Surah Muddaththir part (2)

Surah Muddaththir part (2)

لَوَّاحَۃٌ لِّلۡبَشَرِ ﴿ۚۖ۲۹﴾[1]

The word بَشَر refers to the body-skin. Such will be the reach of the flames of the fire of Hell that the skin of the criminals will start to burn even from a distance. In Surah al-Ma'arij, the words used are: نَزَّاعَۃً لِّلشَّوٰی (16:70) (It strips open the skin,(70:16)). Depicted here are the effects of the intensity of heat caused by Hell-fire which will begin even before the criminals enter Hell. The purpose is to inform them that the climax of the torment of which the commencement is so intense can only be imagined.

عَلَیۡہَا تِسۡعَۃَ عَشَرَ ﴿ؕ۳۰﴾[2]

Here the noun qualified by the number nineteen is not mentioned; however, the succeeding verse tells us that this number refers to angels. Their veiled reference in this verse shows that their temperament, appearance and powers will be absolutely harmonious with their nature of duty. By merely seeing them, criminals will be able to evaluate that they will not show the slightest mercy to anyone nor is there any possibility of being liberated from their grasp.

Here it is possible that a question may arise in someone's mind regarding the number of angels guarding Hell. What is the wisdom in their number being nineteen. Also, why has the Qur'an so emphatically enumerated them even if they were nineteen. The Qur'an itself has answered this question in the next verse; however, before this answer is discussed, an essential point should be understood as a prelude.

As far as the Hereafter is concerned, its arguments are found in human intellect and human nature as well as the world inside man and the one that lies outside him. The Qur'an has delineated all these arguments in detail. As far as the details of Paradise and Hell are concerned, they are of the category of the mutashabihat of which the actual form and reality are only known to God. He has tried to communicate them to us through similes and parables. Through these, we can have a general idea of them; however, we cannot grasp their true form. If a person insists on finding out their true form, he will go astray and instead of benefiting from this information, he will reject the reality which is based on absolute arguments of sense and reason. In such matters, the right attitude that a person of intellect should adopt is to believe in whatever the Almighty has told him and have faith in the fact that the true form of such things will become apparent when they will actually manifest themselves one day. The Qur'an has explained this aspect thus in Surah Āl-i 'Imran:

ہُوَ الَّذِیۡۤ اَنۡزَلَ عَلَیۡکَ الۡکِتٰبَ مِنۡہُ اٰیٰتٌ مُّحۡکَمٰتٌ ہُنَّ اُمُّ الۡکِتٰبِ وَ اُخَرُ مُتَشٰبِہٰتٌ ؕ فَاَمَّا الَّذِیۡنَ فِیۡ قُلُوۡبِہِمۡ زَیۡغٌ فَیَتَّبِعُوۡنَ مَا تَشَابَہَ مِنۡہُ ابۡتِغَآءَ الۡفِتۡنَۃِ وَ ابۡتِغَآءَ تَاۡوِیۡلِہٖ ۚ؃ وَ مَا یَعۡلَمُ تَاۡوِیۡلَہٗۤ اِلَّا اللّٰہُ ۘؔ وَ الرّٰسِخُوۡنَ فِی الۡعِلۡمِ یَقُوۡلُوۡنَ اٰمَنَّا بِہٖ ۙ کُلٌّ مِّنۡ عِنۡدِ رَبِّنَا ۚ(7:3)

It is He who has revealed to you the Book. In it are verses muhkam [based on argument of sense and reason] – they are the foundation of the Book – and others mutashabih [in which facts are portrayed in symbolic form]. Then those whose hearts are warped always go after themutashabih among them in order to create dissension and in order to know their reality even though no one except God knows their reality. As for those who are well-grounded in knowledge, they say: "We believe in all these. These mutashabih verses like the muhkam ones have been revealed from our Lord." (3:7)

Such warped personalities always exist. Among the Quraysh and the People of the Book too such mischievous elements existed. So as soon as the Qur'an mentioned nineteen angels, it also warned them forthwith (in the subsequent verses) that although people prone to mischief will use this information to spread mischief, the Almighty mentions such facts to increase the knowledge of true students and the contaminated nature of those who are prone to mischief is fully highlighted. With this background, readers may now read the subsequent verses.

وَ مَا جَعَلۡنَاۤ اَصۡحٰبَ النَّارِ اِلَّا مَلٰٓئِکَۃً ۪ وَّ مَا جَعَلۡنَا عِدَّتَہُمۡ اِلَّا فِتۡنَۃً لِّلَّذِیۡنَ کَفَرُوۡا ۙ لِیَسۡتَیۡقِنَ الَّذِیۡنَ اُوۡتُوا الۡکِتٰبَ وَ یَزۡدَادَ الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡۤا اِیۡمَانًا وَّ لَا یَرۡتَابَ الَّذِیۡنَ اُوۡتُوا الۡکِتٰبَ وَ الۡمُؤۡمِنُوۡنَ ۙ وَ لِیَقُوۡلَ الَّذِیۡنَ فِیۡ قُلُوۡبِہِمۡ مَّرَضٌ وَّ الۡکٰفِرُوۡنَ مَاذَاۤ اَرَادَ اللّٰہُ بِہٰذَا مَثَلًا ؕ کَذٰلِکَ یُضِلُّ اللّٰہُ مَنۡ یَّشَآءُ وَ یَہۡدِیۡ مَنۡ یَّشَآءُؕ وَ مَا یَعۡلَمُ جُنُوۡدَ رَبِّکَ اِلَّا ہُوَ ؕ وَ مَا ہِیَ اِلَّا ذِکۡرٰی لِلۡبَشَرِ ﴿۳۱﴾[3]

This verse, as indicated earlier, is an immediate warning. It is not true that this verse was revealed much later in Madinah. The copulative particle وَ(wa) shows that it is connected to the previous verse and revealed together with it. Verses which are revealed later and placed with verses revealed earlier are not so closely connected and are independent in nature. One example of this is verse twenty of Surah al-Muzzammil which was revealed in Madinah. Its independent nature from the previous verses is evident. It does not begin with a copulative particle the way the verse under discussion does. Here it is evident that it was revealed together with the previous verses, and the purpose was to make the Prophet (sws) aware of the mentality of the mischievous people in a broad manner. He is told that when these people hear such things from him, they will make fun of them; however, the Prophet (sws) must not pay any attention to their arrogant talk; the Almighty mentions such facts to increase the knowledge of the believers and to highlight the corrupted mentality of the mischievous.

The section of the verse وَ مَا جَعَلۡنَاۤ اَصۡحٰبَ النَّارِ اِلَّا مَلٰٓئِکَۃً ۪ وَّ مَا جَعَلۡنَا عِدَّتَہُمۡ اِلَّا فِتۡنَۃً لِّلَّذِیۡنَ کَفَرُوۡا ۙ implies that just as the Almighty has appointed angels and not the jinn and devils to conduct all the affairs of this universe, similarly he has appointed angels over Hell. No other creature has been appointed for this task. This further implies that all the affairs of the Almighty are managed by angels who are His pure and noble creation. This is to safeguard the fact that His will is implemented in the manner He wants it to be and there is not the slightest deviation in this regard. Thus angels are deputed as the keepers of Hell.

Found in this sentence is also the answer to mischief-mongers who could have said that what is there to fear when together with the criminals, the angels will also be in Hell? The implication is that if they want, they can indulge in such arrogant talk, but they should remember that there is a world of difference between the inmates of a prison and its guards; they will get to know this difference when they encounter the angels deputed in the prison of Hell.

The expression وَ مَا جَعَلۡنَا عِدَّتَہُمۡ اِلَّا فِتۡنَۃً لِّلَّذِیۡنَ کَفَرُوۡا alludes to the wisdom behind the number of angels: this number is mentioned so that it becomes a means of trial for the disbelievers of the Day of Judgement and it presents them with an opportunity to say whatever they want to against it. It needs to be appreciated that the Almighty has placed trials in every sphere of life through which the hidden vices of the wrong-doers and the concealed virtues of the righteous come to light. In the absence of these trials, neither can the hidden potential of a person come to the foreground nor can the evil and righteous people be distinguished from one another. Consequently, while mentioning Paradise and Hell, the Almighty has also stated some facts which became a means of trial for the disbelievers. For example, the observations stated by the Prophet (sws) in his divine journey to the heavens or the Qur'an's mention of the tree of zaqqum in Hell. By referring to them, the opponents made fun of the Prophet (sws) as well as of Paradise and Hell. In Surah Bani Isra'il, it is said:

وَ مَا جَعَلۡنَا الرُّءۡیَا الَّتِیۡۤ اَرَیۡنٰکَ اِلَّا فِتۡنَۃً لِّلنَّاسِ وَ الشَّجَرَۃَ الۡمَلۡعُوۡنَۃَ فِی الۡقُرۡاٰنِ ؕ(60:17)

We have made the vision which We showed you, as well as the tree cursed in the Qur'an a trial for the opponents. (17:60)

The Almighty has explained at various places in the Qur'an the wisdom behind giving opportunity to devils among the jinn and men in creating mischief against the truth. In Surah al-Hajj, it is stated:

لِّیَجۡعَلَ مَا یُلۡقِی الشَّیۡطٰنُ فِتۡنَۃً لِّلَّذِیۡنَ فِیۡ قُلُوۡبِہِمۡ مَّرَضٌ وَّ الۡقَاسِیَۃِ قُلُوۡبُہُمۡ ؕ وَ اِنَّ الظّٰلِمِیۡنَ لَفِیۡ شِقَاقٍۭ بَعِیۡدٍ.وَّ لِیَعۡلَمَ الَّذِیۡنَ اُوۡتُوا الۡعِلۡمَ اَنَّہُ الۡحَقُّ مِنۡ رَّبِّکَ(22: 53-54)

God gives this chance so that what the devils say against the truth becomes a trial for those in whose hearts there is an ailment or whose hearts are hardened. And these wrongdoers are occupied in a long confrontation so that those who are endowed with knowledge may realize that this is the truth from your Lord. (22:53-54)

I have discussed this subject in detail in the tafsir of the above quoted verse of Surah al-Hajj. It can be looked up for details.

Similarly, when it is said in this verse that nineteen angels will be the guards of Hell, it is also stated that though the wicked will make this a means of stirring mischief yet in accordance with the law of God this trial is necessary; it is through this trial that the evil found in people with corrupt hearts will be exposed; similarly, through this trial, the faith and knowledge of people who are searching for the truth will be strengthened. Consequently, it is mentioned in some narratives that when the arrogant among the Quraysh heard that only nineteen angels are deputed over Hell, they said if this was their number then there was nothing to be afraid of and that they would easily be able to overpower them; someone boasted that he alone was enough for a certain number and that one of his comrades would be enough to deal with the rest.

In the sentence: لِیَسۡتَیۡقِنَ الَّذِیۡنَ اُوۡتُوا الۡکِتٰبَ وَ یَزۡدَادَ الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡۤا اِیۡمَانًا the particle لis meant to express the consequence: the consequence of the struggle between good and evil is that the conviction of the true People of the Book will be augmented, and the faith of those who have embraced faith will be strengthened.

Contextual indication shows that the expression اُوۡتُوا الۡکِتٰبَ refers to sincere People of the Book. Those among them who really believed in their books had no pretext to make fun of such statements of the Qur'an because similar statements were found in their own books. When they saw such statements in the Qur'an also their belief was reinforced. It was these People of the Book who later embraced Islam.

The reason why the faith of the believers is reinforced is because whatever is said against it comes before them and they are able to fully evaluate that the objections of the opponents carry no weight. Opposites are recognized by opposites. If a person adopts one aspect of a thing once both aspects are evident to him, then he does so on the basis of his intellect. If he accepts the aspect of faith, then his faith is not blind; it is based on understanding. He accepts it with full conviction and every trial increases his faith. The faith of people who blindly believe has no roots and for this reason at times even a slight adverse wind is enough to shake it.

The sentence وَّ لَا یَرۡتَابَ الَّذِیۡنَ اُوۡتُوا الۡکِتٰبَ وَ الۡمُؤۡمِنُوۡنَ states in a negative sense what is stated above in a positive manner. The reason that the Almighty puts people through such trials is that the true People of the Book and the believers become secure from the onslaughts of doubt. In other words, this is an anticipatory precautionary measure to protect a person from doubts.

Here it should be kept in consideration that the sincere People of the Book are also mentioned adjacent to the believers even though this surah, as alluded to earlier, is from among the early Makkan surahs when Muslims had yet to directly encounter the People of the Book. Consequently, this is one of the reasons due to which some people have regarded this surah to be Madinan. However, in my opinion this view is not correct. The sincere among the People of the Book were counted as Muslims and for this reason the Almighty from the very beginning has mentioned them as the vanguard of the believers. The reason for this mention was that it should become evident to them from the very first day what role they were required to play viz a viz the new prophet, what their status was in the eyes of God, what circumstances awaited them, the measures which the Almighty was taking to strengthen their faith and how they should remain vigilant to make use of them.

In the sentence وَ لِیَقُوۡلَ الَّذِیۡنَ فِیۡ قُلُوۡبِہِمۡ مَّرَضٌ وَّ الۡکٰفِرُوۡنَ مَاذَاۤ اَرَادَ اللّٰہُ بِہٰذَا مَثَلًا the effect these mutashabihat would produce on the jealous Jews and the die-hard disbelievers is expressed.

People have generally taken الَّذِیۡنَ فِیۡ قُلُوۡبِہِمۡ مَّرَضٌ to refer to the Hypocrites. They contend that the word مَرَضٌ (disease) mentioned in the Qur'an always refers to hypocrisy. This, however, is not correct. I have explained at a number of places in this tafsir that this word also refers to jealousy and envy, and on such occasions it refers to the Jews because they were jealous of the Ishmaelites as well as of the Prophet (sws). The details of this jealousy are mentioned in Surah al-Baqarah. Earlier, the sincere People of the Book were mentioned; here, in contrast, the jealous Jews are mentioned and simultaneously the word الۡکٰفِرُوۡنَrefers to the disbelievers among the Quraysh signifying the fact that both factions will adopt the same attitude about the mutashabihat. They will exclaim: مَاذَاۤ اَرَادَ اللّٰہُ بِہٰذَا مَثَلًا (what can God mean by this mention?)

I have already explained what they mean by this statement under verse 26 of Surah al-Baqarah: after hearing such a thing from the mutashabihat, they will make a face and arrogantly object at the reason for God stating such parables. In other words, what they wanted to say was that these were nonsensical things and the Almighty does not say such nonsensical things; the person who is ascribing such things to Him is, God forbid, nonsensical and his claim to prophethood is absolutely false.

