(Translated from Tadabbur-i Qur'ān by Shehzad Saleem)
Central Theme and Relationship with the Previous Sūrahs
This sūrah begins with the topic the previous sūrah ended on. The previous sūrah ends on the words: أَزِفَتْ الْآزِفَةُ (53: 57)(what is near has drawn near, (53:57)) and this sūrah begins with the words: اقْتَرَبَتِ السَّاعَةُ وَانشَقَّ الْقَمَرُ (the hour of punishment is near and the moon is split asunder). In other words, the conciseness found in أَزِفَتْ الْآزِفَةُis elaborated by it. Besides this similarity, there is another very clear apparent similarity between the two sūrahs. In the previous sūrah, the rising and setting of stars is presented as evidence over a claim and in this sūrah this evidence is presented with the moon splitting asunder.
In this sūrah, the verse وَلَقَدْ يَسَّرْنَا الْقُرْآنَ لِلذِّكْرِ فَهَلْ مِن مُّدَّكِرٍ is repeated many times. Such repetitive verses in a sūrah occupy a special significance. It is as if the speaker every now and then, while presenting arguments, wants to remind his obdurate addressees and ask them the reason for being so stubborn and the reason why they do not reflect on the reality which is being put forth before them in the light of sound arguments.
The addressees of this sūrah are people who, in order to find a proof of the veracity of Qur'ānic warnings, were demanding a sign of this punishment that could convince them of these warnings. The history of denial by previous nations – which is alluded to in the previous sūrah as well – is recounted before them in relatively more detail and they are asked to learn a lesson from their fate. Why are they insisting that they will believe only when they see the punishment hovering over their heads? They must realize that it is God's great favour on them that instead of showing a sign of the punishment, He revealed such a Book to them that had all the necessary features to comprehensively teach and remind them and remove their doubts. Alas! Instead of asking for God's mercy, they were asking for His punishment.
Analysis of the Discourse
Verses (1-8): The Prophet (sws) has been assured that he should not pay any heed to the stubborn and obstinate people who were demanding to see the doom they had been promised. The greatest of signs shall not induce them to accept faith because they do not follow sense and reason; instead they are the followers of their whims and desires. The anecdotesabout the fate ofvarious earlier nations should be a big lesson for them, but unfortunately they do not have the ability to learn from history. The Prophet (sws) is further consoled that they will not pay heed to his Message; he should leave their matter to the summoner who, on the Day of Judgement shall be summoning them not to the Qur'ān but to Hell. They shall respond to his call, emerging from their graves like locusts scattered about.
Verses (9-42): The Quraysh have been directed to learn a lesson from the fate of the people of Noah, (sws) the 'Ād, Thamūd, Lot (sws) and Pharaoh. These people, like the Quraysh, also rejected their respective prophets, and the Quraysh very well know what happened to them. If the Quraysh also follow in their footsteps, they will meet a similar fate. They must bear in mind that it is a great blessing of the Almighty that He has revealed the Quran to warn them of this danger beforehand. He has made it easy for them so they can seek a lesson from it and be reminded. Instead of acknowledging this favour of the Almighty and benefiting from it, it is their extreme misfortune that they are asking for punishment.
Verses (43-55): The Quraysh have been cautioned that when in the past the Almighty has never spared the disbelievers, they should not consider themselves an exception to this rule. Are they of some special and exalted breed that they shall be spared? Do they reckon that the Almighty has written a directive of acquittal for them in the Hereafter in the heavenly scriptures, and do they think that they shall be able to defend themselves against Allah in the Hereafter? If they have such foolish ideas, they must remember that the Almighty shall never treat the disbelievers and the righteous equally. He shall punish the disbelievers by throwing them into Hell and reward the righteous with Paradise.
Section I:Verses (1-8)
Text and Translation
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
اقْتَرَبَتِ السَّاعَةُ وَانشَقَّ الْقَمَرُ (1) وَإِن يَرَوْا آيَةً يُعْرِضُوا وَيَقُولُوا سِحْرٌ مُّسْتَمِرٌّ (2) وَكَذَّبُوا وَاتَّبَعُوا أَهْوَاءهُمْ وَكُلُّ أَمْرٍ مُّسْتَقِرٌّ (3) وَلَقَدْ جَاءهُم مِّنَ الْأَنبَاء مَا فِيهِ مُزْدَجَرٌ (4) حِكْمَةٌ بَالِغَةٌ فَمَا تُغْنِ النُّذُرُ (5) فَتَوَلَّ عَنْهُمْ يَوْمَ يَدْعُ الدَّاعِ إِلَى شَيْءٍ نُّكُرٍ (6) خُشَّعًا أَبْصَارُهُمْ يَخْرُجُونَ مِنَ الْأَجْدَاثِ كَأَنَّهُمْ جَرَادٌ مُّنتَشِرٌ (7) مُّهْطِعِينَ إِلَى الدَّاعِ يَقُولُ الْكَافِرُونَ هَذَا يَوْمٌ عَسِرٌ (8)
In the name of God, the Most-Gracious, the Ever-Merciful.
The hour of punishment has arrived and the moon is cleft asunder. And whatever sign they see, they will only evade it and remark: "This is a magic not new." And they denied and followed their fancies and every matter has an appointed time. And the anecdotes of the past have reached them which have a lot of lessons and profound wisdom. But of what use are these warnings? So ignore them and wait for the day in which a summoner will summon them to a very undesirable thing. Their eyes shall be downcast and they shall come out of their graves like locusts scattered about, hastening towards the summoner. At that time, the disbelievers will cry: "This is, indeed, a ruthless day!" (1-8)
اقْتَرَبَتِ السَّاعَةُ وَانشَقَّ الْقَمَرُ (1)
The word السَّاعَةُ refers to the time of judgement and the punishment of which the Quraysh have been warned in all the sūrahs of this group and specially jolted and shaken to pay heed to it in the previous sūrah by the words: أَزِفَتْ الْآزِفَةُ (53: 57) (what is near has drawn near, (53:57)). They must not regard this hour to be distant; they must wake up from their slumber and try to save themselves from its horrors by following only the plan they are being given.
