Reflection No. 242 on Q 73: 1 – 5: The weighty mission of the Prophet

يَا أَيُّهَا الْمُزَّمِّلُ  قُمِ اللَّيْلَ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا   نِصْفَهُ أَوِ انْقُصْ مِنْهُ قَلِيلًا   أَوْ زِدْ عَلَيْهِ وَرَتِّلِ الْقُرْآنَ تَرْتِيلًا   إِنَّا سَنُلْقِي عَلَيْكَ قَوْلًا ثَقِيلًا
Yā ayyuhal-muzzammilu qumil-layla illā qalīlā. Nisfahu awi-nqus mihu qalīlā. Aw zid ‘alayhi wa-rattilil-qur’āna tartīlā. Innā sanulqi ‘alayka qawlan thaqīlā.
O you wrapped up in your mantle! Rise to pray in the night except a little, half of it, or reduce it a little, or add to it, and recite the Quran in a measured tone. Surely We will soon send upon you a weighty Word.
(Sūrat Muzzammil, No. 73, Āyat 1-5)

These verses address the Holy Prophet (s) to prepare him for the beginning of his mission, an important task that requires emotional and spiritual readiness. It is not addressing the Prophet (s) as ‘O Messenger’ or ‘O Prophet of Allah’. Instead it is as the one who is wrapped up in a covering. According to Tafsīr-e Namūne this is to say that the time for covering and staying quiet is over. It is now the time to rise up. A time for action.

Rising up and acting requires full preparation. It needs self-building, insightful thinking, steely determination, and a deep and abiding love for God and His cause. These are the prerequisites for performing the huge task ahead. They can be derived from nightly communication with God. After addressing the Prophet (s) and before telling him he has a heavy task ahead, Almighty Allah tells the Prophet (s) three things:
– Rise up for the night prayer
– Rise up for half of the night, or less, or more.
– Recite the Quran at night. (This could refer to Quran in the prayer, or the prayer itself)

The choice of the night as preparation for his mission is because others are asleep at that time and cannot bother him. Worldly distractions are also halted and the mind and soul are alert. Reciting the word of God affects the soul and strengthens it for the work ahead.

In Tafsīr al-Mīzān Allāmah Tabātabā’ī says it is possible that these verses were revealed when the Prophet (s) faced opposition as he began preaching worship of One God. He was saddened by it and covered himself for comfort. Almighty Allah tells him not to cover himself and prepare himself for the difficult struggles waiting for him.

The message that he has to preach to others is weighty. It is weighty in terms of meaning and depth. It has an outer and many inner dimensions. Its profound realities cannot be easily understood by all and its truths will continue to be discovered in every time and era. Such a message is not easy to deliver. The Prophet (s) would have to overcome strong resistance to the message and would face huge challenges and hardships. This was the weighty task for which he had to prepare himself.

These verses are a reminder of the uphill struggle the Prophet (s) faced and what he did to ready himself. His mission was arduous and demanding. But he persevered due to his love for God and love for the Ummah. It is a lesson for us too. If we want to be strong in the way of God then we too will have to employ the same tools. Perhaps they will ready us for the challenges we face in our times.

Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirazi (ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūne; Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān