The Two Paths: Islam and Kufr
By the enshrouding night, by the radiant day, by His creation of a male and female! The ways you take differ greatly. There is the one who gives, who is mindful of God, who testifies to goodness, we shall smooth his way towards ease. There is the one who is miserly, who is self satisfied, who denies goodness, we shall smooth his way towards hardship and his wealth will not help him as he falls. Our part is to provides guidance this world and the next belong to Us, so I warn you about raging Fire, in which none but the most wicked one will burn, who denied the truth and turned away. The most pious one will be spared this. Who gives his wealth away as self-purification, not to return a favour to anyone. But for the sake of his Lord the Most High and he will be well pleased.
One way of understanding faith is to look at the opposite of faith. The distinctiveness of each can be easily noticed. Contrast the darkness of the night as it hides away its surroundings and the brightness of the day as it reveals all things.
Similarly this Surah contrasts the qualities of a Muslim and a kafir, the servant of Allah and the rebel. It begins with the proposition that both strives and struggle for quite different reasons. The one works for the pleasure of his Lord whilst the other for his own whims. One strives for the gardens of Paradise, the other for the hell fire. The Muslim works for others benefit and the kafir works for self-interest.
The next few verses explain the metal framework within which the Muslim works; he is generous and gives freely of his wealth and God-given talents, he is always aware of his Lord and he believes in Paradise (Husna = Paradise in Hadith of Ibn-e-Abbas)
As a consequence of his generosity, God-consciousness and desire for paradise, his journey towards his goal is made easy and comfortable. A Muslim will do goodness and God will make his path smoother and smoother. His momentum builds as he travels along the path. Righteousness becomes his nature.
The Surah then turns to the kafir and highlights three of his qualities; namely the kafir is greedy, thinks he is independent of his Lord and denies Paradise, gathering momentum on his downward path to hell. What a contrast to the believer!
Qualities of a Muslim: Generous, aware of God and believes in Paradise. Qualities of a Kafir: Greedy, forgetful of God and denies Paradise
Verses 12-16 Briefly outline the painfully doom, hellfire and humiliation that await the kafir.
Verses 17-21 Praise and glorify the one who is a true believer, he is sincere and generous. He wakes only for the pleasure of the Lord – his rewards are the delights of Paradise – so much so that the Lord promises to please him.