وَلِكُلٍّ وِجْهَةٌ هُوَ مُوَلِّيهَا فَاسْتَبِقُواْ الْخَيْرَاتِ أَيْنَ مَا تَكُونُواْ يَأْتِ بِكُمُ اللّهُ جَمِيعًا إِنَّ اللّهَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ
148. "Everyone has a direction to which he turns, so hasten to precede each other towards all that is good, Wherever you (may) be, Allah will bring you altogether (unto Him); surely Allah is All-Powerful over all things,"
This verse is, in fact, an answer to the Jews who made a vast uproar about the event of the change of Qiblah. It says:
There had been different directions of the Qiblah during the history of prophets. The change of the direction of a Qiblah is not a strange thing, because it is not like the principles of the religion which are permanent, nor is it similar to Divine affairs which are impossible to interfere in, Therefore, do not make such a big deal about the Qiblah,
Instead of spending all your time on talking about this minor subject, you had better pay attention to doing good deeds and having pure intentions which have a broad racing field where you can challenge to precede each other, because the criterion of the value of your existence is your pure good actions,
This meaning is just like what is stated in verse 177 of the current Surah:
If you want to examine Islam or Muslims, you can utilize this criterion for analysis, not the problem of the change of the Qiblah.
Then, as warning to the objectors and encouraging the good-doers, it says:
“...Wherever you (may) be, Allah will bring you altogether (unto Him)..." in the Great Court of the Hereafter which is the final stage of reward and punishment.
It is not such that some be busy doing righteous works and some others do not do anything but destruction and spend their time spoiling others' deeds and, yet, these two groups be treated equally without having any reckoning or any recompense.
The idea may seem surprising for some people that how it is possible that Allah gathers the particles of the scattered dusts of men wherever they may be, and brings them into a new life, then, it immediately says:
Indeed, the existence of this statement at the end of the verse is evidence for the statement preceding it, which says:
According to numerous traditions narrated from the holy Ahlul Bayt (as) cited in Islamic literature, the expression: "Wherever you (may) be, Allah will bring you altogether (unto Him)" has been rendered into the adherents of Imam al-Mahdi, the twelfth Imam (as).
It is quoted in 'Rauqat-ul-Kafi' from Imam Muhammad Baqir (as) who, after mentioning this expression, said:
"It means the adherents of Imam Gha'im (as) who consist of three hundred and thirteen men.
By Allah, they are the objective meaning of the phrase / ummat-ul-ma'dudah /. By Allah, they all will gather together at the same time like the autumnal wind-driven broken clouds that become cumulus." 1
It is also narrated from Ali-ibn-Mosa-ar-Rida, the eighth Imam (as), who has said: "By Allah, when al-Mahdi (as) rises, Allah will gather all our followers from all cities unto him." 2
There is no doubt that this is one of the deep innate meanings of the verse. Based on Islamic traditions, we know that there are layers upon layers of meaning concerning the verses of the Qur'an.
One of them is the apparent meaning which is universal and general; and others, which are the deeply hidden ones which none knows except the Prophet (S), the sinless Imams (as), and those whom Allah wills.
In other words, these traditions refer to this very meaning that the Creator, Who is able to gather the particles of the scattered dusts of men from different parts of the world, can easily bring the adherents of al-Mahdi (as) on one day and at one time together to strike the first spark of the establishment of the revolution for the settlement of the godly government in order to put an end to tyranny and transgression, and establish Divine Justice among people throughout the world.
وَمِنْ حَيْثُ خَرَجْتَ فَوَلِّ وَجْهَكَ شَطْرَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ وَإِنَّهُ لَلْحَقُّ مِن رَّبِّكَ وَمَا اللّهُ بِغَافِلٍ عَمَّا تَعْمَلُونَ
وَمِنْ حَيْثُ خَرَجْتَ فَوَلِّ وَجْهَكَ شَطْرَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ وَحَيْثُ مَا كُنتُمْ فَوَلُّواْ وُجُوهَكُمْ شَطْرَهُ لِئَلاَّ يَكُونَ لِلنَّاسِ عَلَيْكُمْ حُجَّةٌ إِلاَّ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُواْ مِنْهُمْ فَلاَ تَخْشَوْهُمْ وَاخْشَوْنِي وَلأُتِمَّ نِعْمَتِي عَلَيْكُمْ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ
149. "And from whatever place you come forth, turn your face towards the Sacred Mosque. Indeed, this is the truth from your Lord. And Allah is not at all heedless of what you do."
