Tafsir of Short Surahs: Surat al-Duha

A summary of Habib Umar’s commentary on Surat al-Duha, Ramadan 1436

This surah was revealed after a period in which revelation had stopped coming to the Prophet ﷺ . Some of the disbelievers of Quraysh, including the wife of Abu Lahab, said to the Prophet mockingly that Allah had forsaken him and was displeased with him.

Allah then revealed:

By the midmorning

And by the night when it is still

Your Lord has neither forsaken you, nor is He displeased.

The fact that Allah swears by the midmorning (al-duha) is proof of its merit. It is a noble time, in which it is recommended to pray the Duha Prayer. This prayer, along with the prayer between Maghrib and Isha is known as Salat al-Awwabin, or the prayer of those who constantly return to Allah. If someone prays the Fajr prayer in congregation and then remembers Allah until the sun has risen to a spear’s height and then prays the Duha Prayer, they will have the reward of both Hajj and `Umrah. The Prophet ﷺ said: “Performing `Umrah in Ramadan is like performing Hajj with me.”

Many people worship Allah in the night in Ramadan but few stay up after fajr to pray salat al-Duha.

The Prophet ﷺ said: “As each morning comes, every one of you must give charity for every limb of their body.  Saying ‘Subhanallah’ is an act of charity, saying ‘Alhamdulillah’ is an act of charity, saying ‘La ilaha ill’Allah’ is an act of charity, and saying ‘Allahu Akbar’ is an act of charity. Commanding people to do good is an act of charity and forbidding evil is an act of charity. To pray two units at the time of Duha suffices you all this.” The person who prays  the Duha Prayer will also have plentiful provision and will be protected from the Jinn.

Allah thus swears by the morning and by the night that He has not forsaken His Beloved and He is not displeased with him. This is a false claim, since the Prophet is the most beloved of the creation to Allah. 

The hereafter will be better for you than this world

The honour which We will bestow upon you in the next life is far greater than that which We have bestowed upon you in this life. Likewise, although the sincere believer is given mercy and blessings in this life, what is awaiting him is much better.

Another meaning is that for the Prophet ﷺ  every instant is better than the one before it, because he is constantly being elevated. The Prophet is being rewarded for every person who is fasting on the face of the earth today. The pious inherited this state from him, such that every day for them is a celebration, an Eid.

Your Lord will surely give to you, and you will be content

The present tense here is used, implying that Allah will give and continue to give to him. He will give you permission to repeatedly intercede for your nation to the extent that the guardian of the Fire will say: “You did not leave anyone to experience the wrath of your Lord!”

When the Prophet ﷺ cried out of concern for the wellbeing of his Ummah, Allah sent Jibril to say to him: “We will make you content concerning your Ummah.”

There is no one in creation who is more content with Allah than Muhammad and there is no one in creation who Allah is more content with than Muhammad. Allah continues to bestow indescribable gifts upon His Beloved which continue to make him content.

A man from Kufah came to ask Sayyiduna Muhammad al-Baqir whether the hadith of the Prophet’s intercession was authentic. He confirmed that it was and then he said: “You say that the most hopeful verse in the Qur’an is: Say: My slaves who have wronged themselves, do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Allah forgives all sins. Truly He is the All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.[1] We say, however, that the most hopeful verse is Your Lord will surely give to you, and you will be content.” [2]

Allah then reminds His Beloved of the blessings He bestowed upon him at the beginning of his life:

Did He not find you an orphan and give you shelter?

When you came into this life your father had already died and then when you were six years old your mother died. But Allah took care of you and placed you in the care of your grandfather `Abd al-Muttalib and then your uncle Abu Talib. Allah used these means but it was in fact He was taking care of you.

The word for orphan in Arabic – ‘yatim’-  has the meaning of something unique. It is used to describe a unique jewel. Likewise the Prophet ﷺ  is unique and cannot be compared to anyone else.

Did He not find you wandering and guide you?

The word used here is ‘dall’, which can be applied to someone who is completely in love. The sons of Ya`qub used the same word to describe their father’s love for Yusuf. Allah found you consumed by love for Him, so He guided you to the secrets of direct knowledge of Him which He did not guide others to. We found you amongst a people who worshipped idols and drank alcohol but We guided you and you never did any of these things.

You grew up amongst a people who did not know your station and your greatness. Allah than guided those that He wished through His revelation. They then realised that you were the Seal of the Prophets. It is only Allah, however, who completely knows your station.

Some scholars say that this verse refers to occasions when the Prophet got lost – once when he was a child in Makkah and once when he was travelling with Maysarah. On both occasions Allah guided him back to safety.

Did He not find you in need and make you independent?

The word ‘ghina’ in Arabic has the meaning of wealth and independence. Allah is the One who enriches and makes independent all those who realise that they are in need of Him.

We found you in a poor family and We enriched you, outwardly through the support of `Abd al-Muttalib, Abu Talib and then Khadijah, whose wealth she put at your disposal. But you had no interest in worldly things: whatever wealth came to you, you spent immediately.

