(Translated from Tadabbur-i-Qur'ān by Shehzad Saleem)
Context of the Sūrah and Relationship with the Previous Sūrah
This sūrah resembles Sūrah Dhāriyāt of the sixth group as regards its central theme, introductory passage and line of reasoning and resembles Sūrah Rahmān as regards its mood and style. In Sūrah Dhāriyāt, oaths are sworn by the multifarious effects of winds to substantiate the Day of Judgement and punishment which will be meted out on that Day. The following verse of the sūrah: إِنَّمَا تُوْعَدُوْنَ لَصَادِقْ وَ إِنَّ الدِّيْنَ لَوَاقِعٌ (51: 5-6) (the threat of the punishment being sounded to you is true, and reward and punishment is bound to come, (51:5-6)) depicts its central theme. Similarly, in this sūrah too, after the multifarious effects caused by winds are presented in the form of oaths, it is stated (77: 7) إِنَّمَا تُوْعَدُوْنَ لَوَاقِعٌ (what you are being threatened with is certain to come, (77:7)).
Its resemblance in mood and style with Sūrah Rahmān stems from the fact that just as the verse فَبِأَيِّ آلآءِ رَبِّكُمَا تُكَذِّبَانِ (which of the favours of your Lord will you deny?) is repeated many times in the latter sūrah, similarly the verse وَيْلٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ لِلْمُكَذِّبِينَ (devastation shall on that Day be upon those who deny) is repeated many times in it. I have already explained in the tafsīr of Sūrah Rahmān that sūrahs which contain repetitive verses are generally addressed to those stubborn and obdurate people who try to deny a manifest truth mainly due to arrogance and haughtiness. For such people, arguments do not suffice; it is essential that after every argument they be warned of their crime and its fate. If this nature of the addressees is not taken into consideration, then just as the medicine given by a doctor who is not aware of the temperament of a sick person is not able to cure that person, similarly, the words of a person who is not aware of the nature of his addressee fail to produce any desired result. Variation in the temperament of people is a natural thing and thus keeping this into consideration is an essential requirement of the eloquence of a discourse. People who are not aware of this aspect think such repetitive verses to be mere repetition whereas the connoisseurs of the Qur'ān know that such repetition has great majesty and grandeur.
Its relationship with Sūrah Dahr, the previous sūrah relates to the basis of arguments offered. Though the subject of both sūrahs is the same, the nature of arguments is different. In the previous sūrah, it is shown that the awareness of good and evil ordained in human nature substantiates reward and punishment; those who deny this obvious reality are warned while those who accept this testimony of their inner-self and set their lives according to it are given glad tidings. In this sūrah, the basis of arguments is the signs in the world around man. If there is any allusion to human nature as a basis of argumentation, it is merely in the form of a rudimentary reference.
The mood of both sūrahs is very distinct. Glad tidings dominate the latter while warnings dominate this sūrah. The repetitive verse in this sūrah reflects very clearly its mood.
Analysis of the Discourse
Verses (1-7):The multifarious effects of the winds substantiate the fact that the punishment of this world and the Hereafter with which people are being warned is not something impossible. Whenever the Almighty wanted, He used His winds and clouds to punish previous nations and whenever He wants He will punish the Quraysh too through these elements. If they want to thrive, they should seek a lesson from the signs which signify the boons and banes of the Almighty. They must not dare hasten it because of their deeds.
Verses (8-15):A portrayal of the horrors of the Day of Judgement. Evident from this portrayal is that the greatest objects of this universe are not immortal; nothing can exist of its own accord and nothing is independent; everything exists because of God's decree and moves with His permission only. A day will come when the Almighty will destroy the heavens and the earth and all that is between them. On that day, the accounts of the messengers and their people will be presented. It will be a very important day. Judgement shall be passed on this day regarding what the messengers told their people and how these people behaved with them. On that day, people who rejected their messengers will be devastated.
Verses (16-19):The Quraysh are asked to seek a lesson from their history by asking them about it; The Almighty destroyed previous nations and the succeeding ones too who followed their ways. If this is an established and irrefutable fact, how can God's practice regarding criminals change.
Verses (20-24):A reference to God's power, providence and wisdom by depicting the physical structure of man and his various phases of creation. The purpose of this mention is that man's own creation bears testimony that re-creating him is not at all difficult for His Creator. Mankind shall definitely be raised to life once again. Those who are insisting on denying this will be doomed on that day.
Verses (25-28):Those who live and die, live and die on the earth created by God. The Almighty has made available in it the means of their sustenance. Neither is anyone beyond God's control nor is anyone self-sufficient from His sustenance. This situation bears testimony that one day the Almighty will necessarily gather all people. Cursed will be those on that day who did not acknowledge His providence and power in this world; they while remaining inebriated in the pleasures of life kept on denying the Day of Judgement.
Verses (29-34):A portrayal of the torment that these disbelievers will face in the Hereafter.
Verses (35-40):A depiction of the helplessness of the disbelievers.
Verses (41-45):A portrayal of the success attained by those who were fearful of the Almighty.
Verses (46-50): A declaration of warning to the Quraysh on their arrogance and an expression of hopelessness on their embracing faith.
