This episode moves towards facilitating a theme-based discussion of the Quran. By combining verses from Juz 25, 26 and 27, an embedded exploration of the reality of death, what it is, and how it is discussed in the Quran is provided. Collectively across these Juz’s, there are 13 Makkan Surahs and 5 Madani Surahs, thus highlighting a focus on issues surrounding aqaid (beliefs) and akhlaq (morals) on one side and legislative issues on the other. The Surahs used to explore the theme of death include Surah Mulk, Surah Qaf, Surah Fussilat, Surah Al-Hadid and Surah An-Najm.
Inna Hadha Al-Qur'ana Yahdee li-latee hiya aqwamu wa yubashshir Al-mu'mineen al-lathi ya'malun al-salihat anna lahum Ajran Kabira (17:9) [Indeed, this Qur'an guides to that which is most suitable and gives good tidings to the believers who do righteous deeds that they will have a great reward (17:9)].
Juz 25. 'A'udhu billahi min al-shaytan al-rajim. Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Rahim, I begin in the name of Allah, compassionate to all, merciful to each. As-salamu alaikum and welcome to the 25th episode in this podcast series titled Journeying Our Eyes Through the Qur'an, exploring 30 juz in 30 days. Today, InshaAllah, we will continue our journey through the pages of the Qur'an, albeit in a slightly different way. Over the past 24 episodes, we have explored titbits from each juz and we have now arrived at the end of this magnificent month.
And our journey with this holy and magnificent book is also coming to a close, hopefully not permanently, but at least with this podcast series. While the fast of the days are getting longer, the chapters of the Qur'an are getting shorter and more numerous. For the last few podcast episodes, starting with today, we're going to change gears slightly by hitting on certain themes that we haven't had the chance to yet explore. These themes, however, play a huge role in the overall message of the entire Qur'an. And in order to address these themes, we're going to combine a few juz together and go through relevant themes together.
Today we'll combine verses from just 25, 26 and 27 to primarily discuss the reality of death, what it is and how Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala speaks about it in the magnificent Qur'an. Together, these 3 Juz contain 13 Meccan surahs and 5 Madani surahs, which means that they focus both on Akhlaqi and Aqa'id related issues on the one hand and legislative issues on the other.
In a previous episode, we mentioned how the Qur'an speaks from the perspective of reality itself, and as such, it's a very intimately tied to seeing the hereafter and this world for what it truly is. The way that it speaks about death is a very different from our socio cultural context and how our context speaks about death. And what we'll try to do in today's episode is identify some of these differences. To start our discussion, let's start with the very famous verse from Surat al-Mulk where we read the following:
Alladhee khalaqa al-mawta wa al-hayaata liyabluwakum ayyukum ahsanu 'amalaa; wa Huwa al-'Azeezu al-Ghafoor (67:2). He who created death and life to test you as to which of you is better in conduct. He is the almighty, the forgiving (67:2). One of the first things that commentators mention when offering interpretations of this verse is it interestingly, it says that Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala has created death. What this means is that death is not the absence of something, but rather it's an actual creation that has a type of existence to it.
It's not the absence of something, but something itself. When we tried to define something like darkness, darkness is the absence of light. It's defined by negation. In and of itself darkness doesn't have any reality or any substance. So its definition is something of negation and is the absence of something. We usually think of death in this flawed way within our socio cultural context, when we're asked to define death, death is perceived as the absence of life or the end of life. It's nothing. It's darkness. However, this is an incorrect understanding of death according to the Qur'anic worldview of what death actually is.
And here the verse makes this point clear that death is the creation of Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala in the same way that the life of this world is. It's something it's not the absence of something. So what does that mean? Commentators mention that death can be defined as a transition from this world to the next. And in a beautiful hadith narrated by Imam Al-Sajjad, alayhi as-salam, from Imam Husayn, alayhi as-salam, on the day of Ashura as he encourages his companions to fight. Its said that Imam Husayn, alayhi as-salam, tells his companions: death is but a bridge that will take you from hardship and tribulation to vast gardens and eternal blessings. Which of you is it that wouldn't like to be transferred from a prison to a palace?
