
is taken up by business matters.
Remember the Name of your Lord,
and devote yourself to Him completely.
Lord of the East and West –
there is no god but Him –
so take Him as your Guardian.
Be steadfast in the face of what they say
and cut yourself off from them –
Leave the deniers, who live a life of ease, to Me,
and tolerate them a little longer.
With Us there are shackles and a Blazing Fire
and food that chokes and a painful punishment,
on the Day the earth and mountains shake
and the mountains become like shifting dunes.
We have sent you a Messenger
to bear witness against you
just as We sent Pharaoh a Messenger.
But Pharaoh disobeyed the Messenger,
so We seized him with terrible severity.
How will you safeguard yourselves, if you are kafir,
against a Day which will turn children grey,
by which heaven will split apart?
His promise will be fulfilled.
This truly is a reminder, so let anyone who wills
take the Way towards his Lord.
Your Lord knows that you stay up
nearly two-thirds of the night –
or a half of it, or a third of it –
and a group of those with you.
Allah determines the night and day.
He knows you will not keep count of it,
so He has turned towards you.
Recite as much of the Qur’an as is easy for you.
He knows that some of you are ill
and that others are travelling in the land
seeking Allah’s bounty,
and that others are fighting in the Way of Allah.
So recite as much of it as is easy for you.
And establish salat and pay zakat
and lend a generous loan to Allah.
Whatever good you send ahead for yourselves
you will find it with Allah as something better
and as a greater reward.
And seek forgiveness from Allah.
Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
Surat at-Takathur – Competition
In the name of Allah, All-Merciful, Most Merciful
Fierce competition for this world distracted you
until you went down to the graves.
No indeed, you will soon know!
Again no indeed, you will soon know!
No indeed, if you only knew with the Knowledge of Certainty,
you will certainly see the Blazing Fire!
Then you will certainly see it with the Eye of Certainty.
Then will you be asked that Day
about the pleasures you enjoyed.
* * * * *
To understand Surat al-Waqi‘a there is benefit in looking first at Surat al-Muzzammil and Surat at-Takathur. Surat al-Muzzammil can be seen as a preface, as it were, to the theme of Surat al-Waqi‘a. Surat al-Muzzammil is the Surat of Khalwa. The affair of calling on the Lord in isolation and in the night. In it Allah says,
Remember the Name of your Lord
and devote yourself to him completely.
He then goes on to say,
Be steadfast in the face of what they say
and cut yourself off from them – but courteously.
This indicates the adab of calling on Allah by His Supreme Name, which involves what in the language of the Sufis is called “Turning from all that is masiwallah,” all this derives from these Ayats. That is why Allah grants in this Surat the uncompromising confirmation that He is aware of what you are doing and that He is already the Answerer of your call.
Surat at-Takathur is important for its introduction of two of three Qur’anic terms, of which the third is found in Surat al-Waqi‘a. In this Surat Allah refers to two degrees of knowledge. He says, glory be to Him,
No indeed, if you only knew with the knowledge of Certainty.
And then He goes on to say,
Then you will certainly see it
with the Eye of Certainty.
So the Yaqin has a triple reality. The Mulk facing the Malakut, the Malakut facing the Malakut, and the third term is the Malakut facing the Jabarut, the ‘Ayn al-Yaqin. And this last term appears at the end of our commented Sura.
* * * * *
Surat al-Waqi‘a is the wird of Shaykh al-‘Alawi. This is very significant because it starts with what Hajj Abdalhaqq has translated as ‘The Great Event’. But if you look in the Qur’an it is:
In the Arabic this is like “the time of the time,” it is like the famous moment when Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, “Ya Abu Bakr, Yawm al-Yawm.” The day of The Day. And by that he meant the Last Day. So “idha waqa‘atil waqi‘a” is the Event of the Event. It is very important to understand this because it is like saying that everything which is creation is event, and the creation is one event. Allah only has to say to a thing, “Kun fa yakun”—“Be / it is.” Between the ‘Be’ and ‘it is’ there is no hiatus, no grammatical link. “Kun fa yakun” means “Be / it is.” We might use an oblique stroke to indicate it, because there is no grammatical joining. “Be,” and then as a result of that it happens, because the in-time and the out-of-time are not separated by a hiatus. In grammar an ‘and’ or an ‘or’ or a ‘but’ or a ‘then’ is a connection, but there is nothing connected to the Command of Allah. There cannot be any association. “La ilaha illallah, wahdahu la sharikalah.” So the “Kun fa yakun” is at the very heart of the nature of our understanding of Tawhid, because it is also how we understand existence to come into being.
Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, tells us that this ending of the creation, which is like the undoing of the “Kun fa yakun”, is also like that: it is the Waqi‘a of the Waqi‘a. So it is the Event of what all event is. It is the equivalent to the whole creational “Kun”, it is the “anti-Kun” if you like. This places us in a different understanding of the creation from the kuffar. What it means is that we recognise that the creational event has this other side, which is its unseen reality. That is why Sufis have used a variety of vocabularies which they derive from the Qur’an. They talk of Mulk, Malakut and Jabarut.
The Mulk is the Kingdom. Mulk is everything under the ‘Arsh’ by the ‘Kun’. Malakut is that in its unseen dimension. Malakut is the realm of the unseen realities, and Mulk is the realm of the visible realities. The Malakut has an earthly dimension and a heavenly dimension. For example: you yourself sitting here are a visible reality, but it is not possible for you to continue existing another second in your atomic form as you are, without your unseen reality being along with you. At the moment the Ruh leaves the body all this collapses, does it not? It all goes into disintegration. This form finishes, as Raja of Mahmudabad used to say, “The body is like something you have rented from a wealthy owner. Your job while you are in it is to look after it, keep it clean, see that it is taken care of, that it is not destroyed in any way or corrupted in any way, because at the end of your tenure of the house you have to return the house to its owner.” He would say, “When you return the house to the owner, the Ruh goes out of it and like a house which is not occupied, it begins to crumble. Then the phosphates go back to the phosphates, the sulphur goes back to the sulphur, and the sodium goes back to the sodium.” The lower processes of existence take place once the house is uninhabited. Do you follow? Another whole set of the realm of the visible takes over, but they are then mineral, lower forms of matter because the animal form and the Ruh leave with the ‘Aql.
