Friday 22 April 2022

What single action of believers forbids indecency and evil

Qur'an is not merely religious book containing some dos and donts as are the famous Ten Commandments. Qur'an in fact is book of complete code of conduct not only for believers but for even non believers and non Muslims. Each word and each verse is indicative of a path that takes a man to rewards and ultimate Paradise, provided each verse and words is acted upon. In fact continuous remembrance of Allah is the true path to success. Those who however shun these directions are liable to adopt a path of indecency and evil.

Herein under we share the 45th verse from Surah 29. Al-Ankabut which indicate a single action that when adopted with complete devotion and concentration lead man from all sources of indecency, lewdness and evil:

اُتۡلُ مَاۤ اُوۡحِىَ اِلَيۡكَ مِنَ الۡكِتٰبِ وَاَقِمِ الصَّلٰوةَ ​ؕ اِنَّ الصَّلٰوةَ تَنۡهٰى عَنِ الۡفَحۡشَآءِ وَالۡمُنۡكَرِ​ؕ وَلَذِكۡرُ اللّٰهِ اَكۡبَرُ ​ؕ وَاللّٰهُ يَعۡلَمُ مَا تَصۡنَعُوۡنَ‏ 
(29:45) (O Prophet), recite the Book that has been revealed to you and establish Prayer. Surely Prayer forbids indecency and evil. And Allah's remembrance is of even greater merit. Allah knows all that you do.

Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi explanation:
The address apparently is directed to the Holy Prophet but, in fact, it is meant for all the believers. Until now they were being counselled patience and reliance on Allah to brave the extreme trying conditions in which they found themselves and the persecutions they were being subjected to on account of their faith. Now they are being told to recite the Qur'an and establish the Salat as a practical device, for these are the two things which endow a believer with a strong character and a wonderful capacity by which he can not only brave successfully the most violent storms of evil and falsehood but can even subdue them. But man can acquire this power from the recitation of the Qur'an and the Prayer only when he does not retrain content with the mere recital of the words but also understands well the Qur'anic teachings and absorbs them in his soul, and his Prayer does not remain confined to physical movements but becomes the very function of his heart and the motive force for his morals and character. The desired quality of the Prayer is being mentioned by the Qur'an itself in the next sentence. As for its recitation, one should know that the recitation which does not reach the heart beyond the throat, cannot even give man enough power to remain steadfast to his faith, not to speak of enabling him to withstand the furies of unbelief. About such people, a Hadith says: "They will recite the Qur'an, but the Qur'an will not go beyond their throats; they will leave the Faith just as the arrow leaves the bow." (Bukhari, Muslim, Mu'atta`). As a matter of fact, the recitation which does not effect any change in a man's way of thinking, and his morals and character, and he goes on doing what the Qur'an forbids, is not the recitation of a believer at all. About such a one the Holy Prophet has said: ;'He who makes lawful what the Qur'an has declared unlawful, has not believed in the Qur'an at all." (Tirmidhi, on the authority of Suhaib Rumi). Such a recitation does not reform and strengthen a maws self and spirit, but makes him even more stubborn against Allah and impudent before his own conscience, and destroys his character altogether. For the case of the person who believes in the Qur'an as a Divine Book, reads it and comes to know what his God has enjoined, and then goes on violating His injunctions, is of the culprit, who commits a crime not due to ignorance but after full knowledge of the law. The Holy Prophet has elucidated this point in a brief sentence, thus: "The Qur'an is a testimony in your favor as well as against you." (Muslim). That is, "If you follow the Qur'an rightly it is a testimony in your favor. Whenever you are called to account for your deeds, here or in the hereafter, you can produce the Qur'an as a testimony in your defense, saying that whatever you did was in accordance with this Book. If what you did was precisely according to it, no jurist in the world will be able to punish you, nor will God in the Hereafter hold you accountable for it. But if this Book has reached you, and you have read it and found out what your Lord demands from you, what He enjoins and what He forbids, and then you adopt an attitude opposed to it, then this Book will be a testimony against you. It will further strengthen the criminal case against you in the Court of God. Then it will in no way be possible for you to escape the punishment, or receive a light punishment, by making the excuse of ignorance."

