Sūrah Najm (Part 2/2)

Sūrah Najm (Part 2/2)

Qur'ānic Exegesis

ذَلِكَ مَبْلَغُهُم مِّنَ الْعِلْمِ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَن ضَلَّ عَن سَبِيلِهِ وَهُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَنِ اهْتَدَى (30)[1]

The implication of this verse is that these people only have access to the apparent and the external form of this world; neither do they have access to the reality behind this external form nor do they have any desire for it even though it is the latter which should have been their prime consideration; without it, this world is meaningless and purposeless and a place of amusement. The fact of the matter, on the other hand, is that so evident from every nook and corner of this universe is its creator's power and authority that except for a fool no one can be audacious enough to deny it. It is beyond a powerful and wise being that He create such a huge place merely for amusement.

It is evident from the style of ذَلِكَ مَبْلَغُهُم مِّنَ الْعِلْمِ that it is merely their narrow mindedness and meanness that they are lured by its external form and have become indifferent to its reality even though all its apparent pleasures are temporary and transient. The real eternal kingdom is the one towards which the Qur'ān calls them but they because of their timidity and deprivation do not find the courage to go after it. This aspect is explained by the following verse of Sūrah Rūm:

يَعْلَمُونَ ظَاهِرًا مِّنَ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَهُمْ عَنِ الْآخِرَةِ هُمْ غَافِلُونَ (7:30)

They know the outward show of this nether life, but of the life to come they are heedless. (30:7)

The words إِنَّ رَبَّكَ هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَن ضَلَّ عَن سَبِيلِهِ وَهُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَنِ اهْتَدَى assure the Prophet (sws) and warn and threaten the people who are slaves to the pleasures of this world. The Prophet (sws) is addressed and told that he should now ignore them; his Lord fully knows those who have deviated from His path as well as those who are rightly guided. He will deal with every person the way he is worthy of being dealt with. His knowledge embraces every thing and His power dominates all. Neither will those people who have strayed from the right path be able to escape His grasp nor will those who are fighting every misery for His cause be deprived of His help and mercy.

Section III: (Verses 31-53)

The succeeding verses further explain and emphasize what is stated in the previous section.

First, it is explained that the kingdom of the heavens and the earth is under the control of the one and only God. He has not granted any share of His power to their self-claimed deities so as to be able to influence His justice. Thus He will necessarily punish the sinners and reward the righteous. As far as those people are concerned who, because of their intercessors or because of their lineage and race or because of some apparent service to the House of God and its pilgrims were guilty of self-praise and regarded Paradise to be their birth-right, they shall be cast into Hell by God. Only those will be safe from His grasp who desisted from usurping rights and from open indecencies. If they chance by a sin, they will be forgiven by God once they repent. Vast is God's mercy. Those who in conceit of their superiority and holiness think that whatever their deeds God will not seize them should keep in mind the fact that the Almighty knows best the material from which they have been created; a creature made from mud, sludge and an impure fluid should not claim to be so holy and sacred.

After this, wonder is expressed at the people who overrate themselves and who do not have it in their hearts to spend in the way of God but in their claim of association with Abraham (sws) or Moses (sws) dream that they will surely be granted a high status in the Hereafter even though the most prominent teaching of Abraham (sws) and Moses (sws) was that in the Hereafter no one will bear the burden of another person; each person will face what his own deeds have earned for him.

After this is explained that sorrow and happiness, life and death, subsistence and children, affluence and poverty are all under the control of God and therefore everyone must turn to Him at all times. Those who worship the Sirius star which comes out in the spring season thinking that the blessings of spring are the result of its bestowal should remember that God is the Lord of Sirius as well.

After the above previous nations are briefly referred to in that they too were led astray the way the Quraysh were; so they should seek a lesson from their fate recorded in history and not invite the wrath of God.

In the light of this background, readers may recite the verses cited below.

Text and Translation

وَلِلَّهِ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ لِيَجْزِيَ الَّذِينَ أَسَاؤُوا بِمَا عَمِلُوا وَيَجْزِيَ الَّذِينَ أَحْسَنُوا بِالْحُسْنَى (31) الَّذِينَ يَجْتَنِبُونَ كَبَائِرَ الْإِثْمِ وَالْفَوَاحِشَ إِلَّا اللَّمَمَ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ وَاسِعُ الْمَغْفِرَةِ هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِكُمْ إِذْ أَنشَأَكُم مِّنَ الْأَرْضِ وَإِذْ أَنتُمْ أَجِنَّةٌ فِي بُطُونِ أُمَّهَاتِكُمْ فَلَا تُزَكُّوا أَنفُسَكُمْ هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَنِ اتَّقَى (32) أَفَرَأَيْتَ الَّذِي تَوَلَّى (33) وَأَعْطَى قَلِيلًا وَأَكْدَى (34) أَعِندَهُ عِلْمُ الْغَيْبِ فَهُوَ يَرَى (35) أَمْ لَمْ يُنَبَّأْ بِمَا فِي صُحُفِ مُوسَى (36) وَإِبْرَاهِيمَ الَّذِي وَفَّى (37) أَلَّا تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَى (38) وَأَن لَّيْسَ لِلْإِنسَانِ إِلَّا مَا سَعَى (39) وَأَنَّ سَعْيَهُ سَوْفَ يُرَى (40) ثُمَّ يُجْزَاهُ الْجَزَاء الْأَوْفَى (41) وَأَنَّ إِلَى رَبِّكَ الْمُنتَهَى (42) وَأَنَّهُ هُوَ أَضْحَكَ وَأَبْكَى (43) وَأَنَّهُ هُوَ أَمَاتَ وَأَحْيَا (44) وَأَنَّهُ خَلَقَ الزَّوْجَيْنِ الذَّكَرَ وَالْأُنثَى (45) مِن نُّطْفَةٍ إِذَا تُمْنَى (46) وَأَنَّ عَلَيْهِ النَّشْأَةَ الْأُخْرَى (47) وَأَنَّهُ هُوَ أَغْنَى وَأَقْنَى (48) وَأَنَّهُ هُوَ رَبُّ الشِّعْرَى (49) وَأَنَّهُ أَهْلَكَ عَادًا الْأُولَى (50) وَثَمُودَ فَمَا أَبْقَى (51) وَقَوْمَ نُوحٍ مِّن قَبْلُ إِنَّهُمْ كَانُوا هُمْ أَظْلَمَ وَأَطْغَى (52) وَالْمُؤْتَفِكَةَ أَهْوَى (53) فَغَشَّاهَا مَا غَشَّى (54) فَبِأَيِّ آلَاء رَبِّكَ تَتَمَارَى (55)

