Quranic Reflection No 658. Āyat 84:6 – Struggling towards the Lord


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يَا أَيُّهَا الْإِنسَانُ إِنَّكَ كَادِحٌ إِلَىٰ رَبِّكَ كَدْحًا فَمُلَاقِيهِ

O human! Indeed, you are labouring towards your Lord laboriously, and you will encounter Him. 

(Sūrat Al-Inshiqāq, No.84, Āyat 6)

Allah ‘azza wajall describes the journey of all human beings as a kadh, which means ‘toil, labour or striving hard.’ Various commentaries point out that the origin of the term refers to ‘a scratch on the skin of the body’ and therefore it is also used for the struggles that leave a mark on the soul. 

This verse describes the nature of this life as a toil and a striving. Some may take pain in obtaining the pleasures of this world, whilst others may strive for eternal happiness in the hereafter and for gaining the favour of Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā. Therefore, struggling and suffering is part of every individual’s life.  Even those who live a comfortable life are not completely free from such experiences. In a tradition, Imam Ali Zaynul ‘Ābidīn alayhis-salām states: Comfort does not exist in the world or for the inhabitants of this world, rather it exists in Paradise and for the inhabitants of Paradise.

If we consider the life of a plant, it is constantly growing from the time it is planted as a seedling. Despite the struggles that it undergoes, such as severe weather conditions and diseases, it has no choice but to grow. Growth and toil are a natural part of its existence. Like plants, growth and movement is also a natural part of the human condition. From the time human beings come into existence as foetuses, to the time they leave this world as corpses, they are in a state of constant growth and journeying.

What is the wisdom of struggles in our lives? The word Rabb in the Arabic language refers to the one who nurtures and trains another being. This verse indicates that the journeying is towards ‘your Rabb,’ suggesting that this journey is a part of His nurturing and training for His servants. Like the seedling, man must exert effort in the material world to bring out the potential that Allah has placed in him. As Allah mentions in the Quran: And your endeavours are indeed diverse – إِنَّ سَعْيَكُمْ لَشَتَّىٰ (Q 92:4) 

The effort required from a single person is dependent on his capacity to withstand hardships. The verse emphasises that every human being has a kadhan, meaning a struggle, without defining it. For example, gold, as a precious element, must be exposed to high temperatures to be moulded into a desired piece of jewellery. Copper which is less expensive requires lower temperatures to shape it into a desired tool. Such is the case of human beings. The merciful Lord will only subject His creation to the struggles that they need for the next stage of their growth. He states: Allah does not task a soul beyond its capacity – لَا يُكَلِّفُ اللَّهُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا (Q2:286)

The end of the verse gives human beings the assurance that after exerting their efforts, they will witness the fruits of their labour. This is expressed as the liqā or ‘meeting with the Almighty’.  The exegetes have explained the term mulāqihi in the following three ways:

  1. Arriving at His court on the Day of Judgement.
  2. Receiving His reward or punishment.
  3. Meeting Him and witnessing Him through the eyes of the heart. 

A pertinent example from Islamic history is the tribulations experienced by Imam al-Husayn ‘alayhis-salām and his family in the tragedy of Karbala. As they journeyed through this difficult experience, Lady Zaynab ‘alayhas-salām had a liqā with Allah and said:  I saw nothing but beauty.

This verse informs us that all humans are on a journey towards Allah (swt). Whilst the journey and its struggles are inevitable, our reaction to it is in our hands. How we react to this journey will define whether we meet a Lord who is al-Rahmān al-Rahīm (the Most merciful of the merciful) or al-shaddul mu‘āqibīn (the Most severe in punishment).

We pray to the Almighty to keep us steadfast in our faith through the trials of life and make us amongst those who meet Him with the vision of our hearts on the Day of Judgement. Ameen. 

Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; Shaykh al-Sadūq, Al Khisāl, Hadīth 1/64; Sh Mohammad Saeed Bahmanpour/Dr. Tahir Ridha Jaffer, Tafsīr Tadabbur Al Qur’an.