Lecture delivered by Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider at the Ahlul Bait (a.s) Islamic Centre, Ottery, Cape Town on 10 May 2016 on the birth commemoration of Imam Hussain (a.s) and Abil Fadl al-Abbas
On 3rd Sha’baan we commemorate the birth of the third Imam of the Ahlul Bait (a.s), namely the birth of Imam Hussain (a.s).
In this lecture, I intend to examine the question of why Suratul Fajr is also known as Suratul Hussain (a.s)
Firstly I would like to look at the general message of the Surah, which in essence can be categorized into 5 themes.
And thereafter I will seek to establish the link between its message and the life of Imam Hussain (a.s) so that you can appreciate the reason it is also called Suratul Hussain (a.s)
ALLAH TAKES AN OATH
At the very beginning of the Surah, it commences with Almighty Allah taking an oath as follows:
وَاللَّيْلِ إِذَا يَسْرِ
هَلْ فِي ذَلِكَ قَسَمٌ لِّذِي حِجْرٍ
“I swear by the daybreak;
And the ten nights;
And the even and the odd;
And the night when it departs.
Truly in that there is an oath for those who possess understanding.”
(Verses 1 to 5)
It should be noted, as with all Surahs in the Quran, when Almighty Allah takes an oath, that something profound is going to be mentioned thereafter.
OPPRESSORS IN HISTORY
So after taking the oath, the Surah starts analyzing various groups of human beings, the first group being those who were symbols of oppression in history. It mentions three despotic regimes which existed in history as follows:
أَلَمْ تَرَ كَيْفَ فَعَلَ رَبُّكَ بِعَادٍ
إِرَمَ ذَاتِ الْعِمَادِ
الَّتِي 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
“Have you not considered how your Lord dealt with Aad;
(The people of) Aram, possessors of lofty buildings;
The like of which were not created in (other) cities;
And (with) Thamood, who hewed out the rocks in the valley;
And (with) Pharoah, the lord of hosts;
Who committed inordinancy in the cities;
So they made great mischief therein.”
(Verses 6 to 12)
What happened to these regimes? The Surah says they were destroyed.
فَصَبَّ عَلَيْهِمْ رَبُّكَ سَوْطَ عَذَابٍ
إِنَّ رَبَّكَ لَبِالْمِرْصَادِ
“Therefore did your Lord pour on them a scourge of diverse chastisement:”
“Surely your Lord is ever watchful.”
(Verses 13 and 14)
ANALYSIS OF PSYCHOLOGY OF REGULAR HUMAN BEINGS
فَأَمَّا الْإِنسَانُ إِذَا مَا ابْتَلَاهُ رَبُّهُ فَأَكْرَمَهُ وَنَعَّمَهُ فَيَقُولُ رَبِّي أَكْرَمَنِ
“And as for man, when his Lord tries him, then treats him with honour and makes him lead an easy life, he says: My Lord honours me.” (Verse 15)
Whereas the first group of people, being the oppressors are very much conscious of their oppression of people and being the source of corruption, the regular masses are easily influenced and confused.
So the regular masses tend to be swayed by their current material circumstances. When life is good, they conclude that Allah is honouring them. However, in reality, Allah providing them with a good life is actually a test!
وَأَمَّا إِذَا مَا ابْتَلَاهُ فَقَدَرَ عَلَيْهِ رِزْقَهُ فَيَقُولُ رَبِّي أَهَانَنِ
“But when He tries him, then straightens (tightens) to him his means of subsistence, he says: My Lord has disgraced me.” (Verse 16)
And thus the regular masses think that when times are tough, Almighty Allah is being unkind to them. However, in reality, Allah is actually testing them in this change of circumstances too!
Such people are ungrateful to Allah and forget their responsibility towards others and how their actions actually also contribute to a change in their circumstances.
What are these actions?
كَلَّا بَل لَّا تُكْرِمُونَ الْيَتِيمَ
وَلَا تَحَاضُّونَ عَلَى طَعَامِ الْمِسْكِينِ
وَتَأْكُلُونَ التُّرَاثَ أَكْلًا لَّمًّا
وَتُحِبُّونَ الْمَالَ حُبًّا جَمًّا
“Nay! But you do not honour the orphan;
Nor do you urge one another to feed the poor;
And you eat away the heritage devouring (everything) indiscriminately;
And you love wealth with exceeding love.” (Verses 17 to 20)
They don’t care what they eat – they will devour halaal and haraam food at the same time.
And their love for this material world has no limits.
DAY OF JUDGEMENT
The Surah then analysis what will be the future abode of these people.
كَلَّا إِذَا دُكَّتِ الْأَرْضُ دَكًّا دَكًّا
وَجَاء رَبُّكَ وَالْمَلَكُ صَفًّا صَفًّا
وَجِيءَ يَوْمَئِذٍ بِجَهَنَّمَ يَوْمَئِذٍ يَتَذَكَّرُ الْإِنسَانُ وَأَنَّى لَهُ الذِّكْرَى
يَقُولُ يَا لَيْتَنِي قَدَّمْتُ لِحَيَاتِي
فَيَوْمَئِذٍ لَّا يُعَذِّبُ عَذَابَهُ أَحَدٌ
وَلَا يُوثِقُ وَثَاقَهُ أَحَدٌ
“Nay! When the earth is made to crumble to pieces;
And your Lord comes and (also) the Angels in ranks;
And hell is made to appear on that day. On that day shall man be mindful, And what shall being mindful (then) avail him?
