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Taraweeh Reflections - Night Seventeen

By Khalid Baig

Here are selected verses from the taraweeh recitation for each night with lessons for our lives today.

Juz Eighteen - Surah Mu'minun and Noor

Surah Mu'minun

Reflections on Falah

This surah begins with the promise of falah for the believers who have certain qualities. It ends with the categorical assertion that non-believers will get no falah.  The first eleven ayahs specify the type of person who will definitely achieve falah.

Translated as success, falah signifies a state where a person’s every wish comes true and at the same he is protected from everything undesirable. This point is also made explicit in other ayahs.  “We have been your friends in the worldly life, and (will remain as such) in the Hereafter. And for you here is whatever your souls desire, and for you here is whatever you call for.” (Fussilat, 41:31). “And there will be whatever souls desire and that which eyes enjoy. “And you will be living in it for ever.” (Al-Zukhraf 43:71)

The point to ponder is that if everyone can get all their wishes fulfilled, this could also potentially lead to chaos. People, after all, are capable of harboring wild wishes. The answer is that only those people will be admitted to Paradise who can handle such a privilege with responsibility, who have purified themselves thoroughly and developed a personality that is qualified to get such a blank check.

Paradise is an exclusive place. Not in the sense that it is reserved for a specific race or nationality or color or economic standing. But in the sense that it is meant only for those who have developed the required personal qualities. It is a beautiful place, more beautiful than the most beautiful place that human mind can even imagine. It is meant for people who have developed the inner beauty. Unlike the physical beauty which may be inherited, this is the beauty of the soul which is to be acquired ---through the purification of one’s intentions and actions.

The qualities mentioned in this surah (ayah 1-11) should be read with this perspective. This is not a disjointed list of some things that the believers are supposed to do; the qualities paint the portrait of the God fearing and God conscious personality who is always seeking good and avoiding evil. We should be judging ourselves not only on the specific qualities listed here but also on how close we are to that ideal personality to see how far we are from true and eternal success.

Qualities for Attaining Falah

The listed qualities are:

A.) They are believers (23:1).
This is the key quality. The success in the Hereafter belongs only to the believers. The point is further emphasized in the end of this surah, where it says: “Lo! disbelievers will not be successful.” (23:117) Paradise is not something that will be given away to those who do not even believe in it and are not even seeking it.

B.) They concentrate their attention in humbleness when offering Salāh (prayers (23:2).
This is the state of their prayer. Concentration and humbleness mark it, and with the frequency of salat in their daily life, make these the overriding parts of their personality.

C.) They keep themselves away from vain things (23:3) They stay away not only from sins, but also from vain pursuits and useless and purposeless activities. They know the value of their time and their resources and do not waste any of them on things that will not contribute to their success.

D.) They are performers of Zakāh; (23:4). This refers to self purification as well as the purification of one’s wealth normally known as Zakah.

E.) They guard their chastity (23:5). They stay away from all extra-marital sex and things that can lead to it.

F.) They honestly look after their trusts and covenant, (23:8). They are a people for whom talk is not cheap. When they give word, they honor it. Their pledges are solid. They are honorable people in their dealings with everyone.

G.) They (strictly) guard their prayers.  (23:9).

The desirable traits are bracketed with references to salat, thus indicating that it is the pillar of the successful personality. A Muslim negligent in his prayer is far from the model of success that Islam espouses.

Surah Noor

One of the key qualities for eternal success mentioned in the previous surah was guarding chastity. This surah further amplifies on it and gives commands both for the preservation of that chastity and for the punishment when it is violated. It begins with the punishment for fornication, followed by punishment for slandering a chaste woman or man. These are two of the four Hudood laws, which are not subject to any change with the passage of time. The other Hudood Laws deal with punishments for theft and consuming alcohol.

It also deals with the slander of Syeda Aisha Radi-Allahu unha by the munafiqeen, rebuking them and testifying to her chastity.

It continues to give commands for the preservation of haya in the social life of the Muslim community. This forms the essential Islamic “sex education” course.  And a key component of that course is contained in the following two ayahs.

قُل لِّلْمُؤْمِنِينَ يَغُضُّوا مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِمْ وَيَحْفَظُوا فُرُوجَهُمْ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ أَزْكَىٰ لَهُمْ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا يَصْنَعُونَ

Tell the believing men that they must restrain their gazes and guard their chastity; it is more decent for them. Surely Allah is All-Aware of what they do. (Nur, 4:30) 

وَقُل لِّلْمُؤْمِنَاتِ يَغْضُضْنَ مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِنَّ وَيَحْفَظْنَ فُرُوجَهُنَّ وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا ۖ وَلْيَضْرِبْنَ بِخُمُرِهِنَّ عَلَىٰ جُيُوبِهِنَّ ۖ وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا لِبُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ آبَائِهِنَّ أَوْ آبَاءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَائِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَاءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ إِخْوَانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِي إِخْوَانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِي أَخَوَاتِهِنَّ أَوْ نِسَائِهِنَّ أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُهُنَّ أَوِ التَّابِعِينَ غَيْرِ أُولِي الْإِرْبَةِ مِنَ الرِّجَالِ أَوِ الطِّفْلِ الَّذِينَ لَمْ يَظْهَرُوا عَلَىٰ عَوْرَاتِ النِّسَاءِ ۖ وَلَا يَضْرِبْنَ بِأَرْجُلِهِنَّ لِيُعْلَمَ مَا يُخْفِينَ مِن زِينَتِهِنَّ ۚ وَتُوبُوا إِلَى اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا أَيُّهَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ

And tell the believing women that they must restrain their gazes and guard their chastity, and must not expose their adornment, except that which (necessarily) appears thereof, and must wrap their bosoms with their shawls, and must not expose their adornment, except to their husbands or their fathers or the fathers of their husbands, or to their sons or the sons of their husbands, or to their brothers or the sons of their brothers or the sons of their sisters, or to their women, or to those owned by their right hands, or male attendants having no (sexual) urge, or to the children who are not yet conscious of the private parts of women. And let them not stamp their feet in a way that the adornment they conceal is known. And repent to Allah O believers, all of you, so that you may achieve success. (Nur, 24:31)

The first step toward preserving chastity is the creation of the environment in which temptations are minimized. A woman’s beauty is not public property to be enjoyed by one and all. It is a private treasure that has to be kept private. Both men and women have to restrain their gazes so the looks that can potentially start lusts are nipped in the bud. But women have to do more by covering themselves as detailed above. Islam's laws about hijab, its ban against free mixing of men and women, its teachings about gender-relations --- all of these reflect a deep concern for haya. Only those people will try to water down these injunctions who are not fully cognizant of haya’s central place in Islamic life. So it is important to remember that Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, said: "Every religion has a distinct call. For Islam it is haya." [Ibn Majah].