إِنَّ هَٰذِهِ تَذْكِرَةٌ ۖ فَمَنْ شَاءَ اتَّخَذَ إِلَىٰ رَبِّهِ سَبِيلًا
Inna hādhihi tadhkirah, faman shā’at-takhadha ilā rabbihi sabīlā
Surely this is a reminder; so let anyone who wishes, take the way to his Lord.
(Sūratul Muzammil, No. 73, Āyat 19)
The verses in Sūratul Muzammil talk about Salātul Layl, and go on to advise and warn the human being. Then Allah says that these verses are a reminder for people. According to Tafsīr-e Namūne, the reminder could refer to the act of Salātul Layl which steers believers to the right path, or it could be a more general reference to all the advice and warnings in the sūra.
The verse above tells us many things:
The Holy Qur’an is a reminder (dhikr). Allah says: Indeed We have sent down the Reminder (15:9). It reminds people about the Truth. They already know it, from the fitrah or natural instinct that God has placed within them. The teachings of the Qur’an are meant to awaken the fitrah, and remind man of things that he knows but has turned aside from. Neglect, heedlessness, ignorance, distractions, etc. – all conceal the light of fitrah which the verses of Qur’an try to awaken. Regular tilāwah (recitation) of the Qur’an assist us overcome the neglect and heedlessness.
Human being is free to take heed of the reminder or decide to ignore it. Free will is an important part of the human being. Marhūm Sayyid Mūsawī Lāri in his book God and His Attributes says: ‘The question of man’s religious accountability, the sending of the Prophets, the proclamation of divine messages, and the principle of resurrection and judgment – all these rest on man’s free will and choice in the acts he performs . . . If there were no free choice for man, the whole concept of man’s religious accountability would be unjust.’ To follow the Qur’an is a choice that we Muslims make.
If man pays heed to what the Qur’an says, he will decide to go to his Lord. That is what the reminder is all about. Guidance to return to the source of origin, the One who created him, nurtures him, cares for him . . . in essence man’s beginning and end. The Almighty God commands the Prophet to Say: my prayers, my worship, my life, and my death are for the sake of Allah, the Lord of all the worlds (6:162). It is an exciting decision because it colors life with meaning and purpose. Without such an aim, the human being wanders aimlessly, floating with the currents of life rather than swimming against them.
The journey towards the Lord has only one path. Man has to be careful to stay on it without veering off. Just as traveling in this world is not possible without a set route, deciding to go to God is not possible without the knowledge of, and the desire to stay on, the right path. Both are necessary. It is not enough to just know the path. Unless there is determination to stay on it and not be swayed by distractions, the journey cannot be fruitful.
To remind ourselves that we have chosen to travel on a path towards our Lord is powerful. It eases hardship, calms the spirit, enhances attitudes, and creates zest for life. It should be a daily reminder, so the choice we have made can be reinforced each day.
Sources: Āytaullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (ed), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; S. Mujtaba Mūsawī Lārī, God and His Attributes.