Surah Al Fajr – The Dawn: Happiness and Peace in God

Introduction

The first five verses talk about the future of Islam. The future of Islam is discussed in greater detail in the commentary of 61:9.

The next few describe the fate of some who chose to ignore Divine message.

The verses 15-20 give us the very purpose of religion, which is to guide us into compassionate living, a message often repeated in the Quran. Please see the commentary of Surah Al Ma’un – The Common Kindness and an article: Two Hundred Verses about Compassionate Living in the Quran.

The last few verses of this surah talk about human psyche and how to reach the spiritual stage, where one is happy and contented, which we will call ‘soul at peace,’ in Arabic called Nafse Mutmainah.

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

89:1-5. We call to witness the approaching Dawn, and the Ten Nights, and the Even and the Odd, and the Night when it is on the move. Is there not in all this strong evidence for one gifted with understanding?

 وَالْفَجْرِ

 وَلَيَالٍ عَشْرٍ

 وَالشَّفْعِ وَالْوَتْرِ

 وَاللَّيْلِ إِذَا يَسْرِ

 هَلْ فِي ذَٰلِكَ قَسَمٌ لِّذِي حِجْرٍ

89:6-14. Know you not how your lord dealt with the tribe of ‘Ad, of the city of Iram of lofty structures, the like of which has not been created in these parts; and
with the tribe of Thamud who hollowed out rocks in the valley, and the mighty and powerful Pharaoh? All of them committed excesses in their lands and spread corruption? Your Lord then laid upon them the scourge of chastisement. Surely, your Lord is on the watch.

 أَلَمْ تَرَ كَيْفَ فَعَلَ رَبُّكَ بِعَادٍ

 إِرَمَ ذَاتِ الْعِمَادِ

 لَّتِي لَمْ يُخْلَقْ مِثْلُهَا فِي الْبِلَادِ

 وَثَمُودَ الَّذِينَ جَابُوا الصَّخْرَ بِالْوَادِ

 وَفِرْعَوْنَ ذِي الْأَوْتَادِ

 الَّذِينَ طَغَوْا فِي الْبِلَادِ

 فَأَكْثَرُوا فِيهَا الْفَسَادَ

 فَصَبَّ عَلَيْهِمْ رَبُّكَ سَوْطَ عَذَابٍ

 إِنَّ رَبَّكَ لَبِالْمِرْصَادِ

89:15-20. It is characteristic of man that when his Lord tries him and bestows honors and favors upon him, he boasts: Even my Lord honors me! But when He tries him and limits his means, he laments: My Lord has humiliated me without cause. No indeed!, You honor not the orphan, and you urge not one another to feed the poor, and you squander inherited wealth extravagantly, and you love affluence inordinately.

فَأَمَّا الْإِنسَانُ إِذَا مَا ابْتَلَاهُ رَبُّهُ فَأَكْرَمَهُ وَنَعَّمَهُ فَيَقُول رَبِّي أَكْرَمَنِ

 وَأَمَّا إِذَا مَا ابْتَلَاهُ فَقَدَرَ عَلَيْهِ رِزْقَهُ فَيَقُولُ رَبِّي أَهَانَنِ

 كَلَّا ۖ بَل لَّا تُكْرِمُونَ الْيَتِيمَ

  وَلَا تَحَاضُّونَ عَلَىٰ طَعَامِ الْمِسْكِينِ

 وَتَأْكُلُونَ التُّرَاثَ أَكْلًا لَّمًّا

  وَتُحِبُّونَ الْمَالَ حُبًّا جَمًّا

89: 21-26. No indeed! When the earth is pounded to dust and your Lord comes with the angels, row after row; and hell is brought near; on that day, man would desire to take advantage of the admonition, but how can he then do so? He will lament: Would that I had laid up something for this life! On that day none can punish like unto His punishment, and none can bind so securely with bonds like His.

