Jumuah lecture on Friday 5 April 2019 (29 Rajab 1440) by Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
at the Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
In Surah Inshira (chapter 94 of the Holy Quran), Almighty Allah (SWT) addresses our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) as follows:
أَلَمْ نَشْرَحْ لَكَ صَدْرَكَ
(1) Have We not expanded your chest,
وَوَضَعْنَا عَنْكَ وِزْرَكَ
(2) And removed your burden,
الَّذِي أَنْقَضَ ظَهْرَكَ
(3) Which pressed heavily upon your back,
وَرَفَعْنَا لَكَ ذِكْرَكَ
(4) And exalted for you your esteem?
فَإِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا
(5) Surely with difficulty is ease.
إِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا
(6) With difficulty is surely ease.
فَإِذَا فَرَغْتَ فَانْصَبْ
(7) So when you have completed your duties, stand up for worship.
وَإِلَىٰ رَبِّكَ فَارْغَبْ
(8) And make your Lord your exclusive interest.
This Surah was revealed during the early days of the advent of Islam, and we have just celebrated a couple of days ago, the Be’that or Mab’ath, which is the day when the Prophetic mission started.
27th Rajab is formally and officially the anniversary of the birth of the Islamic mission, with the revelation of the first verse from Surah Alaq (chapter 96 of the Holy Quran) to Prophet Muhammad (SAWA):
اقْرَأْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ
Read in the name of your Lord Who created.
Therefore, the contents of today’s Jumuah Khutbah will be focussed on the early days of Islam. The important lessons are not confined to the early days of Islam, but whoever wants to follow that path and continue the Prophetic mission would still face the same challenges as experienced during those early days. Hence, the important issues which need reflection are no different.
SURAH INSHIRA ESTABLISHES THE FRAMEWORK FOR SUCCESS THROUGH PERSEVERANCE
There are a few crucial points to discuss, in relation to chapter Inshira of the Holy Quran. These points are applicable to any mission, and of course we are celebrating the Prophetic mission this week. Almighty Allah (SWT) elaborates on 4 very important issues in Surah Inshira:
1. Opening of the chest (verse 1: Have We not expanded your chest)
2. Hope (verse 5: Surely with difficulty is ease)
3. Resistance and perseverance
4. Remembrance and connection with Almighty Allah (SWT)
These are the 4 major components of this chapter of the Holy Quran which was revealed during the early days of the Prophetic campaign and Islamic mission. These verses were revealed during the most difficult situation, where social and economic boycotts and sanctions, isolation and physical tortures were all present, and it is in this environment where Almighty Allah (SWT) reveals to our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) what we read in Surah Inshira.
WHAT DOES EXPANSION OF THE CHEST MEAN?
Now, what does “expansion of chest” mean, as referred to in verse 1 of Surah Inshira? Important to understand that it does not refer to our physical chest, but rather, it refers to the expansion of human capacity to face challenges.
There are 2 types of responses or reactions when we confront certain problems. Sometimes we see people give up when confronted with the smallest of difficulties, as they get stressed, frustrated and completely knocked down! The Holy Quran refers to this as the narrowing of the chest. In other words your heart, mind and soul is not large enough to handle challenges and hardships.
What verse 1 of Surah Inshira establishes is that the first condition for the Prophetic mission was that he needed a very big heart and a great deal of tolerance and perseverance, otherwise he will not be able to make progress. This requires one to be able to listen to lots of opposition, which can be social and physical pressures, and reacting to each and every negative ill brought against you will hold you back from getting anywhere.
This is when your chest is very narrow ie. when you want to respond to every smallest bit of dissent, because you cannot tolerate it. The Prophetic mission required a heart like an ocean, because all the rivers and canals finally flow into the ocean. All the floods are in rivers, but the ocean never gets flooded as it is capable of absorbing everything!
Now, the Holy Quran is saying in verse 1 of Surah Inshira to Rasulullah (SAWA) that We surely made your heart like an ocean, where all the challenges, opposition, pressures and troubles can be tolerated by that heart! There is no feeling of hopelessness here, nor does it become an emotional reactionary or surrender.
NABI MUSA (A.S) AND HIS NOBLE PLEA FOR THE EXPANSION OF HIS CHEST
When Nabi Musa (a.s) went to combat the oppressive, despotic Pharaoh, he did not ask Almighty Allah (SWT) for power or an expansive military arsenal. Instead, we read in verses 25 – 28 of Surah Taha (chapter 20 of the Holy Quran) that Nabi Musa (a.s) asks for nothing other than the expansion of his heart, in order to have the capacity to face the challenges and make his matters easy.
قَالَ رَبِّ اشْرَحْ لِي صَدْرِي
(25) He said: O my Lord! Expand my chest for me,
وَيَسِّرْ لِي أَمْرِي
(26) And make my affair easy to me,
وَاحْلُلْ عُقْدَةً مِنْ لِسَانِي
(27) And remove the impediment from my speech,
(28) So that they may understand what I say.
So, Nabi Musa (a.s) asked for 2 things. Firstly, the capacity to take on heavy burden, and secondly, the ability to release burden. This is also what the Holy Quran says in verse 2 of Surah Inshira ie. “And removed your burden.” On the one side, We have expanded you and given you the huge capacity, and at the same time We have also reduced the burden “which is pressed heavily upon your back.”
EXPANSION OF THE CHEST FOR THE ACQUISITION OF KNOWLEDGE
The Holy Quran speaks about tolerance and forbearance, and capacity to face challenges in these verses of Surah Inshira. However, another understanding is that you also need an expanded chest if you want to learn!
