Syed Akbar Hassan
The Qur’ān (31 –1-5): “Alif. Lam. Mam. These are the ayaat of the divine book, full of wisdom, providing guidance and mercy for the righteous people, who attend regularly to prayers, give in charity and are indeed certain of the hereafter. Those are the ones who follow their Lord’s guidance, and they are the ones who will be successful.”
The Qur’ān addresses human nature with its own logic. It was revealed from on high by the One who created human nature. He knows what suits it and brings the best out of it. He also knows what affects its inner thoughts and feelings. The Qur’ān explains to human nature the truth deeply ingrained therein, which it knew long before it was addressed by the Qur’ān, because it was initially created with it. This is the truth of acknowledging Allah as the Creator, the One, the Supreme, and offering worship to Him alone.
Similarly, the entire universe glorifies and praises Him at all times. The problem is that certain aspects of life on earth, some physical impulses, desires, whims and cravings may cloud human nature’s vision or force its deviation from the right path. Therefore, the Qur’ān addresses our nature with the logic it knows, presenting to it the truth it has overlooked. In this way, it moulds human nature on the basis of its code for living, leading it to earn the pleasure of Allah.
The central issue of faith in this surah demonstrates how we should address worship to Him alone, express gratitude for His blessings, establish firm belief in the hereafter and what this involves of careful reckoning and just reward. Believers should also follow what Allah has revealed and abandon all notions that are at variance with this.
The book is described here as being one of wisdom which gives it connotations of life and will. It is as though the book itself is a living creature which is wise in what it says and the way it directs people to behave. It chooses its objective and serves it. This is indeed true of the book as it has life, spirit, movement and a distinctive personality. Furthermore, it provides friendly companionship, one which is felt by those who live with it and under its shade.
This book is full of wisdom “providing guidance and mercy for the righteous people”. This is its essential and permanent status: providing guidance so that goodly people can follow the right way. Indeed, travellers who follow its way are never in error. This book also provides people with mercy as they feel reassured and contented by the guidance they are given. They feel Allah’s mercy as they attain success, establish firm bonds and strong mutual commitments among those who follow such guidance, and also between them and the laws of the universe in which they live.
The book gives guidance to the Right Way and have been sent down as a mercy from Allah. But only those of us can profit by this mercy and guidance who adopt a righteous attitude, who wish to become good, who carve for their own well-being, whose quality is that they avoid the evil when they are warned of it, and follow the good when they are shown the ways to it. As for the wicked and mischievous people, they will neither profit by this guidance nor receive any from this mercy.
The ones who excel in doing good are those who attend regularly to prayers, and offer them in full, on time and in the right manner. This fulfils the purpose of those prayers and enhances their effect on feelings and behaviour. Thus, prayer creates a very strong bond with Allah. Giving generously in charity enables the giver to rise above the natural instinct to hold on to things. It helps establish a social system based on mutual cooperation where both the affluent and the deprived find confidence and reassurance, as well as genuine mutual care.
Certainty of the hereafter ensures that we stay alert, seeking what Allah will give, and resisting the lure of all worldly comforts and luxuries. Furthermore, it keeps us heedful of what Allah desires, in public and private, in matters small or large. Thus, we aim to achieve excellence in doing good, or ihsan, which Allah’s Messenger ﷺ defined as: “To worship Allah as though you see Him; if you do not see Him, remember that He sees you.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
It is for those who excel in doing good that the divine book is both guidance and mercy. The transparency of their hearts enables them to find comfort and reassurance in this book. It makes us relate to the light that is at the core of its nature and understand its wise objectives. Therefore, we accept it feeling the harmony that it provides with the universe at large and appreciating the clarity of the way we are supposed to follow. This Qur’ān gives to every heart what suits its openness and sensitivity. Furthermore, it responds to the love, appreciation and high esteem with which hearts approach it. The Qur’ān is indeed alive, reciprocating people’s feelings.
The righteous people attend to prayer, give in charity and are certain of the hereafter. It does not mean that “the righteous people” bear only these three qualities. The epithet of “righteous” for them points out that they refrain from all the evils this Book forbids and practise all the good things this Book enjoins. Then, the three qualities of the “righteous” have been especially mentioned in order to show that all other good acts depend on these three things. They establish the Salat which stimulates God-worship and piety; they give in charity which strengthens the spirit of sacrifice in them, subdues the love of the world and arouses a desire for the goodwill of Allah; and they believe in the hereafter, which instils the sense of responsibility and answerability, which does not allow them to live like an animal, but like a man who is fully conscious that he is not independent but the slave of a Master before Whom he is answerable for all his activities of life.
Owing to these three qualities, the “righteous” people are not the kind of the good persons who happen to do good just by chance, who may commit evil as often and as freely as they would do good. Contrary to this, these qualities inculcate in them an enduring system of thought and morality owing to which goodness issues forth from them in a regulated and systematic manner, and the evil, if at all committed, is committed just by chance. They do not have any deep-rooted motives, which might be arising from their own system of thought and morality and leading them onto the evil way under their own nature impulse.
Thus, whoever accepts divine guidance will be successful. Such a person moves along with enlightenment which leads him to his goal. He is thus free from error in this life and from the consequences of error in the life to come. He has reassurance, comfort, and friendly interaction with all that exists.