The implication of the sentence کَذٰلِکَ یُضِلُّ اللّٰہُ مَنۡ یَّشَآءُ وَ یَہۡدِیۡ مَنۡ یَّشَآءُ is that by putting people through such trials and tests the Almighty leads astray whomsoever among them He wants and guides whomsoever He wants. Here one should keep in mind what has been explained in this tafsir many times: every wish and intention of God is governed by His wisdom. He leads only those people astray whom He finds worthy of this treatment and those who are worthy of being guided as per His law are guided by Him. The following verse of Surah al-Baqarah has precisely the same context:

فَاَمَّا الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا فَیَعۡلَمُوۡنَ اَنَّہُ الۡحَقُّ مِنۡ رَّبِّہِمۡ وَ اَمَّا الَّذِیۡنَ کَفَرُوۡا فَیَقُوۡلُوۡنَ مَا ذَاۤ اَرَادَ اللّٰہُ بِہٰذَا مَثَلًا ۘیُضِلُّ بِہٖ کَثِیۡرًا ۙ وَّ یَہۡدِیۡ بِہٖ کَثِیۡرًا ؕ وَ مَا یُضِلُّ بِہٖۤ اِلَّا الۡفٰسِقِیۡنَ(2: 26)

Then those who accept faith know that it is a truth from their Lord; as for those who disbelieved, they will say: "What does Godmean by this similitude?" God misleads many by it, and many He leads into the right path; and in reality He misleads by it only those who are disobedient. (2:26)

The sentence وَ مَا یَعۡلَمُ جُنُوۡدَ رَبِّکَ اِلَّا ہُوَ is a scathing criticism on the claim of these criticizers to knowing everything. They should not think that they have knowledge of all the secrets of the universe. This is an absolutely false claim. No one except the Almighty knows about His armies. Only He knows their size and the capability of each of His army units and the nature of weapons with which each regiment is equipped and the identity and number of soldiers at a particular front. Neither does any person have all this knowledge nor can he have such knowledge. To whatever extent the Almighty makes His creatures aware of the secrets of this universe should be honoured and valued by them and regarded by them to be an invaluable addition to their treasure of knowledge. They should not conceitedly think that the universe is just what they are able to see.

It needs to be kept in consideration that in these times also our pseudo-intellectuals who have raised objections against the Qur'an or interpreted it according to their whims have done so by arrogantly regarding themselves to be know-alls. They either rejected what their limited intellect could not understand, and if they could not muster the courage to do so, they tried to interpret it in such a manner that took them even way beyond rejecting such things.

The sentence وَ مَا ہِیَ اِلَّا ذِکۡرٰی لِلۡبَشَرِ spells out the purpose of the verses which depict the circumstances of the Hereafter: these warning-laden verses are not meant for criticism; they are meant to remind and admonish people so that those who want to protect themselves from this eternal torment are able to prepare for this. The Almighty has informed them of this danger by reminding them of it. It is up to people to benefit from this. Those who will not benefit from it will have no excuse left before the Almighty. The practice and law of God of providing guidance to His creatures is that He informs them of virtue and vice. It is against His law to forcibly make them adopt the path of virtue.

Our exegetes have generally regarded the antecedent of the pronoun هِيَ to be سَقَر (Hell). In my opinion, however, it refers to the verses in which Hell and its punishments are depicted. The reason I hold this view is that it is these verses which hold the status of ذِکۡرٰی (reminder) and not سَقَر.

کَلَّا وَ الۡقَمَرِ ﴿ۙ۳۲﴾ وَ الَّیۡلِ اِذۡ اَدۡبَرَ ﴿ۙ۳۳﴾ وَ الصُّبۡحِ اِذَاۤ اَسۡفَرَ ﴿ۙ۳۴﴾[4]

In these verses, oaths are sworn by various manifestations of nature and stressed that the Hereafter and Hell, of which people are being informed, are among the great certainties of this universe. They are sure to come; however, since every work of the Almighty is gradual in nature, they will come at the time appointed for them; they cannot come before that time. It is foolish to surmise that they will never come if they have not come as yet. If one wants to get rid of the night soon and wants the day to rise earlier than its appointed time, then this haste will not be successful in its aim. Similar is the case of the Day of Judgement. A time has been appointed for it. It will come precisely at that time.

First of all, an oath is sworn by the moon in کَلَّا وَ الۡقَمَرِ. The particle of negation كَلَّا(certainly not) before it is meant to strongly negate the view of the addressees. Examples of such negation are found in various Qur'anic oaths mentioned in the previous surahs. On such occasions, the speaker wants to immediately negate a view of the addressees and does not even want to first cite the reason for his negation and then express negation. The intensity of dislike of this view is so strong that he begins by negation and then through the oath itself expresses the reason for this.