150. "And from whatever place you come forth, turn your face (in prayer) towards the Sacred Mosque; and wherever you are, turn your faces towards it, so that people shall have no dispute against you, save those of them that are unjust. Have no awe of them, but stand in awe of Me; and that I may Perfect My blessing upon you, and so that you might be guided (aright)."
In the previous verse where the direction of the Sacred Mosque is referred to, it concerns Medina, the city where most Muslims inhabited at that time. But, in the first of the above verses, the meaning is more general and it says that from wherever you come forth and set out for travelling, turn your face towards the Ka'bah in prayer.
Here are some points and messages that can be noted:
1. In numerous verses of the Qur'an, the subject of the Qiblah and turning towards it is repeated and emphasized. These repetitions are not undue. Through every one of these verses, besides the proposition of the Qiblah, a new point is propounded.
In the current Surah, 3 after commissioning the Prophet (S) and the Muslims to turn their faces towards the Qiblah, the Sacred Mosque, it says: "...and those who have been given the (earlier) Book know well that it is the truth from their Lord...", because they had learnt from their religious books that the Prophet of Islam (S) would pray towards two Qiblahs, so, “...We shall turn you (in prayer) to a Qiblah that you shall be pleased with ", in order to fulfil the prophecy which was given to the 'People of the Book' cited in their Book which they were expecting.
Here, the subject is emphasized again, thus: "...Indeed, this is the truth from your Lord..."
In the next verse, there is another reason mentioned for these reiterations which will be referred to in the following.
2. Whenever a new subject is proposed, the matter should necessarily be reiterated to be renewed and settled in the minds and hearts of people.
It is narrated in a tradition that the first phrase in the prayer call (i.e. Allahu-Akbar) is repeated four times in order that people be prepared and receptive, but the phrases following that are repeated only two times, because people's attention has already been attracted by the proclamation of the call to prayer.
The Lord warns those who disobey His Command, saying: "...And Allah is not at all heedless of what you do."
In the second of the above verses, too, immediately after the ordinance of turning the face towards the Sacred Mosque, the Lord says:
As it was formerly pointed out, the' People of the Book' knew that the Prophet of Islam (S) would pray towards two Qiblahs, so, if that had not come to pass, they would have questioned or objected that the Prophet (S) lacked the qualities mentioned in the earlier heavenly Books, or they would have sneered and despised the Muslims accusing them that they, who had not an independent Qiblah for their own, were the followers of the Jewish Qiblah.
This objection was not, of course, only from the side of the Jews, but the pagans also assisted them in their ridicules, criticizing: ‘Why does not Muhammad respect the Ka'bah, the Holy House built by Abraham and Ismail (as), exclusively for the prayer to God and does yield towards the religious centre of the Jews?'
The hypocrites, too, were busy objecting to the change of the Qiblah. They said that the Prophet (S) was not firm in his decision.
However, this verse, with emphasis and repetition, prepares the Muslims for acceptance and perseverance. It informs them that those people who accept proof and reasons will not object to you, but those who are wrong doers and unjustly conceal the truth will not stop seeking pretexts. "...-so that people shall have no dispute against you, save those of them that are unjust..."
Therefore, you should neither give heed to them nor be afraid of them. You should fear only Allah.
Another point which is noteworthy, here, is that the Qiblah is the symbol of Monotheism. The Qiblah, the direction of prayer, is the emblem of the Muslims. In Nahjul-Balagha, Sermon 173, the Qiblah is referred to as ' a clear sign, or a distinguishing flag’.
Idol worshippers and star worshippers, when worshipping, turned towards idols or stars or the moon. Instead of those misguided directions, Islam introduced the Ka'bah as the Qiblah for Muslims.
Thus turning towards the Sacred Mosque is considered a sign of being mindful of the Lord. Some traditions indicate that the Prophet of Islam (S) usually sat towards the direction of the Qiblah. We are even advised by the Holy Ahlul Bayt (as) to lie, to sleep and to sit down towards that direction. This action has been counted as a form of worship.
There are some special obligatory ordinances on observing the Qiblah while performing certain ritual actions. For instance, slaughtering animals to be used for food, burial of a Muslim corpse in the grave, and establishing the obligatory prayers should be done towards the Qiblah. Elimination of bodily wastes while facing or with one's back to the Qiblah is unlawful.
In addition to what was said in the above, the Qiblah is the sign and the factor of uniting Muslims. If we look from above the earth down at the Muslims of the world, we see that they turn towards the Qiblah at least five times a day with special regularity and in a particular order.
