Author: Samaa Kabbar, Hear Me Out Team, Blog Specialist
Anxiety. Stress. Self-doubt. Confusion. These are all emotions that we as humans have faced since time began. Although we would like to think of them as newly discovered phenomena that only certain generations will understand, such emotions occur to people of all races, ages, and genders. They need not be specific to certain events but rather can are part of human nature to differing degrees. The Qur’an talks about these emotions in Surat Al-Duha in the most poetic and beautiful way, and is a great reminder for us all on how to tackle them in the remembrance of Allah.
Like all of us, the Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings be upon him) had to encounter many stressful events in life, and one of them was during the time of his prophethood when Allah was sending down revelations to him. For a period of time, these revelations ceased to come, and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) began to get nervous at the cessation. He was worried that he perhaps did something wrong to stop them from coming, and as a result he began blaming himself. After all, if the future of the ummah depended on such revelations, and if, because of some act of his own, they stopped coming down, then it could have been a result of his doing. This all led to extreme internal pressures that the Prophet (pbuh) had to face. Self-doubt began arising, and he continuously blamed himself for this supposed failure on his part. He knew he was the last messenger and he did not want to let us down. He wanted more than anything to help guide us.
The people of Quraysh who noticed Prophet Muhammad’s plight did their part to amplify his feelings of down. They would ridicule him and tell him that Allah had given up on him and abandoned him (pbuh). They would reinforce the falsity that Allah was displeased with him and would make fun of him for it. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was forced to withstand these external pressures of mockery in addition to the internal troubles he was facing which heightened his stressors immensely.
Enter Surat Al-Duha, the 93rd chapter of the Holy Qur’an that was a direct response to the feelings the Prophet (pbuh) was facing. The first ayah or verse translates to: “by the morning brightness” in which Allah is swearing by the early part of the day. The idea here is to emphasize the lessons here to come. By choosing the morning brightness, it is akin to a soothing warmth that one feels. This is in contrast to the next ayah that says “and by the night when it grows still”. Here, we can see the contrast between the two that proves to be more symbolic than it seems. By contrasting light and darkness, or morning and night, one is able to see both are natural parts of the Earth’s cycle around the sun and the moon’s cycle around the Earth. One cannot exist without the other. This is representative of human emotions and life events insofar as we have to endure moments of darkness and moments of sunshine. Our lives will never be just darkness or just light. It is often a balancing act and a coexistence of the two. Likewise, our moods and emotions are never just happiness all the time or sadness all the time. We are always in the fluctuation of good emotions and bad emotions. The beauty behind the contrast of day and night lies in the fact that it would be very difficult to fully appreciate one or the other had they both not existed. The reason why we so appreciate the night and the restfulness that accompanies it is because the day provides us with the ability to be busy, work, and do things in daylight. We are able to enjoy the daytime because of the fact that it provides us with a new start to the day in which we engage in activities that are generally not feasible at night time. The cessation of revelation is representative of the stillness of night whereas the daytime represents the fruitfulness of revelation coming down. The contrast is clear between the two, and one is more able to appreciate the arrival of revelation once a period of time passes in which no revelation has been brought down.
The third ayah reads: “your Lord has not forsaken you, nor does He hate you”. This is in direct response to how Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was feeling at the time when the revelations ceased. Allah here is reassuring our dear Prophet that He has not abandoned him. The cessation of revelations was in fact just a pause; a stillness of a sort. It was not, however, a permanent ending. Allah uses Arabic words such as ‘maa’ to signify a clear indication of Him negating the fact that he has not abandoned Muhammad (pbuh). Just as the presence of night and day come and go, and are therefore never permanent, so is the cessation of revelation. Allah also uses the word “rabbuka” or “your Lord” here instead of another way of addressing Himself. By referencing himself as Muhammad (pbuh)’s Lord, He personalizes His position in relation to him, and emphasizes the relationship that they have. He is Muhammad’s Master, and so how could it possibly be that he would leave him? Allah removes such doubts from our Prophet (pbuh)’s heart. In our lives, it is important to always remember that Allah is OUR Lord, OUR Master, and to never forget that honour we possess. He is not just a God, but ours, and so we must find solace in the fact that we belong to Him and He is there for us. He will not leave us, so no matter what obstacles are in our ways that we face, He is there to provide guidance for us should we choose it, and He is there to help us along our journey. He sees our pain and He will do the best for us.
The fourth ayah states: “And the future will be better for you than the past And indeed the Hereafter is better for you than the present (life of this world)”. In this ayah, we are given hope for the future. It may feel at times as if nothing good will come our way, and that we are destined to face constant misery. This verse helps remind us that such thinking is mistaken. In relaying this matter to the Prophet (pbuh), Allah uses strong terminology to stress that the hereafter really is better than this life, in an attempt to emphasize His point further. Whether one interprets this as describing this world and/or the hereafter, or just the hereafter, the message remains the same insofar as pain is only temporary. Lance Armstrong’s words ring true in my ears when he says that “pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever”. And by quitting in this case, we can refer to quitting our belief in Allah’s grand plan, or giving up on our faith. That is what we have to keep reminding ourselves. Our pain will subside if we keep our faith and do our best to be the best we can be. The pain of this world is no match for our rewards in both our worldly future and in the hereafter. God rewards good doings, so how can we not have hope that he will reward us for our struggle toward goodness, our struggle towards the Truth.