For instance, the madman, the man who does not know that he has ‘he-ness’, never gets ill. The mad person never gets ill because he does not use the house. It gathers dust but it does not disintegrate because he is still there. The ‘Aql and the Ruh have a connection, and that is understanding, which is also what gives reasonable speech, understandable speech and communication, it means that this higher creature, this one that Allah has set over all created forms, is present. When he leaves it, what is ‘man’ has gone, and then you go down to these lower forms. But while this body is inhabited, has Ruh, has consciousness, in that condition the whole being of identity is present, and at that point there is someone there, so to speak.
That is the first stage of understanding how the creational process happened, because in the Mulk you have been put on the earth. A representative of Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, has been put on the earth, and so you have a presence. The first recognition, therefore, is that your true identity is a hidden reality. We cannot see it.
Allah also explains that one of the gifts of Allah to us is that people cannot see our secrets. They are invisible, are they not? One of the mercies of Allah is that everyone does not know all about you when they meet you. Some people have certain insights and so on, but they are insights from the Unseen. They have little flashes about somebody, because this visible world is sensory and everything that is hidden is meanings, and some people have an insight into meanings. Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, taught Abu Bakr as-Siddiq how to interpret dreams, because dreams are meanings with a sensory character but not a sensory reality. They take place in the hidden realm. He gave to another of the Sahaba the science of reading the face, of Farasa, so he could look at the face and know from these eyes, and if that is the nose, and if that is the twist of the mouth this person is dishonest, or this person is a hypocrite, or this person is a coward. He gave to another Companion the knowledge of nifaq, so that they would know nifaq whenever they met it. He taught them how to identify the munafiq whenever they met him. But these are hidden things that the human beings have glimpses of, just glimpses, according to their state and their condition, and the time in which it happens and the place in which it happens.
So there is an unseen reality of the Malakut which is earthly, and which is to do with this hiddenness that you carry with you wherever you go. This hiddenness is present in the dhikr, and the dhikr raises it up and illuminates and strengthens it, and good company raises up and strengthens it, and bad company darkens and covers it over.
This is the earthly dimension of the Malakut. The heavenly dimension of Malakut can be identified by the difference between the true dream and the false dream. In other words, if you have a dream because you have indigestion and you have a nightmare, it is because of the disturbance of your stomach. The people who study this do not take it seriously, it was just indigestion. But ‘ruya’ is a specific term in Arabic for a true dream. Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, “Anyone who has seen me in a true dream has truly seen me, because Shaytan cannot take my form.”
So nobody ever knows what is true and what is not except on the absolute truth of knowing they have seen Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. But even that has verifications. Someone says, astaghfirullah, they saw the Rasul and they have decided for themselves that they saw him. Then if you question certain things you can verify with knowledge that they did indeed see him.
The example of this with these unseen spiritual realities, is when the Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, received his first announcements from the angel Jibril. You remember in the Sirat that he was terrified, that he thought the worst thing in the world to him would be that he should go mad, because he was a man of the truth. He spoke to his wife, and because she was a very wise woman, she knew what to do. He said, “Well, maybe it is Shaytan,” and Khadija said, “Next time he comes to you tell me.” So he rushed to her, she was in her apartment and she had a robe on. And he said, “It is here now.” She opened the robe and was naked, and it vanished. She said, “It is the truth, because if it had been Shaytan it would have stayed.”
So these people had knowledges from the past, they knew how to get verification, how to get the truth. This means that all these things of this elevated nature cannot mingle, they cannot co-mingle with the earthly. The heavenly Malakut is to do with visions, it is to do with places where these things are more prone to happen and so on and so forth. Then you have Mulk which carries with it an unseen dimension of Malakut in the earthly form. This is also in all life forces.
There is one thing no scientific description of existence has ever been able to put into its model, and this is why at the end of the day they do not have the true picture of existence. The philosophers do it by asking a slightly false question: “Why is there something rather than nothing?” but that is not the interesting question. The interesting question is, “What is the pulse of life? What is the dynamic or movement?” This is something meditated deeply, deeply by Muhiyuddin ibn al-‘Arabi, and it is referred to in the Diwan of Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib. He says in the Greater Qasida, “He would see the planets and the secrets of their constellations, and the meaning of their tremendously rapid movement,” and in the Minor Qasida, “To anyone who withdraws into the lights of the dhikr of the Truth, creation is no more than particles of dust in space.” It is more space than particles. It is what Ibn al-‘Arabi calls the ‘gypsum’ foundations of the universe: not the clay, but the plaster of the forms.
All the living forms have a pulse of life. You have seen these beautiful speeded-up pictures of plants growing. It is an extraordinary thing when the plant comes shooting out of the earth and how ivy climbs up the walls as if it had a consciousness, which in a sense it does at its own level. So the pulse that makes the life, from the Malakut, is what we understand as the activity of the angels. In the Arabic language the word ‘angels’ comes from ‘flakes’, they are like flakes of light, like a flashing of light. This energy is what makes all the creation move—everything is in motion, everything in existence that is living is in motion. This is part of one’s understanding that the heavenly operation of the Malakut is also in all the creational processes, so that one is living in event.