Text and Translation
بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَاَن الرَحِيِم
وَالْمُرْسَلَاتِ عُرْفًا(1)فَالْعَاصِفَاتِ عَصْفًا(2)وَالنَّاشِرَاتِ نَشْرًا(3)فَالْفَارِقَاتِ فَرْقًا(4)فَالْمُلْقِيَاتِ ذِكْرًا(5)عُذْرًا أَوْ نُذْرًا(6)إِنَّمَا تُوعَدُونَ لَوَاقِعٌ(7)فَإِذَا النُّجُومُ طُمِسَتْ(8)وَإِذَا السَّمَاءُ فُرِجَتْ(9)وَإِذَا الْجِبَالُ نُسِفَتْ(10)وَإِذَا الرُّسُلُ أُقِّتَتْ(11)لِأَيِّ يَوْمٍ أُجِّلَتْ(12)لِيَوْمِ الْفَصْلِ(13)وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا يَوْمُ الْفَصْلِ(14) وَيْلٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ لِلْمُكَذِّبِينَ(15)أَلَمْ نُهْلِكْ الْأَوَّلِينَ(16)ثُمَّ نُتْبِعُهُمْ الْآخِرِينَ(17)كَذَلِكَ نَفْعَلُ بِالْمُجْرِمِينَ(18)وَيْلٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ لِلْمُكَذِّبِينَ(19)أَلَمْ نَخْلُقْكُمْ مِنْ مَاءٍ مَهِينٍ(20)فَجَعَلْنَاهُ فِي قَرَارٍ مَكِينٍ(21)إِلَى قَدَرٍ مَعْلُومٍ(22)فَقَدَرْنَا فَنِعْمَ الْقَادِرُونَ(23)وَيْلٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ لِلْمُكَذِّبِينَ(24)أَلَمْ نَجْعَلْ الْأَرْضَ كِفَاتًا(25)أَحْيَاءً وَأَمْوَاتًا(26)وَجَعَلْنَا فِيهَا رَوَاسِيَ شَامِخَاتٍ وَأَسْقَيْنَاكُمْ مَاءً فُرَاتًا(27)وَيْلٌ يوْمَئِذٍ لِلْمُكَذِّبِينَ(28) إِنطَلِقُوا إِلَى مَا كُنتُمْ بِهِ تُكَذِّبُونَ(29)إِنطَلِقُوا إِلَى ظِلٍّ ذِي ثَلَاثِ شُعَبٍ(30)لَا ظَلِيلٍ وَلَا يُغْنِي مِنْ اللَّهَبِ(31)إِنَّهَا تَرْمِي بِشَرَرٍ كَالْقَصْرِ(32)كَأَنَّهُ جِمَالَةٌ صُفْرٌ(33)وَيْلٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ لِلْمُكَذِّبِينَ(34)هَذَا يَوْمُ لَا يَنطِقُونَ(35)وَلَا يُؤْذَنُ لَهُمْ فَيَعْتَذِرُونَ(36)وَيْلٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ لِلْمُكَذِّبِينَ(37)هَذَا يَوْمُ الْفَصْلِ جَمَعْنَاكُمْ وَالْأَوَّلِينَ(38)فَإِنْ كَانَ لَكُمْ كَيْدٌ فَكِيدُونِ(39)وَيْلٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ لِلْمُكَذِّبِينَ(40)إِنَّ الْمُتَّقِينَ فِي ظِلَالٍ وَعُيُونٍ(41)وَفَوَاكِهَ مِمَّا يَشْتَهُونَ(42)كُلُوا وَاشْرَبُوا هَنِيئًا بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ(43)إِنَّا كَذَلِكَ نَجْزِي الْمُحْسِنينَ(44)وَيْلٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ لِلْمُكَذِّبِينَ(45)كُلُوا وَتَمَتَّعُوا قَلِيلًا إِنَّكُمْ مُجْرِمُونَ(46)وَيْلٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ لِلْمُكَذِّبِينَ(47)وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمْ ارْكَعُوا لَا يَرْكَعُونَ(48)وَيْلٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ لِلْمُكَذِّبِينَ(49)فَبِأَيِّ حَدِيثٍ بَعْدَهُ يُؤْمِنُونَ(50)
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Ever Merciful.