I have explained at various instances that such oaths mentioned in the Qur'an are meant to substantiate a claim which is generally stated after the oath. Here the addressees are disbelievers of the Day of Judgement as is evident from the context, and their doubt under discussion is their question of why the Day of Judgement is not coming if it is destined to come. The moon is cited to them as an example. They are told that just as the moon slowly and gradually becomes full, in a similar manner, they too shall gradually reach the place they are being informed of, and then witness the manifestation of the perfect justice of their Lord. Just as the moon passes through various phases in its journey,[5]and it must pass through them before it reaches its culmination however much a person may show haste for this, similarly, the Day of Judgement will come after various phases elapse. It will not come unless these phases elapse.

Every change in this universe comes in accordance with the scheme devised by the Almighty. No one's desire or haste can intervene in it. The day will definitely come and without its advent the objective of this universe will not stand fulfilled. However, it will come in accordance with the exact time appointed for it by the Almighty.

The Almighty has substantiated various facts of religion through the waxing and waning, and rising and setting of the moon. I have explained these at various places in this tafsir. In the coming surahs too, some important aspects follow in this regard. I shall inshallah explain them at those places. Here in this verse the gradual development found in the schemes of God is alluded to. The objective is to caution people who demand that the Day of Judgement should come soon. They are told that each of God's signs has a prescribed program. Only He knows its benefits and expediencies. What is an obvious requirement of His justice shall necessarily manifest itself; however, it will manifest itself at its appointed time. In Surah al-Inshiqaq also, an oath is sworn by the moon and there too precisely this very reality is referred to. It is said:

وَ الۡقَمَرِ اِذَا اتَّسَقَ.لَتَرۡکَبُنَّ طَبَقًا عَنۡ طَبَقٍ.( 84: 18-19)

And the moon bears witness when it grows full that you shall certainly ascend gradually. (84: 18-19)

In other words, man shall definitely come into the presence of God for accountability; however, just as the sun gradually reaches its zenith, this day too will appear after various stages pass.

After the moon, oaths are sworn by the night and day: کَلَّا وَ الۡقَمَرِ. وَ الَّیۡلِ اِذۡ اَدۡبَرَ. وَ الصُّبۡحِ اِذَاۤ اَسۡفَرَ. The night bears witness when it turns its back and the morning bears witness when it shines forth. The implication is that just as there is no sign of the morning in the darkness of night but a time comes when the morning arrives, similar will be the case with the Day of Judgement. This world is like the night whose darkness enwraps the morning of the Day of Judgement. However, as soon as the time arrives, the blanket of darkness will disappear and the Day of Judgement will arrive. The Almighty, who brings forth each day the light of the day after the night and no one is surprised by this great transformation, similarly, will bring forth the Day of Judgment whenever He wants to and at a time when everyone will see that what they regarded to be impossible has manifested itself.

The same oath, with a slight difference in words, is stated in Surah al-Takwir to substantiate the Day of Judgement:

وَ الَّیۡلِ اِذَا عَسۡعَسَ.وَ الصُّبۡحِ اِذَا تَنَفَّسَ.(81: 17-18)

And the night bears witness as it retreats and the dawn when it breathes. (81:17-18)

I have explained at a number of places in this exegesis that the Almighty has created this universe in such a manner that at some place or the other a continuous rehearsal of the Day of Judgement is going on. The objective is to provide man from his very surroundings, the corroboration of such a day in case he has doubts about it. For a sincere person who is searching for the truth, such evidence is enough to convince him.

اِنَّہَا لَاِحۡدَی الۡکُبَرِ ﴿ۙ۳۵﴾ نَذِیۡرًا لِّلۡبَشَرِ ﴿ۙ۳۶﴾[6]

These verses are the complement (muqsam bihi) of the oaths mentioned in the previous verses: these verses of the Qur'an which have been revealed to inform people of the horrors of Hell are no jest. They depict a great upheaval which is going to take place. Unfortunate are the people who, instead of learning a lesson from them, are making fun of them.

لِمَنۡ شَآءَ مِنۡکُمۡ اَنۡ یَّتَقَدَّمَ اَوۡ یَتَاَخَّرَ ﴿ؕ۳۷﴾[7]

The implication of this verse is that it was essential to inform people of that dreadful Day before its arrival. This was essential so that they were not left with any excuse of not being informed and thus not being prepared for it. Consequently, through His Book the Almighty has revealed the truth to such an extent that people are not left with any excuse to deny it. Whether they accept it or not, is left to them to decide; he who wants to encounter a good fate will come forward to accept it and he who is calling for his doom will show arrogance and turn away from it.

کُلُّ نَفۡسٍۭ بِمَا کَسَبَتۡ رَہِیۡنَۃٌ ﴿ۙ۳۸﴾[8]

The implication of this verse is that just as effects are tied to their causes, souls are tied to their deeds. On the Day of Judgement, only deeds will liberate a person or annihilate him. If someone arrogantly thinks that he will be able to save himself from the torments of the Day because of his high status and pedigree and through his deities and their intercession, then he should remember that none of these will be of any avail to him.

