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A Ramadan Quran Journal: A MuslimMatters Series – [Juz 16] What Endures? Reflections on Surat Taha

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Surah Taha

This Ramadan, MuslimMatters reached out to our regular (and not-so-regular) crew of writers asking them to share their reflections on various ayahs/surahs of the Quran, ideally with a focus on a specific juz – those that may have impacted them in some specific way or have influenced how they approach both life and deen. While some contributors are well-versed in at least part of the Quranic Sciences, not all necessarily are, but reflect on their choices as a way of illustrating that our Holy Book is approachable from various human perspectives.

Introducing, A Ramadan Quran Journal: A MuslimMatters Series

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What Endures? Reflections on Surat Taha

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by Ust. Jinan Yousef

 

Ramadan is the month of the Qur’an. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says,

The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.” [Surah Al Baqarah: 2;185]

As the Qur’an is meant to guide us, pondering upon its meanings, taking lessons, and following its guidelines is part of our faith in it. The verses I will reflect upon are in Surat Taha, in the 16th Juz of the Qur’an. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) begins Surat Taha with:

“Ta, Ha,”

“We have not sent down to you the Qur’an that you be distressed,”

“But only as a reminder for those who fear [ Allah ] – “ [Surah Taha: 20;1-3]

Towards the end, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says,

 

“And whoever turns away from My remembrance – indeed, he will have a depressed life, and We will gather him on the Day of Resurrection blind.” [Surah Taha: 20;124]

The beginning and the end of the chapter emphasize to us the role and effect of the Qur’an. The Qur’an is a reminder, not a cause of distress; in fact, turning away from the Qur’an is what results in a miserable life – here and in the Hereafter. But turning to the Qur’an is light and healing, in this world and the next. It connects us to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), reminds us of our purpose, helps us to prioritize, and strengthens and comforts our hearts.

In this article I will focus on when Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) uses the phrase “more enduring” (abqā) in Surat Taha.

The Tests and Temptations Of This World

Many will talk about how we are ‘wired’ to pursue pleasure and to eschew pain. While we may have certain tendencies, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) reminds us that,

And We have certainly honored the children of Adam and carried them on the land and sea and provided for them of the good things and preferred them over much of what We have created, with [definite] preference.” [Surah Al-‘Isra: 17;70]

Our soul has the potential for both good and evil, and we must work on ourselves in order to be of the people who choose good, even when it is uncomfortable or inconvenient. We rise above our base desires for a higher purpose. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says,

“And [by] the soul and He who proportioned it,”

“And inspired it [with discernment of] its wickedness and its righteousness,”

“He has succeeded who purifies it,”

“And he has failed who instills it [with corruption].” [Surah Ash-Shams: 91;7-10]

Part of the reason why we may not always persevere through hardship or refrain from giving in to illicit temptations is forgetting what actually endures. The tribulation has an end, and so does the pleasure. None of these last. Holding on to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and holding on to the Truth necessarily provides us the fortitude to be able to see beyond.

More Enduring

In this chapter, there are four places where Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tells us what is more enduring (abqā); two in relation to what is better and more enduring [Surah Taha: 20;73,127], and two in relation to punishment that is more enduring [Surah Taha: 20;7,131).

The magicians

The first instance appears when Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tells us about the magicians. These were people called upon by Pharaoh to challenge the Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). When Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) performed the miracle of turning his staff into a snake, Pharaoh said,

“He said, ‘Have you come to us to drive us out of our land with your magic, O Moses?'”

“Then we will surely bring you magic like it, so make between us and you an appointment, which we will not fail to keep and neither will you, in a place assigned.” [Surah Taha: 20;57-58]

Pharaoh then gathered all the magicians in the land at the appointed time and place, where they all eagerly hoped to gain the favor of Pharaoh. While Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) warned them not to fabricate lies against Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), they proceeded with the challenge. The magicians did not appear to be the most upright people. After all, their profession was literally deceiving people! But when Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) threw his staff and it devoured theirs, the magicians recognized that it was not a simple trick. It was a miracle, and what Mus 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was calling to was true. So, the magicians immediately fell down in prostration, declaring, “We believe in the Lord of Aaron and Moses!”