The winds when their reins are let loose bear witness, then they blow dust all over, and these winds which scatter [the clouds], then settle affairs separately, then instil a reminder to leave no justification for some or to inform some, they bear witness that indeed the torment with which you are being threatened with is certain to come. (1-7)
So when the stars are dimmed, and the sky is cleft asunder and the mountains crumble into dust and time is appointed for the prophets – for what day were they deferred? – for the Day of Judgement. And what do you know what this Day of Judgement is? Devastation shall on that Day be upon those who deny. (8-15)
Have We not destroyed those before them? Then have We not continued to put their successors behind them? Thus do We deal with criminals. Devastation shall on that Day be upon those who deny. (16-19)
Have We not created you from an insignificant fluid? Then We placed it in a safe abode till an appointed time? Thus did We estimate; how excellent do We estimate! Devastation shall on that Day be upon those who deny. (20-24)
Have We not made this earth one which accumulates the living and the dead? And firmly placed upon it high mountains and provided for you sweet water? – Devastation shall on that Day be upon those who deny. (25-28)
Proceed now to that which you used to deny. Proceed to the shade which has three branches. It does not provide shade nor protection from the flames. This fire, it will emit sparks like huge castles – as if they were like yellow camels – Devastation shall on that Day be upon those who deny. (29-34)
That Day would be when none will speak and nor will they be allowed to offer excuses. Devastation shall on that Day be upon those who deny. (35-37)
This is the Day of Judgement. We have gathered you and all those before you. Now if you have a scheme to plot against Me, then do so. Devastation shall on that Day be upon those who deny. (38-40)
Indeed, the God-fearing will be amid shades and springs and in the bliss of fruits they desire. Eat and drink with relish as reward for your deeds. Thus do We reward the well-doers. Devastation shall on that Day be upon those who deny. (41-45)
You may eat and enjoy also for a while; you are the wrongdoers. Devastation shall on that Day be upon those who deny. (46-47)
And when they are asked to kneel before their Lord they do not do so. Devastation shall on that Day be upon those who deny. (48-49)
So what is it after this that they are going to believe? (50)
The word مُرْسَلَاتٌ means "those which are let loose". Here it is used to signify winds. Although some people interpret it to signify angels, however attributes mentioned later are inappropriate to describe angels. The basis of this erroneous interpretation is that an oath is sworn here and it is generally believed that oaths are always sworn by sacred entities. I have pointed out at various places in this tafsīr that most oaths in the Qur'ān are meant to substantiate a claim. The oath sworn in this verse is no different. Just as in Sūrah Dhāriyāt, oaths have been sworn by winds to substantiate reward and punishment, this oath has also been sworn by to substantiate that the punishment of this world and in the next is certain to come if the disbelievers persist in denying the truth.
The word عُرْفٌ comes for a horse's mane which hangs from the forehead. It is very commonly used in this meaning. Imru' al-Qays has said:
نمش بأعراف الجياد واكفنا
إذا نحن قمنا عن شواء مضهّب
(when we would get up after eating half-cooked food of the prey, we would wipe our hands from the manes of horses.)
A horse's mane is used both to stop it and to give it a signal to cut loose. In this verse, winds are compared to horses and letting them loose signifies letting loose their mane. This portrayal is very subtle. The purpose is to highlight the fact that winds cannot act independently and cannot do something of their own accord; they are in God's control. Whenever He wants, He stops them and whenever He wants, He lets them loose. In Sūrah Hūd it is said: مَا مِن دَآبَّةٍ إِلاَّ هُوَ آخِذٌ بِنَاصِيَتِهَا (56:11) (there is not a living creature on the earth whose forelock is not in His hands, (11:56)).
The word عَصْفٌ means "to blow all over in an uncontrolled manner". In Sūrah Yūnus it is said: حَتَّى إِذَا كُنتُمْ فِي الْفُلْكِ وَجَرَيْنَ بِهِم بِرِيحٍ طَيِّبَةٍ وَفَرِحُواْ بِهَا جَاءتْهَا رِيحٌ عَاصِفٌ وَجَاءهُمُ الْمَوْجُ مِن كُلِّ مَكَانٍ (22:10) (until when you are on the ships and they set sail, rejoicing in a favourable wind, suddenly a raging tempest overtakes them and waves embrace them from all sides, (10:22)).
This is the second phase in which after being let loose, winds blow in an unrestrained manner. This obviously refers to tempestuous winds which become a torment and destroy complete nations. The Qur'ān has recorded the history of their multifarious effects and even today one can observe the devastation they cause.
The word نَشْرٌ means "to scatter, to sprinkle, to bring forth and to cause to grow". It is used in all these meanings in the Qur'ān. Here it refers to winds which bring forth clouds beneficial to man because there are various aspects of نَشْرٌ found in these winds. They bring forth clouds and then scatter them, then sprinkle God's mercy and then cause vegetation to grow forth and thereby make the earth luxuriant. At another place in the Qur'ān, it is said: وَهُوَ الَّذِي يُنَزِّلُ الْغَيْثَ مِن بَعْدِ مَا قَنَطُوا وَيَنشُرُ رَحْمَتَهُ (28:42) (and it is He who sends down the rain after people have lost all hope, and spreads His mercy, (42:28))
As indicated earlier, the previous oath relates to tempestuous winds, while this one relates to winds which bring clouds of mercy on which is dependent the existence and nourishment of various life forms.
An important linguistic principle that needs to be kept in consideration here is that co-ordinating the word الْعَاصِفَاتِ by the particle ف to the word الْمُرْسَلَاتِ signifies sequential order. On the other hand, this verse is coordinated with the previous one by the word وَ, which shows that it does not refer to a third phase in the sequence; it rather refers to an independent new category of winds.
What is said here is no different to what is said in Sūrah Dhāriyāt by the words فَالْمُقَسِّمَاتِ أَمْراً (51: 4) which refers to the fact that these winds distinguish between affairs; at times they bring forth clouds and, at times, have them blown away; at one place, they cause abundant rain from these clouds and another place would be left dry and desolate by them. This bears testimony to the fact that they are not independent in their actions; they are subservient to some superior power. Since this distinction made by winds occurs after they scatter clouds, the co-ordinated particle is ف.