Throughout history, the Ka'bah has been the center point of the godly movements and revolutions, including that of Abraham (as), Prophet Muhammad (S), up to Imam Husayn's (as); and in the future, Imam Mahdi (May Allah hasten his advent) will start his blessed movement from the site of the Ka'bah. Then, we conclude that:
1. The Ka'bah is the Qiblah of Muslims, all of whom, wherever they be, are commissioned to turn towards it when they stand praying-
2. Muslims should avoid doing anything that causes their enemies to seek pretext.
3. Independence is a 'value' while tolerating flattery is a disgrace.
4. The change of the Qiblah is the fulfilment of the conditions and qualities promised in the earlier Divine Books.
5. The change of the Qiblah was a factor to nullify the vain objections and pretexts of the' People of the Book', pagans, and hypocrites.
6. It is not right to be silent when there is injustice: "...save those of them that are unjust..."
7. Foreign enemies cannot be the greatest danger for the Muslims, while impiety and having no awe of Allah is the real danger.
8. Appointing an independent Qiblah for the Muslims was to prepare the perfection of Allah's blessing upon them.
9. Appointing an independent Qiblah for Muslims' prayers towards the Sacred Mosque is a process for the guidance of believers.
كَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا فِيكُمْ رَسُولاً مِّنكُمْ يَتْلُو عَلَيْكُمْ آيَاتِنَا وَيُزَكِّيكُمْ وَيُعَلِّمُكُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَيُعَلِّمُكُم مَّا لَمْ تَكُونُواْ تَعْلَمُونَ
فَاذْكُرُونِي أَذْكُرْكُمْ وَاشْكُرُواْ لِي وَلاَ تَكْفُرُونِ
151. "Even as We have sent among you a Messenger of your own who recites Our revelations to you that purifies you and teaches you the Book and the Wisdom, and teaches you that which you did not know."
152. "Therefore, remember Me, and I will remember you; and be thankful to Me, and be you not ungrateful."
The subject matter of the first verse is the Messengership of the Prophet of Islam (S) which was in answer to the invocation of Abraham (as) who had asked:
Besides, that the Prophet of Islam (S) also repeatedly said:
Thus, Allah sent a prophet to the people from among themselves who were familiar with their demands, needs, and wishes. He used to communicate with them through their own language, and he lived amongst them.
Through the second verse, Allah has promoted the rank of Man by saying that He and we remember each other.
The level and standard of knowledge and understanding of people is different, so, Allah tells a group of servants: "...Remember Allah's favour on you...", (Surah Ale-Imran. No.3. verse 103), while he addresses some others of them thus: “...remember Me...", as in the current verse.
The remembrance of Allah is a prerequisite to being thankful to Him, hence, it has preceded the term thankfulness. This is an illustration of the consideration of Allah's honour for Man as a reflection of His Grace unto His servants.
On one end of this scale, there is Man with his ignorance, poverty, mortality, and feebleness, while on the other end, there is Allah, the All-Knowing, the All-Sufficient, the Eternal, and the All-Mighty Who wants him to remember Him in order to show his gratitude for the great blessings of the Qiblah and the Messenger of Islam, and He promises to remember him, too.
This very remembrance is also a favour from Allah bestowed upon His servants.
No doubt, if a person neglects Allah in life, He, of course, will be heedless towards him, too.
Here, your attention is attracted to the following descriptions and messages derived from the above verses:
1. The recitation of Divine revelations, the purification of receptive souls, the instruction of the Book and Wisdom, and teaching of people what they do not know, are among the duties of prophets.
2. That leader is successful who is from amongst the people themselves, because he is acquainted with their problems and speaks the same language as theirs.
3. Human beings are not able to solve all their scientific problems by themselves. That is why He did not say in the verse / malata'lamun / '(He teaches you) what you do not know', but He said: / malamtakunu ta'lamon / '(He teaches you) that which you did not know' in order to remind us that if the prophets (as) had not existed, Man could never have found the answers to many of his problems.
For example, he could not have found out what his future (the next world) will be, or, he could not recognize which path was the true path of felicity and salvation.
4. Prophets were not merely the teachers and leaders of ethics and theology, but they were also the instructors of science. Without their leadership in science, human knowledge would have remained undeveloped in all fields.
5. The remembrance of Allah is not only the cause for the Grace of Allah, but with the remembrance of Allah the hearts will gain peace and rest. Surah Al-Ra'd. No.19 Verse18 says:
6. Establishing prayer is the best way to remember Allah, as in Surah. Taha No. 20 Verse14, Allah Himself says:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ اسْتَعِينُواْ بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلاَةِ إِنَّ اللّهَ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ
153. "O' you who have Faith! seek you help (from Allah) through patience and prayer, verily Allah is with the patient ones (in the time of adversity)."
The phrase / ya'ayyuhallaŎna'amanu / "O' you who have Faith!" addresses all those who have Faith entirely, foremost of whom Hadrat Amir-ul-Mu'mineen Ali (as) and the rest of the immaculate Imams are distinguished.
This idea is expressed in many Islamic narrations; for instance, it is quoted from Ibn Abbas narrating from the holy Prophet (S) who said:
"No revelation containing' O' you who have faith' was sent down except that Ali is at its top and is its chief." 5
Again, it is narrated from 'Akramah who narrates from Ibn-Abbas that has said:
"Allah has sent down no verse in the Qur'an consisting of 'O' you who have faith' but Ali-ibn-Abitalib (as) is the leader of it and the chief of it". 6
Of course, the more complete and the higher the degree of Faith is, the content of the verse about it is clearer and more apparent.
(This phrase has also been discussed more comprehensively when commenting on Surah No, 2 verse 104 on pages 250 and 251 in the current volume.)
The phrase / wasta'inu / "seek you help from Allah" is a guiding imperative phrase because at every moment and in all affairs a mortal is in need of Allah's help, whether it is something which is inside his free will, because he is not an absolutely independent subject, though he is created free in will; or it is something which is outside of his will.
Man is in complete need of Him (s.w.t.) and he should constantly invocate for everything and seek help from the Lord. A person most naturally and reasonably can be qualified for the special blessings from God.
If this verse is to be taken as referring to the conquest of Mecca, even then it holds good, if it means to say that the people must prove their worthiness or value to the Truth in Islam by bearing the hardest trials with constant prayers to the Lord; for prayer suggests the praying individual's acknowledgment of God's Omnipotence and the individual's confidence in God being the All-Merciful one, as the only One who can grant the prayers of the sincere supplicants.
Real Faith can never be mere empty words. It must express or manifest itself through patience or endurance in all that befalls the individual to show his faithfulness to God, and the help from God must be sought through prayers or supplications to the Lord.
The aid of Allah requires eligibility. This eligibility is confirmed by two things:
The first is having patience in worldly hardships and perseverance in bearing its bitter circumstances. And also having patience in tolerating the hardship of performing Divine services, and obtaining knowledge and good ethics, patience in withholding one's self from lusts and the fleeting pleasure of committing sins and yielding to low desires, is necessary. This bitterness of hardship, which is short in time, finally results in a sweet fruit which lasts a long time.
Concerning the epithets of the true believers, Amir-ul-Mu'mineen Ali (as) has said:
"The short period of patience resulted in a long period of tranquility for them." 7
The term / sabr / ' patience ', in this verse, is rendered into 'fasting' and 'holy war’. The second thing is 'prayer' which is the highest means of turning towards and approaching Allah by which we may seek help and aid from that Origin of favour and Grace.
Some commentators have rendered the term / salat / into 'supplication' whose explanation demands a separate chapter.
Some others, based on some Islamic traditions, have interpreted it into the 'obligatory prayers' and 'supererogatory prayers'.
For example: it is cited in Tafsir 'Ayyashi narrated from Fudayl from Imam Baqir (as) who said:
"O' Fudayl, convey our salam (regards) to our followers whom you visit and tell them I say that I avail you aught (in keeping you far) from the punishment of Allah save by piety.
Then, they must control their tongues and be careful of their hands. They should be attentive to patience and prayer. Verily Allah is with the patient ones." 8
The first part of the verse has also occurred in verse 45, the explanation of which can be referred to on pages 169 and 170.
The objective meaning of the phrase "Allah is with the patient ones" is that His help, assistance, guidance, success, favours, the protection from pests, the perfection of intentions, as well as His other blessings are showered upon the patient by Him.
Above all of the aforementioned bounties, there is the reward of Allah granted to the patient believers in the Hereafter about whom He says:
وَلاَ تَقُولُواْ لِمَنْ يُقْتَلُ فِي سَبيلِ اللّهِ أَمْوَاتٌ بَلْ أَحْيَاء وَلَكِن لاَّ تَشْعُرُونَ
154. "And do not say of those who are slain in Allah's way: 'They are dead.' Nay (they are) alive, but you perceive (it) not."
The Qur'anic phrase ' of those who are slain in Allah's way' refers to those who are slain (i.e. martyred) in the battles led by the Prophet (S) or Imams (as) or one of their specific deputies, as well as anyone who is martyred on the path of Islam and propagation of the religion of Allah.
The content of the verse is inclusive of not only all who are slain in the path of Allah such as: the immaculate Imams (as) their ministers, Muslim scholars and believers, although the occasion of revelation of the verse is reported that it was revealed about the Muslims who were martyred in the battle of Badr, but also anyone other than them.