 كَلَّا إِذَا دُكَّتِ الْأَرْضُ دَكًّا دَكًّا

 وَجَاءَ رَبُّكَ وَالْمَلَكُ صَفًّا صَفًّا

 وَجِيءَ يَوْمَئِذٍ بِجَهَنَّمَ ۚ يَوْمَئِذٍ يَتَذَكَّرُ الْإِنسَانُ وَأَنَّىٰ لَهُ الذِّكْرَىٰ

 يَقُولُ يَا لَيْتَنِي قَدَّمْتُ لِحَيَاتِي

 فَيَوْمَئِذٍ لَّا يُعَذِّبُ عَذَابَهُ أَحَدٌ

 وَلَا يُوثِقُ وَثَاقَهُ أَحَدٌ

89:27-30. The righteous will be greeted with: O soul at rest, return to your Lord, thou well pleased with Him and He well pleased with you. So enter among My chosen servants and enter My Garden.

 يَا أَيَّتُهَا النَّفْسُ الْمُطْمَئِنَّةُ

 ارْجِعِي إِلَىٰ رَبِّكِ رَاضِيَةً مَّرْضِيَّةً

  فَادْخُلِي فِي عِبَادِي

 وَادْخُلِي جَنَّتِي

Commentary

89:6-14

These verses are about how the study of history and archaeology can teach us lessons about justice and human rights. In this day and age of information and international travel it is far easier and productive to study these subjects than in the centuries past.  For example to study Thamud a visit to Madian Saleh in Saudi Arabia and to Petra in Jordan can be very instructive. According to UNESCO website:

The Archaeological Site of Al-Hijr (Madâin Sâlih) is the first World Heritage property to be inscribed in Saudi Arabia. Formerly known as Hegra it is the largest conserved site of the civilization of the Nabataeans south of Petra in Jordan. It features well-preserved monumental tombs with decorated facades dating from the 1st century BC to the 1st century AD. The site also features some 50 inscriptions of the pre-Nabataean period and some cave drawings. Al-Hijr bears a unique testimony to Nabataean civilization. With its 111 monumental tombs, 94 of which are decorated, and water wells, the site is an outstanding example of the Nabataeans’ architectural accomplishment and hydraulic expertise.

Madian Saleh
Al-Hijr Archaeological Site (Madâin Sâlih) (Saudi Arabia) © Editions Gelbart

Regarding Petra UNESCO website states:

Situated between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea and inhabited since prehistoric times, the rock-cut capital city of the Nabateans, became during Hellenistic and Roman times a major caravan centre for the incense of Arabia, the silks of China and the spices of India, a crossroads between Arabia, Egypt and Syria-Phoenicia. Petra is half-built, half-carved into the rock, and is surrounded by mountains riddled with passages and gorges. An ingenious water management system allowed extensive settlement of an essentially arid area during the Nabataean, Roman and Byzantine periods. It is one of the world’s richest and largest archaeological sites set in a dominating red sandstone landscape.

The Outstanding Universal Value of Petra resides in the vast extent of elaborate tomb and temple architecture; religious high places; the remnant channels, tunnels and diversion dams that combined with a vast network of cisterns and reservoirs which controlled and conserved seasonal rains, and the extensive archaeological remains including of copper mining, temples, churches and other public buildings. The fusion of Hellenistic architectural facades with traditional Nabataean rock-cut temple/tombs including the Khasneh, the Urn Tomb, the Palace Tomb, the Corinthian Tomb and the Deir (“monastery”) represents a unique artistic achievement and an outstanding architectural ensemble of the first centuries BC to AD. The varied archaeological remains and architectural monuments from prehistoric times to the medieval periods bear exceptional testimony to the now lost civilisations which succeeded each other at the site.

Petra
Petra (Jordan) © Silvan Rehfeld

Regarding the people of ‘Ad and the city of Iram, we present some suggested reading here: The people of ‘Ad to whom the prophet Hud was sent.

89:15-20

These verses describe the selfish human psyche in the time of affluence and adversity. If we lead a God conscious life, we would not oscillate to extremes given our circumstances of ease or difficulty, as we submit in gratitude in time of ease and find hope in Allah in time of need and trial.

The verses tell us that the very purpose of religion is to guide us into compassionate living, a message often repeated in the Quran. Please see the commentary of Surah Al Ma’un – The Common Kindness and an article: Two Hundred Verses about Compassionate Living in the Quran.

