REFLECTIONS ON THE CHAPTER OF COMPETITION [102]

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REFLECTIONS ON THE CHAPTER OF COMPETITION [102]


In the Name of God, The Most Beneficent, The Most Merciful.


أَلْهَاكُمُ التَّكَاثُرُ

 

Competition in [worldly] increase diverts you [From the remembrance of God] [102:1]


حَتَّى زُرْتُمُ الْمَقَابِرَ

 

“Until you visit the graves.” [102:2]


كَلَّا سَوْفَ تَعْلَمُونَ

 

“Nay! You shall soon know,” [102:3]


ثُمَّ كَلَّا سَوْفَ تَعْلَمُونَ

 

“Again, Nay! You shall soon know.” [102:4]


كَلَّا لَوْ تَعْلَمُونَ عِلْمَ الْيَقِينِ

 

“Nay! Were you to know with the knowledge of certainty, (you would beware!)” [102:5]


لَتَرَوُنَّ الْجَحِيمَ

 

“You shall certainly see the blazing fire,” [102:6]


ثُمَّ لَتَرَوُنَّهَا عَيْنَ الْيَقِينِ

 

“Again, you will surely see it with certainty of sight!” [102:7]


ثُمَّ لَتُسْأَلُنَّ يَوْمَئِذٍ عَنِ النَّعِيمِ

 

“ Then, on that Day, you will be called to account for all the bounties you enjoyed. “ [102:8]


Reflection #1 : Reflections on the chapter of competition [102]


This chapter is the 16th chapter in the chronological order of the Holy Qur’an and the 102nd Chapter of the Holy Qur’an. It has 8 verses, and it is believed by most of the scholars to be a Meccan Surah of the Holy Qur’an.

 

Numerous commentators believe that this Surah has been revealed in Mecca; then the subject mentioned in the Surah about vying and self-glorification is, customarily, referring to the tribes of Quraish who used to boast to each other, in vain, about worthless affairs.

 

But, some others, such as the late Tabrasi who cited his idea in Majma’-al-Bayan, believe that the Surah was revealed in Medina, and what is said is it about vying and boasting in each other’s sight refers to the Jews or to two tribes among the ‘Ansar’. But, regarding the close similarity that this Surah, being Meccan, has with the Meccan Suras, seems more proper.

 

The content of the Surah in general is firstly, a scorn on those people who, based on things of no value, boast to each other and secondly, there is a warning about the proposition of the Hereafter and the Justice of Hell-fire; and finally, warning that we will be questioned about the bounties in our life. The name of the Surah is derived from the words in the first verse.


The Virtue of Studying Surah Takathur

On the virtue of reciting the Surah, a tradition from the Prophet (S) says:

 

“He who recites it, God will not account the bounties he was given in the world and He will award him such a reward as if he had recited one thousand verses (of the Qur’an). [1]


A tradition from Imam Sadiq (as) denotes that :

 

“The recitation of this Surah in the obligatory and optional prayers has a reward similar to Martyrdom.” [2]

 

It is obvious that these total rewards are for the one who recites it, practices it in his daily life and harmonizes his mind and soul with it.


Surah Takathur, Verses 1-8

  1. Competition in [worldly] increase diverts you [From the remembrance of God]

 

  1. “Until you visit the graves.”

 

  1. “Nay! You shall soon know,”

 

  1. “Again, Nay! You shall soon know.”

 

  1. “Nay! Were you to know with the knowledge of certainty, (you would beware!)”

 

  1. “You shall certainly see the blazing fire,”

 

  1. “Again, you will surely see it with certainty of sight!”

 

  1. “ Then, on that Day, you will be called to account for all the bounties you enjoyed. “

 The Occasion of Revelation

As we mentioned before, commentators believe that this Surah was revealed against the tribes who competed in boasting with one another and prided themselves on increasing their wealth, position, and the number of their adherents so to add to the number of men in each tribe, they even went to the cemetery and counted the tribal graves.

