Written by Tabassam Hamid
Sometimes, aspirations and idyllic dreams are burnt to an ash, blown away, and we are left to despair.
In moments of turmoil, suffering, and distress, where is there to turn to relieve us of the intensity of our suffering? It consumes our horizon, this pain. It soars over us with its crushing greyness. It mutates and confronts us with its gaping infernal face, and it seems that we are destined never to leave this soul-destroying place.
Nothing in this physical world is of assistance, nor does it offer redemption. It is full of imperfection, full of limitations and degrees of ugliness. There is a burning need for the transcendental. And it is beyond my understanding how non-believers can endure a life without it. Our transcendental need is Allah. Our experience of the transcendental is through the Qur’an.
One of the verses of the Qur’an that I have found especially gripping is Ayat-al-Qursi. Here is a translation of its meaning:
“Allah! There is no god but He – the Living, The Self-subsisting, Eternal. No slumber can seize Him Nor Sleep. His are all things In the heavens and on earth. Who is there can intercede In His presence except As he permitteth? He knoweth What (appeareth to His creatures As) Before or After or Behind them. Nor shall they compass Aught of his knowledge Except as He willeth. His throne doth extend Over the heavens And on earth, and He feeleth No fatigue in guarding And preserving them, For He is the Most High. The Supreme (in glory).” [Surah al-Baqarah 2: 255]
For some time now, this Ayat has challenged me, because rarely is it that I can come across a piece of literature that moves m e, but be unable to explain why or how it has that impact; in the case of Ayat-al-Qursi, truly, I could not understand why it was moving me in the manner and to the extent that it was. By no means do I pretend to have understood it, but I think I am now at least able to give somewhat meaningful expression to my feelings. I must make it clear that I do not venture a tafsir of the surah here, but offer a very personal account of what ayat-al-qursi means to me.
The Ayat opens by declaring the unparalleled majesty of God; declaring first, His name; then, His uncontested position as the one and only God; then, His self-subsistence and his eternal existence. When you are suffering, you know He is there. That alone captivated me because, the mention of His mere existence and its raw imminence. He does not need sustenance from anyone or anything, and He is eternal- unlike anything germinating from this incapacitated, crippled and weak world. So when you seek help and you seek succour, you seek it from He who needs none. He does not need anything prior to giving something, and He does not share any of our limitations. What better source of help is there? And no slumber or sleep can overtake Him. He is forever present, and so, at any moment of any day when you raise your hands in supplication He is there to listen and to answer.
And everything in the heavens and on the earth belongs to him, and none can intervene except as he wishes. What power have dictators and tyrants who declare themselves Lords of men? What power has any human being over and against the life, property and dignity of any other human being? What claim to glory or wealth has he? None, not an iota! What can any man claim to be master of? Nothing-except as Allah wishes. When you realise that even the greatest acts of barbarism that could conceivably be committed against you amount to nothing, because all possessions are Allah’s and all power derives from Him, the threats of this world dwindle and they cower. Who will challenge the supremacy of God? All powers and possessions are His, and so, to Him we raise our hands in supplication.
And He knows what is before us, after us, or behind us. Knowing this provides us with a sense of utmost security, because He is aware of what lies before all men. Sometimes you may feel that you are leaping into the unknown, you do not know where you are heading or what dangers might confront you at any moment. But Allah knows what lies before, after, and behind the righteous and the corrupt. Who better to guide you?
And his throne extends over the heavens and the earth, and he feels no fatigue in guarding or preserving them. When you peer up at the cosmos, with its almost inconceivable immensity and intricacy you are taken aback. Our earth vanishes to a speck in an observable universe in which there are approximately 170 billion galaxies, with our own galaxy, the Milky Way, containing approximately 200 billion stars. The Allah who sustains this universe and the Allah whose throne spans the heavens and the earth is the same Allah who is ‘nearer to him [man] than his jugular vein.’ [Qaaf 50:16]. So when the vicissitudes of life leave us reeling, what greater power to heal and to lift our hearts is there than Allah? His words raise us from our decrepitude, they allow us to transcend this world of imperfections and seek help from its true source.