I have been explaining at various places of this tafsīr that the messengers of God warned their people of two punishments: the punishment which a nation necessarily faces in this world if it does not pay heed to the warnings of its messenger and becomes adamant in denying him and the punishment which it will face in the Hereafter. The only difference between the two punishments is that of the beginning and the end or the prelude and the culmination. The nation which is seized by the punishment of denying its messenger is in fact seized for the punishment of the Hereafter. For this reason, at times, the word السَّاعَةُ consists of both these punishments. Viewed thus, the time of judgement has drawn near for every nation to whom a messenger is sent. In other words, the statement اقْتَرَبَتِ السَّاعَةُ is not an exaggeration; it portrays a fact.
The words وَانشَقَّ الْقَمَرُ state a sign of the hour of punishment drawing near. I have been referring to an established practice of God at many places of this tafsīr: in every nook and corner of this universe exist the signs of God's power and wisdom and every now and then, new signs appear. However, in the times of the messengers, the Almighty specially reveals certain signs which substantiate the warnings of the respective messenger as well as his claim to messengerhood. The Qur'ān mentions this established practice at various places. As an example, consider the verse: سَنُرِيهِمْ آيَاتِنَا فِي الْآفَاقِ وَفِي أَنفُسِهِمْ (53:41) (We will show them Our signs in all the regions of the earth and in their own souls, (41:53)). The purpose of these signs, as I have indicated, is to strengthen the warnings delivered by the messenger. The facts which are openly proclaimed by him are substantiated by various signs which manifest themselves in various forms so that people are left with no excuse to deny the truth. One of these signs, in order to substantiate the warnings of the Prophet (sws), manifested itself in the form of cleaving asunder of the moon. The purpose was to make it clear upon the addressees that the scenario which the Qur'ān mentions viz. the shaking of the earth, the gliding in the air of crushed mountains, the crossing of boundaries by the oceans and the darkening of the sun are not meant merely to strike awe; these are definite occurences which will happen one day. They are not improbable: their proofs keep appearing in some form in this world.
It is not necessary that a messenger present such signs as miracles; they can appear without any proclamation and without throwing any challenge. It is not even necessary that the disbelievers demand the specific sign they are shown; it could be shown to them without their demand merely to dispel the doubts created by them. The reason that the disbelievers regarded the Hereafter to be far-fetched was that they reckoned it impossible that one day the whole universe would be wrecked and destroyed. Their question cited by the Qur'ān regarding the mountains shows that they regarded them to be eternal and everlasting. By showing the sign of the moon cleaving asunder, the Almighty has informed them that none of the objects of this universe, however huge it may be, is independent or immortal; everything is subservient to His directive; He can destroy it whenever He wants to.
As far as the question of such an incident taking place at the time of the Prophet (sws) is concerned, it is evident from the Qur'ān and corroborated by Hadīth in my view that such an incident did take place. The Ahādīth do vary as to the nature of the incident but there is no difference of opinion in that the event took place. Some people are of the opinion that this is merely the information of an incident that will take place on the Day of Judgement; it is mentioned in the past tense to express its certainty. They translate the verse as: "The Day of Judgement has drawn near and the moon will cleave asunder." Though this opinion is also ascribed to some earlier authorities and is held by some people of these times as well, yet the context hinders this interpretation. There is no doubt that the events which will happen on the Day of Judgement are mentioned in the Qur'ān in the past tense; however, if the verse is translated thus, it will bear no relationship with the next verse. The next verse says that whatever sign they will see will have no effect on them and they will show indifference to it; they will say that there is nothing unique in it and is in fact magic which is not new. A little deliberation shows that if this cleaving asunder of the moon was related to the Hereafter, there was no purpose or occasion for stating what has just been cited. On the Day of Judgement the staunchest of disbelievers will not be able to regard this as magic; everyone will acknowledge that each and every fact given by the messengers has come true word for word. Thus the words of a subsequent verse are: يَقُولُ الْكَافِرُونَ هَذَا يَوْمٌ عَسِرٌ (54: 8) (At that time, the disbelievers will cry: "This is, indeed, a ruthless day!" (53:8)).
There is no room to express the doubt that had such an incident taken place, it should have been mentioned in the history of other nations. There are so many incidents related to our own earth and to other planets in which pieces are destroyed or they break away or are pulled in but in earlier times their observation was limited to a certain sphere. In current times, international observatories and research institutes have been established to investigate such phenomena. Hence as soon as an incident takes place, these institutes immediately take notice of it and in no time inform people round the world of what has happened. In earlier times, such means of research and informing others were non-existent and for this reason the news of such events was confined to a certain sphere. However, this sphere in itself belongs to reliable people; hence, there is no reason to deny the happening of such an event. It is very probable that in coming times, scientists are able to investigate the moon in a more elaborate manner and it becomes evident through scientific research that a certain portion of the moon was part of a certain other portion and at a certain time it detached itself from it and became part of a certain other portion. These days many similar disclosures are being made every now and then about our earth and people believe them. So why should one express wonder at this news given by the Qur'ān about the moon? If science has yet to corroborate it, it only shows its limitation. One should wait and be patient; it is very possible that in future it is forced to acknowledge such a happening.
وَإِن يَرَوْا آيَةً يُعْرِضُوا وَيَقُولُوا سِحْرٌ مُّسْتَمِرٌّ (2)
This verse sounds an assurance to the Prophet (sws) and rebukes the disbelievers: the real reason for their denial is not that they are not being shown a sign for numerous signs exist around them and every now and then new ones appear; however, these stubborn people do not want to believe in reward and punishment and for this reason do not learn a lesson from the greatest of signs. Even if the Prophet (sws) shows them a bigger sign than the cleaving asunder of the moon, they will disregard it by calling it to be a product of magic.
