Surat Ta-Ha is Makkan. It comes after surat Maryam both in the order of revelation and the order of the Holy Qur’an. It is composed of 135 Ayahs.
We have not sent down the Qur’an unto you (O Muhammad) to cause you distress
The objective of this surah is clear from the first Ayah, as Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, “Ta-Ha. We have not sent down the Qur’an unto you (O Muhammad SAWS) to cause you distress”. (TMQ, 20:1-2).
This means that Allah’s (SWT) religion and way are never meant to cause people to suffer; it is rather the way of happiness. There can be no distress with Islam despite all the difficult circumstances and obstacles facing religious and pious people. Yet, man suffers only when he deviates away from the right path of Allah (SWT), as Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, “We have not sent down the Qur’an unto you (O Muhammad SAWS) to cause you distress” (TMQ, 20:2).
Youth who are not religious, or who want to be so but fear that this will bring them unhappiness if they follow Allah’s (SWT) right path, can benefit from this surah more than anybody else. Most of them think that following the right way of Allah (SWT) will cause them depression and will deprive them of the pleasures of life and means of entertainment. This is a completely wrong concept: the surah highlights the fact that Islam is the source of real happiness and shows that those who get away from it will suffer in life and in the hereafter. What a wonderful meaning! How can this surah stress it? Let’s go through the Ayahs from the very beginning.
How can you suffer while being with Allah the Compassionate?
The surah starts with a remarkable introduction that attracts hearts, as Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, “Ta-Ha. We have not sent down the Qur’an unto you (O Muhammad SAWS) to cause you distress but only as a Reminder to those who fear (Allah).” (TMQ, 20:1-3). The Holy Qur’an will never be the source of misery for you Muslims; it will rather act as a reminder which will lead you to happiness. Allah (SWT) says can be translated as, “A revelation from Him (Allah) Who has created the earth and high heavens. The Most Gracious (Allah) rose over (Istawa) the (Mighty) Throne (in a manner that suits His Majesty).” (TMQ, 20:4-5). Who sent this method for us? Of course, Allah the Compassionate did. Allah’s (SWT) best name the Compassionate was mentioned directly after the reference to suffering so that people would know that the religion of Allah the Compassionate can never be the cause of suffering. How can man suffer due to the method set by Allah (SWT) who owns all the best names (attributes)? Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, “Allah! La ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He)! To Him belong the Best Names.” (TMQ, 20:8)
Musa (AS) being happy with Allah’s (SWT) method
The surah then gives an example that we all know well: Prophet Musa (AS). Allusion is made to stress the hardships he endured while he was performing Da’wa (the call to Allah) thanks to the care and support of Allah (SWT).
The surah conveys the message that even though the Qur’an is a method of happiness and rest, life will not be in smooth waters all the time without any problems or sorrows. Life is rather full of complications and difficulties, especially if you are a believer who carries the message of Allah (SWT) and calls for it. Nevertheless, such difficulties do not cause suffering (suffering in this context means sadness, depression, sorrow, or distress), because a believer is always connected to Allah (SWT) and seeking continuously his help and support. Accordingly, a believer is always satisfied and reassured.
The story of Musa (SAWS) stresses the mercy and compassion of Allah (SWT) that mark the fact of experiencing difficulties in one’s life. The way the story is narrated in this surah and the choice of words are totally different from those used to present other events in Musa’s life elsewhere in the Holy Qur’an. Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, “When he saw a fire, he said to his family: “Wait! Verily, I have seen a fire; perhaps I can bring you some burning brand there from, or find some guidance at the fire.” (TMQ, 20:10).
The Ayahs starts with a friendly question in order to support Musa (AS) in the hard mission and lighten the burden that he carried.Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, “And what is that in your right hand, O Musa?” (TMQ, 20:17).
When Prophet Musa (AS) prayed for Allah (SWT), he asked according to what he knew about Allah’s (SWT) methodology: happiness, tranquility and facilitation. Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, “[Musa] said: “O my Lord! Open for me my chest (grant me self-confidence, contentment, and boldness).”And ease my task for me; “And loose the knot (the defect) from my tongue, (i.e. remove the incorrectness from my speech)” (TMQ, 20:25-27). The Ayahs hence continue to address him gently and compassionately. Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as: “Allah said: “Grasp it and fear not; We shall return it to its former state” (TMQ, 20:21); “(Allah) said: “You are granted your request, O Musa!” (TMQ, 20:36); “And indeed We conferred a favor on you another time (before).” (TMQ, 20:37); “And I endued you with love from Me, in order that you may be brought up under My Eye” (TMQ, 20:39).