And whatever is in the heavens and in this earth is in the jurisdiction of Allah so that He punish the evil-doers for their deeds and bestow a good reward on those who did good deeds – those who used to abstain from heinous sins and open indecencies save those occasional yet minor sins to which they were induced. Indeed, your Lord is vast in mercy. He knows you fairly well from the time when He created you from the earth and when you were a foetus in your mothers' wombs. Therefore, ascribe not purity to yourselves. He knows very well the pious. (31-32)

Did you see the one who turned his back, gave a little and then held back? Has he the knowledge of the Unseen; thus he is seeing it. Does he not know what is in the Scriptures of Moses and of Abraham – who fulfilled all his promises; it is in the Scriptures that no soul shall bear another's burden and that a man shall only receive that which he strove and that what he has earned shall soon be shown to him; he shall then be fully rewarded and that all things shall in the end return to Allah. (33-42)

And that, indeed, it is He Who makes [people] laugh and makes [them] weep, and it is He Who gives death and He Who gives life and it is He Who created the two spouses the male and the female from a drop when it is poured forth and that upon Him is the second bringing forth and that it is He who bestowed and enriched and it is He who is the Lord of Sirius as well. (43-49)

And it is He who destroyed the ancient 'Ād and the Thamud also, thus sparing no one, and before them the people of Noah also. Indeed, they were very unjust and rebellious, and [He] also routed the overthrown cities. Thus there covered them that which did cover them. Now, which of your Lord's marvels will you deny! (50-55)


وَلِلَّهِ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ لِيَجْزِيَ الَّذِينَ أَسَاؤُوا بِمَا عَمِلُوا وَيَجْزِيَ الَّذِينَ أَحْسَنُوا بِالْحُسْنَى (31)[2]

Mentioned here is the consequence of the refutation of polytheism and intercession done in the earlier verses: the dominion of the heavens and the earth is in the hands of God. No one has a share in them that he may challenge the authority of God in them or that someone may interfere with His intentions or influence His decisions.

The letter لinيَجْزِيَis to not to state the cause but to state the consequence. The implication is that when He alone is the only master and controller, then the obvious corollary of this is that those who are relying on their self-styled and self-claimed deities are only deceiving their own selves. God is wise and just. He will definitely punish the sinners and there is no one who can save them from God's grasp. Similarly, He will necessarily richly reward the pious and the virtuous and to receive this reward they will absolutely not be required to ask for the intercession of anyone.

It is evident from this verse that the sinners will only see exactly the evils they had committed and God will not make any addition to this. On the other hand, the righteous will not be merely rewarded for their virtues; God will bless them further with His favours. God is just and thus will not be unjust to anyone; however, He is also gracious and thus will bless His righteous people with more than what they deserve.

الَّذِينَ يَجْتَنِبُونَ كَبَائِرَ الْإِثْمِ وَالْفَوَاحِشَ إِلَّا اللَّمَمَ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ وَاسِعُ الْمَغْفِرَةِ هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِكُمْ إِذْ أَنشَأَكُم مِّنَ الْأَرْضِ وَإِذْ أَنتُمْ أَجِنَّةٌ فِي بُطُونِ أُمَّهَاتِكُمْ فَلَا تُزَكُّوا أَنفُسَكُمْ هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَنِ اتَّقَى (32)[3]

The verse says that if any sin emanates from people who abstain from heinous sins and acts of open lewdness, then it is as if they get entangled with filth while treading the terrain of life. They may stumble into sin; however, just as a person who has a proclivity for cleanliness can never dwell in dirt and tries to come out of it as soon as is possible for him, in a similar manner these people too do not live in sin; they try to cleanse themselves as soon as a sin is committed by repenting and reforming themselves.

The words ألممام and لممmean to stay at place for a short period. The meaning of لمم ascribed to Mujāhid and Ibn 'Abbās (rta)[4]is that a person stumbles into a sin but then soon comes out of this state. What is meant is that it is not required of a person to lead a sinless life. A person may at times while succumbing to emotions and desires commit a sin; however, God requires of him that he should have such a vigilant sense of faith in him that a sin should not embrace his life so much that it becomes difficult for him to leave it; such should be the level of this vigilance that when a person trips into a sin, he reforms himself as soon as he realizes it. God will forgive people who lead such lives; vast is His mercy.

In Sūrah Nisā' this subject is discussed in the following words:

إِنَّمَا التَّوْبَةُ عَلَى اللّهِ لِلَّذِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ السُّوْءَ بِجَهَالَةٍ ثُمَّ يَتُوبُونَ مِن قَرِيبٍ فَأُوْلَـئِكَ يَتُوبُ اللّهُ عَلَيْهِمْ وَكَانَ اللّهُ عَلِيماً حَكِيماً وَلَيْسَتِ التَّوْبَةُ لِلَّذِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ السَّيِّئَاتِ حَتَّى إِذَا حَضَرَ أَحَدَهُمُ الْمَوْتُ قَالَ إِنِّي تُبْتُ الآنَ وَلاَ الَّذِينَ يَمُوتُونَ وَهُمْ كُفَّارٌ أُوْلَـئِكَ أَعْتَدْنَا لَهُمْ عَذَابًا أَلِيمًا (4: 17-18)

God's responsibility is to forgive only those who commit a sin while being overwhelmed with emotions and then quickly repent. It is they who are forgiven by God. God is all-knowing and wise. But He does not forgive those who sin all their lives and, when death comes to them, say: "Now I repent!" nor those who die as disbelievers. It is for these whom We have prepared a grievous punishment. (4:17-18)

In the expression الَّذِينَ يَجْتَنِبُونَ كَبَائِرَ الْإِثْمِ وَالْفَوَاحِشَ the word إِثْمِ refers to sins which relate to usurpation of rights, oppression and injustice and the word فَوَاحِشَ refers to open indecencies and sexual transgressions. If Muslims are urged to desist from major sins, then this does not mean that they will not be held unaccountable for the minor ones. As explained at relevant places of this tafsīr, this only means that so strong is the sense of faith of people who safeguard themselves from major sins that they never remain adamant on minor ones. How can a person who can be safely trusted with thousands remain content on being called a dishonest person in the case of small amounts.

The verse sounds a warning to people who were contaminated with all sorts of sins and sexual transgressions but dreamt of ending up in Paradise on the basis of the intercession of their alleged deities and on the basis of nobility of their forefathers and the superiority of their race. They are told that what is going to be of avail to them before God is faith and righteous deeds and not this false support.

It has been referred to earlier in this tafsīr that both the Quraysh and the People of the Book were inflicted with some sort of false notion or the other. Besides their deities, the Quraysh had great pride in their lineage as well as on their custodianship of the House of God. They were the progeny of Abraham (sws) and Ishmael (sws). Because of their pride on their custodianship of the House of God, they were warned by the Qur'ān in the following words:

أَجَعَلْتُمْ سِقَايَةَ الْحَاجِّ وَعِمَارَةَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ كَمَنْ آمَنَ بِاللّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ وَجَاهَدَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللّهِ (19:9)

Did you regard providing water to the pilgrims and managing the Sacred Mosque equivalent to the deed of the people who believed in God and the Last Day, and fought for God's cause? (9:19)

They are told that though providing water to the pilgrims and looking after the House of God is a noble deed, yet this cannot take the place of embracing faith and doing righteous deeds nor one which can conceal their crimes. Similarly, the People of the Book conceitedly thought that since they were the chosen people and were the descendents of Abraham (sws) and Isaac (sws), the fire of Hell would not touch them. In the first place, they would not even be cast into Hell and if someone among them had to bear it, then that too would only be for a few days. Eternal punishment was not for them in any case; such punishment was reserved only for other nations. It is on this conceited behaviour of theirs that Jesus (sws) had admonished them that they not show conceit on being the progeny of Abraham (sws) and that if his Lord wanted, he could create Abraham's progeny from stones.[5]It was while following the footsteps of these Jews that Muslims too regarded themselves to be forgiven people and had thereby absolved themselves of all the responsibilities related to faith and deeds. The matter reached the extent that there were manyfamilies among them in which if a person was born in was thought to be guaranteed Paradise and there were many graveyards in which if a person was buried was regarded to be worthy of the eternal kingdom regardless of his beliefs and deeds.

In the section of the verse: هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِكُمْ إِذْ أَنشَأَكُم مِّنَ الْأَرْضِ وَإِذْ أَنتُمْ أَجِنَّةٌ فِي بُطُونِ أُمَّهَاتِكُمْ فَلَا تُزَكُّوا أَنفُسَكُمْ هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَنِ اتَّقَى all people who have this mentality are addressed and warned that they should not regard themselves to be holy and indulge in self-praise. God knows most the period of their lives in which He created them from the earth and also the period in which they remained in the form of embryos in the wombs of their mothers. The implication is that it is not befitting for a creature created from mud, mire and water and then nurtured in the womb after a lowly fluid is poured forth into it regard itself to be worthy of high status and absolve itself of treading the path of righteousness and virtue. Every person knows that he was created from a very despicable fluid and was initially raised in the constricted tract of His mother's womb. For this reason, he should not expect himself to be regarded superior merely on the basis of his physical form. Any status he can acquire can only be on the basis of faith and virtue and it is God who has the most knowledge of this. It is He who will measure things by His scale and grant each person the status he deserves. Before this assessment is made, no one has the right to proclaim his high status to other people. This subject will also be discussed in verses thirty eight and thirty nine of Sūrah Ma'ārij. Inshāllah, a further explanation will be furnished in them.

The degrading way in which human existence is mentioned in this verse needs to be kept in consideration as well as the scorn on a person's claim to holiness and superiority in the words فَلَا تُزَكُّوا أَنفُسَكُمْ. After this, one should deliberate on the beliefs of wahdat al-wujūd of our Sufis as per which man is a part of God and will one day merge into Him and in this manner a drop by merging into an ocean will become an ocean. If man is really a part of God, then did the Almighty refer to one His parts, God forbid, in such a degrading way in this verse?

Then further deliberation is needed on the fact that regarding one self as superior merely because of physical form has been regarded as self-praise by God while, on the other hand, these Sufis chant: سبحاني سبحاني ما أعظم شاني (I am pure and flawless! What majesty I have! Exalted is my majesty).[6]Can a person who has even an iota of faith in him make this highly arrogant and supercilious claim about his self? However, since the Sufis instead of receiving guidance from the Qur'ān and Hadīth have received it from the bātaniyyah, extremist Shiites and the Brahmans are guilty of introducing their evil creed into Islam and there are so many foolish people who repeat these sentences even though they are totally unaware of their meanings.

أَفَرَأَيْتَ الَّذِي تَوَلَّى (33) وَأَعْطَى قَلِيلًا وَأَكْدَى (34) أَعِندَهُ عِلْمُ الْغَيْبِ فَهُوَ يَرَى (35)[7]

Here the Almighty has portrayed the character of people who do not have the courage to spend in His cause and if ever they do give something it is in a perfunctory manner, yet claim that they will be granted a high status by Him in the Hereafter. Do they have a telescope which is capable of seeing the matters of the unseen world through which they can observe the high rank and status which have been reserved for them?

Our exegetes generally regard الَّذِي to be a reference to Walīd ibn Mughīrah,[8]a chief of the Quraysh tribe. They also relate an incident about him saying that he had expressed his intention to embrace Islam but when one of his companions came to know of this intention he was told by this companion not to if he was embracing the faith because of fear for the Hereafter. He told him that if he deposited a certain amount of money with him, he would ensure saving him from the danger of the Hereafter; on this assurance, Walīd gave up his plan to embrace Islam and promised him to pay the said amount; however, later on, after giving him some part of the amount refused to pay the rest.

Though this incident has been cited by all our exegetes, in the first place it does not have a sound chain of narration, and if it is supposed that this incident is true, even then one fails to comprehend its relationship with these verses. If it is supposed that Walīd did not fulfil his promise, then has the Qur'ān rebuked him here for not fulfilling his promise?

The fact of the matter is that since the word الَّذِي generally qualifies a proper noun, wherever our exegetes find الَّذِي or الَّتِي, they start looking for a person whom these words qualify. In this quest, they have to make up an incident however inapt and unrelated to the occasion and context of the discourse it may be.

I have presented many examples in this tafsīr to show that الَّذِي or الَّتِي at all places do nor refer to a specific man or woman; at certain instances, they are used to portray a parable too. At such instances, the purpose is to present the collective character of a group; however, it is portrayed in a specific form to people. I would here refer to one of the examples which can be seen in the previous sūrahs. Consider the following verse of Sūrah Nahl:

وَلاَ تَكُونُواْ كَالَّتِي نَقَضَتْ غَزْلَهَا مِن بَعْدِ قُوَّةٍ أَنكَاثًا (92:16) (donot, like the woman who unravels the thread she has firmly spun, (16:92)). One can see the word الَّتِي is mentioned; however, it does not refer to a specific old lady so that one may start investigating her name, family and whereabouts and to find out about how she was making yarn from cotton and why would she undo what she had made; all these efforts are needless because the reference here is not to a specific old lady; it is to a supposed symbolic character.

In a similar manner, a hypothetical character is portrayed to the Idolaters of Arabia. These Idolaters did not have the courage to spend in the cause of God but on the basis of intercession of their self-claimed deities and due to conceit of their racial superiority claimed that just as they had a high status in this world, they would be blessed with this same status in the Hereafter if ever it came. In the mirror of this portrayal, Walīd ibn Mughīrah and Abu Jahl as well as other miserly yet affluent people of the Quraysh could see their own faces. They were the ones who would desist from responding to the calls of the Prophet (sws) to spend for the cause of God but would think that they had the keys of Paradise in their control.

The style of the discourse in these verses is disparaging and sarcastic: Look at these foolish people who run away from spending in the cause of God; even if they do so out of shame, then too it is in a perfunctory manner but claim that they will be given a high status in the Hereafter; in other words, it is as if they are able to see even from this world the affluence and luxury they will be given in Paradise.

The word َأَكْدَى is from the idiom الحافر َأَكْدَى which means that such a big rock was encountered by a digger that breaking it was difficult for him. Portrayed here is the general attitude of the miserly: if they spend out of compulsion, they spend very little and at that time are overcome by stinginess so much that they clench their fists and if anyone tries to urge them to spend, they launch an onslaught on him and remark: how much should we spend; get aside; I have already squandered a lot of money for this purpose. The verse: يَقُولُ أَهْلَكْتُ مَالًا لُبَدًا (90: 6) (I have wasted heaps of money, (90:6)) portrays the character of such stingy people.

أَمْ لَمْ يُنَبَّأْ بِمَا فِي صُحُفِ مُوسَى (36) وَإِبْرَاهِيمَ الَّذِي وَفَّى (37) أَلَّا تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَى (38)[9]

The implication of these verses is that these people are dreaming of ending up in Paradise relying merely on the intercession of their alleged deities; have not the teachings of the scriptures of Moses (sws) and Abraham (sws) reached them that in the Hereafter no soul shall bear the burden of another?

Here it needs to be kept in consideration that the addressees here are primarily the Quraysh and secondarily the People of the Book. The latter claimed to be the followers of both Abraham (sws) and Moses (sws); similarly, the former regarded Abraham (sws) to be an elder of their family and their religious leader. For this reason both these great messengers of God are mentioned with great emphasis.

The Prophet Abraham (sws) is referred to by the attribute الَّذِي وَفَّى which means that he followed every directive of God in letter and in spirit and fulfilled his promise and who passed every test and trial in an outstanding way. In Sūrah Baqarah, the words are: وَإِذِ ابْتَلَى إِبْرَاهِيمَ رَبُّهُ بِكَلِمَاتٍ فَأَتَمَّهُنَّ (2: 124) (and recall when Abraham was put to trial by His Lord in a few things and he fulfilled all of them, (2:124)). The purpose of mentioning this attribute of Abraham (sws) to both the Quraysh and the People of the Book is to admonish them that the high status achieved by Abraham (sws) in this world and in the next was the result of showing complete obedience and faithfulness to God. On the other hand, their state of affairs is that without being obedient to God they want to win high favours merely because they are his descendents.

Here a question arises about the scripture of Abraham (sws) which this verse alludes to. The answer to this question is that he did not have a scripture in the formal sense of the term. All his teachings were transmitted orally as traditions to both branches of his progeny. They were kept more intact amongst the Israelites because prophets of God kept coming to them. The Ishmaelites were unlettered and for this reason they became very hazy about these traditions. Later on when the Torah was compiled, the history and teachings of Abraham (sws) were also collected in it. Though the Jews altered many of these teachings to suit their own interest to which we have alluded in the tafsīr of previous sūrahs, yet his basic teachings which are referred to here are still found in the Torah. For this reason, if by the scriptures of Abraham (sws) the reference is to the ones in which his teachings are mentioned, then this ascription would be absolutely correct.

The words أَلَّا تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَى refer to the teaching which is present in the scriptures of Moses (sws) and Abraham (sws) that in the Hereafter no soul shall carry the burden of another; each will carry its own burden. This in fact is a refutation of the baseless concept of intercession which is the subject of this sūrah. This teaching is mentioned in the Torah and the Injil at so many instances that one wonders how in their presence the recipients of these Books were led away by Satan into polytheism. I have cited references to this teaching at a number of places in this tafsīr and repeating them here is not needed.