89:21-26

Here the subject goes to the often repeated theme of Afterlife, which is we believe the most important deterrent against sin and the starting inducement for the righteous behavior.

According to Seyyed Hossein Nasr:

Ultimately, God will be the only one who punishes anyone on the Day of Judgment, meaning that there is no punishment like the punishment inflicted on that Day. The binding alludes to the chains and shackles mentioned in 13:5; 34:33; 36:8; 40:71; 76:4. Others read, “He punishes none with his punishment, and He binds none with his binding” (Al, Qu, R), meaning that God will not punish anyone with the punishment of another or that God will not punish anyone as severely as He punishes the disbelievers (Qu). This interpretation could be general, meaning that no one suffers the punishment or binding due another, since none shall bear the burden of another (6:164; 17:15; 35:18; 39:7; 53:38; Al, R, Z). It could also be specific, applying to a particular individual (Al, Q, Z) or to Satan (Al).

The verses that follow describe the psyche and reward of the righteous and ‘soul at peace.’

89:27-30

Allah says that Islam is the religion of the true and the basic human nature: “Devote yourself single-mindedly to the way of life taught by God, and thus follow the nature created by Him. The nature according to which He has fashioned mankind. There is no altering the creation of Allah. That is the everlasting faith. But most people know not.” (30:30) But, what is human nature? Islam, other religions and science and psychology give us different insights.  What has, in this day and age, gathered almost universal acceptance if not in verbal acceptance, than at least how most people conceive it in their day to day life is the Freudian model and of course it is practiced without fully acknowledging the label.

Let us share the Freudian model with you first from Encyclopedia Britannica before we go any further:

Composed of a complicated and often revised mixture of economic, dynamic, and topographical elements, the metapsychology was developed in a series of 12 papers Freud composed during World War I, only some of which were published in his lifetime. Their general findings appeared in two books in the 1920s: Jenseits des Lustprinzips (1920; Beyond the Pleasure Principle) and Das Ich und das Es (1923; The Ego and the Id).

In these works, Freud attempted to clarify the relationship between his earlier topographical division of the psyche into the unconscious, preconscious, and conscious and his subsequent structural categorization into id, ego, and superego. The id was defined in terms of the most primitive urges for gratification in the infant, urges dominated by the desire for pleasure through the release of tension and the cathexis of energy. Ruled by no laws of logic, indifferent to the demands of expediency, unconstrained by the resistance of external reality, the id is ruled by what Freud called the primary process directly expressing somatically generated instincts. Through the inevitable experience of frustration the infant learns to adapt itself to the exigencies of reality. The secondary process that results leads to the growth of the ego, which follows what Freud called the reality principle in contradistinction to the pleasure principle dominating the id. Here the need to delay gratification in the service of self-preservation is slowly learned in an effort to thwart the anxiety produced by unfulfilled desires. What Freud termed defense mechanisms are developed by the ego to deal with such conflicts. Repression is the most fundamental, but Freud also posited an entire repertoire of others, including reaction formation, isolation, undoing, denial, displacement, and rationalization.

The last component in Freud’s trichotomy, the superego, develops from the internalization of society’s moral commands through identification with parental dictates during the resolution of the Oedipus complex. Only partly conscious, the superego gains some of its punishing force by borrowing certain aggressive elements in the id, which are turned inward against the ego and produce feelings of guilt. But it is largely through the internalization of social norms that the superego is constituted, an acknowledgement that prevents psychoanalysis from conceptualizing the psyche in purely biologistic or individualistic terms.

So, ego is the arbiter between id and superego also referred to in the common parlor as conscience. If we try to find the Quranic equivalent for these terms then those are بِالنَّفْسِ اللَّوَّامَةِ mentioned in (75:2), for ‘superego’ and النَّفْسَ لَأَمَّارَةٌ mentioned in (12:53), for ‘id.’

By being just and compassionate towards our fellow humans, as we submit to our superego and manage, direct and control our id, we develop our morality. But, there is a spiritual dimension that each one of us needs and the holy Quran addresses both these, for example, “Indeed, Allah is with those who are God conscious and are compassionate towards the fellow humans.” (16:128)

For details of development of human conscience and superego and how our morality develops by proper application of our superego, please see the commentary of 75:1-2.