اِلَّاۤ اَصۡحٰبَ الۡیَمِیۡنِ ﴿ؕۛ۳۹﴾ فِیۡ جَنّٰتٍ ۟ؕۛ یَتَسَآءَلُوۡنَ ﴿ۙ۴۰﴾ عَنِ الۡمُجۡرِمِیۡنَ ﴿ۙ۴۱﴾ [9]

On that Day, only the People of the Right Hand will succeed. I have already explained who they are at some place in this exegesis. They are people who spent this life while keeping in consideration the life to come and whose accounts shall be handed over to them in their right hands. This verse says that not only will they be rewarded commensurate with their deeds, they will be blessed with even more reward as a favour by the Almighty.

The nature of the question and answer mentioned in these verses becomes very evident from the following verse of Surah al-Ṣaffat; they will also find an opportunity during the course of this conversation to address the companions of Hell and find out from them the reason which led them to this abode:

فَاَقۡبَلَ بَعۡضُہُمۡ عَلٰی بَعۡضٍ یَّتَسَآءَلُوۡنَ .قَالَ قَآئِلٌ مِّنۡہُمۡ اِنِّیۡ کَانَ لِیۡ قَرِیۡنٌ .یَّقُوۡلُ اَئِنَّکَ لَمِنَ الۡمُصَدِّقِیۡنَ.ءَ اِذَا مِتۡنَا وَ کُنَّا تُرَابًا وَّ عِظَامًا ءَ اِنَّا لَمَدِیۡنُوۡنَ.قَالَ ہَلۡ اَنۡتُمۡ مُّطَّلِعُوۡنَ.فَاطَّلَعَ فَرَاٰہُ فِیۡ سَوَآءِ الۡجَحِیۡمِ .(37: 50-55)

The companions of Paradise will turn to each other while posing questions to each other. One will say: "I had a friend who used to say: 'Are you also among those who attest to the Day of Judgement? When we are dead and turned to dust and bones, shall we ever be brought to judgement?"' They will say: "Go and take a peep." He will look down and see his friend in the very midst of Hell. (37:50-55)

مَا سَلَکَکُمۡ فِیۡ سَقَرَ ﴿۴۲﴾[10]

This question shall be posed to the companions of Hell by the companions of Paradise while the latter will be questioning each other about the fate of the former.

قَالُوۡا لَمۡ نَکُ مِنَ الۡمُصَلِّیۡنَ ﴿ۙ۴۳﴾ وَ لَمۡ نَکُ نُطۡعِمُ الۡمِسۡکِیۡنَ ﴿ۙ۴۴﴾ وَ کُنَّا نَخُوۡضُ مَعَ الۡخَآئِضِیۡنَ ﴿ۙ۴۵﴾ وَ کُنَّا نُکَذِّبُ بِیَوۡمِ الدِّیۡنِ ﴿ۙ۴۶﴾ حَتّٰۤی اَتٰىنَا الۡیَقِیۡنُ ﴿ؕ۴۷﴾[11]

The companions of Hell will, in response, acknowledge that it is their misdeeds which had brought them to Hell and no one else is to blame for this fate.

The first of these misdeeds is that they were not among those who prayed. It needs to be kept in consideration that just as in beliefs the belief of monotheism occupies primary importance, similarly, in deeds the prayer occupies primary importance. All prophets called people to this deed the foremost and informed them that adhering to it or rejecting it distinguishes believers from disbelievers.

The second misdeed that they will admit to is their lack of spending in the way of God: they were not among those who fed the poor. After the prayer, spending in the way of God is the second most important deed of religion and upon these two pillars is built the edifice of all righteous deeds. I have alluded many times in this exegesis to the fact that the prayer is instrumental in establishing a person's relationship with his Lord while the zakah is instrumental in establishing a person's relationship with his fellow human beings and on the institution of both these relationships depends one's relationship with one's religion.

After this, they will confess that they too indulged in frivolous and foolish talk regarding the Day of Judgement as others used to, and it was because of such frivolous talk that they denied this Day until death overcame them. Death brought them face to face with all the realities they doubted.

The verse وَ کُنَّا نُکَذِّبُ بِیَوۡمِ الدِّیۡنِ refers to their statements as the ones alluded to above about the number of angels deputed over Hell.

The expression خوض في الحديث means "to raise trivial objections to something and in the process exceed limits and to make it a reason for creating mischief and deviation."

Consider next the expression: حَتّٰۤی اَتٰىنَا الۡیَقِیۡنُ. The real meaning of the word یَقِیۡنُ is "certainty." However, since after death all post-death facts become evident to a person and he is forced to acknowledge their certainty, for this reason death is also called یَقِیۡنُ. This is like referring to something by naming it after its consequence.

The confessions of the sinners which are cited here substantiate what is said in a preceding verse: کُلُّ نَفۡسٍۭ بِمَا کَسَبَتۡ رَہِیۡنَۃٌ (every soul shall be held in pledge for its own deeds). The objective is to open the eyes and ears of the foolish who on the bases of their creed and lineage and deities and their intercession were making fun of reward and punishment and through the very tongue of their friends and associates they are told that before the Almighty nothing except righteous deeds will be of any benefit for a person.

فَمَا تَنۡفَعُہُمۡ شَفَاعَۃُ الشّٰفِعِیۡنَ ﴿ؕ۴۸﴾ [12]

This is a negation of their self-claimed deities and their alleged intercession.

The style of the verse here is technically called نفي الشىء بنفي لازمه (negating a thing by negating its consequence). Imru' al-Qays[13]while describing a desert-route has saidلاَ يُهْتَدَى بِمَنَارِهِ (its towers are not helpful in finding the way). This obviously means that it does not have any towers at all that help be sought from them. The Qur'an has unequivocally stated about the deities of the mushrikun of Arabia whom they arrogantly counted on: اِنۡ ہِیَ اِلَّاۤ اَسۡمَآءٌ سَمَّیۡتُمُوۡہَاۤ اَنۡتُمۡ وَ اٰبَآؤُکُمۡ مَّاۤ اَنۡزَلَ اللّٰہُ بِہَا مِنۡ سُلۡطٰنٍ ؕ اِنۡ یَّتَّبِعُوۡنَ اِلَّا الظَّنَّ (23:53) (they are but names which you and your fathers have invented: God has vested no authority in them; they follow but vain conjectures, (53:23))

فَمَا لَہُمۡ عَنِ التَّذۡکِرَۃِ مُعۡرِضِیۡنَ ﴿ۙ۴۹﴾[14]

This verse expresses wonder on the attitude of the disbelievers. They should have shown gratitude to the Almighty for being reminded in advance of the Day of reward and punishment. Not only this, they were even given a Book to inform them of the real facts of life and were also fortunate enough to be the addressees of a messenger of God. It is strange that instead of benefiting from this reminder they are showing aversion to it.

The word مُعۡرِضِیۡنَ is an accusative of state from the genitive pronoun in لَہُمۡ. This is a very common style in Arabic. Many examples of this style can be seen in previous surahs.

کَاَنَّہُمۡ حُمُرٌ مُّسۡتَنۡفِرَۃٌ ﴿ۙ۵۰﴾ فَرَّتۡ مِنۡ قَسۡوَرَۃٍ ﴿ؕ۵۱﴾[15]

This is an example of their state of fear and anxiety. The word قَسۡوَرَۃ means "a lion." When donkeys and zebras run after hearing the roar of a lion they seldom stop. At the slightest of sounds, they dart away as if a lion has actually come near them. This verse says that the state of affairs of these disbelievers is no different. They are so afraid of this reminder that they do not have the courage to listen to even a single word of it.

It should be kept in consideration that when something is so obvious that one's heart is not satisfied even after rejecting it and is also not ready to accept it, then this state of escapism and evasion is very similar to the example cited in this verse. Such people desire and also strive that their ears hear not a single word that may remind them of this reality.

بَلۡ یُرِیۡدُ کُلُّ امۡرِیًٔ مِّنۡہُمۡ اَنۡ یُّؤۡتٰی صُحُفًا مُّنَشَّرَۃً ﴿ۙ۵۲﴾[16]

The excuse which the disbelievers have fabricated to escape from this reminder is that why was such a book revealed to Muhammad (sws); why were not open scrolls handed to each one of them; surely this was not at all difficult for the Almighty. At another place, it is similarly said:

وَاِذَا جَآءَتۡہُمۡ اٰیَۃٌ قَالُوۡا لَنۡنُّؤۡمِنَ حَتّٰی نُؤۡتٰی مِثۡلَ مَاۤ اُوۡتِیَرُسُلُ اللّٰہِؕۘؔاَللّٰہُ اَعۡلَمُ حَیۡثُ یَجۡعَلُ رِسَالَتَہٗ ؕ(124:6)

And when a sign is revealed to them, they say: "We will not believe in it unless we are given that which God's prophets have been given." – God only knows best whom to entrust with His message. (6:124)

کَلَّا ؕ بَلۡ لَّا یَخَافُوۡنَ الۡاٰخِرَۃَ ﴿ؕ۵۳﴾[17]

The implication of this verse is that neither is this going to happen nor is there any need for it to happen. The reason for their evasion is not what they express; the reason for it is that they do not expect the Day of Judgement to come. The word یَخَافُوۡنَhere means يَرْجُوْنand this is a common meaning of it. I have already presented examples of it in an earlier discussion. In other words, since they have no fear of the Hereafter and their heart's desire is also to have no fear of it and that its fear should not spoil their luxurious lifestyle, so no sign can convince them. If, according to their desire, they are handed over open scrolls, even then they will come up with some other excuse.

کَلَّاۤ اِنَّہٗ تَذۡکِرَۃٌ ﴿ۚ۵۴﴾ فَمَنۡ شَآءَ ذَکَرَہٗ ﴿ؕ۵۵﴾[18]

These verses express indifference to these stubborn people and sound assurance to the Prophet (sws). The implication is that he should not bear the tantrums of such people. The Qur'an is a reminder to them. It is up to them to benefit from it and adopt the right path. If they do not benefit from it, they will bear the consequences themselves. Whatever they do, they will not harm God or His Prophet. The practice of the Almighty is that before He seizes people He reminds them so that they are left with no excuse, and it is the responsibility of the Messenger to deliver this reminder to people. Neither is the Messenger responsible for forcibly making people accept guidance nor is it the law of the Almighty to force people who are averse to guidance to accept it.