 

Some believe that the meaning refers to two tribes from the tribes of Quraish in Mecca, while some others think it refers to two tribes from the helpers of the Prophet (S), the Ansar, in Medina; and still, some relate it to the competing of the Jews to others, though to consider the Surah Meccan seems more appropriate. But, it is certain that whatever these occasions of revelation could be, they never limit the meaning of the verse.


The Affliction of Competing in Exuberance/Abundance!

In these verses, at first, in a scorning tone, it says: 1. Competition in [worldly] increase diverts you [From the remembrance of God] 2. “Until you visit the graves.”

 

 To enumerate the graves of your dead : In commenting on the verse, this probability has also been conveyed that ‘competing’ has engaged them so much so that it will continuously persist until they enter their graves.

 

But, the first meaning, ‘Until you visit the graves’ considering the occasion of revelation and also the words of Imam Ali (as) in Nahj-ul-Balagha, which will be dealt with later, is more fitting.

 

The term “alhakum” (أَلْهَاكُمُ) is based on the root “lahw” (لهو) with the meaning of ‘amusement’, being busy with unimportant small things and neglectful of great aims and ideas.’ Raghib cites in his Mufradat: “The word “lahw” means something that amuses one with itself and detains him from his real goals.

 

The term “takathur” (التَّكَاثُرُ) is derived from, “kathra” (كثرة) with the sense of ‘competing, glorifying and boasting in each other’s sight’.

 

The term “zurtum” ( زُرْتُمُ) is based on “ziyarah” (زيارة) and “zaur” (زَوْر) which originally means ‘the upper part of the chest’ and later, it has been used in the sense of ‘to visit’ and ‘to face with’.

 

The term “maqabir” (الْمَقَابِرَ) is the plural form of “maqbarah” (مقبرة) with the meaning of ‘the place of the grave of a corpse’; and visiting the graves metaphorically means “death” (according to some commentaries), or it has the meaning of ‘going to the graves in order to vie for the number of the dead’. As it was said earlier, the second meaning seems more proper.


One of the evidences to this idea is the words of Hazrat Ali (as), on this matter, cited in Nahj-ul-Balagha, Sermon, No. 221, that after reciting [102:1] : Competition in [worldly] increase diverts you [From the remembrance of God] [102:2] :  “Until you visit the graves.”

 

He (as) said: “Row distant (from achievement) is their aim, how neglectful are these visitors and how difficult is the affair. They had not taken lessons from things which are full of lessons, but, they took them from far off places. Do they boast on the dead bodies of their forefathers, or do they regard the number of dead persons as a grounds for feeling boastful of their numbers?

 

They want to revive the bodies that have become spiritless and the moments that have ceased; those which are more entitled to be a source of lesson than a source of pride and those are more suitable for being a source of humility than of honour.” [3]


In the next verse they are severely threatened: “Nay! You shall soon know,” “Again, Nay! You shall soon know.”

 

A group of commentators have considered these two verses as a repetition and emphasis on one matter. They, in a general form, inform of the punishments waiting for these vying, proud people.

 

Some have related the first verse to the chastisement in the graves and purgatory after the death that Man is faced with, and the second to the punishment in the Hereafter.


It is narrated that Imam Amir Al-Mu’minin Ali Ibn Abi Talib (as), in a tradition, said:

 

“Some of us were in doubt about the chastisement in the grave until the time that Surah Takathur was revealed, (the verse) says: ‘Nay! You shall soon know’ which indicated (the punishment) in the grave, and (the verse), ‘Again, nay! You shall soon know’ (refers to it) in the Hereafter.” [4]


Then, it adds that it is not such as you vying, proud people think. If you believed in the Hereafter and knew it with the you would never indulge in such vain affairs and vie for foolish things:

 

“Nay! Were you to know with the knowledge of certainty, (you would beware!)”.


Then, for a stronger warning and a more emphatic statement it says:

 

 

“You shall certainly see the blazing Fire,”Again, you will surely see it with certainty of sight!” “Then, on that Day you will surely be questioned about the joy (you indulged in).”

 

 

On That Day, you must clarify how you enjoyed the bounties of God, in your life, and whether you used them in the way of obeying God or committing sin and consequently, wasting them.


