“Bring people from the depths of darkness into light…” (v. 1) This phrase is used twice, first, by Gabriel explaining that the scripture the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is being given is so that he may lead people “to the path of the Almighty,” and again with the command given to Moses, “Bring out your people from the depths of darkness into light. Remind them of the Days of God…” (v.5). The Prophets were not only messengers who provided prophecies, but were sent by Allah to warn disbelievers to turn to Allah, and for believers who have fallen away to return back, or they will all face severe punishment. As is written in many Surah’s in the Qur’an as well as this Surah, Gabriel mentions the many previous communities who were sent messengers that were mocked and disrespected by disbelievers such they were destroyed: “Noah, ‘Ad, Thamud, and those who lived after them, known only to God…” (v. 9). The pattern is clear, “If you are thankful, I will give you more, but if you are thankless, My punishment is terrible indeed.” (v.7). The metaphor of “depths of darkness” is a picture of the place of sin. The sinner resides in the deepest darkness unable to perceive the truth. It is the light provided by Allah’s messengers that is to illumine the path of righteousness. If only sinners would use their reason to understand that “God created the heavens and the earth for a purpose…” (v.19). Our lives were not meant to be a meaningless toil under the sun, but is to be flourished and blessed by Allah for His purpose and subsequently to then bless others so all may come to know His bounty. For the works of those who do not commit their labor to Allah “…are like ashes that the wind blows furiously on a stormy day; they have no power over anything they have gained. This is to stray far, far away” (v. 18). Alternatively, the one whose deeds are submitted to Allah bear fruit in numerous ways for Allah’s purpose.
Gabriel goes on to explain that the weak who follow the powerful and were led astray will have no recourse on their Day of Judgement, as the disbelieving powerful will not be able to intercede in their behalf. This is an important lesson to all people who place those in power before Allah. This can even happen with your religious leaders, who can easily twist the Qur’an’s teachings to serve their own self interests. Each one of us individually is responsible for the conditions of our souls and the direction we choose to take whether for our spiritual benefit or to its detriment.
“Satan will say, ‘God gave you a true promise. I too made promises but they were false ones, I had no power over you except to call you, and you responded to my call, so do not blame me, blame yourselves” (v. 22). Satan calls from the darkness and Allah from the light of truth; Allah seeks our conversion for our own good, while Satan seeks your conversion to destroy you in his ever long battle against Allah. He deceives humans in an effort to dissuade them from Allah’s truth. For the person who has “taken his passion as a god” (25:43) is one who has made Satan a partner with Allah. Satan himself rejects the way those who followed him “associated [him] with God before.” Allah has made it clear that we are not to follow Satan’s wiles, “But step aside today, you guilty ones. Children of Adam, did I not command you not to serve Satan, for he was your sworn enemy, but to serve Me? This is the straight path. He has led great numbers of you astray. Did you not use your reason?” (36:60–62). Reason in and of itself is relative, but this refers to using reason in obtaining deeper understanding through the studying of the Qur’an to fully apprehend Allah’s will. The person following their own lusts and passions has already let Satan in to gain a foothold. The only armor against Satan’s attacks are using the Word to gain self control. Furthermore, Satan is a deceiver, and once people answer his call of pleasure and vice, they become deceivers too. The sinners then join Satan’s army of worshipers in their war against Allah and the Truth. Gabriel tells the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), “Say, ‘take your pleasure now, for your destination is the Fire” (v. 30). A true believer will acknowledge within themselves the danger of sinful actions. Likewise, an additional danger is the person who refuses to see that their level of depravity has effected the condition of their soul or character. This sinner not only uses deception to hide their sin from others, but also subconsciously uses deception to hide the severity of their actions even from themselves.
Usually when Gabriel wants to use a metaphor or analogy from nature it is referred to as a “sign,” but in the following case the analogy begins with “Do you not see how God makes comparisons?” (v. 24) The attention now becomes more focused on the difference between good and evil words, “A good word is like a good tree whose root is firm and whose branches are high in the sky, yielding constant fruit by its Lord’s leave — God makes such comparisons for people so that they may reflect — but an evil word is like a rotten tree, uprooted from the surface of the earth, with no power to endure. God will give firmness to those who believe in the firmly rooted word, both in this world and the Hereafter, but the evildoers He leaves to stray; God does whatever He wills” (vs. 24–27). In using this comparison after the admonishment regarding Satan, Gabriel is emphasizing that which pours forth from a filthy heart will not have any impact, but the heart that is pure stems from a deeply held faith that endures and can’t be shaken.
Gabriel warns at the close of this Surah, “This is a message to all people, so that they may be warned by it, and know that He is the only God, and so that those who have minds may take heed.” This Surah was revealed late during the Prophet’s time in Mecca where the admonitions from Gabriel were having no effect, and in fact the resistance was increasing. So, in this Surah are both admonitions and warnings. Gabriel is teaching, but sternly providing previous examples of destruction, and cautioning regarding future destruction and the Day of Judgement.
Pay attention to your evil words
so that its stench
doesn’t reach The One, The All Powerful.
Let your hearts remain pure
untainted by lust and wrong desire,
and let your good words
mingle with the heavenly perfume
to rise up to the Almighty
the true author of goodness.