( Surely Prayer forbids indecency and evil ) This is an important characteristic out of the many characteristics of the Prayer, which has been presented here prominently in view of its relevance to the context. To counter the severe storm of opposition and resistance that the Muslims were experiencing in Makkah, they stood in need of a moral force rather than any material power. To bring about the moral force and develop it suitably two practical devices were pointed out in the first instance, the recitation of the Qur'an and the establishment of the Salat. Now they are being told that the establishment of the Salat is the means through which they can get rid of those evils in which they themselves had been involved before they embraced Islam and in which the non-Muslim Arabs and the non-Arab world around them were involved at that time.
With a little thinking one can easily understand why this special advantage of the Prayer has been particularly mentioned here. Evidently, getting rid of the moral evils is not only useful insofar as it is beneficial for those who attain the moral purity, both here and in the Hereafter, but its inevitable advantage is that it gives them unique superiority over those who might be involved in diverse moral evils, and who might be exerting their utmost to sustain the impure system of ignorance, which nourishes those evils, against the efforts of the morally pure people. Indecent and evil acts are those which man by nature abhors, and which have always been held as evil in principle by the people of every community and society, however depraved and perverted practically. The Arab society in the days of the revelation of the Qur'an was no exception to this. Those people also were aware of the moral virtues and the evils: they valued the good above the evil and there might be none among them, who regarded the evil as identical with the good, or depreciated good. Under such conditions, in a perverted society like that, the emergence of a movement which revolutionized morally members of the same society itself as soon as they came into contact with it, and raised them in character high above their contemporaries, inevitably had widespread effects. The common Arabs could not possibly fail to feel the moral impact of the movement, which eradicated evils and promoted goodness, and instead go on following those who were themselves morally corrupt and were fighting to sustain the system of ignorance, which had been nourishing those evils since centuries. That is why the Qur'an at that time exhorted the Muslims to establish Salat instead of urging them to collect material resources and force and strength that could win over the people's hearts and defeat the enemy without any material force.
The virtue of the Prayer that has been mentioned here has two aspects: its essential and inseparable quality that it restrains from evil and indecent acts, and its desired quality that the one who performs it should in actual fact refrain from evil and indecent acts. As for the first quality the Prayer does restrain people from the evils. Anyone who ponders a little over the nature of the Prayer, will admit that of all the checks and brakes that can be put on man to restrain him from the evils, the Prayer can be the most effective. After all, what check could be more effective than this that man should be called upon five times a day for the remembrance of Allah and made to remind himself again and again that he is not wholly free and independent in this world but is the servant of One God, and his God is He Who is aware of his open as well as hidden acts, even of the most secret aims and intentions of his heart, and a time will surely come when he will have to account for all his deeds before his God. Then he is not only reminded of this but is given practical training at every Prayer time that he should not disobey any of his God's Commands even secretly. From the time that he stands up for the Prayer till its completion man has to perform continuously certain acts in which there is no third person, besides him and his God, who can know whether he has obeyed God's law or , disobeyed it. For instance, if the man's wudu (state of ablutions ) has become void and he stands up for the Prayer, there ca.. be no one, besides him and God, who will know that he is no longer in the state of wudu. If the man has expressed no intention of the Prayer but just goes on performing all the required movements and recites poetry, for instance, instead of the prescribed texts quietly, there is none, besides him and his God who can be aware of the secret that he has not, in fact, performed his Prayer at all. Not with standing this, if a person offers the Prayer five times a day, fulfilling faithfully all the conditions of the Divine law in respect of the cleanliness of the body and dress, and the essentials of the Prayer and its recitation, etc. it means that through this Prayer his conscience is being awakened to life several times a day, he is being helped to-become a responsible and dutiful person, and he is being practically trained that he should, under his own urge of obedience, abide by the law which he has believed in openly as well as secretly, regardless whether there is any external force to make him abide by it or not, and whether the people of the world have any knowledge of his intentions and deeds or not.
