Verses from Surah al-Mu’minun [1 – 4]

Al-Mu’minun1 (The Believers)



1. Merits of the Surah

Several commentators have quoted `Umar’s words in Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Nasa’i, and Hakim (who said it is Sahih: Alusi) that he said, “When revelation came down to the Prophet we could hear a humming sound like that of the bees. One day it started to come down, so we waited for a while. When he became his self, he faced the Qiblah, raised his hands and supplicated in words,‘O Allah, grant us increase and do not decrease, honor us and do not dishonor us, give us and do not hold back, give us preference and do not prefer over us, grant us satisfaction (and be satisfied with us)’ – then he said, ‘Today ten verses have been revealed to me, that whoever took good care of, entered Paradise;’ and recited the first ten verses of this chapter.’”

2.Except for a few verses, the Surah is Makkan, and most probably belongs to the end of the period, if not the last ones to be revealed there.

[1] Succeeded indeed the believers.3 


3. The textual “qad” (translated as “indeed”) also gives the sense of an event already taken place. Taking cue from this, Zamakhshari points out that the verse carried good news for the believers who were expecting such an assurance to come from Allah. He also points out that to say “aflaha” is to mean, “he entered into success” (“and will remain there”) – Razi.

‘Now,’ adds Shafi`, ‘since “falaah” signifies achieving total bliss, one which is not punctured by any inconvenience of any sort, physical, mental, moral or spiritual, it is unattainable in this world. Whether it is ordinary men, or Prophets and Messengers, they will all attain “falaah” in the next world alone.’

While Tabari reports Qatadah, Mujahid and Maysarah as their own statement, Ibn Kathir traces a few reports in Tabarani and Bazzaar that attribute the following to the Prophet: “When Allah had created Paradise, one silver brick upon a gold brick cemented with musk, He asked it to speak. It said, ‘Successful indeed are the believers.’” Ibn Kathir, however, remarks that all the reports of this nature happen to be weak.

[2] Those who are humble and tranquil4 in their Prayers. 


4. The textual root “khasha`a” literally means to humble, and lower oneself. Since that mental state in the Prayers leads to tranquility and immobility of the body, “khushuu`” has been widely defined as the motionless state when the head is bent forward, eyes look downward, and concentration is kept high (Au.).

Mujahid, Zuhri and others defined “khushu`” in Prayers as motionlessness. `Ali said, “Do not pay attention to anything else during your Prayers.” Hasan and Ibrahim said that “khushu`” is a state of the heart, while that of the body is to be motionless. `Ataa’ in fact, as well as a few others, report that the Prophet used to look sideways and towards the front until this verse was revealed, after which he was never seen in Prayers but his gaze fixed downward (Ibn Jarir).

One might be reminded, however, that the above report about the Prophet is a truncated one (Ibn Kathir).

In fact, Ibn Seereen said that they used to say, “Let not the sight travel beyond the prayer mat. If it habitually goes beyond that, then one might close the eyes” (Ibn Kathir from Ibn Abi Hatim).

Nevertheless, Ibn `Abbas, Hasan and others have interpreted the term as that “fear of heart” which leads to the neglect of everything else besides the Prayers (Ibn Jarir).

Qurtubi writes: Scholars have differed over khushu`, whether it is obligatory or an additional adornment. `Abdul Wahid b. Zayd, as in Nisapuri’s commentary, claimed that there is consensus over its obligatory nature.

To substantiate the view that khushu’ is obligatory, Razi presents the following verses of the Qur’an: First, “Do they not ponder over the Qur’an?” (Muhammad: 24). Now pondering cannot be obtained without realizing the meaning of what is recited.

Second, “Establish the Prayers for My remembrance,” (Taa-haa: 14). Absent mindedness is the opposite of remembrance.

Third, “Until you know what you are saying,” (Al-Nisaa’: 43). Imam Ghazali has argued, adds Razi, that the Prayers have been referred to one’s private whispering with Allah. And a talk in which one’s mind is not present is no talk at all. Further, he writes, if we removed “khushu`” from Prayers, we remove the reason why it tops the list of rituals and is a mark of distinction between a believer and an unbeliever.

In any case, “khushu`” has to show itself in a man’s manner of conducting the Prayers. Not to dress up properly, to play with one’s clothes during the Prayers, to think of something else other than the Prayer, to yawn, etc., are all indicative of the lack of “khushu`”. It is reported of the Prophet that he saw a man fiddling with his beard during the Prayers. He remarked, “Had this man’s heart been in ‘khushu`’, his limbs would have also been in ‘khushu`’” (Zamakhshari). But the report is weak (Alusi).

However, Alusi adds that we have another report in Bukhari, Abu Da’ud and Nasa’i, which says that the Prophet was asked by `A’isha about diversion of attention away during the Prayers. He answered, “That is a seizure that Satan snatches off from the Prayer of a believer.” We also have a report in Ibn Abi Shaybah, in Ahmad’s Kitab al-Zuhd, and in Hakim who termed it Sahih that Abu Hudhayfah said, “The first thing you will miss in your religion is ‘khushu`’ and the last thing the Prayers” (shortened).

[3] Those who shun the vain.5


5. ‘Sin,’ ‘unreal things,’ and ‘falsehood’ are some of the meanings that have come down from Ibn `Abbas and Hasan as the explanation of the textual word “laghw” (Ibn Jarir). Commonly, it is applied to anything, whether a word of mouth, or an action, that is of no profit in this world or the hereafter (Au.), and includes indulgence in anything that is against “muru’ah”  (a combination of qualities [in the humans] that includes nobility, magnanimity, courage and generosity). – Zamakhshari

[4] Those who are active at almsgiving.6


6. We could end with Thanwi’s observation: Since this Surah is Makkan, the verse maybe interpreted as alluding to common charity, which was declared obligatory in Makkah itself. But a specified amount (or percentage), over a certain amount of wealth, after a specified period, was instituted in Madinah alone. In fact, the Ayah (6: 141), “And pay off its due on the day of its harvest,” is also Makkan (Ibn Kathir).

A second meaning of “Zakah” has also been considered as possible by many commentators, viz., purification. That is, those who are active at purifying themselves.

Mawdudi further elaborates: “(The) …expression used here, Li al-Zakati Fa`ilun (indicates that) the matter does not end with their giving away a part of their wealth, rather it embraces a whole range of acts including purification of one’s self, purification of one’s morality, purification of one’s wealth; in sum, the purification of virtually everything.”