As we devote ourselves totally to the greatest reality of our universe, the Transcendent God of the Abrahamic faiths and our eventual eternal  life in the Afterlife, our perceptions and our priorities evolve and we begin to find happiness and peace in God Almighty. The Quranic verses describing the total devotion are:

I have created men, high and low, to worship me. (51:56)

And:

Say, if your fathers, and your sons, and your brethren, and your wives, and your kinsfolk, and the wealth you have acquired, and the trade whose dullness you fear, and the dwellings which you love are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger and striving in His cause, then wait until Allah comes with His judgment; and Allah guides not the disobedient people. (9:23)

And:

Say, ‘My Prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are all for Allah, the Lord of the worlds.’ (6:162)

According to Seyyed Hossein Nasr and colleagues as they talk about these verses:

It is said that these verses are an address from the angels to human beings (Al, Q, R, Sy) or directly from God Himself (Al, R), delivered either at the moment of death, when the soul leaves the body, or on the Day of Resurrection (Q, R, Ts). They play an important role in Muslim piety, as they are often recited in eulogies for the dead and are seen by Sufis and others as a reference to the true nature of the soul when it is purified of all defilements.

The soul at peace is said to be the soul that has certainty (Q, Qu, R); this is the meaning of Abraham’s request to God in 2:260, So that my heart may be at peace (R). The soul at peace is also said to possess true knowledge, or gnosis (ma‘rifah; Qu, R). Elsewhere the soul is said to be at peace in the remembrance of God (13:28; Q Qu, R). From one perspective, the degree of remembrance is in accord with the strength of certainty (Al), both of which are in accord with the degree of peace. Others speak of the soul so illuminated by the heart that all blameworthy character traits have been removed and all praiseworthy character traits are manifest (Jurjani, al—Ta ‘vifdt, 239). It is reported that Ubayy ibn Ka‘b (d. 29/649), one of the leading authorities on the Quran among the Prophet’s Companions, read this verse as “O thou soul secure (aminah), at peace” (Q, R), implying the soul that is not fazed by fear or sorrow (Aj, R), unlike those described in W. 15-16.

The soul is said to have three levels: the soul at peace (v. 27), which is in command of its lusts and desires and has attained certainty; the blaming soul (75:2), which strives to overcome its lusts and desires; and the soul that commands to evil (12:53), which is at the mercy of its lusts and desires; see 75:1-2c; 12:53c. The soul at peace is said to be “that which issues from the light of the first [Divine] Address, through which it was brought into being out of nonexistence by the light of pretemporality (nur al-qidam) and it is at peace with the Real [i.e., God], with His Address, and in union with Him (wa bi wisalihi). Then its Lord calls it to its first origin (ma’din), wherein it inclines, from the first to the last, toward nothing other than witnessing God, content with God through God and content in the Presence of God” (Aj).

That the soul returns to its Lord is understood to imply that it was with its Lord in the Garden before creation (R). Many interpret this verse to mean content with the reward of God and contenting to God for having performed good deeds (Q, R). Others understand it as an indication that one is content with everything that God has decreed for all matters. Still others take it as an indication that the soul returns to the Divine Essence in a state of complete contentment (Aj, K), in which case, content, contenting could be read as two different levels of contentment: the first is the contentment experienced from God through God, and the second, the contentment experienced when standing before God (Aj). Some emphasize that there can be no contentment with God until God is content with souls, as in 5:119; 9:100; 58:22; and 98:8: God being content with them and they being content with Him (K). Contentment is seen by some as one of the most important virtues; it has been described as ‘the greatest gate of God and the paradise of this world’ (Qu, Risalah).