What this extraordinary Sura says is that the in-time event is not the whole thing. It is all in order that this other Event should happen. The unseen reality is one event, in the way that the ‘Kun’ of ‘Kun fa yakun’ is one event, which is all the creation of the cosmos and its dusts and its gases. Again, it is commotion which synthesizes into these creative forms of life, and this is the reality in which we live. Allah is telling the Muslims that what they are living is something whose actual reality does not get unfolded until the thing is over anyway. But in fact it is everything that has happened in the in-time, in the Mulk, which is that which bears the fruit, which realises itself, which manifests itself in this Event.
For example, Shaykh ibn ‘Ajiba explains: “This reality is sensory but it is experienced as meanings. We interpret everything by meanings. But the next world is meanings and we will experience them as sensory.” The exact opposite. In it, the meanings will be experienced as sensory, that is why Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, reveals what it is, that there will be these enormous sensory experiences. They are meanings, but we will know them as sensory, whereas all of this that is sensory we know as meanings. Otherwise we have not got ‘Aql, we have not got the higher self of the human creature.
So we are busy in all of this interpreting meanings, but in this Event we will be shown the meanings of all these things we were and did, and we will experience them as sensory. They will be real for us, which is why the kuffar mock the Muslims because of their belief in the Unseen. Right at the beginning Allah says,
“Alif Lam Mim. That is the Book, without any doubt.
It contains guidance for those who have taqwa:
those who have iman in the Unseen and establish salat
and give of what We have provided for them.” (2:1-2)
This Book is for the people who believe in the Ghayb, the Unseen. If they do not believe in the Ghayb it is a waste of time. The kuffar laugh and think, “Oh, they are going to have a miserable time on earth because they think they are going to have a lovely time in the next world.” That is the mockery of the kuffar. But what they do not realise is that the next stage is an opposite of that. Because they failed with the meanings in this life, the sensory they will taste is a terrible one, because of a misunderstanding they have from the beginning.
Now Allah says:
“When the Great Event occurs,
none will deny its occurrence.”
It is really, “When the Event of events occurs none will deny its eventness.” That is really the translation. Their denial of the eventness of this world. The truth is that the kafir comes into this world and thinks everything is a given, while the Muslim is educated to understand that he comes into a world that is from the “Kun fa yakun,” that he is already under an imperative, a Divine imperative which involves the immediate and absolute destiny of the individual in order to fulfil his maximum potential and capacity and expansion while on this earth in a manner that is pleasing to his Lord, coming under three categories: the Companions of the Right, the Companions of the Left, and the Forerunners. This is the existential outlook of the Muslim over and against the kafir who comes in and thinks, “There is this thing. It has been going on. Everybody was primitive, they have become sophisticated. We knew a little, now we know a lot. They lived in caves, we have got engineering and structural buildings to surpass them. We can make weapons of mass destruction, we can destroy the world in a second and we are the masters of the situation. Everyone before us was ignorant and had superstition and was primitive, but we are evolved, we have no superstition, and we know the world for what it is.” This is the difference, and this is the darkness of the kuffar. And the reality of this becomes that they are the Companions of the Left.
“bringing low, raising high.”
He says that, “This event, none will deny its eventness.” And He immediately tells us what it is: “It brings low and it raises high.” It does not keep high and leave low. It means a complete turnover of the evaluation that the people of the dunya have held. Everything will return to its true nature, which is this division of creatures into the Companions of the Right, the Companions of the Left, and the Forerunners. This involves the bringing low and the raising high. So it is also why the khawf, the fear of Allah, is where you stand in that. Bringing low means you were high and you were brought low, and raising high means you were low and you are raised high. That is why Sayyidi ‘Ali al-Jamal is continually quoting one ayat of Qur’an as relevant to the Sufis which is, “We made you poor, low in the land, because We wanted to raise you up and make you imams in the land.” Imams in the sense of leaders of the land. So to do that Allah made them low in order that He could raise them up.
This is the process that is going on all the time and which completes itself in this final stage. All the time Allah is bringing low and He is raising up. Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, “Look for me among the miskeen.” He did not say “Look for me among the princes.” He wrote letters to the Caesars but he did not spend his time with them or go after them. Apart from these letters that he sent, his action was with the people. He said, “Look for me among the miskeen, because I was only sent on account of the miskeen. I was only sent among you because of them. They are the reason I have been sent.” So the transformation that the Muslims activate when they are on the Sirat al-Mustaqeem is that by the fulfilling of the Deen, a body of people do get raised up in the world and rule for a time. This has happened again and again in the Deen of Islam.
When the earth is convulsed
and the mountains are crushed
and become scattered dust in the air.
And you will be classed into three:
A very extraordinary revelation you see. You are going to be classed into three.
the Companions of the Right:
What of the Companions of the Right?
It is very extraordinary because Allah speaks very openly.
The Companions of the Left:
What of the Companions of the Left?
And the Forerunners, the Forerunners.
those are the Ones Brought Near
in Gardens of Delight.
The Sabiqun are the Muqarabun, the “Ones Brought Near”. “In Gardens of Delight” is not a proper translation, because Jannah is not just a garden. Jannah is from the root Jeem-Nun-Nun, it is something hidden. We are dealing with the Unseen, and this Garden is a hidden garden, a secret garden. The Jannah is a garden so rich in foliage that you cannot see through it to the other side. It is enclosed. It closes itself in on itself, so that its beauty is contained within the thing that is the Garden. You cannot see beyond it or through it. Majnun, mad, is the one who has a hidden sickness, that when you look you cannot see it. He looks alright, but his sickness is hidden, you cannot see it. The hidden sickness is the sickness of the majnun. So the Muqarabun are the ones in this Jannah, in this hidden Garden of Delight. “Fi jannatin na’im”. ‘Na’im’ is a very precious word. It is a sensory word, it is something that is pleasing. It is a very sensual word. The ‘jannati na’im’, then, is in a place of hidden beauty which has in it tasting. It is ‘dhawq’, it has direct experience. This means that the Muqarabun are people of m‘arifat, of tasting, of ecstasies. And then a very significant thing:
a large group of the earlier people
but few of the later ones.