Pharaoh, of course, was outraged. He threatened them, saying

“[Pharaoh] said, “You believed him before I gave you permission. Indeed, he is your leader who has taught you magic. So I will surely cut off your hands and your feet on opposite sides, and I will crucify you on the trunks of palm trees, and you will surely know which of us is more severe in [giving] punishment and more enduring (abqā).” [Surah Taha: 20;71]

Here Pharaoh asserted that his punishment was more severe and more lasting. Indeed, what he was threatening them with what was an inhumane and tortuous death. It would have been natural – permissible even – for the magicians to apologize and to take back their words. However,

“They said, “Never will we prefer you over what has come to us of clear proofs and [over] He who created us. So decree whatever you are to decree. You can only decree for this worldly life.”

“Indeed, we have believed in our Lord that He may forgive us our sins and what you compelled us [to do] of magic. And Allah is better and more enduring (abqā).” [Surah Taha: 20;72-73]

The magicians countered Pharaoh’s assertion with the fact that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is better and more lasting. Despite the severity and immediacy of Pharaoh’s torment, they knew that what is with Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is better and more lasting. And they chose Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

The Hereafter

Towards the end of the chapter, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) again turns us to what actually lasts. After mentioning those who turn away from His remembrance, from the Qur’an, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says,

 

“And thus do We recompense he who transgressed and did not believe in the signs of his Lord. And the punishment of the Hereafter is more severe and more enduring (abqā).” [Surah Taha: 20;127]

In the previous verses, Pharaoh had told the magicians that his punishment was more severe and more lasting, whereas in this verse, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) affirms that His punishment, which is eternal, is far more severe and enduring. Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) punishment is for those who reject and transgress.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) then reminds the believers:

 

“And do not extend your eyes toward that by which We have given enjoyment to [some] categories of them, [its being but] the splendor of worldly life by which We test them. And the provision of your Lord is better and more enduring (abqā).” [Surah Taha: 20;131]

It is tempting to look at outward blessings that people have and desire those things. Desires create in us a drive to pursue. They can, when taken to an extreme, distract us from what is truly important and cause us to transgress. This is what caused the downfall of Qarun, for example, who “was from the people of Moses, but he tyrannized them.” [Surah Al Qasas: 28;76] In telling us not to look at and crave what people have of enjoyment in this world, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) also reminds us that these are tests. It is not that people enjoy these things without accountability; we will all be asked about how we used what was given to us. Whatever we have of provision can be used to remind us of His blessings upon us and come closer to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) or to forget Him and turn away from Him. And Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) reminds us: the provision of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) in Paradise is what remains.

Perseverance

As we go through challenges in life, as we sometimes ask why we do not have something while others do, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) reminds us in the Qur’an that this life is fleeting and temporary. If we truly want what lasts, we have to aim for the Hereafter. Sometimes it will be easy for us, and at other times it will be hard, and we will have to choose between matters. Sometimes we will succeed, and at other times we will fall short. With these verses, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) comforts us. Whatever we leave for His sake is never lost. Indeed, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said,

“Verily, you will never leave anything for the sake of Allah Almighty but that Allah will replace it with something better for you.” [Musnad Aḥmad 23074]  

Whatever you persevere through hoping for His pleasure, whatever you leave for His sake, remember that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is telling you that what He has for you is eternal provision. The conviction of the magicians helped them to withstand the torture of Pharaoh. And who knows what Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has prepared for them – for you – in the Hereafter?

 

Related:

Trust Allah in All of Your Affairs, and You Will Never Be Disappointed

Yahya Ibrahim | Life Lessons from Sūrat ṬāHā: “Shepherding – The Way of the Prophets”

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

inan Yousef has been an author for over a decade, and most recently published the book, "Reflecting on the Names of Allah" (Al-Buruj Press, 2020). She has been a student of Sheikh Akram Nadwi for many years, and currently studies tafsir at Al-Salam Institute. Jinan teaches classes on the names of Allah for SWISS online. She is passionate about helping Muslims connect to Allah through knowing Him by His names.

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