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Towards Understanding the Quran
With kind permission: Islamic Foundation UK
Introduction to Tafheem | Glossary | Verbs
Other resources: Maarif | Dawat 

 Surah Al-Muminun 23:1-4 [1/6]
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Verse Summary -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
ٱلْمُؤْمِنُونَ(are) the believers
ٱلَّذِينَThose who
صَلَاتِهِمْtheir prayers
خَـٰشِعُونَ(are) humbly submissive,
وَٱلَّذِينَThose who
ٱللَّغْوِthe vain talk
مُعْرِضُونَturn away,
وَٱلَّذِينَThose who
لِلزَّكَوٲةِof purification works
فَـٰعِلُونَ(are) doers,

بِسۡمِ اللهِ الرَّحۡمٰنِ الرَّحِيۡمِ قَدۡ اَفۡلَحَ الۡمُؤۡمِنُوۡنَۙ‏  الَّذِيۡنَ هُمۡ فِىۡ صَلَاتِهِمۡ خَاشِعُوۡنَ ۙ‏  وَالَّذِيۡنَ هُمۡ عَنِ اللَّغۡوِ مُعۡرِضُوۡنَۙ‏  وَالَّذِيۡنَ هُمۡ لِلزَّكٰوةِ فَاعِلُوۡنَۙ‏ 
(23:1) The believers have indeed attained true success:1 (23:2) those who,2 in their Prayers, humble themselves;3 (23:3) who avoid whatever is vain and frivolous;4 (23:4) who observe Zakah;5

1. “Believers”, who have attained true success, are those who have accepted the message of Muhammad (peace be upon him), and have acknowledged him as their guide and followed the way of life taught by him.

This assertion cannot be fully appreciated unless one keeps in view the background in which it was made. On the one hand, there were the well-to-do and prosperous chiefs of Makkah, the opponents of Islam, whose business was thriving and who were enjoying every good thing of life, and on the other hand, there were the followers of Islam, majority of whom were either poor from the beginning, or had been reduced to poverty by ruthless antagonism to Islam. Therefore, the assertion: Most certainly the believers have attained true success, with which the discourse begins, was meant to tell the disbelievers that the criterion of success and failure that they had in mind was not correct. It was based on misconceptions besides being transitory and limited in nature: it led to failure and not true success. On the contrary, the followers of Muhammad (peace be upon him), whom they regarded as failures, were truly successful, because by accepting the invitation to the right guidance given by the Messenger of Allah, they had struck a bargain which would lead them to true success and everlasting bliss in this world as well as in the Hereafter, whereas by rejecting the message the opponents had incurred loss and would meet with the evil consequences both in this world and in the next.

This is the main theme of the Surah and the whole discourse, from the beginning to the end, is meant to impress the same.

2. The noble characteristics of the believers pointed out in (verses 2-9 )are the arguments to prove the above assertion. In other words, it has been stated that people with such and such traits and qualities only can attain true success in this world and in the Hereafter.

3. Khashiun in the text is from khushu (to bow down, to express humility) which is a condition of the heart as well as of the body. Khushu of the heart is to fear and stand in awe of a powerful person and khushu of the body is to bow his head and lower his gaze and voice in his presence. In Salat one is required to show khushu both of the heart and of the body, and this is the essence of the Prayer. It has been reported that when the Prophet (peace be upon him) once saw a person offering his Prayer as well as playing with his beard, he remarked: If he had khushu in his heart, his body would have manifested it.

Though khushu is actually a condition of the heart, as stated by the above tradition, it is manifested by the body as a matter of course. The Shariah has enjoined certain etiquette which, on the one hand, helps produce khushu in the heart, and on the other, helps sustain the physical act of the Prayer in spite of the fluctuating condition of the heart. According to this etiquette, one should neither turn to the right or left, nor raise his head to look up, One may, however, look around from the corner of the eye, but as far as possible, he must fix the gaze on the place where the forehead would rest in prostration. One is also forbidden to shift about, incline sideways, fold the garments or shake off dust from them. It is also forbidden that while going down for prostration, one should clean the place where he would sit or perform prostration. Similarly it is disrespectful that one should stand stuffy erect, recite the verses of the Quran in a loud resounding voice, or sing them, or belch or yawn repeatedly and noisily. It has also not been approved that one should offer the Prayer in a hurry. The injunction is that each article of the Prayer should be performed in perfect peace and tranquility, and unless one article has been completely performed, the next should not be begun. If one feels hurt by something during the Prayer, he may cast it aside by one hand, but moving the hand repeatedly or using both the hands for the purpose is prohibited. Along with this etiquette of the body, it is also important that one should avoid thinking irrelevant things during the Prayer. If thoughts come to the mind without one’s intention, it is a natural human weakness, but one should try his utmost that the mind and heart are wholly turned towards Allah, and the mind is in full harmony and tune with the tongue, and as soon as one becomes conscious of irrelevant thoughts, he should immediately turn the attention to the Prayer.

4. Literally, laghv is anything nonsensical, meaningless and vain, which is in no way conducive to achieving one’s goal and purpose in life. The believers pay no heed to such useless things and they show no inclination or interest for them. If by chance they see such things being indulged in, they keep away and avoid them scrupulously, or treat them with utmost indifference. This attitude has been described in (Surah Al-Furqan, Ayat 72), thus: If they have to pass by what is vain, they pass by like dignified people.

This is indeed one of the outstanding characteristics of the believer. He is a person who feels the burden of responsibility at all times. He regards the world as a place of test, and the life as the limited time allowed for the test. This feeling makes him behave seriously and responsibly throughout life just like the student who is taking an exam with his whole mind and body and soul absorbed in it. Just as the student knows and feels that each moment of the limited time at his disposal is important and decisive for his future life, and is not inclined to waste it, so the believer also spends each moment of his life on works which are useful and productive in their ultimate results. So much so that even in matters of recreation and sport, he makes a choice of only those things which prepare him for higher ends in life and do not result in mere wastage of time. For him time is not something to be killed but used profitably and productively.

Besides this, the believer is a person who possesses a right thinking mind, pure nature and fine taste. He has no inclination to indecent things. He can talk useful and healthy things but cannot indulge in idle talk. He has a fine taste of humor, but is not given to jesting, joking, ridicule, etc. nor can he endure dirty jokes and fun. For him a society in which the ears are never immune from abusive language, back-biting, slander; lying, dirty songs and indecent talk is a source of torture and agony. A characteristic of the promised Paradise is: Therein you will not hear anything vain or useless.

5. The word Zakat literally means purification and development, to help something grow up smoothly and develop without obstruction. As an Islamic term, it implies both the portion of wealth taken out for the purpose of purifying the rest of wealth and the act of purification itself. The words of the original text mean that the believer constantly practices purification. Thus the meaning is not confined to the paying off of Zakat dues only but it is extended to self purification which includes purification of morals as well as wealth, property and life in general. Then it does not mean purification of one’s own self, but includes the purification of the lives of other people as well. So the verse means: The believers are the people who purify themselves as well as others. This thing has also been stated at other places in the Quran, for instance: Successful is he who practiced purification and remembered his Lord and prayed. (Surah Al-Aala, Ayats 14-15). And: Successful is he who purified himself and failure is he who corrupted it. (Surah Ash-Shams, Ayats 9-10). But this verse is more comprehensive in meaning because it stresses the purification of both society and one’s own person.