Here what Imam Husayn, alayhi as-salam, is saying is that death is a transition, it's a bridge. And this is the truth of the matter, that intrinsically death is not tragic. As Imam Husayn, alayhi as-salam, also says in this Hadith, depending on your state, if you're a believer, you're actually going to somewhere like a palace. Other verses of the Qur'an also mentioned death in both positive and negative way.
Death is not evil. Death is not sad, but death. And the experiences that come with it are only reflections of the reality of our own souls. In this way, death is a sort of mirror. What we see in the reflection of the mirror depends on us. It depends on our face, depends on our characteristics. Death is like the mirror of the soul. The reflection is only negative, in so far as much as our soul is negative and evil and corrupted. It depends on what we've done and with what intentions.
Death is positive as much as our souls are beautiful and pure and purified. Let's take a look at some of the other verses in this section of the Qur'an that mention what death is like, beginning with Surah Qaf in verses 19 to 22:
Wa jaaa'at sakrat ul-mawti bilhaqq, dhaalika maa kunta minhu taheed (50:19). Wa nufikha fissoor, dhaalika yawmu al-wa'eed (50:20). Wa jaaa'at kullu nafsin ma'ahaa sa'iqun wa shaheed (50:21). Laqad kunta fee ghaflatin min hadha fakashafnaa 'anka ghita'aka fabasaruka al-yawma hadeed (50:22). The throes of death bring the truth, this is what you used to shun (50:19). And the trumpet will be blown. This is the promised day (50:20). Every soul will come, accompanied by two angels, a driver and a witness (50:21). He will be told you were certainly oblivious of this. We have removed your veil from you. And so today your eyesight is acute (50:22).
Or in Surah Fussilat verse 53, where it says the following: "Sanureehim Aayatinaa fil afaqi wa feee anfusihim hatta yatabaiyana lahum annahu al-haqq, awa lam yakfi bi Rabbika annahoo 'alaa kulli shay'in Shaheed (41:53) . Alaaa innahum fee miryatim mil liqaaa'i Rabbihim, ala innahoo bikulli shay'in muheet (41:54). We will show them Our signs in the horizons and within themselves until it becomes clear to them that it is the truth. But is it not sufficient concerning your Lord that He is over all things, a witness? (41:53).
Unquestionably, there is no doubt about meeting with their Lord. Unquestionably He is, of all things encompassing (41:54). What's notable and interesting about these verses is that it mentions death as an unveiling of reality. In some verses it says things like, 'hatta yaatiyakal yaqeen'- And this means that until certainty comes to you (15:99).
Or like it says in this verse, 'hatta yatabaiyana lahum annahu al-haqq' (41:53). And often in the commentaries, especially when it comes to phrases like the former, hatta yaatiyaka al-yaqeen (15:99), this is interpreted as meaning that you do this until death comes to you, until certainty comes to you. So the certainty in this verse is interpreted as death itself. Why is this the case? The commentaries mention that when we die, we are able to see what truth really is and we have a level of certainty about it, it's with death that we come to understand the reality of our actions, the reality of Haqq as much as is possible and more.
This is what the very famous Hadith, 'mutu qabla an tamutu' or 'die before you die' means, it is essentially saying that before you physically die and leave this world, you should try to see reality and understand reality for what it truly is, because death is a transition from this world. And when we die, we also lift the veils and after we die, we can see reality for what it truly is. And that's why we will regret whatever it is that we may have done that blocked us from spiritually progressing before.
But death shows us reality. And this is what the verses say, that death bring certainty with it. This concept of the lower world or the world that we're currently in being a form of deception, where we're not truly seeing reality or Haqq can also be noted in the following verse, which includes a parable from Surat al Hadid in verse 20.