The word سِحْرٌ (magic) qualified by مُسْتَمِرٌّ in this verse is meant to express the fact that not only will they call this sign a product of magic, but in order to fool people, they will also tell them that even this is nothing new and unique as to be given importance; such magic has been shown and taught by magicians of the past which they have continuously transmitted to later generations of magicians. In other words, what they meant was that on the basis of this sign, there is no reason to regard him as some extra-ordinary magician much less regard him a warner sent by God. Some people have interpreted the word مٌسْتَمِرٌّ to mean "mortal"; however, I am unable to find this meaning in the corpus of Arabic literature known to me.
وَكَذَّبُوا وَاتَّبَعُوا أَهْوَاءهُمْ وَكُلُّ أَمْرٍ مُّسْتَقِرٌّ (3)
Mentioned in this verse is their denial, the reason for their denial and its consequences: the Quraysh have denied the warner sent by God and the warnings delivered by him and instead followed their own whims which made them worthy of punishment as per the established practice of God. However, to God each matter has an appointed time and a set plan. So when their period of respite ends, they shall be seized by Him. In other words, if they are being let off for the time being, it does not mean that the warnings of the Prophet (sws) are baseless; the fact of the matter is that the time is yet to come on which the Almighty has ordained destruction for them. Indeed, this time is drawing near.
The words وَاتَّبَعُوا أَهْوَاءهُمْ after وَكَذَّبُوا point to the reason for their denial: if they denied the warnings of the Prophet (sws), it does not mean that they had some reason for this denial or have certain doubts about it which need to be clarified or they have not been shown a sign that can convince them; the only reason for this is that they are slaves to their desires. If they accept reward and punishment, they will have to abandon their desires, which they do not have the courage to do. For this reason, they are presenting various lame excuses. This subject has already been explained in detail in verse twenty nine of Sūrah Najm.
وَلَقَدْ جَاءهُم مِّنَ الْأَنبَاء مَا فِيهِ مُزْدَجَرٌ (4)
This verse further explains the previous one: if they have not yet faced God's punishment, it does not mean that there has been a change in the practice of God. Anecdotes about previous nations have been recounted to them; if they reflect on them, there are enough lessons to be learnt. They will come to know from these anecdotes that whichever nation denied the warnings of its messenger, was ultimately punished by God. Because of a delay in the coming of this punishment, these earlier nations too wrongly concluded that the warnings of their messengers were baseless; yet they finally came true. In other words, it is in their own interest to learn a lesson from history and not wait to believe at the time when it will be too late. Such a belated acknowledgement was neither of any benefit to the earlier nations nor will be of any benefit to them.
The anecdotes of previous nations have been mentioned both briefly and in detail in the previous sūrahs, and are coming up in this sūrah too from verse nine onwards. Readers will see that at the end of every anecdote the words فَكَيْفَ كَانَ عَذَابِي وَنُذُرِ (how [dreadful] was My punishment, how [stern] was My warning?) are repeated to make it clear on the addressees that in this manner the warnings of a messenger come true and in this manner his deniers are punished.
حِكْمَةٌ بَالِغَةٌ فَمَا تُغْنِ النُّذُرُ (5)
These anecdotes contain absorbing wisdom; Alas! Of what benefit are these warnings to such people? The particle مَاcan connote negation as well as interrogation; however, the latter usage has more emphasis in it and is also more in harmony with the context and occasion,
فَتَوَلَّ عَنْهُمْ يَوْمَ يَدْعُ الدَّاعِ إِلَى شَيْءٍ نُّكُرٍ (6)
This is a reassuring directive given to the Prophet (sws) that it is beyond him to guide such blind people. He should ignore them, and patiently wait for the day when Raphael will blow the trumpet and summon them to the punishment of the Hereafter.
The verb تَوَلَّ encompasses the meaning of إِنْتَظَرَ (wait). At a similar place, the words are: يَوْمَ يُنَادِ الْمُنَادِ مِن مَّكَانٍ قَرِيبٍ (50: 41)وَاسْتَمِعْ(and listen for the day when the crier will call from a place, (50:41)). The word نُكُرٍ refers to the horrors of the Day of Judgment. In order to express the intensity of these horrors, a vague style is adopted. The implication is that today they are disregarding the calls given to them to prepare for that day, but soon the time will come when a caller will call them to its horrors and everyone will run towards it in compliance and in fear.
خُشَّعًا أَبْصَارُهُمْ يَخْرُجُونَ مِنَ الْأَجْدَاثِ كَأَنَّهُمْ جَرَادٌ مُّنتَشِرٌ (7) مُّهْطِعِينَ إِلَى الدَّاعِ يَقُولُ الْكَافِرُونَ هَذَا يَوْمٌ عَسِرٌ (8)
Today the messenger of God is inviting them to prepare to save themselves from the horrors of that day; however, when the caller of the Day of Judgement will call them, they will emerge from their graves the way locusts do and their situation will be such that because of humiliation downcast will be their eyes and they will be swiftly running towards the caller.
The words خُشَّعًا and مُّهْطِعِينَ are accusatives of state (hāl). The expression كَأَنَّهُمْ جَرَادٌ مُّنتَشِرٌ portrays the emerging of people from the grave after the trumpet is blown. One may have seen moths emerging in the rainy season at the onset of the evening. It is as if a storm of moths has appeared. The situation of locusts is no different and the same will be the case of people coming out of their graves. The Almighty has shown these signs to remind man of the Hereafter in every part of the heavens and the earth.
The meaning of the words يَقُولُ الْكَافِرُونَ هَذَا يَوْمٌ عَسِرٌ is that when the messenger of God warns them of the horrors of that Day, they regard it to be far-fetched and improbable, and they stubbornly make fun of it, yet when that Day will appear before them they will regretfully cry out that the severe day which the prophets and messengers of God had informed them of has arrived.