Do you see how many times the words “fear not” were repeated? It serves as a proof for the victory Allah (SWT) grants for believers. This is the result of the trust Musa’s (AS) mother had in Allah (SWT), and her obedience to Allah (SWT) when He commanded her to throw her baby boy into the river. It is also a compensation for Musa (AS) who was then thrown as a baby in a dark box (ark). Musa’s (AS) mother exerted herself and got tired in resisting to her human weakness. In turn, Musa (AS) got tired of his confrontation with Firaawn (the Pharaoh). Yet, Allah (SWT) wonderfully reassured them. This is the situation of believers; despite the afflictions they may experience, they are always satisfied and reassured.
Such questions are to be asked: why do we put barriers between us and religiousness? Why do we fear being religious, although it is our path towards happiness?
Blessings of divine care
The Holy Qur’an was very tender with Prophet Muhammad (SAWS). Allah (SWT) provided him with many of the things that He provided Prophet Musa (AS) with. For example, Allah (SWT) mentions Prophet Musa’s (AS) prayer in the Holy Qur’an, and says what can be translated as, “O my Lord! Open for me my chest (grant me self-confidence, contentment, and boldness)” (TMQ, 20:25), while He (SWT) addressed Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) saying what can be translated as, “Have We not opened your breast for you (O Muhammad SAWS)?” (TMQ, 94:1); Allah (SWT) said to Prophet Musa (AS) what can be translated as, “in order that you may be brought up under My Eye” (TMQ, 20:39), while He (SWT) said to Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) the same that can be translated as, “So wait patiently (O Muhammad SAWS) for the Decision of your Lord, for verily, you are under Our Eyes” (TMQ, 52:48). It is as if those Ayahs which are closely related to each other make clear that everything has been complete for Prophet Muhammad (SAWS).
Magicians tasted happiness
Although the Pharaoh in Musa’s (AS) story strongly harmed the magicians who believed in Allah (SWT), they never felt misery. The Pharaoh threatened them, and Allah (SWT) describes this saying in what can be translated as “[Fir’aun (Pharaoh)] said: “Believe you in him [Musa] before I give you permission? Verily he is your chief who has taught you magic. So I will surely cut off your hands and feet on opposite sides, and I will surely crucify you on the trunks of date-palms, and you shall surely know which of us [I (Fir’aun – Pharaoh) or the Lord of Musa (Allah)] can give the severe and more lasting torment.”“ (TMQ, 20:71). Allah (SWT) mentions their answer in what can be translated as, “Verily we have believed in our Lord, that He may forgive us our faults, and the magic to which you did compel us. And Allah is better as regards reward in comparison to your [Fir’aun’s (Pharaoh)] reward, and more lasting (as regards punishment in comparison to your punishment).” (TMQ, 20:73). How beautiful are those words when said by people who have just announced their belief in Allah (SWT), thus clarifying who is miserable and who is happy. Allah (SWT) confirms this saying in what can be translated as, “Verily whoever comes to his Lord as a Mujrim (criminal, polytheist, sinner, disbeliever in the Oneness of Allah and His Messengers), then surely, for him is Hell, wherein he will neither die nor live. But whoever comes to Him (Allah) as a believer (in the Oneness of Allah), and has done righteous good deeds, for such are the high ranks (in the Hereafter), ‘Adn (Eden) Paradise (everlasting Gardens), under which rivers flow, wherein they will abide forever: such is the reward of those who purify themselves (by abstaining from all kinds of sins and evil deeds which Allah has forbidden and by doing all that Allah has ordained).” (TMQ, 20:74-76).
It is an overwhelming happiness, springing from the hereafter and reaching our lives in this world. Believers feel strong enough to face the oppressors and tyrants on earth without any fear, simply because they know the taste of real happiness.
Misery away from Allah’s (SWT) method
The same story reflects the opposite side, which is As-Samery, who misled the Israelites and deluded them into worshipping the golden calf. The last Ayah in Musa’s (AS) story describes the misery of As-Samery, as Allah (SWT) says what can be translates as “Musa said: “Then go away! And verily, your (punishment) in this life will be that you will say: “Touch me not (i.e. you will live alone exiled away from mankind); and verily (for a future torment), you have a promise that will not fail.” (TMQ, 20:97).