Due to your inward neediness, Allah made you independent of everything other than Him, for true wealth is the wealth of the soul. He gave you spiritual support and sustenance such that you said: “I spend the night with my Lord and he gives me food and drink.”

He offered to turn the mountains of Makkah into gold for you without this detracting from your reward in any way, but you refused. One of the Mothers of the Believers said: “The hunger of the Family of Muhammad was by choice.” They could have eaten like everyone else but they chose to prefer others over themselves.  Sayyidah Fatimah would suffer from the pain of hunger, so the Prophet  ﷺ asked Allah to remove this pain. From then on she would be extremely hungry but she would not feel any pain.

The one who is in need of other than Allah and thinks that by this he is independent should realise that independence is only given by Allah. Money can be stolen and you can lose your job but if you rely upon Allah you will be independent for eternity.

Allah then elevated His Beloved through the following teachings and made him the best example to all:

Therefore treat not the orphan with harshness

Tell your Ummah to uphold the rights of orphans and to remember that their Prophet was born an orphan. Do not harm orphans and do not look down upon them. If you are given responsibility for their property then fulfil this responsibility with excellence and give them from your own wealth. Do not take advantage of their weakness and do not think that they have no supporters.

It has been narrated that when an orphan cries, Allah says that He will be content on the Day of Judgement with the one who calms him and stops him crying. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ raised his index finger and middle finger and said: “I and the sponsor of an orphan will be like these two (fingers) together in Paradise.” We have been taught to treat animals in the best way, so our treatment of Muslims should be far better and our treatment of orphans better than that.

In some Muslim societies orphans are honoured to such a degree that other children wish they were orphans. It is only when people’s faith and attachment to the religion weakens that orphans are abused and looked down upon. The best of houses in Allah’s sight is the house in which an orphan is honoured. The worst of houses in Allah’s sight is the house in which an orphan is mistreated.

And repel not the one who asks

Do not repel anyone, whether they are asking for the provision of this life – something worldly – or the provision of the next life – knowledge.

The Prophet  ﷺ said: “Knowledge is stored in treasure troves, and the key to those troves is a question, so ask, for four people will be rewarded: the one asking, the scholar, the one listening and the one who loves them.”

When Ibn `Abbas was asked how he attained his vast knowledge, he said: “I was given great understanding in my heart and a tongue that constantly asked questions.” He also said: “I humbled myself in the pursuit of knowledge and I was then honoured as someone from whom people sought knowledge.”

Once when the Prophet  ﷺ was on the minbar delivering a sermon a Bedouin said to him: “Teach me some of the knowledge which you have been taught.” The Prophet then came down, sat with him and taught him and then returned to the minbar.

There are rulings pertaining to begging. If someone possesses enough food for the next day and night it is impermissible for them to beg claiming poverty. The one who shames someone else into giving is like someone who takes money by force. The one who makes begging his profession will always live in poverty however much money he accumulates. This is because his soul and heart are poor.

The worst type of beggars are those who beg in mosques. However, you should not have a bad opinion of such people and if you are able to give something to them there is no harm in doing so, unless you there are clear signs that they will spend the money in disobedience to Allah.

Allah sometimes sends angels in the form of beggars to test His slaves. We should not turn a beggar away, especially if it is the first beggar to approach you that day, because it could be an angel. If you have nothing to give, then say something pleasant to them. Do not raise your voice at them and do not repel them aggressively.

As for the bounty of your Lord, proclaim it

Recall the bounty that Allah has shown you and tell people about it. Part of showing gratitude to Allah is recognising His blessings and telling others about them. The people of Allah talk about Allah’s blessings while their hearts recognise that they do not deserve those blessings. The arrogant talk about Allah’s blessings but attribute those blessings to themselves, like Qarun who said of his great wealth: “I have been given it only on account of the knowledge I possess.”[3]

The Messenger of Allah  ﷺ was given immense gifts and he told people about them. Among the greatest of these were the Qur’an which was revealed to him and prophet-hood. The Companions were once marvelling at the gifts which the previous Prophets had been given. The Prophet heard what they were saying. He said to them that everything they had said was true. Then he told them: “I am the beloved of Allah and this is not a boastful claim; I am the first one to intercede and the first one whose intercession is accepted on the Day of Judgement and this is not a boastful claim; I am the most noble of the first and the last in the sight of Allah and this is not a boastful claim and I am the first person who will come to knock on the gates of Paradise and with me will be the poor believers and this is not a boastful claim.” He thus affirmed their praise for the previous Prophets. He then taught them how to praise him for the blessings Allah had bestowed upon him, for doing so is an act of obedience which draws one closer to Allah.

We thank Allah for the greatest of blessings: Muhammad. Did you pay anything to be a member of his nation? May Allah give him the greatest of rewards on our behalf. May we drink from his pool, may we be in the shade of his banner and may we enter Paradise with him.

 

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[1] Al-Zumar, 39:53

[2] Meaning that the Prophet  ﷺ will not be content for any of his Ummah to enter the Fire, and will do his utmost to intercede for every member of his Ummah

[3] Al-Qasas, 28:78