Now you have an interpretation of history. This is not the kafir history, this is not dynasties, it is not trade figures, it is not a statistic. Yet it is statistics: “A large group of the earlier people.” In other words the earlier people were closer in knowledge than the present people. Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, “There will not be a time from my time until the end of time that will not be worse than the time before it.” This means that the time is getting worse. Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib, rahimahullah, said, “In the old days of tasawwuf,” in the early years of tasawwuf, in Balkh and Samarqand and all the Abbasid world, “The Awliya, like Moulay ‘Abdalqadir al-Jilani, set themselves enormously harsh tasks in order to reach Allah. It was so difficult for them because the people already had a high position, the Deen was strong.”
In its early days the Deen was enormously powerful, and these people had to struggle to surpass it to be Muqarabun. He said, “They used to put themselves through a lot of physical suffering and torture in order to break the nafs,” because again the breaking of the nafs is the task of the Sufi, it is his business to see it is done. Not other people. So they set about it. He said, “They used to tie themselves by the hair and have themselves lowered and hung by the hair into the well.” It was to keep them absolutely conscious, and not lose consciousness and slip down into the well and drown. They used to do these sorts of things to reach Allah. Shaykh ibn al-Habib explained that the time got darker and more ignorant. The Islam got weaker, the Shari’at and its application got weaker. So Allah was merciful and He made it easier. The Shaykh said, “You could mark the stages at which the Awliya had the task eased for them.” He was of course commenting on the well-known hadith in which the Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, indicated that while in his time the omission of one out of ten commanded things would send a man to the Fire, there would come a time when the performance of one out of ten commanded things would gain him the Garden.
Harith al-Muhasibi was almost like a policeman on himself, and is perfectly named al-Muhasibi because what he did was he took account, on the beginning of the path, at the end of every day. Every day he sat down and said, “What did I do today? What can I take to my Lord?” And he would go through everything he did that day and he would ask, “Was that pleasing to Allah, or is that disapproved of by Allah? Was that forbidden by Allah?” He said, “What have I done?” He made the bill, as it were, of the day. And as he advanced on the path he then said, “This is not enough.” He made a reckoning of every hour of the day. So he went through the twenty four hours, asking himself, “What have I done?” Then he made it by the minute, and then at a certain point he said, “I cannot do it. I have got to account for every breath.” So then he was watching every breath that it was in remembrance of Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala.
Moulay ‘Abdalqadir al-Jilani was a great ‘alim. Do not forget that Moulay ‘Abdalqadir al-Jilani, while he is dismissed by these wahhabis and shaytans like that, was a very great ‘alim. He wrote an enormous body of scholarship in the Hanbali fiqh, which is very strict and harsh. First of all he was zahid, he did punish himself. But then in his final stage he became the instigator of Hadra. In fact Hadra is not simply from Moulay Abdalqadir
al-Jilani. Hadra is nothing less than what is referred to in the Qur’an in an actual term about people calling on Allah, with ‘hamsa’. In Surat Ta Ha, Allah, glory be to Him, says:
On that day they will follow the Summoner
who has no crookedness in him at all.
Voices will be humbled before the All-Merciful
and nothing but a whisper will be heard.
That is in the excellent translation of the Bewleys. It is again important as we found with the term Waqi‘a, to get the pure Arabic meaning. In the great Maghribi Tafsir ‘Al-Bahr al-Madid fi al-Tafsir al-Qur’an al-Majid’, Shaykh Ibn ‘Ajiba comments on the final phrase of the Ayat,
He says this means that all that can be heard is a gasping from the throat of “Ha, ha, ha…” It is this state of khawf in which all that is left is a gasping for breath which is the core of the Hadra, or ‘Imara. Thus Moulay ‘Abdalqadir gave this practice of abasement to the fuqara. Then at a very important stage Shaykh Shadhili was given permission by Allah to use the name of Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, and by that naming of the Supreme Name in a certain way it made a very quick and very easy path to m‘arifat. This is another stage of it being made easy for the fuqura to reach m‘arifat. Then Moulay ad-Darqawi also utilised the visualisation of the name of Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, the Alif – Lam – Lam – Ha, because the letters of the Name have secrets. So the putting the letters in front of one and the calling on the Name was a further making-easy for the task of reaching knowledge of Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala.
Allah says, “A large group of the earlier people,” because they were nearer fitra, their Islam was strong, but few of the later ones, because the people had lost the way and turned against all the prophets, and turned against Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.
On sumptuous woven couches,
Reclining on them face to face.
“Face to face,” because the face is the aspect of the human creature that indicates the essence, the identity of the person. It is a realm of m‘arifat, it is a realm of contemplation.
There will circulate among them, ageless youths,
carrying goblets and decanters
and a cup from a flowing spring –
it does not give them any headache
nor does it leave them stupefied.
Every term in these last six ayats can be found inside the Diwan of Ibn al-Farid. Ibn al-Farid uses all of these terms to indicate aspects of m‘arifat, intoxications, ecstasies, unveilings, secrets, illuminations. He uses all this as a coded language but it is all from Surat al-Waqi‘a. The Sufis say, “A drunkenness with memory is higher than a drunkenness without memory.” In the sensory world they say, “You had a good time last night!” and he replies, “Oh, I don’t remember anything.” So in fact he got no benefit from it. But Allah says that the spiritual ecstasies do not give them any headache and do not leave them stupefied. In other words, it is not something in their heads, it is a sensory reality. It is a m‘arifat with no loss of consciousness. And as we go into the language of the Sufis you will see how they describe a loss of consciousness which becomes another consciousness. They talk about fana’ and then talk about the fana’ of the fana’. In the diwans the shaykhs speak about going across deserts that do not have any end, that do not finish.
And any fruit they specify
and any bird-meat they desire.