Section II: Verses (9-17)
In verse four above, the Quraysh have been asked why they are insisting on seeing the punishment and why they do not seek a lesson from the history of previous nations which has been narrated to them. In the coming section of verses, in order to explain this further, the history of the messengers and their people is mentioned. Like the Quraysh, these nations also made fun of the warnings sounded to them by their respective messengers; ultimately, they were seized by the punishment they had been warned of; so it is in their own interest not to call for their doom by blindly following in the footsteps of these nations and instead be reminded by the Book ofGod revealed through His special grace for the purpose of their education and instruction. This Book is fully equipped with everything needed to educate and remind them.
Readers may now proceed to read the next section of verses.
Text and Translation
كَذَّبَتْ قَبْلَهُمْ قَوْمُ نُوحٍ فَكَذَّبُوا عَبْدَنَا وَقَالُوا مَجْنُونٌ وَازْدُجِرَ (9) فَدَعَا رَبَّهُ أَنِّي مَغْلُوبٌ فَانتَصِرْ (10) فَفَتَحْنَا أَبْوَابَ السَّمَاء بِمَاء مُّنْهَمِرٍ (11) وَفَجَّرْنَا الْأَرْضَ عُيُونًا فَالْتَقَى الْمَاء عَلَى أَمْرٍ قَدْ قُدِرَ (12) وَحَمَلْنَاهُ عَلَى ذَاتِ أَلْوَاحٍ وَدُسُرٍ (13) تَجْرِي بِأَعْيُنِنَا جَزَاء لِّمَن كَانَ كُفِرَ (14) وَلَقَد تَّرَكْنَاهَا آيَةً فَهَلْ مِن مُّدَّكِرٍ (15) فَكَيْفَ كَانَ عَذَابِي وَنُذُرِ (16) وَلَقَدْ يَسَّرْنَا الْقُرْآنَ لِلذِّكْرِ فَهَلْ مِن مُّدَّكِرٍ (17)
Before them, the folks of Noah also denied. Theyrejected Our servant and said that he was a madman, and he was badly scolded. So he implored before his Lord: "I am vanquished; so You take revenge from them." So We opened the gates of heaven with water pouring forth, and caused the earth to burst with gushing springs. The waters met at the point decreed and We carried him on thatwhich was made of planks and nails, which sailed under Our protection: this We did as a recompense for him who had been slighted. And We made this anecdote an exemplary story [for those who may seek a lesson]. So is there anyone who would take heed! See how true was My punishment and My warning? And We have made the Qur'ān very appropriate for reminding. So is there any who shall take heed?!! (9-17)
كَذَّبَتْ قَبْلَهُمْ قَوْمُ نُوحٍ فَكَذَّبُوا عَبْدَنَا وَقَالُوا مَجْنُونٌ وَازْدُجِرَ (9)
I have said earlier that this and the subsequent verses mention in detail the history of some prophetic nations briefly referred to before. Since the sequence adopted is chronological, the anecdote of Noah (sws) is mentioned first. It is said that before the Quraysh, the folks of Noah (sws) had also denied the warnings of God's messenger. This is in fact an assurance sounded to the Prophet Muhammad (sws) that he is not the first person to be rejected by his people. The history of these rejecters is very old. Before them, the people of Noah (sws) had also rejected their prophet, as had other nations whose details are forthcoming. In other words, this is a well-known story of history which was encountered by previous messengers. The Prophet Muhammad (sws) will also face it and the very fate met by the previous nations for their rejection will be met by his nation if they follow in their footsteps.
The letter فin فَكَذَّبُوا عَبْدَنَا وَقَالُوا مَجْنُونٌ وَازْدُجِرَ is for explication. After briefly referring to the incident, with these words begin the details: the people of Noah (sws) denied God's servant; they called him a madman and a crazy person and badly snubbed him.
The affection of God for Noah (sws) reflected in the word عَبْدَنَاis self-evident. When the messengers of God warned people of the punishment both in this world and in the next and warned them very thoroughly and diligently day in an day out, it weighed heavily upon these people who had become slaves to the pleasure of this life and who were inebriated with their worldly status and achievements. They could not understand the reason and the source from which this punishment would come. If punishment was destined for them, why were they blessed with affluence and honour in this world? This affluence and honour bore evidence that God held them in high esteem, and if ever there was another world, there too they would hold this high position. By being led into this misconception, they became so annoyed with the constant and persistent warnings of the messenger of God that they started calling him a madman and a crazy person; they would say that this person had been overcome with the despair of punishment and of the Hereafter and that at every instant he saw this punishment hovering about. In this manner, they would not only release their anger, they would also try to assure the masses that they should not be influenced by the warnings of the messenger for he was not a messenger in the first place; he was a crazy person who constantly spoke of punishment.
The word وَازْدُجِرَ refers to the threats the people of Noah (sws) gave him about stoning him to death. Thus, for example, the words in Sūrah Shu'arā are: قَالُوا لَئِن لَّمْ تَنتَهِ يَا نُوحُ لَتَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْمَرْجُومِينَ (116:26) (They threatened: "'Noah! If you do not desist from your ways, you shall end among those who have been stoned," (26:116))
فَدَعَا رَبَّهُ أَنِّي مَغْلُوبٌ فَانتَصِرْ (10)
When the animosity of his people reached the extent that they threatened to stone him to death, he cried out and implored to God that he had done whatever was in his power to convince them but was unable to do so; he no longer had the power to continue, and hence God should then deal with these arrogant people in His own way.
The word إِنْتِصَارٌ means "to defend" and "to take revenge". Noah (sws) requested God to help him take revenge from them for their arrogance. The complete details of Noah's prayer are mentioned in Sūrah Nūh ahead.
فَفَتَحْنَا أَبْوَابَ السَّمَاء بِمَاء مُّنْهَمِرٍ (11) وَفَجَّرْنَا الْأَرْضَ عُيُونًا فَالْتَقَى الْمَاء عَلَى أَمْرٍ قَدْ قُدِرَ (12)
Mentioned in these verses are the details of the cyclonic storm that was encountered by Noah's people after his prayer. I have already mentioned its details in the tafsīr of Sūrah Dhāriyāt. The Almighty opened the gates of the sky with water pouring forth, and caused the earth to burst with gushing springs. Obviously, such a stormy rain in which all the gates of the heavens had been opened would turn the earth into seas, rivers and canals.