وَأَن لَّيْسَ لِلْإِنسَانِ إِلَّا مَا سَعَى (39) وَأَنَّ سَعْيَهُ سَوْفَ يُرَى (40) ثُمَّ يُجْزَاهُ الْجَزَاء الْأَوْفَى (41)[10]

These verses further explain what is said previously: a person will only be rewarded in the Hereafter for what he himself did; no soul will be rewarded for the virtues of another or punished for the misdeeds of someone else. The implication is that if their forefathers were very pious, then they alone shall be rewarded for this piety; the reward of their forefathers will not be transferred to them so that by virtue of it they end up in Paradise. This principle is stated thus in Sūrah Baqarah: تِلْكَ أُمَّةٌ قَدْ خَلَتْ لَهَا مَا كَسَبَتْ وَلَكُم مَّا كَسَبْتُمْ (2: 134) (that was a community which has passed away. They will get what they earned and you will get what you earn, (2:134)). If in lieu of the deeds done by a pious father, his children could go to Paradise then who could have been more pious than Noah (sws); however, in spite of Noah's prayer, the Almighty did not spare his son. Similarly, Abraham (sws) dubbed as khalīlullāh (the friend of God) prayed for his father but this prayer too was not accepted. The wife of Lot (sws) was indeed the wife of a great prophet of God but so unbiased is the law of God that even this relationship to a prophet could of no benefit to her. On the other hand, the wife of the Pharaoh was the wife of a great enemy of God; however, in Sūrah Tahrīm (66:11), God has showered great praise on her. The relationships of father and son and husband and wife are the closest and most loving. No one can be closer to God than his prophets; however, as can be seen from these examples that even the closest relations of a prophet whose record was devoid of good deeds were not able to benefit from this relationship not to speak of others.

A person can benefit from the good deeds of another person in the Hereafter in two forms: firstly, this good deed should be based on a person's affectionate relationship of faith with another person: for example, if a believer prays to God for another believer, it is hoped that this prayer will be answered. Secondly, the person has some direct or indirect role in that good deed: for example, a believer taught a believer or became an exemplar of a teaching for the other person or had financially helped the other person in some way. If there is such a role of a person in the good deed of another person, then this is as if that person too had a share in earning it and is like a deed from which he too will benefit.

Some people having a socialistic mentality are of the opinion that here the Qur'ān acknowledges the principle that a person should earn what is commensurate to the work he put in. This interpretation has absolutely no relationship with the occasion and context of the verse and is in fact a wrong use of one's intelligence. For this reason I do not want to deal here with an issue which has no bearing to the verse. However, in the tafsīr of the previous sūrahs, I have dealt in detail with the basic philosophy of socialism, and will inshallāh also explain some of its aspects at appropriate places of the coming sūrahs. This much, however, should be kept in consideration here that the system of this world is based on trials and tests and in the next world issues will be settled on the basis of justice and rewards. A person has not been granted anything here because of the work he has put in to earn it; on the other hand, He has blessed some abundantly and some stringently and in this manner tested the gratefulness and patience of both. In the Hereafter, people who pass this trial will be rewarded for their good deeds and those who do not will be deprived of any reward; this failure of theirs will take them to Hell because in the Hereafter, the abode of such unsuccessful people is Hell.

The words وَأَنَّ سَعْيَهُ سَوْفَ يُرَى ثُمَّ يُجْزَاهُ الْجَزَاء الْأَوْفَى sound a warning that no one should deceive himself that what is said above is baseless: soon what a person has earned will come to the notice of God and then he will be duly rewarded or punished. These words are an assurance for the believers and a warning to those who disbelieve in the reward and punishment of the Hereafter: the believers should rest assured that the smallest of their good deeds shall be taken notice of and the disbelievers should remain aware that their smallest of evil deeds shall not be ignored.

وَأَنَّ إِلَى رَبِّكَ الْمُنتَهَى (42)[11]

The implication of this verse is that it should remain clear that everyone will end up with God. No one should remain under the misconception that he has some other being to whom he can turn so that he be saved from accountability before God or that being will be able to appeal against the decisions of God. Everyone will be brought before God and all decisions of God will be final and irrevocable.

وَأَنَّهُ هُوَ أَضْحَكَ وَأَبْكَى (43) وَأَنَّهُ هُوَ أَمَاتَ وَأَحْيَا (44) وَأَنَّهُ خَلَقَ الزَّوْجَيْنِ الذَّكَرَ وَالْأُنثَى (45) مِن نُّطْفَةٍ إِذَا تُمْنَى (46) وَأَنَّ عَلَيْهِ النَّشْأَةَ الْأُخْرَى (47)[12]

Mentioned in these verses is the reason because of which God is the Lord of everyone: it is in His authority to make someone laugh or cry; in other words, it is only He Who creates the circumstances for joy and only He Who creates the circumstances for sorrow. Happiness and sadness are solely under His control. Grief and anguish and harm and benefit are under His sole authority. If this is so, then on what basis can someone else become the Lord of people?

Similarly, it is only in God's authority to grant life and death. So if no one has any say or authority in giving life or death, then what is the basis of regarding someone other than God as the Lord?

It is God Who has created the members of a pair: man and woman. It is not that the man was created by someone and woman by someone else. Similarly, it is not that sons are granted by someone and daughters by someone else. So when there is no such possibility of such division, then what is the sense in regarding someone else as Lord.

Man and woman are created by a drop of fluid which is poured forth. After this is done, no one knows what will happen to it as far as its growth and development are concerned. No one knows whether it will produce a boy or a girl, whether it will produce something at all or will remain incomplete. The looks and form of the human being ultimately formed are also not in the knowledge of any person. All these details are only known to the great creator Who has knowledge of all things and Who nurtures this fluid within multifarious layers and brings it forth in the form of a child after a specific time period. He then is responsible for the growth and development of this child which may be a boy or a girl. They mature into a man and a woman. When all this is only in God's control, then what is the meaning of requesting someone else to grant children?