This story is followed by some ayahs that comment on it and clarify the main objective of the surah : real happiness lies in following the path of religion, while misery is in keeping away from it. Allah (SWT) describes this saying in what can be translated as, “Thus We relate to you (O Muhammad SAWS) some information of what happened before. And indeed We have given you from Us a Reminder (this Qur’an). Whoever turns away from it (this Qur’an – i.e. does not believe in it, nor acts on its orders), verily, they will bear a heavy burden (of sins) on the Day of Resurrection, They will abide in that (state in the Fire of Hell) – and evil indeed will it be that load for them on the Day of Resurrection” (TMQ, 20:99-101). Allah (SWT) comments on the happiness and misery of people in the hereafter saying what can be translated as, “And (all) faces shall be humbled before (Allah), Al-Hayyul-Qayyum (the Ever Living, the One Who sustains and protects all that exists). And he who carried (a burden of) wrongdoing (i.e. he who disbelieved in Allah, ascribed partners to Him, and did deeds of His disobedience) will be indeed a complete failure (on that Day). And he who works deeds of righteousness, while he is a believer (in Islamic Monotheism), then he will have no fear of injustice, nor of any curtailment (of his reward).” (TMQ, 20:111-112).
Prophet Adam and happiness
When the surah reaches the story of Prophet Adam (AS), it focuses through it on the objective of the surah. Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, “Then We said: “O Adam! Verily, this is an enemy to you and to your wife. So let him not get you both out of Paradise, so that you will be distressed.” (TMQ, 20:117). Hence, abandoning the methodology set by Allah (SWT) and following the path of Iblis (Satan) are the main reasons for one’s misery in the hereafter. Accordingly, the ayahs go on depicting the various forms of happiness found in Jannah (Paradise), and Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, “Verily, you have (a promise from Us) that you will never be hungry therein nor naked. And you (will) suffer not from thirst therein nor from the sun’s heat.” (TMQ, 20:118-119). This rule applies to Adam (AS) and his offspring, even after he had got out of Jannah (Paradise), as Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, “He (Allah) said: “Get you down (from the Paradise to the earth), both of you, together, some of you are an enemy to some others. Then if there comes to you guidance from Me, then whoever follows My Guidance he shall neither go astray, nor shall be distressed.” (TMQ, 20:123).
The word “distress” and its derivatives have been mentioned three times in this surah, as Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as: “We have not sent down the Qur’an unto you (O Muhammad SAWS) to cause you distress” (TMQ, 20:2); “So let him not get you both out of Paradise, so that you will be distressed.” (TMQ, 20:117); “whoever follows My Guidance he shall neither go astray, nor shall be distressed.” (TMQ, 20:123). The aim of this is that no one should be afraid of being religious or of following the path of Allah SWT), as real happiness lies in the full adherence to the religion of Allah (SWT). As for those who repel from this methodology, the following ayahs describe in quite a horrible way their misery both in this life and in the hereafter. Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, “But whosoever turns away from My Reminder (i.e. neither believes in this Qur’an nor acts on its teachings.) Verily, for him is a life of hardship,” in this life. Allah describes their misery in the hereafter in what can be translated as, “We shall raise him up blind on the Day of Resurrection. He will say: “O my Lord! Why have you raised me up blind, while I had sight (before).” (Allah) will say: “Like this: Our Ayat (proofs, evidence, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) came unto you, but you disregarded them (i.e. you left them, did not think deeply in them, and you turned away from them), and so this Day, you will be neglected (in the Hell-fire, away from Allah’s Mercy).” And thus do We requite him who transgresses beyond bounds [i.e. commits the great sins and disobeys his Lord (Allah) and believes not in His Messengers, and His revealed Books, like this Qur’an], and believes not in the Ayat (proofs, evidence, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) of his Lord; and the torment of the Hereafter is far more severe and more lasting.” (TMQ, 20:124-127).
Highest levels of happiness
The highest level of happiness is to be satisfied with yourself, with your life, and Allah (SWT), and to feel that He (SWT) is satisfied with you. This is highlighted at the end of the surah, where Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, “So bear patiently (O Muhammad SAWS) what they say, and glorify the praises of your Lord before the rising of the sun, and before its setting, and during some hours of the night, and at the ends of the day (an indication for the five compulsory congregational prayers)” (TMQ, 20:130). Where does all this lead to? Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, “that you may become pleased (with the reward which Allah shall give you).” (TMQ, 20:130).
Glorifying, mentioning and obeying Allah (SWT) represent the only way to reach the highest level of happiness, which is satisfaction. In fact, happiness is nothing but satisfaction, a feeling of which many are deprived in spite of all the desires and pleasures they attain in life. They were deprived of satisfaction, a blessing that the believer obtains by glorifying Allah (SWT) and obeying Him (SWT).
For all those who seek happiness, for those youth who committed forbidden deeds in search of happiness but gained nothing, please read surat Ta-Ha, where Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, “Ta-Ha. We have not sent down the Qur’an unto you (O Muhammad SAWS) to cause you distress” (TMQ, 20:1-2).
source: Quranic reflections by: Amr Khaled