I'lamooo annama al-hayaat ud-dunya la'ibun wa lahwun wa zeenatun wa tafaakhurum bainakum wa takaasurun fil amwaali wa al-awlaad, kamathali ghaithin a'jabal kuffaara nabaatuhoo thumma yaheeju fataraahu musfaaran thumma yakoonu hutaamaa, wa fi'l-akhirati 'adhabun shadeedun wa maghfiratun min Allahi wa ridwaan, wa ma al-hayatu ud-dunya illa mata'u ul-ghuroor (57:20).
Know that the life of this world is bemusement and diversion and adornment and boasting to one another and competition and increase of wealth and children like the example of a rain whose resulting plant growth pleases the tillers. Then it dries and you see it turned yellow. Then it becomes scattered debris and in the hereafter is severe punishment and forgiveness from Allah and approval. And what is the worldly life except the enjoyments of delusion (57:20).
What this verse discusses is the deception of the world that we are in. There are times when there is rain and there's vegetation and the vegetation might impress the person who's looking at it like a farmer. But soon vegetation turns yellow and fades and rots. And this is the example of the world and what we see around us.
There is a beauty in it. There is a pleasure in it. There is glitter or Zeenat, as this verse mentions. But these things are temporary. They fade and they're nothing compared to the everlasting nature of the hereafter and the forgiveness of Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala and His pleasure. The verse ends with a famous phrase, 'wa mal haiyaa tuddun yaaa illaa mataa'ul ghurooo'- that this lower life is nothing but the wearer's of deception, it's not a true version of reality (57:20). In Surat an-Najm and verses 39-42, we read the following:
Wa al laisa lil insaani illaa maa sa'aa (53:39). Wa anna sa'yahoo sawfa yuraa (53:40). Thumma yujzaahu al-jaza'a al-awfaa (53:41). Wa anna ila Rabbika al-muntahaa (53:42). That nothing belongs to man except what he strives for (53:39). And that he will soon be shown his endeavour (53:40), then he will be rewarded for it with the fullest reward (53:41).That the terminus is towards your Lord (53:42).
There are a few beautiful points that can be observed from these verses from Surat an Najm. And the first one is, 'Wa anna sa'yahoo sawfa yuraa'(53:40)- Which means that, indeed, you will see your efforts, your efforts will be shown to you .
And what this means is that the hereafter is a consequence, i.e., what we were saying before, where it's a reflection of our souls and a mirror of the state of our soul. A second point that can be derived from the set of verses is from the last verse that we mentioned, which is, 'Wa anna ila Rabbika al-muntahaa'(53:42)- that the terminus, that the end of everything, the end as in death is towards Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala. That's where we're going.
We have an appointment with Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala and our appointment with Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala is at death. It's with death that we will reach the closest possible proximity to Him with our death and the transition from this world to the next. With the separation of our souls from our bodies gives us the ability to be closest to Him. And this is why throughout the Qur'an, in so many different ways, we see this concept being mentioned here, the verse says, ila Rabbika al-muntahaa (53:42), in other places it says, ilayhi raji'un (2:156), as we read in the famous verse, which means that to God we are returning. In other places it's described as ' Liqaa or liqa Allah'- (6:31) the meeting with Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala.
And as we go through the rest of the Qur'an in these last few days of this blessed month, let's try to take a note of verses like these and the number of times that Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala mentions in some way, shape or form. That death is our meeting point with him, that we're going back to him, that our destiny is only to Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala. Let's pay attention to the Qur'anic worldview of death and let's allow this to permeate our views of our transition to our more permanent life.
Wa Al-Hamdulil-Lahi Rabbi Al-Alameen, wa salla Allahu alaa nabiyyina Muhammadin, wa alihi, al-tayibeen, al-tahireen. Wa as-salamu alaykum, wa rahmatullahi, wa baraktu.
Rabbana La tuzigh Qulubana (3:8) [Our Lord, let not our hearts deviate (3:8)]