Mar 25, 2012

The Struggle of the Soul in Light of Surah al Shams

By Melody

“By the Sun and its brightness....”


I can never forget the moment that the hidden meanings of this Surah – Surat Al-Shams – first touched my heart at a time when I most needed to hear those words. This simple chapter in the Qur’an, that I had memorised as a child... this Surah that I so frequently read in my prayers, had such hidden depth to its content and I was completely unaware of it. Meanings of hope, mercy and love are all tied in so eloquently in such a small number of words, and it was only at that moment of need that this beauty was unfolded.

As I go through the verses below, I want you to close your eyes and visualise with me the images that each verse is describing...

(1) By the sun and its brightness
(2) And [by] the moon when it follows it
(3) And [by] the day when it displays itا
(4) And [by] the night when it covers it
(5) And [by] the sky and He who constructed it
(6) And [by] the earth and He who spread it
(7) And [by] the soul and He who proportioned it...

Allah subhaana wa ta'aala swears by the Sun in the first verse, and notice how the next three verses also have the Sun as the subject. One thing you must bear in mind, is that when Allah subhaana wa ta'aala testifies by anything in the Qur’an, which He has done in other chapters, it is to intensify the meaning of what He is testifying to. He testifies by celestial objects, mainly, to show His power. What’s different about this chapter in the Qur’an is that God swears by Himself also, in addition to the celestial objects, further raising the significance of what He is testifying to. What He is testifying to is outlined in the following verse:

(9) He has succeeded who purifies it [the soul]

The Sun, the Moon, the day, the night, the sky, the earth... all of these signs are examples of the great creations of our Creator. That same Lord who is in control of the Sun – look how big, bright and powerful it is – yet He, the All-Powerful, can cause its alternation into night and day, for He veils the sun to create darkness. That same Lord who created these two complete opposites – intense darkness to brightness and yet allows them to merge so subtly, that very same Lord who created and controls this sign that we take for granted, this sign that we see right before our eyes every single day of our lives, also created our soul. And just how He can alter the Sun to produce lightness from darkness, so He can bring that same change to our souls. However great your flaws may be, it is no match to Allah's ability. Regardless of what you’re struggling with, He can give it to you as subtly and as assuredly that night goes into day. The All-Powerful, who created the sky above you, and spread out the Earth below you, also created you, honoured you, raised you from nothing, and so how can He not help you?

...And He doesn’t stop there:

(8) And inspired it [with discernment of] its wickedness and its righteousness,
{i.e. showed it right from wrong}
(9) He has succeeded who purifies it,
(10) And he has failed who instills it [with corruption]
(11) Thamud denied [their prophet] by reason of their transgression,
(12) When their most wretched of them was sent forth
(13) And the messenger of Allah [Salih] said to them, "[Do not harm] the she-camel of Allah or [prevent her from] her drink."
(14) But they denied him and hamstrung her. So their Lord brought down upon them destruction for their sin and made it equal [upon all of them].
(15) And He does not fear the consequences thereof.

The last verses of Surat Al-Shams describe the transgressors of the people of Thamud (whom Prophet Salih was sent as a Messenger), and their punishment. Allah is therefore providing us with an example of a people who corrupted their soul, and He is showing us that the way in which one can inflict such harm on a soul, is by transgressing the boundaries that He has ordained.

And so this follows that the one who is struggling with their soul, and seeking to purify it to prevent transgression, is the one who is on the right track.

“Succeeded is he who purifies it” is what Allah tells us. What does this mean? It means that this life is supposed to be a struggle. This is what is known as Jihad of the Nafs – striving hard for the sake of Allah with your Nafs (soul). And only He, alone, is responsible for creating that change. So all that is required from us is our intentions and our efforts, but the change itself is out of our hands and something that only God Himself can give. So strive for His sake, bear with it patiently, and put your complete faith and trust in Him, knowing that the All-Powerful is on your side. And if you ever lose hope, just look at the sky and ponder over the night and day. He has given us this powerful sign as a beautiful reminder a reminder that has been there since the day we were born – of His Might and His Existence, just in case we forgot.

I conclude with the words of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, that he would recite when coming across the above verses from Surat Al-Shams:

O Allah! Give my soul its good. You are its Guardian and Master, and the best to purify it.

Allahuma Ameen

I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please post in the comments section below! :)


beautiful man this is so beautiful! i also loved this surah! and i used to listen to its recitation often but didn't know the depth it actually contains!! this article just refreshed my iman! thank you so much :) brought tear to my eyes. i needed to hear this.

jzk! I had been lookin for materials to use for a talk i am to have with some teens and needed something to strike at the core of their hearts....this is it! It is a very beautiful verse as all the other verses. thank you.

Jazaki Allahu khairan for sharing the understanding of this surah.  It was something that I didn't completely comprehend before reading this article. :) 

"ALHUMDULILAH!!!" What an awesome gift!

mashaallah! jazakillah khair for this beautiful take on surah as shams. Beautiful. 

beautifully written....masha Allah!! jazakAllah khayrun

mashaAllah...your writeup deftnly expresses how this surah has had an effect on you and how it "enlightened" you!

And to be able to put it in words, the entire experience of enlightenment, isn't so easy!But you not only expressed it all so beautifully, you also managed to enlighten me too!I was in need of something as this...and it did infuse me with renewed hope!JazakAllahu Khairan for all your efforts...and i pray Allah keeps inspiring you this way! ameen!

subhanAllah,very nice explanation of the surah,may Allah grant us the purification of our souls ameen,jazakAllah

MasyaAllah, a beautiful write up! :)

Almost like I can feel you.

I remembered being so caught up with worldly problems, and the next minute forgot everything when I looked up at the sky during dusk time, and the birds were chirping happily.

The moment was so beautiful and I thanked Allah (swt) for there are so many blessings that He has endowed us with. Alhamdulillah

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