وَ مَا یَذۡکُرُوۡنَ اِلَّاۤ اَنۡ یَّشَآءَ اللّٰہُ ؕ ہُوَ اَہۡلُ التَّقۡوٰی وَ اَہۡلُ الۡمَغۡفِرَۃِ ﴿۵۶﴾[19]

Stated in these verses is the law of God about providing guidance to people, and which has been discussed at many places in this tafsir: He guides only those who use their faculties of sight, hearing and intellect and who honour the light of innate guidance and who reflect on the signs of God found within them and in the world around them and who are ready to hear and understand every reasonable thing even though it is against their heart's desires. Everything willed by the Almighty is governed by His wisdom. He guides only those who value guidance. Those who do not value it are penalized and their ability to benefit from their innate guidance is lost let alone being provided further guidance from God. Jesus (sws) has said some very appropriate words in this regard and I have alluded to them at various places in this tafsir.

In the sentence ہُوَ اَہۡلُ التَّقۡوٰی وَ اَہۡلُ الۡمَغۡفِرَۃِ our exegetes generally regard the antecedent of the pronoun ہُوَto be God and interpret the verse to mean that only God is worthy of being feared and asked for forgiveness. In my opinion, however, it relates to فَمَنۡ شَآءَ ذَکَرَہٗ. The pronoun مَنۡ is used both for singular and plural entities. Thus both singular and plural pronouns can be used for it. In other words, this verse informs us about who will benefit from the reminders of the Qur'an and as a result be worthy of being forgiven and who will be deprived of it: those who have God's fear in them will benefit from these reminders and will be worthy of God's forgiveness. As for those whose hearts are devoid of God's fear, they will be deprived of this benefit and when they will be deprived of this, then they will also be deprived of God's forgiveness. In Surah al-Baqarah, under the verse ہُدًی لِّلۡمُتَّقِیۡنَ (2: 4) (guidance for the God-fearing, (2:4)), I have already explained who will benefit from the Qur'an and who will be deprived of it. Readers who wish to know the details of this divine practice are advised to look up the tafsir of this verse. There are various levels of taqwa. The taqwa referred to in this verse is the one which is ingrained in human nature by the Almighty and which is alluded to in the verse فَاَلۡہَمَہَا فُجُوۡرَہَا وَ تَقۡوٰىہَا (91: 8) (then [God] inspired it with its evil and its good, (91:8)). In the next surah, a complete picture of this taqwa ingrained in human nature will inshallah be presented.

With the help and grace of God, with these lines, I come to the end of this surah's tafsir. فَالْحَمْدُ لِلّٰہِ عَلَي اِحْسَانِهِ (gratitude be to God for His favours)


18th Decemeber 1978 AD

17th Muharram al-Haram 1399 AH

[1]. It scorches the skin.

[2]. Over it are nineteen angels.

[3]. – And We have appointed none but angels as the keepers of Hell and have mentioned their number only to make it a test for those who have disbelieved. So that the People of the Book receive assurance from this and the believers may increase in their faith and that the People of the Book and the believers have no doubt about it. And so that those who have an ailment in their hearts and those who have disbelieved say: "What can God mean by this mention?" In this way, God leads astray whom He pleases and guides whom He pleases. And no one knows the armies of your Lord except He. And this matter is just a reminder for man.

[4]. Certainly not! The moon bears witness and the night also when it turns its back and the morning when it shines forth.

[5]. A verse says:

وَ الۡقَمَرَ قَدَّرۡنٰہُ مَنَازِلَ(39:36)

And We have ordained phases for the moon. (36:39)

[6]. That this matter is from among the great matters narrated to warn man.

[7]. For every person among you who wants to advance forward or wants to turn away.

[8]. Every soul shall be held in pledge for its own deeds.

[9]. The only exception will be the people of the right hand. They will be in gardens inquiring after the wrongdoers.

[10]. "What has brought you into Hell?"

[11]. They will reply: "We were not among those who prayed nor did we feed the poor and we used to quibble with these quibblers and used to deny this Day of Reckoning till there came to us this moment of certainty."

[12]. So, no intercession of the intercessors will be of any use to them.

[13]. Al-Baghdadi, Khazanah al-adab, vol. 10, 210.

[14]. What then is the matter with them that they are turning away from the Reminder.

[15]. As though they are frightened asses fleeing from a lion?

[16]. In fact, each one of them desires that he be handed open scrolls.

[17]. Certainly not! They, in fact, have no fear of the Hereafter.

[18]. Certainly not! This is just a Reminder. So let him, who wills, take heed.

[19]. – And they do not take heed unless God so wills. He alone is pious and worthy of being forgiven.


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