The implication is that besides rain, the winds also instil a reminder in people.
The Qur'ān at various places has mentioned several things to which rain is instrumental in reminding and I have already explained these aspects. Here I would like to allude to a few prominent features:
-- With respect to the harmony between the sky and the earth, it reminds us of God's tawhīd and of showing gratitude to Him.
-- the majesty of God's providence found in rain reminds us of our accountability before God.
-- By enlivening dead and desolate pieces of land, it reminds us of raising the dead to life in the Hereafter.
-- By bringing mercy to some and misery to some, it reminds us of God's absolute authority and His reward and punishment.
عُذْرًا أَوْ نُذْرًا(6)
Mentioned in this verse is the objective of the various effects of winds which come in the observation of every person. The implication of the particle أَوْ (or) is that no justification is left for people who want to remain inebriated with indifference while those who want to be reminded are afforded with an opportunity to be reminded. In Sūrah A'rāf, a remark of a group of the righteous is mentioned which throws light on what is stated in this verse:
وَإِذَ قَالَتْ أُمَّةٌ مِّنْهُمْ لِمَ تَعِظُونَ قَوْمًا اللّهُ مُهْلِكُهُمْ أَوْ مُعَذِّبُهُمْ عَذَابًا شَدِيدًا قَالُواْ مَعْذِرَةً إِلَى رَبِّكُمْ وَلَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَّقُونَ (164:7)
When a group from among them asked: "What is the use of counselling a people whom God will destroy or sternly punish?" They replied: "So that we may be free from blame in the sight of your Lord, and also that they may fear." (7:164)
The implication of the above verse is that if these people pay no heed to the counsel of the righteous, then at least the latter will have discharged a duty. It would now be up to the people to accept or reject it and they would be left with no excuse which they can present on the Day of Judgement; if, on the other hand, these people after paying heed to the counsel of the righteous are instilled with God's fear, then this was precisely what was intended. It would bring blessings to both.
إِنَّمَا تُوعَدُونَ لَوَاقِعٌ(7)
This is the complement of all the oaths mentioned earlier. The word تُوعَدُونَ is general and includes both promises and threats. Since this sūrah is primarily to warn the disbelievers, as indicated earlier, the element of threat dominates this word here. The implication would be that the torment and punishment with which people are being threatened is certain to come and the disbelievers are bound to face it.
The various aspects through which the effects produced by winds bear witness on the Hereafter and the punishment that will take place on that day are mentioned in previous sūrahs. Readers can look up the tafsīr of Sūrah Dhāriyāt for details. Here it would suffice to keep in mind that the Almighty has warned the rejecters of punishment and of the Hereafter by directing their attention to the effects of the winds: they should not be proud of their power and grandeur. If He wants to punish a people, He does not require much effort. The very rain which brings life to people can cause devastation to them in no time. Many a nation has been totally ravaged by the Almighty through these winds.
فَإِذَا النُّجُومُ طُمِسَتْ(8)وَإِذَا السَّمَاءُ فُرِجَتْ(9)وَإِذَا الْجِبَالُ نُسِفَتْ(10)
Depicted in these verses is the upheaval of the Day of Judgement: on that day, every object of this universe which appears very grand and great, immortal and abiding, firm and solid will be wrecked. Just as one has seen tempestuous winds destroy huge cities, castles and palaces, similarly on that day such a cataclysm will take place that stars will vanish into nothingness, the sky will be cleft asunder and the mountains will crumble into dust.
The verb طَمَسَmeans "to erase something and obliterate something". In Sūrah Nisā', a verse reads:مِنْ قَبْلِ أَن نَّطْمِسَ وُجُوهًا فَنَرُدَّهَا عَلَى أَدْبَارِهَا (47:4) (before We obliterate faces and turn them backwards (4:47)). At other places, the words are: َإِذَا النُّجُومُ انكَدَرَتْ (81: 2) and (82: 2) وَإِذَا الْكَوَاكِبُ انتَثَرَتْ.
The implication of the verse وَإِذَا السَّمَاءُ فُرِجَتْ is that this sky which has no fissures and crevices and is absolutely sound and solid will be cleft asunder on the Day of Judgement. At another place, the words are:(78: 19) وَفُتِحَتْ السَّمَاءُ فَكَانَتْ أَبْوَابًا(and the sky is flung open and therein appear gates all over, (78:19)). Similarly, in Sūrah Infitār the words are(82: 1) إِذَا السَّمَاءُ انفَطَرَتْ (when the sky is rent asunder,(82:1)).
The word نَسْفٌ in the verse وَإِذَا الْجِبَالُ نُسِفَتْ means "to crush to pieces, to mash and to scatter". This word has been used at a number of places in the Qur'ān. For example, it is said:
وَانظُرْ إِلَى إِلَهِكَ الَّذِي ظَلْتَ عَلَيْهِ عَاكِفًا لَّنُحَرِّقَنَّهُ ثُمَّ لَنَنسِفَنَّهُ فِي الْيَمِّ نَسْفًا (97:20) (Behold this idol which you have served with such devotion we will burn it to ashes and scatter them all over the sea, (20:97)). The objection raised by the rejecters of the Day of Judgement has been replied to by the Qur'ān thus:وَيَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الْجِبَالِ فَقُلْ يَنسِفُهَا رَبِّي نَسْفًا (105:20-106) فَيَذَرُهَا قَاعًا صَفْصَفًا (and they ask you about the mountains. Tell [them]: "My Lord will crush them to fine dust and leave the earth absolutely clean," (20:105-106))
At some other places, it is said that on the Day of Judgement, the mountains will be reduced to sand dunes and will appear like a mirage.
