Sūrah ‘Abas (Part 2/2)

Sūrah ‘Abas (Part 2/2)

Qur'ānic Exegesis

(Tr. by Shehzad Saleem)

أَنَّا صَبَبْنَا الْمَاءَ صَبًّا(25)ثُمَّ شَقَقْنَا الْأَرْضَ شَقًّا(26)

(That We poured forth water in abundance then cleaved the earth asunder.)

The Qur'ān has not only asked man to reflect on his food it has also specified the course of this reflection. It is a consequence of God's power and mercy that rain is sent down in abundance and then in order to drench the earth its pores are opened. Neither is anyone else in the position to send down rain from the skies nor to open the pores of the earth whereas on these two factors depends all the benefits and services provided by the earth. This topic is discussed thus in Sūrah Anbiyā': أَنَّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ كَانَتَا رَتْقًا فَفَتَقْنَاهُمَا (30:21) (that the heavens and the earth were but one solid mass which We tore asunder, (21:30)).

If one deliberates on the nature of man's creation mentioned in the above paragraph, one will realize the similarity between both arguments. There the argument began with the substantiation of the Day of Judgement and then after a mention of providence reached its culmination with the mention of accountability and reward and punishment. Here too, as will become evident from subsequent verses, the sequence of premises in the argument presented is the same. First, the mention of a comprehensive issue was instrumental in initiating the possibility of the Day of Judgement. After that, various signs of providence are brought into attention and then accountability and reward and punishment are presented as an obvious outcome to all this.

فَأَنْبَتْنَا فِيهَا حَبًّا(27)وَعِنَبًا وَقَضْبًا(28)وَزَيْتُونًا وَنَخْلًا(29)وَحَدَائِقَ غُلْبًا(30)وَفَاكِهَةً وَأَبًّا(31)

(Then produced in it grain, grapes, vegetables, olives, dates, dense orchards, fruits and herbage as means of sustenance for you and your cattle.)

Some very prominent blessings of the Almighty for the inhabitants of the earth produced as a result of interaction between the rain and the earth are referred to here. These things are ones which the foremost addressees of the Qur'ān were well aware of and which occupy primary importance in nourishing the needs of man.

Firstly, things which are attached or are born spread out on the earth and whose observation does not require that the sight be lifted from the earth are referred to. For example grain, grapes and vegetables. Grain is the most important thing for nourishment; all other things come under it and that is why it is mentioned the foremost. After grain, the next most important thing needed for human nourishment and growth is fruit and the king of all fruits is grapes; it is thus mentioned as an example of a fruit. After this, vegetables which are spread on the earth are mentioned and with grain are used as curry, some in raw form and some in cooked form. Although the word قَضْبٌ is mostly used for vegetables which are eaten raw and are regarded as ready-to-eat, however other vegetables are also connoted by this word.

After this, certain other blessings are mentioned which are obtained from the trees which extend into the sky and which need that the sight be lifted for their observation. As an example, dates and olives are mentioned. The importance olives has in producing oil is well-known. The Qur'ān mentions its nourishing ability and Sūrah Nūr mentions a parable which describes lamps which are lit up by this oil.

After this, dates are mentioned. To the Arabs dates were an amalgam of multifarious benefits and blessings. It is for them a dry-fruit which is rich in nutritional value and a very lucrative thing to stock. Moreover, they would also make a very tasty juice from it.

After a mention of things of specific importance, general orchards are mentioned by the words حَدَائِقَ غُلْبًا. The word حَدِيْقَةٌ refers to an enclosed orchard. The word غُلْبٌ is a plural of أَغْلَب and means someone having a thick neck. When this word is used for an orchard the purpose is to point to the lushness of the trees. If an orchard is luxuriant, the expanse of the trees would necessarily increase and their upper portions would overlap.

In the expression وَفَاكِهَةً وَأَبًّا the general is made even more general so that the sphere of favours of the Almighty for man is extended to animals as well which directly or indirectly are of use to him.

Earlier, only specific fruits are mentioned by name and here by mentioning the word فَاكِههٌ all fruits are referred to whether they are found in Arabia or in other countries whether they are of high pedigree or ordinary and whether they are reserved for birds or for animals.

Moreover, earlier only those favours are mentioned which man is blessed with whereas besides him there are four-legged beasts also on which man is not only dependent but also need looking after like man; however, nothing is mentioned for them specially. Here that lack of mention has been made up by mentioning the word أَبٌّ.

The word أَبٌّ means vegetation and lush grass. For consumption of the four-legged beasts is the husk also which is separated from the grain; however, it is something very ordinary; here what needs to be mentioned is something of the same value and importance as fruits are for man. Fresh lush green grass is made widely available to animals and it is also a substitute for them for the fruits and vegetables which man consumes.

Imām Hamīd al-Dīn Farāhī has deeply researched into the meaning of أَبٌّ in his tafsīr of Sūrah 'Abas and proven that it is a very common Arabic word and that it is not correct that Abū Bakr (rta) or 'Umar (rta) did not know the meaning of this word, as is mentioned in certain narratives. This research is very thorough and if anyone has any doubts about this word, he can look up his tafsīr.[2]

مَتَاعًا لَكُمْ وَلِأَنْعَامِكُمْ(32)

(as means of sustenance for you and your cattle.)