Thus considered, one cannot help admitting that the Prayer not only restrains man from the evils and indecencies, but, in fact, there is no other method of training in the world, which may be so effective as the Prayer is in restraining man from the evils. As for the question whether or not man in actual fact refrains from the evils even after attendance at the Prayer, this depends upon the man himself, who is undergoing training for self-reform. If he has the intention to benefit from it, and endeavors for it, the reformatory effects of the Prayer will certainly have their impact on him. Otherwise, evidently, no reformatory device in the world can be effective with a person, who is not prepared to receive any impact of it, or tries to avoid its impact intentionally. This can be explained by an example. The essential quality of food is to nourish the body and develop it. But this advantage can be had only when food is allowed to be assimilated. If a person vomits what he eats after every meal, his food cannot profit him in any way. Just as, keeping such a person in view, one cannot say that food is not nutritious for the body, because so-and-so is becoming a skeleton in spite of eating food, so can no one present the example of an unrighteous offerer of the Prayer and say that the Prayer does not restrain from the evils, because so-and-so is unrighteous in spite of his Prayer. Just as about such a person it will be apt to say that he does not offer the Prayer at all, so about the person who vomits everything he eats, it will be apt to say that he does not eat his food at all.
Precisely the same thing has been reported from the Holy Prophet and some great Companions and their followers. `Imran bin Husain reports that the Holy Prophet said: "He Whose Prayer did not restrain him from the evil and indecent acts, offered no Prayer at all." (Ibn Abi Hatim). -Ibn `Abbas has reported the Holy Prophet as saying: "The Prayer which did not restrain a person from the evil and indecent acts, led him further away from Allah." (Ibn Abi Hatim, Tabarani). A Hadith containing the same theme has been reported by Hasan Basri directly from the Holy Prophet (Ibn Jarir, Baihaqi). Another Hadith reported on the authority of Ibn Mas`ud is to the effect: "He who did not obey the Prayer, offered no Prayer at all, and obedience to the Prayer is that one should refrain from the evil and indecent acts." (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Abi Hatim). Several sayings to the same effect have been reported on the authority of 'Abdullah bin Mas`ud, `Abdullah bin `Abbas, Hasan Basri, Qatadah and A`amash, etc. Imam Ja`far Sadiq has said: "He who wants to know whether his Prayer has been accepted or not, should see how far his Prayer has restrained him from the evil and indecent acts. If he has been restrained from the evils, his Prayer has been accepted." (Ruh al Ma `ani).  
( And Allah's remembrance is of even greater merit. ) This can have several meanings: (1) "That the remembrance of Allah (i.e. Prayer) is a thing of much higher value: it not only restrains from the evils, but, over and above that, it induces people to act righteously and urges them to excel one another in good acts," (2) "that Allah's remembrance in itself is a great thing: it is the best of acts: no act of man is greater in value than this. ` (3) "that Allah's remembrance of you is a greater thing than your remembrance of Him. Allah has said in the Qur'an: "So remember Me: I will remember you'." (Al-Baqarah: 156). Thus, when the servant remembers Allah in the Prayer, inevitably Allah also will remember him, and the merit of Allah's remembering the servant is certainly greater than the servant's remembering Allah. Besides these three meanings, there is another subtle meaning also, which the wife of Hadrat Abud Darda has explained. She says, "Allah's remembrance is not restricted to the Prayer, but, its sphere is much vaster. When a man observes a fast, or pays the Zakat or performs a righteous act, he inevitably remembers Allah. That is why the righteous act emanates from him. Likewise, when a man refrains from an evil act when an opportunity exists for it, even this also is the result of Allah's remembrance. Thus, the remembrance of Allah pervades the entire life of a believer."