And dark-eyed maidens like hidden pearls.
All this is the language of Ibn al-Farid. He is dismissed even by very knowledgeable people like Ibn Khaldun—whom in many things we take with great respect and care—because they do not understand. Not only that but what they do not recognise is that all of this is from the Qur’an. The whole of the great song of Ibn al-Farid is in these lines. And all this He, subhanahu wa ta’ala, has been describing, “As recompense for what they did.”
As recompense for what they did.
So the reward of this m‘arifat after death is the recompense for what they did. Not the recompense for who they were but the recompense for what they did. The human being is an acting animal, so what he does is what defines his post-mortal destiny. This is the important thing.
They will hear no prattling in it, nor any word of wrong.
They will hear no prattling in it, they will not hear superficial talk, and not any word of wrong. This means that they have come from a life that has liberated itself from the prattling, and liberated itself from words of wrong. So when people speak wrong words this means a denial of this experience, which is why the Sufis want to leave behind them a clean record. On the material side they want to follow Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, they want to pay the debt. On the moral side they want to have forgiven the enemy, they want to have forgiven the ones who have done them wrong in order that they have this closeness to Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.
All that is said is, ‘Peace! Peace!’
This is a most tremendous Sura. All that is said is Salam, Salam, peace, peace. This saying of peace is the Ihsan of the Islam. This is why we find it very offensive when the kuffar start telling us Islam means peace. It does not mean peace, it means submission, and in fact it also means war. But for the muminun, in the Ghayb—and by the Ghayb we mean the heavenly Malakut—it means ‘salam, salam’.
Salam brings us to the fact that as I said there was the Mulk and the Malakut, but the Mulk and the Malakut are not conjoined, they are separate/together. Like the “Kun fa yakun” what separates the unseen world and the seen world is what in the Qur’an is called barzakh, which is that between the Mulk and the Malakut is Jabarut. Jabarut is not above, Jabarut is that which makes a separation, not in space or time, but in realities, between the Mulk and Malakut. Jabarut is light, ‘Jabr’ or the Power of Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala, and lights of Allah. Therefore the Muqarabun are the ones who pass into Jabarut, they vanish into Jabarut, into the lights of the Essence. They are disappearing, they are absorbed. And that is what is inside this ayat. “All that is said is salam, salam.”
All that is said is, ‘Peace! Peace!’
In other words there is no Mulk, there is no Malakut, they are illuminated by Jabarut. Inshallah we will continue tomorrow.
And the Companions of the Right:
what of the Companions of the Right?
Amid thornless lote-trees and fruit-laden acacias
and wide-spreading shade and outpouring water
and fruits in abundance never failing, unrestricted.
And on elevated couches.
We have brought maidens into being
and made them purest virgins,
devoted, passionate, of like age,
for the Companions of the Right.
A large group of the earlier people
and a large group of the later ones.
And the Companions of the Left:
what of the Companions of the Left?
Amid searing blasts and scalding water
and the murk of thick black smoke,
providing no coolness and no pleasure.
Before that they were living in luxury,
persisting in immense wrongdoing
and saying, ‘When we are dead
and turned to dust and bones,
shall we then be raised again,
or our forefathers, the earlier peoples?’
Say: ‘The earlier and the later peoples
will certainly all be gathered
to the appointment of a specified Day.
Then you, you misguided, you deniers
will eat from the tree of Zaqqum,
filling your stomachs with it
and drink scalding water on top of it,
slurping like thirst-crazed camels.
This will be their hospitality on the Day of Judgement!’
We created you so why do you not confirm the truth?
* * * * *
Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, has explained about the first group. These are the ‘Arifin, the Muqarabun, the ones who have drawn near. Remember that one of the names of Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, is Al-Qarib, He is the Near One, so to be Muqarabun is to be under this name of Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, which is the Qarib. Also He explains in the Qur’an that Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, “is nearer to you than your jugular vein.” That means it is a nearness which is nearer than nearness. It is not by distance, it does not have any distance in it, even miniscule distance. It is in fact presence, Hadhrat al-Rabbani—Presence of Lordship. Now Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, has explained of the Forerunners, the Muqarabun, “A lot of the earlier people and a few of the later people.”
Then He explains about the Companions of the Right, then He goes on to the Companions of the Left. Now, about the Companions of the Right, Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, says, “A large group of the earlier people and a large group of the later ones.” With the Companions of the Right they are, “A large group of the earlier people and a large group of the later people.” But of the Companions of the Left, Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, then says, “The earlier and the later peoples will certainly all be gathered to the appointment of a specified Day.” The distinction Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, makes about the Companions of the Left is that they have denied Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala. He calls them “the deniers”.
The evidence Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, puts down before them is, “We created you so why do you not confirm the truth?” In other words the Event of the creation, that is the ‘Kun’, is denied. In fact the denial is the denial of Existence itself. It means therefore that the confirmation of the truth is not based on an idea, that therefore da’wa is not calling people to the rational argument of Islam. It has a rational argument, but it is not the rational argument but the experiential denial that makes the deniers deny. They deny in the face of the event of existence.
There is the famous meeting of Thomas Carlyle, who was very close to Islam and the first person in western society to write in honour of Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and some grand lady in London. She said, “Mr. Carlyle, I accept the universe.” And Carlyle is reported to have said, “By God madam, you had better!” That is really the voice of certainty, because there is in some way a rejection of existence involved in the act of kufr, which is why it is called kufr because it is covering up the evidentiary.
We are just about to come to the dimensions of how Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, explicates it.
Have you thought about the sperm you ejaculate?
Is it you who create it
or are We the Creator?
We have decreed death for you
and We will not be forestalled
in replacing you
with others the same as you
and re-forming you
in a way you know nothing about.
You have known the first formation,
So will you not pay heed?
