By the Witness and that which is Witnessed
Brothers and Sisters,
In times of calamity and great hardship, when Muslims are being slaughtered by the thousands and Islam is being attacked from old adversaries and new ones, we can find solace through turning to the book Allah (SWT) as our beloved Prophet Muhammad (S) and his righteous companions (R) did before us when they were persecuted relentlessly in Makkah, not by a foreign aggressor, but at the hands of their own family members, relatives, neighbors, and community and those who simply witnessed these persecutions doing little to stop them.
We are reminded of the story of a defenseless people who were burned to death, young and old, women and men, yet their lives never forgotten and brought to life each time Surat Al-Buruj is recited. The crime of these people was solely their belief in the oneness of their Creator and for it they were punished the most appalling of punishments. Ruthless rulers of their time dug a massive ditch and lit in it a great fire in which they threw all the believing men, women, their children and infants. Their burning was witnessed by masses of people who stood around the ditch simply watching the horrific scene much like the masses today watch as innocent families are completely annihilated.
The Surah opens with an oath, “By the heaven with its constellations, by the promised day, by the witness and that which is witnessed.” (85:1-3) Allah (SWT) calls our attention to very important matters: His vast creation, the Day of Accounting, and everyone and everything that shall be accounted on that Day. His oath (SWT) attests to the severity of the story which follows.
Allah (SWT) begins narrating the story by a declaration of anger with the oppressors, “Slain be the people of the pit.” (85: 4) Allah illustrates images of what they have contrived in the verses, “of the fire abounding in fuel, when they sat around it, watching what they did to the believers.” (85:5-7)
Allah (SWT) describes them sitting around the fire and enjoying themselves as they watched the horror unfold. This is tyranny at its core. Humans finding pleasure in harming other human beings as we have witnessed today in the cities of Syria, neighborhoods of Gaza, the prisons of Egypt and in Iraq and Burma.
What was their crime? What evil deed had they committed against those who murdered them? “They took vengeance on them for no reason other than they believed in Allah, the Almighty, to whom all praise is due.” (85-8)
They believed in Allah (SWT) who deserves to be worshipped. They rose above the ignorant masses to abandon falsehood and embrace truth as Muslims today look towards living a life of dignity over a life of oppression. They could have easily saved their lives by agreeing to the terms of their oppressors, but what worth would their lives have had they abandoned their faith? As their bodies burned, their souls elevated towards the constellations, towards their Creator where they could be harmed no longer by those who oppressed them and where they will be eternally rewarded.
And for their oppressors Allah warns, “Those who persecute the believers, men and women, and do not repent shall suffer the punishment of hell, and suffer the punishment of burning.” (85:10) The oppressors will burn in an eternal flame for the injustices they incurred where their flesh will be brought to life and burned an eternal number of times.
“But those who believe and do righteous deeds shall have gardens through which running waters flow; that is the supreme triumph.” (85:11) The story does not end in the burning pit, justice is restored and those who choose a life of dignity over a life of oppression will be rewarded eternally for elevating their souls over the worldly desires of their bodies.
May Allah (SWT) alleviate the suffering of the oppressed, may He (SWT) provide comfort to those who grieve, may He grant them peace in this life and His promised reward for patience in the hereafter.
Sheikh Jamal M. Said,
Principal Imam & Director