He shall say: Oh! would that I had sent before for (this) my life!
But on that day shall no one chastise with (anything like) His chastisement;
And no one shall bind with (anything like) His binding.” (Verses 21 to 26)
This is a very vivid depiction of what the Day of Judgement will look like.
There are narrations which indicate that the Prophet (sawa) cried excessively when reading the verse
وَجِيءَ يَوْمَئِذٍ بِجَهَنَّمَ
“And hell is made to appear on that day.”
But as for the regular human beings who live in this world in a state of oblivion regarding this reality of the Day of Judgment, just as they always reacted in this world only to their current circumstances with no attention being paid to how they got there, similarly in the Day of Judgment they will react with regret and wish they could have another chance or had foresight to have prepared for that day.
THE SUCCESSFUL GROUP
So after painting a sad picture of oppressors and regular people, the Surah ends with those who are truly successful.
يَا أَيَّتُهَا النَّفْسُ الْمُطْمَئِنَّةُ
ارْجِعِي إِلَى رَبِّكِ رَاضِيَةً مَّرْضِيَّةً
فَادْخُلِي فِي عِبَادِي
“Oh soul that art at rest!
Return to your Lord, well-pleased (with him), well-pleasing (Him);
So enter among My servants;
And enter into My garden.”
This group of people are free from stress.
Who are these people??
To understand this, its necessary to go back to the beginning.
Why does Allah start the Surah by taking an oath of the dawn?
Some ulama believe that “dawn” refers to the “daybreak” every morning in its literal sense. Since it is the end of the “night”, it brings new “life” and hope and is thus called “fajr.”
Others believe that since “fajr” means “light”, it refers to every “light” that breaks “darkness.”
Thus many say that “fajr” means Prophet Muhammad (sawa), as he brought light to this world after it was filled with darkness.
And yet others believe that “fajr” also refers to Imam Mahdi (a.s) who will finally bring the “light” that will forever break the long night of darkness of justice, oppression and ignorance that this world is filled with.
These meanings are not contradictory as all of them are plausible.
Why does Allah take an oath of ten nights?
Which ten nights?
Some ulama believe it’s the ten nights of Muharram while others believe it’s the ten nights of Thil Hijjah.
What is “odd” and “even”?
Some believe its the odd and even numbers in the numeric system.
Others believe that the “even” refers to all the creation of Allah, while the “odd” refers to Allah as Allah does not have a second.
While others believe that the ten nights refer to the ten Imams before Imam Mahdi (a.s), while Imam Ali (a.s) and Lady Fatima (a.s) are the “even” and Allah is the “odd.”
Since the Quran has layers of meanings, all of these are plausible.
These oaths, which are followed by a discussion of the oppressors and regular people and the Day of Judgement, concludes with reference to the “soul that art at rest.”
Imam Saadiq (a.s) was asked who this refers to? And he replied that it refers to Imam Hussain (a.s).
Often we recite this verse for virtually any janazah, hoping that the person who died is a reflection of this verse. While this is certainly possible, Imam Saadiq (a.s) is indicating that one of the best examples of the “soul that are at rest” is Imam Hussain (a.s).
Imam Saadiq (a.s) then goes further to say that Surah Fajr is the Surah of Imam Hussain (a.s) because the substance of the narration of Surah Fajr is what Karbala personified.
Karbala’s story is about how, in ten nights, there was the clash with despotic rulers.
It was a clash where regular human beings were present who had no loyalty and deserted Imam Hussain (a.s). These people were worshipers of this material world in the very words of Imam Hussain (a.s) himself.
They were people about whom Imam Hussain (a.s) said that:
“Religion is like saliva in their mouth, they keep it in their mouth and move it around while their material life is good, but when they are tested with hardship, very few are committed to religion.”
This explains how thousands of people deserted Imam Hussain (a.s), except a few!
Its these few who were with Imam Hussain (a.s) who had “souls that were at rest” and devoted to Allah, who were successful with Imam Hussain (a.s).
“Nafsul mutma-inna” is the climax of the development of the soul.
How does a soul reach to this stage of inner peace?
Its only possible when you have love of Allah where normal logic does not even make sense.
Its a point when “aqil” cannot fly anymore, but “ishq” flies to Allah.
That’s how Imam Hussain (a.s) says to Almighty Allah that “I orphaned my children in order to see you!”
People who live their lives forever on the basis of “give and take” could not understand Imam Hussain (a.s)’s logic as it was obvious that he was going to be overcome in the battle in Karbala. And these very people could not understand why Imam Hussain (a.s) took his women and children to Karbala too!
These people could not comprehend that Imam Hussain (a.s)’s weapon was love and devotion. Thus in Karbala, Imam Hussain (a.s)’s response to his six month old baby being butchered was merely “We come from Allah and to Him is our return. I am pleased with Allah’s pleasure and surrendered to His command!”
It is this “nafsun mutma-inna” that would make his memory eternal with tens of millions flocking to his grave each year.
And among his followers, we also remember his brother Abil Fadl al-Abbas who was his flag bearer in Karbala and the personification of how to be a committed follower to achieve the status of “nafsun mutma-inna.”