Explanations

The Source of Vying


It is understood from the above verses that one of the main factors in vying and pride is ignorance of the rewards and punishments given by God, for our deeds and the lack of Faith in the Resurrection.

 

Besides, Man’s ignorance of his weaknesses, his creation and his final destiny are among the causes of the existence of this pride and vying. That is why the Holy Qur’an, to break this vying and pride, tells the story of the destruction of some earlier nations in different verses, and how they were simply vanished while they had much power and possibilities. They were destroyed by wind, lightening, earthquake, excessive rain and sometimes, small baked clay carried by little birds.


Yet, What is This Mass of Vying and Pride For?

Another factor for this status is the feeling of weakness and helplessness originating from defects some people have, themselves, and they want to cover them with vying and pride. Concerning this, a tradition from Imam Sadiq (as) says:

 

“No one is proud or behaves arrogantly except for the disgrace that he finds in himself.” [5]


Another tradition from Imam Amir Al-Mu’minin Ali Ibn Abi Talib (as) says:

 

“Two things have killed people: the fear of poverty (which forces man to gather wealth by any means and any way), and demanding pride.” [6]

 

And verily, this very unreasonable fear of poverty and vying between individuals, tribes, and societies are among the greatest causes of greed, lowliness, mammonism, destructive rivalries and many other social vices.


A tradition from the Holy Prophet (S) says:

 

“I do not fear you for poverty, but I fear you because of lying.” [7]


All it was said before, the term ‘Takathur’ originally means ‘vying’, but, it is sometimes applied to the ‘act of multiplying’ especially in piling up wealth.

 

We conclude this subject with a meaningful tradition from the Prophet (S) who commenting on the verse [102:1] : Competition in [worldly] increase diverts you. [From the remembrance of God]

 

Said: “Man says ‘My wealth, my wealth’ but you have not from your wealth except the food you eat, what you wear, and what you spend in the way of God.” [8]

 

This is, of course, a delicate, interesting point that everyone’s share from the total wealth he gathers and sometimes does not pay the least attention to whether it is lawful or unlawful, is only the very small portion that he eats, drinks, wears, and spends in the way of God; and knows that what he uses, himself, is little, then, it is better to increase his share by spending a part of it in the way of God; and the more the better.


Certitude and its Degrees

‘Certitude’ (yaqin) is the opposite case to ‘doubt’ as ‘knowledge’ contrasts with ‘ignorance’, and means ‘the clarity and positiveness of something’. According to what is understood from the Islamic narrations and traditions, one of the strongest features of Faith is called ‘yaqin’.


Imam Baqir (as) said:

 

“Faith is one degree higher than IsIam, and ‘Taqwa’ virtue, is one degree higher than Faith, and yaqin’, certitude, is one degree higher than ‘taqwa’.

 

Then, he added:

 

“Nothing is divided less among people than certitude (yaqin)”.

 

Then, he (as) was asked what ‘yaqin’ meant and he replied:

 

“(It is) trust in God, obedience to God, well-pleasing with the Will of God, and leaving all of (one’s) affairs to God”. [9]


This highness of the position of ‘yaqin’, certitude, to the positions of virtue, Faith, and Islam is somewhat like that which is mentioned and emphasized in other Islamic narrations, too.

 

From these statements and other evidences we clearly realize that when a person obtains the position of ‘certitude’ (yaqin) a special calmness and quietness fills his heart and his soul, completely.

 

In any event, certitude (yaqin) has degrees which are referred to in the verses of the Surah under discussion and in Surah Waqi’ah, No. 56, verse 95: “Verily, this is the very truth and certainty”.


Certainty of knowledge (yaqin) has been described as having three stages:

 

 

  1. Certitude of knowledge or certainty of mind (‘Ilm-ul-yaqin) which is the Faith that a person obtains by various means such as the one who sees smoke and believes there is fire there.