The words وَأَنَّ عَلَيْهِ النَّشْأَةَ الْأُخْرَى refer to the fact that when it is God alone Who creates every one from a drop of fluid, then will it be difficult for Him to recreate them? Not only the possibility of this recreation is obvious but also the need for it to happen is also obvious so that God's justice and mercy can completely manifest themselves. So when both these things are obvious, the wisdom of God necessitates that He bring forth a day when everyone be raised to life again – a day on which He evaluates their good and evil deeds and rewards and punishes them accordingly.

All these points with slight variations are present in the declaration of acquittal made by Abraham (sws) against his people when he left them. This declaration is mentioned in Sūrah Shu'arā' in the following words:

الَّذِي خَلَقَنِي فَهُوَ يَهْدِينِ وَالَّذِي هُوَ يُطْعِمُنِي وَيَسْقِينِ وَإِذَا مَرِضْتُ فَهُوَ يَشْفِينِ وَالَّذِي يُمِيتُنِي ثُمَّ يُحْيِينِ وَالَّذِي أَطْمَعُ أَن يَغْفِرَ لِي خَطِيئَتِي يَوْمَ الدِّينِ (26: 78-82)

Who has created me; then he guides me and provides me with food and drink; who, when I am sick, makes me healthy; who will cause me to die and then bring me back to life; who, I hope, will forgive me my sins on the Day of Judgement. (26:78-82)

وَأَنَّهُ هُوَ أَغْنَى وَأَقْنَى (48) وَأَنَّهُ هُوَ رَبُّ الشِّعْرَى (49)[13]

It is God alone Who transforms a person's state of poverty to one in which his needs are fulfilled and from whomsoever He wants, He blesses him with so much more than his needs that he becomes a wealthy person. The word أَقْنَى is from قنية which is used for accumulated wealth. So the word أَغْنَى is used for those people who have come out of their state of poverty, and أَقْنَى is used for people who have not merely come out of their state of poverty, but for those who have become affluent. In verses thirty three and thirty four above, the character of those rich people is referred to who, though they do not spend in the cause of God, dream of high ranks in Paradise. This verse actually admonishes such people that the wealth and riches they have are from God. They are not from Sirius the star as they reckon. It is God Who is the Lord of Sirius too.

Sirius appears in the spring season. The Idolaters of Arabia regarded it to be very blessed and would attribute the lushness of spring as well as their own trade activities to it. A poet of the age of ignorance while praising a praiseworthy person says:

شامس في القر حتى اذا ما

ذكت الشعرى فبرد و ظل

(He brings heat to people in cool winters and when Sirius appears [in the spring season], he becomes a source of coolness and shade for people).[14]

Here, one needs to keep in consideration, the discussion found in the very first verse of this sūrah: these stars which these foolish people think as the carvers of their fortune bear witness through their own setting and falling that only God is their Lord.

It is not necessary that all the things mentioned above be referenced in the scriptures of Moses (sws) and Abraham (sws); they are extensions to the original. There are several examples in the Qur'ān in which a statement is cited and then certain additions are made in it which though are not part of the statement yet are based on it. This explains the whole scenario and the discourse is brought in accordance with the circumstances. In my opinion, this has what happened here as well. From verse forty onwards, the discourse forms an extension which has made it a comment on the Quraysh as well.

وَأَنَّهُ أَهْلَكَ عَادًا الْأُولَى (50) وَثَمُودَ فَمَا أَبْقَى (51) وَقَوْمَ نُوحٍ مِّن قَبْلُ إِنَّهُمْ كَانُوا هُمْ أَظْلَمَ وَأَطْغَى (52)[15]

These verses are also part of the extended discourse. By citing historical references, the Quraysh are warned that just as today they are being warned, in a similar manner the peoples of the 'Ād and the Thamūd from among this land were also warned by their respective messengers and before them the people of Noah (sws) too. However, these people paid no heed to these warnings. At last all of them were destroyed by the Almighty and no one from among them remained. The implication is that the Quraysh too will meet the same fate if they follow in their footsteps. The law of God is equal for all; their own history bears reference to this. The 'Ād here are called as the ancient or the first 'Ād. The reason for this is that the Thamūd were their descendents and were also known as the second 'Ād.

The words إِنَّهُمْ كَانُوا هُمْ أَظْلَمَ وَأَطْغَى do not merely relate to the people of Noah (sws). They also relate to the 'Ād and the Thamūd. The destruction they faced was not because God was unjust to them; on the contrary, it was because they were unjust to their own souls and were a very rebellious people. The implication is that the real reasons for the destruction of a nation are not external; they arise from within it and take the form of earthquakes, floods and storms and at times manifest themselves as attacks from an enemy.

وَالْمُؤْتَفِكَةَ أَهْوَى (53) فَغَشَّاهَا مَا غَشَّى (54)[16]

This is a reference to the people of Lot. The word مُؤْتَفِكَةٌ is explained thus in the Lisān al-'arab:

The مُؤْتَفِكَاتٌ refer to those winds which totally turn a place topsy turvy the way a harvester turns a cultivated land topsy turvy. When a new flood comes and it deposits a layer of mud and sand on the earth, then this too is called مُؤْتَفِكَةٌ. Analogously, the tempestuous wind which covers the earth with pebbles and sand is also called مُؤْتَفِكَةٌ.[17]

The Almighty unleashed on the people of Lot a dust-laden wind which after picking up speed became a pebble-hurling wind (hāsib). As a result, at first, pebbles and stones rained down on them and then the wind became so strong that it overturned buildings. While referring to the fate of the people of Lot (sws), the Qur'an has said: فَمِنْهُم مَّنْ أَرْسَلْنَا عَلَيْهِ حَاصِبًا (40:29)(on some, We sent down a stone-hurling wind, (29:40)). At another instance, the words are: فَجَعَلْنَا عَالِيَهَا سَافِلَهَا وَأَمْطَرْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ حِجَارَةً مِّن سِجِّيلٍ (15: 74)(We turned this settlement upside down, and We rained upon them stones of clay, (15:74)).