Tafsir Ibn-Kathir
(Verily, the Salah prevents from immoral sins and evil wicked deeds) "Prayer has three attributes, and any prayer that contains none of these attributes is not truly prayer: Being done purely and sincerely for Allah alone (Ikhlas), fear of Allah, and remembrance of Allah. Ikhlas makes a person do good deeds, fear prevents him from doing evil deeds, and the remembrance of Allah is the Qur'an which contains commands and prohibitions.'' Ibn `Awn Al-Ansari said: "When you are praying, you are doing good, it is keeping you away from immoral sins and evil wicked deeds and what you are doing is part of the remembrance of Allah which is greater.''

Muhammad Asad Explanation:
( CONVEY [unto others] whatever of this divine writ has been revealed unto thee ) If we assume that verses {45-46} are addressed not merely to the Prophet but to believers in general (an assumption which is strengthened by the plural form of address in the last clause of verse {45} and throughout verse {46}), the above phrase may be taken to mean "whatever of the divine writ has revealed itself to thy understanding".

The term ( الۡمُنۡكَرِ ) al-munkar (rendered by me in other places as "that which is wrong") has here its original meaning of "that which the mind [or the moral sense] rejects", respectively "ought to reject". Zamakshari is more specific, and explains this term as signifying in the above context "that which [men's] intellects disown" or "declare to be untrue" (ma tunkiruhu al-'uqul): in other words, all that runs counter to reason and good sense (which, obviously. must not be confused with that which is beyond man's comprehension). This eminently convincing explanation relates not merely to intellectually unacceptable propositions (in the abstract sense of the term) but also to grossly unreasonable and, therefore, reprehensible actions or attitudes and is, thus, fully in tune with the rational approach of the Qur'an to questions of ethics as well as with its insistence on reasonableness and moderation in man's behaviour. Hence my rendering of al-munkar, in this and in similar instances, as "all that runs counter to reason".

Yusuf Ali  Explanation
The tilawat of the Qur-an implies: (1) rehearsing or reciting it, and publishing it abroad to the world; (2) reading it to ourselves; (3) studying it to understand it as it should be studied and understood (ii. 121); (4) meditating on it so as to accord our knowledge and life and desires with it. When this is done, it merges into real Prayer, and Prayer purges us of anything (act, plan, thought, motive, words) of which we should be ashamed or which would work injustice to others. Such Prayer passes into our inmost life and being, for then we realize the Presence of Allah, and that is true zikr (or remembrance), for remembrance is the bringing to mind of things as present to us which might otherwise be absent to us. And that is the greatest thing in life. It is subjective to us: it fills our consciousness with Allah. For Allah is in any case always present and knows all.

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi Explanation:
([If they are not paying heed, do not care about them, O Prophet and] keep reading that Book ) Ie., the Prophet (sws) should read it himself and also read it out to others.

( which has been revealed to you and be diligent in the prayer. ) This directive is mentioned in the Qur’ān at many instances so that people are able to adhere to their religion and show steadfastness in the cause of inviting others to the truth. Those who tread this path know that steadfastness in this path is achieved through God’s companionship and such is the nearness of the prayer with God it is as if it is His substitute for us in this world. Verse 19 of Sūrah al-‘Alaq وَاقْتَرِبْ وَاسْجُدْ (prostrate and in this way come close to Me) illustrates precisely this reality. Hence if there is a way to achieve the companionship of God while working for His cause, it can only be through His Book and by praying to Him. The most significant way to achieve this is to offer the tahajjud prayer. Thus when the Prophet (sws) was asked to enter into the phase of openly warning others, God told him that if he has to bear the heavy burden and discharge its responsibilities, the Qur’ān was to be read in the night prayers. The reason stated for this was that that time was the most appropriate to find a vacant mind and to understand the Qur’ān. In the words of Imām Amīn Aḥsan Iṣlāḥī, since this time is a special one for peace of mind and for vigilance of the heart, whatever comes out of the tongue goes straight into the heart and moves it deeply. A person accepts it as a testimony of his heart and its effect on others who happen to listen to it is also profound. (Tadabbur-i Qur’ān, vol. 9, 25-26) 