 

  1. Certainty of Sight (‘Ayn-ul-yaqin) which is what one sees with one’s eyes; for instance, one sees the fire, himself.

 

  1. The absolute truth of assured certainty (Haqq-ul-yaqin) which means the ‘realization’ or the ‘knowledge proper’ and is the personal experience as when the one who arrives in the fire oneself and feels the heat of it and takes the attributes of fire into his entity. This very state is the highest degree of ‘yaqin’.

 

 

In fact, the first stage is general; the second stage is for pious people; and the third stage is for those who are in some way chosen above others.


A tradition from the Holy Prophet (S) denotes that some people asked him about a matter that they had heard about some of the companions of Prophet Jesus (as) who used to walk on water, and he (S) said:

 

“If their certitude was in a highest position they could walk in the air.” [10]


The late ‘Allamah Tabatabai, after mentioning this tradition, adds that everything pivots on the certitude to God, the Glorified, and to know no other means of the effects of this world, but God. Therefore, the more the Faith and certainty, in a person, is the absolute power of God, the more objects, in this world, will be obedient to him.

 

And this is the secret of the relation of certitude (yaqin) and the ‘extraordinary interference’ in the world of creation.


The Deniers Will See The Justice of Hell

The phrase “Latarawonna Al-Jahim” (لَتَرَوُنَّ الْجَحِيمَ) has two different commentaries. The first is the observation of Hell in the Hereafter, by disbelievers, or generally for all humans and Jinn.

 

The second meaning is its observation by spiritual intuition in this very world. In this case the phrase is the answer to the conditional proposition.

 

It says: “…Were you to know with the knowledge of certainty, (you would beware),You shall certainly see the blazing fire.”


 In this very life and with the sight of spiritual intuition, because we know that Paradise and Hell exist now. Paradise and Hell are manifestations of God’s Mercy and Justice.

 

But, as was said earlier, the first commentary is more fitting with the following verses which refer to the Day of Justice, therefore, this is a decisive proposition, not a conditional one.


What Bounties Are Asked About in the Hereafter?

The last verse, in this Surah, denotes that on Doomsday we will be questioned about the bounties we have incurred. Some have said that it means the bounty of health and mind-security; some others believe it refers to healthiness and security and finally, some have considered all bounties in its meaning.

 

A tradition from Imam Ali (as) says: “Bounty (Na’im) (نعيم) is : a ‘ripe date’ and ‘cold water’”.

 

According to another tradition, Abu Hanifah asked Imam As-Sadiq (as) about the meaning of this verse, then, he (as) returned the question to him and asked him what he (Abu Hanifah) thought “na’im” (نعيم) : ‘bounty’ was, and he replied that it was ‘food’ and ‘cold water’.

 

Then, the Imam (as) said that if God kept him before Him to ask him about every morsel he ate and every drop of drink he drank, his stay, there, would be very long.

 

Abu Hanifah asked again about the meaning of “na’im”(نعيم) and Imam (as) said :

 

“It refers to us, Ahlul-Bait, for whom God has given His servants bounties, and made them united after they were diverse and joined their hearts together in brotherhood after they had been enemies (with each other) and He has guided them to Islam through us and this is the bounty that will not cease, and God asks them about the ‘right’ of the bounty which He has given them and guided them to Islam by us. Yes,‘bounty’ (The Na’im) is the Prophet (S) and his household.” [11]


The meaning of these apparently different traditions is that the term “na’im” has a very vast sense so that it covers all the divine bounties; from spiritual ones such as religion, Faith, Islam, Qur’an and vicegerency to material ones whether they are personal or social. But, the more important bounties like the bounty of ‘Faith and vicegerency’ are asked about more from them than if they had fulfilled their complete duty to them or not.

 

How could it be possible that these bounties would not be asked for when they are great, useful assets endowed to Man and each of which should be appreciated, thanked and used in their appropriate ways.


Certainty in the eyes of Imam Ja’far As-Sadiq (as)

From the book of Imam Ja’far As-Sadiq (as), “Lantern of the Path”, in the Chapter of Certainty he (as) writes :

 

“ Certainty will take the bondsman to every sublime state and every wondrous station; thus did the Messenger of God make known the immensity of certainty when he mentioned that ‘Isa (‘a) walked on water. He said, ‘If he had had more certainty, he could have walked on air.’ By this he indicated that in spite of the majesty of the place which the prophets have with God, they also have different ranks according to their certainty.