The fact that all these things are beneficial to man is very obvious and there is also no doubt that all these favours are a manifestation of God's graciousness to man; he should therefore think that do not these favours impose a responsibility on him. This last premise though not mentioned in words is evident from the context. This is because it is discussed in the previous verses that these stubborn and conceited people are not showing ingratitude to God because His rights are not evident to them or because they do not realize what their responsibilities are; the fact of the matter is that because of their own arrogance and haughtiness they deliberately do not want to hear or accept anything which is against their desires.

فَإِذَا جَاءَتْ الصَّآخَّةُ(33)

(So when the deafening cry comes!)

The word صَآخَّةٌ means "a deafening cry or roar". Just as in Sūrah Nāzi'āt the word used is طَآمَّةٌ , the word صَآخَّةٌ is used in this sūrah to convey the same meaning. These words actually point to the fact that the very first shout of the trumpet will be so horrifying that it will deafen the ears.

The answer to the conditional clause that begins with إِذَا(when) is suppressed because it is obvious from the context, as is explained in verses 30-35 of Sūrah Nāzi'āt. The implication is that today these people are receiving the warning of the Prophet (sws) with deaf ears but what will they do when the caller deputed by the Almighty will call from such a nearby place that his voice will make them deaf.

يَوْمَ يَفِرُّ الْمَرْءُ مِنْ أَخِيهِ(34)وَأُمِّهِ وَأَبِيهِ(35)وَصَاحِبَتِهِ وَبَنِيهِ(36)لِكُلِّ امْرِئٍ مِنْهُمْ يَوْمَئِذٍ شَأْنٌ يُغْنِيهِ(37)

(On that Day, man will flee from his brother, mother, father, his wife and his sons. Every one will be concerned with his own self.)

These verses depict the horror of that day.

It must be kept in mind that the words وَأُمِّهِِيَوْمَ يَفِرُّ الْمَرْءُ مِنْ أَخِيه وَصَاحِبَتِهِ وَبَنِيهِوَأَبِيه do not form an answer to the conditional clause mentioned in the previous verse. Had they constituted the answer, linguistic principles dictate that its style should have been different. The answer is suppressed as is explained under the relevant verses of Sūrah Nāzi'āt; however, these words do subtly indicate the suppressed answer. In other words, today these people have shut their ears to the warnings sounded to them by the Prophet (sws) and the real reason for this is that their pride in the strength and authority of their family and tribe has blinded them; they reckon that no one can displace or destroy them; however, the day heralded by this deafening roar will be so horrifying that everyone will forget about his surroundings and will only think of his own self. Neither a brother will hear the imploring of his brother nor a son will care for the pleadings of his parents and nor will anyone have the courage to share the hardships faced by his wife and sons. Everyone will be so concerned about his own self on that day that the thought of others will not even cross his mind even though that person may be a very close relative of his.

This topic is discussed in Sūrah Ma'ārij in the following words:

وَلَا يَسْأَلُ حَمِيمٌ حَمِيمًايُبَصَّرُونَهُمْ ۚيَوَدُّ الْمُجْرِمُ لَوْ يَفْتَدِي مِنْ عَذَابِ يَوْمِئِذٍ بِبَنِيهِ وَصَاحِبَتِهِ وَأَخِيهِوَفَصِيلَتِهِ الَّتِي تُؤْوِيهِ وَمَنْ فِي الْأَرْضِ جَمِيعًا ثُمَّ يُنْجِيهِ(70: 1-14)

On that day, no sincere friend shall inquire after his friend [though] they shall be shown to one another. The sinner will long to redeem himself from the torment of that Day by offering his sons, his wife, his brother, his family who used to give him shelter and all the people of the earth as ransom and then save himself from it. (70:1-14)

The only difference between these two sets of verses is that in the one under discussion the sequence of relatives mentioned is from distant to near and in this one it is vice versa.

وُجُوهٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ مُسْفِرَةٌ(38)ضَاحِكَةٌ مُسْتَبْشِرَةٌ(39)وَوُجُوهٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ عَلَيْهَا غَبَرَةٌ(40)تَرْهَقُهَا قَتَرَةٌ(41)أُوْلَئِكَ هُمْ الْكَفَرَةُ الْفَجَرَةُ(42)

(Many a face on that day will be bright, smiling and rejoicing, and many a face on that day will be gloomy and dark. These very disbelievers, these insolent.)

Here, at the end, the difference between the believers and disbelievers which will be evident from their faces is briefly indicated so that from this observable difference one can have an idea of their inner-selves. This of course will reflect the hopes and grit with which the hearts of the believers will be replete and also reflect what will be going on in the hearts of the disbelievers.

The word مُسْفِرَةٌ means "shinning" and "bright". This meaning emanates from the idiom أَسْفَرَ الصُّبْح. This word indicates the very first radiance of joy which will appear on the faces of the dwellers of Paradise.

The word ضَاحِكَةٌ also denotes joy and happiness.

The word مُسْتَبْشِرَةٌ denotes freshness.

The state of the disbelievers is depicted by the words:وَوُجُوهٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ عَلَيْهَا غَبَرَةٌتَرْهَقُهَا قَتَرَةٌ: their faces will be dark and gloomy because they have lost all hope.

The words أُوْلَئِكَ هُمْ الْكَفَرَةُ الْفَجَرَةُ at the end actually briefly refer to the charge-sheet of these criminals: they will reach this state because in the previous world they persisted to show ingratitude to God and remained arrogant and disobedient to Him.

By the grace of God, the tafsīr of this sūrah comes to an end. وَهُوَ المُوَفِّقَ لِلصَّواب (only He guides to what is right).


21st May, 1979 AD

23rd Jumādī al-Thānī, 1399 AH

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