In traditional commentaries ‘soul at peace,’ is sometimes referred to as showing up in the address by the angels at death, but, it is a state of mind achieved through a life time of righteous living and devotion to God.

maslow-hierachy-of-needs

In secular terms, the evolution of human psyche can be best described in the Maslow’s theory of self actualization, different stages of which are shown in the above picture. According to Encyclopedia Britannica:

Self-actualization is at the pinnacle of what Maslow defined as a hierarchy of human needs. In this hierarchy, lower needs (described as ‘pre-potent’ needs) typically must be met before higher needs emerge. Physiological needs are the most primary in this hierarchy. Although Maslow declined to make a list of physiological needs, citing the nearly endless contributors to physical homeostasis, ‘food’ was his prime example. Maslow suggested that if an individual is starving or near starving, he or she is essentially defined by that hunger. In most cases, an individual with extreme hunger will eschew higher needs, such as love and belonging, to fulfill the body’s need for nourishment.

Once physiological needs are met, the next level of need—safety—immediately rises to consciousness and begins to drive behavior. Thus, the need for food may be forgotten or suddenly seem trivial compared with the need for physical protection, provided the individual continues to have a steady food supply. This cycle of need, fulfillment, and forgetting occurs at every stage of the hierarchy.

Maslow asserted that average adults in affluent, organized societies have few safety needs under typical conditions. Most have little need to worry about physical attacks or fires, for example. Thus, safety needs in these individuals are expressed in subtle ways, such as the desire for savings accounts and steady jobs. However, Maslow noted that safety needs drive individuals in less stable conditions, such as those living in low socioeconomic conditions or under wartime conditions. He also suggested that certain mental health conditions reflect, in part, safety needs. He argued that individuals with neurotic or compulsive tendencies are psychologically similar to children in their sense of danger. However, although children truly are dependent on others for safety, the neurotic individual only feels as if this is the case. Likewise, just as children seek to avoid unpredictable events because of the danger they might present, people with compulsive behaviors try to make the world orderly and predictable to avoid perceived danger.

Love needs are next in Maslow’s hierarchy. These include friendship, family, and sexual love, as well as the desire to be accepted by peer groups and to receive affection. To meet love needs, individuals must be positioned to both give and receive love. Maslow, like many theorists, psychologists, and psychiatrists, suggested that the failure to fulfill love needs is at the root of much of modern psychopathology.

Near the top of Maslow’s hierarchy are esteem needs. These needs include the desire for competence, high self-regard, respect, a sense of strength, and general self-worth. Maslow noted that if these needs are not met, an individual either becomes deeply discouraged or develops maladjusted methods for coping with feelings of inferiority and worthlessness. Only after these needs—physiological, safety, love, and esteem—are met can an individual begin to be motivated by the need for self-actualization.

In secular terms self actualization is described as the highest state, but this is conceptualized without any reference to our Creator, on whom we are so utterly dependent. We believe that all these stages in Maslow’s description are correct and useful concepts, but there is a yet a higher state of ‘soul at peace’ or ‘soul at rest,’ which is a state of self transcendence beyond self actualization. When one grows in a realization of infinity beyond one’s parochial concerns, having experienced a life time of moral living at peace with his or her fellow humans and tasted the extreme of the blessings of Allah, having his or her prayers accepted in trials and becoming content with the will of God, where he or she could not achieve his or her wishes. It is a state of human psyche, born in this very life as it gets ready for its eternal fellowship with All=Knowing, All-Powerful, Gracious and Merciful God, who is His or Her very own now, as the mutual love is experienced, acknowledged and fully appreciated.

According to Seyyed Hossein Nasr and colleagues as they talk about verses 29-30:

Among My servants means among the righteous servants, as in the supplication of Solomon in 27:19: My Lord, . . . cause me to enter, through Thy Mercy, among Thy righteous servants! (Aj; cf. 29:9). In this sense it is read as an address to the spiritual elect (K). Some read, ‘Enter into My servants,’ meaning their bodies, thus alluding to spirits returning to bodies for the bodily resurrection (Q, R, Sy, Ts). Some say it can mean both at the same time (Al). According to several ahadith, the Hereafter has progressive levels with lower and higher gardens. Thus, while most take My Garden as an allusion to Paradise in general, some take it as an allusion to the highest Garden, the Garden of the Divine Essence, in the very Presence of God (K); see the essay ‘Death, Dying, and the Afterlife in the Quran.’

3 thoughts on “Surah Al Fajr – The Dawn: Happiness and Peace in God

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s