 

Certainty is ever increasing, and remains so throughout eternity. Believers also vary in the strength and weakness of their certainty. A person whose certainty is strong may be recognised by the fact that he finds himself stripped of all ability and power other than what God has given him, and by his keeping to God’s command and worship both outwardly and inwardly.

 

He considers the states of having and not having, increase and decrease, praise and blame, might and abasement, all to be the same because he considers them all on an equal level. However, a person who weakens his certainty attaches himself to external matters, and allows his self free rein therein. He follows the customs and sayings of people without substantiating them, and strives in the affairs of this world, accumulating its wealth and holding on to it, acknowledging and affirming it with his tongue.

 

There is no withholder or giver except God, and the slave can only obtain what he is provided with and allotted. Effort will not increase provision, but he disavows that by his actions and his heart. In God’s words :

 

 

 

يَقُولُونَ بِأَفْوَاهِهِم مَّا لَيْسَ فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ وَاللّهُ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا يَكْتُمُونَ

 

 

They say with their mouths what is not in their hearts; and God best knows what they conceal. [3:167]

 

 

 

God was compassionate to His bondsmen when He gave them permission to earn money however they might as long as they do not exceed the limits of God or abandon their obligations to Him and the behaviour of His Prophet (saw) in any of their actions, or abandon the spirit of trust or become caught in the field of greed. But when they forget this, attaching themselves to the opposite of what has been delineated for them, they are counted among the destroyed, who at the end have nothing but false claims. Not everyone who earns is necessarily trustful: from his earnings he brings for himself only what is forbidden or doubtful. He may be recognized by the effect his gains have upon him, by his insatiable hunger, and how he spends for this world without let.

 

He who is given permission to earn is one whose self gains while his heart trusts in God. If he has a lot of money, he is like a trustee who knows that having property and not having it is the same thing. If he withholds it, he withholds for God; and if he spends it, he does so in the way God has commanded. Both are for God.


Reflection #2 : The Light of Certainty


Abundance and exuberance is something we all want. Many people are looking for a life of quantity and abundance. The problem is not the quantity, but why you are looking for the money and the quantity. Money can be beneficial in many ways. Money in itself is not evil. Many believe that money is the root of all evil in all aspects. That is not the case. Money is like a knife. A knife can hurt and benefit the human race. If you use money in a good way, you can give a great benefit to the society you live in, as you contribute to the economic progress.

 

In the past and in the current situation, we see exactly the same phenomenon, as the Arabs compete in high buildings and money. The Arabs had a mentality : to boast over the quantities. For example: “He has memorized the most poetry”, “his family is greater than his”, “his family is stronger than his”, “This family is richer than the other”, etc. This continued until they died and visited the graves. This was the purpose of their lives, and this still continues to be the purpose of many Arabs’ lives. I myself grew up with Arab boys who used to boast over the size of their families and how strong it is in Malmö, Sweden and in their home countries. This mentality has not really left the Arabs, even though the Prophet (saw) came with Islam a thousand years ago.

 

As people, it is very important to use the quantity correctly and that it is the quality that applies. We must search for the quality and not the quantity. It is the wisdom that applies and not the knowledge itself. The destination you want to reach with your knowledge is of course the sweetness of wisdom.


Many People Believe that ” Human Intelligence” is defined by the amount of Knowledge you have or how many books you’ve read. That’s completely wrong. it’s not about the quantity.. it’s about the quality, and not about the Knowledge itself. Knowledge is not the final destination. Wisdom is the final destination of this path of learning. I personally have read thousands upon thousands of books. These books will not make me better than another human being in anything if I can’t utilize my knowledge or my experiences in order to progress to a better stage.

 

Remember that Satan has more knowledge than me and you and every single human being except God,the Infallible human beings (as)  and the righteous people (ra). God didn’t create you in order for you to think about the quantity as the final destination, but rather, God created you in order for you to pursue the sweetness of the quality of life. You can have 1000 oranges at home, but what’s the point if you can’t enjoy the juice of one orange?