( Undoubtedly, the prayer fends off lewdness and evil.)   Ie., like a sermonizer, the prayer warns a person that when he is overwhelmed with lust and desire and lures get the better of him, he should never forget that one day he will have to appear before God and be answerable to Him for his deeds. Imām Amīn Aḥsan Iṣlāḥī writes:
… Those who offer the prayer – whether in seclusion or in public – while giving due regard to its spirit and requisites are continued to be reminded by it of the facts that are essential to remain on the right path. In particular, the prayer offered in seclusion is the most effective for the life of a person. If a person does not offer the prayer, then his example is that of a driver who is driving his vehicle at full speed, yet he is absolutely heedless and unaware of the sign-boards at the road side that tell him of the right way and also inform him of various dangers. Such a driver in all probability will lead his vehicle into a ditch. (Amīn Aḥsan Iṣlāḥī, Tadabbur-i Qur’ān, vol. 6, 53)
It is evident from this that the prayer guarantees a person’s adherence to religion. It is also apparent from the Qur’ān that a devil is deputed to those who become indifferent to God’s remembrance and evade it and he becomes their permanent companion. The prayer saves a person from this negligence and evasion and also guards him from the onslaughts of Satan. No doubt that these onslaughts continue despite this but continuous adherence to the prayer does not allow Satan to permanently reside in the heart of a person. The prayer continues to ward it off and like a barrier protects his heart and mind. It is for this reason that it has been stressed that it should be offered in times of danger even on foot or on a conveyance.

([This is God’s remembrance] and in reality God’s remembrance is a big thing. ) The implication is that this counsel should not be regarded as trivial or ordinary. Being reminded of God is in fact a great thing. Imām Amīn Aḥsan Iṣlāḥī writes:
 ... It is through it that hearts receive true assurance and comfort:
اَلَا بِذِكۡرِ اللّٰهِ تَطۡمَئِنُّ الۡقُلُوۡبُ. (28:13) (Listen up! Hearts receive assurance from God’s remembrance, (13:28)). And it is a person’s heart which is the source of strength and determination in him. If the heart is strong, there is nothing more powerful than a human being and if the heart is weak, there is nothing more frail than a human being. The real thing that energizes the heart is God’s remembrance and the most appropriate, comprehensive and effective form of it is the prayer. (Amīn Aḥsan Iṣlāḥī, Tadabbur-i Qur’ān, vol. 6, 53)
( [Trust Him because] God knows whatever you people do. ) Earlier, the address was in the singular but at the end it has become plural. The purpose is to explain that the Prophet of God must tread this path come what may; however, same is the guidance for those who intend to adopt God’s religion, adhere to it and become its advocates or helpers of its advocates. Thus it is stated that their Lord is aware of all their deeds and hence they must trust Him; He will not let any of their open or hidden deeds go waste. In fact, He will fully reward them for it.

Please listen to explanation of the ayat by eminent Muslim scholar Nouman Ali Khan:
May Allah help us understand Qur'ān and help us to act upon the commandments of Allah contained therein. Aameen.

For more Selected Verses, please refer to our reference page: Selected Verses from the Qur'anYou may also refer to our Reference Pages for knowing more about Islam and Qur'ān.
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Reading the Qur'ān should be a daily obligation of a Muslim - Reading it with translation will make it meaningful. But reading its Exegesis / Tafsir will make you understand it fully.

An effort has been made to gather explanation / exegesis of the surahs of the Qur'ān from authentic sources and then present a least possible condensed explanation of the surah. In that the exegesis of the chapters of the Quran is mainly based on the "Tafhim al-Qur'an - The Meaning of the Qur'an" by one of the most enlightened scholars of the Muslim World Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi.  
In order to augment and add more explanation as already provided, additional input has been interjected from following sources: 
  • Towards Understanding the Quran
  • Tafsir Ibn Khatir
  • Muhammad Asad Translation
  • Javed Ahmad Ghamidi / Al Mawrid
  • Al-Quran, Yusuf Ali Translation
  • Verse by Verse Qur'an Study Circle
In addition the references of other sources which have been explored have also been given above. Those desirous of detailed explanations and tafsir (exegesis), may refer to these sites.

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