The words فَالْتَقَى الْمَاء عَلَى أَمْرٍ قَدْ قُدِرَ refer to the fact that the point up to which the Almighty had fixed for the water to rise was the very point the water from the sky and the earth touched each other and engulfed Noah's people in a manner that no one was able to escape from its grasp.
وَحَمَلْنَاهُ عَلَى ذَاتِ أَلْوَاحٍ وَدُسُرٍ (13)
The words ذَاتِ أَلْوَاحٍ وَدُسُرٍ obviously refer to the Noah's ark which he built as per the special directive of the Almighty. Mentioning it here with its components, in my opinion, is to express God's power, wisdom, affection, mercy and majesty. The implication is that the Almighty saved those He wanted to by logs fixed together with nails from the storm which routed the whole nation and which not a single soul survived. In other words, the real thing is God's mercy and affection. If they are with a person, then a few logs can save them from Noah's deluge, and if they desert a person, the greatest of war ships are flattened in the blink of any eye, and the strongest of dams are blown away like straws by the power of the deluge.
تَجْرِي بِأَعْيُنِنَا جَزَاء لِّمَن كَانَ كُفِرَ (14)
Since this ark was under the special protection and safe-keeping of God, it kept on advancing without any fear and tidal waves could not harm it in any way. It may be kept in mind that it was not Noah (sws) alone who had a boat; others too had their boats; however, these boats could not be of any benefit to them because they did not have God's protection.
The words جَزَاء لِّمَن كَانَ كُفِرَ refer to the fact that the Almighty showed His majesty in order to help His servant who had been slighted and not duly honoured ,so much so that he was compelled to cry out: أَنِّي مَغْلُوبٌ فَانتَصِرْ (I am vanquished; help me)
وَلَقَد تَّرَكْنَاهَا آيَةً فَهَلْ مِن مُّدَّكِرٍ (15)
The antecedent of the pronoun in تَرَكْنَاهَاcan be the land referred to earlier in verse twelve by the words وَفَجَّرْنَا الْأَرْضَ عُيُونًا and also the anecdoteof Noah's folks whose details are mentioned in the Torah and which has been widely transmitted and known in every era.
The use of pronouns in this manner is very common in Arabic. I have cited several examples of such usage in previous volumes of this exegesis, and some more will be found in the later ones. Some people regard the antecedent of this pronoun to be the remains of Noah's Ark which were sighted by some people of later generations at a certain part of Mount Jūdī. However, I do not give importance to this opinion. Details are forthcoming in the tafsīr of Sūrah Hāqqah.
The words فَهَلْ مِن مُّدَّكِرٍ imply that as far as signs and warning lessons are concerned, there are several on this earth and in history as well; however, if there is any dearth of anything, it is of hearts with the ability to pay heed to such signs.
فَكَيْفَ كَانَ عَذَابِي وَنُذُرِ (16)
The word نُذُرِ is actually نُذُرِي and the يhas been severed from it owing to the rhyme and the kasrah present as its remnant. The word نُذُرِ is a noun from the verbal noun إِنْذَار and it means "warnings" and "admonition". In other words, if a person has ears to pay heed and a heart to learn a lesson, he can see in this anecdote how profound is God's punishment and how accurately His threats materialize.
وَلَقَدْ يَسَّرْنَا الْقُرْآنَ لِلذِّكْرِ فَهَلْ مِن مُّدَّكِرٍ (17)
This verse will be repeated after the end of every Prophetic anecdote. It should be fully understood so that its explanation is not required at every instance.
People have generally interpreted this verse to mean that Almighty has made the Qur'ān a very easy book as far as memorizing it and seeking counsel from it is concerned. Though this inference in itself is correct that the Qur'ān is easy to memorize and to seek counsel from, yet this verse has a much wider connotation.
In the Arabic language, the word تِيْسِيْر means "to set right something through nails, to make something appropriate for a specific objective and to embellish it with all the required means and needs." The expression يَسَّرَ الفَرْسَ لِلْرُكُوبِ would mean that after been trained and fed, a horse was fully equipped with a saddle, a bridle and a stirrup and made ready for riding. From this usage, the word also came to be used to make a person ready for a campaign and equipped with all appropriate means and needs so that he is fully prepared for it. A poet, Mudarris ibn Rub'ī, belonging to the age of ignorance says:
ونعين فاعلنا على ما نابه
حتى نيسره لفعل السيد
(And when our leader has to undertake a campaign, we help him and make it easy and suitable for him to discharge the responsibilities imposed on leaders.)
The word ذِكْرٌ is also used in a wider connotation. The meanings of educating and instructing the readers as well as reminding, informing, warning, counselling, teaching a lesson and conclusively communicating the truth to them – all are implied. It is used in all these connotations in the Qur'ān. It needs to be appreciated that the Qur'ān does not impose something external on us; on the contrary, it revives and highlights the treasures of knowledge and cognizance the Almighty has innately blessed us with and to which we do not pay heed.
After understanding the true meaning of both these words, consider now the placement and context of this verse as well as its meaning. Earlier in the sūrah, it was said that the punishment of which the Prophet (sws) was warning them of was inevitable. The world within man and the one surrounding him bear witness to it. Similarly, the anecdotes of the Prophetic nations also bear evidence to it; however, they are adamant that they will believe only when they see a sign of this punishment even though the Almighty has revealed to them the Qur'ān to educate and to remind them. This Qur'ān is fully equipped to fulfil this purpose. So why are they not benefiting from this great favour and are eager instead to receive the lash of this punishment?