The phenomenon of martyrdom is more clearly described in Surah Ale-Imran No.3. Verses 169,170 which gives further information about the truth that those who surrender or sacrifice their lives in the way of Allah. (i.e. the martyrs) are alive receiving their sustenance from their Lord.
The term / sahid / 'martyred' used in many occurrences in the Qur'an refers to this blissful state of realization.
Therefore, this stage of life, i.e. the life immediately after death, i.e. the purgatory life, is not allocated to martyrs alone, though the verse is about them, but it envelops all people because stating something does not mean that the unstated, but applicable, instances are not involved.
For example, when we say, this man is just', it does not mean that justice belongs to him exclusively and there is not any other just person; while there may be thousands of people who are just.
Thus, this verse, here, confirms the purgatorial life for the martyrs. This life, the intermediate state, according to many verses of the Qur'an and abundant Islamic traditions, exists for all believers and nonbelievers both, with a distinction.
The soul of a believer, after departuring from its physical body, will settle in a body similar to this one and will be sustained in that world until when the Hereafter comes forth; while the soul of a nonbeliever, during the time when passing this course, will be in torment, as the Qur'an says:
It is narrated from Yunus-ibn-Thibyan who said he was sitting with Imam al-Sadiq (as) when he was explaining about the believers' souls and he (as) said:
"O' Yunus! When Allah gets the soul of a believer taken, He puts his soul in a setting like his body that was in this world. So, they eat and drink and when a comer enters he recognizes them in the same form as they were in the world." 9
Also, Abu-Basir narrates from Imam al-Sadiq (as) who, about the believers' souls, said:
"(They will be) in Heaven with the same features as their (worldly) bodies were so that if you see him (one of them) you will surely recognize him and say who he is." 10
Then the Qur'an continues saying:
Life is divided into four sorts: the plant-life, the animal-life, the human-life, and the Faith-life.
Plant-life is the power of growth which is common among plants and animals including human beings. The death of this particular life is when that power stops. Animal-life is the power by which feeling and conscious movement comes to being. Human beings and animals have this life in common. It dies when this power ceases.
Human-life is the faculty of general reasoning and perceiving by which Man is distinguished from animal. This phenomenon emerges because of that abstract and rational soul which administrates this body.
Its death causes the interruption of this administration and breaking off its connection with the body but there is no destruction for it and it remains to return to the body again when the Resurrection occurs. So, this purgatorial state exists not only for martyrs or Muslims, but for the soul of every conscious being.
Faith-Life is the peace of mind, assurance of self, and clearness of heart all of which come into existence for a believer through Faith and knowing Allah.
It is in this state that he can live in rest and tranquility with joy and pleasure because the toils, hardships, and miseries of this world would not create any awe, worry, anxiety or instability for him. This very condition originates from his reliance and belief in Providence, Who gives only goodness.
This life is the same as the 'good life', about which the Lord says:
And, the Qur'an also says:
It is said that the utterances in a language indicate meanings so that letter and spirit correspond with each other. For example, the term 'light or lamp' is applied to any means which is used in darkness to get brightness from. Then, whatever has this function, the application of that term for it is correct, although the substance is different from the point of material, form and other qualities.
Life is a general sense which is recognized by the appearance of the effects which are expected from it. In this sense, the term' life' is used for the Essence of Allah, too.
The example of this idea is recited in Surah. Ale-Imran. No.3. verse 2, which says: "Allah! there is no god but He, the living, the Self-Subsisting, Eternal." That is, the Essence from Whom the effects of knowledge and power are clear and manifest.
That is why some scholars said that Allah's life is His very Knowledge and Power. Of course, the Essence of the Knower and the Mighty is alive. Therefore, wherever the effects of this meaning exist, the application of this utterance is correct, but it are not necessary that its kind and its characteristics and properties, which are appropriate to those particular situations, be the same everywhere and in all circumstances.
Hence, the life in Purgatory, from the point of quality for martyrs and other people, is of the quality of the same world. It is for this reason that the people of this world with their senses, the quality of the nature of which is of the quality of this world, cannot perceive that which is of the quality of the nature of that world.
By the way, this verse clears the doubt of materialist and pagans who believe that with death, man's life becomes extinct, i.e. there is no life after death. Here, the Qur'an warns all, Muslim or non-Muslim, that man's life does not perish after death, but it does remain.
So, with this in mind, we realize that there is nothing more valuable or worthwhile than the time spent striving for the perfection of such a life. May Allah help us all to follow His Ordinances that He so graciously made available to us by way of the Qur'an in order that we might experience success in this life and in the Hereafter-