In the previous two verses, the fate the sky will meet is described. In this verse, what will happen to the earth is depicted. Among the objects of the earth, the mountains are the most grand and sturdy; their expanse is also matchless. Consequently, when the disbelievers would make fun of the Day of Judgement, they would ask: What would become of the mountains; will they also be destroyed. Here by portraying the fate of the mountains, it is as if the fate the whole earth will meet is depicted. When such gigantic structures as mountains which people regard as eternal would be destroyed, there is no need to mention what will happen to other things of the earth.
وَإِذَا الرُّسُلُ أُُقِّتَتْ(11)
This is a mention of the real horror to which all other horrors are mentioned as a prelude. The purpose of fixing a time for the appearance of the prophets shows that they should come in the presence of the Almighty at an appointed time and in the presence of their people tell whether they fulfilled their responsibility of indhār or not. If they did, what was the response of their people. At other places in the Qur'ān, it is mentioned in detail how prophets will be called for this purpose and the attitude of their people will be inquired after and how they will bear witness before these people. A verse in Sūrah Mā'idah reads thus: يَوْمَ يَجْمَعُ اللّهُ الرُّسُلَ فَيَقُولُ مَاذَا أُجِبْتُمْ قَالُواْ لاَ عِلْمَ لَنَا إِنَّكَ أَنتَ عَلاَّمُ الْغُيُوبِ (109:5) (One day God will gather all the messengers and ask them: "How were you received?" They will reply: "We have no knowledge. You alone know what is hidden," (5:109). People can look up its tafsīr. Here the reference is precisely the same. On that day, the case of the prophets and their people will be given a hearing. The Almighty will appoint a day for the appearance of the prophets and their respective people will also be summoned. More details can be seen in the following verse:
فَلَنَسْأَلَنَّ الَّذِينَ أُرْسِلَ إِلَيْهِمْ وَلَنَسْأَلَنَّ الْمُرْسَلِينَ فَلَنَقُصَّنَّ عَلَيْهِم بِعِلْمٍ وَمَا كُنَّا غَآئِبِينَ (7: 6-7)
We will surely question those to whom the messengers were sent, and We will question the messengers themselves. With knowledge We will recount to them what they have done, for We were never away from them. (7:6-7)
The word أُُقِّتَتْ is actually a changed form of وُقِّتَتْ. In the Arabic language, such changes in the morphological structure of a word are customary. The expression الرُّسُلُ أُُقِّتَتْ means that time will be appointed for the prophets. This is similar to the expression أبْغِنِي خَادِماً which is actually أبْغِ لِي خَادِماً.
لِأَيِّ يَوْمٍ أُجِّلَتْ(12)لِيَوْمِ الْفَصْلِ(13)
When the discourse reached a point in which the Day of Judement was alluded to, the question mentioned in this verse was posed at the disbelievers: They should contemplate the great day for which the appearance of the prophets has been deferred. The Qur'ān itself then answers this question by saying that they should listen up that this appearance was deferred for the Day when Judgement shall be passed.
وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا يَوْمُ الْفَصْلِ(14)
This style of discourse is meant to express the awe and greatness of something, as has been explained at a number of places in this tafsīr. Just as the question raised in the previous verses highlights the eminence of the Day of Judgement, the question raised in this verse highlights the eminence of the Judgement which shall be passed on that day. It is like a reminder of that day's greatness.
وَيْلٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ لِلْمُكَذِّبِينَ(15)
The verse depicts the result of the Judgement which will be passed on that day for the disbelievers. This verse, as I have indicated earlier, has been repeated in this sūrah many times and in spite of having a deep connection with its previous verse, has an independent status. Some people have regarded it to be the answer to the condition stated earlier. However, this opinion is against linguistic principles of Arabic. Had this been the case, this verse should have begun with the particle ف.Thus for example in Sūrah Muddaththir it is said: ِفَذَلِكَ يَوْمَئِذٍ يَوْمٌ عَسِيرٌفَإِذَا نُقِرَ فِي النَّاقُور (74: 8-9).Similarly, the words in Sūrah Tūr are: يَوْمَتَمُورُالسَّمَاء مَوْرًا وَتَسِيرُ الْجِبَالُ سَيْرًا فَوَيْلٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ لِلْمُكَذِّبِينَ (52: 9-11). I have explained this principle because it would be erroneous to interpret this sentence by regarding it to be an answer to the conditional sentences. Here, actually an ellipsis of the answer has occurred, just as it has occurred in the following verses:
إِذَا السَّمَاءُ انشَقَّتْ وَأَذِنَتْ لِرَبِّهَا وَحُقَّتْوَإِذَا الْأَرْضُ مُدَّتْوَأَلْقَتْ مَا فِيهَا وَتَخَلَّتْوَأَذِنَتْ لِرَبِّهَا وَحُقَّتْيَاأَيُّهَا الْإِنسَانُ إِنَّكَ كَادِحٌ إِلَى رَبِّكَ كَدْحًا فَمُلَاقِيهِ(84: 1-6)
As a result of this ellipsis, the verse has become so comprehensive that it occurs at the end of each paragraph of this sūrah and at each has a specific status.