Some Important Aspects of Qur'ānic Taysīr
I have already discussed in detail the various aspects of Qur'ānic taysīr in my book Mabādī Tadabbur-i Qur'ān. Here it is not possible to repeat them. However, I will allude to some of its important aspects viz a viz the verse. The purpose is to dispel the misconception of people who adduce from it that the Qur'ān is an easy and bland book which has only been revealed for memorization and reading, and that it does not require any reflection or deliberation to understand it. In their opinion, every person who even has a vague and rudimentary knowledge of Arabic can fluently understand the Qur'ān. Since this misconception can hinder a person's access to the Qur'ān, it is necessary to briefly state those aspects of Qur'ānic taysīr which are alluded to by God Himself.
-- The most conspicuous aspect of Qur'ānic taysīr to which the Qur'ān itself has alluded is that it was revealed in lucid (mubīn) Arabic. It was set forth in the eloquent and articulate pure language of the Quraysh which is not garbled nor muddled so that the people of Arabia could easily understand it and they were not left with an excuse to deny the truth from God.
-- The second aspect is that the Almighty revealed the Qur'ān piecemeal so that the Prophet (sws) could gradually teach it and read it out to his people who in turn were able to gradually hear and understand it and fully digest its teachings. At one instance, the Qur'ān says:وَقُرْآناً فَرَقْنَاهُ لِتَقْرَأَهُ عَلَى النَّاسِ عَلَى مُكْثٍ وَنَزَّلْنَاهُ تَنزِيلاً (106:17) (and We have revealed the Qur'ān in parts so that you can gradually recite it out to people and We have elaborately and painstakingly revealed it [thus] (17:106)). Had the Qur'ān been revealed in one instalment as was the demand of the disbelievers, it would have been against Qur'ānic taysīr.
-- The third aspect is that all the basic teachings of the Qur'ān were initially revealed in concise and succint verses and sentences and in the form of short yet comprehensive and terse sūrahs so that it could be easy for people to memorize and understand them, practice what they said and convey them to others. It was only when the people were fully accustomed to the Qur'ān that the Almighty explained these concise and pithy sentences. At one place, it is said: كِتَابٌ أُحْكِمَتْ آيَاتُهُ ثُمَّ فُصِّلَتْ مِن لَّدُنْ حَكِيمٍ خَبِيرٍ (1:11) (this is a Book, of which the verses were first concise and then they were explained from Him who is wise and all-knowing, (11:1)).
-- The fourth aspect is that every teaching and precept of the Qur'ān is mentioned in various styles and with different aspects in different contexts and in numerous backgrounds so that if at one place a reader is not fully able to understand something, he can grasp it fully at another place, and if at one place an argument is not fully appreciated, he can comprehend it in the background of a different context. The Qur'ān has called this variety and diversity in its expression as tasrīf: كَذَلِكَ نُصَرِّفُالآيَاتِ (58:7) (thus do We diversify Our revelations, (7:58)).
-- The fifth aspect is that there exist in the Qur'ān seven groups consisting of Makkan and Madīnan sūrahs. Together these seven groups constitute the majestic Qur'ān. Each group has a content similar to others and also distinct. Each sūrah has a counterpart and both members of a pair complement one another in the discussion of a topic. While explaining verses: اللَّهُ نَزَّلَ أَحْسَنَ الْحَدِيثِ كِتَابًا مُّتَشَابِهًا مَّثَانِيَ (23:39) (God has revealed the best of discourses whose verses resemble one another and whose sūrahs occur in pairs, (39:23)) and وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَاكَ سَبْعًا مِنْ الْمَثَانِي وَالْقُرْآنَ الْعَظِيمَ (15 : 87) (And [O Prophet!] We have bestowed upon you seven mathānī which is this great Qur'ān, (15:87)) I have alluded to these aspects. It is obvious that this elaborate arrangement of the Qur'ān has been done by the Almighty to facilitate Qur'ānic taysīr.
Section III:Verses (18-42)
For the very purpose the anecdoteof Noah (sws) and his people is recounted earlier, the anecdotes of the 'Ād, Thamūd, the people of Lot (sws) and the followers of the Pharaoh are related in the forthcoming verses. Each of these anecdotes ends on the repetitive verse with which the anecdoteof Noah (sws) ended.
Readers may now proceed to read the coming verses.
Text and Translation
كَذَّبَتْ عَادٌ فَكَيْفَ كَانَ عَذَابِي وَنُذُرِ (18) إِنَّا أَرْسَلْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ رِيحًا صَرْصَرًا فِي يَوْمِ نَحْسٍ مُّسْتَمِرٍّ (19) تَنزِعُ النَّاسَ كَأَنَّهُمْ أَعْجَازُ نَخْلٍ مُّنقَعِرٍ (20) فَكَيْفَ كَانَ عَذَابِي وَنُذُرِ (21) وَلَقَدْ يَسَّرْنَا الْقُرْآنَ لِلذِّكْرِ فَهَلْ مِن مُّدَّكِرٍ (22) كَذَّبَتْ ثَمُودُ بِالنُّذُرِ (23) فَقَالُوا أَبَشَرًا مِّنَّا وَاحِدًا نَّتَّبِعُهُ إِنَّا إِذًا لَّفِي ضَلَالٍ وَسُعُرٍ (24) أَؤُلْقِيَ الذِّكْرُ عَلَيْهِ مِن بَيْنِنَا بَلْ هُوَ كَذَّابٌ أَشِرٌ (25) سَيَعْلَمُونَ غَدًا مَّنِ الْكَذَّابُ الْأَشِرُ (26) إِنَّا مُرْسِلُو النَّاقَةِ فِتْنَةً لَّهُمْ فَارْتَقِبْهُمْ وَاصْطَبِرْ (27) وَنَبِّئْهُمْ أَنَّ الْمَاء قِسْمَةٌ بَيْنَهُمْ كُلُّ شِرْبٍ مُّحْتَضَرٌ (28) فَنَادَوْا صَاحِبَهُمْ فَتَعَاطَى فَعَقَرَ (29) فَكَيْفَ كَانَ عَذَابِي وَنُذُرِ (30) إِنَّا أَرْسَلْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ صَيْحَةً وَاحِدَةً فَكَانُوا كَهَشِيمِ الْمُحْتَظِرِ (31) وَلَقَدْ يَسَّرْنَا الْقُرْآنَ لِلذِّكْرِ فَهَلْ مِن مُّدَّكِرٍ (32) كَذَّبَتْ قَوْمُ لُوطٍ بِالنُّذُرِ (33) إِنَّا أَرْسَلْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ حَاصِبًا إِلَّا آلَ لُوطٍ نَّجَّيْنَاهُم بِسَحَرٍ (34) نِعْمَةً مِّنْ عِندِنَا كَذَلِكَ نَجْزِي مَن شَكَرَ (35) وَلَقَدْ أَنذَرَهُم بَطْشَتَنَا فَتَمَارَوْا بِالنُّذُرِ (36) وَلَقَدْ رَاوَدُوهُ عَن ضَيْفِهِ فَطَمَسْنَا أَعْيُنَهُمْ فَذُوقُوا عَذَابِي وَنُذُرِ (37) وَلَقَدْ صَبَّحَهُم بُكْرَةً عَذَابٌ مُّسْتَقِرٌّ (38) فَذُوقُوا عَذَابِي وَنُذُرِ (39) وَلَقَدْ يَسَّرْنَا الْقُرْآنَ لِلذِّكْرِ فَهَلْ مِن مُّدَّكِرٍ (40) وَلَقَدْ جَاء آلَ فِرْعَوْنَ النُّذُرُ (41) كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا كُلِّهَا فَأَخَذْنَاهُمْ أَخْذَ عَزِيزٍ مُّقْتَدِرٍ (42)
The 'Ād also rejected. Then observe how My punishment and My threats materialized. We let loose on them a stormy wind at a perpetual time of bad omen which plucked out people as if they were uprooted trunks of palm-trees. So see how My punishment and My threats materialized. And We have made the Qur'ān very appropriate for reminding. So is there anyone who shall take heed?!! (18-22)
The Thamūd also rejected the warning. They said: "Are we to follow a person who belongs to us? If we do so, we shall be clearly straying and end up in Hell. Did he alone among us receive this Reminder? In fact, he is indeed a liar, a boaster. Tomorrow they shall know who the liar and the boaster is. We will be sending a she-camel as a test for them. So keep a watch on them and have patience, and inform them that the water is to be shared between them. Everyone shall come on his turn. Then they cried out to their leader; so he came forward and hamstrung the she-camel. Then observe how My punishment and My threats materialized. We sent upon them a single shout and they became like the trampled hedge of a sheep-fold builder. And We have made the Qur'ān very appropriate for reminding. So is there anyone who shall take heed?!! (23-32)
The people of Lot also rejected the warnings. So, We unleashed on them a stone-charged whirlwind; only the followers of Lot survived, whom, as a special favour, We bailed out at dawn. Thus do We reward those who are grateful. And, indeed, he informed them of Our grasp, but they only made foolish objections on the warnings. And they tempted him about his guests; so We blinded their eyes; so taste My wrath and My warning. And, indeed, at daybreak, an abiding punishment seized them. And We have made the Qur'ān very appropriate for reminding. So is there anyone who shall take heed?!! (33-40)
And, indeed, to the Pharoah's people also came the warnings. But they rejected all Our signs; so We grasped them with the grasp of One Mighty, Powerful. (41-42)
كَذَّبَتْ عَادٌ فَكَيْفَ كَانَ عَذَابِي وَنُذُرِ (18)
The word بِالنُّذُرِ is suppressed after كَذَّبَتْ عَادٌ because of clear contextual indication later. Thus it is said: كَذَّبَتْ ثَمُودُ بِالنُّذُرِ (23). The word نُذُر is the plural of نَذِيْر (warner)and also a verbal noun from إِنْذَار (warning). If the first meaning is adopted, it would refer to the messengers who were warners or signs who served as reminders and warnings which were meant to awaken people. If the second meaning is adopted, it would refer to warnings, threats, reminders and intimidation.
إِنَّا أَرْسَلْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ رِيحًا صَرْصَرًا فِي يَوْمِ نَحْسٍ مُّسْتَمِرٍّ (19)
This is an explanation of the punishment which the Almighty unleashed on the people of 'Ād. He sent upon them a stormy wind from the North. صَرْصَر is a tempestuous winter wind which is ominous and portentous in nature. This would be a period of drought in Arabia. For these days, they would call it the "ominous period" or the "ill-fated period". The words يَوْمِ نَحْسٍ of the verse do not refer to a particular ill-fated day; they refer to a particular time period. The word يَوْمٌ is commonly used thus. Thus, at another place, the words used are: أَيَّامِ نَحِسَاتٍ and at other places it is specified that this stormy wind blew on them for seven nights and eight days.
The word مُسْتَمِرٍّ shows that this wind was not a temporary gust which people could have tolerated. It blew upon them as a scourge of God for seven to eight days.
تَنزِعُ النَّاسَ كَأَنَّهُمْ أَعْجَازُ نَخْلٍ مُّنقَعِرٍ (20)
Such was the force of this wind that it plucked out people as if they were uprooted trunks of palm-trees. In Sūrah Hāqqah, the word خَاوِيَةٌ (hollow) is used instead of مُّنقَعِرٍ. It is stated at other places in the Qur'ān that when the wind started to blow each person was pinned to the ground wherever he was and since the force of the wind continued to increase, no one was able to get up. In this state, every one perished and their dead bodies were hurled by the wind from one place to another as if they were hollow trunks of palm-trees.
فَكَيْفَ كَانَ عَذَابِي وَنُذُرِ (21) وَلَقَدْ يَسَّرْنَا الْقُرْآنَ لِلذِّكْرِ فَهَلْ مِن مُّدَّكِرٍ (22)
These verses have already been explained at the end of Noah's anecdote cited earlier.