 

The Arabs will know the truth of certainty. The goal of praying is not to just to pray for the quantity. It is to reach a stage of Yaqeen, and that is a major subject in Islam. We should be sure that we will meet God. The goal of life is not the quantity of seeking money and only eating until you become full of this money. The goal of life is that life is like a school, and that one climbs up to a splendid and spiritual dimension where one builds himself to a degree where one is certain of the fact that one knows God.


من عرف نفسه فقد عرف ربه

 

“ The one who knows himself, Knows his Lord.”

 

– Prophet Muhammad (saw)


This life is about building ourselves as much as possible, so that our personalities and morals are similar to God’s morals and that we incorporate God’s names into our hearts, so that we become as close to God as possible with our thoughts, actions, and lifestyles.

 

Some people die in a state of heedlessness of the reality of God’s light, while some people never die, and leave the material stage and move to the stage of the reality of the pursuit of this worldly life and its destination.


لو كشف لي الغطاء لما ازددت يقينا

 

 

“ If the veil between me and God would be removed, it would not increase my certainty at all.” (meaning that my certainty is so high that I’ve already reached the highest stage of certainty, even though I am not dead and will never die because of the stage I’ve reached in worship)

 

 

– Imam Ali (as)

 

 

We as Muslims should seek us to a degree where we live in Haqq Al-Yaqeen and not just ‘Ilm Al-Yaqeen. Many just want to be Muslims on a superficial level of knowing, for example, that God’s, the Prophet (saw) and Ahlulbayt’s (as) path is the path of the truth without wanting to live in the path of the truth itself and the light of its reality.


Supplication

O Lord! Shower upon us, ceaselessly, Your, unlimited bounties especially the bounty of ‘Faith and vicegerency’.

 

 

O Lord! Give us the success of fulfilling our duties for them as their right is.

 

 

O Lord! Please increase these bounties for us and never deprive us from them.


| Amir Zabidi and Imam Ali Center <3 


Further readings


  1. Majma’ Al-Bayan By Shaykh At-Tabrasi
  2. Tafsir Namuneh By Ayatollah Naser Makarem As-Shirazi
  3. Tafsir Al-Mizan By At-Tabatabaei
  4. Tafsir Nur Ath-Thaqalayn By Al-Huwayzi
  5. Tafsir As-Safi By Al-Kashaani
  6. Tafsir At-Tibyan By Shaykh At-Tusi
  7. Tafsir Jami’ Al-Jawami’ By Shaykh At-Tabrasi
  8. Tafsir Al-Qummi by Shaykh Ali Ibrahim Al-Qummi
  9. Tafsir As-Shubr
  10. Tafsir Min Wahy Al-Qur’an By Sayyed Muhammed Hussain Fadlallah
  11. Tafsir Al-Mubin by Sayyed Muhammed Jawad Al-Mughniyah
  12. Tafsir Furat Al-Kufi
  13. The Study Qur’an by Hossein An-Nasr
  14. Tafsir Al-Kabir by Fakhr Ad-Din Ar-Razi
  15. Tafsir Al-Kashaaf By Zamakshari

References 


[1] Majma -al-Bayan, vol. 10, p. 532.

 

[2] Ibid.

 

[3] Nah-jul-Balagha, Sermon No. 221 (Arabic version).

 

[4]  Majma’-al-Bayan, vol. 10, p. 534.

 

[5] Usul al-Kafi, vol. 2, p. 236, tradition 17.

 

[6] Bihar-ul-Anwar, vol, 73, p, 290, tradition 12.

 

[7] Durr-ul Manthur, vol, 6, p. 387.

 

[8] Sahih Muslim (as Majma’-al-Bayan, vol. 10, p. 534 quotes).

 

[9] Bihar-al-Anwar, vol. 70, p. 138, tradition 4.

 

[10]  Al-Mizan, vol. 6, p. 200.

 

[11] Majma’-al-Bayan, vol. 10, p. 535.


| REFLECTIONS ON THE CHAPTER OF COMPETITION [102]

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