I have explained the style adopted in فَغَشَّاهَا مَا غَشَّى at a number of places. It is used to portray a situation which is beyond words. The implication is that it was covered with something which is beyond words.

فَبِأَيِّ آلَاء رَبِّكَ تَتَمَارَى (55)[18]

The Quraysh are addressed here. Though the pronoun is in the singular, yet the whole community is addressed. When a community is addressed in the singular in this manner, the purpose is to warn each and every individual belonging to it. This is the case here as well. Each and every disbeliever is addressed and told that these arguments which substantiate reward and punishment are before them. They are drawn from both reason and revelation, from the scriptures of Moses (sws) and Abraham (sws) and from the history of the nations related to them. So how many a sign of their Lord will they deny and how much will they dispute with Him?

The word آلَاءis the plural of إِلَى. Our exegetes have generally interpreted it to mean "favours and blessings"; however, this is an incomplete meaning of the word. Its real meaning is miracles, signs, marvels of nature, feats, relics and signs of wisdom. Since favours and blessings also come under these, they are also regarded to be its meaning; nevertheless, at every place, it is not proper to translate this word in this sense because like favours the signs of favours are also included in the meaning of this word. This word repeatedly occurs in Sūrah Rahmān and all its nuances are evident there. I will explain it and its usage there in the light of classical Arabic literature. My mentor, Hamīd al-Dīn Farāhī has presented his scholarly research on this word in his Mufradāt al-Qur'ān.[19]

Section IV: (Verses 56-62)

Coming up are the closing verses of the sūrah. Here, at the end, as per the conventional style of the Qur'ān, the same subject with which the sūrah began is brought up as a reminder. It was said at the beginning that this Qur'ān should not be disregarded by considering it to be the discourse of soothsayers and astrologers; it is a divine revelation and the word of God. Like the warners of previous times, it is another warner of a similar nature. They should not regard what it is warning them of as something far off; the promised hour is near, and when it appears no one except God will be able to ward it off. They should not make fun of this discourse. It is not something to make jest of; it is something to weep about. They should wake up, prostrate before God alone and serve Him only. In the light of this background, readers may now proceed to read these verses.

Text and Translation

هَذَا نَذِيرٌ مِّنَ النُّذُرِ الْأُولَى (56) أَزِفَتْ الْآزِفَةُ (57) لَيْسَ لَهَا مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ كَاشِفَةٌ (58) أَفَمِنْ هَذَا الْحَدِيثِ تَعْجَبُونَ (59) وَتَضْحَكُونَ وَلَا تَبْكُونَ (60) وَأَنتُمْ سَامِدُونَ (61) فَاسْجُدُوا لِلَّهِ وَاعْبُدُوا (62)

This is a warner like those before. What is near has come near. No one except Allah can avert it. So do you express wonder at this discourse! And laugh and not weep and are in a trance! [Wake up!] Prostrate your self before God alone and worship Him only. (56-62)


هَذَا نَذِيرٌ مِّنَ النُّذُرِ الْأُولَى (56)[20]

The demonstrative pronoun هَذَاrefers to the Qur'ān. Since the whole discussion began with the Qur'ān, hence without mentioning it here at the end it is spontaneously referred to so that the relationship between the beginning and the end becomes evident. If someone regards the Prophet (sws) as the antecedent of this pronoun, it would not make much of a difference because the message delivered by the Qur'ān and the Prophet (sws) are not two distinct things. At one place in Sūrah Talāq (65:10), the words ذِكْرا رَسُوْلاًً occur for the Qur'ān. Obviously, the word ذِكْرا refers to the Qur'ān and the word رَسُوْلاً to the Prophet (sws); however, the style adopted is such that both are in the capacity of a single entity.

I have already presented my research on the word نُذُرِ at some place in this tafsīr. Here it is used as a plural of نَذِيرٌ and refers to all the previous prophets and scriptures. The purpose is to admonish the addressees that they should not take this discourse to be a jest or joke; if they make fun of it, they should remember that they will face its consequences in the very manner the previous nations faced them.

أَزِفَتْ الْآزِفَةُ (57) لَيْسَ لَهَا مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ كَاشِفَةٌ (58)[21]

The word أَزِفَتة means something which has come near and refers to the divine punishment of which the Qur'ān was warning these people: they should not consider it to be far off; it is now looming over their heads.

I have referred to the divine practice at many places in this tafsīr that when a messenger of God is sent to warn a nation, it is only given enough respite in which the truth is conclusively communicated to it. As soon as this period expires, that nation is destroyed if it persists in its denial of the messenger. This divine punishment is a prelude for this nation to the punishment they will be meted out in the Hereafter. For this reason, these words depict the absolute reality from the tongue of the messenger and do not contain the slightest bit of exaggeration in them.

The words لَيْسَ لَهَا مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ كَاشِفَةٌ warn these people that they must not remain haughtily content that their deities: Lāt, Manāt and 'Uzzā besides others will be of any benefit to them when this punishment comes and will be able to save them from it. They should remember that except for God no one will be able to get rid of it.

أَفَمِنْ هَذَا الْحَدِيثِ تَعْجَبُونَ (59) وَتَضْحَكُونَ وَلَا تَبْكُونَ (60)[22]

Amazement is expressed here at their attitude: they express wonder at the warnings sounded by a Book which is informing them of such a great punishment and telling them why and from where will it come. They should beware that this thing is not something to laugh at or make fun of; it is something to cry about and be very anxious of; however, instead of crying, they are laughing at it.

وَأَنتُمْ سَامِدُونَ (61)[23]

The words سمد and سمود mean "to be unconscious and senseless." The verse says that this Book is trying to shake and jolt them, while they are overcome with the slumber of indifference.

فَاسْجُدُوا لِلَّهِ وَاعْبُدُوا (62)[24]

The implication of the verse is that if they want to escape danger, they should awaken themselves from this slumber and, forsaking other deities, only prostrate themselves before God and serve and worship Him only. No one except Him will be able to save them from this calamity.

This sūrah began with the falling and setting of stars and it ends on prostration and worship to God alone. I am thankful to God that with these lines I come to the end of this sūrah's tafsīr. فالحمد لله على ذالك (so gratitude be to God for this).