كَذَّبَتْ ثَمُودُ بِالنُّذُرِ (23) فَقَالُوا أَبَشَرًا مِّنَّا وَاحِدًا نَّتَّبِعُهُ إِنَّا إِذًا لَّفِي ضَلَالٍ وَسُعُرٍ (24)
In a similar manner, the people of Thamūd too rejected the warnings of their messenger. They reckoned that if they regarded a human being from among them to be a messenger and then follow him, this would mean that they had been led astray and ruined. Generally, people have translated the word سُعُرٍ as "madness"; however, the manner in which this word is used here negates this usage. In my opinion, it is a plural and means "fire". Verse forty seven of this sūrah reads:إِنَّ الْمُجْرِمِينَ فِي ضَلَالٍ وَسُعُرٍ (47) (indeed, the wrongdoers are in error and shall be flung into Hell).Obviously, this very warning must have been issued by Sālih (rta) to his people as well. These people must have reacted by saying the same words to him: he says that if we do not accept his calls, we will be in error and cast into Hell; the fact of the matter is that if we accept his calls, we will then be in error and will be flung into Hell. Idioms such as "Be doomed" or "Go to Hell" are common in the English language as well. The relation between error and Hell is causative; however, no such relationship is comprehensible between error and madness.
أَؤُلْقِيَ الذِّكْرُ عَلَيْهِ مِن بَيْنِنَا بَلْ هُوَ كَذَّابٌ أَشِرٌ (25)
The Thamūd were of the opinion that in the first place it was very strange that God make a human being a messenger and even stranger was the fact that of all the people God select Sālih for this great task; there was nothing special about him that he be made the custodian of God's guidance; why should people who had been entrusted with the leadership of their nation for generations be ignored in this matter; thus it was absolutely impossible that this person be truthful in his claim; he was an absolute liar and a bragger; by claiming to be a messenger of God, he wanted to command them and prove his superiority to them.
سَيَعْلَمُونَ غَدًا مَّنِ الْكَذَّابُ الْأَشِرُ (26)
In this verse, the Almighty has responded to their reaction forthwith: let them utter whatever nonsense they want to. The time of the judgement is near. The punishment of God is about to come. At that time, they will see who the liar and the bragger is.
إِنَّا مُرْسِلُو النَّاقَةِ فِتْنَةً لَّهُمْ فَارْتَقِبْهُمْ وَاصْطَبِرْ (27)
This is the prelude to the punishment alluded to in the previous verse: The Almighty would soon depute a special she-camel as a trial for them; so Sālih (sws) should keep an eye on them and wait patiently for what happens i.e. how they deal with the she-camel and what fate they will as a result meet. The manner in which this she-camel became a trial for them is mentioned in the subsequent verses.
وَنَبِّئْهُمْ أَنَّ الْمَاء قِسْمَةٌ بَيْنَهُمْ كُلُّ شِرْبٍ مُّحْتَضَرٌ (28)
After selecting a she-camel for the task, the Almighty asked Sālih (sws) to inform his people that turns had been fixed to drink water from the fountain; no one would have the right to stop the she-camel from drinking when her turn came; if she was harmed in any way, then this would be a prelude to God's punishment. They were made to undergo this trial so that the evil in them was exposed and the extent of their rebelliousness was known to all. Obviously, after this warning that this she-camel was a sign of God's wrath only those people could have had the audacity to harm it who themselves were audacious enough to even harm their messenger. It is this extent of a nation's rebelliousness and arrogance after which it becomes worthy of divine punishment. After this, nothing remains to conclusively prove the truth to them.
فَنَادَوْا صَاحِبَهُمْ فَتَعَاطَى فَعَقَرَ (29)
How could the Thamūd abide by this restriction? They thought that this was just a false threat made by the prophet Sālih (sws). Thus they called upon their leader. He came forward and hamstrung the she-camel. The wordتَعَاطَىmeans "to stand on one's toes to take the initiative in doing something." In other words, as per his own view, he showed great valour and took a very courageous step for his people; however, this daring step of his doomed them.
The word عَقَرَ means "to hamstring a camel". Once this is done, it becomes impossible for the animal to survive.
فَكَيْفَ كَانَ عَذَابِي وَنُذُرِ (30)
This verse has already been explained above. After this incident, people were faced with God's promised doom. It is evident from other places of the Qur'ān that after this they were given a further respite of three days: if they wanted, they could repent during that period; however, they did not benefit from this reprieve.
إِنَّا أَرْسَلْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ صَيْحَةً وَاحِدَةً فَكَانُوا كَهَشِيمِ الْمُحْتَظِرِ (31)
The verse refers to the punishment which was faced by the Thamūd. The word صَيْحَة means "a shout". At another place, the word used is صَاعِقَةٌ (thunder). My mentor, Imām Hamīd al-Dīn Farāhī, in his tafsīr of Sūrah Dhāriyāt has discussed the nature of this punishment in detail in the light of the Qur'ān. He has summarized this discussion at the end in the following words:
It is evident from these details that the Almighty unleashed on them the punishment of winter clouds, stormy wind and horrific thunder. However, their actual destruction took place through the wind. Thus, if one employs the method of adducing the consequence from the effect it becomes evident that the Almighty sent to them striped wintry clouds which contained horrific thunder and a deafening shout.
It should be kept in mind that a natural consequence of such thunder and lightning is a hail storm which, if it intensifies, takes the form of the terrible punishment of stone-pelting and quashes everything to bits and pieces.
The word مُحْتَظِر means the person who constructs a sheep-fold. Shepherds generally construct such folds in their fields with hay and brambles to protect their herds, which are kept there by night. Such a fold becomes trampled to bits and pieces after rain, windstorm and trampling of the animals The word هَشِيمِ refers to such crushed bits and pieces. This, in other words, is a parable of their destruction: they were crushed to pieces by rain, thunder, wind and hail storms in the same manner as the trampled hedged of sheep-fold builder. Onlookers do think that there must have been some people living here; however, only their trampled ruins now remain.