These are 2 different understandings of the same verse pertaining to the expansion of the chest. The first refers to achieving a particular mission despite the heavy opposition which you face. The second refers to having an expanded chest for the acquisition of knowledge, which the Holy Quran explains as not possible with a closed mind!
What does this mean, when your mind, heart and soul is blocked by prejudice and shallow understanding, coupled with a closed mindset where you are not ready to listen or accept the truth or open up for the absorption of knowledge! We will never be able to understand anything, nor achieve anything this way!
Therefore, the Holy Quran explains in verse 22 of Surah Zumar (chapter 39):
أَفَمَنْ شَرَحَ اللَّهُ صَدْرَهُ لِلْإِسْلَامِ فَهُوَ عَلَىٰ نُورٍ مِنْ رَبِّهِ ۚ فَوَيْلٌ لِلْقَاسِيَةِ قُلُوبُهُمْ مِنْ ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ
“Is one whose heart Allah has opened to Islam, so that he has received Enlightenment from Allah, (no better than one hard-hearted)? Woe to those whose hearts are hardened against celebrating the praises of Allah!”
This once again shows that a primary condition to accept the teachings of Islam is the need for an open mind and heart. You will not be able to accept Islam if your approach is limited and your understanding is restricted.
This verse reconfirms that someone who has an open mind has received the enlightenment from his Lord (SWT), and terrible is the situation for those who are hard-hearted. For such people, you can talk until you are blue in the face, but nothing will change them because they are so closed and their hearts are not malleable. Hence, nothing will have a positive effect on them.
THE EXPANDED CHEST IS THROUGH THE PROVISIONS OF ALMIGHTY ALLAH (SWT)
“Sharhus Sadr” in both meanings as discussed in the Holy Quran through these 3 verses of Surah Inshira, Surah Taha and Surah Zumar respectively is the condition for the success of any mission.
However, a very important point for us to always note is that this openness of the mind, and ocean-sized heart does not only come from our own efforts. In fact, it comes directly from Almighty Allah (SWT), because verse 1 of Surah Inshira explains that He opened our chests: “Have We not expanded your chest”?
In the same light, we read in verse 25 of Surah Taha (chapter 20 of the Holy Quran) that Nabi Musa (a.s) asks Allah (SWT) to expand his chest. This is the crucial point, that it is Allah (SWT) that opens our chests to create the capacity, and the result of this is hOPE, which the Holy Quran again provides in verse 5 of Surah Inshira (chapter 94):
فَإِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا
Surely with difficulty is ease.
There is nothing repeated in the Holy Quran more than this principle of HOPE, reminding each and every one of us that the result of every hardship is ease! Therefore, we should never give up!
Today, Islam and Muslims all over the world are facing serious challenges. After 14 centuries since the initiation of this Prophetic mission, we see that Islam still faces serious challenges, where its followers are in the millions, facing severe internal and external challenges. Expansion of our chests by Almighty Allah (SWT) results in the hope of ease after difficulty.
There are few very important issues to mention in this second Khutbah.
XENOPHOBIA HAS ONCE AGAIN SHOWN ITS UGLY FACE
Last week, we once again witnessed the ugly disease and cancer of xenophobia appearing in our beautiful country, killing innocent people. Really, this is extremely sad to observe these horrible crimes of xenophobia whenever they emerge.
The challenges which South African society faces today range from limited resources, jobs, very weak economy, crime and the list goes on and on. There is no doubt about this. However, the manner in which some people express their discomfort or discontent is completely unacceptable and can never be justified on any principle.
The practical realities on the ground also do not support. Yes, lots of propaganda is out there on social media, trying to mislead, but there is no match when you reflect and compare on the statistics and the resources. Rather, it is an excuse for the extremely wrong attitude, and unfortunately, I would like to note that this rise of xenophobia just before the elections is indicative of something else at play.
There are people who would like to exploit these sensitivities in our communities in their favour. This is the dirtiest way of doing politics and seeking the vote of the people. Unfortunately, this is how it is in this society.
We condemn these xenophobic acts unconditionally, as nothing can justify it.
Of course, from our point of view, we just now spoke repeatedly about the Prophetic mission of Mab’ath. What was the main fibre of Islam’s message? There is no religion in history which could manage to take over and spread so widely across the world in such a short period of time, crossing all the borders and limitations. This is what we refer to as the universality of the message of Islam.
The message of Islam was not a geographically restricted message, nor was it a racially restricted message, nor was it confined to a particular sect of society. NO! The message of Islam addressed humanity!
Therefore, people from all different backgrounds felt so comfortable in accepting this message of Islam. Unfortunately, Muslims are not absolved from this guilt today and in contradiction with the very first message of Mab’ath and Be’that of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).
Denying, refusing and rejecting its universality and humanity and encompassing, inclusive nature is in direct contradiction with the very basic fibre of the message of Islam.
NATURAL DISASTERS ARE TESTING OUR AFRICAN AND IRANIAN BRETHREN
I would also like to remind about the suffering of the people in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi which has left millions of people homeless. We all need to do whatever we can to support our brethren who are in distress in these neighbouring countries.
I would also like to express our sympathies and support with the people of Iran who are also suffering due to widespread floods which has left hundreds of thousands of people homeless and also claimed the lives of many, together with big damage to infrastructure.
This is a country which is under the worst sanctions and standing for the dignity of the oppressed people worldwide, and at the forefront of the Palestinian course. Unfortunately they are facing these very serious natural challenges as well.
We have also launched a fundraising campaign for this purpose, which complements the campaign launched for the relief efforts of those impacted by the cyclone in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe for which I encourage everyone to actively take part in this.
فَإِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا
Surely with difficulty is ease.
إِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا
With difficulty is surely ease.
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