The underlying theme of the Surah is warning the rejectors and a stress on the Belief of oneness of God and hence being accountable to Him. The main addressee of the Surah is the Quraysh of Makkah.
We can learn the following lessons from this Surah
The Need for Constant Motivation
The Surah starts with God addressing the Prophet’s anxiety. This Anxiety is felt because Prophet’s clan, family, and friends are rejecting him and not listening to his message. Hence, he is doubting his ability to be a good messenger. God starts by addressing this doubt and clarifies that he is indeed a messenger, and a good one, like those before him.
Indeed you, [O Muhammad], are from among the messengers, On a straight path[like those before You]. 36:3-4
This highlights the need for constant motivation when it comes to achieving our goal. A complex goal is a hard thing to achieve, and with time we may lose interest or get burned out. In such a scenario a constant motivation is very helpful and will keep us going forward.
Motivation can come from our mentors, loved ones, books, helping others or self-reflection. One way to keep that motivation going is to establish rituals to enable the above things. It can be a ritual of spending time with Parents, reading books, going for a walk, doing community work, or sitting on the prayer mat reflecting our day or life.
Fearing God in Secret
One main reason why the People are rejecting the Prophet is that they have become arrogant. Allah knows already that they are going to reject the Prophet no matter what. This begs the question, why send them a message?
Already the word has come into effect upon most of them, so they do not believe. 36:7
Allah answers this question at the end of the section, stating that the message is for the ones who fear Merciful God in secret.
You can only warn one who follows the message and fears the Most Merciful in secret. So give him good tidings of forgiveness and noble reward. 36:11
Fearing God in secret would mean to embed his fear in our subconscious, to live in a state of constant accountability. This means, no matter what task we do, our ethics shouldn’t be compromised. The final salvation isn’t going to be based on how much time we spent in the Masjid, or doing Dawah of Islam. But it will be based on how strong our ethical character was. This won’t be based on our opinion but based on the testimony of the people with who we spend our 9-5 on weekdays and our family members with who we share the roof. If they all witness negatively, then we can be very sure, that fear of God may be present either in public or in one’s perception, but not in Secret.
No One Is Free From Sins
Another important point highlighted in the above verse is that the first glad tiding which is given is the forgiveness of sins. Implying that no one is free from it. Hence we shouldn’t become depressed with our sins, we should always remember that our sins, no matter how many in number, can not surpass God’s mercy. Instead of being depressed by our sins and losing hope, we should ponder on God’s mercy and try to rectify ourselves.
The Scope of Human Ethical Ability Is Infinite
The main theme of the Surah is the Belief in Tawheed. Interestingly, this is not declared by the messengers but the main sermon is given by an ordinary person . What was in the Sermon that God chose to make this Sermon part of Qur’an over the Sermons of the the messengers?
And there came from the farthest end of the city a man, running. He said, “O my people, follow the messengers. Follow those who do not ask of you [any] payment, and they are also [rightly] guided. [You want to punish me too, but I ask you]why should I not worship He who created me and to whom you will be returned[for accountability]? Should I take other than Him [false] deities [while], if the Most Merciful intends for me some adversity, their intercession will not avail me at all, nor can they save me? Indeed, I would then be in manifest error. Indeed, I have believed in your Lord, so listen to me.” It was said, “Enter Paradise.” [when he died and entered Paradise] He said, “I wish my people could know how my Lord has forgiven me and placed me among the honored.” 36: 20-27
We can derive following points from the above Sermon
- The main addressee for the person are the people who are blatant rejectors of the Prophet out of arrogance. But still, he addresses them as “my people” and not as Kuffar or Dajjal or any other insulting name
- Even though he is criticizing the belief of his subjects he is addressing himself. Instead of saying ‘what You are doing is wrong’ he is saying, ‘if I do this it will be wrong.’ This is being done to make sure the main focus remains on the message and no one takes it personally.
- Even after he enters Paradise, he is still thinking about his People.
The above three points highlight the utmost care, love, and concern he has for his People. It’s very obvious from this that he is having, what can be termes as, absolute empathy, complete selflessness and his only motivation is the well being of others. This emphasizes an important fact that humans have it in them to raise themselves to such ethical heights which can leave even the messengers in awe.
The Cause of Arrogance and Its Solution
The reason why the People are rejecting the message is that they have become too arrogant to accept it. The image painted in the below verse is of an arrogant person who is too full of himself.
Indeed, We have put shackles on their necks, and they are to their chins, so they are with heads [kept] aloft. And We have put before them a barrier and behind them a barrier and covered them, so they do not see. 36:8-9
The main cause of arrogance is ingratitude. Ingratitude is caused by a misunderstanding that an individual’s ability is his right, or an individual’s success is a result of his hard work.
To counter this, we should always remind ourselves that no matter what success we get in our lives, the number of factors which are in our control will be always less compared to the factors which are not in our control.
And a sign for them is the dead earth. We have brought it to life and brought forth from it grain, and from it, they eat. And We placed therein gardens of palm trees and grapevines and caused to burst forth therefrom some springs. [So] that they may eat of His fruit. And their hands have not produced it, so will they not be grateful? 36:33-35
The Activity of People in Heaven
One activity of people of Heaven is mentioned as a happy occupation.
Indeed the companions of Paradise, that Day, will be busy in a happy occupation 36:55
To be in love with your work is a gift of God. Not everyone will be lucky to experience this gift in this world. It’s a very rare probability to be good at something which you truly love and to also earn bread and butter from that thing. Only a rare few get to experience this. Rest are constrained by responsibilities which hinder them to pursue their passion or lack of enough talent or resources in the work which they love or it could be sheer being born in the wrong place or time. Those who are lucky should be grateful and those who aren’t should exercise patience without becoming resentful. When we feel shallow in our lives of work is unfulfilled, then we should ponder over this verse and remember that we are not in heaven yet.
The above are just few from the ocean of points which one can derive while reading Qur’an. As we have seen in other Chapters of Qur’an, the underlying theme of Qur’an, like in other Abrahamic revealed books, is to address Human Ethics, point out the evils, and suggest methods to get rid of them.