Almost as if the last verse was not enough, Allah continues His reassurance by stating: “Your Lord is sure to give you so much that you will be well satisfied”. How Glorious is He to make such a statement. We as humans are notorious for never being content, and never being satisfied, but here he reaffirms our reward in Paradise. If we are to continue seeking Allah’s pleasure, we will be pleased in return. After all, Allah is The Giver, and His Mercy is bountiful and endless. It is important here to note that Allah is personalizing such giving by making sure we know where such giving is coming from: Him. In a bid to reassure us of our future, this ayah also serves the purpose of reminding us where our blessings in life come from so that we are grateful. His giving is limitless, and so we should never doubt His abilities to give and provide. What we must do in order to achieve such limitless bounty is to continue working to please Him and follow His commands via the Qur’an and Sunnah so that we can achieve the highest levels of Islamic gratification.
The next three ayahs read: “Did He not find you an orphan and shelter you?” (93:6), “Did He not find you lost and guide you?” (93:7), and “Did He not find you in need and make you self-sufficient?” (93:8). These ayahs are there in place to emphasize the fact that Allah has proven His reliability as a protector and a guide considering the fact that He raised Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) from the most difficult of conditions and made him into the Messenger that he was. In this way, Allah tries to show us that we should not doubt Him when it comes to our futures because He has so graciously blessed us when we were weak. In the case of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), all the odds were against him in succeeding in his life’s purpose considering the fact that he was an orphan and was therefore disadvantaged ever since his birth from that perspective. However, Allah took care of him and put him in the care of Halimah al-Sa’diyah and then ‘Abd al-Muttalib. He sheltered him and gave him the love and support system he needed to excel in life. He guided the Prophet (pbuh) and has guided all of us too. We were all in need and He made us self-sufficient. He has proven us His abilities over and over again, so these rhetoric questions only emphasize the fact that we should trust in the fact that He will take care of us. He is the One who can free us from our misery. How many times have we been in desperate need of help and Allah has provided us with such help? Everything good we have in this life is from His mercy and so to keep this in mind is crucial to help alleviate the stress we might feel. The more gracious we feel towards Allah, the more He will give us and the more He will help us.
The next two ayahs go on to say: “So do not be harsh with the orphan” (93:9) And do not chide the one who asks for help (93:10)”. Here, Allah gives the Prophet (pbuh) and us commands that reflect the blessings He has given us. He tells us not to humiliate those who are in need of us and those who come to us for help or guidance because of the fact that we all at some points in time were in need of help of some form and Allah granted it to us. Therefore, we have to pass on that level of giving by helping out others when we can and we shall feel the grace of Allah even more. A recent study published by the Clinical Psychological Science Journal found that helping others has the ability to relieve stress and increase a person’s happiness. The study found that those who performed more acts of kindness on a daily basis were more likely to feel less stressed than those who don’t. Not only is it our duty as Muslims, and not only will it help elevate our statuses as Muslims, but it will also provide us with spiritual, emotional, and mental clarity and relief. Allah teaches us to do this in these ayahs, and makes sure that we know how to deal with people in kind manners and to always assist people to the best of our abilities instead of turning them away in a bad manner
Finally, the last ayah mentions to “Talk about the blessings of your Lord”. Gratitude is not just a culturally woke phenomenon that life coaches are discovering. The concept is being revolutionized in society with self-help books discussing it, gratitude journals focusing on it, and many science-based studies reflecting upon the proven benefits of gratitude, such as the reduction of negative emotions, improved social lives, physical states, and energy levels, among many other benefits. Allah mentions favours of our Lord as opposed to from our Lord to emphasize a sort of closeness between us and Him. It is a way to close the distance in order to show the affection He has towards us. How can we make sure that we are showing gratitude for all the blessings of our Lord? Well, the first and most obvious way is by feeling genuine appreciation. Many people, who, upon receiving positive entities, either physical or non-physical, can be unappreciative of what they received and this way of never being pleased, or content is a spiritual sickness that one must look internally in order to remedy. Are we those who see the cup as constantly half full or half empty? Do we look at blessings in anger wishing that we had more and that whatever we have in life is never enough? There are those in the world who have very little materialistically, yet spiritually, feel as though they have everything in the world and beyond. Likewise, there are many people who are capable of owning anything they want and yet they will never be satisfied. Making dhikr or remembrance of Allah and the bounties he has bestowed upon us is surely one way for us to show our gratitude. The simple act of saying Alhamdulillah has enough power to amplify the blessings in our lives. Try saying Subhan Allah wa bihamdihi one hundred times today. In Bukhari, it is said that whoever does so will be forgiven all his sins even if they were as much as the foam of the sea.
Next, try to show gratitude by spreading such blessings far and wide. By sharing what you have with others, be it knowledge, material goods, or acts of kindness towards others, you are displaying your gratitude to Allah for that which He has given you. Be confident with the blessings that Allah bestows and know that He is the One that gives and the One who takes. Know that He is the One who we should rely on in times of difficulty, and that in times of great pleasure that it is He who should be thanked. Once we truly manifest this knowledge into practice, we may be able to lighten the burdens of stress and doubt that befall us.
May Allah protect us all and grant us with the strength to carry mercy, compassion for ourselves and for others.
Ameen ya Rub.
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