So now this astonishing Sura has four questions that Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, puts to the human creatures. The first one is about the sperm. We touched on this earlier, the matter of the dynamic of life. When Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, asks about reflection about the sperm it is that people knew that it was this that created life, and activated life, this factor, this element, this dimension has in it something that activates a process from which the child emerges. So that is a creational event, it is an event in itself.
We can go back and look in the dictionary of the Qur’an which defines every important root in the Qur’an and explains it. The root of Waw-Qaf-‘Ayn is given three aspects which are then backed up by ayats of Qur’an. The three aspects are very significant. The first one is the passing of intellect, the intellect of man which passes, which dies. The second aspect of Waqi‘a is towards the heavens because it refers to the Ayat where Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, tells about the death of Sayyidina ‘Isa and how he was raised up to Him. And the third dimension of the Waqi‘a is the death of the Arwah, the time of the death when the Arwah are released and freed from the body. To this it gives two references in Surat an-Nahl, which speak of those who died with good angels, and then those wrongdoers who died with other angels. In other words there were specific angels to take the people Allah was pleased with into the next world, and another set of angels to take those He was not pleased with.
So this division is an absolutely uncompromising division. But it puts together two completely distinct, opposite aspects of life, you could say life/death, and makes them the same from a point of view of spiritual unveiling. That is that the sperm contains this pulse, this dynamic from which unfolds what we now call the DNA and so on, that one part of this unfolding creates a liver and another part creates a kidney. It does not cross over, and if it does it is like an aborted foetus that has gone wrong in the sense that all the other foetuses have gone right. They obey this command. Now no-one nor any analysis can explain the process by which this happens. It is not a mystery, and we actually know the physical process, but that there should be such a process and the design of the process, and the nature of the design, are part of this astonishing reality, not in which we live but of which we are the product. And so Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, is placing the coming-into-being of the creature together with the reality of the going-out-of-existence of the creature. It is that both of these two opposites are encounters with the Divine. So that Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, says, “Is it you who created or are We the Creator?”
The illusion is that the parents created the child, but that is not the case, because this dynamic was in non-existence, came into existence, and a process took place from which this unfolding of the human creature happened. “Is it you who created or are We the Creator?” And then immediately having said that He says, “We have decreed death for you,”—so He has decreed that this process should take place, and also this other process which He has decreed, which is your death. The bringing-into-being of you is a Divine event and the taking-out-of-existence is the same Divine event, because there is One: la ilaha illallah, wahdahu la sharikalah, nothing associated with Him. It is one Divine power in both these situations. “And We will not be forestalled in replacing you with others the same as you and re-forming you in a way you know nothing about. You have known the first formation so will you not pay heed?” You have recognised the bringing into being of yourself, now are you not going to recognise that you are also going to be brought into being a second time? Just to get the perspective of this there is a very beautiful Sufic narration where a poor woman began to cry, and her husband said, “What is the matter?” And she said, “O, it is so awful. We have no food and I do not know how I am going to feed the family.” He replied, “Do not say such a thing, do not ever say such a thing!” He said, “Look here, when the child was in the womb did Allah not feed it? Was there not blood flowing to the child and the child was fed by your blood?” She said, “Yes.” “When the child came out did not milk start to flow from your breast? And you fed the child with the milk?” She said, “Yes.” And he said, “And when it reached a certain age, did not the teeth come out of its mouth and at that point you fed it solid food? Allah has been feeding the child all the time, is He going to stop now?” This is one continuous process. So when the peasants say, “You eat till you die,” or “Live old horse and you’ll get corn,” all of these sayings are confirming the reality that Allah is the provider, He is the Razzaq, with no secondary cause. The child is not the child of the parents in the spiritual sense. They are the instruments of it, but the creative act is the Divine act of life coming into being and creating the new creation.
But what we are being told here is that this the death and the decreed death are one phenomenon. This is the Waqi‘a
al-Waqi‘a, it is the event of the Event, it is in fact post-mortem, the spiritual reality, in the sense that post-natal is the procedure from which the human creature acts what he acts in order that there is written for him what is written for him, which defines what will be waiting for him in the Next World. So the reality of this world is in fact that it is a reflective reality of what comes after it. This devastating opposite set of realities of the Companions of the Right and the Companions of the Left is the indication that that is what is being worked out in the human situation. The human situation has Companions of the Right and it has Companions of the Left. That is who we are, the humans. We are of these two groups.
Now we come to the second question Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, asks.
Have you thought about what you cultivate?
Is it you who make it germinate
or are We the Germinator?
If We wished We could have made it broken stubble.
You would then be left devoid of crops, distraught:
‘We are ruined, in fact we are destitute!’
The first question is, “Have you thought of the sperm?” and the second question is, “Have you thought about what you cultivate?” So the reality of the creature is the reality of the creation, of the earth. The reality of the person is also the reality of the world. What you cultivate, again you do not do it, Allah does it. “Is it you who make it germinate?” This impulse, this pulse of life—this seed that looks dried, a husk, in your hand it looks absolutely dead—you put it in the earth, and the rain comes and the season comes. When the season is right and when the earth is right and the rain comes, when all of these things come together, suddenly there moves up this green shoot. This is the world in which we are standing, this is what Allah has put us on.
Allah says, “Did you make it germinate or are We the Germinator?” Once that is posited, that is the foundational reality upon which you must judge your own existence—you have to measure yourself at this level by this comprehension, which is why the People of the Right have a knowledge that the People of the Left do not have, because the latter have covered over the answer, and if they cover over the answer it is a licence for them to imagine that they are the masters of the universe and they can do what they like. But Allah says, “If We wished We could have made it broken stubble. You would then be left devoid of crops, distraught: ‘We are ruined, in fact we are destitute!’
Have you thought about the water that you drink?
Is it you who sent it down from the clouds
or are We the Sender?
If We wished We could have made it bitter,
so will you not give thanks?