أَلَمْ نُهْلِكْ الْأَوَّلِينَ(16)ثُمَّ نُتْبِعُهُمْ الْآخِرِينَ(17)كَذَلِكَ نَفْعَلُ بِالْمُجْرِمِينَ(18)وَيْلٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ لِلْمُكَذِّبِينَ(19)
This is a historical corroboration of the promise mentioned earlier by the words: "what you are being threatened with is certain to come." The reference obviously is to the people of Noah (sws), to the 'Ād and to the Thamūd and to nations of other prophets who followed them whose details are found in the Qur'ān at other places. These include the people of Lot (sws), Midyan and the people of the Pharaoh. The implication is that when history bears witness to the fact that the Almighty destroyed all nations which denied the warnings of their respective messengers, then will His practice change today for these criminals who are following the ways of their predecessors.
An incomplete verb is suppressed in the verse: ثُمَّ نُتْبِعُهُمْ الْآخِرِينَ. If this verse is translated keeping in view this suppression, it would mean: "Have We not been continuously putting those who followed their predecessors behind them." This persistent practice of the Almighty shows that it is unalterable. This is what happened in the past and this is what will happen in the future. Moreover, this relentless practice of the Almighty also bears evidence to the fact that the day from which the messengers of God have warned their people is certain to come.
Although the verse كَذَلِكَ نَفْعَلُ بِالْمُجْرِمِينَ states a general principle, it specifically refers to the fact that the Almighty will also deal with the Quraysh in a similar manner. If they do not desist from their stubbornness, their fate will be no different on the Day of Judgement than that of other criminals. The law of God is the same for all.
After this, the verse وَيْلٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ لِلْمُكَذِّبِينَ is repeated. Its placement and occasion is absolutely clear. The word وَيْلٌ encompasses in it all forms of punishment which will be encountered by the criminals on the Day of Judgement and which have been mentioned in the Qur'ān. Though it is apparently a very petite word, however concealed in its brevity is such horror that cannot be encompassed by the profoundest of details.
أَلَمْ نَخْلُقْكُمْ مِنْ مَاءٍ مَهِينٍ(20)فَجَعَلْنَاهُ فِي قَرَارٍ مَكِينٍ(21)إِلَى قَدَرٍ مَعْلُومٍ(22)فَقَدَرْنَا فَنِعْمَ الْقَادِرُونَ(23)وَيْلٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ لِلْمُكَذِّبِينَ(24)
The previous verses presented historical evidence. These verses present evidence from the creation of man. The Qur'ān draws evidence on the Day of Judgement from the creation of man in various ways:
– By referring to man's creation from mud and from a drop of fluid, evidence is drawn on the fact that the Day of Judgement is a possible phenomenon.
– The signs of God's power, wisdom and creativity in the creation of man entail that a Day of Judgement must come.
– The tremendous system of man's sustenance elaborately set by the Almighty also entails that a Day of Judgement must come.
– The innate awareness about good and evil found in a person bears evidence that a Day of Judgement must come.
Although all these arguments are found at various places in the whole corpus of the Qur'ān, if one takes a look at Sūrah Qiyāmah and Sūrah Dahr, all these arguments will be found in them and one may not need to look at other places.
The verses:إِلَى قَدَرٍ مَعْلُومٍفَجَعَلْنَاهُ فِي قَرَارٍ مَكِينٍأَلَمْ نَخْلُقْكُمْ مِنْ مَاءٍ مَهِينٍ (have We not created you from an insignificant fluid? Then We placed it in a safe abode till an appointed time?)answer an objection raised by the rejecters of the Day of Judgement: they expressed their wonder at being created again once their bones decay and decompose into nothingness. The implication is that when no one can deny such an obvious reality as man being created from an insignificant fluid, then how can it be impossible for Him to re-create man once he dies and his body also crumbles into dust.
The word مَهِينٌ means "insignificant and frivolous". This word points to the fact that man has not been created from something rare and uncommon so that re-creating him becomes a difficult task. He is created from a trivial and ordinary thing found in abundance with providence. The second objective of using this word is to show that the God whose profound and matchless power can create a human being from a fluid is not powerless to re-create him.
The verse فَجَعَلْنَاهُ فِي قَرَارٍ مَكِينٍ (then We placed it in a safe abode till an appointed time)refers to the amazing changes which come about in the fluid as it passes through various stages and reaches its culmination. The word قَرَارٌ means "rest" and "place of rest". Here it refers to the latter and the reference is to the womb which has been appointed as a place of safety for this very purpose. When the word مَكِينٌ is used as an adjective for a place, it refers to a place which is secure from hazards, dangers and undue interventions.
The verse إِلَى قَدَرٍ مَعْلُومٍ (till an appointed time) refers to the fact that the fluid is placed in a secure place till an appointed time so that whatever potentials are destined to appear in it are given the opportunity. It is then God's power and might which brings it out from this place once this time expires.