22nd July, 1977 AD

6th Sha'bān 1397 AH

Articles by this author

Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru

Essence of Polytheism (9)

Mawlana Muhammad ‘Ali Jawhar

Essence of Polytheism (8)

Essence of Polytheism (7)

Essence of Polytheism (6)

Essence of Polytheism (5)

Essence of Polytheism (4)

Essence of Polytheism (3)

Essence of Polytheism (2)

Essence of Polytheism (1)

Responsibilities of Muslim Youth

Mu’atta’ Imam Malik (10)

Mu’atta’ Imam Malik (10)

Mu’atta’ Imam Malik (9)

Mu’atta’ Imam Malik (8)

Mu’atta’ Imam Malik (7)

Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru

Mu’atta’ Imam Malik (6)

Responsibilities of Muslim Youth

Mawlana Muhammad ‘Ali Jawhar

Mu’atta’ Imam Malik (6)

The Source of Jarh and Ta‘dil in the Qur’an

Mu’atta’ Imam Malik (5)

Mu’atta’ Imam Malik (4)

Sir Syed Ahmad Khan

Mu’atta’ Imam Malik (3)

Mu’atta’ Imam Malik (2)

Mu’atta’ Imam Malik

Surah Hujurat (3/3)

Surah Hujurat (2/3)

Surah Hujurat (1/3)

Surah al-Qiyamah (2)

Surah al-Qiyamah (1)

Surah Muddaththir part (2)

Surah Muddaththir part (1)

Surah al-Muzzammil

Gleanings from Tadabbur-i Qur’an

Some Difficulties in Surah Rahman

Collection of the Qur’an: Amin Ahsan Islahi’s View

Sūrah Muhammad (Part 3/3)

Sūrah Muhammad (Part 2/3)

Sūrah Muhammad (Part 1/3)

Sūrah Dukhān (Part 2/2)

Sūrah Dukhān (Part 1/2)

Companions (rta) of the Prophet (sws)

Sūrah Hujurat (Part 2/2)

Sūrah Hujurat (Part 1/2)

Sūrah Tūr (Part 2/2)

Sūrah Tūr (Part 1/2)

Sūrah Najm (Part 2/2)

Sūrah Najm (Part 1/2)

Sūrah Qamar (Part 1/2)

Sūrah Qamar (Part 2/2)

Surah Waqi‘ah (Part 1/2)

Surah Waqi‘ah (Part 2/2)

Sūrah Rahmān (Part 2/2)

Sūrah Rahmān (Part 1/2)

Sūrah Mujādalah (Part 1/2)

Sūrah Mujādalah (Part 2/2)

Sūrah Tahrīm (Part 1/2)

Sūrah Tahrīm (Part 2/2)

Sūrah Qalam (Part 1/2)

Sūrah Qalam (Part 2/2)

Sūrah Jumu‘ah

Sūrah Ma‘ārij (Part 1/2)

Sūrah Ma‘ārij (Part 2/2)

Sūrah Taghābun

Sūrah Munāfiqūn

Sūrah Hāqqah

Interrelation between the Qur’ān,  the Sunnah and the Ḥadīth

Sūrah Nuh

Difference between Hadith and Sunnah

Sūrah Jinn

Authoritativeness of the Akhbar-i Ahad

Sūrah Muzzammil

Sūrah Qiyāmah (Part 2/2)

Sūrah Qiyāmah (Part 1/2)

Causes of Hadith Fabrication

Surah Balad

Riwayah bi al-Ma‘na (Transmission by Meaning)

Surah Mursalat (Part 2/2)

Surah Mursalat (Part 1/2)

Primary Sources of Hadith Study

Sūrah Dahr (Part 2/2)

Sūrah Dahr (Part 1/2)

Companions (rta) of the Prophet (sws)

Sūrah ‘Abas (Part 2/2)

Sūrah ‘Abas (Part 1/2)

Excellence and Inherent Limitations of the Isnād

Surah Takwir

Surah Infitar

Basic Criteria to Sift the Sound from the Unsound Ahadith

Sūrah Mutaffifīn

Sūrah Fajr

Fundamental Principles of Understanding Ahadīth

Sūrah Tāriq

Sūrah Burūj

Sūrah A‘lā

Sūrah Shams

Surah Duha

Surah Tin

Sūrah Bayyinah

Sūrah ‘Alaq

Surah ‘Asr

Surah ‘Adiyat

Surah Kafirun

Surah Nasr

Sūrah Lahab

Sūrah Falaq

Qurayshite Descent: A Condition for the Khalīfah

Conditions and Limits of Obedience to the Rulers

Principles of Interpreting the Qur’ān (Part 2/2)

Principles of Interpreting the Qur’ān (Part 1/2)

The Institution of Consultation during the Reign of Rightly Guided Caliphs

Heads for Zakah Spending

Surah Baqarah (1-39)

Surah Tariq

Purification of Deeds

Usage of some Qur’anic Terms (1)

Surah Qadr


Surah Kawthar

Understanding the Qur’an: Some Initial Conditions

Surah Fil

Surah Quraysh

Surah Alam Nashrah

Surah Humazah

Surah Ma‘un

Surah Nas

The Philosophy of Prayer Timings

Surah Ikhlas

Surah Zilzal

Good and Evil (Part 1/2)

Good and Evil (Part 2/2)

Difference Between Hadith and Sunnah

Errors in the Current Mode of Preaching

An Analysis of the Meanings of the Surahs of Group six (Part 2/2)

An Analysis of the Meanings of the Surahs of Group six (Part 1/2)

Surah Takathur

Surah Qariah

The Concept of Equality Between Man and Woman

Man’s Place in the Universe

Man’s Place in the Universe

A Summary and Analysis of The Meanings of Surah Takveer

A Summary and Analysis of The Meanings of Surah Muddaththir

A Summary and Analysis of The Meanings of Surah Muzzammil

A Summary and Analysis of The Meanings of Surah Ma‘arij

A Summary And Analysis Of The Meanings Of Surah Mulk