So then Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, asks about your life and asks about the earth, and then He asks about the water. Again the same question, “Are we the Sender?” This fecundating, life-giving water, is it yours or has is come from Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala? This is what has to be answered.
Then He takes another dimension, which is why they are the Companions of the Left, because they are not giving thanks. You see, He then takes it a step further, He says that if you think you have created the earth and then it does not yield, you say, “We are destitute.” So your first condition is a complaint. And about the water that brings it to life, He says, “We are the Sender,” you have not made this water come. Then He says, “So will you not give thanks?” The thing that is demanded of the Companions of the Left that would allow them to pass over to be Companions of the Right is that they give thanks. All through the Qur’an there is a repetition of two things, that the ‘hamd’ precedes the ‘shukr’. In the words of the ‘ulama, “Alhamdulillahi wa shukrulillah.” Why? Because hamd belongs to Allah. “Alhamdulillahi rabbil ‘alameen,” Praise belongs to the Lord of all the Worlds. Shukr belongs to us to give to Allah.
First you have to recognise that you are a created event, and in a spiritual sense you are one created event, you are the created event of the ‘Kun’, and you have been enthroned with knowledge. “So will you not give thanks?” After the ‘hamd’ comes thanks. Now thanks is from the slave to the Lord. Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, “The ‘ibadah that Allah loves most is the du‘a of the mumin.” Why? Because it is a recognition of helplessness and it is asking Allah for help, it is asking Allah to deal with, to solve, to take on, to encompass. Which is why these suicide people have insulted Allah and slandered Allah, because it is an abnegation of His solving the situation and thinking that there can be mercy. It is as if Allah had withheld his mercy to allow them to kill themselves. Allah says in the Qur’an, “Allah never puts on someone more than they can bear.” Therefore there cannot be a reason to kill yourself, because you have to stay alive and have your victory.
Connected to shukr we put the du‘a because thanks is thanking Allah for what you have received and really the du’a is asking for more. It is saying, “And this, and this,” it is recognising the ongoing, continuing Rahma of Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala.
Have you thought about the fire you light?
Is it you who make the trees that fuel it grow
or are We the Grower?
We have made it to be a reminder
and a comfort for travellers in the wild.
So there we have the dimensions of the question from the sperm to what is cultivated to the water that you drink and then the fire that you light. In other words the elements of existence: air, earth, fire and water, the elements of existence are recognised as coming from Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala. Not only that, but there is another dimension here that Allah has indicated about the fire that you light, that the fire is not something that, as it were, just sparks into existence from nothing, rather it has a fuel. Everything prepared is there before. The fuel for the fire is there before you come to light the fire, or make the fire. This is the same with provision. “We have made it to be a reminder and a comfort for travellers in the wild,” and that is that when you light the fire it has been prepared for you by Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, over years. The tree has grown and has been growing for years. And then at a certain point you light that fire, but it has been waiting for you from when it was a seed, and it grew in the earth, and it became a tree, in order that you could come and break off the branch and gather it and set fire to it. The provision is a continuous process.
The same also with the food. As in the story I mentioned of the Sufi with his family, the matter of provision is not that the meal is put in front of you and you say this is provision from Allah, it is much more extraordinary. The food, as the Sufis say, has been coming to you for years. The farmer has his flock of sheep, the sheep have given birth to the lambs, the man has taken the lambs to the market, he has sold them in the market, and then the lamb has gone to the butcher, and the butcher has butchered it, and then you have bought the meat. So there is the whole process of the food, and then the food is taken to the kitchen and is prepared, and eventually it comes in front of you. All the vegetables have come from the garden, the sheep has come from the hill, and again in it is the lighting of the fire to cook it. All these processes have gone on over years to culminate in a moment of existence when you partake of all this that Allah has provided for you. So this giving thanks has not got any end.
So glorify the name of your Lord, the Magnificent!
“Bismi-rabbika al-adheem,” and again the reason this is the Wird of the Alawiya Tariqa is because the Ism of Allah is the ‘Adheem, and the Ism al-‘Adhim as we know is the door of m‘arifat, it is, “Allaaah.” Shaykh al-Alawi would say, “And so you must recite the Supreme Name.” That is the message of the Sufis. And so you must recite the Ism al-‘Adhim because this knowledge is so tremendous that to grasp it is to set you above all people.
And I swear by the falling of the stars –
and that is a mighty oath if you only knew –
it truly is a Noble Qur’an in a well protected Book.
No-one may touch it except the purified.
Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, says, “And I swear by the falling of the stars—and that is a mighty oath if you only knew—and I swear by the falling of the stars it truly is a Noble Qur’an in a well protected Book.” This is very significant because Allah puts Qur’an and Book together. Allah says, “Fala, uqsimu bi mawaaqi‘il nujum,” so He uses the same word: “I swear by the Waqi‘a of the stars.”
Allah says, “I swear by the Waqi‘a of the stars,” because the Waqi‘a as we have said is death, death of the person, but, “I swear by the Waqi‘a of the stars—and that is a mighty oath if you only knew—it truly is a noble Qur’an,” it is a noble recitation, “in a well protected Book.” So it is a recitation in a well protected Book. And that means it is in itself an event, it is in itself a reality encased in the phenomenon of descending on the heart of Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. The “well protected Book” is Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and the Qur’an is what is in the heart of Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, which is why the Laylat al-Qadr is the night in which it descended into his heart. The Night of Qadr: again, we have been talking about Mulk and Malakut, and He swears by the blacking-out of existence that this is this noble event of the revelation of Qur’an on Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and that is Qadr, that is Power, that is Majesty, that is neither Mulk nor Malakut but the Barzakh between the Mulk and the Malakut, because it comes from the Jabarut, and it emerges in the Malakut with Jibril and it descends from Malakut into the Mulk, into the heart of Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. That is why Allah says, “It is a noble Qur’an in a well protected Book,” and it is by a swearing, by an oath about the abolition of the stars.