In the verse فَقَدَرْنَا فَنِعْمَ الْقَادِرُونَ the first word is from قدر and the second from قدرة. After directing attention to various signs and manifestations of His power, it is said that man should see what miracles and wonders have been worked by God and how great and grand is His power. The implication is that when such great signs of God's power and creativity are evident in man's creation, then why is it not possible for Him to re-create man.
After this, the recurring verse وَيْلٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ لِلْمُكَذِّبِينَ is meant to dispel their objections on being re-created; their own creation is enough for this rejection. This they shall one day witness from their own eyes and on that day devastation shall be on those who deny. In Sūrah Sāffāt, the words are:
فَإِنَّمَا هِيَ زَجْرَةٌ وَاحِدَةٌ فَإِذَا هُمْ يَنظُرُونَ وَقَالُوا يَا وَيْلَنَا هَذَا يَوْمُ الدِّينِ هَذَا يَوْمُ الْفَصْلِ الَّذِي كُنتُمْ بِهِ تُكَذِّبُونَ (37: 19-21)
It shall be just one blast when they shall suddenly see around and shall say: "Woe betide us! This is the Day of Judgement which you had been denying." (37:19-21)
أَلَمْ نَجْعَلْ الْأَرْضَ كِفَاتًا(25)أَحْيَاءً وَأَمْوَاتًا(26)وَجَعَلْنَا فِيهَا رَوَاسِيَ شَامِخَاتٍ وَأَسْقَيْنَاكُمْ مَاءً فُرَاتًا(27)وَيْلٌ يوْمَئِذٍ لِلْمُكَذِّبِينَ(28)
These verses substantiate the Day of Judgement referred to above by referring to the providence of the Almighty present in this world for the sustenance and nourishment of man. This argument has been mentioned at various places in the Qur'ān and I have been explaining it all along. In short, it can be stated thus: The elaborate arrangement made by the Almighty for looking after and nurturing man and the manner in which He has put the heavens and the earth in the service of man for this purpose shows that he shall definitely be held accountable for his deeds; this accountability is a natural outcome of these blessings; he shall one day be asked whether he fulfilled his obligations towards these blessings or not, and then he who did should be rewarded and he who became arrogant and haughty should be punished for this ingratitude.
The word كَفَتَ in verse أَلَمْ نَجْعَلْ الْأَرْضَ كِفَاتًا means "to gather and to bring together". In Arabic, the فعالform (wazan) also comes for the object from which an action emanates. Thus the wordكِفَاتَا would mean "one that gathers". As regards its meaning, it becomes a potential subject (fā'il) and it is grammatically correct to bring an object (maf'ūl) after it.
Here the Hereafter and reward and punishment are substantiated on the basis of providence and the all-embracing nature of this earth. In the succeeding sūrah, which is the counterpart of this sūrah, the arguments drawn from providence are more detailed. It is said:
أَلَمْ نَجْعَلْ الْأَرْضَ مِهَادًاوَالْجِبَالَ أَوْتَادًاوَخَلَقْنَاكُمْ أَزْوَاجًاوَجَعَلْنَا نَوْمَكُمْ سُبَاتًاوَجَعَلْنَا اللَّيْلَ لِبَاسًاوَجَعَلْنَا النَّهَارَ مَعَاشًاوَبَنَيْنَا فَوْقَكُمْ سَبْعًا شِدَادًا وَجَعَلْنَا سِرَاجًا وَهَّاجًاوَأَنزَلْنَا مِنْ الْمُعْصِرَاتِ مَاءً ثَجَّاجًالِنُخْرِجَ بِهِ حَبًّا وَنَبَاتًاوَجَنَّاتٍ أَلْفَافًاإِنَّ يَوْمَ الْفَصْلِ كَانَ مِيقَاتًا(78: 6-17)
Have We not made the earth a cradle and made the mountains pegs? And not created you in pairs? And not made your sleep a means of comfort? And not made the night a covering and the day a time to earn livelihood? Andnot built above you seven sturdy skies? And not placed in them a glowing lamp? And not sent down abundant water from dripping clouds so that We may bring forth grain and vegetation and gardens of luxurious growth? Indeed, the Day of Judgement has an appointed time. (78:6-17)
To refer to the all-embracing aspect, the dead are also mentioned with the living. Just as this earth embraces all living creatures, it also embraces all the dead. Those who die, do not go beyond it; they are buried in it; The Almighty entrusts them to the very earth which is like a cradle to them in which they are born and in which they grow. This elaborate arrangement has been made so that when the time comes to gather all, the earth will be directed to present what had been entrusted to it; indeed, it will carry out this order. Thus the words in Sūrah Inshiqāq are: وَأَلْقَتْ مَا فِيهَا وَتَخَلَّتْ وَإِذَا الْأَرْضُ مُدَّتْ [[(84: 3-4) (and when the earth is stretched out and casts out all things within her and becomes empty, (84:3-4)). To this very aspect, the following verse of Sūrah Zilzāl bears reference: وَأَخْرَجَتْ الْأَرْضُ أَثْقَالَهَا (99: 2) (and the earth shall cast forth its burdens, (99:2)). Evident from these verses is the fact that he who dies is not destroyed; he is given in the custody of the earth. Whenever the Almighty wants, He will raise all creatures from this earth from which they had been originally created. Consequently, it is said in Sūrah Tāha:
مِنْهَا خَلَقْنَاكُمْ وَفِيهَا نُعِيدُكُمْ وَمِنْهَا نُخْرِجُكُمْ تَارَةً أُخْرَى (55:20) (We have created you from the earth, and to the earth will We return you; and from it We will bring you back for a second time, (20:55)).
If all these verses are deliberated upon, one comes to the conclusion that man has primarily been created from the womb of this earth and when he dies and is buried, his remains are not lost forever; they are returned to this womb from which he was once born. So when his first creation was no matter of wonder, why would his re-creation cause wonder when the womb of the earth also has his seed in it.
Verses وَجَعَلْنَا فِيهَا رَوَاسِيَ شَامِخَاتٍ وَأَسْقَيْنَاكُمْ مَاءً فُرَاتًا relate to the subject of providence raised earlier on in أَلَمْ نَجْعَلْ الْأَرْضَ كِفَاتًا. At many places in the Qur'ān, it has been alluded to that the mountains play a very important role in making the earth a cradle for the residence and up-bringing of man. This is evident from the above quoted verses of Sūrah Nabā (78:6-7). Similarly, in Sūrah Luqmān, the words are: وَأَلْقَى فِي الْأَرْضِ رَوَاسِيَ أَن تَمِيدَ بِكُمْ (10:31) (and set firm mountains on the earth lest it should lose its balance with you, (31:10)).
Another benefit of the mountains is alluded to here which occupies great importance with regard to providence: the height of these mountains is very effective in controlling the clouds and winds and in gathering natural water resources. Man is in need of sweet water and in order to provide him with this blessing the Almighty has created towering mountains. Only He could have made them; no one else has the power to do so.
In this manner, the discourse has gradually substantiated the Day of Judgement. No need remains to mention it in words. Consequently, its mention has been suppressed and the re-current verse occurs here: وَيْلٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ لِلْمُكَذِّبِينَ. The implication is that people who are fearless of the Day of Judgement in spite of witnessing God's providence and power and are adamant in denying shall be devastated on that day.
َانطَلِقُوا إِلَى مَا كُنتُمْ بِهِ تُكَذِّبُونَ(29)
In the previous verse, the Day of Judgement was substantiated through the signs found in the world inside man and those found outside. Now in these few verses, it is brought before the eyes so that what at the moment eludes the eyes, is portrayed before these disbelievers. The style adopted is such that what is being mentioned is before them and they are being ordered that they should go towards what they have been denying till now and taste it.
انطَلِقُوا إِلَى ظِلٍّ ذِي ثَلَاثِ شُعَبٍ(30)
The horror hidden behind the words: "proceed now to that which you used to deny" is revealed in this verse. The word ظِلٌّ means "shadow"; here obviously it does not refer to the conventional shadow but to the shadow cast by smoke. The words in Sūrah Wāqi'ah are: 43-44):56) وَظِلٍّ مِّن يَحْمُومٍ لَّا بَارِدٍ وَلَا كَرِيمٍ (the shade of pitch-black smoke, neither cool nor refreshing. (56:43-44).
A characteristic of the shadow mentioned here is that it will have three branches. It is evident from this description that the shadow would spread in front of them in all directions. Only that direction will be safe from its impact from which these disbelievers would be pushed forward, as is evident from the word انطَلِقُوا (proceed).This implies that beyond this point smoke will engulf them.
While interpreting this verse, some people have raised the point that disbelief has three characteristics: 1) indifference to God, 2) indifference to God's creation and 3) rejection of the Day of Judgement. It is as per these three characteristics that three branches of punishment will draw near the disbelievers and engulf them. This point sounds subtle; however, these three characteristics are inseparable and are also not common to the disbelievers. No evidence is found in the sources that disbelievers will be categorized on these bases. Hence, in my opinion, this interpretation seems far-fetched. A clearer interpretation is that directions are in fact four; so when they will be driven away from the direction which is secure from the punishment of the smoke, three directions remain, and all these will be embraced by the smoke. It is as if, after being driven from this secure direction, they will be embraced with fire from all sides.
لَا ظَلِيلٍ وَلَا يُغْنِي مِنْ اللَّهَبِ(31)
Here, a misconception which may arise is clarified forthwith. The shadow will not protect them in any way. In the above quoted verses of Sūrah Wāqi'ah, it has been similarly said that the shadow will be of pitch-black smoke which is neither cool nor refreshing. In other words, all harmful elements of smoke will be present and none of its useful elements which could have been expected to be present would be there.
إِنَّهَا تَرْمِي بِشَرَرٍ كَالْقَصْرِ(32)
The antecedent of the pronoun in إِنَّهَا is the fire, whose mention is suppressed because of a mention of smoke – something which necessitates its presence. Some people have differed in the recital and interpretation of the word قَصْر. However, since I have always preferred the mutawātir recital in this tafsīr, hence the word means "a castle" or "a dome". It is a very powerful comparison of the flames which arise from a large fire. This comparison depicts the expanse, height and colour of the flames. Castles generally are constructed on a high ground; they shine when viewed from a distance, and the colour of their tops is different from their bases.