Then He says, “No-one may touch it except the purified.” On the face of it, it is telling us that it is the adab that you do not touch the Qur’an except when in wudu—no-one may touch it except the purified. But we can take two dimensions from this. That is that no-one can really approach Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, unless they are purified, and if they are not, they get burned up. “Perish Abu Lahab!” because he did not recognise that this man was not the son of his father, but was the Rasul of Allah. So he could not approach, he could not touch, he could not get near to Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.
Revelation sent down from the Lord of all the worlds.
So what was sent down on Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is from the Lord of all the Worlds. Now the modern kuffar are saying, “Well you know, you have got your god and we have got ours,” as if the Muslim god is some other god from the christian god, and so on and so on. But it is the revelation from the Lord of all the Worlds. It is the Lord, the Creator of the universe who is that One who has sent down the message on Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.
Do you nonetheless regard this discourse with scorn
and think your provision depends on your denial of the truth?
Again this is the addressing of the Companions of the Left, “Do you, despite all this, look on this discourse with scorn and think your provision depends on your denial of the truth?” An amazing unveiling of the nature of the kafir. They deem it necessary to avoid the Divine phenomenon and the worship of the Divine in order to get on with the business of acquiring their stuff and their provision. They cannot do it unless they make this cover-up. And Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, exposes it and He says, “You look with scorn on this,” in other words you are rejecting it. And then “You think your provision depends on your denial of the truth,” not your provision depends on your scientific analysis of how the earth yields and how you increase the yield by genetically modifying the crops. No, no! It is dependent on you denying the truth, because you could not go through all of these procedures unless they had as a foundation a denial of the truth. The whole technological project, the whole atheist programme is based on the denial of the truth. It is not based on some ongoing surfing along the benefits of technical advance.
Why then, when death reaches his throat
and you are at that moment looking on –
and We are nearer him than you but you cannot see –
why then, if you are not subject to Our command,
do you not send it back if you are telling the truth?
In other words it comes back to this certainty, this ‘Yaqin’. Allah asks the question, “When death reaches the throat, and you are that moment looking on,” when you are at the death bed and Allah says, “We,” Allah, “are nearer him than you but you cannot see. Why then, if you are not subject to Our command, do you not send it back if you are telling the truth?” How is it that you then do not say, “Keep living! Keep living!” You cannot do it.
At that moment, there is a presence. There is the presence of the dying man, there is the presence of the kafir watching him, and there is Allah watching them, and watching them with a nearness to the dying man that is so near that the observer cannot see it. And the reality of that moment is hidden from them. Therefore, what Allah unveils for us from this is that death is not this terrible thing that is veiled, or this meaningless thing that the kuffar have to say in the end that it is. But it is the very secret of the Absolute Majesty of Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala. The non-existence of what we consider real is put in its non-place. Because what we are really coming to is an understanding about the nature of the individual death and the abolition of the stars, of the cosmos.
But the truth is that if he is one of the Those Brought Near,
there is solace and sweetness and a Garden of Delight.
And if he is one of the Companions of the Right,
‘Peace be upon you!’ from the Companions of the Right
And if he is one of the misguided deniers,
there is hospitality of scalding water
and roasting in the Blazing Fire.
This is the contract offered to the human creature. If he is one of the Muqarabun there is solace and sweetness and a Garden of Delight. In other words the actions on this earth that have brought that person near to Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, transform into solace, sweetness and a Garden of Delight in the Unseen. If he is one of the Companions of the Right: peace be upon him, ‘Salam’, from the Companions of the Right. And if he is one of the misguided deniers then there is the fire and the terrible scalding water.
This is indeed the Truth of Certainty.
So glorify the Name of your Lord, the Magnificent!
So Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, says, “This is indeed the Haqq al-Yaqin.” Now the ‘Haqq al-Yaqin’ becomes clear to us, while those people who cannot understand the Yawm al-Qiyama cannot even think about it, since it has not got any kind of meaning for them, such people even think in terms of how millions of people are going to rise up on the same day, what it is going to be like and so on.
What is interesting you see, what we now discover is that the thing is already predetermined to have meaning for us. And of course the physical recognition of it comes in the Hajj. The Hajj has not got any particular salat connected to it, like the stoning, or the Tawwaf. The thing that makes the Hajj is that, even if for an instant, you have to stand on ‘Arafat. And when you stand on ‘Arafat, what is the reality of standing on ‘Arafat? It is wherever you look you see two or three million people all standing in their shrouds, in their burial robes. It is like a dress rehearsal for the real thing. So you see the possibility, you see the reality of it.
What we discover is because of the nature of this event that we have seen, the Waqi‘a, which even in the definition of this term in the dictionary of the Qur’an is identified with Allah’s, subhanahu wa ta’ala, raising up Sayyidina ‘Isa on his death, is that when the human creature dies, he passes from the in-time to the non-time. Therefore, in that sense everyone dies at the same time, from the beginning, from Sayyidina Adam until the end of the world. The dying of the people is at the same instant, because it is beyond ‘instant’. The in-time of the Mulk stops before the non-time of the Malakut and the Barzakh of the Jabarut. There is no timeness in it, so if you pass from the in-time to the non-time then you all are there at the same time, or rather non-time. So the Yawm al-Qiyama is The Day. Rasul, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, “Ya Abu Bakr, Yawm al-Yawm!” He meant that Day of this day, that Day is the day there is no day. That is why Abu Bakr nearly collapsed, and this is the Waqi‘a, this is indeed the Haqq al-Yaqin. “So glorify the Name of your Lord, the Magnificent!” So recite the Ism
al-‘Adhim to stay in this knowledge, to live in this knowledge and not to forget it in the business of the day, not to forget it in the enormous splendour of the creation that Allah has offered to us. So you must recite the name of Allah, the Ism al-‘Adhim.